Tuesday, November 25, 2008

moon and sand

meet me children meet me
meet me at the top of the sky
all i want for you to do
is take yourself a little higher

(image via life: mojave desert lava cave were technician is testing a space suit for apollo flight)

when languages die

"A new book by K. David Harrison, a linguist at Swarthmore, titled When Languages Die, looks at what we lose when languages disappear. Unusual ways of counting. Unique landscape names and calendars. Specialized vocabularies for the natural and agricultural world. Fantastic rarities of grammar, such as the suffix -sig in the Siberian language Tofa that means "smelling like." Examples come from dozens of languages from all over the world. He even illustrates with his own adventuring among nomads in Siberia and Mongolia, hunting down the last speakers of atrophied cultures.

But what caught my eye was this claim by Harrison: "Languages can package knowledge in radically different ways, thus facilitating different ways of conceptualizing, naming, and discussing the world." Elsewhere he calls languages "packaged information." In systems of kinship terms, for instance, which vary dramatically among different cultures, each one is "the result is a highly compact, highly efficient system of knowledge that packs multiple bits of information into small spaces."

In other words, languages are design objects."

Love it. Read the rest here.

Thursday, November 20, 2008


ballad of a crystal man

Illustrations by Gustaf Tenggren, from an extremely rare 1923 edition of Grimm's Fairy Tales.

daito manabe: electronic facial contortionist

Daito Manabe’s newest art piece uses a machine that translates music into electrical pulses. Through the electrodes taped to his face, these pulses cause the muscles to twitch and jerk into contorted expressions along to the beat of the music.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Saturday, November 15, 2008

it was a bluff and it turned into an art

Speaking of Lithuania, Vilnius is also the site of a world-famous Frank Zappa memorial statue, whose national public support was rounded up by a world-famous white lie. At the opening ceremony, Zappa surely would have been smiling as he looked down upon a formerly communist military orchestra playing his anti-establishment tunes.

rollingstone has the full story.

soviet bunker theme park

(image from azillphotos)

"When confronted with the issue of what to do with an ex-Soviet bunker in the countryside, an enterprising Lithuanian decided that some things should be left the way they are…

Welcome to 1984: Išgyvenimo Drama, otherwise known as Survival Drama in a Soviet Bunker.

Built near Vilnius in 1980, when Lithuania was still a part of the USSR, the bunker’s past life includes protecting a television transmitter and acting as a secure outpost for Soviet troops. Encompassing 4,000 cubic meters and buried 5 meters deep, the bunker is a remnant of Soviet occupation, which the Lithuanians have found more difficult to get rid of than the army.

Instead of letting the building fall into complete disrepair, some lucrative Lithuanians decided to put the bunker to some use, so, concerned about young Lithuanians lack of understanding about their country’s past, producer Ruta Vanagaite was prompted to create a re-enactment project, demonstrating the experiences of the previous generation.

Išgyvenimo drama opened in early 2008 to some controversy. Tourists pay 120 LTL ($US 220) each to step back into 1984 as a temporary USSR citizen for 2.5 hours. On entry, all belongings, including money, cameras and phones, are handed over and under the watchful eye of guards and alsatians, tourists change into threadbare Soviet coats and are herded through the bunker.

Experiences include watching TV programs from 1984, wearing gas masks, learning the Soviet anthem under duress, eating typical Soviet food (with genuine Soviet tableware) and even undergoing a concentration-camp-style interrogation and medical check.

The Soviet Bunker is not a theme park for the faint-hearted; all of the actors involved in the project were originally in the Soviet army and some were authentic interrogators, however there are performances tailored specifically for school groups so they know when to cool it, too.

Before heading back into the real world, participants are treated to a shot of vodka. They leave with a better understanding of life under Soviet occupation and, no doubt, a new respect for their elders past."

- from environmental graffiti

Monday, November 3, 2008

Dia de Los Muertos

Catrina, in a 1913 zinc etching by Mexican printmaker José Guadalupe Posada.

The word catrina is the feminine form of the word catrín, which means "dandy". The figure, depicted in an ornate hat fashionable at the time, is intended to show that the rich and fashionable, despite their pretensions to importance, are just as susceptible to death as anyone else.