nostalgia


…Frank Loyd Wright['s] design for Broadacre City … was based both on his wholesome appreciation of the hygienic and domestic values of rural life, and his Jeffersonian contempt for the many-sided corporate and institutional life of the city. In the name of the first, he was ready to shrink the acreage of productive soils and break down the special human values of the rural landscape, with the functional divisions of meadow, pasture, and woodland, of cultivated land and wild land, in order to give every house and family a subsistence garden; and he was no less ready to break down the natural coagulations of life in villages and country towns, in a new fashion that made every social activity call for long distance transportation and therefore the incessant use of the motor car….The high price of such remote lots automatically turns the farmer into a real-estate speculator, and results, as in California, in the slaughter of orchards, vineyards, and market gardens that once gave both health and delight–to say nothing of fresh food–to the nearby urban communities.

… the anti-city combines two contradictory and almost irreconcilable aspects of modern civilization: an expanding economy that calls for the constant employment of the machine (motor car, radio, television, telephone, automated factory, and assembly line) to secure both both full production and a minimal counterfeit of normal social life; and as a necessary offset to these demands, an effort to escape from the over-regulated routines, the impoverished personal choices, the monotonous prospects of this regime by daily withdrawal to a private rural asylum, where bureaucratic compulsions give way to exurban relaxation and permissiveness, in a purely family environment as much unlike the metropolis as possible. Thus the anti-city produces an illusory image of freedom at the very moment all the screws of organization are being tightened….

Because the anti-city is by nature fragmentary, any part can be built by anybody anywhere at any time. This is the ideal formula for promoting total urban disintegration.

Not the least factor in this development, certainly in America, is the persistent residue of the curious pioneer belief in space and mobility as a panacea for the ills of social life…. [which] is the current doctrine of space for space’s sake…. This has become the “space age” with a vengeance: in architecture space has become a substitute for urbane design….

No secondary modes of intercourse, neither the printed page, the telephone, nor television, can take the place of that direct face-to-face intercourse whose occasions the city, when it remains close to the human scale, multiplies. Without an urban container deliberately planned for such intercourse, the dominant economic and technical pressures of our time tend to form a multitude of over-specialized, non-cooperating, and non-communicating enclaves, whose spatial remoteness and social segregation favor the totalitarian automatism of our time….

Though the isolated institutional parts might be as hyper-productive as those computers whose data is already too abundant to be assembled and interpreted, the cultural creativity that fosters further human development is bound to drop, within a generation or two, toward zero.

– Lewis Mumford, “The Megalopolis as Anti-City” [c.1962-3]. In Jeanne M. Davern (ed.). Lewis Mumford. Architecture as a Home for Man: Essays for Architectural Record. New York: Architectural Record Books, 1975, pp. 121-128.

… the phenomenon of collecting loses its meaning as it loses its personal owner. Even though public collections may be less objectionable socially and more useful academically than private collections, the objects get their due only in the latter. I do know that the time is running out for the type that I am discussing here and have been representing before you a bit ex officio. But, as Hegel put it, only when it is dark does the owl of Minerva begin its flight. Only in extinction is the collector comprehended.

– Walter Benjamin. “Unpacking My Library.” In Illuminations. New York: Harcourt, Brace & World, 1968: 67.

Property and possessions belong to the tactical sphere. Collectors are people with a tactical instinct; their experience teaches them that when they capture a strange city, the smallest antique shop can be a fortress, the most remote stationery a key position. How many cities have revealed themselves to me in the marches I undertook in the pursuit of books!

– Walter Benjamin. “Unpacking My Library.” In Illuminations. New York: Harcourt, Brace & World, 1968: 63.

May Sky is a slowly-unfolding visual novel made by Japanese company Scrubbing, translated lovingly, painstakingly and slowly by Irene Ying. Ying writes about her translation process, “Remembering previous adventures, I reread May Sky multiple times, but not enough — I failed many times to realize I was setting up for the next scene. Possibly the hardest lesson for me to learn was listening to the voices of the speakers while I read…. all this was one very long lesson to me in listening to the piece and the characters inside. If I’d had more time that’s what I would have tried to focus on more. Since that was not the case, I will be spending some time after the release to study the original and the translation more.” You can download it from Insani, the hobbyist group Ying works with, which specializes in the “localization” of visual novels.

May Sky: Minori Kamiake at a piano in a Shinto temple and in the thoughts of Haruki Mizoguchi.

May Sky: Minori Kamiake at a piano in a Shinto temple and in the thoughts of Haruki Mizoguchi.

Let us … look at that land, where, although not perhaps its birthplace, the cinema found the soil in which to grow to unprecedented and unimagined dimensions.

We know from whence the cinema appeared first as a worldwide phenomenon. We know the inseparable link between the cinema and the industrial development of America. We know how production, art and literature reflect the capitalist breadth and construction of the United States of America. And we also know that American capitalism finds its sharpest and most expressive forms in the American cinema….

[Yet] in the [American] metropolis, … the high-powered automobiles are so jammed together that they can’t move much faster than snails creeping from block to block …. As you make your merely minute progress amidst a tightly packed glacier of other humans, sitting in similarly high-powered and imperceptibly moving machines, you have plenty of time to ponder the duality behind the dynamic face of America, and the profound interdependence of this duality in everybody and everything American…. as your eyes wander over the smooth surfaces of the skyscrapers …. you suddenly realize what “trick” the skyscrapers play on you: although they have many floors, each floor is quite low. Immediately the soaring skyscraper appears to have been built of a number of small-town buildings, piled up on top of each other….

The threads of both Americas are interwoven in the style and personality of [D.W.] Griffith–as in the most fantastic of his own parallel montage sequences.

– Sergei Eisenstein. Film Form: Essays in Film Theory. Translated by Jay Leyda. New York: Harcourt, 1979, pp. 195-198.

It makes sense … to reconsider nostalgia not as blindness but as sightfulness, which completes the modern experience of time with its insistent perception of disaster and its empathy to strangers stranded in the present.

Peter Fritzsche. “Specters of History: On Nostalgia, Exile, and Modernity.” The American Historical Review 106, no. 5 (2001): 1592.

… the United States give the idea of a colony, not of a mother country; they have no past; their manners and morals are not the fruits of their laws. The citizens of the New World took their rank among nations just at the time when political ideas were entering into their ascendant phase: and this explains why they have changed with such extraordinary rapidity. Any thing like a permanent condition of society seems to have been inpractical amongst them; on the one hand from the extreme ennui of individuals, and on the other from the impossibility of remaining in any fixed place, and the necessity of movement which controls and urges them on; for people can never be stationary when their household gods are continually wandering. Situated on the highways of oceans, and at the head of progressive opinions, as new as his country, the American seems to have received from Columbus rather the mission of discovering new worlds than of creating them.

François-René Chateaubriand. Memoirs of Chateaubriand, From His Birth in 1768, Till His Return to France in 1800. London: H. Colburn, 1849: pp. 304-305.

In recent generations the human race has made extraordinary advances in the natural sciences and their technical application, and it has increased its control over nature in a way that would previously have been unimaginable. The details of these advances are generally known and need not be enumerated. Human beings are proud of these achievements, and rightly so. Yet they believe they have observed that this newly won mastery over space and time, this subjugation of the forces of nature — the fulfillment of an age-old longing — has not increased the amount of pleasure they can expect from life or made them feel any happier. We ought to be content to infer from this observation that power over nature is not the sole condition of human happiness, just as it is not the sole aim of cultural endeavours, rather than to conclude that technical progress is of no value in the economy of our happiness. By way of objection it might be asked whether it is not a positive addition to my pleasure, an unequivocal increment of my happiness, if I can hear, as often as I wish, the voice of the child who lives hundreds of miles away, or if a friend can inform me, shortly after reaching land, that he has survived his long and arduous voyage…. [however] most of these satisfactions follow the pattern of the ‘cheap pleasure’ recommended in a certain joke, a pleasure that one can enjoy by sticking a bare leg out from under the covers on a cold winter’s night, then pulling it back in. If there were no railway to overcome distances, my child would never have left his home town, and I should not need the telephone in order to hear his voice. If there were no sea travel, my friend would not have embarked on his voyage, and I should not need the telegraph service in order to allay my anxiety about him.

– Sigmund Freud, Civilization and Its Discontents [1930]. David McLintock, trans. New York: Penguin, 2002, pp. 31-32.

“… Colouring the world is always a means of denying it (and perhaps one should at this point begin an inquiry into the use of colour in the cinema). Deprived of all substance, driven back into colour, disembodied through the very glamour of the ‘images’, the Orient is ready for the spiriting away which the film [The Lost Continent] has in store for it. … our studio anthropologists will have no trouble postulating an Orient which is exotic in form, while being in reality profoundly similar to the Occident, at least the Occident of spiritualist thought. Orientals have religions of their own? Never mind, these variations matter very little compared to the basic unity of idealism. . . . “It is this same ‘all things are alike’ which is hinted at by our ethnographers: East and West, it is all the same, they are only different in hue, their essential core is identical. . . . If we are concerned with fishermen, it is not at all the type of fishing which I shown; but rather, drowned in a garish sunset and eternalized, a romantic essence of the fisherman, presented not as a workman dependent by his technique and his gains on a definite society, but rather as the theme of an eternal condition, in which man is far away and exposed to the perils of the sea, and woman weeping and praying at home. . . . All told, exoticism here shows well its fundamental justification, which is to deny any identification by History. By appending to Eastern realities a few positive signs which mean ‘native’, one reliably immunizes them against any responsible content. A little ‘situating’, as superficial as possible, supplies the necessary alibi and exempts one from accounting for the situation in depth. Faced with anything foreign, the Established Order knows only two types of behaviour, which are both mutilating: either to acknowledge it as a Punch and Judy show, or to defuse it as a pure reflection of the West. In any case, the main thing is to deprive it of its history. We see therefore that the ‘beautiful pictures’ of The Lost Continent cannot be innocent …. ”

From “The Lost Continent” in Roland Barthes, Mythologies [US ed. 1972], pp. 94-96.

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