Given the states of both the world and my psyche, I thought I’d run through Homo Sacer again. Unfortunately, I’d forgotten how it starts with a really abusive misunderstanding of Foucault. It’s like he read The History of Sexuality and D&P (worst translated name ever), and pretended that he hadn’t notice The Birth of the Clinic. At any rate, it was too much, and now I’m reading Borges short stories.
Made my semi-annual reading of “Some Motifs in Baudelaire” recently, and was compelled to wonder if I miss crowds. While in Paris over the summer, I noted that it was much more crowded than Portland, and at the time my feelings about that were pretty clear. A little quiet time with Walter, however, has made me wonder.
Portland is very nice, in its way, but I’ve never found it very compelling. I don’t want to go out and explore it very much. Obviously, it suits a lot of people. Perhaps the difference is that I’m the type who finds it refreshing to parry his own blows, as it were. It is certainly the case that I find it very comforting to go out into the world and not recognize anyone. I have often thought of myself as a bit agoraphobic, but perhaps the problem that keeps me indoors is more akin to paranoia.
So perhaps the solution is brunch at The Screen Door? The problem is that many crowded places have lousy crowds. Portlanders, accustomed to a certain amount of leeway, are lousy gatherers. I think it’s also worth nothing that while crowds were smooth in NY when I lived there in 98 and 99, but the time I went back for Draper, the sort of New York flow had been irreparably disrupted by the idea that New York was somewhere that everyone should go, rather than being a place for people whose temperament it suited.
In “Motifs” Benjamin frequently returns to how unlike the crowds of Paris are from the crowds of other cities. In the context of a discussion of Baudelaire, this takes the form of suggesting that at the time no other continental cities were as urbanized (and while London is discussed earlier, it doesn’t get compared at this point.) At any rate, while I did feel penned in over the summer, it is worth noting that Parisian crowds still know how to move quickly, efficiently, and safely (definitely feel more at risk from drivers here than I did there.)
I know, right? So what has been happening? Well, as mentioned elsewhere, it was my birthday recently and C and I travelled to San Francisco to celebrate it. While the most obvious addition to my life upon returning to the Northwest was an infected cat bite, there have also been some subtler changes.
Living in Portland and spending time with C, who is an inveterate cocktailer has dulled my palate for wine considerably. For a long time I was more or less okay with this (note that this is at least in part because said palate is still remarkably sophisticated), but after dinner at Absinthe, I’m reversing my course on this one. Cocktails are fine, but I am totally over drinking them with dinner. That shit is for savages.
We also spent a fair amount of time at SFMOMA one day, and The Palace of the Legion of Honor the next. Portland has a very nice art museum, of course, but it doesn’t have a lot of the high-modern stuff, the supremacy (Suprematy?) of which, unlike wine, is something C and I agree about vehemently. It’s nice that I always end up at SFMOMA with artists.
On the plane home I finally finished Seven Pillars of Wisdom, and returned to The Line of Beauty, which I had laid aside while ago, having not found myself particularly engaged. I think that something about the trip put me in the mood for the high Hollinghurst style, and I have been enjoying it immensely. Now that Amis has retired to xenophobic avuncularity, it may be the case that Hollinghurst is England’s best practicing author. Obviously that’s not the best novel of the second half of the century of the novel, but it’s not nothing either.
The upshot of all of this is that I think it’s time for me to return to snobbery. I am planning on going out less but bringing much more decadent things into the house. Time to get my damn culture back.
So I’ve been living a life of quiet desperation, as is the English way. Primarily this is because after something on the order of 7 years of service this long-standing artifact bit the dust.
I try not to be too worked up about objects, but I am already suffering profoundly facing the morning without it.
Right, here’s what I wanted to say when I posted those pictures of those charming gentlemen in the park: while I was there I spent a lot of effort getting through 40ish pages of a rather charming book. I kept sort of uncosciously getting up and trying to go home to “do something,” and then realizing that I fucking well was doing something and I should sit in the park and do it.
I’ve spent the last 6 years or so kind of aggressively on the make, and while ther are a lot of things that on the surface it seems like I have to show for it, I’m pretty sure I’d be a lot better off if I had been a bit more relaxed. I’ve wasted a
lot of creative energy on work and industry-related stuff when I should have done the obvious thing and put the creative energy to use elsewhere.
I’m not totally clear on what to do about this. I still want, eventually, to finish Markov Garden. I even managed to give my efforts a little bump last night by swtiching out the serialization format and saving some space (not enough space, but some). But this feels so much like something that represents being on the make, and I’m tired of being that way.
I’ve been reading this (in a previous edition), and sort of thinking about the idea of some kind of manifesto to more or less determine the putative focus of my actions. I guess my manifesto is that I’m opposed to bad metaphors. That’s a little overwhelming, unfortunately. Scoped so poorly that it’s basically a bad metaphor of its own.
So while this was always already intended as a blog post, I’m actually writing it on an honest-to-got note pad in Laurelhurst Park, which I only discovered recently because I was meeting my sister at Side Street and the 15 was running wonky. Let this be your notice that this oversight has gotten you fucking fired.
At any rate, writing things on paper. I went back to writing my diary in, well, a diary a couple of months ago, but I wasn’t doing very well with it. I recently started regimenting my morning a bit more, however, and I think that things are going to improve.
About that regimentation: initially, feeding the cat was the first thing I did after getting out of bed, but that turned out to be a huge mistake. He started trying to get me up earlier and earlier by jumping on my chest and biting my face. This was corrected by moving his feeding time back a bit, after I’d done some dottering. Shocking how something so devious can be so credulous about some things.
I decided to write in this fashion to get around a real lack of thinking that I’ve been doing lately, which is in dramatic need of correction. Well, not lack of thinking, of course, but maybe lack of correct thinking. I’ve been involved in some sort of plumpe denken, which has been taking a severe toll.
Now, I have been fixing things around the house (at least part way) and writing a new SDK for Temboo, so it’s not like I’m in a coma or something. The pattern is more like after I’m done with that stuff I don’t have an internal life. Instead, I have a bunch of niggling worries, a melodramatic awareness of my backlog of concerns, and then a bunch of self-deprecating. . . I don’t know, things.
So naturally this creates a bit of a death-spiral. I’m trying to combat it by just keeping closer tabs on the tiny details in the tick-mark on a list sort of way, and the aforementioned aggressive regimentation.
And then this, of course. Having a big stretch of empty space here means that I’ve been trying to write about things and then getting caught up in some manner of detail or another and then whatever I was thinking about has slipped too far from me, and it’s just another loss. That sort of builds up until all you can do is push out some maudlin business about how much work everything is. Bogus.
Okay, hopefully that is all over and we can get back to metaphors, which is all I really care about any more (and may, considered carefully, be the only thing about which I’ve ever cared.)
P.S.: Did you want everyone you’ve ever met to know that you’re a colossal asshole? Someone has sorted that right out for you.
I had too much hair, it was keeping my up at night.
So I cut some of it off.
Later I got dressed. This is the latest in an ongoing series called “Joaquin looks like either a settler or a skinhead, depending on when he shaved last.”
So vanity, but also change. I’ve really kind of gotten into a rut in terms of my relationship with time, and I’m looking for excuses to kind of jar myself into shape. Aside from Temboo and yard-work I’m so scattered that I’m better off avoiding doing anything, rather than starting it and then forking off onto some other activity (which form Markov Garden inevitably means stupid distraction-oriented internet use.) I need to figure out some way to make myself feel more monastic. If only I had a bell!
Eventually, things change.
I’ve been at Temboo for over 5 years now. I have had a lot phases over the course of them. Sometimes things were good, and sometimes they were very, very bad. I almost left last week, but was convinced to stay by a gradual shift in my role. Basically I’m going to stop breaking things and start making them.
In my recent post about Temboo’s recent all-hands I mentioned that this was a direction that I needed to go in. At that point it seemed like that was going to mean Markov Garden, and whatever projects with which I decided to follow it up. What’s different about doing programming at work as well is that my mind is already going to be engaged that way. Programming is something where you need not only knowledge, but mindset. It’s a lot easier to write code today if you were doing it yesterday. This will be a good facilitator.
Another good thing that this means for Markov Garden is that I don’t have to feel like it’s a portfolio project. While I don’t think that I found that aspect of it particularly onerous, I’m interested to see what it will feel like to come back to it as just an example of personal expression.
At any rate, that’s what’s going on. It’s pretty crazy, really.
So one of the things that I’ve been working on lately is trying to avoid information overload while still allowing myself the opportunity to discover new things. Part of this process involved spending a couple of hours mapping out a substantial cross-section of the ways in which I send, receive, and store data using the internet. Looking at the visual representation, C said she felt stressed out by the number of things with which I interacted regularly and wondered why.
I said, and continue to believe, that it was because it was a comprehensible representation of the scope of the web. The complexity of my process scaled out to encompass a huge group of people gives a sense of the irreducible complexity, but not one so overwhelming that the mind simply doesn’t acknowledge it.
At this point it’s a Barthean “punctum,” placing it only barely on this side of trauma. On the face of I it, it’s easy to find this a bit overwrought, but I think it bears scrutiny. If you think about, people have always tended to avoid acknowledging the degree to which the world scales beyond them, and the world has never been so far beyond the average person as it is now, but I’m getting ahead of myself (I mean, it is the future.)
In a related development, your uncle Bruce wrote an article for Wired (a magazine that I would love to hate, but the degraded state of our discourse means it’s pretty damn good) about this newfangled “New Aesthetic.” Now I probably should have had more of an idea about this whole phenomenon, but for some reason the package as such was new to me, although I have long been familiar with the products from every day life.
Sterling starts with some effusive praise, and then gets down to the business of complaining. His objections are sound, but I think that there are two things that he says and then doesn’t combine which constitutes a significant oversight. The first observation is that many of the networks that NA celebrates are overtly hostile. No amount of charming glitches, for example, make a police surveillance network like London’s anything other than overt fascism. A lot of negative things that should be called out are instead played down.
The second is that the “8-bit” aspect of NA is complete fucking bullshit, and while he recognizes that, his analysis of it is where things go a bit wrong. Here’s what he says about them:
Finally, retro ’80s graphics are sentimental fluff for modern adults who grew up in front of 1980s game-console machines. Eight-bit graphics are pretty easy to carve out of styrofoam. There’s a low barrier-to-entry in making sculpture from 8-bit, so that you can “rupture the interface between the digital and the physical.” However 8-bit sculptures are a cute, backward-looking rupture.
This makes the whole pixelizing the external world thing seem like something that can be trimmed off, but the pixelization is actually an integral part of the process whereby people allow themselves to ignore the dangers of things like surveillance networks by making them cute. It’s a metaphor that allows someone to form an idea about how a network interacts with the world without being overwhelmed by the experience. Unfortunately, deployment of this metaphor doesn’t just ignore the unpleasant aspects of the things under observation, it actively confuses the viewer. The fact is, we’re already past the pixel-era. The eyes of the network are getting more acute all the time, and the charming pixel metaphor is a willful blindness to that, and a rush to repression.
I kind of want to talk more about this, including the fact that all human error is attributable to inappropriate metaphors, so stay tuned.