Monthly Archives: July 2008

Sexy, Hungry and the True Believer

I saw some cool graffiti in my neighborhood today. There’s some new retail joint going into the buildingon the northwest corner of W 71st St and Columbus Ave. It used to be a Penang (restaurant), but the restaurant moved around the corner to W 72nd St between Columbus and Amsterdam. But, that’s not really the point here. The point is that I saw some interesting graffiti.

As you know, I am fascinated with graffiti. I don’t like it as art. In fact, I think “graffiti art” is bullshit. But, I like graffiti that makes you think. I won’t bore you with all this again, so if you haven’t read my other piece on this, check out this post first.

Well, on the corner of W 71st and Columbus, some disgruntled wanderer defaced the advertisement that is supposed to keep you satisfied until you actually get to shop at the store that is coming in. While this stuff is mean-spirited, truly, it also does make you think. The sheer brutality of the “commentary” was enough to stop me in my tracks. Then, when I thought about it, I realized that I had to do some blogging.

Let me tell you about Sexy, Hungry and the True Believer.

Sexy really is. You take a look at the thigh on which the label is written, and it doesn’t take much to see that she lives up to it. Her face being marred is probably an attempt to counteract her apparent sexiness, a rejection of her implict claim (made explicit by the tagger).

“I’m so sexy,” now comes across as conceited and damaged, thanks to the work of an angry person who probably doesn’t live in my neighborhood. After all, we’re all nice people here.

But, it would be a shame simply to focus all my efforts on Sexy. You know, Hungry deserves some attention, too. Her story even has a bit of depth to it, which I bet surprises the shit out of you.

It’s hard to see in this picture, but a crude word bubble is coming from blondie’s mouth, “I’m so hungry.” Hell, I bet she is. I’d be hungry all the time, too, if I had to live like she does. I’m much happier eatng than not, so I’ll never be able to understand Hungry’s lifestyle.

 As I mentioned, Hungry has some depth. “Look” is written right across her chest. Normally, I would be happy to do so, but without the lettering, there is no reason to turn your gaze there. Hey, the chick doesn’t eat. She’s a fucking model. That means she has no body fat, and her chest reflects this reality. Nonetheless, she’s tagged as a sex object, and the word “Look” drives the point home. You are participating in objectification, and it’s all the tagger’s fault!

And, finally, we get to the True Believer.

She has “Love” tattooed across her forehead and a longing look on her face. She doesn’t reveal much of her body and is at the bottom of the image.

How did she get off so easy?

I guess the tagger couldn’t fit “Desperate” or “Lonely” across her face. Or, maybe there’s some latent optimism fighting to get out. Either way, this chick got lucky compared to the others.

There’s some guy in the picture (which you can see back at the top of the article). I don’t know why he didn’t get any abuse. Maybe, it’s because he’s a retard or simply is not important because everyone’s looking at the ladies. I don’t know if that’s true, but it sure makes sense to me.

Some of my favorite graffiti displays

I like graffiti that sends a message. There’s one wall decoration that I still wish I’d captured, but I never got around to it. I used to go to the Peace Club, a dive bar outside Camp Casey in South Korea– back when we still had troops that far north. In the bathroom, they had a piss-trough instead of urinals. I remember it well. The wall over the trough was littered with graffiti; there was barely room for anything new. After all the time I spent there, removing consumed beer from my body, I read most of it. One “exchange” is still crystal clear.

“I used to believe in the common decency of man”

“I still do”

They were written by two people, the second below the first. After a while, I used to pick the spot at the trough that would put these two lines at eye-level. In some ways, I still miss that wall and these two comments. I doubt it’s there any more. Last I heard, the Peace Club was no more. I do hope that management kept that wall intact.

Ever since then, I’ve been extremely interested in graffiti. The first, up top, is from a small covered walkway in Old Quebec. Yeah, some people still aren’t crazy about being French-speakers in an English-speaking country.

Iceland is such a sanitary country, but they are developing a graffiti problem. This wall just struck me as the antithesis of what one expects to see in Iceland.

Tallin, Estonia had some good material as well. The tagger below, it seems, was hungry. I guess he (or she) likes Italian.

The next one, though, is my favorite from Estonia. It sends a pretty powerful political message, and indicates the importance of open dialogue in a free society.

There was clearly a taggers’ debate going on here. First, someone wrote “Fuck Fascism!” I happen to concur. Next, someone put “anti” in front. Since I’m not a fascist, “Fuck AntiFascism!” doesn’t exactly resonate. But, a third person joined the conversation and crossed out “anti,” and then a fourth person crossed out “Fuck”. So, we wind up with the message, “Fascism!” Of course, I could have the order of events a bit screwed up, but we can see clearly where the discussion ends. Such a shame.

Also political was a bit of graffiti I saw in  Paris metro station. This was during the Sarkozy/Segoline election, which got pretty nasty.

Wow, I guess this guy doesn’t watch Fox News!

A man can still enjoy Alice’s Teacup

When I go to Alice’s Teacup for breakfast with my wife, I have an excuse. She’s the reason I’m there. One of my friends described the place as “girlie,” and she’s probably right. I don’t care. I like it. With my wife out of town this weekend, I had to summon all the courage I have in my masculinity to go there alone; somehow, I was able to do it. I was rewarded for my efforts with small, tea-type sandwiches, warm scones, and a tea with the name “African Dew.” I liked it. Every bit of it.

What really blows me away about Alice’s Teacup is the waitstaff. The waitresses not only wear fairy wings while doing their jobs (and doing them well), they seem comfortable dressed that way. You get the sense that the young lady bringing you your roasted cumin carrot sandwich dreamed of wearing fairy wings to work as a little girl and is now living the dream. They seem happy, and I’m happy for that. I want to wear a cape to work and just can’t get away with it. Sure, their chosen (or required) attire seems a bit odd to me, but they are happy. That’s what matters.

Check this place out>>

More News on Old Media Suffering

The Silicon Alley Insider reports today that Lee Enterprises is in deep shit– not exactly surprising. The newspaper chain, apparently, is down on both the print and web fronts, proving that the old media guard simply can’t figure out the media that is no longer new. But, the NY Times seems to be figuring it out slowly, with internet revenues up 12.8 percent for the second quarter and internet ads up 18.3 percent.

The real headline stat: 3,500. That’s how many newspaper jobs were lost since late May. McClatchy leads the march to the bottom, with 1,400 positions cut, according to the Silicon Alley Insider. Also, newspapers have collectively lost close to $4 billion in shareholder value … in July!

The media market is in an interesting place right now. On the one hand, newspapers are continuing their slow death. They seem to be kept afloat, in part, by the fact that the world is still figuring out how to make a financial success of delivering the news over the web. The technology is in place, but the business model is still being refined. While smaller news outlets may be able to pull it off, the large media firms need to find a way to replace declining print revenue and grow the web in a way that not only breaks even but continues to deliver net growth.

We’re still not there yet.

Once the business issues sort themselves out– with the help of a few savvy entrepreneurs and natural market forces– the newspaper decline will accelerate. The only question is: what’s coming next?

“Seven Days” of Korean

No, it has nothing to do with kimchee or Jinro soju. 7 Days is an indie flick that I saw screened at the Fantasia International Film Festival in Montreal last weekend. The flick was extremely intense, packed with the sort of psychological violence only seen on the Korean peninsula or in Joe Gallant-directed porn films. I absolutely love it and recommend it highly. Check out the trailer below.

[More on the Fantasia International Film Festival after the video]

Fantasia is a kick-ass fest, focusing on horror, anguish and the disturbed. There is plenty of variety, from Quebecois animated shorts to U.S., Canadian and Asian horror. Quite simply, there’s something for everybody.

The festival just wrapped up a few days ago, but every year it spans most of July. This is a real fest, not the commercialized Sundance, Tribeca or Cannes affairs. At Fantasia, the movies are the main event. So, if you’re looking for a reason to go to Montreal next summer, you just found it.

Read the 7 Days review >>

Learn about Fantasia >>

Diaz Action Intensifying

When artist Nelson Diaz put three paintings up for auction this week, I was a bit worried. Pushing two paintings in one week seemed difficult enough, but three seemed aggressive. As of yesterday, none had a bid of more than $1. I have a lot of confidence in Nelson and in this project, but I was a bit frightened. What if they only went for a buck each?

Well, it looks like I was getting ahead of myself. The action has picked up today. Prices on all three paintings have shot up. Self-Portrait with Pipe, 2008 #7 is up to $100, reflecting just one day’s action. #8 is now at $76, and #9 just made it to $81.

And, the auctions have three days left.

Historically, the action has come on the last day of the auction, so these paintings could wind up north of $400. Nelson’s goal has been to keep the auctions under $300, to make sure they remain affordable. But, my sense from the auction action is that these bidders are pretty committed.

The most recent bids on all three paintings have come from the same person, obviously interested in portraying them as a tryptich (reminiscent of Bacon’s work). The hat-trick could be spoiled though, as that bidder now has only two of the three. But, there are a few days left until the auctions conclude.

Bid on Self Portrait with Pipe, 2008, #7 >>

Bid on Self Portrait with Pipe, 2008, #8 >>

Bid on Self Portrait with Pipe, 2008, #9 >>

[Note: the paintings in the photo are not up for auction]

Ottaway (Dow Jones Sub) Wakes Up

Could it be? A newspaper CEO is not a newspaperman?

I was shocked when I saw the Google News Alert on my Blackberry this evening. A MarketWatch story announced that Andrew Langhoff is becoming the new CEO of Dow Jones subsidiary Ottaway Newspapers. While Langhoff is no stranger to the media space– and has been with Ottaway for five years– he isn’t the traditional choice for CEO.

His predecessor, John Wilcox, started as a reporter and worked his way up the editorial and business ladders of the old print world. Before taking the helm of Ottaway, he had been and old school print guy, spending the past 40 years working his way up the newspaper ranks. Wilcox did do a lot to pull Ottaway into the present, but it was clear after the turn of the century that fresh blood would be needed soon.

Langhoff is an interesting cat. He served as SVP of the internet publishing division (the first leader of the then new group) while also the firm’s general counsel (the role into which he was first hired). He hired me back in 2004, and I lasted all of six months before finding a culture that suited me better (I spent the next year chillin’ as a freelance writer and loved it).

He was one of the few people there who actually had a vision for the internet, though Ottaway (like most newspapers) was rather late to the party. But, it was decidedly 1999. At times, though, it did seem forward-looking. I remember discussing Web 2.0 ideas with him, back when the movement was in its infancy. But, it came out in ways that were a bit dated. The notion of communicating and leaving comments on stories, for example, did sound a lot like some famous flameouts. Remember TheGlobe.com, anyone?

He did have a less-than-charming expression for using the whiteboard– “Langhoffing.” Apparently, this term arose during his stint with a dotcom-era startup where he held a business development position. I suspect that few, aside from the Chief Langhoffer himself actually used it.

I’m being a bit to harsh, here. He was thinking the right way, and many of his ideas were downright revolutionary in the newspaper space. Clearly, there was a cultural shift. The Medford Mail-Tribune, an Ottaway property, now uses Twitter to announce the availability of new stories online. Before Langhoff arrived at Ottaway, that would not have been possible.

It’s hard to say where this will take Ottaway. This is a pretty radical move for a newspaper company, and the industry is in dire need of original thinking. If anyone is fit for the task, it is Langhoff. Before things soured for me at Ottaway (and my attitude with it), I was quite happy working with him. But, I wonder if the industry is too far gone. Also, I think is web-savviness is about half what the newspaper chain needs to get back on its feet.

So, best of luck, Andrew. I hope you are able to find the right combination to keep print newspapers relevant.

Check out Langhoff’s bio >>