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FEBRUARY 4, 2010   

Ze Frank

Ze Frank's How to Dance Properly websiteNot sure how I first came across the goofy postage-stamp sized Dance Properly videos that made Ze Frank an internet phenomenon in 2001.

He emailed video demos of "Who's Your Daddy?" and "Stir the Pot, Of Love" to 17 friends as a party invitation. After a few days he was getting millions of hits on his website.

Months later I met him at a workshop in PIttsburgh, and not too long after that we brought him to Tri-C for a lecture and workshop with students. Great fun.

Wikipedia calls him an "online performance artist" and "humorist." I think of him as an interactive artist/designer with a wonderful sense of humor who understands that it's about people not technology. In Ze's words:

In an ever-changing technological landscape, where today’s platforms are not tomorrow’s platforms, the key seems to be that any one of these spaces can use a dose of humanity and art and culture.

Haven't paid much attention to what he's been up to recently until the magic of Twitter brought news of his newest project...

Pain Pack

Instructions from Ze Frank's Pain Pack websiteLeave it to Ze to try to transform pain into beauty. With his Pain Pack project he asked people to leave phone messages describing emotional pain that they were feeling.

He then sent (with permission) the messages to musicians and DJs, asking them to make them into sounds—samples—that could be "percussive, ambient, tonal—anything—as long as they [were] derived from these voicemails and [were] not recognizable in any significant way."

He got back 138 samples—the Pain Pack—and invited musicians, DJs and anyone else to transform them into songs. As of today there are about a dozen on the site that range from moody techno to an uplifting ballad called "Whole" that Ze created himself. Listen & participate at the Pain Pack website.

A Childhood Walk

Two houses on Heath AvenueThe folks who lived in the house with brick steps were customers on my Cleveland Press paper route. I knew their name then, of course, but no more.

The house wasn't that color, and it looked a lot bigger. For a long time I wanted a boxer of my own because I liked the one that lived there.

Every afternoon I'd wait at the corner of East 93rd and Laisy Avenue with a couple of other paperboys. Between 3:30 and 4:00 a blue Press truck would stop and the driver would throw out bundles of papers. We'd count 'em quickly to be sure we had what we needed, then put them into our official Press canvas bags, and walk in different directions to deliver them to the porches of our neighbors.

9405 Heath Avenue, Cleveland OhioThanks to Ze's A Childhood Walk project and Google Maps, I've been wandering around my old East Side Cleveland neighborhood. Some spots haven't changed much. Others I can barely recognize.

My old house looks a bit better than when we left it in 1965. New siding and windows have updated it.

There's still that damn latticework under the porch that I had to paint every summer.

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