Shadow Art Fair 2012 (part two)

Sorry I only made it a few hours into my Shadow Art Fair live blog before I had to bail out. You’d think that I’d know better by now, having tried to document these things live on several occasions over the past half dozen years. I always think, “this time, it’ll be different,” but it never is. Circumstances always conspire to keep me away from my computer, and I suppose that’s a good thing. I’m on the computer enough as it is. It’s probably healthy to have one day a year where I focus on real, face-to-face human interaction instead.

I believe I already mentioned that, during the course of the Shadow, I had the opportunity to sit down and talk with, among other people, Clementine’s beloved second grade teacher, my friend Mike G, and a reader of this site who happens to be running for Washtenaw County Circuit Judge. I didn’t mention, however, that I also had very nice conversations with Paul Saginaw (founder of Zingerman’s) and his wife Lori, Chris Becker (the former editor of Factsheet Five), Ben Connor Barrie (the man behind the website Damn Arbor), Patrick Dunn (the former editor of Ann Arbor’s ill-fated version of The Onion), and lots of friends, former co-workers and the like. Unfortunately, most of the conversations weren’t taped. Here, however, is one that was. It’s with a former Ypsi resident by the name of Josh Steichman, who successfully parlayed an EMU journalism degree into a career working for Larry Flynt in what he lovingly refers to as the “porn Death Star” in Los Angeles. Josh has since moved on to better things, but I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to ask a few questions about what it was like working for the giant man-baby that is Flynt.

While we’re on the subject of adult imagery, here’s another piece of video that I shot yesterday. This one is with Dustin Krcatovich, the designer of our 2012 Shadow Art Fair poster… I thought it only fair to give him an opportunity to explain the graphic sexual imagery apparent in the dog’s snout. (See above.)

OK, and here are some random photos.

A baby with a contraption that keeps it from enjoying music.

Our Friends at VG Kids debuted a new coffee at the Shadow, developed in cooperation with the Ugly Mug. I haven’t tried it yet, but it smelled really good when I submerged my nose in the beans.

Martha Bishop’s redecorated plates… Linette and I bought one with a giant squirrel on it.

Those of us who plan the Shadow Art Fair have been wanting to do a manscaping booth for a while, but the idea languished until Trevor Stone and Natalie Berry took it on. Unfortunately, no one took them up on the offer to go “behind the curtain” for a “comprehensive” consultation. Lots of mustaches and beards were trimmed and painted on, though. And, to their credit, I only saw one Hitler mustache… and the woman sporting it was adamant that it was a “Chaplin.”

The Foraging Florist was super cool. In just a few minutes, he taught me tons about what it takes to grow moss, ensuring that I’ll never be hungry again.

My short-lived “Say whatever you want through a megaphone… $1 for 10 seconds” booth. I only had one taker. My daughter’s friend Juna gave me 25-cents for 2.5 seconds.

There was a lot more, but I’m still exhausted and I need to sleep now… If you came out, thank you. I hope that you had a good time.

Posted in Mark's Life, Shadow Art Fair, Uncategorized, Ypsilanti | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 13 Comments

The Color Run… Why would anyone pay $50 to have people throw shit in their faces as they jog?

Let me start out by saying that I like that the Color Run took place in Ypsi this morning. Anything, in my opinion, that brings upwards of 15,000 people into the city, to spend their money, is a good thing, even if they do shut down a lot of streets, and leave tons of trash in their wake. It was incredibly cool to see Beezy’s, the Ugly Mug, and Sidetrack packed this morning, and a throng of people around the Growing Hope bicycle blender, waiting to buy smoothies from young Ypsilanti entrepreneurs. With all that said, though, I find the whole thing kind of weird… I just don’t get why anyone would spend $50 to have people throw shit in their faces as they jog… But, I guess, as religion plays less and less a part in the daily life of Americans, folks are hungry for (purchased) experiences that allow them to feel as though they’re part of something bigger than themselves… And, I suppose, this is probably better than goading bulls as they stampede through narrow alleyways, or any number of other things.

When I first heard that Ypsi would be one of 30 U.S. cities to host a 5K Color Run, and that some of the proceeds would be going to local non-profits, I sent off a note to the organization, asking just how much money our non-profits were likely to get. They told me, “The charities and their requirements, needs, partnerships, fundraising, disclosure limitations and agreements vary with each venue,” and suggested that I contact the charities directly. (The local charities that partnered with the Color Run were Ypsilanti Meals on Wheels, SOS Community Services, Michigan ElvisFest, Ypsilanti Area Jaycees, Downtown Association of Ypsilanti, Growing Hope and Food Gatherers.) While I’ve yet to reach out to any of them directly, I did hear from an anonymous source that the total contribution was in the ballpark of $13,000, with those charities that turned out the most volunteers this morning, getting larger shares.

So, here’s the math as I figure it… The last official count that I heard was that 17,500 had registered for today’s run. According to their site, registration, depending on how big of a team you to have, runs from $45 to $55. For the purposes of this exercise, we’ll be conservative, and assume $45. 17,500 people, paying $45 a piece, would yield a whopping $787,500. Assuming my source was right, and our local charities received $13,000, that means the received considerably less than 2% of the total take. And, for that $13,000, they not only got a lot of publicity, but they also got a great deal of free labor… Not a bad business model, huh?

But, like I said, our local business people had a great day, and the neon corn starch-covered people that I came in contact with were all nice. Still, something seems odd about it… Maybe I’m just jealous that it didn’t occur to me to commoditize an Indian religious ritual.

I’ll give them credit, though. They’ve done a bang up job of marketing this thing.

[note to self: Now, I just need to find a way to Americanize this festival in Lebanon and bring it to the midwest with a pop soundtrack.]

Oh, and for what it’s worth, I think that this might also mark the end of rave culture. (It occurred to me this morning, as I was watching neon covered midwestern folks jogging into the park, where techno was being blasted, that this is what rave culture looks like when it’s marketed to the suburban masses.)

Posted in Mark's Life, Observations, Other, Uncategorized, Ypsilanti | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 141 Comments

Shadow 2012 live blog poop

10:29 AM Who knows what the future holds, but, for now, I’m going to be working the first formal complaint booth at the Shadow Art Fair. Complaints are just $1 a piece, unless you require that action be taken, which costs an additional $4. (After ignoring complaints for the first 12 Shadows, it felt like time for a change.)

10:39 AM Someone added “poop” to the title of this post, illustrating how important it is that you not walk way from your computer at an event like this.

10:45 AM After the Shadow this evening, I’d suggest that you go over and visit our friends at Woodruff’s, for the 39th installment of the best damned drag show this side of Atlanta, Elbow Deep… Speaking of Elbow Deep 39, I think it’s time they stop numbering them, and start naming them like hurricanes. (What’s the gayest name starting with an “A” that you can think of? Is there something gayer than Alfonso? Surely there’s a resource online for parents looking to choose gay names for their children. Actually, I think that’s a great business idea. I should make a “Gay Baby Names” book.)

10:54 AM It just occurred to me that the 20% off coupon for the Rocket is still good today, so, if you’re coming to Ypsi for the Shadow Art Fair, be sure to drop by the a href=”” >Rocket on Michigan Avenue.

11:22 AM In addition to the articles in Concentrate,, and the Eastern Echo, there’s also something out today on The Awesome Mitten. This has been a good year for press. Hopefully it translates to people coming out and complaining.

11:29 AM I’m not positive yet, but I’m thinking about allowing people, for a dollar, to post anything they want under my name on Facebook.

12:17 PM Fifteen minutes in, and no complaints yet. I think that’s pretty good. Also, I’ve seen two sales already, which I think it a pretty good sign. I’m going to shoot a few pictures now. Hopefully I’ll have photos to share soon.

12:33 PM If you’re finding it hard to locate me, in order to wage your complaint, my booth is wedged between John “pooping wizard” Maggie and Nathan “space panty” Hoste. And, yes, this is the spot that I requested.

12:40 PM If you leave a complaint on this threat, you will be billed $1. (Be sure to leave your address.)

12:45 PM OK, I’m thinking that it’s time to try something else, before real complaints start coming in.

1:30 PM I just asked Dustin Krcatovich about the fact that the dog’s snout, in the poster that he designed for this year’s Shadow Art Fair looked like something from the Kama Sutra. I’m downloading the video now. I hope to share it soon. Here, in the meantime, is video of Patrick Elkins, explaining how his comedy/beard-kissing booth works.

1:45 PM I just had my first complaint. It wasn’t about the Shadow Art Fair so much as it was about the nature of evil and the current intractable issues facing mankind. Sadly, there was nothing I could do to help… I chose not to accept the dollar.

2:20 PM Speaking of complaints, someone left the this comment on Facebook a couple of days ago, explaining why she wouldn’t be attending this year’s Shadow Art Fair. I don’t agree with her, of course, but it’s healthy, I think, to have people saying negative stuff about the Shadow. I don’t know about everyone else, but I find that I’m motivated by criticism. And this comment made me want to make this year’s Shadow even weirder…. Speaking of which, you can be completely manscaped at this year’s Shadow, just a few feet from where I’m sitting.

3:27 PM The former editor of Ann Arbor’s version of the Onion just stopped by. Before him, it was a guy running for Washtenaw County Judge. Neither had complaints. Both just wanted to sit down and chat, which was nice… The music has started outside. I’ve only caught a few numbers so far, but they were good.

3:53 PM Just had a nice talk with Clementine’s 2nd grade teacher.

6:30 PM No one took us up on it, but we just tried a “Talk to a Breastfeeding Mom” booth.


Posted in Shadow Art Fair, Special Projects, Ypsilanti | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Tying to make sense of last night’s mass murder in Colorado

I should be spending my evening thinking about just what in the hell I’m going to do at tomorrow’s Shadow Art Fair, but I can’t stop reading about last night’s horrific events in Colorado. Predictably, a lot of people, like our friend Roger Ebert, are taking the opportunity to argue that more meaningful gun control laws are called for. And, as you might expect, others, like Congressman Louie Gohmert, are saying that this would never have happened, if only everyone in the theater had been armed and ready when the gunman made his entrance. (Gohmert also took the opportunity earlier today to share his theory that this was somehow the result of “ongoing attacks on Judeo-Christian beliefs.”) The most persuasive arguments I’ve read thus far, though, have been from people who have stayed out of the gun control debate altogether, and focused instead on access to mental health assistance. I haven’t verified it yet, but, according to something that I read earlier, funding for the National Institutes of Mental Health has dropped nearly 20% since the attempted assassination of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords by a mentally ill young man in 2011, which left several, including a nine year old girl, dead. (But we had to have those Bush tax cuts, right?) So, I’m thinking about all of this, and going back to what was written by people, like Marilyn Manson, at the time of the Columbine shootings, which, coincidentally, took place just 20 miles away from the scene of last night’s mass killing. And, I’ve been debating what I wanted to share with you… what best got at the heart of the matter. Well, here’s what I settled on. It’s a thought-provoking quote from Steven Pinker, author of “How the Mind Works,” which was shared earlier today by someone on Metafilter, using the handle AceRock.

…Amok is a Malay word for the homicidal sprees occasionally undertaken by lonely, Indochinese men who have suffered a loss of love, a loss of money, or a loss of face. The syndrome has been described in a culture even more remote from the West: the stone-age foragers of Papua New Guinea.

The amok man is patently out of his mind, an automaton oblivious to his surroundings and unreachable by appeals or threats. But his rampage is preceded by lengthy brooding over failure, and is carefully planned as a means of deliverance from an unbearable situation. The amok state is chillingly cognitive. It is triggered not by a stimulus, not by a tumor, not by a random spurt of brain chemicals, but by an idea. The idea is so standard that the following summary of the amok mind-set, composed in 1968 by a psychiatrist who had interviewed seven hospitalized amoks in Papua New Guinea, is an apt description of the the thoughts of mass murderers continents and decades away:

“I am not an important man… I possess only my personal sense of dignity. My life has been reduced to nothing by an intolerable insult. Therefore, I have nothing to lose except my life, which is nothing, so I trade my life for yours, as your life is favoured. The exchange is in my favour, so I shall not only kill you, but I shall kill many of you, and at the same time rehabilitate myself in the eyes of the group of which I am a member, even though I might be killed in the process.”

The amok syndrome is an extreme instance of the puzzle of human emotions. Exotic at first glance, upon scrutiny they turn out to be universal; quintessentially irrational, they are tightly interwoven with abstract thought and have a cold logic of their own…

Posted in Other, Shadow Art Fair | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 17 Comments

According to the new math of global warming, we’re as good as dead already

I think I may have neglected to mention it, but, a few months ago, while attending the Netroots Nation conference in Providence, I had the opportunity to meet environmentalist and author Bill McKibben. I’d like to say that we spoke, but, really, we just nodded at one another and said “hello.” He’d just come off stage, and chose to take a seat next to me. I suppose I should have taken the opportunity to engage him in a conversation about global warming, but, being painfully shy, I just sat there, wondering how much he weighed, and what he might say if I brought up the idea of armed revolution… Anyway, he has an article in the new issue of Rolling Stone that I wanted to let you know about. Here’s a clip.

…So far, we’ve raised the average temperature of the planet just under 0.8 degrees Celsius, and that has caused far more damage than most scientists expected. (A third of summer sea ice in the Arctic is gone, the oceans are 30 percent more acidic, and since warm air holds more water vapor than cold, the atmosphere over the oceans is a shocking five percent wetter, loading the dice for devastating floods.) Given those impacts, in fact, many scientists have come to think that two degrees is far too lenient a target. “Any number much above one degree involves a gamble,” writes Kerry Emanuel of MIT, a leading authority on hurricanes, “and the odds become less and less favorable as the temperature goes up.” Thomas Lovejoy, once the World Bank’s chief biodiversity adviser, puts it like this: “If we’re seeing what we’re seeing today at 0.8 degrees Celsius, two degrees is simply too much.” NASA scientist James Hansen, the planet’s most prominent climatologist, is even blunter: “The target that has been talked about in international negotiations for two degrees of warming is actually a prescription for long-term disaster.” At the Copenhagen summit, a spokesman for small island nations warned that many would not survive a two-degree rise: “Some countries will flat-out disappear.” When delegates from developing nations were warned that two degrees would represent a “suicide pact” for drought-stricken Africa, many of them started chanting, “One degree, one Africa.”

Despite such well-founded misgivings, political realism bested scientific data, and the world settled on the two-degree target – indeed, it’s fair to say that it’s the only thing about climate change the world has settled on. All told, 167 countries responsible for more than 87 percent of the world’s carbon emissions have signed on to the Copenhagen Accord, endorsing the two-degree target. Only a few dozen countries have rejected it, including Kuwait, Nicaragua and Venezuela. Even the United Arab Emirates, which makes most of its money exporting oil and gas, signed on. The official position of planet Earth at the moment is that we can’t raise the temperature more than two degrees Celsius – it’s become the bottomest of bottom lines. Two degrees…

But, as McKibben goes on to say, all of the pieces are in place to drive us well past the two degree mark in no time. As he points out, many feel that the magic number is 565. That’s the number of gigatons of carbon that we can burn before we hit the two degree mark. The problem is, the world’s oil and coal companies, as of this very moment, own 2,795 gigatons of carbon, which they’re not willing to give up. It’s an asset that they own, and they damn well intend to use it. Here’s more from McKibben.

…Think of two degrees Celsius as the legal drinking limit – equivalent to the 0.08 blood-alcohol level below which you might get away with driving home. The 565 gigatons is how many drinks you could have and still stay below that limit – the six beers, say, you might consume in an evening. And the 2,795 gigatons? That’s the three 12-packs the fossil-fuel industry has on the table, already opened and ready to pour.

We have five times as much oil and coal and gas on the books as climate scientists think is safe to burn. We’d have to keep 80 percent of those reserves locked away underground to avoid that fate. Before we knew those numbers, our fate had been likely. Now, barring some massive intervention, it seems certain.

Yes, this coal and gas and oil is still technically in the soil. But it’s already economically aboveground – it’s figured into share prices, companies are borrowing money against it, nations are basing their budgets on the presumed returns from their patrimony. It explains why the big fossil-fuel companies have fought so hard to prevent the regulation of carbon dioxide – those reserves are their primary asset, the holding that gives their companies their value. It’s why they’ve worked so hard these past years to figure out how to unlock the oil in Canada’s tar sands, or how to drill miles beneath the sea, or how to frack the Appalachians.

If you told Exxon or Lukoil that, in order to avoid wrecking the climate, they couldn’t pump out their reserves, the value of their companies would plummet. John Fullerton, a former managing director at JP Morgan who now runs the Capital Institute, calculates that at today’s market value, those 2,795 gigatons of carbon emissions are worth about $27 trillion. Which is to say, if you paid attention to the scientists and kept 80 percent of it underground, you’d be writing off $20 trillion in assets. The numbers aren’t exact, of course, but that carbon bubble makes the housing bubble look small by comparison. It won’t necessarily burst – we might well burn all that carbon, in which case investors will do fine. But if we do, the planet will crater. You can have a healthy fossil-fuel balance sheet, or a relatively healthy planet – but now that we know the numbers, it looks like you can’t have both. Do the math: 2,795 is five times 565. That’s how the story ends…

At this point, I was going to reiterate my global warming rant from a few days ago, but, thankfully, I found something better in a Metafilter thread about McKibben’s article. It comes from a fellow calling himself Ivan Fyodorovich. Here’s what he has to say. (WARNING: It’s not pretty.)

…I’m not happy telling you this, but this catastrophe will not be averted. There is nothing in human history that demonstrates that any such calamity will ever be avoided when the time-frame is this extended and remote (relative to normal human concerns), where the costs are distributed across large populations and not exclusively to those responsible, and where personal benefit so immediately accrues to both those responsible and everyone else as they fail avert the calamity.

Action will occur only when costs are direct, immediate, and large. And that will be far, far too late.

The Earth’s temperature will rise by at least five degrees C over the next 150 years. This will happen. It will kill billions of people, result in mass extinctions, destroy many of Earth’s ecosystems and alter the rest, utterly change global politics and economics in chaotic and militaristic fashion, and the survivors will probably curse our generation for the next thousand years. This is our future.

And, that, I’m sorry to say, is probably the truth.

Posted in energy, Environment, Science, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 34 Comments


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