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Archive for June 20th, 2006

koan

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Design Observer on Kafka and Typography:

We get the word “koan” from Zen Buddhism, where in Japanese it translates literally as “a matter for public thought,” sort of an open-source philosophy for ancient times. Koans often demonstrated the inability of logical reasoning to produce enlightened thought, and, as a trained lawyer and insurance clerk throughout his life, no one knew the deadening effects of logic better than Franz Kafka.

Yes, and that slip from “we” to “they”… Go look…

(Image above: “Walbaum, typeface design by Justin Erich Walbaum, 1804. Kafka’s favorite typeface and the original used for Meditation.”)

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June 20, 2006 at 11:07 am

portenos

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From opendemocracy on football and politics in Buenos Aires:

Football provided Hector with enough fulfilment to enable him to overcome the disenchantment he felt toward his club because of corruption. At first glance, Hector’s response seems based on a dual, perhaps incoherent, set of standards: one applicable only to football and based on individual norms of personal fulfilment, the other applicable only to politics and based on public standards of accountability. But his response makes considerable sense in the context of Buenos Aires’s football traditions and recent crisis of representation.

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June 20, 2006 at 9:46 am

humanism in china

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From signandsight on humanism in China:

The term “humanism” in its current Chinese form made its way into the cosmos of Chinese thought as a rather lonely stowaway in a Japanese translation of Schopenhauer: “The belief that mankind is the root”. Of course today, when Chinese people speak about what we in the West would define as “humanism” they find their own idioms and metaphors, where Schopenhauer’s role is naturally only a subsidiary one. So how did the courageous curators in Canton come up with this term? Two simple thoughts perhaps hold the key. “Humanism” has, as already mentioned, the premise that “mankind is the root”. The decisive thing here is the idea of the root. The word “capitalism”, which radiates a so much bigger promise in today’s China, accordingly means “The belief that capital is the root”.

Every Chinese person, if you will excuse the exaggeration for a moment, thinks in signs, in the characters of his culture. “Capitalism” and “humanism” are only a single character apart. Man against capital. A blind storyteller being led over the mountain pass will understand that, as will a mother trying to breast-feed triplets – as will even an onlooker staring through his shades at a victim on the road.

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June 20, 2006 at 9:45 am

Posted in china

gemein/gesell

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From Georg Simmel:

Someone who sees without hearing is much more uneasy than someone who hears without seeing. In this there is something characteristic of the sociology of the big city. Interpersonal relationships in big cities are distinguished by a marked preponderance of the activity of the eye over the ear. The main reason for this is the public means of transportation. Before the development of buses, railroads, and trams in the nineteenth century, people had never been in a position of having to look at one another for long minutes or even hours without speaking to one another.

Except when they do…

I’m sure you’ve seen this already, but what the hell…

With the arrival of the cell phone, we move from Simmel’s public sphere of self-enclosed silent individuals toward something more complex: a public sphere of private individuals conducting and exposing their relatively private but nonetheless social relationships to one another. A gesellschaft that turns gemeinschaft of exposed gesellschafts (or are they gemeinschafts? It depends who’s on the other end of the line – the broker, the boss, or the spouse, the child, the lover,, etc…)

And then, of course, there’s the internet, the blog, the confessional post…

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June 20, 2006 at 1:15 am

an unfair war

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An interesting bit of machanime via boingboing today:

An Unfair War is a moving 5 minute short film made using the video game The Sims 2. It’s an anti-war short, in the form of a monologue by a writer in a city that’s being demolished by foreign “liberators” who are bombing it to hell. It’s his farewell to the world, and while the action doesn’t move very fast, the animation is surprisingly emotive. Link

It’s not that there aren’t problems with the film. A bit cliché, yes, and why does the guy need candles when his desktop boots?

But what is interesting, following up on this post, is the very idea of using the Sims 2 in order to make a point about the relationship between “ordinary” life and violence.

The Sims has alternately been read as either a game with enthusiastically embraces mindless commodity culture or one that contains a subtle critique of it. You wander around your house, head off to work for blindly invisible hours, only to get back to “real life” which consists of making dinner with your kitchen toys and watching tv. Sometimes, there’s a member of the opposite (or same, I suppose) sex around to flirt or argue with. Eventually – and I owned the first edition, so this is something that I’ve experienced – the whole affair because so tedious and empty that you stop playing the damn game. *

But here, that banality – the hermetically sealed room (is there a door), the old fashioned looking pc, the candles, and the crib – the reduction of life to a set of consumer objects marks the obverse not of some mode of lived authenticity, but of the war itself, the gunshots and bombs and fighter jets whose sounds seem to be borrowed from another sort of game – from war simulations, first-person shooters, and the like.

In short, while this movie is not perfect, it remains deeply suggestive – hints even at the critical resistance that might well lie dormant in the ad without products described by Agamben and cited above in my banner…

* I understand that there are those who don’t stop, and that Maxis has released an online version and modules that are more interesting than “making dinner at home,” but the basic point holds, I think…

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June 20, 2006 at 12:13 am

Posted in everyday