January 30, 2009

pride and prejudice and zombies

Honestly, just about anything would be better than a Jane Austen novel (except for a novel by a Bronte sister, or that awful book with Owen Meany in it), but this is much, much more promising than merely 'better':

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies features the original text of Jane Austen's beloved novel with all-new scenes of bone-crunching zombie action. As our story opens, a mysterious plague has fallen upon the quiet English village of Meryton--and the dead are returning to life! Feisty heroine Elizabeth Bennet is determined to wipe out the zombie menace, but she's soon distracted by the arrival of the haughty and arrogant Mr. Darcy. What ensues is a delightful comedy of manners with plenty of civilized sparring between the two young lovers--and even more violent sparring on the blood-soaked battlefield as Elizabeth wages war against hordes of flesh-eating undead. Complete with 20 illustrations in the style of C. E. Brock (the original illustrator of Pride and Prejudice), this insanely funny expanded edition will introduce Jane Austen's classic novel to new legions of fans.

Somehow I doubt that the end result will actually be "insanely funny" -- but the concept is. Also: check out the cover. Classy.

January 28, 2009

January 27, 2009

ordinary postmodernism

One thing that I think about a lot (and I'm aware that this probably isn't something that interests most people) is a distinction between post-modernism as an extension of the modern project (Nietzsche would be the primary thinker in this strain of thought, though more or less everything typically labeled postmodern would fall into the same category; it is more of a working out/lamenting of the consequences of the failure of modernism than an attempt at a constructive after-modernism) and post-modernism as in what-comes-after-modernism (roughly: Nietzsche showed us that Descartes' path was a dead end, so what do we do now?).

The connection between that distinction and this piece (which I am about to excerpt and endorse) from new indie-politi-super-blog The League of Ordinary Gentleman may not be entirely clear, but it will probably become more clear if you read the series to which that piece belongs (you will also find the links in the series to key posts from the pomocon's particularly helpful). Right. Excerpt (Freddie DeBoer):

Ultimately, though, the postmodern question has the advantage of not having to be "true" in order to be of value to us. You don't have to be sold on the inescapability of language games to think that both our claims about the power of reason generally and the extent of our grasp on reason as it stands now are wildly inflated. You don't have to believe that truths are socially generated conventions to think that we should pause whenever we become too assured that we know the truth of things. You don't have to think, as I do, that preference for evolution over creationism makes scientific certitude nonsensical to believe that there are limits to human cognition and to the ability of any or all of us to understand the world. Humility is the most indispensible of all intellectual qualities; that's a lesson that I, unfortunately, seem to have to be reminded of again and again. The foundation of knowledge is the statement "I do not know." If there's anything that the Great Electronic Pissing Contest that is the Internet could benefit from, it's from a more frequent and vigorous application of the idea that we are all ultimately very limited in our intellectual abilities. Doubt in the power of the human enterprise is a position which generates few negative consequences and very many positive ones.

...

People are very, very attached to the idea that they know and understand everything, or, if not, that they know how to go about knowing everything, which is really the same thing. The postmodern and the antifoundational are instruments useful in opposing this overreach, and the assertion of control that is the inevitable consequence of it. The point has never been irrationalism or opposition to science, only to be saved from men who know everything, and who most of all know that they know more than you. That's a notion as destructive as it is anti-democratic, and I oppose it with the only tools I've ever needed- silence, exile, cunning....

I endorse this deployment of the postmodern.

January 26, 2009

January 23, 2009

masal bugduv

I was going to say that this would replace my Friday McSweeney's, but it won't, because thinking that sent me scurrying over to the rss reader and when I saw that Dan Liebert had a new joke... well... you'll see in a minute.

So the point of this post is, like a typical Friday McSweeney's post, to point out something (a) clever and (b) humorous on the internet, in this case the curious tale of Masal Bugduv, which I have been following for the past week or so (note: the point is to point out). I was pleasantly surprised to read a quality summary of the whole affair on Slate today and even more pleasantly surprised when I realized (when he referred to The Run of Play as 'my blog') that the summary was written by Brian Phillips. I suggest reading the whole story in the original rather than the quotes I am about to pull, but, in case you are too lazy to click that link/suspicious that I am forwarding you to my insidious malware site:

Earlier this month, the Times ran a feature called "Football's Top 50 Rising Stars," which featured at No. 30 a 16-year-old attacker named Masal Bugduv, whom the paper, never one to fear irony, described as "Moldova's finest." A bright future seemed to fill Bugduv's windscreen. The young player had been "strongly linked," the Times said, with a transfer to the London club Arsenal, had already earned a mention on the popular soccer news site Goal.com, spawned excitement in online forums, and been portrayed as something of a savior by the magazine When Saturday Comes, which introduced him as "one bright spot" amid Moldova's nationalist strife.

But as the old scout's adage says, even the most talented young striker will struggle if he has no corporeal being. Blogger Neil McDonnell, who writes about sports under the name Fredorrarci, suspected something might be amiss after picking up a hint from a Russian blog commenter about a "fanny misteak" in the Times feature--the spelling presumably the result of complex transliteration from the Cyrillic for "dude, what?" After a bit of rifling through Wikipedia history pages and an exchange of e-mails with the editor of Soviet Sport magazine, McDonnell discovered that not only was there no such player as Masal Bugduv, Masal Bugduv wasn't even a Moldovan name...

After SoccerLens blogger McDonnell broke the story, Bugduv fans in Ireland noticed that the player's name was a phonetic twin for m'asal beag dubh, which is Irish for "my little black donkey." A second Irish ass pun, sure. But "My Little Black Donkey" is also the name of an Irish-language short story by early 20th-century writer Pádraic Ó Conaire. And the story, about a man tricked into overpaying for a lazy donkey based on some vivid village gossip, can be read anachronistically as a parody of the culture of soccer transfers, in which the flaming rings of hype around a player--about how good he is, where he might go, how much a club might pay for him--often seem to overwhelm the minor matter of what he does on the pitch.

The story becomes doubly fascinating once Phillips gets into contact with someone claiming to have set up the hoax:

Our hoaxer, then, was likely an allegorically inclined Irishman. This theory gained steam when, not long after the hoax was revealed, I got an e-mail via my Bugduv-obsessed blog from someone claiming to be the instigator of Bugduv mania. He said he was a newspaperman in Galway. Some of the fake AP stories had, indeed, been posted under the pseudonym "GalwayGooner," and the e-mailer's IP address did, indeed, match Galway. Now writing under a different pseudonym, he confirmed the prank's "Little Black Donkey" origin and passed along some entertaining anecdotes, including one about hearing Bugduv's name in a pub conversation before the Times piece went to press. He said he dreamed up Bugduv as a "social experiment."

What was strange, though, was that while I worked to confirm his identity--the more brilliant the hoax, the less you trust the person who takes credit for it--my quarry kept sidestepping every request for evidence. He knew the details of the hoax inside out and even sent me a rollicking narrative account of the work he'd done to create it. (You can read the alleged hoaxer's lengthy explanation of the Bugduv-creation process--and whether the fictional footballer is more like Borat or Forrest Gump--in this sidebar.) But whenever I pressed him for more definitive proof, he'd get skittish and threaten to cut off contact. Either this was another hoax--a counterfeit hoaxer trying to become the real thing--or else the actual hoaxer, like all good magicians, preferred to maintain an element of doubt.

The tale of Bugduv can be followed in a good bit more depth on the Run of Play; I particularly recommend this comment, presumably left by our Irish hoaxer.

Oh, and, since its Friday, Dan Liebert:

For years, I worshipped the ground she walked on, until I finally got fed up and told her: "I want a divorce. I'm tired of you walking on my Sacred Lawn."

January 22, 2009

it is hard for me to describe how much i am pleased by this

This more than makes up for the gutting of rail and other infrastructure from the stimulus bill (though that is still a major disappointment):

Saying that "our ideals give us the strength and moral high ground" to combat terrorism, President Obama signed executive orders Thursday effectively ending the Central Intelligence Agency's secret interrogation program, directing the closing of the Guantánamo Bay detention camp within a year and setting up a sweeping, high-level review of the best way to hold and question terrorist suspects in the future.

...

One of Mr. Obama's orders requires the C.I.A. to use only the 19 interrogation methods outlined in the Army Field Manual, ending President Bush's policy of permitting the agency to use some secret methods that went beyond those allowed to the military.

"We believe we can abide by a rule that says we don't torture, but we can effectively obtain the intelligence we need," Mr. Obama said.

January 16, 2009

poulos perfectly encapsulates my reading of michael gerson

As it says in the title:

Here's Michael Gerson in his own nutshell, a nutshell neither I nor any other American should ever want a part of:

a union of idealism and of shared suffering

That's it, folks. Heaven forfend we share in our strengths and our skills as we hammer out coalitions of practical interests! The creepy and oppressive desire of Gerson and his ilk to ensure that we're all sharing one another's suffering is a grotesque and theatrical crucifixion of politics. How are we to determine, I ask you, whether a citizen is adequately sharing in the general suffering? How precisely are we to measure patriotism in units of helpy heroism? Taxes paid? Lip service paid? In histrionics? In doomed crusades? In pity by the gallon? How troubling it is that Gerson's celebration of our overcoming of slavery can only be conducted under the psychologically socialistic command that we must feel, really feel the suffering of others, of all the suffering others!

[at the Confabulam]

January 15, 2009

the glistening ruins of a parametric past

Strange Harvest has a compelling reading of the significance of the architecture of the past decade:

History suggests that the construction of the most ambitious architectural projects immediately precedes the deepest economic slumps. And that's exactly what we've seen in progression from the Guggenheim Bilbao to the cities from zero in the Gulf. This headline grabbing architecture has been driven by the logic of the boom. That's to say, the ideology of the global market has been the context for architecture. These projects attempted to turn the flush of cash and credit delivered by fluctuations of abstract systems into something real: a thing or a place. They sprung up in the ruins of industry or were fueled by the fleeting bounty of mineral extraction. And they were designed around the most distracted and least reliable kind of programme: tourism. Each project competing as a destination to max out vacationers credit lines. It's created an architecture of spectacular, hollow unreality: based on unreal money, housing unreal programmes.

This unreality has infused architectural production, often finding resolution in hysterical, liquid, fluid form at audacious scale - the kind of thing recently dubbed 'Parametricism'. (Note: Just as the height of building might be a warning sign of impending turmoil, the articulation of a stylistic manifesto is a sure sign of hubristic overconfidence). Displays of beyond-human formal complexity drop out of the computational design systems employed in the search for exoticism and difference - a difference that was demanded by the market pluralism of ultra capitalism. Appropriately, these projects seem to use the very same kind of tools that has maximized, magnified, and deepened our current financial crisis. If the Modern movement had the abstraction of industry as its reference, millennial architecture had the systemized abstraction of late capitalism.

This union of ideology and form has decoupled in dramatic fashion. The swift disjunction leaves a generation of architecture rendered instantly out of time - as un-possible as Gothic architecture in the Renaissance. These glistening new-ruins are adrift in the landscape of global recession, abandoned like ghost ships, doomed to unknown fates.

I hope this prediction for the future of such stylized formalism is correct: though I would have rather seen parametricism entombed without the need for an economic disaster to bury it, the sooner we are rid of it, the better.

I don't really have the time right now to think about a (positive) reaction (and this is why posting has been less frequent and less thoughtful lately -- because I am busy developing a submission for this), but if I were to suggest a reaction it would involve some sort of fusion of (a) the design and deployment of infrastructure as a balancing act between (1) influence and (2) appropriation and (b) the recognition that the infrastructures that are most influential in shaping the city are outside the current disciplinary scope of landscape/architecture (Varnelis/AUDC's recent book, the Infrastructural City, has shot to the top of my reading list because it explores exactly this problem).

January 13, 2009

petit zizou

Bordeaux's Yoann Gourcuff (France) scores a mesmerizing goal (the difficulty of which cannot be appreciated without the slow-motion replay) in a win over PSG; via Steven Goff. Golazo.

More:
::Another goal from Gourcuff for Bordeaux.

January 9, 2009

friday = mcsweeneys

Critique of Your Powerpoint Presentation Titled "Sales Forecast, Third Quarter":

Upon receiving your ambiguously titled invitation, "Sales Meeting," I did not expect to witness the birth of a new mixed-media art movement. On the contrary, I suspected that it would be another narcolepsy-inducing event, for what typically passes for a presentation from the people within your division is bland, static, and with little redemptive or motivational value. It was, then, something of a shock to see your PowerPoint piece titled "Sales Forecast, Third Quarter" presented with little fanfare. The subtle downplaying of expectations only heightened the shock and amazement this tour de force eventually triggered in the minds of everyone lucky enough to view the production.

I must first address the obvious and less far-reaching elements of your presentation, which in most other PowerPoint presentations would be considered journeyman work. Yes, you offered a high degree of data with little information, a cavalcade of whats with a complete absence of whys that's typical of the genre, but you also included a devilish smattering of clearly contradictory data sets. Thus, by moving from information to disinformation without any of the traditional markers, you raised the work from mere Dadaism to a new form of surreality.

...


January 8, 2009

archinect::predictions for 2009

[Had this typed and ready to post a few days ago, but forgot about it. Oops.]

Archinect has made available 20 predictions of varying length, wit, and quality for 2009. (Perhaps unsurprisingly) the two most provocative belong to Kazys Varnelis and Orhan Ayyüce.

Varnelis:

Things will go from bad to worse next year as firms begin to understand just how much lower consumer spending is going. This will trigger shutdowns, in turn leading to more unemployment, more nervousness, less spending, more shutdowns and so on. Government will be able to do little to change this. An easy way to gauge just how bad things are is if Obama pulls a Bush and sends out cash kickbacks to taxpayers. That's a sure sign it's over. Not saying he's going to do it, just suggesting that if he does, you might want to stock up on canned goods.

Don't expect much from Obama's much-vaunted infrastructure bailout. Sure, he's going to spend money on roads and bridges, but as we discovered recently in the research that we published in The Infrastructural City: Networked Ecologies in Los Angeles, NIMBYism is rampant in this country (and others). If every homeowner's home is their castle, those homeowners have become skilled practitioners at defending their castles with an arsenal of weapons. Government bureaucracies, politicians, and contractors are also adapt at ensuring that nothing of any consequence will get done.

...

What I've just described is a huge paradigm shift from a modern conception of infrastructure (build more, make it big!) to a postmodern conception of infrastructure (it's all compromised and all you can do is a patch job). But if we want to bring infrastructure into the age of network culture (prediction: I will write a book on network culture in 2009 and at least get it out in part on my Web site, then we need to start thinking differently. We need to find ways to change existing infrastructure completely by augmenting it, building intelligence into it as we rebuild it and, following Adam Greenfield's suggestion, make that intelligence open to us all. I'm already finding myself routing around traffic as I drive my Saab around the New York metropolitan area by checking out what Google maps tells me on my iPhone. That process can and should get much more intelligent.

As for architecture: architecture is in deep trouble. If the boom was the product of speculation, it was speculation on buildings and many people are going to remember that. Architects rode this boom as far as they could, and should be glad that they did. The hard part now is going to be to figure out how to survive the coming lean years. The old strategies are gone, post-criticism, cool form, affect, the Bilbao-Effect, new technologies: kiss all that goodbye.

Ayyuce (the misspelled words and funny spacings are part of the charm; or, if you don't like that explanation, you can at least admit that your own predictions for 2009 would be even more idiosyncratic/erratic, if you were forced to translate them into Turkish):

...Then came the Ecogeddon Megastructures©.

I- What are the Ecogeddon Megastructures?

2009- Floating condominiums, if you will, with wind tribunes glued on them. Cities in the middle of deserts, surrounded by defensible walls with 'sand cooling' apparatus underneath for the residents' genteel feet and some kind of green plant coming out every window and roof surface... Rendering after rendering... Pitch after pitch... They make instant museum shows. It is the Sci-Fi future anybody can click and paste... The kind of environment that you and your family can feel safe inside and/or high above, while poor people are blowing themselves up for food on the fringes below.

Anyway, I am bringing in a new, positive and interesting architectural movement.

I- How much interesting..? -> Architectural movement what? -> What is next?

2009- The question could be, 'what's old?' instead of 'what is next?' The word 'Old' really rings offensive with the current generation. They have a disdain for it. But, the first time in many years, young people are looking at the 'recent' cutting edge formalisms as tired old propositions of the past. This is very important to know... I mean, it is very recent that somebody, an architecture student, would look at a blog like suckerpunchdaily and say, "this stuff is so yesterday and boring." The lot is finally saturated and the work from this first decade of 21 st. Century has not sustained itself to the next stage. It is the first time, the young people, who are in their mid twenties having their own archives. Their first, "we did this in the past," things to look back to. They are moving on and getting old! Replacement people are more interested in immediate reality. Their canvas is not only the computer screen but the fieldwork as well. Theory to practice, anything that doesn't make the transition can rest in peace...

To most, it is more valuable to spend time cutting up some Sonatube, literally, and grow plants in them, built low income homes in areas where needed, understand economy, organize... These things are physically possible, creative, tangible and conceptually beneficial for survival. Comprehensive way to reconcile technology with reality. For so long and so called visionaries were mass-produced. Unfortunetely the idea and the environments of "The Future" became a "stylistic exercise." Many institutions and schools gathered few of these mass produced visions, called themselves unqualifyingly, "think-tanks." If you knew how to render, have a laser cutter and CNC machine handy, you made chewing gums titled, "this is future" and tried to explain them with buzzwords even yourself did not understand. Remember, by now, we were supposed to have flying cars between work and home, but in many places we don't even have decent municipal bus service yet, let alone electricity and sanitary water, food and medicine. Most products designed in this world are designed for people who have disposable cash. Just look at the shiny Christmas catalogs.

More:
::Looking forward to Geoff Manaugh's promised reaction to the Kazy's thoughts.

lionel messi

You know that you are doing something right when the other team's fans are singing your name -- in praise, not derision. That something is embodied best by the run starting around 1:45, culminating in Messi's third goal.

January 5, 2009

do not understand

Twitter. Or rather, the idea that twitter is a peculiarly powerful and useful format for communication, the razor-sharp edge of communications technology, important not just as a place to keep track of/converse with friends/a network of contacts, but for discussing ideas. The twitter over twitter reminds me of the Second Life silliness (no, I do not care to find a reference article about this silliness, but I expect that you either know what I am talking about or don't care), with businesses, universities, etc. rushing to establish a 'presence' in Second Life, which remains primarily a place for people to (a) make likenesses of themselves that can fly and (b) imitate the opposite sex for sexual pleasure (I can report that a appeals to me a lot more than b, as well as that I have not yet established a presence in Second Life).

For instance: compare the experience of bldgblog at blogspot and on twitter.

Perhaps Geoff Manaugh is particularly bad at twittering/unable to communicate with the (extreme) brevity the format requires. But I doubt it. Exhibit 1: BLDBLOG. Exhibit 2: the Shortys, which seem to me to be an (unintentional) (but quite convincing) indictment of the notion of producing consistently non-trivial content in the twitter format. Though I won't argue with the nomination of the_real_shaq in the #sports category.

Perhaps twitter is a better version of facebook status updates, without the invitations to toss snowballs/give your friends virtual bumperstickers. That (a better version of facebook, not a place to toss virtual bumperstickers) I can see the need for (though the primary asset of facebook is of course its userbase, not its functionality/design/interface and I don't think it is much more likely that twitter will displace facebook with the masses than that virb will experience a massive upsurge in popularity and finish off myspace).

Maybe someone will correct my failure to understand (probably by saying that I have either created (a) a false dichotomy or (b) a straw man; I will respond by noting that pointing that out is cliche).

January 1, 2009

dj earworm::united states of pop 2008

You can download United States of Pop 2008 here; to accompany this/introduce DJ Earworm if you're not familiar with him, I suggest reading this recent article, which contrasts Earworm and Girl Talk's respective approaches to the mashup:

It's Roseman's artistic instincts, however, that set him apart. Like Girl Talk's mashups, Roseman's generally sample multiple songs: his biggest hit, "United State of Pop," borrows elements from all of Billboard's top 25 songs from 2007. But rather than string his samples together in long chains, as ­Gillis does, Roseman gradually layers them over each other, adding texture and building momentum as a song progresses.

A good example is the hypnotic "Stairway to Bootleg Heaven," which borrows tracks from seven different recordings. The heart of the mashup is the juxtaposition of an '80s Eurythymics song and a cover of Led Zeppelin's "Stairway to Heaven" by, of all people, Dolly Parton. On its own, the unlikely and surprisingly effective pairing of synthesized rhythm section with fiddle and mandolin would be enough for a memorable mashup. But Roseman goes further, adding a minute-and-a-half introduction that combines a piece by performance artist Laurie Anderson with a song by the synth-pop band Art of Noise. Toward the end of the mashup, a sample from the Beastie Boys' "So What'cha Want" adds urgency, and at the song's climax, Pat Benatar's "Love Is a Battlefield" enters in double time. Throughout the mashup, as a kind of connective tissue, a sample from the Beatles' "Because" floats in and out, spectral and mysterious. Although several of the recordings Roseman samples sound dated if not risible on their own, the combination is sublime.

more:
::Also by DJ Earworm: Reckoner Lockdown. Best mashup of the year.
::I will post my 2008 mix (not mashup) soon. I think it is complete. This year I will make it available to download, if you are not one of the people I happen to hand a burnt copy to and yet you care to listen.