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robertogreco : commonplace   7

What Does It Mean to Become Californian? – Boom California
"What does it mean to become Californian? It means being witness to an epic bender—a 169-year binge lubricated by gold, cattle, wheat, oil, suburban housing, the Cold War, and a marketing campaign of seductive power. At every stage of its history, each of the state’s exploitable ecologies has been dressed up as another paradise, pandering to the latest wave of hopelessly intoxicated newcomers. The come-on that seduced them—the elemental promises of health, wealth, and happiness in the sunshine—is the California Dream. For Joan Didion, the state’s renowned exile, there is in that dream a “dangerous dissonance…a slippage” between what we desire and who we are.1

The official story of California is told as a pageant of bonanzas, but belief in the official story requires forgetting so much. We want the story to record what had been hard won, but it’s actually full of lucky accidents. We bought the Californian sales pitch, but we became remorseful buyers afterward. We want to be Californian, but we don’t want to earn it.

These paradoxes were built into the subdivisions that absorbed thirteen million dream seekers between 1940 and 1970—the great years when California retailed to America its mix of Arcadian ease and technocratic élan. The greatest paradox is, of course, that the success in getting so much from California has been turned into so much loss. Californians tend to use the state’s compromised environment as the screen on which to project what they can no longer find in California—something missing from becoming Californian—and the suburbs, the traffic, and the presence of too many of us are said to be the cause. But perhaps what Californians can no longer find is in themselves, in what they lost by becoming Californian. We forget that the California Dream didn’t come with a moral compass.

I cannot say that the dream did not serve us. It provided the goods of a middle-class life to millions, including me. It remixed popular culture in exciting ways. It built beautiful and lasting things—and the dream still inspires. A neighbor of mine—with a tract house, two grown daughters, and a husband who is a teacher—wonders if it means anything to say that the dream is ending. “They’ve been saying that for thirty years at least. It hasn’t ended yet,” she told me.

Kevin Starr has written nine volumes of history about California and America’s feverish dream of it, and in 2009 he hadn’t yet reconciled whether California would become a “failed state” or would reinvent itself again, and if reinvention would be another arc of boom to bust to regret. Starr’s faith was in the state’s genetic and cultural rambunctiousness and the possibility that a retooled dream, suitable for a less-Anglo California, will replace the parts of the dream that served us so poorly. But Starr, like many of us, had his doubts.

***

What does it mean to become Californian? It means seeing nature without romance or despair. California has been uniquely intoxicating, but it was also a place on the national periphery in the nineteenth century and far from the familiar place where hearts might feel at home. Merchandising the state’s natural grandeur answered some of Californian longing. From William Henry Jackson in the 1870s through Ansel Adams in the 1950s to the latest coffee-table book, California has produced gorgeous and misleading environmental photography, promoting the view that sacred wildness is out there, unmarred by our presence and ready for our contemplation.

The iconic photographs make the rapturous assumption that none of us was ever here——but we were! We’re sluicing mountains into rivers to get at the gold, taking down forests to build a wood and iron technology gone before our parents were born, erecting groves of derricks over oil fields, extracting harvests from the compliant ground, and assembling communities from tract houses and strip malls. I’m tired of my own sentimentality for landscapes that are rendered either as an open wound or a throat pulled back, ready for the knife. Pity is misplaced if there is no place in it for you or me.

The choice for Californians north and south after the Gold Rush cataclysm was not between nature and its despoiled remnant, but the terms on which our encounter with nature would be framed. The environmentalist John Muir gave nature a privileged autonomy, a kind of green divinity. Frederick Law Olmsted, a builder of New York’s Central Park, concluded that nature in California would never again be sublime, despite what the photographs implied, and that nature must be enmeshed in the community of people living here. Olmsted struggled for a word to describe the tie that might bind a place and its people. He settled on “communitiveness.” It’s an awkward word for something that tries to define both loyalty to one’s neighbors and trusteeship of the land. Olmsted, as Muir and others did, sought to read a redemptive narrative—and something of the wider American experience—into the landscape of California. The Californians who were led here by their longing for the redeeming qualities Muir and Olmsted saw in California’s nature—qualities variously ennobling, consoling, and therapeutic—unalterably changed California.

***

Californians had presumed that California would always deliver whatever they deserved. Now we know California can’t. Even more self-knowledge is needed, now that our revels are ended. If we are to become brave, new Californians, we will begin to dream differently."

What does it mean to become Californian? It means finding that California is increasingly ordinary (for which I’m grateful, because the commonplace is necessarily the place where we find love and hope). But if California isn’t the “great exception,” isn’t the best or worst of places, then how do we describe California when it is not exactly “Californian” anymore, not as alluring or lurid as the clichés of the utopian or dystopian accounts said it was? California is riven—north and south, coastal and inland, urban and rural, valley and foothill—but that which unites these “islands on the land” is the question of what had been gained by becoming Californian.

For Joan Didion, becoming Californian was a prize for leaving the past behind, although the result would be brokenheartedness. For essayist Richard Rodriguez, becoming Californian meant becoming mingled, impure, heterogeneous, and discovering that your color, whatever it is, is just another shade of brown. For the novelist and playwright William Saroyan, becoming Californian was to see this place, finally, as “my native land.” For the two million or more Californians who, in the past two decades, have migrated to “greater California”—which is now located in Texas, Arizona, Washington, Oregon, and Nevada—becoming Californian meant finding some measure of inadequacy in California. Maybe becoming Californian means laboring to undo the toxic effects of what California has been: a commodity, a trophy of Anglo privilege, and a place of aching, unmet desires.

The Anglo possessors of California after 1847 took on habits that began with the first gold claim staked on the American River and continue each time a house lot changes hands today. Imagine considering those habits with a “truth and reconciliation” commission whose members are a skateboarder, a “mow and blow” gardener, a rap artist, a real estate agent, a vintner, a Gabrieleño elder, a Chinese immigrant, and someone employed in the adult entertainment industry. Maybe becoming Californian means facing a ravenous “hunger of memory”2 and having only California’s clichés to offer.

***

What does it mean to become Californian? It means locating yourself, according to environmental historian Stephanie Pincetl, in a panorama that includes Hollywood, the Sierra Nevada Mountains, Big Sur, San Francisco, Disneyland, the redwoods, and Death Valley.3 She might have added Compton, Route 99 from Fresno to Bakersfield, the Silicon Valley, the San Fernando Valley, the Central Valley, and the whole of la frontera from Yuma to the Tijuana. Pincetl included in her list the seductive mirage of El Dorado, the folly that led to all of the state’s ruined paradises. An imagination so spacious as to dwell in all of these Californias requires a different kind of intelligence, attuned to many vernaculars. The alternative is living daily with the experience of estrangement, discontinuity, and forgetfulness.

Californians who need something to stand with them against these disorders might find it in Michel Foucault’s notion of “a particular, local, regional knowledge, a differential knowledge incapable of unanimity.”4 The desire to sustain “ecologies of the vernacular” and live in “habitats of memory” may be the new requirement for becoming Californian.

Foucault distantly echoes Josiah Royce’s notion of a Higher Provincialism,5 which finds the potential for moral order in a shared sense of place and in the common habits of being there. This embodied knowledge becomes “critical regionalism”6 in turning away from the comforts of nostalgia toward “interrogating the local and proximate precisely in order to demonstrate its universality, its connectedness, and its differences with the wider world.”7

California happened to the world in 1849, and in the rush to extract something from becoming Californian, the world—in the form of every race and ethnicity—met itself here.8 The meeting was chaotic, brutal, often tragic, and sometimes redemptive, and its energies are not yet spent. For all its potential to create a hybrid American (and, I believe, a better one), the collision left Californians haunted by the spirit of El Dorado—the illusion that being Californian requires being perpetually the object of someone else’s desire.

To become truly Californian, dwellers here will recover from that malign dream to “awaken the stories that sleep in … [more]
california  future  djwaldie  kevinstarr  2017  foucault  josiahroyce  universality  connectedness  difference  diversity  change  history  stephaniepincetl  joandidion  fredericklawolmstead  nature  landscape  johnmuir  goldrush  williamhenryjackson  richardrodriguez  ordinariness  inadequacy  race  ethnicity  commonplace  everyday  michelfoucault 
april 2017 by robertogreco
Relingos | The Brooklyn Quarterly
"Spaces survive the passage of time in the same way a person survives his death: in the close alliance between the memory and the imagination that others forge around it. They exist as long as we keep thinking of them, imagining in them; as long as we remember them, remember ourselves there, and, above all, as long as we remember what we imagined in them. A relingo—an emptiness, an absence—is a sort of depository for possibilities, a place that can be seized by the imagination and inhabited by our ­phantom-follies. Cities need those vacant lots, those silent gaps where the mind can wander freely."



"We Buy Old Books

Cities have often been compared to language: you can read a city, it’s said, as you read a book. But the metaphor can be inverted.

[painting of plan of Mexico City]

The journeys we make during the reading of a book trace out, in some way, the private spaces we inhabit. There are texts that will always be our dead-end streets; fragments that will be bridges; words that will be like the scaffolding that protects fragile constructions. T. S. Eliot: a plant growing in the debris of a ruined building; Salvador Novo: a tree-lined street transformed into an expressway; Tomás Segovia: a boulevard, a breath of air; Roberto Bolaño: a rooftop terrace; Isabel Allende: a (magically real) shopping mall; Gilles Deleuze: a summit; and Jacques Derrida: a pothole. Robert Walser: a chink in the wall, for looking through to the other side; Charles Baudelaire: a waiting room; Hannah Arendt: a tower, an Archimedean point; Martin Heidegger: a cul-de-sac; Walter ­Benjamin: a one-way street walked down against the flow.

And everything we haven’t read: relingos, absences in the heart of the city.

Guaranteed Repairs

Restoration: plastering over the cracks left on any surface by the erosion of time.
Sidewalks

Writing: an inverse process of restoration. A restorer fills the holes in a surface on which a more or less finished image already exists; a writer starts from the fissures and the holes. In this sense, an architect and a writer are alike. Writing: filling in relingos.

No, writing isn’t filling gaps—nor is it constructing a house, a building, just to fill up an empty space.

Perhaps Alejandro Zambra’s bonsai image might come closer: “A writer is a person who rubs out. . . . Cutting, lopping: finding a form that was already there.”

But words are not plants and, in any case, gardens are for the poets with orderly, landscaped hearts. Prose is for those with a builder’s spirit.

Writing: drilling walls, breaking windows, blowing up buildings. Deep excavations to find—to find what? To find nothing.

A writer is a person who distributes silences and empty spaces.

Writing: making relingos."
architecture  cities  design  spaces  space  commonplace  geography  relingos  mexicodf  df  mexico  valerialuisellu  writing  silence  via:alexismadrigal  alejandrozambra  restoration  robertobolaño  tomássegovia  gillesdeleuze  jacquesderrida  baudelaire  heidegger  hannaharendt  robertwalser  tseliot  slavadornono  walterbenjamin  emptiness  absence  possibility  possibilities  imagination  urban  urbanism  deleuze  mexicocity 
july 2014 by robertogreco
Deep Belief by Jetpac - teach your phone to recognize any object on the App Store on iTunes
"Teach your iPhone to see! Teach it to recognize any object using the Jetpac Deep Belief framework running on the phone.

See the future - this is the latest in Object Recognition technology, on a phone for the first time.

The app helps you to teach the phone to recognize an object by taking a short video of that object, and then teach it what is not the object, by taking a short video of everything around, except that object. Then you can scan your surroundings with your phone camera, and it will detect when you are pointing at the object which you taught it to recognize.

We trained our Deep Belief Convoluted Neural Network on a million photos, and like a brain, it learned concepts of textures, shapes and patterns, and combining those to recognize objects. It includes an easily-trainable top layer so you can recognize the objects that you are interested in.

If you want to build custom object recognition into your own iOS app, you can download our Deep Belief SDK framework. It's an implementation of the Krizhevsky convolutional neural network architecture for object recognition in images, running in under 300ms on an iPhone 5S, and available under an open BSD License."

[via: https://medium.com/message/the-fire-phone-at-the-farmers-market-34f51c2ba885 petewarden ]

[See also: http://petewarden.com/2014/04/08/how-to-add-a-brain-to-your-smart-phone/ ]
applications  ios  ios7  iphone  ipad  objects  objectrecognition  identification  objectidentification  mobile  phones  2014  learning  deepbelief  petewarden  ai  artificialintelligence  cameras  computervision  commonplace  deeplearning 
june 2014 by robertogreco
The Fire Phone at the farmers market — The Message — Medium
"With the exception of a few paintings, all of Amazon’s demo “items” were commercial products: things with ISBNs, bar codes, and/or spectral signatures. Things with price tags.

We did not see the Fire Phone recognize a eucalyptus tree.

There is reason to suspect the Fire Phone cannot identify a goldfinch.

And I do not think the Fire Phone can tell me which of these “items” is kale.

This last one is the most troubling, because a system that greets a bag of frozen vegetables with a bar code like an old friend but draws a blank on a basket of fresh greens at the farmers market—that’s not just technical. That’s political.

But here’s the thing: The kale is coming.

There’s an iPhone app called Deep Belief, a tech demo from programmer Pete Warden. It’s free."



"If Amazon’s Fire Phone could tell kale from Swiss chard, if it could recognize trees and birds, I think its polarity would flip entirely, and it would become a powerful ally of humanistic values. As it stands, Firefly adds itself to the forces expanding the commercial sphere, encroaching on public space, insisting that anything interesting must have a price tag. But of course, that’s Amazon: They’re in The Goldfinch detection business, not the goldfinch detection business.

If we ever do get a Firefly for all the things without price tags, we’ll probably get it from Google, a company that’s already working hard on computer vision optimized for public space. It’s lovely to imagine one of Google’s self-driving cars roaming around, looking everywhere at once, diligently noting street signs and stop lights… and noting also the trees standing alongside those streets and the birds perched alongside those lights.

Lovely, but not likely.

Maybe the National Park Service needs to get good at this.

At this point, the really deeply humanistic critics are thinking: “Give me a break. You need an app for this? Buy a bird book. Learn the names of trees.” Okay, fine. But, you know what? I have passed so much flora and fauna in my journeys around this fecund neighborhood of mine and wondered: What is that? If I had a humanistic Firefly to tell me, I’d know their names by now."
amazon  technology  robinsloan  objects  objectrecognition  identification  objectidentification  firefly  mobile  phones  2014  jeffbezos  consumption  learning  deepbelief  petewarden  ai  artificialintelligence  cameras  computervision  commonplace  deeplearning 
june 2014 by robertogreco
You Need to Hear This Extremely Rare Recording  — The Message — Medium
"A story for the millennials in the room: Once upon a time, owning a rare media object was sorta cool. But some people used these objects to project their cultural superiority, which was pretty lame."



"The economics of popularity can be gamed, but scarcity is a devil’s trade."



"From snobby obscurist to pretentious scold, from rarity to reaction. As Comic Book Guy shows, you no longer have to be “in the know.” You just have to know what to say."
rexsorgatz  2014  aesthetics  culture  commonplace  abundance  scarcity  rarity  rare  digital  reproduction  copies  popularity  obscurity  internet  web  comicbookguy  thesimpsons  music  media  caseykasem  negativeland 
june 2014 by robertogreco
In an Age of Likes, Commonplace Images Prevail - NYTimes.com
"Because of the iPhone and social media, the very meaning of what photographs are and how they function has changed radically in the last four years.

A photograph is no longer predominantly a way of keeping a treasured family memory or even of learning about places or people that we would otherwise not encounter. It is now mainly a chintzy currency in a social interaction and a way of gazing even further into one’s navel…

there are two possible effects on “serious” photography.

1. The flowering of photographers leads to millions of people who are thinking more visually and whom we may be able to entice to become an audience for documentary and photojournalistic images.

2. We are bombarded with so much visual stimuli via the Web and social media that it becomes almost impossible to rise above the flood of images. And if everyone likes everything, no one photograph is better than another…"
commonplace  change  cameras  phonecameras  instagram  jamesestrin  2012  photography  noticing 
september 2012 by robertogreco
Frieze Magazine | Archive | Twenty Years Fore & Aft
"People are never scared by the commonplaces of daily life, no matter how risky they are; in 2031, people choose to be alarmed by exotic, eye-catching stuff, like rare diseases and psycho serial killers…

There are no political parties. They were entirely hollowed-out and disrupted by social networks. That happened fast.…

Suburbs are the new favelas, while the prosperous live cheek-by-jowl in repurposed downtowns. Architecture guts entire city blocks, preserving the historicized skins around flats packed to Hong Kong densities. Cars are rental-shared. Furniture is mobile. Most objects have IDs…

Nothing can be ‘innovative’ unless you are convinced that change makes a difference. Without the magic patter, the semantic context that sets expectations, a rabbit in a hat is not a wonder, it’s just a weird accident. A true network society cannot progress, because it reticulates; it’s all snakes and ladders, rockets and potholes, mash-ups and short circuits."
brucesterling  2031  futurism  favelachic  cities  risk  commonplace  magic  mystery  technology  future  fiction  speculativerealism  designfiction  scifi  sciencefiction  2011  nostalgia  atemporality  books  publishing  film  reality  chernobyl  fear  life  art  glvo  classideas  projectideas 
november 2011 by robertogreco

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