I feel a hot wind on my shoulder
And the touch of a world that is older
I turn the switch and check the number
I leave it on when in bed I slumber
I hear the rhythms of the music
I buy the product and never use it
I hear the talking of the DJ
Can’t understand just what does he say?
—-Wall of Voodoo, Mexican Radio
Apartment Building, The Cedars, Dallas, Texas
Oblique Strategy:Think of the radio
When I was a kid I was really interested in archaeology. I even joined a local archaeologist club and had a fantasy of going out somewhere and digging crap up. Of course, nothing ever happened. I loved a book about archaeology called Gods Graves and Scholars. I was always fascinated by this photo from Chichen Itza
Chichen Itza – from the book Gods, Graves, and Scholars
A couple decades or so ago, I found myself in the exact same spot – sort of cool. It turns out that photo was taken from the top of the great pyramid.
But as far as actual archaeology goes… nada.
Now I’m cleaning out my garage, organizing, sorting and throwing as much stuff away as I can. Finally, I feel like an archaeologist, slowly moving through the detritus of the past, working layer by layer, trying to understand the purpose of things that have been long forgotten.
“A new social type was being created by the apartment building, a cool, unemotional personality impervious to the psychological pressures of high-rise life, with minimal needs for privacy, who thrived like an advanced species of machine in the neutral atmosphere. This was the sort of resident who was content to do nothing but sit in his over-priced apartment, watch television with the sound turned down, and wait for his neighbours to make a mistake.”
― J.G. Ballard, High-Rise
Downtown Dallas, Texas
Oblique Strategy: Short circuit (If eating peas improves virility, shovel them into your pants)
The city as mirrored crystal.
Here in the crystal city it is more unpleasant to be destroyed by gratification than by pain. The best things are its junk… as long as you understand what is junk. But the most dangerous of all is truth. A mirror can protect you from Medusa but the truth will stone you even in its reflection.
“Artists use frauds to make human beings seem more wonderful than they really are. Dancers show us human beings who move much more gracefully than human beings really move. Films and books and plays show us people talking much more entertainingly than people really talk, make paltry human enterprises seem important. Singers and musicians show us human beings making sounds far more lovely than human beings really make. Architects give us temples in which something marvelous is obviously going on. Actually, practically nothing is going on.”
― Kurt Vonnegut Jr., Wampeters, Foma and Granfalloons
Downtown Fort Worth, Texas
Oblique Strategy:Retrace your steps
What are the reasons for the modern vertical big city downtown? Maybe three is no reason… maybe they just are, like a mountain or an ocean. Maybe simply the value of a square foot of property.
There is the perceived need to pack a large number of lawyers, accountants, and administrative assistants together in order to foster some sort of symbiotic synergy between them. Think of the three dimensional human density in a fifty story high rise… it is unprecedented. I saw a documentary on The Lost Boys of Sudan – the Africans were brought to Houston and given ordinary apartments. They had never seen a two story building and were constantly afraid of falling through the roof of the first floor. Imagine their reaction in a skyscraper.
With today’s multi-use towers, will we have people born, live, work, and die in the same building? It’s certainly possible. It may be inevitable.
But I think the real reason for skyscrapers is to impress the rubes. To amaze the hayseeds off the farm and in the city for the first time. After all, they are the only ones that look up.
“This tower, patched unevenly with black ivy, arose like a mutilated finger from among the fists of knuckled masonry and pointed blasphemously at heaven. At night the owls made of it an echoing throat; by day it stood voiceless and cast its long shadow.”
― Mervyn Peake, Titus Groan
“The serial number of a human specimen is the face, that accidental and unrepeatable combination of features. It reflects neither character nor soul, nor what we call the self. The face is only the serial number of a specimen”
― Milan Kundera, Immortality
Column Capital, Ellis County Courthouse, Waxahachie, Texas
“You mean old books?”
“Stories written before space travel but about space travel.”
“How could there have been stories about space travel before –”
“The writers,” Pris said, “made it up.”
― Philip K. Dick, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?
Hickory and Trunk Streets, Dallas, Texas
On our Hidden Art Bicycle Ride today we came across a building with robots painted on it. A very large building, but one on a street you don’t drive on very often. I had been there before, many times, on a bicycle, but the robots weren’t there. It was cool to see.