Retired Graffiti Cop Writes Book. Graffiti Artists Aren’t Happy About It. They Discuss.

March 12, 2009

Photo by The Brooklyn Paper

I love (okay, maybe not love. more like, am kinda into) my local rag, The Brooklyn Paper. Unlike papers with a national distribution, a small paper like TBP can focus on the important local issues like the amazing coin-operated, self cleaning public toilet being installed at Grand Army Plaza, and my personal favorite, police blotters, a rundown of the latest crimes happening in my neighborhood. Not only that, but a local paper like TBP has the privilege of writing with a certain degree of wry sarcasm your national gazette simply couldn’t get away with.

Today’s paper gives the tip-off on a showdown, happening right here in Brooklyn, between a retired cop-turned-author and graffiti “artists” (why the quotes TBP?). Joseph Rivera, a former member of the famed New York City Transit Police Vandal Squad, recently released a book, Vandal Squad, chronicling his experience as part of the unit whose responsibility it was to clean up the city’s 80’s and 90’s era graffiti problem. Apparently, the book doesn’t sit well with some graffiti artists, who cite it as being inaccurate and “lacking in literary or documentary value.” Lucky for us, the criticism won’t be limited to the pages of The Brooklyn Paper. On March 19th, a panel discussion between Rivera and retired Vandal Squad officers as well as graffiti writers Ket, Cope2, and art blogger Stern Rockwell, is being held at the powerHouse Arena.

Though I’m not sure what good can come of a discussion panel like this, I’m planning on going just to see how irate both parties become.

Graffiti War Comes To DUMBO

Joe Rivera, author of “Vandal Squad,” at the powerHouse Arena [37 Main St. between Water and Front streets in DUMBO, (718) 666-3049], March 19, 7 pm. Free.

Kind Of Reminds Me Of My First Girlfriend

March 9, 2009

Well, not really. But I do love this poster. This movie could be about anything and I’d probably still watch it on the strength of the poster. If you stare at it long enough you can just begin to make out the features of her face. Creeeepy.

In all seriousness, the movie is supposed to be great. See the trailer below.

out on DVD March 10th (today)!

British People Make Everything Sound Better

March 8, 2009

by Rudyard Kipling

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or, being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or, being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise;

If you can dream – and not make dreams your master;
If you can think – and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with triumph and disaster
And treat those two imposters just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with wornout tools;

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breath a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: “Hold on”;

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with kings – nor lose the common touch;
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you;
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run –
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And – which is more – you’ll be a Man my son!

Okay, so maybe his facial expressions were a little intense, but if you listen to it without watching, his delivery is quite good. This is one of those poems that when I have a kid, I’ll take him for a walk along the coast and recite it to him. If it’s a girl, I’ll have to find another poem. Any ideas for a similar sort of poem that I could read to my hypothetical daughter?

Christmas In March!

March 6, 2009


If you live in NYC, one look outside the window this week and you’d think it was December. Last weekend brought us our second “storm of the century” this winter. Classes were canceled. Employers declared it a Snow Day, named after the long-forgotten turn of the century film starring Chris Elliot, Chevy Chase, and to a lesser extent, Iggy Pop.

For me, the snow day wasn’t quite the celebration it was for everyone else. I had an appointment with my amazing tax lady whose offices are in a lost section of Brooklyn that I suspect hasn’t changed much since the Reagan years. Not only did I have to leave the apartment, something I try to do once every month, but my plan to bike there was pretty much derailed (you know how long I been sitting on that pun!). At any rate, the appointment went well and it looks like I don’t owe that drunken sailor of an uncle too much this year. Looks like I’ll be getting some thing back too. Schwing!

Oh, but my friends, it only gets better. A nice little man in a white truck rang my doorbell yesterday morning and placed in the hands of my bath-robed and fuzzy-slippered neighbor (because delivery guys have a ring every doorbell policy) a package containing the late Tibor Kalman’s monograph, Tibor Kalman: Perverse Optimist. Schwing! I remember seeing this book around when I was in college. The particularly striking cover is what caught my attention. Back then, the only thing I knew about Tibor Kalman was that he had something to do with the magazine Colors and he was kind of a big deal. Beyond that, I had no real grasp of his contribution to graphic design, so the book didn’t much interest me. Still, the image of that cover, the smiling face, the warm hues that make me think of 85 degree weather and farms I’ve never been to, had somehow been sandblasted into my memory.

It wasn’t until recently that I started thinking about Tibor Kalman, partly due to the hours spent gathering content for this blog. I came across a story about how to celebrate the launch of Perverse Optimist, he held a party in a supermarket and gave away signed canned goods as party favors. I wanted to know more about the mind and work of a man who was obviously experiencing the world differently than your average person. And so, I ordered the hardcover and it came yesterday! Schwing!

I got through the first 75 pages last night and I can definitely see why the reviews for this book are so good. Since I haven’t read through it I wont try to do a review but the AIGA Design Archives has a great description here.

photo by Andre-Myopia Pix

Also, picked up Print & Finish, a handsome little book which details various printing and finishing techniques. Schwing! Nicely designed and filled with great technical information, I’d definitely recommend you get yourself a copy. The one I snagged was the last one on the shelf at B&N, and it seems Amazon only has 1 copy in stock. Better hurry!

By the way, I did some cleaning up around here. Let me know what you think of the new look. I’m still tweaking it so some of the old entries look a little wonky but in due time.

Happy Friday!


March 4, 2009

And now for the weather!

Simply beautiful. Features the work of many talented artists and designers, some of whom you might recognize (see Mario Hugo who is also featured in this week’s Flavorpill)

20th Anniversary of Do The Right Thing
This deserves its own post but I’m feeling especially lazy at the moment. Nevertheless, if you haven’t seen this film, add it to the Netflix cue. Not only is it one of Spike Lee’s best films, it’ll show you the origins of what all the cool kids are wearing these days.

speaking of old stuff. . .

Jurassic Web: The unrecognizable Internet of 1996
Funny little piece on about the “world wide web.”

Alex Trochut and Dvein team up for this TOCA ME title sequence
So good it makes my skin crawl.
(via Design Is Kinky)

Vintage Record Covers
I’ve had this site bookmarked since like 2003. I have no idea how I found it and I can’t read Kanji, so I have no idea what it is. All I know is it has tons of record covers.

And just in time for this week’s linkheavy, the band who single-handedly brought back red motorcycle jackets and inter-dimensional portals, Phoenix unveils the art for their upcoming album, Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix.

(via Pitchfork)

Employee Number 20 in The NY Times

March 2, 2009

The NY Times Business Section has an interesting article on employee number 20, Marissa Mayer, Vice President of Search Product and User Experience (the woman who controls the look and feel of Google). Apparently she’s somewhat of a celebrity. Who knew?

Putting a Bolder Face on Google

10 Questions and A Youtube Video: An Interview with Lou O’ Bedlam

March 1, 2009

Lou O’ Bedlam

Remember chat rooms? For those of you too young to know what I’m talking about, back in the early 90s when AOL actually WAS the internet and there was no such thing as Facebook, Myspace, or even Wikipedia, people used to “log-on” and “log-in” to these things called chat rooms. They were basically iChat, but with a whole bunch of strangers. You know how X-box live allows you to talk to people while you’re playing? It was kind of like that, except aside from sheer boredom, you had no real reason to talk to anyone.

Chat rooms were the beginning of the internet predator. These creeps would prowl chat rooms looking to prey on young children. They’d befriend them, win them over by offering them something (typically salt-water taffy), and eventually invite them to meet up somewhere. Upon meeting the child, the predator would then take advantage him. At the height of chat rooms, it was a real problem. Every week you’d hear a story on the local news about someone being abducted or taken advantage of by someone they met in a chat room. It was a scary time to be on the internet.

These days, like so many arcades, the chat rooms have all been boarded up. Social Networks and Forums, have rendered them virtually obsolete. Nowadays, if you want to meet a stranger on the internet, you can’t just run into a crowded room and start yelling. The social landscape of today’s internet can be compared to South Florida. It’s essentially made up of gated communities where everyone is welcomed, but to actually meet anyone you have to contribute to the community. Sometimes that contribution is as simple as leaving comments. Other times, as in the case of sites like, you actually have to pay money to meet strangers. There’s very little room for the internet predator in today’s internet model, because no internet predator is going to spend weeks building up his credibility on a World of Warcraft fan fiction message board only to have it destroyed by a single trip to the wishing fountain at the local shopping mall. Moreover, it is a widely known fact that all kids today have cell phones and know Karate.

A child unleashing fury on a slab of board.

So, you see, I had no reservations about meeting up with Lou O’ Bedlam, an amazing photographer whose work I came across on Flickr, one of the internet’s largest gated communities. His portraits typically feature an attractive young woman, bestrewn with light, in varying landscapes all perfectly captured and considered. He has a way of photographing his subjects that make you feel as though you’re finally getting to meet that person who, for years, you’d been eyeing from afar.

Lou O’ Bedlam

Since Lou lives in LA, we had to arrange a meet-up in Lincoln, Nebraska, roughly the halfway point between NYC and LA. It was a long journey, and I actually started on foot sometime last year (I’ve been updating from the various internet cafes along the way) but I finally made it to Lincoln, where Lou had been waiting for about a day or so. He agreed to meet me at Ali Baba Gyros, which had gotten lackluster reviews on Yelp, but apparently has the best Tandoori Chicken in all of Nebraska. After exchanging the customary fist-bump, Lou and I settled into our booth.

Having walked nearly 1200 miles, I was completely wiped out so I handed Lou the sheet of questions I had prepared and promptly fell asleep. When I had awoken some forty-five minutes later, Lou was gone but he was nice enough to answer all the questions. For your enjoyment, I’ve taken the liberty of making it seem like an actual conversation.

Me: So, what’s your real name and what exactly are you? I mean, if you were to give yourself a title, what would that be? Also, where did the name Lou O Bedlam come from?

LOB: My full name is Luciano Augusto Noble II. I have no titles, I am just a man trying to get along in the world. The O’ Bedlam handle was something I thought up to use as a Flickr name. They use to call the asylum inmates in England Tom O’ Bedlams, sounded catchy.

Me: When did you start taking pictures?

LOB: I started taking pictures back in 1996, with a Polaroid sun600. I used that until 1999, when I bought a Polaroid Propack. I began getting into photography seriously in 2005, when I bought a Polaroid 680, which was perfectly suited to the kind of shots I liked taking.

Me: I noticed pretty much all your photos are of attractive young women, where exactly are you meeting these women, and how do you convince them to let you take their picture?

LOB: At first, my models were all friends, or friends of friends. The more I shot, the further out that circle became, and eventually I started asking people I didn’t know, on the internet, Flickr, mainly. I don’t really do much in the way of “convincing.” I usually just ask, show ’em my photos, and that does the trick.

Lou O’ Bedlam

Me: When selecting a subject, are you looking for anything specific?

LOB: Not really. Someone I find attractive, or interesting in the face.

Me: You know how some artists are primarily concerned with doing what hasn’t been done before – what are you trying to do with your work?

LOB: There’s no big Grand Intent behind my photos. It really depends on the situation. Sometimes I’m just trying to take a very aesthetically pleasing photo, sometimes I’m trying to show something authentic about my subjects. Often I’m trying to capture a beautiful aspect to my subject that perhaps they’re unaware of. I would never say I’m trying to accomplish something that’s never been done before, I think there’s an excellent case to be made that such a thing is impossible. I think the through-line in my work is that I’m trying to achieve a degree of truth in each shot.

Me: So, what’s LA like? Everyone seems to always have something bad to say about it. It’s kind of like the New Jersey of The West, or maybe Long Island (not that there’s any difference between the two).

LOB: What’s LA like? It’s an enormous sprawl of a city, with too much traffic. Other than that, it’s perfect. A multitude of cultures, easy weather, quick access to several other climates (the beach, the mountains, the desert, the forest), food made by most of the peoples of the earth, pretty faces, laid back people. No hurricanes. No tornadoes. Every once in awhile you see someone famous walking down the street. Roving Korean BBQ taco trucks.

I think you can find someone to say something bad about any city, frankly. Never put much stock in that sort of thing.

Me: You ever been to Jersey? If so, what do you think of Jersey? If not, what have you got against Jersey?

LOB: Never been to Jersey. But I will say this: I’ve met a lot of people who like LA, a lot of people with bad things to say about LA, but I’ve never heard anyone ever say anything nice about Jersey. Not even from the folks who live there.

Me: So what’s a day in the life of Lou O’ Bedlam like?

LOB: A day in the life of Lou O’ Bedlam? There really isn’t a typical day for me, at this point. I work part time, so some days I work, some days I don’t. Some days I go and take pictures, some days I go eat with friends. I try not to pack too much into any particular day, like taking my time getting out of the house. Some days I’ll stay in and watch movies. Some day I’ll just chat up folks on the internet. Leisurely pace, that’s the aim.

Me: There’s a great community of super talented photographers on Flickr. Do you find your work being influenced by what you see on Flickr? If so, do you think it’s a good thing or a bad thing?

LOB: I don’t really think I’m much influenced by the work on Flickr. I think most of the work on Flickr, like anywhere else, isn’t very good. I’ve tried and succeeded in finding a collection of photographers I like, and while I have seen photos that really blow me away, I can’t say as I remember the last time I saw a shot on Flickr that I went out and tried to take. Nothing to do with Flickr, I just have a very clear idea of what I want from a photo I take, have for several years. I’m not very experimental, not looking to break down any boundaries, revolutionize anything. I like taking photos of people, I like getting close, I like having people not smile.

I’ve definitely learned things from Flickr, on the technical side, especially now that I’m using digital. Lots of folks more than happy to give advice, lend a hand.

Me: Any word of advice for designer folks, like myself, on taking a good portrait?

LOB: Shoot often. What’s “good” is subjective, but the more you shoot, the more you’ll see what it is you like. What kind of shot you want to take more than anything else.

Lou O’ Bedlam’s Theme Music, as chosen by Lou O’ Bedlam

Lou O’ Bedlam’s Flickr
Blog O’ Bedlam
Back Alley Tabernacle