Category Archives: Art

Remembering the B-Thing in Light of White Flag Brooklyn Bridge Confession

Now comes the New York Times, with word that it was German artists who removed American flags from the Brooklyn Bridge and replaced them with hand-women white ones.

But the artists, Mischa Leinkauf and Matthias Wermke, say the flags — with hand-stitched stars and stripes, all white — had nothing to do with terrorism. In a series of phone interviews, they explained that they only wanted to celebrate “the beauty of public space” and the great American bridge whose German-born engineer, John Roebling, died in 1869 on July 22, the day the white flags appeared.

That this lame commemoration lacks verve and complexity is annoying to me.

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Photos and Video from the World of Wonders Sideshow: The Amazing Work of Johnny Meah, The Czar of Bizarre

I saw a classic sideshow with Caleb over the weekend. Illusions, knife throwing, electric chair stunts, nail through the head, bed of nails, things like that. Here’s some photos and video.

What made me turn twice was the banners hung up outside the main tent— beautiful hand-painted signs.

Amazement Show, World of Wonders, Strangest Show on Earth

The entrance banner is signed, “Gilli”, which looks like it could be Dennis Gilli, who is reffed on a couple of sideshow blogs and websites.

Detail of American Tradition, World of Wonders, Strangest Show on Earth

But the main riff of the banners is to advertise what one will see when they pay to go inside the tent. (Although I didn’t see any of these animals in this particular show).

All of these banners were created by Johnny Meah of Meah Studios, Safety Harbor, Florida. The Czar of Bizarre. Pure genius.

Barnum's Barnyard, Strange Mascots, As Seen on The Animal Planet, 2 Headed Goat, Unicorn, 3 Eyed Deer, Cyclops Cow

I looked around the Internet and found that the bulk of the banners were painted by

This was one of the acts in the sideshow– a guillotine with the head plopped into a box and moved around stage. Note that the beheaded body is wearing but a pair of underwear.

Beheaded Alive

The brand of the car is “Bummer”. This was one of the acts in the show. The assistant sat on the performer, however– no Bummer involved.

Painproof Marvel, Alive

I didn’t see any walking on knives or glass, but there were at least 4 talented women in this side show. Two worked the front stage, pulling people in. One was the electrocuted / beheaded assistant and one served as a side-barker for the interior Human Blockhead show and also performed in the knives portion of the show. “Dancing with the Scars” is a nice touch.

Divas of Danger, Alive

This one is actually signed, “Dallas 2010″, with the “Dallas”, in script, backwards. To my knowledge, there was no gorilla at the show.

Queen Kong, Alive she weighed 400 pounds

This person was, in fact, at this show. The nurse’s hand is certainly well-placed, and her clipboard says, “Sci-Fi Ward”

Medical Mystery, Alive

Two of these women were in the show.

Weird Women, Alive

My assumption is that this is the performer name “Red”. The belt buckle is a nice custom touch– “Wow”, for “World of Wonder”

World of Wonders, See Them Now

It’s hard to look at this 50-lb weight being suspended from a hook in the dude’s tongue. I did not see this IRL.

Amazing People, Alive

Spidora was in this show. All for 2 freaking dollars.

Spidora, Alive

Seemed like everyone associated with this show was a talented sword swallower.

Sword Masters, Alive, Three at a Time

John (Red) Stuart  went ahead and put a nail in his head via his nose. He was also the one who did a smaller, extra charge show, putting a nail through his cheek and a pin through his neck. Note at the bottom indicates, “Woodpecker not showing today”

Human Blockhead, Alive

Did not see this particular act. The belt buckle is obscured by the rope, but it has a heart with “…anesville” Janseville? Ryan?

Modo Bizarro, Alive (with Hall-O-Metric Steamer)

It truly was an amazement show.

Amazement Show, World of Wonders, Strangest Show on Earth

Here’s a short video I put together. It contains all of these images, as well as some video snips and stills from inside the show. I tried to be respectful of the performers, and not sit there and video the entire thing. I did get the whole Bed of Nails bit. Well-played.

World of Wonders Sideshow from Daniel X. O’Neil on Vimeo.

This was an amazing show by some very talented performers who came a long way to entertain us with some classic American sideshow work. For this I am grateful.

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.