What did it feel like to be alive and culturally enmeshed in the 2010s? What were our values, our hopes, our insecurities and terrors? Only a few days of /lit/ are excerpted here, but even they give us a glimpse. April 25: And I thought, “This is the saddest thought I think I’ve ever had.” November 22: “…the second we touch down on Mars, people are going to realise how unfulfilling it is. Oh look, we moved over there. Fantastic. A few billion more planets to visit […] before entropy devours us all huehuehue.” More
In the seventies, carpets were a way to signal a certain level of middle and upper-middle-class affluence. As such, they could be found almost everywhere.
Sarah Perry is a contributing editor at Ribbonfarm, and published Every Cradle is a Grave: Rethinking the Ethics of Birth and Suicide through Nine-Banded Books in 2014. Perry occupies a Gertrude Stein-esque role in the intellectual community of post-rationalism, bringing people together into a salon-like digital space while also producing vitally important work of her own. Perry’s writing has dealt with issues ranging from existentialist ethics and ritual practice to aesthetics, and has appeared (in addition to Ribbonfarm) in Carcinisation, The View From Hell, and Front Porch Republic.
Heteropia is a word which originates with Michel Foucault, derived from the Greek héteros (“other”) and tópos (“place”). Its meaning is most concretely delineated in his essay “Of Other Spaces: Utopias and Heterotopias” (from the French “Des Espace Autres,” March 1967), though the phrasing “concretely delineated”may be overly generous. Foucault’s own definition of the heterotopic varies from lecture to lecture, and the aforementioned paper contradicts itself both inter- and intra-paragraph. Yet the term’s formulation has touched some nerve in academia, leading to a wide range of scholarly implementations which somehow must be reconciled and dealt with.
“To pilgrims and many expats, it is a temple of techno, a consecrated space, a source of enchantment and wonder.”
Nick Paumgarten, “Berlin Nights”
Is ritual still possible in contemporary society? This essay is one in a series which will examine those spaces which facilitate ephemeral and loosely structured (rather than repeated, highly structured, and strictly observed) events. Such spaces are communal but not socially mandatory; they are spiritual but derive transcendence from ecstasy instead of trial or mundanity.
“He looked at the cattle, blurred in silver heat. Silvered powdered olive trees. Quiet long days: pruning ripening. Olives are packed in jars, eh? I have a few left from Andrews…
A cloud began to cover the sun wholly slowly wholly. Grey. Far. No, not like that. A barren land, bare waste. Vulcanic lake, the dead sea… Brimstone they called it raining down: the cities of the plain.”
— Ulysses, 4.200-221
An introduction to this text can be found here.
The mobilization of Ulysses and Earnest is purposefully audacious and inevitably missteps. The overarching tone, and parts of the analysis, I would characterize as “understandably wrong.”
In the Second World War, Allied troops airdropped massive amounts of food, weaponry, and supplies onto the Melanesian islands. To the islanders, largely isolated from modern industrialization, the wealth and abundance of the drops was interpreted within a mystical, quasi-religious framework. Upon the war’s end, these airlifts dwindled to a stop, and island cults emerged which attempted to ritualistically summon more supplies. Lacking an understanding of the core mechanisms behind the airdrops — a world war, mechanized flight, the Allied island-hopping offensive — these so-called cargo cults began constructing imitation runways, dressing like U.S. soldiers, and generally mimicking military behaviors without success.
I’ve been set free and I’ve been bound
To the memories of yesterday’s clouds
I’ve been set free and I’ve been bound
And now I’m set free
I’m set free to find a new illusion
— “I’m Set Free,” The Velvet Underground
“As time goes on… the universe becomes more and more what experience has revealed, less and less what imagination has created, and hence, since it was not designed to suit man’s needs, less and less what he would have it be. With increasing knowledge his power to manipulate his physical environment increases, but in gaining the knowledge which enables him to do so he surrenders insensibly the power which in his ignorance he had to mold the universe.”
— Joseph Wood Krutch
One of my favorite pieces of Mark Richardson’s writing is his 2012 essay “I Wanna Live: Two Songs About Freedom” for the now-dead column Resonant Frequency. In it, he waxes eloquent on the two-chord song, especially Bowie’s “Heroes,” Cat Power’s “Nothin But Time,” and LCD Soundsystem’s “All My Friends”:
[There] is something especially powerful about music with this harmonic structure. In my mind, when I’m listening — and especially if it’s a song that wants to comment on something about “life” — the two chords seem to say, “Sometimes it’s like this, and then other times it’s like this.” Day and night, love and fear, yin and yang, life and death.
“And I said to Mabel, I said, ‘computational aesthetics, super-short. Jürgen Schmidhuber’s Theory Jürgen Schmidhuber, an AI theorist and theoretical computer scientist, has proposed a computational account of aesthetic judgments. In his view, a stimulus is judged to be beautiful or attractive by a subject T to the extent that the stimulus is compressible for T. Schmidhuber’s notion of compressibility is taken from algorithmic information theory, but concerns actual rather than ideal compression: it refers to the actual # of bits in T’s mental representation of the stimulus, bounded and fallible as T may be. Beholden to the limitations of T’s computational resources, two kinds of stimuli should be the most compressible: stimuli with evident internal structure (e.g. fractals or a chessboard), and stimuli with noticeable similarities to stimuli already stored in T’s history (e.g. English words or a the sight of a friend’s face). Experimental psychology supports both a preference for stimuli with internal patterns and a preference for stimuli with a similarity to past stimuli.”