8 September 2012

A belated posting of some photos I took in Germany — at Documenta13, an art fair in Kassel.

The exhibits are spread out all over town; we’d been walking a long time.  It was hot and muggy.  A friend had recommended stopping at Apichatpong Weerasethakul‘s  installation, which involved hammocks.

We were all over that.

The experience was, dare I say it, magical (if you’ve seen Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives, this will not seem surprising).  I am sure there is a more sophisticated analysis of the artist’s intentions, but the simplicity of Lie still, look up, for an over-busy urbanite, was profound in itself.
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28 June 2012

Back in town.  Getting my head together.

In the meantime, here are 10 things about my MacDowell Colony experience that I did not expect:

1. I saw a bear!

2. I ate more than I usually do (pre-MacDowell, this would have seemed unimaginable)

(lunch delivered daily in a basket — was unbelievable)

3. I drank less wine/alcohol than I usually do

4. I did not miss having 24/7 Internet (but I did miss my dog and my man)

5. The most intense cardiovascular workout of my time there was an Around-the-World ping-pong tournament

6. It was very social

7. “Studio” does not mean 100 square-foot room, but rather more like a beautiful little house

8.  There were many artists there who are parents of small children

9. I did not have the breakthrough with my novel that I’d hoped for (boo hoo)

10. Other artists are anxious about their work as well

13 May 2012

I’ll be spending the next month at an artists’ colony – four much-needed weeks in the woods, mostly off-the-grid, before teaching again in July.  So: I’ll see you all on the other side!

5 September 2011

Like Charles Simic, who muses about his “reunion with boredom” during Hurricane Irene over at the NYRB blog, we had several days of electricity-lessness last week.  What we did have: a rain barrel full of water, a backpacking hand-pump filter, about 5 gallons of bottled water, a lantern and a flashlight, a Smokey Joe, fire wood, a wood-burning stove, a land line (and an analog telephone), Blackberries with spotty connection, a pretty robust first aid kit, a car full of gas.  In other words, we were pretty much just fine, if a little unkempt.  Oh, and we had a refrigerator and a freezer full of food (later on, we bought five bags of ice).

It’s amazing that, really, even with having to boil pots of water in order to wash dishes and ourselves, and ration drinking water, the most significant alteration to our lives was the loss of Internet connection.  It was wonderful, really.  We listened to the wind and the rain instead of the atonal hum of devices; we read and walked and swept the floors and sat on the porch.  We were lucky that the three days following the storm were sunny and beautiful, so we could salvage our plants and trellises and clear the yard of debris in nice weather.  We were not bored.  We were lucky all around – that we had a “good storm” and not a devastating one, that instead of “Biblical wrath” we had “Nature’s kindness.”

I wish we had the discipline to institute Internet-free weekends regularly; we probably don’t.  But as I write this, I am relaxing into the memory of all that dark and quiet and empty, and I’m thinking, well, maybe…

19 July 2011

If you listen to This American Life on NPR, you know that the show’s excellence lies in its storytelling, and its humanizing of complex issues.  Well, they’ve done it again – here is a painfully accurate portrait of the natural gas drilling conflicts (“fracking”), from the perspective of several key stakeholders, in Pennsylvania.  In the stories highlighted here, we see corporate profit vs public health, the ties between academic research and political power (i.e. funding), short-term vs long-term views on community wellness, and class conflict between local farmers and newcomers (usually urbanite transplants).

Despite all of the investigative pieces out there in the mainstream that question the health, environmental, financial, and social costs of hydrofracking, drilling goes forth with full force – somewhere in the realm of 100,000 wells to be drilled in the NY/PA region. (Governor Cuomo intends to lift the moratorium on fracking in NY state.)

My other posts on fracking here.

7 June 2010

Little did you know that this post’s title is literal.

A recent backyard visitation.

1 March 2011

Today, March 1, the NYC Council is holding a hearing on continued regulatory issues surrounding hydrofracking (the subject of the film GASLAND) – the Halliburton-developed process for extracting natural gas from shale. Why should you care?  Because the process poses serious threats to the safety of drinking water, i.e. the entire New York watershed.

It was disappointing that GASLAND did not win the Oscar for Best Documentary.  I hope you’ll go see it anyway; it’s educational, disturbing, and weirdly entertaining, in that “Are you kidding me?” kind of way.

The NY Times finally did a major article on the issue, published this past Sunday.  Here is an excerpt:

High-volume horizontal hydraulic fracturing—or hydrofracking—carries significant environmental risks. It involves injecting huge amounts of water, mixed with sand and chemicals, at high pressures to break up rock formations and release the gas.

With hydrofracking, a well can produce over a million gallons of wastewater that is often laced with highly corrosive salts, carcinogens like benzene, and radioactive elements like radium, all of which can occur naturally thousands of feet underground. Other carcinogenic materials can be added to the wastewater by the chemicals used in the hydrofracking itself.

While the existence of the toxic wastes has been reported, thousands of internal documents obtained by The New York Times from the Environmental Protection Agency, state regulators and drillers show that the dangers to the environment and health are greater than previously understood.

The documents reveal that the wastewater, which is sometimes hauled to sewage plants not designed to treat it and then discharged into rivers that supply drinking water, contains radioactivity at levels higher than previously known, and far higher than the level that federal regulators say is safe for these treatment plants to handle.

Other documents and interviews show that many E.P.A. scientists are alarmed, warning that the drilling waste is a threat to drinking water in Pennsylvania. Their concern is based partly on a 2009 study, never made public, written by an E.P.A. consultant who concluded that some sewage treatment plants were incapable of removing certain drilling waste contaminants and were probably violating the law.

The Times also found never-reported studies by the E.P.A. and a confidential study by the drilling industry that all concluded that radioactivity in drilling waste cannot be fully diluted in rivers and other waterways.

As for me, I live part-time in Pennsylvania, 1/2 mile from a well site (they’ve already drilled the “test well”), which is very upsetting.  See the movie – you’ll be glad to be informed on this issue!