Saturday, December 31, 2011

New, and New, and just as natural.

Happy new year, everybody. Our vanity says this is the big one. If we could only be so lucky. Instead let's get together and solder on through another year of Doing the Right Thing©, with some time now and again to reflect on the implausibility of the universe in general. In New York, someone's dancing across the city, and someone else is walking every street of it. Be sure to participate or give these people their required approbations or encouragements. The latter journeyer, I hear, likes cookies.

The last, say, 6 months for me have gone by in a bit of a haze, involving dozens of places with at least a dozen states of activation, learning, fuzziness, out-of-sorts, inspiration, and connection for each. I have emerged from this dream-like state and find myself in a space of my own for the first time since about fall of 2010. I've been realizing that Brooklyn is my new home and it's a comfortable feeling, I like what I've made for myself here and wherever it's heading.

I've been writing up a storm, stacking up shale-like fragments with the hope that a structure emerges, eventually, Meeting the city, inventing myself in relationship to it, and tinkering with my new apartment, in which my roommates and I have already introduced a hundred imperceptible changes to make the place our own. I like my room tremendously and will probably never leave it. I built my desk out of free wood that I carted from a loft on Bedford, lashed to my bicycle. My radio is yellowed and silly, a frumpy little cube that blares WNYC constantly, giving me a window to the world and only occasionally asking for member contributions. My bed is a bunch of bookshelves turned on their side, I took my mattress on the cross-town B38 Bus and engaged in a battle of wits with the bus driver to secure passage.
"What'll you do if it falls on someone? They'll sue the MTA!"
"Dude, have you been in a pillow fight? It's like a giant pillow. They'll love it."
My dresser is a pathetic little thing, which wobbles and sways, I truncated its legs off to cover for a missing drawer and to allow my shirts to hang. Little changes. I stand before the bicycle map of the city, two sides stitched together, and wonder where I'll end up next. My books, bicycles, milk-crates, clothes, and pantry all bear the mark of communication-as-currency, things acquired through conversation, craigslist, and currents more inscrutable. There is always someone to talk to, and everyone's a stranger.

I came here in a fury of action, my schedule booked. I was riding down to Occupy Wall Street every day, working on a project for Digital Democracy, consuming literature about the movement, writing a little and being -just- too slow to contribute to the literature. I was sending out ten bids for freelance jobs a day, and hearing back from very few, jobs with pay tallying a pathetic count which I'm willfully vague about. New York is the city of the intern, the volunteer, the start-up, the deferred until distributed 3-ring circus. Now, with a lease, 2 bikes, and a (purported) heating system, I find myself taking a breath, and realizing that the hermetic, bopping, productive lifestyle that I pursued in Salt Lake it possible here, with the addition of an insane, buzzing, ever-present little creature that reminds you constantly of the flowing honey of events, ideas, projects, productions waiting for you to get involved with them.

The buzzing thing (I think it has fur) won't leave me be, but I appreciate its motivation. Input=Output, castle building. All the better to navigate this unsleeping world.
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Monday, December 26, 2011

Beautiful Masquerade Behind Glass

Divas. The window displays at Bergoff Goodman blew the rest of the storied 5th avenue box-displays away. Rich opulence crammed with nostalgia, victorian finery, and cabinet of curiosity relics.

One entirely of wrought brasswork, another of paper and books contorted into magnificent shapes, another semi-precious stones.

The high fashion works fit seamlessly in. Prada, Tom Ford, etc. The fragile, intense worksmanship of each window a crushing antidote to the slick marketing of the rest of the moneyed world, and the lazy, half-baked expression of many galleries.
I've never heard of the store before, but when I'm rich they'll get my money as a result. Just kidding. I'll still shop at thrift stores, just more pretentious ones.

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Friday, December 2, 2011

Wiki-Geeking out: These streets have stories.

I just procured, with a number of friends, a 2nd story apartment on Marcus Garvey Boulevard and Greene Street in Bedford-Stuyvesant, New York. I'm currently undereducated about the history of the neighborhood, but the street names stood out to me. As the child of a nameless grid, walking down streets descended from specific characters or sites in our national history is a pleasant change of pace. Greene is a bit of an incidental, named I believe after Nathanael Greene, a boringly noteworthy Revolutionary war General who probably partied hard but whose exploits have been dulled by the heavy hand of history.

Next up is Marcus Garvey, whom I'm also woefully undereducated about, but who is a total badass. Not only was Garvey from Jamaica, the coolest of islands to originate from, but by the time he was my age he was editing two newspapers. Not to be content with island living, he hoofed it to New York, and got a job as a lowly printer, earning his public speaking chops by lecturing anyone who would stop and listen on street corners. Oh but can I ever relate! That didn't last long, because Garvey was a hustler, he soon was representing and running black community and political interest groups and touring the US as a speaker, garnering support and striking fear into the hearts of white folk everywhere. He struck so much fear into the status quo that the assistant DA, Edward Kilroe, investigated Garvey's group for terroristic activities. When that resulted in an editorial harranguing by Garvey, Kilroe sued for libel, and then some assassin dude showed up and shot at Garvey 4 times, failing to kill him. The assassin killed him self a bit later, and Garvey kept on trucking. Garvey is known for being the father of Black Nationalism and Zionism, seeking a homeland for African Americans. He also ruffled the feathers of W.E.B. Debois and pretty much everybody by consorting with the KKK, with the attitude that, while they were hateful racists, at least they were honest about it.

Our final candiate for wiki-study is Charles Sumner. Marcus Garvey Blvd has an identity crisis: Though it runs through Bed-Stuy and only through Bed-Stuy, it pretends to have another name, like it's the continuation of some other street. Maybe it was renamed, recently, maybe the street just enjoys being deceptive. Whatever the case, Sumner is an appropriate predecessor to Garvey, as an abolitionist and as the receptor of angry anti-black violence. Sumner was a Congressman preceding the Civil War, but a rad one, lyrical and idealistic, his writing style both fluid and biblical. It comes as no surprise, then, when arguing against the Southern opposition to slave freedom he exercised a little literary licence, likening his opponents to Pimps and Lechers, he derided them for supporting an immoral practice, orating: "Of course he has chosen a mistress to whom he has made his vows, and who, though ugly to others, is always lovely to him; though polluted in the sight of the world, is chaste in his sight. I mean the harlot Slavery."

This sat none too well with southern Congressman Preston Brooks, who decided to take matters into his own hands and beat Sumner within an inch of death with his cane. On the Senate Floor. In front of dozens of clerks and witnesses. That didn't do a lot for the reputation of southern intellectual prowess. So Sumner got whacked, Garvey got shot, and both had streets named after them. History wasn't as kind to Kilroe and Brooks, though I hear Preston and his brother Elisha did rather well with a line of mens suits...(n't).

Which brings me back to Bed-Stuy. Bed-Stuy, the place of legend. Bed-Stuy, the gap in the subway maps. The vanguard of gentrification (oh, hey folks, sorry about that...). The place, according to rap songs, where people get beat up and shot. How fitting, then, that ol' Garvey and Sumner hang out around here.
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Thursday, November 17, 2011

November 17th: conversations with the 1%, what next?

Awoke at 5 am. Rode along the Hudson, waking up in the pre-dawn, fast but groggy. I was headed to Zuccotti,  to be a bike scout for today's blockading of the Wall Street entrances. I was vaguely aware of what that entailed, imagining I would be reporting on the movements of cops and the construction of police baracades. The short answer was there were cops everywhere, barricades everywhere. An army of police in the constructed DMZ around the financial district. I lean into a blue-helmeted cop. "you guys must get called in from everywhere! Is everywhere else on a skeleton staff?" He grins. "40000 of us in New York." if you've had occasion to be wary of standing armies specifically or authority in general, that's a pretty terrifying thought. The cops outnumbered protesters easily 3 to 1. I felt like asking them what they were protesting, but remembered my ostensible position was to be discreet, and thought better of it. 

I watched a small number of people congregate near the park, feeling disoriented. I couldn't tell what the plan was, where this group was headed, or how i could help them. I stood around with a few friends, a rising urgency in my stomach. Had i once again signed up for what sounded like a fun job but was in fact edging me our of other effective action? The crowd began to rumble,  I stared to bike. 

I soon realized that my group was just one of 5 or 6, all swelling and congregating around the many entrances to the stock exchange. I lost my trepidation and, calling back to coordinate with the central group conference call, began informing the crowds. 

I would witness a paddywagon unload, a column of police march in, a group lose morale. In response I would floor it, dodging and swerving the stalled traffic, and roll up to another group. "mic check! Mic check! Bike report!" and in that fascinating passage from self to group, my words would be roared back to me in the people's microphone. The effect is thrilling and immediately humbling, I was compelled to keep my updates as factual as possible. People reacted, or didn't, but the fact alone that for brief moments a mass of people are able to act as one is a tremendously empowering thing. The lines of communication were open. 

I witnessed some arrests, some beatings, some notable quips and street conversations. I was shoved aside by a cop mid-message for being in the street, and the crowd howled, supporting me.  A young woman in business attire and I exchanged smiles. "Sorry, I work here, but I support what you guys are doing." "you aren't the enemy" I reply, obviously. "the thing we're fighting is a broken system, corruption, not people. We're FOR people."

Later, once my work feels done, I post up by a police barricade and watch wall street workers get upset at the heavy-handed and arbitrary treatment they receive in the hands of the cops. "This is an Exit only!" shouts an officer, much like a child when, having freshly made his own rules, he clings to them with unbreakable resolve. I felt like pointing out to the well-dressed men with thinning (yet *perfect*) hair the similarities between their situation and the everyday experience of palestinians or anyone else trapped the the mechanism of authoritarian bureaucracy, but I thought the point might be a little graceless under the circumstance. So instead I watched, and listened, to power argue with power. One elegantly dressed businessman was shunted out the exit, roughly.  "why are you shoving me, officer?" he held a neon green sign. It read, "Get a Job."

I had a chance to talk to this fellow a little later, after I heard him rant on camera about mismanaged government spending and rampant free marketeering being the root ills of society. He sounded like an OWS protester, but he couldn't have been angrier with them. "these assholes are just lying around a park, when the problem is policy in Washington!" He went on to say the group could be sending mass calls to representatives and frying their phone systems. He had a point. I argued diversity of tactics, and suggested her get involved in a working group through NYCGA. He wasn't interested. 

Later, from the other end of the spectrum, I was shouted at by a carpenter for suggesting that there was merit behind protesting a broken system. His argument also centered around the whole 'these bums should go get a job' tack. "I worked 3 jobs out college! I had 3 kids! These freaks just wanna do drugs!" We yelled at each other for a while and that was nice, but after drawing sone other bystanders into the conversation we were suddenly on better terms. He didn't think a single person under 30 would work hard with their hands. I assured him there were competent engineers and carpenters living in that park. He brought up a good point, within a limit: what people needed to do was work, hard, at whatever came their way, and be grateful for it. What evolved was a larger conversation on the lines we draw regarding personal needs and personal values. He saw the contradiction in hating that the US was losing jobs overseas and personally investing in an outsourcing company like Sysco (cisco? I'm too lazy to fact check on my phone), but he ultimately shrugged off the moral burden in favor of having a retirement. I, on the other hand, wasn't going to cede that getting a job at walmart was a solution, because of the systemically awful things they perpetuate societally and environmentally. Thus we talked, and I almost asked him to give me a job, until I quietly stepped back and reminded myself that I didn't come to New York to do construction. Thus passed another morning in the struggle. 

What both of these men were evidencing and getting close to articulating was the root problem the movement is facing: how do we stop whining, pointing, and counter-whining? How do we best take these core issues and work on changes to them? Through protest occupations around the world? Through intervention in political policy? Through education? Through burning the fucker down and starting over? 

The suit-and-tie's right: we need to move from protests to influencing policy, the carpenter's right: we need to learn the value of hard work, with your hands, and the protesters are right: we need some attention on these issues, and the whole thing's a mess. 

Diversity of tactics. Get in however you see fit, and get to work.  Read More......

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Cranksgiving 2011

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Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The Morning After: Bulldozing Liberty Square

In the middle of the night on November 15th cops finally decided to oust the protesters from Zuccotti park, on the flimsy premise that they needed to clean it, that the park was unavailable for other users, and that the protesters would be welcome back, sans any of the tents, awnings, and other structures that make the physical location of the movement tenable. Nice compromise, NYPD. There's also some schlock out there about the peaceable dispersal of a few hundred people, which is glaring sharply with some protester accounts of sound cannons and teargas. I don't know, I wasn't there. But this guy was...

(this photo was floating around in a very prominent news source's photo essay until today, when it inexplicably went missing. #copwash.)

I was present, the night before, in the public atrium on 6o Wall St, where a buzz of different groups organizing with diverse tactics filled the air.
photo thanks to, who has a nice write-up about the space.

I was present in Charlotte's Place for a conversation with Ted, from the Open Source working group, about the future and power of the movement. "I love having this locus, where people can congregate, share ideas, give a face to the movement." At the time I had been thinking how permanent and filled with momentum Zuccotti park was, how it couldn't be washed away nearly as easily as Salt Lake, or Oakland, or other evicted movements. Ted shook his head. "We're to the point where we don't need to be centralized, there's too much going on to stop." He smiled. "In fact, destroying the park would just let us be one step ahead..."

I hope he's right. At the moment it's clear what a resource the park was, a place of free shelter and free food for a diverse group of activists to come together and focus, in their gamut of ways, on problem solving. Tactics as diverse as the energy bikes built by Time's Up...

here being rounded up and presumably trashed (as per the Police's statement that all objects 'left' in the park would be destroyed) by the Police after a huge effort to construct them) to the great art of Rachel Schragis and the Call to Action working group (headline image).

Yesterday this movement seemed full of productive energy, which to the guardians of status-quo and order was untenable. Now we evolve, in an unknown direction, but the work will continue and the people who labored, loved, and were activated behind the barricades and under the tarps won't easily lose the education they gained in Zuccotti park.
(one of many good before/after images from enhanced buzz)

See you November 17th.
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Sunday, November 13, 2011

This needed to be shared

Orange bike by dreamiurg
Orange bike, a photo by dreamiurg on Flickr.

This guy knows how to do it...

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Friday, November 4, 2011

Relentless Art: The mean, huge brain of William Powhida

Wandering around Chelsea Galleries is a good way to be shunted into a green passive-agressive disgust/envy at all the earnest art-world salesmanship that circulates around mediocre work in the big city, which is my highbrow way of saying that I have my personal tastes and the things that fall outside of them annoy me. It is also a great way to learn about actually interesting stuff. Today that stuff was the work of William Powhida in the Postmasters Gallery, which not only blew my mind but left a residue of cynicism toward all the other art that followed it. Powhida's work centers around a style of pencilled, colorful art-world rants on a facsimile of notebook paper.

His snarky insider commentary and sarcastic anti-capitalism alone would probably be enough for me to fall in love, but beyond that it turns out the dude is SMART. Angrily smart, in fact, with a mathematical brain that has a penchant for mapping out social and political infographics with cutting personal attacks and diatribes. My favorite works in the show were giant parsings of the political landscape that appeared to contain years worth of interconnected, venomous insights about, well, everything. You could probably justifiably devote a news channel to extracting and presenting all of the information in this one piece:

The picture is huge, 5x10 feet. And though the gallery has some high-res versions of his pieces online, it's only in person that the barrage of information becomes apparent. And that one's logistically simple; it only separates political players by their place on the bi-partisan spectrum. My favorite piece in show is a 4-way nexus of the forces of pro-culture and sub-culture along a political spectrum, a "Continuum of Ideological Futility."

The artist appears to be hitting on all cylinders. The banner piece for the show deals with the challenge of art and protest articulating over-arching social problems. #OWS is a standout footnote, and he nails the collective messiness and circuitous nature of the challenges facing the radical social reform that we're attempting to get our heads around. He also may be the most prolific bridge-burner I've ever heard of, with pieces like a 'where are they now?' of Williamsburg's turn-of-the-century art startups. Mean as hell, but he's got the goods to back up the rhetoric.
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Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Being new to New York

feels exactly like this, in case you were wondering:

Just kidding. Kind of. What it really feels like is a total reinvention of the self under an unfamiliar network of very bright constellations. It's an adrenaline rush and filled with potential and utterly disorienting. This morning on the subway I was set upon by a goofy-looking semi-crazy fellow whose breakfast hobby, it appears, is to eloquently bitch and insult other subway riders, breaking that 4th wall of collective public indifference that we all know so well. I appreciated his spirit, but his choice of target (me) was obnoxious. My current situation of slightly heartsick joblessness was done no favors by the fact that I was late, on a train during rush hour, with a bike (oh the inconvenience, my fellow riders collectively asserted), headed to a sterile office environment where I was expected to masturbate into a cup and otherwise cement my position in society as a desperate creative type. So within all that psychic malaise Richard (for he introduced himself in soliloquy) struck me as a dick, and I told him so (in different words, rising to the occasion of his eloquence). The look with which he then regarded me told me, quite plainly, that I didn't belong. "As a native New Yorker I have long since learned..." he began his next diatribe, and with that phrase I knew I'd been bested. See, I have been on a bit of a winning streak when it comes to being out of place.

In Palestine it was fairly easy, given that people regard foreigners as you would a rock star and treat them with shocking deference, interest, celebrity, and hospitality. But any good post-colonialist gets tired of that positon after a while, and at the end of the day getting stared at wears you out regardless. In Haiti it was more of the same, but now whiteness was a synonym for exploitation and bad history, which made breaking the ice with a videocamera a bit of a challenge. Then there was not speaking Spanish in the DR, or, for that matter, speaking Polish in Poland, Mayorg in Hungary, etc. All's this to say that after 10 months of travelling in as many countries this puppy is worn out. And the last thing I wanted, in the US of A, the goddamn melting pot, and furthermore the only place I can ever be from, was to be an outsider. But an outsider I feel. Up on 181st I feel like a visitor in a sea of black and brown faces whom have made this place theirs, over the generations, and down in Greenepoint I am disgusted by what I see as the fruits of the young bright things' invasion into such places. With the punks of Zuccotti park I feel like a square (who needs an apartment! Who needs a job! Who needs upward mobility to be effective! That world's tired, and broken, and no fun anyway.), on my bike I feel like a stereotype that's been co-opted, and in a tie and a button-down shirt I feel like I'm playing dress-up and being earmarked as an impostor with my self-inflicted haircut.

Ahem. So it's funny, despite all that, that I'm having an incredible time. Building the beast that other folks know as 'the network' and I simply know as making friends, one hears glimmers of things again and again that start to materialize in front of you, names of organizations and initiatives and projects and places. Already, 10 days in, I've popped inside some of those places and felt the potential there. The roofless ability to, if one plays one's cards right, be effective. That's where the intoxication of New York comes from, the fact that behind the glibness and the hipness and the self-involved posturing and the bustle and the grime and the ego and the challenges there's actually potential, real potential. The ability to take what you do and kick ass with it. That's already been worth it. Furthermore, there are 8 million people of every stripe out there, and while you can't get to know them all, you can meet a ton of them, even in your first week, and they'll let you into their worlds. I'm tremendously grateful to the people that have so far done things for me, large and small, considered me for piecework, introduced me to friends, hosted me on their couches, gave me places to connect and volunteer, initiated projects with me, hung out in the park, invited me to meditation, found me jobs, searched for apartments with me, made me feel at home, and are beginning (or returning) to call me friend. So much so soon, and so worth it. Even if there's a moment or two where I feel like I'm getting run over by a Camero Camaro.
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Monday, October 31, 2011

Vegas, no place for two wheels...

Spent a few days in the weird world of Las Vegas, riding my bike and trying to get in as much trouble as possible, documenting it for Urban Velo. Enjoy! Again, click on the images to get the next page of the magazine.

Urban Velo decided not to use my photos, which I obviously think are quite good. They used some rather excellent ones by Allaudin Hightower, like the perfect shot of all the alleycatters lunging for their shoes. No matter, because here on Dadarobotnik we can enjoy a behind-the-scenes peek at the cutting room floor:

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Sunday, October 30, 2011

Occupy Wallstreet bears winter, wolves, and zombies

Deep into its second month, the continuous protests in Zuccotti Park have faced their first winter nights and appear to still be going strong. Saturday night brought bitter cold and wet, piercing snow to the shanty-like collection of tents, many of which collapsed under the weather. "Hunker down, it's Valley Forge!" Roared a piratey protester as he charged by in the wind, and others abjectly implored the few passerby for laundry money. One could also find hula-hooping UFOs, from time to time.

The movement carries within it contradicting impressions that manifest themselves simultaneously, to jarring effect. I stood and withstood a dreadlocked moron babble at me about drugs, booze, fat bottoms, and bouts of the Chiquita banana song when I asked him about the most responsable way to discard my banana peel. Other people were engaged in ego battles left and right, yelling predictably obtuse things at each other and storming out of one another's squatted territory. Various factions factionalizing, various hot-heads being hot. The storm grew more bitter. The next morning a rough-voiced, ex-con, angry white man who kept referring to me as 'n**ger' informed me that if one more person took his photo he'd break their camera. When I pointed out that he was at a demonstration, holding a sign no less, he threatened to break my camera. I deferred to his persuasive tactics.

As a counterpoint, everywhere people were getting stuff done. Trucks roll in with donated food, prepared offsite, students compile surveys from their schools that show misconceptions about the protest and then field them to the protesters, creating statistical dialogues, lawyers discuss direct action vs. rule of law, donated transport shows up to house unprepared people temporarily in homeless shelters, and even in the driving rain a General Assembly meeting is held.

All in all it's pretty much like real life. Some people are principled and step up to contribute, others only contribute occasion for facepalm reactions. Little things that are hard to stomach, like the movement's wholesale dependence on a nearby McDonalds for nighttime bathroom relief, are offset by things like Time's Up's (an environmental bicycle co-op/group which I've been volunteering for) appearance with electric bikes to help the movement power things more sustainably.

Everything re-emerged in full force the morning after the storm. My friend Cressa donned her home-stitched Halloween costume and used it as protest art. It was adorable.

She single-handedly created a media frenzy. The cameras were out! and so were smart, engaging protesters. This guy knew what's up. Side note: he's also a hunk.

Speaking of hunks, there was this kid, whom I'm doing the disservice of forgetting his name. He made cookies for the occupiers, which were damn good. I can't wait 'till you grow up to be the best anarchist intellectual baker there ever was, dude.

There were also,of course, Zombies.

Yes, that appears to be a man dressed as a giant French bedbug in the background. No, I don't know why. The world keeps spinning, Zuccotti Park stays occupied, and I still don't have a job. Welcome to New York!
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Thursday, October 27, 2011

The Lost Fair Mariner

I've Moved! To celebrate, I'll post a video from the community I left! Just to fill myself with nostalgia and doubt!

Here's an excellent new track from Luke Williams, a biographical seafairing ballad. Luke and I were talking about Captain Thomas James, the dandy poetic wayfairer who inspired this little track, and the notion of mutiny when your life's at stake. When we're in a subordinate position and have to make a call to rebel, as the stakes are too high to stay silent. Echoes of other things.

Luke, never content to take the easy way out, not only played every instrument on this track, but also filmed himself playing every instrument on this track, I assume setting up the lights, camera, and pushing record himself before going and busting out the recording. Forget one man bands, he's a one man army! Read More......

Monday, September 26, 2011

Haiti: First Taste

Arrived. Spiraling over the islands on the flight, struck by long gouges of sandy yellow surrounding rivers, sickly veins of erosion and runoff. We may have passed over Cuba, and then through the DR side of the island, because twice I thought 'well, that looks rather idyllic and nice from up here!' Not so. As we approach Port Au Prince the verdant agricultural developments give way to the panicky, metallic sprawl of tin houses and teeming congregations of people. The busy debris of poverty.

The streets don't exist. They're like jeeping trails, filled with people, women with coolers balanced on their heads. Later we get a Moto ride and I think my driver's new, he keeps just ramming people's arms and legs out of the way, which irritates but doesn't unduly enrage them. My first film plan is borne off of this ride. The idea is to get some kids to act as hosts by moto ride. They'll formally, grandly welcome the audience to the open air cinema experience, going through town as if they were royalty, as if they were the mayor. Thanks for having us, Mr. mayor...

It's a rough place, so crowded and broken. People have a good energy about them, smiling and saying 'ca va?' goes a long way, but they're hungry and hot and poor and the whole aspect of being a white guy here, even with good intentions, seems tired, colonialist, and wrong. I represent money, and a continued power structure, my camera is shorthand for exploitation, and I don't have a whole lot to offer in the way of a different narrative. I'm going to continue to do the best work I can here, and I've already done some great stuff, but man, it doesn't feel right.

We essentially employ the 2 little kids in the video as child servants. They're orphans, or estranged from their family for some reason, a trio living in a smoky hut together. I didn't know this when I decided they'd be good video hosts for our screening, so I approached them to see if they had the afternoon free to make a little welcoming video consisting of the group of us roaring around on motos and yelling at each other. They had a great time, and so did I, afterward they asked for some money, as everyone does here. "Souple Davi, m' hungry, merci." 'Little shits, I thought we were buds!' I remarked to myself, and gave them each a princely sum of a dollar. Later that evening I found out they bought soup with my money, that they literally survive off of the patches of money we throw them for errands, washing, etc. That straightened me out pretty quick.

The NGO workers frequent this neighborhood, they've got their own institutions and grocery stores and roar around self-importantly in big SUV's over the 4x4 courses that pretend to be roads. I'm extremely weird, because I dress well, but make eye contact and greet people and stop to shake hands, etc. Most all the other white folks scurry around like scared little mice, or stay detached from the squalor with glasses and cell phones. I think the thing that troubles me most about the NGO presence is it maintains a normal race-and-class dynamic, here, of all places, in the land of slave revolutions. Resourceless, edged out of self-sufficiency by the mechanics of agribusiness and overpopulation, and in the hurricane/earthquake test course, these guys can't catch a break. I have many acquaintances here that came from the US, hustlers and dealers in the states, destined to always be second-class citizens there because of their race and environment. At least here everyone's on the same destroyed playing field, though people still use money to draw lines in the sand like crazy.

My bones are tired from a lack of understanding.
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Saturday, September 3, 2011

Hittin' the press: Biking In the West Bank

Urban Velo let me tell the stories of a few of my friends and provide a broader context for the Palestinian/Israeli situation. Checkit! Urban Velo's free where you can find it, to boot!

update: early response shows that while the article's good, the online reader leaves something to be desired, to whit: If the article appears to only be one page long, look for a little green arrow to the bottom right of the first page. It's actually four. I'm not letting you off that easy! Read More......

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Fun with Photoshop


Plus Two...

Is Silly!

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Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Would you pick this guy up?

Me, last October:
"The fear I have in my mind about Palestine is that it won't be successful, which is a useless fear because just by forwarding it and doing it it will be successful, meaning something will come of it that will point me in a different direction and pull from it some kind of experience which, quantifiable or not, will be applied to my next endeavor. And so on and so on. The thing I need to realize is all these endeavors so far have far exceeded my needs and station and 'level' in life, meaning that I'm doing just fine and should, if anything, slow down and have a beer or two with my friends rather than rushing off to the next big thing all the time. "

Seems decent. 10 months later, everything turned out well. And indeed I'm off in the next direction, but appreciating the little things. Good good.

For example: I wrapped up this most recent bout of hard-to-wrap-neatly-in-summation wandering with a hitchhiking trip from Warsaw to Budapest. 6 rides, 3 countries, 2 nights, something like 500 miles. I made it a lazy trip, as I wanted to burn some time. I withdrew 250 dollars in Ukranian money about 10 days before and had spent it all visiting my buddy Monika in Warsaw and living like a king, which was rather great. I decided rather than get more money I'd try to hack it the last 4 days on about 12 euro. Thus the setup: Hitchike, spend no money, have a good (?) time.

Warsaw turned out to be a really cool place, subdued reflections of Berlin in terms of youth, hipness, and approachable street culture. It's pretty hip though. Amazing how many kids looked like San Francisco bike messengers circa 2007. Imagine, for example, you're sitting at this year-old coffee shop:

While there the very picture of your local messenger chick pulled up on this beastie.

Did she have ironic tattoos and wayfarer glasses? Oh yes, gentle reader, she did. And so on. Plaid, Cinelli caps, you name it. But open, good kids, not overly snooty. Maybe nobody's overly-snooty when you're young and disheveled and enthusiastic. I'm increasingly aware of this.

Warsaw is a city with a hard history: stubborn resistance during the holocaust resulted in the entire city being leveled, pretty much every european-looking architectural edifice or monument was re-created shortly after the war. That was followed by decades of bleak communist rule. I happened to be there over the week remembering the WWII uprisings, pictures show strong, intelligent, good-natured young people fighting to their certain deaths in bombed-out european opulence. I was reminded strongly of Gaza 2008-2009, and in fact little plaques dot the city streets in perfect parallel to the martyrdom posters of Nablus.

It was great to see the stomping ground of an old friend, but after a few days I decided to hitch out. She and I took a bus to the southern outskirts of Warsaw, passing nearly a thousand christians on a pilgrimage. They pissed Monika off, with their zealousness and predictable comments ("forget Krakow, walk with us!"), but I was pleased to see them. We walked until we came across a good hitch out spot, braved the light rain, and smiled at the waves and waves of pilgrims between thumbing. After around an hour of honks, waves, and the occasional dudes shouting that they'd take Monika, but not me, a guy with a dog pulled over in a little red hatchback, and I said bye to Monika, on my way. Thus began a series of good rides. Lazlow got me to outside Krakow, through rain squalls and rolling green polish hills. His brother lived in Farmington, UT for four years, too weird. His dog would get restless and spin in little dog circles between my feet, getting hair everywhere, crazy sympathetic bugger. He dropped me off in a pleasant country road and I promised to look him up whenever I came back.

Next, fairly quickly, I hitched a ride to Slovakia from Stanislov, an old fellow in a grey chrystler van with a wine-red interior. His van was filled with vegetables, honey, and preserves, and he had a couple backpacks. He spoke no english and only a bit of german, that was our common language. We got on fine. He was going to spend 2 weeks hiking in the Slovakian mountains, which sounded pretty neat. I never found out what his job was, etc. We made two fun stops: Once at a little wooden church where I got out and checked out the scenery, and once in the last polish town of decent size before the border, which he said had 'good ice.' I thought he was stocking up his cooler, but it turned out good ice meant ice-cream. We got some nice little cones and wandered through the little town's city park with literally 40 other people nursing the same ice cream cones. too funny. Stan refused to let me pay for my own, the dear, keeping up my lack of expenditures. Soon the rolling hills turned into impressive mountain crags similar to the Grand Tetons, and we crossed the slovakian border.

My ride ended, Stan went to his cabin for the week with a smile, and I hiked off into the mountains in search of a place to camp. I wanted to trek up onto the ski hill and find a spot on the tree-line, but the weeds and grass were high and I didn't want to pick up a deer tic or something so I settled for a spot by a little summer cabin that looked unused. Good night, no problems. I loved waking up in the morning and having no idea where I was, or how I got there, just a random variable in my life. I had no reason to seek out that little mountain hamlet as a destination, and now I know it. A great way to see new things. Across the valley through the trees you can see a town of about 600 tourists and villagers who have no idea of your temporary existence in their forest. A life in between, another life.

The next morning I scarfed some of Monika's trailmix. I'd been rationing the Zurek soup she made, our brownies, and now the trail mix, today's fare was mostly to consist of the bread and cheese I bought the day before. I felt confident I could spend no money until Budapest, and then have enough for the train, a kebab, and maybe bribe my way into a shower somewhere. I set off walking through the little resort town of Zdiar in good spirits.

Warning, pedophile crossing? Anyways...

Right away was picked up by Iveta, a good-natured outdoorsy woman of about 35 years. "Where are you going?" "Budapest!" "Lucky boy" she smiled. She was driving almost all the way through her native slovakian mountains to go hiking. The road was long and winding, beautiful, through mountains and resort towns that she knew all the names of. She's the manager of a chalet's resturant and works full time, she's cooked and worked in the region her whole life and likes to take impulsive vacations. She invited me along to go hiking, and I should have taken her up on it, but the language barrier was a little too great. She turned off my route in a place called Liptovsky Mikvias, and again I promised to come back by bike. I'm serious about this idea, it'd be beautiful. I started walking through town with my sign on my back and picked a ride in all of 3 minutes from Tibor and Renata, a cute 30's couple returning from a 3 day adventure in the mountain region. He was a firefighter, she worked with computers. Again, they were sweeties, again, long ride, and again, they gave me food without being asked. Hitchhiking was beginning to look a little unreal.

I walked through Cornado and got a ride from another old feller who spoke only german, this one worked as a truck driver doing huge routes all over the world, Hungary/Italy, and somehow down in Iraq/Iran. I think the man went about 10 k out of his way (in a big truck!) to drop me in a good hitch spot. This left me in Dorag, about 40 km from Budapest. I thought it better to sleep there rather than find a spot in the big city, so I gracelessly crashed for the night in a thicket between the road and the rail-line, listening to traffic and trains all night. Right after I pitched my tent (or bivy, as it is) the rain DUMPED down and I grinned in my waterproof tunnel. I was rewarded for my choice of spot in the morning by a zoological wonderland: snails, beetles, and a billion spiders wove a symphony of orbs and slime trails around me in the night.

Hitching sign and local wildlife. I had to sit up quite carefully to avoid a faceful of orb-weavers like that one.

I dusted myself off and headed back to the road, self-conciously stinky. Got one more ride, a gifted sandwich (food store win!) and finally an arrival in Budapest!

Turns out Budapest is great, and filled with hipsters. I'm thinking all the hipsters from 2007-2008 went to eastern europe, if you were wondering. Tattoos and fixed gears and all. There's this funky little park teeming with skaters and bmxers and scenesters jus' staring at each other, it's like a freakin' wayfairers commercial. They look pretty great, doing it, If I see another 6 ft tall beautiful blonde on a 58cm rad lugged city conversion I'm gonna download a hungarian rosetta stone and never look back. I've still got my messenger bag, man, I'm hip!

Literally, the whole place was like this:

Barf. No actually they were kind of legit I'm just a jerk who thinks he's cool cos he smells bad and gets places for free.

Anyway, goofy commentary aside, it was a great trip. I was thrilled at the idea of living in an alternate reality where things don't cost a thing, where travel is dynamic and new and you're never really sure who you'll meet or where you'll go. I used to see cars on the road as annoyances, now I see them like everything else: potential! I love the social aspect of hitchiking over train-hopping, and even bike touring, for that matter.

Now I'm up in the air somewhere over greenland, almost to Salt Lake City, after a chat with a returning missionary who, having not traveled much, was now interested in couchsurfing, public health, and the real situation in Palestine, good for him. I'm happy and tired and ready to come home. See you soon, or see you next time,

D.D. out, and checking back in to reality. Though if you can tell me what's real and what isn't I'll buy you an ice cream with the $7 I have left over from hitchhiking.
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Saturday, July 30, 2011

Welcome to the western world... ish...

"I've lived here 26 years and I can't think of enough reason to stay here 6 months. What were you doing here?!"
"Eh, I dunno. Biking around a ton? Writing?"
"Right!" *smiles awkwardly*

So all in all, I was way too over-prepared for my Palestinian Sympathizer Airport Exit Experience©. I got through Israeli security no problems. Chalk another privilege up to being white, American, non-muslim, and generally charismatic. The agents were low key and generally nice, though still I was taken aside as a heightened risk person and half-stripped, swabbed down for bombs, every article searched, and email/computer combed over. I got away with a 3 out of 6 for dangerousness, which essentially just means I'm weird. And I can handle that. Funnily enough, after I was safely through the gate I opened my phone and realized, after months of alternate-email generation, uploading photographs, Facebook deleting, alibi creating, re-naming arabic songs in my music library, etc, I had left my phone's browser navigating to this blog, where of course ALL of the recent posts illustrate in clear detail just how big of a liar I am. Eh. Well, I got lucky! And then I was free.

Fittingly, I was pre-welcomed to Eastern Europe with by my flight-mate, who sat down, shook my hand, and stuffed a giant vodka bottle into my carry-on. At first I thought this was some kind of insane gift, until I realized that I was to supply him, our neighbor, and myself with surreptitious vodka pours from time to time. The flight commenced in wild style. I was worried David Zion, for that was his name, was going to be a super-zionist,and he may well have been, but our common language turned out to be Arabic. We discovered this about halfway through the flight, which heretofore had consisted of generous vodka pours, expressive shrugs, and dismissive hand gestures. The third fellow was Moses, who sleeps. The pair were on a pilgrimage to visit the tomb of an important Hasidic Jew, Rebbe Nachman, in Uman, Ukraine, a trip they did often. Our flight was largely uneventful, excepting a kurfuffle concerning the ripped packaging on their kosher flight food, an episode which resulted in me eating 3 tin-foiled religiously-soiled chicken dishes. Also a substantial quantity of vodka evaporated on my lap. Good times.

Now happily in Kiev- a sprawling green city with terrifying grids of cheap housing towers surrounding the center. It's a poor but flashy, beautiful place with plenty of decrepitude, Soviet era factories with windows broken out contrasting gilded onion-dome churches and sinister black SUVs. I like it a lot, quite the transition from the West bank, thought the medium income's probably pretty close. Return of brick to my vis. Lexicon. I don't have a camera anymore, so I'll subject you to my feeble drawings:

Actually, it's probably the polar opposite of the West Bank. This country is home to literally the most beautiful women on planet earth, everyone looks like a model, and huge sexual adverts hang everywhere. The women march around in designer clothes with these intense soviet grimaces, while in the west bank you encounter only men who grin hugely and want to know your story. I guess I'm getting what I asked for, an emergency dose of western alienation.

Wandered into the Pinchuk Art Center, where Andreas Grusky (99 cents and Kathedrale 1) Gregory Crewdson, and Olafur Ellaison were all together. It was Pretty amazing. Best so far, besides Kathedrale 1, is the insane gallery bathroom, all mirrors.

The mirrors also connect your gaze between genders, there's no privacy, except the actual stall. A pretty bold and interesting move in such a sexualized place where eye contact comes heavily into play in maintaining social norms.

That was trumped 100 times over by an Ellaison piece thick with fog, spectral lights effectively blinding you with a specific color, destroying your notion of space, losing the viewer in a field of hue. The colorshifts were so strong yet imperceptible you were sure you were hallucinating. You literally couldn't see your hand in front of your face, and would run into walls and other people. Very spooky, very amazing.

If it was 2005 I'd have a sweet myspace pic.

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