Friday digest (3.12.2021)

Non-fungible means you have equipped protection against fungus-based attacks

As we get close to a full year’s worth of masking and aerosols and six feet, I feel myself getting delusionally optimistic about it “ending” soon, warm weather triggering some kind of uncaged animal response. I hope you feel the same way, because a delusion is much more pleasant when it is a positive one and shared by a whole community. If I had to pick of all the types of delusions to have, I mean, I’d rather have this kind.

1. Good tweet

2. Listening to new Black Dresses

Forever In Your Heart by Black Dresses (2021)

Shrieky, noisy, distorted, disordered, vulgar, I love everything Black Dresses puts out but especially this now that they’ve fully put hyperpop to rest. Glorious evolution.

3. Dean Kissick

Kissick writes one of my favorite cultural commentaries/sporadic columns for Spike, and his distinctly Gen-X disaster hedonism, reeking of someone too old to be so online, provides him just the right mixture of schizophrenic tech fear + anti-nostalgia + sick throwback references to build a world simultaneously relatable and neurotic. This Wednesday’s column was no less of-the-times. NFTs: non-fungible tokens. The concomitant final death of The Art World’s bloated corpse, to be replaced by something beyond self-obsessed and only derivative.

Capturing the overwhelm your poor physically-bound brain feels when you realize that anything can be put on the blockchain, actually, Kissick paints the unique spiritual malaise that has erupted from our interconnectedness, our dissolution of physical selves: “examine nearly any aspect of society and you can see it’s gone too far.” Turns out that Nabisco has released 65 different flavors of Oreos in 8 years. Heinous. “This overabundance of choice reminds us of and drives us back to the original. It reminds us of how much we like the old Oreo, the Platonic ideal of the Oreos of childhood, the Proustian Oreo with the glass of cold milk. When there’s too much of everything however, at some point the original is lost, the memory is lost, and all that remains are faded, flat, hollowed-out derivatives.” In these derivatives of derivatives, the subprime loans of art, we’ve sped past John Berger’s conception of images as soaked in ideology and straight to how art’s only desire is to be possessed, now no longer physical, now purely reproducible, now only valuable because of a winking game of assurance of non-reproducibility. We play with the shadows of the age of mechanical reproduction.

This is an age of great speed and competition. We’re all looking for more popularity, new ways to find an edge; and yet, all this competition only seems to lead to blandness and mediocrity, rather than breakthroughs. Nor does it lead to collapse; even accelerationism doesn’t work. We want too much content, too fast, and it just leads to this endless algorithmic churning, this paint-by-numbers effect. You see it in art. In Netflix documentaries. Spotify playlists. Op-ed pages. The news. The latest manufactured outrage. Well-reviewed first-person novels about nothing. All so dreadfully banal and repetitive. This is what results when everything is forged in economies of dollars, of ether, of attention.

On Thursday, Christie’s auctioned off an NFT for $69.3 million.

4. Soft physical geometries

This factlet comes courtesy of my dear friend Sarah who informed me (in response to this tweet thread I sent her:

) that some mathematicians crochet physical models of hyperbolic planes. An explanation by Daina Taimiņa, the master crochet handicrafter:

If you tried to make your annular hyperbolic plane from paper annuli you certainly realized that it takes a lot of time. Also, later you will have to play with it carefully because it is fragile and tears and creases easily -- you may want just to have it sitting on your desk. But there is another way to get a sturdy model of the hyperbolic plane which you can work and play with as much as you wish. This is the crocheted hyperbolic plane.

A guide on how to crochet your very own non-Euclidean object is here, and a video below. I think it would make a very nice tea cozy.

5. On cyborg arms, from a real prosthesis user

This is a terrific article written by Britt Young, a PhD Candidate at Berkeley, on the communal delusion about prostheses: that the more they look like Iron Man the more functional they are. We intact-armed love our human limb replacements to look futuristic. It is self-assuring. It makes us feel that our technological ability is enough to overcome anything nature can come up with. We cannot see a heart stent or a feel a kidney replacement, having to trust an entire medical practice with our wellbeing, but seeing that sleek, machined prosthetic arm quiets the nervous part of our brain that is so concerned with our own frailty.

When I worked in a prosthetist’s office in undergrad, I was stunned by how many people hated their powered prostheses, despite spending a sportscar-amount of money on them. They’re heavy, they break, and they give you no sensation or feedback about what your hand is doing, forcing you to keep an eye on it to make sure you haven’t dropped all your groceries a few blocks back. I was surprised, like all the other students I knew, that the body-powered prostheses (that look kind of like claws or talons) are far and away preferred, because you can learn to relate the tension of a strap across your back with grip strength at the prosthesis. Robotic arms make no such accommodations. Young’s article is an essential read.

6. Find of the week: green

Yours deluded,

N