woensdag 25 juli 2012

Dot.Walking the Ghost Town [Occupy the Maze; drifting with Blinky, Pinky, Inky and Clyde]

Dot.Walking the Ghost Town [Occupy the Maze
Rotterdam // August the 3rd 2012// 16.00 Hours
A .walk part of the NAI Summer program.

# “This town, is coming like a ghost town
# Why must the youth fight against themselves?
# Government leaving the youth on the shelf
# This place, is coming like a ghost town
# No job to be found in this country
# Can't go on no more
# The people getting angry”
# The Specials
Consider Pacman. Trapped in a ghost town designed to control and subdue him. Running for his life, driven by a hunger that is never filled, eating everything he can only to be forced to do it again and again as he progresses through the system, but in increasingly hostile circumstances. All in the baseless hope that it will get better and that the fear, the existential fear that is his only birthright, will reside. Pacman is in the death grip of a permanent crisis. We all are. It is not a coincidence that generations have mindlessly assumed that Pacman is the good guy, a hero, the employee of the month, but he won't be a role model to my children. Pacman doesn't Occupy the Maze, Pacman is the perfect slave, the one who thinks he is free and happy only because he never tasted true freedom and true happiness. Pacman is not a victim, he is a coward.

# This town, is coming like a ghost town.
Blinky, Pinky, Inky and Clyde are innocent to the concept of labour, their quest to chase Pacman and eat him is purely recreational. Failure is without consequence, the drift is theirs and their wandering strategies are an inspiration to every psychogeographer beyond the maze. Their scatter-chase-repeat routine is a wonder in itself but their swagger in blue mode, when the roles are reversed and they can be eaten by their dinner, is the unchallenged masterpiece in the arsenal of experimental walking techniques. Again the ghosts do not encounter real harm when devoured, they are positively transformed and reborn while travelling. The ghost in blue mode is in trickster mode, they are urging Pacman to feed them power pills not just out of self-interest but out benevolence, to teach him.

# This town, is coming like a ghost town.
Blinky, Pinky, Inky and Clyde are not attacking Pacman, evil is not a useful concept in their carefree existence. They are the Magister Ludi's of crazy cookie land, enticing Pacman to look at the true nature of his condition and rebel against it: 

The game is over!
There is no next level!
Pacman goes to heaven, ghosts go everywhere!
Become the ghost!
Conquer da ghost town!
Join the Dot.Walk!

maandag 23 juli 2012

Cryptoforestry with the luftwaffe

London Garden in bomb crater 1943
"Many city children of my generation got their first experience of nature courtesy of the Luftwaffe, when bombed-out houses were transformed into little wildernesses of thistle, teasel, willowherb and loosestrife. Redstarts and other birds nested in crannies in the ruins, among staircases leading to nowhere, peeling wallpaper and upper-storey fireplaces, still with ashes in the grate, now open to the sky. The bomb sites, where I yearned in vain to be allowed to play, appeared to me to be immemorial landscape features, full of character and mystery, and one of the major attractions of family visits to London, Liverpool and Birkenhead in the late 1940s and early 1950s." - Jonathan Raban (source, earlier, wikipedia)

donderdag 19 juli 2012

The Comanche Empire

Nomads, the historical records show, can evade, resist, stop, sustain, exploit, destabilize, and destroy empires. They can also build enduring empires of their own, but only if they modify the essence of their being and became less nomadic. Nomadism appears fundamentally incompatible with empire-building. Empires thrive on structure and stability, whereas nomads - at least the nomads one finds in most scholarly studies - are shifting and factional. Their institutions, like their very way of life, tend to be fluid and ephemeral, and they lack such classic elements of empires as state structure and surplus-generating agriculture. Indeed, to preserve their might, nearly all nomadic empires develop over time more fixed institutions of governance and production that required at least seasonal sedentarism. 

Countless colonial officials failed to comprehend and contain the Comanches. Comanches deflected the controlling gaze of colonial agents through their traditional political culture in which power was dichotomized, leaders could be both strong and weak, and group membership was flexible. A vast collection of relatively autonomous bands and organized for multipolarity and fluidity, the Comanche nation appeared formidable and fragmented, structured and shapeless, incomprehensible and impregnable all at once. Seen from the outside, the Comanche nation was an amorphous entity that lacked a clear center to negotiate with - or obliterate - and an explicit internal structure that would have rendered its external actions predictable. The Comanches, it seems, were so dominant not in spite of their informal, almost atomistic social organization but because of it.
The Comanche Empire (Yale, 2008) by Pekka Hämäläinen has been my best read in months. It describes the emergence of an obscure band of Shoshone's on the great plains just before 1700. Here, equipped with horses and fired by unbounded energy these former hunter-gatherers created the wide-ranging semi-nomadic, trade-centred, raiding-dependant Comancheria empire that lasted for over a century. George Catlin, who painted the Comanche village above in 1834-35, estimated that principle Comanche village had six to eight hundred tipis organized in long parallel lines "which gave the settlement  a gridlike appearance of streets and rowhouses," according to Hämäläinen. On the outside this book is the story of the rise and fall of the Comanches, but it also incorporates anthropological and ecological views, explaining how ecological factors and social organization contributed to their success. The Comanches, I can't help myself comparing, were the Vikings of the great plains.

dinsdag 17 juli 2012

The Diggers2012: Occupy the Cryptoforest

The Diggers of Runnymede Eco Village are the Diggers2012 and I LOVE them. This is their statement dating 20th May 2012.
We: peaceful people, declare our intention to go and cultivate the disused land of this island; to build dwellings and live together in common by the sweat of our brows.

We have one call: every person in this country and the world should have the right to live on the disused land, to grow food and to build a shelter. This right should apply whether you have money or not. We say that no country can be considered free, until this right is available to all.
With our current system in crisis we need a radically different way of growing our communities. We call on the government and all landowners to let those who are willing, make good use of the disused land. Land that is currently held from us by force.  By our actions, we seek to show how we can live without destroying the planet or ourselves. Free from the yoke of debt and rent, our labors can be directed to the benefit of all.

Though we may be oppressed for our actions, we will strive to remain peaceful. But we are committed to our cause and will not cease from our efforts until we have achieved our goal.
The second week anniversary in the last week of June was marked by these words:  
Its two weeks today since we, a ragged band, moved into the gardens surrounding the old, disused Brunel University Runnymede Campus.

In the past it was a thriving university campus where sciences, design and technology, theatre and sport were taught and enjoyed until the site was sold to private property developers in 2007. For over five years it has remained largely vacant and disused (with the occassional film shoot or police dog training taking place in the buildings). 

Around the buildings we discovered acres of woodlands interspersed with fields and overgrown lawns. It is beautiful and on a hill with views overlooking Runnymede and the river Thames. The forest and fields, as well as being host to a variety of trees and fauna, are also our home and provide all the resources to grow food and build sustainable, low impact dwellings. Since moving in we have planted vegetables and begun building shelters and communal spaces (including a timber framed long house). Leaving the buildings to themselves, we have established our camp on the old lawns of the garden where we live together: cooking our meals on the fire and enjoying the environment. The security guards – whilst being largely friendly – have struggled to accept our presence on the site. It seems there is a conflict between what they may know is harmless, reasonable behaviour and what is required of them in order to keep their jobs. But we take no pleasure in causing anyone irritation. We simply wish to live on the land. 
George Monbiot visited the Diggers2012 camp and penned a piece for the Guardian, these words stand out for me:
The promise the old hold out to the young is a lifetime of rent, debt and insecurity. A rentier class holds the nation's children to ransom. Faced with these conditions, who can blame people for seeking an alternative?

But the alternatives have also been shut down: you are excluded yet you cannot opt out. The land – even disused land – is guarded as fiercely as the rest of the economy.
John Gurney, a scholar specializing in the Diggers has a nice article on the Diggers2012 in STIR magazine.

Again: I love the Diggers2012! Occupy the Cryptoforest!!

maandag 16 juli 2012

The lives of artists are as boring as any other life

"Over the past four centuries there has been too much emphasis on the life and personality of authors - great streams of reminiscence, biography and autobiography. In fact the lives of writers are not greatly different from the lives of plumbers; except that, in the romantic age,  writers stuck poses and behaved in wild eccentric ways - not so much because those aberrations were a part of their nature but because the public expected it of them: "true genius is to madness near allied". In the late nineteenth century no poet or artist was genuine unless he broke most of the social rules, steeped himself in drink and laudanum, got syphilis or consumption, fled to wild barren places of the earth, manned barricades, was alternately in a trough or on a crest of the spirit, flirted with the demonic and the angelic (or both). It seems to me that under all the masks, the lives of artists are as boring and also as uniquely fascinating as any or every other life." - Gordon Mackay Brown (For these islands I sing, 1997)

Gordon Mackay Brown was a writer from Stromness in Orkney, the son of a postman and a student of Edwin Muir. These are all good credentials.

zondag 15 juli 2012

The urban forage fashion police

"foraged plants and flowers can be kept in a basket"

In the Netherlands the great forage revival keeps attracting more high-profile coverage. This time I nearly fell from my seat as I recognized the face of Edwin Flores in the pages of the Margriet, a woman's weekly I associate with the reading pleasure of countless of grandmothers. I don't know Flores but earlier I reported on a forage tour he guided and I have to repeat what I said earlier: if foraging had a fashion police he would be the chief super intendant! He is "well groomed in Bear Grylls chic" and the picture above confirms it.

Mockery aside, it's great to see 'wild picking' promoted in such a magazine (ook al moet het vertrut worden om acceptabel te zijn) and perhaps, given that its readership comprises of older woman, it could perhaps, via via, release a lot of dormant plant knowledge. I mean: it would have been great if my own grandmother who was a avid reader of the Magriet (she passed away 5 years ago) on reading this article would suddenly remember forgotten uses of plants from her own youth and tell us about it. 

The obvious thing to say about the recipes is that the foraged greens, presented as a way to 'eat from nature', are almost symbolic additions to ingredients you can buy in every supermarket. The wild plants provide parts of the flavour, the rest, calories especially come from elsewhere. When looking at foraging as a political activity this is significant. There is a good post by Ian M. on foraging for Burdock that addresses some of these issues.

Pasta with smoked chicken and ground elder pesto
Bread with cheese, ham and nettle tops.

vrijdag 13 juli 2012

Drifting with the GPS drift

When preparing the previous post on GPS drift I wondered what would happen if you would drift along with the drift. Yesterday I had 30 minutes to spare and I gave it a try. I went to the park, switched on the GPS in the middle of the field, stood still and waited for the device to 'move' and then I followed its direction. This caused the direction to change and I proceeded to follow the new direction, etc. etc. In effect GPS drift only provided a first random direction before I created a feedback loop where I was following myself with a delay. Often the direction switched between opposite cardinal directions with great speed and several times I got dizzy by trying keeping up, sometimes I just had to let the thing come to rest before resuming the chase. Disorienting! 

maandag 9 juli 2012

A GPS night drift

After my complaint in a previous post about my GPS's failure to capture my postal rounds with the accuracy I was hoping for, three readers came up with possible explanations. I still think it has to do with recording rates (there is more time between 'clicks' than it takes me to walk in and out of a front garden) rather than any technical or strategical reason. But I was intrigued by the suggestion of GPS drift, the phenomenon of a GPS device recording movement while it is just laying motionless on a table somewhere. So overnight I left my device next to the window recording while I was sleeping and the above shows its paths, a random walk with one outlier travelling 588 meters. The squares blame technical inaccuracies, but I prefer another explanation: the earth is playing while the satellites are obeying the routines of the military-industrial complex.

zaterdag 7 juli 2012

Postman Pat Psychogeographix first Carto-Chaotic results

Overlay of four GPS traces of one of my three postal rounds, click to enlarge. The overlay was made manually by stacking the individual tracings for *artistic* effect. This round consists of two distinct parts. One part is a collection of five streets in the top left corner, the second part is at the right. You can clearly discern the difference between me biking back and forth and me delivering on foot. 

Even though I am recording points at maximum rate the device fails to keep up with my meandering through broad streets and garden paths.The trace below, from my round in Garden Village shows what I mean. Here the streets are all completely straight and nearly every house has a front garden and from the trace you would expect to see this, but instead the lines haphazardly average out as lines on a polygraph. Maybe I should slow down. Now You understand why things could have been worse.

vrijdag 6 juli 2012

Wendell Berry on imagination and place

Wendell E. Berry's arch-conservatism makes all communist, anarchist or fascist radicals look like old fashioned reactionaries. Here are some quotes from a recent lecture.
 The term “imagination” in what I take to be its truest sense refers to a mental faculty that some people have used and thought about with the utmost seriousness. The sense of the verb “to imagine” contains the full richness of the verb “to see.” To imagine is to see most clearly, familiarly, and understandingly with the eyes, but also to see inwardly, with “the mind’s eye.” It is to see, not passively, but with a force of vision and even with visionary force. To take it seriously we must give up at once any notion that imagination is disconnected from reality or truth or knowledge. It has nothing to do either with clever imitation of appearances or with “dreaming up.” It does not depend upon one’s attitude or point of view, but grasps securely the qualities of things seen or envisioned.

I will say, from my own belief and experience, that imagination thrives on contact, on tangible connection. For humans to have a responsible relationship to the world, they must imagine their places in it. To have a place, to live and belong in a place, to live from a place without destroying it, we must imagine it. By imagination we see it illuminated by its own unique character and by our love for it. By imagination we recognize with sympathy the fellow members, human and nonhuman, with whom we share our place. By that local experience we see the need to grant a sort of preemptive sympathy to all the fellow members, the neighbors, with whom we share the world. As imagination enables sympathy, sympathy enables affection. And it is in affection that we find the possibility of a neighborly, kind, and conserving economy.
and also
My teacher, Wallace Stegner [...] thought rightly that we Americans, by inclination at least, have been divided into two kinds: “boomers” and “stickers.” Boomers, he said, are “those who pillage and run,” who want “to make a killing and end up on Easy Street,” whereas stickers are “those who settle, and love the life they have made and the place they have made it in.” “Boomer” names a kind of person and a kind of ambition that is the major theme, so far, of the history of the European races in our country. “Sticker” names a kind of person and also a desire that is, so far, a minor theme of that history, but a theme persistent enough to remain significant and to offer, still, a significant hope.