It will be either cheese or dessert, not both at once.

– A French commentator on France’s “anti-Amazon law, which says online sellers can’t offer free shipping on discounted books.” Quoted in a NY Times article on how the French “promote ‘biblio-diversity’ and help independent bookstores compete.” 

Last year, out of the blue, he published a book of photographs of himself as a cross-dresser. He also wrote last year about getting his hands on his F.B.I. file and discovering that the United States government thought he might have been the Unabomber. These sorts of things never happen to Michael Chabon.

In Martinique, I had visited rustic and neglected rum-distilleries where the equipment and the methods used had not changed since the eighteenth century. In Puerto Rico, on the other hand, in the factories of the company which enjoys a virtual monopoly over the whole of the sugar production, I was faced by a display of white enamel tanks and chromium piping. Yet the various kinds of Martinique rum, as I tasted them in front of ancient wooden vats thickly encrusted with waste matter, were mellow and scented, whereas those of Puerto Rico are coarse and harsh. We may suppose, then, that the subtlety of the Martinique rums is dependent on impurities the continuance of which is encouraged by the archaic method of production. To me, this contrast illustrates the paradox of civilization: its charms are due essentially to the various residues it carries along with it, although this does not absolve us of the obligation to purify the stream. By being doubly in the right, we are admitting our mistake. We are right to be rational and to try to increase our production and so keep manufacturing costs down. But we are also right to cherish those very imperfections we are endeavouring to eliminate. Social life consists in destroying that which gives it its savour.

– Claude Levi-Strauss, Tristes Tropiques. The underlying philosophy of liberalism, and the consumer culture it generates, condensed into nine sentences. (via ayjay)

Meanwhile, we don’t need to wait until a hypercapitalist techno-utopia emerges to do right by our struggling neighbors. We could make the choice to pay for universal health care, higher education, and a basic income tomorrow. Instead, you’re kicking the can down the road and hoping the can will turn into a robot with a market solution.

Ford eventually came around with the loan guarantees necessary to let the city borrow again, but only after intense pressure from Congress and European governments — and after his chief of staff’s assistant, an ambitious young draft dodger named Dick Cheney, made the city agree to end free tuition at the City University system — something it had provided through war, recession, and municipal malfeasance since 1847.

Equally important, there are plenty of them. Mr. Smith, for example, has produced as many as 300 of his paint-droplet “Rain” canvases, according to dealers. Mass production allows artists to make as much money as possible. It also enables contemporary art investors, nervous of notions of rarity, to buy multiple works and to track their price fluctuations, like a commodity, on databases such as Artnet. Flip Art, like Andy Warhol’s Factory-produced Pop Art, can be as reassuringly numerous and uniform as gambling chips.

When working on the This Heat CDs Gareth was always very meticulous and precise with detail, even small things that people wouldn’t really notice, typography ‘jokes’ that weren’t in any way obvious, but there anyhow: the insert for Repeat, which myself and Gareth worked on for weeks, was a very precise construction and actually contains a kind of code in the grid. The presentation had to be ‘just so’.

In Los Angeles you can be standing next to another human being but you may as well be standing next to a geological formation. Whatever that thing is, it doesn’t care about you. And you don’t care about it. Get over it. You’re alone in the world. Do something interesting.

That unofficial knighting launched one of the postwar period’s most storied careers in American cultural fieldwork. Searching for records led to searching for the people who made them, and McCormick had natural gifts when it came to approaching strangers and getting them to talk, or if they could, to sing and play. He had a likable, approachable face, with pronounced ears and intelligent eyes. He took a job with the census, expressly requesting that he be assigned the Fourth Ward, the historic African-American neighborhood in Houston settled by freed slaves who migrated there from all parts of the South, where he knew he would find records and lots of musicians, going house to house. The fables of his research are legion. He drove unthinkable miles. At one point he started traveling county by county or, rather, he started moving in a pattern of counties, from east to west, marking a horizontal band that overlapped the spread of slavery west from the Atlantic colonies. He investigated 888 counties before he was finished. He asked about everything, not just music but recipes, dances, games, ghost stories, and in his note-taking, he realized that the county itself, as an organizing geographical principle, had some reality beyond a shape on the map, that it retained in some much-diminished but not quite extinguished sense, the old contours of the premodern world, the world of the commons, how in one county you would have dozens of fiddle players, but in the very next county, none — there everyone played banjo. He began to intuit a theory of “clusters,” that this was how culture worked, emanating outward from vortices where craft-making and art-making suddenly rise, under a confluence of various pressures, to higher levels. Elaborating that theory would be his great work, or part of it.

– An incredible introduction to the life’s work of Robert “Mack” McCormick, buried in this NY Times feature on the search for the roots of Americana.