ArtPrize is AmaZing

ArtPrize has returned to Grand Rapids for the second year. For my money, this is hands-down the most amazing event I’ve ever been to. I’m in GR right now, ready for a day of exploring this multi-venue art explosion. We’re featuring ArtPrize on Absolute Michigan once again too – here’s the montage video I made for ArtPrize 2009 – I’ll try to do one for 2010 too!

WPA 2.0: Work Pays America

WIRED has a feature telling the next President that a Modern-Day WPA Will Save the Economy. They say that while alternative fuels and transportation are getting the speech time, they won’t mean jack if there’s no infrastructure to support it:

“(Congress) should invest in the more than 3,000 ready-to-go highway projects that could be under contract within the next 30 to 90 days,” says John Horsley, executive director of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials. “Funding these ready to go projects offers Congress a tremendous opportunity to put Americans to work and help cash-strapped states repair and replace our crumbling infrastructure.”

History shows us the time to act is now.

The state of America’s infrastructure — roads, bridges, drinking water, even schools and transit systems — couldn’t be much worse. A report card issued three years ago by the American Society of Civil Engineers gives it all a D. The society says we’ve got to spend about $1.6 trillion just to bring things up to a B-.

Thusfar, solutions to our current economic mess are pretty much of the “give the people who made the mess a pile of money to figure out how to fix it” variety. While I like forking over my future earnings to irresponsible millionaires as much as the next guy, it seems to me that solutions that rely on already existing components of our economy that are working should definitely get a good look.

Furthermore, solutions that address multiple goals (public works and employment and funds to pay mortgages) have been proven to be very effective. Wikipedia’s Works Progress Administration (WPA) entry begins:

The Works Progress Administration (renamed in 1939 the Work Projects Administration; WPA) was the largest New Deal agency, employing millions of people and affecting most every locality in the United States, especially rural and western mountain populations. It was created in April 1935 by Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s presidential order, and activated with congressional funding in July of that year (the U.S. Congress funded it annually but did not set it up).

It continued and extended relief programs similar to the Reconstruction Finance Corporation (RFC) started by Herbert Hoover and the U.S. Congress in 1932. Headed by Harry L. Hopkins, the WPA provided jobs and income to the unemployed during the Great Depression in the United States. The program built many public buildings, projects and roads and operated large arts, drama, media and literacy projects. It fed children and redistributed food, clothing and housing.

Until closed down by Congress and the war boom in 1943, the various programs of the WPA added up to the largest employment base in the country — indeed, the largest cluster of government employment opportunities in most states. Anyone who needed a job could become eligible for most of its jobs. Hourly wages were the prevailing wages in the area; the rules said workers could not work more than 30 hours a week but many projects included months in the field, with workers eating and sleeping on worksites.

The poster above (LC-USZC2-837) was one of thousands developed through the Works Progress Administration. You can see some of them at the Library of Congress.

Wikipedia Go!

For me, Wikipedia is something I open several times a week to answer specific questions. The other day, I happened to go to Wikipedia’s front page and was impressed by what was there. A few highlights from today:

If you want to get really crazy, check out all their portals and dive into Michigan or Anime & manga.

Image: Wikipe-tan icon by ja:利用者:Kasuga. I so do not understand what is up with that picture. Or this one.

Cast my vote

Barack Obama - Santa Fe Art District

One of Michigan’s famous rabble-rousers, Michael Moore, says My Vote’s for Obama (if I could vote). He calls on Pennsylvanians to cast a vote on his behalf of a Michiganian who has been disenfranchised by the miscalculation of our state Democratic party and the intractability of the national party.

There are those who say Obama isn’t ready, or he’s voted wrong on this or that. But that’s looking at the trees and not the forest. What we are witnessing is not just a candidate but a profound, massive public movement for change. My endorsement is more for Obama The Movement than it is for Obama the candidate.

That is not to take anything away from this exceptional man. But what’s going on is bigger than him at this point, and that’s a good thing for the country. Because, when he wins in November, that Obama Movement is going to have to stay alert and active. Corporate America is not going to give up their hold on our government just because we say so. President Obama is going to need a nation of millions to stand behind him.

Michael’s words really echo my feelings about the whole process. Obama (like everyone) is far from perfect. I believe that he will, however, bring a change to the way Americans think about government and help us begin that long and difficult process of taking responsibility for the governance and future of our nation.

So please, Pennsylvania, cast a vote for Obama for me if you’re undecided … and while you’re at it, could you tell your 76ers to lighten up on my Pistons? ;)

About the Photo: The photo is Barack Obama – Santa Fe Art District by seetwist. It’s part of his Free Art set and he seems to have made a vocation of documenting and preserving graffiti.

The symphony of sensation

Of course “everybody knows” that nerves use electric impulses to transmit sensations … kind of like Western Union but without all the stagecoaches. One problem with this model is that it doesn’t explain how anesthetics stop nerves from carrying pain signals.

Black & Gold by Andy McFarlane

In A Shocking Idea: Nerves Might Run on Sound, Not Electricity in Wired, Andrew Jackson & Thomas Heimburg, a pair of researchers at the Neils Bohr Institute in Copenhagen, Denmark a Niels Bohr biophysicist suggest that nerves operate using high pressure waves, like sound through a pipe.

Their theory, published in the Biophysical Journal, explains how nerves and anesthetics work as follows: Nerves are made of lipids that are liquid at body temperature. A yet-to-be-defined mechanism creates high-pressure, semisolid waves that move through the cells, delivering messages.

Anesthetics, they suggest, lower the temperature at which lipids become solid, making it difficult for the waves to form, thereby preventing nerves from sending pain signals. They also suggest that as the waves travel, they change the shape of the cell membrane, producing the electrical pulse that scientists currently mistake for the primary function of nerve cells.

I have to confess that the part of me that gets almost physically transported by music is nodding its head in time with this…

I looked at a ton of photos of violins and violinists and such, nothing struck me so here’s one I took at the Furniture show in Leland last month of a gorgeous table.

Lomography: n. the science of photographic happiness

Happy Max, Happy Photos

A couple months ago I ran a feature on lomo on Michigan in Pictures. I was feeling inexplicably blue today and checked back on it. I felt better. More about Lomo & Lomography.

The photo is titled “Happy Max” and it’s pretty clear that Max is indeed happy. The photographer, Maya Newman, has a bright and beautiful (and big) collection of Lomo on Flickr and (or?) a ton on her LomoHome pages. She says that she loves her LC-A camera because every day it reminds her that we live in a beautiful world.

WEEE Man … not so wee after all

The WEEE Man

The WEEE Man is made from the amount of waste electrical and electronic products that an average UK citizen will throw away in their lifetime – over three tons per person. I can only imagine that the average US citizen could build a larger man. More at the WEEE Man web site.
I came across Tracy’s photo while looking for a pic to illustrate an article about how my county is struggling with funding a recycling initiative. It boggles my mind that people can be so shortsighted about the conservation of resources as to vote down a $30 per YEAR measure. I’m almost wishing for an army of these things to show up.