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All day, I’ve been listening to Stereolab’s ‘Cobra and phases group play voltage in the milky night’ and driving myself crazy doing business analysis spreadsheets as part of my cool ‘sustainability’ MBA curriculum. In the midst of the endless banality of the number streams come some interesting insights.
Risk World reports that the obfuscations of Enron et. al are mirrored by many other publically traded corporations who, (surprise, surprise) fail to report massive environmental liabilities on their balance sheets and are in effect lying to their shareholders. Those nasty little superfund sites and other piles of liability-freighted carcinogenic ejecta are frequently reported as ‘externalities’ and not as the sleeping liabilities that they in fact are. (When I grow up, I want to work for Risk World- just because of the cool name!)
It seems that convential accounting standards in the United States, specifically Standard Financial Accounting Statement #5, SFAS 5 puts environmental liabilities in a wishy washy continuum between contingencies and hard liabilities, stating that “contingencies only have to be put on the balance sheet if they are probably and reasonably estimable.” Since it is hard to estimate the cost of wrecking the planet and making people sick, these costs just don’t show up. (And I thought corporate financial accounting was an exact science.)
Which brings me to the topic of insectivorous plants. For many ‘otaku’ these are coolness itself and it is well worth maintaining one’s own private collection. My Sarracenia purpurea are blooming at the moment with splendid inflorescences. They attract their victims (flies) and drown them in a sticky digestive nectar that fills their tubular trap structures. It’s kind of like Enron.

My Sarracenia purpurea

Are you autistic?

Are you autistic? do you have ADD? Some of my readers have been requesting this Guardian link. (you know who you are… after this test, you’ll know even more!) The on-line test can be quite revealing.

film as blog

I’ve been hanging out with our friend Nancy Kates who finished a film this year called Brother Outsider – the life of Bayard Rustin. This is a brilliant film documenting Rustin, the openly gay African-american activist and advisor to Martin Luther King, who was more or less written out of history. Nancy and I spent quality time playing with baby chicks and watching Chris Marker’s 1992 conceptualist film The Last Bolshevik. Marker is basically the closest thing you can get to a ‘blog filmmaker.’ The film is a beautiful reminiscence on the dead Russian filmmaker, Alexandreovich Medvedkin and his role in the Agit Prop trains that once traveled across Russia filming the proletariat, processing the films in special mobile darkrooms and screening them back to the very people that were in them. Agit prop trains were so advanced and (anasynchrostic) for the premodern historical moment (circa 1918) in which they were used, that I still can’t quite wrap my head around them. Dziga Vertov was heavily involved in these Agit Prop trains also and kinetic montages of trains featured prominently in his films.

Means of Production

Working for the past few days on my ‘Means of Production’ project, I found the first order of business was to cut the outrageously long grass with my kama. Shortly after starting I was approached by two Chinese women who were animatedly talking in Cantonese and pantomiming the kama’s cutting motion. I realized that they wanted to show me something. One lady spoke a little English and indicated to me that I was doing it incorrectly. She indicated that her 79 year old friend would show me how it is done. Apparently the 79 year old had spent her girlhood cutting grass for cooking fuel in the mountains of Guangdong Province and then went on to raise six children. What followed was a remarkable demonstration of ergonomic efficiency and she soon had a large area of grass cleared; the ‘swish swish’ of the kama punctuted by her cackling laughter and chortling expletives. The next day the pair gave a similar demonstation to the members of the Environmental Youth Alliance with whom I had been working, again laughing away as they showed us their mastery of a deceptively simple skill.
Later the MONOLITH arrived- a 5000 lb block of granite inscribed with the words “Means of Production”, a reference to Marx’s concept and our intention to furnish the raw materials needed for a degree of self sufficiency by planting an urban forest.


The dominant sensation I am dealing with these days is one of informational vertigo. As an avowed pattern sniffer, I am increasingly having trouble shutting out the data chatter and opening my mind to the big picture. But maybe that’s the point. On the one hand we have the epidemic phenomenon of constant partial attention. News floods in from the web, satellite TV, piles of newspapers, magazines etc. The phone rings constantly. Correspondence needs to be answered, bills need to be paid on-line. But how does one maintain balance? Filtration is the key, but already that is differentiating the continnuum. The ‘deep pattern’ is created through integration. The neural equivalent of the ‘smart mob’ organizational strategy, (which incidently is the one bright spot in the search for replacements for heirarchical organizational forms.) The constant chatter of cable network news contributes to what the venerable Walter Benjamin called ‘The State of Emergency’, which basically functions as a form of fascist social control. Pausing and reflecting have become a lost art and we are in fact encouraged not to do so because when we start to put together the many tiny sound bytes of our perceptions, we might not like what we see. Hence, my interest in deep time. In the nineteen eighties, I embarked upon a rather (arguably) Pyrrhic hobby of propagating slow growing desert plants from seed. Some of these have taken seemingly forever to reach any size, and need to be given long dormant periods, or they will turn into a rotten pulp. Throughout the wars, epidemics and climate change these little nubs of UWTB (see 5/22/2003 )inexorably add on infinitessmally small layers of growth, occasionally gracing us with an ephemeral flower. One of my favorites is the bizarre, Euphorbia obesa, a spherical little xerophyte from the baking shale rubble of the South African Karoo region. They are flowering now on my window sill, males and females on seperate baseball-shaped plants. In the absence of South African desert insects, they need to be hand pollinated with a little sable water-colour brush. I have managed to collect their sparse seeds and have propagated them into more little plants. Many of these plants are extremely endangered in the wild but have been saved from extermination because of the efforts of extreme ‘otaku’ horticulturalists. It’s something anyone with a window sill and an interest in ‘deep time’ can do.

Whales are alleged to think in “deep time”