Travis Kalanick’s recent string of run-ins with reality have put me to thinking, as I occasionally do, about how weird it is that we ignore empathy when evaluating intelligence. While anyone who has been paying attention can tell you that Kalanick’s apologies are insincere, the hurt and confused demeanour isn’t. He’s genuinely at a loss, because he’s getting in trouble for the exact behavior that has caused people to throw money at him. Kalanick may be the (punchable) face of the problem at the moment, but the fact that VCs are clamoring to get in on a company that’s hemorrhaging precisely because of its cavalier attitude towards its employees, the law, and the world at large constitutes a problem on a much larger scale.
We can quibble about lionizing sociopaths having been appropriate in the past, but for people trying to make their money off the opportunities presented by the connected world, not being sympathetic to someone else’s perspective is basically wanting to have your cake and eat it too, which I think is something that everyone can agree is a sign of limited intelligence.
So, you know, the whole Donald Trump thing: hilarious, no? This headline alone is almost cathartic, not do mention the volume of digs a real pro like Roy Edroso gets in. I’ve spent a lot of time over the years being grumpy about how easily the GOP base falls in line once the party apparatus starts getting heavy-handed, and suddenly all that seems to be collapsing. Like all sensible people, I’m waiting for Trump to be sabotaged in the primaries, run as an independent, and ensure the biggest GOP failure in a presidential election since the party was formed.
The big problem with this, is that Trump’s current position is already so improbable, that I don’t really feel safe assuming that’s going to happen. While a lot of the “this is the beginning of the end for Trump” has been wishful thinking on the part of GOP pundits, it really is true that he’s had a lot of opportunities to fall down, and all of them have seemed to bolster him in the end. I guess I feel like given how strange this race has turned out I’m not willing to be totally confident that the GOP isn’t going to run trump, and while I think that would be a disaster, I don’t feel it’s guaranteed.
So I guess we can take bets on whether the post-apocalyptic wasteland will look like Ridley Walker or A Canticle for Leibowitz.
Yesterday I went to ArtZuid with a couple of friends and a cool baby. Because it was a longish walk, we had to take a coffee break in the middle.
Here we are being a bit incredulous.
Here we are looking a bit more enthused.
Building with cool clock.
Building with cool windows.
This collection of lawn gnomes and plastic vermin speaks to man’s inhumanity to man.
Piet Kramer building. Here is a shot of its internal garden.
Here I am introducing the baby to piggyback rides.
Here he is trying to pull out my eyeball.
I set out on Bloomsday.
Despite feeling pleased with myself in the last entry, I didn’t do such a great job of leaving things in good order. Certainly acceptable, I think, but not exactly tidy. I guess I can still get away with calling it progress. Also, packing was pretty smooth and despite waiting a disconcertingly long time for The Max , I made the airport in good time. I ate at the Country Cat there, which was genuinely nice.
I got the very, very, very last seat on the plane. I was trying to figure out how to go about feeling good about staying another day, and dreading going though the checking and security-theater process for more waiting. Luckily, someone on the standby list didn’t show, and my name was called. It felt good. Already had a little adventure by the time we were taxiing.
I was sort of hoping there would be a power outlet so I could play TIS-100, which I’ve been enjoying a good deal. Sadly, something about the Unity payer burns super-hot, even though the graphics are basically non-existent. It runs through the battery in less than two hours. This meant I had to just zone out and watch things. In particular, I watched Jupiter Ascending, which was indeed terrible, although fine for whiling away a plane ride.
Schipol was, by some distance, the best immigration experience I have ever had. I didn’t wait in line for even a single second at passport control. Things sort of fell apart on transit, though, as the ATM in the airport only dispensed 50s, and the station at which I changed for the tram was remote enough that I had to walk around for a bit to find a shop that would let me pay for just a coffee with one of them. If Europeans are so reticent about breaking bills, why the fuck do they print them at all?
The apartment is fantastic. It has a hippie feel, which is not, as you know, my aesthetic, but the quality of it is very alluring, and it’s very comfortable and airy. Going to be very happy to do some languishing here, and I imagine it’ll be a nice space in which to get through my Euro-workdays.
So I turned 38 on Monday. That’s pretty grim, of course, but the fact is I’m in pretty good shape these days. I could have better habits, but I’m lean and do a remarkably good job of breathing, under the circumstances. What I have noticed is that my night-vision has started to suffer substantially of late. Because I live in a city, I don’t really notice this at night. Instead, I notice it when I enter a building or get on a bus with my sunglasses on. Stuff that I’ve gotten used to being really obvious has started to be difficult to ascertain under this very specific circumstance.
So I’m about halfway through Scott Anderson’s Lawrence in Arabia, and have read Seven Pillars of Wisdom. Furthermore, I’ve played over 100 hours of Crusader Kings 2. From what I gather, this makes me more than qualified to be an expert on Middle East policy at a right-wing think tank. If anyone could get me in touch with my fellow experts at, e.g.: The Washington Institute for Near East policy, that would be great.
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.)
Wow, that was quite a gap. So, here’s the thing. On Sunday the 15th I went to a Mapplethorpe exhibit at Le Grand Palais. It was, in fact, probably the highlight of my trip, but I did not, unsurprisingly, bother taking any pictures there. I did bring a catalog back as a present for C, and perhaps it will be mined in future entries (in particular, I’d never seen any of his non-jewelry assemblages, some of which are. . . well, like I said: in the future). On Monday I mostly got things ready, although I did make a belated pass at sending some post-cards. The cards were surprisingly fun, and I’m going to make an effort to secure more addresses in advance the next time I go anywhere (thanks Mrs. Foster!)
I was ready, I suppose, but it was hard to come home.
The reason this post is so overdue is that my vacation coincided, in the worst possible coincidence, with the expiration of my old hosting plan, which I’ve been keen to abandon for some time. As I was returning to work I was also backing all this garbage up and finally getting hosting somewhere where I access my sites-available files with Vim and not some stupid “user friendly” control panel. Everything finally sorted out today, although there are lingering issues (since you asked, media controlled via WordPress on Futility Now is being served by raw IP; I’m hoping some location directives will resolve it without too much trauma).
Phew, running behind here.
So after the whole key thing was resolved I did the obvious thing, and took in some modern art at the Centre Pompidou. You know a place is classy when its bathroom graffiti requires a passing familiarity with art history to enjoy.
This painting, from 1928, predicts 99% of all video game level design. Time to get a new paradigm, fellas.
If you know me, you may be aware that my dream has hitherto to been to live in a concrete cube atop a single column. This is no longer the case. I now want to live in a house based on this architectural maquette. I’m not sure about what would be under it. Maybe a deck supported by a single column.
On Saturday I went to the Marche aux Puces in Saint Ouen. Despite not really being a shopping person, I really like being up there. I think I find it funky like a French village while simultaneously being very much in Paris. Unfortunately, I had a really shocking disappointment when I went to cafe that I had really enjoyed when I’d been there with C and was served a quiche that had clearly come out of the fucking microwave. Not on, French people, not on.
In the afternoon I finally found Buttes Chaumont, which, as mentioned previously, shouldn’t have required two days of effort. Once there, I was rewarded with a pretty great over-the-top folly, and a very nice greenspace generally.
As always, however, don’t think too much about that water. Good enough for ducks, and that’s about it.
On Thursday afternoon I tried to visit the Parc des Buttes Chaumont. In my arrogance I thought, “I don’t really have to do much planning. After all, I’m looking for a massive park, which includes the highest elevation in Paris.” They say pride comes before a fall, but in my case it was a rather substantial but fruitless climb.
At any rate, it was okay. Because it’s what we’d call “transitional” in the US, there are lots of sort of not-too-authentique, not-too-trop-moderne houses along my route, which I was able to revel in in lieu of goofy follies.
Like all foot journeys around here, mine ended along the canal. Almost everyone you can see in this picture is sketching, which is pretty great.
My evening was marred by losing the key to my flat, which was pretty embarassing, and also a bit frightening, as there is no way to get out of the apartment without one. My host was able to come by early Friday afternoon to let me out, at which point I discovered that the key had been trapped in the lining of my hat, which is both infuriating and hilarious.