Animated GIF party

Via Mission Mission, I was delighted to come across GIF Party, where animated gifs abide in thriving plentitude. Burrito Justice has a nice one too of the La Tacqueria sign at Mission and 25th lighting up, bit-by-bit.

Animated GIFs were a static, frame-by-frame animation technique that ruled the internet before Flash came along and ruined everything by introducing more sophisticated multimedia. I miss animated GIFs: they had that whole technological-limitations-make-it-easier-to-be-creative thing going for them. Plus, they remind me pleasantly of black-and-white TV now in retrospect.

I got really into making animated GIFs after seeing an experimental film at Artists Television Access that had these sequences where two frames of video would be looped and repeat over and over for minutes at a time. The effect was the same as when you repeat a syllable or two over and over again until it looses its meaning and becomes this weirdly suggestive drone. So, I started taking and looping photos of friends, like this one:


See this one in its full twitchy context here at the original Mock Duck project, where there’s some crude, oddball interactivity thrown in to boot.

I liked to over-compress my animated GIFs on purpose so they started to take on a weird broken-up dotted texture, like the halftone pattern visible when you peer at a newspaper from up close. In this sense, they differ from the ones on GIF Party, which tend to go in for more of a high-tech uncompressed look.

Sports before radio

I was just talking about this with a friend, so I was happy to randomly come across photos of it via It’s somewhat in the same vein as the Harris 20th Century Railroad Attachment in the sense of My god, I can’t believe this was commonplace one hundred years ago.

Prior to the advent of radio broadcasts, people would actually mass in the streets to stare intently at this really mechanical “baseball game reproducer” that looks like a pinball machine. Updates would be phoned in or delivered via telegram and then be put up on the board to – one assumes – thunderous reaction. Amazing how the standards of what passes for entertainment change over time. I can’t imagine announcing to my wife, “OK, I’m off to stare at the baseball game reproducer. See you in three hours!”


Halfway goats and Malick Sidibé

Friday’s goats in trees post brought to my mind the fact that several acquaintances of mine who have travelled in central African countries have mentioned spotting goats that are half white and half black– not speckled, but divided neatly down the middle.

Here, via Flickr user Maody, is one example:


I also noticed another such goat in a book of photographs by Malick Sidibé:


(Although, to be honest, I think that this animal is actually a sheep).

While surely the half-and-half coloring of these animals serves some Darwinian purpose, it’s hard not to see it as a result of indecision on the part of their maker. More than anything else, they remind me of those mixed boxes of ice cream one gets at the supermarket that are equal parts vanilla and chocolate, presumably for conflicted eaters and/or divided families. I’m also reminded of a great tongue-in-cheek Minor Threat-style hardcore song my friend wrote when we were 13 years old called “Halfway Man”, whose lyrics excoriate the man who eats half a sandwich and then folds the rest up in his pocket for later (‘Eat it now or eat it later HAAAAALFWAYYY MANNN!‘). With that it mind, I hereby christen these creatures Halfway Goats (or Sheep).

While we’re here, I might as well blog a bit on Sidibé, one of my favorite photographers. One thing that’s cool about Sidibe is that he has worked more or less as a commercial portrait photographer his whole life, rather than aspiring to art-for-arts-sake. Another cool thing is the fact that prosperous citizens of Mali would come into his studio with objects they considered to be status symbols, which were generally: hip clothes, bicycles, radios, guitars and motorbikes. These happen to be some of my favorite visual items and make for great portrait photography. So much cooler than if, say, nowadays people went into his studio with Bugaboo baby strollers and really fresh arugula and whatever else currently constitutes an upper-middle class status symbol.

Some of his photos:







Hello, birdie

A photo I snapped of my friend Brooke a few years ago in Vienna. A bird happened to swoop into the frame at the last moment, just as I was pressing the shutter release– a complete accident.


Incidentally, the ferris wheel poking into the picture in the background is the very same ferris wheel used in the filming of The Third Man, where Orson Welles delivers his famous ‘cuckoo clock’ line:


Mundane superpowers

I’ve long been drawn to the idea of mundane superpowers and just found out about the documentary Confessions of  a Superhero, which pretty much steals my thunder. Apparently, it’s a documentary about the ordinary people who schlep around Hollywood Blvd dressed as superheroes and, I gather, sort of follows in the same vein as Anvil! bio-pic by simultaneously portraying them as spirited fighters and obsessed sad sacks. Then, more to the point, there’s this promo photo for the film:


Love the green cast and wallpaper. Still, just as it’s Superman’s fate to be eternally upstaged by more personable superheroes, so does his photo eventually pale in comparison to this completely amateur and totally great image of Spiderman struggling to get back into shape:


I found this on the site of a Swedish designer and emailed him to ask for info about the shot, but apparently his entire server just got wiped out and he’s too deranged by grief to recall where he got the image himself. Shame.

I’ve often thought that if you were to aspire to a reasonably-attainable mild superpower, a good choice would be to have the ability to make people’s limbs fall asleep (either numb, or occasional wracking pins-and-needles, depending on what the situation called for). This would be reasonably useful, but you wouldn’t be over-reaching by asking for something like, say, the ability to fly, which is – let’s face it – a bit far-fetched.

Update: Rasmus Andersson (whom I previously introduced as the grief-stricken Swedish designer) has apparently come to his wits sufficiently to source the spiderman photo:

I managed to track down where I found the Spiderman picture — from photographer Chris Leah:

Thanks, Rasmus! The Chris Leah site is great and has a little vignette of spidey photos. Check it out.

Bigger hot dog sales…

… through sexually-ambiguous vampire advertising.


Good to know that somebody is trying it. This is the side of the delivery truck for Kostelecke Parky, a Czech hot dog brand.

Update: Reader JM alerts us that she used to have undies with this unsavory character on them. See the Comments section for more disturbing revelations along these lines. Meanwhile, regarding the lost panties, I can only extend the hope that she someday finds them in the Warehouse of Lost Stuff.

Futurism and the Musee Mecanique

This year is the 100th anniversary of the Futurist Manifesto, when F.T. Marinetti (the self-proclaimed ‘most modern man in Europe’ at the time) introduced his cult of dynamism to the world through a combination of incendiary rhetoric, genius publicity stunts and Fascist agitating. The Futurists were fascinated by speed, technology, war, Moussellini, masculinity, action and loud noise; they were contemptuous of civility, history, culture, women, and everything else they associated with polite society and the existing status quo. The only avant-garde art movement I’m aware of with a strong right-wing orientation, Futurism remains weirdly alluring and seriously off-putting.

As Futurists were obsessed with the dynamics of the early machine age, I had the idea many years ago to illustrate their manifesto with photos taken from San Francisco’s Musee Mecanique, a highly-enjoyable collection of antique arcade machines. The common link is that both the Manifesto and the MM collection show the imaginative possibilities of the early machine age, and both produce results that are both appealing and monstrous. I printed a few copies of this as accordion-folds.

Front and back cover:



(Note how much the giant doll on the cover looks like Moussellini- a happy coincidence!)

Inside spreads:







Enjoy Mock Duck


I found this vintage promotional Holiday Inn postcard in my step-mother’s house and it instantly became one of my prized images, earning the strongest magnet on my refrigerator door and loosely inspiring – with its garish, ghoulish Stepford-leisure-suit vibe – the whole ‘Enjoy Mock Duck’ concept.

As with the White Album or Carl Lewis’ disastrous rendition of the National Anthem, it’s hard to pick just one favorite part. But one minor detail I enjoy is where the father’s hand is lying on his daughter’s shoulder in the Swimming Pool Scene: note the strange turquoise shape that’s hovering over her shoulder. Is it a snorkel? A discolored candy cane? A sea horse? No, it’s a ribbon in her hair that’s somehow as perfectly stiff and lifeless as everything else in this little set. Marvelous.

William Eggleston and Big Star

Speaking of flying lounges, here’s William Eggleston’s beautiful ode to in-flight beverage service:


Eggleston’s red ceiling photograph was used by Big Star for the cover of their Radio City album. 


Given that Eggleston and Big Star were both from Memphis and both broke through around ’73/’74, it’s little wonder that Big Star basically sounds just like how Eggleston’s photos look. Still, I can’t think of another example of musician and visual artist who remind me so clearly of one another. 

More Eggleston here.