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migrateblog
in which witness is borne: birds, politics, fiction and critical art theory

Birders Rejoice! The Ivory Billed lives!

Thursday, April 28, 2005
This video will tell you a bit about the discovery of an Ivory Billed Woodpecker on Feb. 11, 2004 in the Cache Swamp in Arkansas. What a miracle! What cause for jubilation ! I've had a dumb grin on my face all day. All birders should be joyously relieved to learn of its existence.
This bird has come to represent the crisis of human land use encroaching violently upon wildlife habitat. This bird has nearly become extinct due to logging. Yet many homes, mine included, are of wood, and I use paper and paper products every day. WE just haven't prioritized the use of technologies which might have less impact on our fellow beings, even when those technologies already exist. Why?
I wonder if it has to do with our concept of "use-value"--the way that we in the Western world think our survival depends on certain things but not others. Birds have no obvious use-value--they cannot be bought or sold, they do not provide food, they are not cute and obviously intelligent like dolphins or monkeys, they make ok but not awesome pets, and they don't bear loads for us like pack mules. And yet, as the president of the Chicago Ornithological Society once told me, birds are a vital part of the ecology of the planet, and we won't like it when they're gone. But how to make that an immediate, urgent fact for people who don't already understand it?
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public readings

Tuesday, April 26, 2005
Chicagoans and visitors to Chicago are invited to join me for a series of public readings of my work-in-progress, a prose poem entitled I I See. This is a piece which consists of a remix of words from the posted observations of Illinois birders to the internet, along with sentences from this blog. It all comes together, you'll see!
WHERE: 847 W. Jackson Blvd, Third Floor
WHEN: Saturday , May 7 at 7:00pm, Wednesday May 11 at 5:30 and 7:00pm, and Friday May 20 at 5:30 and 7pm.
Hope to see you there!
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injured kestrel

Thursday, April 21, 2005
on this mighty windy morning, i heard, and then saw, an AMERICAN KESTREL fighting the wind to land on the spire of a Victorian building in Wicker Park. I was looking into the sun, so it wasn't a great view, but this bird seemed to have in its beak a bunch of nesting materials, or perhaps stringy entrails. Its tailfeathers seemed to be flopping wrongly, almost as if they were about to be torn loose from its body. i wondered if it had just experienced some trauma as it struggled for purchase on the rounded brass spire. Once it gained footing, it lifted its wings again and was borne off on a gust of wind. i couldn't follow its trajectory over the building, and lost sight of it behind a chimney.
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ish yooz

Wednesday, April 20, 2005
since i've mostly been struggling to stay on the mechanical bull that is my emotional self this week, rather than birding or reading or blogging, i don't have much to report today. but i did get to see family friend Beauvais Lyons, printmaker and artist extraordinaire who is director of the Hokes Archives at the University of Tennessee. Very inspiring artist who is steadily gaining notoriety and who, i think, will likely be viewed as a very important artist in the American intellectual landscape.

AND

They are tearing down the Milwaukee Avenue White Castle!! this is huge news for:
--the pigeons and seagulls of the parking lot which is about to be churned to asphalt dust to make way for whatever luxury condo/luxury car dealer/luxury office building they are going to build;
--the grizzle-bearded, raggedly dignified and silent shopping cart man who lives in the tiny, illegally occupied vinyl-sided shack in the middle of the sidewalk three feet from the White Castle front window;
--the crackheads of the alleyway behind the Congress Pizza across from the White Castle, for whom White Castle is their non-pizza binge alternative. I had to step over one of them yesterday, which I haven't had to do for almost a year, so i can tell they're particularly depressed about these developments.
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gull dreams

Monday, April 18, 2005
i've had the strangest dreams lately...the immature greater black-backed gull from Saturday appeared that night in my tequila-soaked dream. it was standing alone in a parking lot, and turned its head slowly, slowly, to look my way.
last week i dreamed i had my own elephant. she was a female Asian elephant, trained to accompany me on my journeys into the city ( in the dream i think i lived in a city like Bangalore or Dubai, not Chicago, which is weird b/c i've never been to India--altho it figures prominently in my travel fantasies) and anyway, this elephant knew me really well. Sometimes i would walk beside or in front of her, sometimes riding on her back. She was really docile and quiet, and larger than all the other elephants (did i mention that in this dream, most people had elephants?). She ate surprisingly little for a pachyderm.
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ruby crown

Saturday, April 16, 2005
this morning at Diversey and the Chicago River, behind the Cub Foods parking lot, i had my first RUBY-CROWNED KINGLET since moving here from maryland! it was like a small gift.
I also saw a COMMON (YELLOW-SHAFTED) FLICKER, a TREE SWALLOW, and a pair of RED-WINGED BLACKBIRDS. Also i think there was an immature GREATER BLACK-BACKED GULL, which was kind of exciting because it's so humongous and rare for this area. but i'm not really experienced enough to be sure about it.
And, at the feeder here, a COMMON REDPOLL, one of the coolest birds i've seen here.
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jogger-not

Friday, April 15, 2005
...or juggernaut, whichever you prefer. three things:
1- The Leg is starting to get better. Meaning longer crutch-walks outside, meaning i do fewer dishes, meaning the whole house breathes a little easier. Thank you again to everyone who has offered kind words, stopped by, called etc. during this time. I felt so good today i went jogging for the first time since, oh, November...
2- I will be reading a collaborative poem by a bunch of ragtag layabouts, aka poets, at the 1926 N Halsted gallery this Sunday, between 3 and 5 pm. (Others will be reading too--you won't just have to endure me sucking my drool back in for 2 hours. Promise.)
3. Stella the cat had her first encounter with the dogs next door. It didn't, er, go too well. They are a couple of nimwit schnauzers, one with three legs, who poop in one corner of their yard and then when someone walks by, they run the length of their chain-link fence, barking excitedly and escalating the hype until the person passes, whereupon they begin a painfully long decrescendo into relative quiet. Unless someone else walks by. They aren't hostile, exactly; i think "overresponsive to visual stimuli" best captures it. They have doggy ADD. I brought Stellito out on her leash and she made for the fence. Not my fault, dude. I was talking with our neighbor when the dogs spied Stella. Presented with this juicy target, they commenced freaking out, so Stella, horrified by their poor manners, did what she does to defeat dogs like Orbit, the downstairs neighbor dog: she hissed. Orbit, when hissed at, runs away with his tail between his legs. End of story. But these dogs did NOT get the hint. They escalated, leaping at the fence and barking their heads off. Stella froze, then took off topspeed for the shelter of our porch, forgetting that she was still on leash and harness. Poor kid. SHe nearly took her own head off. I picked her up, her ears flat against her head, and endured her claws digging into the flesh of my shoulder as i brought her back into the house. Guess she'll have to miss the next neighborhood barbecue.
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Nestbox Cam

Wednesday, April 13, 2005
omg, you GOTTA go to this site and look at the eensy weensy fluffy baby birdies being born in their nests!! it is the awesomest thing ever and i wish i'd had this idea before the Cornell Ornithology Lab did, but i guess they are, in fact, ornithologists and are therefore spending way more time dealing with birds than i am.
holy crap, that's cool. thanks to Eva in Las Vegas for the link.
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dreams do come true

Tuesday, April 12, 2005
i just had a pretty good day. there are three of us putting a mini-show of our current work together in the vast labyrinthine hall of mirrors that will be the Graduate Exhibition (May 8-20) at the 847 W. Jackson gallery. we are curating ourselves, meaning that decisions such as what color to paint the walls in our little alcove, or what wine to surreptitiously serve our opening night visitors in conspiratorial violation of the house rules, are entirely our own. Meaning that we have to come up with our own "theme," which is normally (and by "normal" i mean the freakishly illogical and disempowering set of operating procedures used by galleries as a result of massive art-world inbreeding) a curator's job.
So anyway, we finally did it! Came up with a theme, i mean. It's "resonance," and although i advocated vigorously for a verb, this noun seemed an acceptable compromise. Come see the show! come hear me read my written work, which seems to be growing parasitically in and around my visual expression, and which i suspect (and sort of hope) will eventually take over as one of my main art forms. Come hear and experience Tamara's immersive sound environment! Come experience David's amazing heart-bell machine! ok, ok. i feel like a carny.
May 7th is the opening. May 8-20 is the show. that is all, for now.
oh, and Joseph Grigely just won a Guggenheim award. It's not the Macarthur, but someone must have heard my prayer.
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the river redux

Sunday, April 10, 2005
i went this morning to the Chicago River again, where it meets Diversey at the Cub Foods parking lot. there weren't many birds there, actually--but i did see 1 BROWN CREEPER and 7 LESSER SCAUP.
pretty rad.
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more finches

Friday, April 08, 2005
today, noon, walking back from Logan Square, i had 2 pairs of HOUSE FINCHES. i thought one of them might be a purple finch, but that turned out to be wishful thinking, as i noted the gray wingfeathers. I also saw what i believe was a VEERY, though i didn't get a great look, so it might have been a young ROBIN. I also have something in the yard here which i can't ID, a sparrow or another kind of finch maybe. I'm thinking they are WHITE-CROWNED SPARROWS.
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my nominee

Wednesday, April 06, 2005
If anyone reading this happens to be a scout for the Macarthur Genius Fellowship Award, I would like to nominate my teacher, Joseph Grigely. I went to his lecture on the visual representation of sound on Monday evening and my socks are officially knocked off.
First of all, you need to know that this man has a Ph.D. in Romantic Literature and another degree in, I believe, electrical engineering. Or mechanical, i'm not sure which. He is an avid flyfisherman and played semi-pro hockey. He also happens to be totally deaf, and while he does have sign-language interpreters join him for every class session, on this past Monday he spoke vocally to us for THREE HOURS. Think of that. A man who can not hear his own voice shared things about himself, his artwork, his thoughts and his process for three hours. it was incredibly generous and kind, but also let me in on the ways that my approach to art making is overlapping with his.
Joseph makes work which is about translating memory--re-presenting instead of representing. Allowing the experience--the sensation or the words themselves--to speak through him, backgrounding his own ego in favor of giving us the bigger picture. For a period of years, this took the form of installations of small bits of paper on which he had had barroom, or kitchen table conversations with hearing people. These formed something like what Mikhail Bakhtin refers to as a polyphony, a densely populated space of many voices speaking all at once--only they are incomplete, fragmentary, ephemeral. It was impossible to piece together a continuous conversation from any of the fragments--they were all from different people--but Joseph was present, of course, in all of them, as the recipient.
I'm also trying to make work that presents a shared space of many voices, a field from which my voice, my presence can emerge without my having to direct that process too much. I have multiple selves, myself- this comes through somewhat in the "condition" pictures of my hair collected on the shower wall--but i also want to bring forth the voices of birdwatchers, whose Internet observation texts i am using to make a long poem. i'm hoping to achieve something of the immediacy and re-presenting of a fleeting moment which Joseph got at with his "conversation" pieces.
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the river

Sunday, April 03, 2005
i woke up frustrated and angry with myself for being so far behind in my work. S. tried sweetly to encourage me to be more compassionate, but i was in no mood to cooperate and just got more and more cranky. So i did what the Boss recommends when we're in need of a break from the gritty realities of city life: I went down to the River.
There i saw two GOLDFINCHES, bright yellow and doing a mating ritual in the air; a pair of AMERICAN KESTRELS, my first real up-close look at this bird, who were sitting near each other and preening on a branch; and an AMERICAN COOT, which made a bunch of noise splashing in the water before i saw it pumping its head and swimming toward me along the edge. this is an all-over slaty-black bird, with a really dorky-looking white blob on its bill. It's not a duck, though, just a water bird with big clumsy feet. I'd never seen one before.
Still marveling, i rode home on my bike and am now SUPER crabby because i just realized i FORGOT it is daylight savings day. agh! I HATE That!
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the yard

Friday, April 01, 2005
my landlady lacks most of what i perceive would be the qualities needed to own & maintain property. we'll leave that for the moment.
but she is a NINJA when it comes to gardening. things seem to grow when she just looks in their direction, so much so that i sometimes picture her (against my will, mind you) wearing chiffon pantaloons and exposed-belly top a la I Dream Of Jeannie and tossing her top-of-the-head ponytail at the garden to make it grow. Then i have to rub my eyes because in fact, she is pretty lame and doesn't really have those powers.
in any case, she compulsively adds food to the bird feeders, which now is attracting AMERICAN ROBINS and 3 DARK-EYED JUNCOS, as well as the usual other marauders and now, i think i am seeing GOLDFINCHES but i'm not sure that's what they are because they're so dull with winter plumage. Maybe they'll molt--or maybe I'm just wrong.
I brought Stella out on her harness and leash this afternoon. We had a pretty funny moment with a man so handsome it was bordering on Ricardo Montalban's level. Well, maybe a couple notches below Ricardo Montalban, but he had a dachsund and a terrier on two leashes and they were flirting with Orbit, our downstairs neighbor's dog, who has an inferiority complex and loves cats and smaller dogs. Ricardo made kissing sounds at his dogs, but in a weirdly manly way, and coaxed them away, until he noticed i had my cat on a leash, at which point he felt the need to explain the situation to his dogs. I felt like this was his way of having a conversation with me, and had the distinct sense that he OFTEN interacts with strangers in this way: "Look guys! It's a cat! It's on its leash too!" "SHE," I said to Ricardo's dogs. "SHE's on HER leash. This is Stella." Ricardo glared at the ground and did not reply. Look, buddy, I was thinking. Either you think of your pets as people, in which case you get to talk to them like people in public, which means you also have to acknowledge other people's pets as people too, or you don't, which means you act NORMAL and address other humans DIRECTLY if you wish to communicate. Geez.
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