Monthly Archives: April 2014

Man on the BART Train

Large man on BART train.  Not fat, large.  Tall, wide, he sits in the double handicapped section and though someone could fit in next to him, no one would.  On top of his own bulk he wears a thick cobalt blue pea coat, black pants, black socks, shiny black leather shoes.  Knit cap.  Glasses.  Calm demeanor.

I notice he is also wearing light blue latex gloves.  He has with him a dark blue milk crate settled on the ground, between his knees.  The opening does not face up, but faces him.  The crate isn’t empty, yet magically and mysteriously, none of the objects fall out of the opening in front.

The man pulls out a white carton of generic-brand orange juice, the kind with a plastic spout, green.  He places the orange juice on top of the milk crate like it’s a table.  Pulls out a white paper napkin.  He wipes the mouth of the carton, definitively–once with the green spout cap on, one with it off.  He then carefully wipes his own mouth.  All this wiping takes time, he is doing it assiduously, patiently.  The suspense is riveting.  The man then, finally, picks up the carton and takes a couple of small, careful sips.  He puts the cap back on the spout, and the carton back in the crate.

For a couple of stops, the man doesn’t do anything.  Just sits.  I can tell he’s not done.  He then pulls out a string cheese stick and a small plastic bag of cashews.  He pulls the plastic wrapper down the cheese stick like a banana peel so he can hold the stick by the plastic and not directly touch the cheese.  He takes a couple of meditative bites.  He eats his nuts, but I can’t remember how, I just know all of this is done with such care.  The gloves stay on.

We are sitting perpendicularly, so I can pretend to be not watching, leaning back in my seat and facing forward, while I am, in truth, noting every thing he is doing.  At some point, he must know I’m watching, because he glances as me and gives me a small smile.  As I leave the train, he nods to me politely.  I nod back.

Proof of Concept (The Anti-TED)

My friend Rinku once said she thought TED talks were fascist.

I don’t know that they are that, exactly–but I understand why she said it, given the way they manage to absorb all sorts of things–scientific research and business innovations and journalistic narratives including sometimes tales of horrendous personal tragedy and survival–and then insidiously re-present it under a kind of hopey-changey Stuart-Brand-y progress-as-panacea propaganda branding.  Not to put too fine a point on it.

TED-talks stand for something–a particular performance that reflects the dilemma of our present moment.  Frankly, I think of it as positivist capitalist New World Order propaganda that doesn’t reflect the values shift needed to actually save the world.  When I think of how we are failing in our society, I feel like TED talks and Fox News are two sides of the same coin, two poles that reflect a basic underlying lie:  that our world can be repaired without a change in our lifestyle.  That we can have all our technological conveniences and have a better more healthful more “sustainable” world, we can have our cake and eat it too.   It’s the fantasy upon which Silicon Valley exists, something I’ve been thinking about for years.

It shifts the Great Leader of Fascism to the Great Innovation.  Shifts racial nationalism to a fantasy of global community that acknowledges suffering peoples, but doesn’t shift daily life to incorporate those people into our daily consciousness.

Several articles came out this week, none of which are about TED, but which, taken as a collection, resonate for me as the anti-TED, which, taken together as an outline, reveal the hollowness of the claims of TED-talks-philosophy.

Princeton study concludes that the United States is no longer a democracy, but an oligarchy.

Review of Thomas Piketty’s new book, Capital, which pits capitalism against the hopes of democracy.

Article in the NY Times Magazine on a radical environmental activist who essentially has given up.

Silicon Valley settlement talks between software engineers and four major corporations about manipulating the system to exploit their labor.

Performance Tonight for RECAPS: Rethinking Environment at Human Resources LA

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Tonight at 8:30pm I’ll be doing a performance–a Scrapping Ceremony–as part of RECAPS Magazine’s fantastic weekend of programming around Rethinking Environment.  Come on by!

Human Resources
410 Cottage Home Street
Chinatown Los Angeles!

 

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James Turrell and the Body at Notes on Looking!

I am delighted to share my essay on James Turrell and the body, up today at Geoff Tuck’s wonderful Notes on Looking.  The marvelous Maura Brewer and I each wrote an essay challenging the discourse around the past Year of Turrell in New York and Los Angeles to mark the closing of the LACMA retrospective.

Read both and let me know what you think!

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