1. Interview with Matt Kish, Whale Artist

    A month or so ago, we gave you the heads up on Matt Kish, the artist behind One Drawing for Every Page of Moby Dick.  He was kind enough to answer a few questions for us about how he came to this project and what goes through his head when he’s doing what he does.

    - – -
    What do you think of when you think of whales?

    It’s funny, I think this might be at odds with what most people think of. Even some of the people that have visited my site and looked at the art. I think a lot of people, when asked about whales, imagine this Greenpeace-y kind of gentle giant. A steward of the seas. Some vast, serene, gently floating creature singing songs in the azure deeps. For me, when I think of whales, I think of them as gigantic and incredibly cool monsters. I know that may read as somewhat juvenile, even in terms of the vocabulary I chose, but that’s because my inner vision of whales was formed at a very young age and after seeing an awful lot of monster movies as well as the 1956 version of “Moby-Dick” with Gregory Peck. I had never seen an ocean, let alone a whale, so the Atlantic and the Pacific might as well have been outer space for all the experience I had. And here, in these unimaginably vast and watery wastelands you had these simply colossal beasts capable of smashing ships to pieces, chewing and devouring sailors, blowing huge spouts of water out of the top of their heads…man, that just blew me away as a kid and it’s just never really gone away. You know how you can look at old books that chronicle the sea journeys of antiquity, and they have those engravings of tusked, scaled leviathans with two or three spouts of water jetting out of these weird curved horns on their heads, jaws like dragons and huge fluked tails? I guess for me, whales have always been like that, if not in appearance at least in spirit. Which is why, for this Moby-Dick project, the pages where I get to illustrate whales have been the most fun for me to do. It’s like being a child with crayons again. Monsters!

    You’ve mentioned in other interviews that you were inspired by ‘outsider art’.  Do you mean that as a kinship in style or just in the spirit of art being a more democratic, non-ivory tower sort of thing?

    It’s really a little bit of both, but weighted much more toward the “democratic, non-ivory tower” side of things. The kinship in style, for me, comes from the fact that I took a few art classes in high school, graduated in 1987, and took one drawing class at community college the next year. Ever since then, nothing. No training in art. No kind of education, formal or otherwise. And until very recently not even any real peer group to bounce my ideas off of and get critiques. My style, although it feels very strange to call it that, is something that I guess just developed over years of screwing around with art supplies and filling my head with all sorts of visual imagery from Jack Kirby comic books to S & M photography. I have so many limitations as an artist. Everything is very flat, there is no depth or dimension to my art, my compositions tend to be very centralized and simple, I focus too heavily on texture and patterns ignoring shape and weight, almost all my lines are straight and drawn with a ruler or template, and on and on and on. I’ve had to find ways to work within my limitations and have never really struggled to change or correct those deficiencies. I definitely have a kind of aesthetic tunnel vision.

    The “democratic, non-ivory tower” aspect of it is especially important and inspirational to me though, and it’s that part of it that I really identify with. It took me a very long time to build up enough confidence to show my drawings to even my closest friends. I don’t know where I picked up the intense fear of ridicule that I have, but at some point in my adulthood I became very aware that to even get a show in a tiny local gallery, an artist generally had to have a BFA or an MFA as well as an artist’s statement, a prepared portfolio, slides of their work, and so on. I never had anything other than a loose stack of colored pencil and ink drawings sitting on a bookshelf. So for a long time, I felt permanently shut out from any avenue of sharing my work. I was never really interested in making art a career, and the allure of something like a gallery show, even in a tiny local gallery, was really more the thrill of being able to share my labors with strangers and see what they thought of it. Of course I was hoping for compliments and praise, but at the very least I wanted to be able to show people something they might not have ever seen before. Beyond that, I had no desire to become part of an art establishment or to be labeled and heaped in with some kind of movement. Anyway, even that felt like it would forever be beyond me because of my lack of credentials, whatever that meant.

    It’s a simple idea, really, but discovering outsider art, and reading about all of these untrained artists making art for personal reasons, whether it was some kind of compulsion or simply the reward or creating a painting, resonated with me deeply. Really opened my own eyes to the fact that I didn’t need degrees or schooling or galleries or artist’s statements or sales to justify the existence of my drawings and paintings. The fact that I was willing to do them, to make something with my own hands, was reason enough. It’s hard to describe now because I realize how basic that idea is, and how maybe when we are kids with crayons that seems as normal and everyday as the sun rising and the grass growing. But somehow I got sucked in, suckered, and slapped about the head and body a bit the the artistic establishment and I got scared. It cowed me, made me fearful. So I hid for years and years until I discovered outsider art and realized it was okay for me to do what I wanted to do.

    Being something of an non-pedigreed, non-certified (read: didn’t go to art school) artist, where along the way did you decided that art was going to be an abiding part of how you live?  Was it a moment or just something that creeped up?

    Again, it’s a little of both, but I can remember some very specific and powerful experiences from my early childhood that had an enormous impact. To start, I have been absolutely fascinated by and smitten with pictures and images ever since I can remember. My parents were filthy hippies, so my childhood was spent surrounded by posters of Middle Earth, album cover art by Roger Dean (all those crazy “Yes” albums, on full gatefold vinyl!) and lushly illustrated picture books from the 60s and 70s. I can’t really ever remember a time when those things weren’t a part of my life so it’s hard if not impossible to determine whether that love of images was innate or whether it was something I took to based on my environment. I learned to read at a very early age and my parents were wonderful in supplying me with picture books and folk tales and illustrated collections of myths and legends. Perhaps it’s because that’s what they liked, or perhaps it’s because that’s what I seemed to gravitate to, but that’s all I read. I can vividly remember paintings by Arthur Rackham, fine pen and ink pieces by Willy Pogany, and even those drawings by Tolkien that graced early versions of “The Hobbit.” I would “read” those images as closely as I read the words, and they came to seem inseparable to me. So I was drawing things — mostly monsters and spaceships and heroes — from preschool.

    Most of what I drew were just imitations of what I saw in my books though, and I can remember being 8 or 9 and camping with my older cousin Jason. He was, and still is, an immensely talented artist, and while we were bored on a rainy afternoon we spent hours drawing together. I was probably running through the motions of drawing the same things over and over, but Jason drew this incredibly bizarre, crescent-moon shaped monster with multiple eyes and tentacles. It floored me. Even the fact that it was an asymmetrical, non monster-shaped monster just blew the top of my skull right off. I remember that as possibly being the first time I saw a piece of art that was different, challenging, weird, and a little upsetting. But all in very good ways.

    After that I started paying much closer attention to what my friends drew and I saw such an incredibly diverse range of styles and imaginations that I started thinking maybe I could do this myself. Sadly, it probably took me 20 or 30 years before I felt like I really had developed a style and an aesthetic of my own, and even today I can see so many influences running through some of my pieces that I worry people will call me a hack, but it’s hard not to let the indelible power of those visions course through me.

    So where do you find your found materials?

    I’ve actually been harvesting this stuff for years. From 2003 to 2005 I worked for a large used book store chain. Customers would bring books in, we would buy them, and then we would re-rice and re-sell them. An awful lot of what people brought in was simply no good. Too old, too ephemeral, too out of date. This stuff we would either price for a dollar or two and put in our bargain section, or just throw out. Employees were not supposed to pick through the stuff that was going to the trash, but the managers generally looked the other way as long as it wasn’t too blatant. I was able to snag a small pile of really interesting things, mostly old text books, encyclopedias, and repair guides. Stuff that was really of no use to anyone, being so completely out of date. At the time, I had no idea what I would do with it, I just thought it was too good and too interesting to throw away. So I held on to it all for quite a few years without using it for anything more than a drawing or two. And then, when the idea to do this “Moby-Dick” series came to me, it seemed like a perfect match since the art is so indebted to the printed words of the novel.

    What about an item makes you want to hang on to it and include it in a piece?

    You know, it’s weird because when I started these illustrations I was doing them all on these old electronics repair guides. Something about those old diagrams fascinates me because their symbols and and all those lines and drawings and letters look almost alchemical to me. Magical. So the thought of all of that unfathomable information, a bit buried but lurking just beneath the paint and ink really spoke to me. It hinted at the deeper themes and mysteries of Melville’s novel as well as the mysteries lurking beneath the sea. After working that way for a few weeks, I began to dig more deeply into my collection of discarded books finding new and more intriguing ways of bringing some of Melville’s themes, the ones that were really important to me as a reader, into the art. So if you look closely, you will see a lot of recurring imagery, not just of electrical diagrams and ships, which are fairly obvious, but of phrases and bits of text, pieces of art, old photographs and so on. Some of the symbolism is a bit overt, some less so, and some probably so personal it seems obscure or random, but every piece of paper was chosen very very deliberately. It has been amazing for me as an artist to see, more often than not, elements in a finished piece that I did not consciously realize were there but which must have somehow made themselves known to me at a subconscious level. For example, on Page 28 I illustrated the aphorism “However, a good laugh is a mighty good thing, and rather too scarce a good thing…” and a caption for a photograph which appears on that page reads “Europe was no longer hospitable to the imagination.” I didn’t catch that at first, but it seemed to work nicely with the place that “Moby-Dick” occupies in the pantheon of new American literature and the role Melville played in carving that out. Another very obvious element is on Page 112, my illustration of Flask, the third of the mates. I knew each of the mates, Starbuck, Stubb, and Flask, were crucial to an understanding of the novel and were all, in some ways, similar as well as uniquely different. The page where I painted Flask is from an old sewing guide and has a large vertical heading reading “The parts of a pattern.” Given that the reader is just now beginning to see and understand the composition of the Pequod’s crew and the manner of her governance, that page fit.

    How do you cut out the time from the rest of life to work on a project of this size?

    It has been very very difficult. Some history is in order here, to give this context. Prior to beginning the Moby-Dick project, my art had been incredibly detailed, time consuming, a bit overwrought, and ultimately frustrating to complete because of this. I had begun to feel really trapped by the media I was using, the way I was working, and the images I was making. It was not at all unusual for me to spend 20 to 60 hours on a single colored pencil drawing. Yes, they were lushly and radiantly crafted, but I was sick and tired of only being able to complete 3 or 4 drawings a year. I really needed something to force me to change and to find new ways of making art. I knew it would have to be something that came with a deadline built in and some kind of preconceeved structure. I had seen Zak Smith’s paintings for every page of Thomas Pynchon’s “Gravity’s Rainbow” and the idea had always stuck with me. In a flash, it all came together, and deciding to create one illustration for every page of “Moby-Dick” and to complete a piece of art each day seemed like the perfect way to jumpstart this process. I would simply have to find ways to work more quickly but also to make art that I enjoyed and was proud of.

    When I began this project, I was living in an apartment with my wife about 20 minutes from my day job. I had plenty of time in the evenings to work, even if I wanted to spend 2 or 3 hours on a piece, and I could still do laundry and see movies and spend time with my wife. Plus, autumn was coming, the days were growing shorter, and I had less and less desire to go outside as the weather cooled. In November, we moved to be closer to friends and family. But my 20 minute commute became a 90 minute commute. And that’s one way. So suddenly, I am waking up at 5:45 every morning, spending 3 hours in the car every day, getting home at 6:30 in the evening, and trying to squeeze in an hour of drawing between dinner, exercise, laundry, and chores. Honestly, at times, it is a nightmare. In a strange way, I have become more like Ahab in that this has become an endeavor which haunts me and enrages me. I have had some rough nights where I’ve thought of simply disconnecting and giving it up. But something keeps me focused on the endgame, and at times it is a kind of rage. Sometimes, when I am just exhausted and completely spent, the only thing that can rouse me enough to continue this daily pursuit is rage and hate. That is leavened somewhat by the kind comments and emails I’ve been receiving, and that kind of thing has become absolutely necessary to help keep me anchored and stop me from becoming completely lost in this quest to finish.

    And riffing off something you mentioned… how have your reactions changed to the novel as you’ve made your way through the novel for this project?

    Each and every time I have read “Moby-Dick” I have seen more and more of the novel emerge. We could go on at length here about Melville’s multi-layered narrative and how what at first seems to be a simple whaling adventure is everything from a treatise on the nature of America to a an epic with Biblical themes of piety and blasphemy to a metaphysical investigation of the nature of existence and faith. Over time, much of that has been revealed to me and even now, as a 40 year old man, I feel I am only just beginning to see the great outline of Melville’s thoughts. But this journey through, specifically, has forced me to visualize the narrative in a way I never had before. By giving life to each and every one of these sailors, whalemen, and harpooneers, by depicting their ships and the great leviathans they hunt, I’ve anchored it in such a way that I will never be able to un-see what I myself have created. Ishmael will forever more be a symbolic rectangular mask with two wall-eyes and a wave across his face, the man with the sea inside of him. Ahab will always be a towering slab of something metallic, head like a fiercely peering turret. Tashtego has become a lumbering, crow-headed predator. And so on. For me, now, depicting “Moby-Dick” like this makes it forever my own vision. Realized in the fullest with ink and paint and paper, but always my own. I guess I’m more like Ahab, for good or ill, than I might have ever wanted to be.

    - – – -

    A few other interviews here, here and (sorta) here.

    As of this writing, Matt’s still churning them out, day by day, over at http://www.everypageofmobydick.blogspot.com/.  You can buy some of his older art here, including some whaley, sea-monstery stuff.

    For those of you in the Brooklyn/NYC area, Matt will be talking about his quest and showing slides at Pete’s Candy Store on April 19th as part of the Open City Dialogues.

    portrait of Matt Kish by Aaron Cael


  2. House of Hades & Toynbee Tiles

    Recently spotted near Broadway and Houston on the NoHo/SoHo border:

    That’s a very busy intersection, its very difficult to get a photograph let alone lay down tile in the concrete. I worked at this intersection for a little over a year working many late nights in the office. I can’t imagine how anyone could have done this.

    The message reads:

    HOUSE OF HADES
    I MAKE + GLUE TILE
    WITH THE BONES
    OF DEAD JOURNALISTS

    If this cryptic tile and cryptic construction looks familiar, you are probably familiar with the Toynbee tiles. In order to begin to get what the hell these House of Hades guys/gals/guy/gal are we must first look at the mysterious Toynbee tiles.

    These tiles popped up on the East Coast seemingly overnight centering around Philadelphia. The message is usually a variation of:

    TOYNBEE IDEA
    IN KUBRICK’S 2001
    RESURRECT DEAD
    ON PLANET JUPITER

    This mish-mash of ideas does have some thread of logic, albeit twisted. There are three people to look at: Arnold J. Toynbee, Stanley Kubrick, and Sir Arthur C. Clarke. Arnold J. Toynbee was a British historian who presented history as a universal rhythm of rise and fall with reoccurring themes and allusions. He became a household name in the 1940’s as the world sought to deal with the new superpowers of the United States and the Soviet Union. His ideas provided a kind of cushion, and familiar grounding to an unfamiliar situation. He was a little spiritual (in regards to the dead and such) looking at the role of Eastern and Western thought.

    American Stanley Kubrick directed 2001: A Space Odyssey, a groundbreaking film that changed the way people thought about science fiction. Arthur C. Clarke wrote 2001: A Space Odyssey the novel. As Kurbrick and Clarke bounced ideas off of each other they thought it only fitting that the movie says “Based on the novel by Arthur C. Clarke” and the novel says “Based on the movie directed by Stanley Krubrick.” Kubrick approached Clarke about the idea of making a sci-fi flick about humans having a ’spiritual’ encounter with extraterrestrials. Kubrick had read Clarke’s fiction such as “The Sentinel“, Childhood’s End, and “Jupiter V” which directly references Toynbee. At the end of the novel/film the main character Dave Bowman is transformed after traveling to Jupiter[1] into a spiritual being beyond his physical body by fantastic alien technology beyond our comprehension.

    If one was incliend to a certain set of beliefs usually dubbed, oh crazy, they might think that Toynbee and Kubrick were on to something such as the dead can be revived on Jupiter.

    There are numerous theories on who made these tiles. In more recent years many suspect its the work of copycats as whoever did these must be getting on in years as well as different artistic signatures as far away as Iraq. Though some presumed original and presumed tiles do pop up now and again.

    My first thought when I saw the House of Hades tile is “oh no, someone’s ripping off Toynbee Tiles to promote a Michael Douglas film virally or something. Great.” However, it appears that House of Hades is a genuine homage by someone who seems to have a genuine belief that life will be resurrected on Jupiter.

    Steve Weinek, a skilled photographer from Philadelphia, sings the praises for the House of Hades as the most skilled tilers around. In addition to showcasing some nice photography work, he has some great photo detective work on House of Hades, Toynbee and more.

    1Okay nerd patrol, I know in the novel they go to Saturn


  3. Butoh

    click through for HD–recommended

    [Before I get into talking about Butoh, let me first just say that the above is a great example of how to make a single-camera document of a performance watchable afterward by people who weren't there.  Greta job, Rick.  Everyone else, watch it full screen or not at all.]

    Butoh is an art with far more people saying its name than doing it well, the sort of thing that’s easy to get turned off of by the people who will excitedly tell you about it.  Think Stan Brakhage or yoga or string theory or quinoa.  I originally dismissed it all as another bit of the weird, modern East for performers to dig into for avant garde street cred.  Well, actually that’s pretty accurate but really, that’s just the part you’ve got to get over to really dig into the meat of it and not taste the chemical tang of poseurdom.

    As such, I won’t attempt to explain it much beyond saying that it strikes me as a very precise infection of Japanese stage traditions with all the trauma and weirdness of globalization’s cultural blender.  By which I mean: naked people in white paint dancing like their stuck in time, trying to pull the whole world towards or back from the brink.

    Alright I’ll shut up and give you some Sankai Juku

    This one‘s great too… it just won’t embed.


  4. Getting Riced on Chhaang

    If the Yeti was going to step out of seclusion and make a little coin endorsing some hooch, it’d likely be chhaang.  It’s a mountain-man good times and ceremonies kind of beverage from the Himalayas and one of the mighty drinks to claim the title Nectar of the Gods.  Even the recipe is kind of mystical, yet casual, basically amounting to showing off some rice and then letting it hang out and think deep thoughts in a bottle.  Via Momo Tours:

    1. Cook 5 kgs. Rice
    2. Spread cooked rice on large sheet
    3. Take off clothing and roll around on it
    4. Wait till rice becomes room temp
    5. Take 3 pieces of tibbo yeast and crush
    6. Spread evenly on the rice
    7. Close up cloth, make into bundle, and keep covered with blanket, to keep warm
    8. 24 hrs. Later wake up and smell the godly whiff
    9. Put fermenting rice into plastic bucket by hand (not the cloth too you drunk.)
    10. Leave if possible,for one month
    11. Open lid of tightly sealed bucket
    12. Take out as much mix as required
    13. Mix with cold water
    14. Strain
    15. Mix brown sugar according to taste
    16. Drink and proceed to hold conversation with tibetan gods.

    Alternate recipe here: Chhang

    Back in my Osaka days, I hung around with some righteous Nepalese guys in a foreigner tachinomiya where every now and again someone might produce an unmarked bottle and pour a few sharp ones for those assembled.  It had that raw taste of fiercer liquors like rustic tequila or your lower grades of arrack.  Definitely the sort of thing that leads to excited talk and nights that go far later than originally planned.

    Plans are maturing around the ol’ TITLE HQ to see about expanding our brewing operations to chhaang.  We’ll keep you posted.



  5. HTML5 Video

    HTML5 has many useful new tags, one is <video>. It’s long overdue.

    Unfortunately besides the fact the fact Internet Explorer does not support HTML5 (despite Microsoft’s claims) <video> is not a panacea. Yet.

    Mozilla (the dudes who make Firefox) and Apple (the dudes who make Steve Jobs) disagree on what format of video should become the Web’s de facto standard. Mozilla says Ogg Theora a free, open-source codec should power the Web’s video. Apple and Google tout H.264 a propriety and patented format.

    Google claims Ogg Theora doesn’t cut the sauce for YouTube and other video services. And Apple just likes anything they had a hand in making and Ogg never came from their workshop.

    Google’s claims have been challenged, but Safari and Chrome still use H.264 and will for the foreseeable future.

    Either way, those who just want to watch or post a damn video have a challenge. The only solution now for HTML5 video is to encode it in both Ogg Theora and H.264. An annoyance if you produced the video but almost impossible if the video is not yours.

    Assuming you do have control over the video’s format there are two choices for serving it to users. The freshest, sleekest and easiest out-of-the-box to implement solution is SublimeVideo. As of now SublimeVideo offically supports Safari, Chrome, and Firefox.

    The most promising solution, which has been out for awhile, is Kroc Camen’s Video for Everybody. Video for Everybody requires two encodes like SublimeVideo, but if the browser does not support HTML5 it falls back to Quicktime and then Flash. All without Javascript or browser sniffing.

    Two encodes aside, both Sublime and Video for Everybody are promising. Finally, everyone from your trusty RSS readers, boss on IE6, and tutrlenecked iPad user will still see the video.



  6. Schlitz: A Brief History of Cheap Beer

    While we here at TITLE are some of the fanciest sons of bitches you’re liable to come across–Mr. Veer even spent some time in Dandy Jail–we’re not ones to act all snobby when it comes to the frosty ones.  Quite often around the ol’ HQ, you’ll find our typing accompanied by intermittent sips from a can of Schlitz.  And no, I didn’t get paid for saying that.  That stuff is cheap, man!

    Schlitz would have to be my favorite of the retro beer brands that have been relaunched as of late, notably because of its genuine historical importance.  At one time, Schlitz was the biggest brewery in the world, selling 1 million barrels of beer in 1902.  Schlitz also claims to have introduced the brown glass bottle, the tall-boy and the pop-top can, referred to in the mildly frightening advertisement above.  Throughout much of the previous century, Schlitz was a powerhouse national brand, serving the army in WWII rationed olive drab cans and building the world’s largest brewery in Winston-Salem, N.C.

    So why aren’t we all still under the thrall of Schlitz’s famous gusto?  In a word, hubris.  Being a corporate gargantuan, Schlitz Brewing Co. sought to lower their production costs while increasing their volume, ditching time-tested brewing methods for high temperature and continuous fermentation brewing, producing greater volumes of beer that tasted worse and spoiled quicker.  Not a recipe for success.  The decline in quality drove down sales through the 70s and a strike in 1981 put the final nail in the coffin.  Stroh’s bought the Schlitz brand in 1982 and Schlitz has toiled in cheap beer obscurity since.

    Schlitz is now one of many brands sold by the Pabst brewing company.  A brand reboot kicked off in 2007, returning the classic 60s formula to brown bottles in select markets with accompanying advertising seemingly catering to the middle-aged nostalgia market mid-way between high volume consumers of watery domestic and craft beer ingenues.  Unfortunately, this version has yet to make it to my stomping grounds of Brooklyn, NY.  As of this writing, store shelves remain stocked with the canned basically-PBR-but-not-quite-as-sweet recipe.

    Getting off your head on Schlitz Malt Liquor, on the other hand, is popular everywhere.

    No, I have no idea what is going on in that clip with the break-dancing Hamburglar-cat burglars. And the bull.

    Anyway, best of luck with the relaunch, Schlitz.  I’ll keep drinking the cheap stuff until you reach me with the classic, hopefully bringing along some of that classic advertising that looks a bit like it’s trying to illustrate a John Cheever novel.


  7. Adam Curtis Says You're as Crazy as Richard Nixon

    In summary: the media is a vast jabbering mouth screaming all the ways you will die in terrible pain and loneliness.  Why the hell would we let a wretched creature like that in the room?

    Well, because maybe, just maybe, it might finally cough up a scrap of truth.  And we’re wired to hang onto that hope.

    I recommend you embrace doom, joyfully.


  8. FU1K: Crescents, 772 Words

    Installment two in our short fiction series, Fiction Under 1000 Words.

    Printable PDF

    I find little crescents of her fingernails in the corner of the room. There’s two of them perched on the carpet, leaning against the molding like they were little animals, two legged beasts carved from flimsy ivory. She never painted her nails since we had the kid. I’m not looking for them, on my knees cleaning the edges of the living room, but I find them. She’s still here, in a way. The dust on the edges of the molding and on the rim of the light switch plate is probably 30 percent her skin cells, 30 percent mine. If a neutron bomb got dropped and we were all wiped out and archeological crews from a future civilization came through here studying, reconstituting the dead from what we touched, they’d vacuum up all the cells and grow a new her and me and Aidan right here again in this house. Would we remember each other?

    She’s somewhere, not far but not hanging around town either. Not that I’d run into her as that I haven’t left the house in god knows but I’d still know about it because I’m being checked on. Her friends, my friends, relatives from out of town happen to be just passing by on Saturday afternoons, heading to the mall that nobody goes to anymore. I feel less comforted than observed.

    Especially with her friends. Reconnaissance units Stacey and Jennifer. They come as a pair with some kind of decoy object, typically something suspect. Rabbit-eared plastic covers for the outlets. A home knit scarf delivered in early August. Jenn and Stacey, in and out my door ferrying 43 thrift store volumes of the Encyclopedia Britannica for Aidan. The kid is four.

    Last Wednesday they showed up with no-bake cookies as I was paying the sitter. “Vegan no-bake cookies,” Jenn noted. The visit’s intent was transparently investigative. Nostrils flared discreetly to check air quality. Furniture was sat on gingerly, inspected with hands and given a test bounce. At one point, I could of sworn I saw Stacey measuring Aidan’s dimensions with palm lengths.

    “So…”

    Read the rest of this entry »


  9. Gambling on Space

    Last week Obama introduced the new United States budget– which notably kills the American space program. There is one way the zombie that is NASA can return from the dead: a lottery.

    NASA has been in the sick ward for some time. Few come to visit these days. The Shuttle is a flying Betamax of technolgy. NASA has been reduced to finding parts on eBay.

    Perhaps the only thing George W Bush did I concur with was give NASA a reboot. The proposed Constellation Program was Apollo on steroids. After all, we have computers, CAD, and iPods so let’s use that awesome technology to go to the moon. Using proven rocket technolgy from the design of Saturn V and Soyuz rockets, the Ares would take us back to the moon.

    It might have, but now the money and interest is gone. This has been the problem with manned spaceflight since it’s inception: money and interest.

    The money is obviously an issue in the credit crunch economy. Interest also as many see other things to worry about. Interest, in the traditional knee jerk short sighted reaction.

    Consider Sputnik in 1952: at that time there was no MLB Network, Internet, or cell phones. Sputnik had no clear benefit, no practical outcome. Soviet scientists were not sitting around saying “let’s put ball in space then it go beep beep. After, we will sell– how can you say– sports network to yankee blue jean American to watch on TV.” Nope, just a ball in space that went beep beep. Heck, most people didn’t even have a TV. Yet Sputnik’s development was absolutely critical in the world we live in today.

    All that anyone could promise at best was the ball went beep beep and didn’t explode. That’s it. Today satelite technology is an invaluable part of our way of life but then it was simply ball that go beep beep.

    Today where fortune and success come and go by the second space is a hard sell. The average person cannot afford a trip in space.

    There’s a way to make money off space: get the real average Joe and make people excited about space again. The answer is a lottery.

    At $100,000 Virgin Galactic isn’t cheap but it is cheap for space travel. If 100,000 people bought a $1 ticket (better odds than most lotteries) that would break even. Chances are though mote would buy– and outer space would start making money and interest.

    This is the kind of viral and word-of-mouth advertising marketing types have wet dreams about. Even a few minutes in space is a lifetime experience and at $1 the price is right. Anousheh Ansari spent time in space and left feeling depressed– as if she had seen a fantastic world just out of arms length. As a result she created the X-Prize, offering a prize for affordable space travel; which in turn led to Virgin Galactic. Imagine when not just some guy on TV but your neighbor, your friend, or you journey into space. What we could accomplish with renewed money and interest in space is unimaginable. It’s unimaginable because right now we can’t get there, yet.

    With a lottery, we could.