Wednesday, May 30, 2012

tweet #8


Frequent moves, small shared apartments, the pursuit of simplicity: there were reasons, but.

The process through which my music player, news sources, mail, and writing instrument all came to reside in a single device/interface has been nothing short of a personal disaster.

I really believe this.

Once, as They say, it was a boombox, electric typewriter, handwritten letters, printed newspapers. (And He rested on the seventh day.)

Stereos of varying sophistication and power came and went, but they were always Their Own Thing. The old typewriter was swapped for an unwieldy 386; later I acquired a b/w laptop incapable of connecting to the Net – a glorified typewriter, then. Along the way, indeed, the Internet "arrived," and correspondence shifted to email mostly; but I always had to access the Net from school or work, i.e. not from the hinky little laptop on my main desk at home.

On the eve of September 11, I received a used freebie, an old beige Power Mac G3, and in a single stroke, music, the Net (meaning news and correspondence, mainly, but plenty else as well), and "word processing" were collapsed into this one satanic Ding with/in which I have lived for more than a decade.

Now I endlessly flit from activity to activity – choosing music, checking for new mail, tapping a sentence here, or there, social network sites, oh, God, checking for new mail – never able to hover sufficiently over a single project to produce anything except exhaustion and a sense of Lost Time.

Friday, May 25, 2012

whisper in the Net

I haven't thought about A Whisper In The Noise for a long time. iTunes tells me that I last listened to Through the Ides of March two years ago (since Z bought it for me around the time it came out, 2004, I've listened to it about 25-30 times, or so says iTunes' play count).

Thanks to the magic of Shuffle, I just happened to hear "Seeing You" and was transported back to AWITN's show in Allston several (many?) years ago – and recalled the personal errand I ran in connection with it. Through the Ides of March is a great album. That show at Great Scott was also great.

And I heard "Seeing You," and I thought: I wonder what AWITN is up to now. And lo, their band page on Exile from Mainstream's site says that they are playing in Berlin...tonight. This bit of the uncanny is itself consistent with the atmosphere of Through the Ides of March.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

tweet #7


The following first appeared on Facebook, October 14, 2011.

when, after our midday nap, rjky and i are sitting on our respective potties, facing one another with a basket of magazines between us, rjky always insists on taking Der Spiegel and The Economist for herself, as she pushes Elle été and old issues of Brigitte into my hands...

The following first appeared on Facebook, February 18, 2012.

rjky has added the word "tower" to her vocabulary -- usually in reference to the massive spires that have become her stock in trade when we're playing legos. so i'm teaching her the chorus...a perfect song from a perfect album (an album, what's more, that often dominated my late night, high school joy rides of alienation and boredom): indeed,

"radio waves curve and cross / I stand below them / lost // 
above me is a black obelisk / and the dangers that I risk // here gather the ghosts of the mind / that tear my heart and here I find / all the traps that have been set / everything I would forget beneath / The Tower The Tower The Tower The Tower The Tower The Tower The Tower The Tower"

Monday, May 14, 2012

cities cities cities cities

Some years ago the Maggot returned from a local bookstore with a stack of purchases that included an unexpected gift for me, a used copy of John Reader's Cities. We were living in the Bristol Street apartment, if memory serves (and, incidentally, it doesn', it's the other way around: we serve memory).

Reader's book isn't really governed by an argument, except maybe that cities are hard on the environment, which is tantamount to saying that people are (how insightful!). The chapters could be read in any order, really; each chapter pairs a theme and a couple of case study cities, but their sequence isn't important. The prose is sober, bordering on boring. This overall nibble-ability is my excuse for taking seven or eight months to read it. (That, and my sudden interest in second-tier serial television dramas. Seriously.) Cities would make a great bathroom book.

And I feel as though I learned many things that I should already have known (and that I have already forgotten). Here are four I keep turning over:

I. "The traditional view, deeply entrenched in academic literature and popular writing on the subject, is that the development of grain cultivation on the fertile soils of Sumer, and the invention of the plough, enabled farmers to produce surpluses, which not only led to a rapid increase in population but also inspired village communities to coalesce and form cities. Thus the world's first cities are said to have arisen simply because farmers had discovered a way of producing more food than they needed for themselves. But there is an alternative view of the evidence, suggesting that the crucial developments occurred in reverse order - namely that the cities came first and advances in farming technology came only as a response to the demands of the cities" (14-15).

II. "In 1920 the city had extended its boundaries to include the surrounding network loosely linked towns and communities which had always been informally known as part of Berlin but whose regional differences had often frustrated the city's plans for growth and development. Eight towns, fifty-nine parishes and twenty-seven rural estates joined the central districts of old Berlin to create a city which grew more than twelvefold in the process: from 65 to 820 km2. Of that area a third (273 km2) was forest and natural landscape; furthermore, the legislation which had created Greater Berlin guaranteed that a large proportion should stay that way. Today, 43 per cent of Berlin consists of forest, lakes, parks and agricultural land - an area of 382 km2 in total, nearly seven times the size of Manhattan Island (57 km2). Twenty per cent of this open space is protected land - that's 76.4 km2 to be exact, one and a third times the size of Manhattan Island" (284-285; emphasis mine).

III. "No wonder demographers and historians write of the 'urban graveyard effect'. Deaths exceeded births in all great cities. Indeed, it was not until the beginning of the twentieth century that urban populations became reproductively self-sustaining - when, in other words, the number of births in a city began to exceed the number of deaths recorded each year. Before then, cities needed a constant flow of migrants from the countryside simply to maintain their population size - let alone provide for the astonishing growth that many of them experienced" (217-18).

IV. "Which means that if everyone on Earth lived as comfortably as the average citizen of North America we would need not just one, but three planets to provide for them all" (303).