A History of the Great Wild West of America
The story of Chicago and its hinterland is one of the wildest histories of socio-economic growth you will encounter. In our time perhaps only comparable with the rapid growth of the Chinese economy and population. The story of Chicago is perhaps also the most revealing story to understand the American Dream and American Exceptionalism on one hand and the depravity of American capitalism on the other hand.
In 1830, Chicago barely did exist, but in the minds of a few so-called boosters or land speculators and a dozen early settlers. In 1840, Chicago had grown over 500% and counted a little over 4,000 settlers. Fifty years later, Chicago boasted over a million citizens and in the 1890 census had become the second largest city in the United States, after New York City. It was selected as the site for the World’s Columbian Exhibit in 1893 that commemorated the arrival of Columbus in the continent 400 years earlier, and surpassed in grandeur even the World’s Fair or Exposition Universelle of 1889 in Paris. The Chicago Exhibit became the site of the original Ferris Wheel that outdid the Eiffel Tower. Chicago had become the beginning and end station for all rail road routes in the United States, had centered the meat packing industry and the agricultural industry, but also had become the crime capital and witness to deplorable labor circumstances and exploitation. (more…)
Can neuroscience help us understand Art?
One of my favorite garage punk songs by English artists is the Headcoats’ ‘Art or Arse’ with Billy Childish (from Tracey Emin). With a little stretch of mind, it raises the question of all times, ‘What is Art?’. One proposition to investigate this question is to look at the neural activity during an aesthetic experience. One of the two opponents at the ‘Can neuroscience help us understand art?’ debate at NYU’s Casa Italiana, Gabrielle Starr, studied the brain activity. One of her findings is a peak activity of the occidental lobe or visual processing and the striatum or reward system of the brain. Her opponent in the debate was Alva Noe , a philosopher who spoke out against the presumption that neuroscience can help us understand the true value of art. (more…)
James Turrell’s Light and Space Odyssey at the Guggenheim
James Turrell’s latest light work is nothing less than a visual and spacial metamorphosis of the iconic spiral of the Guggenheim into a living set of Space Odyssey 2001 where the viewer is transcended up to the ovals above.
By blending the space into the art by his use of light, James Turrell (1943-present) equally absorbs the viewer, placing us immediately into the center of the installation. Aten Reign (2013) was especially designed for the rotunda of the Guggenheim. The inner space has been closed from the outer space by a soft white fabric along the full length of the spiraling gallery. The inner space has been carefully recreated and molded into a evenly shaped cone, while the original spiral effect of line and circle, has been projected onto the ceiling and flattened into a set of embedded oval hues. Around this inner cave of false shadows, runs the original spiral designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, but it has now become an empty row, a gallery of space itself, which has been revealed in its bare original beauty, and walking through it, gives you the feeling of walking through the exoskeleton of both Turrell’s and Wright’s parallel universes. (more…)
Bestsellers in Polyglot New York
The Myth of American Exceptionalism
French philosopher Alexis de Tocqueville formulated an opinion of America that Americans still strongly believe in today, the myth of American Exceptionalism. It argues that while Europe and other continents have suffered from internal strive between nation states and ethnical conflict, America takes an exceptional position in the world, being a country of immigrants who are united by the common fulfillment of opportunity and the equality guaranteed by the constitution and democracy.
In the New York Times this weekend an article by Sam Tanenhaus, In Texas Curriculum Fight, Identity Politics Leans Right analyzing the ‘cultural war’ in America between progressives and conservatives.
The article refers to an influential essay The Search for Southern Identity by Vonn Woodward, an American historian.
This Land, Unseen Corners of America
This Land is a weekly column by Dan Barry for the New York Times with in-depth stories about American towns and people.
Keeping Your Distance: American Proxemics
Edward T. Hall, anthropologist and author of The Hidden Dimension (1966), first coined the term, “proxemics” in the early 1960s. The concept deals mainly with how people set up personal and social spaces and interpersonal distances. One of the interesting assumptions, of which humans have been well aware of for centuries, is that different cultures have different rules of keeping distances, that is, the distance between two or more individuals is culturally set. The violation of these spatial rules will put one in trouble. Thus, one can say that the American expression of stepping on one’s toes is probably connected more to distancing than to corporal punishment. In fact breaking established social norms for distancing could be interpreted as something far more serious.
Americans have been said to have closer distancing than, let’s say Germans, and yet, Latin Americans will consider Americans as people who maintain considerable more distance from each other. Apparently, it is this sense of cultural relativity that has attracted and intrigued anthropologists and psychologists to the study of proxemics.
It is most stimulating to observe Americans, and also the various strains of newly arrived Hispanics from Mexico, Dominican Republic, Cuba and Puerto Rico, in these space related close encounters. I, being Puerto Rican, was perturbed one day, after having recently arrived in the States from living in Puerto Rico. I was back again in the “land of the free” after thirteen years on the Island. I asked some fellow in a gasoline station for directions. I had lost my bearing in the drive from Orlando International Airport to Gainesville, Florida. When I posed my question, the person became quite startled and backed off a little. But I just moved towards him making no thought of why he acted the way he did. (more…)
All The Pies
It was Monday morning, maybe that’s what started the fight over all the pies. Like always, everybody was sitting around the diner having a cup of coffee or a couple of eggs, getting ready for work. And, like always, nobody looked very happy about it.
Rosie was grumbling that her old man, who was out back fixing something, hadn’t cleaned the grill right. She said she wasn’t getting squat for tips that morning and it wasn’t her fault if the eggs were coming out smoky. Joann, who was sitting next to me, was agreeing with that, saying her ex-boyfriend was always a bastard about his eggs. Me, who was throwing my good eye on Joann, was agreeing with her, saying that smoky eggs could be tasty. A couple of truckers who were passing through were sitting up front bitching about the cops on I-95. Harry was hunched over his baseball scores with nothing to say, as the Reds had lost. Down the far end, Big Rick was quiet too, looking thorough his receipts book, scowling and scratching his goatee. Down the other end, as far away from Big Rick as you could sit, Dom, huge and hairy as a buffalo, was plunked down on his stool. Sitting next to Dom was his son, Eddie. The kid’s about 16, and skinny as a beanpole standing sideways. He doesn’t say much, but when he does it’s usually something goofy.
Now, the standard story is that Big Rick and Dom hate each other’s guts on purely business grounds: each guy says the other is a stinking bastard that scrounged him out of customers and so he wants to kill him. Fair enough. Other folks claim that milk had nothing to do with it, and that the bad blood between them is because both were boinking that hot number Sarah Jennings. I mean, why else would she need two milkmen, right? Well, however it was, each guy thought the other guy was plowing his tomato patch, and so finally they locked horns. It was down to ‘world famous’ Charlie-O’s one night, and legend is that sexy Sarah was waitressing. Folks that saw it said it was like a hurricane that started in the bar, flew out onto the sidewalk, then went ripping down Main Street. I suppose that one’s a stretcher, but even the next day’s newspaper said how those two put a whole shift of cops in the hospital. (more…)
How to navigate the river of a son named David
at the hot time of day is what we want to know
and we don√É¬≠t hear the knock.
I dream we are in the bedroom.
We don’t know what to do in Africa
but love each other and walk the beach.
Andrew loves the brown women, lets tide
somersault him in undertow, loves the tormenting market,
sniffs pineapples for the sweetest. (more…)
They met where the south marched north,
where crosses sullenly blaze
and men shoot guns.
We drove in silent marvel down roads
where pigs mutter in front yards
and dead deer hang from the trees.
We were to turn at the town store, easy to miss,
disguised as post office and gas station.
The light was almost out of the day
when we finally found the church.
The glossy brown oak leaves
drained somber like the sky. (more…)