What I'm reading

A City Plans For War (Emma Shaw Crane, Public Books):

Urban planning’s promise of an improved city of the future is especially bright in postconflict cities, where planning is expected to bring not only the usual modernist improvements—development, growth—but also peace. Yet in postconflict Beirut, planners, developers, and architects, instead of designing for a peaceful city, plan for the war yet to come.

It's time to let Canberra picturesquely decay (Ian Warden, Canberra Times):

When Australians, in their endearingly muddleheaded and inarticulate way, complain that there is something “artificial” about their nation’s capital, one of the things they mean (without being able to put a muddleheaded finger on it) is that Canberra has no ruins.

Conspiracy Theories (David Runciman, TLS):

...for the conspiracy theorist the absence of truth can only be explained by some sinister forces having decided to conceal it. And of course that is a conspiracy theory that many liberals find hard to resist. Why did people vote for Brexit? Because the ignorant voters were misled by nefarious forces. The same with the election of Trump. What are those forces? Take your pick...


What I'm reading

Thea Riofrancos: Populism Without The People

POPULISM IS THE SHADOW of representative democracy. Again and again, populist movements emerge and come to thrive in the gap between the promise of collective sovereignty and the disappointing experience of politics as usual.

The Last Psychiatrist: The Maintenance of Certification Exam as Fetish

Last year there was a large cheating scandal at Harvard, over a hundred students were accused of plagiarism in a government class, and amidst the usual self-aggrandizing criticisms of the college kids as entitled, lazy, or stupid, what no one wondered is why, in an introductory survey course predicated on institutionalized grade inflation and no wrong answers, did the students feel compelled to cheat when they were all going to get As anyway? The terrifying answer is that they weren’t cheating to get the right answer, there was no right answer, they were forced to cheat to concoct the answer the professor wanted— because that’s the system. Meanwhile, while they were spending their time “cheating”, what real learning could be done? None. So—- why bother with an exam at all? Why not just offer the course and give everyone an A anyway? Because the purpose of the test is to say a test was given, to prove to some hypothetically gullible entity that learning occurred— and to prove it to ourselves. Which is why our reflex was to criticize the kids, not the system: we are products of that system, to criticize the reliability, let alone validity, of that system would be to open ourselves to scrutiny, to deprive us of a core part of our own identity. “Things were a lot more rigorous when I went to college.” First of all, they weren’t. Second, even if they were, why, when you got to be in charge, did you change the system to this?

David Roth: This is all Donald Trump has left, (thanks to @hamonryen on twitter)

Like many in his generation, Trump has mistaken the end of his life for the end of the world.


What I'm reading


Despite its internal incoherence, Dynasty is part of a narrative that, no matter how ridiculous the premise, has the vicious coherence of history. Connecting the dots leads right to here and now, where virtually no one wants to be.

Nicolas Hausdorf: The decline of the Imperial Aesthetic

With the territorialization of the future by techno-deterministic dystopia, of the countryside by suburban sprawl, of imagination by social networked quantifiable mimetic desire, the past becomes the only available outlet, a promise of infinite space to be selectively appropriated and colonized as a retreat from the ugliness of the present.

Jacobite magazine really runs the gamut from broadly trad-reactionary, to accelerationist, to impenetrable right-critical philsophy, and I honestly don't know which one this fits into. From a heritage perspective, you'd respond to it by saying yeah, the reason modernist architecture is culturally significant is precisely because of these social effects, and de gustibus non est disputandum, anyway; 'taste is not a matter of deliberation'? As the famous wordsmith said, Explain yourself dopey.

Matthew Walther: Principles for Dummies

Probably you can imagine what it does for the reader’s expectations when he discovers less than a tenth of the way through a book called Principles that its author has no principles, not even ones governing the use of the word.

Every now and then it's refreshing to read a review article so damning that it leaves scorch marks on the wall behind you. This one is spectacular.


Total House

On Twitter, Trav (@Br_Tr) posted an art print of the Total House car park in Melbourne. It’s a really good looking piece of architectural art, and like all good art, it creates an emotional and intellectual response. Mine, of course, was fury.



THIS MORNING, A MATCHED pair of posts about loneliness, by Amba Azaad in The New Inquiry and Chris Dillow.


Because straight white men refuse to recognize their own unpalatability, they come up with solutions to loneliness that appropriate the rhetoric of justice- and freedom-based ideologies without actually engaging in any rigorous structural analyses of their culpability in oppression. They don’t want revolutionary change but merely a polite tolerance that would make them more bearable. And this selfishness renders them incompetent to address the structures of loneliness as a social ill.


And this has been my experience too. My grammar school was on the other side of town and it played rugby, the function of which was not so much to produce rugby players as to signal to people like me that we didn’t belong. And then I went to Oxford which was chocka with charmless dullards from “nice” middle-class backgrounds*. All along there were cues that I didn’t fit in.
Of course, the ruling class rarely gave overt outright messages of class hatred, just as Ms Hirsch rarely encountered crude racism. It likes to think of itself as open and tolerant. But this is self-regarding bullshit which rests upon a denial of the real lived experience of the tens of thousands of black, mixed-race or working-class people: Michael Henderson’s “review” in the Times is a wonderful example of this.


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