Friday, February 20, 2009

Pecha Kucha Night

Last night I attended a Pecha Kucha; though I've been familiar with the form (20 slides, 20 seconds each, then on to next speaker), the first thing I learned by attending was that I've been mis-pronouncing the term, which has emphasis on the second syllable (same stress curve as the four syllables of "matryoshka doll"or [when choosing cookies] "Pick Chocolate Chip")

Pecha Kucha Nights have been held in more than 170 cities worldwide. This was the third such event presented in Detroit. The last one here was at the DIA, which doubtless is a better venue than last night's--the Hard Rock Cafe (in the Compuware Headquarters), where there were patrons at the bar holding loud conversations (doubtless annoyed at that person onstage with the microphone). Hard Rock, however, was well suited for the band that closed the evening

The presentations covered a wide range of topics, in an equally wide range of quality. Tafari Stevenson-Howard does some stunningly beautiful close work photography with flowers; Ryan Southen's photos are equally arresting images of urban architecture. Nevertheless, both used the Pecha Kucha medium poorly, structuring their comments about each slide with a simple statement of what it was depicting--"This is a Dahlia I bought at Detroit's Eastern Market" or "Comerica Bank asked me to shoot their new headquarters in Dallas"--rather than spending time on why this particular image deserved to be one of their 20 slides.

Two urban planner types showed what they've done plotting all kinds of data about Southwest Detroit into a Geographical Information System (from historical and cultural assets, to where a preponderance of parking lots remained in Corktown, to brownfields, to potentially viable grocery store locations). Unfortunately their slides of the GIS mappings were not sufficiently clear in their resolution to attract one's visual attention, so audience members lost interest quickly and began talking among themselves; this made it impossible to hear their verbally dense presentation.

Deborah Marlowe Kashdan presented a series of very cartoon-flat oil-on-canvas depictions of Beautiful People Out on the Town, the figures often recognizable celebrities. For each, she had a little two- or three-sentence story, often in the first-person voice of one of the characters, except each story was essentially the same glib self-aggrandizing/uncertainly ironic bit as the previous. Even at a brief 20 seconds/slide, her presentation quickly made me yearn for someone to put a staple in my head. But then her last four slides were full-size cut-out depictions of drag queens!! And then she was out of time|slides...

Small, nine-inch three-dimensional superhero figures made out of paper: I can say I've seen that now.

The presentation that most closely resembled what I'd expected to see was Michael Ford's way-out ideas about hip-hop architecture and design. His ideas were thematically coherent (e.g., his definition of hip-hop culture involves always repurposing some existing work) but his ideas were adventurous and provocative--from mobile audio-visual booths (like photobooths) that would allow rap battles between participants all over the world, to classic furniture designs incorporating designs and fabrics from hip-hop clothing fashion, to a multi-purpose living space that incorporated book shelves and skateboarding and walls for graffitti, those walls also incorporating a peg system on which a skateboard could be attached to become a study chair (I-kid-you-not).

The very cool folks at Detroit Synergy sponsored the event, and I did win one of their Hazen Pingree t-shirts (his is one of the seated statues at the head of Grand Circus Park)

Sunday, January 23, 2005

There are no exact directions.

Vaclav Havel, in acceptance of the "Open Society" Prize
There are no exact directions. There are probably no directions at all. The only things that I am able to recommend at this moment are a sense of humour; an ability to see the ridiculous and the absurd dimensions of things; an ability to laugh about others as well as about ourselves; a sense of irony and of everything that invites parody in this world. In other words, rising above things, or looking at them from a distance; sensibility to the hidden presence of all the more dangerous types of conceit in others, as well as in ourselves; good cheer; an unostentatious certainty of the meaning of things; gratitude for the gift of life and courage to assume responsibility for it; and a vigilant mind.
via maisonneuve

Friday, January 14, 2005

"Even a cat can look at a king"

Performers at the presidential inaugural will have less latitude than a passing feline:
Other instructions given performers include a warning not to look directly at Bush while passing the presidential reviewing stand
(via MonsterLimo)

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Aid for victims of the South-East Asia Earthquake and Tsunami

This site offers many resources for those seeking information and offering assistance:

Atrios points out that the initial U.S. pledge of $15 million in aid compares poorly with the budget for the upcoming presidential inauguration. Please be generous.

The new $35 million figure is approximately equivalent to the inauguration budget (not including security). I feel better; don't you?

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Perhaps the perfect use of a weblog

Rafe Coburg is right: Winning Argument may be the perfect use of this medium.

About Winning Argument
Most of the political debate in this country does not occur behind podiums but in backyards, bus stops and ball parks. This blog is an effort to give you – or at least those of you who agree with us – the arguments you need to convince others that you're right. If you disagree with the opinions expressed here, please make your case in the comments section.

Assertion; evidence in favor; evidence contradicting your opponents.

Simple. Useful. Elegant.

Next: Republicans cure cancer!

I used to worry about how the profit motive motivated or distracted medical research, but I'll admit, I'd overlooked entirely the electoral calculus.

Newt Gingrich thinks curing cancer would be good for his party:

...starting with health, Republicans need to include African Americans, Hispanic Americans, Asian Americans and Native Americans in their policy development and policy implementation. Because African Americans, Native Americans and Hispanics disproportionately suffer from diabetes, the right answers on diabetes and obesity are inherently good answers for America's minorities. Eliminating cancer as a cause of death ... has a powerful appeal to minority Americans
(via Matthew Yglesias)

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

War on Terror is over; you can all go home!

Ashcroft, in a five-page, handwritten [resignation] letter to Bush, said, "The objective of securing the safety of Americans from crime and terror has been achieved."

He probably finished up the job in the week after the election; otherwise, he'd have told us all sooner, right?

Sunday, November 07, 2004

Now the work

Now that someone has committed suicide at WTC Ground Zero in protest of last week's election results, I suppose that we can end the half-hearted joking about wrist-slitting and emigrating to Canada.

Lakshmi Chaudhry's despair/concern is typical:

James Carville says that if liberals like me want to win, we need to learn how to talk to white guys in pickup trucks who think my gay friends are a sin against nature. But what could I possibly say to someone for whom a ban on abortion is the single most important issue in their life? There's no point in trying to "speak my values," if the folks I'm talking to think those values are simply wrong

In the aftermath of the election, it feels like I've not just ceded my country, but also my self. I've become just one among the sea of anonymous losers whose concerns and issues are simply not relevant any more. In the space of a single night, I've become invisible.

So don't be invisible. Don't 'speak your values'--be your values.

Frankly, how else do you anticipate persuading anyone?

This view of popular vote by county reaffirms that Kerry's support correlates with population density; i.e., when you know people who are different than you, you learn that you needn't fear them. The white guys in pickup trucks don't know your gay friends, but they could get to know you. Once they come to trust your independent judgement, such that you can no longer be demonized, it may not be so clear what a "fag-loving baby killer" really looks like.

Maybe we're already home

Since this is my first post, I thank any and all who have stumbled by.

In his Saturday NYTimes Op-Ed (registration/surrender of first born required), Nicholas Kristof somehow cannot seem to recall the existence of the Democratic Leadership Council and the three presidential campaigns run by its early leaders (all three of which, need I add, earned a plurality of the popular vote). Instead, he trots out yet another version of why the Democrats have to move to the right: it worked for Tony Blair (and he was there to see it in person!)

Of course, the medicine Kristof prescribes was fit for a Labor Party "caught in its own echo chamber of militant unions and anti-American activists, and it so repulsed voters that it seemed it might wither away entirely."

That's no diagnosis of the current Democratic Party.

Gary Langer's nearby Op-Ed helpfully cautions against misreading the prominence of the "moral values" response in Tuesday's exit polls because

the exit poll, co-sponsored by the national television networks and The Associated Press ... asked voters what was the most important issue in their decision: taxes, education, Iraq, terrorism, economy/jobs, moral values or health care. Six of these are concrete, specific issues. The seventh, moral values, is not, and its presence on the list produced a misleading result.

But it's the additional data that Langer cites to cast doubt upon the exit poll results that interests me here.

The makeup and views of the electorate in other measures provide some context for the moral values result. The number of conservative white Protestants or weekly churchgoing white Protestants voting (12 percent and 13 percent of voters, respectively) did not rise in 2004. Fifty-five percent of voters said abortion should be legal in all or most cases. Sixty percent said they supported either gay marriage (25 percent) or civil unions (an additional 35 percent).

Got that? On the two hot-button moral issues of the day--abortion and gay marriage--55% and 60% of Americans support the Democratic presidential candidate's position, respectively.

Where is there to move?