Friday, November 11, 2011

Monday, October 31, 2011

scenes from the occupations

why OWS has left Washington behind
an open letter

the plague in Athens

“The season was admitted to have been remarkably free from ordinary sickness; and if anybody was already ill of any other disease, it was absorbed in this. Many who were in perfect health, all in a moment, and without any apparent reason, were seized with violent heats in the head and with redness and inflammation of the eyes. Internally the throat and the tongue were quickly suffused with blood, and the breath became unnatural and fetid. There followed sneezing and hoarseness; in a short time the disorder, accompanied by a violent cough, reached the chest; then fastening lower down, it would move the stomach and bring on all the vomits of bile to which physicians have ever given names; and they were very distressing. An ineffectual retching producing violent convulsions attacked most of the sufferers; some as soon as the previous symptoms had abated, others not until long afterwards. The body externally was not so very hot to the touch, nor yet pale; it was of a livid color inclining to red, and breaking out in pustules and ulcers. But the internal fever was intense; the sufferers could not bear to have on them even the finest linen garment; they insisted on being naked, and there was nothing which they longed for more eagerly than to throw themselves into cold water. And many of those who had no one to look after them actually plunged into the cisterns, for they were tormented by unceasing thirst, which was not in the least assuaged whether they drank little or much. They could not sleep; a restlessness which was intolerable never left them. While the disease was at its height the body, instead of wasting away, held out amid these sufferings in a marvelous manner, and either they died on the seventh or ninth day, not of weakness, for their strength was not exhausted, but of internal fever, which was the end of most; or, if they survived, then the disease descended into the bowels and there produced violent ulceration; severe diarrhea at the same time set in, and at a later stage caused exhaustion, which finally with few exceptions carried them off. For the disorder which had originally settled in the head passed gradually through the whole body, and, if a person got over the worst, would often seize the extremities and leave its mark, attacking the privy parts and the fingers and the toes; and some escaped with the loss of these, some with the loss of their eyes. Some again had no sooner recovered than they were seized with a forgetfulness of all things and knew neither themselves nor their friends.
“The malady took a form not to be described, and the fury with which it fastened upon each sufferer was too much for human nature to endure. There was one circumstance in particular which distinguished it from ordinary diseases. The birds and animals which feed on human flesh, although so many bodies were lying unburied, either never came near them, or died if they touched them. This was proved by a remarkable disappearance of the birds of prey, which were not to be seen either about the bodies or anywhere else; while in the case of the dogs the result was even more obvious, because they live with man.

“Most appalling was the despondency which seized upon any one who felt himself sickening; for he instantly abandoned his mind to despair and, instead of holding out, absolutely threw away his chance of life. Appalling too was the rapidity with which men caught the infection; dying like sheep if they attended on one another; and this was the principal cause of mortality. When they were afraid to visit one another, the sufferers died in their solitude, so that many houses were empty because there had been no one left to take care of the sick; or if they ventured they perished, especially those who aspired to heroism. For they went to see their friends without thought of themselves and were ashamed to leave them, at a time when the very relations of the dying were at last growing weary and ceased even to make lamentations, overwhelmed by the vastness of the calamity. But whatever instances there may have been of such devotion, more often the sick and the dying were tended by the pitying care of those who had recovered, because they knew the course of the disease and were themselves free from apprehension. For no one was ever attacked a second time, or not with a fatal result. All men congratulated them, and they themselves, in the excess of their joy at the moment, had an innocent fancy that they could not die of any other sickness.
“The crowding of the people out of the country into the city aggravated the misery; and the newly-arrived suffered most. For, having no houses of their own, but inhabiting in the height of summer stifling huts, the mortality among them was dreadful, and they perished in wild disorder. The dead lay as they had died, one upon another, while others hardly alive wallowed in the streets and crawled about every fountain craving for water. The temples in which they lodged were full of the corpses of those who died in them; for the violence of the calamity was such that men, not knowing where to turn, grew reckless of all law, human and divine. The customs which had hitherto been observed at funerals were universally violated, and they buried their dead each one as best he could. Many, having no proper appliances, because the deaths in their household had been so numerous already, lost all shame in the burial of the dead. When one man had raised a funeral pile, others would come, and throwing on their dead first, set fire to it; or when some other corpse was already burning, before they could be stopped, would throw their own dead upon it and depart.”

--Thucydides, 430 BC
from History of the Peloponnesian War

Sunday, October 30, 2011

holiday rerun: pompions past

The best thing about all the xmas catalogues and junk mail coming earlier and earlier each year is putting them to Halloween tunes:
"awroo00O! Chadwicks of Boston" to the tune of "Werewolves of London," and so on.

related: calaveras, muertos, pumpkin mold

Saturday, October 29, 2011


They had artichokes for 33 cents each at the grocery store.

33. cents. each.
I went and got 40 of them.

Artichokes for dinner all week. Big grey-green piles of leaves and petals heaped up on the table every night.

But pine nuts are still ~$10/lb.

So we went out and collected some of our own this year.

(Also, FYI, they explode like popcorn/firecrackers if you keep them roasting too long.)

related: cones

Friday, October 28, 2011

hacking honeybuns, pigeons, &c. (inside and out)

Waiting around at CVS (pharmacy/crapstore) for my flu shot the other day, I got to reading the label of a Mrs. Freshley's Honey Bun. I was on the ethoxylated monoglicerides when I remembered that I'd meant to post this great little article my brother sent me from this newspaper in St. Petersburg Florida earlier this year.

Honey Buns as prison currency, as "hooch wine" ingredients, birthday cakes, last meals, &c.

On that note, check these other improvised prison technologies --for both living inside, and breaking out.
Mark Steinmetz' *fantastic* photo slideshow.

& these little stoves, darts, shivs, &c. at Tóxico

Finally, there's this story from a couple years ago, about carrier pigeons trying to use Brazilian yard birds to force their own obsolescence.

related: exploiting systems

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

hacking the city, the streets, the copyright

Earlier this summer we were in San Francisco with some friends, trying to reacquaint the kids with Chinatown without breaking anything or getting run over, when we saw a guy painting a brilliant dragon mural that had a big square of plexiglass down in the corner. Here's the Banksy stencil painting, now protected by the City, that he was painting around. As great as it was to see the Banksy painting, it was an even better surprise to see someone now working in the margins of that painting. Wish I'd gotten a photo. Sorry, I guess you'll have to visit Chinatown.

Until then, here are a few movies that I've been into lately that sort of deal with this idea of working and playing in the margins, starting, actually, with Banksy. I'm not out to review them or anything, but I do give them each a bunch of stars.

Exit through the Gift Shop (2010)

Dogtown & Z-Boys (2001)

“Two hundred years of American technology has unwittingly created a massive cement playground of unlimited potential. But it was the minds of 11 year olds that could see that potential”
- Craig Stecyk, 1975

Be Kind Rewind (2008)

Finally, here's one recent take on margins and this question of the cultural commons--not part of the film, don't worry:

“In premodern England, villagers used to annually ‘beat the bounds’ of the commons. Armed with axes, mattocks, and crowbars, they would perambulate the public ways and common fields, demolishing any encroaching hedges, fences, stiles, and buildings that had been erected without permission. To bring formalities back to copyright would nicely beat the bounds of the cultural commons. I doubt it was apparent in the late 1970s that abandoning formalities would amount to a taking from the commons, but that is what it has turned out to be. To restate but one piece of what has already been said: In the old days, with a renewal requirement, 85 percent of all work passed into the public domain after 28 years; now, without it, that sizable portion remains enclosed (uselessly so) for another generation or more.
Simply put, by reducing the de facto reach of monopoly privileges, formalities enrich the cultural commons. If they also remind us that copyrights are creatures of positive law, not of natural right, and thus also push back against what might be called ‘conceptual enclosure,’ so much the better.”

related: Moose Curtis, feeding fish

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Walking in the City

The desire to see the city preceded the means of satisfying it. Medieval or Renaissance painters represented the city as seen in a perspective that no eye had yet enjoyed. This fiction already made the medieval spectator into a celestial eye. It created gods. Have things changed since technical procedures have organized an "all-seeing power"?
The ordinary practitioners of the city live "down below," below the thresholds at which visibility begins. They walk--an elementary form of this experience of the city, they are walkers, whose bodies follow the thicks and thins of an urban "text" they write without being able to read it. A migrational, or metaphorical city thus slips into the clear text of the planned and readable city.
The story begins on ground level with footsteps. They are myriad, but do not compose a series. Their swarming mass is an innumerable collection of singularities. Their intertwined paths give their shape to spaces. They weave places together.
The act of walking is to the urban system what the speech act is to language; it is a process of appropriation of the topographical system on the part of the pedestrian (just as the speaker appropriates and takes on the language).
We could mention the fleeting images, yellowish-green and metallic blue calligraphies that howl without raising their voices and emblazon themselves on the subterranean passages of the city, "embroideries" composed of letters and numbers, perfect gestures of violence painted with a pistol, Shivas made of written characters, dancing graphics whose fleeting apparitions are accompanied by the rumble of subway trains: New York graffiti.
The childhood experience that determines spatial practices later develops its effects, proliferates, floods private and public spaces, undoes their readable surfaces, and creates within the planned city a "metaphorical" or mobile city.

-- Michel de Certeau, 1984

Friday, September 09, 2011

Chinatown haiku

all right. here we are
neighborhood of make-believe

cable car trolley
ore skip of the surface streets
every body off

there, in the middle
of your post card, he gestures,
that's my Acura

speaking so softly
and with their haricuts
Indios take pictures

related: early summer, looking up, accident, waiting, wooden cars

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

lucky eyes, evil eyes, third eyes

You know the bindi? The colored dot some Indian women traditionally wear on their foreheads? Ash is really into bindis, ever since she saw little girl with on in one of her story books. Now, for the last couple months, everyone she draws gets a bindi. Herself, me, Kelly, Tom, the Sun, Grandpa Rem. These are giant bindis too. More like great big moles, or dark, mystical third eyes. Here are a few examples, in watercolor and highlighter.

Tom's deal, on the other hand, is quite different. Earlier this year he started doing this thing (mostly when we're sitting at the table, trying to eat dinner or something) where he lowers his chin to his chest and says "two Moms," or "two Ashes," or "two grapefruits." We couldn't figure it out at first, but soon realized that he was going walleyed (I think the medical term would be exotropia/exotropic), giving himself double-vision.

I'm not sure whether it's fair to blame/credit the nazar charm a Turkish friend of ours gave him last summer, but it has been hanging over his bed from a mobile for the past year, keeping the evil eye off.

Should I call these things "talents"? If so, they're ones I don't mind encouraging, especially if, in Tom's case, it might eventually place him among such distinguished company as, say, Peter Lorre, Marty Feldman, and (Dad, you'll like this) Leo McKern.

related: ash draws