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