Archive for September, 2009


Save Hampshire College

Current Hampshire College President Ralph Hexter recently wrote a blog in which he discussed the possibility of dropping narrative evaluations and turning Hampshire into a University with graduate programs. The post is available here. Hexter is careful with his wording, but the implications are clear that he does not consider as inviolable the central foundational premise of the school as a radical small liberal arts college.

I wrote a short response to Dr. Hexter’s post. I am reproducing it here. I encourage all other alumni and concerned members of the Hampshire community to get in touch with Dr. Hexter and the Hampshire College Board of Trustees. We need to let them know that we care about Hampshire for what it is and that although we are not opposed to change, that change must not abandon the core values of our college.


My Response:

Dr. Hexter,

First, and most importantly: I am certain that the vast majority of the alumni would agree with me that it is horrific that the idea of dropping narrative evaluations is even discussed.

Please stop trying to abandon the mission of our school. Hampshire’s distinction rests on being a legitimate alternative to mainstream liberal/left-leaning private colleges. Narrative evaluations are both integral to and emblematic of the real difference between Hampshire and places like Wesleyan or Vassar. Frankly, that is the only ground on which we can compete with those schools and the only reason that any top-tier students choose to attend. If Hampshire loses its key marks of distinction, it becomes simply a second rate version of better funded and more established colleges.

The idea that Hampshire plans to establish graduate programs is also troubling. I would be willing to listen to arguments on behalf of specific programs, but I am extremely doubtful that we can offer top-tier graduate programs without draining our undergraduate resources (especially in terms of access to faculty). Further, unless Hampshire comes into an extraordinary amount of money, any graduate programs offered will be very expensive. Given the fact that most graduate students in traditional residential programs receive funding, it is likely that Hampshire would only be able to attract very wealthy and second-rate students.

Shifting the focus of the school away from our core principles as a radical, small, undergraduate institution is no way to insure Hampshire’s success. At best, you will only manage to destroy Hampshire and replace it with a totally unrecognizable institution that bears a similar name. Frankly, the longevity of the name ‘Hampshire’ is far less important than the school’s mission.

Dr. Hexter, I can assure you that the alumni will be almost universally mortified by your proposals. The pride we take in Hampshire is not a pride in liberal mediocrity but radical exception. We would rather see Hampshire close its doors with dignity than morph into such an institution as you describe. We want the opportunity to support you in guiding Hampshire into the future successfully, proudly, and as the Hampshire College we love. Please don’t betray our hopes and our school.


The Specter of Bush-Cheney

On July 30th a federal judge ordered the release of Mohammed Jawad, a former Guantánamo detainee represented by the ACLU, and was originally detained at roughly the age of 13. It was determined that his confession to throwing a grenade that injured 2 US soldiers was obtained under torture by Afghani Police, and therefore not usable in court. This sparked a renewed interest by the Justice Department into the treatment of detainees, but limited to cases handled by the CIA.

To everyone’s great surprise this inquiry unearthed some rather erie Justice Department memos outlining acceptable forms of torture. The Rachel Maddow Show highlights some particularly horrendous “abuses” found in the sparsely declassified sections of the report, including: mock executions used to frighten detainees, water boarding an individual 183 times, a pressure point technique that restricted the flow of oxygen to the brain, a report of detainee beaten to the point of death, threats against the children of detainees and a threat that a detainee’s mother would be raped in front the detainee.

How could such horror occur? Thank God we have our liberal pragmatic messiah committed to Judicial oversight, international law, and diplomacy. After all, one of Obama’s first moves in office was to announce the closing of Guantánamo, a move that Cheney fiercely denounced in town hall meetings across the country. Yet, something went awry with Obama’s commitment to ending the horrors of the Bush-Cheney years. He seemed to have inadvertently enabled the continuation of torture by defining detainees as “products of counterterrorism operations rather than of armed conflict.” Now Obama and the Justice Department are alleging to investigate illegal uses of torture, however, perhaps because of some sort of very clever Bush-Cheney specter, torture is still widespread and legal!

What happened?! Well, Obama has actually only outlawed detention centers operated by the CIA under a non short term/transitional basis (whatever that means), while additionally leaving open the potential for torture in any military or privately contracted detention center. Obama and Eric Holder, the Attorney General, are not questioning torture as a reliable method of obtaining confessions, but rather specific non prescribed torture tactics such as the staging of mock executions. Last time I checked the Geneva conventions did not allow for water boarding someone over a 100 times and outsourcing particularly horrendous torture tactics to privately contracted defense forces.

All of this amounts to little more than a liberal facelift of Bush policies. The Justice Department may release innocent people based on flimsy evidence, but it has little interest in prosecuting those who committed torture or even in ending torture in our current “counter terrorist” operations.


All My Friends Were Vampires


Me Time

In the interests of me, I am posting things about me:

1) Really generous new review of my now year-old ’78 Stories’ book at the Five Borough Books blog. If, via the ubiquity of internet self-searching, anyone from the FBB blog sees this: many many thank yous.

2) The AHN|VHS Gallery has been kind enough to showcase some of my visual work alongside that of many more accomplished artists. If you’d like to see some of my drawings, please go to: the website. Then check out all of the other amazing work they have up. Note: click the images to see larger versions.

3) Animal Planet | Animal Plant | Animal Plan | Anomal Plan | A Nomad Plan | Nomad Plan | No Mad Plan | O Mad Plan | Mad Plan | Mad Play | Bad Play | Bad Lay | Bad Lad | Bad Ad | Ad Ad | An Ad | An Ax | Snax | Sax | Ax | X


I’m Back/The Abandoned American City

A sort of formless post to mark returns:

I’m returned to the states, to my house (which Scott refers to- inaccurately- as a tenement), back finally to some semblance of a real schedule, and back to this blog.

Will soon be updating with thoughts on readings/writings/world events. For now, I will mark my return to Ghost Island with some thoughts on new project.

Have been thinking a lot about this ‘Abandoned Cities’ book-thing I’m starting work on. Please continue to send links/resources/possible interviewees my way. Please help make this real. Other Ghost Islanders are most welcome on board as collaborators. So far have worked up a kind of preliminary introduction/mission statement/course of research:

The Abandoned American City: A Primer for Reinventing the Urban Environment


This book is not a comprehensive study, a how-to guide, or a manifesto. It is a response, tentative and exploratory, to the condition of massive over-building in many American cities, particularly those in the Rust Belt region.

The focus is on the American context not because of a discounting of similar situations in other countries, but simply because 1) it is a way of keeping the scope of the project more manageable and 2) my personal experiences and contacts better qualify me to address issues in the US than elsewhere.

The situation described here is of a particular moment in history, but is hardly without precedent. There have been abandoned structures since the inception of permanent architecture. The phenomenon of converting old lofts, factories, and warehouses into living, performance, and retail spaces is also well established. Still, in cities like Cleveland and Detroit, the availability of large amounts of extremely inexpensive real estate gives rise to the potential for creative and social experimentation on a scale and at a budget that is completely unthinkable in traditional cultural capitals like New York or San Francisco. With the pace of economic decline in many rust belt cities being quickened by financial crisis, in combination with the large number of unemployed people and free-lancers being priced out of more traditional creative hotbeds, the abandoned American city offers a possibility for radical life change and experimentation.

Concrete numbers help to illustrate the prevalence of abandonment or near-abandonment of large sections of American cities. (numbers/facts)

discussion of the commune and the history of the commune/communal space as radical dream in the US.

Why the Urban?
– Subtracting one’s self from society (self-sustenance) as a goal is, at the very best, a subtractive and neutralizing gesture. To live entirely off the grid and make your impact zero is, at the end, essentially of a logic equivalent to suicide. The building of utopia- the meaning of which is, of course, literally ‘no-place’- is the eventually self-negating logic of the traditional commune. The spaces explored in this work are instead hetero-topias, alternative and experimental ‘other spaces’ that exist within a transformative rather than subtractive logic.



– Abandoned Cities (places, prices, projects)

– Squatting/Renting/Buying

– Gentrification/Problematic Aspects of Engagement

– Projects (Real & Proposed)

September 2009