the porcupine and the balloon*

The Porcupine and the Balloon were never meant to be friends….or were they. It will end badly, said the Balloon’s sagging mother. Mrs. Porcupine, her quills white-flecked with age, was less concerned⁠—not foreseeing any obvious threat to her spiny little offspring. You better keep your distance if you wish to stay friends for long, was her only comment. Yet despite their mothers’ skepticism, some mystical force continued drawing the two youngsters together. The shiny buoyancy of the Balloon’s disposition held great appeal to the morose little ground-borne mammal. For the Balloon’s part, it was enthralled by the very pointiness of its companion’s appearance. People always say oil and water don’t mix. But what of balloons and porcupines? Surely the world has witnessed more volatile pairings than this? So let’s allow them their fun (while it lasts), for after all, a balloon’s very nature is ephemeral, and if this particular one prefers to go out with a bang rather than slowly deflating into a crumpled foil bag, who are we to stand in its way?

*I ran out of reading material on the train today so I wrote this for you.

outside the walls

Outside the city walls the scientist retires to smoke his long-stemmed pipe and absorb the local gossip. As the burnt yellow of the sky fades, scattered fires spring up, each circled by a huddle of indistinct figures. The scientist approaches one such group, steps within the fire’s glow and notices a figure seated apart from the others, its face shrouded by a voluminous hood. To this one he turns his attention.

Ah, Liferuiner, it’s been a long time.

The figure nods.

And how many lives have been touched by your handiwork since last we spoke?

The figure stirs, clears its throat.

Actually I’ve been on hiatus, so to speak.

I see. So how have you been spending your time?

I’d rather not say. And you? How go the experiments?

The same as always, my friend. I fear I will never reach the threshold I seek to cross.

Too bad. It is hard for us on the fringes. Our work is never appreciated.

The scientist nods as he puffs on his pipe, watching the Liferuiner jab at the fire with a rough-hewn staff, jostling the reddened coals until sparks shoot forth.

I must return to the laboratory soon, my friend. I cannot tarry here all evening long, as others are wont to do.

The Liferuiner raises its cloaked head, reaches out a withered hand and grasps the fringe of the scientist’s sleeve.

Before you go, I have something for you.

It reaches into a satchel slung across its chest and brings out a small vial of pitch black fluid.

Take this, my friend. May it aid your progress in reaching that threshold you speak of.

The scientist holds up the vial, through the contents of which no light passes. A faint smile flickers across his lips.

I am once again in your debt, my friend. Please do take good care.

He stands and touches the brim of his hat, but the hooded figure has already turned back to the fire, stoking it viciously again with the staff.

Up above the craggy walls of the city loom in the light of the rising moon. The scientist steps forward, now following the path back to the structured madness of his experiments.

bass terror – tetragrammaton

From the 1995 Bass Terror album by Bill Laswell and Nicholas Bullen.

the botanist LIVE



‘There are some elements rooted in established musical theory that make their way into how Botanist songs get written. But really, it’s more a question of summoning. When Botanist music gets recorded, I channel an entity within me that’s been named ‘The Botanist’, a character whose perspective dictates the content of the music and lyrics. In some sense, The Botanist plays through me. When you read an interview with Botanist, you get it with me, Otrebor. The Botanist does not speak in these situations, as he would not have anything to do with humanity. The Botanist speaks only through the music and lyrics.’

Can you outline your vision, ecologically speaking? Do you subscribe to any ecological theories – ie Gaia theory, deep ecology, the “eco terrorist” writing of the likes of Ted Kaczynski? Have you had any ties with any environmental action groups – Greenpeace, Earth First, etc? Or do you take a more figurative or spiritual approach?

O: It’s been remarkable how much of a hook that “eco-terrorist” tag has been, and how the term triggers inquiries to political associations. In Botanist’s world, that descriptor is not necessarily defined by its popular perception – namely, that of people acting as the agents of terror for naturalistic causes. Rather, the term “eco-terrorist” used here regards nature itself as the agent of terror against the human oppressor, and more specifically a representation of how The Botanist, in his particular worldview, sees nature as playing this role. In the mythology of The Verdant Realm, there is no political affiliation, as choosing a political side is about choosing the interests of one group of people over another. In the romantic worldview in which plants reclaim the earth after humanity has killed itself, surely there is no possibility of political alignment.

The dominant, capitalistic global culture essentially sees nature as a resource to be exploited or plundered in the pursuit of profit. Have we lost something important in our relationship with the natural world?

O: Unfortunately for the natural world, the issue of saving the environment is primarily the concern of a portion of the middle class in first world nations, which is very nice when all the lefties in San Francisco or New York are making sure their compostable garbage is in a special biodegradable bag, or when youth hostels make you pay for your contribution to ‘CO2 emissions,’ but the rest of the planet’s human population, the vast, vast majority, is made up of a) people too poor to know, care, or be able to do something about deforestation or the ozone layer, and b) those of immense wealth who enable those with none to continue to be unable to do anything.

Even though green is a hip trend in the USA, major green initiatives keep getting voted down. It will continue to happen until the shift can go from saving the whales for the whales’ sake to saving the whales for the sake of the quality of life and the state of the wallets of those voting. When the environment becomes an economic issue rather than a moral one, change will be made.

Fortunately for the natural world, even if humanity nukes the planet 800 times over and destroys every living thing on it, nature will bounce back eventually and carry on as it always has. Mankind cannot ruin nature. It can only ruin it for itself.

Excerpts above from this 2012 interview at The Quietus.

(thanks hannah!)

r.i.p. david berman

It’s so hard watching them continue to fall . . .

Oh Where

by David Berman

Where did you go, my dear, my day;
Where, oh where, did you go?
To market, to maker of market, to say
Too much of the little I know.

Where did you go, my dear, my year;
Why did you flee from me?
I went from here to there to here
Loitering breathlessly.

Where did you go, my life, my own,
Decades gone in a wink?
Some things are better left unknown
Some thoughts too thick to think.



‘It is autumn and my camouflage is dying . . .’

ursula k. le guin documentary

Ursula K. Le Guin

Streaming free during August on PBS.org.

new print publications

Zines © 2019 Sean Stewart

These are limited print editions of projects originally serialized online.

Bunker Diaries is a fictional journal kept by an unnamed instructor while teaching a cadre of listless trainees in a desert bunker. It was serialized here in Fall 2012 and has been lightly revised for this print edition. It is no longer available online.

Inner Harbor Field Reports is a compendium of observations made during lunchtime walks around Baltimore’s Inner Harbor between 2014 and 2019 (heavier on the early years of that range). It began as notes embedded in rambling blog entries (which is why this print edition seems like it starts in the middle of something, but trust me, you’re not missing out on any needed context). Eventually I decided to streamline it into pure observational bliss and moved it over to Tumblr. I had a good run there, until Tumblr inexplicably extended the long arm of censorship and shut down my site. Attempts at appeal failed and as my interest was already waning, I decided to end it there.

I enjoyed this project while it lasted, though, and so I thought it would be cool to memorialize it with this print edition. The text remains largely untouched, with only minimal corrections and revisions. The ending is somewhat abrupt, much like the beginning, closing on a sole entry from 2019. Although there is a postscript explaining the genesis of the project, the lack of contextual intro and outro is purposeful, for the intent of this document is only to offer a narrow slice of the ongoing continuum that is life at the Inner Harbor.

These two publications are orderable through PayPal as an economy package deal: both publications for a whopping US $1 savings from what the combined cover price would be from either Atomic Books or Quimby’s Bookstore, where they are available for purchase separately both online and in-store.

Atomic Books: Bunker Diaries / Inner Harbor Field Reports

Quimby’s: Coming Soon (they haven’t posted links online, but they are in stock)

_____________________________________________________________________

Limited copies of Hatred of Writing still available direct, and from Atomic or Quimby’s.

the suddenness of their movements

There was a suddenness to all of their movements, as if all the electrons in their bodies surged toward the surface at once. It was dizzying to observe so the scientist looked away. Whilst the scientist was looking away the bodies began moving past the circular laboratory at great speed. The scientist stayed in place and attempted to measure their speed with a rudimentary monitoring device of unknown provenance. But their speed exceeded the recording limits of the device. Thus transpires another futile effort by the scientist to obtain data supporting the most recent hypothesis.

Following this failure the scientist considers locking the laboratory and obliterating the key in the smelting furnace next door. But what would be the point. The laboratory is the beginning and the end of the scientist’s existence. Without it there is nothingness. With it there is at least something, although it is not always a good something, and in fact it is often, as in this most recent case, a bad something.

By night the scientist dreams of sleep-sweetened first encounters and thrilling unproven theories. Mornings usher in a monochrome world. In this pattern there is a perfect crystalline structureone easily shattered by the light tap of a rock pick, a tool notably absent from the scientist’s laboratory.

Outside the bodies continue their frenetic movements, even as the scientist slips into anhedonia, manipulating the lab instruments with mechanical disinterest, testing long-proven theories over and over again in a grotesque caricature of the laboratory’s past glory. Soon the resultant contrast between fast and slow, outside and inside, generates a frictional energy against the surface of the circular walls. The laboratory suddenly begins to rotate as if it has become an enormous centrifuge. Standing flat against the inner wall the scientist ponders this most recent twist of fate. Mental calculations are madea hypothesis begins to formthe game is on again!

iron triangle

Iron Triangle
dir. Nate Dorr & Maya Edelman
2018, 16min, digital video.

Iron Triangle from Nate Dorr on Vimeo.

A vibrant industrial neighborhood thriving despite city neglect. Immigrant workers, documented and undocumented. A city plan for massive redevelopment: malls, business centers, hotels, condos. Self-serving developers. Eminent domain. A destruction. A limbo. A renewal?

Willets Point is an industrial wedge of northeast Queens consisting for most of the last 70 years of almost entirely autobody shops and scrap yards. Despite city neglect, pitted streets, and a complete lack of storm drains that cause frequent flooding, as of 2006, the neighborhood provided the livelihoods for 1400 to 1800 people, mostly immigrants, many undocumented. In 2007, the City of New York set in motion a major redevelopment plan which would entail displacing nearly all existing businesses in favor of malls, conference centers, and hotels, and over the last decade much of the neighborhood has been bought out and razed. Blocked as an improper commercial use of public land by the New York court system, part of the area continues on, while much has been left as concrete desolation, its future uncertain.

This film, shot spanning the major “urban renewal” operations from 2014 to 2017, documents the conversion of a vibrant, singular small business district into a wasteland, and envisions a different kind of renewal unlikely to be allowed by developers and city officials.

Made possible in part by a residency with Chance Ecologies.

[best viewed at full screen with volume on]

the nocturnes – aokigahara

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