Burroughs Adding Machine

Social justice, arts and politics, life in New York City

Finger-painting New York on iPhones

Jorge Colombo, a regular artist for The New Yorker, has been sketching glimpses of New York City since May. Not so unusual, save for the fact that he makes these images on his iPhone: dead-end streets beneath the Brooklyn Bridge, sunsets over the East River, families watching that iconic train schedule board at Penn Station.


He uses an application called Brushes on his iPhone. What was his inspiration?

“I got a phone in the beginning of February, and I immediately got the program so I could entertain myself,” says Colombo, who first published his drawings in The New Yorker in 1994. Colombo has been drawing since he was seven, but he discovered an advantage of digital drawing on a nighttime drive to Vermont. “Before, unless I had a flashlight or a miner’s hat, I could not draw in the dark.” (When the sun is up, it’s a bit harder, “because of the glare on the phone,” he says.) It also allows him to draw without being noticed; most pedestrians assume he’s checking his e-mail.

The artist at work is a joy to watch: Colombo begins in broad strokes of color, then adds layers that might contain skylines and geometric shapes, finally ending with specific details. There’s a neon-like quality to the Brushes application that also intrigued me. Read more about Colombo and his New Yorker covers.


Filed under: art, , , , , , ,

Jacko’s “This is It” Opens Today

“This is It,” the documentary of Michael Jackson’s last tour rehearsals, opens today in major cities nationwide. I’m not gonna lie–I’m an unabashed devotee of Jackson and his music. As a kid growing up in the 80’s, his music impacted me despite racial, economic, and cultural differences. The CNN/AP footage above excerpts part of Jackson’s rehearsals for the tour.

When Jackson died this past summer, I was surprised by the reactions of my undergraduates. Where I mourned the passing of a great artist, my students–a generation younger than me–only saw a freak show. My students focused on Jackson’s baby-dangling, his extensive plastic surgery, and the scandals tied up in his Neverland ranch and inappropriate behavior with children.


My young undergrads never experienced Michael Jackson when he first appeared on the pop music scene. Jackson, of course, was instrumental to teenagers in the 80’s because of his raw lyrics, his mainstream accessibility of African Americans, and his artistry (the man invented the Moonwalk, for heaven’s sake–who else can claim this kind of global trend?). I remember sitting in front of the television in Council Bluffs, Iowa, at the stroke of midnight for the world premiere of “Thriller” on MTV (back when MTV was a video music channel, not a reality TV vehicle). In my living room, after my bedtime, I was drawn into Jackson’s early pop-and-lock choreography and the grotesque, fascinating vision of Jackson’s zombie crew.

Pre-YouTube and pre-copycat-artists, the original “Thriller” video was a sight to see.

Filed under: film, music, , , , ,

“When No One’s Looking”: NYT on Teen Runaways, Sex, and Survival


Ian Urbina writes for The New York Times an interesting series on teenage runaways, sex, and survival entitled “Running in the Shadows”. It’s a fascinating look at the issue from a variety of angles: the runaways and prostitutes themselves, their pimps, and law enforcement officials.

Strong reporting, with research on the motivations behind teenage prostitution and those who prey on this susceptible population. “Some look 12, some look 30. They all look scared,” the author reports in the video reportage (one of the Times‘ strengths). The pimps see themselves as “talent managers, not exploiters.” There’s a taped phone call from one of the pimps to a teenage prostitute that is harrowing.


Filed under: media, united states of america, women, , , , , ,

J-School and Jay-Z

A group of J-School students. A project to write a journalist’s oath of ethics. Pretty standard stuff, right?

This rambunctious group of grad students add a little hip-hop twist to their assignment, freestyling their oath to Jay-Z’s “Empire State of Mind.” In-jokes to avoid the mistakes of Jayson Blair and Stephen Glass. And the promise to “assume nothing, G. Cause if you assume, son…” Fun to watch these future journalists liven things up a bit.


Filed under: media, , , , , ,

WWII Vet on Marriage Equality: “What do you think I fought for?”

A moving video of Philip Spooner, an 86 year-old WWII veteran, who testified for gay marriage in Maine. “A woman at my polling place asked me, ‘Do you believe in equality for gay and lesbian people?’ I was pretty surprised to be asked a question like that. It made no sense to me.”

Spooner continues, with candor and compassion: “Finally, I asked her, ‘What do you think I fought for at Omaha Beach?”

As election day nears, polls show that Maine voters are split on marriage equality: 48% in favor; 48% against. Critics worry about a repeat of the Prop 8 fiasco in California. Now, more than ever, we need to voice our support for marriage equality as clearly as Philip Spooner.


Filed under: gay rights, , , , , , ,



» "Pinays," AGNI, Spring 2016
» "Dandy," Post Road, Spring 2015
» "Wrestlers," Fifth Wednesday, Spring 2014
» "Babies," Joyland, August 2011
» "Nicolette and Maribel," BostonNow, May 2007
» "The Rice Bowl," Memorious, March 2005
» "The Rules of the Game," Screaming Monkeys: Critiques of Asian American Images (Coffee House Press, June 2003)
» "Deaf Mute," Growing Up Filipino (Philippine American Literary House, April 2003)
» "Good Men ," Genre, April 2003
» "The Foley Artist," Drunken Boat, April 2002
» "Squatters," Take Out: Queer Writing from Asian Pacific America (Asian Am. Writers' Workshop, 2001)
» "Deaf Mute," The North American Review, Jan 2001
» "The First Lady of Our Filipino Nation," The Boston Phoenix, 1999
» "Paper Route," Flyway Literary Review, 1996
» "Brainy Smurf and the Council Bluffs Pride Parade," Generation Q (Alyson, 1996)
October 2009
« Sep   Nov »


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About Me

Ricco Villanueva Siasoco is a Manhattan-based writer and non-profit manager. More

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