Glare ice across my wood yard tonight, at least the part of it not piled with five tons of seasoned oak. I congratulated myself for covering it before the freezing rain with several ubiquitous blue tarps. And I cursed myself for not stacking it sooner. One thing led to another, which is unpredictable and not completely safe when working in the dark in winter, and I found myself chopping ice in a swollen whiskey barrel about to burst its staves. As I raised and plunged the quarry bar methodically, the rhythm of the work set me free. I forgot whatever muttering resentments were bothering me. I remembered swinging this same steel bar down in the river bottom when I lived in the Mill. The well-head would freeze in this kind of weather, which meant chopping ice in the mill race to fetch a bucket of water to flush the commode. Every time I did this I thought about Francis Grinnell, the 19th-century miller who did the same thing in the same place so he could grind some farmer’s corn. He probably had muttering resentments, too, until he heard the steel bite through ice, then rushing water splashing free. Then he knew he didn’t want to be anywhere else in that moment.
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About the Flaneur
I walk through my blindness the way I wander down streets in Paris: unfettered and alive, alert to the raw material of the senses. I am a flaneur. Come along with me. Just don’t try to take my arm, unless I ask. What’s a flaneur? Read the first post, Return of the Flaneur to Galerie Vivienne. After that, try Foot Rage and the Blind Flaneur. Then stay tuned.
Letting Go of Sight
I’ve canoed on Lake Superior for almost as many years as I’ve been losing eyesight. I return year after year like a migrating loon to learn the other side of a slow, uncertain process that we could call “going blind.” After 35 years with the lake as my teacher, I know what lies on the other side. I call it letting go of sight. Read Big Water. See more about the Great Lakes.
Not This PigIf there is an emerging genetic underclass, I could run for class president or class clown. Read more in Not This Pig (2003).
Media in Transition @ MiT
Disabled Americans today have to negotiate for the kinds of accommodations made for FDR, and the caveat “reasonable accommodation” is built into the law. President Franklin Roosevelt did not have to negotiate. He could summon vast resources of the federal government – money as well as brains – to accomplish the work of disability. And it was accomplished with such thoroughness and efficiency that its scale could be called the Accessibility-Industrial Complex had it been directed toward public accommodations and not solely the needs of a single man. Read FDR and the Hidden Work of Disability [MiT8 2013]
Shepard Fairey claimed that his posterization of a copyrighted AP news photo of Barack Obama was a transformative work protected by the fair use doctrine. In other words, it was a shape-shifter. I claim fair use, too, when I reproduce and transform copyrighted works into media formats that are accessible to me as a blind reader. Read Shape-Shifters in the Fair Use Lab [MiT6 2009]
The social engineers who created a system for licensing beggars in New York never imagined that a blind woman had culture or could make culture. She herself may not have imagined it, either. In the moment when Paul Strand photographed her surreptitiously on the street in 1916, he could not have expected that one day blind photographers would reverse the camera’s gaze. Read Curiosity & The Blind Photographer. [MiT5 2007]