Sunday, December 31, 2006

Big Freaking Truck

Big freaking TruckFor something like 8 months of the past year, a good half of my traffic came from people looking for a "big truck" on Google France and Google Mozambique and Google all over the freaking world... So here it is again. I tried deleting the picture, and then the whole post and still they come. Oh well, hope to see all you big truck fans again in 2007. As a gesture of good will, Big Truck Salvage is here. Big-Big-Truck is here. There is a picture of a Gigantic Truck here. And an Enormous Truck here. But sadly, I cannot find a truck of my friend Serioshka's description, the mythical Ginormous Truck (that's /jai-NOR-mus/). Scratch that. Actually, a quick search lead me to this, the Ginormous Truck.

Anyway - happy whatever.

Friday, December 29, 2006

"See, land, that we were most wasteful."

Look at those who lead us. Not at all of them, of course, but all too many of them. Look at the way they act—terrified, suspicious, sweaty, legalistic, deceptive. It's ridiculous to even hope that the Law will come forth from them, that they can produce a vision, or even an original, truly creative, bold, momentous idea. When was the last time that the Prime Minister suggested or made a move that could open a single new horizon for Israelis? A better future? When did he take a social, cultural, or ethical initiative, rather than just react frantically to the actions of others? [...]

From where I stand at this moment, I request, call out to all those listening —to young people who came back from the war, who know that they are the ones who will have to pay the price of the next war; to Jewish and Arab citizens; to the people of the right and the people of the left: stop for a moment. Look over the edge of the abyss, and consider how close we are to losing what we have created here. Ask yourselves if the time has not arrived for us to come to our senses, to break out of our paralysis, to demand for ourselves, finally, the lives that we deserve to live.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

the lesser evil

These sentiments could become strong enough to incite citizens on both sides of the border to reinvent democracy in North America.

This is not an ideal scenario, in my opinion.

But American upheaval, characterized by class struggles, a declining standard of living and urban violence, could cause several regions in North America to choose the lesser evil in terms of solutions.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

egoism - altruism

Mexico City street scenei thought i would take a stab at answering Gusky's very thoughtfully posted question:

Some have replied that ego is the drive to make one's mark in the world. I suppose that's another side of ego, the side related more to a will to power and self-assertion.

The questions that this drive raises are, "What kind of mark, and where, and why?"

I'd think that the artist whose need to leave a mark on the world is the dominant drive should be asking him/herself the more basic question of why it's the dominant drive. What inner need does this drive to leave marks in the world satisfy?
Conveniently, another post cropped up, Alain's really fascinating presentation/ discussion at Long Sunday of the David Graeber article in Harper's which I've not read. Now I can't blame Gusky for leaving out the Altruism side of things, as I'd never thought of it either. I would probably approach ego from the sort of clinical perspective of western psychology myself. Graeber's approach, seems to suggest that both Ego and Altruism arise simultaneously as a product of market economy. To clip Alain's quote of Graeber:
In the ancient world, for example, it is generally in the times and places that one sees the emergence of money and markets that one also sees the rise of world religions - Buddhism, Christianity, and Islam. If one sets aside a space and says, "Here you shall think only about acquiring material things for yourself," then it is hardly surprising that before long someone else will set aside a countervailing space and declare, in effect: "Yes, but here we must contemplate the fact that the self, and material things, are ultimately unimportant." It was these latter institutions, of course, that first developed our modern notions of charity.
Pretty fascinating really. At least I thought so. Graeber goes on to critique the role of these two factors, egoism and altruism, in a discussion of left versus right politics arguing that the right has established a monopoly on both ego and altruism, Value and Values. And for this, Alain's discussion is quite good, the left will flail helplessly forever unless it can take hold of one. Frighteningly, I have to clip from Alain's quoting of Graeber once more:
why do working-class kids join the army anyway? Because, like any teenager, they want to escape the world of tedious work and meaningless consumerism, to live a life of adventure and camaraderie in which they believe they are doing something genuinely noble. They join the army because they want to be like you.
Of course, we have heard this argument raised before... (someone leave a comment telling me where was that bit about working class kids becoming artists because it is higher status than they could otherwise achieve,) and I don't believe it is anything but on the mark. As Gusky wants to know, what inner drive does this mark-making want to satisfy? Is it just, again, escaping tedium and consumerism? I fear often enough it is. Here of course I could predictably go off on my usual rant about higher education, elitist institutions and the right-wing. (Please, close Yale already.) But I will spare you.

I think I am probably on the same page as Gusky, in wanting more art and less ego, more art where the artist is transparent. Where an artist is conducting the fluid motion of meaning through elements and into the waiting ~mind~ of the recipient, and where the recipient is understood broadly to include the artist and the environment also. All of us are participants in that environment, and we understand art to be a kind of play that we do to increase our understanding of ourselves in our environment. It isn't altruism after all. I suspect Gusky will agree.

Doing what we do is just more work and that work, like any work, fails when it serves the ego. Take a look at Donald Trump or Michael Jackson, two pathetic IQ-around-50 imbeciles whose attempts to successfully conquer their own miserly egos has resulted mostly in continued and spectacular failure. Do I need to mention the so-called leader of the free-world ?

In reflecting on Gusky's original question, I think it helps to point out that the ego is a construct successfully engineered for the western mind and one which has out-shown the utility of western economic thinking. We've created a world in which genius cannot lead because the entire apparatus of communication is arrayed against that shining historical ego. What we have now is the marketed personality judged only by its sale-ability and hence the goons of the New York gallery scene, hence the goons of MSNBC, hence the GOP. Ego-less art will be decidedly emasculated and profoundly personal, almost limp to those still carrying egos. But don't confuse its veracity by judging it with the Western Ego. It will have no borders and it won't carry well in glossy magazines.

It will probably sell. Just not enough to impress.

Friday, December 22, 2006

second letter to an art friend

robotsDude - the other night i was stuck with a bunch of the most milque-toast miniature art stars that Mexico has to offer, all of them spoke perfect English and had one foot in some kind of success... success meaning they get to act like people who go to parties with Paris Hilton, or success meaning now they can afford flat screen televisions, or success meaning that although their lives are still plagued by the same problems as everyone else, they get to project those problems onto the larger world in the form of their disjointed, disfunctional and frankly ugly art. There is plenty of ugly art to go around. And it comes from ugly people trying to further distance them selves from all of the ugliness in the world so they can be above it, or so that they don't have to be losers, while the rest of the world, especially the losers are just that--losers.

Art is one thing in the whole world that nobody ever has to be a loser at and in which nothing is competitive. It is like trying to regulate healthcare in a market economy. It has nothing to do with competing to be better or to succeed. Market economies fail, and they fail spectacularly when they try to apply their stupid "rules" to non-economic spheres of life, like health and art.

The reason I am saying this to you is that I can see you have a far greater understanding of the role and capability of art than many people at your level. I ask you to trust that and though it is probably a load of shit, you just might come out on top after some time struggling. Don't look at it as emotional distance, just as emotional acceptance. You need those things, you need emotional involvement, you just don't need judgement. You don't need to regret having emotions, but you need to see that the emotions are real and useful, and that ultimately they are yours to use. Emotions are not your master, but you are theirs.

I remember I used to sneer at what my instructors told me: to try to paint with "feeling," as if I had no choice, and so I spent most of my time trying to paint without it. But now, when I look at all my struggle to escape or conquer "feeling" it seems most of what I did was judge what I should or should not feel, and that act makes mountains out of our most basic and natural responses to the situations that confront us. Of course you felt bad and resentful and worse. You did and you will again. And in the course of those many emotions over a lifetime, one ends up seeing that they were the richest part, or that they allowed us inroads into parts of thinking and understanding that otherwise are just part of ourselves that we take for granted as silent and unreachable.

Our dialogue is with nature, and with forces that will destroy us if we don't keep talking. I can understand artforum magazine, but I can't understand what a line in the dirt means. I have to try. Some rocks. Some branches. I was walking under a palm tree in a mediocre rain when some great branch came crashing down, literally spiraling like a snake. And I can't say that it was an epic event like something that happened to Antigone. Yet in jumping and laughing at myself for my startled outburst, I couldn't help but think in the black recesses of those sun-baked palm leaves, and the twisting curl of that terrible branch, there wasn't just as much tragedy as one could wish for. I put the tragedy into the branch and compare it to a snake. But there is always a bit more, an excess of meaning. You put your problems on paper, and I see not only paper and problems, but you and nature, and that should make us think of great waves crashing. Like a rhythm of understanding always, in its approach and subsequent recession, hoping we will grasp that it is not aggression and passivity, but a balanced understanding of both. We have to be like nature, both aware and completely unaffected, not unaffected emotionally, but without judgement. Sounds so eastern, but somethings always do.

Thursday, December 21, 2006


Cheers to Lenin's Tomb for an admirable, if not outright magnificent rant On decent internationalism. And to Latina Lista, whose blog should be read in every corner. I've no idea how they came to the conclusion that Castro was somehow worse than they are. Killing, torturing, imprisoning untold tens and hundreds of thousands is just bad where ever you are doing it.

letter to an art friend

saint somebody getting crucifiedYou realized, I hope, in some past correspondence, that while I wish you well, I care not a whit about the details and soul-plundering. Unfortunately, for people like us, and i think, for all great artists, our chore is to wring out the worst in us so that in the end, we are clear open sources for new information to move through. Our challenge is to understand that we don't control the filters in which get bottled up our emotional crises and our failings, but we have to sympathize with ourselves for having such filters, even as we examine the detritus that so confounds them. That is to say, you call them exorcisms as if you are casting demons out, and I am saying, look at those demons. Take what pity you can, but more important, respect that you are in a position to be enjoying the company of demons. In fact you see then they were never so threatening as was the act of containing them. I have a distinct love for alcoholics and even junkies, and i try to model my practice after theirs, though I hope mine is not so self-destructive. In the end, I fear my fix is equally un-attainable.

I suspect yours is also, but then lets not look at it as an exorcism but just as what we do. I applaud the almost total lack of formalism in the work you showed. How about something just wetter, with a bit less precision, showing the same things, tackling the same issues. There are a thousand places to go and still your demons will accompany you. But please, get your hands dirty. This isn't insurance we're doing.

Good Luck and Good Work,

oy, so much mexican politics to grapple with

I don't think I can out-do the Unapologetic Mexican in praising the Gustavo Esteva piece published at Znet a few days ago.

Out of respect, I try to keep my nose out of most Mexican politics, especially when I hardly understand a lot of it. But I will say, I have longed to understand the "Other Campaign" as much as I have longed to understand the PRD. I don't wear a lot of indigenous gear, and I don't own anything emblazoned with Che's face. But it is tough to know where to stand and when to keep one's mouth shut. I generally just keep my mouth shut, particularly on matters Marcos related. But that is not to say I have not hungered for some bridge to understanding.

Use TUM's piece as an intro to Esteva's extended piece (Esteva is quite long). I don't expect everyone will be donning ski-masks tomorrow, but Esteva's article is far more enlightening than anything I've seen previously. Closing with just one good taste:

The communities seem to be unable to confront the immense economic and political forces that continuously attack them, the large transnational corporations and a State that is increasingly at the service of capital. Nonetheless, broad coalitions of the discontented continue to extend themselves in their slow accumulation of forces. They can see in the distance the conditions under which they undertake the political inversion of economic domination, of the structures of capital. Without losing a sense of reality, that is, without denying the real risks in the situation, we should not allow ourselves to be blinded by the fireworks of the constituted powers, national and international, including the "superpower" that finally accepts itself as empire. In the final agonies of a regime, the last remaining forces are used to impress the subjects, to make them believe that it still is what it was before. Though it is possible to destroy and intimidate with the armies and the police, it is not possible to govern with force … unless the people allow fear to paralyze their hearts and minds.
I knew I liked these people.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006


View from Oceania Metro stationthis is a pic I took from Oceania Metro Station, view looking south across the east edges of the city. Happily, days have gotten more sunny.

our lady

Our lady at museo de los intervencionesjust a photo i took at a museum once, i thought it might liven the place up a little bit.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

mexico, youth, youngness

Oceania metro station Mexico CityI remember confusing someone not so long ago by saying that "Mexico is a very young country." I had to clarify this by saying that, in fact, Mexico is a very old country but with a terrific number of very young people.

It is very possible to ride these trains, as I have been doing lately, and find oneself, in one's late 30s, quite the senior among a swarm of 20, 25 and 30 year old people all hustling to get to some jobs or some schools and the minority of people over 50 are quick to claim the seats. Such is the etiquette of Mexico City's metro system.

I don't mind standing a bit. But it is tough getting an answer from 20-somethings to my questions "How is it to be in a such a huge majority? Such a big part in a megalopolis that dwarves so many of the cities of the world?"

I may as well be asking "what does your face look like?" for I talk to plenty of people in their twenties and they seem as often as not oblivious to their position. Or maybe it is that their position in such a huge majority does not confer in them any radical impulse to dominate or lord their numbers over their city the way one might expect if the kids over-ran the high school. It isn't timidness and it isn't a lack of awareness.

I find an astonishing unwillingness to "grab the tiger by the tail" as Porfiro Diaz would have had it, that seems born as much from respect for neighbors in that terrific European sense, as it is from any lack of initiative or reluctance to act. Mexico is very much aware of its place in the world and of its future. Thank god with so many, are so many good.

Oceania metro station Mexico City

Monday, December 18, 2006

among my favorite pics

among my favorite websites, urban ruins in Japan.

in san miguel chapultepec

i've been thinking a lot since yesterday's post that perhaps it is not enough to know a place, but that a place must know you.

what inspired this was in thinking of the success that right has achieved in rehabilitating the legacy of their vaunted war-criminal hero, Ronald Reagan. I believe part of the way they have achieved this has been through demolishing the history of the united states, in such a way that places, with all of their associated memories, their public tributes fall away, along with a thinking public. With the buildings goes the public.

It is impossible to live long in a country with a public before one starts to realize that one has a role. Of course, i have written about this before, but one starts to realize that that role is often in reaction to, or in accordance with, ones surroundings and their particular histories. I can't tell you the number of times I have been lectured on the significance of certain places and sites and building and streets in Mexico and Mexico City. These aren't lectures to make me worship a given dead general or president, but are lectures to instill in me a sense of my role.

There are few places in history where conservatives have been right about anything. Where they are, as in the case of Ronald Reagan, you will almost always find seriosu white-washing of facts and a softening of the murders that accompanied the movement. Paving the way for the outrages in the United States, is a successfully defeated and a-historical public, a public that can not exist because it has been marketed into complete acquiescence. What is left but buildings, trees, streets ? They will remember so it will serve us well to pay attention to them.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

blogging, my downfall

many longtime readers here, well, both of them anyway, realize that the problems with my blog started with the switch to Blogger Beta, from which i have never fully recovered.

It did cause me to think, at some time, that I would migrate the whole speaking of ashes archive over to WordPress, but, yes, you guessed it, one can't do that with a Beta Blogger blog.

I will say that I have reluctantly and begrudgingly gotten speaking of ashes to more or less load correctly in Mozilla and now i have found that it sometimes loads incorrectly on Internet Explorer. I don't know why people are using that mess of a program, I suspect most of them are in offices with nasty tech departments determined to keep everyone's hands tied, but alas they are out there.

May I then highly recommend the IE Tab add-on from the indefatigable PCMan (Hong Jen Yee), with a note that I have no idea what he is doing in this picture. IE Tab allows you to have pages rendered by Internet Explorer in a Mozilla Tab so you can get a pretty strong idea what the lonely IE user is actually seeing. With that said, I'd like to ask if there are any IE users out there who are still seeing my side-bar loading on the bottom of the page ? ? ? If you are there, please complain to me directly, and I will continue pondering the problem.

And without linking to the ridiculous Time magazine piece, I do congratulate all of you for now sharing this tremendous honor with the likes of Adolph Hitler, Joseph Stalin, and Ronald Reagan, true heroes of the past. It is great getting an award from the people we are all working against, without the morons even realizing it.

Friday, December 15, 2006


sometimes mexico is like an old woman, dressed up in the clothes of a boy.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

what ?

What does one even do with a story like this ? It is waiting for the Simpson's episode to be written.

If I had the world's longest arms, I too would use them to save dolphins. And for scooping up all the Chinese and Mongolian babies and hugging them all at the same time.

the yahoo eternity

Anyone else staring at this idiot while waiting to log in and delete your tens of thousands of spam messages ?

Wonder what would happen if I clicked on that "Trouble logging in ?" Could I get that bald guy who Yahoozled his big hair to come back and kick this little beta bastard's ass ?


I hear a lot of my colleagues talking about what it means for an art-work to be
"conceptually coherent." Ten years ago i had a pretty good idea what this meant. I understood that work done in physics had proven that the observer did necessarily affect what s/he was observing and that no more would the straight objectivity, so-called, of the hard sciences be employed so far afield from the hard sciences.

Anthropology had ceased it's humiliating flirtation with literary arts and settled for the lesser role as a branch of hominid sciences. Fair enough, and not so humble after all.

And social sciences in the broader sense became all various branches of statistical analysis, though with much needed artful interpretation, anything too artful receiving a stern reprimand, as it should. The exception perhaps is economics, the much lawded "hardest of the soft sciences," where the Chicago school of fictional economics still reins supreme, and the results are obvious to anyone who can see with an artless eye. (45 million American citizens in artless, hopeless poverty is a successful economy, now that's art.)

But I'm talking about concept. In lieu of such a fascinating discovery, that objectivity is impossible. That observation is participation, that describing is creating, that ascribing is affecting is part of telling, one would have expected the arts to carreen off in happy, literary descriptions and re-descriptions. Every description should be understood as another self description and that the joy of painting is in what it makes of us. How the experience of a line changes not merely our miserly conception of a line, but like in literature, it affects our very thinking of another un-related and distant line. To connect these two dots, and to form a line, we are simultaneously connecting other dots of which we've no knowledge, no experience. And the physical act of painting them does also connect these dots, synapses if you like, as does, more weakly, the act of viewing.

I believe most of my colleagues consider "concept" to be something like a written statement which accompanies an art-work, much as an article accompanies a social-scientists graphs and charts. This is so bewildering and boring it makes me want to puke my lunch out. Doing statistical science requires looking at statistics, and then drawing conclusions. The expression of those conclusions requires a literary vehicle and one that is fine tuned and accurate. But it doesn't require testing the limits of what a literary vehicle can do, how we use it, how we change ourselves through using it.

Literature does that. As does any of the creative arts. To do some experimental thing, action, creation of an object or situation and then explain it through "concept" is to put the cart before the horse. In most cases, conceptual artists express and explain some sort of pseudo-experiment, or situation, or creation, through a literary vehicle. Why don't writers do this I wonder ?

Can you imagine a novelist offering up a concept to explain his novel ?

Painters and sculptors need to demolish the "conceptual" in art and move closer to writers, understanding all various media in the terms of linguistic elements, syntax, grammar, connotation. Conceptual artists need to stop mucking things up and study science if that is what they want to do. There really is not a lot of middle ground.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Pantitlan, again

Let's look at another obsession. This time, "stationary things that appear to be moving." I'm not talking about op-art, but the better example is the "streamlined" pencil sharpener of 1930s fame, just about anything art deco or moderne is a good example too.

Pantitlan's dynamism comes from the site's total lack of foundational groundedness. There is hardly a place where you can figure out how it rests on the ground.

The depiction of movement through stationary means is always dependent on line, the second dimension. Even if we are talking about pixelation or pointilism, we need to connect the dots with lines, or no movement happens, no sense is made.

Pantitlan is a cascade of lines, most of them stationary, the exception being the orange lines of the train cars that connect the site with dozens of other lesser sites. The rest is utility, edges, rails, platforms, loading docks and queues.

Often I see these buses waiting. To call what they do "waiting" is similar to calling a line "moving." It was my eye moving and not any line, and it is me passing a bus doing nothing that causes me to think a bus is waiting.

In the same way that I anthropomorphize buses, I give Pantitlan movement that is not there, movement being like spirit, a quality that wasn't there before.

I can and can't do lot's of things. I can't insist that everyone see movement in lines and interpret it as spirit, and I can't imagine that my naming something made of concrete will imbue that distant, cold concrete with life.

I can't imagine that the rat's nest machine gun turrets still embedded along parts of the Long Island waterfront are imbued with life or with history, nothing happened there. No political fate was decided by concrete that never shot back. 1946 came and went and no one looked through the concrete partition for German airplanes and no one wished there to be home at long last.

I've thought in the past that buses are among the most un-loved of humankind's creations. I was tormented by a yellow one when I was a child, it's sinister lights flashing a yellow macabre as it approached the edge of my childhood yard. And many of those you see here are driven by teenagers, crammed with greasey fingered passengers, and they belch smoke and barrel through intersections sending pedestrians scurrying. And who am I to say that they are waiting or hurrying, when it is only the people, saying this or that, that humanizes them, making the second dimension seem like the 4th or the 5th.

Pantitlan, revisited

here is a decent google earth image that gives you an idea of the site. Pantitlan is the monster of the Mexico City subway system. It is more like 4 subway stations and 12 bus stations crammed together with hardly a thought to design, or maybe just with a crew of architectural designers coming in, one after the other and never a master-plan.

Maybe part of what fascinates me with the place goes back to my longstanding fascination with abandoned places. Pantitlan feels abandoned even as 100s of thousands of commuters move through it every day.

It is so big that much of Pantitlan lies in a seemingly necessary neglect. There are places that should be welcoming commuters, pedestrians, travelers, and yet they stand empty, often with a layer of garbage, and just as often standing empty, seemingly smiling at no one.

And here again, monumental praise to collective action, "public fulfillment," ignored, trod upon by shoes in their millions hurrying just to get out. Triumphalism blares but no one is listening. The roar of traffic is too great to allow even this momentary victory. Against the the clamor of civilization the notion of idealism stands not a chance.

Pantitlan always has too many directions to look. She is bewildered by perspectives and pierced by thousands of cement hooks. When you try to find her angle, you will see that she is shifting, a highway in her belly is belching people. All of them are dressed to get out of here as soon as possible, and many of them will stay all day ignoring Pantitlan.

... and so what is one to do? Ignore harder? When I go to Pantitlan, I stare as if at a collossal carnival of concrete and necessity, a train-wreck in the valley of the ignored. It is people eeking out existence and those perfectly comfortable in an existence that denies itself. I think all of them have internalized a blindness toward Pantitlan. It is a resentment and a resignation but it is in the face of an enormity of potential, a chaos of possible outcomes buried in the mad design of a thousand bureaucrats.

Monday, December 11, 2006


These are some pics from tonight's escapades at Pantitlan, the world's most fabulous metro stop.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

on the utter stupidity of every Republican you know

And yes, partly just because I wanted to use this foto, but Digby's post really got me thinking. The truly wild part is, that any Republican who thought they could trust these people, is being left behind. I seriously doubt that any of the people blogging on the filthy right of the blogosphere even makes more than $100K per year, and none of them, not one of them will see any benefit from all of the contorted and dismal acrobatics they have had to construe. All of the hateful lies they have pumped out over the last few years have served to diminish and degrade their beloved country and the freak family above will walk away with millions, maybe billions. Rumsfeld walked away worth 199 MILLION DOLLARS. And I know sucker lawyers making 60 or 70K who think that some how this was justified. That he eeeeeaaarrrnned the money. In fact, I bet those sucker lawyers think they themselves are in the top quintile too. They're not. And they won't benefit. The true movement conservatives walked away with the money, and the "conservatives" stuck with the rest of us in a liberal democratic republic got nothing. Take a look at that picture. What the fuck century is that ?

Monday, December 04, 2006

GOP Predecessors

According to this article, GOP predecessors likely came from Spain, uh, a bit before Franco's regime.