April 2005

Rock Around the Clock

In Phoenix, I stop for a burger with the family at the “Five and Diner.” The food is decent, but the decor is overwhelming — the place is a fully decked out in 1950’s retro style.

DinerWhy the association of diners with a certain kind of 1950’s art deco style? You know, the glass block and formica, checkered vinyl floor, those aluminum stools and that jukebox full of upbeat, happy rock songs (with no swear words), walls decked out with posters of Elvis, James Dean, Marilyn, and Coca-Cola...

Was it the new interstate highway system and manufacturing trends that put consumers on the road and brought machine-age styling to the lunch counter?

“It was a simpler time,” someone says. What, because post-war economic boom made such a happy middle-class? Or because G.I. bill paid your father’s college tuition and subsidized his mortgage? Was it all the white, middle-class families on TV? Or because it was before the end of segregation? Gay rights? The second wave of feminism? In fairness, though, as a kid maybe you were simpler.

But the Five and Diner is not some carefully preserved historic artifact. It is a fully contemporary invention, invested heavily in the myth of “the 50’s.” In fact, those “traditional family values” are a rather contemporary idea.

Art deco trappings and its Googie spawn were once signposts towards streamlined, technology-serviced future. The former was particularly embraced by European fascist states, the latter by an American suburban capitalism.

Now, both styles seem firmly lodged in the past. But they have not lost their utopian flavor — the futurism has been displaced by nostalgia.

In the U.S., at least, it’s become the visual, aesthetic, and user experience version of “comfort food.”

And adopted by the backlash.

>  27 April 2005 | LINK | Filed in ,

Euro May Day

William Thake sends notice of this spectacular image promoting EuroMayDay 2005:

Euro May Day 2005

See a bigger JPEG here or download a high rez PDF here (1.5 Mb, zipped).

The central image is drawn from a Chinese new year poster from the early 1970’s, celebrating both scientific prowess and folkloric tradition.

It’s interesting that the same image works for both Chinese statism and European anti-statism. Both are exuberant, celebratory, futurist, and utopian. But the European image is more self-consciously ‘kitsch’ than the Chinese. Is the European use ironic? Perhaps a comment on globalization? Kinda ambiguous, but it looks like fun.

A map of May Day events around Europe is posted here.

>  21 April 2005 | LINK | Filed in

Sanitize that Sponge

I’m not sure this counts as ‘Social Design’ — but then the sickness it can spread. And I love simple solutions like this.

If you’re a busy designer, you probably don’t change your kitchen sponge very often. When things start to smell, it’s seriously past time to do something about it. From Cook’s Illustrated:

SpongeSafer Kitchen Sponges

“Sponges kept by the sink are wet and warm, which makes them attractive hosts for bacteria. We investigated various home-style disinfecting methods used by readers and test kitchen staffers — microwaving, freezing, dishwasher, bleaching, boiling, and washing with soap and hot water — to see which were effective. After counting bacteria both before and after testing, numbers showed that putting the sponge in rapidly boiling water for 3 minutes was the most effective disinfection method, reducing bacteria counts from millions to only 1,000. Soaking the sponge for ten minutes in a solution of 1/4 cup bleach and 4 cups water was the next best alternative.”

>  16 April 2005 | LINK | Filed in

Call for Artwork: Reproduce and Revolt!

ProtestJosh MacPhee is collecting submissions of graphics, illustrations and art for a book of freely reproducible graphics to be published by Soft Skull Press in late 2006.

He writes:

Reproduce and Revolt!: Radical Graphics for the 21st Century is a graphic toolbox to be launched into the hands of political activists. The book will contain over 300 new and exciting high-quality illustrations and graphics about social justice and political activism for activists to use on flyers, posters, t-shirts, brochures, stencils or any other graphic aspects of political campaigns. All the graphics will be bold and easy to reproduce, in addition to being open source/anti-copyright. The book will come with clear instructions on how to best utilize the images so as to improve the graphic qualities of political campaigns. It will also contain a short history of political graphics, an archive of political flyers and posters throughout history, as well as information about and a bibliography of further reading for all of the social justice issues the art will cover....

Reproduce & Revolt! is not intended to be a who’s who of well known and successful political artists, this call is open to all levels of artists.”

Materials are due by October 31st, 2005. Contact ‘reproduce [at] justseeds [dot] org’ for more information.

>  15 April 2005 | LINK | Filed in , , ,

Free Stock Photography

Robin Good has pulled together a great list of free stock photo sites:

See his page for more detailed descriptions.

Wikipedia also has a large list of public domain image resources.

Please note, the images on these sites have different licensing schemes and credit requirements, so read up before you use. For instance, Buzznet and Flickr are large photo sharing communities of personal photos. The use restrictions are unclear.

>  9 April 2005 | LINK | Filed in


Folks in Maine have a plan to fight the war by saving jobs — and the environment.

Grinder at Bath Iron WorksChristie Toth reports in the April 1, Portland Phoenix about a statewide, grassroots campaign to convert Maine’s military manufacturing infrastructure to environmentally sustainable, non-military manufacturing:

“A year ago, Bath Iron Works, Maine’s largest private employer, had a contract to build seven DD(X) Destroyers for the United States Navy.

Now, the president’s budget proposal has slashed the destroyer order by more than half, and the Navy is considering giving the entire contract to a shipyard in Mississippi. As the Maine delegation fights what may be a losing battle on the Hill, economic conversion is beginning to look like more than an idealistic pipe dream. It is beginning to look necessary for Midcoast Maine’s economic survival.

With more than 6200 employees, BIW is Maine’s largest private employer; however, despite a robust shipbuilding schedule, the yard has been hemorrhaging jobs for years. Over the last six months, with 51 layoffs here, another 137 there, BIW has eliminated nearly 500 positions. And those layoffs barely register compared to what the company, a subsidiary of the Virginia-based General Dynamics Corporation, may be facing in the near future....

The Maine congressional delegation is doing everything in its power to push against the carrier-like momentum of Donald Rumsfeld’s vision for leaner, meaner armed forces. Senators Snowe and Collins warn of the grave dangers of single-source destroyer construction in Mississippi, citing everything from terrorist attacks to hurricanes. Congressman Tom Allen rails about the costs of the Iraq war, which he says could purchase a destroyer a week. None of Maine’s elected representatives has been above a little fear-mongering about China....

Peace Action Maine (PAM) is a nonprofit activist organization working to provide ‘a voice of education and a center for all people committed to disarmament and creative responses to conflict.’ On April 1, they will launch a two-year campaign to shift Maine’s manufacturing base away from reliance on military industry. While PAM would support the introduction of any socially responsible, ecologically sound nonmilitary manufacturing in Maine, their most treasured vision is to make Maine a national leader in the production of sustainable energy technologies, such as solar panels and wind turbines.

Domestic demand for windmill equipment is growing. ‘Maine’s going to be left behind,’ says Gagnon, ‘because the Maine delegation is clinging to a sinking boat.’”

The campaign kicked off with a parade in Portland, a traveling art exhibit, public presentations, and the commission of a feasibility study from Economists for Peace and Security.

Bruce Gagnon is blogging the campaign at Organizing Notes.

>  6 April 2005 | LINK | Filed in , , , , , ,

Electronics Recycling in NYC

If there are regular readers of this site out there, you might be interested in the results of the NYC electronics recycling events I blogged about in October.

Recycle Your ComputerAndriana Kontovrakis, Project Manager at the NYC Department of Sanitation writes:

“We collected 52 tons (104,000 pounds) of obsolete computer materials from more than 1,000 people this past Fall. The material was collected through 8 one-day collection events held between October and December.

We are happy with the turnout and tonnage. This was the first time DSNY held electronics recycling events, so we did not have a pre-set goal. We are assessing how and when we might possibly hold such events in the future, but we do not currently have any events planned.”

Independent of city sponsorship, grassroots groups continue to hold electronics collection events around town.

I just missed yesterday’s Recycle This! and Per Scholas event at Grand Army Plaza in Brooklyn.

On April 17, 2005 from 9 am to 5 pm, the Lower East Side Ecology Center will collect electronics in the North Plaza of Union Square Park.

>  4 April 2005 | LINK | Filed in ,

Call for Artwork: Critical Mass

Bicycling, a Quiet Statement Against Oil WarsThe daughter of a friend was arrested during the Republican National Convention. Her crime: riding her bicycle.

She was one of 5,000 people who rode with Critical Mass that clear August evening, and one of 250 arrested. She spent 25 hours in jail for riding her bike in support ecology, fewer cars, and a more bicycle friendly city.

“She lost a bit of innocence that summer,” says her mom.

Since the RNC, the New York Police Department have continued their campaign of intimidation and harassment, arresting riders and seizing bikes despite a court order. Now the Department is suing Time’s Up!, a nonprofit environmental group, to prevent them from participating in and promoting the rides and to enforce the ban on assembly of 20 or more people in a park without a permit.

The folks at Visual Resistance are facilitating a street art campaign in support of Critical Mass and are calling for designs. They hope to produce materials before the April 29th ride.

They will make the designs available for download and have a few printed. Some suggested themes include supporting/promoting Critical Mass; defending the right to free assembly; and promoting bicycling as a form of transportation.

For more info on Critical Mass and harassment by NYPD, visit the Time’s Up press room.

Poster designs should be 8.5x11 or 11x17 inches, sticker and stencil designs can be any logical size. Find out more.

>  3 April 2005 | LINK | Filed in , , ,

Green Map Turns Ten

Mentioned here last year, the Green Map project is an international network of autonomous, collective design projects, promoting local action and environmental resources around the world. They just celebrated their ten year anniversary.

Via email:

March 25, 2005 marks the 10th anniversary of Green Map System, a network of locally-led projects building healthier, more sustainable communities by charting the natural and cultural environment. In a decade, the global Green Map movement has spread to 45 countries, sparking public involvement and encouraging fresh perspectives on familiar landscapes. In nearly 300 diverse cities, towns and rural locales, we’re charting the good life, celebrating community and engaging the future.

GreenmapCollectively, Green Mapmakers have published 201 Green Maps — 60 are online and 3 million copies are in use, serving as guides to ecological living. Click GreenMap.org for an update on each map - these are beautiful portraits of place that ignite hope and caring for our beloved hometown environments.

Linking all projects are the Green Map Icons — the world’s only universal symbol set for maps — and a flexible framework for mapmaking. Practical, effective Green Mapmaking tools and resources are being created all the time, based on local experience. Our recent milestones include:

  • Green Map Atlas
    In 2004 Green Map System produced its first collection of mapmaking stories. Illustrating the origins, methods and local impacts of 10 projects in Asia and North America, the Green Map Atlas is a multimedia anthology — order the book or CD-ROM, or download it at GreenAtlas.org. Written for the public, it was conceived to catalyze action for community sustainability around the world — 100,000 English/Japanese readers have downloaded it already!

  • Lift-off in Taiwan
    Taiwan’s Society of Wilderness has practiced Green Mapmaking since 2000, leading successful workshops across the country. Published in March 2005, their “Energetic Green Map Movement” book features 135 pages of in-depth methodology and colorfully illustrated vignettes on Taiwanese and international Green Maps (including sections of the Green Map Atlas), in Chinese.

  • Japan’s Networked Accomplishments
    Some of the most inclusive Green Map projects are in Japan. Capturing this creative energy and fostering new developments, the GreenMap Japan network has just published a 40 page “Green Map Activity Guide” (English edition expected in August). Their national summer homework challenge in 2004 yielded expressive outcomes, dozens of which can be seen at GreenMap.jp (English Intro).

  • EXPO 2005 — Nature’s Wisdom
    Today, 52 communities in Japan have projects underway. More than 16 of these are creating a citizens’ participation project for Aichi EXPO 2005, under the umbrella of GreenMap Aichi/Chubu Recycle. Opening today, EXPO’s Aichi Prefecture Pavilion features the debut of 30 diverse, local Green Maps. EXPO continues for 6 months, with international Green Maps featured in August. Find out more here. The impacts of this mega event will continue to be charted through 2010 by GreenMap Aichi!

  • Crossing the Divide
    It’s not only in affluent regions that Green Mapmaking is thriving. Indonesia has 8 far-flung projects underway which have published 10 popular maps to date, and Jakarta’s story in the Green Map Atlas has been downloaded 20,000 times. Our 2004 Chinese Initiative has yielded the first 2 mainland projects underway in Beijing and Hangzhou. In the West, Mapa Verde Cuba is thriving as an education and social resource in 12 provinces across the island, plus they are collaborating on the tri-lingual Mapa Verde Americas Community Green Mapping Booklet, due out later this year. From Uruguay to Uganda, Netherlands to New Zealand, Green Mapmakers have honed their communication skills with this community media vehicle.

  • And at Home
    Our New York global headquarters is a catalyst for new projects, a resource and outreach center, archive and connecting point; we also “seed” local youth projects and create new editions of NYC’s original Green Apple Map. Currently, we’re piloting a new mapping concept with our 5th city-wide edition, which will focus on Energy and aim to build the buzz for efficiency and renewables. Beyond the maps, we embrace the challenge of working globally every day with a wonderful, creative alliance dedicated to building sustainable communities.

  • Our 10th Anniversary Year
    Celebrate this important milestone with us! Our 10th anniversary year starts today, so congratulate your local Mapmakers or send your thoughts (and support!) directly to Green Map System. A non-profit 501c3 organization since 2000, Green Map System welcomes your tax-deductible donation online or by mail (PO Box 249, New York, NY USA 10002-0249). Visit our online Store for Green Maps, Atlases, T-shirts and more. With your help, we will develop a new online system that will improve public access to Green Maps and foster collaboration throughout the movement. Your support will also help us build capacity globally and locally, as we prepare to gracefully expand our eco-cultural service for the next 10 years!
>  2 April 2005 | LINK | Filed in ,

On to May.
Back to March.