Illustrator Ray Villafane knows his way around a jack-o-lantern and he’s happy to share his carving secrets on the Villafane Studios website. So what are you waiting for? Grab a knife and a pumpkin and make this Halloween night a real slasher! (Just watch your fingers…)
Archive for October, 2006
I’m not a morning person. But a couple weeks ago, at 7:30 am, all of my intellectual neurons were firing early when I went to hear Michael Shellenberger give a talk entitled “Are We Dead Yet?â€?
Michael, along with his colleague Ted Nordhaus, rocked the environmental movement when they published their controversial essay “The Death Of Environmentalism.â€? In it they posited that the modern day environmental movement has become a relic and a failure, incapable of dealing with the magnitude of the world’s most serious ecological issues.
I found his ideas to be thoughtfully provocative. For instance, take his idea that ecological concern is a post-material value and therefore economic development is a prerequisite for ecological protection. That thought alone could presumably alter a lot of environmental strategy, particularly in the context of thinking about things like global warming or wilderness protection, and especially given the rapid emergence of economies like those in China and India.
He also talked about the fact that today’s predominate environmental narrative is largely based on constraint, which is not necessarily a great idea if you’re trying to steward significant change within the consciousness of the modern American psyche. Instead, he advocated that we create a new narrative that is based on a sense of possibility and inventiveness. His view was that we should clarify our highest aspirations, put them at the center of our thinking, and develop a political strategy that is rooted in fulfillment, aspiration and overcoming. Michael’s thinking definitely challenges conventional paradigms. In that sense, he embodies the spirit of The Breakthrough Institute, the organization he and Ted recently founded.
There is an artist I have admired for some time known as Billy Blob. His paintings are filled with life and humor and his cartoons display great wit and thought, as typified by animated shorts like “Karma Ghost,” which he showed at Sundance in 2002. Beyond the medium, Billy has a way of looking at how his art connects to the viewer outside of gallery walls. His website, www.billyblob.com, exhibits not only the work, but also acts as a window into the artist’s life.
What I really like about his work are his efforts to expose an audience to art in unconventional ways. In the spring and summer of ’97 Billy created a series of sculptures and paintings that were deposited in random locations, such as a highway rest stop, the L.A. Zoo parking lot, and Tommy’s Hamburgers.
An attached note would direct the finder to pay for the art by sending a check to Billy and, more importantly, submit stories and images of where the art continues to live. The notes encouraged the owner to move the art to other locations, as a vehicle to engage a larger community.
Most of the pieces were never heard from again. But one sculpture named “Confused” was left at a roadside rest stop. Four years later, it reappeared in an art studio of Guajome Park Academy in Vista, California. An art instructor used it as an example for a class project and when the students were finished with their own work, they set each piece around town, to see if anyone would pick them up.
Billy’s one piece appears to have impacted one community in a unique way. But who is to say the other pieces did not continue to travel? How many were exposed to these paintings before one person chose to take them away?
The idea that art can live beyond the confines of a gallery wall leaves endless possibilities.
If business has the potential to make a positive net social, environmental and economic impact, then cultivating a network of leaders to realize that goal is an exceptionally important task. That’s the work of Net Impact. With 125 chapters on 4 continents in 75 cities and 80 graduate schools, the organization enables its members to use business for social good in their educations, careers and communities.
Net Impact’s 14th annual conference, which is expected to draw 1400 participants, will take place from October 27th through the 29th at the Kellogg School of Management, located at Chicago’s Northwestern University. This year’s theme is “Navigating Global Change.” If you’re in the neighborhood, check it out. Some of the Thought Kitchen regulars will be there, presenting ideas and engaging in dialogue with the participants.
A few months ago I made a pilgrimage to Seattle to meet Alex Steffen for the first time. Alex is the founder and executive editor of Worldchanging.com. I use the word “pilgrimageâ€? deliberately because ever since I discovered Worldchanging about a year and a half ago, it’s been a constant source of inspiration, ideas and information. In a media world that is supersaturated with all that’s going wrong, the folks at Worldchanging have chosen a decidedly different tack. They presume that the people, ideas, tools and models to create a better future are all around us, and they seek to illuminate that fact in an intelligent and thoughtful manner.
The blogging work that Alex and the gang at Worldchanging have been pursuing has just given birth to a book entitled Worldchanging: A Users Guide for fhe 21st Century. Beginning October 28th the Worldchanging crew is embarking on a 15-city book tour that includes a stop in Portland, Oregon on October 29th. Each event is designed to celebrate worldchanging ideas explored in the book as well as shine the spotlight on local people and groups doing worldchanging work. Alex also promises a party that’s not to be missed. Sounds like a good combination to me.
At least three or four times a week I troll my favorite website worldchanging.com. During a recent visit, I discovered Viridian, the design movement that takes its name from the Latin viridis, meaning “green.” The goal of the movement, started by Bruce Sterling, is to advance environmental awareness through revolutionary art and design, or as phrased on the official Viridian website, to “create irresistible demand for a global atmosphere upgrade.â€?
What I find so intriguing about Sterling’s Manifesto of January 3, 2000 is his supposition that global warming is not an economic or political problem but rather a design and engineering problem–even a problem of artistic sensibility. He goes on to posit a theory of change that requires creating an “advanced cultural eliteâ€? who will generate new awareness and requirements for more enlightened ways of living. Sterling argues that the task of this group is to:
“…design a stable and sustainable physical economy in which the wealthy and powerful will prefer to live. Mao suits for the masses are not on the Viridian agenda. Couture is on the agenda. We need a form of Green high fashion so appallingly seductive and glamorous that it can literally save people’s lives. We have to gratify people’s desires much better than the current system does. We have to reveal to people the many desires they have that the current system is not fulfilling. Rather than marshalling themselves for inhuman effort and grim sacrifice, people have to sink into our twenty-first century with a sigh of profound relief.â€?
In a world that has largely defined environmentalism in terms of constraint, sacrifice and doing without, I find the notion of fulfilling people’s desires through smart design not only refreshing but also radical. It’s a tall order, but presumably one worth aspiring to.
To be completely at the mercy of the sea.
Caught inside. The curtain falls.
Gasping for air. For those few seconds (which stretched into eternity), there was no work, no words, no love, no hate, no guilt, no art, no anger. Only the moment mattered. And it was the least beautiful part of the sport that took you there, making you small.
Then you emerged,
Completely cleaned up.
Growing up in San Diego I loved three things fiercely: reading, skateboarding and surfing. The last two were invariably done with my best friend Jim, in whose company all of my best ocean-bound moments occurred. Beyond the inevitable stacks of surf and skate magazines, my house was also awash in books about art, architecture and design. So it’s been with a certain mix of wonder, amusement and intellectual curiosity that I’ve watched the development of Shepard Fairey’s Obey grow into a multimedia force. I was in high school when their first generation stickers, with all the graphic appeal of a Kinkos clerk’s off-duty scribbling, first appeared, and I was always happy when I discovered one of the many evolutions in other cities across the country — especially when I was living in New York.
Obey is now a full-on design brand, but it’s never stopped thinking about its output as acts of social commentary, or as they state, propaganda. Fairey built an intellectual, self-aware brand from nothing more than a crude sketch of Andre the Giant, and the idea that the viewer, being asked to “Obey,â€? will somehow get the joke: what seems like an ad has no product behind it, and there is nothing to obey.
I love the simplified goal behind Fariey’s efforts: manufacturing quality dissent. By using the medium of street art, often equated with graffiti or vandalism, the Obey presence, once limited to stickers but now ranging into an entire clothing line, positions itself as an exercise in Phenomenology, with the aim of “reawakening a sense of wonder about one’s environment.â€? Where once there was an ad for nothing but an idea, there’s now a brand based on getting people to think about their surroundings.
On September 21st Rebar, a collaborative group of creators, designers and activists supported by The Trust for Public Land, challenged the most creative minds in San Francisco to “create the most innovative park in a parking spot.â€? The results were playful and purposeful. For more, check out the video on their site.
I love these guys. A small group of boarders, surfers, and cyclists holed up somewhere in Wales, living the life they love. They sell clothes. Good clothes. Fun stuff. And the clothes seem entirely consistent with the attitude and values of the folks who make them.
But what I love most about Howies is their voice. It’s a collective voice, earnest and honest and intelligent without being full of itself. These guys care deeply about addressing the issues of our day, but their messages are all rooted in an underlying optimism. Something we could all stand to emulate.
A sample from their site. For more, check them out at www.howies.co.uk.