Saturday, February 28, 2015

"Taking the first step toward understanding the social dynamics surrounding disability means recognizing that interdependency is the rule of human societies. We are all dependent [disabled] on others: for food, clothing, and medical care, for support networks, social opportunities."
B. Fraser

Sunday, February 22, 2015

"What Americans Keep Ignoring About Finland's School Success" -- The Atlantic


"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

quantitative self-interest

“our planetary urban fabric—the terrestrial texturing of our urban universe—is woven by a ruling class that sees cities are purely speculative entities, as sites for gentrifying schemes and upscale redevelopments, as machines for making clean, quick money in, and for disposing erstwhile public goods.” A. Merrifield - The New Urban Question

(Cell phone pics around Philadelphia today. Human remnants but no humans.)

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

visualization of the theory of everything

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.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Wednesday, January 07, 2015

the pedagogical myth, cell phones, and Rancière

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." 

Friday, January 02, 2015

Friday, December 19, 2014

"The 15-M movement positioned itself against intermediaries, be it political, media, or cultural. It directly attacks the idea that someone has to do things for me. This is a paradigm shift in the relationship between citizen and governments, unions, media outlets..."
- Javier Toret

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

One thousand and one questions

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 bed.

Friday, October 17, 2014

3 more hstoric stablishments closing down in Barcelona

Three more emblematic "mom-n-pop" stores that have formed part of Barcelona's everyday fabric since the 19th century are closing down because the owners of the properties have increased their rent prices to capitalize on mass tourism. Previously, historic establishments had been protected from dramatic rent increases by a law (Ley Boyer), but the law expired this year. In spite of locals' demand to renew the law, the government refused. No respect for history, community, or democracy. That's how neoliberalism (our current economic system) has been working. (But it doesn't have to be that way.)
"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 30 years.

Monday, October 06, 2014

acrobatic ikebana

ikebana - flower art
or original acrobatics + domestic design
artist Yuji Ueno said
“nature defying gravity = life”
from today in the spectacular Sawyer library, Williams College

Friday, September 12, 2014

windows that don't open

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

Nana Visits the City by Lauren Castillo

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

short intro to the innovative politics currently stirring in Spain "Fighting the New Fascism"

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

I was a pigeon

and it was great!

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

to be there

"While it is true that people leave home for a rational reason, in many situations the real reason for choosing public space is simply to be there..."
J. Gehl, 1966

Thursday, July 03, 2014

Iniciativas ciudadanas - pdf

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

bubble come together

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

Guanyem/Ganamos Barcelona

Han empezado a organizarse --> potencial a raiz de la ciudad/anía

Imaginados una Barcelona menos turística y más INCLUSIVA.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Forn de Teatre Pa' Tothom - Raval

On June 13, 2014 teenagers in the neighborhood theatre group "Forn De Teatre Pa'tothom" presented an in-situ skit at the #FemPlaça event about police harassment of immigrants in the Raval, Barcelona.

(In Spanish and a little bit of Catalan.)

Friday, June 13, 2014

#FemPlaça #HagamosPlaza #Let'sMaketheSquare

here I document a very special event called #FemPlaça #HagamosPlaza #LetsMaketheSquare. the event is special, or rare, for many reasons. here are a couple:

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

Plaza Rubió i Lluch

How many different activities can you spot?

Friday, May 30, 2014

Esta es una plaza, Dr. Forquet 24, Madrid

This is a rare space. Surrounded by tightly regulated space of very high economic value, this "plaza" doesn't cost anything to use, it can be used by any human being (regardless of how much money you have, your race, ideology, gender...etc.), anyone can take care of it, and there are no video cameras or advertisement. One can do pretty much anything they want here. 
How long will it last?
MediaLab in Madrid has provided the resources to try to legally secure this espacio autogestionado.  A group of advocates (include myself a little bit) are trying to translate/articulate the importance of the space in written legal jargon in order to gain official approval from the Ayuntamiento (gov't of Madrid) to secure the space.
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.

To be continued...

Thursday, April 03, 2014

Introduction to Poetry by Billy Collins

I ask them to take a poem   
and hold it up to the light   
like a color slide

or press an ear against its hive.

I say drop a mouse into a poem   
and watch him probe his way out,

or walk inside the poem’s room   
and feel the walls for a light switch.

I want them to waterski   
across the surface of a poem
waving at the author’s name on the shore.

But all they want to do
is tie the poem to a chair with rope   
and torture a confession out of it.

They begin beating it with a hose   
to find out what it really means.

Friday, February 28, 2014

pedestrian space in Copenhagen

When space is designed for the multi-uses of everyone:

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

August 2013, at one of Tokyo's 200 Denny's

Murakami was on to something when he placed one of his novels, Afterdark, in a Denny's in Shibuya (Tokyo)

I mean, that what he wrote really reflects an overlooked reality

...what follows is not really new, but I'll repeat……..

all these folks who come into this sparkling clean quiet place at midnight, or 1 or 2 or 3am

when most people are in bed

most come in individually and slowly, dressed nicely, occassionally a young couple comes in

with the exception of the young couples, they spread themselves out over the large restaurant

they sit in floral plastic-covered American-size booths that are divided by sheets of glass

shortly after they sit down they look at the large menu and press the plastic brown buzzer-bell


a waiter/waitress quickly runs over and bows

they all order something similar: something small and inexpensive (an orange juice, a lemonade, a green tea, a red-bean sundae…)

they consume their drink/ice cream slowly and most of them stay sitting there for hours after they've finished it, there's no hurry

some get up to use the bathroom

some put there arms on the table and fall asleep

others stare at their cell phone

the couples, sitting in front of one another with good posture, talk quietly

and there are a few like me who are writing on a their laptop, waiting for the sleepy feeling to come before walking home.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Soleida Ríos

In La Havana we were lucky to meet and spend time with the Cuban poet Soleida Ríos.  Soleida seemed to me to be a generous, transparent, and spiritual person.  Her personality is light, it floats.  We talked with her for several hours over a meal and a walk down Havana's quiet Avenida de los Presidentes.  One thing she said to us that stuck in my head was: “Communism is good for me in particular because I´m terrible with money, this way I don´t have to think or worry about money.” 
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:


Saturday, December 21, 2013

CocoRoom Winter Interior

My sister was recently at this non-profit art collective, CocoRoom, in Osaka.  I loved these two photos. 

Chilly and mesmerizing.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Cultures of Anyone (and everyone)

Luis Moreno Caballud's insightful recap on Spain's current economic crisis and political resistance (15M, virtual communities...).  In English.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

"hay charcos con ranas donde había charcos con ratas. Con sólo cambiar una letra puede transformarse el mundo..."
-- Javier P. Andújar

autumn sundown play

Monday, November 04, 2013

5 questions to ask (students)

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:

Friday, November 01, 2013

high ed diagram

In this diagram I was trying to illustrate a massive structure--the higher education system in the “global north” or at least the United States.  (If you click on it, you can see it larger.) Of course there will be many exceptions to this structure, but I am interested in what it might look like in the general view.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Hafu - mixed-race realities in Japan

A socially-important documentary about half-
Japanese humans (mainly in Tokyo). 
official website:

Thursday, October 17, 2013

versión cómic de PICNIC - Fernando Arrabal, dibujada por Jaime Asensi

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 in West Chester, PA

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.

The end.

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

Don't sit here!

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:

From Rancière:
--> "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)

Thursday, August 01, 2013


"Chal-SSAK!" = “smack" in Korean. I have seen so many dark-humor chal-ssaks! in recent Korean films.  Here´s one from Kim Ki-duk´s Pieta (2012)--a tough movie to watch.