Chairs Enough

Write Room

Strangely enough, I’ve been writing in the Florida room lately.
I’d never heard of a Fla. room until my brother and his family threw down a
mortgage on a place in East Detroit ten years ago. The house had a glass-enclosed
room on the south end of the house. High sun exposure. A soft urban
breeze. They called it a Florida room. And that was that. I
stayed in that room when I visited on the weekends away from Saginaw.

Now, in the place we’ve called home since November, we have a
comparable room. Lately it has been warm enough to set up a makeshift
workspace in t/here, and over the last few days, it’s been
not-too-hard-not-too-soft writing environ of goodly inspiration. I’ve
never before been conscious of an oversensitivity to writing spaces.
Thought I was above it, immune, able to write here, there, anywhere, in other
words, no matter the circumstances. But whereas the official office and
living room (both adequate for working, with decent furniture, lighting, etc.)
have been fine for reading lately, they’re traps for writing. Snares! I don’t
want to overemphasize the consequences of space for what I perceived to be a
brief and now-passing writing rut–a moment of dread at the immanence of
semester’s end. Might’ve been the full moon for all I know. But a
change of scene has done something; I’ve vacated the stifling writing sites,
replacing them with this one: an over-sunshined porch with a card table and
enough folding chairs to host a small party. Headphones leveled up with
entrancing techno loops from
. I hope not to jinx myself by saying it, but I’ve been
pleasantly surprised by the difference brought on by simply changing scenes.

Amphigeography and Doppelspace

Roland Barthes in Roland Barthes on Amphibologies:

[I]n general, the context forces us to choose one of the two meanings and
to forget the other.  Each time he encounters one of these double words,
R.B., on the contrary insists on keeping both meanings, as if one were winking
at the other and as if the word’s meaning were in that wink, so that one
and the same words
, in one and the same sentence, means at one
and the same time
two different things, and so that one delights,
semantically, in the other by the other.  This is why such words are
often said to be "preciously ambiguous": not in their lexical essence (for any
word in the lexicon has several meanings), but because, by any kind of luck,
a kind of favor not of language but of discourse, I can actualize their
amphibology, can say ‘intelligence’ and appear to be referring chiefly to the
intellective meaning, but letting the meaning of ‘complicity’ be understood

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Archisemiotics, To Critiques of Space

Like Chuck,
I started my FY writing class early this morning with a teaser about the debates
last night:
who watched?  next-day gut-level impressions?  

The first comment in my 8:30 a.m. section: "George Bush came off as
really likable and genuine.  He was angry at times, but he was real, like
somebody you’d meet at a bar.  His vocabulary seemed more everyday. 
He came right out and said ‘You can’t do that.  The president can’t lead
that way.’"

Mm-hmm.  Okay.  The barstool intellectual stumble-de-do is exactly
the thing that worries some folks (although I won’t name specific names).
<loop> It’s a lot of work.  You can’t say wrong war, wrong place,
wrong time.  What message does that send?  It’s a lot of work. 
Six-party talks…if ever we ever needed China, now.

Students had great insights on the debates; they recognized nuance between
the candidates, articulated them with conviction that this election matters to
them.  We shifted our attention after several minutes, even though some
students preferred a sustained conversation about the event over the other plans
for the hour.  The connection, for us, came from the debate’s framed
emphases: foreign policy and homeland security.  Homeland security
is particularly timely in these classes–the two I teach every MWF.  The
courses are organized around questions involving spatial analysis–geographies
of exclusion, socio-spatial critiques of the campus and of hometown spaces, and
arguments about surveillance, privatization of public spaces, neighborhood
watches and localized security poses, perceptions of threat, and so on.  In
fact, the second assignment is called, "Homeland (In)Securities." 
So I wanted to move from the debates–how would we understand homeland
security if we could read the notion through last night’s debates alone?
our current, in-progress projects on hometown spaces, memory work, strangers and
safety, contested zones, etc.–how can we extend the idea of a controlled
surrounds (in the debates, taken to the limits of the globe,
exhaustive) to the material-spatial patterns of policing, security,
"known" threats and deliberate municipal designs aimed at thwarting

I grumbled about Mike Davis’s "Fortress L.A." article (from City
of Quartz
), earlier in the week, but I’m doubling back on those doubts now
that the classes read the chapter.  Davis adopts a term I’m growing ever
more fond of as we move ahead with spatial analysis–archisemiotics
Basically, Davis argues that L.A.’s architectural development implies
unambiguous messages about social homogeneity in the urban center.  If we
accept the latency of meaning in the city-scape (buildings, barriers), reading
spaces becomes a process of seeing significance in spatial design as it
determines who can go where, when, for how long, etc., and imposes a character
on the peopling of the space, its social flows–viscocities.  It makes
structures rhetorically significant, inscribing them to their perimeters with a
sentience–not unlike, according to Davis, the eerie, systematized conscience of
the building in Die Hard

I suppose there’s a whole lot more to it than I can exhaust here and now–or
than I’d even care to considering I have one helluva cold.  I just wanted
to register an few thoughts about teaching at SU this semester–because I
haven’t yet–and, too, comment on last night’s debate.  The cross-over this
morning, even though I’m not teaching courses with an explicit focus on the
election, was striking–even exciting; it was a pleasant reminder that I’ll
never be too busy to savor moments when students are brilliantly conversant with
each other over hard questions.