May 26, 2011, 5:59 pm
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Eden, A Place for Everything, Indian Summer, Justin Coombes

my brother’s hunter

“We have met the enemy and he is us.”  Pogo Possum

“The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars — but in ourselves…”  Cassius, Julius Caesar

Edward Said’s book Orientalism published in 1978, told us the reality of the world was a clash of civilizations:  between the familiar West and the strange East.  It became and is still the go to explanation for conflict in the world.

I don’t know Said’s work except in sketch form, so I’ll put this next thought is it’s own paragraph.  That our civilizations rightly clash is what we firmly believe:  foreign laws are regressive, their ideas threaten our way of life.  We’ve taken it far:  they are taking our jobs, and even, let’s go and kill them.  I guess Said’s idea was complex and nuanced, but also that our advanced crass politics do draw their heritage from it.

Here’s strong evidence for another view:  that in fact most conflict in the world is a lot more local than Said and the priesthood that propagate his beliefs, and the word on the street, and pretty well the whole world, seem to think.  I’ve hunted and pecked some excerpts from Russell Jacoby’s essay Bloodlust below, which show that the enemy is not the stranger, rather it is us.

If you take it chronologically, the fratricidal Cain and Abel are the obvious archetypal start.  Not a war, but the first murder in a pretty important book.  The Peloponnesian war is another early example;  Thucydides account of the Corcyrean civil war describes loyalties that turned families viciously against each other.  Not nations, families.

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how to be free
May 23, 2011, 7:26 pm
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How to Be Free, by Tom Hodgkinson

magnum circus
May 23, 2011, 4:52 pm
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A circus troupe called Romanes, 1996 P Zachmann; Members of Duffy’s Circus, 1967 B Davidson; James Duffy and Sons Circus, 1967 B Davidson

replacing virtue
May 21, 2011, 10:06 pm
Filed under: brave new world | Tags: ,

Our image of virtue is the Amish girl selling organic vegetables, the helper suburban wife, the social worker who cares, the religiously convicted, the saint who runs orphanages, the hardworking labourer, the dutiful husband, the family that saves, the company man, the disciplined mortgagor.

However, if you look in the dictionary, virtue is described quite differently.  It is a learned moral excellence, an exceptional person who has developed essential qualities needed to live an excellent life.  There’s an enormous difference between this definition and our own milquetoast, passive, whiny vision.

In this excerpt from T. Eagleton’s essay Ideas for modern living: virtue, the author describes this difference.  He says the proper definition of virtue is energy, exhuberance, prospering, exhiliration, and excitement.

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Postman’s six
May 21, 2011, 8:22 pm
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Here are six questions Postman says we must ask when someone tells us about a new technology.  And my attempt to trace it through using — hmm — the ipad.  Why not?  It’s probably the most talked about new technology we have today.

1. The problem:  lack of mobility, better access to web when on the go, people think you’re not keeping up.

2. Whose problem:   the middle class consumer.

3. New problems:  monopoly on hardware, softwares and applications; diversion from other industries as all talent jumps on the IT ship.

4. People / institutions seriously harmed:  Chinese workers commit suicide, heavy metal harvesting in dumps in Africa, middle class consumers suffer potential psychological fallout.

5. Changes in language:  the new tech dictionary – a professional language that obfuscates and dominates business culture when there may be better people / methods of managing it.

6. People / institutions who gain power:  Tech CEOs who are now making health care and education policy worldwide, nerds, IT guy at the office.

Postman’s six questions about technology:

What is the problem to which this technology is a solution?
Whose problem is it?
What new problems might be created by solving the original problem?
Which people and what institutions will be most seriously harmed by this new technology?
What changes in language are being forced by these new technologies?
What sort of people and institutions gain special economic and political power from this new technology?

that lawless stream

image:  Two views of the Mississippi River. Left: the meander paths of the Mississippi over time, as published in “Geological Investigation of the Alluvial Valley of the Lower Mississippi River” (Fisk, 1944). Right: The Army Corps of Engineers’ view of Mississippi River peak flow rates during a maximum 1-in-500 year “Project Flood” (U.S. Army Corp of Engineers, 1958.) The places outlined in red are where the Corps has built flood control structures capable of diverting a portion of the Mississippi’s flow. (source: weather underground blog)

A wave is making it’s way down the Mississippi from the Ohio river valley to the mighty American river’s delta in Mississippi and Louisiana.  It’s crested at 48 feet, significantly higher than any other crest in history, and the water is moving at 2 million cubic feet per second.  The Army Corp is opening levees and floodwalls built 50 years ago to control the river.  The opened spillways allow water to fill designated flood plains adjacent to the surging river and lower the crest and speed of the deadly wave.

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Seattle’s beautiful room
May 13, 2011, 6:16 pm
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[The main hall in Seattle Public Library by OZinOH.]

Dutch architects OMA set out to make a beautiful city room in Seattle and this picture shows it so well.

Beside awe, I had a sense of something very new happening when I went to visit this fantastic place while working on a project in Seattle two years ago.  It stuck me that the architects would be so bold to present a four story concrete wall to the public immediately upon entry to their new library – people want baubles, not abstraction.  But there it is, directly in line with the front door, looming, menacing and slipping into a black night sky ceiling.  It’s Kubrick’s 2001 a Space Odyssey, or the Kabbah in Mecca – silent and mysterious.

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watching the royals


Why so enthralled with the royal wedding?  It’s senseless to care about quaint, ceremonial institutions. Fairy tales and princesses – we’ve moved on, haven’t we?  We revolted against and removed the heads of monarchs and dispatched the ideas that held us in thrall and them in power:  divine right, heredity.  And with blood and politics ushered in emancipatory ideas to fill the void:  enlightenment, meritocracy, democracy and modernism.  Plebiscite, suffrage, revolution: these are the hard fought – and won – battles waged against the long pre-modern night.

To the wedding, reaction among my friends was pretty tepid.  Except for three Brits who donned their fascinators and watched on the BBC big screen in DUMBO and later the repeat in a bar in Brooklyn, no one seemed to care much. Each was one of nonchalant, bored, oblivious, mocking and categorically opposed.  Some were a mix.  I’m busy, we defeated the Brits, we’re anti-pomp, but mostly, we’re American, was the field of responses.

When Diana died, I watched, in the middle of the night in my east coast studio:  the cortege of the Princess, her sons, the princes and her shocked brother walking in black suits behind.  “The half muffled bells of Westminster Abbey ring out their quarter peal across an unusually still London,” said the announcer.

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May 9, 2011, 5:08 pm
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