Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Mt. Seemore and the watchful gaze

[Image: Paul Sabre/New York Times].

"Deep in a remote, fog-layered hollow near Sugar Grove, W.Va., hidden by fortress-like mountains, sits the country's largest eavesdropping bug. Located in a 'radio quiet' zone, the station's large parabolic dishes secretly and silently sweep in millions of private telephone calls and e-mail messages an hour. Run by the ultrasecret National Security Agency, the listening post intercepts all international communications entering the eastern United States. Another N.S.A. listening post, in Yakima, Wash., eavesdrops on the western half of the country."
If you have ever spoken to someone outside the country, then, no doubt your own voice is archived on some tape somewhere, gathering dust.
In any case, the electronic monitoring capabilities of government agencies such as the NSA is reported to be total. There is some doubt about this, of course, as surely almost every crime in the United States could be interrupted before it happens, Minority Report-style – but let's just say that the capacity is there. Let's say that everything you say over the telephone, or type into an email – or post to a blog – is monitored by a crypto-Stalinist agency hell-bent on controlling everything... Sipping coffee and twirling their mustaches...
If that's true, then, as Idaho Senator Frank Church reported thirty years ago, in this quotation from the New York Times: "That capability at any time could be turned around on the American people, and no American would have any privacy left, such is the capability to monitor everything: telephone conversations, telegrams, it doesn't matter. There would be no place to hide."
And then, the Times adds, "if a dictator ever took over, the N.S.A. 'could enable it to impose total tyranny, and there would be no way to fight back.'"
So do you: 1) join in; 2) legislate for a permanent monitoring of the monitors; or 3) use it to make a huge sound-art installation, a CD box-set of intercepted telephone calls, layered one atop the other, chattering, whispering, responding to themselves in internationally accented echoes? National Security: The MP3. Something to listen to while driving your ghost Hummer.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Shopping Guide 2: gasping for last minute gifts

Bullet-Resistant Mask
Stephen Armellino. (American, born 1955). Bullet-Resistant Mask. 1983. Kevlar and polyester resin. Manufactured by U.S. Armor Corporation. Never know when one of these may come in handy.

Or any of these: Evac-U8 Smoke Hood - DuPont : M'95 Gas Mask - SaferAmerica: Potomac Escape Hood - SaferAmerica: QuickPro Escape Hood - SaferAmerica

Bardas Protection System for Adults photo Core77
The 'Bardas Protection System for Adults', by Bezalel Research & Development. Because you can never be too sure.

The Spider Boot Antipersonnel Mine Foot Protection System shields a mine sweeper's feet from explosions and flying fragments. Designer: Gad Shaanan Design, Inc. USA Manufacturer: Med-Eng Systems Inc., Canada (2005). There are times when even the best of us forget where we placed these exactly.

Being by Safeware - bullet resistant shirt
The line of garments adopts a layer system that incorporates materials such as polycarbonate, metal foil, or swan feathers mixed with cotton in order to add ballistic protection and reinforcement to everyday clothes. By Arik Levy, Tal Lancman and Maurizio Galante. photo Core77 For the kids, you know.

Homeland Security Blanket, 2002 - FutureFarmers Everyone should feel safe wrapped up in one of these this Christmas.

Tobias Wong Ballistic Rose Brooch
Designed by New York artist/designer Tobias Wong, the Ballistic Rose is an ingenious alternation on the classic rose icon. Instead of traditional silk or velvet, Wong has created a feminine icon for the 21st century out of bulletproof Kevlar fabric. Limited edition. Jut give it to her, your sexy little spymate will love it.

CheckGate 9000 - Metal detector - Safer America. Not even Santa himself would be able to get by this without setting off the alarm.

Suited for Subversion - via we-make-money-not-art Keep this one for yourself. Trust me, you'll thank me later.

The Albino Hummer

[Image: artist Andrew Junge / Photo Bryan Finoki 2005]

While cruising through the civic center in San Francisco a couple of days ago I stumbled upon this albino humvee casually parked behind the glass of the San Francisco Arts Commission space directly across from City Hall. Was this a new prototype for the artic fronts of the War on Terror? Was President George W. Bush planning a full scale invasion of Alaska now that the Senate recently blocked his bid to drill for oil while trying to piggy back on a defense bill? Could something so traditionally vehicular and monstrous be made this beautiful simply by giving it a bit of polar camouflage? Maybe it was a militarized ghost, a phantom humvee, stationed there to keep close vigil over the political square where an insurgency of homeless dudes have entrenched themselves in a collective snooze for the day, and little families walked their snoopies who liked to poop on the grass instead of the cold concrete. Maybe City Hall's front yard had become all to suspicious, and certainly, suspects like these needed to be watched around the clock. And what better way to spy on your country's own citizens than perhaps behind the guise of an artful gallery display?

[Image: artist Andrew Junge / Photo Bryan Finoki 2005]

Turns out it was a lot more interesting than any of that. In July, Andrew Junge was an artist-in-residence at the site of the Norcal Waste System in San Francisco, which offers monthly stipends to artists who love to dig around for treasure deep in the city's preeminent garbage dump. Since commercial packing foam is neither biodegradable nor easily disposed of, Norcal Waste ends up with tons of styrofoam bone piles each year, entire landscapes of disassembled consumer product fossil-core. Junge first bonded together thousands of polystyrene pieces so that he could whittle down a massive chunk into a life-sized replica of an H1 hummer. The result turned out this gorgeous bleached-white styrofoam humvee-brick rendered in utterly amazing detail, down to the most inconspicuous door handle grooves and keyhole dimensions. The windshield wipers, tow cables, spring suspension coils had been so meticulously crafted they mimicked a certain wear and tear already.

[Image: SFGate Chronicle photo by Christina Koci Hernandez

I'd love to see thousands of these littered all through out California's urban cores, just sitting there idle like an army of consumerist ghosts, vehicular tomb stones, the streets turned into a graveyard reminder of our causes for environmental waste, domesticated war machines; foam core army toys, a lifesized HappyMeal 'action-figure suprise' spilling into a predictable war flick. Instead of those antiquated tiny green play-soldiers, we've got real life frozen white ones posing all over the world with these things, spread 'em out -- get into it, like a kid would -- make recycled bunkers and warzone installations with this stuff. We'll place the foam core army pieces in strategic spots to show we are also keeping watch on them, too. Spying on the spies again as they play real war, mocking the shit out of those oil-farting monsters with no other purpose in the city than to just take up space. So we pile these albinos everywhere. Overnight, drop dozens and dozens off from the backs of huge stealth trucks slithering through black night, wake up to a soft baby rat-white lightweight prepackaged faux-army, poof! Foam core hummers, foam core mercenaries, foam core terrorists, foam core casualties, tip a bunch of foam core missiles off of a rooftop downtown, foam core refugee tent cities amassing below, all just hangin' out together, causin' a total styrofoam invasion. A foam core counter-insurgency. Either Andrew needs to geta little help with this, or we need to get our hands on some sick renderers.

[Image: artist Andrew Junge / Photo Bryan Finoki 2005]

Saturday, December 17, 2005

monkmobiles for bulletproof Buddhas

[Image: PHOTO: EPA TaipeiTimes 2005]

You might have seen this a few months ago when it first circulated the blogosphere. For years, Muslim communities in the southern provinces of Thailand (Narathiwat, Pattani, Songhkla and Yala) have complained about the economic disadvantages they face compared to central Thailand and the rest of the country which is by majority Buddhist. The Muslims of the south "were originally part of the ancient Kingdom of Pattani, a semi-autonomous Malay region which adopted Islam in the mid-13th century" the BBC reported in July. They speak their own dialect, identify themsleves more akin to being Malaysian than Thai, and after being annexed by the Thai government in 1902 were promised more political integration into the political process, but claim, today, they have only been further and further isolated from having any real participation. Sadly, constant tensions between the two has found Buddhist civilians and monks the targets of radical Muslim aggression.

[Image: Thai-Blogs 'Bulletproof Monks']

Military products maker Precipart, Co. Ltd, considered the "Q" of the Thai government's '007' gadget-topia, has developed a prototype for the monks being targeted in the predominantly Muslim neighborhoods. As you see here, in addition to bulletproof vests, Thailand's modern Buddhas are taking cover inside mini-mobile-fortresses, militarized tuk-tuks retrofitted with bulletproof glass, better known as "monkmobiles."

[Image: Thai-Blogs 'Bulletproof Monks']

As practical and needed as these personal popemobiles may be, sadly, we can only read them as signs of greater instability and an escalated violent wake up call for the Thai government to perhaps reckon with their Muslim communities in a more politically solvent manner. I also can't help but to think, after seeing these monkmobiles painted in bright yellow and framing the monk's stand-out safron-colored robes, that they will only encourage more attacks. It's like responding to terrorists by giving them targets. Though, if they are saving lives then I suppose the monkmobile is an effective means of immediate response. But can't we think beyond the "immediate response," before the entire world is buried in multiple overlapping perpetual crisis' blankets and bodies, bogging us down even deeper in a future hyper-myopia of overwhelming "immediate response" tended to ad infinitum? I tell ya, I wouldn't want to be one of those drivers, who seems to have been forgotten in all the bulletproofing that went into the design of these little armored-transports.

(via: we-make-money-not-art)

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

CCTV Trees

[Image: via: Enjoy Surveillance]

[Image: moot-illustration]

[Image: Torolab 'Security Tree' - SAFE: Design Takes on Risk, Exhibit, MOMA]

[Image: flickr 'Hives' (via:Enjoy Surveillance)]

Monday, December 12, 2005

Shopping Guide 1: 'the gift of a gun'

[Image: "Old African carving, called a Dogon (or nearby people's) "sign" for a blacksmith or tool-and-weapon maker":]

This could be, perhaps, the coolest Christmas thing ever. I mean, ever. Just browse the Good Gifts catalog and check out your options. How would you like to be able to give the gift of a Kalashnikov, or a rocket launcher, or even better yet, a small armored vehicle, to someone out there who really needs it? I know, who really needs such things? Well, I'm sure several scenarios come to mind, but, before your fantasies carry you away check this out. If you've got the dough, for £1,000.00 you can actually buy an old tank -- yes, an actual tank ("or a heavy duty 16 wheeler") and have that gift wrapped, too. So, you ready? Purchase from where, you ask? And, give to whom, exactly? Imagine a run down little shanty somewhere along the seaboard of West Africa, where the surplus tools of war get their chance at enlightenment; a place where they are ultimately converted and reconstituted from one context to another, from one great pile into another, before being reborn and deployed again through out the war-torn region. Now, throw in the advantage of capital's favorite holiday season, and what do you get? Well, by popular demand, a hot new feature to kick off our Shopping Guide to Military Urbanism.

[Image: TIME]

Following the civil war in Sierra Leone, APT, a UK charity, partnered with Angela Lavali, founder of MAPCO, to help rural communities stripped of their resources re-build their livelihoods again through programs designed to take advantage of whatever available resources remained. "The same civil war that depleted the country of tools and work is now providing ample raw material for recovery: weapons." Since the turn of the millennium, the UN has overseen the national implementation of multiple recycling programs which have brought a new meaning to disarmament to the region, and today "Peace is paying dividends in Sierra Leone."

[Image: Exploring Africa]

"Enterprising blacksmiths and metal workers convert them into farm implements so that a Kalashnikov becomes hoes and axe heads and a rocket launcher transforms into pickaxes, sickles and even school bells." Furthermore, by giving the gift of a tank you can, the Good Gifts catalog says, "provide a year's work for 5 blacksmiths, turning it into 3,000 items vital to equip a farming village of 100 families." Perhaps nothing can inspire the re-purposing of even our best-designed killing machines like the desperate needs of a devastated landscape immediately following a war. And so all those bits of metal and spring, and crude weapon engineering suddenly gets reversed, broken down piece by piece again from whence they all began, and heaped into one mass primordial pre-weaponry stockpile once again. Dismantled miscellaneous war bits just waiting to be reassembled into something egregiously anti-killing; weapons of mass destruction turned into a transnational Secret Santa campaign for grassroots farm tools renewal. The gift of giving doesn't get any better than that.

And if those don't encourage you enough, check out some of the other items in the catalog: Plant a quarter acre swamp, or buy an acre of "dense, steamy greenery heavily populated by creepy crawlies" rainforest, give a nomadic family a camel, and, like I siad, if you've got dough, hell, give the GIFT OF SIGHT for Christmas, I mean real sight (what could be more in the spirit?), or how about a bike for a destitute midwive? At the very least, feed a rat, for Christ's sake!

And if anyone else out there, wants to help us launch a fund drive to buy a tank for the blacksmiths in Sierra Leone, let us know. We're into it! The only drawback I can see, is that you don't get to take it for a little test drive first before giving the oh-so Christmasy gift of a tank for the holidays.

Friday, December 09, 2005

from Leftover-Bunkers to Tourist-Traps...

[Image: The McCarty Metro - Roof view of war-damaged 'Believers' Palace']

Talking about the post-military context and informal re-purposing of weapons designed for war, how about the legacy of Saddam's Hussein's subversive architecture finding new use as a military urban tourist trap? Could he be luring unsuspecting occupiers down into the bowels of something that may still wait to be activated, while he, now contained in a U.S. detention cell, wrangles with Iraqi courts for his own life? That would be some last-minute Last Meal trick up his sleave if architecture ever saw one.

[Image: 'Believers' Palace' By Doug Besherse

Despite approximately seven 2000 pound bombs having struck the Believers' Palace in Baghdad in 2003, Saddam Hussein's underground bunker below the palace remained relatively undamaged. Today, buried under an obliterated garden of twisted metal, contorted steel, and a chunky landscape of exploded concrete and strewn palatial object debris, the underground safe zone has become an informal tourist attraction for visitors and residents of Baghdad's downtown Green Zone area.

[Image: The McCarty Metro - 'Believers' Palace']

Karl Bernd Esser, Saddam's chief bunker architect, boasted just as the invasion began that his structure could survive anything short of a direct hit from a nuclear bomb. According to this article, "The palace was started in the late 1980s and completed in the 1990s, using funds provided by the United Nations’ oil-for-food program. It is a shattered wreck now. The building itself is fraudulent. Its bottom floors are false, forming a great box filled at the time of its construction, by design, with rubble; nearly 15 meters of protection for the bunker beneath. Rubble, it turns out, has the interesting ability to dissipate bomb blasts."

[Img: GlobalSecurity 2003 KRT / Diagramming Saddam's Tikrit Bunkers]

People's Daily describes the three-level sprawling bunker as "large enough to house 250 people. It has an air filtration system, a large kitchen and was fully prepared for an attack with biological or chemical weapons.

It also has its own power supply. Its large generators, which are powerful enough to supply the whole Green Zone area with electricity, seem brand new.

Between the Believers' Palace and the bunker was even more protection: a two-floor "plug" and reinforced helmet of sorts to make up for one of the bunkers shortcomings: it was barely underground."

Now it is a reinforced concrete box inside a box, where "even to this day some of the rooms have an inch of putrid water with some type of biological life."* Interesting, regardless, life continues to emerge at the bottom of one of the world's darkest fall-out wells.

[Image: Decontamination chamber blast door under 'Believers Palace' - Breitbart]

On the tour, it has been reported, that "at either end of the Believers’ Palace bunker, there is a decontamination chamber and a pair of blast doors. The second entry leads to a stairway that rises sharply around to another blast door and climbs three stories through the deliberate rubble layers until reaching the top floor of the building. Here there is rubble of a different sort.

On one of the debris hills, embedded in the slopes, right side up, sits an ornate upholstered chair, somehow nearly undamaged, its survival as improbable as the emergence of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednago unscathed from Belshazzar’s fiery oven in ancient Babylon. It is like a real life version of those pictures with something quite out of place, like a bird in a fishbowl in an otherwise ordinary scene. The chair is a marvel, a wonder, a sign that the most unexpected, unlikely things can happen.

At the top of the cupola, at its very apex, is the perfectly placed, perfectly circular hole created by the bomb that destroyed this room and that created a deep crater in the very center of the floor. The bomb must have been accurate to within inches, an amazing feat of precision and demolition. The damage is symmetrical and mortifying all round the room."

[Image: 'Believers' Palace' - maggie sgz 30]

"The structure is so well built it would be difficult to demolish, and the massive palace above makes it impossible to bury." * So, what will the Iraqis do with these remnant war tombs? And how many are there through out the country? How many of them actually connect? What role could these underground spaces play in rebuilding efforts, or in future Iraqi urban design? How could they eventually be reused to reconnect a war torn culture with the identity of its city and architectural heritage, can they serve any future intent valuable to society at large? Like community-storage facilities, community-banks or underground vaults, archival projects... what positive impact may adaptive reuse and bunker preservation play in Iraqi determination of their own urban renewal?

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Green Grenades

[Image: Courtesy of Paul's Grenade Page]

Elisabeth Hochschorner
, a scientist at the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm has produced, with her colleagues, a study which details the deep environmental damage incurred by the proliferation of grenades. Interestingly, it is not their use on the battlefield or the detonation of them on the earth's surface which ranks as the most threatening factor, it is the unscrupulous mining of metals and the energy which goes into manufacturing grenades that causes the most harm to the landscape. So, ironically the brunt of the damage has been done deep beneath the earth's skin long before millions of pins have been pulled or any of them have ever even hit the ground.

"The Swedish study, soon to be published in The Journal of Chemical Technology and Biotechnology ( DOI 10.1002/jctb.0274), used a method called ‘life cycle assessment’ (LCA) which has never been applied to munitions before," the Innovations Report finds. Their study does include proposals for mitigation of mining devastation, and even suggests using certain plastics in place of copper.

Though, it all goes back again to figuring how military weapons can find new purpose through humanitarian application. That is to say, while this study may lead to the greener harvesting of grenades, it won't help lead to a cessation of their production. So, how then may the next generation of environmentally-sensitive grenades be taken a step further and turned into something ultimately anti-war, like, perhaps, mini-Tree Bombs or something?

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

and BattleBoxes for All...

[Image: SkyBuilt Power's Mobile Power Station (MPS)].

Here is another perfect example of the application of modularity to the context of "informality" and the nomadic landscape. Be it to power emergency relief efforts in a disaster zone, or as an infrastructural tool to develop renewable energy for quasi-permanent refugee camps, green energy for squatter communities, or, even more obviously, serving in the urban trenches of an insurgency/counter-insurgency warfare, SkyBuilt's Mobile Power Station (MPS) is a revolutionary approach to delivering the rapid deployment of "open source" power stations to the terrain of a nomadic urbanism. These could be the batteries for a future of "open-source warfare," or "open-source disaster relief," "open-source squatter-settlement construction," rural agricultural renewal, remote border-crossing communities sharing energy directly over or through barrier fences, the MPS quickly becomes an optimal modular unitary-based energy system for floating populations emerging from any number of different scenarios.

[Image: SkyBuilt Power's Mobile Power Station (MPS) - Schematic].

Hoping to become "the Dell of Renewable Energy Systems," the MPS offers a PC-type plug-n-play shipping container box for distributed generation of energy on and off the grid. As WorldChanging points out, "combining modular solar panels, wind microturbines, batteries, and plug-ins for fuel cells and biofuel-friendly diesel engines, the MPS can generate a constant 150 kilowatts, can operate both off-grid and in parallel with grid power, is rugged enough to be dropped via parachute, and requires so little maintenance that a solar/wind unit has been operating continuously without being touched for over a year."

As powerful and promising as that may sound playing into the future of humanitarian urbanism, Jamais Cascio also raises an important issue: with the prominence of CIA investment in the MPS (which the President of SkyBuilt points out in following comments on the entry - was not developed by the CIA, they've only taken interest after the fact), will other countries steer away while the stigma of the CIA has historically produced a reluctance through out the rest of the world to buy into the legitimacy of such tools? Perhaps, so. But I think we need to accept to a certain degree that the future tools of humanitarian design will remain largely connected to military prototyping, and we would be better off figuring how those tools coming down the pipeline as an "Open Source Architecture" can be co-opted and recontextualized for humanitarian purposes, rather than abandoning them for fear of their dominant military application. If we face the challenge of getting the field to recognize that, perhaps in their own gravitation towards self-mobilization (and even an unconscious self-militarization), they will discover the neutraility of such tools on the open-market like this one, where they belong. Dave Muchow, the President of SkyBuilt reminds us, the MPS was developed "by three regular guys in the old Arlington Bowling Alley," not the CIA.

Monday, December 05, 2005

A "Closed Atomic City": Open for Business

[Image: BBC. Building work is under way in Kurchatov, Kazakhstan, after a long period of neglect.]

It may take a crazy BLDGBLOG road trip to get there, but Kurchatov, Kazakhstan, is a post-nuclear disaster-scape left over from the Cold War struggling to reclaim itself in the frozen wake of Soviet military occupation.

Named after the "world-class physicist Igor Kurchatov, who became the driving force behind the Soviet Union's race to develop the atomic bomb," it was for years a forbidden military zone where Kurchatov and his team toyed with early atomic weaponry and helped mastermind the future proliferation of Russia's shameless nuclear legacy. It was the birthplace of Russia's first test site founded in 1947, a "closed atomic city" that would serve as base camp for a whole archipelago of near-by bombing ranges later to emerge in the less populated regions west of Semipalatinsk.

"In the years 1949-89 the Soviet Union exploded around 700 bombs on the test range," the BBC reports. "In the first 14 years more than 100 tests were carried out above ground, including at least 30 at treetop height. For the last 29 years, they were underground," which is exactly where one of the most notorious Soviet radiation tragedies was devised.


Roughly 50km's outside of Kurchatov, "Semipalatinsk, which also lies along the Irtysh River in East Kazakhstan, was the major site where 17,400,000 tons of trinitrotoluene were exploded in the overall 18,500 square kilometre test range vicinity, which became known as the Polygon. "Claiming they were carrying out peaceful underground explosions in the Polygon to construct a lake, in order to supply fish to the local population, the impact of those tests created Lake Balapan -- the "Atomic Lake" -- a "radioactive reservoir blasted out of the low-lying mountain range, which crosses the steppe in the region of Semipalatinsk" – (Struan Stevenson).

[Image: Naoya Hatakeyama/Blast (#5705), 1995]

It was a an early Earth-Fountain©.

[Image: "The 548 meter wide lake is the result of an old Soviet experiment. They used a shallowly buried nuclear bomb to throw material up and back - a 'cratering shot'." - (LANL's Geophysics Division, EES-11]

"Thus the Atomic Lake was born" (...) "The Soviets even tried to introduce fish to the highly radioactive waters, encouraging local Kazakh villagers to catch and eat their deadly harvest. Now there is growing evidence that cracks and fissures in the geological strata of the Polygon have allowed plutonium, strontium and americium into the River Irtysh, which flows from China, through the Polygon and on through Siberia to the Kara Sea and eventually the Arctic Ocean." - (Struan Stevenson)

In 1998 Kazakhstan officials tried talking down the numbers to somewhere near 1.2 million people who had received radiation as a result of the USSR's nuclear experimentation."

[Image: "The Soviet Inheritance"]

The results of which have smeared a fully contaminated frozen wasteland for most of Eastern Europe and Central Asia. While most of the land around Kurchatov today is believed to be safe, much of the old test-site real-estate is still closed, though without proper fencing to prevent villagers from grazing their livestock on the grounds which are ultimately still in question.

Since the site was closed down in 1991, roughly 22,000 nuclear scientists have left the town, leaving the population of Kurchatov around 8,000 with a barren swath of annihilated icy bomb-scapes, some empty government buildings, dilapidated housing blocs, abandoned reactors, an active church, and even a nuclear museum. As if the entire city were not already a miserable 'City of the Dead' museum unto itself.

[Image: BBC]

But, Kazakhstan's National Nuclear Centre (NNC), based in Kurchatov (also see: The Kurchatov Institute), has been remediating the site and courting re-investment, with apparently some success as a new young population is coming back to the town to try and make something of the crude devastated landscapes Kazakhstan has inherited in its independence.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Bioluminescence of Chemical Warfare

Even though these images are already more than a couple of years old, I came across them for the first time at Grist yesterday, and found them intriguing. Laurie Tümer is a photographer from the midwest who turned her sights on the pesticide abuse that migrant farmers are regularly subjected to working in the fields.

Apparently, she discovered the idea while recovering from her own "near-fatal poisoning after her New Mexico home was sprayed," Grist reports. During her convalescence, she took her cue from the work of Professor Richard Fenske, a professor in the Department of Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences at UW, who also directs the Pacific Northwest Agricultural Safety and Health Center (PNASH). After studying his techniques for exposing the insidious toxic world which bathes humanity in swarms of secret clouds, she decided then she was going to make a book to reveal the hidden pesticidal landscapes as a warning to others. You can read an in depth interview with her in MOF&G.

To obtain this Glowing Evidence, she managed to substitute for a day the spray of pesticides at the Bustos Farm in New Mexico with fluorescent tracer dyes she then exposed to ultraviolet light, which illuminated a startling aerosol trail or nano-like constellation of the chem's geography, and offered a sort of terrain map of how easily pesticides are spread despite farmer's protective gear.

[All Images: Laurie Tümer]

Saturday, December 03, 2005

From 'Happy Meal' to 'BattleBox'

[Image: Disinfotainment Today]

To accommodate Rummy's McArmy – 'a more nimble and cost-effective fighting force that could be deployed in multiple hot spots around the globe' – the public-private portfolio of the Pentagon's defense investments had to be packaged inside a newly-improved duraflex prefab military architecture.

[Image: Yo Joe]

From the 'Happy Meal' to the 'BattleBox,' those little toy soldiers still came pouring out as the U.S. military went modular.

[Image: The BattleBox's Toy Prize]

[Image: Think IN the BattleBox]

[Images: here & here]

Somewhere between an inflatable and converted old bunker, McDonald's deployed its BattleBoxes as far as Afghanistan, paving over 200,000 sq mi of 'pure American asphalt.'

[Image: Stop! McDonald's]

Also, according to this site, 'McDonald's is the second largest owner of real estate in the world surpassed only by the Vatican City.'

In sprawling barracks like these, the Pentagon has taken full advantage of the affordability and nimble assembly/disassembly of the prefab revolution, while huge contracting companies like Comark, Williams Scotsman, and GE Modular cash in on the Rise of Disaster Capitalism, or the blood of the so-called 'Disaster-Industrial-Complex' which feeds the war machine for its own existence.

[Image: Engineer Update]

While BRAC calculates the costs of reshifting the Baseworld Archipelago, closing bases in one location only to erect them in another, the architectural translation of this 'Rumsfeldian' strategy couldn't be more obvious.

[Image: Think IN the BattleBox]

[Image: Think IN the BattleBox]

[Image: Refugee Container Housing / 'Future Shack': Sean Godsell]

Indeed, this flexible architecture has equally profitable applications in the war-torn landscapes of the third world. But how are we to design temporary and transitional structures that, in reality, end up becoming permanent and wrecklessly institutional?

Soldiers, mercenaries, UN aid workers, NGO's and journalists all permanently reside in the same housing shells that litter refugee camps in Afghanistan and Iraq. We see so many of the world's disaster zones dug-in with shelter types that are reduced to a mere surface foam of idle 'mobile intervention.' Here, on opposite sides of conflict, both worlds mimic each other as architectural pawns on the military chess board of globalization's tactical real-estate war.

[Image: BagNewNotes]

These settlements are not altogether different from the trailer park ghettos that have become more and more permanent each day for the Katrina hurricane evacuees in the States; nor are they fundamentally different from the alarming increase of mobile home parks housing the nation's poor at large.

In a permanent state of impermanence, or, rather a ubiquitous squatt, Military Urbanism both sustains and is sustained by a stasis of perpetual conflict. As Naomi Klein discussed in The Nation earlier this year, the U.S. State Dept. created the 'Office of the Coordinator for Reconstruction and Stabilization,' devoted to pre-emptive nation building. Klein writes: 'Gone are the days of waiting for wars to break out and then drawing up ad hoc plans to pick up the pieces. In close cooperation with the National Intelligence Council, this office keeps "high risk" countries on a "watch list" and assembles rapid-response teams ready to engage in prewar planning and to "mobilize and deploy quickly" after a conflict has gone down. The teams are made up of private companies, nongovernmental organizations and members of think tanks – some will have "pre-completed" contracts to rebuild countries that are not yet broken.'

[Image: TRADOC: 'Modular Army Barracks']

These barracks look more like a caravan of Hollywood trailers loaded to the brim with girls and costumes, beers and props, extra generators and sweet little backdrops, lights, cameras, guns, drugs and action with a lot of smoke and mirrors. The military may as well be making their own Blockbuster War flicks these days.

But this modularized architectural landscape now insinuates itself, in a backlash, within U.S. domestic housing policy, where affordable housing has become a marketplace far too exclusive for the average American family (though prefab might have more to say about that in the future). A new majority of the American population lives in military flux, housed in what may as well be run-down Hollywood mobiles for making war movies abroad.

But instead of using prefab to help drive policy reform – Dallas, for instance, actually banned some prefab last year from being used for certain affordable housing – we get a disposable new universal housing typology for the masses which continues to emerge from socio-political landscapes across the map, creeping towards something crossed between a modular holding cell, a beat down trailer park, or some heavily surveilled government assistance shelter, either strung out in a brownfield somewhere, an urban ghetto, a bombed out city, a sunken or drained city, a shrinking city, a temporary and instant one in the middle of the desert flocking with floating populations dislocated completely from their national citizenship or access to political amnesty. Are we witnessing a Third Worldization of the western nations as the slipping First World economy struggles to hold on to its power by force? If architecture is any indication, what will become of these discarded shells or the people left to inhabit them?

"We're just Extras, man, We're ALL, just, Extras!"

[Image: Photos-of-the-Year: by Grover]