dinsdag 27 december 2011

Gary Snyder lionized

Stills from the film

'Etiquette of the Freedom' is a film by John J. Healey about Gary Snyder. The main footage consists of Jim Harrison informally interviewing Gary Snyder, but there is also archival footage and various talking heads explaining the man. The film led to a book published by Counterpoint (2010) that contains the edited transcripts as well as a DVD of the film. I had high hopes, but it was a total bore.

That writes best that writes less. There are many writers half his age who have written at least twice as many words. While he could easily have made a living as an elderly statesman of the Beat he instead labours nine months of the year on his self-sustaining homestead in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada. The remaining three months are dedicated to writing, travelling and being famous. Because so much of his work is extra-literary, and because so much of his work comes at the end of a long period of thinking, accompanying volumes like 'The real work, interviews and talks, 1964-1979' fill in a lot of details that are helpful to better understand his barer central publications. I was hoping that 'Etiquette of Freedom' would be such a companion book to Snyder's landmark 'Practise of the wild'. But alas: Snyder may not play the part of the beat legendary who survived, the rest of the world insists that he does.
Snyder is the intellectual of the beats, but nobody ever seemed to dare ask him a serious question. Come on, surely the man can handle a critical question. It would do him (and us) some good to be pressed into a clearer expose of his views. Instead we get the same old stories again and again, no statement Snyder makes is challenged (and he can be controversial), every story he tells is tremendously funny (but as a Snyder-aficionado I have heard them a dozen times before).  Sigh. 

The fungi in the rose bed

All the creeps come out in autumn.

What are fungi? they are the foot soldiers of a wiry kingdom of slime and mould, an ancient outbreak DNA line prospering where the species of our world perish. A few desirable species apart nobody likes the fungi: the remind us of the soggier aspects of death.  

These fungi I spotted in an otherwise well kept rose garden. What is interesting is that 1) they grew in a line 2) they seem to infect the roots of the rose plants.

zondag 25 december 2011

The stamp-sized Chico Mendez memorial garden

Here is what I found when I went to the local Rooie Rat (Red Rat) bookstore this week: Thing 001359 (Chico Mendez Mural Garden), a micro garden exhibit part of the excellent and ongoing 'The Grand Domestic Revolution' series initiated by Casco. I am wondering though if I am the only one to see the irony: you begin with Chico Mendez a Brazillian rubber tapper and union leader who gets murdered for his efforts to preserve the Amazon rainforest. After his death the man gets honoured with a New York community garden that was evicted. This garden is remembered as an avant-gardening classic and used as a source for the greening of cities everywhere, in this case it inspires a model of itself with a few unhealthy (not to mention unhappy) looking plants in a mushy bookstore in Utrecht. Is that the diminutive value of borrowed aura? Anyway: cryptoforestry salutes all things and all people that bring the Amazon to Utrecht. Hurrah! 

zaterdag 24 december 2011

maandag 19 december 2011

The Leshy [the forest is a mind game]

1) The word Leshy (or Leshi) describes both the Slavic Lord of the Forests and a multitude of woodland spirits who inhabit the Baltic forests. Their presence can be felt by everyone who is near. They are dangerous, evil or maybe just mischievous. Foresters say they are extremely thin, have skin and green hair. The Leshy prefer to live in the deep sections of the forest, they resent intruders and will try to lead them astray. They will cause a sense of bewilderment in the traveler's mind so he or she travels deeper into the forest getting hopelessly lost. In the winter the Leshy wipes away his footprint to prevent leaving a trail. Foresters say you always know when a Leshy is following you. The trees feel like they are moving, hemming you in; you get an sensation of being watched. The only way to escape from a Leshy (he moves faster than you) is to put your shoes and cloths on backwards. The Leshy, in effect, protects the forest. 

2) An image search reveals that (on shady sites I would otherwise never in my life have found (Russian military paraphernalia is not my fetish)) for a mere 100 bucks you can buy a Leshy sniper suit. The image above contains Leshy-clad sniper. Can you see him? The image right below contains two snipers, can you see them? If you are familiar with this blog you know I would normally give you the usual rant about how the forest is a psychological force that creates such creatures but you know what: a magic(k)al sniper is an apt modern translation of embodied primal fear in the forest. And that in a time when people are writing about new military urbanism (via John R.).  No cryptoforest should be without a Leshy but keep your AK-47 at home please. 

"The cut-leaf pattern will move in the wind, so reacts like real foliage, and it's deep enough to break up the outline very well indeed. It has a buff side too, which helps to break up the dark mass your quarry will see. The hood is generously cut to easily cover the head and the face veil, though solid to look at, allows good vision for the wearer. It can also be draped over the face/eye piece of the scope to give a bit more concealment. In tests I found the camo colouration a little dark for grassland, but the effect of the 3-D suit is very good indeed, as it does take away the biped look of the human form and replaces it with a non-specific shape." VIA

zondag 11 december 2011

A message from the Huaorani

The Huaorani are everybody's favourite Fight the Google-Jugend Indians. Initially they were legendary for their violence love of freedom and independence, (something that found expression in their violent determined resistance to US missionary activity (see Wade Davis' One River). Modern research has augmented the image of the Huaorani as people with an immensely fine-grained awareness to their environment (see earlier). Here I just want to point to a YouTube video in which an elder states their desire to continue in their life-ways in a world that seems intent on destroying the forest they depend on. There are other video's, some in Spanish, but here the man speaks his own language and at point does a formal elegy talk-singing a lesson from the ancestors: marvellous.    

vrijdag 9 december 2011

Psychogeography: the zine!

The Psychogeographic Field Reports publication is here! 

There is a proper page with links, statistics, and a exclusive video report on Preston here. I would like to add that the zine contains a varied range of approaches and styles, that it's a great read and that the crappy design adds to the pleasure by not detracting attention from the natural psychogeographic flamboyance that is bursting from every page. 
Thanks to all those who submitted material: you are superstars. 

donderdag 8 december 2011

No longer to be poisoned by civilization he flees... to become lost in the wild

“Two years he walks the Earth. No phone, no pool, no pets, no cigarettes. Ultimate freedom. An extremist. An aesthetic voyager whose home is the road. Escaped from Atlanta. Thou shalt not return, 'cause "the West is the best." And now after two rambling years comes the final and greatest adventure. The climactic battle to kill the false being within and victoriously conclude the spiritual revolution. Ten days and nights of freight trains and hitchhiking bring him to the great white north. No longer to be poisoned by civilization he flees, and walks alone upon the land to become lost in the wild.” - Christopher McCandless 

The thing that most annoyed me about Jon Krakauer's book 'Into the Wild' about Chris McCandless failed attempt to become a self-barbarized hunter-gatherer in the Alaska wild is that it is structured like a Discovery Documentary: small chapters, small episodes, dramatized reconstructions in mute colours, talking heads against dark backgrounds, everything in focus to catch a grimace or, even better, a tear. However McCandless is the Robinson Crusoe of our times, the Dharma Bum of contemporary romanticism: the lone genius returning to nature with a wild food plant guide in his backpack, willing to live off the landscape. Defoe portrays Crusoe as someone who conquers nature by strict discipline and hard work, McCandless seemed to worked from the premiss that nature would feed him if he behaved correct towards it. The thing that killed him (he famished) was that he relied on book learning instead of first going through the needed education of place: apprenticing with the people who live(d) out there in the wild: native American, Eskimo people, trappers, etc. It's the old thing: individualism versus communalism. 

maandag 5 december 2011

It is We who built these palaces, cities and haciendas......

Here is a quote from Buenaventura Durruti, the anarchist resistance leader from the Spanish civil war. It is not hard to see what it is making it rounds through the Occupy blogosphere (perhaps via the Indignados?). I am quoting it to show a trend within Occupy to move from camping to squatting and the uncharted world of DIY-architecture beyond that.

"We have always lived in slums and holes in the wall. We will know how to accommodate ourselves for a while. For you must not forget that we can also build. It is we who built these palaces and cities, here in Spain and America and everywhere. We, the workers. We can build others to take their place. And better ones. We are not in the least afraid of ruins. We are going to inherit the earth; there is not the slightest doubt about that. The bourgeoisie might blast and ruin its own world before it leaves the stage of history. We carry a new world here, in our hearts. That world is growing in this minute." - Buenaventura Durruti

vrijdag 2 december 2011

Situationism: "word games and no work"

Responding to Greil Marcus and the "Sex Pistols were really Situationists" argument, John Lydon / Johnny Rotten has this to say in his 'authorized autobiography 'No Irish, No Blacks, No Dogs':

"We didn't sit around and wax Situationist philosophy. Never. I understood who the Situationists were. Jamie Reid was very into it, but I always thought it was foolishness - art students just being art students. The Situationists had no situations - no rules, no regulations. That's their apparent philosophy. But the trouble was that they thought about 'organized' chaos. They were too structured for my liking, word games and no work. Plus they were French, so fuck them. I don't know what the big palabra was about the Situationists, anyway, Mind games for muddles classes."

donderdag 1 december 2011

A weedpatch is a place of wonder and discovery

Somewhere something must have gone wrong because otherwise this empty plot would have building on it , but now it is much better. The top image shows one corner of the field and you also see a mature tree on the left. At the bottom of the tree you can see a bunch of saplings and you also see the same saplings in the middle of the first picture and in full view in the second and third pictures. There are so many of them and they all so slim that they become a light-refracting curtain. I have tried looking up the tree in my new book on indigenous plants but it isn't in there; it must be a foreigner with ways different than our own. 

Cynics will tell you it is just a field but they are wrong: it's a place of wonder with all sorts of edge effects. This field is only in it's first stages, the ground is mostly sandy in the middle but the weeds are coming, and I spotted the first signs of the blackberry, the Cortes of Cryptoforest, right at an interesting point of its history: the first upward move (see the last three pictures).

The corner tree from the first image from a different angle.
Notice the dog foot prints
A lovely edge forest

Mature tree with trail
Blackberry snaking through the underbrush
Blackberry becoming orchestratectic

dinsdag 29 november 2011

King Mob Echo

In 'The King Mob Echo' Tom Vague (earlier) has brought together a collection of newsletters and magazines originally published between 1966 and 1970 by King Mob. King Mob was a London Based group whose members were at some point members of the Situationist International (Christopher Gray, excluded in December 1967 and Charles Radcliffe, resigned in November 1967, also see this). Gray is best known as the editor of the Situationist anthology 'Leaving the 20th Century'. There is no foreword and no explanation, I think Vague has typed it all out and published it in the same lay-out style he always uses. There are a few reprints of texts from the Situationists, the Provo's, the Motherfuckers and the Dadaists but most of the material here was written by Gray and Radcliffe. I have this book for three weeks now and I pick it up, look at it, look through it, reads bits from it, recognize it as a wonderful archival artefact, but I can't push myself to really read it: apart from the eyewitness accounts of Provo Amsterdam by Radcliffe it is all righteous hardline political posture, revolutionary purism and Dada-Leninist missionary zeal. 


dinsdag 22 november 2011

How energy makes the world [chemical evolution]

The following quote from Paul M. Churchland’s 'Matter and Consciousness' is a long favourite because while it talks about chemical evolution driving a chaotic marginal world into an ordered microcosm, I find it to be a great methaphor for all sorts of things: creativity, bottom-up democracy, etc.

Consider a glass box, full of water with a constant heat source at one end, and a constant heat sink (something to absorb heat energy) at the other. Dissolved in the water is some nitrogen and some carbon dioxide. One end of the box will grow quite hot, but as fast as the fire pours energy into this end of the system, it is conducted away toward the cooler end and out again. The average temperature inside the box is therefore a constant.

Consider the effect this will have on the thin soup inside the box. At the hot end of the box, the high-energy end, the molecules and atoms absorb this extra energy and are raised to excited states. As they drift around the system, these energized parts are free to form high-energy chemical bonds with each other, bonds that would have been statically impossible with the system in global equilibrium. A variety of complex compounds is therefore likely to form and to collect toward the cool end of the system, compounds of greater variety and greater complexity than could have been formed without the constant flux of heat energy. Collectively, carbon, hydrogen, oxygen and nitrogen are capable of literally millions of different chemical combinations. With the heat flux turned on, this partially open or semiclosed system starts vigorously to explore these combinatorial possibilities.

It is easy so see that some kind of competition is taking place inside the box. Some types of molecule are not very stable, and will tend to fall apart soon after formation. Other types are made of sterner stuff, and will hang around for awhile. Other types, though very unstable, may be formed very frequently, and so there will be quite a few of them in the system at any given time. Some types catalyze the formation of their own building blocks, thus enhancing further formation. Other types engage in mutually beneficial catalytic cycles, and form a symbiotic pair of prosperous types. In these ways and others, the various types of molecule compete for dominance of the liquid environment. Those types with high stability and/or high formation rates will form the largest populations.

The typical result of such a process is that the system soon displays a great many instances of a fairly small variety of distinct types of complex, energy-storing molecules. (Which types, from the millions of types possible, actually come to dominate the system is dependent on and highly sensitive to the initial make-up of the soup, and to the flux level.) The system displays an order, and a complexity, and an unbalanced energy distribution that would be unthinkable without the flux of energy through the system. The flux pumps the system. It forces the system away from its initial chaos, and towards the many forms of order and complexity of which it is capable. What was improbable has become inevitable.

dinsdag 15 november 2011

donderdag 10 november 2011

The expulsion of a triumphantly grim place

"Jack the Ripper is psychogeographic in love." - Guy Debord
David Seabrook, after the publication of his novel 'All the devils are here' (2002), was called a 'seaside situationist' by one reviewer. But calling him a 'seaside Sinclair' makes much more sense because the spirit of Iain Sinclair is all over Seabrook's obsessive account of the dark history of Kent's seaside towns. There must be a relation between the two because Seabrook thanks Sinclair in the book and Sinclair reviewed the book for the LRB. Most of Sinclair's piece is behind the paywall but in the bit that is available he gives a few clues about Seabrook that are not in the book, for instance that Seabrook was inspired by the bioregionalism of Carl Sauer. I find this a fascinating nudge towards interpreting the book. Seabrook is not a clone of Sinclair though, his writing is less lyrical,  less autobiographical, more experimental and more obsessive in the way it creates meaning through association. This book is a collage and the way the fragments are glued together show a jawdropping technical skill. This is dark nostalgia at its best and I look forward to rereading it on the long winter evenings to come. What is intriguing is that Seabrook was a 'true crime writer' and I am unable to say if this true crime writing at its most creative or if this is creative writing that points towards the inability of that genre to come near the real truth behind lust, murder and perversion. 

Also: Stewart Home announcing the death of Seabrook wrote that nobody liked him.   

zondag 6 november 2011

#Occupy in #Utrecht

It was purely by chance that I cycled passed the Ganzemarkt in front of city hall last Monday and learned, not a little surprised, that Utrecht has its own Occupy camp! It looked a bit paltry, but most things do on a Monday morning.

Although people are claiming it already only time will tell if Occupy really is the most important political movement of the last thirty years. It is easy to criticize #occupy and it is even easier to be nuanced and non-committal but the silk footed preciousness of intellectuals who offer bemused sympathy but no support (as done in magazines and newspaper columns and TV reports) shows a worrying refusal to reveal true colour.

The cardinal rule is that a culture in decline will need to look outside itself to freshen itself up. The Occupy movement is a good example of this. The idea for setting up tent camps comes from Tharir Square, the general assembly model is inspired by Quaker public worship (for the Indignadas) and ethnographic fieldwork done in Madagascar (for #ows) and this is one of the reasons, for me, that it is such an interesting phenomena.

Occupy is an experiment and like all experiments it is undertaken in the realization that failure is a real possibility. It adds to the excitement and the willingness to take risks itself speaks of the desire for change.
This Saturday (Nov. 5th) I went back to the camp to have a proper look and it was a good day to do it because there was a festival going on with music and poetry (!, remember the call for #occupoetry) and a discussion. The discussion was in full swing when I arrived and I enjoyed the sight. I was in a hurry and I didn't listen but I could see that the inner circle (campers, and I even saw the proverbial mongrel dog) were joined by an outer circle (a bit older, a bit more respectably dressed) who looked like people randomly passing unable to withstand the temptation of curiosity to join in to listen and maybe to speak. It was a busy Saturday afternoon and many people passed the camp. I heard some people sigh ("ohhh the silliness has arrived here too") but I was under the impression that the majority of people took notice with a certain degree of approval. It will be great to see how this develops.

I now realize that the purpose of an Occupy camp in Utrecht is not to be immensely big and busy, it is to remind us that Utrecht is not a citadel that the world ignores. What is happening in the news is happening here too. Occupy Utrecht is a conversation piece.

Guy Fawkes day is not a feast in NL, but I enjoyed seeing the mask.What does it mean for a movement to have a mask as a logo?