curious, not creepy.

June 11, 2009, 3:38 am
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i remember reading the excerpt of wanderlust last summer and wanting to read the book in its entirety. unfortunately, i got distracted with other classes and other books and never got around to reading it until this summer. i tracked down a copy of the book and got to hear rebecca solnit’s history of walking.

the structure of the book gives the reader a very through and detailed history of walking. she begins with a personal narrative voice, discussing what it is she goes through while on her walks. we share a lot of the same ideas about what makes walking important, “walking allows us to be in our bodies and in the word without being made busy by them.”  she talks about how thinking has begun to be looked down upon in today’s society. we are always moving forward so quickly, needing to be more and more productive each day that by seemingly being inactive causes us, and others, great distress. i catch myself doing this fairly often, especially in times of stress. if i’m not constantly working on something or planning my next step i feel as though i’m just wasting time. but, if i just gave myself a moment to be with my own thoughts i’d be much more productive. but doing nothing, is very hard to do. she also touches on how we have become disconnected from outside spaces and each other. we are now living in a series of interior spaces, from the house to the car to work and back.  “one lives in the whole world rather than in interiors built up against it.” walking allows us to reconnect with the idea of being in nature and being with ourselves.

she continues this idea of connecting with ourselves, because ‘in the experience of walking, each step is a thought. you can’t escape yourself.’ its this notion of what walking does for a person that leads into how the trend of walking for some kind of cause began. it began with the pilgrimage, or a sacred walk, “pilgrimage unites belief with action, thinking with doing, and it makes sense that this harmony is achieved with the sacred has material presence and location.” the body becomes a vessel for all the beliefs that the person has, making the private public through this gesture. for a long time, it was only religious based causes, but over many years it was able to evolve into something with more political content. solnit uses the Peace Pilgrim as an example, a women who dedicated her life to walking. originally she set out to walk 25,000 miles for peace and after accomplishing that hefty goal she just continued to walk but stopped keeping track of the miles. she wouldn’t bring anything with her aside from a few toiletries that could fit into her pocket, she relied on the kindness of others to help her sustain herself. this idea is what made her walks mean something, she walked for peace and that relies on others to give part of themselves to people they don’t know for the greater good. i think its great that someone is able to have that much trust in others, and that she really did do what she set out for. though there isn’t world peace, which who knows if it will ever happen, she made a very positive impact on the people she interacted with which is a step in the right direction.

what i found to be the most interesting was the next section of the book, lives of the streets. it is easier for me to relate to urban life then rural, not that tucson is super urbanized but its certainly not a tiny town. she draws a comparison between the two at the beginning of this section that really sums up the relationship that i know i have with the city. “the average rural walker looks at the general – the view, the beauty – and the landscape moves by as a gently modulated continuity: a crest long in view is reached, a forest thins out to become a meadow. the urbanite is on the lookout for particulars, for opportunities, individuals, and supplies, and the changes are abrupt.” anytime i have lived in a new neighborhood i do this, i go out on a walk to familiarize myself with the area and see what is nearby. and though i have lived close to 4th avenue for the past 4 years, i have very different places that i go to out of connivence. i could always be found at epic when i lived in west university, but now that i live in iron horse i go to caffe passe. they are only half a mile apart, but feel so very far apart. i don’t really cross 6th street that often, instead i found all the things that i need on my side of the road. there is still that instinctual part of us that looks knows that we need to know where food is, where shelter is, it’s just that now we do that from the comfort of our cars instead of using our legs.

she goes onto talk about this as well, the new way to get around is no longer to walk but to drive. and because of this there has been a serious decrease in public space. she compare cities to one another, how “most american cities and towns are organized around consumption and production, as were the dire industrial cities of england, and public space is merely the void between workplaces, shops and dwellings.” back, not too long ago, people would come out on saturday nights and just go for walks around plazas and streets. “the promenade is a special subset of walking with an emphasis on slow stately movement, socializing, and display. it is not a way of getting anywhere, but a way of being somewhere, and its movements are essentially circular… allows people to remain visually in public but verbally in private.”  there is a women she talked to that grew up in san francisco and can remember when she was young going out on these walks, that the streets would be full of people just going for a stroll up and down market street. there is a sense of community there, even if you’re not speaking to the person next to you. “the word citizen has to do with cities, and the ideal city is organized around citizenship – around participation in public life.” though these walks may not seem like they are changing anything, they are creating an active public life. there are people out and about which not only helps prevent crime, but also boosts the local economy though their purchases as well as a sense of community which i find to be severely lacking today. there was a demand for public spaces at this time because people were actually filling them, something that can still be seen in places like san francisco and new york but is a rare sight in tucson. 

this next portion of wanderlust really struck a chord with me. ever since i did walk 5 in which i took myself out on a date, i have been doing a lot of thinking about my role in todays society. though the status of women has progressed a lot from 50 years ago there are still things that haven’t changed. and what solnit discusses in the chapter, walking after midnight: women, sex, and public spaces, is still relevant today. she gives historical examples of women being subjected to unfair social standards and legalities.  in 1895, lizzie schauer was arrested as a prostitute because she was out alone after dark and asked two men for directions. she was on her way to her aunts house, but the very act of talking to these men was perceived as solicitation. they performed medical examinations to make sure that she could still be considered a ‘good girl’ and was so she was released. if she hadn’t been a ‘good girl’ she would have been charged with walking alone in the evening as well as having been sexually active. “the young men strolling on the streets think only that a woman of good reputation does not allow herself to be seen in the evening.” women would be arrested if seen out at a late hour, while men had the privilege to go out at any time, day or night, without judgement. though things are not this extreme now in america, there is still this sense of fear that is instilled in women of being alone at night. “two-thirds of american women are afraid to walk alone in their own neighborhoods at night, according to one poll, and another reported that half of british women were afraid to go out after dark alone and 40 percent were ‘very worried’ about being raped.”  we are socialized to be afraid instead of learning to be independent and take proactive measures to protect ourselves. 

it also got me thinking about other nations and how the freedom of going on a walk at any time day or night, man or women, is prohibited. there are national curfews and if they are not adhered to, there is the very serious and real risk of being arrested or death. i can only hope that one day this will change.

if walking is a primary cultural act and a crucial way of being in the world, those who have been unable to walk out as far as their feet would take them have been denied not merely exercise or recreation but a vast portion of their humanity.

wanderlust changed my thoughts on walking dramatically. i’ve always enjoyed going on them, they’ve always been a means of clearing my head and really being with myself. the history of walking and its evolution turned out to be much more fascinating then i thought it would be. but what was the most interesting part is knowing that i am not the first person to have used walking for these reasons. that i’m not only one who uses it as a means of collecting my thoughts or as a way of being both present and detached from the world around me.


infernal noise.
June 8, 2009, 6:55 pm
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i learned about the Infernal Noise Brigade last summer and it really struck a chord with me then, and still does today. sometime last fall, the loft opened a film called battle in seattle. it deals with the protests happening in seattle on november 30th, 1999, the same time in which the INB was gearing up for its debut.  while watching the film, i kept thinking about the articles i read during this class. especially the one written by jennifer whitney since it hold a first hand account of the events that lead up to and took place on that day. the director made the very smart decision to incorporate real footage from protestors and news crews, and in the background you can see the INB marching but you can definitely hear them playing. it was a really great experience to see them on the screen, and see how they really motivated the crowd. you get that sense because of the readings as well as the powerpoint presentation, but to see it for longer then a few seconds makes it very clear and unarguable. 


the idea behind the Infernal Noise Brigade of being the dope propaganda is great. they are reclaiming public space and actually making them for the people. the street is their venue instead of being in some gallery or museum space. it makes it more accessible for the masses, and is also really the only setting that this could really take place. anywhere else would just be odd, since they are trying to break up the differences created between art, politics and everyday life. there shouldn’t be any kind of division between these things, because all of them happen daily and need one another to grow. 


this time around i found the second article, affective composition and aesthetics: on dissolving the audience and facilitating the mob, to be much more interesting then the one written by jennifer whitney. i think its because it focuses more on the principals of political art instead of a personal account of the event. not that that isn’t interesting as well, but this one feels more insightful then it did the last time i read it. 


what i found most interesting about this is the idea of performance and how it can be used in different ways. what the INB does is break down the barrier between performance and art by taking music off the stage and into the crowd. they are no longer on that pedestal, and there is no longer a focal point. instead, the crowd becomes the focal point and everyone there is involved with the action instead of passively watching, they’ve become apart of the experience. they have used the idea of the spectacle to their advantage, by doing these lively performances they draw attention the themselves and their message.  “In order for political speech to cause affective resonance, conditions must exist for the audience to be able to identify with the speaker as well as possess a capacity to affect and be affected.”  they help create this kind of environment.


Political art is political not just through its content, but also in the way in which it is designed to work with or against the conventional circulation of ideas, images, and relations. In other words, forms of street art are not subversive simply because of the fact that they occur in the street, but rather because they unfold relations that resist the over-coding operations of the art institution and commodity production.


i think that the INB uses this idea of political art beautifully, and can be seen just in the pure fact that they are a marching band. for many people, their first associations with the marching band comes from war time and its use to motivate solders. they have re-appropriated what a marching is and can by, by using to help revitalize those who are protesting. it is still used as a motivator, but the audience it is targeting is much different then what it used to be. also, the kinds of music they draw inspiration from is from across the world which creates a multicultural experience.  by using music styles from anywhere and everywhere, it is a way of connecting people and making them apart of something bigger.   


the Infernal Noise Brigade does an amazing job at incorporating the people around them into their performances. i love the idea of interrupting routine with music. but especially, i enjoy how much fun they all seem to be having. they want to provide energy for the crowd and do so not only through their music but the positive energy they exude. 

sounding out the city.
May 31, 2009, 5:09 am
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as i write this now, i am listening to music. i constantly have it playing while i’m at home. it is usually the first thing i do when i wake up in the morning and the last thing i do before falling asleep. since i live alone, it seems to make me feel as though i’m not all by myself. it helps create a comfortable environment for me, and knowing that i can take that comfort with me anywhere is great. just like the other people in michael bull’s book, sounding out the city, i used my iPod as a means of hiding while in public and creating a space of security while traveling through the city. 

however, this time around what i found most interesting about the book is his discussion of consumer technologies becoming apart of our everyday life. immediately it made me think about the evolution that can be seen from the birth of the walkman. after the walkman came portable cd players and then mp3 players. and in the mist of all this change in how we are able to listen to music we have the creation of the cell phone and the birth of the internet. now we have iPhones and blackberries that double not only as just a cell phone but also a music player that allows us full access to the internet at all times. 

Using a personal stereo appears to constitute a form of company for her whilst she is alone, through its creation of a zone of intimacy and immediacy. 

through these progressions in technology, we have become able to create our own worlds that we can carry around with us anywhere and everywhere. not only does our music allow us to block out the rest of the world, but now with social networking programs like myspace and facebook and now twitter you have total control of who you allow into your world. you no longer need to actually say anything to have a conversation, you can arrive to your destination without ever having said a single word and spoken to half a dozen people.

headphones are a social signal that the person who is wearing them is not interested in conversation. and now seeing someone fiddling with their phone also gives this same idea. 

Along with her personal stereo she now has a mobile phone which she also claims not to be able to be without. The arsenal of mobile technology becomes her ‘lifeline’ whilst traversing those empty but potentially fearful public spaces.

with these advancements in technology, we are now more connected to each other then every before. but at the same time, we have created these cocoons that enables us to maintain physical relationships. we are able to to go months without physically seeing a person and know what is happening in their life thanks to facebook. which doesn’t seem like a good direction to be moving in to me.