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Tag: flaneurs

Brasil, decime que se siente

The outpouring of raw emotion associated with the World Cup is, I think, the only reminder we have left of how humanity used to be before modernity, and everything that came after it, firmly took over. The passion, the tears, the raw joy, the metaphysical redeeming qualities of a late goal or a penalty shootout victory – these are now sold as marketing ploys of the FIFA brand, but reflect, as if through a darkened glass, what were once the expressions of passion in daily life. If you have witnessed people crying during an Easter Mass, or grown men bursting into tears because of a song, you have experienced a glimmer of that very same now disappearing culture. Those considering themselves flaneurs, or at least romantic enough to earn for the lost passions of a bygone civilization, have only the World Cup as a poor simulacrum of what it felt like to live then and there, in the time before the Mega-Machine. Here, then, is the Argentinian World Cup anthem, wonderfully politically-incorrect, emotional, tribal, taunting of their neighbors, as sung in shopping malls, stadiums, and on Copa Capabana:

Brasil, Decime que se siente

Tener en casa a tu papa

Seguro que aunque pasen los anos

Nunca lo vamos a olvidar

Que el diego te gambeteo

El cani te vacuno

Estas llorando desde Italia hasta hoy

A Messi lo vas a ver

La Copa nos va a traer

Maradona es mas grande que Pele


Here’s a list:

Summer. Climbing Cradle Mountain under a roof of clouds. Fivefinger barefoot shoes and sharp rocks do not go so well together.

Unpacking an Arduino starter kit for a project involving a tweeting door. But this is already autumn.

Summer. Away from internet, sociability, strangers asking ‘how are you today’, institutions, serious faces and comic intrigues, all the petty drama of bureaucracy. Instead, books.

Books as an intoxicating pleasure. Drinking in one go Jesse Bullington’s The Folly of the World [not so good, now only faint traces of the epic Brothers Grossbart remain], and Hugh Howey’s Wool [brilliant, delicious, exciting, best scifi cocktail in years]. Then at a leisurely pace Gwendolyn Leick’s Mesopotamia [intended as an overview on Sumerian/Babylonian city life it went sour somehow and now tastes as a textbook], to be followed by a deep breath and Robert Massie’s Peter the Great [fantastic book about a flaneur of singular proportions, to be consumed in large gulps, standing solidly and staring at the moon]. Then as a dessert, even slower, and with a lot of succulent side-reading, Nassim Taleb’s Antifragile [probabilistic theory as philosophy of life, served in a wonderfully the-bar-is-closing sort of way].  Taleb brings closure and understanding. For the strong of spirit however, he could be followed by Ludwig von Mises’ original 1912 edition of  Theory of Money and Credit, to be consumed very slowly, preferably before sleeping, with one eye on the eternal.

Autumn. Meetings. Early meetings, late meetings, postponed meetings, important meetings. Workshops too. And seminars. And workshops about grants, the purpose of which is explained in seminars, invitations to which are given at meetings.

Being invited to a meeting by omission. How is that even possible. The institution thinks someone else is doing what they’ve been paying you to be doing all along, and invites that person for a meeting, but then the person tells them that it is you who in fact is doing that, so they then invite you too but during the meeting keep showing ignorance of what is it that you are in fact doing. Invitation by omission.

Bumping into a colleague who complains of divergence. No focus. Must converge.

Teaching convergence to the generation born in the air of excitement surrounding Netscape Navigator. Fun, actually.

Unpacking a hexapod with proximity sensors for eyes. The orange blue-tooth monster. Is his name Randall?

Teaching game cultures to the post-post-console generation. Fun, actually.

Twitter. Relentless. And lectures.

Thinking of objects as data. Objects transitioning from a primary reality to liquid assemblages of data in algorithmic space. The tweeting, relentlessly sociable door. Sociable objects.

Where is that von Mises book?

Not by rule

Philippus Theophrastus Aureolus Bombastus von Hohenheim, also known as Paracelsus (1493-1541) – philosopher, alchemist, doctor, traveler, teller of fantastic stories, and flaneur extraordinaire:

Life is like music, it must be composed by ear, feeling and instinct, not by rule. Nevertheless one had better know the rules, for they sometimes guide in doubtful cases, though not often.

Cornelis Pietersz Bega, ‘The Alchemist’, 1663
J Paul Getty Museum, LA

Odd years, degenerate years

linocut/woodcut, Drew Christie

Everyone knows that in the course of ordinary, normal years, whimsical time will  occasionally bring forth from its womb other years – odd years, degenerate years, somewhere in which, like a little sixth finger upon a hand, a spurious thirteenth month sprouts up.

Bruno Schulz, The Cinnamon Shops

Two Flaneurs

1. This is one of the most famous portraits by Frans Hals – that great Dutch baroque master of portraiture. Nothing is known of the young man, apart from his age indicated in the upper right corner of the painting as 26. (image from wikimedia)

The Laughing Cavalier
The Laughing Cavalier, Frans Hals (1624) (Source - Wikimedia)

2. This is a picture taken by Russian photographer Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii (1863-1944) in 1910, in Bukhara. Sergei Mikhailovich was compiling a photographic survey of the lands and peoples of the Russian empire on assignment by Tsar Nicholas II. Currently the entire collection resides in the Library of Congress.

Th Emir of Bukhara
Emir Seyyid Mir Mohammed Alim Khan, the Emir of Bukhara, seated holding a sword in Bukhara, (present-day Uzbekistan), ca. 1910. (Prokudin-Gorskii Collection/ Library of Congress)