Holiday Gift Giving

Black Friday

There are over three hundred million people in this country, and you all want to go shopping on the same day?

Hmm...what happens when you place a dense population of humans within a confined space? the rest of the world's animal populations, increased population density within a limited space inevitably leads to aggression (which is probably why people beat the crap out of each other in order to obtain the latest and greatest toys, stampede and kill employees to get to the toys first, and sometimes even shoot each other in toy stores.)

What's really sad about this scenario is that most animals will fight over limited resources that are necessary for survival, but humans are fighting for toys. That's just pure stupidity.

Buy Nothing Day

As a response to the absurdity of Black Friday, we also have Buy Nothing Day when humans protest rampant consumerism by abstaining from making any purchases for one day.

What good does it do if a person is going to make a large number of purchases the next day?

It would be much more effective if people would pay attention to their consumption habits every day of the year. It doesn't have to be looked at from an all or nothing perspective. People buy things, and that's not necessarily negative if the objects are actually wanted and used. The unfortunate thing about the Christmas holiday is that people feel obligated to buy gifts for others, and they often purchase items that are appreciated for one day (because it's "the thought that counts") but shortly thereafter, the items find their way to the rubbish bin and then the landfill. Usually this happens because we often don't know each other as well as we think we do.

My suggestion is to really stop and think about what you're purchasing, whether it be for yourself or someone else. If you're not sure whether it will be well used, maybe you should put it down until you know for sure. If the problem stems from not knowing someone well enough to buy them a gift that they'll use, I would ask myself why you feel obligated to buy them a gift in the first place? Once you decide if it's someone that you really care enough about to buy a gift for, perhaps its time to sit down and get to know them better rather than buying them a non-meaningful gift as a token. Isn't connection with people what the holidays are supposed to be about?

Lastly, if you're the recipient of an unwanted gift, please don't throw it away or stuff it in a closet to be thrown away at a later date. Recycle it. Freecycle it. Make art out of it. Sell it and use the money to buy something you really want... Whatever. Just don't let it become another part of our throw away culture.


As American children, we learn about the Thanksgiving holiday through historical tales that have been disinfected and repackaged without the violence and immorality that actually occurred. There are a number of reasons why I don't support this type of historical revisionism, but I don't want to go into that here. What I want to say is that I do support the idea of taking the time to remember things to be thankful for. It's an exercise that people of all cultures and nationalities can benefit from at any time of the year.

Things that I'm thankful for at this moment.

1. This morning's news shows that the siege in Mumbai is over. I'm deeply thankful for this, and my sympathy goes out to the victims. Targeting civilians with violence is always wrong.

2. I'm thankful for the relationships that I've developed with my family, friends, and animals. They're certainly not perfect relationships, but they're always worth the time and effort that it takes to sustain them.

3. I'm thankful that I have employment during a time when many people are struggling against downsizing and a receding economy. Being able to work is a privilege.

4. I'm thankful that the people in my life are relatively healthy. I've had my fill of illness within my circle, and I'm looking forward to a few years without having to face the inevitability of mortality. I need the healing time.

5. I'm thankful for the historical figures who have been passionate and observant enough to make discoveries that effect my life every day. This includes every individual throughout history that has contributed to the development of indoor plumbing and modern sanitation practices. It includes the scientists who discovered antibiotics and other advances in medicine, and it especially includes those figures who were willing to make these discoveries at the cost of their own lives. Many scientists have struggled against superstition throughout the ages, and I thank them for it.

6. In many ways artists and scientists are alike because they view the world with a sense of wonder. I'm thankful for that sense of wonder, and I'm also thankful that there are creative people using a variety of mediums (music, drama, literature...) to paint pictures of the world from their own perspectives. This is what gets me through every day of my life.

Add-Art Notes

I've been using the Add-Art plug-in for Firefox, because I love the idea of replacing advertising with virtual art exhibits. I have noticed a few usability problems within the past two months, though.

1. The most recent show featured animated artwork that was really annoying in conjunction with browsing. It distracted from the main content of the pages I was viewing, and I often found that I had to turn the plug-in off in order to focus. I have no problem with animated artwork, but it just doesn't work for me in this format in the same way that animated ads don't work for me.

2. Prior to the animation, there was a series of election related photographs. There was nothing wrong with the photographs. Actually, they were quite good. The problem I ran into is that a lot of pages write articles and place advertisements next to them. Replacing the advertisement with a news oriented photograph that wasn't related to the article caused some temporary confusion. It didn't take long to realize what was going on, but the problem occurred several times.

So. I'm still all for replacing ads with art, but these are exhibits that didn't work for me on a practical basis.

Madeline von Foerster

Madeline von Foerster

Hey There Chthulhu

Eben Brooks, Thank you for amusing me so.

Sam Weber

Sam Weber Illustration

Storytelling Platforms

I just watched a very interesting video about Storytelling Platforms. The speaker is Jonathan Harris at the 2008 Pop!Tech Conference. (All of the other videos from the conference are worth watching as well, including the ones from past years)

Storytelling Platforms by Jonathan Harris

Also, one of the platforms that Jonathan mentions is We Feel Fine. It's fascinating.

Judith McMillan

I love the x-ray photography of Judith McMillan. It has a certain ethereal quality to it.

The X-Ray Art of Judith McMillan

Jeff Klapperich

Last night, C and I went to an art opening for an acquaintance, Jeff Klapperich, and it was lovely.

I don't know even know how to properly explain what Jeff does because his process is so detailed. Many people, at first glance, believe that his work is done digitally, but it's not. This is purely a photographic process using multiple exposures that reach into numbers that cause most professional photographers to drop their jaws a bit (or at least, the photographers that were at the opening last night). There is also no human exposure in the image. The illusion is created using a sort of layered stenciling process and a camera modification that only jeff could explain...and probably not to a photographic layman like myself. The backgrounds are pieces of art in their own right that are meticulously assembled from various objects to work with the stencils and convey the idea in the final piece.

In person, at a large scale, these pieces are just beautiful. I don't know if the full effect can be seen online in a smaller format, but I want to share them anyway. Here are a few of my personal favorites.


The Prognosticator

The Strategist

Tiffany Bozic

Tiffany Bozic's Website