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August § The Common Test / 2016-02-16 21:04:46
Robin § Unforgotten / 2016-01-08 21:19:16
MsFitNZ § Towards A Theory of Secondary Literacy / 2015-11-03 21:23:21
Jon Schultz § Bless the toolmakers / 2015-05-04 18:39:56
Jon Schultz § Bless the toolmakers / 2015-05-04 16:32:50
Matt § A leaky rocketship / 2014-11-05 01:49:12
Greg Linch § A leaky rocketship / 2014-11-04 18:05:52
Robin § A leaky rocketship / 2014-11-04 05:11:02
P. Renaud § A leaky rocketship / 2014-11-04 04:13:09
Jay H § Matching cuts / 2014-10-02 02:41:13

Ai Weiwei and the Nightmare City
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Ai Weiwei on Beijing:

There are positives to Beijing. People still give birth to babies. There are a few nice parks. Last week I walked in one, and a few people came up to me and gave me a thumbs up or patted me on the shoulder. Why do they have to do that in such a secretive way? No one is willing to speak out. What are they waiting for? They always tell me, “Weiwei, leave the nation, please.” Or “Live longer and watch them die.” Either leave, or be patient and watch how they die. I really don’t know what I’m going to do.

Via Noteworthy and Not.

5 comments

Such a powerful essay, and nice pull-quoting (as always). I liked:

You don’t see yourself as part of the city—there are no places that you relate to, that you love to go. No corner, no area touched by a certain kind of light. You have no memory of any material, texture, shape.

It’s interesting to really think about how the historical conception of the city as something one really identifies with and yearns for (whether that city is Paris, New York, or San Francisco) falls apart in Beijing, and that this hollowness isn’t just a problem for its artistic inhabitants but a disappointing, symptomatic loss. They can tell something’s deeply wrong, in other words, because they don’t have those warm-fuzzies for their city.

But here’s a question: this is a story about a “nightmare city,” and Weiwei’s voice is simple, determined, and plodding in the way real-life horror is plodding. Is that a stylistic choice he made? Is that what his English-language writing sounds like? Or is (and I know Sapir-Whorf is massively problematic, and untrue in all sorts of ways, but) that some function of how general prose writing works in Mandarin?

(Or! Is it a move to position himself in the line of stylistically simple but spiritually deep Chinese writers, like Lao Tzu?)

Not sure anyone can answer that, but I wanted to toss it out.

pon says…

you should visit and find out for yourself…

I hope to! I’m wondering more about style here, though.

I wonder what the natural life is like in Beijing. One of the things that made SF really feel like home to me was that all along my commute (walking to Muni or biking) were trees and shrubs that I recognized and knew a little this-or-that about.

This was never realized in my year living in Brooklyn. Many factors involved: fewer trees, working from home, less diversity and (at least less accessible) natural history.

In San Diego I drive almost everywhere, so this is pretty much a non-starter. On those rare days I manage to ride in it is great to smell the pines and (invasive though they may be) gum trees up through the reserve. But the most familiar thing on my average commute are the drivers I have a feeling I recognize, especially the aggressive Porche Cayenne.

LA has lots of urban trees and shrubs, and they are starting to feel more familiar. But things are so wild and exotic here I feel like I’m in a jungle or an exotic garden a lot of the time. Maybe it is growing on me though.

(Cambridge also never got there for me. I put this down 20% to being young and in too much of a rush and 80% down to needing corrective lenses for 4 years without realizing it.)

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