written/non-written things by me (from 2005-2008)

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Re: Last post and feeling validated by a web program.

"for expressing myself in this media"
"this wily experiment called the internet"

I don't take it all back or anything, I do like We Feel Fine, but that last post was uncharacteristic, somehow, maybe the over-joyed language, I was in a mood. I don't feel so validated as much 10 hours later. Maybe becuase I couldn't hone the WFF application to find shoesonawire. Suppose what I wanted to find was for the quote about being "heard as extraterrestrial" to be layered on top of an image of the WFF graphic. To imbed a message to WFF itself about it's own design. And that this bubble would link to my post about WFF and vice versa, like a self-awareness loop. Or product placing WFF in its own self. But it didn't work, yet. Also, I was in a mood, and from reading those last few sentences, maybe the mood lingers

I feel validated! Please, find me We Feel Fine!

"It's a bit like sending radio waves into outer space, like there is no expectation that someone will respond, but there is the slight hope that keeps you beaming things out. Why else would one do it, right? But then time trods on and you forget that hope." After having just typed this sentence about blogging in an email to a special person I haven't heard from, or written to, hardly ever since coming to China, I stopped. I left the email unfinished, and unsent, it was turning into a letter I didn't really want to send, into a letter that made me feel sad and pitying just typing it, and I didn't even know if what I wrote was true to how I felt, out of touch with everything and everyone. I went to take a shower and I started to cry just a little. Then I caught myself in the mirror (it's a small bathroom). I frooze my expression just to see what it looked liked when I cried. My faced was a little squished, eyebrows sunken, nostrals astride, comically sad, like a child whose fallen and having belatedly realized it supposes it should cry, then forms its face as such, then automatically the tears begin to roll as if it were just a matter facial configuration, what happens when the face is like this. Then I felt like I was in a pathetic student art film about a wayward girl in big strange city. Then I thought "That's dumb. Stop it... I wonder if the new episode of Theory of Everything is up yet." I dried up went back to the computer. It was. I listened, I looked, I linked, to this "We Feel Fine" And now I feel oddly validated for expressing myself in this media, like the hope to be found and heard is not so extraterrestiral.. This is no doubt one of the most beautiful and fascintating pieces of art and technology I have ever seen/used in my life. It's everything I love about the potential of art and analytics to reflect, bring together, and lend validity to the feelings that we (I) too often leave unsent. Hoping to be heard.

I know you will love it, too. It's worth your time to see what we're capable of doing with this wily experiment called the Internet. The application "mines" the entire internet, or at least it's vast global network of blogs, for the word feel. Then it gathers information about that person's location, gender, age, information that is typically displayed somewhere on a personal blog. Then it plucks that sentence containing the word feel and assigns it a shape and color. It is a circle if it is a just text and square if the sentence is accompanied by a photograph. Colors correspond to thousands of adjectives for emotions. The little packet is then spewed out onto a flying universe of other little packets containing their own feelings. Click on a little colored shape and the quote from the blog, and sometimes a photograph arrive on the screen. Click on the quote and you are taken directly to that blog. The We Feel Fine application continues to baffle and amaze as it can sort and search this data by a multitude of variables such as country, state, city, gender, age, individual emotion and even the weather at the time the particualr blog was posted. So you can ask questions like, "How many 20-something women in Beijing posted about feeling validated when it was cloudy outside?" The movements: madness, murmurs, mobs, metrics, montage, mounds at the bottom of the screen allow the user to play with way this data can be analyzed and displayed. The feelings scramble and coalesce and scramble again in a lovable way over the black space-like field. It's funny and incredible. Please, Please, click on the above image, then click again on "Open We Feel Fine", then wait for it to load, look at it, and play with it. And keep in mind, it's all true, these are real people and it's all happening right now! Listen to this week's Benjamin Walker's** Theory of Everything for the project's explanation.

**He does it again!

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Popping the Skin, Glue Hands, Toward Entropy: Amusing Oneself on a Shoe-String

High, I started and maintained it through the weekend, but alas the week began in a quiet, uncomfortable desperation. Something was sitting in my stomach, and inviting friends. The weather has turned damp and mild, which is welcomed, but… well, there are no complaints. I prefer the grey cool to any of the prior suffocating humidity that kept me indoors bored and restless in front of the air conditioner. I can now again ride my bike to school without walking into class with sweat rolling down my temples. Without subsequently interrupting my own lesson to take swigs from a liter of ice water, (which, it seems, is some kind of miniature spectacle because my students say “Whoaaa!” every time I take a drink ).

The end of the month has come and I am living on the equivalent of $4 US dollars until payday next Friday. Which is sufficient but certainly not enough to be confidant about my purchasing decisions, (I.e. baozi for lunch or bus ride home?). Consider that: I am saving bus rides for ‘special’ occasions (like it’s pissing rain). I am also soaking in all the free internet entertainment I can get. On my downloading list are random episodes of the mediocre British TV show, This is Alan Partridge, the HBO comedy Curb your Enthusiasm, PDF e-books of author Phillip K Dick in particular “Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said” “A Man Whose Teeth were all Exactly Alike” and “We Can Build You”, another PDF I don’t remember downloading but apparently did is ambiguously and portentously titled “Tips on Controlling your Symptoms.” I am afraid to open it, what if I start controlling a symptom I always liked about myself, such as being a Night Person, or being simultaneously lazy and ambitious when I need to be, or being both selectively apathetic and selectively passionate in proportional quantities.

I went running about 45 minutes ago and came home to find after taking off my shirt that my dark sunburned upper back was speckled with small glistening bubbles. I rubbed my hand over my back shoulder and they burst and sent thin spray of water onto the mirror. I then rubbed a towel over the area and the skin rolled off like glue on my hands when I was a kid and would secretly squirt glue on my hands in class so that I could spend Math or History lesson peeling it off under my desk while pretending to pay attention. Speaking of pretending to pay attention, I am the Teacher now. And now I am wise to such schemes, but I can also recall how hidden I used to feel when ever I got away with it, or whatever else I did back then. My back is hideous. I am rolling off skin in-between sentences.

My students, despite their wiggly 9 year old instinct toward entropy, are shimmering glorious children, comparatively so. They listen when I snap them to attention. They get jumpy and high-five each other when they get the right answer or when I announce they are the winners (BTW, I let the students pick their team names. Incidentally, today, it was “Italy” vs. “Building”) But despite, again, their shininess, it may never make them excited as me to hear a turn of the century prison song from the American South. Never as enthusiastic as I was, today, when I sang KTV-style to a recording of Leadbelly’s “Rock Island Line” and “Midnight Special.” I sang excitedly, but contained…teacher-ly. We were picking a song to sing at the Summer Show Case and the choice were the two above, and one other (the winner), “Nine Million Bicycles in Beijing,” It’ a lovely love song, but it’s performance will be not nearly as entertaining as seeing twenty Chinese 9 year olds singing a song about asking Governors about pardons and prison bells and sitting down to a plates full of nothing. I adore singing Leadbelly songs. They’re always in the perfect key. They’re about places that I know like Houston and Sugar land, but they make those places seem more sultry and Southern than I have ever known them. They’re sorrowful, but sassy, and I like that; but seeing Teacher in her ZONE is not even enough to get them excited about that. “Grieving, Whooping, Hollering, and A-Cryin” It’s not their fault. They had there arms outstretched on their desk with their chins digging into them by the time I had come to. It’s not their fault. I was just in for amusing myself today.

I am announcing a Contest! Guess whose photographs are on my television and I will send you a homemade postcard! All the way from China!

Sunday, July 23, 2006

A Bike Ride to Where?

I've been teaching 30 classes a week, summer sessions are intense so it is given me a regular 8 to 5 schedule. It's been rather exhausting, but my new students are fantastic. With all the work, the weekends take on a higher significance, I must do something special. Yesterday, I headed out on my bike with no particular destination, at least no cities in mind, no expectations of what I would find. But I knew I would find something beyond the mountains around ShiJing Shan. So I headed north through the frustrating city streets, riding kind of grumpily because of all the traffic. About an hour later, finally out of the city I was at the foot of Fragrant Hills. I found a pretty road and went up and gloriusly over (My first chance to coast down a hill since being in monotonously flat Beijing). On the other side I found a blue sky and green hill paradise, as far as Chinese mildy-populated countrysides go.

I have noticed that a few Chinese factories can be some of the more lovelier places around town. Highly manicured gardens and gates surround some complexes. I think this has something to do with the pride of industry. The streets around some of these more successful factories tend to be really clean and beautified with landscaping.
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A street fight that no one did anything about. I watched these three move around the sidewalk in a three way arm lock for about 5 minutes. Cars would stop and watch in the middle of traffic. Its stupendous! Its Chinese! that is gawking about a scene not doing anything. If someone, for sintance a fruit seller is having a loud arguement with another fruit seller, People will just encircle them from a close distance watching with their arms crossed like like looking at a sculpture in a museum. I've seen crowds gather around several bike accidents, crowds around someone speaking very loudy with other people. Its bizarre, but I suppose I do it too now.
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The green river bed caused by the daming the river. The city in the distance is an island (but of course now there is no water surrounding it)

The front of the dam. Behind it of course is the river.
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New Trees
Cleanest unattended public bathroom in China.

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A little village outside of Shimenying Island city.
From the picture behind the chinese characters one might infer that the village might have once flanked the now dammed river.
This is a poster mural for the future vision of the city surrounding Shimenying Island.
This guy was across the street from the poster.
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I arrived home after four hours on the bike, a nice afternoon ride, with a red back and a couple obnoxious white tan lines. We don't get many clear blue days like this. I was lucky. The sunburn is a badge of adventure. So I took my sunburn into Salitun in Beijing and met some friends for some drinks and dancing till morning. A day was had.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

The Hill Park in pictures

I live behind those behind those towers.

(She's not mad. We are neighbors! and after I took her picture she smiled.)

That day there was some Chinese Wrestling in the commons:

The entrance to the community garden and nursery.

These are the Whizzy Whirlers. And this is their Whizzy Whirling Court. I don't understand whizzy whirling (nor do I know its real name), but I do know it is the adult version of a extreme mega yo-yo. It's really big and requires a huge string and elaborate whirling arm movements. And the whizzy whirler makes a loud whirring sound like the drone of a landing space ship. You can hear it from far away such as when your walking on the sidewalk outside the park and when you mistakenly think this is the sound of an air raid.

My name is Hannah Pierce-Carlson