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

Monday, September 05, 2011

Pedestrain Day(s) in Bolivia

"What's the matter with you?! Today is Pedestrian Day; you can't drive!" shouted Jorge, an offended seven-year-old who was playing soccer with his friends on the Avenida Esteban Arze de Villa San Antonio. For just a moment, an authorized vehicle had broken through his improvised soccer field.

This is how the front page article begins in today's la Razón, Bolivia's national daily newspaper. Yesterday Bolivia cleared about 2 million cars from the streets in nine cities, calling it, officially, if not very succinctly, "National Pedestrian and Cyclist Day in Defense of Mother Earth."

Volleyball, street markets, music and dancing, kids throwing tops, hundreds of bikes (a lot of them on the freeways), people playing hopscotch in zebra costumes, old Chola ladies in bowler hats doing tai chi, etc. Of the forty or so people that got busted for driving, one was someone from the mayor's office, another it turns out, a drunken senator.

There's a video montage over here with this little article from the bbc, and maybe check out the general wikipedia article on car-free days.

As fabulous as this all is, though, it's worth noting here that Bolivia's real pedestrian event actually began last month, when over 1000 Bolivian Indians started marching 400 or so miles--from the Amazon Basin up to La Paz, at 12,000 feet elevation!--to protest a new highway through TIPNIS (Isibordo Sécure National Park and Indigenous Territory) land.

some more details (English), and 16 minutes of interviews (Spanish)

related (offsite): patagonia sin represas