Remembering Life in Arcosanti, Paolo Soleri’s Futuristic Desert Utopia

In 1998, James McGirk spent five weeks living and working in Arcosanti, a desert community built in the 1970s that attempts to use ornate architectural planning to help create a harmonious society. Its designer, Frank Lloyd Wright disciple Paolo Soleri, passed away this week at age 93; McGirk remembers his experiences at the location and his interactions with Soleri.

The game of (not) life

There is no better analogy for contemporary art than Conway’s Game of Life. This is not the same thing as The Game of Life, which is played on a board and simulates the education and subsequent useful employment of a human being. Conway’s Game of Life is a math game, an evolution simulator simple enough to be played on a checkerboard, but most often encountered on a computer. In the game, three rules govern whether or not an individual “cell” lives, dies or reproduces.

Destination: Oklahoma

Going West is an adventure. Maybe not as much as was when you had to take a covered wagon and float across the Mississippi and shoot bison along the way for food, but still, it’s a thrill. My wife and I decided we’d had enough of New York City. She’d been there almost fifteen years, I’d been there ten, and as ostensible creatives it seemed foolish to work 90 hours a week before we even began our “real work.”

A Battered Bag of Memories

Strangers calling on a Friday night don’t often bring good news. My wife begged me not to pick up. A tiny voice asked if he was speaking to James Brandon McGirk. I told him he was. “A James Brandon McGirk who was born in London in 1979?” Yes, I replied. Yes, I am. Who’s calling? “A Concerned Citizen was his reply…

 

 

Silicon Valley: Literary Capital of the 21st Century

Technology seeps into our imaginations, changes the way we think and the way we write. The novel may seem like a relic, a low-bandwidth version of virtual reality better suited to the 19th and 20th Centuries than today. But beneath its grim monochrome interface (a.k.a. “pages”) it glows like the neon-piped suits in Tron. Contemporary fiction is nearly as much a product of Silicon Valley as the integrated circuit. 

Writing and the World of Tomorrow

Before we had any idea how dangerous it was to bolt human beings to exploding tubes and launch them into space, when inventions like the lightbulb and airplane and telephone were warping the planet at a ferocious pace and escaping the earth’s gravity well suddenly seemed possible —we imagined that exploring the Universe would be a lot like the famous expeditions we had seen before.

The Godling of Greater Kailash in “Manhattan” magazine

This issue’s Fictionist features a short story by James McGirk, a writer who moved to India in the early days of Manmohan Singh’s economic reforms. The Godling of Greater Kailash is an intriguing story, loosely based on McGirk’s experience as a photographer’s assistant during a particularly long and hot Indian summer, when New Delhi’s expatriate community was flooded with Burmese refugees.

 

A Universal History of Online Iniquity

“BREAKING: Confirmed flooding on NYSE. The trading floor is flooded under more than 3 feet of water.” It was a horrid thought, but Shashank Tripathi’s (i.e. Comfortablysmug’s) infamous Hurricane Sandy tweet had panache. Tripathi mimicked the style of a breaking news tweet perfectly. The image of water sluicing into the New York Stock Exchange was too good to be true. An irresistible nugget of news distilling the potent emotions stirred by the storm: Sorrow for afflicted New Yorkers, fear for the future, the thrill of seeing history unspool in real time, and a dose of snickering glee at the idea of cuff-linked financiers wading through filthy water.

 

The Conspiracy against Conspiracy Theory with Jesse Ventura

Most retired governors use their connections to assume quiet but well-paid positions in the private sector, or loud but well-paid positions as commentators on cable news networks. Former Minnesota Governor Jesse Ventura lately, though, has been prowling obscure government facilities, confronting squirming civil servants, and demanding “the truth” while hosting a reality television show on truTV called Conspiracy Theory With Jesse Ventura.

Privatizing Paradise in the Murder Capital of the World

WHAT WOULD IT BE LIKE for a corporation to not only run an entire city, but to have built that city from scratch, to its own specifications, according to a planned, privatized model of everyday life?