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Monday, July 31, 2006

night of fire

Saturday night.

It started on the Brooklyn bridge, with a tug-o-war to decide whether to go to Brooklyn or Manhattan. By the time we got there, people were streaming towards Brooklyn. I had a really bad sun-burn and was with people I didn't know that well, but felt comfortable with. We were a group of about 8 but we managed to keep track of each other through the whole night. I fought off nausea as my skin started dealing with the sun I'd given it at the beach earlier. My first impressions were skepticism about the trendiness of the crowd along with the undeniable aliveness of everyone. As we watched the crowd pass us by, waiting for a friend to join us, many people would look me in the eye- really taking me in. It put my skepticism in check. I am as much a part of the scene as they are. The unequal role of observer is untenable.

Some moments:

girl on stilts in the subway ride to Coney Island. Communication reduced to group chanting: "DUCT TAPE OVER HERE. DUCT TAPE OVER HERE". We encountered the stilts girl several times later that evening.

Another subway moment: A girl shows me her Mamiya camera which she bought for $200 off ebay. She tells me that being in the dark room is therapeutic for her. The negatives on these cameras hold more information than a 35 mm. They are 2 1/2 X 2 1/2 inch squares. She says that you can see the individual pores in people's faces.
During our conversation a fight breaks out between a black fellow in a black robe and cloth hat and black woman with her daughter. He had told her to be quiet and she was having none of that. The police ended up escorting the guy out of the subway car and the lady loudly proclaimed victory- that justice had been done. Didn't seem so clear to me. Seemed like both were to blame.

Later on, we walk the streets of Brooklyn with a guy named Lenny and two people Gretchen and Sushil (something like that) who had met that night. Gretchen had been painting hundreds of people's faces, Lenny's among them. He is excited to run into her again. Lenny is a Coney Island native- seems to be a heavy drinker- works in sales for Newman's Own. When we finally part ways, leaving a party, Lenny is unwakably passed out in a chair. He was wearing angel wings and a devil's tail which someone had given to him. He had a tattoo on his upper right arm that he had drawn himself of heaven and hell, and he felt like it was destiny to be given the angel and devil garb. He planned to go swimming in Coney Island the next morning right after the water was cleaned. Probably didn't make it there til later though.

Sunday, July 30, 2006


I've been going back to old paintings to work on. The results are murky, unclear, messy. When an overall structure emerges I try to make changes to undermine it. But a certain foggy atmosphere together with a somewhat sharp structure at a smaller level of detail remains. Like I don't trust myself to make the large choices. How long can one go without making big choices? Or, is it ok to just accept that one doesn't make big choices oneself, but makes medium size choices and lives with the large scale ramifications? If I keep painting trees, then all I can create are trees. But if I paint decay or rebirth or insipid vines in a pot of gold and glimmering snow? I guess its not so different from a specialization of labor where one just does one's job and leaves the political/overall vision choices to others. But here I leave it to... my unconscious? Random chance?
Yes. Murky.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

gurus and miracles

Main questions I'm trying to answer in reading "Autobiography of a Yogi" (AY):
1) Did Maharishi get his ideas about selling TM through misrepresentation of science by reading AY and its description of kriya yoga? There seem to be many parallels.

2) How does one read a book full of descriptions of "miracles"? Assuming one doesn't believe them, what do you do with the words of someone you believe to be lying? I understand that its probably some complex mix of self-deception and telling of "sweet truths"- embellished stories to make them easier to consume for the beginner before the more complete story is in place. But some other parts of the writing may ring true. Can I trust it? I guess you just have to take everything to be on a metaphorical level. And he admits that he wasn't such a good student. So just assume that details may be wrong. Something like that.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

back to philosophy

woah... a brief mention of Adorno in a Salon article led me to a flurry of wikipedia philosophy education.
interesting to try to compare theory and practice in social sciences/ philosophy/ critical theory arena to that of physics. or maybe it just makes what i do seem more fun.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

walk away

"The fundamental story of the contemporary man
is to walk away and someday understand."
-John Prine

Wednesday, July 12, 2006


My job basically has three components- analytical, computational, and experimental. The hope is that all of these aspects will mesh together nicely to give me lots of interesting tools to do stuff and ways to think about things. For now however, it means there is a whole mess of stuff to get into place before I can do anything usefull.
*)analytical: install LaTeX, Mathematica, learn about how to write technical notes
*)computational: figure out computer infrastructure, learn C++, autoconf, make, all that junk, get passwords, interface Linux and Windows worlds
*)experimental: take tons of web courses on safety... radiation, electrical, emergency, lockout/tagout, etc...

And this is just to get things started... hopefully the fun sets in at some point. Nah, its not so bad, just a bit too many details which I do in a haphazard way.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006


I was told by the guy I'm working for to add some more context to the 3 page note I'd written.
"People around here are thinking 'Sands', but you're really starting from 'Chao'". Ok.

Do I have a problem with context? Am I unconsciously unclear, or deliberately ambiguous? Maybe I use context in my own way, happy to give the wrong impression to most?
I'm reminded of the word with respect to my step mother. The word has had a talismanic feeling to me:
"If only she would understand the meaning of the word 'context'...", I told myself countless times growing up, as if it were some sort of summary of who she was and what our relationship was and how I could find a positive way out all at the same time. But the meaning of this line- both with regard to what it originally meant, and what it was encouraging me to do have remained elusive.

Monday, July 10, 2006

new things

fireflies, pond path... new editorial approaches. new people. faces? forms of humanity. abstraction. hiding.

the road cuts the stony brook campus in four pieces. the town nearby seems to have no center. the centers are small, private, wealthy. the highways cut the island up. the strip malls have no character. worse than interstate strip malls. bagel shops, 7-11's, nail parlors. haven't solved the movie problem yet. cable tv gives options, but i'd found a nice equilibrium of driving to rent, watching intensely... the cable takes the intensity out of it- something gained, something lost. must find new things of intensity. nowhere to put that energy... these neighborhoods don't feel like they will reward the wandering. everything is tamer, more controlled- yet I know there's also something wild, out of control- I just don't like it. it doesn't fit with me. i have to grow into it- growth or change?

Monday, July 03, 2006

respect vs. enabling

Let's say we have some kind of disparity between two people- one is far better with money, or housekeeping, or mathematics. And let's say they are in a situation where these skills are important. If these two people are friends, then the more advanced one will have to decide whether to help out the less advanced one. He may also have trouble respecting the other because of this disparity. Further, by helping with this skill, he may help the other to survive, but not necessarilly be able to teach him to improve dramatically, in which case he may be considered to be enabling the other.
Anyway, I notice this dynamic in my own relationships and its a tricky one to navigate- taking on the role of teacher, but wanting to hide it in order to maintain a feeling of equality. Teachers themselves must find a way to maintain respect for the student without letting their own position make them feel superior to the student.

The first line of "Autobiography of a guru" by Yogananda (which I've been reading for a variety of reasons) is

The characteristic features of Indian culture have long been a search for ultimate verities and the concomitant disciple-guru relationship.

I've never been comfortable with this concept of a guru. I've always felt that the amount of excess knowledge anyone has is small compared to the amount in common and that any two people should each have something to teach each other. This is an area where I think there is a sort of "right-wing" "left-wing" divide, and there may be something slightly undeveloped in my "left-wing" view. But I'd like to articulate my view better, so that the intuition and values can be defended.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

danger of discourse

In order to communicate, some rules must be agreed to. If one person is trying to hide some rigid structure in rhetoric, that rhetoric may be dismantled using the rules of communication agreed to. So, the more one is trying to hide in any area, the less open communcation is possible with them, because they know at an intuitive level that communication on one topic leads to application of those same rules on other topics.