Friday Varia and Quick Hits

The rain scheduled for Saturday will arrive today making it an idea day for some serious writing in the New Archaeology of the Mediterranean World Panoptic Think-Tank. But before I start my day under leaden skies, I offer up a fun (to me) gaggle of quick hits and varia.

  • If you haven’t checked out the short film, Caine’s Arcade, it probably means that you don’t spend much time on the internets. It’s super cute and charming and perfect for a grey end-of-the-week. One of the coolest things about this is that people – total strangers – started to kick into Caine’s college fund. If I didn’t have equally brilliant nephews, I’d be tempted to do the same.
  • Depressing news about the Greek Basketball League (via Dallas Deforest)
  • Another nice short film which is on the verge of going viral is HILL. It’s the story of Alan Hill, the man who lives in the abandoned Packard automobile plant in Detroit. It is part abandonment porn and part social commentary. It fits so well into discussions I had with my buddy Bret Weber this past weekend in the oil patch, that he wrote a thoughtful response to it. I ask and he graciously allowed me to quote parts of it: (The film is less than 10 minutes and quite lovely. Bret’s comments will make more sense once you see it!):

The film suggests and, yes, romanticizes Alan Hill’s agency in relation to his home, including his comment that it “suits his purposes just fine.”  However, it is implicitly clear that he did not originally choose to go find a large, abandoned factory to live in.  In many ways his situation reminds me of a job I had when I was 18.  I was a night-time, graveyard-shift janitor for the Colorado State Highway Department.  I worked with an old Latino who was using the job to supplement his retirement.  After finishing all of our cleaning (which took a couple hours) we crawled into the cabs of large maintenance vehicles and slept until it was time to wake up in the morning and make coffee for the workers that arrived at 7 AM.   We actually kept pillows and blankets at work.

The point of that little story is that everyone knew that we were drawing full pay for sleeping, but it was cheaper to pay for two sleeping janitors than for security guards.  The decision was driven by the insurance companies who needed someone there.  The Packard plant may be abandoned, but I’m guessing someone ‘owns’ it and would be liable for problems.  I wonder what role Alan Hill is playing in that process—with or without his knowledge.  At the very best, Hill has only very limited agency here.  At the worst, he could be evicted at any time by any number of authorities (police, health, department of aging or adult protective services, etc.).

Beyond those issues, and beyond Alan Hill’s urban, idyllic home . . . this clearly is not sustainable or possible on any sort of a broad scale.  Who is paying for the electricity?  Heat?  It seems that they filmed during a relatively warm time of the year, but Detroit winters can get brutal.  What does Hill do then?  What if he becomes ill?  Is there any sense of community for Hill (beyond the rabbits and raccoons)?

I think this is similar to the situation in the Type III camps we saw: at best there is only limited agency, and at worst there is a completely unhealthy, unsustainable situation that raises social justice concerns.

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