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.

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.

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.

The Meaning of Sport

“That, I think, is what sport is all about. If you follow a sport it becomes a thread which runs through your life and provides memories and narrative and meaning and context. Sport becomes a kind of companion, part of the richness and texture of lived experience. At the same time, you could argue that sport is the only thing on television that is real. The things you are watching happen are actually happening right now, as you watch. So much modern reality is mediated, packaged, predigested. This is obviously true for all forms of drama, but it is more subtly true of news and current affairs, where the effects can be more pernicious, because we’re seeing an image of the world which makes claim to be the real world. Sport isn’t like that. It is clearly artificial: it happens within a determined frame and a clear set of rules and in that sense is as mediated as human experience can be. But within that frame, when you’re watching live sport, you are watching reality as it really happens.”

—John Lanchester, “Getting Into Esports.” London Review of Books. August 13, 2020.

Love is a Blank Check

“Sandra Simpson didn’t keep the suffering of the world at a distance. She invited it into her home and made it family…To believe in the power of adoption is to believe that the most profound way to help someone isn’t through large-scale structural change or foreign policy, but by opening up something as intimate as the family unit—by committing to love a kid you’ve never met.”

—”The Forest Hill couple who adopted 30 kids.” Toronto Life. August 2020.

For a long time, I wasn’t sure what it meant to “love” someone. Is love a feeling one has toward someone? Is love a verb?Is it not so much a feeling, but something we do? How do you know when you love someone? Or, that they love you?

But, merely asking these questions also suggests a poverty. Don’t most people know that their parents, siblings and extended family love them? Isn’t it a given?

I cannot speak for others, but for me, at this moment, the key to understanding love is to look at those moments — when we chose to get married, have a child, and so forth — where we make a commitment to put someone else before ourselves over the long haul, over a life, without any guarantees that it’ll work out well, and a virtual certainty, that, for some period, it’ll be a bad bargain. Love is what transforms a bad bargain into a good one, where you give someone a blank check, the ability to ask for and get more than you have, and by some miracle, at the moment it is needed, you find there is enough in the bank to cover it, money you never knew you had.