Garbage Only

To clarify, I was unable to park in this spot. Photos taken by me.


Fighting Wildfires

The photo protrudes past the width of the blog's layout,
but reducing its size does reduce its quality.
Photo by David McNewLink to Image at BostonGlobe.com.

Bio-diversity Never Ceases to Impress

When I drove through Death Valley, I remember seeing signs which warned that there would be no places to refuel for quite some time. Obviously not a place for humans, but what's in a name?

Death Valley hasn't seen such a wide array of flowers in about 50 years — blue pendants of desert lupine and tiny purple chias growing in clumps, golden California poppies scattering all over hillsides.
The recent storms have turned part of the salt pan around Badwater Basin — normally a brackish puddle a few inches deep — into a reflecting pool about five miles across. 
"This isn't a wasteland," Muick said. "It will start looking empty when the flowers are gone, but there's life there at all times." 

In addition, perhaps the seventh stage demographic may not be as flaccid as they are usually characterized by mainstream culture.
recent research suggests that much of that slower response is a conscious choice to emphasize accuracy over speed.
"Older people don't want to make any errors at all, and that causes them to slow down. We found that it is difficult to get them out of the habit, but they can with practice," McKoon said.
Accuracy for "associative memory" does decline as people age.
"The older view was that all cognitive processes decline at the same rate as people age," Ratcliff said. "We're finding that there isn't such a uniform decline. There are some things that older people do nearly as well as young people."


One Way to Place the Spine - The Cat

A variant of this exercise was taught to me in Droznin class at the National Theater Institute.

An exercise to loosen up the muscles and vertebral column:

'The cat.' - This exercise is based on the observation of a cat as it awakes and stretches itself. The subject lies stretched out face downwards, completely relaxed. The legs are apart and the arms at right angles to the body, palms towards the floor. the "cat" wakes up and draws the hands in towards the floor. The "cat" wakes up and draws the hands in towards the chest, keeping the elbows upwards, so that the palms of the hands form a basis for support. He hips are raised, while the legs "walk" on tiptoe towards the hands. Raise and stretch the left leg sideways, at the same time lifting and stretching the head. Replace the left leg on the ground, supported by the tips of the toes.  Repeat the same movements with the right leg, the head still stretching upwards. Stretch the spine, placing the center of gravity first in the centre of the spine, and then higher up towards the nape of the neck. Then turn over and fall onto the back, relaxing.

Grotowski, Jerzy, and Eugenio Barba. Towards a Poor Theatre. New York: Routledge, 2002. 135. Print.


My Nerve is Healing

Nearly two months ago, a piece of glass cut deep into my hand-- sliced part of the nerve which reaches around the back of my left index finger (the proper volar digital nerve which runs up the radial side of my index finger).

When I told my friend Daniel that this was a great opportunity to feel what its like to have a non-critical nerve regrow from the inside, he informed me that this was not a typical response to a nerve injury.

from the exhibition Inside by Vincent Dubourg (2011).
This totally illustrates how it feels to have a nerve regenerating in my finger.


I Thought I Loved "Fantasia"

"The worst experience I had during my stay in the United States was a film I saw called Fantasia, by Disney. I had never heard of it and actually ended up watching it by mistake. There were three films playing in the same movie house and I went into the wrong one. The most barbaric thing about this film, something I learned later, was that almost every American child between the ages of six and eight gets to view it. Which means that these people will never again be able to hear specific works by Beetoven, Bach, Handel, Tchaikovsky, etc., without seeing the Disney Figures and Images. That horrifying thing for me in this is the occupation of the imagination by clichés and images which will never go away; the use of  images to prevent experiences, to prevent the having of experiences."

Anecdote drawn from: Müller, Heiner. "19 Answers by Heiner Müller." The Twentieth Century Performance Reader. By Michael Huxley and Noel Witts. 2nd ed. London [u.a.] Routledge, 2007. 315. Print.
Another thing about Disney's Fantasia:
still from original cut of Disney's Fantasia
This is a still from the original release of Disney's Fantasia, featuring (on the left) Sunflower, manicurist to the white centaur. Things like this were mainstream, and white people don't really talk about it. In fact this character has been practically erased from Disney's archives because of its horribly racist overtones.  Thankfully, we as a culture may remember it's existence in our collective history as it remains easily accessible on the internet. [video link

A question I'm left with: If this is something that the media gods at Disney have almost successfully erased for our collective history, what else about our understanding of this world could be lost  if the internet, the new archival source of human existence, were to be censored, mediated by some third party?


Why Divide 'Human' and 'Environment?' Try 'Place.'

"Unlike the word environment, which so often refers exclusively to the non-human natural world, the word place conjoins perception, cultural mediation and apparent physical location"

"Recent ecocritical attention to a variety of locales as well as the shift away from the term environment to the term place have begun to move the field toward a stronger awareness that human considerations, including culture and psychology, must be taken into account in analyses of the physical world's representations"

Quotes from "'Loving Ourselves Most of All': Ecocriticism and the Adapted Mind," Nancy Easterlin. 2004

PS: What kind of place is a blog? And what kind of place is occupied by the audience member of the typical play?

Set the World on Fire

for your listening pleasure:

The Viewpoints

"Viewpoints is a philosophy translated into a technique for (1) training performers; (2) building ensemble; and (3) creating movement for the stage.

Viewpoints of Time
-Kinesthetic Response

Viewpoints of Space
     Broken down into lines, curves, or a combination
     Can either be stationary or moving through space
     Can be made in three forms: 
             the body in space
             the body in relationship to architecture making a shape
             bodies in relation to other bodies making a shape

Excerpts and clippings from The Viewpoints Book by Anne Bogart, (2005).

If you are interesting in how we perceive that which surrounds us, check out this functional definition of the word "Place," or look at the other posts labeled "Ecology." 


Brain Perceiving, Touch Theater, Disabled Conclusions

Some excerpts from Jeff Hawkins' "On Intelligence," peppered with notions about how this can relate to theater [in italics]. This is followed by videos which demonstrate the adaptability of the human mind. Lastly some concluding thoughts on disability.

"What do we do when we speak or listen? We manipulate symbols called words, using well-defined rules of grammar" (Hawkins 15).

[Interesting how language is frequently respected as the center of theatrical artistry.]

All the information that enters your mind is received by your brain as temporal and spacial patterns.
Temporal Patterns-- patterns are constantly changing over time.  
Spacial Patterns-- are coincident patterns in time, they are created when multiple receptors in the same sense organ are stimulated simultaneously. (Hawkins 57) 
[The body envelope (the surface of our skin) is one large receptor for tactile patterns, 
yet touch is an infrequently utilized means to communicate to audience members]

"The regions of the cortex that handle auditory input look like the regions that handle touch, which look like the regions that control muscles, which look like Broca's language area, which look like practically every other region of the brain. Mountcastle suggests that since these regions all look the same, perhaps they are actually performing the same basic operation" (Hawkins 50).

"The cortex does something universal that can be applied to any type of sensory or motor system." (Hawkins 52)

"Vision is no different from hearing, which is no different from motor output" (Hawkins 51).

You hear sound, see light, and feel pressure, but inside your brain there isn't any fundamental difference between these types of information. (Hawkins 56)

conclusions on the videos:
Bionic humans are here. The first video is intended as an informational video for adaptive equipment, The Brainport Vision Device. Though

The title of the second video frames the man as a "human-bat"-- kind of sensational, but interesting that this comparison is being made.  The info which is attributed to this video on youtube reads as such:

The "a blind man [sic]" to which the Discovery Channel YouTube poster refers is Daniel Kish.  He represents one of many who fall under the definitional term "blind," but loses his name for the sake of posting this spectacle . Kind of like assuming that the one lion at the zoo can be understood to stand in for all lions. This video is categorized as Entertainment. Note also that original poster tagged this video with the word "bizarre."

I once read that the so-called "disabled" are presently doomed to always be identified as disabled, no matter the challenges they overcome. Interesting how technology and animal metaphors are used to show that these parahumans have almost attained the functionality of real humans. And yet, even though we are witnessing human-typical brain functioning, we still see these people as augmented human forms


A Pet-Lover's Conflict

Some selected quotes from the chapter "Why Look at Animals" in John Berger's About Looking (1992). 
Also, some photos of Simon Miller.

“Unspeaking companionship was felt to be so equal that often one finds the conviction that it was man who lacked the capacity to speak with animals” (4).

Some love for Simon Miller. Photo courtesy of Christina Heur
“That look between animal and man, which may have played a crucial role in the development of human society, and with which, in any case, all men have always lived until less than a century ago, has been extinguished” (26)

“But always its lack of common language, its silence guarantees its distance, its distinctness, its exclusion, from and of man” (4)

“No animal confirms man” (3).

The pettiness of current social practices is universalized by being projected on to the animal kingdom” (13).

“The animal has been emptied of experience and secrets, and this new invented ”innocence“  begins to provoke in man a kind of nostalgia” (10).
Jack and Simon

“In the accompanying ideology, animals are always the observed. The fact that they can observe us has lost all significance. They are objects of our ever-extending knowledge” (14).

English Family Visiting Lion Cage at a 
19th Century Zoo During the Winter
“The zoos, with their theatrical decor for display, were in fact demonstrations of how animals had been rendered absolutely marginal” (24).

“[Animals h]ave become utterly dependent on their keepers”  (23).

“The zoo is a demonstration of the relations between man and animals; nothing else” 

“The zoo to which people go to meet animals, to observe them, to see them, is, in fact, a monument to the impossibility of such encounters” (19).

photo by Mike Roseberg

“This historic loss, to which zoos 
are a monument, is now irredeemable 
for the culture of capitalism” (26).

“What we are trying to define, because the experience is almost lost, is the universal use of animal-signs for charting experience of the world” (6).


Drop-Trou for Dr. Doctor

My body continues to be a medical curiosity. Though my specific disability is classified as Arthrogryposis Multiplex Congeninta, the specifics of how this condition manifests within my own skin remains vague at best. How much muscle can I build? Can I train to compensate for/sculpt my contracted tendons and muscles? To what degree can a personal practice affect this change?

Norman Rockwell, Before the Shot. 1952

This classic Rockwell image was framed in the recovery room at Kaiser Permanente after my mom had gotten out of surgery.  Though the tongue-in-cheek title seems harmless, it reflects an embedded acceptance of compromising personal identity for the sake of the medical institution.

My first surgery occurred at the age of four months. In this surgery my clubbed feet were "corrected" (doctor's words, not mine). Over the next couple years --last surgery at age 13-- what would follow were continued corrections to my knees, wrists, and ankles. The specifics of how these surgeries affected my body are still, as yet, unknown to me. My parents deferred the still seemingly vital question of what to do with my body to the doctors.

What occurs to me now is some of these doctors built their professional reputation by studying and shaping my body.
I have been this kid who is compelled to expose himself to the renown credentials of the man in the room.


Reddit parents, please don't just tell your kids to look away

I initiated the following thread of conversation with other reddit users. My aim was to offer parents a chance to ask questions of a person with a disability, and offer possible means to positive learning experiences. For the sake of this blog post I've put a few of my favorite comments and responses--

[read on]


Disabling in Physical Education

As I was walking up the stairs today, I had a flashback to my elementary school PE class.

The teacher's name was Mr Clooney, or some variant thereof (Clune, Cune, etc). He was in his mid-forties, probably the coach of this-or-that team, or a former athlete. His navy blue jumpsuit outlined the frame of a sports-player.
In this particular memory, Mr Coony pulled David Lynch (a fellow student, not the director) aside to explain to David how to improve his throw while running. I think the idea was to throw the ball he stepped on to the frontal arch of his foot and before his next step, so that the spring from his ankle would give the toss an extra thrust. Or something like that. David had a pretty large frame, and I'm sure

The reason, I imagine, this memory was evoked was because of a recent pointer my Alexander teacher gave me. He said that as the typical person walks up the stairs, ze tends to tilt whichever foot is on the upper stair in order to pull hir body upwards. My teacher, Peter O'Reilly, suggested that I instead let the foot on the lower step tilt so that my other knee bends/reaches toward the next step. This allows my full leg, not just my ankle and lower back, to essentially spring me up to the next step; as our musculature is meant to fan upwards as gravity pulls down.
Eadward Muybridge, The Human Figure in Motion. (1955)

Why is it that the student who looks like a potential athlete is taken aside and given tips on how to use the geometry of his physique for an advantageous purpose, while many of us are occupied with not getting hit by the dodgeball, climbing the rope to the ceiling in time, and not cutting corners as we run around the gymnasium? As a matter of fact, the school system seemed obsessed with (masculine) athleticism in favor of what I would consider physiological self-discovery.

Though, as a person with a disability, I should mention that I was also provided with separate sessions in which I was stretched. It seems unfair not mention the physical therapy which was provided by the school district. My aide, usually a female Japanese student who would be about my current age, 22, was instructed to take me through a series of stretches once a week. She was not an educator, and was following a sheet of paper with drawings which explained how to move my arms and legs. I was between the ages of 5-11.

Physical Education, as provided by pre-college educational institutions, are not so much about physical education as they are about body-image programming. Whether or not you are a deemed a "physical" person is dictated by your achievement of certain physical goals and competitive success. It is no wonder that many of us crave the safety of the theater's cushy upholstered seats, the big screen TV viewed from a La-Z-Boy, and, most of all, our comfy office (/home-office) desk chairs where we can switch off any use of ourselves and fall in to the digital reality that we construct in our immobile brains. Many of these activities lead to general degradation: slouched shoulders, Carpal Tunnel, and a whole lot of tension.

Mr Croonip was hoping that this advice could help David in a future football career or some sport of the like.
There is a systematic formula to force people, from a young age, to categorize their bodies by signs of weakness or strength. The sacred human form, with its complex relationship to that which immediately exists around/within it, has been conceptually and physically mutilated by our current means of learning about it.

I think it goes without saying, but I'll say it anyways: we need to drastically redefine how we learn to relate to our bodies. PE classes are meant to disassociate those who lack, and harvest those who have. The so-called "disabled" should not be given separate but equal "educations," while people with great physical potential are bludgeoned into abandoning their bodies because they have no interest in sports.
Cut dance and theater classes. Fund more sports. This way our school systems will be driven to hire more teachers like Mr. Clompy, which will secure public funding for schools, fortify a branch of the patriarchy, and drive us further away from our embodied selves.

PS: In case you haven't seen it before: