Harnessing a Murder of Crows

Innovative Artistic Ideas with Immediate Practical Applications
Cluj-Napoca Municipality
Cluj County
Transylvania, Romania
1 Freedom Plaza
Mr. Mugur Avădanei
Mayor’s Bureau

Most Esteemed Mr. Avădanei:
My name is Smaranda Mlaştină. I am by profession a visual artist and at present I work part-time for the Socially Innovative Ideas Studio within the Synthetic Zero collective located in Bronx, New York. My work is experimental, for example, I created a statuary group made of 50 blown-up, white, condom balloons, tied up elegantly with a thin satin ribbon, also white, stapled on the parquet and having a video projection of Hudson River waves on the immaculate, vibrant balloons. Another piece I am proud of is my assemblage of ten miniature machines that were exhibited on two entire walls. I made this work by using wood scraps, clockwork wheels, steel coils, toilet chains, small iron balls, all set in motion by batteries. Cute. Thus, my art is experimental, but often times it has concrete applications.
I write you because one of our compatriots, Jasmine Skye, who participated at our last Synthetic Zero event, inspired me to conceive a genius idea with immediate practical application in your county Cluj, actually in the entire Transylvania and probably in the whole country of Romania, and definitely in Eastern Europe and Europe at large! I think I managed to figure out how to have our cake and eat it too, that is make Transylvania more appealing to tourists while you support modern arts.
More precisely, how to get rid of the triple problem of
1. Crow invasion in urban areas;
2. Gypsy hamlets by the garbage dumps, especially those from Pata Rât servicing your city, which I understand will be shut down soon and the people have nowhere to go;
3. Offer an artistic act with spectacular special effects for tourists who come to Transylvanian destinations shivering with goose bumps from visions of immersion into a magic, mysterious realm like in the Hollywood films they grew up with.
Thus, my friend, Jasmine, said that your town struggles with chasing away the enormous murders/flocks of crows that sonically pollute with their choruses of 20,000 harsh, sinister voices, especially in the morning when the murder of crows ascend from their nests in parks, green spaces, glides menacingly over the town, hunting for rats and mice and then spearheading to their workplace in the garbage dump. (My friend, Jasmine, corrects me that the rats vanished in Cluj because the multiplying stray cats ate them since the stray dogs were taken to the municipality pound. Jasmine adds they are insufferable throughout the day, when the murder of crows makes a stop by the garbage cans scrambling for food scraps, and also especially when it lands on apartment blocks, electric wires and cables, and in the evening, the murder of crows returns to sleep in the green spaces, parks and boughs, bushes around the student dorms.)
I understand that you’ve tried everything: from Hunters’ and Fishermen’s Association’s decimating shooting actions to firemen water cannons; from digital recordings of various cries of scared birds to voices of authoritarian politicians discoursing, to bullet whizzing-by sounds: all in vain. The murders of crows, in dark clouds, descend over the city, covering the parks and buildings with smelly bird droppings, startling the amorous lovers who kiss on benches, the retirees that walk their dogs, the new mothers who diligently push stressed-out babies incased in strollers.
Luckily, I’ve found the solution!
First, when we say the word cioară/crow we know all too well that, unfortunately, people don’t think about good things, for example that the crow is a very clever bird that slays mice (My friend Jasmine again corrects me: it doesn’t kill mice. It eats the household food garbage and the seeds from the plowed terrains—where there still are plowed terrains, because since we stepped into the EU, the land is not plowed or cultivated anymore) and crows eat the bugs and pests which ruin agriculture, and that crows are absolutely necessary to preserve the ecological equilibrium (Again my friend: the crows are necessary because they eat household waste but they are considered destructive pests because they eat the seeds from the fields. The crows migrated to towns from the empty fields since they are not cultivated anymore, in a way, much like countryside Gypsies who finding nothing to steal or gather after harvest, moved to garbage dumps.)
So, alas we know that when they hear the word cioară/crow Romanians immediately think of the Gypsies. Vin ciorile!/The crows are coming! is a warning call. As we all know, the fear that the Gypsies are breeding excessively and will exterminate the nation overwhelms the country. We know that many patriots regret that there isn’t another Hitler around to make soap out of them. Gone are those wonderful times, I know, I know, especially now that the European standards ask you to handle these creatures with kid gloves. [My friend Jasmine: Squeeze in something about the chasing of the Gypsies from EU, Italy and Switzerland and their return to Romania, and eventually the overpopulation of the garbage dump villages.]
So: Bearing in mind that the press constantly shows up to Pata Râtului, to expose the misery in which the hamlet lives, interviewing its citizens who claim they sleep with a trembling heart that the garbage dump will be shut down soon—again due to unmet European ecologic standards—it’s necessary to take some concrete measures: find homes for this uprooted group of people.
Of course, we could ask for help from Madonna or Oprah, or write emails to Habitat for Humanity, or Obama, or Bill Gates, or Clinton, or Mother Theresa (Jasmine: Mother Theresa died last year, or two years ago and was beatified. It might upset the Catholics.) Then to Mother Theresa’s Foundation, surely there is a foundation, isn’t there? Namely, we could approach someone internationally renowned, begging them to come here with their dollar power and build a modern village, a jaw-dropping place, to raise hope; but I believe that we can solve this locally, and reap far more benefits.
There are countless villages with deserted houses, on dry land and under water. My idea: to move them there. (Jasmine: Where?) Patience! On dry land, I don’t think it’s a practical idea, because you know how we, Romanian patriots are: we set Gypsy villages on fire, then the international press yells that it’s back to gas chambers ages. (Jasmine: Even Romanians don’t have enough space on Romanian soil. They quarrel over a meter of land, brother with brother, father with son. There are tens of thousands of lawsuits about land inheritances; the last one publicized was in Maramureş County where an old woman moved a surveyor’s marking stake of a land plot placed there by the mayor, and she was sentenced to six months in prison—she just asked to be pardoned by the President.)
Okay. I’ve left the country quite awhile ago. Jasmine knows better what’s going on back there, since she arrived to New York only a few months ago on a fiancé visa. Anyway, on dry land, no. Best in the water. Then they would bathe regularly and all the kids would be squeaky clean, and no one would make fun of them at school anymore; plus, as I said, we must attract foreign tourists.
The Dracula shtick works so-so, it doesn’t bring in steady money but if you remember, during Ceausescu’s reign many many villages were swallowed by water because he had the mania—well-intended—to build reservoirs and hydropower plants. At the Iron Gates, on the Danube River, they say there were 15,000 relocated people. Together with their cemeteries, but hush! Don’t say a word about the cemeteries to anyone else, or at least not in English so the Ugly American doesn’t catch on! I’ve heard that people carried their relatives from graveyards, in one bag the father’s bones, in the other, the uncle’s. But we won’t say a word! No, on the contrary, we’ll declare that then, the wretched old folks—especially the poor old ladies with moustaches and frightening beards—didn’t want to leave their little homes, not even when police came to warn them, Leave now, good folks! They let the water into the lake! You will drown! Come, dear auntie, let me help you with the goats and the cat! and the little old woman cursed those who made the lake, and cursed the water in the lake, my, how she cursed and cursed! Ever since, unannounced tempests start, whirlwinds come out of the sunken village wells and drown the dreamy tourists that swim in the Cinciş Lake.
(Jasmine: Probably they had also forgotten a few corpses behind, buried in unknown tombs or in the poor people’s cemeteries, some were even buried since Vlad Tepeş’ time, centuries ago, all Dracula’s grandchildren. Some were impaled in spears, pierced thru their arse. Or decapitated, looking for their heads that floated away on the lake surface. Probably those have transformed into zombies.)
Yes! Encourage tourism.
Make aggressive gorilla advertising, public announcements, video spots, claiming that during the night zombies crawl out of water, out of the kindergarten on the bottom of the lake. Sweet children with terrifying eyes follow their youthful teacher dressed in a gauzy peasant blouse, which clings to her budding nipples, a Playboy centerfold, and the kids howl and bite the innocent swimmers’ ankles, dragging them to the bottom of the water. The bells toll in the belfry of the Catholic Church up on the hill, the wind blows and the forests wail. Let the world know that besides disco and three-star motels, Transylvania also has these unique phenomena. Well, the entire West thinks that we, Transylvanians, have outlandish abilities, so let’s do it!
Good. Good. Good. So how should we proceed, tangibly, to pursue and fulfill everyone’s happiness and contentment?!
I thought out the following. Though I don’t have the necessary technical knowledge, we can collaborate with those from the Water Resource Management Department of Cluj County. I’ve heard that you have very talented hydrologists, reservoir construction engineers.
Thus, we harness the murders of crows somehow, not with spider webs like in James and the Giant Peach, but with some strong strings—maybe silk, maybe wire—anyway, after we harness them, at the other end we hang up the Gypsies. Or, we can hang up wicker baskets in which they can sit with their few belongings. Something like the baskets under hot air balloons, zeppelins, blimps, I forgot whatchamacallit? (Jasmine says gondolas.) Alright, so on a signal, the Gypsy villagers take off and fly, fly, fly from Pata Rât to Fântânele, or the nearest reservoir. Beliş? I await your advice where it would be best.
And when they are above the lake, boof! we throw them into the water.
Good. Good. Good.
But what are we going to do about the crows? Since they don’t have a part in this assemblage. Maybe they can pull the pulleys. Let’s say we don’t use gigantic pulleys, maybe we transport them with the baskets carried by crows and when they arrive above the lake we swing the gondolas until they go around 360 degrees, and the baskets turn upside down and they plop into the water. Or make the murder of crows spearhead thru the lake and get out at Antipodes, in China.
If we tell the Gypsy villagers that on the bottom of the lake there are horses, cows or sheep for free, we might persuade them to settle in the lake and sign leases with the Cluj Municipality, and we get rid of them, but the crows? What do we do with the murders of crows?!
No, Mister Avădanei, I’m not crazy.
Let’s come up with something to get the uprooted Gypsy dwellers into the lake, there at least they have houses and maybe can find something to eat too. I don’t know how yet, that’s why I’m writing you, maybe we train the crows to swim, turn into fish.
Yes, for sure, the Gypsy villagers must breathe. They can surface from time to time, while engaging in scary pageants to pump adrenalin in romantic tourists, like it’s hip in the West, and at the same time they can breathe. (Jasmine: Perhaps gradually they’d grow scales and webbed fingers and turn into fish, why not?! Since 2009 is Darwin’s birth bi-centennial, perhaps they will turn into huge carps, becoming fishing trophies. It’s worth trying, who knows how evolution works… and Gypsy families by tradition multiply fast and evolve, so we might get a Nobel Prize, who knows? The crows too, can evolve, since from birds to fish the road is shorter.)
And so it goes. We would avoid international booing/jeering. (Jasmine: We’ll be promoting tourism while doing something which doesn’t exist anywhere else on earth and we’ll get into the Guinness Book of Records. Thus curious tourists will pour in and we shall fill all our rural tourism inns and motels, rescuing them since they don’t have any clientele since recession started.) On the contrary, we shall survive economic recession smashingly!
I regret that I don’t have the means to make a mock-up model of my idea, but I assure you that it will function perfectly. We will launch a proposal on the net and biologists and engineers from all around the world will give us their support, undoubtedly.
I hope that you will get in touch soon and we will finalize this magnificent idea in time. I’m sure we’ll get help from the Italians and Swiss, since there too, Gypsies are a problem, and wherever Gypsies show up, crows multiply too.
Then, we can come to the States to implement it here too! If the press covers the experiment, we could apply to the new government. I am sure that Obama will listen to us and back us up. Possibly maybe even facilitate the certification of your Romanian Master’s degree in no time, Sir, and we’ll start moving the minorities here into the American lakes. Everything shall be green, ecologically correct.
(Jasmine: We would like to name this project Transforming Crows into Fish: Covering Both Gypsy and Crow Populations. If you make your contribution, we’ll back you up to earn your Ph.D., you know how the slogan goes, “Neither work without bread, nor bread without work.” Or how Vanghelie, Mayor of Bucharest’s Fifth Borough said, “I eat, therefore I think”.)

With anticipated thanks,
Smaranda Mlastină
Skype: (non stop) smaranda.mlastina
New York,
July 17, 2013


Well, here you have it: If you’d like to throw a bit of money my way to keep my endeavors going, and also enable me to spread the money to my various causes, witnessing democracy, freedom of speech and faith, and engineering social change thru art being one of them, I’d be grateful.

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