Thursday, July 3


You may have noticed that I haven't made a new post since March.  In the words of Salam Pax, the Baghdad Blogger: "I think hiatus is the word".  I have had a busy couple of months, thanks for bearing with me.

This one will be short and sweet: a scene I love from a wonderful Persian film called "Under the Moonlight", the controversial story of a young man who is struggling to decide weather or not to join the Islamic clergy.  This scene shows the playful, caring and brotherly side of Iran's men.

As you have seen in the western media, Middle Eastern men are most commonly seen being angry, mistreating women, acting the fanatic...these images are reinforced throughout western culture with disparaging references to us.  Take, for example, this fireworks package I found on the grounds the week before the 4th of July:

It says several things.  "Osama Bin Laden is a cartoon, a caricature, not a real man."  "Blowing him up would be funny".  "This would be a justified revenge."  And how different is Bin Laden from other muslim 'fanatics'?  Are all muslims 'fanatics'?  Does this help justify violence toward all muslims?

One of the joys of watching Persian cinema is that you get indigenous glimpses at how our people live and interact with one another.  "House of Sand and Fog" and "Not Without My Daughter", eat your hearts out.


P.S. This is my first attempt to edit a film for a post.  Here's how I did it:

1. I downloaded this film in .avi format from
2. I edited this clip (cut it from the film) in Final Cut Pro
3. I exported it into a Final Cut Quicktime File
4. I converted it in Quicktime to XVid format
5. I uploaded it to Youtube
6. (the easy part) I linked the Youtube upload to this page.


Sunday, March 2

Dog Bag Holder

At long last, I am pleased to announce a new invention that has been months in the making; DOG BAG HOLDER. It all started when the dog walkers seemed to want to hang their extra plastic bags on the wrought iron gates to share with the other visitors. It was generally a very good idea, since it meant that 1. people had a use for their extra bags, 2. people who forgot their bags had a steady supply on the gates and 3. it encouraged people to scoop their poop.

The only problems were that 1. it made the gates look like they were covered in trash (and thus made me look bad) and 2. the bags blew off the gates and all around in the world. So I set forth and devised a solution - how can we provide a better way for people to share dogshit bags? First I thought about mounting a holder on the gates...but it turned out that gates are a sensitive issue around here, and people don't want to add things to them. Then it came to me: the trash barrels.  Nobody cares how they look  because they're already ugly (though I admit I find them more and more beautiful the more I paint their blemishes and hammer their dents - ever the doting father.)  So, I discussed it with some people and drew up some plans (pictured below).

Then I faxed the plans over to the good people at ARC Welding in Waltham and they said they'd make a prototype.  A few weeks later I visited their shop and picked them up.  The shop was amazing - full of machines and chains and motors and noise and air so thick you could see it.

Bob had it all ready for me - and it looked amazing, almost exactly like I'd drawn it. Better really.  It turned out that my plan was overly complicated and expensive, he simplified it and preserved the function and dimensions.  I had him weaving metal strips together and he just made it out of perforated sheets.  Here it is:

Then I took it back to the shop and painted it.  I made the mistake of painting it with outdoor glossy paint instead of spray-paint - and the thick oil-paint clogged the perforations up.  Then I tried to un-clog them (first with an air pressure hose, then with a pressure sprayer) which didn't really work.  Live and learn, spray-paint next time.

Then, on a VERY cold day, I froze my hands off installing it on the Mendum St. Barrel.  Several people, including my friend Ivy, have said they like the way it looks and they find it helpful.  I'm pleased with it too.  If the folks upstairs feel the same way, we'll order twelve more for the other gate-barrels.

Cinnamon Challenge

This week I got an email from Eric in Plant Records with a link to this video, entitled "The Cinnamon Challenge", staring himself, Steve from IT and a whole host of characters up on 4S (the top floor). It's really very funny, you should watch it.

It took me a few watches to understand exactly what's going on: supposedly it's impossible to swallow a whole spoonful of cinamon - it absorbs all the water in your mouth and turns to cement. We're trying to think of another challenge for this friday but haven't found one yet - so if any of you have ideas, let me know - you could find your idea posted in another video next week. Also, Eric, Abby (who's in the film too) and I are entering a 3 on 3 basketball tournament in a few weeks.

Monday, February 18

Shotgun Singer

Kris Delmhorst is my favorite local musician by a long shot.  I first met her in 1999 when I was a waiter at Bella Luna restaurant and she would play a weekly gig in the corner alcove.  I still remember moving the table and chairs out of the way and her playing songs from her first album - a cassette tape, if you can believe it.  It was the best demo tape I'd ever heard and I've been a major fan ever since.  She's a poet par excellence.  Her long awaited new album, Shotgun Singer, is about to drop.  And it's gonna be nice.  Ania, Elizabeth, Amanda, Andy and I went to her last boston show on valentines day, which was f@*#ing great.  Here's a clip of her from that show opening with a cover of Tina Turner's What's Love Got To Do With It (definitely wade through the first minute of crappy sound and visual, it gets better):

This next song is called Blue Adeline, from the new album (I was better with the handycam at this point.)


If you haven't seen it yet, the film adaptation of the Persepolis Graphic novels (by Marjane Satrapi) is excellent - Amanda and I really loved it. It's a memoir of Satrapi's life in pre and post-revolutionary Iran and her families experiences under the Shah and Ayatollah. Remember, it's not to be taken literally as the only interpretation of 20th century Iran and the '79 revolution, but it is certainly valuable as one woman's story. Though it is a great victory for the world when a Muslim woman makes a film that is so well received in the west, it is nonetheless an example of the new orientalist narrative, where 'westernized easterners' replace western explorers as the conveyers of all things exotic and intriguing. This is particularly evident in her portrayal of religious Iranians in the film - they are generally shown as barbaric, vulgar and violent. But generally, her treatment of history and politics is nuanced and explores many sides of each issue.

Now, in local news...

 In case you haven't had the opportunity to see this, here is a 'wood catalogue' that sits in the basement of our building.

It was made by Ralph F. Perry out of wood from our trees, and serves as a research tool for those interested in identifying wood based on its grain and color. It's really a thing of beauty. Here's his picture.

Bruce and Wes have been insulating the windows in our storage space for the last few weeks. It looks pretty great:

And Jen (multitalented as she is) wrote a great article on Mojito Cupcakes for her website Finders Eaters, which you should check out.

Here are some trash finds for the week:

Someone tried (unsuccessfully) to set up a tent on state lab slope

Someone tried (apparently successfully) to avoid giving life to their progeny

And I found some children's toys and dolls. Here's a character from Pixar's Flushed Away. I found it on the side of the road, still in the package...

and here's what was inside

I also found Tigger in the trash.

Tigger, you rock. Lastly, some natural and beautiful things. The birds use trash to make their nests:

Leaves frozen under the ice

And buds starting to appear on the trees

"No matter how cold the winter, spring always comes."
- Sandman

Button Pusher

Sometimes I invent things at work. I do this either

1. to make my job easier
2. to make something work better
3. because it's fun or funny

Trashsled 2000 is one such invention. And soon I will post photos of the dog-bag holder I designed and had a welder build last week. For now, I'd like to show you something I like to call...

Button Pusher (Version 1.1)

(It's the metal bolt hanging off the crosswalk button panel)

Here's how it works: you take the pokey thing (a stove bolt, tipped with duct tape and attached with wire) and stick it in the crosswalk button hole to press the button. I and many others found that the button was impossible to press with gloves on, forcing you to take your gloves off and touch cold metal in freezing weather. Button pusher (Version 1.1) fixes this problem.

A closer look

Several people have reported that they enjoy Button Pusher v 1.1 and find it straightforward and easy to use, which makes me happy. I have worried, on occasion, that someone will think it's a bomb and call the police - but fortunately Button Pusher has not run into Homeland Security, the Patriot Act, or Guantanamo Bay yet.

I may be able to fix that particular bug in version 1.2.

Guantanamo Bay

I've been experimenting with some new music production software lately, a program called Reason. I use my Powerbook G4 laptop computer, some hardware I got on Craigslist (an 8 channel audio interface, a 49 key midi keyboard, a microphone and my guitar), Reason and a few other programs to make beats. So far I haven't managed to record a whole song yet, but here is my first loop.

And this is the voicemail that Hanon left me after I sent it to him.

Blackwell Hole

Welcome to the second installment of found photographs from the sleeping hole we found in the Blackwell hills.

(Click here for the first post which tells the whole story, and thanks again to Dan Fokine for lending them to me.)

They appear to chronicle the life of the man who lived in the hole last year. I think this might be him, lying in bed.

This gorgeous portrait is part figure, part abstraction

A family Photo

Another one of our friend

Abstract couple

Boy in a doorway

Mother and child

Thursday, January 31

Fritschelles Club

I'm delighted with this piece of dirty paper I found out in Cityshack this week; it appears to be an unfinished plan by a young person named Fritschelle to create her or his own club.

What a good idea! Everyone should have their own club, I think, and invite other people to join it. What does the square mean? Is it the beginning of clubhouse blueprint? Is it a box to put names of friends in? All I have to say is, Fritschelle, you're a genius. If you ever read this post, please leave your email address, I'd love to learn more about your club. And if you invited me to join it, I wouldn't say 'no'.

Friday, January 25


Our new favorite TV show at home is a Canadian series called "Little Mosque on the Prairie". It's really extremely funny. In episode four, the Imam decides to Islamize halloween and creates..."HALALOWEEN". I laughed for an hour. Amanda's got a special thing for Yasir Hamoudi on the show. (For the adventurous...)

Today the temperature didn't break the 20's. On that note, I'd like to introduce you to one of my winter trash collecting methods.


(click the play button on the lower left)

This past July, my friends Dan and Samantha and I were cleaning out the hills behind the Blackwell path when Dan stumbled upon something interesting; someone had dug a hole in the side of the wooded hill, big enough for a person to sleep in (there was a couch cushion in it, all molded over), with logs thatching over the entrance. We wondered at how long the person might have lived in it. Then Dan found a package of photos that had been there for at least a season. They were all wet and decomposing, and the weather had done really cool things to the paper and chemicals. Each one looked almost like it had been painted in abstract, but you could also make out outlines of people and things. Here's one of the photos:

"Lady Madonna"

Dan lent me the stack of 30ish that he kept, so I'll scan them all in and upload some (or maybe all) of them in time.

This week I'm starting a class called: The Politics and International Relations of Iran. Dr. Houchang Chehabi has come highly recommended to me, I think this is going to be a good one.

And here's a voicemail from my old buddy Chris Sand "The Sandman, Montana's Rappin' Cowboy" from out in North Dakota.

Wednesday, January 23

Spilling the Beans

Today I listened to an episode of "Democracy Now" on my iPod while I picked trash on South St. It was a heated conversation between Gloria Steinem and Melissa Harris-Lacewell (Associate Professor of Politics and African American Studies at Princeton University) about their respective support of Clinton and Obama.

Harris-Lacewell's criticism of both Steinem and Clinton were, I thought, harsh; she said Clinton is trying to "have it both ways" by claiming to be qualified based on her own life's experience and at the same time profiting from her political exposure as 'Bill's wife'. I see no reason for her not to advertise both. But I appreciated and agreed with much of what she said about the overlooked intersection of race and gender and liked her broad perspective. I'll vote for Obama myself (if I don't vote for Kucinich). Steinem had great things to say about unity (that feminists need to maintain open discussion and good relationships in spite of disagreements) but, in the end, didn't seem to agree with Clinton on political issues (for example, the fact that she voted for war.)

This is one of my favorite trees, next to the barrel on Peter's hill: the honeylocust.

Sometimes I find ceremonial items on the grounds; this little package looked like it might be one...

And it was. Beans and toast.

Friday, January 18

Graf Writers

This week it snowed so hard the trees groaned and broke. Heaviest snow I've ever seen. So heavy that some trees keeled over and their root balls ripped out of the ground. I wish I had a picture to post but I forgot my camera those days, and now it's rained over and melted.

I'm writing a paper about Abdul Karim Soroush, the Iranian secularist philosopher. People say he might be the 'Martin Luthor of Islam'. But according to Omid Safi (who Sandman opened up for last year, you can see the photo if you follow the link to his blog), they say that about someone new every 18 months, and on top of that, old ML hated Muslims, Jews and the Pope, so it's kind of a crappy analogy. Soroush thinks that there can be Islamic nations where law is based on a flexible combination of Islam and human rights. I can't follow everything he says, but I'm hooked on his ideas.

No interesting trash to speak of this week: all the snow put the kabosh on that. And nothing good in the barrels. In the summer it'll flow like the brook.

I discovered a blog on graffiti in Iran:, those Tehrani writers have talent. Here are some photos from the subway wall at the marsh behind the Blackwell path, at work. Our writers end up throwing their cans into the marsh and I'm trying to devise a plan to provide waste barrels for them. They don't want to get caught with cans if the jake finds 'em on their way out.

Saturday, January 12

Three Women

I found this by Poplar Gate on thursday. It's too bad when friendships get ruined. Hard to be a young woman these days, so many things to get in the way of your friendships. I hope they work it out.

First Post

I am 30 years old.  I work as a garbage-man for a public park somewhere in the United States.  Really I'm a sort of outdoor handyman; some days I pick up trash with a trash picker and a barrel on wheels; some days I change the liners in the 28 trash barrels (lots of dog shit and coffee cups); other days I fix the wooden benches, remove graffiti from the roads and walls or rake leaves out of the sewer drains. Much of my work life involves garbage.  The perimeter of the park is surrounded by city streets, and there's a street that bisects the grounds, so the streets form a kind of figure 8.  People throw cans, bottles, drinks, packages, CD's, DVD's, cigarette packages and other things out their windows as they drive by.  I don't really mind, they're the reason I have a job.  (I do spend a lot of time ruminating about the waste created by advanced industrial capitalism, and on a broader scale that drives me crazy.  A new Styrofoam coffee cup every day!?)  People park at the gates at night and on the weekend when they need a private spot; I clean up their condoms and underwear.  You'd think they would want to put the underwear back on afterwards, but this is clearly not always the case.  People leave syringes lying on the roads and walls.  I have a red sharps container where I collect those.  At some point I'll take them all out and take a photograph of them.  At certain times of the year, people leave sacrifices on the grounds; lots of coconuts, sometimes other vegetables and sometimes animals, usually chickens or other birds.  I find those.  I haven't been able to figure out exactly what religion these ceremonies belong to but my guess is either Haitian Voodoo, Cuban Sanataria or Brazilian Condomble.  All of those communities are represented in our area.People leave couches and televisions, dolls and toys, books, clothes, magazines and torn up photographs.  Once I found two 45 automatic shells.  My plan is to begin photographing the trash and post it for you to see and share.  My trash is your trash.