The book ends with Campanella walking 10 miles down Flatbush Avenue from Fulton Street to his own home in Marine Park, watching as the proliferation of “hip” Edison bulbs in bars and restaurants gradually diminishes, giving way to fluorescence. The light bulbs, he claims, correlate exactly to housing-price heat maps. His final paragraphs urge readers to “flee the twee” and follow him south, toward the “Guyanese grills and Dominican bodegas” where “life is still lived unposed and uncurated and close to the bone.”
Jia Tolentino in the New Yorker:
Social-media companies monetize everyday selfhood: our preferences and personal data are tracked and sold to advertisers; our relationships are framed as potentially profitable conduits; we continually capture one another’s lucrative attention by performing some version of who we think we are. Over time, we have absorbed these terms and conditions: we might retain very little of the value we create, but we have allowed social media to make us feel valuable. These platforms encourage compulsive use by offering forms of social approval—likes on Facebook and Instagram, retweets on Twitter—that are intermittent and unpredictable, as though you’re playing a slot machine that tells you whether or not people love you. Dependency, eventually, assumes its own logic. Recently, vague reports circulated that Twitter was considering getting rid of likes. Users protested. If I could flip a switch that would allow me to get book recommendations from Twitter and puppy photos from Instagram without seeing how many followers I was acquiring or how many people had liked my posts, I would. It would help me waste less time on the Internet, and feel less invested in it. Of course, this would not provide me with as many regular infusions of useless dopamine, or make Twitter or Instagram—or the companies that advertise on them—very much money.
I enjoyed this New Yorker piece on whether we took a wrong turn in adopting cars as our primary mode of transport. It includes this passage:
Still, I frequently wonder what experience I have missed out on as a consequence of never spending time behind the wheel. In my imagination, cities like Los Angeles are filled with kids who cruise across the evenings with their dashboards glowing and soft bedroom pop throbbing through their speakers. Though I’ve never been a driver, I have notions of the things I do not know. Once, some years ago, a woman in a new rented convertible drove me along Mulholland Drive near midnight in a high wind coming in off the Pacific. Our hair was ropy from exposure, and the streaming channel played “There Is a Light That Never Goes Out” in a trail of sound we seemed to leave behind us in the road. The air was rough—leaves and twigs that had snapped in gusts whipped at our faces and the leather of the open seats. She took Mulholland’s bends hard, as if trying to tell me something about her that I hadn’t understood. In this suspended state between the starting place and the inevitable return, I felt, for a long moment, settled, as if I had reached the life that I’d been using mine to chase. Then we arrived; a few days later, we returned the car. That journey ended, and we do not speak much anymore.
A nice piece on Poster House in Manhattan:
As a medium the poster has always sat somewhere between high and low culture. It is the conduit through which so many paintings have reached bedroom walls during formative years, but also through which visual identities are established — whether through the movies, music or products. It is precisely that position, straddling communication, culture and commerce, which has led to the slipping of this most popular, recognisable but ephemeral medium between the institutional cracks. As mass reproductions, posters lack the aura of art. Yet their authenticity resides precisely in their presence on the street en masse, in their familiarity, reach and reproducibility.
“It is the most daunting feeling when you go to a grocery store chain, and you meet with these starched-white-shirt executives,” Kelley tells me. “When we get a new job, we sit around this table — we do it twenty, thirty times a year. Old men, generally. Don’t love food, progressive food. Just love their old food — like Archie Bunkers, essentially. You meet these people and then you tour their stores. Then I’ve got to go convince Archie Bunker that there’s something called emotions, that there are these ideas about branding and feeling. It is a crazy assignment. I can’t get them to forget that they’re no longer in a situation where they’ve got plenty of customers. That it’s do-or-die time now.”
Forget branding. Forget sales. Kelley’s main challenge is redirecting the attention of older male executives, scared of the future and yet stuck in their ways, to the things that really matter.
“I make my living convincing male skeptics of the power of emotions,” he says.
This is a great piece on why everyday architecture deserves respect:
Architectural preservation is often an issue of grandeur, both in a sense of size and richness, and decay. When we think of buildings that already been lost, they are almost always imposing structures—cathedrals, skyscrapers, temples. Yet the places where we enact our daily lives, and which reflect them even more than grand architectural statements, are smaller, more seemingly trivial and thus more vulnerable.
To appreciate the charms of small structures, it is useful to remind ourselves that we primarily interact with architecture from a ground level rather than the god’s-eye view employed in films and renderings. The architecture of day-to-day urban life is driven by utility and merges so integrally into our tasks that we barely notice it as architecture. There have been visionary architects who have recognized and celebrated the underrated nobility of everyday life, and there are some superlative little wonders scattered around our cities.