words written in the week of
September 29th to October 5th
in previous years.
This was 9 years, 7 months, 6 days ago

If I say something along the lines of "it's all politics, really", it's because that sentiment hides a million different meanings, or politics itself is a meager category in that it just welcomes all inside and thus becomes voided of any real sharpness. "Politics", the 42-in-1 multitool, equally bad at describing everything.

But still. Questions persist, like heuristics. To do what, when? How to move? How do you absorb 'experience', or to fall into some latourian jargon, how do you talk about how to move without lapsing into [net x pre] crossings? How do you describe knowledge that is neither "factual" nor "experience-based", not because those two things are wrong, but because you ascertain facts through experience?

Or: how do you describe your understanding of a city that is about "hole-in-the-wall restaurants" and "wandering" without resorting to a) maps b) overly abstracted strategies, such as a) reading a guide to the 'Top 20 Secret Restaurants To Visit in NYC', or b) an abstract strategy that says "set a course, then change it regularly" that is universally applicable and thus never valuable?

When you open a novel and read a protagonist's spatial navigation through a city, what kind of knowledge are you absorbing? When a friend visits this other city that you know, how do you offer them advice to travel? When a friend unused to traveling goes to another city, how do you offer them advice to wander?

To be more concrete and to jettison this analogy temporarily: everything is malleable, and everything is about processes intricately tied together. The renovation of a roof is tied to the climate of NYC which is tied to the schedule which is tied to the email responsiveness of a structural engineer which is tied to good will and one's ability to follow up diplomatically and doggedly over email. In moments of breakdown (or to be less dramatic, slowdown), the network reveals itself, they say, like a neuron firing and all the synapses firing and all the signals traveling, branching out, momentarily highlighting a specific structure within an endlessly complex, complicated assemblage.

Where are the words that transfer this sentiment? Recently I read an essay by Quinn Norton and I can feel the trembling-calm words of someone who has seen a lot, to a certain extent, as if they had "peeled back" a surface, a little, to see the endless proliferation of machinery operating underneath.

Yet 'Everything is Broken' is itself not the right kind of mantra, I don't think, but more like "Everything breaks and is healed in such-and-such a way", or maybe these breakings are Latour's hiatuses, leaps, the seeming discontinuity of a glass pipette, ruler, spreadsheet, calculation, that is able to translate from phenomenon to 'fact', the assemblage of silicon and glass and antennas we call a "phone", radio waves, cell towers, undersea fiber optics, DNS servers, ISPs, and back again that let you "chat" with someone else halfway across the world. 1) Discontinuities everywhere, and 2) everything is always breaking, being fixed. There are no straight lines, only walls that are sanded down; there are no perfect circles, no such thing as geometry. In retrospect, the ratio-obsessed architecture of the classics is maybe more interesting if you imagine that ratio/geometry is something that was never actually achievable, not a default but an imaginary destination, godly not because of an alignment between mathematics and universal truths, but simply because it was hard.

How do you understand that a beam involves the bending inertia of steel plates, whether or not welding is easier from below or above (answer: above, because sparks too are affected by gravity), factories in New Jersey, shipping turnaround times, old brick walls that are misaligned, email delays, contractual chains of liability, etc? These operations touch 'physics', 'communication', 'language', 'law', 'history', and are sometimes called 'logistics', but it's not just that, either.

Everything is everywhere. There is no respite, no reason you can say, "well, that doesn't matter", because in this horribly paranoid process, all domains of knowledge, all of Latour's modes of existence, all actors, entities, materials, concepts, may be crucial nodes on a powerful chain. The chain configuration of a tank-flush toilet that induces constant clogs that floods a bathroom that drives party guests downstairs to another location; the distance between a mouth and a microphone and the kind of microphone and its specific quality of gain and the orientation and performance of the speakers and the audibility of a poem and the atmosphere of an event remembered fondly for decades to come.

In this scheme of flat ontologies, all actors may be crucial. This is maybe the optimism of a underdog story, where the scrappy protagonist figures out a specific way to defeat some enemy, just barely, by the skin of one's teeth, a carefully thrown implement, phrase, word, just enough to "tip the scales". Anything can happen, but this also means that Happenings are anywhere.

I mean this so concretely:
If you are throwing a party, you had better make sure your toilet flushes well.

This was 11 years, 7 months, 5 days ago

Architecture is semiotic, delayed, planned. The designer is not the builder. Thus the end products of most design processes swirl towards the shared vocabulary of all contractors, builders, interior designers, architectural photographers, landscape designers -- the clear finish, the solid detail, the textured material, etc. Hygiene, by default, is a definition of demarcation, defined in negation, and thus shareable. "Not dirty", "not mottled", etc. Cleanliness is a (relatively) universal concept, while creativity, or an arbitrary perturbance, disturbance, alteration of logic, etc, is not. When the least common denominator of the shared language of design is cleanliness, then architects' creations will also fall inevitably towards this sanitized overlap.

This was 12 years, 7 months, 12 days ago

and it's like, yeah.


sometimes like tonight I am especially sensitive and aware of the nature of conversations, and how they stretch out, how they flow. all I have are analogies at my disposal really, and they're these tenuous glassine things, like delicate things that will break at a sneeze or a wrong breath, wasps nests, spiderwebs, two little snail shells writhing on the palm of your hand underneath a scope, sticking together in the alien netherworld that must be my skin, clinging together in something like agony or sexual (?) ecstasy as three fresh-faced curious people look on in wonder at the translucency of their shells and the thus-ethereal state of their being

This was 13 years, 7 months, 6 days ago

oh, the folly of a box opened, and the deluge of sensation, and the sharp sense of recall. it's funny, funny funny funny funny, travel, photographs of travel: "I wasn't there, then I was there, and now I am not there."

later the sense of wind in this impending storm tonight will tug forth this sense of recollection, nostalgia. good night. there's something I'm missing. there's something I need to say lately on the tip of my tongue but I don't know what exactly I could say, or to whom I could say it to, and so I've been walking home on darkened brooklyn streets with dim streetlights, thinking to myself underneath my breath, music plugged in one ear as a companion, saying things with phrases like "listen, me". and then I reach home, unlock my front door, say hi to casper, lift myself up into my bed, close my eyes. slide sideways, smile wryly.

This was 13 years, 7 months, 7 days ago

the core idea of this thing is that it's a backpack to collect and filtration rainwater, while being worn. in a system like this, where the bag has to carry a filtration system, the backpack and the filtration process is usually separate; part of the idea was to bridge the two, so that the typical backpack-transit vs. contents-of-backpack+stasis dynamic is modified: filtration while in both transit and stasis.

as for the site: the mata atlantica rainforest, in the southeast of brazil, is a dense rainforest near heavily industrialized cities such as cubatao or sao paolo. the area around cubatao, especially, was polluted in the 80s and 90s to such a degree that it was nicknamed the 'valley of death'. as a result, the area was the focus of one of brazil's most well-funded rehabilitation programs; it's also a focus of many climatology/biology studies, as there's a unique overlapping confluence of dense tropical rainforest and urban industrial pollution in the area. rainwater, therefore, is relatively clean, as opposed to the groundwater with a history of pollution. which is why this backpack makes sense.

the folded/pleated tarp/manifold on the backpack is always collecting rainwater, regardless of movement or not, and can stretch out to increase its area to collect enough water for a family of four. there were certain requirements for the tarp/manifold that I had, such as that it had to collect the rainwater into a central area and thus needed to converge to a point; the tarp also had to curve into a c-shape so that water could be collected at any orientation, whether the backpack was lying down, or worn on the back.

I had fun playing out with different variants of pleating patterns both with grasshopper and tomohiro tachi's rigid origami simulator; in the end I reduced it to a question of implementing both latitudinal shifts and longitudinal converging pleats that created the pleat-pattern that I wanted.

I'm not completely satisfied; I could have gotten deeper, and developed it further, but I'm not unsatisfied, either. it's just that I didn't progress as much as I wanted to since the wednesday before the pinup on monday.

oh well: at least I learned grasshopper, in the process:

This was 13 years, 7 months, 8 days ago

Just not my night, tonight.

This was 13 years, 7 months, 10 days ago

6:53am, sun's rising. I've got 7 hours left. can't stop grinning. let's go go go go go go.

This was 13 years, 7 months, 10 days ago

I had a wonderful party yesterday night, full of laughter and friends and warmth, and I felt very maternal, glad to have people in my space, full of awe and wonder. a buzzed wild happiness, "wet with a decent happiness", to quote a friend's frequent quote. all of a sudden it struck me (still strikes me) that this place has really changed me, altered my attitude, made me more open to change, relaxed, permissible, flexible, porous, permeable.


Hugh Ferriss. Manhattan zoning laws, visualized, from the 1920s.

I think it's entirely possible and often productive to think of architecture and cities and spaces in terms of s&m, sadism and masochism, that the structures and spaces and territories that we live in envelop us, form us, shape us, constrain us, and that there's a productive pleasure to be derived from that -- the pleasure of living, of enjoying a space, of having one's self be altered. I've thinking that there's nothing that has been so altering as a new space, myself in transit plopped down in a new country, or a new neighborhood, or a new house, and that's so valuable, that these forces that can render us malleable and then form us, derive from spaces, are spaces. And it's not just a spatial relationship to the world that changes but a cultural, habitual, phenomenological understanding of what-my-world-is, what-one's-world-is that changes, I think.

on the other hand of this all are the city planners, developers, architects, interior designers, who try to create these macroscopic zones of activity within which microscopic activity will grow and cross-breed and propagate. the double-loaded corridor that you make is then vandalized, skated on, spray-painted, sat in, benches created, trash placed there, gardens planted, bikes locked up. "if you see something, skate something". there seems to be always this push of usage against design, and I think maybe s&m is a better model than 'dictator & subject', simply because s&m is productive, or a co-dependent dynamic. it's not just one-way -- it's both the 'sadist' urge of the architect to form your life for you, or the 'masochistic' giving-way of the user who wanders the halls of your building in a benjaminian "state of distraction", and more importantly also the pushing of boundaries, the question of delineation. where is your safeword? at which point do you draw the line? and there's also question of meta-desire, A wanting to direct B to direct A on how to act, I want you to build my space, for me to live in and to be formed by.

moreover, what happens, what's really interesting about this s&m analogy, what's really valuable about the moment that is full of a rich loam of potential and is so very fertile is the moment of conflict. friction, frisson friction. new york is one of these places that manages to convince everybody that the submission to certain 'inconveniences' is an honorable thing: to generalize roughly (of course) it's a point of pride to be a new yorker, and a source of mild disdain to be a tourist. the image of 'to be' a New Yorker is to adapt, to be okay with lugging your laundry a few blocks to the laundromat, to know how to cross the street, to be appropriately confrontational and friendly. and it's this conviction of submission, the willingness to be malleable, and the corresponding transformation that everyone undertakes that feels like a very very precious and joyful experiment. central park used as public school gyms; sidewalks as living rooms, parks as terraces, and so on and so forth.

I want to reiterate: it's not simply the density that generates a palimpsestic overlay of usage; it's the aura and reputation of legacy and history, and the persuasive charm of the word n-e-w-y-o-r-k that carries a valence as strong as the potency of agar mixtures for e.coli, spilled gasoline about to be lit, heightened anger before a fistfight, the delirium of people and music at a party. the crackling electric air before a storm.

and this is so valuable, not only 'letting one's self be changed', but the knowledge of this change, and the being-complicit in this process, the willing participant of this dance. and I guess that's the reason I'm here, to study the forces of modification, to lend an ear and to dip my whiskers in the flow of space, to understand how to create spaces that will change me, use me, and to engage in reassertions on the level of these usages: for whom, by whom, in the name of what?

This was 15 years, 7 months, 4 days ago

Questioning of axioms is great, but it's when I stop questioning the arbitrarity of axioms and start on their 'artificiality' that I fall into trouble; to question the basis of axioms would be to argue against the monarchic structure of cells, the tyrannic power of the nervous system, to ask for a silent spoken language.

This is probably because I'm confounding definitions and functions. Axioms aren't objects or foundations -- or rather, foundations aren't objects, they're functions. A definition survives by excluding its outside -- but are functions established on the 'basis' (ha! there again!) of this opposition?

Who is it that talks about this? Deleuze? Flow? But I need to think more, write more, and after that read more...

Oh, and A. O. Scott says it, get it, pins part of it down. yes yes. The Best Mind of His Generation, A. O. Scott, The New York Times, Sept 20, 2008.

"When, as an undergraduate with a head full of literary theory and a heartsick longing for authenticity, I first encountered David Foster Wallace, I experienced what is commonly called the shock of recognition. Actually, shock is too clean, too safe a word for my uncomfortable sense that not only did I know this guy, but he knew me. He could have been a T.A. in one of my college courses, or the slightly older guy in Advanced Approaches to Interpretation who sat slightly aloof from the others and had not only mastered the abstruse and trendy texts everyone else was reading, but also skipped backward, sideways and ahead. It was impressive enough that he could do philosophy -- the mathematical kind, not just the French kind. But he also played tennis -- Mr. Wallace, in fact, had competed seriously in the sport -- and could quote lyrics from bands you only pretended you'd heard of. Without even trying, he was cooler than everyone else.

All this shone through Mr. Wallace's fiction. He had the intellectual moves and literary tricks diagrammed in advance: the raised-eyebrow, mock-earnest references to old TV shows and comic books; the acknowledgment that truth was a language game. He was smarter than anyone else, but also poignantly aware that being smart didn't necessarily get you very far, and that the most visible manifestations of smartness -- wide erudition, mastery of trivia, rhetorical facility, love of argument for its own sake -- could leave you feeling empty, baffled and dumb."

This was 15 years, 7 months, 6 days ago

Often times I forgot how much I appreciate this city, this marvel of places. It's no longer raining tonight but the asphalt roads are slick and twin-lighted taxes skim by, moving streets and taxi blurs looking like still photographs of moving streets and taxi blurs, things like that. I'm here, I'm really here.

This was 15 years, 7 months, 7 days ago

rest in peace.
words of tribulation have been overdue.

stuff about dfw and infinite jest:
David Foster Wallace.
los campesinos, infinite jest.
Infinite Jest: images of an idea

One summer I dropped by a Barnes and Noble waiting for a friend looking for air conditioning and found a copy of Infinite Jest for $10. Looking at the size of the book I thought in jest (heh), 'what a low page-per-cent density', and started flipping through it. I had heard of Infinite Jest from a friend a few years back, but never really started reading it.

This edition had a foreword by Dave Eggers, and having nothing to do (and this friend hadn't arrived yet) I started reading it. And this is the passage that grasped me:

...And yet the time spent in this book, in this world of language, is absolutely rewarded. When you exit these pages after that month of reading you are a better person, It's insane, but also hard to deny. Your brain is stronger because it's been given a monthlong workout, and more importantly, your heart is sturdier, for there has scarcely been written a more moving account of desperation, depression, addiction, generational stasis and yearning, or the obsession with human expectations, with artistic and athletic and intellectual possibility.

And right then I knew I had to get it. I did.

You know, sometimes I regret reading Infinite Jest. Yes, regret. Not regret as in: "I wish I could read the book for the first time again", or "I'd like to know that I have such a wonderful piece of literature to read ahead of me". Regret as in: This book changed part of me so much that I'm frightened by it at times.

After I finished it that summer, on the subway, bus, going downtown on the express A, holding this tome and not thinking of anything but the Incandenzas and the Samizdat and dear Don Gately -- after I finished it that summer I couldn't think of anything else. You know how you fall in love with someone and then you think of them all the time, at least once every day? That was like this for me -- for half an year I couldn't go a single day without thinking about it. Every single day. IJ opened the floodgates of some hidden emotion and made me jubilant and nostalgic and beautiful but also frightened and sad, sad, sad. Once in a while I'd read the start of the book, where Hal opens his mouth and nothing comes out but gibberish, and the hairs on the back of my metaphorical neck would stand up straight, but because Hal is so rich and complete and solid, and the workings of his future starts there when he's five, when his mother screams about in panic and you understand heartbreakingly...

Right after Infinite Jest, I read Confederacy of Dunces and was frightened, completely freaked out because I felt that the book was John Kennedy O'Toole's absolute masterpiece of self-loathing and despair, of a scathing portrayal of himself -- or what he felt himself was like. The hyperintelligent artist who finds everyone celebrating a distorted and altogether ugly version of himself.

Just now I read an interview he had done with Salon. In there he says: There's something particularly sad about it, something that doesn't have very much to do with physical circumstances, or the economy, or any of the stuff that gets talked about in the news. It's more like a stomach-level sadness. I see it in myself and my friends in different ways. It manifests itself as a kind of lostness. Whether it's unique to our generation I really don't know.

Here's to you, David Foster Wallace. You did exactly what you set out to do, and more. You were my summer that year, and more. I, too, used to pronounce "epitome" dactylic. Your work and your words are embedded in my mind and heart, somewhere down there. Rest in peace.

This was 16 years, 7 months, 8 days ago

Million Dollar Blocks
Mon, Oct 1, 2007, 6:30 -8:30 pm
Wood Auditorium, Avery Hall, Columbia
"A disproportionate number of the people in this country's prisons and jails come from a very few neighborhoods in our biggest cities. What does this mean for those cities, and how can we measure the costs? A panel of advocates and researchers will explore why space matters -- or ought to -- for criminal justice."
(mentioned at Conflux by Adam Greenfield.)

Wednesday, Oct 3th, 2007, at 7pm
Location One, SoHo
Eric Singer: LEMURplex
Spencer Russell: SensorBib is a set of capacitive distance sensors embedded in a fabric covering for an upright bass. A chopped-up Arduino board sends the data to a laptop running PD which uses the player's body position to process the bass sound in real time.
John Huntington: Gravesend Inn, City Tech's annual High-Tech Haunted Hotel.

Saturday, Oct 6, 2007, 1am - 5am
Q train @ 34th st heading downtown/brooklyn
"you/we will meet @ the 34th st. Q train heading downtown/to brooklyn @ 1am saturday morning/friday night.
you/we will bring many musical instruments, costumes, masses of streamers and kazoos and balloons and pie and other objects of merrymaking.
you/we will then travel outwards until we arrive eventually at the zenith of our journey - so be prepared to disembark the train for a quick stop before heading back towards manhattan.
you/we will invite anyone and everyone you know. the more the merrier and if it gets a bit crowded we need only take over another car."

Friday, Oct 5, 8pm
915 Wyckoff Ave and Hancock | Ridgewood/Bushwick, Queens/Brooklyn
Admission: $6, or "found or scrap material for ..... barter (e.g., packing peanuts, pink foam, bread tabs, old books, those plastic things .. .you pull off the milk container)."
"SCRAPCYCLE is an all-homemade-instruments show, an experiment in the extension of a found-material's (re)use-value to exchange-value, an attempt to foster a local found-material exchange community, and a forum for art and music created from found-materials."

Interesting Ongoing Exhibitions

Keith Tyson: Large Field Array
Until October 20, 2007
PaceWildenstein, 545 W 22nd St, 212.421.3292
"The sign outside PaceWildenstein's hangar-sized space on 22nd Street says "admission is limited"; if that doesn't strike you as odd, watch the bemused expressions of exiting visitors. British artist Keith Tyson has filled the cavernous gallery and its walls with Field Array, a grid of more than 230 sculptures, each measuring two square feet but entirely different from its neighbors. The sheer quantity of bizarre and hilarious objects — a contorted figure in a glass cube, a gigantic telephone, a huge house of cards — is overwhelming. Named for the Very Large Array, a field of gigantic radio telescopes in New Mexico, Tyson's installation doesn't probe deep space, but it does create a larger impression of our universe. (HGM)" -flavorpill

openhousenewyork weekend
Sat & Sun, Oct 6 & 7, 2007
All around the five boroughs.
"openhousenewyork weekend, America's largest architect and design event, opens doors throughout New York City each October. The 5th Annual openhousenewyork Weekend will be held October 6 & 7.
Mark your calendars to discover new neighborhoods, explore with friends and family, and experience NYC's architecture and design in all five boroughs through special talks, tours, performances and family-friendly workshops - all free of charge!"
Basically, this seems like a bunch of tours of a large amount of buildings around new york -- this is great!

Daniel Rozin
Until Oct 6, 2007, Tu-Sat, 11am-6pm
Bitforms, 529 w20th st
"Daniel Rozin creates interactive installations and sculptures that have the unique ability to change and respond to the presence of a viewer. Although computers are often used, they are seldom visible. Mirrors and mediated perception of the self are central themes in Rozin's recent work. In most of his pieces the viewer takes part, actively and creatively, in the performance of his art. "

Jeff Shore and Jon Fisher: Reel to Reel
Until Oct 6, 2007, Tu-Sat 11am-6pm
Clementine Gallery, 623 w27th st
"For Reel to Reel, Shore and Fisher have constructed a network of wall-based, sculptural electro-mechanical installations, each containing an automated video set or electro acoustic instrument. The result is a mesmerizing environment of electro-kinetic sculptural work and interactive sound elements that thrusts the viewer into a complex, multi-sensory experience. Disconcerting, poetic, and deeply surreal, Reel to Reel advances the dialogue between image, motion, light, and sound to examine the interaction between society and technology in a media-saturated culture."

Eddo Stern, "New Works"
Until Oct 13, 2007, Tu-Sat, 11am-6pm
Postmasters Gallery, 459 w19th st
"His new works - kinetic shadow sculptures and 3D computer animation videos - use a mash-up of documentary material from online forums, clip art, YouTube videos, midi music, electronics, and hand made puppets. They mine the online gaming world at its paradoxical extremes: on one hand, an untenable perversity of life spent slaying an endless stream of virtual monsters, on the other, an ultimate mirroring of the most familiar social dynamics. The struggles with masculinity, honor, aggression, faith, love and self worth are embroiled with the gameworld's vernacular aesthetics."

Mike Nelson, A Psychic Vacuum
Until Oct 27