From Cute, by Kitty Hauser in the London Review of Books, Vol. 26 No. 8, April 15 2004.
“It is characteristic of subcultural style that it should resist the interpretations of outsiders. The signs emblazoned across the bodies of these Japanese teenagers speak in code to those who inhabit the same world of meaning; that, in one sense, is the point. But more than this, the broader ‘meaning’ of style is not something that can be read off its surface. If cute means anything, it isn’t going to be what it seems to mean. It isn’t, for example, necessarily juvenile to dress like a child. Nor does dressing up at the weekend necessarily betray a desire to be ‘someone else’. Most important, the deliberate dumbness of many of the youngsters in Fruits doesn’t necessarily mean they have nothing to say, or that they are saying nothing by acting dumb.
Cute culture has thrown [Donald] Richie and other writers off track because it doesn’t conform to what the baby boomer generation expects of youth culture. Cute is not rebellious — at least not in any obvious way. It isn’t cool. It doesn’t seem to be about sex. It doesn’t want to overthrow capitalism — cute is hooked on brand-names. It is cosy, not angry. And despite the apparently unique get-ups in Fruits, it isn’t really about individuality: Richie points out with a triumphant air that the most outlandish sartorial affectations are widely copied, as if this were proof of a lack of imagination in this nation of conformists, rather than simply in the nature of subcultural style the world over. Cute is evidently rather disappointing and embarrassing to writers such as Alex Kerr, who, in Dogs and Demons (2001), sees it as one of many depressing symptoms of Japan’s decline. Whatever we might think of grown women in lacy ankle-socks and Barbie handbags or young men wearing tiny school uniforms, we ought to take them seriously, not least because cute culture is spreading. Sanrio, the company responsible for Hello Kitty, Little Twin Stars and a host of other cuties, has a billion-dollar turnover, much of it derived from the lucrative licensing of products from T-shirts to sex toys. These characters have a huge demographic appeal in many parts of the world, with or — increasingly — without the gloss of camp irony which justifies their consumption in some quarters. And it must mean something when large numbers of young people dress in ways which twenty years ago would have been considered more suitable for children.
Richie would have done well to read the work of Sharon Kinsella, whose writing on cute is free from the preconception that youth culture ought to be an authentic expression of individuality. On the contrary, according to Kinsella, cute style betrays a lack of confidence in the very notion of the individual, and cannot muster the energy and optimism necessary for rebellion. It is a soft revolt. It seems that becoming an adult is not an attractive option to these burikko (‘fake children’) when it is associated with the responsibilities and obligations of work and family. This is a generation of ’freeters’ (the word comes from ’free arbeiter’) who have rejected the stringent work patterns of their parents, even when they are available, as they often are not in the current economic climate. Acting and dressing like children represents their refusal of the adult world: as Kinsella writes, cute style ‘idolises the pre-social’. Cute is a kind of rebellion, then, but its retreat to the imagery of childhood indicates that there is no alternative to the adult world except a deliberate regression to this one remaining realm of freedom. Seen in this way, cute style is bleak: it allows no looking forward to a future, either for individuals or for society. In this sense it is far darker than punk, which had an energy and rage that promised action, if not social change. Cute disguises its pessimism and political inertia as winsomeness.”
“A Palestinian threw a rock at an Israeli army bulldozer.”
This photo from Abid Katib/Getty Images appeared on the front page of today’s New York Times online. The image and caption linked to the article Israeli Tanks Enter Gaza; 4 Palestinians Die in Fighting.
In the photo, the Palestinian looms large above the bulldozer. He is a lanky, but determined and formidable force — a dark, faceless enemy poised to smash the small, apparently unarmed machine. The force of his attack is accented by patterns in the clouds, and exaggerated by the tilt of the camera (note the horizon line.) The bulldozer does not seem to be attacking the Palestinian or doing anything other than driving by, going about its business. The article reinforces this, making no mention of the purpose of the bulldozer or why it would need an escort of tanks.
From the photo, you’d have no idea that the bulldozer is 13 feet tall and well protected against his rock.
See the entry on the Caterpillar D9 from wikipedia.org:
“Armored bulldozers are a standard tool of Combat engineering battalions, and the IDF has gained some notoriety for their use of armored tractors in the Al-Aqsa Intifada, Operation Defensive Shield, and their involvement in the demolition of orchards and residences and the consequential death of [U.S. college student] Rachel Corrie....
The operator is protected by bulletproof glass to protect against bombs, machinegun and sniper fire. The fitted armor package adds roughly 10 additional tons to the weight to a so-equipped D9. Like many customized packages, individually modified D9s may be found with disparate features, such as crew-operated machine guns, smoke projectors, or grenade launchers....
The Israeli armor kit proved itself well, as no D9 operator was killed during the 3-year long al-Aqsa Intifada.”
The U.S.-based Caterpillar Corporation manufactures the D9. The Israeli Defence Force developed the armor kit. Last year, Israel’s Technion Institute of Technology, announced a remote controlled version of the D9.
The Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions reports that the IDF has demolished over 10,000 houses in the Occupied Territories since 1967. The Caterpillar D9 was used to demolish an entire neighborhood in the Jenin refugee camp in April 2002.
These photos show a very different scale:
For more information, see Stop Caterpillar, a campaign to hold the Caterpillar Corporation accountable for the criminal use of its products by the Israeli army.
“An understanding of the current crisis requires a sense of Haiti’s history,” notes Paul Farmer, situating the recent coup squarely into the long, brutal history of U.S. economic and military intervention.
The latest Indypendent expands the story to the rest of Latin America and the Caribbean, and does so graphically with this map of U.S. military intervention in the region from 1950 through 2004. Download the PDF here.
The Indypendent, is the biweekly paper of the New York City Independent Media Center. The map is designed by ILC.iNK.
“ILC.iNK develops pages and up-to-date content specifically directed towards the Hispanic community, designed and illustrated with photographs, illustrations and infographics to captivate readers, and always customized to the general format of your publication and the needs of your advertisers. ILC.iNK is the ideal solution to develop special supplements, features, or regularly appearing sections such as Health, Sports, Children, Travel, Food, Music, etc.”
“a group of women and men who have come together in cities across the country by our responsibility and concern as U.S. taxpayers. We understand that our tax-dollars fund Israeli violations of Palestinian national and human righ.”
They publish the 1040WAR Form, a one-page fact-sheet handout that parodies the IRS’s 1040EZ income tax form and provides information about U.S. support for Israel. Download the PDF. Sources for the information on the form are available here.
Being a historical account of women in printing, publishing, and typographical compositing in these United States of America and Western Europe.
The text below is assembled from Unseen Hands, Women Printers, Binders & Book Designers (Princeton University Library, 2003), Women in Printing & Publishing in California, 1850-1940 (California Historical Society, 1998), and Epochal History of the International Typographical Union (I.T.U., 1925.) Other sources are indicated where used.
“Women have been involved in printing and the making of books ever since these crafts were first developed. Even before the advent of movable type, there was a strong tradition of women producing manuscripts in western European religious houses. In the Convent of San Jacopo di Ripoli in Florence, we find the first documented evidence, in 1476, of women working as printers. Girls and women were often trained by their fathers or husbands to assist in printing businesses, and there are many instances from the fifteenth to the eighteenth centuries of women taking over and managing these enterprises upon the early demise of their male relatives.... Many, certainly, only managed the business, while others were more directly involved. Estellina, wife of the printer Abraham Conant, proudly stated in a Hebrew book, Behinat `olam (Mantua, ca. 1477) that ‘she, together with one man, did the typesetting.’ [source]
In the 19th century, a limited number of occupations were open to women — teaching, needlework, domestic service, etc. Male-only unions ruled the printing business. Women, where employed at all, were relegated to certain low-paying jobs considered best suited for the weaker sex, such as dressing (polishing imperfections) from metal type, folding printed sheets, and sewing bindings. Yet there were exceptions — a few women were also employed in typesetting. Women who were widows or daughters of printers often learned typesetting out of necessity.
James Franklin, brother of Benjamin Franklin, taught something of the art to his two daughters prior to his death in 1835, and when he died he left his printing plan at Newport, R.I. to his widow and family. They operated it successfully for many years.
A woman’s typographical union was formed in France with a journal entitled La Compositrice, and the first major woman’s journal edited by a woman, Godey’s Lady’s Book, was published in Philadelphia from 1830-1858, edited by Sarah Josepha Buell Hale. [source]
Women were employed in the Day Book office in New York in 1853, while a strike was in progress against that office. This inspired a determined campaign against women printers. Union leaders inveighed against employment of women and urged the National Typographical Union to do something about it. The National wisely disclaimed any desire to interfere in treatment of the issue by local unions. Horace Greely, celebrated editor of the New York Tribune and a former president of Typographical Union No. 6 of New York, took up his redoubtable pen....
‘Your fears that women will supplant you, or seriously reduce your wages, Messrs. Compositors, are neither wise nor manly. The girls who marry and have families to look after will stop setting type — never doubt that — unless they are so luckless as to get drunken, loafing, good-for-nothing husbands, who will do nothing to keep the pot boiling, and then they must work, and you ought not to be mean enough to stop them, or drive them back to making shirts or binding shoes at three or four shillings a day.
If you find yourselves troubled with too strong a competition from female workers just prove yourselves worthy to be their husbands; marry them, provide good homes and earn the means of living comfortably, and we’ll warrant them never to annoy you thereafter by insisting on spending their days at the printing office setting type. But waxing theologic and pious, you tell us of the sphere of action God designed women to occupy —of her ‘purity’ and of the ‘immorality and vice’ she must inevitably sink into, should she be admitted into the composing room to set type beside you. We feel the force of these suggestions — we admit the badness of the company into which unregulated typesetting would sometimes thro her — but did it ever occur to you that this is her lookout rather than yours? It is perfectly fair of you to apprise her beforehand of the moral atmosphere to which promiscuous typesetting would expose her, but when you virtually say she shan’t set type because if she did your society and conversation would corrupt her you carry the joke a little too far.’
By 1864, due in large part to the depletion of the male work force during the Civil War, additional workers were needed in trades which were previously thought of as ‘male’ trades — one of these being typesetting. The number of newspapers and the demand for printed materials was on the increase, and women began to step into jobs in both the printing and publishing fields.
The National Typographical Union permitted women to form unions and to join existing unions in 1869, the same year it was renamed the International Typographical Union. Augusta Lewis Troup, journalist and typesetter for Susan B. Anthony’s newspaper The Revolution, was elected corresponding secretary of the International Typographical Union in 1870. She became the first woman to hold any national union office. [source]
After hearing of the role of women in the 15th century printing industry, Emily Faithful decided to set up her own firm in Edinburgh in 1857 employing women only. In 1859 she founded the Victoria Press in London and employed men to do the heavy work. This met with a lot of hostility with the print unions which said that it encouraged immorality. In 1862 she earned the title of Printer and Publisher in Ordinary to the Queen, moved to an office in Farringdon Street and then to Praed Street, Paddington, where she remained until 1881. She was also a writer and poet and was involved in some of the publications produced by her firm such as the feminist English Woman’s Journal and the Victoria Magazine. [source] While her journal was established as a general literary magazine it provided a strong feminist emphasis on suffrage, married women’s property, education, employment and all of the other feminist/women’s concerns of the day. [source]
During the late 19th century, women writers often moved into positions as editors of newspapers or small journals. At this same time, the Woman’s Suffrage Movement was gaining momentum and the women-edited journals were the obvious choices in which to further their cause. Spiritualism was also a popular movement at the turn of the century among women — largely because it did not discriminate by gender or ethnic background — and the women publishers felt a kinship because of this non-discriminatory nature. Journals such as The Carrier Dove, The Spiritualist, and The Golden Dawn were all journals edited by women and devoted to not only Spiritualism but in some cases, also to the Suffrage Movement.
Other women publishers and editors followed a more literary angle, publishing journals which featured articles on a wider variety of topics. In 1863, Lisle Lester took charge of the Pacific Monthly, a woman’s literary magazine previously known as the Hesperian. It had a rocky career as was the career of Ms. Lester — who was widely known for her strong opinions on many topics and her tussles with the male typographical unions. Another woman, Emily Pitts Stevens, gained prominence when she transformed the Sunday Evening Mercury — which was known as ‘a Journal of Romance and Literature’ — into the premier voice for woman’s suffrage in the West. She hired women to set type for her newspaper and in 1869 changed its name to The Pioneer — as ‘a name that more nearly covers our thought and tells the nature of our object and ambition.’ She became a major force in the founding of the California Woman Suffrage Association on January 28, 1870.
In San Francisco, which was becoming a center for printing and publishing in the West, women-run printing offices appeared in the 1870s and 1880s. The Women’s Union Job Printing Co., the Woman’s Publishing Company, Amanda B. Slocum and Jennie Patrick were a few either woman-run and/or -staffed printing offices of this period. The most prominent and prolific was The Women’s Co-Operative Printing Union, established in 1868 on Clay Street by Mrs. Agnes Peterson, followed in 1873 by Mrs. Lizzie G. Richmond. Early 1870 billheads produced by the WCPU proudly proclaimed, ‘Women set type! Women run presses!’ So confident was Lizzie Richmond that her billheads and advertisements often stated, ’We invite criticism.’ These printing offices produced a variety of printed materials for the public — books, commercial catalogs, corporate annual reports, legal briefs, [as well as] invitations, broadside advertisements, and handbills.
The many journals, newspapers, books, and even billheads that were printed during the late 19th and early 20th centuries used mainly one method of illustration — that of the wood engraving.... Leila S. Curtis and Eleanor P. Gibbons were two women who started up and ran successful engraving businesses in San Francisco. Both were trained in engraving and design. Their designs were found on billheads, business cards, and stationery, as well as in book illustrations, commercial catalogs, and innumerable other small printed items. Magazines published during this period often used the technique of the woodcut — rather than a wood engraving — to illustrate their pages. The technique used in producing a woodcut allowed for larger more fluid compositions. Lucia Mathews cut the designs for Philopolis (1906-1919) — a magazine published by Arthur, her husband, and herself during the early part of the 20th century. Florence Lundborg, an artist influenced by both Art Nouveau and the Arts and Crafts movement of the early part of this century, produced woodcut images for The Lark, the San Francisco literary magazine published by Bruce Porter and Gelett Burgess from 1895-1897. [source]
The turn of the century saw an increased interest in the aesthetic aspects of printing — now that women were an accepted part of the work force — and many fine presses sprang up throughout the state [of California]. A fine or ‘private press’ is generally understood to be a small printing house which issues for public sale limited editions of books which have been carefully made on the premises.
By the 1920s a tradition of fine printing was well under way in San Francisco, with Taylor and Taylor, John Henry Nash and the Grabhorns already fairly well established. These printing houses encouraged printing by women.... Other women with their own presses were Rosalind Keep of the Eucalyptus Press, Helen Gentry, and Jane Grabhorn at Colt Press, which was founded along with William Matson Roth and Jane Swinerton. In southern California, private presses were often a husband and wife team. The Saunders Studio Press of Claremont was founded in 1927 by Lynne and Ruth Thompson Saunders. The Plantin Press in Los Angeles was established in 1931 by Saul and Lillian Marks, Saul being in charge of design and layout and Lillian responsible for composition. Women such as Virginia Woolf and Elizabeth Yeats also founded private presses that produced handsome limited editions of the work of contemporary authors and artists. [source]
Women were notably successful at bookbinding, both ‘on the line’ — producing factory bindings — and in the creation of splendid examples of hand binding, particularly during the Arts and Crafts Revival of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
With the dawn of the 20th century and the emergence of women’s rights, women in printing and publishing entered more seamlessly into the work force. Finally, with the advent of fine press printing, the women printers in the 1920s and 1930s emerge as figures who achieved their goals to work at a skilled occupation that offered them not only an honest living but also a chance to use their creative instincts and skills.”
From March 26-28, I attended the Designs on Democracy conference on the UC Berekely Campus. I’ve been meaning to write up my impressions but have found it difficult to put words to those three incredible, densely-packed days of presentations, meetings, networking, and solidarity. Where to begin?
From the Bay Area Indymedia center:
“Designs on Democracy was a three day conference on design, advertising, public relations and marketing for social change.... The conference was organized by a crew of eight activists. Forty volunteers did the work that made it happen for the 350 who attended. Designs on Democracy, said Favianna Rodriguez, one of the organizers: ‘is not just for designers, it’s for people who are in the business of doing marketing and selling the image of the Left, to take it to a broader audience and make it more appealing.’”
The organizers from Tumi’s Design, the Ruckus Society, the Design Action collective, and Change the Game did an amazing job, clocking in months of preparation. The speakers, attendees, and volunteer tech crew were also incredibly flexible and generous.
The sumptuous, donated food also merits special mention, particularly from the Sankofa Kitchen Project, a black, vegan cooking collective in Oakland. The project is part of the East Side Arts Alliance and works with youth to build community gardens, teaches them how to grow and cook their own food, and promotes traditional cuisine, community spirit, and good nutrition — in part a response to the cheap, corporate, fast food crap showered on poor, urban neighborhoods.
Participants arrived from a range of organizations and backgrounds. Some were designers, organizers, techies, printers, media workers. Some from unions, others working on prisons, environmental justice, or genetically modified foods. Some worked in advertising, others on access, training, media justice, or getting out the vote. Some were just designers looking for a way to do more.
Some were veterans, active since the 1960’s, others just fresh out of school. Some owned their own businesses, some worked in collectives or in non-profits, and still others were freelance.
And, where other events of its kind might have fractured into quarrelling ideological factions, here there was common cause: Bush must go.
Many of the conference sessions focused on messaging, narrative, and framing to communicate effectively, move “the middle,” and build a stronger movement for social justice. The list of sessions and speakers makes for interesting reading.
I gravitated towards the more practical sessions, on fund raising and organizational structures. I won’t go into detail about individual sessions — will post more of my notes here soon — but here are a few other impressions and tidbits:
One topic of discussion that was missing from the conference was information design and mapping. This is not just marketing, but using design for analysis and making data accessible. See, for instance, the 2000 Palm Beach County ballot design.
In addition to meeting many new people, I had the chance to meet several people I’d previously known only online including Jason Justice, founder of the Graphic Alliance, an electronic network of progressive designers, and Alex Steffen of the community Web log worldchanging.com. It was also great to reconnect with a couple of folks I’d met at the Ruckus Tech Tools Action Camp in 2002.
Overall, the air crackled with excitement and energy. It was nice to recharge, to find out everyone was doing, and to find among them a progressive community of designers. Many, including myself, didn’t want this to end with the conference itself.
So what’s next? Another one in a couple of years? Perhaps local or regional conferences? An international federation of progressive designers? For now, a database of resources is in the works and will eventually be posted on the site. Watch this space for more.
Everyone knows that New Yorkers pay attention to crosswalk signals... right?
So if you live in New York City, you may or may not have noticed that all the old crosswalk signals are gone. Instead of the spelling out WALK and DON’T WALK in type, the new signals use pictograms of a big red hand and walking person in a dotted outline of bright LED’s.
The new signal displays fit into the old, existing signal housing. And, by switching from incandescent bulbs to light-emitting diodes, the City notes, the new signals will both last longer and use less energy.
This piece in the New Yorker provides some hard numbers:
“The city is changing all eighty-five-thousand signs, at a cost of $28.2 million. The job started in 2000, in Queens; by February  the [job] should be complete....
The idea is that the new ones, which rely on dozens of light-emitting diodes, or LEDs, will last six times longer than the old ones, which relied on two bulbs, and will save two million dollars a year in maintenance and electricity costs....
The brighter signs should be more visible to persons with partial sight. But, the author notes, the signals do have detractors:
“Among them many children, who sense that there is something patronizing about the hieroglyphs....
‘First of all, they’re really bright,’ Jacob said. ‘They hurt my eyes, even from, like, a block away. They make my eyes water. And, also, the first thing my sister could read was Walk/Don’t Walk.’ The three of them came to a corner: across the street, an upraised hand. They took a look, then crossed anyway. ‘The old one is just more original,’ Jacob went on. ‘Almost every other place has the Man and the Hand. Whenever I go anywhere else, it’s the Man and the Hand. Italy, France—they always have that. It’s un-unique. So I don’t really like it. Actually, most of my friends don’t like it.’”
The NYC page also claims that switching to “internationally recognized symbols” will make the signs “easily recognized by non-English speaking pedestrians.” I applaud the recognition and accomodation of non-English speakers in such a massive, city-wide initiative, but while the symbols may be “internationally recognized” in Western Europe, an open palm has different meanings in different cultures. For instance:
With closs-cropped hair and boot-cut pants, the figure in white resembles other symbols used around here to indicate “male.”
The NYC page doesn’t mention it, but new crosswalk symbols are nationally mandated in the Manual of Uniform Control Devices published by the U.S. Department of Transportation. The Manual sets forth detailed design standards for traffic signage around the United States.
Recently, in San Francisco I discovered another variation I’d never seen before. In addition to the white man and red hand, the signals there feature a red countdown indicating the number of seconds remaining to cross the street. It turns out the countdown option was added to the Manual in 2000, and is slowly gaining popularity across the country. I was struck by the simple brilliance of it. The additional information is much more useful than the simple flashing hand or DON’T WALK. The latter always seemed to start flashing when one was halfway across the road. This calls to mind the scene from Rain Main when the austistic character stops walking in the middle of the road.
But that, apparently, is exactly when it is supposed to start flashing. The period of the countdown, flashing hand, and flashing DON’T WALK is known as the “pedestrian clearance interval”, the time for pedestrians to finish crossing, not to start crossing.
Local studies around the U.S. are finding that the countdown signals come at a price. While the countdown reduces the number of pedestrians who start running when the flashing DON’T WALK signal appears, the countdown seems to be interpreted to mean that it is OK to cross the street if there are enough seconds on the clock. Pedestrians are more likely to start crossing the street during the countdown than during the flashing DON’T WALK. This is contrary to the intent of the designers, and of the law.
Significant data has not yet been gathered on the countdown signal’s effect on the overall number of pedestrian fatalities.
After ribbing David about open sourcing his content management system, I decided to put up myself. So here’s my first Free Software project: pagify is a perl script that takes the output of Microsoft Word’s “Save as Web Page...” and