Category Archives: Art

Annotations + Me

Yesterday at Smart Chicago we launched our Annotations project,  where we publish rich text-based annotations of dense government documents like municipal code, RFPs, contracts, and other documents of this nature using the News Genius section of Rap Genius (“your guide to the meaning of rap lyrics… and LIFE“)

I’ve really loved Rap Genius since the day I saw it. Searching for lyrics in search engines used to be a dirty business filled with spam sites and trick downloads. Rap Genius is smart software that can be used for any purpose.

City of Chicago – RFP for Municipal Code Printing, Sales, Web Hosting, and Editing Supplementation Services

T.S. Eliot de St. Louis: the master of the annotation

As a poet, I’ve had a long love affair with annotations. In college, I had a side project where I looked up every footnote in T.S. Eliot’s The Wasteland in the library. I wanted to physically see each reference in every book he called out in his masterpiece.

Annotating the physical world

Right around the same time I did a similar thing called the Bibliography of American Poetry Told Through the Pulitzer Prize— a spreadsheet of every winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry with an image, the library call number, and a personal annotation about the edition that I had retrieved from the shelf at the UIC Main Library.

Mind you, I didn’t actually *read* most of the books. I just wanted to touch each one of them and capture something real about every one of the objects, as books.

When I made my first website, I put in on the Web. I remember thinking at the time, “Man, *this* is what the World Wide Web was *made* for!”

GoogObits: testing out hypertext enjambment

Later, I made my first weblog (late to the game in 2002). It was a Salon Blog called, “GoogObits: Obituaries and essays augmented by Google seaches. There is a lot to learn from the dead.” My underlying principle was that copyrighted text has meaning beyond its first life. I called all of this “hypertext enjambment”. Here’s an essay I wrote explaining it (“On Hypertext Enjambment”). And here’s some snips on how it worked:

  • Sometimes the links buttressed the text of the obituary, linking to books and other original works mentioned in the obituary
  • Sometimes the links were instructive in prosaic ways not intended in the original text, like linking “food stamps” to more information at the Social Security office:
  • Sometimes the links were sideways, using the found text of the obituary to make a completely unrelated point, like linking the word “Misrepresentation” to a page about the Iran-Contra Affair

My overall term for this is “hypertext enjambment”. People don’t do enough of that, I think. Links are mainly boring and straight on the internet. The word “red” links to something red. A link on the phrase “Governor Rockefeller” would never surprise you. There’s more to be had. All hail hypertext enjambment.

Some of my favorites:

The site was even the Yahoo! Pick of the day at one point. Glorious.

Googobits was the Yahoo! Pick of the Day

Y!Q Link Generator: technology for enjambment

In 2005, Yahoo! came out with something called “Y!Q for Publishers”, which was (I thought) an awesome tool for embedding some of this interestingness into the Web. I wrote a pretty comprehensive post about Y!Q called, “Y!Q for Publishers: More Hyper, Less Link!“. It was a complicated implementation that required too much work to create the links.

I came up with an idea for automating link creation and my colleague Ben Friedberg did all of the technology. The result was a pretty badass tool that made the links for you. It’s still alive, notwithstanding the fast death of the Y!Q program itself:

Y!Q Link Generator

My manifesto

I finally put all of this thinking about annotations down in a cohesive format with my “Derivative Works Art Manifesto” in December 2005. Snip:

Users of the world are presented with fresh, owned content every day. We have the technology, the precedents, and the duty to make new art out of this owned content—the stuff of our lives.

Here’s what we need now:

  • A universal acknowledgment of this right to create derivative works from our experience of owned content without regard to the wishes of the original content owner
  • A set of guidelines that inject mutual respect, recognition, and accountability into the process of creating derivative works
  • An automatic compensation system that ensures payment to reward original creators while inducing new artists

Annotations are the linguistic right of the people. All hail Rap Genius.

[VIDEO] Ben Tucker Funeral Jazz March, Savannah, GA

Shawn-Laree and I are in Savannah for the high school graduation of her godson. I saw in the paper this morning that a jazz musician, Ben Tucker, had died and that the funeral was today.

We’re staying downtown, and after lunch we saw a crowd in a local square. We realized that it was the early stirrings of his New Orleans-style jazz march. So I hopped in the scrum to take pictures while S-L shot video. I spliced it together and here’s about four minutes of a real jazz man procession:

Ben Tucker Jazz Funeral March from Daniel X. O’Neil on Vimeo.

The Spring Suite Thirteen Series by Andy Kane

Artist Andy Kane has just published a new series of prints: The Spring Suite Thirteen Series. Here’s the pieces:

Travel by Train, by Andy Kane

Enjoy Your Food, by Andy Kane

Enjoy Your Stay, by Andy Kane

Cats, by Andy Kane

And his description:

All done on 18×24 acid free archival watercolor paper, each print is a limited edition of 125. They are all signed and numbered by the artist. Shipping is included in the price which is as follows:

  • Suite of four prints $300US
  • Three prints $240US
  • Two prints $175US
  • One print $100US

Please allow about two weeks for delivery. Payment by PayPal to: or Andy Kane PO Box 234, Maxwelton, WV 24957

Go get! Also: the artist requests that you “please foward this email to your contacts and also post on Fartbook and Tweetybird”.

Nathan Manilow Sculpture Park at Governors State University

IOTC-symbol-XLVery often I go outside in the course of my job. And I also often bring my camera. In the course of helping run the Illinois Open Technology Challenge, I have been to the campus of Governors State University to do meetups with government, developers, students, and faculty about open data and making technology that makes lives better.

In the course of doing that, I have encountered the Nathan Manilow Sculpture Park. I can be very cynical about public sculpture, but this place is wonderful. I have only just walked a teeny bit of the place, and encountered only four of the 27 pieces, but each of them is serious business. Set in a manicured, rolling prairie with well-considered site lines and great pacing, the place is a joy. I look forward to spending a whole day down there.

For now, here’s my set on Flickr, and a few of my faves:

Frame, 2005, Richard Rezac.
What a great idea– to place an artificial frame on a natural plane

Frame, 2005, Richard Rezac

Paul, 2006, tony Tasset
Lots of people want to be Claes Oldenburg. This guy gets there,

Nathan Manilow Sculpture Park

Phoenix, 1968, Edvins Strautmanis
Imagine the fiery sun setting on this piece.

Phoenix, 1968, Edvins Strautmanis

Flying Saucer, 1977, Jene Highstein
A smooth wonder.

Flying Saucer, 1977, Jene Highstein


Hacking Dr. Seuss: Dad Goes From Sad and Mad to Glad

I love Dr. Seuss. His books were critical to my childhood and my early fatherhood.

I have “Cat in the Hat” is a First Edition, Third Printing (the 195/195 on the inside flap):

"The Cat in the Hat" - Third Printing  - 195/195

And “The Cat in the Hat Comes Back” in a true First Edition:

"The Cat in the Hat Comes Back" - Dust Wrapper - Front

I even custom-lacquered some baby furniture with cut-outs from “Hop on Pop”, which is the canonical Dr. Seuss book for me and my two children:

Custom-Decorated Dr. Seuss Kids Furniture

Custom-Decorated Dr. Seuss Kids Furniture

But there is one bone  had to pick with the good doctor: his anti-dad language in Hop on Pop. He’s got all sorts of sad-sack/ mid-50s “wait til your father gets home” baloney in a couple pages:

"Hop on Pop" -- More Dad Discrimination

So I went ahead and photoshopped/ printed out/ glued in some alternative takes that I would read to my kids:


Dad is glad. Very, very glad. He had a good day. What a day Dad had.

Life is what you make it.