Friday, August 14, 2009
Triumph of the bourgeoisie: getting rid of the dark scum on your deck
A couple days ago the NYT had an article about someone who realized a classic upper-class fantasy: buy the house behind yours, and transform it into something that shows everyone the superiority of your taste.
Just to be clear what we're talking about, here is the photograph showing an interior view of the transformed second house:
That the person in question was a celebrity author, Douglas Coupland (among other things, he is credited with creating the phrase "Generation X") adds to the cachet of the project and makes it seem like an acceptable thing for a liberal to do. To clarify his intentions, here's his description of the house in question:
"It was just a mess," he said. "There was dog effluvia, nicotine dripping down the walls, water damage...."Nicotine "dripping down the walls"? Man, your neighbors were real trash, weren't they? You sure did the world a favor by taking their house and turning it into some kind of overblown cartoon of 20th century architectural flavors rather than, say, creating a home for for a family (or, given the apparent size of the mansion, several families). But if people lived in it, they might smoke, or have pets, or disturb the "art" that Coupland has put up, or worst of all, interrupt what he has apparently been doing ever since being the renovation, and which he must be doing over and over and over again while reading this New York Times piece and viewing its slideshow of images, namely, masturbating.
technorati: houses, Douglas Coupland, decorating
Labels: closet cases, geeks, writers
Monday, June 08, 2009
A citizen of what?
Some conversations I've had recently, along with articles and interviews I've read, as well as the upheaval in the world media industry, has made me think more about democracy lately, and the relationship between media and citizenship. By citizenship I mean not whether or not one is eligible to carry a passport from any particular country, but the role one plays as a citizen of wherever you happen to be living.
This train of thought started when I interviewed Trevor Paglen earlier this year about his work mapping secret surveillance projects, military installations, and government agencies. He talked about how valuable investigative journalists were:
Investigative journalists are becoming so scarce; there's increasingly less and less funding for people to do real time-consuming, painstaking forms of research and journalism. And let's face it, when we look at the big news stories coming out of the world of state secrets in the last eight years or so, they were pretty much all broken by people who spent years, investigative journalists who spent years working on these stories. Things like NSA wiretapping, CIA secret prisons. And people who are in a position to do that work are becoming rarer and rarer, and there's less and less funding for that kind of work.So the endangered status of newspapers means not just that we'll have to figure out a different way to get box scores in the morning, but that we'll have fewer people holding government, business and other institutions accountable for their actions or failure to act.
Then I saw this fascinating interview with San Francisco journalist Richard Rodriguez, who says it's not so much that the San Francisco Chronicle (to take one example) is dying, it's the myth of San Francisco that the Chronicle sold all these years.
Finally, there's this annoying piece by Pico Iyer in the New York Times, in which he brags that his life is better without a car or even a bicycle, much less his own laserjet printer:
I still live in the vicinity of Kyoto, in a two-room apartment that makes my old monastic cell look almost luxurious by comparison. I have no bicycle, no car, no television I can understand, no media -- and the days seem to stretch into eternities, and I can't think of a single thing I lack. I'm no Buddhist monk, and I can't say I'm in love with renunciation in itself, or traveling an hour or more to print out an article I've written, or missing out on the N.B.A. Finals. But at some point, I decided that, for me at least, happiness arose out of all I didn't want or need, not all I did.Later he makes clear two things: he hasn't divested himself of electronic possessions, for he exults in new releases by his favorite bands; secondly, "when I return to the United States every three months or so and pick up a newspaper, I find I haven't missed much at all. While I've been rereading P.G. Wodehouse, or 'Walden,' the crazily accelerating roller-coaster of the 24/7 news cycle has propelled people up and down and down and up and then left them pretty much where they started."
Great for his peace of mind. Of course most people want a simplified life, and if it means choosing between a stereo and a printer (although printers are cheap, and it just seems silly not to have one), then you have the advantage of feeling virtuous for (in his case) having to walk an hour to print something.
But I was alarmed at the note about how he reads a newspaper only once every three months. If everyone detaches like that -- sorry if this sounds corny -- who is left to defend democracy? Who is left to notice, and to protest, when a mining company plows a mountaintop into a fragile river, or when businessmen wreck an industry and profit from it? Or when the police or government agencies overstep their bounds, as they always will when no one is looking?
technorati: Pico Iyer, voluntary simplicity, living abroad
Labels: civil rights, geeks, Japan, writers
Thursday, May 28, 2009
Today's fake: Crazy people make up the best stories
There's this insane person-slash-scam artist on the East Coast who portrayed himself as a Rockefeller family member. He has been exposed, captured like a moth, and is now on trial for various weirdnesses. This paragraph from a Boston Globe story today contains awesomeness:
Clark Rockefeller's meticulous scheme to kidnap his 7-year-old daughter required months of painstaking planning. He bought a home in Baltimore under the fake identity of a Peruvian ship captain, hid his $800,000 divorce settlement in gold coins, lined up three getaway vehicles, and told tall tales to get unwitting accomplices involved in the effort, one of whom thought he was driving Rockefeller that Sunday to Newport, R.I., to go sailing with the son of Senator Chafee. I love that on the one hand he is capable of forming a "meticulous scheme" and of carrying on his deceptions for years, while at the same time being absolutely fucking nuts. But even better is the creativity and insane imagination. Eight hundred thousand dollars in gold coins! That's like the fantasy of every right-wing paranoid these days, because they all think there is going to by hyperinflation in a few years and the value of their gold -- they all have some -- will go up geometrically.
Best of all -- it had to be a Peruvian ship captain. God, I wish I had an imagination like that.
technorati: THIS, THAT, TOTHER
Labels: Bad Behavior, celebutantes, dystopia, economy, fakes, geeks, hoaxes, identity, writers ideas
Thursday, November 20, 2008
Indian tech employee dies in fun team-building event
In one of the idiotic team-building exercises run by Western companies to foster fun and solidarity among their workers, Nokia-Siemens ran a pie-eating contest in their office in Guragon, India, leading to the choking death of a 22-year-old employee.
Such antics, and their unintended consequences, are the subject of the novel I'm just finishing up, Bangalored.
technorati: Bangalore, India, outsourcing
Labels: Bangalore novel project, geeks, India
Tuesday, May 08, 2007
Could I say 'BoingBoingitude'?
I cracked up a couple of weeks ago as I read this NYTBR review by Lance Morrow of a new book by Bill McKibben, the patron saint of middle class environmentalism, in which Morrow coined a priceless new word to apply to the greener-than-thou notions of people like McKibben:
McKibben lives and teaches in Vermont, and his vision, for better and for worse, is suffused with a certain Vermontlichkeit. LOL!!!1!! -- that is just the best thing ever. And I found another example of it on BoingBoing today, in a tale of a hip librarian who installed "Ubuntu Linux" instead of Windows on some donated computers. Her quoted post ends:
The Calef Library has two Windows PCs already so if people need specific software that doesn't run on Ubuntu, they can use those. I'd like to get them a Mac as well and then they can be the only library (to my knowledge) that is triple platform in the entire state of Vermont. Oh, you go, anti-corporate warrior.
Come to think of it, BoingBoing itself, especially its avatar Cory Doctorow -- science fiction writer and former Electronic Freedom Foundation issue-staker -- who is known to become exercised over issues like corporate intrusion into private lives and, well, just dumb corporate behavior. (A couple years ago there was a satirical, and completely fictional, piece on the web depicting Doctorow phoning a clueless company and browbeating the poor customer service rep about one of his hobby horse issues -- completely hilarious, but I can't find it anymore.) I think we need another neologism -- BoingBoingitude? -- for the sort of default anti-corporate stick-it-to-the-man but-in-a-way-that-everyone-would-consider-cool positions taken in many BoingBoing postings.
Saturday, March 03, 2007
Min Jung Kim, one of the more luminous SF bloggers and definitely one of the most gorgeous, posted this week about having gotten engaged -- over instant messenger. While this will break the hearts of countless lurkers, stalkers, losers and twinkies, Ms. Kim has insisted for many years on her core geekery and it's only to be expected. Congrats, M.J. -- whom I've never met, but who saw me read once.
And I continue to be fascinated with the Radio Forum, an outpost of Bay Area radio geeks obsessed with format changes, announcers, programming and so on. In another life I would have been on of these guys -- and I'm sure they're all guys -- with jobs in and out of radio, and obsessing about it when I'm not working in it.
technorati: radio, Min Jung Kim, geeks
Labels: bloggers, geeks, radio
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