Calma: To Illustrate a Village

A young Brazilian street artist, Stephan Doitschinoff, composes spectacular murals and applies his extraordinary talent to emblazon houses, churches and walls in rural cities in his South American homeland. You can see his process, involving stencils, religious iconography, and styles referencing folk art, wood cuts, computer-generated gradients and comics.
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While a Magician Works, the Mind Does the Tricks

We often refer to graphic recording as a magic trick: We watch a human pull images from thin air, grabbing pictures and ideas from the vapor of conversation and giving them physical form. This NY Times article gives insight on why the physical performance of illusion is so captivating and how the brain uses neural tricks to do this: approximating, cutting corners, instantaneously and subconsciously choosing what to “see” and what to let pass.
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The Future of American Men

Whether a Young Carefree or an Above Average Joe, the life and role of the American male in the 21st century is being redefined.

Social Technologies sketches out 5 American Male personas that also include the Good Ol’ Boys, Mac Daddies, and Worry Warriors--each with a different take on where they feel they are in life and where they may be headed.

What are guys’ lives like today? What is important to them and how can we better relate to them? That was what Spike TV asked the Washington DC-based futurist research and consulting firm Social Technologies to help the network find out.

As the home of everything "men," Spike TV commissioned the study to gain a deeper understanding of the many facets of men, according to Kimberly Maxwell, senior director of brand and consumer research. "We wanted to check the pulse of American guys to be better able to understand their lifestyles, their daily habits, and values," she says, noting that the research builds upon Spike’s 2004 "Guy's State of the Union," which delivered a wide-ranging overview of guy's lives.

Social Technologies analyzed the segmentation data to create descriptions and composite personas, used by Spike to better understand different types of men and how their lifestyle and consumer habits may change in the near future. So what are these five types of American guys?

[PHOTO: Matt Andrews]

Prometeus - The Media Revolution

Email recently celebrated it's 30th birthday (see article).

This week, NPR is focusing upon the effects of--and coping methods for--this single technology that has shaped the workflow, schedules and lifestyles of much of the world.

For a glimpse on where the emerging new media may take us as "prosumers" who produce and consume media, check out this vision of a future scenario, in which virtual reality, spiritual experience, and the commerce of memory are commonplace.

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36 Hours in Knoxville

Along with most of my favorite people, I grew up in Knoxville. Perhaps it was the migratory instinct of the young and the restless, but just about everyone from High School has flown the coop. There has, however, always remained this sticky pride and underdog yearning for Knoxvegas to gain some street cred. That day may have come!

(And, there are no better poster-making poster children than the KnoxPopArt promoters, Yee-Haw Industries.)

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Shawn Poytner for The New York Times. Making art in the form of posters at Yee-Haw Industries.

KNOXVILLE is often called “the couch” by the people who live there. It’s a place too unassuming to shout about but too comfortable to leave. The city, the third largest in Tennessee behind Nashville and Memphis, is also referred to as Knoxpatch, Knoxvegas and for those prone to irony and finger pistols, K-town, baby. The truth is, Knoxville, cheerfully ensconced in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains and banked against the Tennessee River, has an intrinsically lazy, soulful feel. The geography is soft, green and rolling. The climate is gentle, breezy and bright. Locals tend to be not just friendly — a given in most Southern towns — but chilled out, too. This is not the Old South of magnolias and seersucker so much as a modern Appalachia of roots music, locavore food, folk art and hillbilly pride. Or, as yet another city moniker aptly states, “Austin without the hype.”

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Once Again, Moustache Madness sweeps Germany

What makes this video from Reuters even more unnerving is the absolute stoic seriousness of the participants in this contest.

(I also enjoy the information graphic consulted by the judges. Sort of like a menu of mustaches!)

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German beard and moustache championship draws more than 100 men from various countries to compete for most extravagant look.

Organized by the Eastern Bavarian Beard and Moustache Club, the event drew competitors from many countries including Britain, Germany and Switzerland.

Pain as an Art Form

The tortured artist is as predictable a stereotype as the jolly fat man. All art is a form of communication, and most works substitute one sense (sight, sound, taste) for another.

The Pain Exhibit covers just about the entire landscape of life and, consequently, of pain: fear, love, torture, loss of faith, acceptance, hope and transformation.

Some of the images from the exhibit depict the physical side of pain; others convey the emotional challenges of chronic pain.

Selections from the Pain Exhibit. To see a slide show, click here.

Pain doesn’t show up on a body scan and can’t be measured in a test. As a result, many chronic pain sufferers turn to art, opting to paint, draw or sculpt images in an effort to depict their pain.

One of the most famous pain artists is Mexican painter Frida Kahlo, whose work, now on exhibit at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, is imbued with the lifelong suffering she experienced after being impaled during a trolley accident as a teenager. Her injuries left her spine and pelvis shattered, resulting in multiple operations and miscarriages, and she often depicted her suffering on canvas in stark, disturbing and even bloody images.

The Broken Column, by Frida Kahlo (Banco de México Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo Museums Trust)

“People don’t believe what they can’t see,'’ Mr. Collen said. “But they see a piece of art an individual created about their pain and everything changes.'’

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Fiefdoms & Freakonomics

IMAGE SOURCE: Lopburi province, Thailand: The Monkey Buffet,

Hosted by Carlos Gasca Yanez on the Social Edge, this on-line discussion addresses what is the oldest, most intractable problem facing any group of people trying to do anything: fragmentation and individual control of territory.

You see it in religion, politics, families, companies, offices, on the university campus, on teams. Shakespeare's whole career was based on describing the betrayal and dysfunctional loyalties of nations and kin.

From an excerpt of The Fiefdom Syndrome: The Turf Battles That Undermine Careers and Companies - And How to Overcome Them by Robert J. Herboldat:

The problem begins when individuals, groups, or divisions--out of fear--seek to make themselves vital to their organizations and unconsciously or sometimes deliberately try to protect their turf or reshape their environment to gain as much control as possible over what goes on.

It is a natural human tendency, probably dating back to the origin of our species. But if this human tendency isn't managed properly, the damage caused by these "fiefdoms" can begin to undermine an organization. Left untouched, fiefdoms can toll the death knell of what should have been a strong and vital organization...

In in European medieval times, under the system of feudalism, a fiefdom often consisted of inheritable lands or revenue-producing property granted by a liege lord, in return for a form of allegiance. However anything of value could be held in fief, such as an office, a right of exploitation (e.g., hunting, fishing) or any other type of revenue, rather than the land it comes from. source: Wikipedia

The SocialEdge conversation gets at the importance of understanding--and working with--the realities of fiefdoms and social change, particularly in overcoming this destructive behavior for social good.

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Fiefdom & Freakonomics
Over the past twenty years, I have made an effort to learn how communities go about solving their problems and creating solutions. During that time I have volunteered for or was an employee in five community wide plans and two community coalitions. Perhaps the biggest obstacles to their success were fiefdoms. In this context fiefdoms may be of affinity (beliefs & values) or consist of social networks. Or they may be economic.

Social entrepreneurs must learn to identify fiefdoms and how to work with them, as this can be critical to their success. In his book The Fiefdom Syndrome (The Turf Battles That Undermine Careers and Companies - And How to Overcome Them), Robert J. Herbold, former Microsoft Chief of Operations, describes how self-interest undermines careers and companies. He identifies the types of fiefdoms as:
  • Individual
  • Peer or network
  • Corporate divisions
  • Top-tier
  • Group fiefdom
  • and the protected fiefdom.

Better Mental Health, Down on the Farm

Since moving to a little farmhouse in middle Tennessee, my mental health has improved tremendously. I find it difficult to feel anxious or depressed when outside or working with animals (be they bovine, equine or human!).

Caring for farm animals appears to offer a therapeutic benefit for people with mental illness, according to new research.

Earlier studies with cats and dogs have shown that animal-human interaction can decrease stress and improve self-confidence and social competence. But less is known about whether working with other types of animals offers any benefits to those struggling with anxiety or other psychiatric disorders. Even so, the use of farms to promote mental health is increasing in Europe and the United States, as various treatment programs offer so-called “green” care, which includes time in community gardens and on farms as a form of therapy.

To determine whether time working with farm animals makes a meaningful difference in mental health, Norwegian researchers studied how life on the farm might affect patients with problems like anxiety, depression, schizophrenia and personality disorders. Reporting in the journal Clinical Practice and Epidemiology in Mental Health, they recruited 90 patients, including 59 women and 31 men, with psychiatric ailments. The vast majority were being treated with antidepressants, antipsychotic drugs, mood stabilizers and other medications.

Food for Oil

Consultants like to tell their audience, "In Chinese, the character for crisis is the same as opportunity."

In the English dictionary, however, crisis is defined as "a point in a story or drama when a conflict reaches its highest tension and must be resolved."

While the Developed World frets over the current multi-nodal RealEstateSubPrimeFinancialMarketTradeDeficit crisis--which continues to suck the value out of most of America's larger financial assets--the rest of the developing world is again struggling to afford the basics, namely, food.

In this case, the Cyrilla [oil supply] and Charybdis [demand for crops] have the same source: the global race for energy.

Time's recent article, titled The Clean Energy Scam, desn't throw a monkey wrench into the machine behind biofuels as much as it points a finger at the rising world food costs and slash-n-burn behavior it has inspired in the Amazon.

A rebuttal from 25x25, a non-profit supported financially by the Energy Future Coalition, laments, "Unfortunately, the story's message of concern is undermined by misinformation about biofuels and an over-simplified analysis of complex systems."

The main law of complex systems remains: Small changes can have large, unpredictable effects.

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Food riots which have struck several impoverished countries could spread with shortages and high prices set to continue for some time, the head of the United Nation's Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said.


A combination of high oil and fuel prices, rising demand for food in a wealthier Asia, the use of farmland and crops for biofuels, bad weather and speculation on futures markets have pushed up food prices, prompting violent protests in a handful of poor states.

Jacques Diouf, director general of the Rome-based FAO, said on Wednesday during a trip to India that there was a growing risk of social instability in countries where families spent more than half their income on food.

"This is due to higher demand from countries like India, China, where GDP grows at 8-10 percent and the increase in income is going to food," Diouf said after meeting India's farm minister, Sharad Pawar.

Nihilistic Neighborliness

Don't get me wrong. I have two small children and care deeply about the future. Then comes Saturday, and we're out of milk. Time to get in the minivan and drive to WholeFoodsWildOatsTraderJoesFreshMarket and buy some organic cow juice.

There! I have done it.

I've just doomed my progeny by procuring breakfast essentials for Saturday morning cartoon-watchers!

The folks at are seriously challenging me, and our communities, by pushing against the greenest of our most well-intentioned green-consumerism, by declaring: "But there is a danger in thinking that all we have to do is design better substitutes for the products we already consume, and then convince people to buy them."

"Neighborliness, Innovation and Sustainability"
by Alex Steffen | April 7, 2008 9:51 AM
Article Photo

It's an attractive fantasy -- instead of diving a Hummer, living in a McMansion and shopping at the Gap, I can drive a Prius, live in an EcoMansion and shop at Gaiam -- but it's still playing make-believe, because the systems that support and enable those choices are themselves unsustainable. Highways are destructive, even when full of hybrids; sprawl is unsustainable, even when the individual houses are green; we don't even know what sustainable clothing would look like, much less how to make conventional retail green.

No, if we're going to avert ecological destruction, we need to to not only do things differently, we need to do different things. We need to work to build dense, walkable neighborhoods composed of green buildings served by bike infrastructure and transit and green infrastructure, suffused with good design choices and smart technologies that let us live in a different set of relationships with our stuff, the materials we use and the energy that powers our lives.

The Melancholia of Social Networking

Even with the quantifiable explosion of social networking services--and the perceived multitude of ways to connect to other people--the feeling of isolation and disconnectedness continues to pervade our modern culture.

The disturbing results continue to be an increase in both depression and suicide.

The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention reports that an average of 19 million Americans suffer from depression. Of these suffers, over 30,000 will take there own lives, with almost 20,000 of these suicides are aged 15 to 34-years-old.

Every day, approximately 80 Americans take their own life, and 1,500 more attempt to do so.

Depression has, of course, many causes: economics, family history, neurobiology and microchemistry, physical or emotional trauma.

However, the most profound source seems to be a person's interpersonal relationship with their surroundings and the people around them.

More than half (55%) of all online American youths ages 12-17 use online social networking sites, according to a 2007 national survey of teenagers conducted by the Pew Internet & American Life Project. So why is suicide among young people rising?

From Sense of belonging a key to suicide prevention
Wed Apr 2, 2008 3:13pm EDT

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NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - The rate of suicide among young people is triple what it was 50 years ago, and while it remains exceedingly rare for college students to kill themselves, it is always a tragedy -- and always preventable, according to a New York psychiatrist and authority on suicide.

Helping people who feel isolated to connect or reconnect with others is also important, he added. "Connection and a feeling of social belonging is I think the most important initial step in preventing suicide," Kahn said. "Once the person feels that sense of trust in belong to the community, they may be more receptive to suggestions that they seek help, if they haven't sought it already."

They can also look to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (, and the National Strategy for Suicide Prevention ( for information.

Just When I Thought Pro-Wrestling was Awesome

This just in...

"Teens who watch wrestling take more health risks"
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Teenage fans of TV wrestling are more likely than their peers to be aggressive or take chances with their health, a study suggests.

Researchers found that among 2,300 16- to 20-year-old Americans, those who watched professional wrestling were more likely to be violent, smoke or have unprotected sex -- and the more they watched TV wrestling, the greater their odds of taking such risks.

The findings, reported in the Southern Medical Journal, do not prove that watching wrestling alters young people's behavior. "It may be the case that kids who have a personality that leads them to be aggressive also gravitate to watching wrestling on TV," noted Dr. Mark Wolfson, one of the researchers on the study and an associate professor at Wake-Forest University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

Of the teenagers in their survey, just over 22 percent of males said they had watched pro wrestling in the past two weeks, as did 14 percent of females.

For Any Teacher Out There... Watch This

What is the learning environment like today?

What is happening as the 19th century model (teacher + chalkboard) collides with the new media tools (iPod + laptop + Wifi)?

How many hours do they spend in class? On the phone? On Facebook? How do the current educational methods even begin to prepare them for jobs that don't even exist yet?

This short video summarizing some of the most important characteristics of students today - how they learn, what they need to learn, their goals, hopes, dreams, what their lives will be like, and what kinds of changes they will experience in their lifetime. Created by Michael Wesch in collaboration with 200 students at Kansas State University.

Surprise form the Street: Art!

Few artists can walk past an empty lot, deserted building or blank wall without dreaming of the possibilities afforded by all that open space. Here is a flavor of some "artoneers" who are claiming urban blight as free range gallery space.

Article by Bill McGraw | December 18, 2007

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With an artistic storefront, the artist known as Dabl attracts customers to his store, Dabl's African Bead Gallery, at Vinewood and Grand River. He sells thousands of African beads, some more than 300 years old, he says. (ERIC SEALS/DFP)

Aaron Timlin, CAID's executive director, added: "There's a pioneering attitude. There are so many things artists can do in Detroit because it is so spread out. Throw up a sculpture on a vacant lot. Performance art. Detroit is a big empty canvas."

The spiritual godfather of the grassroots art scene is Tyree Guyton, whose internationally known installation around Heidelberg Street on the near East Side attracts visitors every day. Guyton's artwork deals with how abandonment affects a neighborhood -- and decay is central to the work of a number of artists.

In Detroit, there are people who draw attention to abandonment by painting gutted homes orange or attaching orange traffic cones to them. There is Larry Zelenski, who produces greeting cards with lovingly enhanced photos of abandoned houses. And there is Kevin Joy, who paints cartoons, Mayan-style hieroglyphics and other wacky images on abandoned houses and in the windows of vacant downtown buildings.