Covering Literary Language...

Despite the large amounts of time that I seem to stumble across, squandering this wealth on the empty pleasures of my RSS reader, there is no way that I ever have time to read all the things that report their interesting tidbits to me, begging me to try their subtle delicacies.

Maybe this is why hedonism is considered a vice; no matter how much you commit yourself to pleasures, there is no way you could consume all pleasures available.

Anyway, back to the RSS feed: I almost didn't read this one; the articles normally available online for non-subscribers of the NYRB are little reviews, or letter replies to other articles I didn't read. Normally I just scan it for the titles reviewed, hoping to remember them later when I see them reviewed again, or possibly delve deeper if it sounds particularly interesting. Unlike, for example, the TLS, which I read each article, meaning that I have a backlog (currently, eleven articles) that causes me no end of anxiety.

Zadie Smith's review of Netherland and Remainder, for some reason, I decided to read. I knew neither of the works nor authors, and Zadie Smith is not really a impetus to me, either. But all the same, so very glad that I did.

The essay is long, but very detailed, going beyond the substance of the two reviewed works to more of a signpost in a certain thread of literary criticism: lyrical realism.

I'm not going to delve into lyrical realism. For one thing, I'm not sure if entirely understand to what it refers. (I often have this problem with the various genre's of lit. crit.; I understand much more of the mechanics discussed than the supposed rubrics under which said mechanics are distributed.) Much more than that, I enjoyed those mechanics that she was describing.

Before I say anything about the article content-wise, I just wish to recommend it. It was a very nice article. Strangely enough, I don't have any big contention with it, either way. Simply put, it was a nice read, for any who are interested in literary criticism. A little thought-provoking, but not too much.

Of course, there is a reason that I am writing a blog post about it, so I must have something to say. Here it is.

This may be the truest words I have read regarding the terrorist attacks on 9/11:

"There was the chance to let the towers be what they were: towers. But they were covered in literary language when they fell, and they continue to be here."

If there is one statement that gets put into the history books, attempting to provide some sort of closure or reflection about the attacks and what happened afterwards in this country, this should be it. As I re-say in my own words now: it could have just been an awful, violent thing. But because it had begun by meaning more than just that, it continued to mean more than just that.

I doubt Zadie Smith was intending such historical gravity when she wrote those words. She was discussing the symbolism and meaning, both intended and unintended, through which such an event is represented in literature, specifically to her target, the book Netherland.

"It's a credit to Netherland that it is so anxious. Most practitioners of lyrical Realism blithely continue on their merry road, with not a metaphysical care in the world, and few of them write as finely as Joseph O'Neill. I have written in this tradition myself, and cautiously hope for its survival, but if it's to survive, lyrical Realists will have to push a little harder on their subject. Netherland recognizes the tenuous nature of a self, that "fine white thread running, through years and years," and Hans flirts with the possibility that language may not precisely describe the world ("I was assaulted by the notion, arriving in the form of a terrifying stroke of consciousness, that substance—everything of so called concreteness—was indistinct from its unnameable opposite"), but in the end Netherland wants always to comfort us, to assure us of our beautiful plenitude."

By metaphysical she means, I would venture, 'with consciousness towards its being/self.' It would be easy for any person to write about 9/11, and say any number of things. But writing about things with the knowledge that what we are writing changes those things is a much harder task, and as such, often falls far short, and is just as often derrided as 'post-modernism' or some other pretentious fad. Netherland, according to Smith, succeeds at both, 'just writing', and 'metaphysically writing'.

"Netherland doesn't really want to know about misapprehension. It wants to offer us the authentic story of a self. But is this really what having a self feels like? Do selves always seek their good, in the end? Are they never perverse? Do they always want meaning? Do they not sometimes want its opposite? And is this how memory works? Do our childhoods often return to us in the form of coherent, lyrical reveries? Is this how time feels? Do the things of the world really come to us like this, embroidered in the verbal fancy of times past? Is this really Realism?"

Now, this in itself is no more than a nice, idealistic bit of writing, like most criticism. In other words, it may be general easy to write about what writing means, but it is far more difficult to write what writing means in the course of writing it. A reversal, perhaps, of the problem of lyrical realism that Smith is considering, back upon literary criticism itself. Writing, like the content of Netherland, seeks the authenticity of the self. But if one sieze upon the self too whole-heartly (with too much reverential authenticity) then you may wake up to find that the self one clings to is not the self at all (be in an aporia, an other, or whatever else).

I might cryptically add: self-doubt is only one way of discussing the difficulties of writing while writing. But to explain: writing about needing, yet doubting, reality is one way to write about reality while at the same time acknowledging that writing is not, literally, reality. But: it takes more than questioning reality to be able to deal with (non-)reality. Hence, the problem with folks who depart too far from convention in order to question it. In order to write about not-writing, one must still write!

Right? I would hate to sum up what I mean about writing with reference to a tragedy, but here we are, and so it goes. In Smith's two sentences about 9/11, she sums up most completely what I feel is the truth about our modern lives (including our history, and our writing).

Things could be simply awful, and not mean anything. But they already did mean something, and that is why they must continue to do so, for good or bad.

Furthermore, that is why things will continue to be awful. It is impossible for us to abstract certain deaths from the meanings attached to them. Then, it is impossible for us to attach meaning to certain deaths that are already in the abstract. We kill millions because of the deaths of few; we kill to prevent death; we hate and despise death yet seek it with that desiring, tongue-hanging incest-lust that has made our most stable civilizations the arena of social upheaval and mass-destruction. It could just be some dead people, but instead, it was already a symbol; death was already a tragedy.

"The stage is set [in Netherland], then, for a "meditation" on identities both personal and national, immigrant relations, terror, anxiety, the attack of futility on the human consciousness and the defense against same: meaning. In other words, it's the post–September 11 novel we hoped for. (Were there calls, in 1915, for the Lusitania novel? In 1985, was the Bhopal novel keenly anticipated?) It's as if, by an act of collective prayer, we have willed it into existence."

"As if" willed into existence. But it was not willed into existence, even though everyone may be kneeling in prayer. Real life, or whatever it is that realism is trying to access, is the same way. Our lives are so stuffed with meaning that we couldn't help but try to reduce our orgiastic oceans of symbols into thin, seminal-fluid streams of prayer towards the singularity in the sky. And, with so much meaning in the way, we were clearly going to be wrong. We were wrong before we ever invented writing. We were post-modern before we were modern. And we were dead before we ever lived. What rises to the surface is only what is happening now. Each tower was covered with symbols before it fell; when I saw the video, I thought how odd that there was so much paper in the air, drifting everywhere. But these were massive office buildings, designed to hold, sort, and make all kinds of papers. It was already inside, just waiting to be let out.

I suppose that's it; no real clever twist conclusion from me. Anyway, thanks Zadie Smith, for those two lovely sentences. I've been waiting for somebody to put it so well for seven years.

Oh, and the literary crit. isn't so bad either! Let's just be careful of the ways in which we try to access reality, right? But I suppose that's a post for another time... next time I promise not to fool you into reading an entire post about 9/11 and literary criticism and metaphysics by suckering you in with a little light banter about RSS feeds.


Rationalizing Nationalizing

A little bit more exploration of the economy (call it alliterative easing):

So the Fed has admitted that quantitative easing is part of the plan. For those who are only learning what this means for the first time during this living-history lesson (like myself), it means increasing the monetary supply to grease the economy, doing what would ordinarily cause inflation in better times. Japan did this famously in the 90s, with little success, so the plan here is to do it better and quicker to make it work.

What they are doing is pumping money into the economy by buying up assets, increasing their balance sheet with cash drawn from, for lack of a better term, nowhere. More cash = more spending, which might ordinarily drive up prices, but now they are just hoping to increase revenue flows.

Unfortunately, it doesn't seem to be working yet. The banks from which the assets are being bought are just depositing the cash back into the Fed Reserve, which does serve to deleverage them from bad assets, but doesn't help the economy. The credit impasse seems to be sticking, because the banks aren't lending the money back out. Meanwhile, Treasuries are being sold like hot cakes, with the 3-month bill return being almost zero. Bad things that could happen include: the treasury market crashing and the dollar crashing, deflation, and more companies failing as a result of credit problems, which would only increase the amount of assets that the Fed would still need to take out of the market to keep it where it is.

But the main issue, as I see it, is that this shows that the Fed is not pushing for nationalization, as I had argued a couple of times previously. Or, at least they say that their not, because to say so could cause a HUGE panic among investors, who fear the phrase as much as they love "open market".

But, the fact that the quantitative easing is not working only pushes the case for nationalization, and not just from my teleological standpoint. Firstly, and most obviously: if the banks aren't doing what they need to be doing on their own, somebody (or some legislation) will eventually have to force them to do so. Secondly: if there is a currency crash, the country will have to take such drastic steps not only to prevent our economy from going down the tubes, but from all the dollar-backed currencies from going down the tubes. This is a lot more pressure than just the irrational red-baiting fears of "investors". Economists, eventually, always look at the facts. Thirdly: if Treasuries stop selling, something else must prop up the dollar. Now, I admit I'm not an economist, so I don't have a reference list of other options that aren't nationalization (my teleology laid bare). However, if the "open-market" policies of the Fed aren't having an effect, like for example, if treasuries aren't being bought and the value of the dollar is decreasing, controlling the supply of the bills on the open market could be used to control the price: like a repo to oneself. This would be more efficient than the open-market buying of assets, or of other repos. It could be carefully modeled and controlled.

And fourthly, aside from monetary policy: there is the matter of industry. This is the important one, because nationalizing the banks is all well and good, but if the industry is not coordinated as well, you might as well not even bother. The key to national control of infrastructure and economy, in my opinion, is coordination, direction, and execution. These are the benefits that a nationalized economy could have (stress the "could") that a free-market economy will never have.

Which brings us to that trying threesome, the American auto industry. They were sent back to Detroit in shame yesterday, because they could not convince Congress that they had a good plan. This is good, because it means that they will not just be handed cash, and also because it means the next time they will get the help they need. I hope it comes in the form of partial nationalization. I think that Congress realizes that they cannot convert themselves into profitable industries, let alone "automakers for the next century" without a drastic plan that will cost a lot of money to begin with. Operating cash is going down the drain. They need investment, and with investment comes direction, coordination, and execution (hopefully). And because the UAW will necessarily be included in any saving legislation, this could be a good beginning for nationalizing movements in American industry in concert with workers groups, and not just industrial leaders.

At least, I hope so. Or, the Fed and Congress could just keep pushing cash into the economy, hoping for a break in the liquidity trap, which may happen after long enough. Or it could all go down the tubes, and then, of course, the zombies.

The zombies do have a plan for the economy. Not nationalization, but cannibalization! (In America, first you get the assets, then you get rotting, then you get the flesh!)

two heads is better than porn

Although without SafeSearch on, searching for "mutated chick" in Google Image Search did return a fair amount of pornography, it did not find any mutated pornography. I don't know whether this is good or bad. I guess "chick" is a pretty powerful search term on its own.

As far as "mutation" is concerned:

And yes, I was actually searching for an image of a mutated baby chicken, not testing Image Search. Let's not delve into that at this time.

Mutation: success.


Let's All Be Banks!

Update to yesterday's post:

It appears that Philadelphia, Phoenix, and Atlanta have written to Sec. Paulson, requesting funds from TARP to support pension plans, and other things.

If these cities are allowed to "convert into banks", then we are proceeding down the course of the nationalization I mapped out. First banks and insurers, large financial entities, are incorporated into the "single balance sheet", then industry (GM), then municipalities. Market and Industrial Zone-Entities (MIZE, consider it coined!). Leaders of the entities are allowed to retain control, but all monetary liquidity, assets, and debt are flowed through the Fed system.

Of course, they won't let those cities become banks. Instead, they just say, "nope, just wipe out the pensions, but keep building highways." Fair enough, I guess. This isn't the Soviet Union, after all!

But more to the point, it doesn't matter that they won't get TARP funds. The Fed is becoming the single market, whether they like it or not. But, can they handle that role....


Don't Worry About the Government

I'm watching my favorite show again: The House Committee of Oversight and Government Reform. Some day I will write them a theme song and intro-clip.

Today was Hedge Fund Day: lots of testimony.

I was enjoying Professor Andrew Lo's (MIT Financial Engineering Laboratory Director) testimony. He drew the distinction between risk and systemic risk.

Risk is easily understandable; one invests, and one may, via capitalization, achieve positive returns or one may lose. Systemic risk is the sort of risk that is currently driving the government's reaction to this evolving economic situation. It is generally understood as risk that would create a collapse of the system. This is the basis of the "too big to fail" phenomenon, that is spurring gigantic bailouts of individual companies. Clearly this is a problem, because the scale of the risk, the inherent denominator of capitalistic investment, is now being plied to the strength of the system as a whole. In other words, if a capitalist entity fails, capitalism fails. Others would put this as, if a market entity becomes market, then if that entity fails the market goes with it. I would say they are the same thing (in this case, systems of debt/capital commodification).
Above are some network diagrams of the correlations among hedge fund indexes. Sweet, huh?

Looking at things as a network is always a good schematic, in my opinion. Nothing is an island, and that certainly goes for financial systems. And, if we are discussing systemic risk, then certainly interconnections and correlations between risk is very important, as Professor Lo argues.

In fact, let's hear it from Professor Lo (from his written testimony before the committee):

"By looking at the financial system as a single portfolio, several useful measures of systemic risk can be derived by applying the standard tools of modern portfolio analysis."

WHAT??? verrrrrripppperrrrererrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr.... (the sound of the pdf being rewound)

"By looking at THE FINANCIAL SYSTEM AS A SINGLE PORTFOLIO, several useful... etc."

Now, let's cut to a single, modern portfolio, one doing very well right now.

The graph is shamelessly stolen from the excellent blog, Calculated Risk, which you should definitely read if you are interested in any of this sort of crap.

The portfolio, as you see, is that of the Federal Reserve. The president of the Dallas Fed predicted it will go to $3 trillion in assets by the end of the year. That is 20% of the GDP.

Let's recap. Because of systemic risk, the Fed is buying assets and lending out money like never before. The best way to analyze risk in the current markets is to view the market as a single system. And now the Fed is quickly, at an incredible rate, becoming the lynch pin of that single system, both in terms of the networks of where the debt flows are coming from (they have gone from being the lender of last resort to the biggest and only lender).

Get it yet? To fix the problem of an incredibly complex and massive system of value, it is best solidified into one system, for the continued maintenance of that value.


Now: this isn't nationalization in the models of nationalization as it has occurred elsewhere in history. We are on entirely new ground here. This means two things, as I currently see it.

One: we will not have the economy "seized". Instead, companies will continue to try and save what assets they have by running to the Fed's door to keep their companies from going under, until eventually, the Fed controls so much of the country's economy (i.e. not only will the government determine monetary policy, they will control debt policy) and we will see a reverse panic. Everyone will take their money to the bank to keep it safe and valuable. To keep businesses operating, the government will have to spend, and, eventually direct large parts of the economy and its markets via its "owned" companies to keep the country going. Regulation will morph into direction/ownership, not by authority, but by de facto conditions.

Two: because this is a unique situation, it will become a positive feedback loop. Companies will not see it coming until it is too late, and they will be forced to go to the Fed like everyone else. This is the nature of the panic. But it will also be make it an unplanned nationalization, because it will be rolling, and not planned from the beginning. This means that many things could go wrong.

The question that I'm thinking about in my head is, what would the country look like with a nationalized economy? It would not be "state-owned", that's for sure. Not in this country, go back to Cuba! But it would be drastically different. If one considers American capitalism before the great depression to the SEC and Fed controlled economy afterward, we see an incredible difference in the philosophy of the market. No doubt there will be a major shift after this "second great depression", and nationalization is what it may look like.

Clearly companies will not be dissolved into worker combines. However, I can see carefully calibrated "free markets" of related industries that work within current anti-trust laws in managed competitions like those for federal contracts. This could mean strange things for free trade; I think it might drastically reduce the number of companies in particular industries, however, unless the economy, at the same time as it unifies into a "single portfolio", is managed into zones of much smaller size that will reduce the size of corporations and their national influence. Anti-trust could be taken along regional boundaries.

Bureaucracy would increase, with all these regionalized regulatory zones and entities. I think that this regulation would be the link that would be the national arm of the economy, and also divide it into regions and industries. Call them market divisions, if you wish. Fed banks, in addition to maintaining the reserves of cash, would also maintain those of debt, selling regionalized treasuries and industry securities, the way that it does government securities now.

The biggest question is what would happen to the individual worker. I would hope that an increase of union influence, combined with a larger number of member workers and an overhaul of their bargaining power would allow the workers to enter these new market zones as equals in the productive relationship, but I have a feeling we will end up the forgotten partner, and the better functioning of the macroeconomy will encourage its controllers to take more surplus value from the workers on the micro level.

Now, I'm going wildly out on a limb here, talking about things of which I have only a limited, amateur understanding. But, there will clearly be more regulation by the time we're through, and if this regulation is clever, it will act with a better understanding of systemic risk, which, perhaps, is what the folks in the Fed think they are doing now by buying tons of pieces of businesses. There's no doubt that we are moving towards nationalization right now, more than ever before. The only question is how far it will go, and by the fact that it does not seem to be having much more effect in the economy other than acting as a giant asset magnet.

we will see...


"The dead [painters] shall be buried in the earth’s deepest bowels [which are filled with paint]!"

Here's another Futurist manifesto, also via Bruce Sterling's blog. This one is for painters. I know a little bit more about painting than I do about architecture. I also know some painters. (Including one whom I live with, sleep with, and we have this little piece of paper from the State of Oregon that says we can share a health care plan. This is not so much "full disclosure", as it is bragging that I get to make out with a painter. Blau!) But none of the painters I know are Futurist, so I can say, with a clear conscience, that I don't know if I support this manifesto either.

Here goes:

Manifesto of the Futurist Painters (1910)

Umberto Boccioni, Carlo Carrà, Luigi Russolo, Giacomo Balla, Gino Severini


The cry of rebellion which we utter associates our ideals with those of the Futurist poets. These ideals were not invented by some aesthetic clique. They are an expression of a violent desire which boils in the veins of every creative artist today.

We will fight with all our might the fanatical, senseless and snobbish religion of the past, a religion encouraged by the vicious existence of museums. We rebel against that spineless worshipping of old canvases, old statues and old bric-a-brac, against everything which is filthy and worm-ridden and corroded by time. We consider the habitual contempt for everything which is young, new and burning with life to be unjust and even criminal.

Comrades, we tell you now that the triumphant progress of science makes profound changes in humanity inevitable, changes which are hacking an abyss between those docile slaves of past tradition and us free moderns, who are confident in the radiant splendor of our future.

We are sickened by the foul laziness of artists, who, ever since the sixteenth century, have endlessly exploited the glories of the ancient Romans.

In the eyes of other countries, Italy is still a land of the dead, a vast Pompeii, whit with sepulchres. But Italy is being reborn. Its political resurgence will be followed by a cultural resurgence. In the land inhabited by the illiterate peasant, schools will be set up; in the land where doing nothing in the sun was the only available profession, millions of machines are already roaring; in the land where traditional aesthetics reigned supreme, new flights of artistic inspiration are emerging and dazzling the world with their brilliance.

Living art draws its life from the surrounding environment. Our forebears drew their artistic inspiration from a religious atmosphere which fed their souls; in the same way we must breathe in the tangible miracles of contemporary life—the iron network of speedy communications which envelops the earth, the transatlantic liners, the dreadnoughts, those marvelous flights which furrow our skies, the profound courage of our submarine navigators and the spasmodic struggle to conquer the unknown. How can we remain insensible to the frenetic life of our great cities and to the exciting new psychology of night-life; the feverish figures of the bon viveur, the cocette, the apache and the absinthe drinker?

We will also play our part in this crucial revival of aesthetic expression: we will declare war on all artists and all institutions which insist on hiding behind a façade of false modernity, while they are actually ensnared by tradition, academicism and, above all, a nauseating cerebral laziness.

We condemn as insulting to youth the acclamations of a revolting rabble for the sickening reflowering of a pathetic kind of classicism in Rome; the neurasthenic cultivation of hermaphodic archaism which they rave about in Florence; the pedestrian, half-blind handiwork of ’48 which they are buying in Milan; the work of pensioned-off government clerks which they think the world of in Turin; the hotchpotch of encrusted rubbish of a group of fossilized alchemists which they are worshipping in Venice. We are going to rise up against all superficiality and banality—all the slovenly and facile commercialism which makes the work of most of our highly respected artists throughout Italy worthy of our deepest contempt.

Away then with hired restorers of antiquated incrustations. Away with affected archaeologists with their chronic necrophilia! Down with the critics, those complacent pimps! Down with gouty academics and drunken, ignorant professors!

Ask these priests of a veritable religious cult, these guardians of old aesthetic laws, where we can go and see the works of Giovanni Segantini today. Ask them why the officials of the Commission have never heard of the existence of Gaetano Previati. Ask them where they can see Medardo Rosso’s sculpture, or who takes the slightest interest in artists who have not yet had twenty years of struggle and suffering behind them, but are still producing works destined to honor their fatherland?

These paid critics have other interests to defend. Exhibitions, competitions, superficial and never disinterested criticism, condemn Italian art to the ignominy of true prostitution.

And what about our esteemed “specialists”? Throw them all out. Finish them off! The Portraitists, the Genre Painters, the Lake Painters, the Mountain Painters. We have put up with enough from these impotent painters of country holidays.

Down with all marble-chippers who are cluttering up our squares and profaning our cemeteries! Down with the speculators and their reinforced-concrete buildings! Down with laborious decorators, phony ceramicists, sold-out poster painters and shoddy, idiodic illustrators!

These are our final conclusions:

With our enthusiastic adherence to Futurism, we will:

Destroy the cult of the past, the obsession with the ancients, pedantry and academic formalism.

Totally invalidate all kinds of imitation.

Elevate all attempts at originality, however daring, however violent.

Bear bravely and proudly the smear of “madness” with which they try to gag all innovators.

Regard art critics as useless and dangerous.

Rebel against the tyranny of words: “Harmony” and “good taste” and other loose expressions which can be used to destroy the works of Rembrandt, Goya, Rodin...

Sweep the whole field of art clean of all themes and subjects which have been used in the past.

Support and glory in our day-to-day world, a world which is going to be continually and splendidly transformed by victorious Science.

The dead shall be buried in the earth’s deepest bowels! The threshold of the future will be swept free of mummies! Make room for youth, for violence, for daring!

We Built this City on Angry, Argumentative Essays

I don't know much about architecture, nor whether or not I agree with this manifesto. But, I do enjoy angry manifestos as a form, so I'm reposting this from Bruce Sterling's blog, where he posted this in honor of the upcoming Futurist centenary.

Manifesto of Futurist Architecture

Antonio Sant’Elia (((purportedly)))

No architecture has existed since 1700. A moronic mixture of the most various stylistic elements used to mask the skeletons of modern houses is called modern architecture. The new beauty of cement and iron are profaned by the superimposition of motley decorative incrustations that cannot be justified either by constructive necessity or by our (modern) taste, and whose origins are in Egyptian, Indian or Byzantine antiquity and in that idiotic flowering of stupidity and impotence that took the name of neoclassicism.

These architectonic prostitutions are welcomed in Italy, and rapacious alien ineptitude is passed off as talented invention and as extremely up-to-date architecture. Young Italian architects (those who borrow originality from clandestine and compulsive devouring of art journals) flaunt their talents in the new quarters of our towns, where a hilarious salad of little ogival columns, seventeenth-century foliation, Gothic pointed arches, Egyptian pilasters, rococo scrolls, fifteenth-century cherubs, swollen caryatids, take the place of style in all seriousness, and presumptuously put on monumental airs. The kaleidoscopic appearance and reappearance of forms, the multiplying of machinery, the daily increasing needs imposed by the speed of communications, by the concentration of population, by hygiene, and by a hundred other phenomena of modern life, never cause these self-styled renovators of architecture a moment's perplexity or hesitation. They persevere obstinately with the rules of Vitruvius, Vignola and Sansovino plus gleanings from any published scrap of information on German architecture that happens to be at hand. Using these, they continue to stamp the image of imbecility on our cities, our cities which should be the immediate and faithful projection of ourselves.

And so this expressive and synthetic art has become in their hands a vacuous stylistic exercise, a jumble of ill-mixed formulae to disguise a run-of-the-mill traditionalist box of bricks and stone as a modern building. As if we who are accumulators and generators of movement, with all our added mechanical limbs, with all the noise and speed of our life, could live in streets built for the needs of men four, five or six centuries ago.

This is the supreme imbecility of modern architecture, perpetuated by the venal complicity of the academies, the internment camps of the intelligentsia, where the young are forced into the onanistic recopying of classical models instead of throwing their minds open in the search for new frontiers and in the solution of the new and pressing problem: the Futurist house and city. The house and the city that are ours both spiritually and materially, in which our tumult can rage without seeming a grotesque anachronism.

The problem posed in Futurist architecture is not one of linear rearrangement. It is not a question of finding new moldings and frames for windows and doors, of replacing columns, pilasters and corbels with caryatids, flies and frogs. Neither has it anything to do with leaving a façade in bare brick, or plastering it, or facing it with stone or in determining formal differences between the new building and the old one. It is a question of tending the healthy growth of the Futurist house, of constructing it with all the resources of technology and science, satisfying magisterially all the demands of our habits and our spirit, trampling down all that is grotesque and antithetical (tradition, style, aesthetics, proportion), determining new forms, new lines, a new harmony of profiles and volumes, an architecture whose reason for existence can be found solely in the unique conditions of modern life, and in its correspondence with the aesthetic values of our sensibilities. This architecture cannot be subjected to any law of historical continuity. It must be new, just as our state of mind is new.

The art of construction has been able to evolve with time, and to pass from one style to another, while maintaining unaltered the general characteristics of architecture, because in the course of history changes of fashion are frequent and are determined by the alternations of religious conviction and political disposition. But profound changes in the state of the environment are extremely rare, changes that unhinge and renew, such as the discovery of natural laws, the perfecting of mechanical means, the rational and scientific use of material. In modern life the process of stylistic development in architecture has been brought to a halt. Architecture now makes a break with tradition. It must perforce make a fresh start.

Calculations based on the resistance of materials, on the use of reinforced concrete and steel, exclude "architecture" in the classical and traditional sense. Modern constructional materials and scientific concepts are absolutely incompatible with the disciplines of historical styles, and are the principal cause of the grotesque appearance of "fashionable" buildings in which attempts are made to employ the lightness, the superb grace of the steel beam, the delicacy of reinforced concrete, in order to obtain the heavy curve of the arch and the bulkiness of marble.

The utter antithesis between the modern world and the old is determined by all those things that formerly did not exist. Our lives have been enriched by elements the possibility of whose existence the ancients did not even suspect. Men have identified material contingencies, and revealed spiritual attitudes, whose repercussions are felt in a thousand ways. Principal among these is the formation of a new ideal of beauty that is still obscure and embryonic, but whose fascination is already felt even by the masses. We have lost our predilection for the monumental, the heavy, the static, and we have enriched our sensibility with a taste for the light, the practical, the ephemeral and the swift. We no longer feel ourselves to be the men of the cathedrals, the palaces and the podiums. We are the men of the great hotels, the railway stations, the immense streets, colossal ports, covered markets, luminous arcades, straight roads and beneficial demolitions.

We must invent and rebuild the Futurist city like an immense and tumultuous shipyard, agile, mobile and dynamic in every detail; and the Futurist house must be like a gigantic machine. The lifts must no longer be hidden away like tapeworms in the niches of stairwells; the stairwells themselves, rendered useless, must be abolished, and the lifts must scale the lengths of the façades like serpents of steel and glass. The house of concrete, glass and steel, stripped of paintings and sculpture, rich only in the innate beauty of its lines and relief, extraordinarily "ugly" in its mechanical simplicity, higher and wider according to need rather than the specifications of municipal laws. It must soar up on the brink of a tumultuous abyss: the street will no longer lie like a doormat at ground level, but will plunge many stories down into the earth, embracing the metropolitan traffic, and will be linked up for necessary interconnections by metal gangways and swift-moving pavements.

The decorative must be abolished. The problem of Futurist architecture must be resolved, not by continuing to pilfer from Chinese, Persian or Japanese photographs or fooling around with the rules of Vitruvius, but through flashes of genius and through scientific and technical expertise. Everything must be revolutionized. Roofs and underground spaces must be used; the importance of the façade must be diminished; issues of taste must be transplanted from the field of fussy moldings, finicky capitals and flimsy doorways to the broader concerns of bold groupings and masses, and large-scale disposition of planes. Let us make an end of monumental, funereal and commemorative architecture. Let us overturn monuments, pavements, arcades and flights of steps; let us sink the streets and squares; let us raise the level of the city.


All the pseudo-architecture of the avant-garde, Austrian, Hungarian, German and American;

All classical architecture, solemn, hieratic, scenographic, decorative, monumental, pretty and pleasing;

The embalming, reconstruction and reproduction of ancient monuments and palaces;

Perpendicular and horizontal lines, cubical and pyramidical forms that are static, solemn, aggressive and absolutely excluded from our utterly new sensibility;

The use of massive, voluminous, durable, antiquated and costly materials.


That Futurist architecture is the architecture of calculation, of audacious temerity and of simplicity; the architecture of reinforced concrete, of steel, glass, cardboard, textile fiber, and of all those substitutes for wood, stone and brick that enable us to obtain maximum elasticity and lightness;

That Futurist architecture is not because of this an arid combination of practicality and usefulness, but remains art, i.e. synthesis and expression;

That oblique and elliptic lines are dynamic, and by their very nature possess an emotive power a thousand times stronger than perpendiculars and horizontals, and that no integral, dynamic architecture can exist that does not include these;

That decoration as an element superimposed on architecture is absurd, and that the decorative value of Futurist architecture depends solely on the use and original arrangement of raw or bare or violently colored materials;

That, just as the ancients drew inspiration for their art from the elements of nature, we—who are materially and spiritually artificial—must find that inspiration in the elements of the utterly new mechanical world we have created, and of which architecture must be the most beautiful expression, the most complete synthesis, the most efficacious integration;

That architecture as the art of arranging forms according to pre-established criteria is finished;

That by the term architecture is meant the endeavor to harmonize the environment with Man with freedom and great audacity, that is to transform the world of things into a direct projection of the world of the spirit;

From an architecture conceived in this way no formal or linear habit can grow, since the fundamental characteristics of Futurist architecture will be its impermanence and transience. Things will endure less than us. Every generation must build its own city. This constant renewal of the architectonic environment will contribute to the victory of Futurism which has already been affirmed by words-in-freedom, plastic dynamism, music without quadrature and the art of noises, and for which we fight without respite against traditionalist cowardice.


Witty puns 'til November...

Hey, its November! A great month all around!

Our five regular readers will remember that this is pCARL month.

pCARL is the pseudo-Creative Annual Ritual for Literature, birthed from my perhaps wry, failing sense of humor and my theoretical disappointment with National Novel Writing Month.

Basically, the idea is that the exercise of attempting to write a "novel", (a specious idea in itself, as the only constraints seem to be fiction and +20,000 words) in one month, while perhaps helping those who work best under arbitrary deadlines and contest-like project rules, is not really a very helpful stimulus to writing.

However, a yearly celebration of writing does sound like an awesome idea, especially if conceived as both a writing exercise, a celebration of the writing community, and a general stimulating project for new and current writers.

I thought pCARL might be be a better idea. You can read the entire argument in the link above, but generally, the idea is that we re-write a novel that we already enjoy, pretty much word for word. It's a close-reading study, a mimicry exercise, and something to do while we wait for our own creative juices to start flowing (which we hope that they would be, all year round).

Last year I re-wrote the first chapter of Herman Melville's The Confidence Man. It was a lot more work than I originally thought, for just re-typing a short printed chapter. It was fun, and I had planned to do more, but then immediately my own creativity grabbed a hold of me (for better or worse) and I embarked on a long string of other projects, one being my recently published novella. Goodness, that smug feeling of self-promotion gives me a rush.

I don't know if I will do a pCARL this year. I'm still swamped in other projects. Megan is working on one, (code name: Cookbook) with even further goals of re-publishing! I'm helping too, but so far she has done most of the re-writing.

If you are interested in taking part in pCARL, for a book, a story, a chapter, or even a page (hell, just do a sentence if you want!) let me know in the comments section. I'm interested to hear how other people experienced the project.

Also, there is the pCARL blog, that still exists. You can post your experiences there too. In fact, if you write them up in a nice paragraph, (or more) I'll even post them!

happy pCARL!


Wither Twitter

I learned about Twitter after it was already popular, and as such, I was skeptical. The idea of constant updates with limited characters seemed a little MySpace to me, or even worse, a bit AIM away-message. I remembered the rainbow font colors, obscenely mundane emoticons, and the horrible, horrible quotes. It still gives me shivers.

But it seems, everyone is doing, and not just every twelve year-old and his/her friends, but even blogs that I enjoy and respect have Twitter streams now. The possibilities seem interesting: a combination of blog, SMS, and RSS feeds, all three of which I enjoy. But will they taste great together?

When I found out that a javascript exists to let me Tweet (still, very uncomfortable with that verb) things directly from Google Reader, I decided to take the plunge. I really like sharing things quickly via my Reader share page, but Reader doesn't seem to have a wide enough following to make it work well. The only people I have ever seen advertise their shared lists are Reader techs. But lots of people seem to like Twitter.

However, this begs an even more important question: do I have enough friends to share my life with to make any of these things work? The only person I really hang out with, email, or SMS is Megan, and she's not a Twitterer. I don't think I know anybody who uses it. So who is going to read my tweets? I've come to terms with the fact that this blog may well be just a journal, and a spot for Google Image Search to land on. But something much more intimate in terms of "buddy lists" unfortunately has the effect of being a depressing mirror to my social life.

Regardless, I figure it will be a learning experience. So now, if you like, there is a link to the left that lets you see the Interdome (i.e. my own) Twitter feed. If you are into that sort of thing, check it out. I promise that it won't consist of sad little musings like this post: most likely it will be cool art, music, and news links that I find that are sharable but do not require a full blog discussion. Call it the Interdome mini-feed, at 140 characters a post.


Election Night Special



Well, yes, still anarcho-syndicalist over here, but thank goodness America didn't just elect a 72-year old bomber pilot and a ninny to the (should be abolished) executive office.

And, I must admit, watching the acceptance speech I did feel a little touch of warmth. It radiated out from the electron-tube and activated the idealism-coils deep within my psyche, and for half a second you might have seen a bit of electro-patriotic glow emit from my cold, dead soul.

Mostly though I attribute that good old nostalgia, remembering back to when I was younger than fifteen, and I still believed that elections, presidents, political platforms, and messages really meant anything more than the old recycled tropes from which they were spun.

I'm glad that people are happy. I hope they remember how happy they are and take a good hard look at that in four years when thinks are mostly the same.

Good to have a black man in the white house though. I voted for McKinney (not that voting has an effect, but I wanted to be one of the thousand-some in Multnomah county that voted for her). Next stop, Green in the White House!

I really would like to see how far this all goes. (Operation Code Name: See if Hope Floats.) The one thing that I can say is that finally the Democrats organized themselves correctly. Can they organize the government correctly? Restructure a sabotaged and broken bureaucracy? Nationalize, and more to the point, democratize or open-source the economy? Appoint Eric Schmidt "Master Technomancer of North America"? We'll see. It's going to take more than just Obama; he also has to dispose all the lackluster Democrats that rode into office on his coat-tails. There's a reason I abhore idealism; eve if there is no monster underneath, there is often a great, big, sad nothing.

We'll see... we'll see....

the picture is nanotubes programmed to assemble in the pattern of the president-elect's visage using nanolithography.