to get by or to thrive
April 12, 2014, 2:38 pm
Filed under: brave new world, the sweet life | Tags: , , , , , ,

There are three kinds of people in a world set up for only two kinds: money people, service people and artistic people in a money and service world. No provisions are made nor needs required for the artistic in this world so if you’re artistic you are in a real limbo. But mere work and mere survival shouldn’t be enough; meaning counts a lot and artists contribute meaning. The choice is ours, to get by or to thrive.

From an article by Garry Gutting:

This talk of “a subject they love” brings us to the real crisis, which is both economic and cultural (or even moral). The point of work should not be just to provide the material goods we need to survive. Since work typically takes the largest part of our time, it should also be an important part of what gives our life meaning. Our economic system works well for those who find meaning in economic competition and the material rewards it brings. To a lesser but still significant extent, our system provides meaningful work in service professions (like health and social work) for those fulfilled by helping people in great need. But for those with humanistic and artistic life interests, our economic system has almost nothing to offer.

The Real Humanities Crisis, By GARY GUTTING




Chris Burden Metropolis
April 9, 2014, 1:41 am
Filed under: departure lounge | Tags: ,


chris burden metropolis

chris burden metropolis ii

poetry and laughter
April 1, 2014, 3:52 pm
Filed under: the sweet life | Tags: , ,

Don’t go inside because life, poetry and laughter are in the street. ‘Inside’ is programmed, institutional and professional life. Do go into the pub, the bar, the bistro; these are extensions of the street where beauty and poetry flourish:

One counsel: when you see an open door, newspaper, radio studio, cinema, bank, anything—don’t enter. By the time you’re thirty you’ll be nuts because you left your laugh at the door. That’s my experience. Poetry is in the street. It goes arm in arm with laughter. They take each other along for a drink, at the source, in the neighborhood bistros, where the laugh of the people is so flavorsome and the language that flows from their lips so beautiful.

Blaise Cendars, interviewed

from Spurious by Lars Iyer

conrad roland 1964
March 30, 2014, 1:14 pm
Filed under: brave new world, departure lounge | Tags: ,

conrad roland 1964

a life postponed
March 29, 2014, 5:39 pm
Filed under: brave new world, the sweet life | Tags: , , ,

Here is a story by Suketu Mehta the author about a life deferred and a life fully lived in response.

His grandparents scrimped and saved and deferred for a dreamed of retirement of leisure – only to die young. Their son – Mehta’s uncle – saw the waste and did the opposite: lived every day to the fullest. He also died young – a family cursed with bad hearts.

Live now, don’t defer happiness waiting for some elusive thing.

When people dream of moving to America it’s not just so that they can be prudent, studious, restrained. My uncle Vipinmama would tell me a story about his parents, my grandparents who had emigrated from Ahmedabad in Indian to Nairobi in the 1920s. All their lives they had denied themselves luxuries in the new country in order to store them for their retirement. They had rented a room in Ahmedabad, which they filled with refrigerators, washing machines, steel cupboards, juicers – all the goods and furnishings of life which they abstained from in Nairobi. When they retired they were going to buy a house and stock it with their hoarded treasure.

As the room in Ahmedabad bulged with the goods send from Africa, the ranks of appliances waiting to be turned on one distant day, their lives in Nairobi continued in great simplicity and thrift. One day in her 50s my grandmother had a heart attack and died – she ‘went off’ as the Gugaratis say. My grandfather left Nairobi then and went to Ahmedabad and bought a house. But he could not bear to live in their dream without the one who was to share it. So within a month, he sold both the house and the goods they had so patiently saved up, without ever having used them, and left for London.

This had a powerful influence on Vipinmama, and he lived every day of his life in the pursuit of happiness. Every good bartender in Bombay, New York and Antwerp knew him. He played the guitar. He played cricket for his college. He went on vacation even when it wasn’t good for his business. He too went off, following a heart attack at 34 from congenital heart disease – but it was not after a life postponed. Whatever he purchased he brought home and turned on immediately. If it was a stereo, he danced to its music; if it was a VCR, he invited all his friends over to watch movies that very evening. You might think my grandfather would have wanted my uncle to be more prudent, more restrained. But in fact my grandfather was very proud of his son – prouder than any of the fabled Indians in the email he sent around – because his life was not spent deferring happiness, waiting for power.

Suketu Mehta, The Superiority Complex, Time Magazine, Feb 2014

the white ribbon


I just watched The White Ribbon a film by Michael Haneke. His other film Cache (Hidden) is a favorite. Cache is about a middle class family who start receiving in the mail surveillance videos of the outside of their house; concurrently the father is contacted by a family servant from his privileged childhood who was somehow abused.

In Cache, Haneke shows us violent acts but resists connecting them: not to cause or effect, nor to justice, nor to retribution. We are left to draw our own conclusions: are the videos connected to the servant? Is  there culpability? etc. It is an idea about life, that we often don’t know, can’t know; that one thing happened may or may not mean that the other thing resulted.


The White Ribbon is set in a small northern German town in the year that Principe shot Archduke Ferdinand an act which we know precipitated the start of the first World War. At the time, the world, Germany included, was predominantly feudal.  Heneke’s town has a Baron at the social top who owns most of the land and employs most of the people. It has a Pastor, a Doctor, a Steward and a Teacher who narrates, who are the defacto leadership of the village. The rest of the village are poor laborers and farmers. You could say that at the bottom of the social pile are the children who play a big role in the film.

On the surface The White Ribbon is mystery movie. It shows us a series of events in which people are being deliberately hurt: to start the doctor is tripped by a wire and thrown from his horse, then a farmer’s wife dies at the mill, the Baron’s son is whipped and left in the forest, a girl is molested by her father, the midwife’s son who has downs has his eyes nearly put out, a bird is ritually killed. We never really doubt that the evil is ‘within’ but we, as we are conditioned to, wonder who is perpetrating. And Haneke, true to his form, doesn’t tell us not even in the end.

You could argue that, like in Cache, The White Ribbon shows us isolated acts of violence which remain obfuscated and unconnected. However there is a theme of connection that is unmistakable. It is a society that is harsh, punitive, judging, severe by design. The Pastor uses the strictest, austere reform Protestantism to guide village adolescents through confirmation. And we see this same group of children playing with knives, killing birds, pushing a child into a stream. We are left with a sense that the austerity is at least tenuously connected to the violent acts of the village children.

Continue reading

projective reactive

On the difference between the continental French and analytic English in planning and design. The continental modus operandus is ‘what can make life better;’ the analytic is ‘how do we get it done.’

So, in planning and design, the continental says ‘let’s plan so that it is better,’ while the analytic ‘Let’s do what we’ve always done.’ In the continental there is a commitment to a model or an idea, while in the analytic there is a reliance on mimicry and precedence.

This is from an article in AR by Farshid Moussavi:

The UK and French systems are diametrically opposite. The French system is projective: architectes-urbanistes draw up masterplans to inform decisions made subsequently for each site. The UK system is reactive: there is no holistic vision going forward, and applications are decided individually. In the projective model, as the planning officers are advised by their architecte-urbaniste, they can take the position of design negotiators. In the reactive model, the planning officers must act as Feng Shui masters and divine the dynamics of a given site solely grounded on past decisions. As in any stare decisis legal model, this curbs future thinking and encourages the retroactive and conservative.

Farshid Moussavi: Planning is an art form


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