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Posts Tagged ‘Google’

Night at the Museum

July 7, 2014 | by

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“The Camera in the Mirror”

Google is growing up. Its cameras have entered the mirror stage. Since 2011, the company has sent elaborate camera-mounted trolleys into museums as part of Google Art Project, which allows users to browse galleries around the globe, clicking through room by room to simulate the sense of space. Sheathed occasionally (and abstrusely) in shimmering Mylar blankets, Google’s cameras take photographs in 360 degrees; whenever the trolley passes a mirror, it takes an accidental self-portrait.

Now, just as Jon Rafman’s “9-Eyes” presents moments of incidental beauty and sublimity from Google Street View, a new tumblr by Mario Santamaría called “The Camera in the Mirror” captures Google’s cameras as they capture themselves: unsettlingly alone and caught in a kind of perpetual anachronism, surrounded by art and artifacts from centuries past.

If Lacan and Baudrillard somehow procreated, and their child ate some bad LSD, the hallucinations might resemble something from “The Camera in the Mirror.” There are no people in these photos—only an inert, mechanical totem pole seemingly obsessed with itself. It’s hard not to ascribe human motivations to the thing, in part because it resembles a sleek bipedal extraterrestrial and in part because it sits, with chilling deliberation, at the center of every frame. In certain shots it looks imperious, haughty; in others it becomes almost playful or curious. In only a few minutes it takes on a kind of personality, and so the whole project becomes tinged with the rhetoric of science fiction: What does the machine want? Where is it going? Is there any stopping it?

I thought of a few lines from Sartre’s Nausea and gave myself the willies: “People who live in society have learnt how to see themselves, in mirrors, as they appear to their friends. I have no friends: is that why my flesh is so naked?”

And yet, as terrifyingly impenetrable as they seem, these photos are signs of fallible life from the Googleplex—they shatter the illusion of seamless museum-going, showing us the leering, error-prone business end of one of the world’s most ubiquitous and powerful corporations. They testify to Google’s mind-boggling wealth: among other niceties, these trolleys are mounted with the CLAUSS RODEON VR Head HD and CLAUSS VR Head ST, two panoramic cameras that take photos with about a thousand times more detail than the average digital camera. They cost upward of five thousand dollars apiece. Of course they want to look at themselves.

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Let’s Hear It for Refrigerators, and Other News

May 9, 2014 | by

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From Life, November 19, 1965. Via the Appendix.

  • BREAKING: FLAUBERT NOT A REALIST, SAYS EXPERT TESTIMONY
  • Nathaniel Mackey has won the Ruth Lilley Poetry Prize: a cool $100k. Don Share, editor of Poetry magazine, says, “The poetry of Nathaniel Mackey continues an American bardic line that unfolds from Whitman’s ‘Leaves of Grass’ to H.D.’s ‘Trilogy’ to Olson’s ‘Maximus’ poems, winds through the whole of Robert Duncan’s work and extends beyond all of these. In his poems, but also in his genre-defying serial novel (which has no beginning or end) and in his multifaceted critical writing, Mackey’s words always go where music goes: a brilliant and major accomplishment.”
  • The rise and fall of the conventional romance novel: “By the seventies, Harlequins became known for their lush language, which often evoked settings that sounded like Thomas Kinkade paintings: ‘The rolling tide of summer grass had engulfed the small meadow in a sweet-smelling flood of lambs’ tails, coltsfoot, feverfew, the drifting pollen from them like pale yellow dust on Linden’s bare arms as she lay full length among them.’” Now self-published erotica, much of it hardcore enough to make your average Harlequin heroine blush, have eaten into sales.
  • We take our refrigerators for granted, but history reminds of the glories inherent in artificial refrigeration, which used to blow people’s minds.
  • Google now offers a street view of the Grand Canyon: “On the virtual river you can fast-forward downstream, avoiding the soaking rapids and searing sun, putting in and taking out as you please. But part of the Grand Canyon experience is surrendering to the flow of the river and committing to the journey. Anyone who has traveled in canyon country knows how much the terrain can change in a matter of seconds during an afternoon rainstorm, or in the hours between noon and dusk, as sunlight glistens and fades upon the canyon walls. To these subtle but vital gradations, Google’s roving digital eye remains conspicuously blind.”

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Full-Color Book Espresso Machines, and Other News

November 15, 2013 | by

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  • The first full-cover book espresso machine comes to Books-a-Million of Portland, Maine.
  • Bukowski in Hollywood.
  • Google wins its epic book-scanning battle.
  • Michiko Kakutani loves the phrase “deeply felt.”
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    In Praise of the Flâneur

    October 17, 2013 | by

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    Reworking of Paul Gavarni’s Le Flâneur by Spenot.

    Little things in life supplant the “great events.” —Peter Altenberg, as translated by Peter Wortsman

    The figure of the flâneur—the stroller, the passionate wanderer emblematic of nineteenth-century French literary culture—has always been essentially timeless; he removes himself from the world while he stands astride its heart. When Walter Benjamin brought Baudelaire’s conception of the flâneur into the academy, he marked the idea as an essential part of our ideas of modernism and urbanism. For Benjamin, in his critical examinations of Baudelaire’s work, the flâneur heralded an incisive analysis of modernity, perhaps because of his connotations: “[the flâneur] was a figure of the modern artist-poet, a figure keenly aware of the bustle of modern life, an amateur detective and investigator of the city, but also a sign of the alienation of the city and of capitalism,” as a 2004 article in the American Historical Review put it. Since Benjamin, the academic establishment has used the flâneur as a vehicle for the examination of the conditions of modernity—urban life, alienation, class tensions, and the like.

    In the ensuing decades, however, the idea of flânerie as a desirable lifetsyle has fallen out of favor, due to some arcane combination of increasing productivity—hello, fruits of the Industrial Revolution!—and the modern horror at the thought of doing absolutely nothing. (See: Michael Jordan’s “retirements.”) But as we grow inexorably busier—due in large part to the influence of technology—might flânerie be due for a revival?

    If contemporary literature is any indication, the answer is a soft yes. Take Teju Cole’s debut novel, Open City. Cole’s narrator, Julius, wanders up and down Manhattan, across the Atlantic to Brussels and back again, while off-handedly delivering bits of wisdom and historical insight. It’s not just that Open City is beautifully written, though that’s certainly true. Cole’s skill manifests itself in depicting the dreamy psychogeographic landscape—and accompanying amorality and solipsism—of Julius’s mind. Riding behind his eyes is a trip; even though we’re in his head, the tone of his thoughts still sets us at a distance.

    Tao Lin’s recently released Taipei achieves something similar. As Ian Sansom wrote in the Guardian, “Passage after passage in the novel dwells on the meaning of disassociation and self-exile.” Read More »

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    Google Guide to the Galaxy, and Other News

    March 11, 2013 | by

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    Bookish Cakes, and Other News

    March 4, 2013 | by

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  • Happy Monday. Here are some cakes inspired by books!
  • Nineteen Charles Bukowski drawings have come to light; most of them illustrated his column for the Los Angeles Free Press.
  • A poem written by a thirteen-year-old Charlotte Brontë is expected to fetch at least £40,000 at auction.
  • “If there has ever been a golden age for the unconventionally named author, it is now.” Bylines in the age of Google.
  • The 2013 Tournament of Books is on.
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