I’ve recently become involved with a new podcast over on the Meddling with Nature blog, where I also happen to be a fairly regular contributor. Our second episode was about ‘roadkill’, a topic I’ve discussed here before as well. As it seems only so rarely that the different aspects of my generalist interests overlap, I can get quite excited and hope to cement the connections; it is in this eager spirit of cement that I share with you in the transportation world, a relevant part of my more philosophical and psychological interests.

Link to the episode

Also, if you’re curious, you can hear my douchy sounding voice, which is something that happens less often than I’d like on a some of blogs I read. Bloggers have bodies too!

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Posted in: Psychological
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Mapping death

It’s been a while since I posted on this topic, but a clever thought has brought it back to my attention.

Last year, I spent a little time exploring the City of Cincinnati’s publicly available 591-6000 dataset, a list of calls to the City’s public service help-line. It’s the kind of thing your unpleasant neighbours call in to when they want to nag the City for not fixing a crack in the sidewalk or when they’re otherwise too lazy to do do something themselves; also, sometimes for legitimate reasons like broken signs and overflowing trash cans. Most interesting to me is that you can call the number to report that an animal is dead, almost always after having been struck by a reckless driver, these invariably having not the fortitude or the decency to carry through the butchery that they’ve initiated. As a result, a living animal is reduced to a body, and the body is indecent and must be removed.

What I created then was a map showing a kernel density approximation of callers asking the city to basically pick up a rotting corpse in the right-of-way. I think that’s a pretty fucked-up thing to establish a bureaucracy for, so I mapped it! It occurred to me that a kernel density map looks like a splatter of blood if the colors are right, and so that’s what I tried to do. I even sampled the colors directly from a photo of a dissection.

map of roadkill deaths in Cincinnati ohio, 2008-2013But it didn’t come out like I had it in my mind…My clever thought then is the reason why: I was using pixels instead of blood!

-_-    duh.

The plan now, and I’m not sure what I’ll ever do with this, is to print a nice base-map on some decent paper, and then to either screenprint or stencil the density function over top with blood and other body fluids from some of the actual animals I’m concerned with.  Initially, I asked my partner to bleed me, which he politely refused. It seems however, and the data doesn’t at all contradict this, the city is full enough with violent death that I needn’t worry my own fingers. He gave me a small bottle of blood and the promise of more.

bottle of bloodI picked up some paper from the neighbourhood art store and I used this to test some swatches.

blood swatchesAnd I liked the color best on the off-white paper, so that’s what I’m currently designing for. I tossed together a super-simple base map this morning.

blood-mapWhat will it look like when it’s done? How will it serve as a pretence for me to finally use that giant laser-cutting-machine? What’s the point in a ‘society’ that clearly doesn’t give one-tenth of a shit?

Tune in next time.

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Posted in: Maps
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More to come.

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Posted in: Maps | Politics | Priorities
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Something I’ve found so hard to say

When I was 16, I was struck by a car, or more precisely, a man, a human inside a huge machine, who decided on an impulse that he would use his machine to hurt me. I was passing in traffic when he cut me off purposefully and  too quickly. I went flying, breaking my collar-bone, my bike, and my sense of invulnerability. I say again he decided. He got into his huge machine that day and he decided to treat me just as he treats the other machines in his insane video-game world: with brute force and the constant threat of violence. He decided to show me as he surely showed so many others that no one would unjustly move before him. He won his way with force, and I scared him shit-less with reality. He could so easily have killed me, so likely as far as he knew in the first moments of our collision did, that he drove off, never leaving his damned machine until forced out by an equal threat. The car in front of him stopped his mechanical flight. He got out, human now, screaming, unable to identify with what he’d just done to another person, screaming, ranting and denying. Saving his name before himself alone among the witnesses, he threw me, bleeding, the best of his accumulated bluster, blaming me, distracting us all from the thoughtless brutality he’d not really meant to commit.

Shocked, I was taken away in an ambulance and treated. I never did see his face again, and I never learned his name from the bungled police report, at first out of thoughtlessness and now, six years later out of real fear of what I might do if I ever found him.

It’s almost impossible that he could have recognized what he’d done in that moment. That’s what cars do to us, both you and even me: They divorce us from our world, literally isolating us with a heavy soundproof wall from all the things that might threaten to come too near: the other machines, the cold, even the other people with their challenging dissimilar humanity. The padded, conditioned, sound-systemed, customized luxury of these machines lulls us all into thinking that we’re in a private space, and we all act accordingly when we’re at the controls which become those of a video game that takes place in some other yet real world, a game of life and death like all the best games, with the participant shielded from the dire effects of the hyperbolic consequences.1

I think I can imagine quite well what rape would be like for I all too often fully understand while traveling about this fair city that my body could be crushed at a whim of most of the so-called people around me. It has I have come so close to being crushed so many times.

It makes me sick and untrusting and so much more it makes me angry.

I’ve found only two people who seem to share this feeling even half as acutely as I do. I just discovered that second one and I want to share a video that he put together on the subject. Mike Price has spent several months now collaborating with my partner, Jeremy. Together, we’ve all been exploring through this shared work the divide between the ‘human’ and ‘animal’, between the corporeal and the ethereal, between us and them and even between us and our bodies.

This video from Mike’s work at the AAC struck a nerve.

I’ve eaten a lot of roadkill in the last year, one of the benefits of dating an exploratory anatomist. It’s impossible now for me to eat these animals, to dissect them, and see them without feeling some kinship with them, as inadvertent highwaymen, struck down and left to die by the humans wrapped in their heedless, rusting bubbles. I know exactly how it is that they died, can imagine so precisely how that man in the red convertible in Indian Hill two months ago struck and killed that buck, now frozen, leaving it there to hemorrhage and writhe while his most precious object stood inconveniently dented and tarnished. It is with reverence that I pass these animals, dead on the street, for what I am now they once were, and what they are now I may yet become. I can no longer pass them by.

I refuse to drive a car for no such half-assed reason as ‘saving the environment’, but because I know that when I’m in one I will have lost all of my humanity, my concrete animality, my only connections with what is real.

Show 1 footnote

  1. Every good game has huge imagined consequences the reality of which are totally shielded from the gamer: Life, Monopoly, Grand Theft Auto, Legend of Zelda, whatever you like.
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Posted in: Psychological
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