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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]
Author Archives: Mark Willis
A Blind Flaneur lost one of its most faithful readers, and I lost one of my dearest friends, with the passing of Lou Bourgeois on Jan. 27 at the age of 101. I would travel to Ontario today, if I … Continue reading
Today is Barack Obama’s last full day in the White House. If that saddens you as it saddens me, here is a consolation. Lin-Manuel Miranda performed a nascent version of “Alexander Hamilton” at a White House poetry jam in 2009. It’s a national treasure, part of a rich cultural legacy hosted by the Obama White House. The WhiteHouse.gov clip belongs to the public domain. I hope the barbarian billionaire populists who take over tomorrow do not purge it from the Internet.
John Locke might disapprove, but Rabelais would howl with laughter. On SNL’s Jan. 14 cold open, President-elect Donald Trump (Alec Baldwin) holds his first press conference since getting elected. And Maureen O’Conner explains the origin of all the Donald Trump pee jokes this week in The Sheer Perfection of Donald Trump’s Golden Shower in | New York magazine.