Well, my research project on El Paquete Semanal is finally out in the world, and I’m happy people are digging into the content. I got to know EP and understand the cultural context over the course of two trips to Cuba, and really appreciate how the system has grown up under the island’s unique constraints. Take a look at the report and some more analysis from Quartz, which featured it as an “Obsession,” or Reddit, where it came up
I was in Austin for SXSW Interactive for the fourth time this year (see previous japes). I guess that’s enough to be considered worthy of telling others what to do. So Emily and I did. I cribbed tips liberally from Rick and Marcelino. I don’t normally traffic in superlatives, but the best panel I went to this year was on The New Aesthetic.
I started to get to know Los Angeles last year, and once I had figured out it was a car town I had an angle. Detroit is a car town. And driving through Los Angeles at night could be just as pleasant, with wide, empty streets and a magnificent, sprawling city laid out in front of you.
“I can tell you this, we have dozens of detectives — from robbery to the homicide detectives — working every night to see if we can catch these guys,” Commander Smith said. “Every time he hits, we have a crime scene. They interrogate everyone around.”
They were doing it in Berlin earlier this year, and Paris before that. Torching cars at night. The m.o. in Berlin was firestarters placed underneath engines, or next to front tires. In LA it seems to be Molotovs, with American-style instant gratification for the arsonist. In Berlin, police pointed out the targets were luxury cars. No word of that in LA. That might be too frightening to bear.
I can’t see this going on much longer. There are too many cameras. And, in LA, it’s all too serious. Your car is a gleaming extension of your personality. This might as well be a serial killer.
Who will they catch? One of J.G. Ballard’s predominant themes was a disaffected suburban cadre, so numbed by modern life it called on increasingly risky behaviors for thrills.1 In High Rise, they formed warring tribes when the building’s electricity went out; Super-Cannes had its leather-clad squads of white-collar thugs; in Crash, its the car-crash set, probing the new avenues for an emerging sexuality opened by industrial collisions.
Many are painting this as the year Twitter reached mass acceptance, but for the crowd of internet types who headed to Austin last weekend for South by Southwest the service was already almost two years old.
I went down to Texas, and saw some great stuff, met interesting people and had a wonderful time, as usual1 and want to pass things along to you, dear reader. But in an effort to keep my fresh-faced Twitter followers who weren’t in Texas from fomenting a rebellion at rapid-fire updates I decided to collect everything I would have put into 140-character updates and leave them here. Old school! Hopefully you’ll enjoy, and, if not, dismiss with the speed with which you surely ignore many unwanted messages daily.
Day 1, Saturday, March 14
4:34 am: Awake from what cld pass 4 sleep w/ dog fidgeting all night between my sprawled legs. Dogsitting makes for strange bedfellows.
5:44 am: At LaGuardia, security line reaches around longer than I’ve ever seen. Involuntarily say Fuck when the functionary motions to the end.