A pair of faiths
April 4, 2020, 7:40 pm
Filed under: brave new world, chronotopes | Tags: , , ,

The Unbearable Lightness of Being (1988) – MUBI

There’s a comfort in faith: that the arc of history bends towards justice, that wrongdoing will be remedied, that we will forever remember the people and places in our lives.

Kundera says these faiths are a deception. What’s left without memory and a belief that things will be made right? Perhaps a cold, calculating, puritan existence. Or more likely it’s a matter of degree: the double headed faith will always be there but if we decrease our reliance on its succour we will be better prepared to deal with the ravages of life.

Yes, suddenly I saw it clearly: most people deceive themselves with a pair of faiths: they believe in eternal memory (of people, things, deeds, nations) and in redressibility (of deeds, mistakes, sins, wrongs). Both are false faiths. In reality the opposite is true: everything will be forgotten and nothing will be redressed. The task of obtaining redress (by vengeance or by forgiveness) will be taken over by forgetting. No one will redress the wrongs that have been done, but all wrongs will be forgotten.

Milan Kundera

Cognitive Bias Codex
November 2, 2016, 2:22 am
Filed under: unseen world | Tags: , , ,

unnoticed beans
October 11, 2010, 10:09 pm
Filed under: brave new world | Tags: , , ,

The other option would have been to title this Remembrance of Lost Beans.  In a bar last week – someone asked what some sugary micro beer they had on tap was like and he got a taste and a remembrance of beers past.  We tried to pin point the exact date when the American palate revolted against those tasteless bland watery ales of yesteryear.  I was surprised when the barflys agreed – awfully quickly – that it was Sierra Nevada in the early 1990s – I can’t remember the date.  Apparently in America it was a watershed year, a gastro epiphany, a bridge we will never return across.

The week before I was in another bar and asked for a pilsner or a lager because I thought something light would be nice on a really hot night like that one.  I needled the bartender a bit when she told me, as I suspected, they had neither.  Yes, it’s their winter menu, she agreed it wasn’t ideal considering the weather.

This is the problem of the aspiring middle class.  When they’ve had tinned meat and jello salads and aspix for a generation, the next will want garnishes on their garnish.  More flavour!  Better presentation!  Uber chefs!  Micro one-offs!  I suppose it’s nice to want nice things.  Take care in not losing the beautiful and the simple in the rush to replace the old with the new.  Like a light beer in the dog days of summer.

Here’s the same argument from Richard Rodriguez who describes a family staple and tradition, his father’s Mexican beans.  The evolving food culture of cities is good, he says, but simple foods have the power to evoke memories of our past lives:

A childhood, happy or unhappy, is constructed on an assumption that things will always be as they are—the stuffing of the Christmas turkey will be the same as “always,” as last year. Family food is ritual, a binding spell. It is prayer, it is magic, it is superstition, it is tyranny. I would have noticed the refried beans only if they’d not been there.

I was too happy a child to wonder if my father’s tragic youth had instilled in him a yearning for the repetition his children yearned to escape. Only now do I wonder how my father’s work—eight hours of molars and bicuspids, long metal shelves lined with the mockery of false teeth—revolted or sweetened his appetite as he stood at the stove, the masher in his hand, dutiful priest, disappointed romantic. Disappointment! And now, that his son should write his eulogy as refried beans. My father was a brilliant man.

I have lived many years in San Francisco, where restaurant reviews are read religiously. The appetite for the new, the next, the best is a commendable cosmopolitanism, I suppose. But it was only because Marcel Proust’s petite madeleine was unremarkable, because it tasted like every other madeleine, that it had the potency to recover the past.

Our Daily Bread: The sustaining power of the ordinary, by Richard Rodriguez

half remembered
May 7, 2008, 12:53 pm
Filed under: brave new world | Tags: , ,

Eithne Jordan
Peripheral Landscapes

“The images have a curious half-remembered or imagined quality which has an unsettling but very satisfying effect, like empty stage sets or movie stills poised and prepared for human activity or abandoned and discarded after use. This is a measure of the extent to which the subjects are merely a formal device for the artist to explore form, composition and perspective. The industrial zones and urban environments, melancholy spaces inhabited only by objects or machines, arise directly out of the Still Life paintings. They are, in one sense, giant still lives depicting monumental shapes in the landscape. In another sense they do audit the aesthetic of the world we inhabit, the motorways, garages and warehouses that serve our needs and become a passive part of our visual consciousness.”

~Galway Arts Centre,

the divorce: appearance and performance
March 26, 2008, 3:56 pm
Filed under: brave new world | Tags: , , , , , ,

Here is a description of how the city’s need for appearance and peformance can be totally divorced from each other.  I wonder about the inhabitants who occupy this condition of divorce.

Do they develop split personalities, which delaminate and separate? In the worst case, are they divided against themselves? Or are we in mendacity to accept the condition as genius and simplicity for the good of the metropolis?

The permanence of even the most frivolous item of architecture and the instability of the metropolis are incompatible.  In this conflict the metropolis is, by definition, the victor; in its pervasive reality architecture is reduced to the status of a plaything, tolerated as decor for the illusions of history and memory.  In Manhattan this paradox is resolved in a brilliant way: through the development of a mutant architecture that combines the aura of monumentality with the performance of instability.  Its interiors accommodate compositions of program and activity that change constantly and independently of each other without affecting what is called, with accidental profundity, the envelope.  The genius of Manhattan is the simplicity of the divorce between appearance and performance:  It keeps the illusion of architecture, while surrendering whole heartedly to the needs of the metropolis.  This architecture relates to the forces of the Groszstadt like a surfer to the waves.

-Rem Koolhaas, Delirious New York

rooted in ideas
February 28, 2008, 6:43 pm
Filed under: departure lounge | Tags: , , ,

This goes a million miles deep toward explaining what it means to grow up between worlds:  is it that leaving the tangible, the earth, people, people’s culture, their judgments and pronouncements, makes a void that is naturally filled by intangibles like ideas and memory?  It seems to make sense that this between place, a strange new made-up world, catalyses where memory meets the new reality.

“people who root themselves in ideas rather than places, in memories as much as in material things; people who have been obliged to define themselves – because they are so defined by others – by their otherness; people in whose deepest selves strange fusions occur, unprecedented unions between what they were and where they find themselves.”