Thursday, December 27

Another example of myopic corporate behavior: Number-two national drug store chain CVS is closing around 200 stores in various markets. This comes after the company (along with Walgreens and Rite Aid) went on a building rampage, often tearing down historic buildings in order to construct their plain vanilla, anti-contextual monuments to banality. The situation is a good illustration of dumb capitalism. Not only did they forgo their market research (the stores don’t have enough customers to support them), they also often enraged the communities in which they began operations. Now, that’s a sure way to win over a customer.

Wednesday, December 26

On Christmas, my sister gave me a CD by the group Si-Se. Inside the jewel case was a small product catalog from the label, Luaka Bop, with the note "Listen globally, buy locally." After doing much of my Christmas shopping online, it was a pleasant reminder to pay my local music and book shops a visit soon.

Monday, December 24

Happy Holidays!

Well, we hope everyone is having a wonderful holiday so far. We’re going to be taking a break from our daily commentary on OS for a couple of days. Enjoy the break, use it to rejuvenate, enjoy your time with family and loved ones, and give your mousing hand a rest! We’ll talk to you again shortly!

Saturday, December 22

Do you know the meaning behind the song The 12 Days of Christmas? I didn't, before I read these pages. The 12 Days are the days between Christmas and Epiphany (January 6), not the 12 days before Christmas as I had previously thought. The song was a mnemonic device used to help children remember the tenets of the Catholic faith. Interesting.

Friday, December 21

The long-awaited details for Opensewer 11 have been posted. Ponder the subject, won't you?

Thursday, December 20

Wednesday, December 19

“Activists have long complained that poor communities bear a disproportionately large share of the pollution burden.” The California Air Resources Board recently approved a policy that could help change that. How is your state enforcing environmental justice?

Tuesday, December 18

Color has taken possession of me; no longer do I have to chase after it, I know that it has hold of me forever. That is the significance of this blessed moment. Color and I are one. I am a painter.

Today is 20th C. artist Paul Klee's birthday, a painter whose childlike works seemed inspired by dreams and music. Reflecting upon his art, one is reminded that being curious and wide-eyed is perhaps not such a bad way to exist in this world.

Sunday, December 16

Wonderfully deranged photographer Lori Nix constructs miniature worlds--insidious landscapes of quiet turmoil--and then photographs them for us. Beautiful and unsettling, her images illustrate the anxieties and absurdity of modern life.

Lori was one of the very first artists to exhibit on Opensewer back in 1999. We are proud to continue to represent her by publishing her most recent series of images, “Ill Winds And Sour Waters.” Her earlier work, “Accidentally Kansas,” is also still available on Opensewer. We hope that you enjoy Lori’s work as much as we do.

Saturday, December 15

After 12 years of engineering work and careful construction, La Torre di Pisa has once again opened for visitors. I'm very happy about this, because it was still closed the last time I was in Italy. Unfortunately, however, this very likely means that we'll all have to endure more of these kinds of cheesy photos than ever. Why don't more people pay attention to the amazing Duomo and Baptistry? The leaning tower is merely one part of the wonderful Campo dei Miracoli (Quicktime VR link).

Thursday, December 13

Special for the holidays: Flrt offers a PSA 01 about the christmas tree industry - What Do Trees Want? Flash required.

Tip of the hat to Get Crafty for the link.

People in those old times had convictions; we moderns have only opinions. And it needs more than a mere opinion to erect a Gothic cathedral.

--Heinrich Heine (1797-1856)

Wednesday, December 12

Lance Arthur, a pioneer of the personal Web, has inspired tons of independent content and design producers worldwide, including Opensewer. This month marks the end of an era for his site, Glassdog. At the beginning of December, he said that he would write something new on Glassdog everyday this month – quite industrious for Lance. The occasion? He claims that he will be rebuilding Glassdog from scratch at the beginning of next year. So take this opportunity to check out Glassdog, read some classic Lance and remember why we do what we do. Thanks Lance, for continuing to be an inspiration to all of us.

Tuesday, December 11

I know that I'm not digging very deeply for this, but how can I not link to this great article on Alternet about the manipulation of public opinion in times of crisis. Alternet is a great resource that must continue. Give them some money--we did.

Sunday, December 9

Well, weather-wise today should be a fairly mild day for most of us in America—temperatures somewhere in the 40s or 50s, with little or no precipitation. Today would be a good day to read this funny article about art, and then maybe go take a walk outside. Be sure to wear you big comfy sweater. (NYT article; username: opensewer; password: iswatching.)

Saturday, December 8

According to yesterday’s Wall Street Journal, sub-prime or “predatory” lenders are encouraging low-income households to refinance their homes in order to consolidate debts. These companies, including Countrywide, Citigroup, Ameriquest and H&R Block, are promising borrowers that they will finally be able to pay off their mounting credit card debt, get some cash, and maybe, just maybe, buy some Christmas presents for the kiddies this year.

While these types of home equity loans can, in theory, help individuals consolidate their debts and pay off credit cards at a lower interest rate, they often end up costing borrowers tens of thousands of dollars over the course of the new loan—which is always longer and at a much less favorable rate than the original. Many borrowers are replacing loans originally issued by Habitat for Humanity, with interest rates as low as 1 or 2% over 20 years. The new loans are often issued at 12% or higher, with terms of 30 years. As a result of a recent swell in this activity, many low-income borrowers cannot meet their new debt service and face the risk of losing their homes to foreclosure.

Why are lenders doing this? Because they have developed sophisticated algorithms that accurately predict the default rates of “sub-prime” borrowers. Since the companies know the probability of their financial loss, they can hedge against it and continue to make money by exploiting the least affluent (and often least financially sophisticated) members of our society. Hence the term “predatory lending.”

The National Community Reinvestment Coalition, a non-profit citizen group, is fighting this trend, and the Federal Reserve Board is currently examining various courses of action to cure the problem. So, next time you see that television commercial urging you to consolidate your debts, think twice.

Wednesday, December 5

As we all know, stem cell research has been very controversial, especially as it relates to cloning. Since so much has happened over the past two weeks I thought it would be interesting to take a look at the instant replay. A little over a week ago Advanced Cell Technologies announced that it had cloned a human embryo. Bush calls it “morally wrong”, calls for a ban and then three days later creates the White House Council on Bioethics. On Monday, the Senate voted on an amendment to impose a 6-month moratorium on human embryo cloning. It was defeated 1-94, mostly because it was bundled with another controversial measure that would have allowed oil drilling in the Artic National Wildlife Refuge. It’s scary how fast obviously beneficial research can be banned without much discussion beforehand. Just a reminder that it's never too late to let your elected officials know how you feel about this research.

Saturday, December 1

What can be said that hasn’t been said already? Today is World AIDS Day, and it is being observed by concerned citizens all over the world (including artists and webloggers). Forty million people currently have HIV, and the disease is spreading at an alarming rate in many places—most notably Sub-Saharan Africa (BBC stats page). The search for a vaccine continues, as human rights groups and drug companies argue over the definition of fair access to AIDS treatment drugs.

To me, the most frightening aspect of all of this is that while AIDS has been transformed from a death-sentence to a potentially survivable illness by expensive treatments, the availability of such treatments seems to have placated the Western World’s concerns about the spread of the disease. The epidemic has not been turned back. Focus on prevention should take priority above all other efforts.