Friday, December 02, 2005

On Memorials

A contrast

It was brought to my attention today by a friend in the studio that Daniel Liebeskind, the new starchitect forger of the World Trade Center master plan, is the figure of a new round of anecdotes highlighting his absurdity. My friend mentioned a 9-11 memorial just finished by Liebeskind in France that takes it conceptual origins from the prophesies of Nostradamus, who, according to Liebeskind's esoterics, predicted 9-11. The same sort of games are occuring here in the US as well, and it's important to frame these currents within their appropriate categories of charades.

Viewing renderings (the flashy computer illustrations of a proposed building or space) of the new 'Freedom Center' I was struck by the thesis of mourning that is evident throughout. The people illustrated in the renderings are mostly shown in postures of reflection or mourning--dropped shoulders, flowers in hand, etc. This is a hilarity, of course, because the architects responsible for the renderings are characterized by two primary different modes of oblivion, which I would like to mention here:

1. Fetish of the icon

Architects, for all their intelligence, are not bright people. They are near-sighted individuals for the most part, who tend to be products of cultural rootlessness or phenomenological-historical identity rebellion (that is to say, they have no tangible conception of who they are that can stand alone and therefore requires a constant state of rebellion to, in essence, assume an identity by railing against identity. Such recursive infinite loops are not only logically bleak but they tend to stem, I have observed, from bored childhoods and the escapism that relativism provides insecure teenagers in the post-modern and third-wave modern world--a world that I might describe with the metaphor of satellites floating in random space, refusing direct contact but arbitrarily floating around an ether of vacuousness). As a result of this phenomenological-historical identity rebellion, the architects that designed the Freedom Center (part of a vain of architects called 'The Vanguard' to which Harvard continues to make significant contributions) have no sense of a.) subtlety, b.) narrative, as in continuity, c.) cultural synthesis, or d.) the logistics of cultural myths. That is to say, they create self-standing, self-referential, self-assertive icons that have nothing to do with anything but stake their origin in esoteric, ephemeral characterizations and conceptual obejcts such as 'The Park of Heros' or 'the Wedge of Light' or 'the Freedom Center' or 'the Fountain of the Absent Void.' Who the hell knows what this stuff means. So you see here that icons such as 'The Freedom Center,' due to its inchoate and unclear purpose, depend strongly on cultural myths, such as the idea of 'freedom.' This is not to say that 'freedom' is not a viable concept, but it is to say that it is an ephemeral concept that no building can encapsulate, but is instead a term tossed around by sycophants like the President to exploit votes and gain support of Americans that cling on the stirring cries of 'freedom' in response to the myth that anyone who professes the world lives in an enlightened state of true bliss, liberty, honor, and righteousness (who then return to their cheaply-made unregulated trailers that are invariably built over toxic streams of mining operations runoff from which they will draw mercury water to wash down the Stouffers microwavable, mass-produced, synthetic dinners. This is what I mean by the 'myths' culture, which, in order to address, architects use logistical gimmicks such as flag iconography, programmatic fillers such as a 'hall of reflection' or 'rooms of hope' in order to simply put people /somewhere/ in the massive space allocated for a 'Freedom Center' which gives no implicit guidance or rule because it depends on an ephemeral, contrived concept and a myths of dummied-down popular culture.

And this is where cultural synthesis comes in. Cultural synthesis is relating new spaces and buildings to the stories of the landscapes and architectures that surround a given space. But because too many architects are interested in creating self-referential icons, the possibility for true cultural synthesis is next to none. I think of an example in New York such as the Met. It is a monumental, dignifying building that speaks to its somewhat intrusive location at the edge of Central Park by voluntarily confining itself to the privilege of resting on Central Park real estate. This is in contrast to efforts today, such as in the siting of the Freedom Center downtown, which simply adapts a basically modernist plaza to infill the self-referential, iconic box that is the builidng itself. Because we have, to some small degree, learned from our mistakes and the empty, wind-swept modernist plaza is no longer acceptable as an architectural, urban, social, or environmental typology, architects now correct the issue by adding trees. Okay--this is a step in the right direction, but it doesn't change the fact that the plaza is still devoid of content. In fact, trees, just obscure the fact. It's better to have a tree-less, windswept plaza to make the icon as clear as possible, than to drop trees into the same concrete ocean that would manage to actually make the space less inhabitable, foster more places for the dubious freedom haters to hide--waiting to take your freedom--and make render the building an unintuitive sort of awkwardly looming chunk of mass out beyond those trees--somwhere, over there, right behind all those...trees...that are just...there. The difference with the Met in Central Park is that the park is also crafted for edifying human interaction and therefore tells a story along with the museum builidng about approach, landscape, the ture purposes of public architecture, and the /true/ freedom of an individual in the city--to move about unconstricted by iconic apathy in an environment that was designed for her to do just that--in which she might come to know an edifying sense of place and home that is interestingly complit with the publicness of the Met that rests just there up the path, past the crooked elm and up the knoll from the benches and the patch of apple blossoms.

And cultural synthesis requires a continuous narrative. Recall the third-modernist ether of floating satellites in space that interact with each othe only through radio waves and are otherwise arbitrarily floating in a rootless environment that is, incidentally, a vacuum. Cultural discontinuity yields a similar circumstance. But since so many architects today are trained in their naiveness (of which they are naive--it's a twofer) to reject the "sentimentality" of the non-modernist past and shun it as an inherently contrived fallacy, too many architects take the bait and bottlerocket themselves into the vacuous ether. I could go on for decades on this particular form of nihilism, but it would be too exhuasting.

And of course, icons--for the most part--lack subtlety. This is why they are icons. For some reason, the Vanguard thinks the world can only improve through increasingly shocking, bizzare, sci-fi, enigmatic, intentionally ugly, dysfunction-celebratory buildings and environments in which they sit. One need only flip through the publications that populate the bookshelves shelves of the Vanguard to see this nihilistic craze in full regalia. Another possibility is to look at Liebeskind's winning plan for the world trade center site. Or, you can read my post below on the reconstruction of the Gulf Coast for an example of such architecture. Enough said here, too.

2. Nihilism

Most shockingly, these architects don't give a fuck about compassion. My peers are the disciples of the Vanguard, they are the new recruits, eager for the hazing rituals that will cast them too into the ranks of the Vanguard. It is without doubt an overriding trait of the architectural community (and nearly all would acknowledge this through the course of conversation; even the stalwart archtiects of the Vanguard that I have spoken to have acknowledged this after some prodding) that it is full of cynicism, destructive behavior, bizzareness, spectacle, esoterics, and social dillusion. In other words, the architects of the Freedom Center make cynical spectacles by showing people mourning in their renderings of their iconic, un-subtle, culturally discontinuous, unsynthetic architecture of myth as the last business on the Friday of some week before heading out to get hammered and doped up through the early morning hours at a media-fetish club where they will go home with some techno-chic stranger and may or may not obtain Herpes, though they will probably decline the cocaine. The Saint of the Vanguard, Rem Koolhaas, lost a commission for fucking his client's wife, and it /is/ fucking, folks. There's no beauty (read: subtlety, narrative continuity--it's an affair after all!--emotional synthesis, or logistical reality) to having sex with your client's wife because you're Rem Koolhass and you're Kool, dammit. It is indulgence; animalistic impulse. This is how the architectural community at the Vanguard is composed, and they're designing your memorials. This is why charades like the 'Freedom Center' will fail, and have perhaps failed already, as a fact of their articulations in the cheap of tricks of the rendering games.

In contrast, yesterday I met Maya Lin, the famous designer of the Vietnam Memorial, who politely rejected celebrity stardome after she courageously asserted her vision for what is today America's most beloved memorial when she was just a senior in college, 21 years old. Ms. Lin is a person of incomprable sensitivity and interpersonal connection. Speaking with her, I had no sense that I was talking to one of my heros, and the figure that the art and architecture world love to keep so mysterious. But she isn't mysterious. She is open and lucid and will speak to you with no trace of pomp in any of her bones. She smiles and considers her words but converses as your librarian, or aunt, or teacher, or clerk might. Interestingly, she's rigorously Midwestern. She wears a bob, and simple clothes that are elegant and suitable. She does not wear thick black glasses, and she keeps her phone number unlisted. Her work is a product of her rare sensitivity to the narratives of people and people, to cultures and cultures in landscapes. Her work is about the propensities of the tangible, the modest that in their modesty reveal the sublime and the incredible. But she does not set out to narrate the sublime and the incredible. These awareness emerge from her work because she acknowledges that the propensities of space are larger than she is, and her task is to channel the inherently collective accessibility to the meaning of space and place to the audience that finds itself present in the same. She was encouraging and not condescending. She was enthusiastic when I told her that I learn more about architecture driving through the countryside of Michigan than I do browsing the glossy periodicals of the Vanguard.

In contrast, Rem Koolhaas, a faculty member at Harvard, dropped by school today and the entire school--even the professors--ditched studio to attend a conversation he was to have with an associate about journalism and criticism. All came to worship the Nihilist, attending with the self-righteous dreams of the pomp and esoteric egoism that awaits them if they buy the lie of the vacuous ether. The conversation was incredibly dull. I left, and returned to my desk, learning more about architecture working alone in the silence of the studio while my peers and faculty worshiped in the auditorium the icon of iconicism, wasting away under dillusion and the leaches of nihilism. Rem is an irreverent man, and I wonder what his story is.

pas de chanson d'installation.

Monday, November 28, 2005


The Phenomenology of Autumn, Part II

In keeping with many years past, the long Thanksgiving weekend began in brightness and joy and ended in the silent despair of a world suddendly winter. The moist fallow landscape that streams by the car window hits you with the first realizations that it is the season for surviving. It is in these conditions that the Thanksgiving holiday assures to nudge our memory with the recollections of past injustices. In the celebration of family, tradition, bounty, and all of the other things programmed into the last Thursday of November, we are inevitably faced like no other time of the year to both recognize and then posit the absense of these things, and those times in our lives that we have underminded the modest justice that Thanksgiving typies through the warmth of all the familiar things that suddenly surround us for these four days. I would be not only a liar but a hypocrite and insensate if I did not acknowledge the wholeness of memory and the good that it contains by ignoring its scabs. Since Thanksgiving is itself a time a humble but profound subtlety, so are the the inchoate memories of past injustice. They are not black slashes in the flesh of recollection but rather grey areas that are simultaneously determinant and inchoate. Here are the memories of how we couldn't help to be, of what we were not aware of, of what we did not know and did not think to know. They are the grey areas of humanity's innocent guilt. They are discreet moments that in retrospect speak of much wider narratives in the courses of our lives. This is the melancholy of the season--that we can in the same course of time come to know how we have denied each other and come to know with whose companionship we might come to resolution and resolve about the inevitable injustices that haunt the vividly ephemeral past. These memories are indeed ghosts. They exist in the substance of spaces and phenomena but ultimately dwell in the annals of recollection. They enter the ranks of myth and lore, and find gentle abode somewhere in the mind's sense of justice and compassion, its disposition for reconciliation and worth, dignity and collectivity. Driving through the rainy farmscapes of the midwest yesterday, the ghosts of recollection rode with me, appearing in every grove of trees, every reflection on the slick concrete, every foggy horizon, every eave of every barn that stood sentry to the sacred passage of time and place that is leaving one's essential conception of home. The rooms and the spaces of the innocent, guilty past spread out from their places of origin and traveled with me, tethered behind my eyes and the tailgate of the car as it sped future-ward as I thought of where we were moving but wondered why. I am guilty of compassionlessness, and I am guilty of denying my brother and my sister, of refusing embrace, or ridicule, of disparaging, of rage, of indignity, and of neglecting the outstretched hand, be it my own or another's. But before me is only and the judge of memory, and the appraiser of the asubstantive narrative, presiding over the moments of the ephemeral past suddenly reborn in the tangible present. The tangible present and the rainy, foggy future that always seems to rest at the horizon of the last day of Thanksgiving.

Chanson d'installation: Damien Jurado, Medication

Monday, November 07, 2005

Simply Put

Go ahead--I want you to call me an angry liberal

You know what? I'm not going to critique the conservative right. It's not worth it. Their ship is burning into the deepest chasm of the seas, so that's enough for me. Anyway, my aim isn't to elevate the disorganized Democratic party to some level of honor in the wake of Republican failures...of which there are many. One after the other after the other after the other in fact. Gosh, should I point out a handful? Nah...they're going through enough trouble. Their party is turning on them. Their leaders in the House are being cast aside from their subjugated freshmen and junior members, who appropriately are beginning to speak out against their totalitarian nihilism, now that their champion is a convicted felon. Cheney is running a fourth-rate operation with a staff concerned mostly with intimidation, and the Defense Department doesn't know what the fuck is going on in its various political war games. Rove continues to resist a ban on torture (in the words of his own boss and the Savior of the Constantianian Religio-Politico Complex G-Dubs, "we do not torture." Apparently, he means a literal "we." He must have had his fingers crossed, or thought he was just referring to himself, Rove, Cheney and the lot of the opposers to the ban who themselves--true--do not engage in physical torture. They instead leave it to the poor 18-year old Reserve recruits to do the dirty work). War support is fataly low. Democrats now have the edge in moral perception. Deficit continues to skyrocket. More tax cuts for the wealthiest. Unprecedented cuts to Medicare/Medicaid, housing, and other programs that serve the underpriviliged in our country. Lowest confidence rating in the President. Lowest approval rating in the President. Lowest credibility rating in the President--all separate ratings. Supreme Court fiascos. Staff indictments by federal prosecutor. Congressional investigations in senior congressional leadership. Bleak prospects for tomorrow's round of elections in places like Virginia where, if Bush's last minute stumping in support of the Republican candidate fails to win the election tomorrow, it will be another in a series of defeats for Bush. Repbulican senators and congressmen speaking out against the war. Republican senators ignoring White House budget mandates. Democratic senators stage a forced closed session to hold the Senate accountable to its responsibilites towards the populous, questioning the intelligence used to bamboozle and coax the country into war. Cheney approval at 19%. Support for Bush's terror tactics at all time low. Detainee abuse at Gunatnamo. Pentagon "Stop-Loss" orders sending troops into the fourth and fifth tours. Increasing war casualties now over 2,000 and rising. Triplefold increase in global terror attacks in 2004 since 1985. Federal bankruptcy legislations further disempowers the poor, and sent a flood of Katrina and Rita victims to federal courts in the day before the bill went into effect. White House smearing its own reports on the truth of global warming. Fruitless summit trip to South America this week that only caused massive protests and ridicule of Bush from South American leaders. The exploitative Central America Free Trade Agreement gets passed in the House by vote-period extension and arm-twisting to defeat the NAY vote, which won legitimately by five votes. It was leaked that the CIA operates secret political prisons around the world. This bizzare circumstance is vindication for all those blamed for radical conspiracy theories. It's like something out of a Hollywood expose. Well you know what folks? This is the shit our government gets involved in. Billions and billions and billions and billions and billions and billions of dollars invested in a meaningless war. The good that could be accomplished with such public funds is almost unspeakable (lest one be accused of idealism). Oh wait, Republicans don't support government spending of public funds. Unless it's a war. Or secret prisons. Or torture operations (obviously, Rove and Cheney want to maintain these practices, which cost money). Or environmental destruction. Or corporate hand-outs. In an amazing display of the true power of democratic will, Democrats made a powerful protest to the corrupt tactics of the Republican House leadership. When, after the rule-based 15-minute voting period was done, and the Republicans didn't have enough votes to pass a bill--with the bullshit, propoganda title "Gasoline for America's Security Act of 2005--that would subsidize refinery construction for oil companies (without requiring them to sell the products of these refineries in the United States--an obvious exploitation of the tragic irresponsibility that shamefully magnified the plight in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina) and waive environmental standards to allow it, the leadership held the vote WHILE DeLay, Hastert, and Barton (Republican from TEXAS and the bill's sponsor) went up and down the aisle twisting arms of their Republican colleagues who voted against its obvious cronyism in order to get them to change the vote. In other words, DeLay, Hastert, and Barton threatened their colleagues like middle school bullies so they wouldn't suffer the consequences from their under-the-table funders for not passing beneficial legislation. God Bless America. For 23 minutes, the voting time was extended until the last three Repbulican Representatives adhered to the intimidation of their powerful bosses. Meanwhile, the Democrats in the House, powerless to stop the blatant corruption, set fist to desktop and chanted "shame" in unison over and over again. CNN characterized this as "an angry protest," an objectively true statement except when Wolf Blitzer says it, when it takes on the tone of "the whiny Democrats unencumbered with pithy anger at the world and your families couldn't help but stage another one of those famous liberal protests." So what about this myth of the "liberal media?" Shame, shame, shame, shame, shame....

All of it. Fucking shame. Appalling, anti-democratic, nihilistic, cronyistic, anti-American shame. And you know what? None of these things even gets at the philosophy that the conservative right, the GOP, and the current administration take against human dignity, justice, democratic liberty, representative government, peace, public well-being, care for the needy and the underprivileged, defense of the oppressed and exploited, corporate rule and privilege, global security, environmental protection, global warming, public health--domestic and global, a TRUE conception of what it means to be pro-life (which is different from the mere pro-birth stance of the conservative right and Bush supporters in the Church), racial equality, culture, the arts, the free press, dissent and disagreement, public education, higher education, urban reconstruction, rural reconstruction, public housing, urban crime, youth empowerment, socio-economic protection, and all of the other needs of compassion and dignity that pervade the world on a constant, unlimited scale. It is, perhaps, for this sort of neglect that the Republican ship of dillusion, propoganda, denial, sedative bliss, and rampant bullshit is sinking quickly. I think it rests deep down in the machinations of individuals--people like Rove, Cheney, and certainly Bush--that works its way from the bottom-up and makes itself known in scandal, corruption, fraud and lying that only makes it clear the dilemma-at-hand. But it's not the reason for the wreck. The reason for the wreck is the foundational and comprehensive denial of human dignity. Am I mad? Fuck yes I am. And any patriot should be just the same. This patriot is, that's for damn sure. So's Eminem:

Chanson d'installation: again--Eminem, Mosh.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

November Again

The Phenomenology of Autumn, Part I

Red House Painters, in their song 'Have You Forgotten' describes with compelling accuracy what childhood in the late Eighties was like. Between the ages of 2 and 9 were a time, for me, of long hair on boys and short shorts with high socks, new records on those special Fridays, and the Pontiac Boneville wagon with wood-grain on the side. It's difficult to put my memories of my parents then in tune with what my parents are like today, but I'd like to think that it was a melancholy time for them too--melancholy as in the way the upstairs was dead still on summer afternoons on the weekends, with that light shining in on the pale yellows, the pale blues, the pale pinks, and my sister's bulging bangs and our children's books. Everybody has photographs of these moments that none would deny their melancholy tone. Christmas pictures with browns and deep greens, bright reds, and earth-toned clothing. Summer pictures with a thin layer of sweat on the brow, newer tract housing in the background, and tables set with glasses stamped with yellow, red, and green things on the outside.

I'd like to think that it was melancholy for my parents because I see some of my friends in the same position today that my parents were in at the time of these memories--the time of Red House Painters' 'Have You Forgotten.' ("when we were kids, we hated thing our sisters did"). It is the position of being young but realizing that you are getting older; of still being a dreamer of your life-to-be but realizing that what you face every morning when you get up in the cold bedroom is your life-to-be just as much as it is the moment; of longing to go it without the veneer, the anticipation of the regular, but knowing deep down that regularity is too often the best way to keep going at all. I imagine that my parents, particularly my mother, had a hard time facing these things with three kids surrounding them at all moments, each a year older or younger than his or her nearest sibling. I might even venture to say that my brother and sister and I would grasp and articulate a common solidarity of seeing our parents in this position in the late Eighties. We did not, of course, know it at the time, but children understand in ways that they just aren't able when they hit adolescense and never recover when they grow into adults (for the most part). We would know that it was a hard time for our parents, even though they loved us very clearly.

But trying to go without the veneer of a wife and kids, of the post-war way, of the exploding global world where credit cards and cable television were coming around, without the anticipation of normalcy--not knowing what five years would bring but then again knowing in that part of us that projects the melancholy of real life into the visions of life-to-be exactly what five years would bring; not being able to let go in the ways of days gone by but simultaeously clueless about what to do next, today, now, here, for these children and this spouse and this house and this person, this soul, this identity, this story, this being, this mind--all of hard. I know it was hard on my mom and dad to work their lives out in that slowmotion sunny haze of the dusty Eighties for themselves, for each other, for their children, and for their vision and hopes for life-to-be.

And yet, I know that my parents were free-thinking enough to figure it out. I see some of my friends with children doing the same. And if I asked my parents today about those inchoate days from 1982-1991, I think they would grow somewhat sentimental for that time when everything seemed uncertain but at the same time fundamentally and essentially real. I think they talk about the subtle war they fought as individuals and as a couple and as a family to get a grounding on it all. But I think they would also say that they didn't realize this quiet melancholy war when it was being waged until after the fact. It is here, that they would find their younger idiosyncracies and free will, their confident rejection of the veneer, and not their not being embarrased about their lives as they were, to be the stuff of sweet recollection, humor, and fondness.

'Have You Forgotten' reminds me of those times when I sat upstairs in the pale yellow hallway late the afternoon of a summer Saturday reading 'A Child's Garden of Verses' with a sort of nappy drowsiness while my parents went about life downstairs waging their quiet, subtle war for the autonomous self, reconciling their stories, accepting the emerging, finding beauty in the present as a promise for rootedness in the future. Even these pursuits of war they might not be able to articulate today, but I remembered as a teenager to remember that I witnessed it when I was a child, 1986.

Chanson d'installation
: Red House Painters, Have You Forgotten?

Prayer Request

Part One

Chanson d'installation
: Eminem, Mosh

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Tom DeLay Preevleezjay

A Whiny Motherfucker/Former Majority Leader

Tom DeLay just won't play if he can't have his way.

Citing "the media attention and noting that Austin [Texas], widely perceived as a liberal college town, is 'one of the last enclaves of the Democratic Party in Texas,'" DeLay's CronySquad bitched about having his trial for the betrayal of public trust and corruption in the capital city of his home state. Are we supposed to presume that DeLay is an umblemmished figure of public service when he himself cannot presume the same for those to whose authority he is now suddenly subject? Am I supposed to believe his suavingly rad claims of innocence when he his suspcious of his own elected public official? Am I supposed to ignore the convictions against DeLay vis-a-vis his own long-standing (and accussed, mind you) favortism, cronyism, and widespread donation-doling? This is exactly why I don't trust DeLay to begin with. He uses his power to get what he wants, when he wants it, and how he wants it, and wields his wealth and power to duck out on accountability--courts of law, Congressional inquiry, etc.--for his actions when he is called to do so. Now you know what it's like bitch. Oh wait, no you don't because you're a True Texas Corrupto Man.

In terms of DeLay's [now former] judge, the District Attorney hit it right on the nose: "The law expresses no need for judges to check the citizenship at the courtroom door," she said. As much as DeLay and the Republican Machine advocate Americans checking in their citizenship at the door, it's no wonder DeLay thought that his own elected official (read: chosen by the will of the people) found it threatening that his new keeper was a indeed a citizen, chosen by the will of the people to hold him accountable. I'd like to see an impoverished black man accused of a crime manage to get a trial relocation or change of judge. Won't happen--especially not in Texas.

My next post will convict the the rightest obliviates of their failure to think critically in regard to the Supreme Court. Then I'm taking a break from cynical political commentary. No more calling people motherfuckers, unless they're really, truly MFers.

Chanson d'installation: Eminem, Mosh

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

One for every year since Christ

Roll Call of the Death Toll

The New York Times has published the feature at the link below to commemorate the 2000th senseless casualty of America's war against shadows. Take a good look at the pictures. They're posted for a reason. Notice where the Michigan dead lived, and then try to deny that poor Americans are the capital of our country's belligerant foreign policy games. To all you thick-headed advocates of the Bush machine's war-mongering, your testosteronic and painfully ignorant pride is less valuable than the two-thousand recorded American casualties seen here. Putting a Dick Cheney 'baseball card' on your door at Dutch House and making snide, dumb-ass Hillary Clinton jokes won't give your pride more value either.

Chanson d'installation: still Danny Boy


Pipe Dreams

Here are selected portions of a conversation Dawn and I recently had online.

Leidio: yeah dude...that's the epicenter of the east village.
Leidio: tompkins square park is where all the shit goes down.
Leidio: and stuyvessant town is down there--infamous projects.
Leidio: i fuckin' hate new york.
Leidio: it's so miserable to live in.
SaturnLeia: yeah, I know
Leidio: people there are in systemmatic denial
Leidio: how's ryan liking it?
SaturnLeia: I don't think I could move there, even though I love it
Leidio: the city you visit is not the city you call home.
SaturnLeia: she likes it, but then she wasn't under any delusions when she moved there--she knew it wasn't going to be all roses
SaturnLeia: it can be really isolating
Leidio: it changes face in stark contrast.
SaturnLeia: yeah
SaturnLeia: well, I think it'd be cool to live there, but it would be even harder to do music
SaturnLeia: totally oversaturated, and the audiences are ADD
SaturnLeia: much better to tour through and visit
Leidio: why would it be cool to live there
Leidio: ?
SaturnLeia: there are certain areas I really like, and the city has a lot of energy
Leidio: so do most cities.
SaturnLeia: for example, Clinton Hill or the Eurpean-ish area I mentioned
SaturnLeia: I know
Leidio: you should visit about european-ish.
Leidio: but you're expressing a major perturbance of mine (nothing personal)....
Leidio: and that is
SaturnLeia: there's so much art going on, and a lot of places to do the kinds of things I'm interested in even in ministry, in terms of bringing art and faith together
SaturnLeia: I really want to visit Boston
Leidio: the inability of americans to understand and appreciate the american city. we're don't have european urbanism nor do we fuckin' want it.
SaturnLeia: I think I'll move to Chicago though, although it doesn't look like the greatest place to work on music either
SaturnLeia: I appreciate the American city
Leidio: but i thought art occurs everywhere. you know, the shakers merged art, worldview, lifestyle, and faith without new york.
SaturnLeia: I didn't like that area because it was European, I liked it and it reminded me of Europe
SaturnLeia: two different things
SaturnLeia: definitely
SaturnLeia: it's just a critical mass--or in New York's case, an oversaturation
Leidio: sure, but the same desire...the same totem, the same pipe dream, mirage, daydream, the same phenomenological desire.
SaturnLeia: really if I was putting music above all other considerations, I'd move somewhere on the East Coast, by upstate New York
SaturnLeia: it's the best place to be in terms of being able to tour easily to lots of places
Leidio: now you're talkin.
SaturnLeia: but I do want to go a big city, at least for a while
SaturnLeia: though I think one of the reasons I like Evanston is that it's kind of like Ann Arbor, but it's by Chicago
Leidio: art comes out of place. new york has turned its back on place, instead asserting place as its received discombobulation.
SaturnLeia: yeah, too many people there are obsessed with seeming avant garde
SaturnLeia: Ryan and I talked a lot about that too
Leidio: I will presume to bet that you like (and that I like) Evanston because it's definition of place is the 'critical mass' of urbanism at a human scale that coexists with an identity of landscape as well as a clear structure for social and communal interaction.
Leidio: all of these things New York lacks.
SaturnLeia: she loves to do video dance, and did before finding out that it was the "in" thing to do--but now you get so many people doing multimedia with dance that it's become something that people throw in--the video, I mean--just because rather than because they're trying to really use it to make a statement of significance
SaturnLeia: yeah
SaturnLeia: I think my ideal is a managable mid-sized city bordering a large one
Leidio: they're obsessed with the avant-garde because they have no worldviews. because they go to new york to deny their boring upbringings and expectations, but realize that they have no substance to actual deny. the whole thing is angst--it's a contrived pipe dream in which there is no other recourse but to repeat the thing that lacks definition (the avant-garde) because there's nothing actually definitive to rail against.
SaturnLeia: ah, but they aren't even railling against anything usually even in theory--it's just that video dance is cool and new, so everyone's flocking to it
Leidio: you said it: cambridge, ann arbor, evanston, east lansing, annapolis...
SaturnLeia: as Ryan put it, "If I see one more piece with TV static I think I'm going to scream"
Leidio: but that's my point...they have nothing to rail against because their lives have no substance. so they just repeat the thing that lacks definition (the avant-garde)
SaturnLeia: yeah, unfortunately Ann Arbor and East Lansing aren't bordering the cities I find interesting in terms of what's going on
SaturnLeia: as much as I love Detroit
SaturnLeia: it's on the up, but it's not quite the place I want to be -- that and I need to get out of the state
Leidio: dude, Lansing is a freaking' mine waiting to be opened.
SaturnLeia: heh
Leidio: it will just take people that aren't air-heady artsy types to do it.
Leidio: it will take critical criticism, a standpoint on culture, a goal that isn't an art-world free-for-all.
SaturnLeia: do you really think Lansing can go anywhere interesting?
SaturnLeia: it seems like in state the place that's going to happen is Detroit
SaturnLeia: but it'll need a lot of intrastructure and perserverance
Leidio: but dawn, maybe it's the kind of place you should be. if not you, who? that's just the trouble...everybody wants to live the pipe dream.
Leidio: Lansing has already been a successful city in its history.
SaturnLeia: I feel like I'm already living a pipe dream--I may end up getting a full-time job so I can support the music
Leidio: it's beed a lack of infrastructure, actually. rip up the freeways. detroit thrived before freeways existed. they will be dinosaurs in the next 30 years anyway.
SaturnLeia: no kidding
Leidio: you're already living the pipe dream?
Leidio: how?
SaturnLeia: heh, the starving artist thing is always a pipe dream
SaturnLeia: trying to make a living at performing
SaturnLeia: it's a different one than rebuilding a city
SaturnLeia: can't live too many pipe dreams at once
SaturnLeia: one is already definitionally unstable
Leidio: but it's only recently a pipe dream. the history of the 'starving artist' is one contrived in after the war and recast into the years preceding it.
SaturnLeia: how so?
SaturnLeia: I don't know that the arts have ever been particularly stable
Leidio: it's not a different task...rebuilding cities takes people making a living doing what they do.
SaturnLeia: yes, but if you're not making a living...
Leidio: au contraire the arts have been mostly stable throughout history.
SaturnLeia: I don't know though, one of the ways that a few cities have been revitalized is artists moving in
SaturnLeia: so many it's not so crazy, it's just not something I feel passionate about
Leidio: then you can branch out, and fulfill another need in the a place for other performers, a place for a pragmatic need, like bread and sewing thread, a place to buy coats and umbrellas, nuts, toys, etc.
SaturnLeia: I feel like in the last 50 years or so there's definitely become a larger gap in terms of money--the little indie people at the bottom barely eeek out a living while the people at the top just rake it in
Leidio: artists moving in has only signified that change is possible. really, they're guinea pigs for developers.
SaturnLeia: lol
Leidio: hello dawn...that's what the entire world is becoming.
Leidio: let me tell you this...
SaturnLeia: I know, it's the story of everything these days
SaturnLeia: rich richer, poor poorer, and it's probably not going to change for the better
Leidio: Albert Bierstadt, the famous and important 19th-century American landscape painter, used to sell his paintings while starting out my ficitonalizing the place-names of his pieces to provoke a sense of ownership in his buyers of the still-mythic American frontier.
Leidio: What he did so well was to make his art relevant to the disposition of cultural stories--and myths--at large. but he didn't cater to them, nor did he create them. he simply reiterated their content. his paintings did this as well.
SaturnLeia: hmm, so are we looking for people to do this now in other media?
Leidio: in all things. our 'work' should emergently reiterate our story as a culture.
SaturnLeia: I think one of the cool things about Sujian Stevens is that he is creating art specific to places, but it still has broad appeal
SaturnLeia: it's the opposite of the pop music that is so general as to become irrelevant
SaturnLeia: but you could argue that our work automatically reiterates our story, and the proliferation of the pop crap--in many disciplines--also says something, perhaps that we want amnesia
Leidio: right! sufjan is at the vanguard, and he's not an avant-gardist nor an esoteric. he's at the vanguard while creating according to grounding asepct of life that we have otherwise denied and forgotten at large...landscape, memory, history, place, ethics, identity, knowing, heritage.
Leidio: but is amnesia what we really ought to value?
Leidio: i think we both know--no.
SaturnLeia: we shouldn't value it, but as a culture we're celebrating it
SaturnLeia: I'm kind of inspired by what he's doing

Chanson d'Installation: Danny Boy

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

A Very Weird Sort of Pedantics

Right on cue, the architectural establishment gets prissy

"I don't think the answer is to bring somebody in with a canned response," says Eric Owen Moss, director of the Southern California Institute of Architecture. "There are fundamental issues of how to deal with that coastline, how to build, if you build at all."

He reads disturbing cultural messages in the quaint enclaves of New Urbanism. "It's right-wing developer-speak masquerading as populism," Moss says. "The ideological image-making would appeal to a kind of anachronistic Mississippi that yearns for the good old days of the Old South as slow and balanced and pleasing and breezy, and each person knew his or her role."

-from the Washington Post

Eric Owen Moss, a poster boy for "progressive" architecture and a member of the global businness-academy complex, has criticized The Mississippi Renewal Forum, a proactive and sensate group of planners, architects, policy gurus, elected fficials, and urbanists that has gathered together to develop a reasonable and productive vision on what rebuilidng the Gulf Coast will entail, how it might be effected, and what it might contain, saying that the solutions of so many presumed "New Urbanists" will be prissy and syrupy. Let me just say that I don't see Eric Owen Moss taking up shop amidst the ruins of the Gulf Coast (the MRF did their work in a damaged casino-hotel, where they all gathered for what is called a 'charrette'--a kind of projective vision-casting series of all-nighters that channel adrenaline and ideas into a very dense exchange and articulation of solutions) working out a reconstruction scheme that addresses not only architecture but poverty, environmental constraints, preservation, socio-economic stratification, political strategy, transportatioan, infrastructure, public works, housing, civic functions, public space, economies, markets, public policy, the consequences of suburbanization, and so many other pragmatic but pervasive considerations of place, not to mention the most relevant concepts such as heritage, accessibility, recognition, collective space, memory, security, and sustainability. Eric Owen Moss typifies the state of the architectural community today and I'm barely capable to articulating what that state is with appropriate representation. People like Moss--found in every single damned nook and cranny in the architectural community--believe that the only possible solution with situations like the Gulf Coast is to come up with something 'new' and "progressive."

But let me tell you folks, the concept of "new" at play in the architectural community is one rooted in the ambition for ego-driven prestige, for academic admiration, for professional praise, for artistic esotericism, for conceptual obfiscuity, for aesthetic shock, for widespread and comprehensive social, economic, and political commentary distilled into a set of objectives that are small enough to slap on the face of a presentation board (lest the critics criticize for an "unclear presentation" with "inchoate terminology"). Fuckers like Eric Owen Moss are out for themselves. They pass the days with nihilistic dreams of stardome, fanfare, authority, admiration, pure and unrequitted genius, and come up with a meaningless but complicated vocabulary with which to assert and achieve it. But the sentiments and the ideas of people like Eric Owen Moss are vacuous and shallow. They are very nearly purely contrived, and carry no relevance or import to the average citizen who lost her home of 150 years in Hurricane Katrina. For her, whatever sort of schizophrenic Deleuzian nihilistic basless placeless shrapnel-shard jagged dizzying slice of death architecture that Eric Owen Moss has to replace her home and neighborhood (and I presume he has something to propose if he sits in freaking Los Angeles--go fuckin' figure--criticizing the only people to actually attempt a meaningful service to the disenfranchised hundreds of thousands of the Gulf Coast with snide and condescending rhetorical shenanigans) just ain't going to slice the bacon. What the architectural community has to serve is thin gruel if you're hungry. Just take a look for yourself: which of the following examples do you think are the most relevant to the place of the Gulf Coast?

Chanson d'installation: Common, A Film Called Pimp

Sunday, October 16, 2005


From the edge of the sea, a non-view

I bought a Moleskin sketchbook last week, but it's still blank. I can't think of anything in the course of my day worthwhile to put in it. I just finished three weeks of searching for a hidden room but didn't find it, claiming it was "lost in the gradient" though the gradient was not drawn either. Waiting for a table for twenty minutes at least at Peet's today, I tried to read people to see if they would leave, creating fiction to pass the din and time, though too often my fictions were tall tales. The bored were the eager and the silent the occupied. It rained for a week along the northeast, and floodwaters came upon us, from Framingham to Storrow. A night along Atlantic Avenue where taxi cabs and commuters floated by the Federal Reserve made me think of that city in my mind that I've glimpsed every here and there for a good number of years now. I met my parents for tea at the Four Seasons and looked out the window at Boston Common while the rain persisted, while the leaves persisted in a hushed vernal lush as the sun set behind an endless gauze of clouds. Some might say a sarcophagus. I think the clouds make for hermitage. In hermitage, water seeping into and out of the ground is at the scale of fingers and toes, shoelaces and the points of umbrellas; points of leaves and pin-hole photographs. A hard wind came this morning and with it the sun, and then died off when it blowed itself over into the Atlantic. The city dried, and I put on another layer of wool. I munched on crusty bread at the last of the latter's face-shone light, and walked through the square where tourists and flakes cringed toward the wind. Then went home, and turned on the lights. Shed wool for a Classics hood, and sat down at the table to read.

Chanson d'installation: Arvo Part, Cantus in Memoriam Benjamin Britten

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Evildoers to Create Empire of Slavery from Spain to Indonesia

Speaking of pathological...

So says G-Dubs on October 6 at the National Endowment for Democracy:

"The militants believe that controlling one country
will rally the Muslim masses, enabling them to
overthrow all moderate governments in the region and
establish a radical Islamic empire that expands from
Spain to Indonesia."

and that their goal is to:

"enslave whole nations and intimidate the world."

This is what we call paranoia. He goes on:

"We will never back down, never give in and never
accept anything less than complete victory,"

This is what we call nihilism. Later, in the same speech, Bush says:

"Bin Laden says his own role is to tell Muslims:
'What is good for them and what is not.' And what
this man who grew up in wealth and privilege considers
good for poor Muslims is that they become killers and
suicide bombers. He assures them that this is the
road to paradise, though he never offers to go along
for the ride,"

What's funny is that this statement could easily characterize Bush himself:

"Bush says his own role is to tell Americans: 'What is
good for them and what is not.' And what this man who
grew up in wealth and privilege considers good for poor
Americans is that they become soldiers and war heroes.
He assures them that this is the road to honor and
freedom, though he never offers to go along for the ride."

Fuck you Dubs.

Chanson d'installation: French Kicks, Trial of the Century

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

A Dose of the 'Dozer

Pathological self-exposure

Check out these quotations from the pathological clowns of the Republican complex. Don't get so smug Democrats--you're mostly just sitting there in the orchestra pit while the show gets more and more absurd.

Now See Here!

Chanson d'installation: Something Ornette Coleman

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Like I commented earlier, 9/11 was meaningless compared to Katrina

9/11 slipped us into delusion, Hurricane Katrina snapped us out


By ERIN McCLAM, AP National Writer

A 64-year-old Alabamian frets about frayed race relations. A Utah software programmer ponders the slow government response to Hurricane Katrina and decides he'll turn to his church first in a disaster created by nature or terrorists.

A woman scraping by on disability pay in northern Virginia puts her house on the market because of surging post-storm gas and food prices. Cheaper to live in Pennsylvania, she figures.

As the Gulf Coast braces for another monster storm, a new Associated Press-Ipsos poll shows Katrina prompted a rethinking of some signature issues in American life — changing the way we view race and our safety, how we spend our money, even where we live.

The poll shows that issues swirling around Katrina trump other national concerns.

Asked to rank eight topics that should be priorities for
President Bush and Congress, respondents placed the economy, gas prices and
Iraq high. But when Katrina recovery was added to the list, it swamped everything else.

Like bands of the storm itself, Katrina's reach in American life is vast: 1 in 3 Americans believes the slow response will harm race relations. Two-thirds say surging gas prices will cause hardship for their families. Half say the same of higher food prices.

In Las Cruces, N.M., Ariana Darley relies on carpools to get to parenting classes, or to make doctor's appointments with her 1-year-old son, Jesse. Before, she chipped in $5 for gas. Now, she pays $10 to $15.

"I didn't think it would affect me," she says by telephone, with Jesse crying in the background. "But it costs a lot of money now. I have to go places, and now it adds up."

After a crisis with indisputable elements of race and class — searing images of mostly poor, mostly black New Orleans residents huddled on rooftops or waiting in lines for buses — some Americans worry about strains in the nation's social fabric.

Women were especially concerned. One of them is Sue Hubbard of Hueytown, Ala., 64 years old. She does not believe race played a deliberate part in who got out of New Orleans, but she is deeply worried about tensions inflamed by those who do.

"I just think it took everybody by surprise," says Hubbard, who is white. "I don't care if it would have been the president himself, they couldn't have gotten there to those people. Some people — not everybody — are trying to make a racist thing out of it."

The poll underscores the literal reach of Katrina as well: 55 percent of Americans say evacuees from Katrina have turned up in their cities or communities, raising concerns about living conditions for the refugees, vanishing jobs for locals and — among 1 in 4 respondents — increased crime.

Among respondents with incomes under $25,000 per year, 56 percent were concerned about living conditions for refugees in shelters; that was higher than among those who make more money. And the poll indicates people in the South, which has absorbed huge masses of evacuees, are most concerned about the costs to their local governments.

Ann McMullen, 52, of Killeen, Texas, who works as a school administrator at Fort Hood, says she worries about gang violence, simply because of the prodigious numbers of people flowing into Texas communities.

"They can't even locate the sex offenders," she says. "And every population has gang members. It's theft, it's murder, it's more chaotic crimes in the community. Hopefully we'll be able to put these people back to work."

The poll also exposes a divide among Americans in how the government should respond when disasters strike areas particularly prone to catastrophe — landslides, earthquakes, hurricanes. Half say the government should give people in those zones money for recovery, but almost as many say those people should live there at their own risk.

About 4 in 10 say the government should prohibit people from building new homes in those endangered areas in the first place. As McMullen puts it: "You're asking for another disaster to happen."

Katrina has also raised grave doubts among Americans about just who will protect them in the aftermath of a natural disaster or a terrorist attack.

Only about a quarter of Americans believe the federal government was as prepared as it should have been to cope with a disaster of Katrina's magnitude. Only slightly more than half, 54 percent, are confident in the federal government's ability to handle a future major disaster.

Reed Chadwick, a 33-year-old software programmer from Herriman, Utah, has made a mental list of the organizations he can count on should Mother Nature or terrorists strike — church first, then local government, then the feds.

"I think a lot of people have been yelling at Bush," he says. "But I think they're not looking at their local leaders for answers or reasons why things did or did not work. A lot of people are asking questions."

As for other personal effects of the storm, rising gas prices have not been crippling for his household yet, he says. "But I know it's going to put a dent into my budget. I won't be able to do dinner as much, maybe take only one vacation, if that."

For Pam Koren, the storm's impact has been more immediate — and more drastic.

Suffering from low blood sugar, spasms of the esophagus and nerve damage, she exists now on disability pay and contributions from her daughter, who attends college and works as an assistant youth minister.

With gas and food prices rising after the storm, she says, she was forced to put her house in Burke, Va., on the market. She is considering east-central Pennsylvania, and a less expensive home.

"I'm a wreck because I'm not sure I'm making the right decision," she says. "I didn't want to have to do this, but things have become so tight I have not had a choice. I did not expect things were going to get this bad."

The poll of 1,000 adults conducted by Ipsos, an international polling company, had a margin of potential sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

Chanson d'installation
: "Team America," Freedom Isn't Free, a parody of asinine pseudo-patriotism country songs dispensed and inhaled in the post-9/11 propoganda campaign.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Invisible Man

Don't Yes the Haters

That the world of the haughty artist-architects believes its greatest strength to that which in reality is its greatest arrogance is the stuff of tragicomedy. I have a cathartic post today, so I can articulate a gargantuan double standard as applied to the circus of Harvard Design School, but is still analogous to much of the idocracy we face in this world. My program mandates, in recognition that many of its students have no art or design background, a drawing course entitled "Visual Studies." How titilating is that title!? I have decided to seek a waiver from this course, given that I already have engaged throughout my schooling so far a critical approach to drawing and its modes of representation (of which perspective is merely one), and given the nature of my academic initiatives at large, which do not include drawing studies. The instructor, the previously genial and helpful Wilson, agreed to a waiver and then, as it is called in euchre when it is discovered that one has held back a "trump," as it were, while effacing otherwise, renegged, claiming that my portfolio did not demonstrate any drawing which satisfies his standards for waiver. I suggested he look at the photography section of my portfolio, which he passed on before, because I asserted a very strong cognitive correlation between the way that I draw and the way that I take pictures. Like a cliche from a 70's campus debate, the illustrious Wilson gaffawed that photography is not drawing, that photography has no "touch." Really, I said, and went on not to convince him that this was untrue, but simply to communicate why I conceived of a 'touch' in my photographs, using methods of selection, perspective, foreground and background, compression, translation, and in many cases these things communicated through the ambiguities of blurring, articulating features strikingly by their essence. He cut me off, and a look of anger came over his face, saying that he would hear no more, that there's nothing I can say, and that it won't do. Dumbfounded, and succumbing to my tendency to go mute when encountered by such rigorous hostility, I listened as he said that he would take up the matter with the Director, and let me know.

What an asshole, this Wilson is. You see, he presumes that he knows what is good for me, defending his presumptions by saying that he hears x, y, and z from me, and he knows what that /really/ means. He presumes paternalistically that I am unaware of what is most beneficial to my study, that I am naive to the course content, and if I take the course I will be transformed by a sudden awareness that was before hidden from my comprehension. The arrogance of this art world is that the youthful unmentored are never at a truly substantive critical awareness, and must be brought to such awareness by their titan elders. Well, I am uninterested in any sort of top-down academic pursuit--this is why I left Pratt, where it was assumed that a student must reach the level of capability equal to that, or nearly that, of his instructors before he is allowed an autonomous position. Such with Wilson, who makes me want to leave, because I will not deal with this again. The striking characteristic of the University of Michigan that made it so much different to Pratt was that my academic interests were engaged empathetically, not paternalilstically. If I take Wilson's course, it will simply be because I must, and that is antithetical not only to my worldview but to the purpose of learning in the first place. And not to mention what I want to gain from studying at this fucking high-headed institution. What the fuck is a drawing class going to do for me one way or the other!? Six weeks of dragging a pencil across paper! The issue is one of investment. It is not comprehensively productive for me to invest cirriculum in such a course because my academic goals and the metanarrative of my education at large can do without it. And it bothers me that Harvard does not trust its students' autonomy in this, nor their confidence in their skills, nor--apparently--their critical awareness of what they do.

I don't give a shit about technique if there's no meaning to it. Drawing in Wilson's class isn't going to be inherently meaningful because I ain't never had it like /this/ before. Wilson's critique that a photograph has no 'touch' applies just the same to drawing--a thick line v. a thin line or compression or subliminal cognitive order and pattern don't matter all by themselves. A photograph can be simply snapped without thinking--yes, but it can also be a comprable cognitive exercise in the topics of projection in drawing, in which case there is a touch. And how can Wilson have such a fucking monopoly on the vain truth of art (who gives a shit about things like this anyway!) when he teaches a course called "Visual Studies." I'm sorry, but I don't see how "visual" exclusively refers to drawing. What a dreary prude Wilson is. I'm not invested in the matters of this course because they're not empathetic with my interests in the big picture, its not a productive investment of my previous education this term when I could take another elective instead somewhere else in the university, nor is it a guarnatee of relevance or meaning or freakin development as an architect. It's simply a top-down, paternalistically nihilistic, fuckin' parodox of artworld arrogance, six-week, meaningless drivel-basin of a quarter-course that I don't want to touch with a damn ten-foot stick. Wilson has already shown me that he's not interested in critically engaging with me--this I know because of his arrogrant presumptions and the fact that he prevented me from communicating the facts of my drawing capabilities vis-a-vis cognition and thought process (at issue in this course) becaue he was too sophisticatedly knowledgeable of my trite, quaint musings on drawing and photography.

World, don't let the Man get you down! To the Wilsons of your life, you gotta say "check your vibe, muthafucka!" And bump some Tribe.

Chanson d'installation: A Tribe Called Quest, Check the Rhime

Monday, September 19, 2005

An Hommage

First Day of Class Today

An hommage to the dear places of critical pursuit and vital vigor for which my life's income and psychological security will be squandered--pulled out of hand, but not out of mind, by a vortex of cynicism, discarded resumees, and pervasive, non-negotiable, credit-gorging debt. Here's to my Alma Mater and my "Other Mother."

Chanson d'installation: Boy George, Karma Chameleon and John Mellancamp, Wasting Away in Margaritaville, and A Tribe Called Quest, Oh My God, and Blind Willie McTell, Dying Crapshooter's Blues

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

What happens when the ghost of FDR wheels off his memorial and into the halls of Congress

The goulish hawks plume a tiny, but white, little feather

Today, sixty years after high Republicans began the systemmatic dismantaling of the New Deal with cronyism and a disgusting investment in foreign intrigue and expose, and with Social Security, the crown jewel of the New Deal, under threat from the disguised "neo-conservatives," a band made up of old guard hawks and buddy-buddies working under the masthead of G-Dubs and Condoleaza, the legitimate and welcomed criticism of the Bush administration in the wake of Katrina has put Bush in the position where, admitting his own apathy and lack of leadership, he has become a New Deal Democrat. Hah! How does it feel to realize that yes--a government must provide for its citizens, and meet their needs in times of systemmatic societal inequality, exploitation, apathy, and the globalistic disposition of American capitalism of social Darwinism? No matter what side of the fence you're on, the federal government is spending billions and billions and billions of dollars to do what? To provide for its citizens. Our nation is left to wonder if the American tradition--a tradition throughout our history in tension with our expansionist and imperial ambition--to protect the disenfranchised, to facilitate strength in our communities, and to celebrate the remarkable cultural brilliance we realize is taken for granted when cities like New Orleans are destroyed and uprooted. Notice that the 9-11 crisis provoked no such response from our people or government. A pseudo-patriotism that Cornel West classifies in two ways--sentimental and evangelical nihilism, pervaded our nation out of fear and ignorance. Katrina has laid bare many truths formerly buried, concealed, ignored, and forgotten by the same disposition that produced our nation's trite reaction to 9-11. And it shows. This time, Americans are appauled, embarrassed, empathetic in realizing our government acts in hypocricy and mendacity, and though whites and blacks remain at odds about the racial rationale for Bush's obliviousness, Americans of all kinds are finally beginning to speak out in criticism, realizing that accountability is necessary and vital to a democracy, and realizing that Bush and his team, and their tradition of systemmatic disenfranchisement and otherness that began so many decades ago, is bogus, destructive, and antithetical to the deep American tradition of dignity and democracy. Furthermore, realizing that this tradition is contradictory to our country's ambitions today, Americans are willing and encouraged by a government (not the unwilling bureaus of private enterprise) which, despite the apathy and indignity of its current executive, is spending money on its people to provide for its people. And Bush, trying to fight criticism for the sake of political survival by riding the tailcoats of this just role of government, is forcibly becoming a New Deal Democrat. So fuck you Rove!

Chanson d'installation: Outkast, Love Hata

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Melville to Mount Auburn

a story of stories

I decided to post a letter I wrote recently to my very first college professor, Alex Ralph (then a graduate student teaching English 125), whome I have kept in loose contact with over my time at Michigan, and who read and gave criticism on a few lousy short story beginnings I wrote while at Pratt, in a fit of existential despair in the midst of a dysfunctional academic environment and a certain female rendering me a worthless and manipulative predator (if you think I'm mysogynistic for that comment, shove it). But this post isn't about these now insignificant events. The post is about the same thing I wanted to share with Alex:

Hey Alex,

I attempted a few times to drop by your office and say hello and so long toward the end of the semester, but to no avail. It's been at least a year and a half since I bumped into you last on the Diag, but recently I've been thinking about what my first few days at Michigan were like when it was entirely new because right now I'm in my first few days at Harvard and am probably experiencing much of the same though I really can't say for sure. The first class I attended was yours, and it was a great class. I realized recently going through college papers that I addressed topics in my papers for English 125 that are central to my study of architecture--topics of place, landscape, identity and one's conception of the past.

I wasn't aware of this at the time, but it goes to show that my time at Michigan was truly a continuum and as such a critcal process that I very deeply know was fulfilling, and I will long be a starry-eyed alumnus when I return to Ann Arbor and walk down the Diag in years to come. I also gave you three or so stories that I wrote when I spent my first year of college at Pratt in New York (though I really only consider Michigan to be my one and only college). In retrospect I know that those stories were very cynical, and it's telling that none of them was complete, because they were excercises in restlessness, stemming from a lack of tangible access to the unique dilemmas that year brought. These aren't serious dilemmas, but they're certainly good for a disposition of cynicism, which is always in tension with the best of our emotive capacity. Thus stories that are cynical in nature and ethodology (and maybe form), but not at face value. They lacked all subtlety, because cynicism demands precision. But the wrong kind of cynicism weaves a precision that indulges in the preoccupation of a thing by pointed directly at it, reifying its description in order to quench the cynical crave.

As a critic and one interested in the assembly and poetics of space, though, I believe that the beauty and the remarkable persuasion of the stories we must tell come by a different kind of precision--the kind that deliberately and intimately reveals that which surrounds a thing, so that we come to recognize, know, and conceive of stories and their meanings (and of course, spaces) interstitially, by knowing its situation and the environment in which we behold. Even charismatic writers like Rilke avoided indulgence despite his illuminated and dreamy renderings. My friend Gaston Bachelard might say this is because we find our home in daydreams, but even our daydream-homes are impossible to directly conceive. So today I can say that somewhere I have a book in me, whether its a bunch of short stories or a novel, but I will likely never be able to write it. Despite all the support and critical engagement I am privileged to have among my people and thanes from Michigan (we even began a [un]secret society based on the Inklings half as a joke, half in all seriousness), not even I trust an architect to tell a story on paper, so I will have to go about it through the lens of my camera and the lines of my pen.

Though I know what the story is that I have to tell, I just can't find a way to tell it, and I don't know anything about its plot, or its characters, or the tangibles of its epic invocations of the human condition, etc. That's fine; maybe some day I'll figure it out. In the meantime, when I unpacked my books in Cambridge tonight, I opened up 'Billy Budd and Other Stories' from which we read 'Benito Cereno,' and I was pleased and glad that another story--one which I have actually experienced--has come full circle. Thanks for getting things started my first few days at Michigan. It was (and in my being, is) and invaluable and enriching four years in the continuum of my life. Take care and good luck to you, too,

Patrick Jones

English 125, Fall 2001

Chanson d'installation: Bach, Suite No. 2 for Cello - Allemande

Monday, September 12, 2005

Saturday, September 10, 2005


My first day in Cambridge

Harvard is a compulsively segmented institution where the distinctions between students and their academic situations are highlighted instead of the holistic community of learning that should be formed instead. An individualistic institution through and through by all I've observed so far. Case in point, there is a separate graduate fellowship for every school at Harvard, and they each state their goal as internal and exclusive. I am entering a community of pervasive distinction and exclusivity. We'll see what happens.

Chansons d'installation: The Victors, The Maize and the Blue

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

As it Lies Dying

A solution for the region of Faulkner

I saw a picture on the cover of the Lansing State Journal this morning of a man sitting amidst the wreckage of his coast-front trailer, a dwelling completely disassembled and disjointed by yesterday's Hurrican Katrina. My thought was ' no shit.' He shouldn't be surprised that his home is gone, mostly because homes like his shouldn't exist in the first place, let alone along the Gulf of Mexico in the world's epicenter for hurricanes.

This photograph brings up a number of different issues. The situation is one of place and class, environment and typology. I don't want to get all bluefaced academic, but natural disasters such as the hurricane interest me in the way that people respond to them both pragmatically and in realizing that hometowns and conceptions thereof are suddenly uprooted. Uprootedness is the issue right now in the deep south, as mediaheads talk about rescue efforts and damage estimates and the destruction of entire neighborhoods, their economies, their cultures, their livelihoods, and even (in the hundreds), their residents.

When such an unsustainable wasteland like the Gulf Coast is destroyed, we have a unique opportunity to try again with something better. But despite the guise of planners and the ten-penny theoretician politicos and scruffle-necks, this is a matter of the novel in terms of space but the traditional in terms of ethics; and ethics cannot be avoided, as the philosophy of compassion. Here the presumption enters in my community, that of architects, designers, planners, and spatial visionaries, that the solution to destruction and "rebuilding," as it were, is to 'learn' from the event and 'respond' with a 'strategy' that is uniquely conceived. The thing that makes this presumptuous, however, is that such strategies do not maintain a thorough or stable conception of human compassion, the need for rootedness, and the human geographical, psychological, and ultimately ethical needs to know where one is, why one is, and how one is.

Cities like New Orleans already suffer ethical crises, that is, crises that deal with the interactions of a society between its members. Some would characterize ethics as a realm dealing with 'thick' relationships (family, spouses, best friends) rather than 'thin' relationships (random fellow humans), but I'm convinced somehow that an ethical standard is compelling enough at the thick level to be deeply indicative and complicit with one's interactions at the thin level. That is, if the thick is in check, the thin must be as well, because the disposition required for thick is much more complex and specific than the more basic, fundamental thin disposition.

I've been thinking a lot about the social justice component to space-forging in light of the hurrican in New Orleans. Can you think of any situation today in which housing is built on a large-scale (that of communities) in which socio-economic needs are actually met? We have no experience in this country since before WWII in functional communities being built at such large scales that don't cater to high-end buyers or 'up-scale' developments. I find this fascinating in addition to my interest in ethics as a worldview of compassion (I can't wait to say those words at Harvard) in that the only thing we have to source in our cultural history is the past. The only way that we know of to rebuild New Orleans to the extent that it may require is rebuild it the way it was built the first time around.

But with some exceptions. We know now the unsustainability of sprawl-ish typologies, the effect of freeways and thoroughfares on neighborhoods and socio-economic stratification, and the faux-pas associated with building urban communities that rely on cars (e.g. any metro Detroit 'mile' road, including those through the city). We therefore have the text of the past and the context of our current condition (and the hard work done for us in the form of Katrina) to correct a landscape where people have assembled into a society and be progressive and more responsible while doing it. We know that the high-necked calls in academe for a "progressive" solution to the matter will be unrecognizable and irresponsive to the human condition. The most explicitly appauling and tragic aspect of this disaster is the mass exile that is ensuing, and the government escorting [domestic, citizen] refugees to mass-shelters that's more akin to moments in our history like the Trail of Tears. In both of these examples, we are complicitly engaged with matters of uprootedness and identity and associated with a landscape and the disposition of a culture within that landscape.

And what do you need to be convinced that people OUGHT to be rooted in a conception of 'home' conducive to productive, uplifting, and dignified identities? We need an ethic. And an ethic is not something that the black-clad icons of angst and irrelevancy at places like Harvard (e.g. Rem K and H&DeM) or Michigan (the countless faculty and visitors who have abandoned a conception of the past via accusations of nostalgia and sentimentality, nihilistic modernist shallow-beings that are convinced of the necessity for apathy) have been able to pull off in recent years. I will be enraged and disgusted when the star architects of academe come around with their flaky renderings of their harsh "solutions" to New Orleans, the pseudo-humanitarian competitions where the starchitects of practice and academe pour out their vanities of presumption and cultural, emotional, spiritual, psychological, cognitive, perceptive, and environmental obliviousness, and reinforce it in the shambles of rhetoric and fluff of semantic trends.

It would be paramountally useful for the American story in real and tangible ways evident in all of the areas of architects' obliviousness to which I have just pointed if somebody came forward and presented us with a solution and said "here, I have documented and brought back into our active memory and vocabulary how the communities, neighborhoods, streets, houses, and yards that were lost this week were constructed; and in doing so, I have brought to attention a strategy of rerooting and reconstruction that is economically, socially, physically, and ethically just." Because let's be honest--do the developers of pastiche-amusement-parks-of-memory-pseudo-new-urbanist-quaint-disneyland-lifestyle communities on the suburban fringe know how to build to the New Orleans bungalow from the block? What about a shotgun house? Or for that matter, the Chicago three-flat? or the Midwestern garden apartment?

Nope. Lost from the semantics of space, lost from our active memory, lost in the floodwaters of Hurricane Katrina.

note: Faulkner's title "As I Lay Dying," I take it, uses the simple past form of 'to lie', which is 'lay' (as in "I lay sick all Thursday"), and not the present indicative form, which would be 'I lie.' If the 'lay' had the semantic character of placement and recline, Faulkner would have to have titled the book, in accordance with the grammar of ASE, either "As I Laid Dying" if in the simple past aspect, or "As I Lay Dying" if in the present indicative form. This form and the simple past form of 'to lie' are the same, and one is left to interpret the title vis-a-vis the content of the novel. I have chosen to parallel the title of the novel by entitling my entry "As it Lies Dying" because if I wanted to interpret the condition of New Orleans as having been 'placed' upon it by the exterior forces of the hurricane, and therefore using the verb 'to lay,' I would be required to include a direct object, of which I have none, nor did Faulkner. This note does not take into consideration the semantic specificities of vernacular Mississippian English, nor Faulkner's acknowledged interpretation and representation (whether accurate or fictional) thereof.

Chanson d'installation: Ryan Adams, Sweet Carolina

Monday, July 18, 2005

Up on the Mountain

A ready dispatch from Cumberland

It is not easy to begin a post like this one. I might remind you that I graduated from the University of Michigan in May, and following a whirlwind of last-minute and unconvincing preparations was able to collect the car that had been mysteriously provided for me in a long-stemmed Chelsea barnyard to drive myself one morning to Nashville. Going up the mountain some hour and a half more east, neighbors called in to the short-range FM station in Coalmont to let each other know what they were selling, sharing numbers and the names of hollows where they could come to pick up or trade 1 riding mower (needs a spark plug and exhaust cap but otherwise she's good to go), or another iteration of twenty year-old Dodge and Ford pickups that populate the hills. Here, roots run deep. And that's what we would expect from the oldest mountains in the world, and from a culture that is absent in Americans' memories and known now simply as 'Forgotten Appalachia.' The question was recently asked why there is so much poverty in Grundy County, where Mountain TOP makes its summer home. The answer? Because Grundy County offers nothing for the turbines of the globalized mechanism. It is impossible for the communities on the moutain to stay above water and compete for their revenue-share of commodities and production. Places like the mountain are weeded out early, and left ignored. Grundy County can't sustain itself because it's no longer possible for communities to provide for their own communities. Now, communities must provide for the acceleration of globalized culture and economy.

well, since I began this post weeks ago, I can't possibly finish it while preserving my train of thought. so, death it goes.

Chanson d'installation: Ryan Adams, Sweet Carolina

Monday, May 09, 2005

A Separate Peace

It's May Again

I'm over the election. There are a few of you whom I keep in touch with
through this blog, though 'blog' was always a sour way to describe why I
write here. So to you, I'm sorry for the cheap writing that characterized
my political entries this past year. In the face of despair, though,
I lose any capacity I have for eloquence. That said,

It's May again. The city is cool and lush. The pedals from the
everywhere-boughs have come around because it's May again, and that's what
happens after a long winter. And it was a long winter. The windswept
plains of days gone by kind of long, when we talk about illness and
hardship like pioneers, and the quiet subtle despair that seeps deep under
our chapped skin, once the lovely novel of cold has worn thin, has surfaced
and we are hit with it like a breath in an ice cold lake. The day of that
breath is a quiet day, like all of winter, and it comes when a wind
collects and blows the scarf from your neck and tumlts its course beneath
your shirt. Or the Saturday morning when you've slept just a bit too long
and your back aches from three months of huddling through the long nights in
your wombly bed, and the room is dark with the bright winter light of clouds
and the hush of the house--it too has gone to sleep for the winter. Its
creaks and pops have silenced since last spring when it stretched its legs and
arms from the shackle nails and came alive in the heat of a Michigan summer.
Houses like Roethke poems. Trusses like greenhouse roots, studs like shoots
that writhe and make noise as they forge through dirt and seed skins. But
it's May again, and the air smells sweet like many springs before it have
smelled sweet in Michigan.

I bid farewell to winter and welcomed spring last week at Cedar Campus. I
crushed my finger rebuilding Meta, per my covenant of two year's past, when
I heaved a bulb of lake-rounded granite into the water at the end of our
bridge. Overall, the winter storms have been good to Meta, and I found last
week that it is more beautiful than I've ever seen it in its state today.
We were lucky this year because the water level in all of the Lakes rose,
which we hope signals positive slope in the 15-year-or-so cycle of water levels
in the Great Lakes. As a result, Meta is slightly sunken, and the path treads
a gentle slope from the bulwurk (sp?) rocks on the beach to the slighter stones
that pile at the midsection where it slips beneath the surface and runs course towards
the first offshore boulder like a torpedo with a trail of head-sized
rocks. I was delighted to hear a brother from CCF tell me that the previous
summer he took a group of children he was supervising out onto the water road
to their great delight. Some of the new students at Chapter Camp didn't know
the remarkable metaphorical dynamism of a rock bridge and reacted to my
exhortations with Pharesitic skepticism, Sagisitic doubt. I just wanted to
make up those words.

Because it's May again, the summer sun is returning to us, and I've come to
realize this year that I have an inkling to go south and west rather than
north and east. I think this is strange. Particularly because I've
subscribed myself to three years in the epicenter of easterly northerness,
the most north and the most east you can go before you begin kissing moose or
coursing the rocky bays in a wee boat while the big rigs out in the deep water
deplete what's left of the north Atlantic's legendary stock. But west and south. Copland has something to do with it. His orchestral story-telling is folklore,
and lore of folk or any other variety either draws us in or sends us fleeing. Copland's lore draws me in. I wish I had the courage to work for six months
and then work my way through the Plains for another six, as the sun magnifies
the color of the hills and pulls my eyes and heart to the threshold of the
mountains on its continuous westward course. That's the thing about the western
sun, it hovers above the horizon and obscures it. But here now is a question of boundaries. I am not made for the mountains. Even my frequent dreams of taking retreat on a ridge or enveloped in a valley are time-bound. My midwesternliness
as forged my senses to be acute to subtlety. The silence in the snowy fields,
as our boy Robert Bly put it when, I think, he realized the same. Even my
other mountain home in the Appalachians is a terrain of subtlety. This clan
knows hollow from hollow, a dulcimer in one and a fiddle in the other. The
best sweet tea is in the valley, because the water there is soaked with
sentiment and the carbonsof the world's oldest mountain range. You drink
the mountain in the valley and its subtle, but it makes the difference.
And in my country, the shadiest tree is the one in the middle of the
field--the one that picked up its roots and left the rest of the stand in
the woods between soy and corn and found its roots of roots in the center of
the rows marking the landscape north, east, west, south, and whatever is
vertical. Underneath it you'll see me slouching against the trunk shoulder
to shoulder, drowsy in the summer sun, with my

And so three weeks in Ann Arbor. The task at hand is raising my salary for
Mountain T.O.P. 1775 dollars. Donations to me, thank you. Three weeks and
then south and west to Tennessee, and then in three months, north and east,
north and east for another three years or whatever it is. For those of you
who don't know, Harvard it is.

Chanson d'installation: Red House Painters, Katy Song and Have You Forgotten


Wednesday, January 19, 2005

On the Eve of Bush 43

In a Silenced World, A City of Fanfare

Usually, when Morning Edition goes off on my morning alarm, I am awakened only to slip back into a half-sleep where dreams distort the stories on the news into hyped, fantastical visions. Prison reform turns into graduate school admission, skiing deaths turns into a maccabre Blair Witch-esque mountaintop trail of death, all while the sounds, voices, words, and music stay the same. But this morning, a rare and distinct thing occurred. My dream corresponded exactly to what was being said on the radio during a story of the Second Inauguration of G-Dubs. I even sensed the excitement of the city on the verge of elaborate celebration. In it, I was a poor student who tried to get a view of the presidential balls, the parades, and festivities that were being played out in the city of my dreams. Accomplishing this was hard; it is, after all, a Republican administration, and therefore I was too poor to have access to any of the events, let alone a view--the only hotels and apartments that overlooked the squares of the city were gentrified, million-dollar condos and five-star dormitories for the wealth-drenched hoards and cohorts of the Republican Party. Nonetheless, there was Dubs, the real deal--erh, the Real Deal--in the Archives, looking over the Constitution for the first time in his life, and the Bill of Rights for the first time in his life, and the Declaration of Independence for the first time in his life. And there he was in the monumental halls of the city, surrounded by his patrons and the social debutantes of that plush circle. Swarms followed through the city, strutting about with them Negro attendants, cigars, white cashmere scarves, top hats, adultered wives in cream-colored evening gowns and long gloves, crystals, and pearls. On the hillsides in the distance were the slums--Dickinsonian terrains of rubbled alleys and the cold, bittered thresholds of tenaments and projects and ghettos. Where the bright inaugural city ramparted the hill top, in the valleys ran expressways and train yards, strip malls, coal plants, and powerhouse factories of soot and sore. The whole breadth of the valleys powerless and silent. There was that fucker Bush walking down the promenade with Laura--drugged and mechanized as usual--on arm in a bright blue dress and a necklace of diamonds, the Legion of the Sedated marching behind, singing anthems of pomp and circumstance, waving banners of Liberty, and Righteousness, and Truth, and Power, and God, and White, and Gold, and Christian, and Freedom. This was my dream of the 43 Inaugural, this morning and eve, as Morning Edition brought me out to face the cold.

Much like the City on the Hill that I dreamed, and Bush campaigned for, he and his cronies imagine and rule from, with no diminished pomp and circumstance of my own dream. In it, they willingly remain silent, oblivious, and ignorant of the valleys, the source of their exploitation, and the source of their power. They are seductresses and sorcerers. I hope Condi Rice isn't as big a bitch as Secretary of State as she was in her confirmation hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. I hope Bush isn't as big a dumb fuck as he has been his entire meaningless, putrid, mean, unjust life. He is his own Niphirim, Titan, Hercules, and Messiah, tramping the earth and othering creation. This, too, will be an inauguration of the other.

Chanson d'installation: Sufjan Stevens, Seven Swans