Yearly Archives: 2013

Save the Males


This is the most powerful piece of art as social commentary I’ve come across in a while.

Via Andrew Fishman’s tumblr:

Every year, millions of male chicks are killed, usually by gas or by feeding them into a high-speed shredder. It is inefficient to raise males to adulthood, as they cannot lay eggs. Tinkerbell [aka Looove Tinkerbell], an artist and advocate for animal rights, decided she had to speak out against this.

In 2007, she purchased 61 male chicks (pictured above) from one of these facilities and brought them into a gallery along with a shredder. She announced that they were for sale, and that the ones that were not purchased by the end of the sale would be fed into the shredder. By the end of the sale, less than a dozen had sold. When it became clear that the artist was not bluffing, the gallery owner purchased the rest. The gallery owner was unable to care for them herself, so she gave them to the police, who gave them to a shelter, who gave them back to the original farm, where they were shredded.

Unsurprisingly, Tinkebell has received hundreds of thousands of emails and letters about this and other pieces. However, that the mail would be directed at her is an interesting phenomenon. She did not kill any of the chicks; in fact, she offered a chance to save them. Perhaps it was her willingness to kill them in public that was so offensive; we like to pretend situations like this don’t exist.

I would compare this to the “Trolley Problem” in psychological research. The “Trolley Problem” is a hypothetical scenario in which a person is able to pull a lever, redirecting a train from one track on which lies five people to one on which one person lies. Most respondents would pull that lever.

The “fat man” variation is more troubling for most. This variation specifies that a person is able to slow a train down by pushing a fat man onto the train tracks, which would slow it down before reaching the five people on the tracks. Practically, the scenarios are equivalent (one person dies to save five) but it feels very different. The difference is in the act itself. We are fine with allowing people to die, but killing is another story, even if the end result is exactly the same.

I think that this active/passive dichotomy is why Tinkebell receives so much hatred from the animal rights community. As a society, we’re more accepting of a company that kills millions of chicks every year than a woman who gave the opportunity to save a few dozen before returning them to their fate.

The Trolley Problem is an interesting comparison, and I do think there’s something to this line thinking, but when I read about this I immediately thought of executions instead. The idea that these chicks would be tossed live into a wood chipper isn’t what offended the gallery owner, it’s that the were going to be tossed into the wood chipper in front of an audience.

Executions, or to use a less euphemistic term: state sanctioned homicide, were performed in town squares in front of large audiences since the beginning of time. No doubt to spread fear and to intimidate the populous. Eventually, these spectacles became entertainment. (On a personal note, my fifth grade teacher, Mrs. Fuller, talked about her father and a friend of his attended the the hanging of Charlie Birgir. It was the big event in Southern Illinois, and they left early and brought a picnic lunch in order to get a good spot. She wanted to go too, but her father wouldn’t let her. Apparently watching a man die wasn’t appropriate for a little girl.) This is unseemly. The “carnival in Owensboro” has been credited with ending public executions in the United States. Now in the “civilized” world where the practice continues, they’re performed behind closed doors with only few witnesses. In Japan, executions occur in secret. In China, the occur behind prison walls with rarely more than only prison officials watching. “Barbaric” societies on the other hand, like Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Iran, North Korea, Taliban Afghanistan, and other areas ruled by warlords have audiences. Don’t burn someone at the stake. Don’t behead them. Don’t bash someone’s head in with a rock. Don’t hang them. Make it photogenic. Make it look like they’re just falling asleep. Don’t make us face the cruel truth of what we do and allow to happen. And above all, don’t make us face the ugly reactions to this in our society. We’re civilized and better than blood thirsty savages.

This is a delusion, and Tinkerbell called society out on it.

Previously. Previously. Previously.

Skylight Bookcase

The colors, the curved shapes, and the recessed circular bookcase in the ceiling are all very attractive, but this is clearly a very small area, so small that it is impractical to reach the bookcase. It doesn’t even have a dedicated ladder, but rather a some portable metal thing is propped up and taken down every time a book is required. The ladder can’t be left in place, otherwise you lose access to half the desk. Also, this office is completely windowless save for the square skylight. It’s an interesting design, and it’s decorated well (even if its a bit too trendy by half.

From the Subway to Your Living Room

Here’s an article I’ve sitting on for a while. These reclaimed NYC subway lights from Jeff Mayer and 718 Made in Brooklyn These were originally sold through >Voos with the hand lights being $150 each, but now they’re gone.

The light up bench never really interested me. I know it’s iconic signage, but whatever. The shape of hand lamps is what was cool to me. There’s something about the flare at the base and the big loopy handle that appeals to me.

Wood and Metal Filing Cabinet

The desk isn’t what interests me in this photo. It’s the cabinet to the left of it. I like the colors on the front of the drawers, and how the dull grey corroded metal and the bright colors of the wood collide. However, when I envision actually owning the cabinet, I can’t help but think about how the corroded metal probably is just ugly and not something I want to touch.


Po Chih Lai‘s 8-wheeled skateboard, the Stair-Rover, allows riders to glide down stairs through the use of independent v-shaped articulated arms mounted to the trucks. For £170 (approximately $258 USD) you can get your own stair-rover through Kickstarter. It looks quite cool going down the stairs, and I like the look of the trucks. They remind me of the articulated wheels of the Mars rovers. I briefly considered buying a stair-rover, but then thought better of it, since I don’t actually skateboard.

Art as Weapons

Exhibit A

In the 1950s and 1960s, the CIA supported abstract expressionist art.

“Regarding Abstract Expressionism, I’d love to be able to say that the CIA invented it just to see what happens in New York and downtown SoHo tomorrow!” [former CIA case officer Donald Jameson] joked. “But I think that what we did really was to recognise the difference. It was recognized that Abstract Expressionism was the kind of art that made Socialist Realism look even more stylised and more rigid and confined than it was. And that relationship was exploited in some of the exhibitions.

“In a way our understanding was helped because Moscow in those days was very vicious in its denunciation of any kind of non-conformity to its own very rigid patterns. And so one could quite adequately and accurately reason that anything they criticised that much and that heavy-handedly was worth support one way or another.”

Essentially, the CIA secretly funded traveling art shows, such as 1958’s “The New American Painting”, in order to highlight the freedom of expression in the Western world compared to enforced conformity of the communist block. No artists were paid for work, and artists that were exhibited, along with the American people and congress were specifically kept in the dark. As Tom Braden, head of the International Organisations Division of the CIA at the time said, “It was very difficult to get Congress to go along with some of the things we wanted to do – send art abroad, send symphonies abroad, publish magazines abroad. That’s one of the reasons it had to be done covertly. It had to be a secret. In order to encourage openness we had to be secret.”

Exhibit B

During the Spanish Civil War, Spanish Anarchists used surreal prison cells for torture.

The cells, built in 1938 and reportedly hidden from foreign journalists who visited the makeshift jails on Vallmajor and Saragossa streets, were as inspired by ideas of geometric abstraction and surrealism as they were by avant garde art theories on the psychological properties of colours.

Beds were placed at a 20 degree angle, making them near-impossible to sleep on, and the floors of the 6ft by 3ft cells was scattered with bricks and other geometric blocks to prevent prisoners from walking backwards and forwards, according to the account of [French anarchist Alphonse] Laurencic’s [Franco military trial in 1939].

The only option left to prisoners was staring at the walls, which were curved and covered with mind-altering patterns of cubes, squares, straight lines and spirals which utilised tricks of colour, perspective and scale to cause mental confusion and distress.

Lighting effects gave the impression that the dizzying patterns on the wall were moving.

A stone bench was similarly designed to send a prisoner sliding to the floor when he or she sat down, Mr Milicua said. Some cells were painted with tar so that they would warm up in the sun and produce asphyxiating heat.

Laurencic told the military court that he had been commissioned to build the cells by an anarchist leader who had heard of similar ones used elsewhere in the republican zone during the civil war, possibly in Valencia.

Mr Milicua has claimed that Laurencic preferred to use the colour green because, according to his theory of the psychological effects of various colours, it produced melancholy and sadness in prisoners.

This reminds me of how in The Men Who Stare at Goats &endash; the book, not the slapstick movie &endash; the ideas of psychology, mind-body connections, neuro linguistic programming, and the other ideas introduced to the military through the 1st Earth Battalion, ended up as Barney songs played painfully loud for days straight.

We Can Neither Confirm Nor Deny the Existence of A Vacuum Cleaner

The CIA allowed Khalid Sheikh Mohammed to design a vacuum cleaner. Why? To keep him sane. Something they were not allow to achieve with PTSD sufferer Ramzi Binalshibh, nor schizophrenic / psychotic Abd al Rahim al Nashiri.

It sounds ridiculous, but answering this question, or confirming or denying the very existence of a vacuum cleaner design, a Swiffer design, or even a design for a better hand towel would apparently expose the U.S. government and its citizens to exceptionally grave danger,” Mohammed’s lawyer Army Captain Jason Wright said.

Dutch Tool Chests

Christopher Schwarz is a big fan of tool chests. He’s such a big fan, he built a single chest, and then sold off all his tools that didn’t fit in the box and wrote a book about it. I certainly admire the discipline involved. He now makes all his furniture by hand using preindustrial tools. I only recently discovered him, but he’s apparently somewhat well known in the woodworking circles.

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