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26 August 2013

Six pictures from Detroit

This post could also be accurately titled as “What I learned on my summer vacation” because, well, we remain children forever in a way.

I went to Detroit on what could be mistaken for a disaster tourism expedition. I saw a Caucasian man who might have been dead winched into a Port-a-Potty at an awkward angle. I ate some BBQ and saw some street art and happened upon a letterpress printer located in an old meat-processing facility near Eastern Market. (They let me use their bathroom. That was very nice of them.)

I think the city poses interesting questions about education, art, technology, industrialism and especially community. Here are some pictures of those questions. Please take them as more than ruin porn. They’re not intended as such. And, come to think of it, there’s not much in the way of ruins to be pictured in the pictures I pictured.

Implicit commentary on the fate of the record industry from the Heidelberg Project?

A photo taken near Service Street.

A friendly group of motorcyclists in front of the Motown Museum.

Chicken wings.

Wall art in Corktown, wherein resides the city’s most self-conscious gentrification vibe. Wasn’t that into it. But the BBQ restaurant was quite good.

Co-ops designed by Mies Van Der Rohe in LaFayette Park.

Here is a very short reading list of materials I read before and just after I went. I found them all helpful.

  • The Next American Revolution: Sustainable Activism for the Twenty-First Century by Grace Lee Boggs with Scott Kurashige
  • Detroit City Is the Place to Be: The Afterlife of an American Metropolis by Mark Binelli
  • “36 Hours in Detroit” by Jennifer Conlin for the New York Times
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    16 January 2013

    (Mis)communication in the digital age

    This past autumn I went to Asia for the first time in over a decade. I saw the region with adult eyes. I Skyped a fair bit. I got gently lost. Words failed.

    In the wake of the trip, I’ve occasionally found myself having strange dreams which seem to tie in. I dreamed of setting myself on fire in old age — to protest against something rather than accept death. Or perhaps he was embracing death? Or perhaps it’s just the ultimate example of a moment when you can smell your own human smell…

    Life is lived on many layers now. Sights, thoughts. We’re no longer guided by smells. For any of us engaged in social media, computing, media creation, the Arts, et cetera there is a curtain of data floats which over reality. A scrim. This idea is rendered fictionally by The Matrix and made tangible by Google Glass. Some of us will login and, at first at least, many many more will choose not to.

    Here is a whimsical selection of pictures about all that.

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    24 May 2012

    Bono in living rooms

    A few weeks ago, I saw this. But with my actual eyes. So did some other people. It’s the funny thing of the post-scarcity media environment we live in. It’s unclear if there’s a real difference between Bono at the Living Room, and Bono in your living room. Viz.

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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.”


    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.

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    22 February 2012

    Music is a universal language

    I have…mIxeD FeeLINngS about the TED or TED-like format. As one commenter noted about the presenter in the video I’m about to show you: “This guy is just stroking his psychological egoism on stage.” Indeed, that’s a criticism that can be levied against many of the presenters at these things. Ego is death, and too many of these conferences focus on great, attention-getting presentations without providing a holistic picture or prioritizing what in the world needs doing NOW.

    In short: Too much sales pitch. — Not enough context.

    That said, they’re usually inspiring — and we live in a world where inspiration is sometimes in short supply. So, without further adieu, an example of how music makes things possible and how it is, indeed, the universal language.

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