December 27, 2007

The Big Question

As half the world seems to know by now, a day or two ago a Siberian tiger escaped from its cage in San Francisco zoo and killed a visitor before it was itself killed by police (it also badly injured two other visitors). Even today the local media is full of stories asking what almost every commentator calls the puzzling question: how did the tiger get out of its cage, cross the moat separating its pen from the larger zoo, and break through various fences to get to its victims? But the real puzzle is why on earth anyone would cage an animal like this in a zoo like that (or anywhere as cramped and cold as San Francisco). Zoos are some of the most depressing places in earth for me; I usually can't bear to visit them.

In other news, several people were killed by guns around the Bay. They were barely noticed.

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December 23, 2007

Burn Baby Burn

"Architecture Must Burn", Aaron Betsky and Erik Adigard (Thames and Hudson, 2000, recently picked up in Moe's as a remainder): I'm a sucker for this sort of unintentionally earnest manifesto, teetering back and forth between the twee and the seriously ludicrous. Like nearly all manifestos, it's reactionary and utopian; and like all utopias, totalitarian; in this case in a creepy "we really care" sort of way. A sort of insistent dog barking in the intellectual night somewhere far off that you can't quite dismiss, despite the lack of overt meaning. There's some breathtaking writing here, spoiled by an almost contantly breathless tone and general incoherence; the book itself's a design disaster, in that very self-conscious and rather forced late-1990's way (and in a way that very deliberately becomes an issue in itself).

And I think I'll scream if I see such hip imports as "strange attractors" in a non-science context again; it's a sort of token exoticism or cargo cult that lets the writer indulge in a shell game of equivocation, where the smokescreen of vagueness lets you get away with giving the impression of profundity and depth without ever pinning things down, even generally. If you're vague enough, you can get away with convincing almost anyone that you've said something both profound and agreeable.

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December 17, 2007


Accidentally caught mid-flight on a local arts channel while skimming between Simpsons episodes and PBS pledge breaks, one of those fortuitous chancy Postmodern collisions between a familiar overheated shriek of Modernism and the self-conscious Postmodernism of late 90's Manhattan (I'm amazed I haven't seen it before). Made for each other, you'd think, in a place where the irony is arch (and the "i" in Irony most definitely upper-case), and where (mirroring the respective sins of their eras) the cliches both drip a hysterical earnestness and simultaneously preempt any criticism (and where the WTC sill stands). But I'm seduced by the cooler visual lyrical rhetoric as a sort of visual sprechstimme mirroring the music, and if you can't hear the Schoenbergs on the streets of Midtown, you'll miss seeing the Rothkos in the surfaces surrounding you. And dreams go forth to greet the distance….

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December 13, 2007

Debo And Nancy

"Debo and Nancy agree that the real crime of politics is that it makes people lose their sense of the ridiculous". (Andrew O'Hagan reviewing "The Mitfords: Letters Between Six Sisters" in a recent LRB). So true, so true; and that's surely the tragedy that engulfed one or two of the other Mitford sisters. But there might also be a companion crime: losing sight of the seriousness of intent behind the ridiculousness of such buffoons as Mosley.

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December 08, 2007

Deep Springs

Deep Springs Road

A few years ago in the middle of nowhere — a dozen or so miles further down the remote desert road in the California / Nevada border region shown above — I was taking photos of dead cars and things like that off the side of the road. I rarely saw another (live) car while I was in the area. It was hot, very dry, and, as always out there, windy. After a while I noticed something moving a mile or so away on the side of the road — a sign flapping in the wind? Some discarded clothes stuck on a fence? I didn't think much more about it and turned back to taking photos.

About twenty minutes later I looked back at the road again. The distant movement had turned into a tall, wiry, bearded guy maybe fifty metres away striding purposefully along the side of the road towards me (and, presumably, towards Big Pine, the nearest settlement, some forty miles further up the road). He looked fairly well-dressed and healthy, with a little pack on his back. He ignored me.

I made the mistake of shouting across the road to him: "Need a ride to Big Pine?" Without looking at me, he gestured and yelled "Fuck Off!" (in what sounded suspiciously like an Australian accent). Okaaaaayyyyy, I thought... and turned back to the photo work again. The next time I looked he was a couple of miles up the road towards Westgard Pass, still striding steadily. I never saw him again.

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December 02, 2007

Basement Thoughts

Every commercial elevator in California is supposed to carry a certificate from the state that certifies the elevator is in good condition and specifies who owns it, the operating limits, etc. One of the fields to be filled in is "Owner's Id". Yes, it's spelled exactly that way, surely on purpose in this Freud-drenched land.


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