The Daily

Posts Tagged ‘technology’

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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In the Kitchen with Salvador Dalí, and Other News

October 12, 2016 | by

Photo: Taschen, via the Guardian

  • This holiday season, the gourmand in your life will accept one gift and one gift only: Salvador Dalí’s cookbook, with its recipes for frog pasties and thousand-year-old eggs. Any kitchen without it is disappointingly ordinary and should be destroyed immediately. “Dalí’s lavish and erotic cookbook Les Diners de Gala was first published in 1973, featuring 136 recipes compiled by the painter and his wife Gala. Divided into twelve chapters with titles such as ‘Prime Lilliputian malaises’ (meat) and ‘Deoxyribonucleic Atavism’ (vegetables), the book also features sumptuous Dalí illustrations and photographs of the painter posing alongside tables loaded with a banquet’s worth of food. Chapter 10, entitled ‘The “I Eat GALA”,’ is devoted to aphrodisiacs. In one illustration, a disembodied head with biscuits for hair and a fringe made of a jar of jam sits on a platter alongside a large cube of blue cheese, the sides of which show a crowd in front of a mountain. Another shows a desert scene in which a telephone receiver is suspended on a twig over a melting plate holding two fried eggs and a razor blade.”
  • I hadn’t known the comic novel was under attack—unless, maybe, its enemies have taken a page from Donald Trump’s book and refused to telegraph their strategies in advance—but here, nevertheless, is Howard Jacobson rising to its defense, and reaching deep back into the canon in search of its ancestry: “The novel is never more itself—certainly it never has more fun being itself—than when its heroes fall drastically short of that heroism whose function is to right wrongs, settle scores and put the fractured times back together again … Call this narrative the atheism of the real. It is the great achievement of the novel in prose. I mean no disrespect to those whose imaginations take them to fantasy in any of its forms. The novel can and should do anything. Yet there can be a bias among those of us who love novels nearly as much as we love life (and sometimes even more) in favor of the flight-of-fancy novel, the introspectively other-worldly, let us call it, as against this worldliness, except when what is of this world is to airy thinness beat, as luminescent as angels’ wings, so exquisite in its quiet dailiness that we can see right through it.” 

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Embrace Your Inner Airport, and Other News

October 6, 2016 | by

Bjorn Krogstad, Figure in Airfield, 1983.

  • The airport is more than a place—it’s a state of mind. If you’re still wracked with anxiety and frustration whenever you head to JFK, be advised that the whole world is essentially an airport at this point, and it’s up to you to make peace with the essence of airportness. Christopher Schaberg writes, “Airportness transcends airports themselves. It has to do not so much with surface-level features such as sloping hallways and undulating rooflines but a host of more disparate effects that make air travel something humans can internalize and learn to live with. Airportness is how flight becomes natural to us, expected and accepted: contrails in the sky, layovers between flights … Airportness is all around us, exceeding not only airports but also air travel itself, perhaps even becoming a kind of proxy for what it means to be American. Airportness shifts from the derogatory to the sacrosanct, sliding from protected spaces to abject places.”
  • You might’ve held off on reading Kierkegaard because you assume that, like most philosophical writing, his books are stiff, boring clumps of logical premises shouted at you by a dead white man. But you’re wrong. They’re unlike any other philosophical writing before or since. Will Rees explains, “John Updike famously argued that Kierkegaard’s works owe much to the art of novel-writing. After all, they are written by and about fictional characters whose worldviews they attempt to occupy from within. In a way that would please the contemporary teacher of creative writing, Kierkegaard does not tell—he shows. But we mustn’t get carried away; we do Kierkegaard a disservice if we simply appreciate his books. By departing from the normal philosophical form, they arguably tighten rather than slacken the demand on our attention, because arguments are present, but one must search for them, and often they reside in what Kierkegaard’s characters do not or cannot say—in the implicit gaps in their imperfect world views.” 

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Behold the Zenith Z-19

October 5, 2016 | by

Revisited is a series in which writers look back on a work of art they first encountered long ago.

The Zenith Z-19.

The Zenith Z-19.

The Zenith Z-19 is not a computer. It’s an end point of memory and desire, a vanishing horizon, a terminus, a terminal. It is also certainly not a monitor.

In 1979 my family’s Zenith Z-19 sat dull-eyed on a whitewashed, built-in desk in my parents’ L-shaped bedroom in New Hampshire. That year I was ten, and I was never not at that terminal. I beheld my Zenith Z-19 as I never had, and never will, not even close, observe a great painting or statue at Angkor Wat or the Vatican. I will never gaze at the aurora borealis that way—something as wordless, undying and not mine as the night sky? Frankly I find it hard to believe stars hold more than the polite interest of other people.

Was it flat? It was, to the touch. You could jab in, past the hard, battleship-hued casing, touching a rectangular screen with pleasing dimensions that drew on the golden mean. Whatever static my fingers lifted, I remember it as minor, but I distinctly remember the uppermost layer of that machine’s complexion to be petal-soft and cool—poreless, scaleless, hairless, but vibrating with life like a mammal. I can see it now, in a cramped image, on my tarty MacBook pixmap, where the old terminal’s recessive palate seems despairingly out of place. On Wikipedia, the screen plays as olive drab—but drab it was not. Read More »

The Literate Pigeons, and Other News

September 21, 2016 | by

He thinks he’s people!

  • I used to take such pride in my literacy. “Look at me!” I would shout, running down the street in my I’M LITERATE T-shirt. “I can read!” But now the pep is out of my step, because apparently even pigeons can learn to read: “Through gradual training, the birds moved from learning to eat from a food hopper, to recognizing shapes, to learning words … After narrowing down to the four brightest birds out eighteen, over eight months of training, the advanced-class pigeons were taught to distinguish four-letter words from nonwords. They were even able to tell the difference between correctly spelled words and those with transposed characters, like ‘very’ and ‘vrey,’ or words with different letters included to make them completely misspelled.”
  • And that means it’s only a matter of time until the pigeons will be texting, too, because that’s what everyone does now. What do you think the pigeons are gonna do, use the telephone? The phone call is dead. Don’t even bother making a friendly call, unless you’re a needy loser. Timothy Noah tells us, “The phone call died, according to Nielsen, in the autumn of 2007. During the final three months of that year the average monthly number of texts sent on mobile phones (218) exceeded, for the first time in recorded history, the average monthly number of phone calls (213). A frontier had been crossed. The primary purpose of most people’s primary telephones was no longer to engage in audible speech … Calling somebody on the phone used to be a perfectly ordinary thing to do. You called people you knew well, not so well, or not at all, and never gave it a second thought. But after the Great Texting Shift of 2007, a phone call became a claim of intimacy. Today if I want to phone someone just to chat, I first have to consider whether the call will be viewed as intrusive. My method is to ask myself, ‘Have I ever seen this person in the nude?’ ” 

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A New Machine

September 19, 2016 | by

Don Buchla with one of his instruments.

Don Buchla invented some of the first electronic instruments—not synthesizers, he insisted, but electronic instruments. To him, the word synthesizer implied some attempt at emulation, as if these new machines could do nothing more than imitate preexisting sounds. Buchla believed that his inventions offered an aural palette every bit as distinct as a trumpet’s or a clarinet’s. It was only marketing that made listeners hear something derivative in them.

An instrument has to exist long before performance techniques can be developed and a repertoire arises,” he told Keyboard Magazine in the eighties, explaining why there are so few new sounds in the world:

Because of this, the market for the instrument doesn’t exist for many years after the R&D that goes into developing a truly new instrument. With short-term profits a primary motive, the big corporations are simply not interested … When you open up those other possibilities, you'll alienate the people who are coming from a rock-band orientation and want instant gratification. They don’t want to have to figure out some other relationship between their actions and the instrument’s response. Read More »