Street Art: Rejoice

From Balmy Alley in San Francisco. Because of the angle, it was hard to get a good photo of the whole image: these are the best I could do.

Balmy Alley is sort of famous. It’s in lots of guidebooks; they give tours of it; I rarely visit it without seeing other visitors there. I could do an entire series of Balmy Alley murals, and maybe someday I will. But this is probably my favorite.

I love that it’s sort of tucked away: not tucked away exactly, but it’s up high, away from the rest of the murals, easily missed. I missed it myself the first several times I visited the alley, and didn’t see it until it was spotted by a visitor we were showing around. I love that you’re walking along the alley, drinking in the magnificent artworks… and you look up, and you see this. Like a reminder. The top item on your art appreciation To-Do list.

I love that the lettering and the background are in a style commonly associated with religious art, and that the word is one that we typically hear in a religious context… but there’s no actual religious content in it. It could be a religious message… but it could easily be an entirely secular one. It makes me think of the thing so many of us keep saying in the atheist and secularist communities: that we need to look for the things people are getting from religion, things like community and continuity, ritual and rites of passage, and find secular ways to provide these basic human needs.

And I love the message. Rejoice.

Take joy.

When I wrote my piece on Gaultier a couple of weeks ago, I had this to say about joy:

Gaultier’s work is full of joy.

That’s the place where discipline and frivolity connect. The willingness to devote hundreds of hours to a single gown whose design is based on sailor suits? That’s joy. It’s the willingness to see life as absurd — and to throw yourself into it headfirst, and participate in it as thoroughly as you can. Not just in defiance of its absurdity… but in a passionate, delighted embrace of it.

This piece gives me the same feeling. It doesn’t have the same playful frivolity that Gaultier’s work does… but it has that same blend of discipline and exuberance. If I’m in a foul mood when I see it, it lifts me, or consoles me; if I’m in a wonderful mood, it nails it in. Every time I see it, it brings me into this place, this time, and reminds me that I’m alive… and that as challenging as that can be sometimes, it is a wondrous thing, a thing to be witnessed and celebrated.


Street Art: Parrot

On the other hand… here is a nice picture of a bird.

It’s been a few weeks since I’ve done a street art post, and I could use a little simple pleasure right about now. So here is a beautiful stencil of a parrot, on the sidewalk of either Valencia or Mission Street (I forget which). I’m a big fan of the big splashy murals and wall pieces, of course; but I also love how small pieces like this brighten up the city. Just little random moments of beauty, there to add a touch of joy to anyone who happens to pass by and notice. And I kind of like how the shadow of my camera is so vividly in the picture. Like the bird is about to perch on it.

If anyone knows who the artist or artists is/are, please let me know, so I can credit them properly.

Fashion Friday: Gaultier, and the Blend of Discipline and Frivolity

Gaultier striped hooded capeIngrid and I were at the Gaultier exhibit at the de Young a couple of weeks ago — many pics at the end of the piece — and I’ve been wanting to write about it ever since. The exhibit had my brain spinning with dozens of ideas: about the intersection of fashion and fine art, about the influence of street and fetish wear on high fashion, about the complex and screwed-up relationship between fashion and money. But the idea that’s really stuck with me from the show has to do with the blend of discipline and frivolity. [Read more…]

Street Art: Columbus, Ohio Dreamscape

When I was in Columbus, Ohio for the Secular Student Alliance conference, I saw this street art mural off of High Street, in or near the Short North (I’m still not sure where exactly the Short North begins). I was really struck by it: I like the cartoony dream-logic of it, and the tone that’s both malevolent and friendly. My favorite bits are the meditative rabbit, the angry stomping flowerpot, the watering can with the “this is for your own good” facial expression, and the irritated eleven-armed squid.

The first image is the best full shot of the mural I could get. Details, with more close-up views of each section, are below the jump.

[Read more…]

Street Art: “Like”

Continuing the street art series.

This is a spout in a wall of blue tile… which someone has turned into art, by affixing a thumbs-up symbol with the word “Like” above it.

I like this on so many levels. (Not least of which is how self-referential my “liking” of it automatically becomes.) There’s the obvious surrealist Magritte/ Duchamp concept, of turning ordinary things into art just by pointing to them, and of art being a way of looking as much as (if not more than) a way of creating. Plus I’m always fond of things that make you wake up to your surroundings, and make you pay attention to the beautiful in the ordinary. And at the same time, there seems to be a commentary on social media and Internet culture, and our tendency in those cultures to feel like we have to give a simplistic thumbs-up or thumbs-down to absolutely everything.

Or maybe I’m reading too much into it. Maybe it’s just beautiful and funny.

Seen either on Mission or Valencia Street, I forget which. If anyone knows who the artist is, please let me know, so I can credit them properly.

Street Art: Monkeys Repairing Bicycle

People seem to like the street art thing, so I’m going to keep doing it. Here are monkeys repairing a bicycle. Or possibly apes repairing a bicycle. I’m not up on my primate physiology.

Not sure what I like so much about this, apart from the obvious features of it being both beautiful and weird. I think I like the somewhat discordant blending of two common elements of San Francisco green/eco culture: the bucolic, woodsy, “back to nature” theme, and the bicycles. Also, it occurs to me that having prehensile feet would be a useful trait in the field of bicycle repair.

This piece is a detail from a large mural on Florida Street. If anyone knows who the artist is, please let me know, so I can credit them properly.

Street Art: Alien/ Elf Woman

I’m a bit of a fan of street art. I’m not an expert by any means — I don’t know the names and portfolios and histories of the art and artists, except for a handful of the most famous ones — but I love it. I’m happy to live in a neighborhood and a city with a lot of it (although honestly, the cause and effect probably works the other way — I’ve gotten into street art because I see so much of it). I stop and appreciate it and go “ooh! aah!” when I see it. I’ve been taking a lot of photos of it… and it occurs to me that maybe I should share them with the rest of the class.

So I’m going to start doing that.

Here’s a piece in the Mission district of San Francisco, on either Hampshire or York, I don’t remember. I’ve seen this artist’s work around a lot, and I like it. It almost always has one of these alien/ elf women with the pointy ears. Don’t know what it is about pointy ears. As Lore Sjoberg says on Brunching Shuttlecocks, “Somewhere in the back of the mind of every D&D-playing junior-high-schooler is the equation ‘pointy ears = cool.'” Anyway, I think this piece is beautiful. I love the elegance of the pearls, and the stylized brushstrokes in the background doing that Escher transformation into butterflies. And I have a special soft spot for delicate, elegant art in scruffy industrial settings.

BTW, if anyone knows this artist’s name, please let me know, so I can credit them properly. It looks like there’s a signature in the lower right corner, but I can’t quite make it out. UPDATE: The artist has been identified! It’s Amandalynn. And she has a blog. Thanks to commenter mykell for the ID.

Book Cover Contest – The Runners-Up!

So I’ve already shown you the cover for my upcoming book, Why Are You Atheists So Angry? 99 Things That Piss Off the Godless, designed by Casimir Fornalski. Here it is again, in case you’d forgotten:

But I got a lot of excellent submissions for my book cover contest. I hugely enjoyed seeing all the different visual spins people gave to this book: the variety is astonishing, and wildly entertaining. And I think all the designers deserve recognition and attention for the work they put into their submissions.

So here, as promised, is the gallery of the runners-up. Designers are being credited as they’ve asked to be credited — with real names, pseudyonyms, first names only, or anonymously — and with Websites and/or contact information, or not, as they’ve requested. Enjoy the gallery of godless rage! [Read more…]


I am correcting a terrible, terrible mistake.

I posted a piece the other day, Letting the World Surprise You: Secular Transcendence and, Once Again, Morris Dancing. In it, I said this:

And since I now think that this life is the only one I’m ever going to have, I feel much more driven to experience it as fully and as richly as I possibly can. It is sometimes intensely frustrating to know that there are restaurants I’m never going to eat at, movies I’m never going to see, books I’m never going to read, people I’m never going to meet. But that makes me feel that much more passionate about really experiencing the restaurants and movies and books and people that are part of my life. It makes me feel that much more driven to stay present with them, to not space out and drift into my own little world, to connect with them and see what surprises they might have in store. Sometimes it’s a big, obvious, dramatic surprise: like seeing Scotland for the first time, or speaking to a crowd of 1,000 people, or meeting someone out of the blue who within a year would become one of my best friends. And sometimes it’s a small, subtle surprise of everyday life: like the taste of the scones from the new bakery, or some silly and wonderful video of a guy dancing in his rec room, or an afternoon with friends in a generic conference hotel room laughing ourselves into insensibility.

At the “silly and wonderful video of a guy dancing in his rec room,” I meant to link to this video. But I was in a hurry, and I totally spaced. For which I abjectly apologize. Okay, it’s not like this guy needs my help, the video has gone viral and it has 6,096,244 views as of this writing and you’ve probably all seen it before and are rolling your eyes about how I’m the last one to get on the clue train. But it’s been making me smile for days, and I wanted to share. The guy is so loose and cool, so extraordinarily good and so casual about it. And I love that some guy dancing in his rec room and shooting video of it has been seen by millions. I’m in love with the modern world.

Catgroove, by takesomecrime. Enjoy!

I have my archives!

I have my archives from my old blog! They’re here! With comments and everything! They’re even in the right categories!

Images and videos didn’t make it over, and there are a handful of posts that didn’t make it and that I’ll have to put in by hand. (For some reason, it didn’t like my posts about alternative medicine, speaking at Stanford, making atheism a safe place to land, atheists having morality, and my recipe for chocolate pie. Make of that what you will.) But I can live with that. The archives are here. Years of my old work — all finally in one place. This has been driving me up a tree, and I can now finally relax about it. (A little.)

If you want to see them, scroll down in the sidebar to where it says “Recent Posts/ Comments/ Archives.” Click Archives. There they are! You can also search for posts in the archives with the handy Search box at the top right of the blog. Which works waaaay better than the search box at my old blog.

When I’m back from my Minnesota trip, I’m going to start working on (a) getting the old blog to redirect to the new one, and (b) getting the best and hottest posts listed in my sidebar, so newcomers to the blog can browse them more easily. And I’ll probably start linking to the cool stuff from the archives, so newcomers to this blog can become familiar with it. For now, I’m just going to sit back and cry tears of happiness and relief. I can haz archives! Yay!

I have to express my intense gratitude to fellow Freethought Blogger Jason Thibeault, at Lousy Canuck, for making this happen. Don’t ever let anyone tell you that atheists have no sense of community or compassion. I owe him big time. Go visit his blog, and tell him Thank You.