December 30, 2006

Variations on a Theme


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view the panorama

For those of you who are not YouTube afficionados, but would like to partake of some of the activities, here's an example of a video romp.

It all begins with Noah, who, poor dear thing, took a picture of himself, looking quite dysthymic, I might add, everyday for six years, and posted the results on YouTube for all of us to enjoy. Undoubtedly a noble effort --perhaps for a narcissist -- but that doesn't look like Noah's primary problem.

Others were moved by Noah's pathos. His entry was quickly followed by the satiric "Ben Takes a Picture of Himself Every Day for Six Years" (which, it was later disclosed, is an effort by a "sketch group". Whatever that is).

Tubers (my word) began to respond in video, and, as you can see, it quickly got complicated.

One enterprising participant created a visual chart, making it easier follow the riffs, by clicking on photos.

In case you haven't had enough, here's the whole silly thing on Metafilter.

Notice that each video begins with a clap, and "hey guys".

Photo note: Metaphorophotographically , looking through an opening to find variations on an interesting but junky theme. Actually, a foggy day at the town dump among the hard recyclables. Note the gold refrigerator --your granite countertops will be in that pile twenty years from now, mark my words.

Posted by Dakota at 05:06 PM

Old Rose, Still on Vine


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For your Saturday afternoon perusal, may I suggest four pages of Molly Ivins' brilliant quotations. With this kind of material there is absolutely no need for me to go on and on. So I won't.

Photo note: A perfectly preserved rose, still hanging on the vine on December 20. Rather amazing, like Molly Ivins.

Posted by Dakota at 04:51 PM

December 28, 2006

Our New Museum


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View larger image of more of the harbor from the cantilever

At the risk of sounding like the harsh, judgmental, opinionated, behind-the-times, ludditful judge of taste and beauty that I am, and publicly displaying my lack of understanding and sophistication, I was really disappointed by the new Institute of Contemporary Art. To give the building its due, it does have an astonishing view of Boston Harbor -- a public perch from which to enjoy a semi-aerial peek at of the vista.

One approaches the ICA from its unflattering behind, through a maze of parking lots. Next door is the rather handsome Boston Fish Exchange, a brick building with arches. To the right of the Fish Exchange is a pale institutional green and yellow corrugated metal, four-story housetrailer, which looks to be perfectly sited in a warehouse/trailer park district. Thus began the cascade of disappointment.

On the ICA's opening day, the front page of the Globe had a shot of its much-touted teak cantilever which reaches over the harbor, leading the naive to assume that it was sculpted like the bow of a ship. The truth is that a photographer who is unwilling to charter a vessel can't get far enough back on the ground to shoot the building without taking a dip. Thus the teak cantilever gets photographically distorted. It's much better distorted. In reality, the teak cantilever is a flat box with a window in it.

There is teak everywhere. On the massive deck and all the way up the Mayan Temple stairs. Teak, left in it's natural state, unevenly aged, and, when wet, very blotchy. The rainforest weeps.


View larger image of the front of the place

One enters a large lobby, currently dominated by a Japanese cartoon mural on the Sandra and Gerald Fineberg Art Wall, which is a peculiar shape - a rectangle with one rounded corner. We are informed that a "site specific" work of art will be commissioned yearly to fill the space. The shape guarantees that an artist can't submit any old canvas s/he has lying around.

Behind the mural, the State Street Corporation Lobby was vast and cold, dominated by a glass freight elevator. After purchasing one's admission ticket ($12, $10 for seniors and students), it is far from obvious what one must do next in order to see some art. The gift shop and the "Water Cafe" are the only spaces that are visible. In fact, it is quite unlikely that one would find the galleries on one's own. They are on the fourth floor -- an opportunity to ride in the glass freight elevator, just in case you've never been to a Marriott Hotel. There didn't seem to be a name attached to the elevator. It is also unclear whether the space inside is available for parties.

All the art, not counting architecture or performance, is on the fourth floor, interesting and well displayed, certainly worth a visit. The cantilever window is accessible from the fourth floor galleries.

Any walls suitable for hanging can also be found on the fourth floor, since most of the front and sides of the building itself are glass. If I were designing a museum, I might make some or all of the exterior walls opaque, so that paintings could be hung on them, but I'm not. Even the 325 seat Barbara Lee Family Foundation Theater has three glass walls, two stories high, which must make anything theatrical, like showing films, quite a challenge Perhaps I missed the hydraulic black curtains that descend from the two story ceiling for darkening purposes. There are no wings or backstage, or anything that might come in handy for a conventional performance -- simply a flat stage upon which a sit-down dinner for 180 can be hosted. First things first.

Speaking of dinner, a visit to the Water Cafe, by Wolfgang Puck, which is as cozy as a prison cell in Siberia, (although it might be nice in the summer) was made even more unpleasant by really; really, really squashed seating and inefficient service. My coffee was burned, but at least that isn't a permanent architectural feature.

The gift shop went unexplored, due to corporate overload. It doesn't seem to be online yet.


View image from the inside of the cantilever

Perhaps I had better attend the Diller, Scofidio + Renfro Lecture "Unimpaired Vision", to deepen my appreciation.

Things I learned from artists over the holiday

. Museums are dependent on private and corporate donors. That's why the newer architecture is so weird -- donors want spaces upon which they can hang brass plaques and the architects must accomodate

. Architects, while working around all the requirements of the board of directors and the major donors, often design a space that looks like it was done by committee. Of course, the architects must put thier own mark on the building, and voila, you have something llke our new museum, ongepatshket, as they say in Yiddish.

. There's a difference between an artist and a hobbyist

. If you see it in a museum, it's art. If you see it by the side of the road, it's kitch.


View larger image of the parrot on the teak deck with a phonebooth in its belly

Photo notes: Included in the text

Posted by Dakota at 06:18 AM

December 27, 2006

So Long Gerald


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NPR's news headline this morning was --"Gerald Ford has died at the age of 93....He will be best remembered for pardoning his predecessor, Richard Nixon". Geez, what a legacy.

Ford started the grand Republican tradition of excusing criminal behavior in the White House, lest we "divide the nation", the old we-need-to-look-to-the-future, move on gambit. Poputonian points out that an impeachment trial for Bush, rather than being divisive, would be a great education for the nation. But wiser men than I are blogging about this

The rallying cry to move forward, to forget the past, has traditionally been one of perpetrators, great and small. Those who have been victimized by bad behavior generally cannot move on so easily, and are left living in their trauma, suffering terribly or becoming perpetrators themselves, while the doers of evil go on their merry way oblivious of the destruction they have wrought.

Desmond Tutu and Nelson Mandala had the right idea when they instituted The Truth and Reconciliation Commission to unmask the atrocities of apartheid. Here the denial of perpetrators was punctured. Supporters of apartheid were confronted with the consequences of their actions, and made to take responsibility by asking forgiveness from their victims. THEN, and only then were the perpetrators pardoned. Quite a lovely idea, but by no means perfect Sadly, victims felt "Perpetrators are not seen. The government is always begging perpetrators. A lot still needs to be done on the issue of forgiveness." We could try something a little tougher than this, with the same intent.

In any case, Gerald Ford is dead. Let us hope that we will not be subjected to a state funeral with mourners genuflecting at the coffin on pedestal. It's always a great distraction from what's really going on. Oh, I forgot, the Prez wouldn't want to interrupt his Christmas vacation for a "sober" occasion in Washington.

That liltle paranoid part of me could not help but thinking that someone at NPR is preparing the groundwork for pardoning Bush, by calling Ford's act of pardoning Nixon his greatest legacy.

Photo note: Half-assed half-mast

Posted by Dakota at 08:17 AM

December 25, 2006



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Within the last few days I received two disturbing "packets" from charities. I fear it is a trend. The packets consist of 8x10 triptychs with pockets. They are so thick and shiny that they could stand up independently for full display on one's dining room table, if one chose to pluck them from the pile. Of course they are in full color. Each has a pocket into which is slipped the full annual report (a 20 page booklet, also printed on thick shiny paper} a somewhat smaller booklet naming 2006 contributers (a lousy $300 deserves no mention, by the way), and the prepaid envelope and pledge card, which up until this point, was considered a sufficient plea in and of itself.

I admire both of these organizations, and wonder who talked them into this wretched excess, this terrible waste of funds and trees. It smacks to me of "development" consulting business. It is even more disturbing than the ask-the-same-people-who-have-already-contributed-fifteen-more-times trend, in which a solicitation for the organization to which one recently contributed begins to arrive twice a month.

While I'm ranting, I hate the capital campaign idea too. It works on the premise that people would rather contribute to a physical monument (often an architectural disgrace, bastardizing a historic building) than for the day-to-day operations of the organization. No chance of getting a bronze plaque with one's name tacked onto a pot of beef stew, I guess.

I like the single sheet, white letter I get every year just after Christmas from the Boston Women's Health Collective. I expect it, and I contribute.

Brian Moynihan, president of global wealth and investment management at Bank of America and a member of the board of directors of YouthBuild Boston, Boys & Girls Clubs of Boston and United Way of Massachusetts Bay had a piece in the Boston Globe on Christmas entitled Wealth and philanthropy: who gives (and why)

Some have charged New Englanders with giving less to charity than people in other regions. Others say secular donors give less than the faithful. Yet such assertions are less informative than this statistic: Two-thirds of all philanthropic gifts made by U S households come from the wealthiest 3 percent of Americans. ...

In a Bank of America survey of households that earn over $200,000

New Englanders, whose generosity has been questioned in prior studies , will be heartened to know that wealthy residents of the Northeast give more on average than wealthy residents of any other region. However, this may have less to do with regional differences in generosity than the concentration of affluence and nonprofit organizations seeking donations in this region.

Nationwide, wealthy households gave an average of $117,000 to charity in 2005. That is 60 times more than the national average. People who earn more can give more. However, wealth accumulation is a more important driver of increased giving than a rising annual income. Wealthy people give more when they feel financially secure, when they reach a point in their lives when they decide they have more wealth than they need....

That may explain why peak giving years are between the ages of 61 and 70, why married couples give more than widows and widowers, and why parents of grown children or young children give more than twice as much as parents with children in school or college.....

Our survey also examined why people give. The biggest motivators are altruistic reasons. More than 86 percent of wealthy households say they are motivated to "meet critical needs," followed closely by "giving back to society" and the idea that "those who have more should help those who have less."......

When asked what would make them give more, 3 out of every 4 polled said organizational effectiveness. This strong interest in effectiveness explains why many are eager to share the professional expertise that helped them earn their money. Eighty percent volunteer . Sixty percent serve on nonprofit boards. Those who see charitable missions up close from a volunteer perspective give more than those who do not. The most committed who volunteer the most time also give the most dollars.

Yes...organizational effectiveness, but according to whom -- the development consultants?

Photo note: Although this looks like a place where people need financial help -- it isn't - it's the back side of the fabulous nursery in the last entry

If the Globe has made it impossible to read Moynhan's article press the next clickie

OME HAVE CHARGED New Englanders with giving less to charity than people in other regions. Others say secular donors give less than the faithful. Yet such assertions are less informative than this statistic: Two-thirds of all philanthropic gifts made by U S households come from the wealthiest 3 percent of Americans. Their giving patterns deserve more attention if charities are to improve their effectiveness and fund-raising appeals.

To better understand the needs of clients who seek our help in philanthropic giving, Bank of America's philanthropic management group, based in Boston, commissioned the largest survey of its kind. At our request, the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University surveyed households with annual incomes of at least $200,000 or a total net worth of $1 million or more. The effort included households across the wealth spectrum, from the affluent to the very wealthy.

New Englanders, whose generosity has been questioned in prior studies , will be heartened to know that wealthy residents of the Northeast give more on average than wealthy residents of any other region. However, this may have less to do with regional differences in generosity than the concentration of affluence and nonprofit organizations seeking donations in this region.

Nationwide, wealthy households gave an average of $117,000 to charity in 2005. That is 60 times more than the national average. People who earn more can give more. However, wealth accumulation is a more important driver of increased giving than a rising annual income. Wealthy people give more when they feel financially secure, when they reach a point in their lives when they decide they have more wealth than they need.

That may explain why peak giving years are between the ages of 61 and 70, why married couples give more than widows and widowers, and why parents of grown children or young children give more than twice as much as parents with children in school or college.

Business owners give the most. Households that earned wealth through entrepreneurship gave $232,000 on average last year, more than two times the average $110,000 given by households that inherited wealth.

Among average American households, the largest portion of giving by far goes to religion (60 percent), with the next largest share given to basic human needs, just ahead of foundations and combined funds such as the United Way. Among wealthy households, the largest share goes to foundations and combined funds (23 percent), with religion a close second and education right behind. Three-quarters of the wealthy give to education and the arts, compared with less than 15 percent of the general population.

When making decisions about giving, wealthy donors are more likely to consult fund-raisers and nonprofit staff than their peer networks, their children or financial advisers . This may partially explain why education and arts institutions with sophisticated development offices claim larger shares of giving than many charities with leaner fund-raising infrastructures.

Our survey also examined why people give. The biggest motivators are altruistic reasons. More than 86 percent of wealthy households say they are motivated to "meet critical needs," followed closely by "giving back to society" and the idea that "those who have more should help those who have less."

Wealthy donors are extremely interested in the effectiveness and efficiency of their charities. They want to know where their money is going, how well it is used, and they want to see the impact. Increasingly, our clients tell us they want to be more strategic in their giving, rather than just write a check.

When asked what would make them give more, 3 out of every 4 polled said organizational effectiveness. This strong interest in effectiveness explains why many are eager to share the professional expertise that helped them earn their money. Eighty percent volunteer . Sixty percent serve on nonprofit boards. Those who see charitable missions up close from a volunteer perspective give more than those who do not. The most committed who volunteer the most time also give the most dollars.

Debates about who is more generous may or may not inspire more giving. What's certain is that nonprofits can advance their missions by following these lessons: appeal to donors' altruistic motivation to meet critical needs; be transparent about how donations are spent, let donors see the impact; and provide meaningful ways for donors to give their skills and time, not just their money.

Brian Moynihan is president of global wealth and investment management at Bank of America and a member of the board of directors of YouthBuild Boston, Boys & Girls Clubs of Boston and United Way of Massachusetts Bay.

Posted by Dakota at 11:52 AM

December 24, 2006

Good Wishes


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Wishing those of you who celebrate Christmas, a very merry one, and for those that don't -- welcome to the other side of the Winter Solstice where light increases day by day.

Photo note: Shot at Panetta's Farm, (aka Gerard's) where there is not an inflatable in sight.

Posted by Dakota at 08:42 AM

December 23, 2006

Slow Leak

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even with
the best

the spirit
of Christmas
a slow leak

Addendum: Those Inflatable Santas: Eyepoppers to Eyesores

Photo notes: A metamorphophotographic series of my neighbors' struggles with their blow-up decorations which deflate daily -- it was a bit of a project to catch the entire cycle in good light, but perseverance paid

Posted by Dakota at 07:09 AM

December 21, 2006


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In honor of the upcoming holiday weekend and the glut of caloric offerings to which we will all be exposed, we have Daniela Edburg's photo essay, Drop Dead Gorgeous. Click on Whistler's Mother (those black round things heaped on the floor around the rocking chair are Oreos) for more shots, then scroll down to read an interview with the artist.

Of course, not all festive occasions have to involve food. Really? Right. It looks like we have a tipping point to celebrate . The yammering "progressives" are no longer alone making those peachy noises. We could dance.

Photo note: These lettuces are each the size a dinner plate and were grown by the same farmer/artist who produced the romanesco cauliflower. It is a reminder to me to confine my gluttony to leafy greens this weekend. Fat chance.

Posted by Dakota at 10:26 PM | TrackBack

Just A Little Somethng, I Hope It Fits


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As a special holiday gift to all of our loyal readers, may we direct you to The Great American Book Giveaway in which you have a high probabiiity of winning a free book -- take a peek at past offerings

The savvy financier from whose grapevine this was plucked has won several books already -- perhaps the word is not yet out. Evidently he wasn't complaining about an inordinate amount of junk email generated by his entry either. He recommends passing over the John Grisham this round, because of its popularity. One's best shot is would be to try for the more serious literature, which, undoubtedly, would be one's first choice anyway.

It seems obvious that one must resist the temptation to purchase, should you fail to win. Try to keep that in mind as you participate. Bookmark your local library's reference desk, and put yourself on a borrowing list should you feel the pull of seduction.

The floorboards around here are so overtaxed that bringing in another book would be unwise -- wel..ll..l maybe something lightweight like Yummy Mummy.

Happy Holidays from all of us here at Dakota!

Posted by Dakota at 06:25 AM

December 18, 2006

Sacred Snack


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I went to the last Farmer's Market of the season Sunday, expecting nothing more than turnips, but instead found the exotic romanesco cauliflower.

I knew instantly that I had stumbled upon some sacred geometry, the golden spiral, or perhaps a fine example of the Fibonacci Series, like a sunflower. Little did I know that I was looking at fractal food

Of course, I bought four (a true bargain at $1 each), took eight hundred photographs and have used my romanescos as the focal points of holiday hors d'oeuvres trays. They shall have to be consumed soon, since they are beginning to emit the unpleasant gases associated with the cabbage family. Dirty shame. I doubt I'll ever find another.

Photo note: as above

Posted by Dakota at 03:15 PM

December 17, 2006


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Has anyone shown W. this picture? Maybe it won't change his policy in Iraq, but perhaps his sleep will be disturbed. His waking sleep too.

On the subject of waking up the dissociated, British environmentalists have introduced Sir Montgomery Cecil , the president of Unlimited-Spurt to do just that. He has recently turned to print.

In a full-page advert that appeared in newspapers yesterday, Sir Monty urged supporters to cut out a coupon and send it to the Chancellor, Gordon Brown. It says: "I admire your brave refusal to take action on climate change. Perhaps you should also forget your Aids and immunisation initiatives in Africa."

In this day and age, there's nothing like a visual presentation to get your message to the public

Photo note: This and that, compartmentalized and slightly askew

Posted by Dakota at 07:09 AM | TrackBack

December 14, 2006

Sex, Sort Of


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Since I am pressed for time this morning, I am providing a couple of succulent essays about the state of sexuality today -- repression, limits, origins, overkill, objectification and ennui.

Do begin with the delightful Merrill Markoe and her essay in defense of Tara Connor, Miss USA, (who is about to hear "You're Fired" from the Donald), in which she examines inappropriate behavior, it's iterations and excesses in 2006.

Move on to Gary Rundle's (six page, sorry) review of "Shortbus", "The Big Bang" --"Pleasure and desire are found in real human encounters, not corruptions of them. But recognising that, writes Guy Rundle, will need a sexual revolution bigger than in the 1960s."

The only thing Rundle tells us about the movie is: "Shortbus begins with an act of auto-fellatio, and gets more explicit from there." Wonderful, because he's really interested in waxing philosophical about the commodification of sex in America. I was actually able to read the whole thing (it's about sex after all, very reinforcing). For those who cannot bring themselves to hover that long, here are some excerpts, chosen to encourage you to read the entire thing. He begins:

"Sexual intercourse began in 1963," the poet Philip Larkin wrote, and added, "which was rather too late for me" - but anyone that it was too late for, anyone who grew to maturity in an era before it was a contested zone, is now heading towards the mandatory retirement age. Sex, talking about it, negotiating its meaning, its centrality - sex is part of the psychic furniture, ever-present, at hand.

he moves on to Freud and Reich

....if the notion of transfiguring orgasm has become the snow-dome centrepiece of our lives, then Reich is to credit/blame. His voluminous writings can be summarised into one principle: that sex, if done right, can clear the slate of accumulated hostilities, negativities, and sadistic impulses - and that by contrast repression or bad, perfunctory sex is the root of frustration, envy, hate and violence. It's an oversimplified theory, true, but you can't deny that it's one that people work from, a framework of assumptions brought to everyday life, one of the few things we all agree on, whether we admit to it or not.

Indeed it's so general a principle that it's difficult to convince people that there was a time when it did not hold sway, that sex was not credited as having a central role in cultural life. The pre-Freud, pre-Reich sex manuals were not puritan, anti-pleasure tracts - but they presented the pleasure of it as icing on the cake, not as a qualitatively distinct and incommensurable experience. The very title of even relatively liberated works such as Marie Stopes' phenomenally successful World War I sex manual Married Life, say it all - it's about the whole continuum, not the thing itself.

he examines advertising

There wasn't much point in comparing one product to another product, that would be circular - one needed a sort of gold standard of desire, some human want that was unique and of itself, and sex was it. What began as a pretty woman draped over a car has become a default setting of selling. To expose yourself to any media is to be lathered, margarined in a sort of minimal low-grade sexual content, overwhelmingly heterosexual and male-directed of course. The effect is to empty sex of its content. Sex has become to the visual world what gold is to the material one - a universal standard of exchange which once had a character of its own, but which has long since become nothing more than an expression of everything else, a universal metaphor of no content. This worked to a degree at its inauguration in the '70s, but inflation has long since set in. Advertising, as most ad executives will admit after a few margaritas, stopped being effective for particular products decades ago (except when it's targeted at children). Advertising now sells only desire in general, and the sex within it is not there to stimulate desire but to symbolise it, to suggest some unimaginable beyond in which all desires could be fulfilled.

and looks beyond

Once a culture - especially one centred around the market - opens up the rules of sexual exchange and conduct, then it quickly gets into problems of transmitting and reproducing the transcendental pleasure that was sought after in the first place. Despite the protestations of Shortbus' director, there is something unwilled and automatic about the expansion of sex within a culture, such that it begins to occur to someone who wants to make something transgressive that the only way to do it is via the language of sex.

and he concludes

We will recover desire only when we can turn away from the screen and back to full human presence. When we do, narrow life-denying Christian and Islamic fundamentalism will be as discarded and useless as an old combine-harvester, their reasonable and identical response to the sexual meat-market - "keep it all off" - rendered irrelevant. But it will only happen when we realise that Pell and porn, Sheikh Taj al-Din al-Hilali and hardcore are two sides of the same de-denominated coin. We are face-to-face with the unmediated natural world of sex and death for the first time in history and without easy stories, both conservative and liberated, we will have to make sense of it.

Admit it, aren't you tempted to read the whole thing?

While I'm at it, here are a couple of loosely related clickies The Seduction Community and their web forum so you can get a taste for The Game.

Last minute shoppers will be glad to know that the BBC has released a DVD set "Pornography: The Secret History of Civilisation" just in time for Christmas.

Photo note: A metaphorophoto, could you guess? Notice the stairway up to the second level in the background. The goddess is pretty sexy, even though she's stone, and thanks to the ceiling light at the Hurst Gallery there's some spirit in the shot.

Posted by Dakota at 08:04 PM

December 13, 2006

Tom DeLay Emerges


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All of you who have missed Tom DeLay's daily presence in the news lately will be delighted to know that he now has a blog. It's all the rage, you know. As to his purpose, he tells us: " I have created this blog in order to provide Americans with a new meeting place where such opinions and viewpoints might be better shared, discussed and debated; a place where conservative and traditionalist Americans might speak truth to power and to one another."

As you can see, the meeting place idea was hot. His first entry received a bountiful response. So enthusiastic were his readers, that he had to close comments only 75 minutes after he first posted. Although the comments are no longer available on his blog, as is a tradition on the world wide web, they were captured for posterity by the vigilant -- all you have to do is scroll down.

Then the silly boy took on Ariana Huffington, who is no Gabor, even though Tom probably thinks so because she has a "foreign" accent..

If we're lucky, this will be one of those blogs that have fifteen entries and fades into oblivion, though, unlike some of us, I think he has paid staff.

Photo note: unnecessary

Posted by Dakota at 07:50 PM

Christmas Presents


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While trying to cram more offspring equipment into the attic earlier this year, I was inspired to dispose of my collection of Easter baskets. Of course, I couldn't just chuck them, but felt the need to offer them to staff and colleagues who might find themselves in need of twenty-year-old, 98 cent, pink yellow and green containers. Sadly, if predictably, there were no takers. However, on the way to the dumpster, an idea blossomed. Why not use them to package Christmas presents for the refusniks? And so an Easter basket theme for Christmas was conceived -- the bird pictured above is one of the small items nestled in the basket on a soft scarf, with egg-shaped soaps and chrysanthemum green tea balls that open into flowers when you pop them in your glass teapot.

But of course, I find it impossible to publish a bird picture without reminding everyone that they should be well along in their bird flu preparations by now, in addition to their holiday arrangements. If you're looking for another stocking stuffer, here's a suggestion, (which I have resisted in deference to all of my dear and close personal friends who do not wish to invite negativity into their fields). The Bird Flu Book, by William Greger M.D. comes with this recommendation from everyone's favorite epidemiologist, Revere at Effect Measure : "Good Xmas present for someone you want to educate on the subject. Or maybe just scare the shit out of." For the thrifty, It can be had on line in its entirety, so you can just email it.

Photo note: This adorable curly feathered bird ornament can be purchased at Anthropologie for $12 -- it is a wicked dustcatcher, and of no practical use whatsoever, but may soften the blow of receiving "The Bird Flu Book" raw.

Posted by Dakota at 08:17 AM

December 12, 2006

Working Styles


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Jonathan Alter wrote in Newsweek:

In government, the tone set at the top can be as powerful as the mightiest army. It reverberates through everything. The history of the American presidency is the story of the character and temperament of the man in the Oval Office coursing through thousands of smaller decisions, often thousands of miles away......

He gives examples:

Fortuitously, presidential personality traits have often led to major accomplishment. FDR was a great believer in experimentation, so the legions below him launched hundreds of experimental programs to fight the Depression. Ike was a champion of logistics during World War II, so it figured that the Interstate Highway System got built on his watch. LBJ was a master legislator, so it was no coincidence that his presidency featured scads of legislation. (His insecurities, in turn, contributed to the Vietnam debacle.) In recent years, George H.W. Bush's habit of writing endless thank-you notes bore indirect fruit in the gracious and face-saving way he managed the demise of the Soviet Union. Bill Clinton's messy but thorough policy analysis led to dozens of small, well-built initiatives that worked with surprising consistency....

Although there's lots worth reading in between, Alter concludes:

This is what happens when you have a president who is incurious and impatient with inconvenient facts he doesn't "need to know": hundreds of thousands of dead Iraqis, nearly 3,000 dead Americans and what the Baker-Hamilton Commission estimates as a $2 trillion tab for our children.

Alter's article, my indifferent scholarship, compromised memory and loose associations got me to thinking about General Systems Theory, and, while refreshing all three on Wikipedia, I stumbled upon Bela Benathy's pricey but important text, "The Guided Evolution of Society: a Systems View"

A snippet from the Amazon review by Doug Walton:

The unique and intriguing aspect of Dr. Banathy's work in general, and this work in particular, is the emphasis on the process of social systems design. No prescribed future is proposed; rather, Dr. Banathy seeks to provide the methodological tools for humanity to create a better future. In this sense, the work does not try to advocate any other values than that people must take charge of their future and that everyone should be involved in the design of the social systems in which they will inhabit. It is thus, in a sense, a work about how to be a responsible citizen in the modern age.

It is a book about democracy, but not about government. Rather it is a book about focused, meaningful, and productive public dialogue, both generative and strategic. As a metaphor, Dr. Banathy reminds us of the citizen democracies of ancient Greece, where public issues could be debated in full view.

Not to mention our very own FDR.

Sustainability, previously unbeknownst to me, is a subject of import in General Systems Theory and we would do well to take a peek at John Raven's requirements for societal sustainability. They cluster in five areas: the nature of competence, the nature and development of the ability to perceive and form orderly judgments, the effective management of the educational system. and the societal learning and management arrangements required for sustainability. You are left on your own to read the details in the clickie --it's short. Integrating this information could contribute to your project of becoming a responsible citizen-- or is that my project?.

Feeling resistant? Turns out, of course, there is something that's known as resistance to sustainability.

Unruh (2000, 2002) has argued that numerous barriers to sustainability arise because today's technological systems and governing institutions were designed and built for permanence and reliability, not change. In the case of fossil fuel-based systems this is termed "carbon lock-in" and inhibits many change efforts. argues that if enough members of the environmental movement adopted a problem solving process that fit the problem, the movement would make the astonishing discovery that the crux of the problem is not what it thought it was. It is not the proper practices or technical side of the problem after all. Any number of these practices would be adequate. Instead the real issue is why is it so difficult to persuade social agents (such as people, corporations, and nations) to adopt the proper practices needed to live sustainably? Thus the heart of the matter is the change resistance or social side of the problem.

Enough! You are excused to admire the picture.

Photo note: Metaphorophoto perhaps? Somebody hung up their work gloves -- had a ranchy feeling. I had to ride my bike twice around the block and ignore impatience and distain to shoot this.

Posted by Dakota at 06:45 AM

December 11, 2006

The Blogger's Dilemma


Some mornings
you have
at all
to say

but nonetheless
feel compelled
to publish
a pretty picture

even though you
should be working
for world peace
or the reinstatement
of the inheritance tax

or doing the books
so that you can
be compensated
for your real work

ah but
calico curtains
the last of
the leaves

shot at slight peril
when stopped
at a light with
impatient drivers
lined up behind

and you
post it anyway
even though
you know
it is

Photo note: See above

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in context

Posted by Dakota at 10:19 AM

December 10, 2006

Fractured Reflections Black and White


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In his op-ed piece on December 8, 2006, (rescued from the bowels of the New York Times archives by the folks at Smirking Chimp) Paul Krugman recognizes the prescient leaders who spoke out against the invasion of Iraq, and were so badly discredited at the time.

Krugman left out one very important person, Kofi Annan. The BBC's Lyse Doucet interviewed Kofi Annan recently, on his departure as Secretary General of the United Nations. She was, I thought, inordinately tough on him, pressing him about the oil for food scandal, his "inactions", his inability to prevent the Iraq war, his relationship to George W. Bush, Darfur, his depression (which was appropriate-- would that W. would have the psychological depth to experience depression). Kofi Annan is a man of principle, which is consistent and overriding. It shines through in this interview --a tribute to his life's work.

To Annan, world peace requires effort by groups working together for the common good. He feels that it is the responsibility of leaders to acknowledge and respect differences, to encourage dialog, and to avoid contributing to polarization.

Photo note: Black and white, fractures and factions, quite a few teeth, maybe on the canvas of a diplomatic limo, but that would be too far fetched

Posted by Dakota at 07:58 AM

December 07, 2006

Bill O'Reilly's Latest Cause


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Perhaps, due to your busy schedule, you have missed the The Coolest 8 Year Old Girl In The World on YouTube, rebutting Bill O'Reilly's comments about the etiology of violence.

Bill was evidently not amused. In fact, Bill has taken it upon himself to retaliate in his inimitable way. He called in his Fox whore Attorney Wendy Murphy, Esq., lawyer and TV star, to identify incidents of child abuse on YouTube. As you can see from the second clip (scroll down a few entries to find it), he evidently had second thoughts about taking on Coolest.

Coolest was viewed 144,000 times on YouTube, Bill, 2500.

Honestly, the man needs to calm down.

Photo note: The side of a bus, shot out the car window, in heavy traffic, with rear view mirror and multiple triangles. Huey looks like Coolest, without the skins, don't you think? She's Lakota Sioux .

Posted by Dakota at 09:13 PM

Drip Drip Drip, In More Ways Than One


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Now that the leaked report has come full faucet, wiser persons than I had much to say about it , so I'll just pass you right along to them.

Most relevant was Russ Feinglold speaking to Keith Olbermann (whose ratings are through the roof these days). Senator Feingold, unlike anyone on the "bipartisan" commission, was prophylactically wise. He thought the invasion of Iraq was a terrible idea in the first place, and now suggests that resources should be dedicated to real threats, like terrorists.

Al Gore reminds us that there are a number of reports in the pipeline, all of which say that Iraq is an utter disaster. He "urged the president not to try to separate out the personal issues of being blamed in history for this mistake and instead recognize it’s not about him." -- an assignment that is much too psychologically complex for Bush, particularly due to his narcissistic character.

Speaking of narcissism, Arthur Silber does a smashing moral psychopolitical analysis of the report. One juicy tidbit: "The myth of Western, and more particularly, of American "exceptionalism" is a fundamental part of our nation's view of itself. It is deeply embedded in our national psyche, and I strongly doubt it will be dislodged in the foreseeable future. I recently quoted from Hampton Sides' new book, on the subject of the U.S. war against Mexico. Recall this sentence especially:"To conquer Mexico, in other words, would be to do it a favor. "

In his Boston Globe editorial, aptly entitled "Pie In The Sky", Peter Galbraith takes on "The Report" point by point and laments "By not facing up to the reality of a disintegrated Iraq, Baker's panel has missed an opportunity to forge a consensus around concrete steps that could contain Iraq's civil war and extricate the United States from the quagmire.

On departure, Donald Rumsfeld took it upon himself to make a few recommendations which are dramatized here by ze frank. You deserve a treat, for paying attention through all the dry stuff.

And, as the cherry on top, you may have Jon Stewart commentary.

To summarize -- the smart people didn't like the report very much, and don't think it will change anything. Inquiry: Didn't Rumsfeld have a nerve?

Photo note: Metaphorophotographically speaking, not quite enough light coming through patchwork, over new construction, some overlapping -- Concretely, a new building in Copley Square .

Posted by Dakota at 06:34 AM

December 05, 2006



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focus in the field

I was blessed with unstructured time this afternoon which allowed me to fiddle around in the cacophany of the world wide web. It was directed fiddling, which is often more productive than free style fiddling. But I digress.

Fimoculous' picks for best blogs of 2006 was an excellent starting place. According to the proprietor, Rex Sorgatz, " A fimoculous is a micro-organism that consumes its own waste for sustenance. Fimoculli are therefore a self-perpetuating ecology. A mono-parasite, a homo-symbiosis, devours the filth expunged on the mediascape."

I picked out a few destinations to share from my internet adventure, all concerning the clever use of space. You are, of course, free to have your own adventure.

Destination #1. "An anonymous arts organization of architects, designers and urban planners, Heavy Trash creates large, disposable art objects that draw community and media attention to urban issues. By explaining a particular urban problem and suggesting a solution, Heavy Trash seeks to provoke dialogue among the residents of Los Angeles." In this project, Heavy Trash installed viewing platforms outside of gated communities (see photo album) and used them to educate the public.

Destination #2. The visual metaphor used by Denver Water Conservation.

Destination #3. The delightful visual information designs at "indexed"

Photo note: A field of -- er... I'm damned if I can remember the name of this plant -- whose leaves were used for complexion exfoliation by the Pilgrims. It took me along time to see the joke in the field, thus qualifying the series as the metaphorophotographic

Remember this?

Posted by Dakota at 02:53 PM

December 04, 2006

Greg Palast Explains It to Me, and I Do My Best To Explain It To You


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I have probably prolonged my debilitated state by reading Greg Palast's "Armed Madness" upon my sickbed.

Like my other op-ed heroes, Paul Krugman and Robert Kuttner, Palast is an economist -- a self described "forensic economist", as well as the kind of investigative reporter who is almost extinct. He follows money trails, and then reports on what he finds. Perhaps the fact that he is based London and writes for the BBC and The Observer, explains his immunity to the stupor that has engulfed most of the American press for the last several years.

His book has helped me to understand an aspect of the war in Iraq that isnot all that apparent, but, when elucidated, clarifies quite a lot. I hope that I can explain it accurately.

Palast says that the concept of "peak oil" is a ploy to make oil look scarce (which it isn't....yet) thus making the remaining oil more valuable, and adding to the profits of the usual crowd . (Palast is not opposed to the development of alternative energies, but he doesn't buy the self serving panic that has been promulgated by Big Oil about limited resources. I believe him.)

This war is about limiting and controlling the production of Iraqi oil, which is plentiful. When Saddam was dictating, he played loose and dirty with OPEC and their oil pricing cartel -- flooding the market sometimes, withholding at others, wreaking havoc with the plan to steadily increase oil prices. All factions agreed that he should be vanquished for his impertinence.

That said, there ensued a disagreement about how to bring the Iraqi oil fields back under control, so that oil prices could be stabilized. Big Oil and the Pentagon were of one mind, which favored a quickie coup, installation of an indigenous dictator (undoubtedly evil, but in an American way), who would take orders from you-know-who, a short, supported occupation, and an View image
">unfair distribution of Iraqi oil assets to the corporations who control the world, while maintaining a cozy relationship with OPEC. Kiss Saddam 's antics goodbye. The working model favored by Big Oil/Pentagon was the Pinochet Placement in Chile. George H.W. , his Saudi buddies, and Jim Baker III, (who is planning a "solution" to the mess, as we speak), are on this team. Kissinger consults.

On the opposing team are the neoconservatives of this administration, Cheney, W., Condi, Rove, Rumsfeld-the- Sacrificed, and other chickenhawks who have been since been banished -- ie Paul Wolfowitz to the World Bank and Richard Perle to The American Enterprise Institute. They would like to bust OPEC in the chops, stick around in Iraq for profit, gain political favor by providing cheap oil to American guzzlers, and control the world....too.

Neither team is altruistic, but, as Palast points out, capitalists are generally more peace loving because bombs on their property are costly and slow production. War profiteers, in contrast, enjoy profits as a war is ongoing.

If one uses the lens of the covert dimension of American infighting to view the more overt difficulties between the Shi'ites, Sunnis and Kurds, one can better understand the revolving door that seems arbitrarily deposits American administrative officials and Iraqi government personnel in and out of place.

The leaking of the Baker Commission memo (remember which team George Baker III is on) last week, and W.'s petulant, almost defiant response to it, is surely a piece of this puzzle. I know I don't understand the conflict well enough because I can't answer this question, that Dan Froomkin poses:.

So who leaked this memo, and why, and why now? Was it someone inside the White House, our outside? Was it an "authorized" leak, or an act of rebellion? Was it an attempt to put more pressure on Maliki? To destroy him? Or to show how screwed up things are generally?

The senior administration officials wouldn't comment. And here's all Gordon would say in his story: "An administration official made a copy of the document available to a New York Times reporter seeking information on the administration's policy review."

And that's more than enough thinking for one day.

Just in: More on leakiness from Dan Froomkin.

Photo note: Two American flags, one under the awning with lots of stars - yours for extrapolation

Posted by Dakota at 10:34 PM

December 03, 2006

Modern Relationship


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All you get
this morning
is a movie
with matching

which will
make you
to be a
of another
if you are

or better
if you aren't

Photo note: Ducks out of water

Posted by Dakota at 10:51 PM

Sustainable fashion


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Caught sustainable fashionista Summer Rayne Oakes on Living on Earth this morning. A Cornell graduate in Natural Resources and Entomology, with a specialty in sludge, as well as a fashion model, Summer is concerned about the toxins that are released into the environment by the textile industry. She believes that sustainable fashion, like organic food, is the wave of the future.

Take a peek at the Ethical Fashion Show. Runways are a kick.

While exploring the sustainable goods world, I found . Green Dimes where, for $36, you can eliminate, or at least pare down your junk mail, (which, for me, often includes clothing catalogs} and have trees planted in their stead.

Photo note: A wildly mistaken view of sustainable fashion as shot on Newbury Street.

Addendum: As soon as we noted that sustainable fashion was going to be the new organic food, what should appear on the market but green jeans

Posted by Dakota at 08:12 AM

December 01, 2006

Evaluate Your Deity


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Oh dear, I seem to have alienated the Mormons. I wouldn't want them to think I had singled them out, so I decided to publish this. I'm sorry to tell you that I didn't create the form all by myself, but I am an unauthorized distributor. We have to thank for his noble effort.



God would like to thank you for your belief and patronage. In order to better serve your needs, (S)He asks that you take a few moments to answer the following questions:

1. How did you find out about your deity?

__ Newspaper
__ Bible
__ Torah
__ Koran
__ Television
__ Book of Mormon
__ Divine Inspiration
__ Dead Sea Scrolls
__ My Mama Done Tol' Me
__ Near Death Experience
__ Near Life Experience
__ National Public Radio
__ Tabloid
__ Burning Shrubbery
__ Other (specify): _____________

2. Which model deity did you acquire?

__ Jehovah
__ Jesus
__ Krishna
__ Father, Son & Holy Ghost [Trinity Pak]
__ Zeus and entourage [Olympus Pak]
__ Odin and entourage [Valhalla Pak]
__ Allah
__ Satan
__ Gaia/Mother Earth/Mother Nature
__ God 1.0a (Hairy Thunderer)
__ God 1.0b (Cosmic Muffin)
__ None of the above, I was taken in by a false god

3. Did your God come to you undamaged, with all parts in good working order and with no obvious breakage or missing attributes?

__ Yes
__ No

If no, please describe the problems you initially encountered here. Please indicate all that apply:

__ Not eternal
__ Finite in space/Does not occupy or inhabit the entire cosmos
__ Not omniscient
__ Not omnipotent
__ Not infinitely plastic (incapable of being all things to all creations)
__ Permits sex outside of marriage
__ Prohibits sex outside of marriage
__ Makes mistakes
__ Makes or permits bad things to happen to good people
__ Makes or permits good things to happen to bad people
__ Looks after life other than that on Earth
__ When beseeched, doesn't stay beseeched
__ Requires burnt offerings
__ Requires virgin sacrifices

4. What factors were relevant in your decision to acquire a deity? Please check all that apply.

__ Indoctrinated by parents
__ Needed a reason to live
__ Indoctrinated by society
__ Needed focus in whom to despise
__ Needed focus in whom to love
__ Imaginary friend grew up
__ Hate to think for myself
__ Wanted to meet girls/boys in church
__ Fear of death
__ Wanted to piss off parents
__ Wanted to please parents
__ Needed a day away from school or work
__ Desperate need for certainty
__ Like organ music
__ Need to feel morally superior
__ Thought Jerry Falwell was cool
__ Thought there had to be something other than Jerry Falwell
__ @#%$ was falling out of the sky
__ My shrubbery caught fire and told me to do it

5. Have you ever worshiped a deity before? If so, which false god were you fooled by? Please check all that apply.

__ Baal
__ The Almighty Dollar
__ Left Wing Liberalism
__ The Radical Right
__ Amon Ra
__ Beelzebub
__ Bill Gates
__ Barney The Big Purple Dinosaur
__ The Great Spirit
__ The Great Pumpkin
__ The Sun
__ The Moon
__ The Force
__ Cindy Crawford
__ Elvis
__ A burning shrub
__ Psychiatry
__ Other: ________________

6. Are you currently using any other source of inspiration in addition to God? Please check all that apply.

__ Tarot
__ Lottery
__ Astrology
__ Television
__ Fortune cookies
__ Ann Landers
__ Psychic Friends Network
__ Dianetics
__ Palmistry
__ Playboy and/or Playgirl
__ Self-help books
__ Sex, drugs, and rock & roll
__ Biorhythms
__ Alcohol
__ Marijuana
__ Bill Clinton
__ Tea Leaves
__ EST
__ Amway
__ CompuServe
__ Mantras
__ Jimmy Swaggert
__ Crystals
__ Human sacrifice
__ Pyramids
__ Wandering around a desert
__ Insurance policies
__ Burning shrubbery
__ Barney T.B.P.D.
__ Barney Fife
__ Other:_____________________
__ None

7. God reputedly employs a limited degree of Divine Intervention to preserve a balanced level of felt presence and blind faith. Which would you prefer? Circle one below:

a. More Divine Intervention
b. Less Divine Intervention
c. Current level of Divine Intervention is just right
d. Don't know.
e. What's Divine Intervention?

8. God also reputedly attempts to maintain a balanced level of disasters and miracles. Please rate on a scale of 1 - 5 your opinion of the handling of the following (1 =unsatisfactory, 5 = excellent):

a. Disasters:
1 2 3 4 5 flood
1 2 3 4 5 famine
1 2 3 4 5 earthquake
1 2 3 4 5 war & holocausts
1 2 3 4 5 pestilence
1 2 3 4 5 plague
1 2 3 4 5 Spam
1 2 3 4 5 AOL

b. Miracles:
1 2 3 4 5 rescues
1 2 3 4 5 spontaneous remissions
1 2 3 4 5 stars hovering over tiny towns & previously unknown hamlets
1 2 3 4 5 crying statues
1 2 3 4 5 water changing to wine
1 2 3 4 5 walking on water
1 2 3 4 5 coincidence of any sort
1 2 3 4 5 getting any sex whatsoever

9. From time to time God reputedly makes available the names and addresses of Her/His followers and devotees to selected reputedly divine personages who provide quality services and perform intercessions in His behalf. Are you interested in a compilation of listed offerings?

__ Yes, please deluge me with religious zealots for the benefit of my own mortal soul
__ No, I do not wish to be inundated by religious fanatics clamoring for my money

10. Do you have any additional comments or suggestions for improving the quality of God's services? (Attach an additional sheet if necessary.)


Photo note: A handmade street shrine incorporating a few little things from around the house -- note the alarm clock built into the tower, the vase, golden cherubs and field flowers. This is a variation on the more familiar Virgin Mary in a bathtub.

Posted by Dakota at 05:16 PM