Monday, 16 February 2009

Tweet Tweet

Alex Pasternack is why is it called "tweeting"? Just sounds wrong.

Friday, 13 February 2009

Nothing new here really

Facebook Settles with ConnectU

People are always saying, hey, if you have a good idea you better get working on it now!! Or else someone else will do it!!!

And that's exactly why I started this blog.

But, uh, hey, wait a minute. Aren't all ideas copies? I mean, as my friend the Classical Scholar said recently, there is nothing new under the sun. Even that was not his own phrase. I think that Steve Jobs said that. (But then I thought about all those geniuses that work late at night, and, well, what about the moon?)

Consider that Facebook is a copy of Connect U. And also that two of my friends have copied my Facebook profile almost verbatim. But I took my profile picture from the website of the Iranian president.

People will also point out, inevitably, especially people like my friend the Mac User, that Microsoft copied its entire idea from Apple. When they do that, you can remind them that Apple copied their idea from Xerox. So Xerox had the original idea. You know, for our lives.

They will probably get bored with the conversation and glance at their iPhone.

But then someone else, like Ovid, is going to say something like, wait, isn't Xerox completely built on copying?

And then that's when you respond with something, like, really original.

Wednesday, 11 February 2009

Icon inferno: OMA's TVCC Burns

When the TVCC building, a hotel and theater complex that is part of Rem Koolhaas's bold new headquarters for China Central Television, I was almost unsurprised.

I didn't expect it to happen. For the record, I was not nearby at the time. But the project and the city of Beijing -- now symbolized as much by the wildly futuristic CCTV project as by the Temple of Heaven -- seems almost primed for this sort of chaotic thing right now. I haven't read Suketu Mehta's book on Mumbai, "Maximum City," but Beijing seems like the Indian capital's more elusive older brother: not nearly as dense nor as hectic as "maximum" might imply, and not as collected as "city" suggests. Rather, it is sprawling, fragmentary, a labrynth and a palimpsest of many different spaces and times, each with their own imperial and fantastical associations, all with a difficulty hinted at by the English name of the emblematic walled "city" at its center: "Forbidden." It's not "maximum city" so much as "voluminous cities." And in such a place -- and in a year already plastered with significance and fraught with uncertainty -- anything is possible. I could almost hear the sirens in the background.

And part of my unsurprise is borrowed from another impulse: to think about it, cooly, distantly -- as Rem Koolhaas himself might have imagined it. The architect has expressed his admiration for Beijing's perpetual rise and fall, the cycle of construction and destruction that Marx attributed to capitalism (China's not-so-secret modus operandi) and others attributed to modernity, and which also defined the metropolis of Koolhaas's early book-length ode, "Delirious New York."

In that book, as Bert de Muynck reminds us, Koolhaas described New York's ultimate creation-destruction metaphor: an early 20th century Coney Island boardwalk attraction called "Fighting the Flames," which consisted of a fake tenement building set ablaze and rebuilt multiple times a day. (A tenament building.) Set at a park called Dreamland, "the entire spectacle," Koolhaas wrote, "defines the dark side of Metropolis as an astronomical increase in the potential for disaster only just exceeded by an equally astronomical increase in the ability to avert it."

If it weren't his building, and even if it is, Koolhaas might have appreciated the inversion, a century later, of Coney Island's equation of chaos plus control. (Read what you will into the fact that the building that burned, TVCC, was in many ways the sideshow to the larger domineering building whose name it inverts, CCTV. And consider: the fears implicit in Coney Island's burning of a tenement building versus the hopes of Beijing's migrant construction workers, setting off fireworks). 

In fact, the inversion already happened: in 1911, the lighting in the devils that decorated the facade of "End of the World," another Dreamland amusement, short-circuited. Weeks before a fire-fighting apparatus had been installed, but had not yet been connected to the Atlantic. Koolhaas relishes the Boschian scene, a collapse of the circus and the civic: 
Elephants, hippos, horses, gorillas run amok, 'enveloped in flames.' Lions roam the streets in murderous panic, finally free to kill each other on their way to safety: 'Sultan...roared along Surf Avenue, eyes bloodshot, flanks torn and bleeding, mane afire...' For many years after the holocaust, surviving animals are sighted on Coney, deep in Brooklyn even, still performing their former tricks...

In three hours Dreamland burns to the ground.

But back to the Beijing circus: the TVCC inferno is not just a symbol of the end of our early 21st century architectural exuberance, or some expression of the danger and violence thought to be underneath the strange surfaces of post-modern buildings, or the most vivid transmutation of architectural spectacle ever. The strangely beautiful burning of TVCC -- what OMA has referred to as the "fun palace" -- just months before its opening might be the ultimate metaphor for a city hell bent on shiny construction, and the ugly destruction that demands. And at a time of economic and social upheaval, it also hints at the gradual loss of control by the authorities that oversee that metropolitan rise and fall.

I wrote about CCTV fairly recently: "Strange Loop," The National

Other thoughts:
Matthew Niederhauser
Bert de Muynck
Geoff Manaugh

Thursday, 5 February 2009

In-the-red humor

From a story on Reuters:
A bank worker calls a colleague, goes one joke on the bulletin

"Hey, how's it been going?"

"Not so bad."

"Oh, sorry, I've definitely called the wrong number."

Others adopt a similar tone, but riffing off Communist propaganda slogans.

"In the face of the financial crisis, I have bravely stood up and am
marching forward! That's because ... I can't pay back my loans and the bank
has repossessed my car."

Wednesday, 4 February 2009

Put a sing on it

Monk mood at the Whitney last weekend. William joined me. We sat next to an Icelandic myth. Words exchange.

Sounds; songs.

Terror trivia

Simon Norfolk

From this PBS documentary on the NSA (hi Fort Meade!).

Phone numbers of Osama bin Laden and a Yemeni associate in San Diego, circa 2000:

001-858 279 1159

Coincidence no. 1:

If General Hayden [at the NSA] had simply looked out his window ... a few miles away he might have been able to see the motel where the terrorists were staying.

You have two groups: the terrorists who were planning the biggest attack on the US in history, and the analysts who were listening to some of their phone calls for years. And they were living in the same neighborhood.

Ships passing

me: what are the chances that two lovers-never-meant-to-be would share space in the same magazine, on the same date?

"For example, I lived in Europe for many years before coming here, and the majority of African communities were refugees, people who fled, and they all depended on the state for their livelihood, for social security and welfare and these kinds of things. That is the trend even now, even now in London and elsewhere. But I found that these guys were different: they are traders, so they are self-employed, they don’t depend on the state. And they even employ people, they even employ young Chinese as their interpreters. That is one striking difference."

We have been on The Island for only a couple of weeks, and our collective state can already be described as exhausted, self-critical, neurotic, and paranoid. We spend most of our time convincing rotating members of our group that they are neither fat nor destined for failure nor going to die alone having never been loved.