Mapping the politics of urban smells: https://nextcity.org/daily/entry/researchers-maps-city-smells-smelly-maps
I've been thinking a lot about what Barcelona--a high-density odor-intense city--smells like. Of course the smells change with the season. In the summer the smells are more potent and shop doors are open, their AC and perfumed atmospheres pouring out into the streets.
dried dog urine,
garbage from the contenedores,
dry pine-earth smell from platanero trees,
perfume from clothing shops,
humid mold from the sewers.
in Madrid I smell more fried calamares and jamón.
Trees, parks, and green spaces are not as common in Mediterranean cities as they are in N. European cities. More trees are needed to purify and maintain oxygen in the air. (This summer 2015 several news articles have been published on the rising pollution in Spanish cities. I.e.: http://www.huffingtonpost.es/2014/05/07/ciudades-espanolas-contam_n_5280381.html).
Friday, July 24, 2015
Mapping the politics of urban smells: https://nextcity.org/daily/entry/researchers-maps-city-smells-smelly-maps
Wednesday, July 22, 2015
Saturday, June 13, 2015
Pro-inclusion humans were given political power today.
La investidura/swearing in of Ada Colau Ballano, as Barcelona of mayor, in la Plaça de Sant Jaume, alongside a swarm of human beings, many of them volunteers who have been working selflessly to try to improve social and political problems for the most vulnerable human situations in Barcelona.
To Colau's request, unlike previous investidura ceremonies in Barcelona, there were no barriers, red carpets, or expensive suits separating the people from their politicians.
I couldn't stay long (it lasted 3 hours and my back was killing me), but the keywords in Colau's speech were "CIUDAD"/city and "DEMOCRACIA PARTICIPATIVA"/citizen-based democracy.
Many other grassroots-based mayors and city councilors were sworn in across Spain today, an unprecedented number of women and minorities (race/nationality/religion/sexual orientation).
Hoping to see positive, more-inclusive changes soon.
Friday, June 05, 2015
interview on US television today, explaining economic/political problems in Spain, their global connections, and feasible forms of peaceful resistance: Source: http://www.democracynow.org/2015/6/5/from_occupying_banks_to_city_hall
Every time I return to Xtown, the small town of X University,
an excellent school in the US where tuition runs $58,000 a year, I'm
shocked by the extreme social differences of the students. Their high
quality and fashionable clothes, shoes, backpacks, their healthy skin
complexion; they are jogging, they are reading non-bestseller books; in
public they interact politely, attentively, maturely, confidently,
happily. Their hair looks naturally shiny and flowing. Obesity
and fast food are absent. One can see a high level of conformity
amongst the students, a lot of polo shirts, khakis, and brown loafers
and in the winter, gorgeous leather riding boots (I want a pair!) and
Hunter rain boots for rainy days. The students seem taller than your
average college student; visually they match closely to what one sees in
contemporary Hollywood films that take place in California and NYC, but
without all the make-up and hairspray, the female students don't wear
make-up or hairspray, or if they do, it's not noticeable. Since I'm
usually here at the beginning and end of breaks, I see their parents
too. Many of the parents wear fine jewelry and drive nice cars, they
have nice skin too and shiny hair. Isn't it crazy that there is a
correlation between these external decorations and having access to top
educational and employment opportunities? That external decorations are
related to the quality of individual/collective life and future? The
conforming and acceptance of fashion styles parallels the conforming and
acceptance of an extremely stratified educational system. It annoys me
that, in general terms, some students can have so little and others have
so much, and when you talk with students from both sides, it seems
neither party is aware of the difference, two separate microcosms. But
many of them are learning about this stuff in the classroom, right? I
know many students have to write papers about inequality because it's
become a hot topic in the college classroom. What's missing? Action?
Making personal connections/experiences outside the classroom? Educating
the trustees, administrators, politicians, and businesspeople?
(Personally I'm aware of the difference because I spend a lot of time on
both sides and read about inequality in education.)
And then, in a matter of days, I get used to it, the scene of comparison fades away and I get used to the local scene again, the scene that one could call luxurious becomes normal, as it did when I was in grad school, and I stop being annoyed and I start enjoying the high quality. And since, in some ways, I also benefited from inequality, I wonder if some people think similar annoyed thoughts about me.
Saturday, May 30, 2015
Saturday, February 28, 2015
Sunday, February 22, 2015
"Compared with the stereotype of the East Asian model -- long hours of exhaustive cramming and rote memorization -- Finland's success is especially intriguing because Finnish schools assign less homework and engage children in more creative play. All this has led to a continuous stream of foreign delegations making the pilgrimage to Finland to visit schools and talk with the nation's education experts, and constant coverage in the worldwide media marveling at the Finnish miracle.
[. . . ]
And while Americans love to talk about competition, Sahlberg points out that nothing makes Finns more uncomfortable. In his book Sahlberg quotes a line from Finnish writer named Samuli Paronen: "Real winners do not compete." It's hard to think of a more un-American idea, but when it comes to education, Finland's success shows that the Finnish attitude might have merits. There are no lists of best schools or teachers in Finland. The main driver of education policy is not competition between teachers and between schools, but cooperation.
[. . . ]
From his point of view, Americans are consistently obsessed with certain questions: How can you keep track of students' performance if you don't test them constantly? How can you improve teaching if you have no accountability for bad teachers or merit pay for good teachers? How do you foster competition and engage the private sector? How do you provide school choice?
The answers Finland provides seem to run counter to just about everything America's school reformers are trying to do."
Saturday, February 07, 2015
(Cell phone pics around Philadelphia today. Human remnants but no humans.)
Tuesday, January 20, 2015
To my friends and those teaching about culture (-al subjectivity). I'd
like to share a visual message with you. I referred to this diagram at
least one dozen times today in my film class. The nodes can represent
people, texts, feelings, cities, cultural production processes, family,
friends, histories, stereotypes, social movements, stars, bees,
anythings. It's a visualization of the theory of Everything, or,
Benjamin's constellation, D&G's assemblages and rhizomes. (What
else?) I wish there was a way to add two
aspects: 3-dimensionality and mobility. But we can imagine them...
From "A Special Message For You Hand-Delivered To You From The Universe", by the ingenious Yumi Sakugawa, 2012.
Wednesday, January 07, 2015
It seems that Rancière's collaborative and horizontal approach to teaching (see blurb below) presupposes that both parties (learners/teachers) are at least partially willing to give, learn, and contribute just for the sake of doing so. but how would this approach apply when one of the parties will only give/learn/contribute under immediate coercion (a punishment, a threat to lower one's grade or to force one to repay/retake a course...etc.)? Doesn't that immediate-capitalist-exchange mentality in the classroom (I-only-give-to-you-to-receive-for-me) automatically create separation and hierarchy? If one group won't put their cell phones down unless an authority figure threatens him/her, doesn't that resistance to learning perpetuate automatons and keep the wheel of severe social problems spinning? And/Or is it just an example cultural differences -- everyone has a right to their differences and it's our collective interest to try to learn together by incorporating the majority's culture including the younger generation's cell phone culture?
But now I'm back to where I started. "Collective interest". Collective in a pedagogical setting presupposes a will from more than one party.
(Rancière's text was published in 1991, before the iphone.)
"In the meritocracy those who know (or those who have the opportunity to set the standards of knowing) considered as experts have needed those who don't know and the ignorant in reproducing and legitimating their own privileged expert positions. These structural processes of legitimation belong to what Rancière describes as the pedagogical myth. The pedagogical myth divides the world into two by supposing a socially constructed division of power, as well as a lower and higher intelligence. As Rancière (1991, 7) points out:
[The pedagogical myth] says that there is an inferior intelligence and a superior one. The former registers perceptions by change, retains them, interprets and repeats them empirically, within the closed circle of habit and need. This is the intelligence of the young child and the common man. The superior intelligence knows things by reason, proceeds by method, from the simple to the complex, from the part to the whole. It is this intelligence that allows the master to transmit his knowledge by adapting it to the intellectual capacities of the student and allows him to verify that the students has satisfactorily understood what he learned."Ref. http://eepat.net/doku.php?id=jacques_ranciere_on_radical_equality_and_adult_education
Friday, January 02, 2015
Friday, December 19, 2014
Tuesday, December 02, 2014
one of my life's highlights occurred last night. my 10 year old nephew,
kind of a shy guy, was sitting on the couch in front of the tv.
unexpectedly he turned away from the tv and began asking me questions. a
couple questions turned into some 150 questions, one after another
after another. about the Isreal-Palestine conflict, about college dorms,
about college apartments, about the roman empire, about soccer (I know
nothing about soccer)... each question made me smile inside.
it had been many years since I had experienced the joy of being around
uninhibited curiosity, I had forgotten how good it felt. (at the same
time, I was slightly saddened too because it had been many months since I
had had time for a long conversation.) of course I asked him some
questions too, and reminded him that my answers are merely opinions. I
wanted to sit there and talk until he had no questions left for the time
being. after about 2 hours he ended the conversation as abruptly as he
had started it. he stood up and said, "ok, good night” and went up to
Friday, October 17, 2014
"Some of the tourists who enjoyed shopping in stores like these told me [the shop-owner], "In our countries we don't have stores like this anymore."
Stopped at an intersection today in Philadelphia, I spotted these
confetti style flag banner things blowing in the wind at a car
dealership on the corner of Chestnut and 48th and I immediately had a
flashback of being a kid staring out the backseat window of our brown
station-wagon at the same exact scene, but in Detroit, MI, on one of
those wide "mile roads", where the car dealerships were streamed with
these flag banner things (do they have a name?). They haven´t changed in
Monday, October 06, 2014
Friday, September 12, 2014
the windows in the buildings that house big box and multinational stores never open. (Walmart, Starbucks, McDonalds, Panera, malls...) when these companies appropriate historic buildings (which have windows), they replace the original windows with ones that don't open. the artificial climatization in the big box/multinational buildings can feel very uncomfortable, usually stuffy or overly drying. a chemical, plastic, perfume, air freshners, or burnt coffee or paninis smell swirls aimlessly. there is no fresh air or connection with nature or anything natural. the windows don't open because the company authorities don't want legal trouble which could amount to a relatively small economic loss, i.e. an employee or customer throwing her/himself or her/his boss from a window.
Saturday, September 06, 2014
Narratives for children are so preachy, aren't they? This one is preachy too, but I think the narrative and illustrations are uplifting. A young boy or girl, who dislikes the city, goes to NY to visit his/her Nana. s/he says the city is scary, dirty, noisy. s/he can't sleep. one night Nana knits him a red cape and says ... (I can't remember now), but the girl/boy feels brave in the red cape and it enables him/her to overcome his/her fears and to see the city--the city as social differences--in a new and empathetic light.
...Now, if the anti-city girl/boy at the beginning of the story is a metaphor for planetary suburbia, neoliberal urbanism, gated communities...etc., then what would the transformative red cape symbolize...? I've got to find this red cape!
Friday, September 05, 2014
For those teaching or interested in contemporary culture of Spain, here is a useful, short intro in English to the innovative political practices that are emerging. I like that it includes the historical and international connections with Latin America and Europe. These could be carried over to the US as well.
A couple passages dense with ideas:
"What do you do when representative democracy has ceased to be representative, but when its institutions are still there, controlling the banks, the political parties, the media, international relations, the world of money, the universities? What we learned from Latin America is that there is only one way to break through the gridlock of dysfunctional institutions: appealing directly to the people. We needed tools that would allow Spaniards to organize their discontent and turn it into political energy."
"The neoliberal model has been so successful because it has convinced us that there is no alternative. And it has been able to do so because we have delegated politics to the politicians."
"The neoliberal model has worked very hard to wipe out history and turn it into a kind of decaﬀeinated theme park. It has prevented us from connecting with the historical anger and frustration that anticipated our current anger and frustration."
Monday, September 01, 2014
Saturday, July 26, 2014
Tuesday, July 08, 2014
Thursday, July 03, 2014
Impresionante. La memoria completa sobre las iniciativas e intervenciones ciudadanas, virtuales y físicas, para el empoderamiento urbano. En pdf, publicada por VIC y La Casa Encendida. Se enfoca mayormente en las intervenciones en Madrid en los últimos años. Con fines democráticos, podría servir como prototipo para participación ciudadana en cualquier ciudad.
Wednesday, July 02, 2014
In the middle of a severely segregated city (economically and racially)--NEWARK, NJ--one can find Intrinsic Cafe, a bubble tea shop, that is working its unifying magic across social differences. I've
come across this bubble-come-together phenomenon in many cities.
Gov't officials and college cafeteria administrators should re-think their intercultural programs.
Future academic paper "Deconstructing Neo-landscapes and Post-transcendence in a Bubble Tea Society."
Friday, June 27, 2014
Wednesday, June 18, 2014
Friday, June 13, 2014
1) it took place in the Plaza Salvador Seguí in the historic Raval neighborhood of Barcelona--Barcelona's most socially diverse neighborhood where many lower-income immigrants and elders live, where prostitutes work, and where police are always watching like hawks. over the last 3 decades the neighborhood has suffered much abuse, speculation, and gentrification. the local gov’t has allowed real estate and construction companies, architects, (multi)national investors to demolish around half of the neighborhood's historic buildings (most dating from the 18th century), their inhabitants and businesses are displaced. why? in order to create apartments, hotels, and shops for tourists. large neighborhood associations have tried to stop this bestial force, but they have been ignored, bullied, and in some cases received death threats. there’s been no stop, no limit, to the destructive tourist speculation. most tourists don’t know about this.
2) public space in Barcelona and most global cities has become extremely regulated, monitored, privatized -- video cameras, controlling urban furniture, police force are ubiquitous and usually inconspicuous. nowadays, before one can carry out harmless activities (such as singing, dancing, resting, meeting in a large group…) in public, the local gov't must give their stamp of approval (because they want to ensure a smooth image and space for the tourist industry). #FemPlaça #HacerPlaza #MakingtheSquare comes from the idea that humans should be able to "be" comfortably in the public space (that they pay for with their taxes) without asking for permission and without being bombarded by an atmosphere that pressures you to spend your money or look at a restaurant menu. at #FemPlaza #HagamosPlaza #LetsMaketheSquare spontaneity played it’s part in enabling all sorts of creative activities (i.e. at one point the kids decided they wanted to paint, later a theatre group appeared and did a skit…).
3) given this surveillance situation, public space in Barcelona (and most global cities) is increasingly “zoned" spatially and segregated socially. us humans (and our spatial needs and desires) come in many ethnic, economic, linguistic, gender, ideological colors…etc. but global downtowns are now surrounded by a new mural, and murals within murals, and in the residential zone they say if you can’t afford $2000/month in rent—stay out! and if the food zone they say: if you can’t pay $20 for a sandwich, stay out! now take a good look at these photos. you’ll see that many different type of activities were occurring simultaneously at #FemPlaça #HacerPlaza #MakingtheSquare (sitting, chatting, singing, eating, drawing, playing…). also, the event encouraged human differences to come together. usually cultural events are organized by a specific institution (a university, the government, a church…), a corporation or bank, or an identity group or club to bring together similar-minded humans. ("separation perfected" Debord called contemporary life.) #FemPlaça #HacerPlaza #MakingtheSquare wanted to advocate public space as an inclusive space so, for this event, anyone could organize activities and participate, regardless of their personal situation. this seems so obvious and normal, right? yet when residents passed by they were like cats checking out a new space--they slowed down, stayed to one side and raised their eyebrows. their first instinct was that: a private event was occurring. we had to make an effort to let strangers know that: hey, this might sound crazy, but this is actually, really, public! you are welcome here! come and enjoy your public space, have some food and drink or chalk or whatever you like!
Friday, June 06, 2014
Friday, May 30, 2014
How long will it last?
A difficulty, a wonderful one, that we have had thus far in trying to conceptualize the space within the current legal structure, is that it it doesn't fit into traditional legal jargon or categories. It's not owned by any person or group of people. It's not a garden or a plaza, not a park or a playground; it is a mixture of these places and much more. Those who have been informally maintaining the space don't want to define it as a definition would exclude future possibilities.
Thursday, April 03, 2014
Monday, March 24, 2014
Seniors in Spain ("yayoflautas") take action against budget cuts.
Wednesday, March 05, 2014
Friday, February 28, 2014
Wednesday, January 22, 2014
re-imagining this scene from several years ago, makes me smile. I was
at a Denny's in Tokyo, open all night, I spent a lot of time there
because I needed to study and there wasn't enough space in our tiny
apartment. (Murakami portrayed the night-time Denny's in his novel After
Dark + no doubt it influenced me). (Very different from the Denny's in
the US, at the Japanese Denny's the food portions are very small, no
fried food smell, the floor is linoleum instead of carpet...)
the adults who come into this sparkling clean restaurant at midnight, or 1 or 2 or 3am
most come in individually, slowly, dressed nicely. occassionally a young couple comes in
with the exception of the young couples, everyone disperses themselves out over the large restaurant ("personal space")
they sit in the floral-patterned plastic-covered booths that are divided by sheets of glass. (huge booths that seem out of place in such a condensed city)
shortly after they sit down they look at the very large illustrated menu and press the plastic brown buzzer-bell
a sleepy-faced waiter/waitress, wearing a brown apron, quickly shuffles over and bows
they all order something similar: something small and inexpensive--an orange juice, a lemonade, a green tea, a red-bean sundae. (This purchase allows them to sit at the booth for as long as they want.)
they consume their drink/ice cream very slowly;
most of them stay sitting there for hours after they've finished eating/drinking, there's no hurry
some quietly get up to use the bathroom
some cross their arms on the table and fall asleep
others stare ahead at their cell phone
the couples, sitting in front of one another with good posture, talk quietly, almost whispering
a middle-aged woman sitting alone with a long face. I wonder if she had an argument with a special person...
and there are a few like me who are typing on their laptop, waiting for the sleepy feeling, in order to walk home
Tuesday, January 21, 2014
We are holding guayava fruits, which were REALLY delicious.
I found this video of Soleida and her apartment in La Havana Vieja on Youtube. I think all of us regret not having enough time to accept her invitation to experience her apartment (which you can see in this video below).
Her poems are in books and also dispersed over the internet. Here are a couple that have been translated to English: http://epc.buffalo.edu/authors/rios/roto.html
Sunday, December 22, 2013
In lieu of Spain´s increasingly violent police force and recent Security Law (Ley de Seguridad Ciudadana):
Saturday, December 21, 2013
Thursday, December 19, 2013
Luis Moreno Caballud's insightful recap on Spain's current economic crisis and political resistance (15M, virtual communities...). In English.
Sunday, November 10, 2013
Monday, November 04, 2013
1. What do you think?
2. Why do you think that?
3. How do you know this?
4. Can you tell me more?
5. What questions do you still have?
for the complete article: http://www.edutopia.org/blog/five-powerful-questions-teachers-ask-students-rebecca-alber
Friday, November 01, 2013
Tuesday, October 22, 2013
Thursday, October 17, 2013
Interpretación visual de la obra de teatro de Arrabal.
Difícil de encontrar. Se puede bajar AQUÍ en pdf, en color.
(Este cómic podría dialogar bien con la obra de teatro Esquadra hacia la muerte de Alonso Sastre.)
Temas: guerra, violencia, existencialismo, el absurdo, la humanidad, compañerismo, universalismo...
Saturday, September 14, 2013
Today for the first time in my life I picked up a hitchhiker. Maybe it
was because he was dressed like my father. He looked to be around 75-80.
Slowly driving past him I remembered my sister’s 2.5-day love celebration (aka wedding, a couple weeks ago) and how, afterwards, I told myself I would try to be more generous to the realm outside my workplace. I also thought about David Sedaris’s, Roald Dahl’s and Jack Kerouac’s hitchhiking stories. (Now I wonder how could I have thought of all those things in about 10 seconds?)
I slowed down the car and parked the right side of the car on the sidewalk.
Probably he didn’t have a gun and was too weak to hurt me.
I put on my tough face, walked over to him, and asked him what was wrong?
He smelled like soap and was happy to see me.
He told me that he had a contact stuck in his eye and needed a ride to ER.
I asked him why don’t you take a taxi?
He told me because he didn’t have enough money and that the hospital was only 2 miles up the road.
I tried to remain skeptical. He pointed to his left eye. I looked at it and could see a blue lens in the upper corner.
For some reason I asked him if I could try to remove it.
He asked me if I was a nurse?
I told him no, but that I was frequently removing my own contacts.
The contact was in fact really glued to his eye, so I drove him to ER.
Moral of the story: hitchhikers always make for interesting stories. And West Chester, PA needs better public transportation.
Saturday, September 07, 2013
Monday, August 05, 2013
Public urban spaces can be used for an infinite amount of creative personal and collective activities.
A tiny wealthy minority is increasingly controlling public areas of high consumption (with surveillance cameras, police, and the design of such space...). Our taxes pay for our public space. But benches and places to sit and lay down are disappearing from public space, and instead being replaced with private outdoor café/restaurant seating and keep-out!-urban-furniture.
When we think of physical/material spaces that keep us out, we tend to think fences, gates, doors, walls... But there are many more inconspicuous examples of these everyday barriers, and they dictate what we do, what we know, and what we experience in the city, often without us evening knowing it!
Here are some examples. If you want to sit in these places in Barcelona, you will need to bring a heavy plank of wood with you, or a chair (from 2012-13):
Browsing through old photographs from my dissertation, I came across these SITuations from 2004-2008:
--> "Move along! There is nothing to see here!" The police says that there is nothing to see on a road, that there is nothing to do but move along. It asserts that the space of circulating is nothing other than the space of circulation. Politics, in contrast, consists in transforming this space of 'moving-along' into a space for the appearance of a subject: i.e., the people, the workers, the citizens: It consists in refiguring the space, of what there is to do there, what is to be seen or named therein. It is the established litigation of the perceptible… (“Ten Theses”, #8)