Archive for July, 2009


Ghost Island in Switzerland

For the month of August, Ghost Island will have representatives in Switzerland for the European Graduate School session. Avi and I are both attending a series of courses and lectures from which we’ll be providing reports and analysis. The extend of our reporting will likely vary inversely with how busy we are, so expect lulls and spurts.

For now, I am in Zurich, getting internet in the lobby of my hostel. The management has left, but they did not turn off their weird techno music. Next door is a bar at which a singer was butchering covers of pop songs like ‘Wonderwall’. I thought at first that it was karaoke, but he was paid entertainment.

I have not had a proper conversation since I got to Switzerland. I would much prefer to be traveling with companions. Still, things are alright. Lake Zurich is enormous and quite beautiful. I spend most of today walking along the shore of the lake, occasionally stopping to read or write ideas in a notebook.

I saw: the exterior of Zurich’s very large Chinese Gardens, Hermann Haller’s studio (free admission, contains a number of his sculptures as well as paintings by other notable artists), the Heidi Weber Home (Le Corbusier’s last building), many sailboats, a British woman who had to speak with one of those throat-wands because of throat cancer, the best public park toilets in the world, absurdly cute ducklings, swans, other waterfowl, many impressive churches, and a woman cyclist getting hit by a car. The woman cyclist appeared to have suffered only minor injuries, though she was obviously very shaken.

Zurich is very expensive, so tomorrow will be more walking and a trip to the grocery store to save on food expenses. Then on Sunday morning I head to Saas Fee and the official start of EGS.


Ghost Island Skeuomorphs, Part I.

The sound on a television show or movie when someone is surprised: a record stopping.


2 Briefs

1) My 15 yr old sister didn’t know the etymology of rewind because she’s so used to dvds an cds and mp3s that she forgot we used to store information on magnetic tape and rewind it on spools.

I wonder what other words are in the process of detaching from their original referents?


2) I’m looking to compile research materials for a project on urban communes/radical living experiments/warehouses/adaptive reuse of abandoned urban infrastructure. Will be elaborating on this semi-frequently from now on and am really interested in suggestions and feedback.


Faunæ of Ghost Island, + Style Icons



Environment: the sandy beaches of Ghost Island’s western shore

Diet: Strongly Coupled Massive Particles, Strangelets

Intelligence: 128 bit quantum computer

Attack: Antiparticle stream breath

Mass: ~4*10^8 Kgs

The Dark Matter Dracoliches of Ghost Island are isolated travellers from the second era of interstellar space exploration. Formerly human, they gained total control over the mass of their physical form and decided to take on the appearance silvery dragons, badassly journeying through the far reaches of the known universe. Upon discovering time travel, they were among the first to experience its inevitable side effect – the conversion of one’s normal (baryonic) matter into weakly interacting and ethereal dark matter. They still retain their incredible capabilities for calculation, but have lost their presence in the material realm.  Finding Ghost Island a suitable place for spectres such as themselves, they haunt the beaches and are primarily felt through their gravitational contribution.




Notes on Zombies

I just recently had a conversation about the current vogue for zombie related fiction/movies/video games. A friend of mine is playing in a zombie themed band. With the coincident popularity of vampire-centric media, we are in the midst of a full-fledged undead invasion.

Why zombies? Why now? I have a few theories. During the aforementioned conversation, my friend Sandro suggested that perhaps technological alienation lends force to the the humans-must-band-together subplots prevalent in much zombie oriented work. I wondered if maybe the debate over when life ends- at brain death? at loss of heart function?- might be behind the spike in interest around liminal life states like zombies.

I suspect that these are probably part of the allure. However, the theory that most interests me, and that strikes me as likely most responsible for zombie mania, is that our culture’s zombie fascination stems from widespread fear of Muslim terrorists.

In the last decade, the term Islamo-fascism has become one of the hottest political buzzwords in our lexicon. The figure of the terrorist is almost invariably imagined as Arab. Historically, the figure of the Muslim is also strongly aligned with that of the quasi-human and zombie. The western tradition has long associated Muslims with unthinking, uncaring zealots who are quick to cast aside any kind of human conscience to follow religious law. Veils and beards hide their faces, loose robes hide their bodies. They are thus figured as without the prominent visual markers of full humanity. They are cast in countless films (as well as news reports) incomprehensible others bent on the destruction of ‘our way of life’ because they, apparently, ‘hate our freedom’. This kind of simplistic, irrational destructive urge is not dissimilar to the insatiable desire for BRAINS.

In fact, the Muslim-as-Zombie has a long tradition in western thought. During the holocaust, it was common for concentration camp inmates to eventually entirely given up their will to live or any kind of relation to humanity besides that of physical resemblance. These people were literally understood as the undead or walking dead and were a source of terror far more than of pity. They were known as ‘musselmanner’- literally ‘Muslims’ because Muslims were thought not to possess agency or humanity, having submitted wholly to a regime of extremist religious devotion.

A few questions then: Is it any wonder then that the uptick in narratives of zombie invasion should coincide so neatly with the rise of widespread fear of Islamic terrorists? Does our fascination with zombies act simply as a symptom of this fear or does is contribute to the climate in which such fear is bred? Do even counter-narratives of the undead as misunderstood still play into the logic of Muslims as radically and irreducibly alien? Do narratives of zombieism-as-disease legitimate aggressive ‘treatment’ (western interference/regime change)?


GI : : BM

And how would we do this, if we were to give it a shot? What would the physical and pedagogical topography of the place be? A way of defining common interests.  

black mountain courses I  black mountain courses II

Images are from here, with lots of other resources about the College.


Publishers & Depression

I recently read a blog by an intern at a major publishing house. The intern wrote at length about the publisher’s lack of interest in seeing new ‘literary’ work. Instead, she advised, writers ought to stick to books about lady detectives and self-help. The emphasis, post after wittily depressing post, was on sales, how to sell books, how to ‘hustle’, how to prove to a publisher that you can hustle and sell books, etcetc.

Naturally, I found it horribly sad, but not for the reason one might suppose. Well, for that reason too. Of course it is depressing that major publishers are not really interested in breaking new and challenging literary voices, but that’s well known, so hearing it again only provokes a mild discomfort. What I found truly unsettling was the impression that:

1) There are many many people out there writing solely for the purpose of publishing a book, not because of any belief in the value of what they’re writing.

2) The publisher is totally in favor of such a situation. Further, the culture at the publishing house seemed to hold that finding a book that would sell well was better than (or, even worse, indistinguishable from) finding a book one really loved.

I suppose I had an impression of publishing that it consisted of souring, acerbic, largely aging alcoholics who sat around hating the trash they publish. I pictured men and women, well-dressed but rumpled and old fashioned, knocking back martinis and talking about the good old days when they were proud to be publishing real literature. I pictured them trying to sneak an extra title on a year’s list because they still believed in books and not just the business of books or books as commodities. I know that, especially in large operations where salaries must be paid, commercial considerations must be taken into account, but people don’t have to be so gleeful about it.

On a more positive note, I am certain that there are wizened editors who properly hate the state of contemporary mainstream publishing. Maybe they really are the majority. I’d love to be shown that the industry is as full of depressed people as it ought to be.


ghost island style icon(s): school’s out forever

The cast of ‘Welcome Freshmen’

Picture 3

Picture 12

Picture 13

Picture 11

Picture 15

Picture 14

Also, Heavy Metal Parking Lot:



Burning a hole in our pockets

Joe Biden yesterday left the door open to a “second stimulus” that some economists think could be necessary, and a couple of polls today suggest why that would be such a heavy lift: Voters say they’re very concerned about the deficit and dislike the idea of more spending.

-From Ben Smith’s blog at

Does it strike anyone else as odd that a populace who just spent the last two decades burying themselves in billions of dollars of unpayable, frivolous debt is so concerned about the fiscal wisdom of an uneven national balance sheet? I mean I’m fairly interested in politics and things like this but the national debt is still just some abstract gigantic number that gets tossed around without context. Is this really a dinner table issue around the country? The ramifications of our uneven spending on future generations? It seems hard to believe. But Republicans are seemingly able to whip up all this outrage and concern over more restrained fiscal spending without a problem. Maybe I’m at fault for even dignifying the Republican party circa 2009 with a momentary lapse of thinking that some aspect of them is remotely concerned with logic.

And besides, if the national debt is ever so bad that other places stop lending the United States money (thereby damaging their own economies that are based on our consumption), everything would be so fucked that it wouldn’t matter anyway.  Although it would be significant enough that maybe word of it would reach our utopian compound deep in the forest.


This is Awesome

Rory Gilmore + Matt Saracen = We’re going

July 2009