Sunday, December 14

as long as i gaze on

Islands - Waterloo Sunset (Kinks Cover)
Found at bee mp3 search engine

Wednesday, December 10

Wendy and Lucy

I don't think I ever experienced with more frequency the immediacy of helping a stranger than when I lived in New York. Not in the sense of giving directions to a tourist or dropping a dime in a bum's cup, but in the sense of being face to face with a person in a situation that probably defied some city ordinance or park rule or code of conduct and forced to choose whether to engage with them or stay safely in my own life. I guess I stopped thinking twice about helping someone after that, mostly because I thought that in a place with such a large population, so many people lived under the radar or fell beneath the cracks. What happens to a person when they are not in a community? How do we form a sense of community with the individuals we share physical, real space with?
It seems a much more curious dilemma now that friendships are mediated through social networks like Facebook and micro-updated with applications like Twitter. Our closest friends are virtually present while the physically present are our nearest strangers. The difference between living the real versus "knowing" the virtual becomes very apparent. Which makes it odd to consider this idea through safely watching a film... Kelly Reichardt's latest, "Wendy and Lucy," follows a young woman as she makes her way to Alaska in what may be a futile attempt to find work at a cannery. The whole premise could not be more relevant in a time when the population is feeling the effects of downsizing and "re-organization" and are faced with the task of building new communities and sometimes starting over in other geographic locations. What happens when you don't have your trusted neighbor in the adjoining apartment to ask for help, or need transportation home and your bus doesn't come, or are not sure if you are safe in the neighborhood you are walking through? I read a good review of the film on the New York Times' website citing this circumstance as "the nature of solidarity in a culture of individualism." More here.

Tuesday, December 2

the persistence of memory

"We, amnesiacs all, condemned to live in an eternally fleeting present, have created the most elaborate of human constructions, memory, to buffer ourselves against the intolerable knowledge of the irreversible passage of time and the irretrieveability of its moments and events."

I've had perception on the brain lately. I've been thinking quite a bit about my relationship with the world around me, from the smallest, most mundane moments. How do we process what happens during the course of a day? Since losing my job, moving cross country, having a near-death experience and suddenly being in a very domestic relationship situation, I've been forced by my own decisions and circumstances to look at every aspect of my day. There is something oddly disconcerting about not knowing where to pick up a loaf of bread if you forgot it at the grocery because you are unfamiliar with where you are. Moving to a new place creates a situation of having to learn new patterns for things that were before a given or taken for granted in that no research was required to do them. The desire for patterns is a curious thing: do we need shortcuts so that we do not dwell on the decisions that are made every moment, to clear the brain for larger decisions? It's 10 am and I'm not sure where to find lunch if I cannot just cook something from what I have here. What is around me for restaurants? How adventurous am I (or should I say, how much work do I want to put into finding something to eat?)

Not a complete thought, I guess. Seems to me like a few months of research may enlighten me on this matter...

Monday, October 20

crush all that is subtle

I've been revisiting some of my old essay reading, as I never seem to finish books like these. I come across some point, get very excited thinking about it, and then abandon the book like a tenth cup of coffee that's giving me a stomach ache. So, based on a conversation I had earlier in the week on the place of art in life and history, I re-read Morton Feldman's essay "The Anxiety of Art" (an review in Artforum of Give My Regards to Eighth Street, which it is anthologized in.) In this particular essay, Feldman laments how history contextualizes a work, removing from it what is intuitively enjoyable about it. "...the fact that a thing happened, that it exists in history, gives it an authority over us that has nothing to do with its actual value or meaning. We see it in life; why do we fail to see that in art too, the facts and successes of history are allowed to crush all that is subtle, all that is personal, in our work?" This sentiment extends, in Feldman's view, to the traditions of composition and the controls of reading or playing variations on the verbatim, for taking something at face value. Without the acceptance (forgiveness?) of chance, the work cannot achieve a transcendental quality: "For art to succeed, its creator must fail."
Richard Byrne, in the publication "American Prospect," recently wrote about a similar topic regarding an actual event. The author Milan Kundera was recently found, at the age of 20, to have gone to the Checkoslavic secret police and denounced a man for spying. Through the clear lens of hindsight, this is a deplorable act. Yet, through the uncertain haze of a present moment, to Kundera, Communism leveled the classes and seemed to provide equality for even its poorest relations. "Man proceeds in a fog. But when he looks back to judge the people of the past, he sees no fog on their path. From his present, which was their faraway future, their path looks perfectly clear to him, good visibility all the way. Looking back, he sees the path, he sees the people proceeding, he sees their mistakes but not the fog." Read the article here.

Friday, October 17

on language

I've been re-reading Derrida's Monolingualism of the Other or the Prothesis of Origin, and thinking a lot about the nature of self-identity and how we use language to craft it. Derrida's discussion centers on his Algerian Jewish background and how it manifests itself or is completely hidden in his use and understanding of French. I've come to the belief that language is a difficult tool to use to express abstracts such as cultural identity (Derrida example being that accents are absent in the written word) and am fascinated by this tension to fumble around to relate these concepts anyhow. So, from the science angle, I saw this today from the TED conference: linguist Steven Pinker questions the very nature of our thoughts -- the way we use words, how we learn, and how we relate to others.

Wednesday, October 1

our rapacious, media–driven culture

"To speak of reality becoming a spectacle... universalizes the viewing habits of a small, educated population living in the rich part of the world...." S.S., Regarding the Pain of Others

Sunday, September 21

keep me out of country in the word

An interesting article was posted this week on Slate on Radio Free Europe, which, yes, does exist outside of an R.E.M. song. "RFE/RL provides uncensored news and information in countries where a free press is either banned by the government or not fully established." An interesting, and seemingly more effective take on foriegn policy: imagine that, educating the public through broadcast media in a non-partisan way by their own journalists; as opposed to sending troops. It seems only natural in this age of information to bolster this type of foriegn presence, and let people make their own decisions. Unfortunately, the government funds used to support RFE/RL have dwindled considerably, from $230 million to $75 million. That money pays for transmitters, salaries, security, and anti-jamming technology, as well as programming and Internet content in 28 languages ($75 million is also the cost of four apache helicopters.) I get the feeling the McCain/Palin ticket won't be supporting that either...

Monday, September 15

bang bang

Wow. Apparently, they've built a "giant scientific instrument" near Geneva that will be used to recreate the Big Bang. That's right, recreate the Big Bang. That would be taking all of the abstract mathematical calculations about physics and realizing them, such as the Standard Model and the existence of things we think exist, but only because we can see their effect on something else, like dark matter or strange matter.

The Large Hadron Collider is a particle accelerator that will enable scientists to view the behavior of beams of hadrons, a type of subatomic particle. The LHC is 17 miles long and exists under a region. At first I thought this was surely the work of science fiction, but apparently this thing was tested last week. A UK newsite notes "The LHC is the world's largest cryogenic installation. In preparation for Wednesday's initiation, 37,000 tonnes of equipment had to be cooled down by 300°C to 1.9° above absolute zero (-271°C). The machine also uses the world's most advanced superconducting magnet technologies. LHC's conception and construction involved 10,000 people from 500 institutes in 50 countries."

It seems suspicious that mimicking the circumstances that began the universe might not affect the existing universe, right? Will it cause the universe to end, or create a new one on top of ours? Will it even work?

It's like living science fiction without the jetpacks or the jumpsuits.

it seems like years since it's been here

Sunday, September 14


I've been really enamoured of Mike Mills film work for awhile now, but only recently discovered that he designs posters and fabric. Pretty (yes, I said it) little anxiety filled ruminations on social interaction to hang on your wall. I can forgive him for misspelling "buried."

rice rockets and nyouricans

The Journal of American Ethnic History is an online journal that includes essays and reviews (and something called "review essays?") on ethnic identity as it has evolved through the course of geographic location, historical events and cultural circumstances. An interesting, uh, "review essay" by Tasha Oren looks at two recent publications that examine how popular culture is made by and through ethnic difference. "Immigrants and American culture have created each other. Popular culture can thus be mapped as much through its pangs of longing, hurt, struggle, and hope as through underlying structures of institutional and social power."

|||||canyon ride||||||

Wednesday, September 3


A hapax legomenon is a word that occurs only once in a written body of language, and is therefore difficult to define. They have historically acted as signatures internal to the work itself: Shakespeare's works contain a similar percentage of hapax legomena not found elsewhere in his work, something that would be difficult for a forger to duplicate. It's like how the writer uses the structure of the text to leave his mark on it, like a tattoo or a birthmark, something that is a unique biological mark on it's body. Create your own aleatoric useless objects here.

something said only once

A list of the top ten disappearing languages in the world. An excerpt: "Yuchi is spoken in Oklahoma, USA, by just five people all aged over 75. Yuchi is an isolate language (that is, it cannot be shown to be related to any other language spoken on earth). Their own name for themselves is Tsoyaha, meaning "Children of the Sun". Yuchi nouns have 10 genders, indicated by word endings: six for Yuchi people (depending on kinship relations to the person speaking), one for non-Yuchis and animals, and three for inanimate objects (horizontal, vertical, and round). Efforts are now under way to document the language with sound and video recordings, and to revitalise it by teaching it to children."

Friday, August 29


only love can break your heart

"Our perfect companions never have fewer than four feet." Say a little prayer for him? I hope he'll be home coming home soon...

Sunday, August 24


I run. I love running. But it can be so incredibly, mind numbingly boring sometimes that even my best playlist can't drop a beat to save it. So I've recently revisited some of my favourite podcasts in order to keep my mind from shutting off completely (I tried reading magazines, but it is somewhat nauseating when you are running on a treadmill, and my vision is poor anyway.) I'm a complete latecomer to them, and the iTunes music store where I've been downloading them for free from can be daunting in it's number of choices, but here's what I've come up with so far. I like the New Yorker's Comment podcast for it's generalist mix of commentary on things like depictions of race, how parrots can learn English and then teach other parrots and the philosophy of John Adam's operatic compositions. I just discovered something for my geeky linguist tendencies, which is called the Word Nerds (I listened to a podcast today on the "secret" languages, jargons and lingos.) My other go-to right now is WNYC's Soundcheck podcast, where I've heard a great interview with Dean Wareham on this new book, a debate on "Paul vs. John," a discussion on why protest music today is so different than it was in the 1960s and an examination of one hit wonders. I've been told that Sasha Frere-Jones has a great one, too. I'll add it to my list, but maybe I'll save some for commuting, life's other great time-suck.

Thursday, August 21

38 states

Three controversial maps.


My friend Nurri insists that I am fascinated by systems (which is true.) I am truly fascinated by determining patterns and mapping out paths of abstract ideas. Most of my recent work has involved close examination of language, and although I'll probably never be more than a fan, I do find myself reading about it as much as possible (I have not completely ruled out a PhD in Linguistics if I choose to stay in NYC for awhile.) One of the worst books I've read was about the history of the Oxford English Dictionary, and despite the poor writing, the historical facts are fascinating. Until the OED was begun by the Philological Society of London in 1857, English was one of the last European languages to try to establish a standardization. If you consider that a dictionary by definition (funny) is a book of alphabetically listed words in a specific language, and requires definitions, etymologies, pronunciations, and other information, this was no small task to accomplish. One of the most interesting things about the process of getting all this information was that it was achieved by going out to the public and asking them to read books and find the information about words from their context. Imagine a paper form of a wiki (floorboards had to be reinforced to accommodate the weight of all the papers sent back with word definitions.) The final "facsicle" was published in 1928, about 70 years after the project had begun. Being that all languages are living, the dictionary has also had to evolve to accommodate changes in the use of English (consider text messaging: bastardization or alternate spelling?) Well, I suppose with the proliferation of slang terms appearing both as spoken and spelled, alternate sources of information are necessary to jack in to that kind of thumb lashing. (If you still have are curious, visit Baragona's for more.)

Sunday, August 10

doubts on technology

When I was a kid, I played with paper dolls. My sister and I would trace their outlines and draw fantastic costumes for them to wear, then carefully cut them out with strategically placed tabs so that they were prepared (at least in outfit) for whatever adventure we envisioned them in. Sometimes real dolls seemed so limited by the rules of the three–dimensional world, whereas our paper dolls could always defy the laws of physics in their two–dimensional one. Although not paper dolls, Low–tech magazine does have dioramas, vehicles and monsters to be printed from your computer and cut out. Fun activity for when the radiation from your computer screen becomes eye–watering. There is also an interesting article on visual entertainment before the advent of television, including devices like the stereoscope and the magic lantern.

Saturday, August 9


I still have a soft spot for minimal guitar electronic noise, and I suppose the popularity of bands like high places make me feel less like I'm getting old and out–of–touch (people still listen to black dice, right?) Anyway, I'm heading out tonight to see Growing, and if you have not given them a listen; they make for very nice end-of–summer music, especially on a beautiful Saturday like today.

Friday, August 8


The eccentricities of logic in the English language are truly fascinating, especially the fact that we abide by weird stylistic rules because they are universally understood, not because they necessarily make sense. Some choices have been made by use, others determined by print, others by the dominance of certain ethnic groups, still others (like the letter aitch) by rationality. The New York Times posted an article today on why we capitalize the letter "I". If you're still interested, Daniel Heller-Roazen wrote a great book on the forgetting of language.

Tuesday, August 5

think global, act local

I spent many hours during my thesis years pondering the question of whether the idea of an indigenous, local culture was a good or bad thing. Is retaining local culture maintaining a diversity of ideas, or is it hindering a group's ability to progress? Are we culturally obsessed? Interesting article from the Humanist discusses the pros and cons.

Monday, August 4


The best game I ever played when I was homing from work was on the Washington City Paper's website. One of our sister alternative papers in the AAN/CAN circuit, they run a page online every week called "Spot the Drummer." Since I spent most of my time sitting next to a drummer and waxing poetic about music as opposed to entering classified ads, I became pretty astute at picking out which was the drummer based solely on promotional photos of obscure bands (and yes, the theory of beards is unproven.)


Of all the things a person can be bad at, mine lately has been sleeping. My doctor told me that I should hide my clock, so that I have no idea what time it is. I always think it's funny to try to trick yourself, as if you didn't know where the clock was or what the reasoning was behind hiding it. I already, however, set my clock a half hour fast and I can never find anything that I don't put in the usual place anyhow.
A few articles on sleep and the brain that I read this weekend posited the idea that sleep is a totally irrational activity, and also that sleep makes you smarter.

Sunday, August 3

right brain

An interesting article on the function of the right side of the brain in language connotation, and how that affects our serendipitous moments.

sandro perri

I can always tell if I really like something when I come back to it unconciously, as with most of Sandro Perri's musical output. I don't have much of the lingo for describing composition, but I can say that I liken it's response in me to listening to Morton Feldman. I found an interesting article that touches briefly on his use of language in composition here. And you can listen to the whole Glissandro 70 album on Lastfm!

I worry sometimes that as I age my taste will freeze like a time capsule from a past era. There are so many things that I loved to listen to over the years, and now when I go back to them, I'm somewhat embarrassed by the music but can narrate nostalgically the circumstances that impressed it on my memory. It's strange to me that the popularity of some music seems to derive from a herd mentality, that it's an occurance in a time, place and (communally with a) group gives it a place in our collective memory. It's strange because fundamentally it's a listening experience and could be packaged any way, or heard in any circumstance. I can't say I'm exempt from that, but somehow these individual experiences with a piece of music appeal to something further in the brain that make us bond with other listeners.