The Daily

Posts Tagged ‘futurism’

A Nice Soak in the Office Bathtub, and Other News

October 17, 2016 | by

Relax: bathe at work.

  • When one thinks of rugged outdoorspersons, one’s mind does not usually summon Simone de Beauvoir. But it turns out Beauvoir was an avid hiker, and her writing about the activity stands in powerful contrast to the “wilderness memoirs” of more recent years. Emily Witt writes, “Pages of her memoirs are taken up with descriptions of the hikes she took in her twenties and thirties: in the Maritime Alps, the Haute-Loire, in Brittany, in the Jura, in Auvergne, in the Midi. Since the publication of Cheryl Strayed’s Wild or even Robyn Davidson’s Tracks, it has become commonplace to see the solo excursion in the wilderness as a possible experience of feminine catharsis. Beauvoir abhorred sentimentalism in her writing and seemed constitutionally incapable of contriving a sudden epiphany after cresting a peak, but it turns out that in addition to all of her philosophical contributions she is a forgotten pioneer of this genre of memoir … Beauvoir hiked alone … She saw her colleagues’ warnings that she would get raped as ‘a spinsterish obsession,’ and wrote, ‘I had no intention of making my life a bore with precautions of this sort.’ ”
  • Today in productivity concepts: your start-up office might have standing desks, exercise balls, a Ping-Pong table, and a formidable organic pantry, but none of it means shit without a bathtub. Shigeru Miyamoto, the creator of Donkey Kong and Super Mario Bros., credits his imaginative success to Nintendo’s tub, and he makes a strong argument: “Thank goodness we had a company bathtub! … At that time, our office was in Tobakaido, which also housed the hanafuda [playing-card] factory … There was a water boiler that was used to make the hanafuda, and the water from this boiler was also used for a bathtub. The employees making the hanafuda could wash their sweat away in the bath after work, and at night when nobody was around, you could hang out there for a long time. It totally saved me … It was really effective at letting me put my ideas in order.” (Reader: if you’re interested in arranging for a claw-foot tub to be installed in the offices of The Paris Review, please be in touch.) 

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Some Ghoulish Stained Glass for You, and Other News

October 14, 2016 | by

Harry Clarke, Our Lady of the Sorrows (detail), 1917. Photo: Kelly Sullivan

  • I know you have plenty to worry about, but Sam Kriss is here to warn you about the fabulously rich tech bros who really, honestly, actually believe that we may be living in a simulated reality generated by some hyperadvanced species of the future: “Ignore for a moment any objections you might have to the simulation hypothesis, and everything impractical about the idea that we could somehow break out of reality, and think about what these people are trying to do. The two billionaires … are convinced that they’ll emerge out of this drab illusion into a more shining reality, lit by a brighter and more beautiful star. But for the rest of us the experience would be very different—you lose your home, you lose your family, you lose your life and your body and everything around you. Simulation or not, everything would disappear. It would be the end of the world. Comic-book movies, in their own sprawling simulated narrative universes, have been raising the stakes to this level for years: every summer we watch dozens of villains plotting to blow up the entire universe, but the motivations are always hazy. Why, exactly, does the baddie want to destroy everything again? Now we know.”
  • It’s never a bad time to think about Dada. (Please don’t put that on a T-shirt. I call dibs. I need the money.) In the wake of six new Dadaist exhibitions around the world, Alfred Brendel reconsiders the slipperiest movement of the modern era: “Dada relished contradictions. A famous Dada saying claimed that whoever is a Dadaist is against Dada. In his Dada manifesto of 1918, Tzara informs us that, as the editor, he wants to emphasize that he feels unable to endorse any of the opinions being published since he was against manifestoes in principle. But also against principles. Theo van Doesburg called Dada the ‘art form on account of which its producer doesn’t take a stand for anything. This relative art form is accompanied by laughter’ … Traditionalists see Dadaists as silly people. To a degree, they are right. Silliness was liberating from the constraints of reason. Silliness has the potential to be funny, to provoke laughter, and make people realize that laughter is liberating. Raoul Hausmann mentioned the sanctity of nonsense and ‘the jubilation of orphic absurdity.’ To Dadaists, Charlie Chaplin was the greatest artist in the world.” 

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A Cybernetic Meadow

July 27, 2015 | by

MURPHY_SunriseSequence_2015_JCG7969 copy

Brenna Murphy, SunriseSequence, 2015, archival-pigment print mounted on Dibond, 35" x 30". Courtesy American Medium

In 1967, while he was a poet-in-residence at the California Institute of Technology, Richard Brautigan wrote “All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace,” a gamboling techno-utopian vision that reads, nearly fifty years later, as farcically, hauntingly naive:

I like to think (and
the sooner the better!)
of a cybernetic meadow
where mammals and computers
live together in mutually
programming harmony
like pure water
touching clear sky.

And that’s just the first stanza. Brautigan goes on to imagine “a cybernetic forest / filled with pines and electronics”; “it has to be!” he writes of “a cybernetic ecology.” One imagines he was not too gung ho on Blade Runner. Read More »

Open Ye Gates! Swing Wide Ye Portals!

December 24, 2014 | by

We’re out until January 5, but we’re re-posting some of our favorite pieces from 2014 while we’re away. We hope you enjoy—and have a happy New Year!


St. Louis’s unforgettable 1904 World’s Fair.


Temple of Mirth, 1904 World’s Fair.

I hand the attendant a fifty-cent piece and watch him drop it into the automatic turnstile, itself a marvel. Behind me, the murmur of moneychangers, the swish of gored skirts tapering to white shirtwaists. Beyond that, the din of St. Louis. My sack suit rustles as I stride ahead. I’m crossing the threshold of an impossible city: a manicured wonderland of symmetrical lagoons winding through sculpted gardens studded with allegorical statues. In the distance loom the massive palaces of learning, their Beaux-Arts façades harkening back to Ancient Rome and heralding a future brighter than the hundred thousand incandescent lights that line them against the night. The words of Exposition President David R. Francis ring in my ears—Open ye gates! Swing wide ye portals! Enter herein ye sons of man, and behold the achievements of your race! Learn the lesson here taught and gather from it inspiration for still greater accomplishments!—and I step into the Fair.

* * *

St. Louis is a city of gates that do not normally swing wide. The urban private street, or “private place,” is believed to be a local invention, dating to the 1850s. Private places are owned by their residents, who typically build and maintain the road, median, sidewalks, curbs, street lighting, and—most crucially—gates. Some gates were utilitarian, imposing, and plain; others were small castles, complete with clock towers, fountains, statues, gaslights, and gatehouse apartments that caretakers (and, later, college students) lived in until the 1980s. Private places offered a refuge from the ever-booming city, a world apart. Some have been razed, their gates uprooted, the neighborhoods now troubled by crime; many still stand, pockets of wealth and privilege, with boards of trustees that oversee matters of law (historic preservation, landscaping) and etiquette (street parking, book clubs, Easter egg hunts).

Nearly two years ago, when my wife and I were moving to town and looking for an apartment, we were taken aback: everywhere, gates, gates, gates. Gates that lock and unlock according to byzantine schedules publicized only to residents (thus thwarting commuters and anyone else who might try to cut through the neighborhood). Gates that open by remote control. Rolling metal gates with yellow hazard signs. Gates built for carriages that now barely fit a car. Even in less-rarified neighborhoods—with weeds in the lawns and unwashed economy sedans on the street—at the end of the block might stand a pitiful sawhorse made of white PVC pipe. A symbol that speaks to the natives. Private Street: Not Thru. Private Street: No Public Parking. No thru traffic. Private neighborhood. No smoking beyond this gate. Private. No trespassing. Keep Out.


Miniature Books by the Brontës, and Other News

July 3, 2014 | by


Stephanie Mitchell / Harvard University, via the Los Angeles Times.

  • When Charlotte Brontë was thirteen and her brother, Branwell, was twelve, they designed and wrote a series of tiny books: “Measuring less than one inch by two inches, the books were made from scraps of paper and constructed by hand. Despite their diminutive size, the books contained big adventures, written in ink in careful script.”
  • Charles Simic is addicted to soccer, though in his youth he wasn’t very good at playing it: “My grandmother once came to watch me play and when she got home told my mother: ‘All the other kids were running around nicely and kicking the ball, except your son, who kept jumping up and down and flailing his arms.’”
  • Later this month, the Guggenheim will host “ANTI-PASTA: A Dinner Inspired by Italian Futurism,” which observes the tenets set forth in Marinetti’s “Manifesto of Futurist Cuisine.” “Be rid of pasta, that idiotic gastronomic fetish of the Italians,” Marinetti wrote, enumerating eleven requirements for an ideal meal, including “harmony between table setting and food, the invention of food sculptures, and the use of scents, poetry, and music, as well as scientific instruments during preparation.”
  • This may not be a cause for pride, but we’re proud of it nevertheless: two of the books in this “Weird Sex” roundup are by recent Paris Review interviewees Nicholson Baker and Samuel Delany. (On House of Holes: “Amid the bathetic histrionics, Holes asserts a striking degree of tender, if debauched, humanity.”)
  • New York has subways and buses, ferries and trams, but it also has dollar vans, a form of “shadow transit” operating “mostly in peripheral, low-income neighborhoods that contain large immigrant communities and lack robust public transit.”


Futurism on Wheels, and Other News

July 1, 2014 | by

soviet concept car

The Torpedo-GAZ, from 1951—a Soviet concept car with a tubular duraluminum skeleton. Via io9.

  • The nineteenth century “had its own explosion of media … Much as with today’s web, people complained there was too much to read … The solution to overload? For tens of thousands of Americans, it was the scrapbook.”
  • Authors turn to pseudonyms for a number of reasons—some strange, some prosaic, some almost metaphysical. In Sarah Hall’s case, the problem was another Sarah Hall: “I could never be published as me. Someone had got there first … my agent reminded me, gently: ‘I really don’t think you can be Sarah Hall.’”
  • An interview with Jeff Sharlet, whose new book looks at religion in America: “In nine out of ten cases ‘spirituality’ is a con—not a con by the person invoking it, but a con on that person. It offers the illusion of individual choice, as if our beliefs, or our rejection of belief, could be formed in some pure Ayn Randian void … We’re caught up in a great, complicated web of belief and ritual and custom. That’s what I’m interested in, not the delusion that I’m some kind of island.”
  • “It felt like the water was rising and lapping just under my nose … I really began to wonder whether my career was over.” Classical musicians contend with stage fright.
  • Soviet concept cars from the fifties and sixties show what might have been, had futurism held its grip on the national imagination—these sleek, modular vehicles are a striking counterpoint to the American cars of the era.