Chernobyl, 25 years to contemplate on

Listen to Peter Cusack “Chernobyl Dawn” & “Chernobyl Frogs”

Peter Cusack – Chernobyl Dawn "Peter Cusack – Chernobyl Dawn"
Peter Cusack – Chernobyl Frogs "Peter Cusack – Chernobyl Frogs"

Twenty five years ago today, reactor number four at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant exploded, resulting in devastation still felt daily by those in the area. When it happened, I was only three years old and half the world away so I can’t speak from any firsthand experience. That doesn’t mean it hasn’t effected me. As a perpetual student of biology I’m captivated by what humans are capable of, building and destroying, and by how resilient nature can be despite our accidental efforts to wipe it out. Today, my thoughts are weighed upon heavily by all the lives forever altered by our quest for progress.

Above are field recordings by sound artist, Peter Cusak, that were captured on May 6, 2006 in Chernobyl, Ukraine. These “Chernobyl Choruses” are studies on how nature seems to be thriving in the absence of people. The photo is from mattbr’s photostream.

All I ask is that you spend a few minutes listening. Contemplating.


Think or Smile Mixtape: Spring 2011

For music lovers.

To awaken the fauna and flora from slumber.

DOWNLOAD (Enhanced version with track info embedded)


Think or Smile Mixtape: Spring 2011 | Tracklisting:

  • Javelin: Trembler
  • Sean Nicholas Savage: Misery Mountain
  • Serge Gainsbourg: Ballade De Melody Nelson
  • Kuhrye-oo: Not Feeling The Love (R. Kels ‘Trapped In The Black Lodge’ cover)
  • Jay Dee aka J Dilla: Won’t Do
  • Dabrye: Hyped-up Plus Tax
  • toothe ache.: Skin
  • ADULT.: Mouth to Mouth
  • Electric Sea Spider: Blackpanther
  • Telefon Tel Aviv: Stay Away From Being Maybe
  • Atlas Sound: Lanterns
  • Javelin: Colorado Trail
  • The KLF: Brownsville Turnaround On The Tex-Mex Border
  • Nicolas Jaar: Space Is Only Noise If You Can See
  • gus gus: Polyesterday
  • Matthew Dear: Slowdance (Bear in Heaven Remix)
  • Apparant: Hallin From The Edge
  • Kinisi: A Celestial Path
  • Kid Loco: La Seduzione
  • Javelin: Love Gultch
  • Ted Lucas: Plain and Sane and Simple Melody

Thanks to Tim, Dave and Nada for introducing me to a few of these tracks.

I also created a print to accompany the spring mix art. Available in several sizes at my society6 shop here. Or by clicking the image below.


How To Hide an Elephant

How To Hide an Elephant
by Emily Pettit

All over town footprints are flying.  When walking
on tiptoes we ignite suspicious minds. Hovering,
hanging out nowhere near the ground.
I’m on my way to the end of the world again.
Thirteen red barns in a row.  A story on the news.
A mouse has died in the wall. I have a box
full of porcupine quills. I have a box full of
tiny tools. A box full of bees. Becoming information
is not necessarily a choice.  A chance meeting
is not necessarily enough to change things.
If your reflection went missing what would you do?
Feel like a spider who has forgotten how to weave
a web.  Try to remember where you last leaned,
where you last left no trace.  Here is a tiny elephant.
Put it in your pocket and it can be the elephant in the room
that no one ever talks about.

How to read Emily Pettit.  There is no easy explanation. Or rather, there is no correct way to read Emily Pettit. Just do it. Read Emily Pettit.  If that’s not enough instruction, Emily tells you how in her aptly titled book How (published by Octopus Books), a collection of poems with titles like “How to Stop Laughing When You Laugh at Inappropriate Times” or “How to Carefully Consider Space Travel.”  If you are like me, then this is the instruction manual you have long sought in your adult life.  The time has come to leave those Nintendo manuals in a Rubbermaid bin tucked away in your parents’ basement.  You won’t need them anymore.

What we learn from How might be what we would learn about ourselves if we were to dive into a pool of paint wearing a football uniform.  You simply have to try it to find out. Emily’s poems are like following steps to becoming telepathic.  There is no right answer, but if an offered solution causes people to say, “I don’t believe you” then Emily’s How is one giant retort: “Then I guess I’m unbelievable.” Can we really find out how to find a robber by reading “How to Find a Robber”? It’s as if these poems mask a greater sense of instruction, how to mislead a world that might be after you, creep up on you, toss you a doozy. Think of the movie Commando, when Arnold Schwarzenegger breaks into the weapons depot and arms himself with a ton of firepower. Then think “what was a weapons depot doing in downtown LA?  In a mall, no less?”  We shouldn’t think of the sense, but of the urgency.  Arnold needed a weapon’s depot, and LA provided.  This is How. This is Emily covering all her bases, throwing in lines like When it comes to performing some of the most difficult and laborious operations of abstract thought, I fail when instructing us how to find robbers. This is handy information.  Take for instance these sagacious lines from “How to Hide a Fire”:

The curtain is blowing though
the window is closed.  People are
doing magic and blushing.  It’s a bad day
for chickens.  Disco is dead.
And this is why one shouldn’t talk shit.

Her knowledge and know-how isn’t limited to her own work. Emily also does double-time as an editor for Factory Hollow Press, runs the online poetry zine Notnostrums, and helps at her brother Guy’s amazing book mecca, Flying Object, in Hadley, Massachusetts. Given her exposure to so much poetry, and her love of sharing it, I don’t think I’ve ever come within handshaking distance of Emily without receiving a new chapbook. Her enthusiasm for new poetry (and by new I also mean young) is not unlike many a music blogger’s enthusiasm to post new songs on a daily basis.  She carries it with swagger and keeps her tastes refined.  Hers is not  “A Flower in Springtime” type of poetry.  Enter her world and you’ll soon know what I mean.

Art: Nathaniel Whitcomb


Under the White Sea, speculating

Dreaming of another world, full of shapes, colors and creatures both foreign and fantastic needn’t take your thoughts to distant space…

That’s how I was going to contextualize the Clione 1.0 Underwater Experiments of Alexander Semenov but I wasn’t particularly inspired by that thought as I’m sure I’ve heard it in a nature film somewhere. So there these images sat, idle in my drafts, until something more interesting came along, until this morning.

I was walking to work in a thunderstorm, dodging deep puddles and rivers in the street as lightning lit up the city. I thought to myself, what if this down pour never stopped? What if the city was completely underwater? Today, it would be tragic and on every newscast, but what about centuries from now? How long would it take for it to pass out of our collective memory, the way the origins of our oceans and the life within it have for us today? Say it happened to all modern cities, all current civilization. How much time do you think would have to go by before we start exploring this new world, speculating as to how structures made of concrete and steel could have grown out from the earth? Collecting specimens of a man-made society without the knowledge of man making it. Would it just be another phase in history to keep us occupied and keep our imagination fueled with wonder? The same way Aurellia aurita tentacles and sponge caprellas do to us now?

Do some more speculating and digital exploring within Semenov’s galleries here.


Free Music Collection: April 2011

Not quite winter and not quite spring. We find ourselves drifting between seasons, guided by warm, lush soundtracks, luring us back outdoors. April’s free music collection is full of albums, eps and mixes that set the scene for crisp evenings and warmer days to come.

Something new this month: I’ve begun including albums that are offered up with the option to Name Your Price ($). These artists are kind enough to share their music with you regardless of your financial situation so I encourage you to pay what you can to help support the music you love. They put more into their music than most of us can imagine. If you want them to be able to continue, show them some love, however you can. The Name Your Price albums are denoted by a $.

I’ll often post links as they are discovered on twitter @thinkorsmile if you’d like to be in the loop more than once a month. Or you can follow my twitter list of music bloggers who are doing the dirty work of digging these artists up. Follow them and say hello. Happy exploring.

Think or Smile | Free Music Collection: April 2011

FRESH AIR was a late-night radio program which aired on WKSU (Kent State University) during the seventies and eighties. Archives of broadcasts. Hard to explain… Just explore.

Support good music.


Think or Smile | Nathaniel Whitcomb © 2011