Thursday, April 29, 2010

Pursuit of Happiness

This cover of Kid Cudi's Pursuit of Happiness by the indie-rock group Barbara is so melodic and peaceful... it pretty much instantly puts me in a good mood.

I'm on the pursuit of happiness
And I know everything that shines ain't always gonna be gold, hey
I'll be fine once I get it, yeah
I'll be good

The Next Empire

Great article in The Atlantic about the Chinese push for resources in Africa. The Chinese also built major railways to Tibet recently to transport valuable minerals and metals mined in the mountains there. Apparently, they've been doing the same in Africa, just as the Europeans did for centuries.

The Next Empire by Howard French, The Atlantic

All across Africa, new tracks are being laid, highways built,ports deepened, commercial contracts signed—all on an unprecedented scale, and led by China, whose appetite for commodities seems insatiable. Do China’s grand designs promise the transformation,at last, of a star-crossed continent? Or merely its exploitation? The author travels deep into the heart of Africa, searching for answers.

The Eternal Style of Grace Kelly

Grace Kelly is beautiful. Growing up, the musical High Society was one of my favorite movies (still is), so Kelly found an early spot in my heart. Just saw this slideshow on Vanity Fair about an exhibition on her next month, and thought I'd pass it along. Enjoy.

Eternal Style of Grace Kelly by Laura Jacobs

Next month, London’s Victoria and Albert Museum will feature a collection of Grace Kelly’s clothes and accoutrements, from her Philadelphia society days to her Hollywood stardom, to her Monegasque princesshood. matches classic shots of our May 2010 cover subject with images from the exhibition.”

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

How Bizarre?!

This song is great, a throwback from all the way back in '96.

The video? Well, it's bizarre. How bizarre, you ask? Bizarre.

Zoltan Mesko

After the NFL draft, I was going through the Patriots picks, and was surprised to see that they had taken Zoltan Mesko, a punter from Michigan, in the 5th round, an entire round earlier than the next punter drafted.

Turns out that Zoltan was a team captain, and lead the Big-10 in yards per punt. With a 6'5, 230 lb frame, he was also a running threat, and a 4-year letterman.

These facts were nothing after I Youtube'd the guy. Training camp isn't months from starting, but I might have a new favorite Patriot.


This song, and video, just does it for me.

Found it thanks to Max and crew @ Wine & Bowties, check 'em out.

Sakuri Matsuri

This Weekend, come check out the largest Cherry Blossom Festival outside of Japan at the Brooklyn Botanical Garden.

List of events below:

Aliens may pose threat, says Hawking

Sorry for the recent hiatus from the blogosphere, but I was in the process of switching coasts.

Maybe I should have been changing more than that, if what Stephen Hawking recently said is correct. Looking to start a colony on a different planet?

In a new series about the Universe on the Discovery Channel, Hawking said humans should fear a potential alien encounter, and he believes that their existence is virtually guaranteed.

[Hawking] suggests that aliens might simply raid Earth for its resources and then move on: "We only have to look at ourselves to see how intelligent life might develop into something we wouldn't want to meet. I imagine they might exist in massive ships, having used up all the resources from their home planet. Such advanced aliens would perhaps become nomads, looking to conquer and colonise whatever planets they can reach."

He concludes that trying to make contact with alien races is "a little too risky". He said: "If aliens ever visit us, I think the outcome would be much as when Christopher Columbus first landed in America, which didn't turn out very well for the Native Americans."

Humans Should Fear Aliens: Huffington Post

Friday, April 16, 2010

You Better Shop Around

Smokey Robinson and the Miracles really kill it in this single from 1960 - and I was super surprised to find such a quality version of the music AND a live performance on Youtube. What a find.

Till next week, Salut.


Financial Reform

To understand what’s really at stake right now, watch the looming fight over derivatives, the complex financial instruments Warren Buffett famously described as “financial weapons of mass destruction.” The Obama administration wants tighter regulation of derivatives, while Republicans are opposed. And that tells you everything you need to know.

Since the 1930s, we’ve had a standard procedure for dealing with failing banks: the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation has the right to seize a bank that’s on the brink, protecting its depositors while cleaning out the stockholders. In the crisis of 2008, however, it became clear that this procedure wasn’t up to dealing with complex modern financial institutions like Lehman or Citigroup.

- Paul Krugman, The Fire Next Time

The Media is gearing up for the next big battle in Washington, this time over proposed Financial Reform. But the objectives of reform are so clearly in the interest of the American people and our national economic solvency, that the Dems seem "giddy" at the thought of Republican opposition. November here we come?

Brian Beutler elaborates on this in his article on Talking Points Memo, Make Our Day! Democrats Giddy Over GOP Opposition to Financial Reform:

About a week or two. That's how long Republicans have to decide how they ultimately want to play their hand on financial regulatory reform. According to numerous Democratic aides and key senators, the GOP will either have to join forces with Democrats on a bill that hews very much to the White House's demands, or they'll have to do their best to block a bill that enjoys wide popularity. But as much as Democrats want to change the rules that govern Wall Street quickly and smoothly, they also love the politics of moving the bill forward without GOP support and letting Republicans publicly justify their decision to protect hated financial institutions from the regulations they oppose.

Aides go further, admitting that they'd relish the prospect of putting Republicans on the side of big banks in opposition to reg reform. In stark contrast to their approach to the year-long fight over health care reform, Democrats now say broad bipartisan agreement isn't worth it if it sucks up too much time, and needlessly weakens the bill.

Stewart's Killer Commentary

From his position as a self-described comedian, The Daily Shows John Stewart seamlessly slices and dices the bullshit that we have come to expect from our mainstream media, primarily FOX News. In doing so, he (even as a comedian) changes our perceptions of what the political banter in DC is really all about. And what better way to break the barrier between ignorance and accuracy than through humor?

Here's a few of his best from the last two weeks:

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
The Big Bang Treaty
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical HumorTea Party

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
A Farewell to Arms
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical HumorTea Party

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
That's Tariffic
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical HumorTea Party

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Tenacious O
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical HumorTea Party

Let it go, this too shall pass

Not only do I love the message behind this track, the music video is unreal. The contraption in the video is called a Rube Goldberg, a machine that performs a simple task in complex fashion using chain reactions, which took over six months to design and build. All for a 3:00 minute song. Enjoy!


Art is not like other culture because its success is not made by its audience. The public fill concert halls and cinemas every day, we read novels by the millions, and buy records by the billions. We the people, affect the making and quality of most of our culture, but not our art.

- Banksy

Bus stops are far more interesting and useful places to have art than in museums. Graffiti has more chance of meaning something or changing stuff than anything indoors. Graffiti has been used to start revolutions, stop wars, and generally is the voice of people who aren't listened to. Graffiti is one of those few tools you have if you have almost nothing. And even if you don't come up with a picture to cure world poverty you can make somebody smile while they're having a piss.
- Banksy

His identity? Unknown.

Location? Unknown.

His art? Well, that's a slightly different story.

Banksy, the renowned British Graffiti Artist, is believed to have been born sometime in the mid-1970s near Bristol. I first came in contact in his work while in Edinburgh during April of '09. I was walking down an alley and found a mural on the side of a wall, depicting a man and women embracing but unable to touch because of large metal helmets, the kind you'd imagine in Jules Verne's 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. I was blown away. His first film, a documentary entitled Exit Through the Gift Shop, opened this year at the Sundance Film Festival to rave reviews.

Some of his work is more playful, and some pretty moving. The first piece above is actually in Bethlehem on a wall separating Israeli and Palestinian settlements. In 2005 he stenciled into the wall at the Penguin exhibit at the London Zoo We're bored of fish, and managed to place art of his own in the British Museum, London Tate, Metropolitan Museum of Art, MOMA, and the American Museum of Natural History without detection.

BANKSY Wikipedia

There's NO WAY
you're going to get a quote from us to use on your book cover.
- Metropolitan Police Spokesperson
(on the cover of his new book)

Ever Wonder What Our Occupations Have Cost? The Taxday Tomgram Special

I don't know how many people in what I would consider my "cohort" read (or even know about) Tom Englehardt. Nonetheless - you/they should. Hell, I don't check his "Tomgram's" nearly as much as I should, but when I do, I'm never disappointed.

Tom's guest blogger for this post is Jo Comerford, NPP's Executive Director. In his post, Jo looks closely at the city of Binghamton, NY, home of the flagship University of the SUNY system, and Matt Ryan as Mayor, an old college buddy of my Mom. After crunching the numbers, Ryan realized that the residents of Binghamton have paid 138.6 million dollars thus far for our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Comerford puts that in perspective:

For a small city with an annual budget of $81.1 million, $138.6 million would be a hefty sum, even in non-recessionary times. For the same amount of money, Ryan could fund the Binghamton city library for the next 60 years, or pay for a four-year education for 95% of the incoming freshman class at the State University of New York at Binghamton, or offer four years of quality health coverage for everyone in Binghamton 19 or younger, or secure renewable electricity for every home in the city for the next 11 years. If he was feeling really flush, he could fully fund one-third of New York State's Head Start slots for one year.

For the same sum, Ryan could also authorize a $2,900 tax refund for every woman, man, and child in Binghamton or pay the salaries of all of Binghamton's hard-hit public school teachers and staff for about two years.

For $138.6 million, Mayor Ryan could hire 2,765 public safety officers for a year, or simply refund the 12 police positions cut in the latest budget contraction and guarantee those salaries for the next 230 years. Ridiculous? These days, no one is laughing in Binghamton or other cities like it.

Pleasant reading, and happy Taxday!

Remember, the good news is that we do have the most progressive tax code in decades now thanks to Obama's tax cuts. (EFF those tea-parties and their propaganda.) Bad news? We still need to analyze our national priorities.

Jo Comerford, Your Taxes and War

If you’re an average American taxpayer, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have, since 2001, cost you personally $7,334, according to the “cost of war” counter created by the National Priorities Project (NPP). They have cost all Americans collectively more than $980,000,000,000. As a country, we’ll pass the trillion dollar mark soon. These are staggering figures and, despite the $72.3 billion that Congress has already ponied up for the Afghan War in 2010 ($136.8 billion if you add in Iraq), the administration is about to go back to Congress for more than $35 billion in outside-the-budget supplemental funds to cover the president’s military and civilian Afghan surges. When that passes, as it surely will, the cumulative cost of the Afghan War alone will hit $300 billion, and we’ll be heading for two trillion-dollar wars.

In the meantime, just so you know, that $300 billion, according to the NPP, could have paid for healthcare for 131,780,734 American children for a year, or for 53,872,201 students to receive Pell Grants of $5,550, or for the salaries and benefits of 4,911,552 elementary school teachers for that same year.

SF Knights

A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of hosting two old friends from back East - Ash Gol and Sadie Brum. It was a great trip, and Sadie and I were able to take some pretty unreal photos using her new camera. Ash kept asking us for a "top 10" - which even now I can't --- but I guess I can try. So here goes a shot, with 1 for good luck. What to call it? How about SF Knights for now. Suggestions accepted.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Summer Groove, Take 2

Yesterday I prematurely called Hurricane J the anthem of the summer. It's a great track, and will certainly make the top 10 (again, why am I even guessing)... but THIS song, by Paul Pena, is definitely in the running too.

Pena (1950-2005) was born on Cape Cod, to parents of Cape Verdean decent. He was blind by the time he was 20, but boy could he sing and play the guitar. He opened for the Grateful Dead, performed at the Newport Jazz Fest, and was featured in the Documentary Genghis Blues.

Check 'em out

And now, Obama: The Diplomat

Obama Puts His Own Mark on Foreign Policy Issues - NY Times

If there is an Obama doctrine emerging, it is one much more realpolitik than his predecessor’s, focused on relations with traditional great powers and relegating issues like human rights and democracy to second-tier concerns. He has generated much more good will around the world after years of tension with Mr. Bush, and yet he does not seem to have strong personal friendships with many world leaders.

“It is a vital national security interest of the United States to reduce these conflicts because whether we like it or not, we remain a dominant military superpower. And when conflicts break out, one way or another, we get pulled into them. And that ends up costing us significantly in terms of both blood and treasure.
- Barack Obama

Addendum 4/15: Obama Speech Signals a U.S. Shift on the Middle East

This shift is driving the White House's urgency to help broker a Middle East peace deal. It increases the likelihood that Mr. Obama, frustrated by the inability of the Israelis and Palestinians to come to terms, will offer his own parameters for an eventual Palestinian state.

Mr. Obama's words reverberated through diplomatic circles in large part because they echoed those of General David H. Petraeus, the military commander overseeing America's wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

With the surge in Afghanistan, withdrawal of combat forces from Iraq due to begin this year, Special Forces operations (and drone strikes) in Pakistan - as well as new diplomatic pressure, movement towards international economic sanctions against Iran, and now this new potential strategy at brokering an Israeli-Palestinian deal, Mr. Obama is quickly reshaping American Foreign Policy in the Middle East. Call me a cynic (or a realist), but in each case it seems as though he is delicately scaling a mountain of kindling, and one match (or misstep) could ignite an inferno of flames.

Brooklyn Take Me In

The Avett Brothers have the heavy sadness of Townes Van Zandt, the light pop concision of Buddy Holly, the tuneful jangle of the Beatles, the raw energy of the Ramones.
- SF Chronicle

Comprised of two brothers from North Carolina, Seth & Scott, who play the banjo and guitar, and a friend who plays the stand-up bass, these guys have something good going on.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Heaven is Whenever

Got real excited when I saw this pop a few weeks ago on their site, and Jack said they killed it in concert. Looks as though the summer 2k10 anthem is spoken for...

'Heaven is Whenever' - buy it on Itunes, May 4

The Hold Steady recently put the finishing touches on ‘Heaven Is Whenever,’ their new album set for release May 4th. Singer Craig Finn says 'Heaven is Whenever' is about “embracing suffering and finding reward in our everyday lives.” Piano and keys take a backseat to guitar on the new record, which also gets production help from guitarist Tad Kubler.

Recorded in several smaller sessions spread out over a long period of time, the songs on ‘Heaven Is Whenever’ received the benefit of being tested on the band’s recent tours. As Finn says this allowed them to “see what was working and what wasn’t. I believe this record benefits from us working at a more deliberate pace.”

Sunday, April 11, 2010

What did he do?

London based indie-rock group One eskimO performing Kandi off of their most recent album.

I wanted to create a sound of my own:
magical, ambient, filmic, acoustic, beautiful and meaningful.
I wanted to write about how I felt about
life, love,
losses and failures,
highs and lows, even heartbreaks.

But also about how amazing human life is,

and how mind-blowing our very existence is.

- Kristian Leontiou, Vocals/Composer

Friday, April 9, 2010

Henri Cartier-Bresson

A Photographer Whose Beat Was the World

Rarely has the phrase “man of the world” been more aptly applied than to the protean photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson, the subject of a handsome and large — though surely not anywhere near large enough — retrospective opening at the Museum of Modern Art on Sunday.

For much of his long career as a photojournalist, which began in the 1930s and officially ended three decades before his death in 2004, Cartier-Bresson was compulsively on the move. By plane, train, bus, car, bicycle, rickshaw, horse and on foot, he covered the better part of five continents in a tangled, crisscrossing itinerary of arcs and dashes.

In addition to being exhaustively mobile, he was widely connected. Good-looking, urbane, the rebellious child of French haute bourgeois privilege, he networked effortlessly, and had ready access to, and friendships with, the political and culture beau monde of his time.

PhotographsSlide Show: Cartier-Bresson’s Modern Century (Lens Blog)

NY in a fortnight

We laugh until we think we’ll die
Barefoot on a summer night

Nothin’ new is sweeter than with you

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

2 Train - you, my friend, have been Rick Roll'd

The University of Oregon's On the Rocks gives an unexpected performance of Never Gonna Give You Up on the 2 Train in NYC.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Wrong way going down the one way road...

Happy weekend, spring, rebirth of life, crossing of the desert, holi, sangha, etc folks.

wrong way going down the one way road
gonna turn it all around gonna back it on up

Ahmet Ertug

Turkish Photographer, Architect, Historian, and Publisher, Ahmet Ertug, began taking photos in the early 1970s, while studying at the Architectural Association School of Architecture in London. His photographs frequently focus on art and architecture, or subjects of anthropological and historical significance. In short, they're beautiful.

"[His] photography has a deep meditative energy and it withdraws the observer into the intellectual content of his subjects, ranging from the vast interior of monumental buildings to the silent gazes of ancient sculptures."

Check out his galleries:

Blythe Solar Plant Signifies Bright Energy Future for CA

By Sam Houghteling, Apollo News Service

On Dec. 21, 2009, the largest thin-film solar photovoltaic (PV) power plant in the United States began its commercial operations in little-known Blythe, Calif. The new facility – located roughly 200 miles southeast of Los Angeles in Riverside County – was developed by Tempe, Arizona-based First Solar, Inc. and purchased by NRG Solar, a subsidiary of NRG Energy, Inc. The Blythe facility will help California meet its goal of generating 33 percent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2020. NRG has a 20-year power purchase agreement with the local electric utility, Southern California Edison (SCE), which guarantees that SCE will purchase all of the energy produced by this independently operated facility. According to Marc Ulrich, SCE Vice President of Renewables and Alternative Power, “Solar is the great untapped resource in California.” Southern California Edison estimates that the 21-megawatt (MW) plant will power nearly 17,000 homes.

While California continues to struggle with rising unemployment, the construction of the Blythe facility was a boon for local workers, employing 296 union members of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 440 over the course of three months. This included 109 journeyman electricians, 129 registered apprentices, and 58 electrician trainees. According to Roger Roper, president of IBEW Local 440, the average base pay for union electricians is $35.50 per hour plus $14.00 per hour in benefits, with an additional $10.00 per hour in subsistence pay due to the remote location. Older and more experienced workers make considerably more. Project developers collaborated with the Workforce Development Board to hire local residents seeking work, which resulted in the hiring of 23 local electrical workers, including 16 from the city of Blythe itself. Furthermore, collaboration with “Helmets to Hardhats,” an organization that helps transition military veterans into the civilian workforce, put more than two-dozen electricians with military backgrounds into apprenticeships during the construction of the Blythe facility.

Currently, the only PV solar plant in the United States larger than Blythe is the Desoto Next Generation Solar Center in Arcadia, Florida, with production capabilities of 25 MW. However, the Blythe Solar Plant uses thin-film PV panels made of cadmium telluride, which have significantly lower manufacturing costs than traditional silicon PV panels. Though thin-film PV panels require a larger surface area to generate a comparable amount of electricity, they are more flexible, lighter, durable, and have a slower degradation rate than silicon-based solar panels.

While large-scale solar projects like the Blythe Solar Plant create some U.S. manufacturing jobs, more than 90 percent of worldwide PV solar panel production occurs outside the United States, according to the Solar Energy Industry Association. America can reverse this disturbing trend and create high-quality manufacturing jobs here at home by increasing investment in the domestic manufacture of renewable energy systems and components through legislation such as U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown’s Investments for Manufacturing Progress and Clean Technologies (IMPACT) Act, which would provide domestic manufacturers with the capital they need to retool to meet increased clean energy demand.

In a press statement about the Blythe project, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger said: “It is no surprise that America’s largest thin-film solar project was built right here in California, where my Administration has successfully created a climate where green businesses can thrive. It is forward-thinking businesses such as First Solar that will help California reach its nation-leading greenhouse gas reduction and Renewable Portfolio Standard goals, as well as create the new green jobs that will help spur our economic recovery.”

The rapid job creation that occurred at the Blythe facility bodes well for future solar projects. In August 2009, First Solar and Southern California Edison announced plans for two more large-scale PV plants in Desert Center and San Bernardino County. Together, these two plants will have production capabilities of 550 MW. Construction is scheduled to begin in 2012 and 2013, respectively, with a projected completion date of 2015. According to First Solar and NRG, these plants will power 170,000 California homes, produce 1.2 billion kilowatt hours of clean energy annually, and will create thousands of local jobs.

With more renewable energy projects on the way, the commencement of operations in Blythe represents an important transformation occurring in the California energy sector, and a symbol of the bright and renewable future ahead.