January 2010

Howard Zinn

Yesterday, Howard Zinn passed away. A former World War II bombardier turned life-long activist, teacher, and radical historian, Zinn inspired and touched the lives of many. His watershed book A People’s History of the United States told the stories of atrocities and brutality, activism and organizing often ignored by mainstream accounts of US history. His anthology of primary sources, Voices of a People’s History of the United States led to the founding of a non-profit organization that holds dramatic readings of the works across the US: “By giving public expression to rebels, dissenters, and visionaries from our past—and present—VOICES seeks to educate and inspire a new generation working for social justice.”

Democracy Now! aired an hour-long tribute this morning. If you subscribe to Netflix, you can watch this documentary on his life and work. There’s more audio, video, and text at howardzinn.org.

>  28 January 2010 | LINK | Filed in
Font Aid IV. fontaidiv.jpgThe Society of Typographic Aficionados is calling for designers to submit a black and white "ampersand" icon to build a collaborative font that will be sold to raise funds for relief efforts in Haiti. Previous Font Aid fonts have benefitted UNICEF to help war and disaster refugees, victims of the September 11 tragedies in the US, and relief efforts in countries affected by the Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunamis.
>  25 January 2010 | LINK | Filed in ,
26 Well Designed Websites that Help Haiti. Maps and large photos of suffering children are a frequent motif, but the sites do present a modest range of development approaches. I’m also interested in what’s happening at CrisisCommons, rapidly developing open source community technology projects for humanitarian relief.

Update 3/21/2010: the open source project Ushahidi has had some good press lately about its role in the Hatian and Chilean earthquake relief efforts, mapping the crisis and response with text-messages.
>  25 January 2010 | LINK | Filed in , ,
Chance for Peace. “Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies in the final sense a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and not clothed.” — President Dwight D. Eisenhower before the American Society of Newspaper Editors, April 16, 1953. Those Republican 5-star generals sure sound like a bunch of socialists.
>  24 January 2010 | LINK | Filed in ,
Text "Haiti" to 90999. As of January 18, a cellphone fundraising campaign to support Red Cross relief efforts in Haiti had raised $22 million, smashing all previous mobile giving records. The initiative is a partnership between the Red Cross, the US State Depatment and the mGive Foundation. Customers of participating wireless carriers can text message "HAITI" to 90999 to make a $10 donation. The State Department is posting periodic updates about the campaign on their blog and Twitter stream.
>  19 January 2010 | LINK | Filed in , , ,
The Martin Luther King You Don't See on TV. His call for economic and human rights, his push to redistribute wealth and power, his activism against the Vietnam War. “True compassion,” King declared, “is more than flinging a coin to a beggar; it comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring.”
>  18 January 2010 | LINK | Filed in

Political Power of Data Visualization

Breezy, enjoyable 20 minute talk on competing infographics in the US health care debate, as well as a few graphical tricks and traps.

>  7 January 2010 | LINK | Filed in
Clothing Slashed. “It is winter. A third of the city is poor. And unworn clothing is being destroyed nightly.” Brief NY Times piece exposes big clothing retailers, particularly H&M, destroying clothes before discarding instead of donating or recycling.
>  7 January 2010 | LINK | Filed in , , , ,

Bricks and Mortars


While the conflict in Israel and Palestine is a war for dominance, territory, hearts and minds, it is also a war on, and of, the built environment: bulldozing and bombing homes, laying and rerouting roads, checkpoints, the separation wall, and, of course, the settlements.

After the Israeli assault on Gaza that began in December 2008, the Israeli army banned the import of cement. This is particularly pressing since homes, hospitals, schools, water networks cannot be rebuilt.

While some are designing around the ban, developing mud brick architecture and off-grid lighting systems, other activists have flouted the ban sending Gaza cement themselves. And though Israel eased a total ban on construction materials in late July, only 41 truckloads of construction materials were allowed to enter Gaza in 2009. Thousands more are needed.

Last week, on the anniversary of the assault, a group of sixteen human rights and humanitarian organizations accused the international community of betraying the people of Gaza by failing to end the Israeli blockade. Meanwhile, the Western media has not only ignored demonstrations within Israel and without, but even softened the impact of the blockade.

Update 1/6/10: Al Jazeera has another angle on design, the blockade, and the built environment: a write-up of graffiti culture in Gaza. Without access to uncensored news, some activists have turned to graffiti — and were even occasionally sponsored, supplied, and trained by Hamas or Fatah. (via)

>  5 January 2010 | LINK | Filed in , , ,
Bodega Down Bronx. bodega-down.jpg“Where does the food in your bodega come from? Who decides whether to stock tortilla chips or salad greens, and how much they’ll cost? How come it’s easier to find fresh fruits and vegetables in Brooklyn Heights than in the South Bronx? What’s the connection between the incidence of diabetes and the food market supply chain?” Bodega Down Bronx is a 30-minute video produced by Jonathan Bogarín, a group of Bronx students and the Center for Urban Pedagogy. Interviewing residents, bodega owners, distributors, politicians, and health professionals, it’s a fantastic, holistic breakdown of the day-to-day realities that flow from public policy, and what you can do about it.
>  4 January 2010 | LINK | Filed in , , ,

International Year of Cooperatives

Get ready! The United Nations General Assembly just declared 2012 as the International Year of Cooperatives. A cooperative is an organization owned and governed by its workers or members. The Assembly noted that cooperatives impact poverty reduction, employment generation and social integration. The brief press release includes some amazing statistics: agricultural cooperatives account for 80 to 99 per cent of milk production in Norway, New Zealand and the United States; 71 per cent of fishery production in the Republic of Korea; and 40 per cent of agriculture in Brazil.

In case you missed it, check out my article on design cooperatives that ran in the September 2005 Communication Arts.

>  1 January 2010 | LINK | Filed in , ,

On to February.
Back to December.