Week 297: getting back into the groove

At the start of the week I managed to upload a batch of trip pictures (the China section) but after things went quickly downhill.

I spent the first three days of the week wrapped up mostly in visa procedures because I’ll be participating in the Moscow Urban Forum next week. I did manage to have some good chats in between, but attention was too scattered to get anything solid done (also this being the first week back from a reasonably long trip). Lunch with Fabian Mürmann, a board meeting for Open State.

Really awesome wall

I did discover a very nice coffee place around the corner and went there for just about every day since (I think this is love).

Hidden coffee place. Looks proper. #wander

Add to that two visits to the dentist as well on subsequent days and I was more or less done.

Friday was the first day where I could finally catchup with most things. I dropped by Gidsy and had lunch with Matt Patterson and then lunch again with my office mates. And the evening I prepped a session for the students from the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences to tell them more or less everything I could about data visualization in 90 slides.


And on Sunday I finished my first book by James C. Scott which was fantastic (more on which later) and managed to finally get a secret little project underway that had been lying for far too long.

Notes from Consider the Lobster…

I read Consider the Lobster as a bit of a reprieve from the book guilt Infinite Jest still casts over my night stand and as a long overdue requiem to the literary colossus DFW is. Here’s the stuff I found noteworthy:

forked dorsally over the knee of a morbidly obese cellphone retailer

It turned out that the LAPD detective found adult films moving, in fact far more so than most mainstream Hollywood movies

The impression is that of a very expensive thoroughbred being led onto the track under a silk blanket.

butane gas to be pumped via PVC into her lower colon and set afire on expulsion, resulting in a 3.5-foot anal blowtorch

wherein a starlet’s vagina and rectum are simultaneously accessed by two woodmen

a straight-on deep-focus view of a dilated and wood-ready orifice.

with everybody seemingly teetering right on the edge of coitus all the time

send everyone tumbling into a tangled mass of limbs and orifices

alliteration and anatomically mixed metaphor Schwartz’s

moments of near-Periclean eloquence

“I want to thank my mother, who spread her legs and made all this possible.”

the other famous phallocrats

the prospect of dying without even once having loved something more than yourself.

seem less like John Updike than like somebody doing a mean parody of John Updike.

It never once occurs to him, though, that the reason he’s so unhappy is that he’s an asshole.

the horrific struggle to establish a human self results in a self whose humanity is inseparable from that horrific struggle.

That our endless and impossible journey toward home is in fact our home.

That, finally, the door opens … and it opens outward—we’ve been inside what we wanted all along.

Did you know that US lexicography even had a seamy underbelly?

somebody who knows what dysphemism means and doesn’t mind letting you know it.

the bland condescension with which he performs the two occult keystrokes that unfreeze your screen is both elitist and situationally valid

a three-week Emergency Remedial Usage and Grammar Unit, during which my demeanor is basically that of somebody teaching HIV prevention to intravenous-drug users

The kids end up scared, both of me and for me.

way the beloved English of their youth is being trashed in the decadent present

can somehow avoid or transcend ideology is simply to subscribe to a particular ideology, one that might aptly be called Unbelievably Naive Positivism.

Without the existence of these external rules, there is no difference between the statement “I am in fact using tree consistently with my own definition” and the statement “I happen to be under the impression that I am using tree consistently with my own definition.”

it seems indisputable that we put some extra interpretive burden on the recipient when we fail to honor certain conventions.

People really do judge one another according to their use of language.

both are deficient in the same linguistic skill—viz., the ability to move between various dialects and levels of “correctness,”

like most dogmatists they’ve been extremely stupid about the rhetoric they used and the audience they were addressing.

This reviewer’s own humble opinion is that some of the cultural and political realities of American life are themselves racially insensitive and elitist and offensive and unfair, and that pussyfooting around these realities with euphemistic doublespeak is not only hypocritical but toxic to the project of ever really changing them.

Standard Written English, which we might just as well call “Standard White English” because it was developed by white people and is used by white people, especially educated, powerful white people.

PCE purports to be the dialect of progressive reform but is in fact—in its Orwellian substitution of the euphemisms of social equality for social equality itself—of vastly more help to conservatives and the US status quo

censorship always serves the status quo.)

that we who are well off should be willing to share more of what we have with poor people not for the poor people’s sake but for our own; i.e., we should share what we have in order to become less narrow and frightened and lonely and self-centered people.

it’s tempting to think AE’s real purpose is concealment and its real motivation fear.

which was indeed a rhetorical boner.

His argumentative strategy is totally brilliant and totally sneaky, and part of both qualities is that it usually doesn’t seem like there’s even an argument going on at all.

Truly decent, innocent people can be taxing to be around.

that exquisite hybrid of animal and angel

the seductive immortality of competitive success and the less seductive but way more significant fragility and impermanence of all the competitive venues in which mortal humans chase immortality.
me, the real mystery—whether such a person is an idiot or a mystic or both and/or neither.

the most complicated stuff also tended to be the most interesting

politicians’ statements of principle or vision are understood as self-serving ad copy and judged not for their truth or ability to inspire but for their tactical shrewdness, their marketability.

the likeliest reason why so many of us care so little about politics is that modern politicians make us sad, hurt us deep down in ways that are hard even to name, much less talk about.

And we keep learning for years, from hard experience, that getting lied to sucks—that it diminishes you, denies you respect for yourself, for the liar, for the world.

So who wouldn’t yawn and turn away, trade apathy and cynicism for the hurt of getting treated with contempt?

coffee that tastes like hot water with a brown crayon in it

By all means stay home if you want, but don’t bullshit yourself that you’re not voting. In reality, there is no such thingas not voting: you either vote by voting, or you vote by staying home and tacitly doubling the value of some Diehard’s vote.

who knows she’s average and just wants a decent, noncynical life for herself and her family

But if you’re subjected to great salesmen and sales pitches and marketing concepts for long enough—like from your earliest Saturday-morning cartoons, let’s say—it is only a matter of time before you start believing deep down that everything is sales and marketing, and that whenever somebody seems like they care about you or about some noble idea or cause, that person is a salesman and really ultimately doesn’t give a shit about you or some cause but really just wants something for himself

The answer depends on how gray-area-tolerant you are about sincerity vs. marketing, or sincerity plus marketing, or leadership plus the packaging and selling of same
whether he’s truly “for real” now depends less on what is in his heart than on what might be in yours.

but rather that intranational tourism is radically constricting, and humbling in the hardest way — hostile to my fantasy of being a true individual, of living somehow outside and above it all.

There are limits to what even interested persons can ask of each other


I picked up a Monocle at Sydney airport for a long flight without laptop (along with a book) and I was a bit disappointed in finding that the magazine hadn’t progressed much since I first read it years ago. It still is that strangely a-political collection of fluff pieces for the spendy class and because of the current realities of print publishing now also brimful of advertorials.

I do read and enjoy (in an odd way) Tyler Brûlé’s Fast Lane column in FT and it looks like Monocle itself is larded with his signature phraseology. A distillation from a single issue:

a country’s ability to [X] says volumes about its identity

The forthcoming generation needs help to be globally competitive

Infrastructure is lagging behind

To his nearby weekend retreat

A far cry from the polished décor and white-gloved service elsewhere in the area

Diplomacy and negotiations don’t just happen in airless meeting rooms

Like all good campaigns it flatters the consumer

The alcohol induced violence that often comes with bars and clubs

Prompting eager entrepreneurs to roll in while the paint is barely dry

The company is eyeing its prospects overseas

The diligent start at the helm of

The name never fails to raise a smile among [X]

[X] is not known for its subtle advertising campaigns

And has bureaux in London, New York and Beijing

Has caused a stir on several occasions

We’re all familiar with the trajectory

The problems are being discussed but significant government-sponsored solutions are yet to emerge.

with help from an expert panel of architects

has been developed by passionate fundraising

[X] feels like a resort

analogue ways of staying in touch are still the most popular

it’s a problem that needs to be addressed by the government, not just enterprising individuals

The architects tried hard to infuse a sense of warmth and comfort.

we need an attitude change

Buyers were successful businessmen with good taste

it must be the most laidback event in the design calendar

it’s remarkable that so little priority is given to the emotional impact of the interiors

the clever spatial design and careful choice of high-spec domestic furniture

The hope is that this is a model to be rolled out

it has also sparked a longing for restaurants where home-cooked, uncomplicated food is served in familiar settings

Week 296: Back in Europe/business

After some weeks traveling to Beijing and Australia, last week I was back in Europe, touching down in Amsterdam Tuesday morning early. I had a very nice flight in from Sydney with the only annoyance being that my laptop had broken upon arrival there. This made me spend half a day of the two I had there in the Bondi Apple Store trying to figure out what the problem was.

The Genius there was less than helpful. Determining that it was my hard drive, he tried without avail to erase it and then load up a new version of the OS. I am more or less pleased that he wasn’t successful in doing that. In Amsterdam I tried another couple of things but finally handed it in at Maccare.nl who without touching it said ‘it was probably the cable’ and the very same day had replaced it for me. Since the Genius hadn’t even managed to erase my disk, I could incredulously resume working from where I was a week ago.

Finally getting my cup on at Koko

Not having a laptop I did manage to finish The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoete and a Monocle on the flights from Sydney to Guangzhou to Amsterdam and the layover.

Once more Vondelpark #wander

Niels van Hoorn from Brainsley provided support (as well as many many friends online) in the form of tools and a place to hangout while I tried swapping fresh hard drives in and out. The following day I handed my laptop in and while it was being fixed, I worked the day in Utrecht where using Chrome’s sign-in feature, I could resume most of my old work on an old Hubbub Macbook. It turns out the cloud is not a lie at all.

This morning's office looking out on Hobbemakade

Thursday morning I got my Macbook Pro back and spent most of the day working at Brainsley’s offices which are small but rather cozy. I dropped by the Open Coop to chat with Lex and pick up my Open State business cards. And that night I met up with some old friends who work now mostly as hired guns in the Amsterdam startup scene for cocktails at the famed Door 74.

Cup of coffee before I go #wander

Friday I dropped by the Village (again!) and then got onto the train to Berlin where I am typing this right now.

Back at the studio again (also: fuck it, ship it) #wander