Thursday, April 28, 2005

Heavy Trash is at it Again

Guerrilla Art Group Mocks Exclusive L.A. Enclaves
By Howard Breuer Tue Apr 26, 8:49 PM ET

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - In a city where fame is an industry and privacy is a mark of privilege, guerrilla artists have erected mock guard towers to protest what they see as a disturbing proliferation of gated communities.

Heavy Trash, a coalition of anonymous architects, designers and urban planners, erected the bright orange, 12-foot viewing platforms outside the gates of three upscale Los Angeles neighborhoods. "Walling off one section of the city from another section is not the right solution," said a Heavy Trash member who identified himself as Jake, an inner-city developer.

"We feel that gated communities are becoming popular at a very alarming rate, and that 10 to 20 years from now, people will realize that the gates are an anathema to a democratic, open society, and that they instead make for a more fearful society."

Early on Sunday morning, members of the group dressed in orange vests and driving construction trucks delivered the platforms to the gates of Brentwood Circle, Park La Brea and Laughlin Park, said group member Susan, an architect. The artists' Web site, , says that people "do not want walled fortresses dividing their neighborhoods or blocking off what would otherwise be public streets and sidewalks."

It also cites poet Robert Frost: "Something there is that does not love a wall/That wants it down ..."


Passersby said on Tuesday they did not understand the wooden towers' purpose until it was explained, and there was little evidence of anyone trying out the platforms.

"It was very puzzling to me," said Ed Vane, 77, a resident of the Laughlin Park subdivision near Griffith Park. "The first time I saw it, I thought it was some kind of street expression. Then I thought it was for cutting tree limbs, but that didn't hold up either."

He added that although there are gates and walls outside the community's private streets, one doesn't need a tower to see the houses on the other side. He said his homeowners association planned to have the tower removed. Passerby Gail Smith, who lives near the gated community, said she thought the large orange tower was part of a construction project, "but then it wouldn't go away. "I'm not sure I agree with putting stuff down on somebody else's property," Smith said, adding she doesn't care if some communities build gates.

This isn't the first time the artists have mocked what they see as urban elitism.

In 2000, Heavy Trash erected eight billboards touting a fictional "Metro Aqua" subway line that would reach the beach, various museums and Beverly Hills.

And in 1997, Heavy Trash installed a 2,000-pound staircase providing temporary access to a park that city officials walled off to keep out the homeless.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

May Manners - Preview

been so busy i forgot to put this up earlier. don't forget to pick up the Iowa Source which is now online!!!! Eastern Iowa's Most Enlightening Magazine and it's Free

Dear Meg

Perhaps you could help me with some polite ways to say, "I don't want to answer that question." One doesn't want to just rebuke the person with "none of your beeswax" or something. The question, "why do you want to know?" has been suggested to me as an "answer". Then if they say, "just curious" you say nothing further. What do you think? Thank you very much.


Dear B.E.,

You are correct in assuming you should not say "none of your beeswax", although under certain circumstances I've been tempted to use the phrase myself. The time a mutual party attendee asked if my black and white Norma Kamali jumpsuit meant that I was trying to impersonate Boy George springs to mind but I did take the high road. Ahhh, fashion in the early 80's.

Different people have different ideas of what is approporiate in any given situation. The most decent thing to do in an event like the one you've described is to affirm the questioner and then deflect the attention from yourself. For instance, if the individual does say "just curious", rather than remain silent you could say "thanks for your interest but I'd much rather find out more about you. " This way you don't appear cold nor do you run the risk of hurting the feelings of someone who is probably just attempting to strike up an innocent albeit awkward conversation. Being kind is always good manners, not to mention a beneficial social skill.

Thanks for writing, B.E. and have fun.



Dear Meg,

I started smoking cigarettes again. It's crazy. I know it's bad for me. All my friends, not to mention my family, are mad at me. I just can't stop. I quit 3 years ago so I know I can do it again but I'm under a lot of pressure at work and I just don't want to. How can I get all these
do-gooders off my back?


Dear Nell,

Run for the high holy hills with a couple of cartoons, a Zippo and some lighter fluid? No wait,
we don't have an abundance of high hills in Iowa and the hip thing to do these days is roll your own. If you decide you're into this for an extended period of time, you might look into growing your own. This way you could avoid patronizing the “7 dwarfs” of the corporate tobacco industry and, perhaps, while studying up on seeds, soil and climate control you could become so diverted by this new hobby, the desire for nicotine might disappear entirely.

Smoking is a hard habit to break, Nell, and it’s a behavior that affects others. It’s little wonder the people who care about you are miffed. My advice is to stop this insanity right now! Smoking damages nearly every organ in the human body, is linked to at least 10 different cancers, and accounts for an estimated 30% of all cancer deaths. In the meantime, be considerate of those around you, okay? Never light up around others before asking if it will bother them. Never exhale your smoke in the direction of another. This rule applies to animals, as well. Always deposit your “leftovers” in an appropriate container (potted plant containers don't count). If you are going to be jetting around on foot, carry along a used mint tin in your shirt, bag or pants pocket to use instead.

BTW, there has been a big revival in hookah parlor smoking (tobacco, I mean) in larger metropolitan areas. A few of these have opened in our fair state. This might be a good solution if you decide to proceed. Do check out the etiquette of such a spot first.Parlors have a culture all their own and you want to be respectful of that. Be well. No kidding.


Sunday, April 24, 2005

For Almost a Year

Wow. The weather is beautiful outside today and I'm thinking about how lucky I am to stilll have people in my life who have known me for a few years who still care about me enough to read this blog. When I first decided to write it (thanks for the push, LEC) I sent out a notice to every single email I had in my address book w/ the very-much-a-joke promo line "shameless self promotion rocks". Jeez, some folks actually took that seriously and I got a little heat for not having enough humility. Oh well.

Anyway, I've been at this thing for better or worse for almost a year (lots of it for the worst) and I'll be danged if it isn't my oldest pals who seem to be my faithful readers. For an aging chick who landed in the middle of the country at the age of 31 and just sort of stuck it out, I'm pretty amazed at this. Most of my dearest friends have moved away but they're still interested in what's going on with me which is more than moderately miraculous to me. Whoa, I'm counting my blessings.

My family is rather exceptional, BTW. Have I mentioned that recently. My mother is wheeling around the rehab ward of the hospital giving the staff a run for their money. She's looking out for her roommate, Annie, who isn't as lucky as she is in terms of family support. I think its helpful for my mother to have Annie to care for as well. That's what we're supposed to, isn't it? We all take care of and look out for one another.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Being Pretty Specific

So I just met w/ my therapist. I really dig the guy. We had a long dicussion about how difficult it is the take the high road but at the end of the day going to bed with some integrity is well worth it. It's refreshing to have a male therapist who points out how misogynist so much of our culture is and understands that this makes my life cirumstances especially difficult right now.

I mentioned to him the thing about how I usually don't think anyone is ever attracted to me and that I believe it's much safer not to presume anything being said has much to do with you unless someone is saying it directly to you and is being pretty specific. Anyway, he told me about a study which was pretty irritating. It said that most men interpret sheer politenesss from women as flirtation of some kind whereas woman are far less likely to see politeness as anything but good manners.

This freaked me out because it confirmed my intuititon that a number of men I've met and been polite or friendly to in the past three years no doubt thought I was coming on to them. Jeez, I've been fairly clear if I wanted to socialize with someone of the opposite sex and generally I just was trying to make a new friend. I've asked a couple of guys out for coffee but, oh dear, never again. I'd like to date but I'm not asking another man that's for sure.

Good grief, now I'm a little afraid to be polite to any of them.

One more sweet thing about my therapist. I asked him if the person who will be replacing him is as smart as he is. He dodged the question. I got frightened because I've looked around for a long time for someone good who is both clever and empathetic. Turns out he just didn't want to say yes about my replacement because he was trying to deflect my compliment about how smart he is.


Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Boo Hiss, Vatican

I'd be ashamed to call myself a Catholic right about now. I have this theory that some people subconsciously behave or become the names they are given. Nuff said about the new Pope.

Me, I love making art with eggs and I like clean white walls, white sheets, shirts and simple stuff. I least I try to.

Anyway boo hiss on the Vatican. What is wrong with this world right now?

On a happier note, I've been listening to John Hiatt again and I forgot how much I love him. Is "Thank You, Girl" one of the most romantic songs ever written or what? Most guys just don't get it.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

I Emphasize the Word....

I was wondering today when the first blog diaries would begin to be published in print. I'm so out of that world this may already be happening and I just haven't heard a word about it. Now that I've written this, I'll no doubt start to read about things as this is what happens. There's no magic involved. When you focus on something, it's perfectly naturally to have a heightened awareness of it. This is the logic behind theories of manifestation or so-called magical thinking. This does not mean that they do not work. Quite the contrary. Think about it. Read what I've written again if you need to. Perhaps I need to do this? Perhaps, I've spent a little too little time sleeping or something (hey, it's not what you think!). My kingdom for a goodnight's sleep.

Okay, next.....

The article in today's Times about Hunter S. Thompson's last days made me feel sick to my stomach and, frankly, a little bit ashamed to call myself a writer. It's not that I don't have empathy and pity for the guy and how much he suffered. In truth, I have much more for his family and friends. What a dismal legacy of pain and grief he left.

I never cared much for his work once I passed the age of 13. I've always hated guns and violence. The most violent thing I've ever down in my life was mock hit (I emphasize the word mock) a man when we were going through a very painful break-up. Bad glam boys and their ridiculous bravado. These guys scare the beejesus out of me. That's a darn good thing. My goodness, I used to actually find it moderately attractive. I emphasize the word used.

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Kelly's Photos

Sweet Kelly who moved to Queens now has her photography on a website. I'm encouraging everyone to check it out:

More art girls from Iowa making good?

Friday, April 15, 2005

Article by a Friend

I'm posting this article by my friend, Laura, without her permission. I hope she will forgive me, she's done it more than once. Plus I mostly wanted to show off her work as it's Iowa Gals make good month.

from The Witness, June 2002

'I want to organize and agitate, but I also want to pray'

by Laura E. Crossett

In 1969, a group of students at Grinnell College turned the American flag upside down as a protest against the Vietnam War. My father, then a professor at Grinnell, spent a good part of the next two days standing beneath the flag, hand on the halyard, to prevent anyone from doing so again.

My mother told me this story when I was a freshman in high school and en route to a protest against the Persian Gulf War. I pointed out that, had I been there, I probably would have been one of the people trying to turn the flag upside down. "Yes," she said. "You and your father would have disagreed about a number of things. Call if you need to be bailed out."

Mostly I tell this as a funny story, but in fact I've been thinking about it for many years--turning a flag upside down may not seem like much, but in Grinnell, Iowa, it's a very extreme tactic. As an activist, I am constantly thinking about how to proceed -- about how to make the best strategic decision, about how to be true to yourself and what you believe, about how to reconcile the difference between those who just want to witness and those who want to print everything in Impact font, and how to do this all in the face of what seem like overwhelming odds -- in the face of a system -- call it global capitalism, call it what you will -- that seems relentlessly determined to crush most of what I consider precious in the world.

A few days after September 11, I put Phil Ochs's song "The War is Over" on my stereo on continuous repeat, and I've been listening to it almost every day since.

One might say, quite accurately, that I was being a little premature. But Ochs wrote the song in 1967, when the Vietnam War had not even reached its peak. In those years, the people trying to end the war were going increasingly nuts. They'd moved from protest to resistance: It wasn't enough to rally on the streets; they had to shut down induction centers. It wasn't enough to march on Washington; they had to try to levitate the Pentagon. Eventually, for some, it wasn't enough until they'd given their whole lives to the struggle, until they were fighting in the streets, destroying property, trying to bring the war home.

Yet what Ochs needed in 1967 was to declare that the war was over, and what I needed, even back in September, even as I was helping to build a new anti-war movement, was to hear that the war was a state of mind: that if I believed it enough, the war could be over.
I didn't mention this to the people I was working with: people who believed we just had to write enough letters, or get enough people to a demonstration, or dismantle the war machine and the forces of globalization by any means necessary.

I know kids now who are involved in Black Bloc. I don't join them: I can't. When I can, I try to persuade them that smashing up the windows of Starbucks, while satisfying in a certain way, is not going to help -- and that undoubtedly that destruction will have to be cleaned up by low-wage laborers -- the very people whose side (I'd like to think) we are on. But I know also that there are days when I want to smash things, as much as there are days when I want to move to the mountains, become a hermit, and pray. When we evaluate the actions of others, we must take care to make a very careful distinction between the action and the people behind that action, and we need to try to understand the ways in which the systems which surround that person have led to the kinds of actions they've taken. We must strive as well to try to understand, respect, and deal with the terrible toll that living in this world and working to resist and change its systems can take on us.

I don't know what ended the Vietnam War (supposing, that is, that it did in fact end), or what it will take to end this war, or to stop the global economic forces that lie behind it. I want to get out there and educate and organize and agitate, but I also want to pray: I want to believe that believing in a better world is the best way possible to change it.

Where the balance between these is, I do not know. I know only that we must, if we want to change the world, first change ourselves, and practice forgiveness.

Laura E. Crossett is a 26-year-old writer and activist. Most recently, she's worked with University of Iowa Students Against Sweatshops, with a local anti-war coalition, Iowans For Peace, and with the UI's graduate employee union, UE Local 896-COGS.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Problem With the Problem Page?

The blogger home page just cracked me up with its "problem with the problem page" notice as you log in. Is that my problem? Have I had a problem with my problem with my problem page for far too long? One can never be quite certain about these things.

I was really overjoyed last night to discover, once again, how a very small thing can make me so happy. I was getting ready to do my dishes and listening to the radio. That program from City Lights Book Store in SF came on and Wendell Berry was the featured guest. I danced a little jig in front of the sink. For any long term blog readers out there, you might recall that his poetry book on farming is almost a daily read for me and the closet thing to a bible I have. Okay, okay I have slacked up on that one a bit but the man is such a long time hero. I cannot wait to read his book of essays due out in this Fall.

In other news, I'm still pounding the 'ol job pavement but have a few interesting irons in the fire. My writing, although I think it is getting worse, seems to be liked by others. I have to stop telling people I'm unemployed. Writing is an occupation for goodness sake. Just because it does fit into the go-go paradigm of American capitalist form-over-content culture does not mean it is not a legitimate thing to be doing with one's time.

Happy to note that the Iowa Writer's Workshop has named its first non-white and female director ever to head the program. Happy to note that long time IWP professor Marilynne Robinson received the Pulizter Prize in fiction. What a great month for us girls here in the heartland.

NPR seems to be banking on its listeners having almost no ability to remember anything. On Talk of the Nation tomorrow they are actually having a show on how McDonalds has revolutionized the fast food eating culture. Good grief.