Sunday, November 08, 2015

Medianeras 2

from the lost Medianeras series, I just found this, I think it was around Travessera de Gràcia and C/ Ciudad Real (Barcelona)
Nov. 2011

Friday, November 06, 2015

Hispanic reading discussions via virtual reality

"Without thinking about it, he had made them discover this thing that he discovered with them: that all sentences, and consequently all the intelligences that produce them, are of the same nature." (Rancière, The Ignorant Schoolmaster)
"They ['cultures of anyone'] avoid creating divisions between those 'in the know' and 'those in the dark,' asserting that we all know something, nobody knows everything, and our abilities are developed better when we learn together than when we live in hierarchical relationships. [. . . ] 'cultures of anyone' as forms of cultural democratization [. . . ] opening the construction of knowledge and of values to participation by anyone." (Moreno Caballud, Cultures of Anyone)
Led by Malcolm Compitello, I experienced an exciting discussion format last week with posthumans across the U.S. via Second Life's virtual reality interface. As a person who relies on technology to hear and who has always wished that meetings and conferences came with subtitles, this was uplifting--it felt very inclusive and easy to participate (although I wouldn't suggest it as a replacement for face-to-face!). Participants were able to speak and be heard over the computer, but, unlike a video conference, we were also were also able to type in a chat box (and many did since there were some audio problems). I found the chat box feature really helpful; I think it encouraged more quiet folks to participate. Also, the hierarchy of the academic who's-who, so common at conferences, did not exist. In Second Life everyone chooses a username and an avatar (strangely limited to a male-gaze character, a punk rock singer, or a dragon). And with a semi-anonymous username and a silly avatar, everyone was leveled to the same 2D plane and social status was set aside. Another plus, due to the audio difficulties and unfamiliar set-up, those who spoke made an effort to speak slowly. 
Like the innovative work that ALCES is doing and other 'cultures of anyone,' this Second Life initiative is truly open to the public, making an effort to poke holes in our academic bubbles. ANYONE with an internet connection can participate in Second Life.
On November 19, 2015 the group will be discussing "Podemos and its Critics" by Seguín. See below.
More soon!
//////  copy-pasted from the urbanculturalstudies blog   //////

We would like to invite you to a continuation of a series of events that the Department of Spanish and Portuguese at the University of Arizona has launched in Virtual Reality for the academic year of 2015-2016. They will take place at Cibola, the Department’s home in Second Life. The third conversation will be between Prof. Malcolm Compitello (The University of Arizona), Professors Susan Divine (College of Charleston) and Juliana Luna Freire (Framingham State University), and the new Cibola Manager Laura Vazquez Blazquez (ABD, The University of Arizona). It will be about the relationships between urban studies and Hispanic culture. It will begin this upcoming Thursday, Nov. 5, at 5:00 p.m. Tucson time.

We will be discussing three texts: Errejón, Martínez, and the Introduction, published at the Special Theme: Geografías del 15-M: Crisis, Austeridad y Movilización Social en España​. All texts are available here:

We will also be meeting on Nov. 19 (Thursday)​, to discuss the article by Bécquer Seguín entitled “Podemos and its critics”, published at the Radical Philosophy 193 (Sept/Oct. 2015).
We hope to see you at the event. In order to access Cibola, you will need to install Firestorm in your computer ( If you need help, please contact any of us.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

wabi sabi

dad has a camera on his cellphone now
so now I receive little gifts like this one
I've been reading about the Japanese aesthetic philosophy of "wabi sabi" and I can relate to it very much as a general way of life, I've found a little validation for some of my thoughts that often make me feel like the odd one out in this aggressive human ego competition that seeks perfection and superiority over one's fellow human being. I've always been fascinated with imperfection.
For me wabi sabi means resistance, kindness, difference, honesty.
Wabi sabi is an appreciation for and recognition of the fleeting imperfections and dependency in and around us:

"Wabi sabi embodies the nihilistic cosmic view and seeks beauty in the imperfection found in all things, in a constant state of flux, evolve from nothing and devolve back to nothing. Within this perpetual movement nature leaves arbitrary tracks for us to contemplate and it is these random flaws and irregularities that offer a model for the modest and humble. [. . . ] It embodies the melancholic appeal of the impermanence of all things. [. . . ] Impermanence, humility, asymmetry, and imperfect. These underlying principles are diametrically opposed to those of their Western counterparts, whole values are rooted in a Hellenic worldview that values permanence, grandeur, symmetry, and perfection..."
-A. Juniper

Friday, October 02, 2015

"Don't Fret, Russia—America Has Some Pretty Sad Bus Stops, Too"

Article from The Atlantic's Citylab:

Many bus stops in the US must make the riders feel like a lousy curb. Imagine being a curb, nobody cares about a curb. In the winter, and in the rain, a curb is covered with snow, ice, muddy slush, and human litter. Cold, wet, and dirty. I think US politicians choose to create such inefficient and unpleasant public transport for 3 reasons at least: 1) they themselves don't use it, 2) they no longer have any prerogative to work for the middle and lower classes even though we pay the bulk of their legal salaries through taxes, and, 3) on the other hand, Americans don't lift a finger in protest. Of course there's the issue of space. The US is a humongous space, but so is China and Australia and they enjoy decent bus stops and public transport. Public transport simply doesn't congeal with American individualism and our political structure... Can you imagine going to work one morning (in your car) thinking, "yes, today I hope my team and I can design a really crappy bus stop, one that no one will like!"?

Friday, September 11, 2015

a phase that lasts for a couple months in which the dead person could have the ability to listen and also nod "ok"

Why couldn’t there be a phase, for example, that lasts for a couple months during which a dead person could have the ability to listen and also nod “ok”? Why is it merely life to death? Response to no-response? That’s very extreme. Wouldn’t it make more sense if there was a transitional phase? That would make the mourning, and natural existence, much easier for plants and animals alike. …A, your beloved, is dead. You feel tremendous loss and emptiness, more than you can imagine. Sometimes You REALLY NEED to communicate this to A, to such an extent that you can feel the NEED in every tingling nerve in your body. But, even if you were to verbalize something, there’s no palpable way for A to HEAR or be conscious of what you need to tell him/her. Isn’t that awful? (Is this why men keep creating religions?) Why would nature take such a cruel binary form? On-off, life-death?

Saturday, August 08, 2015

ACLA seminar proposal: Nomadic Waste & Ecological Materiality in Neoliberal Space (Hispanic Studies)

Neoliberalism, consumer society, sends mass populations and material resources on rapid, nomadic itineraries around the planet, creating extreme abundance and scarcity in places we usually cannot see. Many of us interact with these objectified subjects or objects for a short amount of time—consuming and discarding resources without a second thought of where they come from or where they go after we discard them. As a result of the global economic crisis and our virtual connectedness, we are witnessing an increase in individuals and collectives who are re-appropriating, redistributing, and re-signifying the uneven flows of materiality—whether it be food, housing, cultural materials, trash, or ecological resources. The motives behind these initiatives may be for personal survival or for collective politics; regardless—their actions counter the neoliberal “order of things” as they perforate neoliberal spatial controls and often provide resources or agency to subjects that have none or very little (J. Rancière). We can think, for instance, of the politics of gleaners (chatarreros) who rummage and recycle trash; informal or black-market economies (piratería, top manta…); artists and activists that create Do-It-Yourself or advocacy projects with discarded or ecological goods (cartoneras…); and cultural centers and NGOs that establish self-sustainable “commons” such as food banks, urban gardens, second-hand supplies, or community currencies.

Many of these activities are initiated in globally expanding and ecologically depleted cities. And they straddle the lines between legality and illegality, public and private, visibility and invisibility, and the urban/periphery/rural (D. Mitchell, A. Merrifield). Many of them are dynamically networked and function via independent collectives, international connections, and social media. Given the increasing interconnections and parallels amongst these phenomena, this seminar aims to bring together and put in dialogue initiatives from many Spanish and Spanglish related speaking localities as well as their coexisting non-dominant language communities.

Our seminar hopes to mediate between fiction and non-fiction and the humanities and the socio-natural sciences in order to discuss pressing political, ecological, ethical, spatial, and cultural questions regarding waste and ecological resources in neoliberal space. For instance:

  •  What does mapping the itineraries of discarded materials or their corresponding subjects reveal about neoliberal order and resistance, creativity, community, in/exclusion, political possibility? To what extent and for whom is resistance effective? What is needed to optimize these initiatives?

  • What forms of control (surveillance cameras, police, gentrification, economic capital, physical barriers…etc.) are these phenomena working with/against? And who specifically dominates these controls/barriers?

  • What types of engagements and results have emerged between autonomous initiatives and direct political protest? Between autonomous initiatives and government-corporate powers? 

  • What do these material trajectories of use and non-use reveal about contentious temporalities?
  • What is or should be our role as researchers and educators within these urgent problems?

Plan: Early December participants will be asked to share one or two texts (of any type) that may be significant in thinking about and/or taking action in relation to these themes. The week before the conference we will share our written paper or work-in-progress by email. Finally, during the seminar days, we will meet 3 times across 2 or 3 days. During this time each presenter will present his/her ideas, images, and/or questions related to his/her research project.

Theoretical keywords (definitely not limited to--)
New Materialism, Eco-systems, Action Research, Globalization; Border/Transnational Studies, Urban Studies, Mobility Studies, Object Oriented Ontology, Anthropocene, Hispanic Cultural Studies.

If interested, please contact me at < > .

(image from Vagabundos de la chatarra, Sagar & Carrión)

"A saber lo que arrojan por las ventanas a estas horas de la noche. Vecinos desesperados. En las redes hay botelas de cava, recipientes de plástico, medias y calcetines, condones y pájaros muertos..."
(from J. Marsé's, El amante bilingüe, image M. Saltzman, 2006.)

Saturday, August 01, 2015

I was walking down the hall and
I fell into a large puddle of super-glue.
A polar bear came to help me up.
Oh, I don't think I can leave this polar bear.

Friday, July 24, 2015

"scent-scapes" and smellwalks

Mapping the politics of urban smells:  

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.

cigarette smoke,
car/moto exhaust,
dried dog urine,
garbage from the contenedores,
cleaning liquids,
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.:

Artist Kate Mclean has been mapping sensorial elements in cities (olfactory, tactile...). Check out:

From Mclean's work, I arrived at Marta Calvo's smellwalks in Pamplona.

And several detailed maps by Cambridge University:


Wednesday, July 22, 2015

my gimbap master

I am posing this for when I have a bad day.  ; )

Saturday, June 13, 2015

La investidura de Ada Colau - vídeo

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.

investidura13junio2015 from MeSalt on Vimeo.

Friday, June 05, 2015

Ada Colau inteview with Amy Goodman on Democracy Now

interview on US television today, explaining economic/political problems in Spain, their global connections, and feasible forms of peaceful resistance: Source:

going back and forth between extremes

Every time she returns to Xtown, the small town of XUniversity, an excellent school in the US where tuition runs $58,000 a year, she's shocked by the extreme social difference between these students and the students at state-university. Xtown students own high quality and fashionable clothes, shoes, and backpacks; their skin complexion is healthy looking; 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 of XUniversity, a lot of polo shirts, khakis, and brown loafers and, in the winter--beautiful leather riding boots, and for the rain--Hunter rain boots. The students of XUniversity are taller than your average college student. Visually they match closely to what one sees in contemporary Hollywood films that take place in California or NYC, but without all the make-up and hairspray. Since she's usually in Xtown at the beginning and end of breaks, she sees their parents too, because they visit Xtown around the same time. Many of the parents wear fine jewelry and drive nice cars. Like their offspring, they too have nice skin and shiny hair. She thinks, "What do these external decorations have to do with having access to top educational and employment opportunities?
The image appears of the faces of some students at state-university, the faces of students who are stressed or depressed because they are working 40 hours a week while failing some of their classes. (But many students at XUniversity are also necessarily stressed or depressed. Is this system failing both parties?)
The conforming and acceptance of fashion styles parallels the conforming and acceptance of an extremely stratified educational system in the US. It annoys her that, in general terms, some students can have so little while others have so much, and when she talks with students from both extremes, it seems neither party is aware of the gap, two separate microcosms. She thinks, "But many of them are learning about these issues in the classroom, right? We know many students have to write papers about inequality because it's the hot topic that everyone studies at college... So, what's missing then? 
Making personal connections/experiences outside the classroom? 
Educating the trustees, administrators, politicians, and businesspeople?" 
And then, in a matter of days, she gets used to it, the scene of comparison fades away and she gets used to the local scene again, the scene that initially seemed luxurious becomes normal, as it did when she was in grad school, and she stops being annoyed and starts enjoying the high quality; she browses rider boots on the internet. And since, in some ways, she also benefited from this stratified education system inequality, she wonder if some people think similar annoyed thoughts about her.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Sunday, March 01, 2015

archivo del Seminario de ALCES "Geopolítica de la España global," Soria, Julio 2015

En este seminario proponemos discutir el potencial político en los espacios cotidianos de las ciudades españolas, conscientes de sus raíces históricas y enfocándonos en la época contemporánea.

Los espacios públicos han sido drásticamente transformados y regulados en las últimas 2 – 3 décadas en España.  La planificación urbana activa y local de los años 80 fue, en la década siguiente, rápidamente reemplazada por la especulación, la desterritorialización, la gentrification y el turismo de masas—todos ellos fenómenos que han estado operando bajo la lógica de un neoliberalismo global.  Como consecuencia de ello, miles de edificios históricos fueron derribados, especialmente aquellos que pertenecían a clases más modestas, y los espacios públicos perdieron gran parte de su autonomía, espontaneidad, inclusión social e historia local y personal para convertirse en espectáculos de consumo privado y escaparates de una política desligada de la sociedad civil.  Por lo tanto, nuestra pregunta principal es ¿qué se está haciendo en el día a día para volver a unir a los ciudadanos con su espacio local?  O, en palabras de David Harvey, refiriéndose a una ciudadanía inclusiva: ¿cómo puedenmake a city more after their heart’s desire”?

Tanto consciente como inconscientemente, a través de los sentidos absorbemos gran cantidad de información al atravesar el espacio público.  Las nuevas leyes de civismo, las cámaras de vigilancia, el mobiliario urbano, las grúas paradas, las fachadas multilingües, el sonido metálico del butanero con las bombonas y el olor de los contenedores forman y limitan nuestras vivencias urbana/s.  Aunque el diseño del espacio neoliberal prioriza lo visual, todos los detalles sensoriales, grandes y pequeños, regulan nuestras actividades e identidades, forman nuestros conocimientos y nos adoctrinan tanto con un código de conducta como con una narrativa sobre la historia, la política y la economía.

Pero este fenómeno no ocurre de manera unidireccional.  Como han escrito muchos otros urbanistas, el espacio público—al igual que la democracia—no es una entidad fija, neutral o monolítica.  Los ciudadanos también tenemos cierta agencia en el espacio publico.  De hecho, Manuel Vázquez Montalbán definió el espacio público como “aquello que se ganó contra los especuladores.”  El espacio público es un resultado temporal y provisional de la contención entre diferencias; más lento o rápido, según las épocas, pero siempre está recreándose, rehaciéndose y resistiendo la homogenización y estasis.  De este modo, la crisis económica actual ha vuelto a mostrarnos el espacio publico como el lugar primordial donde conviven, negocian y se enfrentan las diferencias humanas. 

Las ciudades españolas son ciudades globales, y en ellas los poderes fácticos diseñan y/o mantienen el espacio público y una imagen-marca que excluye cualquier contradicción, precariedad, fealdad, o desorden (D. Mitchell, M. Delgado).  En este sentido, tanto los momentos de gran relieve como las acampadas en plazas emblemáticas como las menos estudiadas prácticas cotidianas, como pueden ser dormir en el umbral, colgar la ropa o un mensaje del balcón, o tocar un instrumento o patinar en una plaza, se convierte en un acto, voluntaria o involuntariamente, que transgreden “el orden de las cosas,” vuelven a insertar la diferencia en la imagen urbana, y, por lo tanto, cuestionan las políticas de inclusión (J. Ranciére).

Animamos a que se unan a este seminario todas las personas interesadas en el estudio de la geopolítica cultural y cotidiana de la España contemporánea.  (Tenemos en cuenta que lo “español” hoy en día puede encontrarse en cualquier lugar del mundo.)  Abajo hemos señalado algunos puntos de fuga iluminadores que se mueven en las disciplinas de la arquitectura, geografía y antropología urbanas, pero que no han sido muy desarrollados en nuestro campo de estudios culturales peninsulares:

- geografías y prácticas lúdicas (de juego)
- topografías de los olores y/o los sonidos y/o texturas táctiles de la ciudad
- objetos cotidianos (basura, ruinas, materiales reciclados o desechados…)
- la periferia urbana (el extrarradio)
- prácticas espaciales de resistencia/antagonismo o espontaneidad
- mercados negros, economías elusivas o invisibles
- los itinerarios de los niños y/o los adolescentes y/o personas de las tercera edad
- respuestas espaciales a la crisis económica y/o de vivienda
- inmigración, presencia pública, geopolítica
- colectividades o intervenciones artísticas y activismo
- espacios auto-gestionados, apropiaciones y reclamaciones de autonomía (jardines urbanos, casas okupas, manifestaciones…)
- propuestas de mejora pública
- relaciones entre espacio virtual global y físico local
- el espacio público y la pedagogía/la enseñanza
- tribus urbanas

Programa final, verano 2015: 

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 historic establishments 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

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

when most people are in bed
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

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: