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What a difference a link makes

my blog before links

Thanks to Derek and, my obscure little blog has been getting so-o-o many more hits. must be some kind of hub and well, she sure has some interesting links. . . . (thanks you guys!)
For example there is a link to one of my favorite hobbies- grafting. It seems that there is a theme park in California, which contains a number of sycamores whose stems have been intricately grafted into the shapes of lightning bolts, hearts, baskets etc. The trees are incredible living sculptures, some of which were started as far back as the 1920’s. Even more amazingly, the trees were *dug up and moved to their present location* just a few years ago, with apparently no damage.
I have been grafting European apples to the native Pacific crab apple (Malus fusca) for some years now, and have done some cool bridge grafts that look like a triple bypass of (say) Dick Cheney’s heart. Grafting brings out the “mad scientist” in me and I’ve actually got a several crab apple trees which I’ve transmogrified into *monsters* that bear up to five different varieties of apple, each ripening at a different time. For complete instructions on how to do this check out my article in the March 2001 issue of the Permaculture Activist

I just sat through the Victoria screening of Matthew Barney’s hauntingly beautiful Cremaster 2 and was surprised to see some rather spectacular shots of the mountains around Banff Alberta, (I immediately recognized the bedding patterns on the rock faces.) Cremaster 2 recreates Gary Gilmore’s murder of a Utah gas station attendent as well as his subsequent trial and execution, all in a very metaphorical, cowboy, American baroque way. Gilmore’s execution is presented in rodeo format with Gilmore (played by Matthew Barney himself) riding a bucking Brahma bull (till they both collapse) in a paddock surrounded by mounted State Troopers (and Canadian Mounties) in a giant horseshoe shaped salt dune rising from the vast expanse of the innundated Bonneville Salt Flats of Utah. Norman Mailer pops up as Harry Houdini and there is a supporting cast of bee swarms. The whole thing struck me as a rather strange morphing of David Lynch, Merill-Lynch and the Invasion of the Bee Girls. Still, Cremaster 2 has a haunting beauty and its cinematography is sumptuous. Barney really captures the anomie inducing landscapes of the intermontane American west as well as the strange sexuality of its rodeos, 1970s automobiles and seething swarms of bees.
Speaking of insects, I checked out the Royal British Columbia Museum’s display of giant japanese animatronic insects today They were beautiful and gnashed and scrabbled appropriately, much to the delight of swarms of children. My favorite was a giant disembodied mosquito head that inserted it’s nacelle of suckers and stingers into a waiting hole in the surface of a carpet-like simulacrum of human skin. It was definitely a Matthew Barney moment. The trouble is that these moderately amusing contraptions would really have been more at home in a Disney theme park rather than in a provincial museum. It is so sad to see so many museums go down the dumbed down road of ‘info-tainment’, in order to stay ‘relevant.’ This reductive populism really has made these institutions lose so much of their aura. I’d rather see cases and cases of meticulously labelled specimens and *make my own mind up about what they mean.*
I wish these repositories of artifacts tried harder to impart some perspective to the public on the length, breadth and complexity of *what there is to know* and (perhaps) to try and show how not all scientific information can be rendered into a sound byte or an executive summary. What’s so bad about *complexity* anyway?

animatronic mantis in full snatching mode

core pattern

Yeah I traded laughs
in for chartsengrafs

Grandaddy, The Sophtware Slump
I was woken from a fitful nap by what I could only describe as a *download* from somewhere. It was an intense graphic image of some kind of fractal knowledge map.
Startled, I quickly drew it on a piece of paper:

Maybe, it was some kind of subconscious graphing of what I have been thinking about in *overlapping disciplines* i.e, the kind of cybernetic hunting that my brain gets into to find some probabalistically significant core between seemingly unrelated things.
Sometimes it all connects and one gets the sense of a deep pattern. I guess that is one of the few rewards of being a generalist. I remember this happening the first time in 1977, when I was taking an undergraduate course in basic economics. At the same time I was studying population biology, particularly the famous Lottka-Volterra equations governing the population fluctuations between a predator and its prey.
Now Lottka-Volterra really defines the mathematics of “twitch”, i.e. how simple systems self-organize and the equations are useful way beyond just tracking the relationships between the populations of lynxes and snowshoe hares.
“Twitch” for example is seen in economic relationships such as stockmarket fluctuations, climate cycles etc. It’s a deep pattern. It basically looks like two sine curves slightly out of phase with each other.
Well it would make sense that economic twitching is basically a subset of biological twitching. We are after all biological entities and ultimately our relationships to commodities express projected biological needs like (real or unjustified) fear of future scarcity. The deep pattern of course is Chaos itself. I keep thinking of those cloying little Russian matrioshka dolls; one inside the other inside the other inside the other.
In the same strange fugue, I imagined a chain of West Village gyms called the *Thinema*, where people worked out while watching art films. What a cool idea, but *where does it come from?*
Outside in the seemingly perpetual crepuscular light of the Cortes Island rainforest, the black tailed deer are communicating in their *barely audible* infrasound bleats. These utterances carry over long distances through dense coniferous forest, yet are hardly noticeable until you know what to listen for. They can easily be mistaken for the sound of a tree creaking in the wind. The bleat language becomes more complex when you get attuned to it and has a fair degree of nuance. I wonder what they’re saying. Do you suppose they *gossip*?

the nuance of bleating

even my spam is getting weird:
This word stream, was recently included in a spam sent to me for Human growth hormone, (do they really mean I can grow my own human?… cool)

hospitalized evoke alexander metrical merges scare measures accumulators
ploy cowering crewmen scriven bouffant possessors acrobacy bolivia screwing
ideolect everyone adamantly cowgirl admittedly bookbind mellowness methyl
andromeda adjustor
breadboxes bowdlerizing meted adventists portraying scoping brands
terrorizing hospital mechanism microprogramming husker scantly exclusiveness
migrations illumination immanent administered boater melodic barbados baku
brainstorms bourgeois may plug estop
tense postoffice alabama polemic alton scrim crescendo scratchers podia
plenty midst anglicanism advisees pouch potentials excludes advise brass
sandpile couched mathematic tellurium andes portfolio microcosm tantrums
aeschylus bluegill bentley address cowlick artie teenagers adept board az
cowslips postulate scorner exempting image mature terrific exasperation
hypochlorite adduced material scanner tektite
matriarch advisability scissor saves tellurium branching horizontal men
eventually sax execrable blushes medals evocate maximal housetop teapot
illustratively mildew croppers playgrounds housing schoolmate practicably
ignoble teamster addicted
seal midterm bottommost immediately hydrosphere hospitalized corridors
technologically exhaustable hunter theorems bolster poncho advisedly screwed
cosmos plumage blurry adhering admiralty expires maul advisers sari theism
poppy scrubbing

Maybe alien civilizations are trying to communicate to us through Spam?

potty mouth

Who would have thought that my rather tangential posting on technologically enhanced Japanese toilets would have brought any response? Well up pops Derek, (an old friend from our ancient days in Ontario College of Art’s Photo/Electric Arts Program and inveterate otaku thinker), with some decidedly anomophilic links.
Derek speculates on the use of technologies based on porous silicon sensors like a:

“neat little home tricorder and urine-assay unit, (installed) right in the toilet bowl), (monitoring) your moods, blood-sugar, the neuro-peptides that percolate up through the
brain-stem, bacterial colonies in your gut, the whole nine yards’ . . . .

Derek’s vision of the extension of the panopticon into the deep recesses of our bowels is completely technologically feasible and one wonders how long before ‘urine tricorders’ get installed in every work place?
Derek also sends this link to Belgian artist Wim Dalvoye’s enigmatic work, Cloaca, an exquisitely engineered art machine that simulates (not *stimulates*) the human digestive tract.
Well it seems that ‘The Show So Far’ has taken a rather scatalogical direction today, and I apologize. Yet as Patti Smith sang in her 1978 ‘25th Floor and High on Rebellion‘:

the transformation of waste
the transformation of waste
the transformation of waste
the transformation of waste is perhaps the oldest pre-occupation of man. man being the chosen alloy,
He must be reconnected via shit, at all cost. inherent with(in) us is the dream of the task of the alchemist to create from the clay of man.
And to re-create from excretion of man pure and then soft and then solid gold. . . .

I have a machine for seeing . . .

Because of the upcoming 40th anniversary, the media is awash with descriptions of the November 22nd, 1963 assassination of JFK. CBC radio’s The Current is on and a Texas doctor describes his memories of the exit wounds through Kennedy’s “thick, bushy, bristly hair” that left bits of exploded brain tissue clinging to it like “angel hair pasta”
Just in time to for my morning tea. . . .
Feeling a bit nauseated, I wondered “what is this popular fascination with the tiny details around JFK’s death?” It is an almost pornographic, fetishitic obsession, yet undeniably beguiling. My postings on the Zapruder film of the Kennedy assassination and on William Gibson’s ( in my view, related) concept of Fetish:Footage, have been engendering a lot of hits on my blog lately, even though I usually write about more arcane things like otaku botany, or the joy of filming postindustrial landscapes from a moving vehicle.
The JFK assassination and the endless conspiratology surrounding it, is definitely one of the defining ur-events of the 20th century, in fact like 9/11- a point of historical fractal bifurcation.
J.G. Ballard in his The Assassination of John Fitzgerald Kennedy Considered as a Downhill Motor Race maps this phase shift metaphorically:

“As befitting the inauguration of the first production car race through the streets of Dallas, both the President and his Vice-President participated. The Vice-President, Johnson, took up his position behind Kennedy on the starting line. The concealed rivalry between the two men was of keen interest to the crowd. Most of them supported the home driver, Johnson. Oswald was the starter. From his window above the track, he opened the race by firing the start gun. It is believed that the first shot was not properly heard by all drivers. In the following confusion, Oswald fired the gun two more times, but the race was already under way. Kennedy got off to a bad start . . . Kennedy went downhill rapidly. After the damage to the governor, the car was shot forward at high speed. An alarmed track official attempted to mount the car, which continued on its way, cornering on two wheels . . . “

The chaos that unfolded, propagated like a nuclear shock wave through the popular culture of the day and continues to scorch us, even now.
Zoned out in front of satellite TV, I was surprised to see one of my favorite Godard films –Pierrot le Fou– come on, albeit (sadly) in the dubbed version. Nevertheless, I got my fix of the achingly beautiful Anna Karina wreaking carnage with “the same rifle that killed Kennedy“, along with the perpetually droll, Jean Paul Belmondo playing Pierrot (“My name is Ferdinand”). Of course all of Godard is Fetish:Footage so I had to bang off a few screen shots with my trusty Digital Elph.

the same rifle that killed Kennedy . . .

poetry is the loser’s winner . . .

the civilization of the invisible . . .

Life may be sad but it’s damn beautiful . . .

Films are a battleground – love and hate, action, violence, death . . . In a word: emotion… Jean-Luc Godard 1965

towards a parataxonomy of Tokyo

In an odd episode of synchronicity Laura saw the new film ‘LOST IN TRANSLATION’ *the same night we did*, albeit in a different city, (even though none of us ever goes to first run movies.)
The film invoked in me a profound nostalgia for the all too short couple of trips I have made to my favorite city- Tokyo. I remember relishing the sense of displacement and anonymity that I felt there, the constant state of *not understanding*, floating in wonderful liminal existence between feudalism and technopolis.
Last time I was in Shinjuku, I was staying with Ruth at a massive luxury hotel *exactly like the one in the film* while she attended to her Japanese book tour. Even the toilet was technologically advanced (its armamentarium of precision personal cleansing options took some getting used to)

Japanese toilet control panel, Shinjuku, August 2000
One of the more interesting people that I got to swan about with in Shinjuku was the inimitable digital artist and cybernatrix, Shu Lea Cheang, who was in the midst of directing her epic robo-porn film I-K-U . (which BTW has a *very* cool website). Shu Lea’s hilarious account of trying to make her clone-sex version of Phillip K. Dick’s “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep” in the *real* demi-monde of 21st century Tokyo, was mind-bending to say the least. Shu Lea is the ultimate innovator and a cyber-nomad worth keeping an eye on.
Of course, when I am in Japan, I am a complete space alien (well even more so than usual . . .)
The visual field particularly in Tokyo is so visually dense that *I just walk around videotaping everything*, so I can try to understand it later. I have included some stills from little video clips that capture moments (for me) that qualify as Fetish:Footage because *I just can’t resist watching them over and over*
Here are some stills from my Parataxonomy of Tokyo:

(I didn’t understand this)

(buildings that look like spacecraft are common)

(cell phones were ubiquitious and (well) *better*)

(otaku computer game coven prowling Akihabaras ‘electric town’)

( I didn’t really understand this either)

( A woman making strange faces on Japanese daytime television)

Japan at that time was in the mid economic collapse. Despite the aura of technological utopianism, *every public park* was full of homeless day labourers, who *just couldn’t afford to live indoors* in the hyperinsane Tokyo housing market. A sea of blue tarps, these workers had established an entirely parallel economy within the confines of a highly attenuated urban commons, literally just within the spaces beneath the trees of Tokyo’s few parks. This shadow economy had evolved its own service industry- shoe repair people, barbers, cooks etc. to help the workers to survive. In effect, Tokyo’s parks have become refugee camps for the economically dispossessed. One has to wonder if the second richest economy on the planet refuses to create affordable housing for its lowest income people, what hope is there for the rest of the world?
One of the saddest images I remember, is of seeing unemployed ‘salarymen’ in their business suits and ties sitting in the park for eight hours a day, *pretending to be at work,* They couldn’t bear the crushing loss of face that they would suffer from telling their families that they had been made redundant.

Shinjuku park (homeless day labourers)


The students in Laura’s eCulture course have been studying the Internet Mapping project which generates some beautiful images of all of the ‘net’s’ hubs and links at various instants (instances?). I am struck by how luridly floristic these images are; just like the seething rampancy of a garden.
I guess you can say that the Internet has been ‘Zapruderized.’ This is a wonderful new verb that William Gibson came up with in his novel, Pattern Recognition.
Of course Gibson is talking about the infamous Zapruder film.
This home movie by Abraham Zapruder, is the only known film of the entire Kennedy assassination. *It is a silent, 8mm color record of the Kennedy motorcade just before, during, and immediately after the shooting.of the Kennedy assassination.*
Gibson is talking about the fetishization of film frames and their use as points of departure for conjectures on the conditions surrounding their provenance. The Fetish:Footage:Forum he creates in Pattern Recognition is something I totally crave and would be completely addicted to if it existed. Chris Marker’s 1982 Sans Soleil constructs his own notion of Fetish:Footage, but he finds it in filming banality, which (in his words) he seeks with “the relentlessness of a bounty hunter.”
The result is a film composed entirely of exquisitely beautiful *moments*. I was overcome when I first saw it. (BTW, there is an interesting piece of ephemera associated with Sans Soleil, that is quite open to interpretation.)
As for me, I have been feeling an intense nostalgia lately for the days of the Cold War. Things seemed so much simpler then. Multiple superpowers. America kept in some modicum of check from total world domination etc.
In fact some of my memories of that period have been “Zapruderized” in a box of super 8mm film spools that I shot in Germany, (mostly Berlin and Stuttgart), in the early 1980’s.
Berlin in those days was the epicentre of the Cold War. The Berlin Wall bisected the city like a gash between two ideologies. Earlier this year I made a post (Tuesday, April 15, 2003) to this blog describing super 8mm film stills I shot of the thriving ruderal ecologies that existed in the mine fields between the east and west sides of the Berlin Wall. I filmed hawks hunting European hares across these deadly Elyssian fields, *where no person could disturb them*.
One of the many *odd* things about the Berlin wall, was the existence of the little viewing platforms set up here and there beside the wall, so that people could look over at the other side and ponder the geopolitical universe. I remember looking over at *Communism*. It looked gray and dour. Still, there was hardly any traffic…

Looking over the Wall, (1983)

Of course 1983 was just five years after urban guerillas Andreas Baader and Ulrike Meinhof were found dead in their cells in Stammheim prison, near Stuttgart. I had been in and out of Stuttgart several times during the mid to late 70’s , visiting my extended family and I remembered the atmosphere of hysteria that existed, particularly among the German bourgeoise around the Red Army Faction. But the RAF and especially the allied Socialist Patients Kollective,
(who promoted the idea that: mental disorders stemmed from Capitalism, and the only cure was a Marxist society.)
were definitely kind of *cool*.
Which is why they had so much covert (and overt) support from the left-wing intellectuals of the day. I mean *Jean Paul Sartre visited them in prison* (for god sake :)) (We can no longer even have *discussions* around these issues in our current post 9/11 climate, which is a sad indicator of how diminished the bandwidth of political discourse has become)
After being invited for “Kaffe und Kuchen” by an elderly (and somewhat insane) aunt, I was surprised upon arrival at her flat, to find that the view from her balcony faced the grounds of the infamous Stammheim prison, the buildings of which could be seen off in the distance. My super 8mm camera whirring, I *Zapruderized* my visit.

Aunt Johanna boarding tram in front of Stammheim Prison 1983

view of Stammheim prison 1983, from Johanna’s apartment