WHY SHOULDN’T URBAN PLANNING BE A PARTY? On two nights in November, Minneapolis planners hosted the public for free food, a live quiz show, and a series of art happenings to gather input on the city’s Comprehensive Plan. Public Acts of Drawing (me and Marx Studio in this iteration) traced historical maps of the city and asked attendees to layer on their visions of our future.

So what change do we want to see in the world? Parks, boulevards, bike freeways, sculpture gardens, several gargantuan monuments, and a Doll City, to name a few.


Old Man John Brown, subject of “The Fighting Farmer,” Steve Davis’s history of Iowa abolitionists coming in 2014.


JB Iowa_WeeklyGazette

Portrait of Brown on horseback, 1877, published in the Davenport (Iowa) Weekly Gazette.



Detail of the outraged actress from Raymond Pettibon’s illustration for the Minutemen’s Paranoid Time 7″.



A much-parodied bumper sticker.



CBGB in NYC, known as the spawning ground of punk, New Wave and vintage cowboy type.

equal JB_JNdrawing_ForLetterpress_WWJBD

An illustration for the Fighting Farmer book, Boxcar letterpress experiments by MakeSh!t, and possibly a T-shirt.

WWJBD? I’d venture he would free Bradley Manning, demand amnesty for Edward Snowden, clean up our criminal “justice” system, open the borders, and otherwise slap us silly with his Stick of Righteousness. Truly a hero for our time.


MY LOCAL HABITAT TURNED INHOSPITABLE OVERNIGHT with the kick off of a long-delayed kitchen renovation. The place where just last week I made toast is now a primitive, nail-strewn cave stripped of every amenity (water, stove, Nutella), accessed through an E.T.-like zippered facade. The contents of our pantry and cupboards are piled along all available walls. For the next 12 to 16 weeks we will not cook as much as warm things up. Dishes will be washed in the bathtub.

I don’t deserve pity. Remodeling pain is the bougiest gripe of all time (up there with Finding Good Help). But we are accepting dinner invitations.

Last month I rehabilitated a Polaroid Landcamera, a toy I hadn’t touched in years. While the original company is dead, off-brand peel-apart film is available on Amazon for no more than it cost in 2003.

My first rolls were mostly dark and blurry. I have to relearn how to compose carefully and shoot slow.



If there’s more mind-warping fun to be had with an iPhone than mis-use of panoramic stitching, show it to me.

14By now it’s old news that my sister had a baby. I’d say she’s doing okay with it.


We’ve had a lot of family visitors lately on account of ‘Lil Charley, including my half-sister Emily, seen here with my step-nephew-if-my-sister-were-married, Frank. Step-aunts, step-grandmas and multiple half-brothers also showed up. Johanna and her quasi-cousins need to be reminded Who is He (and What Is He to You)?


I’m in the middle of doing a video for my farm technology client. It involves hiring screen actors, but really only their legs. At the casting we picked five pairs from dozens of auditions, mostly ones whose shoes we liked.


There wasn’t much for Johanna to do when we said Go Outside and Play, so I and some Work & Company helpers put up a trapeze. It took a ridiculous amount of effort to anchor the rope in our massive oak. Overall it’s an engineering masterpiece, though Jo has to swing carefully to avoid smacking into trees and fences.


Took a field trip with Witt to the MCAD library, where you can freely paw artists books by legends like Sol Lewitt, Bruce Neumann and Ed Ruscha (though you gotta wear the Mickey gloves).

IMG_0598 IMG_0597

I topped off my Summer of Cycling with a balmy (100°+) camping ride to Afton State Park with Lucas. So wrung out were we by the heat and exertion that we barely drained our bourbon flasks. But having brought little food on account of weight, we needed the calories.


In exchange for helping make a website for his bobblehead empire (Phase 2), I’ve been immortalized by sculptor Bryan Guise. It’s like he’s revealed my essential self: part Eminem, part John Cusack, part graying guy with an over-familiar stare.


I’ve been binging on Lou Reed and V.U. (and tributes and photos) this week. Waiting for the right moment of cathartic dissolution to throw on Side B of White Light White Heat. Lou hits a deep vein.


SINCE I STARTED THIS BLOG we got Obama, computer-phones, and one less planetSarah saved a school, Johanna attained literacy, and I had Asian food for lunch at least 250 times. Five years is a fair bit in Internet Time, especially for a project that’s as loose and lazy as a tour diary. By a band that doesn’t actually perform.

We are known to tour, though. Sarah’s on an art retreat in Santa Fe, staying in a casita near the home of “Georgie O’Keith” as Jo calls her (which should be a Who song if it’s not). In a colder, less creative venture, I just got back from interviewing farmers in North Dakota about mobile apps, with unexpected detours into raccoon trapping and trade with Kazakhstan. Strange, complicated work, but the wardrobe fits me to a T.


When it’s not -10°, I’m surveying our new ‘hood. There are impressive vistas and ruins if you know where to look. In this depopulated swath between the Cities, transients and graffiti writers rule. Word is some of the industrial barrens may be cleared to build another brewery & tap room, which are to Minneapolis in 2013 what yoga studios were in 2004 and food trucks in 2009.


The attic’s transformation from cramped bat cave (literally) to airy loft workspace is complete. I have to hand it to Sarah, who pulled off a complicated set of requirements—air, electricity, walls, windows—using half a dozen different contractors, some she had to lean on hard. I did the finishing paint job. As I was not paid, she cut me some slack.


I had my own brief residence in Washington D.C. with old buddy Marc and fam. They’ve added a daughter, Vivian, since last I dropped in, who is not just adorable but highly conductive. They share a sweet, spacious rowhouse in a neighborhood called Columbia Heights, which I noted has a Pupuseria density of 3 per block.


D.C. always gives good art, but I got especially lucky this go-around with Ai Wei Wei at the Hirshhorn and Nam June Paik at the Smithsonian. Until I saw Ai’s work in person—vats of handpainted sunflower seeds, rooms full of reclaimed rebar from the Szechuan earthquake—I didn’t get how gorgeous (aside from lovely ideas) conceptual art can be. To paraphrase writer/calligrapher Job Wouters, Why fear beauty?

Nam June Paik is the patron saint of Obsolete Media Nerds (like me). This piece has an Information Age sheen, but most of the show is (de)constructed from TV sets and monitors made in the 60s, 70s and 80s.


Made it out to Mount Vernon, the period-accurate estate of the Father of Our Country. FoOC and Martha had a nice spread (their slaves, less so). I enjoyed the hobby farm and the composting outhouse George invented that seats three at a time.


6/7 of the MakeSh!t Mini Golf Innovation Squad atop our hole in progress, which at this point is a 14′-wide plywood quesadilla. Can we make this thing playable by Memorial Day? We have man power and competing visions in abundance.


A crowd of Nassifs—my uncle, sister, grandmother, dad and aunt—sharing old family pictures on a recent visit to the Mother Land. On the right is my grandfather, Bernie, surrounded by his parents and 6 (!) older sisters. I’ve known several of my great-aunts and can barely fathom the smothering love that kid must have endured.


Here’s a drawing I did of a man who looks something like me crossed with a rodent. On the right, an unintentional visual rhyme, also the most popular picture I ever put on Instagram.


When not heralding the future of farm technology, I’ve been working with a local non-profit that among other things recycles mattresses down to the staples and springs. I toured their facility in Southeast Minneapolis where ex-cons and people in drug recovery disembowel beds (my role is less hands-on, thankfully). Meanwhile, I’m crushing out another endless winter out on some urban cross-country runs with Lucas. This is about as close as I get to catching that guy.

Jo’s earnestly tuneless Jackson 5 rendition, only a bit more recognizable when sung by 50 1st graders at once. Pardon the destroyed kitchen; we are barely civilized at the moment.

>Dorothy Ashby / Afro-Harping – Soul Vibrations
>> David Bowie – Five Years


This is an excerpt of a MakeSh!t proposal submitted for artist-designed Mini Golf at the Walker to take place in summer 2013. Fingers crossed! UPDATE 1/9/13: WE’RE IN.

CONCEPT: Once (maybe twice) in lifetime, something happens that transforms a favorite pastime forever. For the sport of Mini Golf, that time is next summer at the Walker Sculpture Garden. Roaming Hole Gardens (RHG) employs the game’s familiar assets and rules but with one crucial twist: the target hole roams. In lieu of taking her usual shot, a player may instead relocate one of 6 topiary plugs into the open hole, thereby opening a different hole—a new target!—for the round. The new hole becomes everyone’s object—that is until another player chooses to move the hole instead of swinging for it. With this deceptively simple change, the sport attains a mind-blowing new level of challenge, strategy and competition while remaining easy enough for anyone to play.

MATERIALS: 6 life-like mobile topiaries are made of outdoor-grade plastic for durability and ease of management. Each is anchored in a welded metal pot that allows it to be moved easily from one hole to another. The arrangement of these artificial trees, shrubs, grasses and bouquets evokes a manicured English garden, reinforced by the symmetrical course design. Other materials are tried and true mini golf: astroturf, plus simple walls and interior obstacles made of bent metal.

PLAYABILITY: Players are greeted at the hole’s start with one rule: “On your turn hit your ball OR move the hole.” The party’s first player may take a shot at whichever hole is then open (subject to the whims of the previous group) or use his turn to move the hole. RHG’s simple design means you are never more than a shot or two away from the target hole. But depending on how merciless your opponents are, it could take several more swings to finish (we recommend a 6-shot limit). Once any player sinks the hole, she collects her ball and stands by as others complete the round.


>> Silver Jews — K-Hole
>> Patti Smith — Pastime Paradise


WE’RE CONSUMED BY TRANSITIONAL EMERGENCIES both tedious (where to put the boxes) and terrifying (a late-season influx of bats).

So this quick one before I lose another a month: a belated love-note to the neighborhood we called home until September.

Drafting a local Bingo Board has been on my list since at least 2009 (along with “Renegade Bible Bookmarks” and “90s Night” podcasts). I guess I needed to relocate to see Longfellow with clear eyes. The beauty and character of a lot of South Minneapolis, that’s there for sure, but it’s the stubborn homeliness that charmed me—a place unassuming yet unabashedly itself, where change can only be measured in decades.

On a good day, you could blackout this Bingo card in three blocks. Though it would be very Longfellow to stretch the game over several years and have its final completion continually in doubt.

Goodbye, old ‘hood. I’m gonna miss you (if not quite yet, then as soon as I’m fighting for a parking space in a Snow Emergency).

> People Under the Stairs – Talkin’ Back to the Streets

IN A RAPIDLY WARMING, PETROLEUM-SCARCE WORLD, long-haul road trips may no longer be defensible. But weighing our waste against the lure of a righteous mountain cabin just outside Yellowstone, we said Screw It and got in the van. Having only driven around it before, I worried the Park wouldn’t live up to the hype. Was it just the darling of people who’d never gone elsewhere (my strong suspicion about all Disney Resort-lovers)? Would it pale next to the postcards?

No. Yellowstone proved to be a steaming smorgasbord of vividly bizarre wonders. It’s one of the few times where conventional wisdom knew what was good for me.

Our ride was deluxe, a big honkin’ GM van worthy of my weirdest uncle circa 1980. Six bucket seats. CD/DVD/cassette. Lingering scent of industrial solvent. 1,100 miles flew by, at least up front in the Dad Cab.

We spent a night in western North Dakota, land of fracking fortunes, gargantuan pickups and shockingly overpriced Days Inns. Then a final 600-mile haul through Montana, which looks like this when the maps bleach out.

The park’s surreal chromatics come from heat-seeking bacteria that cluster along thermal springs according to their temperature (above and below). Did that sound convincing? Because I have no idea what I’m talking about. It might as well be made of Jell-O. Click for a better view.

Jo Jo posing elegantly on the Yellowstone River; Her and Isobel in matching Harajuku Mini meshcaps. These two built dams, rode horses, braved whitewater and went all Frontierswomen for a week (we oldsters honed our Picnicking and Wine Guzzling skillz).

So Old Faithful? People go bonkers for that. Intent on capturing all its glory, this dude butted to the front of the crowd with his iPad aloft. It’s like 68°. Where’s your shirt?

Jenney and Sarah hike above the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone (right). Our crew had some unique flair too, no?

Bouldering! Also known as scampering atop rocks.

An invented topographic landscape, from a series of romantic moonlit drawing sessions Lucas and I did after everybody else crashed.

Me on Boulder. This field was littered with gnawed-on bones and other wildlife traces, though animals in the flesh were scarce. They smell you coming.

Sarah’s cross-stitch parting gift to the Lazy M cabin (left). I knew we’d enjoy the stargazing deck and full kitchen, but the hair salon was a nice surprise.

Hiking the miles of empty ranchland around the Lazy M, Lucas and I ducked into an old homestead abandoned for decades (right). After experiencing the century’s-worth of tourist infrastructure around Yellowstone, I’m reassured by places that may stay wild and neglected forever.

Big thanks to Jenney, Lucas, and his big-hearted patron Emily for sharing all this splendor. I’d say we’ll return the favor, but who would ever loan me something that good?

>> Lightning Bolt – Magic Mountain
>> Fiery Furnaces – Evergreen

ALONG WITH SO MUCH ELSE IN AUGUST, this happened: my Thursday night crew set up a drawing station near St. Anthony Main across the river from downtown, turned a camera on it, and projected the scene onto a mill two stories high. Trading markers and high-fives with random passersby made our usual private dithering thrillingly monumental (the image up top is 10-feet wide; one we made the next week scrolls to nearly 20 feet).

As enjoyable as it was, more remarkable is that the resulting art—completely undirected, created by drawers of wildly varying commitment and style—is good. Nice enough to contribute slices to the $99 fundraiser show at the Soap Factory, a gallery 150 feet from where we’re drawing.

Credit for the idea and esprit de corps goes to MS! stalwart Aaron, who furnished the projector, the soundtrack (much louder than I guessed we could be in the city), and even a highlights reel (below). To echo a sentiment from several who stumbled on our confab, this is why I love Minneapolis.

UPDATE: More documentation (one of Make Sh!t’s specialties), this one by Paul.

>> Unknown Mortal Orchestra – Funny Friends