Wednesday will be quite the day - the furnace and hot-water heaters are going out to be replaced by a new physical plant, there’s someone coming by to look at the kitchen renovation I have desired for years - knocking out part of the cupboards, installing opaque glass, and putting lights behind them so the top shelves are now useless and can be used only for decorative items that look nice when silhouetted - and new blinds to replace ancient ones don’t work anymore. A veritable parade of folk.

It will be hard on the dog. Or, I suppose, it will be quite exciting.

As a day, it was; felt like a Wednesday, possibly because I’ve already filed two pieces. At the office the boss brought in pastries from Kramarczuk’s, including some with prune filling. There were the usual jokes about how they couldn’t hurt at our age, ha ha - and I think this is something that will pass, so to speak, with the Boomers. We had prune-juice jokes on Johnny Carson. I never understood them when I was a kid; I just associated it with old people. They ate prunes and drank Geritol, the name of which made you think of wrinkly people with teeth that went in a glass at the end of the night.

I wish I had a picture of the end result of the pastry feast, because there was the usual lone last piece no one dared take. If you put an uncut pizza on a table with Minnesotans, they’d starve.

 

 

 

 
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This week we learn that the smartphone has ruined . . . SPACE ITSELF.

But the definition is different than you might think. Salon has a piece in the Everything Sucks genre, and it takes on some of my favorite places, like airports.

Architectural critics anticipated that modern life would change the sensation of space. Almost 30 years ago, the French anthropologist Marc Augé coined the word non-place to describe a family of transitional locations where people’s sense of self becomes suppressed or even vanishes. Non-places include airports, hotels, shopping malls, supermarkets, and highways.

I feel more like myself in all of these places, because I am often alone there, and the fray of daily life is diminished, leaving me with a calm space in which to observe and think.

There’s a sorrow to these sites,

Maybe if you’re French

because unlike legitimate ones, human beings never really occupy non-places; they simply move through them on their way to “anthropological places,” as Augé called them, such as schools, homes, and monuments.

Did you often feel you sense of self enhanced in a schoolroom, except perhaps by defining yourself against the collective experience? Anyone felt their sense of self enhanced or elevated at a monument - or do you feel, for better or worse, membership in whatever the monument proposes?

Non-places have both proliferated and declined in the decades since. On the one hand, there are far more of them, and people encounter them more frequently. More airports and train stations in which more passengers transit more often. More hotel lobbies and conference centers, many boasting their own food courts and shopping plazas, non-places nested within non-places.

See, we’ve accepted the Frenchman’s terms and are expected to carry it forward. Is it a non-place if you work there?

On the other hand, the anonymity and uselessness of non-places has been undermined by the smartphone.

Uselessness. The uselessness of airports, malls, and grocery stores. Uselessness.

Every gate waiting area, every plush lobby couch cluster, every wood-veneered coffee shop lean-to has become capable of transforming itself into any space for any patron. The airport or café is also an office and a movie theater, a knitting club, and a classroom.

This has to be bad, right? Or might we celebrate the rise of the Every Place, where you are free to engage in a much wider array of activities than anyone ever has, before?

Non-places always garnered sneers. Augé himself dubbed their rise an “invasion” that brought about “supermodernity,” a massive overabundance of dead space devoted to individual rather than collective activity.

OH GOD FORBID

He predicted that the uniformity of these places—every airport and hotel is like every other—would proliferate into a scourge, a plague that would strip the built environment of opportunities for humans to express themselves.

Well, that didn’t happen. And every airport and hotel is like every other only if you have no ability to chart the differences. Unless you really want to say that the Plaza in New York is like the Holiday Inn in suburban Milwaukee.

I’m snipping some obvious stuff about how we can do a lot on our devices in the home now, because it leads up to . . .

Places exist for purposes, and when those purposes emigrate to new locations they also bring along the specters of their former homes. The bathroom is a place to shower or to cast out human waste.

Oh, it’s more than that.

Bring your phone in there, and it’s also an office where you can complete procurement requests in enterprise-resource-management software such as Workday, and a theater where you can watch The Crown on Netflix, and a classroom where you can practice Latvian on Duolingo, and a travel agency where you can book a flight on Delta. And your office isn’t just at home, either: It’s anywhere. At the gym, on the train platform, in the gastropub, behind the wheel.

So . . . yay?

These changes hollow out the spaces where specific activities once took place. The unique vibe and spiritual energy of the record shop or the clothing boutique evaporate away once Spotify or Amazon takes over for them. Peripheral spaces also decay, such as the transit lines or roads that lead to them, and the cafés or boba joints that flank them.

Now we’re on to something. But it’s not exactly a novel observation. We made a choice: convenience and greater variety were more important than the Vibe and Spiritual Energy. I have great nostalgia for record stores. I remember the thrill of seeing new records on display. But if you’d asked any of us the following question - “would you like to live in a high-tech future with no more records, no needles, no scratches, no getting up from the chair to skip a track, but a pervasive incorporeal library on computers that would deliver any song ever recorded by verbal command?” We would have said hell yeah, but Star Trek takes place in the 24th century.

It’s easy but disorienting, and it makes the home into a very strange space. Until the 20th century, one had to leave the house for almost anything: to work, to eat or shop, to entertain yourself, to see other people. For decades, a family might have a single radio, then a few radios and a single television set. The possibilities available outside the home were far greater than those within its walls. But now, it’s not merely possible to do almost anything from home—it’s also the easiest option. Our forebears’ problem has been inverted: Now home is a prison of convenience that we need special help to escape.

I would suggest that any prison defined by convenience is not, in the actual sense of the word, a prison at all. No one needs special help, as if we must band together to tunnel out of Stalag 19. The home is not actually transformed into the office if you answer a work email. I just got a message from our podcast producer asking me to recut a question; does that mean my kitchen is suddenly a recording studio? Yes, and no - yes, in that I can summon up the tools to do something that once required a specific location with specific rarified equipment, and no, inasmuch as I am home.

I am in a palace of convenience.

 

 

 

 

It’s 1902. What comes to mind when someone says 1902?

The men seem to be turning their back on the news, with regret.

The style of the paper puts all the top stories on the same plane, as if they have equal importance. Let's go up to the top right: "Mrs. Soffel is Worse."

Everyone presumably knew who she was, and now you will too:

Jack and Ed Biddle were born in Anderdon Township, Essex County, Ontario to George and Mary Ann (McQuaide) Biddle.

Soffel was born Anna Katharina Dietrich in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

The Biddles were arrested on April 12, 1901 at a house in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania as leaders of the "Chloroform Gang", which for more than a year had been overpowering victims with chloroform or ether before robbing them. Tried and convicted on December 12, 1901 of the murder of a Mt. Washington shopkeeper, they were imprisoned in Allegheny County Jail to await hanging.

Kate Soffel, wife of warden Peter Soffel frequently came into contact with prisoners in her efforts to rehabilitate them. She developed an infatuation with Ed Biddle, and eventually agreed to help the brothers escape by smuggling saws and guns to them.

They broke out; she went with them. A posse found them, and the lawmen’s bullets “took effect,” as the news reports said. Kilt ‘em, in other words. Other reports say one killed himself. Mrs. Soffel shot herself, but recovered. Brief infamy, then obscurity, then she was carried off by typhoid in 1909.

They made a movie about her.

She was played by Diane Keaton.

 

Scorched!

Careful students of this site might know the Vendome.

   
 

Captain Martin Ginsburg.

Here we wave, if he’s here, at Yoel, his descendent, a Bleatnik who contacted me a while back to see if I could find some news stories about the fire.

Small world, eh?

 

 

Corpus callosum realm of the galaxies Hypatia concept of the number one Orion's sword how far away? Star stuff harvesting star light encyclopaedia galactica stirred by starlight with pretty stories for which there's little good evidence laws of physics brain is the seed of intelligence? Star stuff harvesting star light the ash
Babcock was a Wisconsin congressman, and was all bollixed up in the tariff issues of the day.
But . . . governor? What would a state governor care about Cuba? No: Leonard Wood was the Governor of Cuba.
Corpus callosum realm of the galaxies Hypatia concept of the number one Orion's sword how far away? Star stuff harvesting star light encyclopaedia galactica stirred by starlight

 

 

Chinese New Year celebrated by gorgeous . . . oh

Towards the end he’s a bashi-bashouk.

   
  Oh those fascinating Celestials with their region-specific poxes.

 
In the classified, a sign of the amount of bunkum around town:
A “dime circle.” Probably the cost of admission, but I can’t say.
A local column of . . . well, stuff

You’ll note he said nice things about the Fargo Forum, mentioning Major Edwards. Spiffy bio of the early NoDak titan, here.

Wheelock often said nice things about North Dakota, and was repaid when a town named itself after him.

Alas:

Wheelock is a ghost town in Wheelock Township, Williams County, in the northwestern part of the U.S. state of North Dakota. In 1938, the Federal Writers' Project found a population of 115 in Wheelock.[ In the 1990 census, the population was 23. All census population figures after 1990 are estimates. The town was disincorporated in 1994, and now is reverting to the elements.

This is the most painful sight of the week, I think,

 

When the bilious bile’s a’coursin’ through your blood, life’s a LIVING HELL, and you get Renaissance Painting Mob-scene Character Disease
No cartoons. The paper was too serious for cartoons.

That'll do - if I'm here tomorrow, the reconnection to the gas mains went well.

 

 

 

 
blog comments powered by Disqus