metaphysical & metaphorical musings : art, architecture, and arithmetic

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The Last One - Ulmerisms

“School is built on the sweat of the idiots.”

“Literacy is really hard.”

“I invented Electracy.  It’s in Wikipedia.”

“Part of my creative secret is I misunderstand my own notes.”

“We are some stupid animals—on the fringes of nothing.”

“Theory is what you do when you don’t know what you’re doing.”

“I don’t want anyone having more fun than I am.”

“I got retirement; you all are doomed, though.”

“We each bring our own little grain of sand to the pile…to prevent beach erosion.”

“If that’s your problem, you’re not doing it right.” (on rocketships to heaven)

“Wikipedia’s got a pretty good thing on pepper.”

“The apes are sitting around asking ‘what are we going to do with junior?  He doesn’t have any hair, he’s walking upright, asking a lot of questions, won’t eat his bananas.’”

“See that?  See what happens?  You got all uppity and became unheimlich.”

“…old people, its part of their operating system.” (on the sacred)

“…doing physics like you’re three months old.” (on memory and emotional association)

“I can spend fifty years meditating, or I can just take a hit off the bong.”

“…mathematic procedure and madness comes down to the same thing in practice.”

“Will you just walk out of Walmart, right now?  Just put down the blender.”


Advance Praise

“I don’t speak Greek” – Epimenides, paradoxician [translated from the original Greek]

“…the least factual, most accurate account.” – Frank Mankiewicz, journalist

“…soft and spongey—like a Twinkie.  Like a Twinkie.” – Morgan Freeman, narrator

“Your film…one thing in two words: fucked up…very fucked up.  Okay three words, four words, who the hell cares…very very fucked up.  What I’d call a bad trip…I was so upset I even threw my friend’s fishtank at their china cabinet.  Ugly, very ugly.  Salt water, dead fish everywhere, me screaming ‘so very very fucked up.’  Five words.”
- Hunter S. Thompson, doctor of divinity [interview with Karen Green, qtd. in Danielewski]

“It’s like a koala bear crapped a rainbow in my brain.” – Hazel Murphy, captain

“surprisingly adequate” – Harold Bloom, logorrhetic sesquipod

That’s Numberwang.” – Bertrand Russell, human

Tuesday, April 19, 2011


[strophe - a turn or division]

It finally happened.  There I was, minding my own business (well, my own beer), when I finally had an epiphany of my very own.  It was bound to happen—it’s fatality, after all.

I’ve been agonizing for days over my Prezi.  (Todd can attest—he’s seen me sulking around top floor of Rolfs like the ghost of Hamlet Sr.)  I just couldn’t make the damn thing come together, find the logic of the immanent trope.  So there I was, hunched in agony (competition with the object—who will prove more resourceful?) over my computer, when I finally found a tropic tangent.

In the later days of Pruitt-Igoe, broken glass was a conspicuous feature: cascades of shattered beer bottles filled the ground that originally promised ‘a river of trees’; more significantly, one of the buildings’ most prominent features was its busted-out windows.  Broken windows—a sign of fatality.  We’re all intimately familiar with this phenomenon.  It’s the scourge of the personal computer—the fatal error—a sign that Microsoft Windows has tripped over its own formality.  Pruitt-Igoe as a signifying accident is the very same as the blue screen of death.  This, of course, leads marvelously into Lev Manovich’s theorization of the new media screen, providing a convenient inroad into digital technology, a persistent parallel to modern architecture in my blog.

I hypothesized, early on, that the disaster was the organization of space.  The notion that suspicion and defection were emergent properties of the layout seem to corroborate this.  Pruitt-Igoe promised the American Dream of the mid-century.  The project arose as a result of flight to the suburbs, to the white picket fences of middle-class America.  Pruitt-Igoe was an urbanized version of the white picket fence neighborhood—‘vertical neighborhoods for poor people’, to quote Architectural Forum (and the scary thing is, these were words of praise).  The social disintegration seems to me a form of mass brinksmanship; if this barren, inhospitable space masquerading under a human metric was the best that the American Dream was going to offer up, the only option was to call its bluff.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Going Modulor

The search for science has led me back to Le Corbusier's Le Modulor.  The standard scale of modern architecture, this is the metric of Pruitt-Igoe, the science behind the space.  In the pursuit of a "living-machine" that takes the human as its measure, Yamasaki created an unlivable-machine.

We get a break on this one; the science already shows its fabrication.  The standard for modulor was changed ex post facto, from 1.75 metres to 6 feet, from the height of the average Frenchman to the height of good-looking policemen in English detective novels.

As previously noted, modulor is homophonous with modular, synonymous with infinitely repeatable design, like the homogenous blocks of Pruitt-Igoe.  Modular housing itself is prefabricated structures that can be moved; in the case of Pruitt-Igoe, the buildings weren't modular, but the design (based on the Modulor) assumed that its residents were--that humans can be picked up and deposited into prefabricated spaces and philosophies.