the ornithogrinarium - Ψυχῆς ἰατρεῖον

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

mark kingwell, concrete reveries, 2008.

ii. Freedom in a Frame.

(I reprint this for the glittering prose. For engagement with ideas please see Factory Supervisor)

It is easy to forget that concrete was lauded in the same revolutionary terms, and by the same visionaries, as the modernist material of choice, glass. Glass walls, Bruno Taut enthused, make a house "a vessel for the divine ... a salutation of the stars." Oskar Schlemmer, writing in 1929, said, "I have seen the future," and it is a dream of "a perfected glass culture." Walter Benjamin, a year later, went farther, or from transcendent to Practical-political, anyway: "To live in a glass house," he said, "is a revolutionary virtue par excellence." Both were surely influenced by Paul Scheerbart's 1914 treatise on the use of glass in architecture, which dismissed the retrograde baselines of "brick architecture and wooden furniture," and the stuffiness of closed rooms.

Glass, newly reliable and cheap, the not-true-solid of molten sand made into sugar, delighted the seers of modernism's first moments. It was transparent and light, freedom in a frame. It allowed, for the first time, practical efforts to realize Walter Gropius's maxim of modern architecture--that it should fashion the void, not the mass. Just as music arises from, and subsides into, silence, sustained along its temporal course by the nothingness between the notes, so buildings should sculpt the spaces of life, the insides and outsides and in-betweens, by way of negative gestures, removals and obliquities: Architecture should disappear itself, in effect, in achievement of success.

Within this invisibility, seeing becomes possible for the first time. Schoenberg on Alfred Loos, at his death, noted that his interiors treated space three-dimensionally, seeing every object "from all sides simultaneously ... as though it were made of glass." Le Corbusier's much-quoted dictum that a house is a machine for living in may be offset by a less familiar one: that a house, if generously opened up by glass, is a body x-rayed by the sun. Skeleton and muscles and tubes all show themselves in their beautiful functionality. More explicit utopian architectural projects went farther, seeing a host of changes all lined up as part of the glorious emancipated, thrilling and, above all, speed-geeked future to come. Antonio Sant'Elia's futurist urban vision, for example, was structured by comprehensive changes in materials, offering "surrogates for wood, stone and brick" in the up-to-date forms of "reinforced concrete, iron, glass, cardboard, fibre." (The laborers who hauled the Empire State Building into being were more practical: At the base of the world's then tallest building, they installed medallions celebrating elevators, machines, decoration--and concrete.)

Glass has lost much of this philosophical traction for reasons similar to but less obvious than those afflicting concrete. Philip Johnson's Glass House in New Canaan, Connecticut, probably marks the end of that optimistic era, the prophet of the International Style himself a casualty of the banalities to come. Glass falls victim to its own success, rising often in the prosaic condominium towers along the ocean- and lakefronts everywhere, the same floor-by-floor deployment that drains glass of its revolutionary potential even as it floods the spaces with light. Glass is thus annexed to the unreflective reproduction of spaces, in office towers, high-rise apartment blocks and shopping malls that are "modular, unitary, and sanitized," in the words of Rem Koolhaas. Here the use of "brick, tile, plastic, stainless steel, composition board hung from suspended ceilings, and unpainted concrete" allow the practical desire--to lower costs and build quickly--to desguise an ideological desire, namely to erode through bland efficiency all traces of human inhabitation or particularity. The resulting constructions are nonspaces, an escape from possibility of meaning.
The situation of consciousness is patterned and checkered by sleep and waking need only be transferred from the individual to the collective ... Architecture, fashion--yes, even the weather--are, in the interior of the collective, what the sensoria of organs, the feeling of sickness or health, are inside the individual. And so long as they preserve this unconscious, amorphous dream configuration, they are as much natural processes as digestion, breathing, and the like. They stand in the cycle of the eternally selfsame, until the collective seizes upon them in politics and history emerges. -Walter Benjamin

Monday, October 27, 2008

Thursday, October 23, 2008


My fish got a real tank rather than a bowl because the one that died in the castle weighs heavily on my soul. The new tank has a lovely quiet filter and non-lethal decoration. The fish are happy and healthy but the water is cloudy, making the whole thing look like shit, for now. Please take heart in the image of the happy fish.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008


I have one main, shitty, relationship story. I revolves around this person who now hates me. For a while we were in all the right places at all the right times together, and I would hear him say something from behind some other person's philosophy hairball, or I would look at him, and he would make jokes about the tattoos on his wrists, and I would smile and then get up and leave. He was hurt badly, and sensitively hated a lot of things. Lots of the time what he was saying didn't make sense to me, though the emotional gist was clear. I liked his vulnerability but he scared the shit out of me. Sometimes I would shut down, would not be able to respond, and we would hurt each other with the separate ways that we felt awful.

At a certain point no matter what we did, or where we went it was awful. I just frustrated him. X were bad, but he was in to a fuck of a lot of them, including, he was happy to point out, a, b, c, d, but mostly e and f, and would remind me not to say anything about it, because I had no idea, could not know, he was not even going to begin to explain to someone like me, but I should really find some people to explore with, everything else was meaningless. Or else he'd been wasting too much time and was busy, now, why the had he been wasting his time with those people. Adjusting to a move is hard, I'd said, exploration makes you richer, I've heard the first year of grad school is the worst. He was acing assignments in an area in which his experience had been read in a misrepresentative way. Other things. I was impossible. He was fed up. I was mad.

He was the person who got me to see a psychiatrist the first time, and to get me out when it was doing more harm than good, and was doing something at 3 am a continent away when I thought the sky was falling, and it was him, not my best friend, that talked me in to going to the hospital, though I'm not sure what good that did except hook me up with my psychologist, who thought the shit I was talking in the emergency room was something to invest in. I don't think I miss him for ever bailing me out, I miss him for the way he thought about the world, and maybe for his skin, for his entirely unique and painfully constructed thought forms.

I spent a lot of time in the hospital feeling awful about how I made him feel bad, and how I was too immature, too stupid, to empathize, really, with what he was going through. I was a shitty friend, and I cried about it. I sat on the floor and wanted to kill myself for what I'd done, fairly rationally even, between waves of anti-depressant induced agitation that for several weeks kept me twisted up around myself, rocking and drinking ice water, unable to listen to tv or radio without thinking they contained paraleptic messages listing reasons I should die.

The night nurse thought my state was pathetic, "take this, if you don't you want to kill yourself by 3 in the afternoon," but the student nurses during the day wouldn't give out anything to lessen the symptoms, those were controlled and potentially addictive, see, and the doctor increased the anti-depressant in great weekly leaps.

There's no getting over what I did to him, on either of our sides. But I miss him, often. I try to be more open, more sensitive, to the people I meet. I try to find things I can help, not enough even for little kitty things, and remember more often than not I need to get out of the way.

photo via chagrin.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

they tell us we look alike

This cat, Tessa, is terrified, so mostly she stays in my bedroom, or on her perch in the closet. When I open the door, I have to say, "it's me," or she will give me a shout to make sure everything is okay. I wonder if this is how feral cat colonies work. She was born at the cat shelter, and was returned seven years later a matted up stray. She stayed there for two months, until they force fed her because she'd stopped eating. She has a microchip in her ear, but her family's phone number is disconnected, and no one has come looking for her. I ask her about them, but she's not giving anything up. She just looks at me with her clear green eyes, pupils dilating. She startles at things no one else can see or hear. I anthropomorphize her. I wonder if she's had her heart broken, if she feels abandoned, if this is rebound anxiety now that she knows she has a head scratcher on retainer, and I'm not going to make her do anything she doesn't want. They say cats are formal creatures, whose respect must be nurtured. She trusts me only a little bit.

I'm less worried now that she's ventured out into the room and is eating. I say I like cats because they don't talk.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

cats hate grammar

It's true, they've managed to puke a piss on my last two purchases, lovely volumes both, in English and in French. It never ceases to amaze me what a little body can eject from itself. I try to be careful with my books, knowing that cats hate them, but I have a lot of books. Lucky for the placticized university library ones...

Wednesday, October 15, 2008


The new foster cat is depressed. She does not want to eat and hides under my bed. I put on Nick Cave, The Boatman's Call, for her and went out to garden. On returning, I explained that her extremely unfortunate name, Teriyaki should immediately be to changed to Tessa, or Tara, and put on Cat Power while she wandered out and began the process of moving in by rubbing against the furniture and nibbling at her cat grass. She likes to hear how pretty she is.

Monday, October 13, 2008

four reasons to love zulieka

One, two, three, four.

lucky 13

I titrated down and off my antidepressant, by myself. Filling out a government form, I took a hard look at the past seven months and decided I was hurting too much. The prescribing doctor seemed not to be hearing me (actually, when asked about it she said she wasn't interested in seeing patients with my diagnosis and thank fucking God she won't have to deal with me anymore), there's the decade's long family history of poor response to said medications, and a couple odd symptoms on the patient information sheet suggested a negative reaction, alone or due to the combination with the antipsychotic. Decreasing the dosage in half-steps, the bad bits fell away. There's no longer a mess of sensitivity to noise, anger, over-adrenalized, paranoid delusions of reference, suicidal ideation.   A tiny sigh of yaay for carefully achieved victories.  

.... PubMed search on this particular monotherapy plus condition to be treated suggests that there are recent studies (2007-08) that draw strong support in theory, and that hospital prescribing (including off-label, making available longer-term data), suggests a population in with I'd be typical and in probably very good standing for a positive response in my main problem areas. Weird.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

omg awesome

Ravishing Beasts is currently developing a new Buy & Sell section, which will be available shortly. Do you have a secret taxidermy desire? Have you inherited a derelict beast that gives you the creeps? Or maybe the backrooms of your museums are overflowing with unwanted creatures that need a better home.

a site about taxidermy

diminished capacity and animal rights

Despite obvious differences between humans and nonhuman animals, we share with them a capacity to suffer, and this means that they, like us, have interests. If we ignore or discount their interests, simply on the grounds that they are not members of our species, the logic of our position is similar to that of the most blatant racists or sexists who think that those who belong to their race or sex have superior moral status, simply in virtue of their race or sex, and irrespective of other characteristics or qualities. Although most humans may be superior in reasoning or in other intellectual capacities to nonhuman animals, that is not enough to justify the line we draw between humans and animals. Some humans—infants and those with severe intellectual disabilities—have intellectual capacities inferior to some animals, but we would, rightly, be shocked by anyone who proposed that we inflict slow, painful deaths on these intellectually inferior humans in order to test the safety of household products.

several years old, here. Via The Good Psychologist.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

mom says cold medicine is dangerous

For me, on all my crazy meds. So I'm drinking two teaspoons of manuka honey, the juice of a small lemon, and a few drops of tea tree oil in a cup of boiling water. I always figure out something. Instant television commentary - I laugh when Neela on ER says, "Are you a sociopath, a sadist, stoned?" - that's totally going in my imaginary speech to the psychiatrist.

This thing, that I am drank, seems to have substantive mind clearing properties.

university makes me want to cry like a baby

It's so boring. Just when I start finding out interesting things, I go to lecture and want to bash my head into the table because it's so so boring. And philosophy class, the "boy" class, where they, boys as individuals, like to nurture the belief that they are smarter than Descartes and Spinoza, who are full of shit. That's what is called a "delusion of grandeur," no? Then there's the "girl" class, where you'd better speak in politically correct sound bites learned in the other class you've already taken covering, by the sounds of it, the exact same things you're learning in this class. Why are you fucking in this class? Did I miss the part where they announced the major in selfrighteousness? Don't you want to learn anything? Nevermind, sorry, not your fault, it's not as though the prof will understand what you are saying if you don't use her exact words to answer her. Really, though, does your politics so perfectly define you? If so, I'm jealous. I'm so frustrated by the amount of time this all takes up, time I could spend reading much more interesting things. Cuddling kittens would be more interesting.


The new fish, Molly, has survived antibiotic treatment and now looks healthy. I think that's pretty cool. I also think that perhaps Molly may be a boy fish, and may be trying to mate with Leopold who may be a girl fish. Or else they're fast friends who like to copy each other's movements and knock into each other a lot. Hm.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

fuck the black box warning

I should've been born with, "antidepressants may be used as a form of psychological torture," stamped on my ass.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

goldfish update

The new fish is still alive, and healthier looking. I've been feeling questionable, cutting lines of antibiotic into its modified water jug hospital. I wonder how much now I need the animals to not feel guilty for the help I'm getting, how much is a need to spread affection to quasi-willing recipients, how much is relief from paranoia in things that don't use words. I peer at her in the corner where she's hiding, colour faded from the low light, and remember I put that thing there so she'd at least have a place to hide. I'm not so sure she's happy for her life, and I hope she calms down a bit when she gets to move in with the other fish.

Monday, October 6, 2008


The foster cat has found a new home with a gentle and playful lady and her husband. I am very happy for the cat, who has been a very dear and sweet friend.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

they still seem somewhat miraculous

Finally the green unripe tomatoes had to be picked to ripen on windowsills and in the dark under towels. They have, very quickly. They're not as firm as they would have been had they ripened on the vine but they are big, juicy, and velvety, with nicely balanced acidity. They are surprisingly good.

Friday, October 3, 2008


I feel a certain loyalty to the words that have instantiated strange new worlds for me. It happens rarely; I am dull. Hence I have been e-stalking Anne Carson. Apparently now she has a lover who is a conceptual artist. Maybe her new poems speak a private language of theirs, I hope not necessarily.

academic biography by Ian Rae

much more rewarding interview, "Magical Thinking", 2006

"Introduction," Electra, 2001

Glass, Irony and God, 1995

collaboration, "Stacks", 2008

poem, Tag, 2008

Right now, I'd say my favourite are the notes in the back of her beautiful and sensuous translation of Sappho's fragmentary poetry, If Not, Winter, followed closely by the adaptation of Ms Carson's dissertation, Eros the Bittersweet.

need to revize

Cat has done no wrong - Ruykin has been found, apparent victim of the Neufishstein Castle. Sadly I have helped fish out of this situation before.

update: have installed bubbles, rather than a new fish. Am officially a bleeding heart - I bought a sick fish and am attempting to nurse it back to health in a "hospital" water jug, having adapted a syringe as a y joint to "share" bubbles. If the fish lives I plan to name the two of them Molly and Leopold.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008


"Shade and Darkness - The Evening of the Deluge"