November 2, 2014
December 16, 2013
A recent visit to the Smithsonian’s Museum of African Art introduced us to the work of South African photographer Roger Ballen. Ballen combines rendered line drawings and black-and-white photography into visual still lives which often surprise and shock. One series titled “The Asylum” features collages of strange figures, snakes, skins, and wire hangers that present awkward relationships and absurd complexities .
The exhibit ends with a showing of the video I Fink U Freeky, a 2012 collaboration between Ballen and the South African rap-rave group Die Antwoord (Afrikaans for “The Answer.” ) It brings to mind the work of Diane Arbus, Joel Peter Witkin, and John Waters in its unabashed appropriation of trashy and bizarre images to question social and political mores and taboos. It’s not going to be everyone’s cup of tea, but there is something haunting and strangely beautiful in Die Antwoord’s dance moves and raw lyrics. We commend the museum for showing this uncensored piece which some visitors will find offensive, but that will introduce others to a vigorous counterculture movement in a country with one of Africa’s most complex histories. Here’s the video link.
December 9, 2013
Yesterday was the annual Parade of Lights on the water in the Alexandria harbor. Each year, boat owners decorate their vessels with holiday lights and glide up and down the Potomac River, vying for cash prizes. We were lucky enough to be on the jurors’ vessel, the Miss Mallory, which is owned by our neighbors in Glen Echo. The fun began around 5:30 just as it was getting dark. A train of lights appeared from the north, and each passing craft slowly navigated past us, hoping for a positive reaction from the jurors. Many crew members were in seasonal outfits — one boat was entirely manned by Santas.
As we drank wine and munched on pop-corn, the news crew on the upper deck caught the festivities on film for those not able to attend. Here are more photos of the boats.
December 1, 2013
Although this video was made as an ad for a Japanese smartphone, the creativity and craftsmanship required in the setup and filming is masterful. A single ball rolling down a handcrafted xylophone in a wooded area of Kyushu, Japan, brings us a new rendition of Bach’s Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring. Watch the video here. Then watch the fascinating follow-up on how it was made. Thanks to Susan Welchman for forwarding it to us.
November 3, 2013
This morning we went back to listen to one of our favorite Radio Lab segments, New Normal, and realized it was the perfect follow-up to our previous two posts. The radio piece features baboons and foxes, cross-dressing, and the subject of change versus intractability. It will require an investment of your time to listen to the hour-long radio segment, but it includes such fascinating stories and such an intriguing premise that we wanted to offer it as a thought-provoking encore to our camp Halloween posts. Here’s the link
October 31, 2013
We know a lot of you have caught this video already, but it’s such a great Halloween piece we thought we’d do a send-out for any of you that may have missed it (or who want to see it again). Norwegian brothers Vegard and Bard Ylvisaker, members of the comedy group Ylvis, created this edgy music video to promote their television talk show Tonight with Ylvis. (Warning: once you’ve heard it, you can’t get it out of your head.) What Does the Fox Say? was mentioned on yesterday’s NPR All Things Considered program, where it was noted that, as a result of the video’s popularity, fox costumes have been flying off the shelves for October Halloween festivities. So all you foxes out there, get ready to dance!
October 29, 2013
If you think Washington, D.C. is just a city full of stuffy lawyers and intractable politicians, think again. There are plenty of people who actually call the city home (even though they don’t have a voting congressperson), and it’s an interesting and very diverse crowd. Witness the annual Halloween High Heel Race in Dupont Circle, which we think is the best event all year.
Our guys dressed in drag flaunt their stuff down 17th Street, vamping and posing for the crowd. Always held on the Tuesday night before Halloween, this year’s race was the 27th in the event’s history, and the show was bigger and better than ever. Even Mayor Vincent Gray showed up, as did several of the candidates running against him in the next election. The evening ends with a two-block race to the finish as many participants show off their running prowess in 5-inch stilettos.
June 11, 2013
Marco Tempest’s documentary video of Nikola Tesla’s life is as unique as his subject. Nikola Tesla (1856-1943) was a brilliant mathematician and innovator who experimented with alternating current, radio waves, X-rays, wireless telegraphy and remote control devices. He was issued numerous patents for his inventions, but tragically felt he was never properly recognized for his achievements during his lifetime. In Tempest’s performance, a pop-up book serves to relate Tesla’s story, and videos projected onto the book’s pages are accompanied by Tempest’s narration. If this documentary intrigues you, learn more about this fascinating man, starting with his Wikipedia page.
May 8, 2013
We think this little number by a black-and-white clad chorus line will brighten everyone’s day. The dance is called the Strumpfhosentanz, which roughly translates from the German as “the sock trousers dance.” It’s often performed by a male lineup, with members literally linked together by shared pairs of tights. You can watch a number of versions on Youtube, but we think this video really nails the optical illusion created by the dance. Thanks to Raya Bodnarchuk for sending us this link when it went viral last month. Music is by the folk-rock polka band Hess.
March 27, 2013
There is more and more stuff being recycled these days, but in Paraguay it’s taking a particularly interesting form at the Cateura landfill. Here parents support their families by picking through the trash, looking for materials that can be resold. Favio Chavez, a social worker and music teacher, was working for an environmental group teaching the trash-pickers about safety issues. At the same time he opened a small music school for the trash-pickers’ children, but they only had five instruments among them and the kids grew bored. Nicolas Gomez, a carpenter and one of the trash-pickers, was asked by Chavez if he could devise some instruments from recycled materials. He started by building a drum, then moved on to making other instruments. X-ray film became drum heads, cans became violins and flutes, bottle caps became saxophone keys. Now the LandFill Harmonic is on tour and coming to Arizona’s Musical Instrument Museum this year. It’s such a creative way to educate, inspire, and provide skills that will change these children’s lives. Watch a video of the Orchestra of Instruments Recycled From Cateura.