Monday, April 23, 2012

Jane Smiley on ownership...

From Horse Heaven:

...there was no reason for the man not to sell the horse. Herman Newman was not a horseman, and seemed uncomfortable in his new role as owner. All over the world, on the other hand, there were deserving men who had spent dozens of years and millions of dollars without ever coming to a horse like Epic Steam. Why should Herman Newman, a man who couldn't remember what a blinker was from one day to the next, run a horse like this one, when men who knew horses, who had horses in their blood, who in some cases believed that they had been horses in previous lifetimes, had no chance at him? Ah. Well. Of all the things that were unfair, ownership, the simplest of them, often seemed the unfairest of all.

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Sunday, April 22, 2012

Oh. Now I get it.

 From a review by David Shields of a book called "The Grey Album", by Kevin Young:

“Pleasure is a revolutionary act in the face of pain,” Young argues. “Hip-hop at its zenith insists on thinking and dancing simultaneously. In fact, it sees them as synonymous.”

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Thursday, April 19, 2012

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Without comment


HT to Michael Lavorgna

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Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The 40 Year Rule

As explicated by Adam Gopnik in the current New Yorker, while discussing "Mad Men": "The prime site of nostalgia is always whatever happened, or is thought to have happened, in the decade between forty and fifty years past." Explains why pizza parlors when I was a kid always looked like barber shop quartets lived there.....

He has this lovely thought:

And so, if we can hang on, it will be in the twenty-fifties that the manners and meanings of the Obama era will be truly revealed: only then will we know our own essence. A small, attentive child, in a stroller on some Brooklyn playground or Minneapolis street, is already recording the stray images and sounds of this era: Michelle’s upper arms, the baritone crooning sound of NPR, people sipping lattes (which a later decade will know as poison) at 10 A.M.—manners as strange and beautiful as smoking in restaurants and drinking Scotch at 3 P.M. seem to us. A series or a movie must already be simmering in her head, with its characters showing off their iPads and staring at their flat screens: absurdly antiquated and dated, they will seem, but so touching in their aspiration to the absolutely modern. Forty years from now, we’ll know, at last, how we looked and sounded and made love, and who we really were. It will be those stroller children’s return on our investment, and, also, of course, a revenge taken on their time.

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Monday, April 16, 2012

The things you learn from The New Aesthetic, pt. 2

Just how many people surf porn sites?

Engineers know: they know everything these days...

At peak time, YouPorn serves 4000 pages per second, equating to burst traffic in the region of 100 gigabytes per second, or 800Gbps.

To put that 800Gbps figure into perspective, the internet only handles around half an exabyte of traffic every day, which equates to around 50Tbps — in other words, a single porn site accounts for almost 2% of the internet’s total traffic. There are dozens of porn sites on the scale of YouPorn, and hundreds that are the size of ExtremeTech or your favorite news site. It’s probably not unrealistic to say that porn makes up 30% of the total data transferred across the internet.

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The things you learn from The New Aesthetic(tm)

Others here may scoff, but Sterling keeps circling around the issue really, really ,really, trying to figure out whether The New Aesthetic project is the first strike in an attempt to come to grips with the digitization of everything. Says Sterling in an essay entitled "Still Freaking Out!!!!!"

How would you know if some new aesthetic was really and truly a “new way of seeing?” How would you prove that this had happened in real life? What would be convincing evidence that such an event had taken place in our world? What proofs could one demand, or offer, that such a thing was an authentic cultural change?

So far, the best evidence that something has really changed is of this kind. Imagine you were walking around your own familiar neighborhood with some young, clever guy. Then he suddenly stops in the street, takes a picture of something you never noticed before, and starts chuckling wryly. And he does that for a year, and maybe five hundred different times.

That’s the New Aesthetic Tumblr. This wunderkammer proves nothing by itself. It’s a compendium of evidence, a heap of artifacts, and that evidence matters. It’s a compilation of remarkable material by creative digital-native types who are deeply familiar with the practical effects of these tools and devices.

They’re looking for instances when this use-activity pops out of the background of some older, contrasting worldview. Without this eye-catching glitch aspect, without this sharply perceptible and thought-provoking contrast, it wouldn’t look or feel “new.”

Consider, for instance, the Indian legislators porn-surfing on iPads while their legislature is in session. These dignitaries are not performing-freaks who are there to amuse us. They are fellow human beings just trying to get through their day. Real legislators are always bored silly by legislation. That’s rather the point of grinding down the opposition in long procedural debates. But it doesn’t occur to these Indian nabobs that their brand-new Apple anti-boredom toys are big screens flashing sleazy softcore pr0n to indignant shoulder-surfers.

That’s why this interesting incident shows up on the New Aesthetic tumblr radar. The prurient Indian press thinks that this story is all about porn and the class privilege of the Indian ruling caste. The New Aesthetic crowd thinks it’s about the social impact of handheld-device deployment. They’re both right, but porn and class privilege are both eternal, while iPad deployment is a phenomenon we’re all still getting our heads around.



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Thursday, April 12, 2012

Clive on Danes and the Danes

With a snarky aside about "24".

The Swedes and Danes make even the Americans look formula-ridden. I never miss an episode of Homeland (Channel 4) but nor am I ever able to forget that the same production outfit made 24. Sooner or later either Claire Danes or Damian Lewis will be asked to do something stupid.

But at least the Americans, on occasion, know that the fizz of fine brains working on a problem can be good television. Here in Britain it is often as if the people who made the show – let’s say it’s about the political loyalties of a bunch of people who shared a house in their student days – got all the way through university without meeting even one person smarter than they were. You just don’t get the sense that television drama here is being made by the top grade of minds. In the Scandinavian countries, evolution seems to have gone further.

This observation is probably too generalised to be useful and there are, of course, exceptions: if you remember State of Play, you remember something truly intricate, with Bill Nighy given ample room to groan and purr. But on the whole our television drama conveys no sense that there might be an elite within the elite: a dedicated bunch who think that television drama is the top dog among the creative media and who have the mental wherewithal to prove it. I am just one of the millions of people in my generation who have never been very confident about finding Denmark on the map, but look at the Danes now: they’ve got the whole world talking about them, and every bright young man in the English-speaking countries wants to emigrate to Denmark and marry a Danish girl on the off-chance that she might turn out to be a television producer.

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Sunday, April 8, 2012

Rereading...

When the Guardian calls, everybody answers. Today the question is about the books you read over and over again.. Philip Hensher claims to have read "Code of the Woosters" and "Rum Punch" and "Buddenbrooks" numerous times. Also "In Search of Lost Time" four times. Well. Ian Rankin loves Anthony Powell; John Banville reads The Great Gatsby because it isn't quite good enough to risk disenchantment. John Gray, who's the most gnarly of the bunch, reads Borges a lot. Makes sense to me. My hero Geoff Dyer has read "The Names" by Don DeLillo six times.....

I pick up "Lucky Jim" every three or four years because it makes me laugh and feeds my sense of social resentment at the same time. Also "Code of the Woosters". I try to read Proust often, but that's not quite the same thing.

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Saturday, April 7, 2012

More "New Aesthetic" quotes

One of the SXSW panelists was a guy confusingly named Russell Davies.... Some cool quotes from his blog follow. I love this because it is so resolutely not-Tulkinghorn. Like a vacation from my usual obsessions

I'm also depressed about the lack of future in fashion. Every hep shop seems to be full of tweeds and leather and carefully authentic bits of restrained artisinal fashion. I think most of Shoreditch would be wondering around in a leather apron if it could. With pipe and beard and rickets. Every new coffee shop and organic foodery seems to be the same. Wood, brushed metal, bits of knackered toys on shelves. And blackboards. Everywhere there's blackboards.

Cafes used to be models of the future. Shiny and modern and pushy. Fashion used to be the same - space age fabrics, bizarre concoctions. Trainers used to look like they'd been transported in from another dimension, now they look like they were found in an estate sale.

......

Mr Gibson mentioned Bruce Sterling saying that maybe bohemias were the dreamtime of industrial societies and wondered what that implied for a post-industrial society (and made me wonder about whether you'd need to create new bohemias if you wanted to re-industrialise, which would seem like a good idea.)....

His explanation for why his novels have snapped to the now is that there's not enough solid present around on which to erect a plausible future. There are too many wild cards around. Writing something set in 2060 demands you address so many issues that we know about now, but can't imagine how they'll pan out, that convincing prediction becomes impossible. That made sense to me.

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I love a good manifesto....

While the less gifted in Austin last month were looking for the new Lena Dunham or Mumford and Sons, Bruce Sterling was attending the panel on The New Asethetic, which is a British art and design movement devoted to digital technology. Kind of like the Futurists, only eighty years on, and not, you know, fascists. He's blogged about it... A good idea first to check out the related Tumblr.... and the blog of movement godfather, James Bridle. These guys all link to one another and tweet like berserkers. A good Saturday morning project, and less time consuming than watching the NCAA tournament.

What is kind of cool about this is that Sterling is not consumed with love of the results, only of the process. He's rather wistful about it all, and, unless I'm projecting, is both passing on the torch and telling these guys that "new" isn't enough. Poor Bruce, in short, sounds like somebody has just walked over his grave....

Sterling says:

This is one of those moments when the art world sidles over toward a visual technology and tries to get all metaphysical. This is the attempted imposition on the public of a new way of perceiving reality. These things occur. They often take a while to blossom. Sometimes they’re as big and loud as Cubism, sometimes they perish like desert roses mostly unseen. But they always happen for good and sufficient reasons. Our own day has those good and sufficient reasons......

It requires close attention. If you want to engage with the New Aesthetic, then you must become involved with some contemporary, fast-moving technical phenomena. The New Aesthetic is inherently modish because it is ferociously attached to modish, passing objects and services that have short shelf-lives. There is no steampunk New Aesthetic and no remote-future New Aesthetic. The New Aesthetic has no hyphen-post, hyphen-neo or hyphen-retro. They don’t go there, because that’s not what they want.

It is generational. Most of the people in its network are too young to have been involved in postmodernity. The twentieth century’s Modernist Project is like their Greco-Roman antiquity. They want something of their own to happen, to be built, and to be seen on their networks. If that has little or nothing to do with their dusty analog heritage, so much the better for them.

So. These seem to me to be fine things. They’re not my own things, but I can see why they make good sense. They show promise. They have depth and breadth. They matter. They will have lasting consequence........

That’s the big problem, as I see it: the New Aesthetic is trying to hack a modern aesthetic, instead of thinking hard enough and working hard enough to build one. That’s the case so far, anyhow. No reason that the New Aesthetic has to stop where it stands at this moment, after such a promising start. I rather imagine it’s bound to do otherwise. Somebody somewhere will, anyhow.

That is my thesis; that’s why I think this matters. When I left the room at the SXSW “New Aesthetic” panel, this is what concerned me most. I left with the conviction that something profound had been touched. Touched, although not yet grasped.

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Monday, April 2, 2012

She likes us. She really likes us.

Mary McNamara, television critic of the LA Times, is approving in her review of "Game of Thrones". They should have let her review "John Carter (of Mars)":

This season proves, once and for all, that there is nothing remotely slackerish about fantasy culture. To be a fantasy geek requires the obsessive focus of a miniaturist and the artistic intellect of a medieval scholar....

"Game of Thrones" is breathtakingly ambitious, an ever-unfurling tapestry that threatens, at times, to overwhelm its frame. That it does not is a testament to the power of piecework — art is not defined by the space it occupies but by its details, the truth it captures. Many heads bend over this adaptation, each belonging to a master of his or her craft, and what emerges is a truly new, and miraculously accurate, definition of epic television.

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