upcoming changes to girlwonder

I’m tidying up a few things around my respective websites and wanted to sound a warning in case you read Girlwonder through a feed: it’s possible that the URLs for RSS will change. I’m switching blog platforms as well and even redesigning. On top of all of that, I’m going to roll the content of Active Social Plastic, my other site, into this one. I’ve discovered that half-maintaining two sites is less fun than working on one presence. So Girlwonder it is and will be.

Stay tuned! 

Recent fascinations

In July, out of the blue, a friend’s cat attacked my leg, biting and scratching it until my friend pulled it off, without provocation. Later in the month, my bizarre allergy to Princeton’s mosquitos returned, causing a full-on systemic allergic reaction and requiring steroids. So for the start of August, here are some more pleasant thoughts: some of this week’s fascinations.

• John Cage. He’s been on the periphery of many of my fascinations for the last few years but in some research I’m doing right now, he’s a central figure. I heard a 1982 interview on Cage and his collaborator and partner, Merce Cunningham on Friday on Fresh Air and it knocked my socks off. One thing keeps coming back — his notion of paying attention to many things at a time. He celebrated it. It was at the center of some of much of his work. (What do you pay attention to in a performance of 4′ 33″?) 

• Birds. One of the last sounds I heard before leaving Princeton yesterday morning was a woodpecker. I’m rarely up at six a.m. but there it was, reverberating through the neighborhood. Later that day on the airplane, I read this quote by Gaston Bachelard in The Poetics of Space:

“However mysterious and invisible among the leaves the green-garbed woodpecker may be at times, he nevertheless becomes familiar to us. FOr a woodpecker is not a silent dweller. It is not when he sings, however, that we think of him, but when he works. Up and down the tree-trunk, his beak pecks the wood with resounding taps, and although he frequently disappears, we still hear him. He is a garden worker.

And so the woodpecker enters into my sound world and I make a salutary image of him for my own use. In my Paris apartment, when a neighbor drives nails into the wall at an undue hour, I ‘naturalize’ the noise by imagining that I am in my house in Dijon, where I have a garden. And finding everything I hear quite natural, I say to myself: ‘That’s my woodpecker at work in the acacia tree.’ This is my method for obtaining calm when things disturb me.” (Bachelard, 97)

What Bachelard says about nests was significant and beautiful. In fact, what Bachelard says about many things encompassed and encapsulated so much of the intimacy of home, of the interior. 
• Carrots that I grew. My garden kind of sucked. I got the shadiest spot, which was a strike against it. Summer was one thunderstorm after another on the East Coast. Two of the tomato plants succumbed to blight. Bunnies ate the kale and the brussels sprouts. I succeeded at radishes and mint and thyme, but how many radishes can you eat? When I talked about the things I was most hopeful about to a friend recently, carrots were one of the things I mentioned. Well, look:

and see here: not just carrots but a lot of green beans and four baby roma tomatoes, when I walked in the door with them at 6:15 a.m.:
I’m beginning to wonder whether I might want a tattoo of a green-garbed woodpecker and a bunch of ruby red carrots. It’s something to ponder. My totem animal is always a dog, but maybe it’s a bird after all?

SXSW redux coming soon

Just wanted to note that I’ve not forgotten to post a recap of the Tangible Interactions in Urban Spaces panel we put together at SXSW. A few life things (see next post) have happened. I’ll post this week.

2008 cities

As inspired by Jason Kottke (and as reported previously on this site about 2005 and 2006… 2007 skipped because it was an awful December and January), my 2008 year in cities. A * means multiple, non-consecutive trips.

I traveled a lot; I also lived in Berlin for the summer. Of my personal velocity, Dopplr says:

* Minneapolis, MN

* Realitos, TX
* San Antonio, TX
* New Haven, CT
* Princeton, NJ
* New York, NY
Savannah, GA
Austin, TX
* San Francisco, CA
* London, UK
* Berlin, Germany
Copenhagen, Denmark
Goch, Germany
* Düsseldorf, Germany
Hamburg, Germany
Budapest, Hungary
Lake Balaton, Hungary
A night on a train between Budapest, Vienna and Munich
Paris, France
Utrecht, the Netherlands
Monticello, NY (for All Tomorrow’s Parties)
Memphis, TN
Charlotte, SC (stuck overnight)
Montreal, Quebec
Redmond, WA
Nassau, the Bahamas
Chicago, IL

Active Social Plastic: please visit me there

2010 update: Active Social Plastic is on hiatus and I’m handling its content here on Girlwonder.com.

I’ve moved!  I am blogging at Active Social Plastic — please find me there.

Otherwise, I have completed my third semester of my PhD at Princeton University in architecture. My topics of interest include 19th century Paris, postal services, pneumatic tubes; 1920s and 30s Berlin and German cultural history, functionalism; 1950s and 60s cybernetics in England and the United States and the connections of art, architecture and systems theory; 1960s-70s Italian industrial, product and furniture design; Playboy magazine and its influence on architecture, design and technology especially in the 1960s-1970s; 1970s responsiveness and mobility in architecture.

Coming soon for Girlwonder dot com: some kind of more professional description. Stay tuned, but do visit Active Social Plastic for my occasional commentary.

Pelosi in da house


… while Dems in the Senate rock it.

Today, I sent this note to Harvey Jacobs, the urban planning professor I had in 1994. He taught Green Politics.

Dear Professor Jacobs,

In 1994, I took your Green Politics class as a senior German major. I wouldn’t expect you to remember me, but our final project was on the history of Madison’s waste management and landfills.

But that’s not why I write. Yours was the first class, the day after the election in 1994, when the Democrats lost so heavily to the Republicans. When you walked into class, you started our discussion with, “Are you depressed? I’m depressed.” The one hopeful thing you mentioned was that eventually, the pendulum would have to swing back. I had to think of that last night as election returns came in–that maybe indeed, the pendulum is swinging back.

I have to wonder, what will you say to your class this week?

Best regards,

Molly Steenson

If I were teaching, I’d say I was hopeful for the first time in many, many years.