Culture 11 Op-Ed

Why Attack Hotels?

Take the population of New York City, double it, cram it into an archipelago half its size, and turn up the temperature: you get Mumbai, a city whose luxury hotels are its best escape. These air-conditioned comfort bubbles, far above the sweltering, seething masses, afford the world-weary traveler or Indian executive access to the best restaurants, luxuries like crisp croissants and pepperoni pizza, glossy magazines that haven’t yet gone limp in the relentless humidity, water that won’t give you “Delhi Belly,” and respite from the traffic jams and screeching hawkers on the streets below… (LINK)

The Madness of the Upper Class

My latest article, about my brief stay in a 5th Avenue Penthouse:

Illustration from L Mag

Readers humbled by New York City’s billionaire hedge fund managers and their trustafarian progeny may take some comfort in knowing that Andrew Carnegie’s warning about wealth slipping between the fingers of subsequent generations?“from shirtsleeves to shirtsleeves in three generations”?still applies. … click to read.

Quantico, Virgina

Marine Museum

The Marine Museum in Quantico, Virginia. The rest of the campus is mainly red brick and barracks:

Quantico

A little ways off, near the Marine University, is the Research Center:

Marine Research Center

Somewhere inside is a bust of Col. John Boyd,  I tried to get close but the place was closed. Still, I pressed my nose up against the glass for a look:

The front of the Marine Corps Research Center

I got closer and closer:

Up against the glass

Turns out this wasn’t Boyd… so what lurked behind the glass?

Air and Space Museum

Spook Country

I have an essay out next week in The L Magazine about William Gibson’s latest novel, Spook Country. This post will eventually become an excuse to link to it.

The L Magazine

Truth be told, I was a little disappointed by Gibson’s latest. I was reminded of Tibor Fischer’s review of Martin Amis’ Yellow Dog, “it’s like your favourite uncle being caught in a school playground, masturbating.”

I liked Yellow Dog, I’ve been on a serious Martin Amis kick since moving up to New Haven and I think sentence-wise it’s better than Money or London Fields. I’d dig out some quotes, but my Yellow Dog is under bedbug quarantine, wrapped tight in permethrin-laced plastic right now.

Partly I don’t like Spook Country because Gibson’s veering off from science fiction, which I think is a cop-out. But more to the point, I think the whole book is a conscious attempt to replace the Neuromancer metaphor for cyberspace. He’s trying to say that cyberspace is becoming just another layer of consciousness, which would be fine but it’s rammed down your throat–all these layers of things other than technology floating about, influencing characters… oh, it’s all so hacky.

The worst is when the omniscent narrator voice goes into the head of a young Cuban character. The writing gets self-consciously ethnic-sounding, like you can tell Gibson has been reading all this breathy, badly translated Latin fiction and has decided that’s the way Cubans think. Worst of all, Gibson has pared down his prose and, let’s just say he’s no Martin Amis once he loses the density.

Spook Country is still worth a read, though, I mean he’s still a good writer. But the density is what made his writing, without it it’s flaccid, sloopy (not sloppy, sloopy) stuff. Plus he’s wrong about his Internet metaphor. Information operates like grammar does, it’s about linkages between things and not about things themselves. It’s still a concept metaphor, what the Internet is and will become reflects that. That’s what pattern recognition is, I think, it’s seeing the ‘shape’ of a network of intermingled exchanges.