NEO's first real blogger - billboard logger, that is

Submitted by Norm Roulet on Sun, 07/02/2006 - 00:39.


Anyone who knows NEO knows the wild billboards - or billblogs - painted and posted by Russell Sysack on his property right where W.25th becomes Pearl Road - I don't know how long this inflaming sign painter has been posting these Billblogs but its been as long as I can remember. Not being from that part of town, I largely remember knowing about the billblogs because they are intentionally controversial tests of public tolerance and the right to free speech.

Consider one Sysack billblog was covered in the 2002 Sun Press for comparing MLK Jr. to bin Lauden, and that the billblog was set on fire, and the site of a protest led by U.S. Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones. Of that billblog, the Sun Press wrote "Sysack said that over the years, he's been sued and received bomb threats because of his signs". And, Sun reported, ""I take the right to free speech very seriously . . . however, the right to free speech is limited," Tubbs Jones said. She added that just as you can't yell "fire" in a theater, the First Amendment doesn't protect words "that incite people to violence.""

Sysack doesn't seem to have a website so his messages are more a spark than a fire. His inflaming is little different than so many folk who go on-line and express their personal, often ignorant and inflaming messages of hate of anything and everything. If his work was online, it would get much more attention, while being mild-mannered compared to other extremist content found in the virtual world. To me, Sysack's postings are well painted political satire of a rare sort and I'd be interested to see more of what he's done, just out of curiosity. I certainly know Sysack's work couldn't be worse for society than, the hate-mongering in the name of Jesus website of anti-homosexual propagandist Fred Phelps of the Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kansas, which was recently mentioned on an ABC 20/20, on the polarization of America, and has had over 5.3 million hits.

Warning!!!  Gospel Preaching Ahead


Oh, for less hateful times. What I miss were the humorous Buddy Simon billboards on Carnegie I remember as a kid... those died with the founder and that company is gone... their property's on the market right now... and I can't find any sign of these old signs on-line either, except there is one used book from 1981 called "Buddy Simon Sez" by Buddy Simon on eBay, so maybe there is one record left of his otherwise lost legacy... and perhaps Sysack will be forgotten just as easily. That's the biggest difference between Billblogs and Weblogs, in this virtual age.

Sysack helps bring us back into balance

Sysack has been in our consciousness since the '80s, and he really got going on issues in the '90s when Mike White began compromising the public interest. He might be extreme, but he's necessary; he forces us to think back towards a middle position. By temperament, perhaps by training, he's a cartoonist, and it's his purpose to distort and amplify so as to reveal or enlighten. We shouldn't take cartoons too literally. Those who do, do so with the intent of silencing him.

We also need to realize that we can't look for good taste when it comes to addressing outrageous or extreme abuses. Sysack speaks to big problems, and he uses strong talk. The issues make him do it.

Some time we'll have to run by his signs and have lunch up at Dee's Old Brooklyn Diner or go to Monday Night Steak Night at the Pearl Road Tavern. Sysack's part of our neighborhood.

Ask Sysack if he'd like to go virtual

I agree completley. If you know Sysack or are in his area or have time to call, can you ask him if he'd like to archive his work online, if he has images from the past. I'd really love to see all his work to get a complete vision, and I would be pleased to provide the technology and a bit of help getting him going... from there, it would be possible for the community to interact and explore his viewpoints in a larger context, which would be fascinating.

Disrupt IT

I talked to his sister just now

Norm, I talked to Russ' sister, Nancy, just now, and she thinks this is an interesting offer you've made. I offered to make the introductions, even if it is merely on a three-way call.

 She also tells me she needs some expertise on cleaning an oil painting; our discussion had ranged to the CIA and things, and I had said you had connections there.

I guess Russell will let us know how to proceed here. I also gave Nancy your phone number.

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