Wednesday, December 16, 2015


Michael Reynold builds Earthships, which are passive-solar houses built from recycled materials such as aluminum cans and old tires. He has this to say about his passion: "I'll use anything I can. . . to make buildings that show people they don't need infrastructure. . . . Tradition and culture are two of our biggest enemies. . . . They stop us from evolving."

Learn more here:

Friday, November 7, 2014

Source Material for “The Pure Value of a Cruise”

Friday, October 4, 2013

Government Shutdown Address

Four days and seven hours ago, our Republicans brought forth in this Congress a new concept, in the name of liberty, that health care is not a right and that not all people are not created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure.

But in a larger sense, our Republicans cannot consecrate—they can only desecrate—our great nation. The brave fools, Ted Cruz and his lackeys, have struggled here to shut down the government should they not be allowed to add or subtract at whim from laws passed by Congress, signed by the President, and upheld by a conservative Supreme Court. The world will little note, nor long remember, what Ted Cruz says, but it can never forget the damage his ilk has thus far ignobly advanced. It is rather for us to hope that these tiny men shall give their last full measure of madness, and that a government of the Teabaggers, by the Teabaggers, and for the Teabaggers shall perish from the earth.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Saturday, May 25, 2013

The Origin of Sound

Silence. Big Bang. Inside the newborn universe, no ears exist to hear the blast. Billions of years churn without sound. Stars coalesce, supernova, and collapse into points of density so infinite that nothing can escape. Around a star orbits a planet. Under quintillions of gallons of water, the crust fractures and life arises in the magma heat. Aeons of natural selection lead to sound-reception cells. A single tone subdivides into uncountable sounds—harsh and soothing, high-pitched and low-, volcanic eruptions and drizzling rain. Millions more years pass before human voices sing. Plastic sound divides into word and image, lyric and gasp.

The Symphony of the Everyday

In 1922 in Baku, Soviet composer Arseny Avraamov directed the revolutionary Symphony of Sirens. An eruption of urban sounds, this unusual symphony featured “choirs thousands strong, foghorns from the entire Caspian flotilla, two artillery batteries, several full infantry regiments, hydroplanes, twenty-five steam locomotives and whistles and all the factory sirens in the city.” Using flags and torches, Avraamov directed the motley collection. He even encouraged passersby not idly to observe but to take part in the sonic melee. 

It is not Symphony of Siren’s vast and inimitable scale that impresses. Since the Pyramids of Giza, humans have been creating with such enormous magnitude. Nor is it the use of factory and martial machines as musical instruments. More than forty years before, Tchaikovsky had included cannons in the 1812 Overture. Rather it is the repurposing of industrial noise as music that makes Avraamov’s work both inspiring and chilling. 

If, as Masanobu Fukuoka claims, the  “murmuring of a stream, the sound of frogs croaking by the riverbank, the rustling of leaves in the forest, all these natural sounds are music—true music,” then what does it mean that the sounds of terracide can also be considered music? 

Does Avraamov’s symphony speak to the essential optimism of humans? Can we find beauty in the screeches, clunks, and explosions of industrial conversion of nature into product? Does his symphony speak to the debasement of the human ear? Once attuned to the sounds of nature, then to the mellifluence of music, did our ears in the 20th Century turn toward cacophony? 

It’s been nearly a century since Avraamov’s revolutionary concert. Even as the din of Late Capitalism grows louder and more deterritorializing, Avraamov’s music has not caught on with the masses. Are we still too bourgeios truly to hear? Or do we refuse to listen to our own destruction?

Find out more in Roman Mars’ terrific 99% Invisible podcast on the Symphony of Sirens.