Archive for the ‘CULTURAL ODDS AND ENDS’ Category

Gosh, wow, aircars!

The typical inspiring image of the East is or was the Buddha, meditating in stillness; the typical inspiring image of the West was and is ‘the man on horseback’, or his high-tech equivalent. How many millennia, I wonder, will it take to get the Age of Migrations out of our systems? By Futurism I mean […]

The fetish of the straight line

The straight line was imposed on the rolling fields of the American semi-desert, and lo, the soil blew away. Monoculture is not actually efficient in the long run, we just imagine that it is, and this delusion is a fundamentally aesthetic conviction. For us Western people, the straight line, the grid and uniformity are the […]

Posted on April 23, 2009 at 09:32 by Hugo Grinebiter · Permalink · One Comment
In: CULTURAL ODDS AND ENDS, The Futurist Fever-Dream

Form Over Function

Alexander McCall Smith has commented on the large eaves of traditional Botswanan buildings, which were for keeping the sun away from the windows, until Western architects made such a fetish of “clean-cut building lines’. It was more important what buildings looked like from down the street than how they functioned as dwellings and workplaces. Where […]

Raiders of the lost arts

We all know how Roman underfloor central heating was forgotten and had to be re-invented. It is not the only example of architectural amnesia, with the consequence that all we seem to be good for now is the erection of ‘sick buildings’. The traditional South-East Asian house, for example, was built on stilts, and therefore […]

The purity hangup

As well as being hung up on the straight line, Western man has also had a thing about ‘purity’. Something that is ‘pure’ is composed only of a single thing and is not mixed with anything else. But is that always good? When the one thing is drinking water and the thing it is not […]

Pure and applied arts

People complain that architects do not have to work or live in the buildings they design. They might as well complain that artists do not take up residence in their paintings, or that composers do not make tents out of their scores and pitch them in the garden. It isn’t about a place to live […]

Posted on June 21, 2009 at 08:14 by Hugo Grinebiter · Permalink · One Comment
In: CULTURAL ODDS AND ENDS, The Futurist Fever-Dream

Why are castles romantic?

Why is it exactly that we automatically think medieval paraphernalia ‘romantic’, or at least exciting and fascinating? Carcassonne and other medieval European cities dress people up as mounted knights in armour; would it amuse the tourists as much to behold people wearing modern military battle gear? We consider castles and turrets romantic; does the same […]

Posted on June 22, 2009 at 09:38 by Hugo Grinebiter · Permalink · 2 Comments
In: CULTURAL ODDS AND ENDS, The Futurist Fever-Dream

The supernova hasn’t happened yet

Many people talk about a star going supernova ‘now’ and our not seeing it for a thousand years. It is true that if we see a supernova today, and we if know that it is a thousand light years away, then we can truly say that the light has been a thousand years en route […]

Posted on July 13, 2009 at 09:06 by Hugo Grinebiter · Permalink · One Comment

Clarke’s confused law

We all know Clarke’s Law, that any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. One of the things wrong with this cliché is the fact that any proposition that includes the word ‘sufficiently’ is tautologous. That is, if you claim that any X that is sufficiently Y is a Z, and I show you an […]

Posted on July 14, 2009 at 09:52 by Hugo Grinebiter · Permalink · 2 Comments

Sleeping with The Alien

Well, some would say that most of us do this every day. But I am thinking rather of those SF stories with aliens who are so like us anatomically (via parallel-evolution hand-waving, panspermia or mislaid colonies) that we can have sex. Larry Niven’s interspecies sexual diplomacy (rishathra) is of course a locus classicus, but by […]

Posted on July 15, 2009 at 10:13 by Hugo Grinebiter · Permalink · Leave a comment