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March 31, 2001

More justice.

I think the Europeans and Japanese ought to slap sanctions on the United States for its shortsighted and arrogant policy on global warming.

European leaders frequently bristle about American behavior, but President Bush's abrupt decision this week to abandon a treaty on global warming has provoked even more than the usual level of anger and frustration.

"Irresponsible," "arrogant" even "sabotage" are just a few of the charges that Europeans have leveled at Mr. Bush since he announced his refusal to follow through on the treaty, the Kyoto Protocol.

-New York Times

My feeling is that President Bush is likely to do a lot of long-term damage not only to American national interests but to the planet as a whole. His foreign policy team seems to be stuck in a Cold War time warp, and I would not be surprised if the United States suffers a major terrorist attack as a result of heightened anti-American sentiment in the Arab world. I believe the bland Bush, led by the nose by his disjointed, oil-company proxy, out-of-touch, anachronistic advisors, may well set the stage for hefty disaster for the country and the world, unless more rational minds prevail in the corridors of power.

March 30, 2001

Dirk Hine, the author of the now-archived Subterranean Notes, has started a new weblog, Hypogee, as he says, sooner than expected, and welcome news.

Ruthie's Double told me the other day that people assume that because she has stopped writing for a while that she's depressed or has gotten bored with her weblog or something, but in reality she's just away from her computer for a while, and she's fine, and she'll be back writing again later. So don't give up hope.

Mr. Density, Crispin Glover's zine.

Khaela Maricich of Get The Hell Out of the Way of the Volcano wrote and sang this lyric about Crispin Glover:

Mister Famous Crispin Glover
Mister Voice of My Age
performed vocabulary vivisection
on stage
ran away with stolen paragraphs
and made a Frankenstein
well I did not understand it
but I laughed because I paaaid
to a clever ukelele accompaniment, on her excellent first twee-y release, Look Up in the Sky It Will Always Be There (as far as I know available only directly from her.)

March 28, 2001

Saw Yi Yi tonight, a long, interesting, somewhat lugubrious Chinese film about family relations, set in Taipei, Taiwan. The thought that comes to my mind is: why is it that people are so reticent to take choices that are clearly available for them, yet which only seem to be excluded by habit, by peer pressure, or by vague fears of instability or risk? There are, of course, real dangers in the world, but the danger is rarely precisely what people think. Doing what "everybody thinks" is safe is often the most certain guarantor of unhappiness in the long run.

Of course, there are real risks which are also covered over by conventional wisdom: i.e., the Internet hysteria of the last few years (now replaced by anti-Internet paranoia, which will swing backwards to bring down both the worthy and the worthless). There's just an ubiquitous distortion that accompanies conventional wisdom. So we need to constantly re-examine, to trust our careful re-looking at things, that sense that things aren't what they seem.

The two sides of fear: fear is the mind-killer (Frank Herbert), fear is the beginning of wisdom (something that the eccentric Jewish karate master H.I. Sober was fond of quoting). I thought about this for a while, and I realized both are true: in the first case, phantom fears, exaggerated fear of that which isn't really happening, irrational fear. The second case: it may dawn upon us that we really ought to be paying attention to things we're systematically ignoring or distorting. For example, we fear death, yet what this fear amounts to is a failure to accept the fact that we are going to die, and a concomitant unwillingness to be afraid of what we really ought to be afraid of: wasting the life that we have. While we're afraid of death, we hope it won't really happen to us, and thus we live in constant denial of death: as though we have forever to live. It's better to live as though we might die at any moment...

March 27, 2001

Today I flipped on the TV and saw Senator Fred Thompson (R, Tenn.) interviewing Senator Joseph Lieberman (D, Conn.) on a cable news show. Thompson was asking questions of Lieberman's views on a variety of subjects ranging from tax cuts to education policy, and they were having a reasonably cordial discussion. At one point they started to talk about the fact that in this recent debate on campaign finance reform, the senators were actually conferring and debating the issues, themselves, actively, in a way which they most often did not. Later in the show Thompson remarked how nice it was that they had that chance to actually talk with each other in an extended format (the television interview), when typically, in the Senate, they only got to talk with each other in 15 second blips. Somehow this statement amazed me --- these folks are the chairman and ranking member of the Committee on Governmental Affairs, and they never sit down and just have an ordinary conversation about policy?

It seems like a far cry from what the Founding Fathers intended; i.e., I imagine they supposed the Senate would be a chamber where actual debate would occur on a regular basis; but apparently this is an incredible exception, not the rule.

March 24, 2001

lava bedDoes this bed look comfy to you? It does to me.

After Miranda's performance of the Swan Tool last night, which was the US premiere, there was a Q&A and one of the questions had to do with how she holds things together while working. She said that sometimes she has to set aside time and be alone in order to work, like most of us do; but for her, it's that seemingly strange place which is her guide through life, and it's ordinary daily life which is harder.

I have struggled for a long time to reconcile the two worlds, which aren't really two worlds but in fact are just one, with limited but real success. It seems that everyone around me is trying to do the same thing in different ways.

March 19, 2001

I don't know how I look.

Or, more accurately, I'm not sure how I look to other people. A teacher of mine once suggested that we should all just sit down and record ourselves looking into a video camera, talking about our lives or something like that. Then play the tape and see what we see. He suggested that we'd be shocked to see things about ourselves that are totally evident to other people, but we have completely masked them from ourselves.

Some people, born performers, are always aware of how they look to others. They are very good at performing, and equally good at knowing how to look: good, or bad. In a way, I've always been afraid of this, because I worry that I might try to use it to manipulate people --- performers can manipulate people, and I certainly am afraid of overt manipulation of anyone. (Why I am afraid of this is something I haven't really investigated --- it is nevertheless a deep-seated fear --- as though, you know, I might be too good at it for my own, and others', good.) Yet being unaware of how I appear to others is tantamount to leaving my effect on others to habit, which is sloppy, careless, and inconsiderate. Particularly when I really do want to share things with others, communicate fabulous things I have seen, felt, understood, in the hopes of expanding the world of possibility for others and myself (when I receive the return communications).

At least I can read what I write, and I think I can see something about how it might appear to others. That's partly why I enjoy writing this weblog. I am usually pleasantly surprised when I read it later, because, frankly, I don't really know what is going to come out when I write. And in a way, like Claude Levi-Strauss once remarked in a radio interview I listened to raptly at the age of nine in my little bedroom in Geneva, New York, I don't really remember what I write after I write it; that is, until I read it again later.

In lieu of knowing how I look I simply look at the faces of the people I am interacting with. I watch myself in the mirror of others. Not just how they are reacting to me, but how they are doing in their lives. Of course, for this to work, I need people to be brutally honest. I try as best I can to guess how people feel, are feeling. And sometimes I can be uncannily observant. But mostly I hope for honesty, because it is difficult to be surprised except by honesty, and I treasure being surprised by the truth.

Surprise me.

March 15, 2001

From CNN:

He said Islam was a progressive religion and "it was for the sake of progress that the idols were destroyed."

Meanwhile, the Taleban ordered the slaughter of 100 cows Thursday as atonement for taking so long to destroy the Buddha statues since coming into power more than four years ago.

The author of this particular news item clearly has a dry sense of humor.

Despite the historical and cultural tragedy of destroying these statues (which the Taleban erroneously seem to think were "worshipped" by Buddhists), I couldn't help but think there was something oddly Buddhist about the giant hole in the rock left by the explosives where the statues were. An eerily appropriate sign for impermanence. What's funny is that though they've blown up the statues, the empty spaces will probably remain for a very long time to come. They might even become a tourist attraction.

Silophone (via Lemonyellow.)

March 14, 2001

The fucked-up music industry is getting even worse: FCC deregulation has made the de facto payola that ruins radio even more perverse than it was before. How do we get around radio? Of course, the Internet provides a very powerful alternative distribution mechanism for music. But how do people sift good music from bad, or at least find music that suits their taste?

MP3.COM has so much music it is impossible to go through it all. You can, of course, go to the "most downloaded" music but again it's chicken-and-egg. Music that's in the most-downloaded list may not be any good, it just stays there because it's already there --- how did it get there to begin with?

I don't just want to listen to the most downloaded music, and I certainly don't want to listen to the music paid for by the giant labels to the few giant radio conglomerates.

I'd love to listen to the music collections of my friends, or of music critics whose sensibilities I like. But of course hosting mp3 files is a big chore... but there are already sites that do this (i.e.,

Perhaps the answer is not to host mp3 files, but rather to have critics who talk about music linked to legally posted mp3 samples or whole songs on other sites like Lists of cool or interesting music that you might not otherwise hear. A way around the radio station megalopolies.

March 13, 2001

Went to Olympia this weekend and visited with Kenneth Mroczek, a talented young artist who has just gotten into Cooper Union. I will be helping him set up his website. Went to a little concert of some people in the folk/grunge bands The Microphones and Little Wings. The concert was $1.50 and was held in Khaela Maricich's studio. And I had the good fortune to be able to spend time with Khaela. Got a copy of her tape, Get The Hell Out of the Way of the Volcano. I recommend it. We had some Indian food and talked about her ideas and her art and things.

In typical Olympia fashion I somehow ended up at the shoot (well, Khaela wanted to go) for a little music video that K Records is going to release for a song by Little Wings. At least I think that's what it was. I am one of a number of people who shot ten second clips with a mask over our eyes. It was fun.

March 9, 2001

Astria Suparak, the curator of the Some Kind of Loving video compilation and until recently the curator of a multimedia series at the Pratt Institute, is going on tour (click on "news" on her site).

Heather Anne recommends Georges Perec, famous among other things for having written a book without using any e's, which incredibly has been translated into English. Perec was a member of OuLiPo, a group dedicated to creating art within various constraints, often mathematically inspired.

Dean Kamen's IT appears to be, most likely, a hydrogen-powered, gyroscope-stabilized, scooter. It's hard to tell if it's the scooter that's supposed to be so revolutionary, or the hydrogen motor. If the motor is significantly more efficient than, say, the ones made by Ballard Power Systems, then he might have something.

On the less environmentally conscious side, paper cell phones are coming to market this year. Yes, cell phones made out of conductive ink on paper. One thinks of the environmental degradation of disposable phones, but then again it probably takes a lot more material to make a single plastic-and-metal cell phone than it does to make a few reusable paper cell phones. Hmm. The idea of a paper cell phone, though, does seem like one of those bizarre technologies that you probably imagined might come to be in the year 2001.

March 6, 2001

So Joseph (Melting Object) quotes Brian Massumi a couple of weeks ago:

Recombinant art or political practice is just reshuffling the cards that have already been dealt. One must sense and experience limits. Not just map borders. One must come to existential terms with the absolute contingency of what arrives out of nowhere, at the limit-state of being...throw the die of becoming. The one that lands in the sky and stays in the air instead of returning to the ground.
This is exactly the thought I have been having recently, in the last few months. I have often been attracted to the idea of recombinant art --- much of the interactive work I have done until now is more and more sophisticated versions of recombination --- which can be very satisfying. But there is something more I want to get at, a greater effect or resonance I'd like to achieve --- expressed beautifully in the quote above. This is the direction I want to move now.

I think we normally think of our actions as proceeding something like this: I have an idea, I act on that idea. But our whole being is certainly never concentrated down to the single point of an abstract idea --- there are still vast processes that move on around the core nugget of the self-reflective idea... not only in our minds, our brains, but our whole bodies, the context of our bodies, the context of society, and ultimately all of time and space, here and elsewhere. The idea itself emerges from these currents, and returns to them, and action does not proceed solely from the idea, but from the currents around the idea, through it, from the spaces that the idea negates as well as the feelings that it expresses, and from the hidden movements at cross-purposes to the idea. Then there are hidden biases and unconsidered presumptions which we pretend are not bound up with the thing we call the idea --- which we cannot rid ourselves of entirely. Our actions emerge from a current of currents, and they are not even isolated actions themselves ... they themselves are connected to everything, ultimately, and not themselves clearly expressible as unitary, isolated, abstract phenomena.

March 4, 2001

Had a great lunch with Joseph, whose site I read and who happens to live in Portland, thankfully. Nice to have another good blogger who is local! I love visiting other webloggers in person, but you're all so far away, it pains me. On the other hand, I do get to have excuses to travel to faraway, exotic places, for my visits.

One thing I miss about typewriters is the physicality of typing with them. Even electric typewriters have this feeling --- there was a sudden and intense and satisfying thunk whenever you would hit a key. Plus it was difficult to cut and paste; another excellent thing, which prevented you from overthinking things.Sometimes I like to sit down and pretend to be typing at a typewriter, without trying to edit incessantly, just accepting what comes out. It seems to be able to come from a deeper source. I just type, without planning it out. Tap tap tap tap tap tap tap.

I'm probably one of the last group of people who still remembers using a typewriter --- people had typewriters all the way into my college days. Quickly thereafter, they disappeared from the scene. Still usable for a few things, like filling out certain forms, but even Kinko's no longer has them (they just got rid of them this year).

March 1, 2001

And, of course, All Your Base Are Belong To Us.

If you can't get enough.

While we're on the subject of earthquakes: the old advice to stand in doorways or get under a desk during quakes is apparently folly. The thing to do in a quake is get into a fetal position next to but not under a large object like a desk, a couch, or a safe. Apparently if your building collapses, the ceiling will crash down and crush a desk, but it will usually leave a little triangle of safety next to larger objects. If you're in a door you will also be killed by a falling ceiling or collapsing door frame. Check out this article for more information.