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29 March 2012

Internet architecture

No, I’m not talking about packet switching, IP addresses and proxy servers. What I meant is internet-era architecture. I’m talking about this:

These days people believe anything you dream is possible right now — that niche audiences deserve to be served — and that what can be done should be done. I’m reminded of the quote from Brion Gysin: “I could easily blast so much keef night and day I become a bouhali; a real-gone crazy, a holy untouchable madman unto whom everything is permitted, nothing is true.”

But here’s the thing transgression used to be the thing on the edges; now it is the center of our reality.

I’d call the prospect of a building like the one depicted up above to be quite futuristic but here’s the thing, that video is from 2008. Initially it was claimed that this Dynamic Tower would be built by 2010. If it were so, this blog post would probably be more reportage than speculation. But the Wikipedia entry on the building shows that the dreams of the project’s architect, David Fisher, take after the internet in more ways than one:

    In 2008, the designer of the Dynamic Tower said that he expected it to be completed in 2010. In 2009 Fisher claimed to finish construction late 2011. However, construction has not started yet, and there has been no official announcement of the building site. Fisher did not “say where the tower would be built, […] because he wanted to keep it a surprise.”

    Fisher distributed a biography which said he received an honorary doctorate from “The Prodeo Institute at Columbia University in New York”. No such institution exists, and Columbia said it had never awarded Fisher an honorary degree. Fisher acknowledges that he is not well known, has never built a skyscraper before and hasn’t practiced architecture regularly in decades.

Anyway, my favorite section of the project’s official website is this one, wherein there are excellent half-baked ruminations on “the concept of time” and “history and the fourth dimension.” If you are a regular reader of this here blog, you will know I am a great fan of half-baked ruminations.

Then again, reality is often just as surprising as people’s babbling fictions.

Don’t believe me?

Well, a former colleague recently reminded me of the time I did work for these people:


Headquarters of The Longaberger Company (exterior view)


Headquarters of The Longaberger Company (interior view)

This building borrows its the shape from the company’s best-selling product, the “Medium Market Basket.”

Indeed.

Optimism about such blue-sky futures varies from person-to-person. For example, the innovator of the basket-shaped building did not find as much enthusiasm for his dreams among his heirs.

    The basket handles weigh almost 150 tons and can be heated during cold weather to prevent ice damage. Originally, [founder] Dave Longaberger wanted all of the Longaberger buildings to be shaped like baskets, but only the headquarters was completed at the time of his death. After his death, further basket-shaped buildings were vetoed by his daughters.

In summation, I have mixed feelings about these kinds of buildings. I mean, the Dynamic Tower strikes me as the Lamborghini of the architectural world — you should know what I mean by that — but I hope all freakish heart beats strong for a long, long time.

Posted by Alec Hanley Bemis  

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26 March 2012

The internet wasteland & a museum to ephemeral feeling


The internet deserves to be treated like a wasteland. I am not referring to T. S. Eliot, mind you — more like Cormac McCarthy‘s The Road, Denis Johnson’s Fiskadoro or, fuck it, Mad Max.

Hell, maybe the internet deserves an even madder Max.

We live in a world which (if the consistently apocalyptic tone of most media reports are to be believed) is quite redolent of Mel Gibson’s breakthrough film — out-of-gas, out-of-hope, ready to abandon our fading settlement upon rumor of a brighter kingdom just past the next ridge. The internet is a perfectly ephemeral medium for this kind of world. By contrast, I remember when I fancied myself more of a proper writer, rather than someone merely capable of writing well & conveying stories and feelings. I treated each word on a screen like letters etched on marble tablets — each one carefully placed, every publication a monument to some kind of pretension. On the ‘net, however, I’ve come to realize words are more like water or, better, something sweeter. Nowadays, I see each new web platform as a honeycomb to be sucked dry until there’s only a husk to leave behind.

And so I’d like to point you toward my latest internet property alechanleybemis.tumblr.com where I’ve gone practically wordless, choosing instead to focus on concerts & photographs. I like to think I’ve opened an online museum to ephemeral feelings, a museum that may close without warning, at any time. But one that’s devoted to featuring some of the more elevating & tipsy-making aspects of our world. Contrast Mad Max with the wild dancing that happens on the edges of darkness.

Two shining examples of the exhibits on display after the jump. Follow me or don’t. If you agree with Drake it’s probably not for you; but if you understand David Foster Wallace’s wiser words, it will make sense to you.

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Posted by Alec Hanley Bemis  

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25 March 2011

Jungian psychology for entertainers

Every now again I happen upon one of those New Yorker stories that seem to summarize the daily tribulations of my life and work in the creative sphere. Dana Goodyear‘s “Hollywood Shadows”–about entertainment industry psychotherapists Barry Michels and Phil Stutz–is one of those stories. If it has one failing, it’s the lack of connection to other Los Angeles celebrity healing cults such as Scientology, a topic well covered by the magazine only a few weeks before. (Viz Lawrence Wright’s “The Apostate” about ex-Scientologist Paul Haggis.) Perhaps this is more my failing than that of the magazine–such is my predilection for random connections.

In any case, the editors of the (sometimes misnamed!) New Yorker has the potential to compile a quite excellent anthology of pieces explaining the odd facts of Los Angeles life to the rest of the world. In any case, the psychologist article is free on the web right now. Enjoy some excerpts after the jump:
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14 March 2011

From San Francisco

I’m usually against sharing lo-fidelity shots from my Blackberry, but there is something about San Francisco air that will make a person go against their better judgment; and there is something about California light that makes a person prioritize action over consequence.

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7 March 2011

Michael Moore stirs some s**t and all I did was hang out on this hillside for two weeks.

As I’ve been fond of reminding everyone I’ve run into the last few days (because I’m something of a smarmy shit), I have been embedded in a cabin-like structure on a hillside in the Echo Park neighborhood of Los Angeles for over two weeks now. I’ve been busying myself with serious business — happily without television and disconnected from tiger blood, the blood in the streets of the middle east, and various civic demonizations of public employees. (My mom, a former teacher, is not psyched!)

Here’s a picture of my Pacific idyll:

Nothing fancy, really, but this image captures the feeling. I imagine this as the view as seen through a hummingbird’s eyes — an infinitesimal creature capable of stillness, yet always buzzing to hold their place in the air.

Anyhoo, as I prepare to re-enter civilization with a vengeance, this speech from a few days ago by “documentarian” (quotes necessary!) Michael Moore stirred my deepest bits. There is a fair bit of demagoguery here and, perhaps, a share of bad faith (the issue which is really most responsible for tearing our culture apart). But he gets to the emotional and intellectual gist of things in a way that I can get behind.

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