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Posts Tagged ‘paradigm shift

Paradigm shift in Architecture: Steve Jobs, Rem Koolhaas…Simon  Sadler essay

Posted on March 30, 2013

An émigré architectural historian who teaches across disciplines in California, at a public university near Apple’s lair in the Bay Area (close to San Francisco), is posting an essay.

Since architectural stories are surprising rare on the edge of the continent, he needed a shtick; no matter what’s his connoisseur-ish personal tastes and leftist political dispositions.

Simon  Sadler published an essay on March 13/2013 in The Design Observer Group: “Steve Jobs: Architect”

Top: Apple store, Fifth Avenue, New York. [Photo by Eric Wüstenhagen]

Bottom: Steve Jobs and Rem Koolhaas. [Photos by James Mitchell, left, and Rodrigo Fernández, right]


1. An Apple for the teacher Yet another treatise on Steve Jobs? As an “architect”?And with Apple seemingly waning,  aren’t we behind the curve on this?  Suffice it to say that my interest is not solely in Steven Paul Jobs himself, but rather in the challenge that the late computer impresario and legendary technologist poses to the methods and purpose of an architectural historian.

My job and my location place me close enough to Silicon Valley that students might fairly assume that I have something cogent to say about all this.  Apple is working with Norman Foster to build a donut-spaceship as its headquarters in Cupertino.

So what are my options?

1. Compare and contrast, that trusty standby of art history, in which I drill my students. I can compare Jobs with … with whom, exactly? Bill Gates, or maybe Thomas Edison? That route would take us away from design, away from architectural history, away from aesthetics.I like to pay close attention to both Science and Technology Studies and Cultural Studies, which are the disciplines perhaps most comfortable with technology and the American experience.

But neither the Apple HQ, or the iPhone for that matter, readily lend themselves to STS and Cultural Studies’ emphases on flattened and distributed innovation and on user-generated meanings.So any methods I might borrow from those anthropologically-inclined fields will need to be augmented by the emphases on authorship and aesthetics that architectural history traditionally draws from art history. Peel away his ruthless command of global consumer markets and Jobs can seem to the art historian more akin to Gropius than Gates.

2. Criticality.  Since Jobs’s ruthless command of markets is a fact that cannot be peeled away, we are obliged to deploy the criticality that has been central to architectural historical method that was started by Tomás Maldonado and Manfredo Tafuri.I am duty-bound to tell students that design is not necessarily benign, especially when it seems to be.

Yet they can see me teaching from the MacBook I am writing on even now. Some of the students I have trained will graduate into Silicon Valley. I wonder what that suggests about my own complicity with the very things which I am attempting to critique?How does my salary, my adopted state, my consumption, tie me to all this?

So I discreetly edge the conversation back to my own disciplinary competence by comparing the design for the new Apple headquarters with other corporate buildings. We take another iconic and somehow ominous HQ — OMA’s recently completed CCTV tower in Beijing — and we then compare Jobs with OMA’s head, Rem Koolhaas. As if they were both architects.

And then we treat Jobs as though he were an offshoot of a Bay Area design history that was substantially driven by architecture. My concern is to have something to say about design in the far western region where I teach; even though major monumental buildings are scarce on the ground here, and even though the politics of good design are adulterated by my state’s politics of good business.

This effort becomes a test of the limits of my discipline, devoted as it has long been to the maintenance of European critical traditions, and to monumentality and the public sphere, and to the continued preeminence of the academic institutions of Northern Europe and the U.S. Eastern Seaboard.

Such is the fate of many an émigré architectural historian in California, at once living and working within a global engine of economy, design, ideology and media, yet rather far from the concatenations of Greater New England architectural historical scholarship.We wonder whether there is any more that can be said about the Mission Style, the Case Study Houses, the freeways; or whether anything whatsoever can be said about California’s inland agricultural empire of the Central Valley, which is where I live.

Norman Foster’s design for the Apple headquarters, center, surrounded by the California architectural historian’s canon.[Photos, clockwise, by Eli PoussonNeil KremerDystopusKeith DalyChris McSorleyAllan FergusonMyDifferentDrum and Roberto Estremo] Talk about Jobs as though he were an architect — already a dubious proposition — is to talk as well about advanced capitalism, about global systems, the counterculture, Zen Buddhism, and all manner of phenomena apparently inimical to the critical tradition, to monumentality and the public sphere.

This approach might threatens to liquefy my discipline through a Golden State looking-glass.Maybe I should emulate the resolve of the philosophers Adorno and Horkheimer who were stranded in sunny Los Angeles during the war, refused to succumb to California languor.To be frank I think that architectural-historical methodology can benefit from this modest test, and prevail. 

This is one of those experiments in method encouraged — forced — by the study of California: here subject and method evolve symbiotically, as befits scholarship in a region enamored with holistic thought, even as my disciplinary training prevents me from ever going fully native.

2. Why it’s simpler to treat Jobs as a California Modern Architect To the subject at hand?To me, treating Jobs as an architect has merit, if for no other reason than to bring sort of conclusion to the popular psychologizing of what made Job tick.It is no secret that Jobs was a “complicated” man. Nothing more typifies the persona of the “great architect,” driven to get his ideas executed with minimum compromise, somehow distrustful of people yet seemingly concerned about their welfare, preferring to channel politics through design rather than to actually participate in political activity.

Eric Alterman writes in The Nation’s: Despite the myriad ways his companies improved our lives, Jobs was a hero only in the Ayn Randian sense…” de facto connecting Jobs, via Rand, to that archetype of the “complicated” architect, Howard Roark, a.k.a. Frank Lloyd Wright

A sense of what you might call “psychopathic humanism” attends such personalities: they are determined to improve the human lot no matter how many individual humans they offend along the way.Bucking our current postmodern era, Jobs and Koolhaas both seem to have been driven by the possibility that they can act inside, or around, a postmodern world resistant to purpose.

Jobs and Koolhaas share, I suspect, an attraction toward design as a type of hermeneutics — a will to learn about the world through the attempt to change it. Koolhaas assigned his Harvard students and OMA assistants to track aesthetic multiplier effects through the study of shopping and of African urbanism; he is passionate, in a manner worthy of a surrealist or second-order cybernetician, about paradox and overdetermination.

Meanwhile both the personnel and the customers of the Apple Corporation functioned as an extension of Jobs, and not simply through the authoritarian exertion of will. In this sense Jobs hasn’t died in the same way that Mies van der Rohe hasn’t died: something of his very thinking, his gestalt, has been learned by other designers and consumers, and in this way Jobs’s legacy — like influential pedagogy — is “architectural.”

That Jobs’s work, his products, has constituted a daily part of people’s lives over several generations was testified to by the peculiar and public demonstrations of grief at his passing.
Steve Jobs memorial, Apple store, San Francisco. [Photo by raumish] Koolhaas, for sure, is a redoubtable figure for historians and theorists of architecture in a way that Jobs never will be. Judged by his impact on architectural pedagogy and his reception by critics, he probably remains our most important living architect, popular with scholars to the degree that he is apparently unpopular with, even obscure to, the public at large.

Koolhaas invites interpretation. In contrast, scholars are left practically redundant by the sheer popularity of Jobs’s work: there is, apparently, no work of interpretation left for us to do.We can try to deepen our analyses of Jobs by citing the pivotal influential of industrial designers like Dieter Rams; but accounting for Koolhaas’s interests in the surrealist paranoiac-critical method, Soviet Constructivism and Italian Autonomist Marxism would require graduate-seminar-level exegesis.

Put another way: if Koolhaas’s aesthetic is difficult, Jobs’s is dumb. The categorical difference is that one really is an architect, steeped in the arts, and the other is an ambitious industrial designer, steeped in the applied arts; which is why Koolhaas presents an explanatory challenge, Jobs a functional literalness.I am not so sure about this distinction, though; whatever the philosophical and formal challenges which Koolhaas’s buildings pose, they function well.

And Jobs’s intellectual formation was easily as esoteric as that of Koolhaas.It’s no surprise that architect Norman Foster has referred to Jobs as though he were a professional peer, “in every way so much more than a client,” as Foster put it in his tribute. “We are better as individuals and certainly wiser as architects through the experience of … working for him. …  Job participation was so intense and creative that our memory will be that of working with one of the truly great designers and mentors.”(This is the sort of language we might expect Foster to have reserved for his earlier mentor Richard Buckminster Fuller — another figure whose functionalism, anathema to the richly formal work of Koolhaas, is adored in Bay Area.)

When Jobs’s name is used as a search term in the scholarly Avery Index to architectural history, it retrieves a 2005 article from Britain’s ID magazine that lists, in this order, the most influential design thinkers in the world: the Museum of Modern Art’s Design Department, Steve Jobs, Rem Koolhaas.For ID, at least, we are in some way comparing like with like. And the listing of Jobs with MoMA and Koolhaas has the intriguing effect of drawing a westward axis of transnational design, as it transposes from The Netherlands, then to the United States via New York and Northern California, then onward to China, where Jobs and Koolhaas confirm their incendiary reputations in the factories of Shenzhen and the political machine of Beijing.The modernist tradition becomes — to use Koolhaas’s celebrated term — increasingly delirious, as it gravitates from the Heroic Age Netherlands, to Jazz Age New York, to Aquarian Age California.If Koolhaas has capitalized upon a distinctively Dutch taste and Northern European aesthetic, Jobs has championed a distinctively Californian energy.In the early 1980s, the German industrial designer Hartmut Esslinger proposed that there should be a “born-in-America gene for Apple’s DNA,” one that would produce what Esslinger called a “California global” look. Esslinger, then newly arrived in the United States, initially suggested that Apple’s aesthetic be inspired by “Hollywood and music, a bit of rebellion, and natural sex appeal.”But Hollywood, rock music, sex appeal and rebellion did not prevail in the iconic forms that embody the Apple brand identity created so obsessively by Jobs. In its stores, in its devices, even in the book cover he designed for Walter Isaacson’s biography (which he himself commissioned Isaacson to write), Jobs recovered a vision of the modern as clarified, normative, truthful, perhaps somewhat German though even more Zen.Is there a relationship between California and these qualities of clarification, normative, truthfulness and Zen? I believe that Apple really does represent a genus of Californian design — that the slogan “Designed by Apple in California” conveys something like an ethos.


Top and Middle: Norman Foster, drawings for Apple headquarters, Cupertino, California, projected 2015. Bottom: Bernard Maybeck, Palace of Fine Arts, San Francisco, 1915. [Photo by Wally Gobetz]Apple’s image evolved markedly from the early 1980s to now, but it remained consistent with Bay Area taste, from the counter-cultural feel of the offerings to be found in (say) its early-’80s gift collections —with their totes, kites, belt buckles, wall hangings and rug kits — to the New Age aura of transcendent consciousness and spirituality of more recent Mac products, their concealed LEDs practicing controlled yogic breathing when left on standby.

Apple was a Bay Area company led by a lifelong Bay Area homeboy steeped in such Bay Area enthusiasms as the Whole Earth Catalog and The Grateful Dead.In the dominant culture of the Bay Area — if I can indulge in a sweeping summary — you find a deep distaste for representing established culture: culture is to be invented, here and now, and to be lived rather than observed and learned. It is a culture that imagines itself as exploring truth and possibility.

This is a trait stretching back through several generations of Northern California designers — Bernard Maybeck is my personal favorite, with his eccentric combinations of materials, technique and historical association. Jobs, too, pursued an aesthetics of truth and possibility.Compare the design of two corporate animation facilities, one for The Walt Disney Company, in Southern California, the other for Jobs’s Pixar, in Northern California. In his 1991 design for the Team Disney building, in Burbank, Michael Graves employs the Seven Dwarves as Atlantes not only to symbolize a passing world of animated arts but also to make an inside joke about the conclusion of classical civilization.

In contrast, in their Pixar Studios, in Emeryville, Bohlin Cywinski Jackson deploy the patterning of bricks of different hues to make decoration immanent to the materials themselves, in this way suggesting that the building itself is pixelated — a pattern waiting to be orchestrated. Facts before pictures.The tectonic and material truths of this factory of the virtual feel hyper-real. Its hand-laid brick courses suggest an unnerving sincerity far removed from the postmodern irony of Graves or the postmodern tragedy of Koolhaas.

The Bohlin Cywinski Jackson practice, founded in 1965 in Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania, under the sway of Louis Kahn (that vital transitional figure between modernism and postmodernism who recovered architectural verity from dogmatic functionalism and returned it to custom, ritual and place) has proven adept at delivering to commercial and technological clients buildings of a local phenomenological intensity. In 1997 the firm completed the residential compound of another computer maven, one Bill Gates of Bellevue, WA, in an earnest regional “Pacific Lodge” style. A couple of years later, Bohlin Cywinski Jackson opened its San Francisco office to handle the Pixar campus for Jobs. What they delivered doesn’t look much like a fun factory.

The main pavilion is an elegant warehouse, its flat arches an acknowledgement of the local light-industry context, with plate glass recalling the notoriously generic corporate architecture of Silicon Valley.

The Pixar campus is a place for serious research, not decorative puns; a place where the arts of animation from the classic era of Disney are preserved within three-dimensional computer modeling originally developed for medical imaging; a place to discover the sorts of truths about the self and the world that were earlier discovered in the Marin County summer camps, Palo Alto garages, East Bay cafés, Silicon Valley laboratories and Silicon Alley warehouses recalled by the campus ensemble.


Top: Michael Graves, Team Disney Building, Burbank, California. [Photo by Loren Javier] Middle and Bottom: Bohlin Cywinski Jackson, Steve Jobs Building, Pixar Campus, Emeryville, California. [Photos by John Lambert Pearson, middle, and Michael Heilemann, bottom] The comic foil provided by the monumental Luxo lamp is an addition.The lamp — an homage to Pixar’s celebrated 1986 demo reel, “Luxo Jr.” — was a gift from Australia, as though Pixar were a new nation — a corporate nation that reaffirms the Bay Area as a center of the creative world (with a nod, in the naming of its new building “Brooklyn,” to an East Coast counterpart).

Jobs was the undisputed ruler of this nation; Pixar employees knew him to be the hidden hand in the building’s design,  [11] and Jobs was always adamant that all core creative production for his companies would happen in the Bay Area in real diurnal time, defying the industry trend for the globalized dissipation of the design process across facilities, specializations and time zones.

At a Cupertino City Council meeting in June 2011, a clearly ailing Jobs made what I assume was his last public appearance to present the plans for the new Apple HQ; he promoted the Foster + Partners design as a great entity in a traditionalist Bay Area landscape to be designed by Stanford University’s arborist.  The building thus becomes the capsule, the beehive, the phalanstery for 15,000 engineers circling the wagons against the outsourcing of Californian design.Apple had thus become the new Californian “machine,” reproducing local tastes and predispositions even through its immigrant employees, like the British designer Jonathan Ive, or the German Esslinger and his practice frog design, all of whom were required to relocate to the region as part of their association with Jobs.

Even the design presence of Baron Foster, whose ideas were profoundly affected by his admiration of the Case Study houses, does nothing to deflect the broad, synthetic Californianism of Apple’s trajectory. Yet ultimately Jobs’s phenomenology can be founded on certainties of place and language no more than the modern-day Bay Area can be founded on certainties of place and language.

It is a light phenomenology, slickly tuning consciousness through sensory experience.This calibration of affect, surely at Job’s behest, explains how Bohlin Cywinski Jackson effortlessly switched from the vernacular brick and iron opacity at Pixar to the Zen-like transparency of the 2006 Manhattan Apple Store.Opacity, transparency, Jungian forms, materials, place, tectonics: Jobs and his collaborators were trying to access phenomenological truths at the office and at the store.

Top: Bohlin Cywinski Jackson, Apple store, Fifth Avenue, New York, 2006. [Photo by Jorge Láscar] Bottom: Early graphical user interface, Xerox Star, 1981. [Via DigiBarn Computer Museum]Along the way Jobs conscripted the very typology of the window from the Graphical User Interface — which he explored soon after it was invented at Xerox PARC in Palo Alto — to the service of his light phenomenology that sought to reveal the world.

Floor-to-ceiling windows, beloved by Bay Region architects, became the central motif of Jobs’s inventions — from the computers to the phones to the stores, the windowed grids of the Apple Store on Fifth Avenue relaying attention to the windowed tablets relaying attention to windowed operating systems, propelling us steadily out of history.

Though routinely described as iconic, Apple products seem actually to be moving away from idiosyncratic forms like the trend-setting colored-jellybean style of the late ’90s iMac series. The aluminum, glass and radius edges of the recent products strain for ascetic neutrality.Without much difficulty the Apple consumer could imagine information one day floating in the environment, dematerialized into the “cybernetic meadow” forecast in the celebrated (if ridiculed) 1967 poetry collection by San Franciscan Richard Brautigan when he was poet-in-residence at Caltech. [15]

So at the end of his life, Jobs settled on a Zen-like approach as the appropriate phenomenological architecture for information technology, just as a Zen-like transcendence had attracted generations of Bay Region aesthetes.

Bay Region Style itself bore the clear imprint of Japanese Zen architecture.

In a famous 1947 essay on “Bay Region Style,” Lewis Mumford described the style as “a product of the meeting of the Occidental and Oriental architectural traditions,” and 6 decades later Steve Jobs concurred: “I have always found … Japanese Zen Buddhism … to be aesthetically sublime.

Zen is to California as Greece is to Germany“: so an uncommonly insightful student quipped to me recently, bridging the Bay Region’s dogged pursuit of higher consciousness and the German phenomenological tradition. Jobs’s seemingly existential understanding of design does indeed remind one of the fascination exerted over architects by Martin Heidegger, for whom design functioned best in the background, the better to “bring forth” Being.

Bay Area and German existentialism are even linked by a proud sense of their higher provincialism, the disdain for metropolitan affectation. William Wurster, referring to the Bay Region Style, wrote in 1956  that “Architecture is not a goal. Architecture is for life and pleasure and work and for people. The picture frame, not the picture.”Jobs enthused about the Bay Area’s mid-century stick-built houses developed by Joseph Eichler: Eichler’s “houses were smart and cheap and good,” Jobs told Walter Isaacson. “I love it when you can bring really great design and simple capability to something that doesn’t cost too much. … It was the original vision for Apple.

And so we have that paradox that the normative or the provincial comes to embody rarefied taste and so occupy a central place in design culture. (Something similar happened with critical regionalism.) [22] By the early 21st century, Apple products were the summary forms of international modern design, recalling the abstemiousness of Viennese architect and journalist Adolf Loos at the turn of the 20th century, of the German industrial design of the Dessau Bauhaus of the 1920s, and of the Braun products of Dieter Rams in the 1960s, admiration for the latter of which Jobs developed when attending the Aspen Institute’s conferences in the early 1980s.


Top: Eichler home, original advertisement. [Via Architizer]Bottom: Dieter Rams, Braun radio and record player. [Photos by Nite Owl, left, and Toby Evans, right]

3. Thinking inside the box What did it mean for Jobs to attempt to recuperate “normative,” “classically” modernist values for a postmodern, late capitalist world order — for a world order whose anguish seems better captured by the old-world Koolhaas, and in which modernism’s promise of emancipation is trammeled in the off-shore factories of Apple’s manufacturers? Is this nothing but a travesty of modernism? For of course we know that aesthetic culture is at best a poor substitute indeed for truly political society, and a sickening lie in its absence.

The  clamshell form of the late ’90s MacBook was redolent of the sort of cigarette case that Loos identified in 1908 as the touchstone of modern culture: stripped, portable, repetitive. Ornament became Crime, in Jobs’s mind as it had in Loos’s. The Mac and the cigarette case were trade objects emblematic of their respective epochs, their meanings indefinite, not predetermined: as a content-producing machine, the Mac strenuously obliges society with cultural “running-room.”

Yet the aluminum sheathed MacBook is not quite the quintessential Loosian object. It is almost too refined for its purposes, courting the status of a commodity fetish, mystifying and objectifying human relations through its market exchange.

The MacBook confuses the urn with the chamber pot, to borrow Loos’s terms; it struggles to distinguish the ceremonial from the functional. It ennobles the rituals of everyday life, like writing email, but it is too slick to disrupt our life continuum, which for Loos was the critical function of art, architecture and language — a way in which to make sense of our world.

So it is to Rem Koolhaas and his firm, OMA, that we must turn for manifestation of the disjunctions of tradition and modernity, of place and space.The contrast in taste, in aesthetics, between Jobs and Koolhaas is illustrated most obviously by comparing the two headquarters buildings.

With its twisting and grotesque form, the China Central Television tower underscores the tragic deterioration of the public sphere, as the production of information is impressed into the service of the capitalist dictatorship of the People’s Republic.

It is practically a Salon work of art, simultaneously repulsive and fascinating, politically and aesthetically, in a way that reminds me of that classic of the Salon genre, Théodore Géricault’s The Raft of the Medusa (1818–1819).

Whereas the Apple HQ suggests a very different version of the Romantic legacy, of the recovery of a primordial reason beyond intellectualization — it strains to be “insanely great,” in Jobs’s famous phrase. The circle of steel and glass suggests no history, no past; its gesture is spontaneous, or Jungian, or Zen,  childlike in its simplicity and secrecy. It needs no interpretation because, as designer Sean Daly blogged in The Architects’ Newspaper:

The ensō, or “circle,” is perhaps the most enduring motif in the Zen tradition, one that first appears in Japanese monasteries in the mid-1600s. The Zen circle is not a linguistic character, but rather a symbol that conveys a host of things — the universe, the cyclical nature of existence, enlightenment, strength, and poised contemplation. It suggests the Heart Sutra, which explains that “form is void and void is form” … [27]

Like Pixar in Emeryville, Apple in Cupertino exemplifies a light phenomenology. It’s Zen kitsch. Jobs’s Zen postmodernism, of which Foster’s building is an embodiment, acts upon the world through process, intervening in a cybernetic cycle for which the record of historical struggle is but a dysfunctional footnote.

In sharp contrast, the tragic postmodernism of Koolhaas and the CCTV feels jagged, a beauty of terribilità.

Top: Norman Foster, Apple headquarters, Cupertino, California, projected 2015.

Middle and Bottom: Rem Koolhaas/OMA, China Central TV headquarters, Beijing, 2012. [Photos by Jim Gourley]

Koolhaas’s abstraction of modernity appeals more to critical tastes than Jobs’s interaction with modernity. It is almost as though Koolhaas courts his appeal to art-historical criticality, even contributing to its veritable organ, October.

Koolhaas, who clearly rejected “interactive” and “gadgety” design — as a young architect at the Architectural Association in London in the ’70s, he had little use for the Archigram influence — seems to think like an art historian, and his relative lack of name recognition in the broader culture perhaps confirms the discernment of the specialists.

Whereas the outpouring of grief over Jobs’s death was often in questionable taste. “It sounds crazy,” a student in my modern architecture class said the day after Jobs died, “but for people of my age, it’s like we lost our Bobby Kennedy.” Could my students be so lacking in discrimination? Perhaps … but perhaps not.

I would be fuming if that student had responded in the same way to, say, the untimely passing of Mark Zuckerberg. No disrespect, but Zuckerberg is, we might agree, no Kennedy. So maybe we might agree as well that my student was simply one of many seeking inspiration as an Obama administration elected upon the promise of hope struggled to the end of its third tumultuous year.

And apparently she found it: I noticed her in the crowd when Occupy arrived at my university campus not long after Jobs’s death. One of the few commentators to understand the strange politics of the mourning of Jobs was Frank Rich. Writing for New York Magazine, Rich compared Jobs to Edison as an inventor-entrepreneur whose American technological “architecture” (so to speak) was constructive to the same extent that the upstart American financial-services “architecture” — of the type built by the GE Capital division that had eclipsed the GE industrial division founded by Edison in the 1890s — was destructive.

“Some on the right were baffled that the ostensible Marxists demonstrating in lower Manhattan would observe a moment of silence and assemble makeshift shrines for a top 1% like Jobs, whose expensive products were engineered for near-instant obsolescence and produced by Chinese laborers in factories with substandard health-and-safety records,” said Rich. But, he continued:

If you love your Mac and iPod, you can still despise CDOs and credit-default swaps. Jobs’s genius — in the words of Regis McKenna, a Silicon Valley marketing executive who worked with him early on— was his ability “to strip away the excess layers of business, design, and innovation until only the simple, elegant reality remained.” The supposed genius of modern Wall Street is the exact reverse, piling on excess layers of business and innovation on ever thinner and more exotic creations until simple reality is distorted and obscured.

The paradox was also understood, more viscerally, by that bellwether of campus humor, The Onion:

Steve Jobs, the visionary co-founder of Apple Computers and the only American in the country who had any clue what the fuck he was doing, died Wednesday at the age of 56. “We haven’t just lost a great innovator, leader, and businessman, we’ve literally lost the only person in this country who actually had his shit together and knew what the hell was going on,” a statement from President Barack Obama read in part, adding that Jobs will be remembered both for the life-changing products he created and for the fact that he was able to sit down, think clearly, and execute his ideas — attributes he shared with no other U.S. citizen.

Sit down, think clearly, and execute ideas: this is what draws students to design in a postmodern age, yes? “Obama added” (according to The Onion) “that if anyone could fill the void left by Jobs it would probably be himself, but said that at this point he honestly doesn’t have the slightest notion what he’s doing anymore.”

Bohlin Cywinski Jackson, Apple store, North Michigan Ave, Chicago, 2003. [Photo by Almond Dhukka]

We might decry the chirping of an Occupier’s iPhone as a mere simulacrum of political society.  We might better see the fate of political society in the metaphor of Koolhaas’s atolls of beauty and social space cast adrift in a neoliberal world. But by a remarkable historical turn, the Pollyanna-ish aesthetic of the Apple Mac has forced us back (somewhat) to actual political society, to actual consumer-political activity. What R. John Williams has called Californian Techne-Zen was articulated so forcefully by Apple that it has seemingly necessitated its own exposure as a false consciousness.

Millions of consumers seem to have understood instinctively an incongruity between Apple’s aesthetic triumph and its refusal to advance social justice: it failed our expectation that advanced bourgeois art will articulate or resolve contradiction. Instead the iPhone starkly verified the dichotomy of its slogan “Designed by Apple in California.

Assembled in China”: capitalist differentials in land and labor value exclude millions from the Bay-Area nation. In so nearly sublimating the contradiction, Jobs’s art drew attention to the contradiction. Jobs’s electronics were so beguiling that their users were forced into a classic, bourgeois, visceral encounter with guilt, contradiction, tragedy: it was this that finally confirmed Jobs as an architect-provocateur on a par with Koolhaas.

Both are indeed Salon designers, ageless enfant terribles and lightning rods, prompting and giving shape to otherwise formless feelings and debates. Still, nobody seems to be holding Koolhaas responsible for the work conditions of his building contractors or steel millers, though the unnatural and monumental gesture of CCTV did indeed draw attention to the furtive modes of production — the state censorship — of Chinese information.

When it was occupying its old building (whatever it was), I had never heard of CCTV, nor paused to consider its role in censorship. And when I was using a Dell laptop, the working conditions enforced in China by Taiwanese electronics manufacturer Foxconn were remote from my awareness, even though Foxconn supplied Dell and practically every other electronics manufacturer of which I am a customer. Was it preordained, one wonders in retrospect, that Jobs’s iPad — which he loved to point at the front page of The New York Times during his famous new product presentations — would deliver New York Times reports about the wage and health and safety scandals in the Shenzhen factories in which the apparatus was made?

I used my MacBook Air to sign a petition demanding that Apple redress Foxconn worker grievances. Every keystroke on the superlative machine reminded me of my desire for a better world, for a more complete and transparent political architecture, and of my complicity with forces I prefer to imagine as beyond my control. To borrow the terms popularized by anthropologist Bruno Latour, the works of both Jobs and Koolhaas function as “things” in and around which are assembled public “concerns” that might otherwise slip through the net of parliamentary discourses arrayed around both left and right.

Even the Wall Street Journal felt compelled to question the “secular prophecy” of technological salvation wrought by Jobs. Apple and OMA objects succeed as works of art, and also as catalysts of public attention, not just by being so astonishingly outré, but also by picturing the world unexpectedly — in extreme resolution, in extreme disjunction — and then by suggesting a means to interpret our existence in the world.

Top: Taiwanese protestors outside Foxconn (Hon Hai Precision Industry Co.) headquarters in New Taipei, 2010. [Photo by Lennon Ying-Dah Wong]

Bottom: Bohlin Cywinski Jackson, Apple store, Fifth Avenue, New York, 2006. [Photo by Mecki Mac]

4. The varieties of bourgeois experience I don’t want to muddy the waters of judgment as a caprice. My purpose is to draw attention to the way that art-historical judgment thinks in several registers, about design that works in several registers, in a world that operates in countless registers. To an art historian, the minimalism of the 2006 Manhattan Apple Store is evocative of European Rationalism and neo-Platonism, when to many other cultural critics it is simply an extravagant warehouse, a shop composed of nothing but shop windows.

But now watch how Jobs and Koolhaas complicate the relation between value and values (between exchange value and human value) in similar ways, by thinking like art historians. “Great products,” Jobs told The New York Times, are triumphs of “taste” derived from “study, observation and being steeped in the culture of the past and present.” OMA designs one of its best buildings for Prada, and Apple amasses $70 billion in cash. Both insist that we pay attention to the art of shopping but then shun the pursuit of business for its own sake.

Koolhaas’s studio at Harvard studied shopping, with delicious paradox, and Jobs saw himself as the nemesis of Michael Dell’s fixation with the bottom line. No part of Apple’s organization would ever be “junkspace.”
Their work invites a moral response, and Jobs and Koolhaas pass onto us, their consumers and interpreters, the responsibility to square their contradictions.

Jobs and Koolhaas alike chose the role of eyewitness to the student uprisings in Berkeley and Paris in 1968, and for each the activism of the Sixties would be formative; years later each would be content to observe the political responses to their work in the ’90s and ’00s with similar remove. These two modes of architectural ambition, interactive and abstract, Californian and European, are not categorically different modes — the one in a naïve or affirmative association with capitalism, say, the other in a critical relationship — but are two sides of the same coin.

Jobs and Koolhaas each project variants of postmodern modernism: one optimistic but quietly doomed, the other doomed but quietly optimistic.
The reason of course is that design (like art) is pretty much inevitably a dialectic between God and Wall Street. The Occupier’s iPhone. The Eichler House. The double bind, built simultaneously, of OMA’s two West Coast projects: the Seattle Public Library and the Prada Epicenter in Los Angeles (both 2004). Enlightenment and shopping.

Oscillating between Soviet constructivism, Manhattanite cosmopolitanism, and commercial midcentury modernism, Koolhaas reminds us that at the very moment that modern design triumphed, its utopian political project was doomed. Meaning that questions about Steve and Rem are ultimately questions about us. What more literal object lessons could we ask for, as art historians standing in front of our students, than OMA’s CCTV and Apple’s Campus 2?

One abstracts the agony of the European public sphere, its workers eking out a living in a Chinese capitalist dictatorship, while the other promises an interactive Californianism after the near-eclipse of the New Deal. The university design studios of the Great Recession, rather than transcending the dialectic, are rather merging abstraction and interactivity, producing student projects that routinely integrate buildings with transgressive spaces, sites, economies, nutrition, mapping.

Given the questionable origins of our own paychecks, it’s a devil’s bargain that few art historians can evade for long. Something of the Shenzhen “disgrace” of Jobs might reciprocally be carried over to art history, which is adept at using the abstractions of critical theory to describe the complicity of buildings and architects with economic regimes, but most often shies away from any explicit description of the deep connections that bind architecture to labor and poverty.

Left: Rem Koolhaas/OMA, Seattle Central Library, 2004. [Photo by Sean Munson]

Right: Rem Koolhaas/OMA, Prada Epicenter, Los Angeles, 2004. [Photo by Corbin Keech]

Architecture is a lifeworld within which none of us can parse absolute judgments, yet it still offers ethical and actionable bearings. This I hope I am illustrating precisely by comparing two of its most notorious architects: the fascination of design is exactly its hermeneutic potential for thinking and working from the inside, across several registers. We can study the varieties of advanced bourgeois thinking that constitute and shape architecture as it re-combines — and reconciles [?] — base economic determination with the factors of geography, language, desire, technology, materials. Much as we return to other moments in the history of capital accumulation — Florence in the 15th century, Holland in the 17th century, Manhattan in the 19th century — and detect something mortal about their arcades, portraiture and still lives, so we can imagine art historians of the future scrutinizing the ambitions of OMA and Apple.

One day the Bay Region will make for a particularly intriguing study in New Deal, systems-driven and neoliberal art history, the Golden Gate Bridge an analog of Brunelleschi’s Dome, a place awash with new money, fusing science, technology, engineering and learning, humans and gods, an outpost of godly and economic universalism at the center of a trade network. We can already see the next chapters getting written; Elon Musk is the latest guru.

It is pointless to try and demote Musk’s wild gamble on the Tesla electric car, his fantastic ambition to save the world one drive-train at a time, his thinking across scales (the roadside rest and recharge stations, his concomitant interest in internet commerce and space exploration), the “insanely great” quality of his early products, his commitment to the Bay Area (to the point of locating his factories there) as an instance of business as usual. His products imply a cultural program beyond the marketplace. Musk compels public discussion. He’s a sort of architect.

Looking at California in this way points back to older, iconological approaches, art historical analyses applied across objects and institutions, ecologies and economies of dissimilar scale, type, intention, moving beyond connoisseurship and critical readings to capture something of the intellectual ecology behind things — the epistemology, or ontology; more than just the study of ideology, the study of ideas and intellectual frameworks particular to design, to its active attempts to mold the immediate future, and to its presuppositions about the world and the way it works.

That things don’t just happen, that political economy and subjectivity aren’t givens; that the meeting of matter and consciousness can be altered is not a general understanding but one particular to a class educated in design.
At which point I might be able to take my students out of the lecture hall (where we study OMA’s staggering and faraway monuments) and attempt an architectural exegesis of the systems of the Central Valley, scouring it for meaning, agency, interruption, rather than celebrating it as a vernacular, or damning it as pure instrumentalism. Perhaps we can stand above Cupertino and regard it like the heroine in Thomas Pynchon’s The Crying of Lot 49 (1965), who observes a new town a little further south in California:

Like many named places in California it was less an identifiable city than a grouping of concepts — census tracts, special purpose bond-issue distracts, shopping nuclei, all overlaid with access roads to its own freeway … a plinth course of capital on which everything afterward had been built, however rickety or grotesque, toward the sky. … she thought of the first time she’d opened a transistor radio to replace a battery and seen her first printed circuit. The ordered swirl of houses and streets … sprang at her now with the same unexpected, astonishing clarity as the circuit card had. … there were to both outward patterns a hieroglyphic sense of concealed meaning, of an intent to communicate. … [A] revelation … trembled just beyond the threshold of her understanding … she and the Chevy seemed parked at the center of an odd, religious instant.

Evolution theory was known long time before Darwin.

Darwin collected data before coming forward with his knowledge.

The same case with Euler who had Not a shadow of doubt that planet trajectories were elliptical. He still plugged in for years to gather the necessary data to come forward with his proof.

Many scientists start with an intuition and end up retaining the data that match their hypothesis. The common people have to wait for other kinds of scientists to analyse all the data and start a paradigm shift that discard the traditional knowledge.

Un érudit musulman a eu l’idée de l’évolution 1000 ans avant Darwin

Deux pages du Livre des Animaux d'al-Jahiz

Charles Darwin est le père de la théorie de l’évolution, mais avez-vous entendu parler du scientifique irakien Al-Jahiz ?

L’histoire de la théorie de l’évolution remonte loin dans le monde musulman.

La théorie de l’évolution du scientifique britannique Charles Darwin est l’une des pierres angulaires de la science moderne.

L’idée que les espèces changent progressivement au fil du temps grâce à un mécanisme appelé sélection naturelle (adapting to the environment) a révolutionné notre compréhension du monde vivant.

Dans son livre de 1859, De l’origine des espèces, Darwin définit l’évolution comme une “descente avec modification”, démontrant comment différentes espèces émergent d’un ancêtre commun.

Mais il semble que la théorie de l’évolution elle-même ait aussi un ancêtre dans le monde islamique.

La sélection naturelle

Environ 1000 ans avant que Charles Darwin n’écrive un livre sur la façon dont les animaux changent par un processus qu’il appelait “sélection naturelle”, un philosophe musulman vivant en Irak, qui s’appelait Al-Jahiz l’avait déjà précédé.

De son vrai nom Abu Usman Amr Bahr Bahr Alkanani al-Basri, l’histoire se souvient de lui par son surnom, Al-Jahiz, qui signifie quelqu’un dont les yeux semblent sortir de leur orbite.

Timbre représentant le penseur musulman al-Jahiz

Ce n’est pas la façon la plus gentille d’appeler quelqu’un, mais la renommée d’Al-Jahiz perdure grâce à son livre fondateur, Kitab al-Hayawan (Le Livre des animaux).

Il est né en 776 après J.-C. dans la ville de Bassorah, au sud de l’Irak, à l’époque où le mouvement Mutazilah, (Mo3tazalat) une école de pensée théologique qui prônait l’exercice de la raison humaine, gagnait du terrain dans la région.

C’était le sommet de la domination abbasside.

Des travaux de savants ont été traduits du grec à l’arabe et de puissants débats sur la religion, la science et la philosophie ont eu lieu à Bassorah, façonnant l’esprit d’Al-Jahiz et l’aidant à formuler ses idées.

Le papier a été introduit en Irak par des commerçants chinois, ce qui a stimulé la diffusion des idées et le jeune Al-Jahiz a commencé à écrire sur une variété de sujets.

Ses intérêts couvraient de nombreux domaines académiques, y compris la science, la géographie, la philosophie, la grammaire arabe et la littérature.

On pense qu’il a produit 200 livres au cours de sa vie, mais seulement un tiers d’entre eux ont survécu jusqu’à notre époque.

Portrait de Charles Darwin

Le Livre des Animaux

Son œuvre la plus célèbre, The Book of Animals, est conçue comme une encyclopédie présentant 350 animaux, dans laquelle Al-Jahiz présente des idées qui ont une ressemblance frappante avec la théorie de Darwin sur l’évolution.

“Les animaux s’engagent dans une lutte pour l’existence et pour les ressources, pour éviter d’être mangés et pour se reproduire”, écrit Al-Jahiz, “les facteurs environnementaux influencent les organismes à développer de nouvelles caractéristiques pour assurer leur survie, les transformant ainsi en de nouvelles espèces”.

Il ajoute : “Les animaux qui survivent pour se reproduire peuvent transmettre leurs caractéristiques à leur progéniture.”

Il était clair pour Al-Jahiz que le monde vivant était en lutte constante pour sa survie et qu’une espèce était toujours plus forte qu’une autre.

La couverture du magazine satirique français La Petite Lune en 1871

Pour survivre, les animaux devaient avoir des caractéristiques compétitives pour trouver de la nourriture, éviter de devenir eux-mêmes la nourriture de quelqu’un d’autre et se reproduire.

Cela les a forcés à changer de génération en génération.

Les idées d’Al-Jahiz ont influencé d’autres penseurs musulmans qui lui ont emboîté le pas.

Son travail a été lu par des gens comme Al-Farabi, Al-Arabi, Al-Biruni et Ibn Khaldoun.

Le “Père spirituel” du Pakistan, Muhammad Iqbal, également connu sous le nom d’Allama Iqbal, observe l’importance d’Al-Jahiz dans son recueil de conférences publié en 1930, écrivant que “c’est Al-Jahiz qui a souligné les changements dans la vie des animaux à cause des migrations et des changements environnementaux”.

Théorie mahométane (Muslim theory)

La contribution du monde musulman à l’idée d’évolution n’était pas un secret pour l’intellectuel du XIXe siècle en Europe.

En effet, un contemporain de Charles Darwin, le scientifique William Draper, parlait en 1878 de la “théorie mahométane de l’évolution”.

Dessin de quatre espèces de pinsons observés par Darwin aux îles Galápagos

Le naturaliste britannique mérite à juste titre sa réputation de scientifique qui a passé des années à voyager et à observer le monde naturel, et qui a fondé sa théorie avec une précision et une clarté sans précédent pour transformer notre façon de voir le monde.

Mais le journaliste scientifique Ehsan Masood, qui a réalisé une série de documentaires pour la BBC intitulée “Islam et Science”, dit qu’il est important de se souvenir de ceux qui ont contribué à l’histoire de la pensée évolutionnaire.

Créationnisme

Il note également que le créationnisme ne semble pas exister en tant que mouvement significatif pendant le IXe siècle en Irak, lorsque Bagdad et Bassora étaient les principaux centres d’enseignement supérieur de la civilisation islamique.

“Les scientifiques n’ont pas passé des heures à examiner des passages de la révélation pour voir s’ils se comparent aux connaissances observées sur le monde naturel”, écrit Ehsan Masood dans un article sur Al-Jahiz dans le journal britannique The Guardian.

“Au lieu de cela, ils sont sortis et ont essayé de découvrir des choses par eux-mêmes.”

En fin de compte, c’est la quête du savoir qui a entraîné la mort d’Al-Jahiz.

On dit qu’à l’âge de 92 ans, alors qu’il essayait de prendre un livre sur une étagère lourde, il s’est effondré sur lui, tuant le philosophe musulman.

« Le monde a besoin de science la science a besoin des femmes »

Tidbits 65

A BBC senior producer says, ‘We wait in fear for the phone call from the Israelis,’” referring to the trepidation felt by BBC editors when publishing negative stories about Israel.

“I love you” should mean: The “I am in love with you” moments should cross the 5% margin of the “I now feel neutral” instances. Kind learning how to synchronize the “moments of bliss

That is my conjecture: A new theory of an endless “cyclic universe” sets itself up against the Big Bang theory of creation. Time is a flat circle.

Human hair used to contain an oil catastrophic spill. Mauritians are shaving their heads to keep an oil spill at bay. A woven floating barriers from their own hair

The exact date of Earth Overshoot Day is determined by a simple formula. Global Footprint Network takes the planet’s biocapacity (pdf), or the amount of natural resources available, divides it by humanity’s ecological footprint, or how much of the planet’s resources we use up, and then multiplies it by the days in a year.

‘The man who does not read has No advantage over the man who cannot read’ – Mark Twain. I believe the man who refuse to read and can is at a much lower disadvantage in the human scale.

No behavior can change before feelings change and we act accordingly.

I don’t understand” is used to attach a rational connotation when our emotional intelligence and compassion are underdeveloped.

Les “visions infernals” sont commun au Liban: Le vice appuyé sur le bras du crime. Les vicieux qui entendent profiter des tripotage d’argent du pouvoir politique et qui sont protégés par les criminels du pouvoir pour voler le trésor publique.

The chains of habit are too light to be felt, until they are too heavy to be broken. – Warren Buffett #quote

Psychanalist: Moi je t’écoute. Guerit toi toi-meme. Je suis ton confesseur civil sans l’ autorisation de te fournir aucune absolution ou t’offrir des recommandations pour faire moins de mal aux autres.

Kamala Devi Harris, Biden’s pick for VP, had an Indian mother and a Jamaican father. After her parents’ divorce in the early 1970s, Harris was raised by her mother to retain strong connections to their Indian roots.

We have to acknowledge that, by previous hard and sustained work, a main all encompassing idea take over. From then on, it is the idea that guides the reasoning behind your “research”: Reason has been biased. Lucky whose ideas that coincide with the “Reality” of the paradigm shift.

Combattre les dictateurs avec le concept de Liberté’: Sans la liberté’ il n’y a rien dans le monde qui vaille.

Une main? C’est pour tenir la main d’un autre. C’est dur quand cette main est loin: le coeur est loin.

The oil industry’s decline is evidence of a global economy that is shifting inexorably toward cleaner fuels. I think this is Not the main cause for sure, but countless litigation for oil spills

Very funny. Many governments and public health systems around the world have failed at communicating critical Covid-19 information because Centers for Disease Control and Prevention assumed an 11th grade reading level  Not at 8th grade as is the case. The Netherlands made its information the simplest to understand, at just below an 8th grade level.

“No air filter is really a perfect protection against infection. There are many ways for them to fail to capture all the particles that are in the air”. I personally dread central cooling and heating systems in building, because they do spreading more infections than reducing them.. In shared indoor spaces, masks are still a great way to keep coronavirus-carrying particles out of the air we are breathing.

Performance criteria? Are we designing for mankind?

What could be the Human Factors performance criteria?

Note: Re-edit (Human Factors in Engineering, Article #38, written in March 31, 2006)

Performance” is the magic answer offered by university students to questions like “What is the purpose of this course, of this method, of this technique, or of this design?”

Performance is what summarizes all the conscious learning in the knowledge bag, for lack of meaningful full sentences available in the language to express clear purposes.

It takes a couple of months to wean the students from the catch word “performance” and encourage them to try thinking harder for specificity.

There is a hierarchy for this abstract notion of “performance”.

The next level of abstraction is to answer: “What kind of performance?“.

The third level should answer: “How these various performances criteria correlate?  Can we sort them out between basic performances and redundant performance criteria?”.

The fourth level is: “How much for each basic performance criterionCan we measure them accurately and objectively?”

It seems that every discipline has created for itself a set of performance criteria and they are coined in stone, so that an insertion of another element into that set, is like a paradigm shift in its field of science.

If you prompt a business or engineering university student to expand on the meaning of “performance”, when supported by a specific example, it might dawn on him to spell out another piece of jewels such as: “max profit”, “minimize cost”, “improve quality”, “increase production”, “save time”, or “increase market share”.

In order to reach a finer level of specificity we need to define functionally.

For example, what “max profit” means?  A string of monosyllables rains from everywhere such as: “increase price”, “cut expenditure”, “sell more”, and again “improve quality”, “save time”, or “increase market share”. 

If we agree that profit is a function of market share, price, expenditure, added values of products, and marketing services then we can understand what could be the basic criteria and which criteria dependent on the basic ones.

How can a business improve performance?

How can it make profit or cut costs? 

Should the firm layoff redundant employees, force early retirement, dip in insurance funds, contract out product parts and administrative processes, eliminate training programs, scrap off the library or continuing learning facilities,…

Or streamline the design process, reduce advertising money, abridge break times in duration or frequency, cut overhead expenses such as control lighting and comfort of the working environment, stop investing in new facilities…

Or firing skilled workers, settling consumer plaintiffs out of court, searching for tax loopholes, or engineering financial statements?

How can a business increase its market share? How can it survive competitors and continually flourish?

How can a firm improve products for the quality minded engineers?

Should it invest on the latest technological advancements in equipment, machines, and application software, or should it select the best mind among the graduates…

Or should it establish a continuing education program with adequate learning facilities, or should it encourage its engineers to experiment and submit research papers, or should it invest on market research to know the characteristics of its customers…

Or should it built in safety in the design process, or perform an extensive analysis of the foreseeable misuses of its products or services, the type of errors generated in the functioning and operation of its products and their corresponding risks on health of the users, or manage properly employees’ turnover…

Or care about the safety and health of its skilled and dedicated workers, or ordering management to closely monitor the safety and health standards applied in the company?

At the first session of my course “Human factors in engineering” I ask my class:  “What is the purpose of an engineer?

The unanimous answer is: “performance”.

What are the criteria for an engineer?  The loud and emphatic answer is: “performance”!

At the first session of my class I repeat several times that the purpose of the engineering discipline is to design practical products or systems that man needs and wants, that human factors engineers are trained to consider first the health and safety of end users, the customers, the operators, and the workers when designing interfaces for products or systems.

At the first session I tell my class that the body of knowledge of human factors is about finding practical design guidelines based on the capabilities and limitations of end users, body and mind, with the following performance criteria:

To eliminate errors, to foresee unsafe misuses, to foresee near-accidents, to design in safety operations, to consider the health problems in the product and its operation, to study the safety and health conditions in the workplace and the organizational procedures…

And to improve working conditions physically, socially, and psychologically, and to be aware of the latest consumer liability legal doctrines.

A month later, I am confronted with the same cycle of questions and answers, mainly: “What is the purpose of an engineer?”  The unanimous answer is: “performance”.  What are the criteria for a human factors engineer?  The loud and emphatic answer is: “performance”!

A few students remember part of the long list of human factors performance criteria, but the end users are still hard to recognize them in their conscious knowledge.

A few students retained the concept of designing practical interfaces or what an interface could be but the pictures of end users are still blurred.

I have to emphasize frequently that the end users could be their engineering colleagues, their family members, and themselves.

I have to remind them that any product, service, or system design is ultimately designed for people to use, operate, and enjoy the benefit of its utility.

Human factors performance criteria are all the above and the design of products or services should alleviating the repetitive musculo-skeletal disorders by reducing efforts, vibration…

And proper handling of tools and equipment, designing for proper postures, minimizing static positions, and especially to keep in mind that any testing and evaluation study should factor in the condition that a worker or an employee is operating 8 hours a day, 5 days a week, and for many years.

I tell them that any profit or cost cutting is ultimately at the expense of workers/employees, their financial stability, safety standards, comfort, and health conditions physically, socially, and psychologically

Whereas any increase in performance should be undertaken as a value added to the safety, comfort, and health of the end users and workers.

Tidbits and notes posted on FB and Twitter. Part 223

Note: I take notes of books I read and comment on events and edit sentences that fit my style. I pay attention to researched documentaries and serious links I receive. The page of backlog is long and growing like crazy, and the sections I post contains a month-old events that are worth refreshing your memory

Les Jobcenters in Germany fonctionnent a la maniere d’un service du travail precaire. Un million de recrues ont ete delivrer aux entreprises. Il y a 5 millions d’Allemans precaires qui touche 450 Euro par mois. The French are Not ready to adopt a similar program by Macron.

The big liar and ultra stupid warmonger: John Bolton, Trump new hire. In 2006, Bolton dragged and pressured Israel to resume its pre-emptive war on Lebanon for another 3 weeks , with the purpose of weakening Hezbollah. The plan failed miserably after 33 days of battles and Lebanon infrastructure, everywhere, was totally destroyed in that war by Israel jet planes. And Israel lost the war and begged Bush Jr. to work quickly on a cease fire.

Hassan Naser Allah, general secretary of Lebanon Hezbollah, mocked John Bolton after his appointment by Trump, in his speech recollecting the 2006 failed pre-emptive war of Israel: “I said that I have seen this face and bad mustaches, but where? And I recollected I saw it in a cartoon”. He meant The Simpson

I thought Trump was Not that religious: He keeps hiring those ultra Evangelical Zionist Fundamentalist (Pence, Pompeo and now John Bolton…). This religious movement believe like crazy that the Second Coming will take place when Jerusalem is turned over to the Jews.

Al Ghouta is over: Syria army liberated it from terrorist factions funded by Qatar, Saudi Kingdom, Turkey and USA. The terminal mistake of these factions is obeying the orders to shell the Capital Damascus.

If you feel familiar people are scared of you, probably you have a strong personality that put them to shame for Not taking any stand.

The term “paradigm shift” in field of sciences and sociology is synonymous with many civilization “blind spots” in mankind march toward higher levels of thinking, dignity and respect for human rights…

For various reasons such as maintaining structural hierarchies, preserving privileges, class struggle, religious and ideological dominance, preserving current knowledge and economic systems… societies maintained major Blind Spots that hindered its progress toward knowledge and equitable and fair rights to all the people.

During the French revolution of 1789, somehow the rights for women were totally forgotten in the equation of Liberty, Equality, and Human Rights. Historians prefer to attribute this neglect to the notion that women were Not an issue in this struggle, since societies were patriarchal in their structure for centuries and women managed to tacitly navigate the system in order to maintain sort of a power balance withing the family foundation…

Mind you that it was the women who marched on the Bastille prison on October 1789 and then on to Versailles where King Louis 16 and his family took refuge for more security from the masses.  

US women grabbed the right to vote in the 20’s after a long and arduous struggle of the Suffragists. This movement was successful as women from the highest ranks joined the fight.

Women led the labor movements in the two decades 1840-60 https://adonis49.wordpress.com/2010/09/12/led-by-women-us-labor-movements-1840-1860/

Ma 3endi moushkilat ma3 Sarkis Sarkis bi laa2i7at al Tayyar: saaken 7addi  bi zaat al share3 min 30 nenneh wa ma zaarnat. Al meshkeleh enno akhad mak3ad Nabil Nicola le2anno tofran (nazeef). Kanoun moufassal lal aghniya, wa ma farkat keef jaab al massareh

E7ssaass jameel enno Hezbollah karar yenkhoret fi moukafa7at al fassaad, wa al kouroud (sovereign debt) elleh ma elha taa2el, wa mounakassaat bil tardiyat

Badkon tesma7o lel sha3b yinakesh jadwa al kouroud al jadidat: Transparency, please

 

Notes and comments on FB and Twitter. Part 37

La CIA accapara l’ appareil d’ Etat du Guatemala en 1962 et le pays fut sous le choc de la terreur: Un calme absolu remplaca un mois de démonstrations

Le term revolutionnaire m’ est devenu dérangeant: on l’ emploie trop facilement et trop frequement. Comme attribuer a l’ emploie le plus ancient du monde de revolutionnaire.

En science naturel on a le term paradigm shift qui veut dire changer une notion ou une method dans la profession. En matiére de retenir le pouvoir, il n’ y a pas de paradigm shift: on n’ a pas reussi a changer la method et les techniques pour une duré assez longue pour établir sa validité

Le Marquis: J’aurais juré que vous étiez incredule. Le medecin: Que ne donnerai-je pas pour l’être

C’est vrai: les chansons disent que l’amour pouvait tout et c’est indeniable quand l’amour frappe á la porte. Mais tu ferais mieux de ne pas le croire

Les dimensions normaux du corps humain sont rare a trouver: le cul est trop grand pour le corps, et vice versa. Et la même chose pour l’autre sex

Tout pays est consideré petit si moins de 100,000 Km2. Le Liban est insignificant en grandeur (10,000 km2) mais le plus dense (600 par km2)

The invincible economic progress of China was emulated from Germany educational system, based on early apprenticeship for quality design and products

Parcequ’elle se nourit des sens, l’incredulité est plus resistante que la foi

Chaque President en Amerique Central et en Afrique a ses nouveaux prisonniers et les nouveaux émigrés. Les prisonniers relachés des prison n’ont jamais été jugés.

Israel is still applying British administrative detention laws against the Palestinians. Le droit n’a pas accés á ces prisonniers. No better than US terrorists activities in Central America against civilians.

84% de la population au Guatemala en 1970 n’avait pas le droit de vote: Ils était illetrés. 4.5% pouvait élire un President (un colonel)

En Amerique central, les militaires du Pentagon ont des function limités en temps de paix: Ils preparent des putch, destituent un President, fichent les “communists” á être éliminé, augmentent le budget militaire… Rien de plus.

Israel ordered by a tribunal to empty 12,000 tons of ammoniac in Haifa within 30 days. Israeli public are worried of Hezbollah decision of targeting it if Israel launch another pre-emptive war on Lebanon as in 2006 

Syrian regime Not in a hurry: Tadmor has fallen, Deir-el Zour pretty soon. All it wants now is to clean all these pockets of resistance around the main cities of Damascus, Homs, Hama and Aleppo.

Let Turkey and the USA take care of Rakka, a task they sincerely don’t want to be directly involved because they are Not trained for these kinds of wars. Only Syrian and Iraqi armies have acquired these skills and training.

The Taxis of Ain 3aar, who agreed on a single Lira, stop to give me sha2leh

La plaie de la fortune, pauvre mais reconnue, saigne toujours

Les livres que j’écrivais ne reposer sur aucune vérité poétique

Une famille qui n’a jamais été acteur ou victim, mais un temoin inutile qui avait souffert du tout.

Ce paradis terrestre de la desolation et de la nostalgie

J’ai été navire sans voiles et sans gouvernail: je ne pouvais naviger loin d’óu j’etais

Let’s have this experiment: censuring “incha2allah” from all movies and observe if the meaning of the story remains the same. Implicitly, most of the audience will add 4 times more “incha2allah than was censured: the vast majority of destiny-believers

Il m’aime, même laide, ce qui n’est pas rassurant. Quand jeune and fougeux?

Cet amour inconditionnel: Il ne me met pas en danger, il ne me magnifie pas, il est a ma disposition sans être un asservi

Quel age as tu mon garcon? 70 ans maman. Alors, tu mérites d’être orphelin a present

We can safety censure Incha2allah from our public discourse in our region: It won’t change much in our behaviour, but the illusion of probable change is important for our sanity

J’appartient á cette foule vieillisante, en route, main dans la main, avancant vers une destiné connue, qu’on veut oublier

Une femme crochéte tout au long de sa vie et laisse ses petites étendues de tissue, avec des motifs difficiles, qui ne servent a rien, ni a personne maintenant.

Un rien peut me faire douter de la cohesion des gens et du monde. Et si ce rien est nombreux et bien plus que rien?

Ceux qui croient au destin jugent les libre-arbitres. Et vice versa.

Le vent aride de la pauvrete me porte á divers embouchures, ayant la même âme du pauvre

Avant de bondir, le chat est le plus lent du monde

Quand les nuits se faisaient longues, la date de la fête “regarder le ciel”(mirar el ciel) était decidé et on devait être prêt pour la vérité

Sans la profusion des etoiles, on ne peut assimiler la force du vide

Apprendre a être une chamber noire ou tout le vaste univers passe par le trou miniscule de ta pupille.

La toux de vieux chien qui gache la jeunesse

Jaloux de mon intimité, ceux qui la percait s’attiraient des repliques cinglantes

 

Anti-Zionism does Not equal anti-Semitism: People in the Near East are catalogued Semitic too by the racist Western colonial powers

Someone please tell Hillary Clinton and the University of California

U.C. is at it again, with its deceptive attempt to thwart criticism of Israel.

. Tuesday, Mar 22, 2016

Last summer there was a flurry of activity in the University of California system as U.C. regents were pressured to suppress criticism of Israel on U.C. campuses.

One regent in favor of such silencing played a trump card: He threatened to bring his particularly well-connected partner in to add muscle.

The regent was wealthy developer Richard Blum, his wife is Sen. Dianne Feinstein. Here is what Blum said in September:

I should add that over the weekend my wife, your senior Senator, and I talked about this issue at length. She wants to stay out of the conversation publicly but if we do not do the right thing she will engage publicly and is prepared to be critical of this university if we don’t have the kind of not only statement but penalties for those who commit what you can call them crimes, call them whatever you want.

Students that do the things that have been cited here today probably ought to have a dismissal or a suspension from school. I don’t know how many of you feel strongly that way but my wife does and so do I.

So now a U.S. senator says she’ll use the power of her office to suspend undergraduates for speaking out against Israeli state policies?

Interesting read of her mandate.

Blum was particularly incensed because just a few months before, free speech and pro-Palestinian activists had won a victory.

As I wrote back then:

For a while it looked like on July 23 the regents of the University of California were going to adopt the U.S. State Department definition of anti-Semitism and in some fashion or another put policies into place that would have a severe impact on what can and cannot be said about Israel on each of the 10 U.C. campuses, which together enroll some 230,000 students.

Those students, along with 190,000 faculty and staff, would all be constrained under the regents’ interpretation of the definition.

The decision would in fact be continuing a process that began in 2012, when the California House passed a resolution condemning anti-Semitism (HR35), and continued into this past spring, when the Senate passed a similar resolution (SCR35).

The stage was set, the momentum was there, activists and advocates on both sides were ready to march on the regents meeting in San Francisco and address the regents and U.C. president Janet Napolitano. (A former politician and a judge?

But just before the regents were to meet, it was announced that they had decided to drop the matter entirely and instead to have a discussion about “tolerance” in general at their meeting in the autumn.

Since the autumn there has been speculation as to what, exactly, the regents would vote on; how would “tolerance” be defined?

Well, now we know, and the document under discussion still shows the two main perspectives of the prior discussions. We see efforts to produce a broad and positive statement for tolerance, and also the fingerprints of those who wish to smuggle in a false and destructive equation of anti-Semitism with anti-Zionism, thereby making the University of California a place where any criticism of a certain state’s illegal policies is intolerable.

The manner in which this is done in the current draft is deceptive and underhanded.

In the main body of the text, the rightful condemnation of anti-Semitism is clear and unadorned: “In a community of learners, teachers, and knowledge-seekers, the University is best served when its leaders challenge speech and action reflecting bias, stereotypes, and/or intolerance.

Anti-Semitism and other forms of discrimination have no place in the University. The Regents call on University leaders actively to challenge anti-Semitism and other forms of discrimination when and wherever they emerge within the University community.”

Fair and good.

But in the introduction to the document we find the proposal for tolerance when it comes to anti-Semitism presented this way: “Anti-Semitism, anti-Zionism and other forms of discrimination have no place at the University of California.”

This portion of the document, separated from the section where the proposals appear, is couched as a “contextual statement.” Thus a casual reader could endorse the proposal itself while being unaware that the entire framing of the discussion of anti-Semitism is being used as a cover for silencing voices protesting state policies that might include, among other things, the continued demolition of Palestinian homes and the building of illegal settlements, which have been publicly condemned by the U.S. State Department and which are part of a Zionist project.

What this means is that if the U.C. proposal passes, the U.S. State Department can protest illegal settlements and the Occupation as a whole, but students and teachers in the U.C. system cannot.

This sleight of hand has been called out by both activist groups and mainstream news sources such as the Los Angeles Times.

California Scholars for Academic Freedom (disclosure—I am a member) states: “For the record, we wish to underscore that criticisms of Zionism are co-extensive with the history of Zionism and have from the start included Jewish voices from a variety of political and religious orientations. The inclusion of such a broad category as either intolerant or bigoted represents a fundamental misunderstanding of the political viewpoints critical of Zionism.

Many political positions, including those that favor Palestinian rights, statehood, and political self-determination, can be considered anti-Zionist although they comply with internationally accepted norms of human rights and principles of democratic self-governance.”

The Los Angeles Times editorial notes that the document

conflates anti-Semitism with anti-Zionism and says both are forms of discrimination that “have no place at the University of California.” It’s difficult to read that as anything other than a warning to those students or faculty members who have fundamental disagreements with the state of Israel. ..

The equation of anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism might also make it easier to stigmatize protests against Israeli policies — particularly the treatment of Palestinians — even if they don’t actually oppose the idea of a Jewish state.

Pro-Palestinian activists on campus are right to fear that such a statement would target their advocacy even when it doesn’t involve anti-Semitic language or harassing behavior.

This issue is not a matter of splitting hairs; it goes to the heart of issues of free speech, and the exercise of power to suppress certain types of political expression while letting others flow freely.

What is most telling about this latest episode is the tactic being employed. Faced with substantial public pressure from grass-roots activists, the regents’ working group chose this back-door route to insert its insidious equation. Now it has been called out, and we should be watching carefully which way the regents will move.

What is happening in California might well serve as an index to how these issues will play out on the national scene.

The position of at least one of the two front-runners in the presidential elections is crystal clear. Hillary Clinton has consistently been one of Israel’s staunchest supporters.

What is most troubling, however, is the fact that she has come out vocally as someone who will, in her own words, make “countering BDS a priority.”

In a letter to potential donors she uses exactly the same equation of anti-Semitism with anti-Zionism that we find in the U.C. document:

I am writing to express my alarm over the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanction [sic] movement, or “BDS,” a global effort to isolate the State of Israel by ending commercial and academic exchanges.  I know you agree that we need to make countering BDS a priority.

I am seeking your advice on how we can work together—across party lines and with a diverse array of voices—to reverse this trend with information and advocacy, and fight back against further attempts to isolate and delegitimize Israel….

I am also very concerned by attempts to compare Israel to South African apartheid.

Israel is a vibrant democracy in a region dominated by autocracy, and it faces existential threats to its survival.  Particularly at a time when anti-Semitism is on the rise around the world—especially in Europe—we need to repudiate forceful efforts to malign and undermine Israel and the Jewish people.

And on Monday, in her appearance before AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee), Clinton doubled down on her support of Israel.  As CommonDreams reports:
During the address, Clinton vowed to take the U.S.-Israel relationship to “the next level”—a level which seemingly includes more war and imperialism, few, if any, rights for Palestinians, and definitely no economic boycotts of Israel….
Later, Clinton doubled down on her previous pledge to dismantle the growing international Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement, linking the campaign against Palestinian apartheid to anti-Semitism, saying “we must repudiate all efforts to malign, isolate and undermine Israel and the Jewish people.”
In a statement to Common Dreams, Rebecca Vilkomerson, executive director of Jewish Voice for Peace, said that the speech “is a reminder of the current limits of the mainstream discourse on Israel, which rely on racist and Islamophobic tropes to justify unquestioning support for Israel.”

“From Democrats to Republicans, the message is the same,” Vilkomerson continued. “More arms for Israel, a stronger relationship between Israel and the U.S., no mention of Palestinian rights, and no recognition of the impossible contradiction of being both democratic and Jewish when the state is predicated on maintaining systems of unequal rights and rule by military occupation.”

This is deeply troubling, especially as the Palestinian cause has now been established as one of the most pressing human rights issues of our age.  Education on this issue therefore needs to be rigorous, debated, argued, in order for us to make informed decisions and take meaningful action.

The suppression of ideas is anathema to the university, but this is exactly what is being suggested by reputed leaders in education and politics, all under this deceitful equation.

Stating the obvious, but oh so cleverly

Malcolm Gladwell is a cerebral and jaunty writer, with an unusual gift for making the complex seem simple and for seeking common-sense explanations for many of the apparent mysteries, coincidences and problems of the everyday.

He is also an intellectual opportunist, always on the look-out for a smart phrase or new fad with which to define and explain different social phenomena.

In his first book, The Tipping Point, he studied events such as crime waves and fashion trends and settled on an arresting metaphor to explain why they happen. ‘Ideas and products and messages and behaviours spread just like viruses,‘ he wrote, suggesting that we contaminate and infect one another with preferences and recommendations, until we reach a ‘tipping point’, after which a social epidemic becomes contagious and crosses a threshold to reach saturation point.

The tipping point: who does not now use this phrase to describe a moment of definitive transition? (‘Tipping point’ seems to have become this generation’s ‘paradigm shift’, a phrase popularised by Thomas Kuhn in his 1962 book The Structure of Scientific Revolutions

The success of the book, which began as an article in the New Yorker, the magazine for which he works as a staff writer, propelled Gladwell into the realm of super-consultancy. He has since become a lauded pontificant and ideas progenitor on the international lecture circuit.

He is the go-to man for a corporate business elite seeking to understand the way we live, think and consume today.

It helps that with his wild, unruly curls and wide-eyed gaze, Gladwell has the look of an übergeek.

He seems to have absorbed one important lesson of the consumerist culture he deconstructs – that the image you project is paramount; in effect, he has made himself, superficially at least, into a brand.

If you didn’t know he was a writer and journalist, you wouldn’t be surprised to hear that he was a leading operator at Microsoft or Google. As it is, he’s a kind of literary Bill Gates, a guy so far ahead of the rest of the pack that you never quite know what he will do next.

What is an outlier?

The word may not be a neologism but I have never heard anyone use it in conversation. According to one dictionary definition, an outlier is ‘something that is situated away from or classed differently from a main or related body’.

But Gladwell uses the word with more metaphorical flexibility. For him, an outlier is a truly exceptional individual who, in his or her field of expertise, is so superior that he defines his own category of success. Bill Gates is an outlier and so are Steve Jobs of Apple, Robert Oppenheimer and many others Gladwell speaks to or writes about as he seeks to offer a more complete understanding of success.

The trouble with the book is that Gladwell is ultimately engaged in a long argument with nobody but himself. Throughout, he defines his position against a floating, ubiquitous, omnipotent ‘we’; a Greek chorus of predictable opposition and received opinion. ‘There is something profoundly wrong with the way we look at success,’ he writes.

‘We cling to the idea that success is a simple function of individual merit and that the world in which we grow up and the rules we choose to write as a society don’t matter at all.’ And so he goes on.

These assumptions can be irritating, since who is this naive, unquestioning, plural intelligence identified as ‘we’?

Do we in wider society really believe that outstanding success, in whichever field, is achieved without extraordinary dedication, talent and fortuitous circumstance, as Gladwell would have it?

Do we really take no account of the sociopolitical context into which someone was born and through which they emerged when we attempt to quantify outlandish achievement?

Do we really believe that genius is simply born rather than formed? Gladwell wants his readers to take away from this book ‘the idea that the values of the world we inhabit and the people we surround ourselves with have a profound effect on who we are’.

But I don’t know anyone who would dispute this.

The world for Gladwell is a text that he reads as closely as he can in seeking to decode and interpret it. He is adept at identifying underlying trends from which he extrapolates to form hypotheses, presenting them as if they were general laws of social behaviour.

But his work has little philosophical rigour. He’s not an epistemologist; his interest is in what we think, rather than in the how and why of knowledge itself.

There is also a certain one-dimensional Americanness at work: many of his examples and case studies are American and he spends rather too much time in New York, at one point even riffing at length about the founder of the literary agency that represents him.

The book would have been more interesting if he’d roamed wider and travelled more, if it had been more internationalist in ambition and outlook.

However, it’s still fun to follow Gladwell on his meandering intellectual journeys, even if the conclusions he arrives at here are so obviously self-evident as to be banal. Even when he is not at his best he is worth taking seriously.

He has a lucid, aphoristic style. His case studies are well chosen, such as when he writes about the birth dates of elite ice hockey players and discovers a pattern: most are born in the first three months of the year.

His range is wide, and he writes as well in Outliers about sport as he does about corporate law firms in New York or aviation. Little is beneath his notice.

One last thing, as Gladwell might say. There’s perhaps another way of reading Outliers and that’s as a quest for self-understanding, since the author himself is obviously an outlier. In seeking to find out more about how other people like him came to be who they are and to occupy the exalted positions they do, he’s also indirectly seeking to learn more about himself, about how he came to be who he is: the smartest guy at the New Yorker, with the big ideas and the lucrative book deals.

Jason Cowley is editor of the New Statesman. His book The Last Game: Love, Death and Football will be published in April 2009.

Note: I have reviewed extensively most of Gladwell books, (to my knowledge) and I enjoyed the read and the ideas.


adonis49

adonis49

adonis49

July 2021
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