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.

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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