An aside from Dan Hill's extended examination of physical retail:

a conversation earlier today, spiraling out of the fact that we have some Ikea furniture (a bed) in a shipping container somewhere, traveling from Australia to Finland, and the thought occurs that Ikea could replace that physical shipping by simply sending a copy of the bed from the Espoo store, and picking up the old one in Sydney. A form of fabrication possible with their already distributed network of components.
On Retail [cityofsound]

These tweets actually do reflect the opinions of


May 26, 2011



I really need a photomurals tag at this point. The Kodak Colorama billboard was installed in the Great Hall of Grand Central Station from 1950 until around 1990, when the station began a long-overdue restoration.

Anyway, 18x60 foot backlit, color transparencies, "the biggest photographs in the world," one a month for forty freakin' years. It's like if Norman Rockwell had a son named Jeff Wall who went into advertising.

According to the Kodak Colorama mini-site, company executives Adolph Stuber and Waldo Potter originally thought to recreate "Kodak's success with projecting color slides to a staggering size for the 1939 World's Fair," but the Great Hall's sunlight forced them to go the backlit route.


Just as regular photomurals were first printed in wallpaper-like strips, the Colorama transparencies were made of 18-inch [and later 36-in] rolls pieced together witn tape.

Colorama was designed to promote "a critical cause -- photography for photography's sake." Which means something different to a company that sells cameras and film. The majority of the Colorama pictures were by Kodak staff photographers, who inserted amateur photographers in glorious landscapes.

But not all. There are several Coloramas over the years by Ansel Adams, including the August 1954 panorama of Bryce Canyon, Utah up top. The 1967 Earthrise image above is the only black & white Colorama photo. Apparently, it had been covered a lot immediately after NASA received the transmission from the Lunar Orbiter, and the Colorama appearance kind of leveraged that familiarity.


Contrast that, though, with the 1969 Apollo 11 images, where Kodak engineers rushed to print NASA's just-released negatives from the moon landing, and ended up scooping Time, Newsweek and Life, to the benefit of the "awed crowds."

The Kodak Colorama []
Last summer, Kodak donated the Colorama Archive to Eastman House []

May 16, 2011

Police Action Painting

Police spraying protesters in Kampala, Uganda, May 10, 2011 [image james akena/reuters via]

I haven't been able to get these images out of my head since Brian Sholis pointed to them; they're stunning and disturbing at once.

As Time Lightbox's Ishaan Tharoor put it,

We're used to protest movements that come in colors--the yellow of people power in the Philippines, Ukraine's orange, the green of Iran's brutalized democrats. We're less accustomed to seeing protests quashed with color. But in Uganda, security forces sprayed opposition leaders and activists with a vivid pink dye--a mark intended both to humiliate dissidents and make it easier for police to nab them.
The first publicized use of dye cannons was in Cape Town, South Africa in 1989, in a fiasco that became known as the Purple Rain Protest [image below via wikipedia] An anti-apartheid demonstrator seized the cannon and turned it on the white-painted buildings in the square, including the National Party headquarters. "The purple shall govern" became a rallying cry for the democracy movement.


In 2008, after Indian police painted protestors purple in Srinagar, Slate's Explainer put together a concise history of the dye cannon. Which is, well, ironic, considering how aesthetically similar the police painting images are to the Indian Holi Festival, where crowds bombard each other with powdered pigment as part of an equalizing, anarchic celebration of religious joy.

Clearly this is not art; but it is painting. And the sobering political implications and power dynamics depicted in these incredible--even, I hate to say it, beautiful--images makes me question the glib, benign assumptions I hold for that word, that action.

For a long time, I've been fascinated by the military definition of 'painting," the use of laser sighting and guidance systems to target weapons ranging from guns to missiles. It made me wonder what other seemingly paradoxical contexts "painting" has found its cultured, refined way into. I guess I can add one more to the list.

Color in the midst of protest [time lightbox]


Sometimes it's like they're just having a conversation in my tweetstream without me. The only possible improvement is if the Kiarostami movie had been Ten, but that's quibbling.

May 11, 2011



There sure has been a lot of calling card hoopla these days. It seems like it peaked just as I was moving an old file cabinet, and I found this packet of cards I had made in 1999 in Paris. They were still wrapped in the Hotel Costes stationery I'd used to break the order down and transport it more easily in my luggage.

I'd gotten them made at Calligrane, a small paper store in the Marais that still doesn't have much of a web presence. I remember it as a little giftier than I like, with elaborate desk sets or something, but still the only place I could find who could do the typewriter-like letterpress cards I was seeking.


Because I did not want engraved cards, and I didn't want fine paper. I already had business cards like that, and so did all kinds of people. What I needed, I told them, was a replica of the earlier calling cards I had made in 1995.

That's when I had a business card with three addresses and six phone numbers in two countries on it, it was ugly and ridiculous. All I needed, I figured, was email [], and since it's the internet, I really thought the cards should be typed.

I got really lucky, it turns out, because in Vieux Nice, just up the hill from the cathedral, was a little printing and paper studio run by a Scandinavian guy named Peter. He'd salvaged the type from old typewriters to do letterpress with. Wow, those were clean.

I still have one small box of those somewhere. It has Peter's full name in a stamp on the bottom. I think when I looked him up to order replacements, he was still in Nice, but had switched from printing to sculpture. Gotta track that guy down again.


These people are not wearing their videoconference faces.

According to the EXIF data, White House photographer Pete Souza took this photo at 4:05 PM, or 1:05 AM Abbottabad Time, five minutes in. They're watching it as it happened. Which people already know, since it has garnered 455,000 views been blogged and retweeted and facebooked 455,000 times in a matter of hours.

Souza also asks us to "Please note: a classified document seen in this photo has been obscured." Indeed, there it is. Funny how unobscured it looks at this size.


Let's take a closer look:


Didn't I just post something about collecting all the seals and emblems of government agencies?


Because that's the seal for the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency sticking out from underneath there. As you'd expect.


And that corner of landscape does look like the image of left sideyard of OBL's compound. [image via ogleearth]


And now that you mention it, the pixelated image does look like the front gate area of the compound, just at an as-yet-unacknowledged high resolution. Of course, from here, it also kind of looks like a painting. I'll get right on that.

Previously: Google Maps & the everchanging Dutch Camo Landscape

I've written before about the "clean and presumptively powerful" design of various government letterheads I've come across in my recent archive diving.


And I must not be doing it right, because my searches for the expansive survey of the history of such official design, and for the comprehensive sourcebook containing the thousands of seals and emblems of various government agencies and offices keep coming up empty.


I mean, Total Information Awareness, right? Somebody must be keeping a list. Anybody? Bueller?

So I'm reduced at the moment to random click trains through Wikipedia, or to search diving in the digitized collections at the National Archives. Not very productive.

Though it has yielded some nice finds. Nothing spectacular, but then, that's kind of the point of these designs. Up top, the United States Information Agency, once part of the State Department. That's the director's office letterhead there, with the smaller seal.


What I really like, in addition to the undesigned design, is how all the rest of the information is handled. Though a zip code does pop up occasionally, there's almost never a street/mailing address. Or maybe there is; "Department of State comma Washington" would probably get you or your letter there in 2011 as easily as 1898.


But it's the way information accretes, the way the document functions, that's kind of cool, too. The tiny instruction for answering and the reference number on the upper left of this 1922 Dept. of Labor letter, for example. And all the stamps! Check out that received stamp: not just the date, but the time, too.

Anyway, I made a little flickr photoset of a few examples I've found. I'm looking forward to having my scattered, amateur enthusiasm swamped by the exhaustive review of government logo and letterhead design that some expert has already compiled. And then we can start talking about what I'm looking at this stuff for.

Previously: The Great Letterpress of The United States

palomar_sky_survey_cabinet.jpgDear pwn0,

How are you? I would like to discuss with you the Palomar Sky Survey prints you bought on in 2010.

I know it was a POSS-I set of prints, but from the size of the file cabinet, it looks like it was an early or partial version. And I hear from the folks at the planetarium who sold it that it might have been incomplete.

I have attempted to relay a message via itself, but the company does not respond to any non-automated communication attempts.

pwn0. Are those your initials? Perhaps someone knows you, and might relay this message to you? From the other, large, shop-related items you have purchased recently on, I am assuming you live in Utah. Which is awesome. My mom lives there, and we'll be visiting in a few weeks.

Anyway, I'm interested in hearing about that old file cabinet full of obsolete astronomy photos--and then I'm interested in buying it from you. So please drop me an email at greg at greg dot org. Thanks!

April 18, 2011

One Foot Scale


The curators of NIST's collection of historical and scientific artifacts have thrown open the racks in hopes of crowdsourcing the origins of some unknown pieces.

On top of the list: this brass one foot scale, in a handy, fitted, velvet-lined travel case, which is obviously the inspiration for Walter de Maria's High Energy Unit [also here]. Love that thing.


Anyway, case closed. What else ya got, NIST?

One Foot Scales: NIST Digital Collections crowdsourcing initiative [nistdigitalarchives]

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Since 2001 here at, I've been blogging about the creative process—my own and those of people who interest me. That mostly involves filmmaking, art, writing, research, and the making thereof.

Many thanks to the Creative Capital | Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Program for supporting that time.

comments? questions? tips? pitches? email
greg [at] greg [dot ] org

find me on twitter: @gregorg

about this archive

Category: etc.

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Our Guernica Cycle, 2017 –
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Social Medium:
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Paper Monument, Oct. 2016
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Chop Shop
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It Narratives, incl.
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Standard Operating Procedure
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CZRPYR2: The Illustrated Appendix
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YES RASTA 2:The Appeals Court
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Complete Illustrated Appendix (2013)
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HELP/LESS Curated by Chris Habib
Printed Matter, NYC
Summer 2012
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Destroyed Richter Paintings, 2012-
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Canal Zone Richard
Selected Court Documents
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