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designing obama February 28, 2008

Posted by KG in 2008 Elections, arts/culture, design, news, politics, style, tech.
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andrew romano interviews graphic designer michael bieruit on the branding of obama:

Obama’s success owes a lot, of course, to his message–the promise to pass Democratic policies by rallying a “coalition for change.” But watching Obamamania over the past few weeks, I’ve become convinced that there’s something more subtle at work, too. It’s not just the message and the man and the speeches that are swaying Democratic voters–though they are. It’s the way the campaign has folded the man and the message and the speeches into a systemic branding effort. Reinforced with a coherent, comprehensive program of fonts, logos, slogans and web design, Obama is the first presidential candidate to be marketed like a high-end consumer brand.* And for folks who don’t necessarily need Democratic social programs–upscale voters, young people–I suspect that the novel comfort of that brand affiliation contributes (however subconsciously) to his appeal.

Seeking expert opinion, I tested my hypothesis on leading graphic designer and critic Michael Bieruit, who was kind enough to dissect Obama’s unprecedented branding campaign–and show me how it’s helping his candidacy. Excerpts:

What do you see as the “philosophical implications,” to use a highfalutin phrase, of Obama’s design choices?
There are a couple of levels. There’s the close-in parlor game you can play about what all these typefaces actually mean. Gotham was a typeface designed originally for GQ magazine, so it’s a sleek, purposefully not fancy, very straightforward, plainspoken font, but done with a great deal of elegance and taste–and drawn from very American sources, by the way. Unlike other sans serif typefaces, it’s not German, it’s not French, it’s not Swiss. It’s very American. The serif font that he often uses to write Obama is delicate and nuanced and almost, not feminine exactly, but it’s very literary-looking. It looks very conversational and pleasant, as opposed to strident and yelling. It’s a persuasive-looking font, I would say. But that’s putting these things on couches and pretending they have personalities.

Right. It’s sort of hard to imagine in a voter in Cleveland (or a Newsweek political blogger from New York, for that matter) interacting with Obama’s design on that level. How does it affect those of us who aren’t graphic designers?
Well, I’m teaching this class at the Yale School of Management, and we were just talking about brand management and politics–exactly this thing before we got on the phone. And one of the things that came up in the conversation is, if you think about it, the challenge for someone named Barack Hussein Obama is that he’s such an unprecedented figure in American politics–so much so that everything he’s trying to do is, in a way, trying to make him look smoother and more normal. Someone said, “Well, why shouldn’t he have revolutionary looking graphics–graphics that make him look like grassroots, like an outsider? Things drawn by hand, things that look forceful and avant-garde.” But I think he’s using design in a way to make him look as normal, as comfortable, as inevitable as a brand can look in American life. Those are really deliberate, interesting choices. Whether or not a sans serif font like Gotham looks more “American” than a Swiss font like Helvetica, that’s in our imaginations to a certain degree. I think it’s much more incontrovertible that he’s actually using the seamlessness of this branding to convey a candidacy that’s not a dangerous, revolutionary, risk-everything proposition–but as something that is well-managed and has everything under control.

in hip-hop album news… January 30, 2008

Posted by KG in hip-hop, music, style, tech.
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In a shift from their previous two releases, The Roots’ Rising Down is STACKED with guest appearances. In addition to crew regulars Dice Raw, Truck North, P.O.R.N. and yes, Malik B, confirmed guests include: Mos Def, Common, Kweli, Peedi Peedi, Styles P, Wale, Patrick Stump, Mercedes Martinez, Chrisette Michelle. Also rumored to appear are Q-Tip, Lupe Fiasco, and Jay Electronica.

jamaica observer with erykah badu:

I have three albums coming out this year, the first one will be released on February 26 (her birthday) and it’s gonna be called New Amerykah,” Badu says, adding that the next, Return Of The Ankh is scheduled for a July release.

“The other one’s gonna be called New Amerykah II and it’s gonna be a totally digital experience.”

Removing an ebony puff of her larger-than-life afro from her face, Badu explains the meaning of “totally digital experience”.

“You’ll purchase (instead of a CD) a USB stick, each will come with a specific code that you punch in. That way you’ll get to upload a new song every month for the next 10 months.”

Her digital ideas, however, don’t stop there!

“I’ll also be starting a magazine called Freaq, it’s gonna be dedicated to arts, politics, beauty, fashion, photography and technology,” shares the 36-year-old, adding that she also manages her own Myspace page.

“I feel so inspired. My religion is Art, I do the creator’s work best in that medium,” she says.

“You don’t see the head-wrap no more, no ankh? That’s because I am that. I don’t have to have nothing on me. It just takes the things that I have buried inside of me to become who I am. I’m just happy in my day”


m.i.a. – paper planes December 17, 2007

Posted by KG in arts/culture, hip-hop, international, music, news, politics, race, style.
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and the censorship fiasco 

rolling stone’s 40th anniversary issue November 14, 2007

Posted by KG in 2008 Elections, arts/culture, books, campaign finance, comedy, design, econ, environment, film, health, hip-hop, history, immigration, international, interviews, iraq, iraq war, media, misc, music, news, politics, race, religion, science, style, tech, television, terrorism.
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“This issue looks forward, not back, and it’s packed with interviews with the artists, leaders and thinkers who can best divine what our future holds. It arrives, appropriately, during the run-up to next year’s presidential election, which looms as a moment of truth for our nation. “People are nauseous about being perceived as the enemy,” Bono says of America’s standing in the world. “Whoever fixes that problem gets elected.” But it’s not just politics – as a society, we face choices that will likely determine the fate of our civilization, matters of war and peace, resource depletion and explosive population growth. And, of course, global warming: “It’s a mistake to think of the climate crisis as one in a list of issues that will define our future,” Al Gore tells us. “It is the issue.”

We don’t claim to have the answers to these challenges, but we do know where to look for leadership and inspiration. The values of tolerance, inclusiveness, common sense and personal liberty (not to mention fun) that took shape in the 1960s have animated this magazine ever since.”

chock full of wit and wisdom from some of the world’s most interesting minds…

you can find the entire issue digitally right here, but the interface rolling stone set up is really horrible, so i’ve made the text from some of the interviews into pdfs:










here’s some quotes that i’ve culled:


kanye west – “good morning” music video November 12, 2007

Posted by KG in animation, arts/culture, design, film, hip-hop, media, misc, music, style, tech.
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update: youtube video taken down – here’s a new link.

“The music video to Good Morning by Kanye West & Takashi Murakami ONLY at the Geffen Contemporary – Museum of Contemporary Art in Little Tokyo, Los Angeles CA.

Sorry so shaky in the beginning of the video. I didn’t want security to catch me videotaping the video. Plus the autofocus on my camera gets pretty weird sometimes…”

new yorker 2012 conference November 11, 2007

Posted by KG in arts/culture, berkeley, books, econ, environment, international, interviews, media, misc, music, news, politics, science, style, tech.
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video archives from the “inaugural New Yorker Conference, ‘2012: Stories From the Near Future,'” which took place this past may.

“…a variety of exclusive interviews, vivid presentations, and in-depth discussions, as New Yorker writers and editors introduce you to the minds that will make a difference in the coming years”

there’s seventeen of them and they all look really interesting, and the three that i’ve watched so far (the malcolm gladwell ones) definitely were worth it. most of them seem to be around 30 mins. the “genius” malcolm gladwell talk is about “the nature of genius” and whether effort and persistence should be encouraged over innate intelligence in solving today’s problems (btw, he gets a cafe strada reference in there). the music intelligence discussion was also really interesting; platinum blue mathematically analyzes songs for “hit” qualities and uses that technology to recommend songs in what seems to be a more complex and accurate fashion than pandora.

Genius: 2012
Malcolm Gladwell on the importance of stubbornness
and collaboration in problem-solving.
watch this video
Solutions: 2012
A panel on environmental entrepreneurship, featuring Dan Barber, Marianne Cusato, and Adam Lowry. Moderated by Larissa MacFarquhar.
watch this video
Music Intelligence: 2012
Mike McCready and Malcolm Gladwell discuss how technology that analyzes the mathematical patterns in songs can help the music business identify potential hits.
watch this video
Design: 2012
The industrial designer Yves Béhar talks with Judith Thurman about design and presents new commissions, as well as the One Laptop Per Child project.
Regenerative Medicine: 2012
Dr. Anthony Atala, the director of the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine, talks about his latest achievements in growing new human cells, tissues, and organs.
watch this video

a review of wes anderson’s the darjeeling limited October 28, 2007

Posted by KG in arts/culture, comedy, film, music, style.
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wes anderson’s movies typically deal with themes of angst and human fragility, and the darjeeling limited is no different. the upper-class malaise, listlessness, and depression that anderson has perfected so well into witty, whimsical, and quirky films is perhaps best exemplified by darjeeling. three brothers meet in india for what the eldest, played by owen wilson, hopes will be a familial reconciliation and spiritual journey.

we find out that the patriarch of the whitman family recently died after being struck by a cab in new york city. the whitman boys, rich and spoiled, quarrel over their father’s post-mortem affections and trivial possessions, like his oversized sunglasses and razor, to great comic effect courtesy of owen wilson’s classic understated delivery and southern drawl.

the three embark on the darjeeling limited, a train which serves as the diorama for anderson’s classic cinematography. in the train compartment we learn about the familial dysfunction, and apparent parental neglect. the kind that trust fund babies lament over while traveling first-class through india, and in this case with personal assistants who laminate their morning itineraries.

the whitman boys are seeking to fill the void left by the death of their father, and searching for answers in india. it turns out that their mother recently relocated to the himalayas, apparently now a nun, a curiosity which wilson’s character hopes to find out about once he tracks her down. the boys are looking not only for their mother, but a real relationship with each other, and a sense of family that their jet setting cannot buy. all of this is accompanied by charming secondary characters, like the recurring waris ahluwalia (see here and here for more on waris), who plays the no-nonsense train steward. anderson does not disappoint with all of the elements that are signatures of his cinematic sensibility: enchanting saturated shots of the well-dressed characters, surreal dollhouse frames, fanciful patterns, and colorful india framed in panorama. not to mention the clever dialogue that make wes anderson’s films so unique and that his fans have come to appreciate.

the film isn’t invested in and weighed down by too much self-indulgence in the family’s dysfunction. it manages to breathe, not bogged down by existential musings, allowing one to enjoy the eccentric and absurd humor of anderson and his like-minded collaborators.

he credits the indian filmmaker satyajit ray as an influence on darjeeling, his fifth film:

“’My main knowledge of Indian films is Ray’s films, which I learned about from renting Teen Kanya (Three Daughters) on Betamax in my video store in Houston, Texas, when I was about 15. I also love Jean Renoir’s film The River, which was made by a French director, but is a very beautiful Indian film,’ he said. ‘Ray’s films, along with The River and Louis Malle’s documentaries, were essentially all I knew about India before coming here. I became somewhat obsessed with the India I learned about from those films.’ Anderson has been hooked on Ray ever since. ‘Ray is one of my favourites. His films (which were usually adapted by him from books) feel like novels to me. He draws you very close to his characters, and his stories are almost always about people going through a major internal transition.'”

the boys find what they are looking for in india and ultimately it’s not india itself, but rather the ability to be comfortable with each other. india is the backdrop and the catalyst. similarly, wes anderson seems to have found something that’s been missing as well, striking a balance between his reflective familial tropes and ironic wit. while not his most deep or complex film, the darjeeling limited is new territory for the auteur, finding the pacing that makes this a wonderful introduction to his work for the uninitiated.

from the darjeeling limited sountrack:

satyajit ray – title music from teen kanya:

the rolling stones – play with fire:

jason schwartzman interview on npr (10:11 min)

wes anderson, adrien brody, and waris ahluwali discuss darjeeling at new york film festival press conference


charlie rose interviews wes anderson 10/26/07

what will those crazy japanese think up next? October 25, 2007

Posted by KG in arts/culture, comedy, international, misc, news, style, tech.
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apparently crime deterring camouflage vending-machine dresses is what. or rather, crime-transferring, orrr possibly even crime increasing, for when criminals (and amazed onlookers/bystanders) laugh at the absurdity of someone wearing a camouflage vending-machine dress and decide to assault them for the hell of it.

for your laughing pleasure:



from nytimes:

Deftly, Ms. Tsukioka, a 29-year-old experimental fashion designer, lifted a flap on her skirt to reveal a large sheet of cloth printed in bright red with a soft drink logo partly visible. By holding the sheet open and stepping to the side of the road, she showed how a woman walking alone could elude pursuers — by disguising herself as a vending machine.

These elaborate defenses are coming at a time when crime rates are actually declining in Japan. But the Japanese, sensitive to the slightest signs of social fraying, say they feel growing anxiety about safety, fanned by sensationalist news media. Instead of pepper spray, though, they are devising a variety of novel solutions, some high-tech, others quirky, but all reflecting a peculiarly Japanese sensibility.

“It is just easier for Japanese to hide,” Ms. Tsukioka said. “Making a scene would be too embarrassing.” She said her vending machine disguise was inspired by a trick used by the ancient ninja, who cloaked themselves in black blankets at night.

So far, she said, she has sold about 20 vending-machine skirts for about $800 each, printing and sewing each by hand.

She said she had never heard of a skirt’s actually preventing a crime. But on a recent afternoon in Tokyo, bystanders stared as she unfolded the sheet. But once she stood behind it next to a row of actual vending machines, the image proved persuasive enough camouflage that passers-by did not seem to notice her.

while i question the effectiveness of this strategy, i must admit it is pretty cool.

props and points for japanese creativity…thinking outside the box…and inside the…rectangle…shaped..vending..machine?

neck-choking women’s fashion October 10, 2007

Posted by KG in 2008 Elections, misc, politics, style.
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so i don’t know if this is a new trend in women’s fashion, but what’s up with these claustrophobic/neck-suffocating women’s jackets? first seen on hillary during the youtube debate (don’t know if this is the same one, but this was the best i/google images could do):


then on dana perino, white house press secretary:


and most recently on a random intimidating middle-aged woman at barnes and noble, for whom i don’t have a picture – only an etched memory of neckline/bottom of head-line induced fear.

when did powerful women get together and decide to dress like they’re from the future, and why does it scare me?