Digging around on an archive drive, I found this old test photo that I shot from the window of my Manhattan studio circa 1999 - 35mm Kodak infrared color film cross-processed.

Photographer Chris Arnade has spent several years documenting the people who live in New York City’s poorest neighborhood and not surprisingly where the best quality of heroin is to be found, Hunt’s Point. His deep commitment to revealing certain truths about the relationship between addiction, abuse and poverty is clear in a large body of work, as we can see his intimate rapport with the subjects. He simply sees them as “human beings,” people in a bad place and in need of help that probably isn’t coming. While most of America spends their Christmas and Thanksgiving holidays with their loved ones, Arnade huddles up in the cold, under highway overpasses with those whose lives are most destitute - 16 year old prostitutes, heroin and crack addicts, those that society would rather not recognize. Accompanying the photos of the flickr page for his Faces of Addiction series, are text entries that provide a greater understanding on the background of each image’s subject. This is some of the best photo-journalism that I’ve seen in a long time. More words and pictures from the series can be found on an accompanying blog. This one particularly poignant entry struck me hard. It gives insight into the creation of a prison class of people, and the design of a process made intentionally difficult to communicate with them.

David Cross takes a minute to explain the problem with accepting religious doctrine as fact. There is really no logical way to argue with this one.- conversation closed.

Damien Echols has sat on death row for almost 16 years. The story of the horrible crimes for which he and two of his friends were accused is well documented in the film Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills. The West Memphis Three as they have come to be known are almost certainly innocent. Proof beyond a reasonable doubt is the measure for deciding one’s guilt in our criminal justice system. As the film details, there is no proof, only doubt in this case. A man’s life is on the line. Now that Echols has spent half of it locked away, he is seeking a new trial. The very fact that such a well publicized sham of a case has yet to have been reversed is appalling .

I’ve just finished reading Michael Lewis’ The Big Short: Inside The Doomsday Machine. He manages to craft a story involving credit default swaps into an absolute page turner. The narrative is a pulverizing piece of literary work that will stand as a clear record of how the American people were cheated by a morally bankrupt system that by design had to fail. The story reads like a curious piece of fiction. Only it’s not. It’s all real. Lewis tells the story of Wall Street’s recent meltdown better than the bankers and investors themselves seem to understand what happened.  Overlapping stories and characters are woven together in a style that consistently made me think of HBO’s The Wire. Here are a few select words from one hedge fund trader who made tens of millions of dollars by betting against the system.

I think there is something fundamentally scary about our democracy… because I think people have a sense that the system is rigged, and it’s hard to argue that it isn’t.

Amnesty International always takes a poignant approach to getting its message of human rights across. This time they aim to melt away the Death Penalty.

As of this week, the Afghan War is the longest in America’s history at eight and a half years. Oddly enough, this fact didn’t seem to draw much attention in the media. Both this war and US operations in Iraq almost seem to be forgotten by the general public and media alike. I wanted to share a few features that I found on NPR that highlight works of two artists who are dedicating their work to the honor of those involved in these wars. Matthew Mitchell is painting 100 portraits of people who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan. See the project’s website here. The other story is about an Iraqi born artist named Wafaa Bilal. He staged a 24 hour performance called …And Counting in which he transformed his back into a permanent memorial to casualties of the war in Iraq. Here is more on this project.

The Story of Bottled Water is a short film that clearly explains the problems with the packaged water industry and why drinking tap water is a much better option.

A friend of mine is something of a hardcore conspiracy theorist. He recently shared this list of 33 conspiracy theories that turned out to be true.

Here is the fascinating story of how two men who were wrongly labeled terrorists and imprisoned in Guantanamo Bay were reunited with a guard who befriended them. Their story was recounted in Michael Winterbottom’s brilliant film, Road to Guantanamo.

Convincing the world that the human impact on climate change is the most urgent issue of our times is not enough. Politicians and citizens alike must be moved to actively participate in adjusting how we live and how we pass policy. With sponsorship from the WWF, sculptor Mark Coreth has put together this brilliant public installation of a melting polar bear to inspire us.

Bill Moyers interviews The Wire creator David Simon on crime, politics and journalism. They cover a lot of territory about modern America. If you haven’t watched the most powerful show created for television, this interview will inspire you to.

I love Will Ferrell and I love this PSA for protecting health insurance execs.

NYC public housing rules are now outlawing people from owning large dogs. The ban goes so far as to name specific unwelcome breeds including rottweilers, doberman pinschers and of course pit bull or pit bull mixes. I find this scenario to be problematic on many levels. Such measures amount to plain old discrimination and propagate misinformed and misguided views about these animals. On the very block where I live, we have several pit bulls that couldn’t be any more loving. I myself owned a rottweiler for fourteen years who earned the love of all of my neighbors. It is clear that these rules were enacted out of fear, but reading between the lines it is not hard to see that the fear stems not from the animals themselves but rather the owners. Some folks are terrified of young people of color and even more when they own a pet that has been unfairly portrayed as a vicious killer. Smells like good old-fashioned racism to me.

Food, Inc. is a new documentary that examines the industry and politics surrounding the food we eat. A while back, I worked with designers to conceptualize several of the film’s graphic segments including the opening title sequence. The film is currently in theaters nationwide.

Jacob Holdt is a photographer of Danish descent. He began hitchhiking across the US in the 1970s armed with a small camera. A theme emerged. His massive body of work includes photos shot around the world, but it is his intimate gaze into social class structure of America that strikes me as the most fascinating material.


It seems that there is an Orwellian eBook problem going on. Big Brother decided to wipe the slate clean on some people’s Kindle ebook readers. Between this and the ordeal this past Spring when Amazon delisted gay themed books, one has to ask “what on good earth is going on over there”.

(via kottke)

Perhaps you are ambivalent about social media networks. At the annual TED conference, Clay Shirky gave an interesting talk about how twitter and other social platforms have been utilized to overcome censorship and break news.

President Obama gave a direct order to General Odierno to shave Stephen Colbert’s head. Personality and a sense of humor sure do go a long way when in the role of Commander in Chief. In other Obama news, apparently the President has decided to scale back his agenda for the US after a visit to a Denny’s restaurant.

 

Documentary filmmaker, Errol Morris has been contributing to the NY Times Opinion section for some time now. Working within the same tradition, another documentarian - Alex Gibney is now maintaining a blog for The Atlantic.