Tuesday, December 12, 2006

On Modernity

E.L. Doctorow:

"Everything, from the young writers impatient of a long
creative life to the deconstruction of our critics; every
variety of intellectual retreat, of conformism, every small
loss of moral acuity, I see collectively as the secret story
of American life under the bomb. We have had the bomb
on our minds since 1945. It was first weaponry and then
our diplomacy, and now it's our economy. How can we
suppose that something so monstrously powerful would
not, after forty years, compose our identity?"

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Prewinter Review

Pictures from forward and behind

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Monday, November 06, 2006


Taubman College, University of Michigan

Follow the link to the video archives of the recent Pause conference at Michigan's college of architecture. Good speakers, good words to be said and thusly spoken, Tom's wit and attempts thereof, Doug looking confused. Herscher, Mehrotra, Buresh, and Benedikt are all good acts.



Thursday, November 02, 2006

Last of Fall

A nod to summer; in seven, pal

Saturday, October 28, 2006


Poem to another one gone

i am trying to remember if i should have
conceded when it all seemed probable
or if i watched you go by me with doubt.
you moved with subtle, graspable velocity.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006


No. 2

Quoth Maureen Dowd in today's Times:

"Many frantic Republican lawmakers are also running against themselves, either reneging on their support for the war they started, or railing against Washington, the town they absolutely control, claiming that the capital has forgotten their values, or making ads denouncing the Democrats’ “homosexual agenda,” even though Republicans are now the party of gay scandal.

"It’s a hilarious spectacle of a whole party re-enacting the classic scene in Mel Brooks’s “Blazing Saddles,” in which the sheriff holds the gun to his own head to take himself hostage.

"The Bushes don’t connect words with action. Action is something that’s secretly plotted with the inner circle behind closed doors. The public should stay out of it. The Bushes just connect words with salesmanship. Poppy Bush never meant it when he said “Read my lips: no new taxes” at the 1988 convention. It was just a Clint Eastwood-sounding line in a Peggy Noonan speech, meant to pump up his flighty image."

Well said.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Fifty-five Spheres of Æthers


i hummed loops around the yard in august light
shearing constellations of humid flying things
hanging bobbingly with prism wings faced west
it may have been cape or limb flailing aft as
grasses days overgrown whispered in crushing--
it was a forest to me and i a giant.
and there is our mother pointing to ants on globes
and asteroid birds of jay and finch transit orbs
between limbly warps in time and dampened air
here is where our sister made winter camp
and behind the clapboards peeling white and pine
runs a little hallway burned yellow by stellar fire.
i hop galaxy and nebula
drilling deep into spacetime here in our plushly
cosmic-body-grounded and needed yard.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Hundreds of Little Hands

Opus in the tradition of the very old Silly Philosophers

What makes a pencil stay put behind one's ear? Yes, our use of the qualifier 'behind' does raise interest, and one may wonder if we really mean 'beyond.' But all those who do place or have placed a pencil 'behind' her ear do know that for all things considered 'on top,' or 'atop,' is really rather more apt. An ear and its Top Flap must not be too large or that fine limbo line between free fall and rest on the body of the pencil will be compromised, such as one may compromise an appreciation for sweet things by gouging into a heavyset cake. Yet it must not be too small or else the proper surface area required for the pencil to stick and to balance will, in opposite fashion to the former condition, be too small for static position and free fall will ensue. Does an ear protect? Why will a pencil remain behind one's ear in a gust of wind or while riding a horse? Why is it that a sweeping ether does not push the pencil forward or backward when running or lying down? We must turn to the head to find our answer, and to find that, upon close inspection, we can determine that a bald head holds a pencil behind or atop an ear more effectively than one with much hair upon its flanks. We must invariably conclude that there are, in the latter scenario, hundreds of little hands pushing at the pencil behind or atop one's ear that therefore causes it to break from static state into tenuous suspension or at peak effect, to break into free fall. A bald head features no such hundreds of little hands pushing at the body of the pencil to the same effect, and when a fine hair is present, as with a close shave or a buzz, these hands are squat and stubby, unable to flail and give thrust, and therefore pretty much have no effect at all.

Monday, October 02, 2006


A series of guerilla preambles

It's useless to vote for Dick DeVoss because you're pro life. Single-issue [Christian] voters must realize that any public policy decisions in the area of abortion will be, at most, unsubstantiated Congressional allusions and presidential candidate totems. Voting for Dick DeVoss won't change a pitance on abortion, so now it's time to think critically with your vote and not ignorantly. Who wants the leader of a sketchy pyramid/Pazzi scheme running a government?

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

A Week Descending

Part I

It was a cow that I found upon the ground aft of the Domesticle a late afternoon west of Boone just two days after leaving the city of hilly, curing airs. Contented to be stared at, laughed at, and perhaps knowing that all took her place on the hillside lightly and with surprise but by no means awe or concern, the cow shut her eyes as flies swarmed about the ends and we moved through the gate and into the yard where a table of maple hewn and tied with lap joints as though cast and monolithic sat beneath the boughs of a live maple tooling the air for sunlight and, when the time comes, for rain. There were apparently rare varieties of beans to be harvested from the garden nearby and some neighbors had come with bushels to pick at the rowed bushes once the sun had dropped below a westerly ridge. From the garden gate came a cook with arms full of squashes, which he arranged on a porch beside a room for sitting and keeping books in neat rows as he pointed grinning at the rest of us asking about their “such beauty” and blinking, as a cigar of Sicilian craft cantilevered from the corner of his mouth smoking gently and thick. It was before long time to sit beneath the maple and the mother of the person who invited me out to Dobbins talked about the politics of land and examined the wine and said, “well I guess screw-tops are here to stay, aren’t they?” Cut upon a stone table like an altar out of Sharon came a house-made sourdough focaccia with what I was assured to be a fine olive oil that was just delicious I was told and thin, circular shavings of red onion set like eddies or the landlocked remnants of a river’s path upon the matted crust of bread. And there were rich beats with pistachio paste and the squashes crushed and stewed, and the rare beans as long as school rulers boiled gently and tossed with a real farm butter to attend the yard setting where all had gathered for a summer supper. Before leaving the mountain of Dobbins back east for a night there was pasta of sweet peas that did not become bitter after a superficial surge of sweetness, and fine, miniscule onions lost between the finely chopped leaves of mint and parsley the populated a light oil ether. There were peaches of the proper hour harvested from the same-named southland, topped with unsweetened cream battered into its savored character as a cold paste and raspberries that had just, perhaps hours before, come into being as a pickable solution.

Monday, August 28, 2006

From the Island

A north wind blows west to church bells playing Somewhere Over the Rainbow

In order to finish Silent Spring by the time I need to be on the ferry back to the mainland, I need to read sixty pages a day. This will be easy because the book is just what it should be—simple and fascinating—and it is published in hardback with thick pages and generous margins. Plus, the lake is wide and the sun persistent, and there are four wood long chairs on the beach for me to chose where I might spend any number of fourteen or so hours of the day. And sitting on the beach reading Carson’s opus, I can look out into the lake and see the swans and the terns and gulls dipping in and out of the tropical blue water for littler things than they and recognize some truths. This is what vacation is for.

Here are some truths. Evolution does exist, whether you chose to call it Evolution or ‘evolution.’ We know it does because sea lampreys native to the ocean can not only exist but thrive and expand and acclimate to the Great Lakes to such an extent that they can succeed in decimating the titan and ecologically critical population of lake trout in Lake Michigan after being brought into the lake by the promises of world trade and capitalistic enterprise in the early years of industrialized shipping at the beginning of the twentieth century. Now the states stock lake salmon in the lakes to bring a top predatory force back into the ecosystem. Lake trout could be more widely stocked, of course, but they are too prone to sea lamprey, being smaller and less sturdy.

We also know that evolution exists because all sorts of presumed lawn and yard pests and lurk in the underbrush like communists or terrorists and threaten the vernal gardenhood of American suburbia are able to become immune to the chlorinated hydrocarbons of the industrial era and the ambitions of men to become wealthy barons of capitalistic innovation in an age of created and propagandanized threats conceded to the bored yes-men state officials of so many environmental bureaucracies. Despite the stealth of man’s chemical quest it is not enough to save spare everything else that surrounds the terrains of our created threats.

And William Sloane Coffin—the late William Sloane Coffin—is the source of truths on this island when I am otherwise rather insulated from the dysfunctions of our free market hegemony over the industrialized and deindustrialized world. Another perk of vacation is the absence of Bushisms and sound bytes, news of retrogressive public policy and the approval of new initiatives in environmental destruction from a federal executive administration drunk on the ecstasy of delusion and denial. And it is here, not in the daily world of news and commentary and people struggling in work and word to appeal to some collective sense of rightness and reason that I encounter a single, definitive, characterizing paragraph of Coffins words that would otherwise act as the epigraph of this current age: a democrat is anybody who knows that “to show compassion for an individual without showing concern for the structures of society that make him an object of compassion is to be sentimental rather than loving.”

It is his words too that frame my awareness that in three weeks I will be back at school when he reminds me that “The Lord forbids our using our education merely to buy our way into middle-class security.” What is there that is untrue about this wisdom? What are we in America, and why on earth are we? The right has Lewis Lapham reflects well on this question in his essay in the beginning of the July issue of Harper’s:

“His voice went out of fashion in what came to be known as the Me Decade; small was beautiful, and it was thought wise to hedge the bets of idealism with prudent balances of self-interest. The investment proved sufficient to finance the bull market in utter selfishness that was the glory of Ronald Reagan’s Morning in America and continues to sustain the imperial narcissism of the current Bush Administration. Audiences believing that money is the answer to all their prayers don’t like to be told that instead of loving things and using people, ‘people are to be loved and things are to be used’ or listen to Coffin say that ‘those who fear disorder more than injustice invariable produce more of both,’ that ‘nationalism, at the expense of another nation, is just as wicked as racism at the expense of another race,’…that ‘Hell is truth seen too late.’”

What, in spirit, is there to miss here? What is there with which to disagree? If those who profess Christianity as an implicit conviction of the ontological and teleological weight of that philosophy, how can the root causes of the world’s cultural and economic conditions be ignored by credos that are themselves framed—defensively framed—by these conditions? That is, the rightist response to injustice is two fold, but ultimately created by the very conditions that provoke this response at all: first, denial. There is no wealth gap, there is no genocide, there is no flaw in American enterprise, no greed, no exploitation, no sin, and no arrogance; there are no social divides—race, income, land, economy, commodity, community—and there are no compromise solutions, no critical counterarguments. In order to substantiate denial in light of quite obvious and tangible indications otherwise, blame must be disbursed: racial tension is the result of black apathy and anger. Poverty is the result of poor folks’ laziness. Rage in the Middle East is the result of violent religion. Abortion is the result of the godless, the evil. Divorce is the result of promiscuous sex and homosexual tolerance that degrades the practice of marriage. Drugs are the result of cities. Pollution is the result of over-sensitive special interest granola heads that don’t realize the world is large and its resources ours for the taking.

Sometimes, these two aspects merge and form a single response: suburbanization is good—a sign of growth and prosperity, and the promising health of free market capitalism. War is righteous because there is evil in the world, and as it happens to take the form of Muslims so we must root it out in a hostile land [serendipitously home to the world’s largest supply of fossil fuels, quite literally the fuel of free market capitalism and the thing that lets us get to Wal-Mart to save sixty-two cents on cheese sauce and saves us from being forced to buy local, sustainable, farm-produced, real cheeses for use in real cuisine and real collective culture].

How is it possible for this pattern to exist at all among those who do claim to profess Christianity as an implicit conviction of the ontological and teleological weight of that philosophy? It is simple: the Christian community has systematically put down the Gospel—drained it from collective expression, seized it from the work of their hands, blocked it from their intellect, and silenced it on their tongues—for the sake of a handful of time, economy, and culture-based sound byte totem rallying cry issues that abide in political arenas. It has now become a particularized American political affiliation, specific to limited widely-accepted groups of people: steel workers but not journalists, truckers but not those that bike to work, homemakers but not vocal mothers, accountants but not non-profit administrators, developers but not land-use advocates, contractors but not naturalists, venture capitalists but not affordable housing financiers.

Watching Lake Michigan, still and grey, over Indian Point as a fog rolled in and cool waves of pungent earth enveloped the chair where I sat, it was too clear that the question is not about whether Evolution or ‘evolution’ exists or whether a fetus’ life begins at the splitting of the first cell or upon the third trimester. The answers are that nature is constantly changing and we are overwhelmingly persuasive players, and birth does not matter but rather life. These answers are not determinant or black and white, but they are concise and they are thorough. But our cognitive capacities, and our senses, give us more than ample critical means to interpret their meaning, and in turn give meaning to meaning.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

A Week Descending

Part Two

Booneward, the hill road clutters. An indistinguishable highway gathers its way into town, like a stream burgeoning to river in a narrowing canyon, dodging piecemeal shelters of vinyl and composite substances, and so many incs and cos and llcs and other commercial minutemen involved in furnishing the quaint and the remote, outfitting the posteriorly urban renegades, the nouveau riche of the eastern and southern circuslands, and big boxes and strips and paver medians, retaining walls stringing hill crest to hill ridge like bulwarks and first industrial revolution port defenses, and outlet bazaars, feux peddlers, gated compound lands for the nomadic escapists of wholesome self-made bootstring (trust fund) jackpot delusion. On top a meager hill runs windy street and here the trees are still and have not changed in this or that many decades, and as they age and shed they befall the rooftops of the way with crusted pods and shriveled leaves, former hideouts for the invisible army of crickets and katydids and cicadas and other nocturnal humming things that are not hiding among later generations of these refuses and the street is rattling in the semihumid evening air, quivering gently and with persistent, volitional rhythm. A breeze will happen to spill over onto Windy Street with periodic repore, and it is then that I am standing outside the bungalow looking into a well-lit window beneath a streetlight wondering whether I should sleep or read or leave or keep walking up the rim to see what really there is beneath the woody shadows. The screen door from the porch opened on my behalf as I approached it and inside I laid on a couch as the others contemplated the rings of social being, hardpressed for words that would rightly accompany the performances of the southern summer avenue outside. All these windows stood open like dampers or reflectors in a hall and beside them all stretched like dummies having landed from a great height looking at footprints haphazardly imprinted onto the ceiling which rolled like moraines under decades of sagging forces and plaster and caked layers of paint. There were of course the shadows too, which cannot be contained as there is always a lone streetlight or moon that will send them towards such rooms as this where all are lull in the night hill air. I have vowed to leave in the morning, though Zach and I will eat before I do. Maggie leaves and has been silent though her words are precise and if I wasn't here I wouldn't feel like a whale before her or an eager slimy admirer from a pre-conscious culture when attraction was an arranged business affair suitable for the exchange of craft objects sundry to most today or beasts just as suitable for disease and lightning strike and the land's harsh droughts as any of their brokers.

And what would you know that after breakfast the next morning as I made my way east for the freeway northeast the brilliancy of modern engineering would appear like a jack in the box at a suburban four-way with green arrows and turning lanes just as I braked for a yellow warning light that said to me "don't do it! you will never leave." The elderly douche in a cutlass behind me honked to nobody and nothing as I stood on the sidewalk with humid morning fumes exhaling at and by and around me looking for a tower which would not be available citywide for another hour anyhow. Some official was bored and told me to wait in the car, i'll take care of the wrecker he said, and I sat there thinking that I should wave cars around me when the arrow became green again (oh what anticipated jackpots!) but decided the better of it for fear that things will inevitably become worse as they tend do in when one lives a life of responsiblities beyond his resources. Two blocks away stood the expanses of a Blue Oval Dealer and here I was welcomed with optimism and giter-right-up-fer-ye and prolly-just-needs-her-a and we'll-just-have-a-look-here as I waited sipping water thinking I may be an hour or so behind from boone. Six hours later I was swearing in a windowless lobby as Zach stood leaning against a stack of tires holding his stomach with soundless squinting laughter. "Am I supposed to redeem this out of some metaphysical ether?" and "all this conceptual rigomarole leaves me nothing to critically access." You northern city folks don't realize that we hear everything you say, Zach says, and they won't let ye know it but they hear it. Don't hold it against me, I say with guilt, I'm a Yankee. Before long my ticket out must be stamped by a verified core charge and the mother of a fleeting third grade crush is giving her credit card number over the phone to get me out of town. The day now has slowed and all things linger with a subtle slumber and I get back to the bungalow, The Domesticle healed, and the photographer and his girl are on their way to the river to swim. Zach's coming too, they say, and I find Zach hanging laundry down the hill in the neighbor's yard. I am holding Nutella and we eat it on store slices before driving back through town along the now ungathering roadway to the river where rocks stand three stories and have been for some 20 million years. From pool to pool between these rolling tubs and ledges I progress downstream until Zach yells of a snake in the water and I said no surprises here and it's almost six and we need to be back.

I have climbed halfway up a ledge suspended over a cool deep green pool and hanging there there is tension everywhere, not only in my arms but in my head and my memory and my intellect, and I breathe deeply asking God for thanks and forgiveness, and it is here that I let go and plunge into that chillingly sweet waterworld, hanging suspended, as rays of the sun channel yellow chutes through this universe. I am immersed here, and have come home and become again, and now must surface, and again go onward.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

They'll Get Yer Creedence

On the river

Saturday was the last day the State of North Carolina allowed alcohol on the Green River near Saluda so I went along with a colleague and a broo-ha of his neighbors from McDowell Street to spend an afternoon tubing down this quaint mountainy fleuve with a cooler of suds. Wicked hot, Saturday; er J-Sica might say hella hot, though I'm not much sold on either regionalism. Half way when I and those abreast had eyes peeled for a rope swing a storm blew in out of nizzle and the bright vernal sun got covered with bizzare dark like volcano ash. A squall line the size of eddies blew down the gorge ripping leaves off of hemlocks and sundry river bank species. The water was warm and until it rained I stayed in breathing the air which smelled of universal summertime. The rain came like swallows, chilled and abrupt, and urgent and deep. We huddled on the bank for some time before determining that the storm was not a typical temperate rainforest mountain storm like we often see but a real front, and by majority returned to the river road in the rain. this is what life is about i told the veterinarian and he nodded that's exactly right. i wouldn't want anything else right now he said and i watched the texture on the water change in torrent waves. Now the rain had grown temperate and came constant and smooth. shivering the afternoon progressed until we reached the landing point some hour later. The river ran higher and littered with leaves and branches. The water thickened with chalky muds and sand runoff from the banks hiding the oldest rocks in the world from the surface. All out, some without clothing or towel, and ruined keys upon the news of dinner at Green River Barbeque. Heather the Richly Accented gave an ode to sides. All came to Saluda, and ate, and rested, and returned to Asheville for books, and honeys, and lazy summer sleep among the dew and the crickets and the breezes in the trees outside of the windows.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Four State Swing

Future Past

Thursday and Friday took me to Kentucky via Tennessee and Virginia and back to Asheville. Whitesburg, Kentucky is the town embedded deep in a steep valley we visited to see Appalshop, the community-based film and arts collaborative founded by the student who brought design-build to Yale with Charles Moore back in the heyday of systems theory. Today he practices in Whitesburg very much unlike you would expect a pioneer or Yale alumnus to practice. The office is tight, packed, staffed with three or four locals, and layered with drawings, blueprints, old models, sketches, magazines, code books, goverment directories, modeling supplies, and office sundries. Whitesburg is the center of this:

the book that brought about the War on Poverty. Not long after is publication, President Johnson and Bobby Kennedy were trooping through Appalachia making promises, and thousands of idealistic students came to the poorest region in America to bring about change.

But what change? There was tenor of city-slicking sophisticates from the northeast bringing ridicule to a region where most felt decency and compassion was inherent. this is a classic regional war which in many ways continues today. Most of us are implicated in it even if we find it appalling. Stereotypes of Appalachian people are certainly among the most deeply-seeded. Appalshop sought reconciliation in one local battle in this war:

Stranger with a Camera

Hobart Ison kills Hugh O'Connor while filming poverty in Kentucky on his tenent's property. Permission was not the motive, but humiliation. Elizabeth Barret made the film at Appalshop, and her husband Harry (?) told us stories of meeting Hobart (as nice a guy as any but quick to temper).

I too often hear the poor ridiculed. I encountered it in elementary school where poor kids from the township across the road (literally, across the road) came to the city school where neighborhood affluence gave it the reputation of being the preppiest of all the elementary schools. It continues at Harvard. One reason this persists is because kids don't learn relationships between individuals, and merit too often abides with arrogance. Bell Hooks, influenced by Paulo Freire, writes on this in 'Teaching to Transgress.'

Did anybody know that our word 'radical' comes via Latin 'radicalis' meaning "having roots." I guess radicalism is nostalgic.


Stranger with a Camera

Kentuckians for the Commonwealth

Friday, June 02, 2006


Two papers from the first year at Harvard

There are two papers on my webspace, in PDF format:



Twelve Speculations into the Ethical Conundrums of Digital Immersion


In Community with the Autonomous Strong

Some have requested that I post them. May is coming when I got to Appalachia.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Folksongs and Yarn

who's got a djembe?

from the wetted woods we stepped into the road
of hard dusty gravel as travelers on foot and fear
in the lulling ether of time and dew pass beautiful dark places
rent and bonded in hallow light and dreary near
wrens rest in the cedar boughs to pick the buds of seemly traces
afoot at unsat porches plein vain the nightness to behold.

the magistrate's raven is a stark pretty baron,
who fiddles his way through the day.
the flying and singing are second to being
the thorn of our dear rose of sharon.
If the lady is blind who justice supposes
and the bells toll in slovenly swells,
if daysdim is handsome to night's dreary ransom,
the crow's crown be the truth he proposes.

simewy sinewy runs the cockle in the furrow.
she begs a break of thyme but it's it buried in the burrow.
the sun is up but stars are down as the twlight lulls the town
while chill'ns skut about in rhyme and set the books out for tomorrow.

Monday, April 24, 2006

The Record

PreMay 2006

I. Invocation

during this so brief vigil of our senses
that is still reserved for us, do not deny
yourself experience of what there is beyond,
behind the sun, in the world they call unpeopled.
quench deep in myself the burning wish
to know the world and have experience
of all man's vices, of all human worth
Canto XXVI

II. The Record

To lawns and porches of east ann street along 1010/210;
the planada-rest in peace-and the corner of 7 where the rhine spilled over;
catherine street and my boys loney and chap, the petition couch, squalor is high modernism fellas, spills high postmodernism, keep your head up lads steadfast against misanthropics;
here stands commie high, zingerman's breadly, argiero's and the sheds of saturday mornings;
lawrence street and my main man linford you harbored me;
south fourth of three summer's past fans turning in lateday, the west beckons across yard and leopold's where we have cleaned;
detroit street, washington, ashley on some sundays, liberty out west and over the hill, huron river to north territorial to m52, cedar campus and whitefish point where we forged meta and in silent rooms transversed time, men's retreat and focus week of frozenbay broomball and narnia;
i left you a gnome and a thing called meta (tb douce, d dunkel, taitcha: respek) blessed be these terrains and abodes.
to my people uprooted and gone ya'll better dig in;
the fellows;
justin b (tinney some time yore);
dave o and dumie we formed a midhall triad;
eadie, mick, snuph, schteeny, sprech my harvard colleague and carlsone the easy e;
delorean of car fame, meul, mccrack - see you all soon;
jen hubes, derek of cigars, bf5, and carolina fame (tiger, chaser, drock, dj) and your honey ms. single no longer - ya'll better remember where ya'll been and reroot for the land of vinyl brick and pears;
tom e thane of thanes much love to you and to the little ones;
troy and jess and as you have it boo, you are exemplars;
rich the aussie god bless ameerica and the leelanau, the manistee;
darren you're a legacy van der keesma;
hull i missed you what happened since pre-moore talks on couches?;
muncey dear matron you're a staple;
chelsea in the leelenau from sf to jonestown you've got roots honey;
bling, ryan, dawn and/or delahoya: stratford was vernal even in the grey of autumn, blessings blessings blessings;
keith at asp, john perkins down in jackson;
ann s of mo and la keep breathing;
jess whang of jersey like fish in and out of water please babe be strong;
k v dyke and the pressing;
raynor post focus week i miss the land that i never knew;
backypacky amy and rachel, we are all alone so let us hike;
the taubman crew: mississy, chang, lads with cigars and whiskey, alexa, hemingway, devereux and melissa who rocks blue spandex, mick and bodley, ddrek;
ddrek of many nights at arbor our home; graham, pennings, yang, melema, steveo, tb, tracy, and the ivers;
what has happened?;
what to you kg son of swan?: turn back around some day; you missed it;
alex, tait, andrew, megan, timmy, i love you.
three thumps and a sign over the heart for my people, the homeland, our mother the lake;
and to the crew in el: look and see what's following you.

Chanson: Neutral Milk Hotel, Holland 1945

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Wet Land

On the first of April

a knotted lot of reeds and weeds where six shacks shackeled in vines
and blossoms rise from ebb of knoll on elderly hunched totem poles
here the sky is white and the earthen vernal in low opacities an iron
road of euclid [points do not exist] runs course behind the yards of
the hallow and for all i know this train that has just glid past is from
nowhere and knowhere and is going nowhere and knowhere
chap holds a fragment of falsetto past that has worn like the ground
affecting to carry it to present memory and relicy and i am sitting
telling our other that some things belong on the earth even when
left when forgotted when ungraspt when found free in rest
i do n't believe in ghosts but they must believe in me as on the coast
when we came up with notions ideas and mights over rising sun cried
gull and tern - we refer to some things because they refer to us and all
their abode is in our own world where walls corrode slump and infer
an invitation so here we are within standing slumped below slouchingly
post and beam, slat and plank, nail and tooth breathing tooth and nail
to come to some melancholy terms with the falsetto past, reliquary wall
where at long last our brothers sit and plant into the earth the rooted past
forgetting rhyme time, affecting to rest and rise, turn breath and walk away

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

The Phenomenology of Winter

II. How it feels to be something on

Sometime in January, 2006


My flight from Newark to Detroit was marked by great comfort and the beautiful winter sun flooding the skies at 30,000 feet. I knew Detroit would be cloudy because the pilot said it would. I was prepared for that. But I didn't think that shit would last fourteen days. I'm losing it. For the first time in all my memory, the site of the thick, foggy mat of clouds in the sky this morning driving down the street made me feel like I was on the verge of flipping out like I was in the fifth day without water, or that stranded on a raft in the middle of the Indian Ocean following some TIF shipwreck my willpower collapsed as I plunged my face into the salty seas and took long, deep gulps of saltwater, only to cause severe delusion and violent hallucinations mere hours later as my body kamikazzied its last wits in the throes of dehydration. It made me feel like I was strapped to a chair in an empty, abandoned Soviet state hospital in the northern Baltic circle with a tape recorder in each ear playing a tape of Bush saying the word 'freedom' over and over and over and over again. I wasn't ready for fourteen days of this merda. My break, initially steeped in the optimistic hopes to reroot in the land and get my final papers done in hermitage, has given way to lethargy and sure weight gain. If I was not me, I'd be sitting in the basement right now smoking reefer and watching porno. This weather will get to you, no doubt. No doubt about it. I don't remember winter being this despairing from childhood, and I certainly didn't expect to get blindsided and drowned by the fucking constant saturation of drizzle fog and winterdew. Outside is the color of a rotting corpse. I may have no choice but to leave home and become a crow, or possibly a raven.

Your pal,

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

The Phenomenology of Winter

I. In the passenger seat, inside the shell

Here's a view. Just want to ride along; that's all.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Parade of Delusion

The hypocrites of suburban Detroit

There is a freakshow of incredible dimwitedness going on in southeast Michigan right now. Those that have left the region will not be surprised. The undercurrents of the Detroit Zoo and water debates are those of the xenophobic paranoia that constitutes life in suburban Detroit, where the SUVs run on suspicion and fear as much as they run on gasoline. Incidentally, suburban Detroit is overwhelmingly Republican. 90% white, 90% Republican. Douche bags.

So the issue is that the Detroit Zoo is in dire straits. It is owned and operated by the City of Detroit, which is broke. The Zoological Society, a non-profit organization established to tend the zoo, proposed a transfer of operation from the City to their organization, which the Council refused, cutting off funding and forcing the Zoo to prepare for closing. This has renewed the debate in SE Michigan on regional taxes for things like--oh--public transportation, cultural institutions, important public entitites such as zoos--and whatnot. Keep in mind that suburban Detroit is 90% populated by Republican douches when you read these shenanigans.

Below is a post from a Detroit News message board on the topic of a regional zoo tax. A suburban Republican douche responded to the question if such a tax should exist:

NO!!!!!That Zoo,if you could call it that,is the one of the best examples of the inability to keep animals in captivity under proper terms.Not only are the conditions terrible for the poor animals,but the staff is the even worst.How about a smile,clean the bathrooms and possibly be friendly.Or does that cost more?bet each and everyone of them just love their jobs,NOT!Oh and i guess my families dollars will change that,NOT!As for our tax dollars paying for it.You bunch of pathetic fools,look around.Kilpatrick has you all fooled into thinking we should all pay for that cities failure to do a single thing that will benefit the educational system.Yet hey,thet got the schools covered right?I moved out of the city i was born and raised in 11 years ago(detroit that is).Why?Because i was not about to raise a family with three children in that pit.To send them into those hell holes called schools would be suicide!Now those who argue the educational benefit of the Detroit Zoo is a need we can not be without.Well in 2000,2001,2002 Our east china schools visited that pit on field trips.Not even half of the exibits were open,the ones that were the animals could not be found.What a shame,a true waste of dollars.My young ones were devastated!Not the same Zoo i grew up with,will never go there again.I will travel out of the state to visit real zoos,places where you can actually see the animals.So you just try to get a vote on this one,the 60%+ of us will vote it down.And if it is so important to save then start a new foundation and gets funds that way.Fire all the staff and get some people that really care for animals and people to work there.GOD BLESS AMERICA and OUR BOYS AND GIRLS OVER SEAS!!!!!!!!

I love the testoneronic inovcation of pseuopatriotism at the end; screaming against giving up 3 dollars of his PBR beer money each year, he holds his dick in his hand as God Blesses America. It's incredible how the thin-veiled racial implications of this douche's post is so integrally related to a zoo. What's incredible is that this douche has, after a five-exclamation-pointed expurgation of 'no,' justified according to his own experience, his own tangible concern, the reason for a regional tax. Suburbanites use the zoo too, and this particular suburban douche is appalled at its condition, offended that his children have to go there but glad that they don't have to attend "hellhole" schools in Detroit, yet is simultaneously tooth-and-nail, steadfastly set against its functional operation. Here's a less thinly-veiled post:

SCREW DETROIT!!!!! Detroit said they didn't need the suburbs, but now they are lovey-dovey when they need the suburbs money. There are to many taxes as it is.

This douche is from Trenton. Go figure. Here's another post with slightly amplified feelings of bigotry:


Wow. I'm glad to see all of those suburban Republican douches being so critical. Here's something they don't realize, though. Their lifestyle of waste and consumerism--the freeways, the stripmalls, the 9-lane suburban thoroughfares, the subdivisions, the cinaplexes and megamalls, the infrastructure of individualism and instantaneity--is supported by regional and state taxes. The road infrastructure that implicity--necessarily and fundamentally--makes their lifestyle possible, is payed for my the citizens of the state of Michigan, even all way up in Chippewa County in the Upper Peninsula. The third-world, tribal stand against civic collectivity is--well, out of date. But what more can you say of suburban Republican douche bags?


The suburban governments of SE Michigan, organized under the guise of SEMCOG (SE Michigan Council of Governments), are comprehensively dependent on Detroit for their water infrastructure. The City of Detroit controls water for the entire region, though suburban governments see it as an intrinsic right that the City continue to provide this service according to their own lifestyle demands. In other words, suburban communities want Detroit's water, but they want Detroit to carry the brunt of the costs, and to maintain the infrastructure, and to be responsible for repairs, and upgrades, and new construction, and efficiency. From the point of view of suburban governments, as well as citizens, they pay for the water, not the responsibility of the water system; Detroit is the water landlord, who keeps up the property and makes repairs, but the suburbs are the water tenants, who pay monthly for the water one-bedroom, but not to paint it and fix the heat and maintain the lawn.

So how is it that the douche bags of Suburbanland are so outrageously opposed to the concept of regional systems, regional accountability, responsibility, viability (Jesse, is that you?), and indeed, livability? This is the state of the suburban Republican douche, who is intrinsically hypocritical and autonomously blinded, as in the case of the Detroit zoo polemicizer, who provided an exact justification for a regional tax to help an entity he admitted was regionally relevant. So why isn't the same true for water, which the SRDB uses to vernalize his lawn in the summer global warming-induced drought induced by the fumes of his SUV and lawnmower? Do you see what I mean?

Chanson: Sunny Day Real Estate, Pillars

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Detroit 1863

Riot, mob violence

Doing research tonight, I stumbled across a remarkable, primary account of the race and draft riots in Detroit in 1863. Part of the document included this poem, written by a black citizen in the city at that time:


'Twas in Detroit city, the State of Michigan,
Where mob law reigned rampant, disgraceful to man,
In killing and beating both women and men,
And sacking and burning beyond human ken.

The crowd ran collected and beat every one,
Whose skin were not colored exact like their own,
And swore they'd have "Falkner," and hang him that day,
Or kill every "nigger" that came in their way.

The only pretext for this outbreak in fact,
Was "Falkner" committed an now nameless act,
Although given up to the law right away,
The mob sought to lynch him in broad open day.

Now be it remember'd that Falkner at right,
Although call'd a "nigger," had always been white,
Had voted, and always declared in his shop,
He never would sell colored people a drop.

He's what is call'd white, though I must confess,
So mixed are the folks now, we oft have to guess,
Their hair is co curl'd and their skins are so brown,
If they're white in the country, they're niggers in town.

To keep from a rescue, and take him to jail,
The soldiers were ordered to come without fail,
But they were insulted and stoned at--pell mell--
Till some of them fired and down a man fell.

The mob, disappointed, now hied to a place
Where some humble coopers, of the sable race,
Were honestly working to earn their own bread,
By rowdies were set on and left almost dead.

They enter'd, and beat them with billets of wood,
Then fired the cooper shop just as it stood,
And as they attempted to rush from the flames,
They met them with bludgeons to dash out their brains.

Then they took the city without more delay,
And fired each building that stood in their way,
Until the red glare had ascended on high,
And lit up the great azure vault of the sky.

The sight was most awful indeed to behold,
See women and babes driven out in the cold,
And old aged sires, that fought for the land,
Beat almost to death by a desperate band.

Whilst females were heard crying, "kill them"--Oh; shame,
They urged on the mob, yet there's no one to blame,
'Twas got up to please our friends of the South,
Now don't say a word--nay, don't open your mouth.

We go in for the Union just as it was.
And slavery also, and all the slave laws;
Now do not think hard if we do behave rash,
By burning those houses we pocket some cash.

'Tis said that those houses and inmates were bad,
And hence the excuse that the outragers had,
Yet was it the true love of virtue alone,
That made the mob anxious to pull a church down?

Strange as it may be, yet 'tis true without doubt,
Mobs do not discriminate if once let out;
So when they had fired the huts of the poor,
They ran with the torch to their rich neighbor's door.

This brought the community plainly to see
The danger in which all were likely to be;
The rich and the poor, the black and the white,
Stood a chance to be mobbed and burned out that night.

I blush when I think that such deeds should take place,
Not heathens or Turks, a civilized race,
Not where savage nations alone have the rule,
But here amidst churches, the Bible and school.

Humanity wept, she lamented the sight,
The groans, blood and tears of that terrible night;
Yet, oh, may the town of Detroit never see
Such a day as the sixth of March, sixty-three.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

The Silent Life of Photons

Days at Promontory Point

Sitting in church this afternoon, I was reminded by the light entering the windows at the base of Beacon Hill rising over the Common that I am beckoned south and west. Generally. Without doubt, I am sometimes beckoned east, sometimes north. In Chicago, I am pulled both west and east, the former out to the prairie and the grassy hills, the latter out over the lake and into Michigan. In cases of being beckoned north, this often has to do with the western light, and sometimes with cloudy weather, mostly in winter but at times and for different reasons in the summer. In winter, the western light, in late afternoon, recalls the crisp air of the northern hills where we took long weekends as children and plowed through sixteen inches of snow on our way to play on these wooded knolls. Here the western light streamed easily through the barren trees where my brother and sister and I dug in the snow and played innovative little games. When the cloudy winter light settles I am sometimes beckoned north, in recollection of that magnificent grey landscape on the same long weekends where we drove subtle curved paths through orchards and woods on our way to ski trails and country diners and sometimes haunts. In summer I am beckoned north as well, but again due to the western light, which brings vivid impressions of late afternoons when the air finally dries out and the insects settle back into the wood save the tiny bugs that hang in the air stubbornly like gumps, and when the lake water begins to cool and the hum of boat motors die down and the world and catydids are turned over to crickets and slightly breezes that come from nowhere but the stuff of night itself. Occassionally, I will be beckoned toward the north and east in both summer and winter as a result of the eastern light which is in essence (and essence) the western light minus the angles of incidence that otherwise would make it equally vibrant. the eastern light has a way in both winter and summer of morphing the landscape into the sky, blurring and erasing the horizon line or the tree line in a singular palette. Here, the moon is most silver(-set-against-blue). The same eastern light beckons me east across the horizonless lake on Chicago summer evenings. As though the city were silent save a slow-rendered soundtrack, the gnats and bugs are flickering head and brake lights up the avenue, the dotted glows of windows and the planes flying overhead, blinking red and white, into Midway and O'Hare. Time moves at a rate less than 1, the foot feels no concrete but rather a mere ground, the air is devoid of breeze and weight. Just the silent music of photons creating the western light beckoning you east, highlighting the bellies of planes and softening the textures of tree and brick, upending the road and pulling the horizon up along the dome of the sky, wrapping it up back into the sky where it fades into intensity to west at your back. One has the sense of watching pure life, without identifying names and places, objects and species. Plane is gnat is oak is brake light is stone is water is street is dome is sky is person is eye is light is west is east is north is south. Is then is now is winter is summer is hill and plain and house and forest and adult and child and teenager and geezer. When time moves at less than 1, the rest seems to accelerate, warp and collapse into a stream rushing by as you face east, west, south, north...

Chanson: TNT, His Second Story Island

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Unfolding the Accordian, then Squeezing It Back Up Again.

Idea and Ontology

I spent somewhere around four hours in the past two days trying to track down a song that I heard on This American Life. Thinking about any number of micro-dilemmas brought to course in the passing of a day, I set bow to break and dug in a virtual landscape of placelessness for an ontological cue. This post is about idea and ontology. Chords are ideas. They are measurable, discernable, recognizable and identifiable; they are finite and tangible. They are not invisible. Circumstantially, our sensate capacities come to measure, discern, recognize and identify such cues like music, and waves of fluctuating air become ideas. A single piece of music, as a deliberately considered construction, denoted on paper and executed with a different rule of measure, communicates intention. This too is discernable; intention begets consequence, begets consequence, begets consequence, and on and on until we ( I ) ruffle my whiskers and call it causality. Last night I had a conversation about altruism and justice, and it was in the end a silly conversation because the other person involved and I weren't acknowledging the words that we were dodgings by proclaiming them. Besides, it was late and I was exhausted and I wanted to sit under the flourescent lights in the studio and stare forward, sipping on the lukewarm beer that stood at hand. Justice is black and white, she said, referring to Scripture. I said yes, it is. But we know it only in greytones. I don't believe in altruism, I said. I don't believe such a complete conviction is possible--sip--we declare it isn't. We're talking around the center now. At the end of the day I don't know what God's justice is. There's no way for me to a priori determine whether God's standing on a divide hoarding the murdered into hell. I cannot do this because I only see greys, but never black and never white. Of course, she said. But you have faith that God is correct. Right, that's the temptation as well as the pain of it. Yet how can we then turn around, admitting that faith in correctness is the best we can do, and send our own into a hell of our own making? What is this nihilism? How can you stand by the exactly ambiguous with an ambiguous exactness? Is it so easy to swing back and forth between poles, and miss the dialectics of moving in between? Sip. I wanted to say that I believe in one justice because the very concept doesn't allow for duplicity, and that we don't have relative palettes of choice. Sip. But that's the paradox of Christian ontology; that we depend on the relative to know the universal. This is a melancholy of all things in parallel--greater knowing yields only the possibility for greater unknowing. A god of justice is a god of torment then, if justice is univeral and singular, but we cannot know it in such terms. The extent to which we know justice is described most essentially by the extent to which we don't know, and the extent to which we don't know is the extent to which we are exacted the torment of not knowing, of building up in an origin-less world according to what can be seen and heard and tasted and felt around us; the melancholy of all things in parallel. In such a world, we will spend skewed time digging for the ontological cue. It is a grounding, as sign measures intention, measures consequence, and consequence, and consequence, and consequence...Sip. The whole time with two hands in two poles, two ends of the arc of a swing, eyes cast down along the trajectory of in between, constantly dropping swings from the right hand to pick it up with the left, and back again. Sip.

Chanson: A Perfect Circle, Judith.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Someday I Will Draw a Map of Idiocies

A journalistic note on the sublime

I have decided to post the beginning of the introduction to my term paper for an independent study I did this past semester in theory. This work shows that I am a poor critic, because I divert extensively from actually introducing the topic of the paper. And yet, I find it so impossible to resist the complexity of idiocy that such diversions help to indicate. Happy.

In the vacuum of modernism’s failed idealism, the infrastructure of the modern city is, in its global-economic situation, an infrastructure of the super-modern city. It is no mystery that the development of cities runs in tandem with the development of economies; this has always been the case. Even through tracing the history of capitalism, it is indisputable that the cities of the Renaissance thrived according to their mercantilist prowess, and colonial cities of the 18th and 19th centuries according to their locations en route between trade capitals. When capitalism latched onto the global-economic ideal, as only it could, following the trauma and opportunities of World War II, it brought with it a new idealism for the global-economic city, a step—or many steps—more ambitious than the domestic-scaled, comparatively modest union between technology and livelihood and living that Corbusier dreamt.
Within this new idealism, Corbusier’s vision matured and gave way to its natural zenith, just as capitalism gave way to a global economy, metastasizing into a deeper unity between worldwide forces and universal notions of the human condition, in which it posited the consumer as the commodity while providing the terrain for its harvesting regardless of place. Implicit with this vision is the selection and distinction of human ranks—who would do the production?; who would do the consuming?; what would be consumed?; and what are the spaces necessary to effect these relationships as necessity? In addressing these questions a hierarchy emerged within the global economy that invariably identified human geographies of control and others of ‘otherness.’ What I mean by using ‘human geographies’ is referencing the incredible link between terrain boundaries—political and, within these, social and often ethnic—and the capitalization of space. It was from the western powers that the free-market apotheosis developed, but the persistent accumulation that fed it was deployed across a different human geography, in which it could be “burned off” or incubated for future exploitation.
Rosa Luxemburg noted that “the keen dialectics of scientific analysis were required to reveal how the right of ownership changes in the course of accumulation into appropriation of other peoples’ property, how commodity-exchange turns into exploitation, and equally becomes class rule.” David Harvey, in The New Imperialism calls the link between accumulation of capital and the tactics of using it to generate more capital, accumulation by dispossession. The term can be legitimately interpreted in a number of significant ways. On the one hand, Harvey speaks of the distribution of capital across spatial absorption, such as built infrastructure and labor forces, while noting that this absorption is, to some extent, speculative in that it can reenter the market as developed capital. On the other, the term intimates at the ‘dispossession’ by capitalistic institutions of the communities on which it depends to provide resources and consumption. Moreover, this begs the ethical conundrums of capitalism that illustrate the incredible social and psychological destruction that these exploitative tactics leave in their wake, witnessing the breakdown of cultural identities large and small and the uprooting of people groups from landscapes of belonging.
It is the combination of these two aspects of Harvey’s term that interests me most, in that it understands accumulation by dispossession as the continuous seeking and reaping of new locales of resources and consumption, like a turbine that can only speed up but needs an exponentially increasing feed of locales in order to make it run at all. The resulting forces embody, in a diagram, a spherical globe of dependency, requiring that all nodes in the weave be functional lest the entire network collapse. The sustainability of such a system grows more infeasible and perilous as the weave itself expands, forcing out the institutions and practices—be they businesses or local networks—that don’t have the resources to risk in participating—even paying the admissions deposit—in such a dizzying web of interdependency. The subdivision of peoples and classes fuels the turbines necessary to generate the economic vision of the global-economic city and characterizes the spatial infrastructure from which it operates. David Harvey writes on the political components necessary for this vision in The New Imperialism. I will not write directly about these components—hegemony and neo-colonialism/imperialism—but Harvey has many insights into the social and spatial implications of global-economic idealism, and in discussing political considerations succeeds in indicating (a mere taste of) its complexity.
In the 1982 film Koyaanisqatsi, the urbanism of the modernist city is eerily compared to the architecture of a microchip. The comparison, of course, is not intended for juxtaposition; it is a very editorial sequence despite (filmmaker’s name) insistence that the film, charting the destructive will of human exploitation of resources and its social and spiritual consequences, takes no such editorial position. The global-economic city is a microchip, machine-built for transferability and mass movement across infrastructure and economy. Transferability not only of commodities and technology but of individuals as well occurs at a sublime scale—in cars, snaking through freeway corridors like whitewater canyons, and in the public domain, walking atomistically across the vast, windswept plazas of modernist urbanism in which the only place to go is the building-object at the end of plaza. Through control, there is no alternative exit route. Both instances of individual transferability contributed to the economic gerrymandering of cities, in which spatial choking assured that people, as economic entities, would be appropriately directed—the car and the plaza, two edges of the same sword.
Each worked at extremes. The modernist plaza emphasized space for individual isolation, or, in the case of the housing project, the stockpiling of family units, while the freeway provided for the safe transfer of individuals across the city (and economic) boundaries and beyond, emphasizing the networks of a depopulated infrastructure, where only the destination mattered and the transit to the terminus. It was the middle ground that was eliminated at the cost of these polarized spaces; encounters of individual to individual and the communities that they formed were routed out by these spatial control strategies. It is such small-scale, quotidian interaction that is the irrelevant breed of transferability under the guise of the global-economic city. It is increasingly castigated as a ‘sentimentality’ prohibitive of progress, development—growth—and is conceded to only in illusion—a bone thrown to desires for a vital and prolific public realm.
This effect is demonstrated in a number of American cities, both large and small. Towards this influential and hard-to-control sentimentality, the global-economic city is presenting certain strategies of deference that operate according to the social categorizations that fuel its progress. Luxury condos fronting the pre-global-economic wastelands of industry are fitted with scarcely-occupiable balconies, and global chains occupy the ground floor and street front of parking structures. The so-called (and so-marketed) “lifestyle center” animates a contrived “lifestyle” experience. Strip malls with pastiche, pseudo-nostalgic individual façades surround parking bays that open up through the exit-lane narrows to the ocean of global-economic marketing dysfunction. Yet despite the apparent sentimentality of these product innovations, the origin of their economic niche stems from localized balances of capital within the global economy—a spatio-economic instance. Entire neighborhoods in American cities are experiencing economic regeneration according to the marketability of urban lifestyle development. But much like the suburban lifestyle center, they too are terrains of accumulation by dispossession, fortifying undeveloped or underdeveloped land with excess capital in the guise of credit backed and accounted for by both development financiers and the consumers that will amass within its spatio-economic boundaries.
The irony is rarely noted. Pseudo-traditional architectural façades of pre-cast, airbrushed concrete conceal the spatio-temporal fix behind a sentimental veneer. They are not mere architectural affronts; they are façades of information—credit systems; digital networks of commerce and information tracking; identity marking and identity proof; height and weight on the driver’s license linked to blood type on the birth certificate, and the social security number on the same linked to the credit report, linked to buying power and credit limits, consumer class and marketing demographic—and façades of community—security cameras and surveillance, canned music of popular imagination and totem communality as mechanisms of the marketing psychology—and façades of transferability—so your neighbor sells you a new garment over small talk down at the boutique; its foreign creditors affirm the dispossessive stratagem of their manufacturing operations within third-world labor pools.
But even these deferences are deployed within the polar framework of control described earlier. It was the architecture of modernism and its particular and strategic place in modernist urbanism that removed the planes of individual expression and tangibility, accentuating and rather forcefully asserting the neutrality of constructed space. The posture of this neutrality is towards the propensity of the individual to inhabit to her surroundings according to the spatial modes of control that architecture facilitates. An architecture of neutral assembled spaces—both public (the windswept plaza) and private (the housing block apartment)—is one that resists the autonomy of an individual and limits her capacity to respond; it is a cap on personal volition in an environment where the architecture, both alone and within its urban framework, requires the lack of volition by its very assembly, its very purpose for assembly—to scourge the middle ground, the places of meaningful cultural interaction between individuals in what amounts to a sort of micro-localism antithetical to the spatio-economic paradox of individuality by de-individuality.
Therefore, a conception of the human condition in a theoretical or speculative sense was necessary to effect such spatio-economic strategies within the global-economic ideal. The early application of modernist dogma was, after all, a utopian application, in its purest form a dream of human liberation by the machine and the I-beam. But as suggested earlier, it was capitalism that latched onto this dream and expanded—by realizing—its scope and methodologies. Before long, the old bottom-up folk conceptions necessary for vital culture were more akin to the modernist dream in its own origin, becoming a folk tale itself, espousing the utility of humans to comply to the programmatic diagrams of dwelling and communities of dwellings within its own cultural platform. Modernism missed its historical origins and fancied itself a self-born, autonomous entity, indicated by the philosophical champions and fore-founders of modernism—Nietzsche, perhaps Kant—in assuring that history up to the apotheosis of humanity is a story of sickness and the denial of sheer autonomy and the pure will to power. Kant would remind us that phenomena are distinctly autonomous, being disjoined from any noumenal ontology.

Chanson: Air, Dead Bodies

Friday, February 03, 2006

The Need for Roots

An inversion: Resurget Cineribus? Peramus Meliora

For those Latin-heads out there, Detroit's motto means "We hope for better things; It shall rise from the ashes." The more pertinent question, however, is the opposite: will it rise from the ashes? We hope so. Detroit ought to change its motto to simply: "Resurgit Cineribus?" that is, "will it rise from the ashes?" Detroit, Detroit. Some of us love to say it because it makes us feel grizzled. I've often wondered what the name sounds like to someone who didn't grow up hearing it constantly referenced. What does, for instance, 'Phoenix' sound like to me? I can answer that: it sounds like a mall ploy, a theme park, a practical joke, a corporate marketing concoction, and a fake. What the world is seeing--willingly, this time, thanks to the endless parade of mindless but voluntary hype--is that Detroit is none of these things. I grew up with Detroit in my life. Aside from visiting fairly frequently (with respect to my peers), I knew that my history had roots in Detroit; important roots. What kills me is the polarity of the thing. Through and through, Detroit is a city all about and constitutive of polarity. Not even considering the obvious wealth, race, landscape, and economic polarities that Detroit maintains even within itself, I am torn between acknowledging the dismal dysfunction of the entire metropolitan clusterfuck and the meaningful tangibility of both its triumphs and its decay. And, of course, I have the polarity of nostalgia. Ladies and Germs, someday I will write an essay, or a book, entitled "In Defense of the Sentimental." In it, I hope to articulate what I cannot now, as I fall asleep writing this poorly written entry. That is that nostalgia matters, it is real dammit. Sentimentality is required reading. Did I have beer tonight? No, but maybe I should have. Gonna git a whippin from the school marm if you don't do the reading. Detroit's embarrased (embarassed?) itself so profoundly already. One big happy show. Happy, happy, charade. No cars in Motown. Isn't that ironic, like stupid Danny Liebeskind. Better than belligerant (belligerent?) Zaha. ZAAAAHA. Oh man, I think I'm giong to go to sleep. Here's an experiment: I'm going to doze off and type what I dream. Ready? Big boy and dad driving by the car dealiership in rochester. ah this only partly worked. you can feel your brain stimulated when you have to suddently do somethign conscious when youtr'e otherwise only semi so.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Snow in East Court Cambridge

Kleines Requiem

Chanson d'installation: Waterdeep, On a Night that Felt Outdated

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Melancholy of the Unrequitted Will

Weaving and unweaving the hostility of submergence

Returning home to a community-less shell, I became convinced yet again--just in case I still could have been making it before--that Northeasterners have no capacity for environmental awareness. Standing in the bookstore this evening, seven or eight people passed in front of me while I was searching for books without any utterance even close to "excuse me" or "pardon." Out on the street, I dodged them walking in the other direction, and halted my step when they merged in front of me. Of course, I'm a victim too. I don't really know where I am; only that I stepped from a plane sometime around three desensitized by the last four weeks and the last four hours. It was through a blanket of clouds that the midwestern landscape faded into white and greyness, just as it was through a blanket of clouds that it emerged back in December. That was four weeks ago. Four hours before I worked my way through a jetway maze and into the low-slung concourse at Logan, a story six years long was still unwinding in a web of obscure plot mutations, hop-scotch settings like in dreams, tangential contrails of subject matter that emerge and disipate and re-emerge, and the intangible gut-wrenches of memory. I wrote four hours before that we were in a time that moved like tectonic plates, inches by inches. This referred to a community that existed when the great storyteller of human tragicomedy began to weave this tall-tale. All that is left is to nod and offer stupified congratulations--hallow, without both sentiment and comprehension. This is not a gesture of dwelling on and on or suddenly snuffed-out hopes; instead it is the flash of green that lore claims is emitted with the last of the sun when it ducks under the horizon; or the subtle and temporary slip of a major seventh that renders a chord ambiguous and solidly unsure; or the long exhaulation after holding your breath. In other words, the end of the story isn't about the antagonist (towards whom the epic turns to make her the protagonist), nor is it about the retrieval of dead hopes or haunting nostalgia. Instead, it is simply about the passage of time, and the recognition that it has run out for this story. All stories require testament; they require the witnessing of their treads; they require vigil, and they require the passing of the last drip of wax that falls onto the landscape, and the terazzo floor, and the microscopic drip of ink that pen upon a pad the last words of the story: "what was it that made you hold on in the face of such despising?" This is what I have come to call the melancholy of the unrequitted will. In the end, nobody can be sure it's anything more than just the weaving and unweaving of two opposing, stubborn fictions.

Chanson d'installation: Red House Painters, Revelation Big Sur, and Grandaddy, Underneath the Weeping Willow

Monday, January 02, 2006

On the Renewal of Cities

Revival is not Re-creation

There is talk in cities all around Michigan today of renewal. It is a product of 90's oil and tech-boom optimism, when the society was invigorated by the end of the Cold War and could now think about cultural diversity, social issues, the environment (remember how enpassioned Earth Day celebrations were in the 90's), and other things that came with the ease of a blossoming globalism. In these years, people and the business world realized that our cities were embarassingly decrepit and that it might be nice (or profitable) to do something about it. Of course, now that globalism has had its way with us, the socio-economics of the 90's optimism of renewal is coming into being. Today, "renewal" of our cities is about shipping in a whole new population--one that can afford manicures, organic foods, cashmere cardigans, season tickets to the opera, and those cute demi-SUVs that perkily dodge the real issue. The vocabulary of plans--plans for renewal, plans for the downtown, plans for the economy--is one built on phrases like "luxury condos," "lifestyle center," "town plaza," "lofts," "urban residences," "cosmopolitan," and "upscale." The worst and most telling of these is 'upscale.' The reality is, no developer or city leader has any faith in a development that is /not/ 'upscale.' There is talk in Lansing of a new condo development that is supposed to "revive the downtown," according to an article. Aside from the obvious daydream absurdity that a single development can fix a city's central core (which will make the /whole/ city a shiny happy place again, right?), the most glaringly what-wha moment of this charade is the question of renewal for whom? If a city banks on 'upscale' condo developments with 'upscale' galleries and 'upscale' boutiques and 'upscale' restaurants and 'upscale' markets and 'upscale' cafes for renewal, how can renewal occur for a city of 130,000 people? Or is it renewal for the 58 people who manage to buy a 200,000 dollar condo and happen to occassion the new day spa every so often on the weekends? What could does a day spa or a fine clothier do for the GM factory workers laid off last month when GM closed an entire plant in Lansing? The problem is that governments and developers now talk about renewal in terms of kinds of spaces, in terms of building appearance (a cartoony sort of pseudo-quaint converted warehouse chic), and in terms of 'upscale' activities and perks. But this isn't renewal, this is re-creation. This is the totem black speaker at the Republican National Convention, the awnings installed on abandoned hotels in downtown Detroit for that convention in 1980, the yellow ribbon decal on the soccer mom's SUV that says "Support Our Troops," the suburban west-Michigan Christian family's Adopt-An-African boy, the Harvard Athletics sweatshirt. It's a charade, a totem; but not reality, not the tangible meat of the dilemma, not even a near conception of the crisis that it mockingly only passively refers to. Cities cannot be revived by importing archetype characters. Hipsters in the cafe do not fix failing schools, and Bougies in the day spa do not fix landlord slums or the street lights. Renewal isn't about importing court jesters, it's about repairing the existing.