April 20, 2011

Why Weiwei?

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ai_weiwei-zodiachead06-via_designboom

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August 9, 2010

Images

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July 31, 2010

Continued

raf-simons-the-influencer-via-hypebeast

  • Nice interview with Raf Simons (WWD via HB)
  • Lengthy inverview with David Andrew Sitek (BV)
  • Awesome interview with Bill Murray (GQ)
  • Telling interview with Penn & Teller (Telegraph)
  • Decent interview with Ari Marcopoulos (Dossier)
  • Hip interview with Pedro Winter (Busy P of Ed Banger) (OC)
  • Strange interview with Spike Lee (Gothamist)
  • Passable interview with Rafael de Cardenas (S×H)
  • Brief interview with Tara McPherson (PSFK)

China:

20100715_LivingRooms_China-slide-YE61-slide-via-nyt

  • Urban China, ever the work in progress (NYT)
  • China’s Banks: Great Wall Street (The Economist)
  • Bad PR for the nouveau riche in the PRC (WSJ via Gawker)
  • The other oil spill (NYT / Salon)
  • A green movement grows in China (The Economist)
  • The Economist also draws an ophidian metaphor for China’s growth / lack thereof.

Music:

Media & Technology:

terrafugia_fly_away-via-psfk

Food:

Mark-Bittman-101-Grilling-Recipes-the-Minimalist-on-NYT

NYC:

high-line-phase-2-via-curbed

Random:

messi-by-morning-breath-via-turntable-lab

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July 27, 2010

Backlog

…a.k.a. link dump / linkage /clickage from the past month; more to come…
inplanesight-bushwick-via-gothamist

  • Very Bushwick and very fabulous (NYT)
  • You know how we do in Brooklyn (Inc.)
  • Pitchfork is Times-worthy.
  • I managed to avoid reading any commentary on Inception until I actually saw it for myself yetserday, though at this point, I cannot possibly hope to catch up with all of the bandwidth that has been spilled (not to mention plot spoiled)—in theory and in practice, for example—over Nolan’s polarizing masterpiece. Also: A.O. Scott on film criticism in the digital age in theory and in practice; Dileep Rao (who plays Yusef) gives us the straight dope; Jonah Lehrer speculates on the neuroscience behind the film. Plus, Jonah Lehrer on LSD (in a manner of speaking)
  • Am I guilty of “a breezy writing style”? (The Economist; related: China’s microblog macro-crackdown)
  • Amid all the talk of his new book Imperial Bedrooms, Bret Easton Ellis also finds time to reflect on American Psycho (The Guardian)
  • Sasha Frere-Jones endorses music in cloud form (The New Yorker)
  • Tom Vanderbilt included a link to Dave Horton’s unabashedly self-righteous five-part essay on the fear of cycling in his own musings on bicycle highways for Slate. Definitely required reading for anyone who chooses to bike for transportation (as opposed to simply for leisure), with the caveat that it feels a bit too much like justification for my sense of entitlement that I feel when I tell pedestrians to get out of the bike lane. Still, the car culture of the US is easily worse than that of the UK (where Horton’s expertise lies; at least London has congestion pricing) and the essay actually affirmed my fear that cycling still has a long way to go.

04deitch4-popup

pulpo_paul-via-salon

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July 21, 2010

The Fabled Chinese Hipster – Parts 2.1-2.3

See also: Part 1, One Point Five and 2: Reprise.

PBR: three letters that spell the beginning of the End for Eastern Civilization.

pabst-blue-ribbon-landai-beer

However, as with just about every Chinese variant, the adjective ‘bizarro’ prevails: Evan Osnos of the New Yorker applauds Danwei‘s eye for PBR’s PRC rebranding as Blue Ribbon 1844 (蓝带啤酒), a premium craft beer.

That reliably blue-collar Milwaukee lager, later adopted by unbearable hipsters on the coasts, has turned up in China. And P.B.R., best known in the U.S. for being the cheapest beer on the grocery-store shelf, has—like so many expatriates before it—taken the move as an opportunity to change its image. For a beer, that appears to involve an elegant glass bottle and a fantastically ridiculous price tag. One bottle: forty-four dollars.

–Evan Osnos, Pardon Me, Would You Have Any Pabst Blue Ribbon
Letter from China blog on The New Yorker, July 19 2010

Osnos, ever duly diligent, also includes this link to PBR [advertising] through the ages. In fact, the story is so fascinating that he has just posted a follow-up post with a few choice quotes from PBR / BR1844 Brewmaster / Chief Representative – Asia Alan Kornhauser. Short of outright plagiarism, the relevant excerpt is reproduced below:

I formulated a special high-gravity ale called “1844.” It’s all malt, and we use caramel malts from Germany. The initial aging is dry-hopped rather heavily. Then we do a secondary aging in new uncharred American oak whiskey barrels. We bought 750 brand new barrels to the tune of $100,000. This is a very special beer; it’s retailing for about over $40 U.S. for a 720 ml bottle.

–Interview with Alan Kornhauser, All About Beer, July 2010

Indeed, Osnos’ colleague (New Yorker Beer Correspondent) Jesse Rodriguez notes that:

Traditional P.B.R. is light and fizzy with a distinct cloying malt profile, while the B.R. 1884 [sic] has a rounder mouthfeel with a notable hop presence on the front palate and finish. Is it worth the money? Probably not, but it’s definitely not a P.B.R.

–Jesse Rodriguez in Pabst in China, Continued,
Letter from China blog on The New Yorker, July 21 2010

pabst-blue-ribbon-1844-via-danwei

The interview continues with a few more telling tidbits:

There’s an audience there for it?

There’s the nouveau riche, and in China, perception is everything—look at me, I’m rich. Then also, there is another group that may be part of our market, and that’s state banquet dinners. Normally, you’d drink brandy, and this beer kind of has the look of brandy—it’s a reddish-brown color, but it won’t hurt you as much.

The beer combines a new flavor and a Western status symbol. Apart from the prestige, how are you selling these new tastes?

It’s new on the market, so I’m not sure exactly how it’s going—I have very little to do with the sales side. There is a TV commercial that’s quite attractive, that uses old still photos of the early days of Pabst, back when they used wooden barrels there.

What’s Pabst’s story in China?

We were the first foreign brewery in China, since the liberation in 1949—as it’s called there. We’re doing about one and a half million barrels there. Our first brews were, I believe, 1993; I didn’t get there until 1998. At that time, the largest-selling foreign brand in China was Pabst Blue Ribbon.

Read all about it

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Possibly more related than one might think: the hipster fashion cycle.

hipster-fashion-cycle-infographic-via-flavorwire

I would hypothesize that Chinese fashion fundamentally differs from Western trends (to which the infographic applies) at the mainstream and conservative stages, where the former tends to correlate with (said) nouveau riche and the latter is either mainstream in the Western sense or more traditional Chinese. Nostalgia, then, would be informed by Western trickle-down imagery, while the ironic stage is virtually non-existent.

Though there are examples of ironic style on display in China—Mao’s face, red stars, military regalia are today worn with something less than earnestness—there is also more at stake in young people’s fashion choices.

–J. David Goodman, Are There Really No Hipsters in China?, Slate, April 21 2010

Flavorwire via PSFK

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chinese-dorm-via-newsweek

Why the FCH is still a rare breed: Smart, Young and Broke; insert bad pun about higher education not necessarily being hire education. (Thanks Eugene; cf.)

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June 19, 2010

Itemized

“I’m the best thing to happen to typography since Johannes fucking Gutenberg.”

This should keep you busy while I take a couple days off:

Click through for more of Hans Van der Meer's amazing photos of European football pitches

Click through for more of Hans Van der Meer's amazing photos of European football pitches

Classic; see below

Thanks Zach; related article below

kapoor-hirst-close-danto

Bluechips & Theory:

  • Jonathan Jones on Anish Kapoor and Damien Hirst.
  • Chuck Close: Life. As with art, music, film, etc., I hate reading book reviews instead of the books themselves, but sometimes secondary sources suffice… at least until I can justify throwing down $25 for it
  • Danto, part two—I’m still ambivalent about his definition of art as “embodied meaning,” which I first encountered a few years ago, but this is a good place to start if you’re not familiar with his work (which I can’t say that I am).

Work-Of-Art-Season-1-Episode-101-07

  • In accord with the New York Times review, I found Bravo’s “Work of Art” surprisingly watchable, living up to its pseudo-Warholian premise more than the SJP branding and Bravo production tropes might suggest. (I was mostly curious because I met Trong, pictured above, a few days prior.) If nothing else, “Work of Art” affirms that artists’ egos are particularly suited for the magnifying glass of reality television.
  • Hyperallergic looks at the show inside and out. The former article wisely points out that the reality TV formula of themed ‘challenges’ all but precludes any possibility of artistic growth, as well as the insular—if idealized—working conditions. In other words, it’s hard to take the show for a window into the art world (not that “Top Chef” does any better) when television necessarily imposes a distance between life and work.
  • I’ve never watched “Project Runway,” but apparently WSJ does, drawing parallels between the two shows in their recap of the first episode.
  • GQ talks to Bill Powers (“Work of Art” judge & NYC gallerist)
  • Related: The current state of the Brooklyn Museum (where the winner of “Work of Art” will get a solo show).
  • Inverted: Googleheim?

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June 17, 2010

The Fabled Chinese Hipster – Part 2: Reprise

“I guess I am deeply embedded in the ‘myth-making’ process…” –Matthew Niederhauser

A long-delayed (if not long-awaited) follow-up to Part 1. I would also suggest (re)reading my first impressions of the Beijing indie rock scene, and I strongly advise you to listen to the following track while you read this post (and, hopefully, while you do other things in the future):

» Carsick Cars – 中南海 (6:45) – 11.22MB mp3 @ 232kbps

sound_kapital_4a-matthew-niederhauser-via-wired

All photos by the amazing Matthew Niederhauser, who offers an insider’s perspective on the Chinese rock underground, specifically D-22/Maybe Mars:

Wired.com: As an indie rock fan in the United States, I don’t feel like a similar scene could exist here anymore without the bands being marginalized as posers and hipsters. But in your photos there seems to be an authenticity in the subjects that can’t be faked. Is this just my perception as a Westerner looking in, or do you think there’s something about really tough circumstances in China leading to more authentic rock and attitude?

Niederhauser: The socioeconomic circumstances of China cannot be divorced from the music scene.

[These musicians] are repelled by and don’t wish to participate in a largely vacuous and inherently unsustainable consumer culture taking hold of China. While they might not brazenly attack the government, their embrace of such a fringe lifestyle along with the music they produce is a powerful statement in and of itself. This choice comes with a social stigma that is hard to imagine outside of China.

–Matthew Niederhauser, Scenes from the Beijing Rock Underground,
Wired, December 2009 (highly recommended)

sound_kapital_1b-matthew-niederhauser-via-wired

During my second month in Beijing, I continued to explore the indie rock scene, to the extent that this lengthy postscript to my initial thoughts on ‘Beijing Rock City‘ is a felicitous introduction to this second look at the Fabled Chinese Hipster.

With no idea how to go about pirating music, I went out of my way to catch hyped bands such as ReTROS and Pet Conspiracy at their concerts. Meanwhile, I came to enjoy the likes of Carsick Cars and B6—probably my two favorite Chinese acts, at this point—by purchasing their albums (in retrospect, I should have gone pre-teen rock-virgin style and bought every CD I could get my hands on).

carsick-cars-2-by-matthew-niederhauser

In fact, in many ways, it was like going back a decade in time, to those glorious teenage days when every five minutes on Napster yielded a new rock ‘n’ roll gem. In a particularly portentous coincidence, I happened to discover the likes of the Velvet Underground, early Red Hot Chili Peppers and Radiohead in Chinese bootleg form on the relatively lawless streets of Beijing in the early days of cheap CD-burners—as did many of my fellow countrymen (the rebellious teens of my generation, at least), including Zhang Shouwang of Carsick Cars:

The generation before us didn’t have as many chances to get to know the rock music of Western countries, but nowadays we listen to music from many other countries. I believe that when my bands write songs, we might be influenced some elements of Western culture. I think the next generation of bands will be much different than ours.

Carsick Cars is China’s answer to New York’s (/NJ) holy trinity of feedback-drenched songcraft: Velvet Underground, Sonic Youth and Yo La Tengo; in keeping with the fuzz aesthetic, a couple of their songs from the first album are deadringers for Jesus & Mary Chain. Say what you want about influences and imitation, it’s pure rock ‘n’ roll: guitar tones that are simultaneously warm and bright, backed by thick slabs of bass and unfussy drums—and Carsick Cars a damn good band for it.

zhang-shouwang-by-matthew-niederhauser

I’ve been hooked on their hit single (for lack of a better term) “中南海” since I first heard it last fall, after buying their albums directly from Maybe Mars’ headquarters near where I was staying. It’s a fairly simple song: the lyrics consist mostly of one phrase (“中南海”; literally “Middle South Sea” [Zhōng nánhǎi; sounds vaguely like "drunk not high"]) repeated over a catchy riff; the album version disintegrates into a pleasantly noisy breakdown—just to prove that they can—where the song would normally be truncated for radio, before cutting back for one last uplifting refrain.

And before you know, it’s over.

carsick-cars-1-by-matthew-niederhauser Read the rest of this entry »

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May 25, 2010

Part One Point Five

The China beat goes on:

Ines Brunn after Li Wei

Ines Brunn after Li Wei

Some notes on the People’s Republic before the second chapter on the Fabled C[hinese]hipster

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Wu Yulu’s amazing mechanical men:

After suffering a series of life changing set backs such as a burnt down home, spraying himself with battery acid, and experiencing great financial debt—all in the name of art—Chinese farmer Wu Yulu is finally gaining some recognition for his homemade robots.

Designboom

DB also has a gallery of Wu Yulu’s ‘Peasant Da Vincis’ for Cai Guo-Qiang’s inaugural exhibition at the newly restored Rockbund Art Museum in Shanghai; some images interpolated below (cue egregiously ironic juxtaposition of images + text):

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wu-luyu-for-cai-guoqiang-pollockbot-via-designboom

Click image to see Robo-Pollock in action at DB

Chinese news site Southern Weekend recently sent intern Liu Zhiyi undercover at the Shenzhen site of Foxconn, “the world’s biggest contract electronics maker and a major supplier to Apple, Dell, Hewlett-Packard and other companies,” which has been under scrutiny for the suicides of nine workers this year (more background info at NYT):

I know of two groups of young people.

One group consists of university students like myself, who live in ivory towers and kept company by libraries and lake views. The other group works alongside steel machineries and large containers, all inside a factory of high-precision manufacturing environment.

–Liu Zhiyi, Southern Weekend via Engadget

The translated article is definitely worth reading, though the Apple connection clearly raises the profile of these otherwise-overlooked incidents.

Skeptics (or fans of Apple) have taken to pointing out that this suicide rate, in a plant with four hundred and twenty thousand workers, is no higher than that in a Chinese city of comparable size.

–Evan Osnos, Items of Interest, Letter from China blog on the New Yorker, May 25 2010

Again, clickthrough for sweet vids...

Again, clickthrough for sweet vids on DB...

On a lighter note:

“I hear that Americans can buy anything they want, and I believe it, judging from the things I’ve made for them,” Chen said. “And I also hear that, when they no longer want an item, they simply throw it away. So wasteful and contemptible.”

Chinese Factory Worker Can’t Believe The Shit He Makes For Americans, The Onion

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Essay Question (10 pts): To what degree does electronic music reflect the alienation of technology and hyperindustrialization?

Let me take this opportunity to explain my music. At first I liked drums, they were fast and noisy and that’s what I first produced. After a while I listened to more electronic, quieter music. I like fast music, but it’s more melodic as a general rule. I added more melody into my music, more baritone. My latest work has slowed down in comparison to my older music. In the past it’s always been very young, punkish, full of joy. Now, I like slower, blacker, darker music. Also, I like the Chinese influence. I cant explain it, I just like it. I add a little bit of Chinese music in everything.

Sulumi, via Intel×Vice’s Creators Project

via Wired

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A few more for good flavor:

mickey-christ

  • Wild Wild Westernization: “16 Items They Only Sell at Chinese Walmarts” (Buzzfeed)
Henri Cartier-Bresson, Shanghai, 1948

Henri Cartier-Bresson – Shanghai, 1948

  • A glimpse into a Chinese toy factory.
Li Wei via the Guardian

Li Wei via the Guardian

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May 19, 2010

The Fabled Chinese Hipster – Part 1

Tyler Bowa

Lunzi Lun by Tyler Bowa of People's Bike

I meant to comment on J. David Goodman’s (of the TimesSpokes blog) Are There Really No Hipsters in China? when it was first posted on Slate three weeks ago, but (what I intended to be) a brief note has somehow mutated into yet another discursive piece on the ever-vilified subculture that I seem to have buried myself in.

Hence, a three-part discussion on a point I mentioned in passing in my previous open [read: incomplete] comment on hipsterdom: are Chinese hipsters more or less authentic than their Western counterparts? Well, it depends on your definition of hipster—which I glossed over in the aforementioned essay—and whether hip(ster)ness and authenticity are mutually exclusive.

Photos via Ines Brunn

Ines Brunn

The Chinese certainly have history on their side when it comes to bikes; whether or not this is counts as authenticity is less clear. Conversely, there is certainly some degree to which hipsters abuse irony to validate a contemporary subculture that is parasitic on, well, history.

Though there are examples of ironic style on display in China—Mao’s face, red stars, military regalia are today worn with something less than earnestness—there is also more at stake in young people’s fashion choices, making them “less likely to ‘play’ with their dress in a cynical or ironic manner,” Wu explained.

–J. David Goodman, Are There Really No Hipsters in China?, Slate, April 21 2010

In some sense, the overarching pragmatism that permeates Chinese culture seems to preclude irony on principle. Irony, as a fashion statement, falls on deaf ears: it is, in a manner of speaking, like learning another language. Whereas the Western world is one where we (hipsters or otherwise) can afford to be impractical, I don’t think it’s exaggerating to say that 99% of the Chinese population would find it inconceivable to spend upwards of two months’ pay on an ostensibly outdated machine for transportation… especially when they are saving up for a car or, at very least, an electric bike (related video).

STC_Spring_Bicycle_Ride_26-via-Ines-Brunn

Ines Brunn

In other words, biking, in and of itself, simply is not subject to irony: it is a way of life, a symbol of tradition—or rather, the past.

A 20-year-old New York hipster can smoke a pipe or drink a really naff drink because it’s funny, but for someone in China, many of their equivalent peers don’t have the history and past knowledge of trends to understand what has been cool in the past.

–Nicole Fall, co-founder of Asian trend consultancy Five by Fifty
(in Are There Really No Hipsters in China?)

To Fall’s point, I would assert that the very concept of the hipster is founded on a highly ‘evolved’ (for lack fo better term) pop/consumer culture, where irony qua hipness is at least one generation removed from brand saturation. (I also have issues with her implication that [New York] hipsters can do things “because it’s funny”; more on this later.) As far as I can tell, Chinese mass culture has just crossed the threshold of postmodernity, at least to the extent that an emerging middle class has recently discovered the joy of brand fetishism.
Read the rest of this entry »

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May 15, 2010

Items

“A low moan of agreement escaped Ellis’s mouth.” –Bret Easton Ellis

Once again, it’s too nice out to sit in front of a computer screen, so we’re going with assorted links today… A few interesting stories, including an article on the future of digital journalism. *UPDATED on 5/16 with even more recommended reading.

uniqlo-uniqlones-tadashi-yanai-via-nymag

bolano-haring

  • I’m almost embarrassed to admit that I’ve never read any Roberto Bolaño, but I’d never seen a picture of him before—is it just me, or does he look a lot like Keith Haring? (GQ)
  • Alastair Harper on “George Orwell, Patron Saint of Hacks” (Prospect)
  • Rebecca Newberger Goldstein’s “Theory, Literature, Hoax” after Borges. (NYT)
  • Claudia Roth Pierpont on Duke Ellington (New Yorker)
  • Nick Carr on the new New York license plate (below) (Huffpo)

new-nyc-license-plate-via-huffpo
Also worth reading, if you’re so inclined:

  • The current state of NBA point guards (GQ)
  • Kareem sounds off (ESPN)
  • The China Model (Economist)
  • How the Web Is Changing the Way We Eat (Salon)

rick-owens-via-slamxhype

  • Interview with Rick Owens (above) (Artinfo via Slam×Hype; images here)
  • Interview with Damien Hirst & Michael Joo (WWD via Slam×Hype; images here—the log piece reminds me of Ai Weiwei…)
  • Interview with Bret Easton Ellis (Vice)
  • Interview with Gorillaz (Wired)
  • Gus Van Sant catches up with Madonna (Interview)
  • Adam Kimmel raps with David Blaine (Interview)

how-our-brains-make-memories-Memory-microscopic-nerve-cells-smithsonian

  • Greg Miller on Karim’s Nader’s theory of mutable memory (Smithsonian)
  • Ryan Bradley on “Sex, Lies and Nature Documentaries” (GOOD)
  • Malcolm Gladwell on WWII espionage (New Yorker)
  • Gary Wolf on the Data-Driven Life (NYT)
  • Richard Lewontin on Jerry Fodor & Massimo Piattelli-Palmarini’s What Darwin Got Wrong. (The New York Review of Books)—I’d heard a lot of the arguments before until I came to this bit:

Individual organisms are surrounded by a moving layer of warm moist air. Even trees are surrounded by such a layer. It is produced by the metabolism of the individual tree, creating heat and water, and this production is a feature of all living creatures. In humans the layer is constantly moving upward over the body and off the top of the head. Thus, organisms do not live directly in the general atmosphere but in a shell produced by their own life activity. It is, for example, the explanation of wind-chill factor. The wind is not colder than the still air, but it blows away the metabolically produced layer around our bodies, exposing us to the real world out there.

Plus, a short, sweet video for good measure:

Stick Monster Lab for Nike Sportswear (High Snobiety via Notcot)

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