News 06.29.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets


News 06.29.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
News 06.29.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
News 06.29.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

Last fall, walking down Mission Street, in San Francisco, I noticed a new addition to an otherwise unremarkable parking lot at the base of Bernal Heights Hill: a large, white trailer, about the size of three parking spaces, plastered with a banner that read “food pick up here.” On one side was a list of restaurant brands with names and logos that seemed algorithmically generated: WokTalk, Burger Bytes, Fork and Ladle, Umami, American Eclectic Burger, Wings & Things. The trailer was hooked up to a generator, which was positioned behind two portable toilets; it occupied parking spots once reserved for Maven, an hourly-car-rental startup, funded by General Motors and marketed to gig-economy workers. (G.M. shut down Maven in April.) Through a small window cut into the side, I could see two men moving around what appeared to be a kitchen. The generator hummed; the air carried the comforting smell of fryer oil; the toilets were padlocked. One of the men came to the window and apologized: I couldn’t order food directly, he told me—I would have to order through the apps.

Read the rest of this article at: The New Yorker

News 06.29.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

News 06.29.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

I wish every reader well and a fruitful future life. Like any scribbler I always desire more of you. But the more of you there are the more likely it is that some of you will not survive this year. Never have the words “take care” been so freighted with relevance. Keep your distance, wash your hands, don’t touch your face – something I find impossible – and look after others.

Second, as someone now classified as ‘vulnerable’ who has always wanted the world to change, I didn’t want it to change like this. I fear the powers that rule us may exploit the pitiless nature of the plague to control us after it has passed, rather than be forced to step aside. As one of those most likely to be taken away by the virus if it gets to me, and least likely to qualify for life-support if I need hospitalisation, I have to acknowledge a new dread. It’s a dread which makes me dream of hugging my children rather than seeing them flicker on the computer screen, of holding my older granddaughter’s hand and poking out my tongue at the younger and laughing with delight. And laughter is good for the immune system, I’ve been told, and bad for SARS-CoV-2 (the name of the actual virus) which suffers from being over-serious.

The dread is that if my child gets COVID-19 (the name for the disease the virus causes) I cannot stroke her forehead; that my beloved could be removed from me forever if she finds it difficult to breathe; or if I get it, that she can’t bring a comforting drink to my bedside and my body will become a toxic time-bomb demanding rapid, sterilised disposal. All this imbues everything that follows, writing under lockdown.

Third, to write about it, just like singing about it, talking about it, or posting messages about it, requires making a call about the fear the pandemic generates. This isn’t simple. It is vital to turn on the fear mechanisms – for the virus is contagious and cruel. It is also essential to turn them off – for fear itself is the most contagious thing of all.

In my country our leaders got both calls wrong. They failed to take the coronavirus seriously when it first arrived and are now unable to provide reassurance. It means that trying to respond in a clear-headed way to its impact, here in England, is unsettled by the unavoidable presence of a prime minister who lacks every virtue except audacity and ambition. He counteracts his emotional void with a calculated ebullience and the recruitment of smart advisors whose messaging he follows, as he flees serious questioning and the human engagement this demands.

Read the rest of this article at: OpenDemocracy

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Even prior to extended quarantines, lockdowns, and self-isolation, it was hard to imagine life without the electronic escapes of noise-cancelling earbuds, smartphones, and tablets. Today, it seems impossible. Of course, there was most certainly a before and after, a point around which the cultural gravity of our plugged-in-yet-tuned-out modern lives shifted. Its name is Walkman, and it was invented, in Japan, in 1979. After the Walkman arrived on American shores, in June of 1980, under the temporary name of Soundabout, our days would never be the same.

Read the rest of this article at: The New Yorker

News 06.29.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

News 06.29.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

Deciding to start a small business requires a combination of faith, delusion, and masochism. I had healthy amounts of all three when, a little more than a year ago, a friend and I opened a place in Oakland called North Light, a hybrid of a bar, café, and book and record shop. My wife* and I had tended bar in our 20s and 30s, and we often fantasized about opening our own spot. So when that friend, Lee Smith, called to ask if I might be interested in partnering on the project, it felt like I’d been waiting by the phone for years. Since Lee and I both had full-time day jobs — he’s a concert promoter; I was finishing a book — we knew we’d need to assemble an experienced team to manage North Light. We had a lot to learn, but we figured, How hard could this whole thing be?

Lee and I signed a lease on a location less than a block from where I live, and after we’d slogged through a year of tasks that cascaded down the front and back of each day’s to-do list, the county officials stamped our final inspections. We threw a couple of big opening parties in January 2019, and we were off. North Light was everything I wanted in a neighborhood bar. It provided a place to work over lunch or coffee before sliding into happy hour with friends; it was full of books and vinyl; it served food and drinks until late; it had an airy back patio. For our book and record shop, we asked a handful of writers, musicians, and artists to select the inventory. All the people we approached — from Patti Smith to Michael Ondaatje, Rebecca Solnit to Pico Iyer, Samin Nosrat to Michael Pollan — agreed to curate a shelf of favorite books and write blurbs about why each title was important to them.

But my exhilaration around opening quickly evaporated. Keeping the business afloat, solving problems, fixing things that broke, developing systems of operation — tasks I’d always enjoyed — now provided unending stress. Why in hell did I decide to do this? I began asking myself while answering emails from bed at 4 a.m. In our case, we didn’t do it for money: Since our day jobs supported us, Lee and I decided to pay off our investors and lenders before we might see a profit ourselves. Our motivation came from elsewhere — a desire to contribute something to the neighborhood and to participate in an industry we loved.

Read the rest of this article at: The California Sunday Magazine

News 06.29.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

In June 1940, as the Nazis marched into Paris, the French interior and furniture designer Jean-Michel Frank procured a visa in Bordeaux and sailed to Lisbon with his boyfriend. Within days France had surrendered to the Germans, the prelude to some 76,000 French Jews being rounded up and sent to death camps. It was, you might say, a fate that Frank narrowly escaped—except by then he was already dead by his own hand. In March 1941, physically ill and mentally frail, narcotics no longer providing adequate solace and the world burning around him, he decided he’d had enough. “I ask all my friends who have been so good to me to forgive me,” he wrote in his suicide note before taking a fatal overdose of barbiturates in a New York apartment.

Ten days earlier, Frank had turned forty-six. Startling extremes defined his brief life: wealth and privilege, tragedy and loss, artistic discipline and dedication, debauchery and anarchy, marginalization and glory. His celebrated decor aesthetic, a finely distilled compound of extravagance and austere simplicity, grandeur minus fuss and froufrou, had been a bulwark against the darkness and chaos that ultimately proved overwhelming. “No doubt he jumped out of this era because he found it uninhabitable,” Jean Cocteau wrote in 1945. “His death was the prologue of the drama, the red curtain falling between a world of light and a world of night.”

Museumgoers can stumble upon examples of Frank’s furniture in the collections at Cooper Hewitt, the Museum of Modern Art, the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, and the Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Paris. The Metropolitan Museum of Art lacks anything by the designer only because former longtime curator Jared Goss, to his regret, was unable to find a piece that he felt exemplified Frank’s obsession with simplicity and perfection. Many companies sell Frank reproductions; Hermès has a line of official reissues. Yet while Charles and Ray Eames, Eero Saarinen, Florence Knoll, and Arne Jacobsen have become bywords for mid-century modern style, the name Jean-Michel Frank has never quite entered popular awareness, despite his enduring imprint on our visual culture. Contemporary versions of the Parsons table, conceived by Frank in the 1930s when he lectured at the New York art school’s Paris branch, are so ubiquitous as to be practically invisible. His “Confortable” cubic armchairs and sofas have likewise spawned countless imitations, their provenance obscured by time and repetition. Among interior designers of the current era, many of whom regularly source original Frank pieces and find inspiration in photos of his interwar decorative schemes, he is a foremost influence.

Read the rest of this article at: Lapham’s Quarterly

P.S. previous articles & more by P.F.M.

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News 17.09.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

For most of 2020, I passed the pandemic alone in my studio apartment. I turned 33, then 34, and my body seemed to grow old without bringing my spirit along with it. My right knee was clearly deteriorating — I couldn’t sit cross-legged at my desk the way I used to — and because I wasn’t wearing makeup, I could track each age spot as it bloomed to the surface. When I pulled my hair back in a tight ponytail, I could see a patch of scalp. But in that same period had my life evolved at all? Had I met anyone? Surprised myself? Stemmed the tide of collective crisis? My mother often urged me to dance, just a little, by myself in the kitchen — “It’s good medicine,” she said, “despojo.”

News 15.09.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

Someone’s probably told you before that something you thought, felt or feared was ‘all in your mind’. I’m here to tell you something else: there’s no such thing as the mind and nothing is mental. I call this the ‘no mind thesis’. The no-mind thesis is entirely compatible with the idea that people are conscious, and that they think, feel, believe, desire and so on. What it’s not compatible with is the notion that being conscious, thinking, feeling, believing, desiring and so on are mental, part of the mind, or done by the mind.

News 13.09.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

Since its inception in 2015, the research laboratory OpenAI – an Elon Musk-backed initiative that seeks to build human-friendly artificial intelligence – has developed a series of powerful ‘language models’, the latest being GPT-3 (third-generation Generative Pre-trained Transformer). A language model is a computer program that simulates human language. Like other simulations, it hovers between the reductive (reality is messier and more unpredictable) and the visionary (to model is to create a parallel world that can sometimes make accurate predictions about the real world).