THE CATSKILL MOUNTAIN REVIEW
THE CAR ISSUE FAll 2011 75 dollars
The Catskill Mountain Review
The car, in a word, has quite refashioned all of the spaces that unite and separate men, and it will continue to do so for a decade more, by which time the electronic successors to the car will be manifest. Marshall McLuhan, 1964
. . . the names of fine authors are fictitious.
Herman Melville, â€œHawthorne and His Mossesâ€?
The Catskill Mountain Review
The Car Issue
Volume 1, Number 2.
BOARD OF EDITORS Jan Flegenheimer
CONTENTS Guy Debord
Situationist Theses on Traffic
Yates et al.
Proposal for ARRTS
James Fenimore Cooper
from The Pioneers
Melville’s Porch Redux
Notes on Campgrounds
Are Automobiles Necessary?
Boots Van Steenbergh
Theory of the View
Review of Hélène Dupin’s Le Car: Mode d’emploi
Books Received Letters Advertisements Contributors
SITUATIONIST THESES ON TRAFFIC 1 A mistake made by all rural planners is to consider the private automobile (and its by-products, such as the motorcycle) as essentially a means of transportation. In reality, it is the most notable material symbol of the notion of happiness that developed capitalism tends to spread throughout the society. The automobile is at the heart of this general propaganda, both as supreme good of an alienated life and as essential product of the capitalist market: It is generally being said this year that American economic prosperity is soon going to depend on the success of the slogan “Two cars per family.” 2 Commuting time, as Le Corbusier rightly noted, is a surplus labor which correspondingly reduces the amount of “free” time. 3 We must replace travel as an adjunct to work with travel as a pleasure. 4 To want to redesign architecture to accord with the needs of the present massive and parasitical existence of private automobiles reflects the most unrealistic misapprehension of where the real problems lie. Instead, architecture must be transformed to accord with the whole development of the society, criticizing all the transitory values linked to obsolete forms of social relationships (in the first rank of which is the family). 5 Even if, during a transitional period, we temporarily accept a rigid division between work zones and residence zones, we must at least envisage a third sphere: that of life itself (the sphere of freedom and leisure — the essence of life). Unitary exurbanism acknowledges no boundaries; it aims to form an integrated human 15
milieu in which separations such as work/leisure or public/private will finally be dissolved. But before this is possible, the minimum action of unitary urbanism is to extend the terrain of play to all desirable constructions. This terrain will be at the level of complexity of an old suburb. 6 It is not a matter of opposing the automobile as an evil in itself. It is its extreme concentration in the cities that has led to the negation of its function. Exurbanism should certainly not ignore the automobile, but even less should it accept it as a central theme. It should reckon on gradually phasing it out. In any case, we can envision the banning of auto traffic from the central areas of certain new complexes, as well as from a few old cities. 7 Those who believe that the automobile is eternal are not thinking, even from a strictly technological standpoint, of other future forms of transportation. For example, certain models of one-man helicopters currently being tested by the US Army will probably have spread to the general public within twenty years. 8 The breaking up of the dialectic of the human milieu in favor of automobiles (the projected freeways in Paris will entail the demolition of thousands of houses and apartments although the housing crisis is continually worsening) masks its irrationality under pseudopractical justifications. But it is practically necessary only in the context of a specific social set-up. Those who believe that the particulars of the problem are permanent want in fact to believe in the permanence of the present society. 9 Revolutionary exurbanists will not limit their concern to the circulation of things, or to the circulation of human beings trapped in a world of things. They will try to break these topological chains, paving the way with their experiments for a human journey through authentic life. G 1
C.A.R.T.T. (Catskill Augmented Reality Two Thousand)
PROPOSAL FOR AN AUGMENTED REALITY RAPID TRANSIT SYSTEM (ARRTS) FOR THE CATSKILL PARK The Catskill region was well served by its nineteenth century rail network—nearly every town and hamlet had its own station. Most areas of the Catskills could be reached from New York City by rail within two to three hours. The geography of the region— where both residents and visitors tended to dwell in clusters concentrated in valleys—lent itself well to mass transit. This remarkably efficient system was completely dismantled in the twentieth century. There is currently no passenger rail service (excluding two novelty railroads operated for tourists) in the Catskill region. Despite the purported convenience of the automobile, little improvement has been made in terms of travel time within the past 150 years. We propose that federal, state, county and town governments operate in conjunction with the University of the Catskills Cognition Augmentation Research Project in order to create a revolutionary transportation network for the Catskill Region. This network would consist of a small fleet of driverless emissionsfree vehicles. These vehicles would be shared in common; destinations would be designated by residents and visitors—conventional driving would be forbidden within the Catskill Park and traditional automobiles and trucks would be banned. The driver, like the pilot, is a fetish. On the twenty-first century road, the driver is the slowest and least responsive component of the automobile. There is no reason for humans to waste mortal energy exerting control and vigilance over automobiles. Computers are far more reliable than drivers. Freed from the burden of driving, passengers might engage in any number of more productive and enjoyable activities. Consuming alcoholic beverages in the car would no longer pose a threat to safety. Tourists would be encouraged to spend more freely at local bars and restaurants. Commuters would be able to work on their computers rather than mindlessly attending to their car’s piloting. The US Air Force is able to control drones in Afghanistan from mobile homes in the California desert. There is no reason Catskills 19
commuters might not also be able to remotely control anything from their home security system to an aerial droneâ€”all while en route to a local destination of their choosing. Present day electric cars are capable of traveling up to 100 miles on a single charge. 98.6% of automotive travel in the Catskills could be facilitated without recharging. Charging stations could be strategically located in town centers. Anyone requiring transportation would summon a driverless car, just as they would call a taxi. With sufficient vehicles, and without drivers, cars could arrive within a few minutes of being requested. During times of peak usage, system users would be required to carpool. The average American currently spends roughly $7000 and 600 hours annually on driving. With a population of roughly 100,000 people, if Catskillians pooled their resources, and factored in the value of their saved time, ARRTS could prove to be an extraordinary economic boon. ARRTS will drastically reduce carbon emissions, reduce traffic noise, alleviate congestion and facilitate increased social interaction. Aside from the (arguable) loss of driver agency, we foresee no adverse effects resulting from ARRTS. If anything, ARRTS should greatly facilitate social mobility in all senses of the term. Defenders of the current state of automotive culture might object that a system such as ARRTS might better be instituted in a densely populated metropolitan region. Surely urban areas are as much in need of ARRTS as exurban areasâ€”however, introducing a system such as ARRTS would be far more costly in an urban setting. The failure of the ARAMIS project in Paris presents merely one instance in which it proved impossible to displace the traditional driver-centric automobile. The University of the Catskills ARRTS project is currently seeking funding from corporate, institutional and individual donors. Contributions can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org
We Americans will hardly need to ponder a mystery that has troubled us for millennia: What is the purpose of life? For us, the answer will be clear, established and for all practical purposes indisputable: The purpose of life is to produce and consume automobiles. Jane Jacobs
LIFE’S CAR [MS Found in a Printout] The following document was found in 1998 when the former IBM plant in Kingston, NY was being closed and converted to “Tech City,” a multi-use postindustrial facility. The manuscipt is undated, and begins and ends abruptly. The printout would appear to have been produced by the SAGE (Semi-Automatic Ground Environment) computer system, which was manufactured by IBM at this facility. At the time, it was the largest, heaviest and most expensive computer system ever built. Though it was obsolete before it was completed, SAGE was for several years the most advanced interstellar communications device on the planet. Could this transmission from the past in fact be a transmission from the future? ...010010001010010101010101001010101001001000000010111 00101010000010110101111010010101101010110101010010101 01010101010101 The space automobile era 10101010 lasted far longer than strict utilitarian considerations should have permitted. For approximately three millennia (A.E.Y. or amortal earth years) cars—designed primarily to hold groupings of one to four persons, although available in many configurations—dominated the spaceways. Once advances in personal autoinformation had reached the amortal threshold and lightspeed travel had become the norm, it was inevitable01010100011 that the car (and its attendent spatial metaphors) would die out. But it was a long death. Even at great risk to their amortality, many sentient beings clung to their space cars at long past the point where it made sense. Being grossly mechanical in an electronic world, the car took on a certain life of its own. The evolution of sentient self-repairing, self-powering cars was not wholly unexpected. This however 0101011110 could do little to lessen the galactic ecological impact of unnecessary energy usage on so massive a scale. At what point cars transcended drivers, it is difficult to say. Maybe when Marinetti hit the ditch. Surely, however, the tables were decisively turned with the arrival of full personal autoinformatizationtion 0011010010101010000000100001001010 10101010... 23
The automobile has come to show even the slowest minds that the earth is truly round, that the heart is just a poetic relic, that a human being contains two standard gauges: one indicates miles, the other minutes. Ilya Ehrenburg, The Life of the Automobile
MELVILLE’S PORCH REDUX Dear Editors, In appreciation of your feature “Melville’s Porch,” I undertook to follow the directions printed in your most recent issue (Volume 1, Number 1, Summer 2011) to Herman Melville’s home in Pittsfield, Massachusetts. Hurricane Irene had left me without power or running water for five days when I journeyed east to the Berkshires. (The following account, I should note, is a muchcondensed extract from my forthcoming work of criticism, The Catskills After Critical Theory). * * * Hopping into my ’73 365GTB4, in a flash I was on the Rip van Winkle and on the east shore of the mighty Hudson. In another jiff I was up New York’s lovely route 66 (not to be confused with its more famous national counterpart) which runs from Hudson, NY to the Massachusetts border. I made it to Pittsfield around one and had lunch at The Lumpen, an establishment that had rated an average of 1.5 out of 5 stars from its 5 reviewers on Yelp. I went there for local flavor in any case. Over a burger that was edible if unmemorable, I duly checked online for directions to the museum and was relieved to find it would be open until five. The approach to Melville’s house, several miles from the town center, was obstructed by a series of four police officers, all directing imaginary road traffic. A female police officer politely classified me as local traffic when I told her my destination was “The Arrowhead Museum.” At one point, Pittsfield (as one critic put it) had been “a convenient meeting ground for the literati of New York and Boston, being roughly equidistant from each.” Imagine my chagrin to discover, after this long line of Cerberi, that the museum I had travelled a vast distance (by nineteenth century standards) to see was closed. I felt like the little boy in Joyce’s “Araby”: “a creature driven and derided by vanity.”
But lo, there it was!—pointed toward the majestic Greylock, “like Charlemagne among its peers,” and even more deserving of the peerage in the years succeeding the decoronation year of 1848! There, in all its grandeur, was Melville’s porch! Aimed northward, looking out from which in the midst of the lunar winter could lead Melville to liken Greylock to a whale in the arctic distance. The nearby cop I inquired with about the museum’s hours rudely informed me of nothing. I took my requisite cameraphone snapshots and got rolling again. I hightailed it to the Pittsfield State Park, home of Berry Pond, the highest natural body of water in Massachusetts. I had it and the afternoon to myself. Weary of the ecological havoc I had been fomenting in my sixty-mile jaunt, I decided to park myself at campsite 25R, although I also gave very serious consideration to site 23R, which was closer to the stream and more secluded from the road. Here was my very own Canute’s throne beside a mossy brook not five miles from ground zero of the composition of America’s greatest novel by America’s greatest writer! Here burbled a stately retinue, admiring of my writerly pretense! I found myself recalling lines from Frankenstein that Melville himself had well loved: “This closure is not such stuff as your hearts may be; it is mutable and cannot withstand you; if you say that it shall not.” The expected arrival of the lord of the place, the park ranger, never occurred. Around dusk, a teenage couple, who seemed familiar denizens of the place, informed me that they had a reservation for site 25R. I decamped to site 23R, now having definitive proof I had chosen the best site in the campground. (25R’s decisive point of superiority was its greater distance from the odor of the neighboring pit toilet facility.) I expected an influx of teenagers to turn the campground into party central. But the two lovebirds kept to themselves and I passed a tranquil evening under the stars. Dawn broke and I was on the road again. Back at the Arrowhead at 6:30 a.m., the construction vehicles sat idle. The police squadron had vanished. There was no indication whether the museum would open at nine on its normal schedule. 32
Without hesitation, I leapt to the prow (or was it the poop)! I strode the deck with surety and grace. The dawn had cast her a mantle of rosy ermine upon old Greylock. In honor of the man whose ghost I had traveled so far to see—a man who loved his pipe so dearly!—I lit my own in commemoration! I can confirm now that “piazza” was always a hyperbolic appellation. Melville was never a member of the piazza-owning class, and his fortunes were to decline considerably after the Arrowhead years. The porch’s most conspicuous feature is now an in-window air conditioner. As I paced and as I cogitated, I had a vision of the great author himself, hurling his pipe into the driveway in despair! With that, I was on the road again. Once home on my own modest porch, I wrote out the preceding account out longhand. Power was restored to me that evening. Kudos again to the CMR for its coverage of our wondrously vertiginous region—in the wake of Irene, we need you more than ever. With love and admiration, Brock Yates Stone Ridge, NY
For too long, residents of the Catskills have been asked to shoulder a disproportionate burden of the Hudson Valley’s traffic. The Hudson Valley Expressway, designed to run up the eastern shore of the Hudson from the Bronx to Beacon, is long overdue. State, local and federal planners should consider extending this route to at least Tivoli. Since at least the eighteenth century, residents west of the river have been discriminated against by the wealthier classes that resided east of the river. Why should residents of Ulster and Greene County be forced to suffer the noise and pollution of I-87 while those in Dutchess and Columbia counties cruise the Taconic Parkway? Why should residents of the Catskills be subjected to the indignities of the Thruway’s tolls? Since the creation of I-587 (not coincidentally the nation’s shortest freeway) in the late 1950s, the Catskills have lagged in their share of federal highway dollars—and yet traffic has steadily increased. This injustice must be remedied.
NOTES ON CAMPGROUNDS by Jeanne Beauregard
Sontag’s epochal “Notes on Camp” makes no mention of campgrounds, though they are one of the emblematic architectural forms of the American century. Amazingly, Sontag maintained that “nothing in nature can be campy.” Behind this large untruth lie a number of small untruths. 2 Here, only nylon and air separate the citizens of the commonwealth. A proper car campground should be highly regulated and its inhabitants temporary—campers should not be permitted to stay longer than fourteen days. Longer residency raises the prospect of intra-class mixing. 3 The car camping loop should ideally have a nearby attraction (a lake, a stream), although not too good of an attraction (a high waterfall, an impressive geyser). Better locations are reserved for marquee hotels or wilderness. 4 The car campground is a seasonal suburb where the typical walls are missing (or seemingly so). 5 The car campground is not an atechnological zone. On the contrary, it requires a considerable array of technologies. Many Americans live in high-tech self-sufficient vehicular homes. Even tenters carry with them a considerable range of technologies: foremost among them their cars, of course, but also stoves, advanced temporary shelters, lightweight sleeping gear, insect repellent, coolers, lights, intoxicants, games, telephones, com 39
puters, etc. Returning to the green world almost invariably entails an increase in energy consumption, as well as an intensification of conventional barriers of race and class. 6 Car camping can be monotonous (most especially in the rain). But it can also be luminous—in an empty campground, for instance, where the panoptic ranger has gone to sleep for the night. Or at The Burning Man festival—for one week only America’s largest campground. 7 Whether the present form of alienation is to persist or be abolished—surely the campground will play a part in any future social transformation.
Mountain houses are always built in the wrong spots. The top of a mountain is no place for a mountain houseâ€Śit should be put in the valley, there the picturesque and beautiful is ever before you. [On a summit] one soon tires of the view before him. Oscar Wilde â€”lecturing at Tremper House, as quoted in The Catskill Examiner, October 21, 1882.
THEORY OF THE VIEW Boots Van Steenbergh The Catskills are, in the post-nineteenth century world picture, disadvantaged in their lack of a tree line (that is, unlike the Adirondacks, White Mountains, or the Rockies, there are no summits that rise above the forest). Nonetheless, there are 264 points in the Catskills from which one can see further than fifty miles to another point on land. And this at the height of summer, when views are most constricted by leaves; in the winter the number of locations at which it is possible to see so far is incalculable. It is not possible to account for the power of the view other than in technological terms. The view is a fetish. There is no reason for humans to build in the most foolish, dangerous, energy intensive and ecologically destructive locationsâ€”merely to see a little further. I encourage all readers of The Catskill Mountain Review to remain steadfastly opposed to irresponsible development on our hillsides and mountaintops. We should not tolerate the further creation of artificial views through deforestation. Please think before you developâ€”a forest is a terrible thing to waste merely for the sake of a view.
THE HOUSE IS GONE. The railroad has been supplanted by cars. The making of travel acquaintances is reduced by the private automobile to half-threatening encounters with hitchhikers. People travel on rubber tires in strict isolation from one another. What is talked about in one family automobile is the same as in another; in the nuclear family, conversation is regulated by practical interests. Just as every family with a certain income spends the same percentage on housing, cinema, cigarettes, exactly as statistics prescribe, the subject matter of conversations is schematized according to the class of automobile. When they meet on Sunday outings or in restaurants, the menus and dĂŠcor of which are identical to others in the same price category, the guests find that with increasing isolation they have become more alike. Communication makes people conform by isolating them.1 1 Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer, The Dialectic of Enlightenment: Philosophical Fragments, trans. Edmund Jephcott (Stanford: Stanford UP, 2002), 184.
LE CAR: MODE D’EMPLOI Reviewed by Leif Förster Hélène Dupin. Le Car: Mode d’emploi. Brooklyn, NY: University of the Catskills Press, 2011. Print. 1617 pages. $59.95. Cloth. Unquestionably the car was the most important technology shaping human destiny during the first half of the twentieth-century, just as the computer was the most important of the latter part of the century. Le Car: Mode d’emploi is equally without question the most significant book ever written on the history and future of the automobile. What Walden was to nature writing in America, Le Car is to twenty-first century automotive philosophy. What Robert Burton’s Anatomy of Melancholy was to seventeenth century psychology, Le Car is to twenty-first century automobilia. It is difficult to overstate the magnitude of Dupin’s accomplishment. The literatures of automotive philosophy, history, design and repair have always been treated as separate fields. Here they are brought together convincingly. Some will gasp at the audacity of this volume’s 1600 pages, and for many this will not be a page turner. Nonetheless it belongs on the bookshelf of every driver, every passenger and every mechanic. Perhaps the most audacious aspect of this book is that the entirety of its contents are derived from George Perec’s La Vie: Mode d’Emploi. I will not spoil the constraints for you, dear reader, as some critics might! You will have to see for yourselves. Those who would accuse Dupin of hubris ought to consult Perec first. By comparison to Perec, Dupin’s project is a wonder of concision, clarity and diligent specialized scholarship. This reviewer’s only minor qualm is that Le Car might have appeared more appropriately magisterial had it been issued as a three-volume set. The book is neatly divided—rather like the selected works of Michel Foucault—into three sections: Ethics, Design and Maintenance. The virtue of a single volume is that it insists on the absolute interconnectedness of automotive philosophy. Readers with a predisposition against maintaining their own cars will be forced to confront their prejudices—there is an ethics even to changing one’s own oil. 61
Dupin is especially unafraid to confront the car’s most pernicious effects: its use as a central tool for racial and economic segregation; its role in global ecological ruin; its destruction of vast wild spaces. Dupin’s critique of the car is unrelenting. Yet she is also a diligent chronicler and lover of car culture: here recounting the fascinating history of Lowrider Culture among Mexican-Americans, as well as the experiences of African-American motorists from Jack Johnson to racial profiling. As the most powerful and energy intensive personal technology, the automobile deserves our full attention. For over a century, the automobile has utterly remade the earth’s surface. There has always been an ethics of the car and its attendant privileges and liabilities. True autophilia requires an intense familiarity with the workings of the machine itself. True autophobia requires close study of the hypocrisies and missed opportunities of auto design. There is an ethics to being a backseat driver or a backyard mechanic—just as there is an ethics of eating locally. Don’t drive until you read this book! There’s no time to waste. Walk (or run if you prefer) to your nearest bookstore (it deserves your support if it still exists), and ask them to order Le Car today.
No trend would prove as important to the mountains in the twentieth century as the growth of automobile ownership and use. Over the course of the century, much of the Catskills did indeed become a suburb of New York. David Stradling, Making Mountains: New York City and the Catskills
GENERAL MOTORS, INC.
DETROIT MICHIGAN, USA Alfred Pritchard Sloan, Jr. General Motors, Inc. Detroit, Michigan
Mr. Hubert Work Secretary of the Interior Department of Interior Washington, D.C. August 21, 1927 Dear Secretary Work, On a recent vacation to Yellowstone National Park, I was appalled by the devastation wrought upon the landscape by the automobile. Herds of people were stuck in herds of cars watching the occasional animal hapless enough to stray (presumably from its diminishing herd) toward the omnipresent highway. Old Faithful spews tirelessly surrounded by endless parking lots. Although I have derived considerable pleasure and income from automobiles in my life, I cannot advocate their intrusion even into our wildest, most sacred places. The enclosed petition requests that Yellowstone National Park be closed annually to cars and buses during the month of July in honor of the French and American revolutions. Bicycling through the park should encouraged and all park services should continue to be made available to visitors. I believe the benefits of such a plan are too obvious to require stating. Let us give over our most prized national treasure to the tyranny of the internal combustion engine for the remaining eleven months of each year. Our citizens, our lands, and the animals we have pledged to protect deserve this of us.... Respectfully,
Alfred Pritchard Sloan, Jr.
In America camping is considered a healthy sport for Boy Scouts but a crime for mature men who have made it their vocation.—Poverty is considered a virtue among the monks of civilized nations— in America you spend a night in the caboose if you’re caught short without your vagrancy change (it was fifty cents last I heard of, Pard—what now?) Jack Kerouac, “The Vanishing American Hobo”
Analysis of car use can illuminate the tacit enforcement of segregated space that is a growing feature of metropolitan life inside and outside the US. Automobility also helps to show up the deepening lines of class division inside racialized communities that are now anything but spontaneously homogenous or unified. Tracking changing attitudes toward the car, through good and bad times, recession and expansion, resurgence and defeat can also be instructive. The private car is an index of hegemony. The failures of public transport confirm and cement the appeal of radically individualistic solutions and communicate the general defeat of the idea of public good. Seen in this way, the motor car is far more than a mere product, an inert commodity or a neutral piece of innocent technology. It acquires a special force, and becomes a social and political actor that shapes the industrial and de-industrializing worlds through which it moves even as it damages both them and us. Paul Gilroy, â€œDriving While Blackâ€?
My idea of paradise is a perfect automobile going thirty miles an hour on a smooth road and to a twelfth century cathedral. Henry Adams
CONTRIBUTORS Jeanne Beauregard is associate professor of Automotive Philosophy at the University of the Catskills. She is the author of Undoing the Autocentric Landscape: Prospects for a Post-Car World. Leif Förster is Visiting Adjunct Professor of Poetics at the University of the Catskills. His third book of poems, The Catskilliad: Invocation and Proem, was recently published by the University of the Catskills Press. Bern Porter was one of the greatest appropriation artists of all time, as well as one of America’s fiercest critics of the automobile. A self-proclaimed professional satirist, Boots Van Steenbergh was also one of the great hermits of the Catskills. His home near Saugerties has been credited by Alf Evers with having anticipated abstract expressionism. A volume of collected satires, Inside I Make Sense, Outside I Make Nonsense, is forthcoming from University of the Catskills Press. Brock Yates is Distinguished Professor of Automotive History and Theory and Chair of the Department of Automotive Philosophy at the University of the Catskills. His many works—too numerous to mention here—have explored every facet of car culture, from 1970s auto-libertarianism to contemporary supercar design.
So ill was the car guided—but it passed With solemn speed majestically on. P.B. Shelley, “The Triumph of Life”