Mar 27, 2016

dreams, from moving

Horrible dream of movers with thick foreign accents and ugly leers who came early and then I fell asleep and when I woke up it was 4 hours later and they were still arguing over the best packing tape and then they left to get lunch and didn't come back forever and then we were looking for my new place but it was like a dormitory in a treehouse that was also an auditorium and then it was raining outside and I was awake and it was dark but the rain,

the rain was real.

Mar 12, 2016

Lists

Sometimes I really want to write
A list
Of all the things I learned
From you

Because that's all that
to me,
really matters,

Anyhow

I worry that
those that really know you
may say that those aren't you
and that maybe you too
will fail to see
Where in yourself those lessons
began
And question

Whether they were you you
Or some internal
astral projection.
it's no matter.

I value this reality,
mine,
All the same

And maybe thats the biggest thing
Or maybe just the smallest
That would be
On the list.

Alongside stopping to
Let the photographer have
His moment
without me

And alongside
how objective truth
is universally
Momentary.

Mar 5, 2016

catastropha

[prompt: can a catastrophe be private to an individual? contained? ]

the water had been spiked.  all the water, for the entire city of macon, georgia.  we didn't know it at the time, but it was one of many facts that became clear in the aftermath.  the CDC is still working to determine the exact pollutant.  my friend marty said that it reminded him of the time he took meth while tripping on mushrooms out in the salt flats.

they caught the lady, but we're all still as stumped on motive.  she was of average height, brown hair, sort of librarian looking.  wore glasses and worked from home while taking care of two children.  her husband worked courier during the day, contracting himself out to local construction companies and neighborly errands via some startup's app-centric delivery service by turns.  on construction days he'd take the ford f150; the smart car or bike on the others, his saddle bags cleaned and empty, ready for a day of heavy use.

they still don't know where she got the drugs from.  or why she did it.  she's in the county jail now, but isn't talking about it.  there wasn't any residue at her house.  no large packages delivered in the last six months.  no trace of it anywhere, at all.

macon split in half that day.  literally, the sky parted in two, one part of the sun in each half.  the middle was filled with a black velvet that shimmered, pinioned between the two sides of the sun.  i asked my mom about it, she says that that never happened.  she says it turned violent green.  she's still sunburned for spending so long laying on the grass, trying to reconcile where the land ended and the sky began.

the facts are this: at 9:36 a.m. while on a tour of the local water municipality, the perpetrator gained access to the fluoride supply and contaminated one of the barrels with a neurotoxin.  by 12:10 p.m. the contaminated fluoride was being piped to the entire county.  she had been chaperoning her oldest child's class field trip.

after the sky ripped in half, i went inside to find george.  he had fallen over the back of the couch, and was laying on the cushion, his feet up in the air, his head hanging down toward the persian rug, a modern reproduction of a safavid design.  his eyes were open, tracing lazy lines along the curves of the ceiling, and his mouth hung slack, drool seeping down, slowly toward his eyebrows.  i still can't get him to tell me what he was seeing.  he says it's hard to explain, but it involved something with gravity and the world going all topsy turvy, just for a day.

they pulled her children in for questioning.  by the time they had traced the contaminants to her, three weeks had already passed.  the oldest child couldn't remember anything from the water trip.  she did mention a canvas tote bag, but the authorities haven't been able to locate anything like that. not yet at least.  the younger one seemed to be tripping at the time of the interview -- she wouldn't do anything other than mimic back what the questioners asked her, mimicked it back in bird song.

jill doesn't think she did it.  when the drugs wore off, jill found herself curled up in a grocery cart at the local fiesta mart.  the last 8 hours were a blur of dried pasta rain, ice cream aisle parties and vegetable art.  cans of tomato sauce and black beans surrounded her cart -- someone had made her a fort to nap in, as best as she can figure.  her cheeks were wet -- when the elation wore away, she dissolved into tears over the loss of her last child, miscarriage, again.  can a catastrophe be private to an individual? contained?  her fellow shoppers had tucked her away, laid to rest on a bed of puffed marshmallows.

they say it was a miracle that no one died.  they say we're lucky the insane asylum is miles from the nearest gun shop.  they say that they don't know if it was a terrorist attack yet but that they should know, soon.  for now she's locked up in isolation.

case and i spent the afternoon in the hammock out back deep beneath the poplar trees, twined up together like two cats with bellies full of cream and as much time to idle away as any.  case talked about the book he had been reading, about how our lives were like microcosms of the world yet lived, tracing back all the things that he knew, one by one to their origin's origin's origin.

rumor is that she hasn't been given a lawyer yet.  if they do hand it out, i'll probably get it.  being the public defender means defending all types, but she'll be the first terrorist i've defended, if they decide to go that way.  they retro-tapped her phones and text messages and emails and app content.  both her and her husband.  they say the evidence they found there is totally useless. maybe it was just a part of her destiny, that part picked out for her from birth.  her parents haven't been located yet, otherwise they might give some insight to why they called her catastropha.  she goes by cat for short.  cat, the brilliant mastermind.  cat, the criminal savant.

when the sun set that night, it began from the rifted middle, exploding outward in a steady stream of color: hot yellow, magenta, bloody red, violent violet, then the deepest emerald green.

Trip Report, Boston

This Friday, March 4, I traveled to Boston to spend a day with the papers and ephemera of one of my favorite authors, Jane Jacobs.  The entirety of her archives resides at Boston College’s Burns Library. (How her papers came to reside at Boston College is unclear.)[1]  I was able to spend a good portion of the day going through a fraction of her papers.  I concentrated on looking for new and unpublished ideas.  I ended up spending my time with some unpublished drafts of essays she had written, a lot of drafts and publications that were either summarizations or re-phrasings of theories that are her published works, some personal and professional correspondence, and some royalty statements from Random House.

The reason for my trip stems from an interview she gave in May 2005. The interview was conducted, in part, to get her remarks on the republishing of one of her less well-known books, The Question of Separatism, which deals with the subject of Quebec’s bid for independence in the 1980’s. In the interview, she alludes to the book that she is currently working on: Uncover the Economy.   She died in April 2006, almost a year later, with the book unpublished.  In the interview with Philpot, she makes a few allusions to the questions that this book will address, to wit: 

   “[C]ities never flourish alone.  They have to be trading with other cities. My new hypothesis shows why.”

   “An interesting thing about business cycles is that they don’t exist in small or backward economies.  They only exist in city economies, in advanced economies, and that’s an interesting thing. Why is it?  Another thing to[sic] Uncover the Economy to find out.”

  “I have an entirely new hypothesis on how economies, macro-economies, form themselves and organize themselves, and where this kind of life comes from.  But it’s so different from the standard idea of economic life.  But some people believe it because, for one thing, I haven’t made up my new hypothesis, which I call ‘uncovering the economy.’ Everything in the hypothesis is out there, happening, and it accounts for so many things that are just slid over and ignored in regular economics.”

I wasn’t able to find mention of the draft in the archive’s listings, nor did my hunting through her unmarked drafts, letters and papers turn up many clues to what this new theory was.  The closest I came to it was a letter to her editor, David Ebershoff, dated March 16, 2005, regarding her submission of “PART II” of the book.  In the letter, she talks about her struggle to avoid the allure of re-editing the work she’s submitting, and alludes having difficulty restating past topics, saying that she's “not tempermentally equipped to recycle my own writing. I want to make it re-thought writing, or I lose interest in it.”

I also spent some time perusing the derivative works that her writings had inspired.  In her archives, there was a box of papers, articles and dissertations that others had written based on her works, and subsequently sent to her.[2]  I was curious about what directions people had taken her work.  How much had her writings influenced economic thought?  What new avenues of research were being pursued as a result of her writings?

The answer was a bit disappointing.  A large portion of the work was derivative of her book Systems of Survival, in which she lays out a new framework for human ethic systems.  These were typically submitted by sociologists and philosophers — researchers that are interested in the rise and propagation of value systems.  Other avenues of inquiry came from designers and urban planners, they were mostly based around her ideas in Death and Life of American Cities.  One article, that seemed mis-filed, was a detailed explanation of the mechanics for the West Village Houses administration, rent and mortgage arrangements with HUD and the New York Housing Authrority.  There was a paper on the economics of waste recycling and an article by Malcolm Gladwell from the December 11, 2000 issue of the New Yorker, that used Jacob’s  Death and Life of American Cities as an extended analogy for the benefits of open offices.[3]

My interest in both her unpublished draft and derivative works is related.  I’m trying to discern what, if any, experimental work has been done to prove or disprove her theories of city economy.  I was hoping to find more concrete investigations in the set of academic papers she had been sent, but unfortunately none of them appeared to approach her theories from an experimental angle.  

As for her unpublished works, I was looking for new conclusions that updated or refined her theories of economy, first published in the 80s as two books, Economy of Cities and Cities and the Wealth of Nations. These books, now a few decades old, encompass the bulk of her thoughts on how economies work.  Specifically, I hoped that she might address the Internet, which was much more of a force in 2005 than in 1984, when Cities and the Wealth was first published.  She mentions it briefly in the interview, but doesn’t seem much impressed with it.[4]

My reason for this research is quite simple: I’m interested in real-world or simulated experiments that attempt to verify her ideas about import replacements, cities as the basic unit of economic wealth, how economies grow via city forces, and all the subsequent conclusions she draws based on these few precepts.  So far I’ve been unable to find anything concrete.  I’ll keep looking.

So where to from here?  I’m hoping to contact her editor and inquire about the fate of the drafts of Uncover the Economy.  I might spend a bit more time with the Google Scholar reverse search for research papers referencing Cities and the Wealth of Nations, to see what other derivative research I can uncover.


[1] Jane Jacobs, famously, did not attend college, but instead moved to New York City with her parent’s blessing and became a journalist.  Her connection to Boston College is unclear to me. 

[2] There were 17 files for derivative works in her archive.  If you do a search on Google Scholar, which will pull up a list of papers that reference another work, there are well over 1,000.  Her archive only contains derivative works that were sent to her, typically by their authors.  In that way, it's a small, self-selected fraction of all derivatives.

[3] I read an interesting article on Malcolm Gladwell a few days ago that called him out as an ‘undercover’ ultra-conservative who has been working tirelessly for the past few decades to promote conservative topics to liberal audiences. As someone who finds open office plans to be largely unfriendly to workers, I could see this article touting the benefits of open office plans via a very well regarded liberal’s ideas on city planning (Jacobs) as a left-ward slant on a conservative/pro-business subject. http://shameproject.com/report/malcolm-gladwell-unmasked-life-work-of-americas-most-successful-propagandist/

[4] In the 2005 interview, she addresses to the Internet saying: “[People] love to think that things have changed so that they can forget all their mistakes and not have to explain them any more: oh well because of globalization, the web, etc. [Interviewer: ] Do you think the web has the effect of bringing people together or keeping people apart?  It brings some people together … it’s not nearly as revolutionary as language itself.” 


sound reflecions: observations from SF MOMA's Soundtracks exhibit

karthik and i went to the SF MOMA today to check out the last few bits of the soundtracks exhibit. we saw this great video work that i can&...