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Rick Steves sell sheet
Illustration for newspaper article on how to say "no"
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Packaging for art is art

my day job .@artinstitutechi - this is what I do

Unique styrofoam constructions hand-crafted by artists to support the safe transit of art.
A delicate sculptural bust is transformed from a bronze head to a rectangular box. All the space around the head is extended out to conform to cube.

From head to cube. Would that make packaging art a cubist artwork? Haha. Once the artwork is safely transported and taken out of the box, what is left behind? A box with the negative space of the bronze head.

Every parent experiences this with removing toys from their plastic shells. Maybe the people who make the structures of toys packaging should get into making packaging for fine art.

0 archived comments | | Thursday, November 27, 2014
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4,715 artworks currently on display at the Art Institute of Chicago

collection results

Two years ago the Art Institute of Chicago had 3,976 artworks on display. Now they have 4,715 on display. The Art Institute has a great website that shows their entire collection. You can even search for which artworks are on display or not. By simply going to the "advanced search" section and clicking the "on display" field, it will give you all the artworks currently being shown.

0 archived comments | | Wednesday, November 26, 2014
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Dr. Seuss and Matt Maldre

Next to my quote about understanding is this awesome quote by Dr. Seuss

Matt Maldre quote next to Dr. Suess quote

I'm very proud that this Dr. Seuss quote is considered "related" to mine.

0 archived comments | | Tuesday, October 14, 2014
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Five fictional accounts respond to house with indoor basketball court

How would you react to discovering that an indoor basketball court is inside a 9,500 square foot house in the heart of one of Chicago's most expensive neighborhoods?

Some of twitter's funniest fictional characters offer their perspective.

Mother Nature in Chicago is under orders to always give this house good weather.

Lawrence Avenue up north is a bit jealous.

The most famous croquet player in Chicago wants to alter the house.

Even the Star Wars characters got in on the fun. The Death Star Librarian has a good perspective.

Of course an Ewok would want it to be a tree house.

Can you imagine if Walgreens sold houses like this? Your wagcares receipt would have a $3 million price tag on it. That would make the $3000 wagcares sweepstakes pale in comparison.

How do you respond to this indoor basketball court inside a house?

0 archived comments | | Monday, October 13, 2014
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Which is more valuable: $3000 wagcares sweepstakes or colorful leaf?

Texture of tiny leaf found on Michigan Ave in Chicago

What if you found a masterpiece painting laying on a busy sidewalk? Certainly you would look at it. Maybe you might even pick it up, or photograph it. During autumn we have millions of such masterpieces laying on our sidewalks. Filled with bright colors and amazing compositions. And you can actually touch them.

They are called autumn leaves. Trees are such fine artists producing these paintings every year. And then they give away their paintings for free. For us to enjoy.

Leaf as artwork

One such amazingly colored leaf lies on one of the busiest sidewalks in Chicago. On Michigan Avenue where the same colors on a designer shirt could cost in the thousands, trees produce their own fashion show for you to take and hold.

Walking on my way to the Wrigley Building Walgreens, this particular leaf really jumped out for its wide palette of color. Greens, yellows, reds, browns. The spotted pattern also created an immense texture on such a tiny leaf.

Wanting to photograph this leaf in macro, I picked it up and carried it with me into the store. While I purchased my bag of chocolate, I placed the leaf on the counter to continue the transaction. The cashier noted the leaf, "look at that!" I proudly picked it up to show her. Yes! This leaf was sitting outside! Wouldn't it look really cool photographed and made into a really large print? The cashier agreed, "fall is just so beautiful. I love this time of year."

She handed me my receipt with the wagcares sweepstakes; and I walked out with the leaf and receipt next to each other in one hand. The $3000 cash I could win by filling out the wagcares survey? That pales in comparison to the value this leaf brings.

To capture such detail in the leaf could not be done by an iPhone alone. Instead, I popped on my macro lens from Photojojo. This lens is amazing. Well, maybe you know that already from my photo. ;-)

Contact sheet of colorful tiny leaf

Initially the bright red in the leaf demanded my attention. I kept shooting the red section over and over. But the photos weren't quite capturing the beauty of this leaf. So instead my camera went to the middle of the leaf where the greens and yellows live. That sounds boring, right?

Texture of tiny leaf found on Michigan Ave in ChicagoNope! The center of the leaf brings out the masterful composition created by the tree. The strong brownish-purple line with a network of very thin white lines branching out from the main artery. Certainly this tree knows how to compose a painting! The fine touches of yellow, green, and brown dot the center of the leaf.

Where is this bright red to be found? Only at the perimeters of the photo. Let that be a lesson to all photographers. Often we are tempted by the bright reds on the perimeter of life. However, the standard greens and browns in the center can make for a strong photo.

I really enjoy the result of this photo. Chicagoist really likes it too, because they made it the primary feature on autumn leaves in Chicago.

Has anyone taken any photos of the autumn leaves? If so, leave a link in the comments.

0 archived comments | | Friday, October 10, 2014
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Placing origami postcards inside Walgreens with a wagcares receipt

A Chicago postcard folded into an origami butterfly

Transform the fun of tourist postcards into something beyond their normal function. Buy a tourist postcard and then fold it into a paper origami and leave it at the same postcard rack in the store. Make sure to leave the receipt with it too, so people know it's paid for.

This sounds like a fun project, so I gave it a go. First step is selecting the postcard. Make sure to pick one that is bright and colorful. You want your origami to look sharp!

When buying the postcard, remember to accept the receipt. Especially if the receipt is from Walgreens, because it will have that wagcares survey on it. When I bought the card for 64 cents, the cashier asked if I wanted the receipt. At first I declined, because really. 64 cents--who needs a receipt for that? But then I quickly realized, WHY YES! I do need that receipt! It's an essential part of this art exploration.

To fold this into an origami, you'll need the postcard to be square. Since almost all postcards are rectangular, not square, you'll need to rip off part of the postcard.

Ready to leave at Walgreens

For the card I selected, I opted to rip off the top of the postcard where it says CHICAGO. I'm not sure why, it just seemed to make sense.

Now that you have a square card, go ahead and fold it. Folding a postcard into an origami butterfly is rather challenging. The paper is just too thick. The initial folds are fine, but the later folds are like trying to close your suitcase at the end of a shopping vacation. I was putting all my weight onto the folds to make this butterfly happen.

If you bought your postcard from Walgreens, and you have the time, make sure you go to www.wagcares.com to fill out the survey for the $3,000 sweepstakes; and say something nice about your Walgreens cashier.

Now, the fun part. Put the origami back onto the rack! The Walgreens where I purchased my postcard is the flagship store in downtown Chicago. Their postcard rack is right by the back cashiers and the greeter. I kinda ignored the greeter when I came back into the store, hoping he wouldn't notice me.

But butterfly origami works perfectly with a postcard rack, because you can fit the slot of it's wings into the wire frame. Make sure to include that tellwag.com survey receipt too, so people don't think you just stole a card and folded into an origami!

Now take some pics and share! If you do this project, make sure to let me know!

0 archived comments | | Thursday, October 09, 2014
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The cracked screen project

Someone on the train is using a phone with a cracked screen. I ask the person to pull up a photo on flickr or instagram. Then I take a photo of the person's cracked screen showing the photo.

People using cracked-glass phones are very interesting to me. How the lines interact with the content on the phone. The fact that the person using the phone learns to ignore the lines. The very visceral nature of the cracks calls to mind the physical nature of our devices upon which we view the world.

What would be a good photo to show on a cracked screen? Should it be the floor of the train? That would provide a nice simple backdrop for the cracks. The photo of the floor would have some good texture to it. Not just some generic photo. But one close enough to the floor where you can almost feel the material.

I'm too shy to approach strangers, so this will probably never happen. But it's fun to think about how different photos would appear under various cracked screens. This idea was inspired by the book review for "The Camera as Afterthought: Defining Post-Photography." This looks to be a very interesting book. One of the examples in the review is a series of photos of paintings from museums that show the glares from the museum lighting.

I've done a series similar to this with Light on Ellsworth Kelly at the @artinstitutechi.
Light on Ellsworth Kelly at the @artinstitutechi

Anyways, back to cracked screens. What would make for a cool photo to show behind a cracked screen? Looking through cracked screen photos on flickr, the ones with the most simple background tend to show off the cracks better.

0 archived comments | | Wednesday, October 08, 2014
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Public spectacles don't always catch on fire

The house that wouldn't burn (Great Chicago Fire Festival)

Three wooden mansions floating on the Chicago River to be torched. Fire! Fire! Fire! For entertainment, everyone loves a good fire. A week before the festival, the wooden mansions sat by three Chicago bridges with a sign saying, "watch me burn." Such is the hype for the Great Chicago Fire Festival.

Every couple years Chicago has an event with such electricity among the crowd, you feel like you are participating in something special.
* Chicago Cubs one game away from the World Series, 2003
* Millennium Park opening of 2004
* Chicago's 2007 bid for the Winter Olympics
* Obama's election in 2007
* Oprah Winfrey's 2009 show on Michigan Avenue
* Blackhawks championship parade of 2010
* Transformers 2010 filming in Chicago

In all these events the crowd was on fire. The October crowd for the 2014 Chicago Fire Festival had an electricity. The chilly temperatures brought out only the brave. The evening twilight provided the backdrop for a unique event, a theatre on the river.

Panoramic of The Great Chicago Fire Festival

A sense of the unexpected was in the air. Just how would these houses burn down? What sort of dramatics will we see with mixing fire and water?

The crowd packed in along the Chicago River, on a young riverwalk under 10 years old. Everyone claiming spots to see one of the three houses burn down. The large crowd of all races mixed in with the spectacle of public theatre had the feeling of an Olympics opening ceremony. I commented to my fiancee, "this must be what it feels like to be at an Olympics ceremony."

We all stood around waiting for the festivities to start. Just how will they pull this off? A loud voice came over the speakers introducing the event, explaining what the meaning behind different caludrons being ignited by representatives of different communities. Ah yes! Instead of country representatives in the Olympics, there are community representatives.

The flame was carried in by an artistic steamboat. However due to the curve in the river, we couldn't see the steamboat. Only the voice of Mark Stafford, the MC, could be heard explaining how Chicago was a timberbox 142 years ago.

Then a pause. A long pause. Half an hour passed by without our house being ignited. The crowd chanted, "WE WANT FIRE! WE WANT FIRE!" and "BURN IT DOWN! BURN IT DOWN!" In response, the dismebodied voice explained over the speakers, "Ladies and gentlemen...we're having some electrical problems. But sit tight, this is going to be a GRAND SPECTACLE"

More delay.

The voice came on again, "Thank you for waiting, due to electronic problems, the fire will be set manually." The crowd said things like in these tweets:

The crowd chanted "GET A COW! GET A COW!"

The third house finally starts to burn on the Chicago River at the Great Chicago Fire Festival

A small fire was finally spotted inside the house. The crowd cheered with relief. The fire died out. The crowd laughed. This malfunction made it seem all the more like being at an Olympics opening ceremony. The 5th spire that wouldn't lift at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics. The 5th ring that wouldn't expand at the 2014 Sochi Olympics. Now the houses that wouldn't burn on the Chicago River.

A few more minutes pass by and eventually the fire started to catch on slowly. Very slowly. It looked like watching a campfire where the wood slowly--s l o w ly--burns.
As the Chicago Tribune reports, the crowd left "feeling burned." But Chicago has a past with electrifying events dieing out. The 2003 Cubs were five outs away from going to the World Series only to lose the game. The 2007 Chicago bid for the 2016 Olympics ended up with Chicago getting last place.

But Chicago always manages to rise up from defeats. Chicago will rise again after the Burned Chicago Fire Festival.

0 archived comments | | Sunday, October 05, 2014
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How to worry less by taking more photos

Colored bricks like stained glass

Yeah! Take more photos! Taking photos makes you more observant of your surroundings. Pausing and considering things around you gives you perspective. Often I can get too wrapped up inside my head about life and worrying. To get outside of my head, I'll simply observe and be in the moment.

When I'm not observing and connecting to the spaces around me, I get stressed and worry about things. I'll get frustrated about work, or that certain things I do in life aren't working as well as I thought. But those are all things inside my head.

To get outside of my head, it's literally getting outside. my. head. By looking outside myself. Looking at the spaces around me. And not just looking, but connecting. One way of connecting is through photographing the space from many different angles.

Photo collage of colored bricksThis bricks photo is the result of 20 different photos. About half way through shooting these colorful bricks, I really wanted to shoot them in HDR, so the colors can REALLY pop. But that requires my camera to be steady, because it shoots a couple exposures. If I shake my camera, the exposures won't be aligned.

So being observant, a metal chair was sitting nearby in the plaza. I dragged the chair over for an impromptu tripod to steady my camera. So now, I was able to connect with the space but not just photographing it, but by interacting with the objects in the area.

All this is to get outside my head, and connecting with the space. This connections brings calm to my life.

That interaction gets carried even further when I share the photos online, and when people share appreciation for the photos.

When you engage with your surroundings, you simply worry less. It all starts with observing, and then taking an action in the space. In some cases the action is photographing. Sometimes the action is moving a chair. Sometimes the action might be simply hop-scotching along the bricks. But there is always an action that gets followed up by the observation.

0 archived comments | | Thursday, October 02, 2014
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Photographing pumpkins behind a fence

Pumpkins are here!

The bright orange pumpkins have arrived just in time for October. Rows and rows of fresh pumpkins sit happily behind a glossy black fence. Soft morning sunlight illuminates the contrast of orange against green.

Pumpkinseed behind a fenceWhile photographing this scene, I wanted to include the fence, but the pumpkins weren't the heros. The fence was getting in the way, so I placed my phone against the fence to get a close up a pumpkin. The curved handle on this pumpkin makes a great hero for the shot. Plus, the low morning light really brings out some great textures on the pumpkin's surface.

The fence still made it into the photo through the shadows that fall onto the pumpkin in the foreground.

When composing a photo, sometimes things you really want in the photo (like the fence) don't always make the composition, but there are other ways to get the subject into the photo (like through a shadow).

0 archived comments | | Wednesday, October 01, 2014
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Spudart photos reach pinnacle on Flickr

Every day Flickr ranks the top 500 photos posted to popular photo sharing service. 1.4 million photos are posted to the service every day, so to be ranked in the top 500 is quite an achievement.

In 2014 alone, I am honored to say that seven (now ten) of my photos have been featured in Flickr's top 500, also known as Explore. My most recent entry into Explore is a photo that my fiancee took! While shopping for paper at the Paper Source in Oak Park last weekend, I asked Sarah to snap a photo of me selecting paper. Instead of a close-up shot, she framed the wide shot to include the wide spectrum of paper. The resulting photo is quite impressive with all the colors behind my monochromatic outfit. I'm so happy that a photo she took reached Explore! It is currently ranked #346.

#346, September 14, 2014
Shopping for paper at Paper Source
Shopping for paper at Paper Source

#436, June 19, 2014
Bridges up at Clark Street
Bridges up at Clark Street

#422, July 1, 2014
Skin-texture cloud floats above Wrigley Building in Chicago
Skin-texture cloud floats above Wrigley Building in Chicago

#396 July 28, 2014
The inflatable 81 Lawrence bus
The inflatable 81 Lawrence bus

#137, July 30, 2014
Two origami butterflies on the Tribune Tower rock ledge
Sarah helped me make these origami butterflies! It's so cool to see the projects we do together resonating on Flickr.
Two origami butterflies on the Tribune Tower rock ledge

#458 August 21, 2014
Origami swan street art in Chicago flower bed
Origami swan street art in Chicago flower bed

#372, September 6, 2014
Storm clouds roll over Wrigley Field
Storm clouds roll over Wrigley Field

#237, September 18, 2014
McDonalds bag origami atop garbage can
McDonalds bag origami atop garbage can

#338 October 1, 2014
End of summer 2014
End of summer 2014

#494 October 1, 2014 (two in one day!)
Pumpkins are here!
Pumpkins are here!

0 archived comments | | Wednesday, September 17, 2014
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23 questions on a train ride

Encountering life's questions on a CTA train

You encounter what appears to be a wall of notes written by a crazy person. 23 sticky notes arranged on a grid by a seat on the train. Many reflective questions that question our perspective of life. Questions of self-awareness and human nature. Why would someone be rapid-firing all these questions onto sticky notes on the train?
  • What is your most important place?
  • Where do you look for significance?
  • Where are you going?
  • What are the thoughts of your head?
  • Will you sacrifice yourself for love of others?
  • Why do you work?
  • Why do you stay in your current place?
  • Whom do you love?
  • When you wake up at 3am, what are you thinking about?
  • How do we want ot be noticed?
  • The length of a train ride versus the length to express your concern to someone
  • Quietly thoughts float over guided tracks
  • How do you find expression?
  • Are you ruled by time?
  • Curiosity will find expression.
  • We bow down to time. Deadlines. Do you worship time?
  • If you do something enought times; does that make you crazy, or make you an expert?
  • Observe the textures.
  • Pause or play?
  • How do you want to be noticed?
  • Why am I only at Wellington when I need to be at Western?
  • Txt a friend. Snapchat a friend. Email a friend. Snail mail a friend. Your choice.
  • What do you like doing?
  • [And an empty sticky note, just because it's all symbolic for a blank note to be posted]
Actually, I can tell you, because the person who did these. I love leaving sticky notes in public spaces. The 3-inch square piece of paper is a perfect vehicle for communicating a thought to the unknown public. (or 2-inch by 1.5-inch for the smaller quicker note). Whether it's:

I like overly blue water caps
Pointing out some detail that I like.

If you take these speakers, you must play Bach on them once a week. These speakers enjoy Bach.
Or instructions on an alley giveaway.

Call to God: Shawn Pahnke of Shelbyville, Indiana
Or prayers for the family of someone who gave their life up for our country.

Or leaving love notes around your girlfriend (now fiancee's) condo. (Sorry, no public pics of those.)

I love communicating via sticky notes. The sticky note is my canvas. I'd love for the sticky note to be the canvas of others, so I encourage people to do the same.

One of the goals in my life is to encourage people live a more reflective life. Thus, questions are a great vehicle to promote thinking about purpose and perspective. What are the questions that strangers on the train think about? These 23 questions are ones that pop into my head through time alone, or through conversations with others. I wanted to be able to capture this rapid-fire brainstorm of questions, so they can be shared with others.

Granted, the large collection of them together is a bit crazy to encounter. But I see the train's walls as a mechanism, a canvas to which ideas can stick. Perhaps these ideas will stick in other people's heads as well.

0 archived comments | | Thursday, September 04, 2014
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Beach stone that looks like Da Vinci paintings

My Uncle Bill posted a few photos of a beach stone that looks like a heart. I ran his three images in Google Image search and came up with three other things his stone looks like:

Beach stone looks like Da Vinci paintings
This beach stone looks like Da Vinci paintings.
Google says this beach stone looks like Da Vinci paintings

beach stone looks like cave drawings
This beach stone looks like cave drawings.
Google says this beach stone looks like cave drawings

beach stone that looks like body tattoos
And this shot of the beach rock makes it look like body tattoos.
Google says this beach rock looks like body tattoos

0 archived comments | | Wednesday, August 27, 2014
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Words with "art" in the middle

"art" is at the core of "earth" so is:


Fun that art would be the core of farts, party, and warty.

Then for 7-letter words, art being exactly at the center:
dearths, hearted, hearten, hearths, pearter, peartly, quartan, quarter, quartes, quartet, quartic, quartos, smarted, smarten, smarter, smartie, smartly, swarths, swarthy,

Do we even dare try 9-letter words?
bipartite, copartner, departees, departing, departure, imparters, impartial, imparting, inearthed, nonartist, unearthed, unearthly, updarting, upstarted.

I didn't think 9-letter words would be possible, so maybe there are some 11-letter words. Indeed there are three!
compartment, nonpartisan, unchartered.

We have truly gone into unchartered territories! However, it bottoms out at 13-letter words. Or at least the Scrabble Word Finder bottoms out. Now, what shall we do with all these words?

0 archived comments | | Wednesday, August 06, 2014
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The truth of Seinfeld can be applied to comic strips

If you say Seinfeld is a show about nothing, then you know nothing about the Seinfeld sitcom.

Seinfield is about everything

It's not a show about nothing. It's a show about everything, says Nico Lang of the Daily Dot's great article, "Debunking the biggest myth about 'Seinfield' that everyone believes"

One could be forgiven for the misapprehension--as Seinfeld's entire fourth season is a meta-commentary on the idea--but it's simply not true. In a Reddit AMA earlier this year, Jerry Seinfeld clarified that he and co-creator Larry David pitched the idea to NBC as a "a show about how a comedian gets his material," and according to Seinfeld, he and David were initially surprised that the "show about nothing" tag took over the discourse the way it did. In fact, it would be more apt to say that it's a show about everything.

Comic strips today are much like Seinfeld's material of the every day. But how comic strips actually use it in a story line could be improved. See next two points.

Interwoven narrative

Prior to Seinfeld, most sitcoms broke down into an A-story and a B-story, and the supporting story could take the form of a so-called 'runner,' jokes that continued throughout the episode and told a very loose story but didn't do much more than that. Particularly in its best episodes, Seinfeld blew all of that up. Even in an episode like the famous 'The Contest' (the one with the competition to see which of the central foursome can go the longest without masturbating), each of the four characters is handed their own storyline, all four of which tie together in the final moments to create a whole larger than its parts.

Comic strips tend to be one-shot gags--partly because of the medium. We only sit down and read three panels in one day. Whereas Seinfeld has the opportunity of capturing a viewer's attention for 30 minutes. Take those 30 minutes in comic strip time, and you end up with 30 days--or about six weeks of comics. It would be wonderful to see comic strips have longer story arcs that bend around and come back together after six weeks. To have the final week of gags tie together gags from earlier in the month. Add some complexity to comic strips.


The show was famous for its "no learning, no hugging" rule, and what was then so unique about the show is how often the aforementioned final moments resist true narrative resolution, the nice bow on the action that Friends or Everybody Loves Raymond might provide. In each of the two, the show's central conflicts will be resolved and amends made; Raymond might fight with his mother, but at the end of the show, they have to come to a mutual understanding in order to keep up the pretense of family.

In many episodes of Seinfeld, the situations don't resolve; they get increasingly worse until they just can't anymore--and the show has to end. During "The Junior Mint," Jerry can't remember his girlfriend's name, except that it rhymes a with a "female body part." In true Seinfeld fashion, he avoids the conflict until she confesses she's falling in love with him, sweetly repeating his name. He can't reciprocate, which causes him to be exposed. Rather than giving up the ruse, Jerry guesses that her name is: "Mulva?" After she storms out, he finally remembers her name, calling after her, "Dolores!"

Today's syndicated comic strips are driven into the ground by stupid resolutions at the end of the strip. Every day there's some sort of "OH WOW, YOU DID THAT? THAT'S STUPID" reaction by one of the characters. It's dumb and not needed. Let the comic strip not resolve itself. Let the creative idea hang in the reader's mind.

Seinfeld let its creativity move around in interwoven narrative that didn't resolve itself. Seinfeld let the viewer think about the show after it ended, comic strips can do the same by eliminating the stupid reactions at the end of a comic strip.

0 archived comments | | Tuesday, August 05, 2014
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