NYT Haikus

Not all are masterpieces, but there are some gems here.

Nothing to Learn, Here

“As one of my friends from a not-rich part of East Asia says: “Students from my country come to the U.S. these days. They see dirty cities, lousy infrastructure, and the political clown show on TV, and an insular people clinging to their guns and their gods who boast about how they are the greatest people in the world without knowing anything about what is going on outside. They come back and tell me: ‘We have nothing to learn from those people! Why did you send me there?'”

—J. Bradford DeLong, “Is America in Decline?” Pairagraph. September 10, 2020.

Imagining Chapel Perilous

“Once you are in the Chapel [Perilous], Wilson insisted, there are only two ways out: as an agnostic, or a stone-cold paranoid. “There is no third way.”…

…Like so many drugs, the Imagination is both poison and cure, and we are not getting rid of that paradox any more than we are getting rid of pop paranoia or conspiracy politics or apocalyptic psyops. Living with Imagination does not involve the transcendence of pathology, but something more daemonic, more ironic, and also probably more tragic. The Imagination provides forms of sense-making that do not deny the chaotic disorders of our inner wilderness, and it nourishes us to the degree that we approach it as an ally to barter with rather than an overlord to slavishly believe or a “cognitive bias” to avoid.

—Erik Davis, “Wilderness of Mirrors.” Burning Shore. No. 8., August 25, 2020.

Social Chronophage

“The social industry doesn’t just eat our time with endless stimulus and algorithmic scrolling; it eats our time by creating and promoting people who exist only to be explained to, people to whom the world has been created anew every morning, people for whom every settled sociological, scientific, and political argument of modernity must be rehashed, rewritten, and re-accounted, this time with their participation.

These people, with their just-asking questions and vapid open letters, are dullards and bores, pettifoggers and casuists, cowards and dissemblers, time-wasters of the worst sort…Time is not infinite. None of us can afford to spend what is left of it dallying with the stupid and bland.”

—Max Read, “Going Postal.” Book Forum. Sept/Oct/Nov 2020.

Review of Richard Seymour’s The Twittering Machine, which is worth reading in its own right.

h/t Velcro City Tourist Board.

WoW Gamer House as Metaphor for U.S. COVID-19 Response

“There’s six guys who live in this flat and all they do all day is play WoW and watch movies. Waking up at 2pm every day and there’s always just someone asleep on the bed near all the multimonitor computer setups. There’s always music playing and it feels like a recovery day every day, padding around blearily in pyjamas or underwear. Old hoodies from defunct school teams. They’ve got this system where they’re selling their excess computing power to companies and hosting all this warez, and they’re stealing the internet from the business next door anyway and getting welfare on top of all that. They’re self sufficient and never go outdoors except to buy more fast food, and even then only in the dark. But then one of them wakes up dead some heavy afternoon. He’s just dead and they don’t know why but maybe the floor covered in fast food wrappings is a clue. They don’t want to tell the cops because of the purgatory den they live in and the illegality that supports it, and as far as they know he never had any actual parents. So it’s trouble. It’s taking a long trip out to the forest and thinking about how stars are so far away for the first time in a long time. It’s sweating in the cold air and digging a hole all night with your brand new shovels to leave him alone in. And it’s a long few days cracking all his passwords to keep his identity and associated payments persisting. Until the rhythm of waking up every day at 2pm to play WoW for nine hours and half watch a movie on your other monitor takes over again. It’s the same as it ever was except now there’s a room no one ever goes in.”

—grimelords, “There’s six guys who live in this flat…” tumblr.com. April 26, 2014.

h/t Garbage Day. Missed a day, so I thought I’d backfill it with this piece of modern horror. If you’re finding it anyway, well, sorry about that.

The Street Art Manual

“Bill Posters wants to teach people how to hack the streets. The graphic artist, activist and researcher (real name Barney Francis) has written an “illicit, tactical guide to creating art in public”. The Street Art Manual is an 11-step guide to street art covering the basics of graffiti and stencil work as well as providing an in-depth look at social media-grabbing work like urban murals.”

—Henry Wong, “‘It stops the one-way flow of corporate bullshit’: graphic artist Bill Posters on subvertising.” Design Week. August 27, 2020.

The fact that this article is from a trade rag for advertising creatives says volumes.

Available via Rough Trade. h/t The Quietus.

The Last Light

“In April 2020, the weird and ambitious startup Magic Leap cut its workforce in half and delayed plans to take mixed reality glasses mainstream. The company had a wealth of ideas about how ordinary people might use its hardware, which overlays virtual images on reality. But after years of development, many were still prototypes or tech demos…Inside the company, though, a few dozen developers were building what they describe as one of Magic Leap’s most exciting projects. It’s called The Last Light: an interactive story about a young woman dealing with the death of her grandmother, designed to show the storytelling potential of mixed reality.”

—Adi Robertson, “Fading Light: the story of Magic Leap’s lost mixed reality magnum opus.” The Verge. July 6, 2020.

Now available as a free download.

Community Land Trusts

“A CLT [community land trust] is a mechanism by which land is held in trust and managed by a nonprofit, used for whatever a community chooses, whether that’s housing, small businesses, cultural spaces, gardens, parks, or farms. The land is owned by a trust, which keeps it out of speculators’ hands, but residences and other structures can be privately owned and inherited, allowing community members to build wealth.

Few know that modern-day CLTs originated here in Georgia, in a civil-rights-era experiment to build economic power among poor black farmers. But the model has proved durable. Over the past decade, as real estate developers have carved up cities and driven housing costs beyond the realm of affordability, interest in CLTs has swelled. There are now 260 of them in the United States. Advocates say CLTs give communities the space and security to develop neighborhoods according to their needs rather than the demands of the market.

—Andrea Lim, “We Shall Not Be Moved.” Harpers. July 2020

Mighty Buildings

“‘As soon as you are able to produce not only the walls but also floor and ceiling, that saves a huge amount of hours, and specifically labor hours, which are very expensive,’ says Slava Solonitsyn, CEO and cofounder of Mighty Buildings. The company’s process automates up to 80% of the total construction process. The rest—including the windows, plumbing, and electrical happen on-site. A “bathroom pod” is made by another supplier manually, and is then installed separately.”

—Adele Peters, “These cute backyard houses can be entirely 3D-printed.” Fast Company. August 5, 2020.

3D printing is going to change everything, from construction to pharmaceuticals and organ transplants to space travel.

Illiberalism, Cancel Culture, Free Speech, and The Internet

“Bad faith is the condition of the modern internet, and shitposting is its lingua franca. On—yes—both sides. Look: A professional Twitter troll is president. Trolling won. Perhaps it’s time to acknowledge that despite their centrality, online platforms aren’t suited to the earnest exchange of big ideas.”

—Lili Loofbourow, “Illiberalism Isn’t to Blame for the Death of Good-Faith Debate.” Slate. July 12, 2020.