Flea Market, Amsterdam

We have become a culture of amateur curators, where everyone is able to build meaning by buying and organizing someone else’s trash.

In We Want Some Too: Underground Desire and the Reinvention of Mass Culture, Hal Niedzviecki begins to work toward a rationale for the surge in amateur curation, including the collection and cataloguing of objects that seem totally devoid of value. For Niedzviecki, the establishment of a personal museum dedicated to some small segment of the flow of mass cultural detritus is an attempt through participation to avoid alienation — and to insert some form of meaningful narrative back into the flow. By trading scraps of information and other forms of mass cultural residue as though they had value, Niedzviecki suggests that they become valuable. Collecting weird crap like Smurf lunchboxes and antique video game consoles may be ridiculous, but actually admitting that would leave us with no mechanism for constructing meaning. Niedzviecki describes this state as “triumphantly sad,” because while our gimcrack museums announce the seeming impossibility of escape from mass culture, they simultaneously allow us to address our all-consuming problem — which he contends is the utter absence of belief in the value of our daily existence.

~Darren Wershler-Henry, The Iron Whim (16)

“A press just thinking your stuff is swell, but not really knowing how to sell it—that’s going to be a bad fit for both parties. And I won’t lie—there are small presses out there who just plain don’t know how to sell books. They’re sort of stuck in the past, I think. But there are also a growing number of small indie presses who are willing to do what it takes to get their titles out there, who get the internet and online publicity and how to sell a book to different audiences, how to do the festival circuit and hook authors up with the right people and get distribution and make books that are beautiful and that will fly off the shelves…”

Google Earth is more than the God’s-eye view – more than just us mortals seeing through the eyes of God. In Google Earth, we are God. We see over, under, inside and out. We see into the beyond, with a second sight unavailable to our mortal selves. We see ghosts of dead friends and dead strangers. We see ourselves. If the colonial God’s-eye view in Mercator maps is an uneasy settling of the planet (hoping the savages will stay in their place and not upset the prescribed order), then Google Earth, with its forking paths Google Maps and Google Street View, is a parallel world bleeding into this one.

Henri Cartier-Bresson, Roland Barthes, 1963

When a great many people agree that a problem is insignificant, that usually means it is not. Insignificance is the true locus of significance. This should never be forgotten. That is why it seems so important to me to ask a writer about his writing habits, putting things on the most material level, I would even say the most minimal level possible. This is an anti-mythological action: it contributes to the overturning of that old myth which continues to present language as the instrument of thought, inwardness, passion, or whatever, and consequently presents writing as a simple instrumental practice.
~ Roland Barthes, via Ben Kafka, The Demon of Writing: Powers and Failures of Writing

Henri Cartier-Bresson, Roland Barthes, 1963

When a great many people agree that a problem is insignificant, that usually means it is not. Insignificance is the true locus of significance. This should never be forgotten. That is why it seems so important to me to ask a writer about his writing habits, putting things on the most material level, I would even say the most minimal level possible. This is an anti-mythological action: it contributes to the overturning of that old myth which continues to present language as the instrument of thought, inwardness, passion, or whatever, and consequently presents writing as a simple instrumental practice.

~ Roland Barthes, via Ben Kafka, The Demon of Writing: Powers and Failures of Writing

The Paperwork Explosion, Jim Henson with music by Raymond Scott, 1967

Charles-Hippolyte Labussière entered into the Committee of Public Safety’s Prisoners Bureau as a copy clerk three and a half months before 9 Thermidor. This Prisoners Bureau provided information concerning prisoners throughout the Republic and served as a depository for documents delivered to the Popular Commission, by order of the Committee of Public Safety, so that they could be handed over to the Revolutionary Tribunal. Labussière was the clerk to whom the documents came last, to be numbered and registered. Every day, at two in the afternoon, he would give them to a member of the Popular Commission, who was instructed to take them from his hands without giving him a receipt. Forty-eight hours later the detainees were judged, which is to say, sent to the scaffold. Labussière, from the very first moment of his entry into the Prisoners Bureau, had already conceived of his project to use his position in favor of as many victims as he could save.

A condensed telling of the story of Labussière, who I’ve been reading about in the book this essay became part of: The Demon of Writing: Powers and Failures of Writing (mitpress)

new-aesthetic:

Son Finds His Late Dad’s ‘Ghost’ In A Racing Video Game

This is lovely, strange, and wrenching all at the same time. A teenager whose father passed away when he was just six had pulled out an old Xbox game that he and his dad used to play together, only to discover a part of his father lived on in the game, as a ghost car.

This is less supernatural than that sentence sounds. In racing video games, a ghost car is a representation of a previous player’s inputs and actions as they drove the track previously. Usually, the fastest laps are stored as ghost cars and then used by players to help them find the best line around a track, or have a way to compete with another player in a time-shifted way.

Via Jake H.

The secret beating heart of the dream office is the stationery cupboard, the ideal kind, the one that opens to enough depth to allow you to walk in and close the door behind you. No one does close the door – it would be weird – but the perfect stationery cupboard is one in which you could be perfectly alone with floor-to-ceiling shelves laden with neat stacks of packets, piles and boxes, lined up, tidy, everything patiently waiting for you to take one from the top, or open the lid and grab a handful. It’s fully stocked with more than one of everything and plenty to spare. Sundries. In bulk. A dozen of; assorted; multi-buys; bumper bundles. Paper in quires and reams, flimsy, economy and letter quality, neatly contained in perfectly folded paper packets. Boxes of carbon paper. (Children, you interleave a crispy dark-blue onion skin between each sheet of paper, you align them bottom edge and long side, tapping the long and short sides sharply together on the surface of your desk, and if you type sharply you can get as many as six or eight copies, each slightly fainter than the one before.) Refills and spares. A cornucopia of everything you would never run out of. Paper glued into pads or notebooks. Lined and unlined. Spiral, perfect bound, reporter. Envelopes with and without windows. Ring binders. Snap binders. Box files. Sticky white circles to reinforce the holes made by paper punches. Paper punches. Green string tags to go through the holes. Labels. So many blank labels. White, coloured, all shapes and sizes. And a mechanical labeller with plastic tape to emboss. More than enough supplies so that if a thing is done wrongly, spoiled or not quite right, mistyped, misspelled, holes punched in the wrong place, pencil broken, you throw it away and get a fresh one from the stationery cupboard that never runs out because it is there always to provide more.