Archive Page 2 of 34

Next Stop: First Black President

I didn’t vote. Why bother? Living in the deepest blue part of the bluest state, it’s pretty clear my vote will just be piling in with what will surely be a massive majority. As far as voting for change goes, New York’s ballot was in the box months ago.

Here’s the problem: “Dad, why didn’t you vote for the first black candidate for president?” Bit easier if I was at odds policy-wise (read Colin Powell). Lacking that, I’m left babbling electoral college math that sounds bogus even before it comes out my mouth. It’s a conversation I don’t know how to have. Okay, I voted after all.

It’s hard to believe we’re here — on the verge of electing the first black president. Our subway conductor on Halloween:

Barack Obama!
If you aren’t ready for change, get off the train
Next stop: first black president!

Let’s hope. But let’s also be clear on what it would say about the state of race in America. You need look no further than the current challenges in South Africa to see that electing a black president doesn’t magically generate the so-called post-racial society — particularly when your economy is in shambles.

Still, merely having a black presidential candidate has the nice byproduct of opening the floodgates for thoughtful reflection on race in the national press: places like The Atlantic and The Times. (Heck, even New York Magazine.) In the end, the piece that drives our continuing racial challenges home most clearly is a simple list contrasting Palin and Obama. A sample:

White privilege is when you can get pregnant at seventeen like Bristol Palin and everyone is quick to insist that your life and that of your family is a personal matter, and that no one has a right to judge you or your parents, because “every family has challenges,” even as black and Latino families with similar “challenges” are regularly typified as irresponsible, pathological and arbiters of social decay. (more)

So, it’s important to remember what it would mean to elect the first black president: it’s a statement on race, not a solution to racism. But what a fabulous way to make that statement. It would be a dream fulfilled. And I’ll be able to tell my kid I was part of making it happen. Vote!

We previously wrote about Obama in The Last Black Senator and The Obama Upset. We think these Shamans for Obama are awesome.

Update: And it’s done.

photo taken at the hilarious and pointed Obama08

Bye Banksy, Hello Kehinde

You know it’s gallery season in New York when the parade of great shows just doesn’t stop. Banksy’s West Village takeover ends today, and Kehinde Wiley’s Soho invasion starts up tomorrow. Too good.

It’s double subversion. Where Banksy juxtaposes pet store and meat shop, highlighting the modern disconnect between our foods and their source (“mechanically retrieved meats”), Kehinde juxtaposes famous portraits and the urban everyman — begging the question: “Who defines heroism?” Both hijack long running cultural narratives to great effect.

And Kehinde’s new show Down threatens to go harder than usual, providing what looks like a direct rebuttal to negative views of young black men in American society, confronting urban crime through a lens of art history. I’m on it.

For more on Down, visit Deitch Galleries. Wiley’s work also appeared recently at the Harlem Studio Museum with the gorgeous, thoughtful The World Stage: Africa, Lagos ~ Dakar. And you never know where Banksy will pop up next.

wiley work via deitch; banksy via me

Dubya’s Last Words

I suppose it’s fitting that during Bush’s last speech to the UN, it’s revealed that his speeches are written out in 36 point font like children’s books. And wth each and every word underlined, too — as if to remind that skipping words is not allowed. Is it all spelled out phonetically, too? I wouldn’t doubt it.

Considering the avalanche of disasters brought about by Bush’s reign, it figures that his outro would be nothing less than the collapse of the American empire. Okay, Ahmadinejad said that, but I think we can all agree that some radical readjustment is in the works.

And back in Washington, the representative from Ohio laid out quite nicely the precise nature of Bush’s final act. Thank God we’ve only 117 days until someone else is running this place. Assuming there’s anything left of it by then.

Of course the way Bush’s speech is written out is likely typical of high profile public speakers (a teleprompter substitute). But, hey, I couldn’t resist. image via nytimes

We Are 8-Bit

The fourth year of I Am 8-Bit opens tonight in LA — the ever-creative art show featuring videogames re-imagined by artists who grew up with them (or wish they did). Past years have had a broad spectrum from cutesy to badass to rude. (Could anyone who’s played Dig Dug not have seen this coming?) Not everything hits a home run, but that’s what makes the whole thing fun.

Nearly forgotten, I love seeing the most memorable bits of games I grew up with carried forward to become part of pop culture once again, in art, music, clothes, Honda ads. It’s become part of our DNA. Still, you gotta miss the arcades we used to live in. There’s something about those dark rooms punctuated by luminous screens mapped onto mesmerized player faces that home games will never quite duplicate. (The pages of JoyStik capture it well.)

Back then, it seemed like every week brought a new game: ones that felt flawless (the neon vector spikes of Theurer’s Tempest) and others hopelessly broken (days lost misjudging wall heights in Zaxxon). Remember when the visceral feel when Daytona USA first took hold? You never forget your first time. (Maybe that’s why I like that Dig Dug piece so much, eh?)

ia8b amplifies those memories; it’s made me an addict. (I still sport my pixelated excitebike shirt from the first show in 2005.) But I’ve never seen it in person. Until then, us New Yorkers will have to settle for late nights of classic gaming at the fabulous Barcade Brooklyn. I feel a river crossing coming on.

i am 8-bit 2k8 runs through September 7. Catch up on past shows on flickr. For more on 8-bit culture, see Past Prefect and Blip!

images via iam8bit and barcade

Bollywood: The Videogame

In India, Bollywood is king. You see it on TV, in stores, on the streets. So, I guess I shouldn’t have surprised me to find the Bollywood Playstation in Delhi. Love at first sight. (If only I could speak Hindi!)

The game industry in India is an interesting thing. Alongside the Bollywood box were a ton of titles for PS2, PS3, and Xbox 360. Wii, on the other hand, had just one slot in the rack, filled with just one trashy title: Alone in the Dark. Go figure.

It seems strange that Wii, which has done so well in Japan, wouldn’t have done at least passibly in the rest of Asia. One theory for India is that the culture is so IT focused (nearly 40% of jobs are in the sector) that specs rule, and certainly Sony and Microsoft are the ones wielding the big mips. That probably explains the Xbox 360 emblazoned with the mug of a Bollywood star being hawked on TV, too. (Where do I get me one?)

I’ve heard Bollywood games referred to as niche titles. But Bollywood is bigger than Hollywood in terms of tickets sold. And with growth close to China’s and a population set to pass them in short order, it’s only a matter of time before Indians start buying games; lots of them. More games with brown people on the cover? That can only be a good thing.

For more on the growing influence of Bollywood, see Hollywood goes Bollywood! And while you’re at it, rock out to some classic Dil Se and new school Singh is Kinng.

Hello Air India!

I’m boarding as we speak: NYC to Delhi direct. This rocks. Cue theme song.

First stop is business; then we’ll be traveling to Varanasi, Khajuraho, Agra (Taj!), Jaipur, Jodhpur, and Udaipur. Sadly, we won’t get to Bombay (monsoon much?). That’s a shame since I absolutely loved Maximum City. Next time!

I’m expecting beautiful stuff, particularly since some of my favorite photobloggers live in India (Trivial Matters, Daily Sunrise). And, of course, we’re looking forward to seeing the big sites. But I have to admit my favorite part of any trip like this is the little things: backstreets — seeing how people really live — is what makes it for me. See you in August!

The Elephant in China’s Room

All hail Chairman Yingying! I love this shot for its juxtaposition of opposites: fun and serious, warm fuzzy and hardcore military. He’s cute, but that cuddly Fuwa is huge, overshadowing everything and everyone. He’s the elephant in the room.

In a lot of ways, China’s public image seems to sport a teflon jacket. Even with the Sichuan schools, even with the food recalls, even with the human rights violations. There’s just something about China’s meteoric rise that makes us forgive (when we shouldn’t). It’s a beautiful place, with a fabulous PR corps. It makes a great story.

And when I talk to thoughtful Chinese about the situation there, they almost always speak with genuine optimism. A recent On The Media interview captured it well:

I know a lot of what we are saying sounds very brainwashed and nationalistic, but actually we know very well what we are talking about. And we know there is something with China that’s not so good. But you should also know that if you compared today China with 50 years ago, it’s already much, much, much better. So give China more time and we have a better China for everybody. Student in Shanghai

But can we afford to wait?

The Resource Rush
What we’re seeing in China is growth on a scale the planet has never seen. And coping with that means Herculean measures. One of those measures is grabbing resources wherever (and however) they can. Specifically, this means places where there’s no audit trail — where China’s “big black hole of data” is met with similar, creating accountability deficit disorder. Enter Fast Company’s deeply important report China in Africa, which provides a peek into the singularity, revealing all kinds of double-dealing, non-living wages, seriously dangerous working conditions, environmental annihilation, and zero oversight. The author puts it this way: “While blood diamonds might be better known, there is also blood copper, blood gold, blood coltan, and blood cobalt.” Resources for the most ruthless.

The All Seeing Eye
A second Herculean effort is happening internally where, in order to manage the insane growth, China (with the help of US contractors) is installing a surveillance apparatus second to none. It’s a story of face tracking lampshades every 10 yards all wired to a central database that knows your every move and your every consort. The party line? It’s designed to manage public assembly and track known criminals under the guise of “if you’re not doing anything bad, you’ve got nothing to worry about.” Orwell, anyone? (And, oh yeah, that same technology is starting to show up on US soil.)

The Upside
Of course, there are good things happening in China, too. Take, for example, environmental cleanup innovations that are being developed out of necessity. Most developing nations wait until they’re rich to begin to clean up but, because of scale and impact, China has decided it can’t wait. This is meaningful.

A friend once told me that to truly understand China, we must love her people. The problem as he saw it is that so many in the west can’t separate the 1.3 billion from the tiny fraction that run the place. His gaze didn’t leave mine for a while — he meant this in a deep way; a way I, as a Westerner, am still not entirely sure I understand. But I think part of it is this: just as China is cleaning up environmentally out of necessity, it also needs to give her people a voice out of necessity. That’s the only way China can truly lead the world. And that’s the only way China can repay the countries from which it has taken so much.

Of course, I say this as a citizen of a crumbling democracy whose leaders have exploited (and continue to exploit) Africa in awful ways. My point is that I believe China can find a better way. The sparks are there. Let’s hope they light.

photo via, chart via fastcompany

Saigon Night and the Sea of Motorbikes

Christmas in Saigon is amazing, but not for the reasons you’d expect. Honestly, I thought the holidays there would be a non-event — a nice escape from the endless Christmas carols and Santa suits back home. Tropical climate, 85% Buddhist, no worries, right?

Or not. Vietnam does Christmas, and they do it huge. But the details are deeply different. Take, for example, the massive throngs of motorbikes that consume the night streets. It’s hard to convey just how surreal the scene is — a never ending, ever moving sea of bikers stretching as far as the eye can see. All celebrating, in all directions. Stunning.

And, while it appears to be a holiday tradition here, this year was different again. Because, in a country where the second leading cause of death is motorcycle accident, they just added a law that requires helmets. Glimmering domes for miles, each with their own style. I’ve never seen that level of compliance to any new law in the states. Wonder what that says.

Just when we thought we’d seen it all, a group of kids showed up on bicycles, too young for the motored sort. The click-clack of those human-powered bikes provided a lovely organic counterpart to the endless rumble of their motorized brethren. Then they were gone — swept up into the energy of the night. Beautiful stuff.

Surprisingly, New Year’s was tame by comparison. But, then, the real New Year is Tet, isn’t it. I can’t imagine. And I can’t wait to see it.

See more of our Christmas Nights in Saigon on Flickr. We last wrote about Vietnam in Hanoi’s Hidden Graffiti.

South African Kawaii

Those who know us know we search out cute. Not that saccharine sweet Barbie + unicorns cute, but the kind of cute that’s got style. (Like, say, Meomi’s fabulous Octonauts.) And, honestly, the Japanese pretty much have that style on lock. They call it kawaii.

So imagine our surprise when, in a sketchy part of Cape Town called Woodstock, we found an art colony. And in that art colony, we stumbled into quite the cache of kawaii — cute culture African style. Meet Mü & Me.

Run by a two-woman team, the store is an unassuming space in a former biscuit mill. The inside, though, is bursting with personality — everything from t-shirts to postcards to wrapping paper to stickers to notebooks, each adorned with people and animals that mix just the right amount of cute and thoughtfulness. But what I love most about the characters is how representative they are of the many ethnicities that make South Africa so special. Mü is a colorful bird and Me is, well, you! Lovely stuff. We bought tons.

See more of our visit to Mü & Me and Woodstock on Flickr and visit the mothership yourself at

NBA Finals in Three Words

Three words: Kevin Deserves This

His post-game speechlessness spoke volumes. The respect for the game, the years in purgatory, the payoff. What a deeply worthy guy. And it doesn’t hurt that he took Doc, Ray Ray, and The Truth with him. Kid in a candy store. So awesome.

Watch KG’s reaction and read Scoop’s reflection

image via

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