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Friday, 30 May 2014

Walter Benjamin: Theological-Political Fragment (the rhythm of messianic nature is happiness)


Skeleton (female), Leinster Medical School, Dublin (photographer at left?): photo by John Joseph Clarke, c. 1897-1904 (Clarke Collection, National Library of Ireland)

Only the Messiah himself completes all history, in the sense that he alone redeems, completes and creates its relation to the messianic. For this reason, nothing that is historical can relate itself, from its own ground, to anything messianic. Therefore, the Kingdom of God is not the telos of the historical dynamic; it cannot be established as a goal. From the standpoint of history, it is not the goal but the terminus [Ende]. Therefore, the secular order cannot be built on the idea of the Divine Kingdom, and theocracy has no political but only a religious meaning.  To have repudiated with utmost vehemence the political significance of theocracy is the cardinal merit of Bloch’s Spirit of Utopia.

The secular order should be erected on the idea of happiness. The relation of this order to the messianic is one of the essential teachings of the philosophy of history. It is the precondition of a mystical conception of history, encompassing a problem that can be represented figuratively. If one arrow points to the goal toward which the secular dynamic acts, and another marks the direction of messianic intensity, then certainly the quest of free humanity for happiness runs counter to the messianic direction. But just as a force, by virtue of the path it is moving along, can augment another force on the opposite path, so the secular order -- because of its nature as secular -- promotes the coming of the Messianic Kingdom. The secular, therefore, though not itself a category of this kingdom, is a decisive category of its most unobtrusive approach. For in happiness all that is earthly seeks its downfall, and only in happiness is its downfall destined to find it. -- Whereas admittedly the immediate messianic intensity of the heart, of the inner man in isolation, passes through misfortune, as suffering. The spiritual restitutio in integrum, which introduces immortality, corresponds to a worldly restitution that leads to an eternity of downfall, and the rhythm of this eternally transient worldly existence, transient in its totality, in its spatial but also in its temporal totality, the rhythm of messianic nature, is happiness. For nature is messianic by reason of its eternal and total passing away.
To strive for such a passing away -- even the passing away of those stages of man that are nature -- is the task of world politics, whose method must be called nihilism.

Walter Benjamin (1892-1940): Theological-Political Fragment, date uncertain (probably either 1920-1921 or 1937-1938), unpublished in Benjamin's lifetime, translated by Edmund Jephcott in Selected Writings, Volume 2: 1927-1934 (1999)

Portrait of an articulated skeleton (male) on a hardwood chair
: photographer unknown, c. 1900 (Powerhouse Museum, Gift of the Estate of Raymond W. Phillips)

All of early 20th century transport is here… well, with the possible exception of an early bi-plane spluttering across the façade of Trinity College, but we can't have everything! A lovely high angle view of the junction of Dame Street with College Green in Dublin: photographer unknown, 1930s (?) (Eason Collection, National Library of Ireland)

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Taking the El to Work


58th on the South Side 'L'. A moment of everyday life out in front of an 'L' station. 58th, a former station on the South Side Main Line (just three blocks south of Garfield on today's Green Line), had a rare island platform (the line was mostly built with side platforms, as it is today). Note the distinct station house -- with its round bay and a half-cone roof
: photographer unknown, 1946 (CTA Collection / CTA Web)

I make it out the door to the El station.

It's a hot summer day in 1955.
Heat waves jump off the El tracks.
From the train you can see down into the backyards
Where angels live in dejection.
Ragged wash hangs there: grey t-shirts without arms.
Next come vistas of wrecked cars and the bolt factory.
Downtown I change trains for the North Side
Or the South Side. One night late
I'm walking down 35th Street toward the El
When out of the double doors of a bar
Explodes a woman screaming as if escaped
From hell, her torso a red streaming suture.
I decide I am unsuited for this line of work
But the next night I'm back on the train to the ballpark.

63rd and Cottage Grove. Pedestrian traffic and CTA buses under the 'L' at 63rd and Cottage Grove. Streetcar tracks can be seen in the street; overhead are remnants of trolley wire hung for streetcars that ran beneath the structure: photographer unknown, 1955 (CTA Web)

State Street Subway Entrance. The northwest stairs to what appears to be the Madison-Monroe mezzanine of the Monroe station on the State Street Subway. Before a change in routing that led to today's Red and Green Lines, the "North-South" service went from the North Side Mainline (Red North) to the South Side 'L' (Green South) via the subway, thus trains to Howard, Englewood (the branch that terminates at Ashland/63rd) and Jackson Park (the branch that now terminates at Cottage Grove): photographer unknown, 1970 (CTA Web)

Passengers at Chicago Avenue station. On a late winter Thursday, 'L' riders exit a Loop-bound Ravenswood "B" train at Chicago. The rear cars are among the first four cars in a series of single-unit rail cars built for CTA by the St. Louis Car Company in 1959. These cars were painted in a distinctive maroon and silver gray color scheme: photographer unknown, March 1962 (CTA Web)

Tech-35th during 1959 World Series (White Sox vs Dodgers). Trains handled massive numbers of people at the Tech-35th station on the South Side 'L' for a World Series game at Comiskey Park. Today, the station in this location is called 35th-Bronzeville-IIT and is served by Green Line trains: photographer unknown, October 1959 (CTA Web)

South Side 'L' at 33rd. On June 6, 1892, the first 'L' line, South Side 'L' began service from Congress St. just south of what is now the Loop (which didn't fully open for another five years) and 39th St. (now Pershing Rd.). This 121-year-old elevated railway is still in service as part of today's Green Line from near the S-curve at Harrison to just before the Indiana stop on Chicago's South Side. Like those that would follow, the South Side 'L', was in direct competition for passengers with surface transit in the decades before consolidation into CTA. Although the 'L', with its separated right-of-way, was inherently faster than surface transit, streetcar stops were often closer to people's homes, so 'L' lines had to build stops that were spaced closely enough to attract more walk-up traffic. This  photo is taken from the former station at 33rd, looking south toward 35th. In 1949, a service revision was implemented which streamlined and simplified operations, and reduced travel times at all hours by eliminating some intermediate stops, including 33rd. It also established Howard-Englewood and Howard-Jackson Park through-service via the State Street Subway. As a convenience to riders coming from north of 35th, a walkway was built so people could still enter at 33rd, then proceed at track level to the inbound platform at 35th, for service into downtown. In this photo the walkway, seen at left, has only lately opened. Later, around 1960, CTA would rebuild the station at 35th and add an entrance at 34th to more directly serve people coming to the 'L' from the north (and eliminating the blocks-long track-level walkway): photographer unknown, 1949 (CTA Web)

Lake Street 'L'. A two-car train of all-steel 4000-series cars, near St. Louis Avenue, on the Lake Street 'L'. This train has trolley poles because, west of Laramie, the Lake St. 'L' would descend down to street level and ride along Lake, Corcoran and South Blvd through Austin and Oak Park, and trains would draw power from trolley wires rather than from third rail. If you look closely, you can see a number of 'L' cars also sitting, stored on a third (center) track that once ran through this area: photographer unknown, c. 1940 (CTA Web)

Douglas Trains Passing. Two Douglas trains pass each other at Paulina Junction -- the train in the background consists of wooden 'L' cars and the train in the foreground is one of CTA's 6000-series rapid transit cars; seen just after this track connection between the former Logan Square branch of the Metropolitan West Side 'L' lines and the Lake St. 'L’ was added. The view here is looking east down Lake, and the Chicago Board of Trade is the tall building toward the center-right on the horizon. The station just in the background is the original station at Ashland, opened in 1893, recently re-opened at the time this photograph was taken. It had been closed for years due to there being a station just a block away, which was added to allow transfers between the Metropolitan 'L' to Logan Square and the Lake St ‘L’: photographer unknown, c. 1954 (CTA Web)

Loomis/63rd. The Englewood Branch, in its early years, had been built out to Loomis/63rd and ended there for much of its life (before being extended to Ashland/63rd in 1969, now part of the Green Line). As  can be seen in this south-facing view from just north of 63rd Street, the tracks ended unceremoniously over the street. The location was a busy interchange for Englewood residents (as the Ashland/63rd terminal is today). An 'L' train is visible in the terminal and a "Blue Goose" streetcar is in the foreground. The paint scheme on this particular car is atypical for these cars, as it's one of several that received experimental livery modifications for better visibility on the road: photographer unknown, c. 1944 (CTA Web)

Stock Yards Loop. A two-car train of wooden 'L' cars makes its way around the single track loop of the Stock Yards Branch. This branch connected to the rest of the 'L' at Indiana on the South Side Elevated (now part of the Green Line) and largely ran as a shuttle throughout its life. Elevated track structure snaked its way west into The Yards at around 41st and split into a single-track loop to serve the area where the major packing houses existed, with a handful of stations to connect people with jobs there. Trains operated counterclockwise around the Stock Yards loop: photographer unknown, c. 1946 (CTA Web)

Wilson. The Arthur Gerber-designed Uptown Station building is seen here, looking westward on Wilson and north on Broadway: photographer unknown, 1959 (CTA Web)


Merchandise Mart. This is Merchandise Mart -- although not the one you'd recognize today. These platforms from the original station opened in 1930 to serve the then-new Merchandise Mart. When the Merchandise Mart station was built, it had a transfer bridge that not only bridged the platforms for transfers, but also continued east to make a connection to an adjacent North Water Terminal (a "stub terminal" just east off the tracks), which some trains to/from the North Side used instead of continuing onto the then-at-capacity Loop 'L'. In the station is a 4-car Evanston Express train of CTA 4000-series cars to Linden in Wilmette (today it's the Purple Line Express): photographer unknown, 1970, courtesy Bruce G. Moffat (CTA Web)

Lake Street 'L' at Central, pre-elevation. A Lake Street 'L' train at Central, in Chicago's Austin neighborhood on the West Side, before the part of the route west of Laramie was elevated. At Laramie, train conductors would raise the trolley poles (the station had both third rail and overhead wire to make the transition to running along the street) and trains would descend to grade level where they'd travel alongside Lake Street and the Chicago and North Western railroad embankment, out to a terminal station in Forest Park, just west of Harlem. In 1962, trains were diverted onto the North Western's right-of-way (now Union Pacific), where they operate to the Harlem/Lake terminal, as part of the CTA Green Line, today. The line serves Oak Park, River Forest and Forest Park: photographer unknown, c.1960, courtesy Bruce G. Moffat (CTA Web) 

Ice. A stark contrast to Chicago's hot summer weather, this photo shows a worker on the elevated structure at a signal with ice all around after what was likely spray from firefighters putting out a building fire. The location isn't marked, but this photo might be somewhere along the North Side Main Line, where the Red & Brown Lines run together. The side of a train of "Baldies" (a nickname given to early 4000-series cars with plain, arched roofs) is visible just behind the signal: photo by Acme Newspictures, c. 1950 (CTA Web)

Tuesday, 27 May 2014

A Day in the Sun


Umbrella (Alameda, California): photo by efo, 6 April 2014

A day in the sun under a parasol of protective nostalgia
Would be pleasant, were it not for what actually happened

On any given yesterday.

Prices will go up soon (El Cerrito, California): photo by efo, 20 April 2014

Monday, 26 May 2014

Robert Creeley: America


porchflag (Des Moines, Iowa): photo by greg (It'sGreg), 6 April 2014

America, you ode for reality!
Give back the people you took.

Let the sun shine again
on the four corners of the world

you thought of first but do not
own, or keep like a convenience.

People are your own word, you
invented that locus and term.

Here, you said and say, is
where we are. Give back

what we are, these people you made,
us, and nowhere but you to be.

Robert Creelety: America, from Pieces (1969)

Killer blob (Los Angeles): photo by anotherswede ON A BREAK, 7 July 2013

Surprised (Los Angeles): photo by anotherswede ON A BREAK, 31 January 2014

Sunday, 25 May 2014

The 49th Law of Power: A Dystopian Reality Event Game


Isla Vista shooting

Police investigate a scene after a series of shootings in Isla Vista, California: photo by Associated Press / KEYT-TV / Los Angeles Times, 23 May 2014

A Killer Story: An Interview with Suzanne Collins, Author of ‘The Hunger Games’

What inspired you to write it?

One night, I was lying in bed, and I was channel surfing between reality TV programs and actual war coverage. On one channel, there’s a group of young people competing for I don’t even know [what]; and on the next, there’s a group of young people fighting in an actual war. I was really tired, and the lines between these stories started to blur in a very unsettling way. That’s the moment when Katniss’s story came to me.

Why did those programs speak to you so deeply?

When I was a kid, my dad fought in Vietnam. He was gone for a year. Even though my mom tried to protect us -- I’m the youngest of four -- sometimes the TV would be on, and I would see footage from the war zone. I was little, but I would hear them say “Vietnam,” and I knew my dad was there, and it was very frightening. I’m sure that a lot of people today experience that same thing. But there is so much programming, and I worry that we’re all getting a little desensitized to the images on our televisions. If you’re watching a sitcom, that’s fine. But if there’s a real-life tragedy unfolding, you should not be thinking of yourself as an audience member. Because those are real people on the screen, and they’re not going away when the commercials start to roll.

What was the most difficult part of writing the story?

When you’re going to write a story like The Hunger Games, you have to accept from the beginning that you’re going to kill characters. It’s a horrible thing to do, and it’s a horrible thing to write, particularly when you have to take out a character that is vulnerable or young or someone you’ve grown to love when you were writing them.

from A Killer Story: An Interview with Suzanne Collins, Author of ‘The Hunger Games’: Rick Margolis, School Library Journal, 1 September 2008

 Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games: photo by Murray Close/Lionsgate, via New York Times, 22 March 2012

At 'Hunger Games' camp, children want to fight to the 'death'

Largo, Florida

The first day of camp brought girls with lunchbags and suntans and swimsuit strings hanging down the backs of their shirts. They smiled and jumped up and down, excited to see each other; many were classmates at Country Day School, the host of the summer camp. It was this friendship that made Rylee Miller, 12, feel a little conflicted. "I don't want to kill you," she told Julianna Pettey. Julianna, also 12, looked her in the eye. "I will probably kill you first," she said. She put her hands on Rylee's shoulders. "I might stab you."

The boys had gathered away from the girls, across the room. Eli Hunter cocked an elbow and pointed the fingers on his other hand, explaining that he was a sniper in a tree. He gunned down Liam Cadzow, a tiny blond boy in a bucket hat.

"What are we going to do first?" shouted 14-year-old Sidney Martenfeld. "Are we going to kill each other first?"


"If I have to die, I want to die by an arrow," Joey Royals mused to no one in particular. "Don't kill me with a sword. I'd rather be shot."

The Hunger Games trilogy is wildly popular: The first movie grossed nearly $700 million worldwide. More than 36 million copies of the books have been sold in the United States. 
One of the girls at the camp can recite the first chapter by memory.

While it's difficult to think of a children's phenomenon that doesn't involve violence, The Hunger Games might take the prize. As punishment for a failed rebellion, 12 districts have to send a boy and girl to fight to the death in a televised tournament.

"What's your specialty? Ours is primarily weapons," said Frances Pool-Crane, the youngest camper at 10 years old.

"Ours is, like, half weapons," said Briana Craig, 12. "Alliance?"

"Sure," Frances said. The girls were decorating posters for the Games. "LOSING MEANS CERTAIN DEATH," Frances wrote.

Next door to the Hunger Games camp, about two dozen kids in another camp played a computer game where they built structures to protect their lives from monsters. Kids can fake-die in nearly any game these days, counselor Simon Bosés said.

"But if you actually sit down and talk to them and they say, 'I'm going to kill you,' they don't understand what they're saying. Death for this age isn't a final thing. It's a reset."

Susan Toler, a clinical psychologist specializing in children's issues and an assistant dean at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg, called the camp idea "unthinkable."
When children read books or watch movies, they're observers, removed from the killing. "But when they start thinking and owning and adopting and assuming the roles, it becomes closer to them," Toler said. "The violence becomes less egregious."

-- from At 'Hunger Games' camp, children want to fight to the 'death': Lisa Gartner, Tampa Bay Times, 2 August 2013

At least one bicyclist was struck by a car driven by the alleged gunman who killed six people in a Friday night rampage in Isla Vista. (Urban Hikers photo)

At least one bicyclist was struck by a car driven by the alleged gunman who killed six people in a Friday night rampage in Isla Vista: photo by Urban Hikers via Noozhawk, 23 May 2014)

Elliot Rodger, left, on the red carpet for The Hunger Games, is believed to be the son of assistant director Peter Rodger: photographer unknown, via The Telegraph,  24 May 2014

The 48 Laws of Power. DNF. Machiavelli on steroids: photo by Mark Larson, 24 March 2012

(On his Facebook page, Elliot Rodger "favorites" four books, with The 48 Laws of Power at the top of the list, followed by Game of Thrones, A Song of Ice and Fire and The Success Principles)

Third eyed spy [from Robert Greene: The 48 Laws of Power]: photo by Jamel Alatise, 21 November 2012

Isla VIsta shooting

A body is covered on the street next to a BMW sedan crashed on an Isla Vista, California sidewalk. The driver is suspected in a shooting rampage that killed six people Friday night in Isla Vista: photo by Urban Hikers / Noozhawk via Los Angeles Times, 24 May 2014
Cover Photo

Elliot Rodger in his BMW: photo from Elliot Rodger's Facebook page, as posted at the time of his death

Saturday, 24 May 2014

They dropped like Flakes -- They dropped like Stars --


Flag Store, Lowell, Massachusetts: photo by Jim Rohan, 14 May 2014

They dropped like Flakes —
They dropped like Stars —
Like Petals from a Rose —
When suddenly across the June
A wind with fingers — goes —

They perished in the Seamless Grass —
No eye could find the place —
But God can summon every face
Of his Repealless — List.

Emily Dickinson (b. Amherst, Massachusetts, 10 December 1830, d.
Amherst, Massachusetts,15 May 1886): The Battle-field, as first published, 1891

Red, White and Bluejeans, Boston, Massachusetts
: photo by Jim Rohan, 2 October 2010


Memorial Day, Boston, Massachusetts
: photo by Jim Rohan, 9 June 2010

Memorial Day #2, Boston, Massachusetts
: photo by Jim Rohan, 10 June 2010

Prayer Flags, Wakefield, Massachusetts: photo by Jim Rohan, 1 July 2010

Prayer Flags #2, Wakefield, Massachusetts
: photo by Jim Rohan, 19 May 2011

Flag #2, New York City, New York
: photo by Jim Rohan, 25 March 2013


Serenade, Melrose, Massachusetts
: photo by Jim Rohan, 27 May 2013

Flag, Waltham, Massachusetts
: photo by Jim Rohan, 23 April 2013

Storage Yard, Everett, Massachusetts
: photo by Jim Rohan, 7 January 2011

Patriots of the Walking Dead, Massachusetts: photo by Jim Rohan, 4 November 2009

Mermaid with a Burger, Rusticoville, Prince Edward Island: photo by Jim Rohan, 25 July 2009

Low Flying Aircraft, Lopez, Pennsylvania: photo by Jim Rohan, 13 June 2009

Doves on a fence, Revere, Massachusetts: photo by Jim Rohan, 30 November 2009

Kellys Cross, Kelly's Cross, Prince Edward Island: photo by Jim Rohan, 4 January 2014

Church and State, Allston, Massachusetts
: photo by Jim Rohan, 22 December 2013

Carved in Stone, Wakefield, Massachusetts
: photo by Jim Rohan, 18 February 2014

Friday, 23 May 2014



Exhibition "Purity", Malmo. Photographer David Magnusson's portraits offer a nuanced look at the Purity Ball phenomenon in the United States. During a Purity Ball young girls promise to "live pure lives before God" and remain virgins until marriage. In return, the fathers sign a commitment promising to protect their daughters chastity: photo by David Magnusson, image by Helena Stam, 27 April 2013

Exhibition "Purity", Malmo. Photographer David Magnusson's portraits offer a nuanced look at the Purity Ball phenomenon in the United States. During a Purity Ball young girls promise to "live pure lives before God" and remain virgins until marriage. In return, the fathers sign a commitment promising to protect their daughters chastity: photo by David Magnusson, image by Helena Stam, 27 April 2013

Purity: photo by David Magnusson, instagram image by Henrik Ismarker, 5 March 2014

David Magnusson: "Purity" Vernissage, Malmo: photo by Christer, 27 April 2013

David Magnusson: "Purity" Vernissage, Malmo: photo by Christer, 27 April 2013

David Magnusson: "Purity" Vernissage, Malmo: photo by Christer, 27 April 2013