Apr 19, 2014

high contrast

kattenburgerstraat, amsterdam

Apr 7, 2014

loan fruits

c/ benet mateu, 62.

Apr 3, 2014

thorn hedge

To sit in the sun and read Columella on how to plant a thorn hedge is a pleasure I had to teach myself. No, I was teaching myself something else, and the thorn hedge came, wisely, to take its place. They're longer lasting than stone walls and have an ecology all their own. Birds nest in them and snails use them for a world. Hedgehogs, rabbits, snakes, spiders. Brier rose, dog thorn. There are some in England still standing from Roman times.
"the hunter gracchus," guy davenport

Apr 1, 2014

stacking spaces

on two visits, we met two different halves of the cøffee lab and shop on passatge sert in barcelona. but we only found this out by accident.

the first time we visited, jordi mestre, owner of nomad coffee productions made us a v60 out of a prototype roast of colombian beans from la esperanza—the profile was light as is the mode these days, but sweet too, with red fruit. on our second visit, kim ossenblok made us a chemex from kochere roasted by nomad (intense blueberry, as is sometimes the case). as he poured, one of us asked if he was a partner in nomad. of course not. turns out, kim runs a cupping and training studio. in the same space, during only partly overlapping hours, nomad roasters also has a retail space and coffeeshop. kim tells us it is "like a coffee coworking space," but it isn't really coworking.

we don't have a good word or phrase yet to describe an arrangement in which multiple businesses occupy the same space at different times of the day or week (or even the year). so i'm going to coin one: let's call them stacked spaces. kim says, "it is a good way to have a physical space to work. for me, a space to teach about coffee. for jordi [from nomad], a place to show his coffee. it's not always easy to find people you can share a space with, but we are lucky. it works. i have what i need, jordi has what he needs. the cafe doesn't even have to be so profitable because we've all got something else going on ... it is more efficient to use the space this way."

stacked spaces reduce rental cost and operational risk for the businesses that occupy them. many east asian and south-east asian cities have acquired stacked spaces purely out of a combination of laissez-faire regulation, high rents, and dense population—and in cities like singapore or tokyo, stacked spaces contribute to urban vitality and adaptability. similar patterns are now emerging in manhattan, london, and paris, mostly in the interstitial spaces that are not carefully managed or regulated in conventional ways. this is the shape of one type of urban innovation.

it is fair to say that city planners, city governments, large property developers, and property managers are not yet in on this game—but they should be.

Mar 28, 2014

Mar 24, 2014


tall and wide glass works, by james turrell, at pace london. worthwhile, though the effect was slightly diminished in the wide glass in the rightmost lower gallery by perceptible discontinuity in the colour shifting and sloppy finishing in the aperture edge.

Mar 15, 2014


Everything, Jos was saying to Pascal, Sebastian, and Franklin, can be done well. The art of eating an orange, watch. We want all the juice, jo? The long blade of your pocketknife, whetted truly sharp, with which we make a triangle of three neat jabs in the navel of this big golden orange picked by a Spanish girl with one breast jundying the other. Lift out the tetrahedral plug so sculpted. Suck. Mash carefully and suck again. Now we slice the orange into quarters, sawing sweetly with the blade, so there's no bleeding of juice. Like so, O puppy tails. One for each of us. Nibble and pull: a mouthful of tangy cool fleshy toothsome orange. And Sebastian has squirted his all down his jammies, the world being as yet imperfect. Eat a bit of the peel along with the pulp: not as great as tangerine peel, as preferred by God and several of the archangels, but still one of the best tastes in the world. Seeds and the stringier gristle into the trash basket. Swallow the seeds and they'll grow an orange tree out of your ear. People who don't know how to eat an orange, like people who don't have the patience and cunning to pick all the meat out of a walnut, who don't eat peaches and apples skin and all, do not have immortal souls.
guy davenport, "wo es war, soll ich werden," in the death of picasso

In the morning, in the soft sultry chamber, sit in the window peeling tangerines, three or four. Peel them gently; do not bruise them, as you watch soldiers pour past and past the corner and over the canal to the watched Rhine. Separate each plump little pregnant crescent. If you find the Kiss, the secret section, save it for Al.

Listen to the chambermaid thumping up the pillows, and murmur encouragement to her thick Alsatian tales of l'interieur. That is Paris, the interior, Paris or anywhere west of Strasbourg or maybe the Vosges. While she mutters of seduction and French bicyclists who ride more than wheels, tear delicately from the soft pile of sections each velvet string. You know those white pulpy strings that hold tangerines into their skins? Tear them off. Be careful.

Take yesterday's paper (when we were in Strasbourg L'Ami du Peuple was best, because when it got hot the ink stayed on it) and spread it on top of the radiator. The maid has gone, of course—it might be hard to ignore her belligerent Alsatian glare of astonishment.

After you have put the pieces of tangerine on the paper on the hot radiator, it is best to forget about them. Al comes home, you go to a long noon dinner in the brown dining room, afterwards maybe you have a little nip of quetsch from the bottle on the armoire. Finally he goes. Of course you are sorry, but—

On the radiator the sections of tangerine have grown even plumper, hot and full. You carry them to the window, pull it open, and leave them for a few minutes on the packed snow of the sill. They are ready.

All afternoon you can sit, then, looking down on the corner. Afternoon papers are delivered to the kiosk. Children come home from school just as three lovely whores mince smartly into the pension's chic tearoom. A basketful of Dutch tulips stations itself by the tram-stop, ready to tempt tired clerks at six o'clock. Finally the soldiers stump back from the Rhine. It is dark.

The sections of tangerine are gone, and I cannot tell you why they are so magical. Perhaps it is that little shell, thin as one layer of enamel on a Chinese bowl, that crackles so tinily, so ultimately under your teeth. Or the rush of cold pulp just after it. Or the perfume. I cannot tell.
m.f.k. fisher, "borderland" in serve it forth.

In other times, at least two overwhelming invasions of the Italian peninsula were inspired by the visions of paradise that oranges engendered in northern minds. Oranges were once the fruit of the gods, to whom they were the golden apples of the Hesperides, which were stolen by Hercules. Then, in successive declensions, oranges became the fruit of emperors and kings, of the upper prelacy, of the aristocracy, and, by the eighteenth century, of the rich bourgeoisie. Another hundred years went by before they came within reach of the middle classes, and not until early in this century did they at last become a fruit of the community.
john mcphee, oranges.

late winter afternoon

Mar 10, 2014

hymn to the banal

Billy Collins

I have come back to the couch—
hands behind my head,
legs crossed at the ankles—

To resume my lifelong study
of the ceiling and its river-like crack,
its memory of a water stain,

The touch of civilization
in the rounded steps of the molding,
and the lick of time in the flaking plaster.

To move would only ruffle
the calm surface of the morning,
and disturb shadows of leaves in the windows.

And to throw open a door
would startle the fish in the pond,
maybe frighten a few birds from a hedge.

Better to stay here,
to occupy the still room of thought,
to listen to the dog breathing on the floor,

better to count my lucky coins,
or redesign my family coat of arms—
remove the plow and hive, shoo away the bee.

Mar 9, 2014


the palm house in sefton park.

Mar 3, 2014

the sky

amory street, cambridge, ma; and chichu museum, naoshima, japan.

Mar 1, 2014

this is competitive kerning

h-ack wine

300 people in a greenhouse in the veneto, with 24 hours to cobble together answers to problems in wine marketing.

Feb 22, 2014


Feb 19, 2014

Feb 16, 2014

N700 at odawara station

punctual, speedy, and hydrating—the shinkansen does it all.

Jan 31, 2014

the frozen north

a densely packed visit to nyc. while standing up, i discovered that entry-level dönnhoff, unfortunately, is not the dönnhoff worth drinking—for that, only the expensive dönnhoff will do. early on the morning of the second day, a damp flake fell from the grey wool sky, shortly followed by many of its little moist pals. much-loved, well-worn chuck taylors are not suitable footwear for crusty slush. a real-estate/seafood preservation magnate presented me a rare copy of a nyc-themed board game of his design in which players must perform a simulated mugging in order to win. or something like that. some empirical research conducted in the field indicated that caesar salad, veal parmesan, citrus-marinated rutabaga, and tarentaise with corn purée may all be appropriate foods for quiet and snowy days and nights. the next day, every acela express train was canceled, but i whined my way aboard an ice-encrusted northeast regional—which anyway has better seats—that eventually deposited me in boston. when i finally made it to cambridge, i was relieved to find it drier and colder, and with better mugs.

Jan 13, 2014

las vegas, week 2

this city perplexes, surprises.

the strip is filled with people trying energetically to convince themselves that they're having fun. downtown has more pawnshops and bail bond brokers than it has grocery stores. everything you want to go to is at least a 10-minute drive away. there is a pervasive belief in the virtues of excess.

on the other hand: its winter weather—crisp air, bright sun—is hard to beat. the low-angled evening light on the northern hills is a spectacle. west spring mountain road, particularly between south decatur and hauck, is filled with chefs with singular ideas and precise execution. in the "stab-and-rape district" (not my words), between a wedding chapel that has seen better days and a shop selling "turquoise," is a gelato shop that would hold its own in any city.

Jan 4, 2014

cambridge, ma

with appropriate reading material. outside, it is 1°F (-17°C).

Dec 31, 2013

new year, semi-new city

everything good takes time and effort.

(above, 28:280 by omer arbel and bocci; at the v&a)

Dec 26, 2013

christmas in london

yesterday, the streets were a cyclist's almost-dream: free of even the slightest trace of london buses though not free, unfortunately, of london drivers. then, in the afternoon, to deepest west london. there was too much cheese but that was ok, polish mushroom borscht, many interesting bottles of wine—including one brought at considerable inconvenience from barcelona that i was particularly looking forward to drinking again*—and christmas music. a lot of christmas music. suddenly, dense white smoke was everywhere, followed by thrown-open doors and windows, an overturned bowl of very delicious ice cream mix, a crying baby. through the smoke and the respiratory distress, we discerned that the oven was the source, of course, of course: our goose was nearly cooked. there is nothing like kitchen chaos to bring people together around the table, especially if that table is in the room that doesn't have smoke in it. plus, now i know: never forget to put water in the roasting pan when cooking a goose.

today is for making bread, getting the goosefat out of my cellphone and left sock, and studiously avoiding oxford street where vast amounts of money no doubt are changing hands.

* the casa pardet 1995 tempranillo reserva is a beautifully reserved, composed, alive wine—a rare (but fortunately not the only) anomaly from the country of strident fruit and Too Much Wood. it had seemed ok, if a bit depressed, the night before when i decanted it, only revealing its hideously corked nature when i opened it again just before dinner. tw, who is wise in matters of the vine, says: "I have never had a wine that seemed fine then turned out to be corked. I have had many that seemed iffy and then turned out to be truly fucked."

Dec 18, 2013

value, counterfeits, authentication, and trust

these statements seem indisputable:

the more valuable a class of objects becomes, the more likely it is that someone will try to counterfeit instances of the class.

the more counterfeiting attempts there are, the more likely it is that good counterfeits will be produced.

the better the counterfeits, the more effortful it will be to authenticate any object.

trust in the value of the class of objects is proportional to the ease with which any instance of the class can be authenticated.
let us consider the implications of this for bitcoin. the only media of exchange that are systemically immune to authentication-related trust failures (though not immune to local trust failures) are those in which trust in the medium is highly distributed.

Dec 6, 2013

Nov 30, 2013

selling points

cronuts all types of cheap gifts
carrer ample, barcelona.

Nov 20, 2013

through the science and back into freedom

Although art in practice brings great difficulties for all those entering into it, this is so to the greatest possible degree in our own time. But for someone who has reached an age at which the intellect has already come to predominate to begin exercises in the initial stages, it must surely be impossible—without destroying himself—to pass forth from his own individuality toward more general endeavours ... He who loses himself in the boundless abundance of the life unfolding around him, and is thereby irresistibly prompted to copy it—and who thus feels so powerfully moved by the total impression—will surely seek to penetrate into the proportions, nature, and strengths of the great masses in precisely the same fashion in which he enters into the characteristic quality of the details ... He who considers the great masses—with a constant sense of the way in which all things are alive, down to the tiniest detail, affecting everything else—cannot conceive of them without a particular connection or affinity, far less depict them without being drawn to consider their fundamental causes. And when he does so, he cannot return once again to his initial freedom without working his way through to the pure ground, as it were ... To clarify what I mean: I believe that the old German artists, if they had known something of form, would have lost the immediacy and naturalness of expression in their figures, until they had reached a certain stage in this science ... There have been those who have built bridges and suspension work and other such technical things simply by eye. That is certainly possible for a time, but once a certain height has been reached and one naturally hits upon mathematical conclusions, his whole talent will be for nothing unless he works his way through the science and back into freedom.
runge to goethe, 7.05.1806

Nov 16, 2013

white cube

really is a white cube. heading home after an unexpectedly long lunch in bermondsey, the aggressive luminosity of the white cube's internal lighting caught my eye. it is a feat for the ambient interior lighting of a building to be visible from nearly 40 meters away in full sun.

inside is the usual junk and then a quite large show by larry bell which is very worthwhile. the "light knots" are the most elegant and economical of the works on display. like a fred sandback yarn sculpture, these make a big point with almost no material, achieving the effect of appearing simultaneously there and not with only hanging pieces of metallised mylar. in person, these objects have an apparent volume quite different (and not necessarily larger) than their actual volume.

they're an evolution from the glass pieces in working at the margins of understanding the affordances—opacity, reflectivity, chromatic purity, and now also topography—of various materials. clearly new, yet on a developmental trajectory from previous work and with an ever-increasing economy of means. an artist i have come to admire.

his website is also ... well, you can see for yourself.

Nov 13, 2013

in the bag

this is a completely disinterested public service announcement.

my black medium deluxe courierware bag is now 12 years old. i have used it literally nearly every single day for over a decade; of everything i own and have owned, i have used this the most.

just enough pockets, just waterproof enough, just big enough, with branding so reticent as to be nearly invisible. it will easily accommodate a laptop, charger pack, cellphone, book, emergency fruit supply, water, and a change of clothing, with room to spare. i can use it as my only bag on anything up to a four-day trip. it handles odd loads with grace: i have carried sharp-edged volcanic rocks in it, as well as rare books, chunks of glacial ice, a large watermelon, and an entire case of wine (but not all at the same time). stuffed with a fleece, it is a serviceable pillow for those nights you spend sleeping in, for instance, a rental car parked in the empty lot next to a motel in el paso or the departure lounge of the bangkok international airport.

people treat their old courierware bags the way people treat their old patagonia clothing; fortunately—unlike new patagonia clothing—new courierware bags are not pieces of overdesigned crap.

once, long ago, courierware were in cambridge, ma between the dolphin seafood restaurant and café sushi on mass ave. these days they are in randolph, vt. they have a $25 discount on a line of anniversary versions of the deluxe bag going now, in celebration of their quarter-century of business. i know from personal experience that they are serious about their lifetime warranty. do you you value quality and restraint over fashion and flash? would you like a messenger bag you will never have to (or want to) replace and which grows better with age? there is no time like the present.

Nov 8, 2013

the structure of retail innovation

takes a different form in every city.