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the beautiful destruction

Tuesday, December 20, 2005



Everybody remembers Dave Chappelle, right? He had a great show on Comedy Central called Chappelle's Show -- which was brilliant. Then he supposedly freaked the fuck out, disappeared in the midst of taping the third season, and holed up in South Africa to get his head straight. Well, now an anonymous online author (come on, at least make up a fake name) has concocted an extremely elaborate conspiracy theory that basically implicates a who's who of black leaders and celebrities as the secret cabal (btw: according to the author, they call themselves the Dark Crusaders) that took down Chappelle.

The whole thing is pretty funny, even outlandish. Though I believe it's intended to be serious. Also, it's super fucking long. That's why I didn't bother posting the contents here.

Here it is, The Chappelle Theory.

Monday, December 19, 2005


Pictured: Front page image on Slick's official website.

Not much needs to be said here. Slick is a legend. When I think of graffiti, and how I was first introduced to it, Slick's work provides the visuals to those memories. Even though he hails from L.A., and my friends and I were doing graffiti in Pittsburgh, Slick's pieces and elaborate productions were plastered on every graffiti zine you could pick up in the early 90s. His character designs are top notch, untouchable; his letters are equally as badass.

Slick recently launched his official website. Check it out for yourself here.


Pictured: "Bye NYC" artwork by Blake E. Marquis.

Name: Blake E. Marquis
Classification: Graphic designer, typographer, and illustrator
Official website: www.camecrashing.com

I first stumbled upon Blake E. Marquis' work several years back during one of my spiraling Internet scavenger hunts. It's strange how you can get lost in a maze of links when online -- it's like the ultimate example of attention-deficit disorder. Anyhow, I remember being pleased once I found Marquis' website. Not only did the domain name, Came Crashing, really strike me, but Marquis' spare yet salient graphic design and typography had such a fresh look to me. This weekend, after receiving a box of Swindle mags in the mail, I was pleasantly surprised to see Mr. Marquis' grill in the contributors section and pretty fucking happy to see his work throughout the book. Good work bro, keep it up.

In somewhat related news: If you're so inclined, and pick up the latest issue of Swindle (#5), you'll see that I have two pieces: One article, titled "Musical Graffiti II", is the latest installment in an ongoing series where I research the history of band logos and typography -- always a fun time. The other article, however, is the magnum opus of my writing career. It's an article titled "Eve of Destruction" and it delves deep into the Cambodian Holocaust of the late 1970s (i.e. does the name Pol Pot sound familiar?). I interviewed an incredible group of people and felt humbled in their presence -- especially the interview I did with holocaust survivor Arn Chorn-Pond. He's an extremely inspiring individual. If I could do important work like this every day of my life, I'd be an extremely happy person.


Swindle Quarterly [Check out Blake's work in issue 5]
Arn Chorn-Pond

Wednesday, December 14, 2005


sagittarian spectacular

This coming Saturday, I'll be reading an essay, along with an assemblage of other writers [see roster above], at Incredibly Thin's Sagittarian Spectacular at Brillobox. If you're in the area, please check it out. The event looks to be very exciting.

Here's the official word about the event from Incredibly Thin:

One fantastic night of READINGS! ARTWORK! PHOTOGRAPHY! PRINTWORK! FILMS! & MUSIC! by over 35 remarkable individuals at the Brillobox in Lawrenceville/Bloomfield. Come out and support local artists!

Related links
Incredibly Thin
Poison Control

Tuesday, December 13, 2005


Pictured: "Writers' Bloc" cover story from the Pittsburgh City Paper.

My feature about Pittsburgh graffiti received a letter to the editor last week. Written by a local gentleman named Jacob Bacharach, the letter offers an entirely different perspective on graffiti. Although Mr. Bacharach's reply is wordy and spends a good bit of time stroking his own ego (it appears someone spent some time in academia), his veiled insults and the rare moments when a cohesive thought arises from the twisted wreckage of his sentences offers readers a counterpoint of sorts. Please feel free to include your comments about graffiti culture and/or Bacharach's response in the "comments" portion of this post. I've also included some seen and unseen photos from the story in this post.

Copyright 2005 O N O R O K
Pictured: ONOROK freight; photo courtesy of PRISM.

Bloc heads

Were it not for the sympathetic fatuity of the Matthew Newtons of this world [“
Writers’ Bloc,” Nov. 22], graffiti would now occupy its rightful place in the pantheon of visual mediums -- just above the works of Thomas Kinkade, just below the occasionally lovely works of our better painters-by-number.

F O R C E  copyright 2005 Pictured: Force One wall piece; photo courtesy of Sesk.

Unfortunately, Newton isn’t alone in the delusion that illegality confers authenticity, nor is he alone in believing that historicity indicates legitimacy. He believes, as do too many other crass revolutionaries, that prohibitions of actions inherently commend them to practice. That most graffiti writers can at best manage black-line tags scrawled ad infinitum on squalid alley walls and street signs is irrelevant to such judgments. Merit is irrelevant. Newton sees the amateurish shadows on the wall and intuits himself to the perfect Platonic forms in the light near the mouth of the cave. In all the pieces featured in his story, the nearest approach to political content is the predictable transposition of “ph” for “f.” First Webster’s, then the world!

A Z O  2  copyright 2005
Pidtured: AZO 2 tag; photo courtesy of Sesk.

I’m generally a fan of rebellion against the behavioral strictures of the state, aesthetically and otherwise. Every decent observer of American culture since de Tocqueville has come away with the same caveats about the stultifying conformity of Americans’ social and cultural lives. But graffiti isn’t illegal because a sinister cabal wishes to quash a fountainhead of youthful creativity. It isn’t reprobated because it offends some imaginary bourgeois sensibility of the philistine masses.

P R I S M  copyright 2005
Pictured: Prism wall piece; photo courtesy of Prism.

Graffiti is legally, aesthetically and culturally anathema because so much of it is so very ugly and bad.

Whatever political content and social relevance the form may have once possessed, it’s now devolved into the sort of asinine look-at-me-ism that wouldn’t be out of place on a second-rate hip-hop album. As for its aesthetic aspect, elaborate spray-painted graffiti was appropriated and subverted by high art and its expensive galleries before the end of the ’80s. It was never terribly original to begin with, and now, a couple of decades later, its callow and repetitive style is both empty and embarrassing. Note that in his introduction and the several pages of interviews that follow, Newton says next to nothing about the so-called art featured so prominently in the photographs. He fails to do so for a single overriding reason: There’s nothing to say.

Photo copyright 1984-2006 Henry Chalfant
Pictured: "Reunion" piece in Pittsburgh early 1980s (artist unknown); photo copyright Henry Chalfant.

In Pittsburgh, at least one gallery opened a show featuring many of graffiti’s supposed artists -- only to find its own exterior walls crudely tagged the next morning. Perhaps it was the Pabst. (Actually, it’s almost always the Pabst, which, like absinthe before it, is more useful to pretenders to an art than to actual artists.)

Graffiti isn’t art; it’s vandalism. What’s more, it isn’t vandalism for any political purpose other than the petulant, adolescent insistence that the standards of decent behavior toward one’s own community don’t apply simply because they’re standards. It’s childish and destructive, and to find such childish destruction trumpeted as a venerable tradition in the pages of a publication ostensibly concerned with the uplift of the city of Pittsburgh is most depressing of all.

-Jacob Bacharach, Lawrenceville

Friday, December 02, 2005


Image copyright Henry Chalfant
Pictured: Graffiti writers Badroc and Buda, early 1980s Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Photo copyright Henry Chalfant.

Yep, it's that time of the month again, where we hit you off with a big 'ol list of the shit we're working on or are currently diggin' -- music, books, art, everyday life type shit, whatever. This month we've got a laundry list/clusterfuck of things that have no rhyme or reason. But that's what it's all about right? So, without further ado, let's get started.

Though I'm no shredder like Joe "Satch Boogie" Satriani, I've been playing guitar since before I grew in my puberty mustache -- you know, the transparent catfish lookin' thing all teenage boys think looks good (btw - I never actually had one of these, err, really). Lately, I'm really liking the look of Gibson's SG Special Faded guitar. The "worn brown" wood version is just fucking beautiful. This would make a nice Christmas present... hint, hint, hint.

On a more art-oriented tip, my man Cody Hudson and his Struggle Inc. design studio are always worth checking in on. Plus, don't miss my feature on Cody in the latest issue of Straight No Chaser -- on newsstands now. Also, when you have a chance, you have to check out this PDF magazine called Candy -- it's a top notch affair. Great design, elegant layout.

Recently, I collaborated with my pal Peter Sutherland (photographer) on an article for Anthem magazine about the Bicycle Film Festival in San Francisco. A fella by the name of Brendt Barbur runs the festival, which celebrates urban bike culture in an entertaining and comprehensive way. Look for the article in the next couple months.

This one's precious: David Cross Vs. Larry The Cable Guy. It seems there is some sort of feud brewing, to which I was unaware. The aforementioned link is David Cross's lengthy rebuttal to some shit Larry The Cable Guy said in his autobiography. Git-R-Done Cross, Git-R-Done.

Last but not least, here's a link to an article I wrote for the local alt-weekly, the Pittsburgh City Paper. The article's titled WRITERS' BLOC and is a 25 year retrospective of Pittsburgh graffiti culture. The hard copy version has a nice spread of color photography and boasts several never-before-seen photos from acclaimed hip-hop and graffiti historian Henry Chalfant.

Until next we meet, stay safe.


Mr. Newton

PS: Fuck Fox for cancelling Arrested Development. And, while I'm at it, and still unable to accept it, fuck HBO for cancelling Carnivale.