20190416

Herbs of Wall Street Vodka

Okko had just started playing Zelda – Link to the Past. I was helping him get pass the hard parts and felt appreciated. My residency was coming to an end and I was driven to do all the small little things I was inspired to do when we arrived. It was a Saturday and after watching Okko play trough the morning, I felt like a bad parent and decided to take him on a quest.

“We are going to collect herbs for a potion” I said. “Just like Zelda”

“Herbs? In Manhattan? Yeah right.”

We swapped trains at Union square and got off at the Wall Street station. Okko acted like he was bored and it was a chilly day, so we went for bagels. I took a brown paper bag from the store for collecting the herbs and attempted to boost morale by telling stories of how the island used to be covered with plants and that a hundred years ago there were 100 000 horses in the city. He concentrated on the bagel. Right outside the shop, we spotted a flower basket decoration which attached to street light.

“Just like Zelda”. I celebrated.

“You can’t even reach them.” Okko replied.

I spotted an second basket closer to ground level but it turned out that flowers were plastic. I kept ranting about herbs but Okko remained unimpressed. Tourist flocking to the Charging Bull statue pushed us deeper. They were all queuing to pose under the bulls testicles. Okko was curious but after witnessing the performance repeated identically by the ten first people, we continued on our way. All the people were around the statue which made the streets feel broader.

The first real plant we spotted was around the corner, a common holly. It was a big bush planted in an ornamented vase which read 1692. It was high, next to a buildings entry and I had to reach for the leaves. Okko was embarrassed and didn’t want people to see me messing with the plant. From the stairs I spotted a white cedar (Thuja occidentalis) which I know contains a lot of vitamin C.

Okkos confidence grew, he mentioned how in Zelda the player has to hack their way trough bushes to claim diamonds. He spotted an aronia close to the cedar. We didn’t mind the other tourists anymore and headed to the gigantic christmas tree in front of the stock exchange. The heat of the city and sunlight reflecting from the skyscraper windows had disturbed the spruces senses. Some parts of it were drying out and others developing fresh needles. Right as we stood under it a very small branch fell off and landed on our feet.

We returned the Charging Bull and took a spin around the small park behind it. As a highlight of the trip we spotted chives, which perhaps was planted by the occupy campers or maybe escaped from a billionaires salad. We tasted it and smiled. I packed all the herbs and we headed to back to Brooklyn. I crammed the best parts into two vodka bottles. The other was a gift Honza. I prepared them as his son Gilbert played Zelda with Okko.

“Can we have a taste?” Gilbert asked. Okko smirked.

I sampled the vodka in two weeks, after it’s colour had changed. It tastes good. We tried it out it with friends two months later, after we returned to Helsinki and I’m having a taste as I write this. It smells faintly like resin, it is spiky but with an earthy tone. Like freshly cut grass. The taste has a hint of garlic and there is a hue of sourness to it. It improves my HP by 50.

20190107

How to shoot a video while you are riding a horse?

When you film while riding, the footage is bound to be shaky. When you ride a horse your body movements are controlled by an other being. The film industry has a lot of specialized tools and techniques to make the act of riding appear what they imagine it to be. They use cranes and drones to follow a rider, shoot footage using camera stabilization tools and even engineer fake-horses.

Working with real animals is costly. Companies often have to employ a herd to portray an individual. The pig in the movie Babe (1995) was portrayed by 48 different animals. Using multiple pigs guaranteed that a compliant, pretty and healthy animal was constantly on set. What were the rest to pigs doing, when one of them was at the set? Did they become friends? Did they think that they all look the same?

Robots are more compliant than animals. The film industry has learned to build mechanized horses. Mechanized animal hulls are designed to look convincing from a specific camera angle, but might miss the rest of their body. To can move their ears and eyes and are fitted with micro-controllers and servos under their silicone skin. I bet the inner-mechanics of these puppets get repurposed. One day the automatized servos fake the liveliness of a horse, the next week they are used to animate a partial robot cow or an alien.

There is a growing variety of camera stabilization devices available. Stabilizing components can be build inside the lens or the camera. They try to balance the frame based on the devices orientation to the ground. I guess they use gravity as a reference. This means that all footage shot with lens or with in camera stabilization is geologically orientated. This means that subjects they portray are oriented to gravity.

Another way of stabilizing video footage is to use software to read the stream of images and to re-render it frame by frame. An algorithm interprets what it sees and reframes the footage accordingly. It’s interesting to see this kind of image, because you get to see how the algorithm interprets movement. What are you portraying trough this kind of material? Speculative choreography?

Anyway you look at it the camera will get in the way and fiddling with the settings takes time from interacting with the animal. Real riders shoot it rough: Riding in the Bronx (2018)

20181230

Returning from New York City to Helsinki feels like lobotomy.

20181217

Indian restaurants in New York City make me feel like home. The interiors are decorated with art from the same sweatshops. Handmade wall ornaments painted in earthly hues, paintings of nature made in haste. Illustrations showing mythological figures, sports heroes and a distant relative. Some blinking lights, paper flowers and cityscape prints glued on walls, with peels revealing the sockets. Seeing the Brooklyn Bridge on the print makes more sense here then in Helsinki but it feels dislocated even so. The music is the same too. If I didn’t know better I would think these restaurants are designed by the same corporate stylist. This is not a complaint but a celebration. The food is good.

20180923

I really believe this city is teaching me something. It works on me, my views on independence, freedom and collaboration are being altered by this place. In New York freedom is the right to express yourself and move without interference, in Helsinki freedom is about having access to forums were futures are being decided.

A Feminist Counterapocalypse (2018) Joanna Zylinska. The text frames Judith Butler as a posthumanist (We suspected this with Pietari)! It gives a great overview to Anna Tsing’s thinking and provides a framework for further developing the happy degrowth movement or a #deathhack cult. More Anna Tsing on Landscapes (2016) Anthropod podcast. Terms to take home from the lecture: Creatures of Empire = Animals which colonizers brought with them (horses etc.), Shock-Troops = Pathogens, Camp followers (Starlings etc.) = Species brought by settlers which threaten threatening local ecology. “Landscape assemblage”.

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