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days 88 – 105: including the comeback of lockdown, ackl; or, papa goff gets a payoff

what kind of report to make, not a record of the days, and this music playing, with its dark intimations, which make you yearn for WAP feat. Megan Thee Stallion and its easy innuendos of something beyond both sex and death. For so it must be.

It must be further out than the body’s passions and further in than the deep well.

Perhaps it belongs to the totalitarianism of data Refik Anadol visualises:

— thanks K!

just as perhaps it is in the ludicology of fluxus, so imagine us saying, who that woman was is not important, but art is alive. I mean let’s keep names out of this.

As I was saying…

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there are no boundaries in art … or it is the very boundary that is its sustaining cheesewire g-string

a light, fluent surface.

— from here is M. John Harrison talking about a story in his own collection, Settling the World, that taught him how to …

and on this surface, say the philosophical surface or its equivalent in one of Leonard Cohen’s songs, there are mining operations.

These are as energy intensive, writes Bloomberg, or have been, as in 2018 to require 140 TWh of electricity, “rivaling the entire annual electricity consumption of Argentina.”

In 2017, the cost of mining a single bitcoin varied between $11,000 and $26,000–says Investopedia.

What’s more is that the majority of mining takes place in China, and, Business Insider writes, “tightening government security is pushing miners to relocate to places like Kazakhstan and Venezuela.”

These places are Politically Unstable–as my source for these figures presents it:

Hive’s Vision, by contrast, is to build a better digital currency mining infrastructure–go deep in the well–using green power for the blockchain.

Hive is building their “rigs in stable jurisdictions to prolific industrial scales–making them some the world’s largest and most energy-efficient datacenters.” [sic.]

the ascent of Hive

Lockdown

on the edges of a storm. Out the window deep grey tones broken by a white edge of ermine. Fading light but it has been circling all day. The heat and humidity amplified by curtains on each side thick and dark walls of dark water. Solid walls black like black mould creeping up a wall. Like being in an old fridge, hotter for having been an appliance to keep things cold and insulated, its heat exchange broken anyway. Not plugged in beside the road.

We are insulated in the sick insulation of what was once a natural product but is now synthetic, a thready material that is barbed. Not so bad as Pink Batts which is made of glass fibre and gets in our lungs, blows free from the cracks in rooftiles, or under eaves, cracks in never well put together New Zealand homes, gets in our eyes. I remember reading about such glass fibre insulation being recorded as present in the Yosemites. This now spills out globally from the world’s broken fridge. A zoonotic thread made of stripes and bars of genomic fibre.

It’s hot in here, even here, on these evening islands. Windblown by virus fibres.

Perhaps it is pollen.

Like sickly orchids in a hothouse we are being pollinated.

Ah, on another tangent or asymptote it is so refreshing to read Ulrik Ekman’s questions that are network critical but that feed in to the other writing I am engaged in in parallel, the reason for my absence here over stretches–but then I’m never sure there are readers for this here.

Mark Blyth is another voice important to listen to–thanks D.–for his curmudgeonly critical pugnacity on economic matters. He explains what it is the market values, and, as byblow, why it might be whole countries and cities can be shut down–from an economic point of view. Why has the world, the muchbruited and feted globalised world of the global marketplace, not simply sat down and given up and … frozen to death or burnt to a crisp … given the shuttings-down governments have now figured out they can do?

It is that the market values assets and capital liquidity and secondary financial products. The general economic market values nonexistent stuff.

This is why existence can get on very well without it.

Let it.

That’s all we ask.

Finally, the pornography of the human condition we didn’t know we needed:


Not finally. How can there ever be any finality ever again?

the palms of the Bush dynasty reaching out to the Trump.

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day 74 – day 87 of the world winding up business

“When times are hard, like they are now, what’s the use of knowing stuff?”

— the end of Cixin Liu’s Of Ants and Dinosaurs (Trans. Elizabeth Hanlon, (London, UK: Head of Zeus, 2020), 248).

OPERATION LEGEND: “a sustained, systematic and coordinated law enforcement initiative across all federal law enforcement agencies working in conjunction with state and local law enforcement officials to fight the sudden surge of violent crime.”

MEETS

Wall of Moms

Portland

…although involuntary hospitalisation and treatment is deemed to violate an individual’s civil rights in the US, running for president would seem to meet the conditions of posing a danger either to themselves or others in order to be held for evaluation…

“Police said they have recovered 420 bodies from streets, vehicles and homes in [Bolivia’s] capital of La Paz, and in [its] biggest city, Santa Cruz, in the span of five days. Between 80 percent and 90 percent of them are believed to have had the virus.” — from here.

…winding up business:

For those who might have thought a drug to treat COVID-19 might have a value beyond measure, no. That its value is capable of measure is a measure of its value.

COVID-19 presents–and is presented by the Guardian article breaking news of the breakthrough–an unprecedented (the article says there ought to be a stronger word) opportunity … to make money.

This is not turning others suffering into profit, profiting off others’ suffering, as the soul is said to off the body, as the body is said to turn the soul’s suffering to its own profit, but a profitable speculation on turning the suffering of others around, profiting off the prospect of the positive outcome of their future health.

You can read it for yourself and make sense of what kind of breakthrough is being celebrated here.

Have you been wondering about representation? American critics have been pointing out the debt–suppressed–still owing–20th century dance in the West owes to Africa, and in America, black dancers.

This is not any kind of reciprocation, payment or token but look at Pina Bausch’s Rite of Spring being prepared for a tour that with COVID-19 didn’t happen:

Evening. I have been reading about von Zemlinsky in a poem by John Ash. The first part dwells on or in this word evening in English, German and Turkish. Ash has adopted Istanbul as his home city. I wonder how he feels about the Hagia Sophia, about Erdoğan leading the first prayers–at least in the front row of bent over figures, for the camera op–since it has become a mosque and is no longer a museum. Did I imagine him wearing a mask? Erdoğan that is.

What does it mean for the Hagia Sophia to become a mosque? has it reverted to being a mosque? is this a reversion or is this progress? and if progress to what far horizon are we bound? and we might even ask so literally.

I have been following Tim Mackintosh-Smith in the footsteps of Ibn Battuta. He stops in Turkey, second leg of the journey, in three episodes [1, 2, 3]. The Hagia Sophia is a place when our documentarian visits that epitomises the interpenetration of Christianity and Islam in its architecture–high above the heads of those bowed in prayer now, are images, not so much graven as mosaic, Christian icons.

Strange to have seen that the Hagia Sophia twice in very different circumstances so recently.

Von Zemlinsky is yet to reappear. Or perhaps he has pre-appeared.

Besotted with the Alma who wed Mahler and on Mahler’s death married Gropius, of Bauhaus–of the building, incidentally we used regularly to visit of an evening in Berlin, evenings spent following the Wall in its nearby span through our neighbourhood of Kreuzberg–he, von Zemlinsky, held himself to be so ugly he could not bear the sight of himself. A dwarf. And writes Ash, how many of these giants of the Western musical canon were short: Berg towered over most of them. Stravinsky. Mahler himself. Schönberg. Von Zemlinsky, the dwarf.

Where would he have pre-appeared but in the poetry of Bolaño? where there’s always a dwarf, and a hunchback, like he inhabits a Tom Waits song.

There exist slow-acting déjà vu. Perhaps I am yet to hear von Zemlinsky’s 4th Quartet, to have tears–what does Ash say?–dashing from my eyes? Unless I … and haven’t we all imagined we would sooner or later meet this criterion … have not the heart, not the sensitivity, cannot feel, do not understand the musical language, have lost the sense of its symbolic relatability? have been rendered with the rest of these generations who are now living deaf to it? We might not be falling into hyperbole to ask whether this is not a deafness or an intellectual dwarfism, a dullness that afflicts the whole of our civilization. And what would it mean if it did?

My friend–long distance–by email–but I hope she does not mind that I name her as a friend–Aliette Guibert-Certhoux liked to say we have lost in the West a common symbolic frame of reference–we have lost the Symbolic. She includes among her own friends Guy Debord and Baudrillard.

She wrote very movingly on the death of Baudrillard he was a favourite of the nurses, the old … I was about to write roué, and, as I am lacking acute accents within easy reach, I looked up the word. We know that a roue is a wheel. What roué refers to is the wheel which would be the punishment for a debauchee, for all those litanised by the #metoos: he would be broken on a wheel.

Does this make any sense?

The wheel. The Wall of Moms. The #metoos.

I was surprised that an Australian feminist thinker could not countenance–that means face–the late Irigaray. She would only consider the early Irigaray. Not the Irigaray of the evening who wrote so strongly it is perhaps only a true understanding of sexual difference that will, that can, save us.

And Oscar Wilde? will it also save Wilde? … He enters the poem of Ash, by way of “The Birthday of the Infanta.” And this pre-appearance is so striking I have to quote what it turns up, noting first that it handles of a dwarf hunchback:

“The Dwarf mistakenly believes that the Infanta must love him, and tries to find her, passing through a garden where the flowers, sundial, and fish ridicule him, but birds and lizards do not. He finds his way inside the palace, and searches through rooms hoping to find the Infanta, but finding them all devoid of life.

“Eventually, he stumbles upon a grotesque monster that mimics his every move in one of the rooms. When the realisation comes that it was his own reflection, he knows then that the Infanta did not love him, but was laughing out of mockery, and he falls to the floor, kicking and screaming. The Infanta and the other children chance upon him and, imagining it to be another act, laugh and applaud while his flailing grows more and more weak before he stops moving altogether. When the Infanta demands more entertainment, a servant tries to rouse him, only to discover that he has died of a broken heart. Telling this to the Infanta, she speaks the last line of the story ‘For the future, let those who come to play with me have no hearts.'”

You see? It is as we feared.

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what does Rona (thanks M.) tell us about mor(t)ality? days 14, 15, 16

I just read that Hal Willner–genius of collaboration–died of symptoms consistent with C-19 (as M. relates, Rona, in Oz). See this, since we are in one:

And this:

And:

It is also shocking to read that named celebrities are being COVID-ed, coveted, and their deaths converted to the virus’s … dominion. For Rona will have dominion: and this is easy, in the isolation of lockdown, to neglect.

That there are deaths unobserved. Funerals unattended. Obsequies undelivered; or given by digital token attendance; by priests and others holding holy office in bulk to caskets waiting to be interred.

That the dying are dying without human touch. (Alphonso Lingis writes so well on this.) They are dying without contact; that those dear to them cannot come near. They are dying uninstructed in the patter of commonplaces attendant on those dying delivered by the ones who don’t know what to say. Say anything! the parents say. Say anything, we tell ourselves–the contact, the touch of a hand is enough, the brush of a hand against a cheek, or a cheek caressed.

That some of us are living as the others are dying, without a body other than our own to keep us company.

But is it worse for those who cannot be at the bedside? And for the medical staff who stop them, for the nurse who bars the way; and for the doctor who knows his gloved hand, or her medical patter not to be enough. To be in fact insulting, an insult to the life; whose interest now is in passing through this latest trial and not in why or how it is occurring.

It must be worse for the mothers and fathers, for the children, for the brother, sister and the lover of those who are now sequestered awaiting the final prognosis.

And this must be the worst.

And then it is not so bad many are revelling in self-congratulation that their institutions recently made the switch to digital. That books are available through the token of a digital presence.

Courses are provided online. The outsourcing to digital providers is vindicated! The outlay on IT and digital infrastructure is justified!

Just wait for augmented reality and haptic feedback! It will all be suited so well to the next pandemic! think of the apps!

And then, think of the numbers.

But I had had no intention of making these token comments.

My mind had still been on the political where there is no pulse.

I had had an enlightening conversation with my family–but tonight my family have been using the outdoor bath I had been building as I had had in mind the politics–and in that enlightening conversation I had entirely failed to enlighten them and they had had to be dragged kicking and screaming all the way there … and all the way back … for my trouble: well if it was my trouble let me bathe in my own trouble! marinate in that polluted water!

But now… we are neglectful. Even though I had been wanting, waiting and wanting, to say how governments have not wrested powers away from those to whom they gave them–for whatever good reason, because I’m sure the reasons for government must be good.

Governments have not wrested powers, even as these powers are their own, of legislature, back: there is only talk of rules; laws are much harder to come by, especially those limiting the powers of economic and market players.

Disaster economics. The point is not that there will be profiteers in this situation. The point is it will neither be to the political profit of government nor to good reason. And it is not the point that economics can claim the prerogative of running most of the business of being human. The point is governments have not taken back what they gave away and that they will not, even as extreme as, in some cases, even as authoritarian, in some, it has been.

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on resistance and naming the enemy

Focus-on..-diddly-do1

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from EF who wrote a book on LR’s TRANSFORMER LP to JC & an alternative FEAR from the one on that LP

0:30 Love You So Bad 4:15 Evening Prayer 7:13 Interview 14:18 Calm Down aka I Should Not Be Alone 16:44 Psalm 151
thanks noah

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24 June 2019: Akasaka – Hakone-Yumoto – Tonosawa – Kowakidani – Hakone Open Air Museum

We leave Akasaka, and Hotel Felice–and it has been–for the Romance Car–it, in fact, is–booked to take us to Hakone.

Reaching Hakone-Yumoto, we have climbed off the flatlands of rice production, and ascended into the cloud and into the hills; the temperature has dropped outside; the time has passed in the concentrated suspension of Japanese rail. Even as it is this time not high speed shinkansen but Romance, it is quiet and the consideration of others on the train is quite tangible, not formal or abstract: and it is not granting to one space to do one’s own thing; it is not the privacy, a vacuole or foyer of private liberty, enjoyed when others condescend to leave us alone; it is not that one perceives of as a conscious choice in the respectful distance some cultures observe, say, for example, in view of, and around the romantic couple–or those who are in the throes of an emotional event. It is like snow, general, this discretion, and in extension. So the time seems to pass quickly, until we are swept up into the foothills not so far from Fuji.

Also the timbre of the train changes–almost as if the Romance Car can change gauges, to climb; and the next rail service we come to, on the platform opposite where we disembark, is the Hakone Tozan Railway, which runs on a single track on the second steepest line in the world, from Odawara, which we have passed through, up to Gora, from which the Hakone Ropeway extends, to Lake Ashi–where there are ridiculous Disney tallships–at the foot of Fuji; or it would extend, were it not closed because of increased volcanic activity around the crater of Mount Hakone.

Snapped above is the black garlic seller, the chestnut guy, at Hakone-Yumoto station. We get some (umi as those we ate on the Spanish Steps some years ago), and negotiate the main road, to catch a bus on the far side–not so easy, but the traffic stops to let us trundle over. The bus is free to Ichinoyu Honkan. Chosen for its onsen, it sits directly on the river, in fact a station up, on Tonzan line, from Hakone-Yumoto, at Tonosawa. Here we leave our bags, impressed by the age and beauty of our ryokhan. The oldest parts of the building are four hundred years’ old. It was established in 1630, has, like most old wooden structures in Japan, either been burnt–more common–or been shaken down–far less common, given Japanese craftsmanship–and rebuilt and added on to: from the snap above of the exterior it seems to jut out of the landscape. It is not only that in fact it belongs. It is that the atmosphere gives a subtle acknowledgement that in fact it does.

Our check-in time is at 3. We descend the hill to Hakone-Yumoto once more, having arrived before midday.

From the map it looks like the post office is beside the railway station. We walk down beside the river, past the weir, the arcades across the river for some reason reminding me of Lake Garda. We are directed back across the river from Hakone-Yumoto, up through its other half. A snap of the interior of the post office appears above. It’s raining heavily. We have our 950yen clear plastic umbrella. We stop in at a marquetry store–seems to be a local speciality in the craft line: different woods cut into prisms, the cross sections showing hexagonal and other tesselating patterns, shaved to micromilimetres, laminated and laquered into trays, coasters, serving dishes, display boxes. The high sheen is almost kitsch but the larger items, beyond our price range, are quite beautiful.

What we are not told is Hakone-Yumoto straddles a fork in the river. We mistake one fork for the other, where our ryokhan is, and get lost in the rain.

When we find our way back downriver to Hakone-Yumoto, our plan is to take the Tonzan line perhaps up as far as Gora. But we change our minds.

At this time of year, the Tonzan line becomes the Hydrangea Train, the flowers in bloom on either side of the track, stalked by photographers, locals making the journey simply to experience the profusion of the hydrangea and celebrate its ephemerality.

Second steepest railway–different from cable, rope or ratchet–in the world, Tonzan, to deal with the canting, has a number of switchbacks, and changes direction. It’s fun to see the whitegloved guard and driver running down the platform to swap ends, their high seriousness, their high polish and human haste.

In recognition of the Swiss source of the new cars using the line, the ads inside, in the curved spaces above the windows, and billboards in the stations, depict not Japan, but Switzerland–a similar train passing over stone bridges, up mountains, in the snow. Perhaps it is the steepest?

I snap where we get off, before Gora, because we spot on the route plan, that this is the stop for Hakone Open-Air Museum. J. has read about it. But nothing prepares us for it.

Look, the people inside the work are cleaning it; and the bronzes are restrained from developing a patina–by a similar cleaning regimen?

The face in the hole in the solid sheet is called Surprise with the Glare by Takao Tsuchida. The monumental bronze figures above are by Emile Antoine Bourdelle.

I have noted before the extreme reverence with which modern art is treated–on Naoshima–in its display, and in its careful preservation. But there is a strange contrast here: is it Donald Keane who writes that the Japanese is one of the few if not the only culture to place such high value on ephemeral and passing things–in the tea ceremony, Sakura, the Hydrangea Train, in ikebana, and as a general attitude to the life of both human subjects and objects? But here timeless art is not allowed to age–no patinas allowed! Would the perspex bubbles of the work snapped above have such care lavished on them anywhere else?

This care is nothing new. At Chiyoda Art Centre a team of grasscutters descended on the small patch of grass, and with handheld shears, like scissors, snipped it quietly down. There were seven of them. Of course we see the same in gardens everywhere–the round topiaries of pines, pom-poming in silhouette, the meticulous care taken with packaging, with presenting food, the growing of melons in cube-frames to give square fruit, the technologies of personal bodily care in onsen culture… But the preservation of artworks in a state of newness, when done in materials which do age, to which age adds depth, gravity… Then is this idea of aging inherited from the Romantic ruin cult? Should we be painting back the colours on classical Greek and Roman statuary? Putting the wigs and merkins back on?

The patching and mending of materials, in boro and sashiko–so the fabric tells its story, patched indigo, in white threads–or kinsugi–joining broken ceramics with gold–or even the elaboration of supports for plants and trees, often with support structures, for prized ones, more extensive than the tree or plant itself, these are not the same as the poetry of aging, fragmenting and deterioration prized from the Romantics on? …Although we would place special conditions on the sorts of aging, fragmenting and deterioration that is prized: let there not be rot, or agents active, like bacteria and fungi, in the materials; but let it show the worming in the wood once the worms are gone; let the bronze brought up out of the sea show the barnacles and patinas–but let their work have finished and not be ongoing and live; which reminds us of the icon fabricators, aging back woods, paints and surfaces, as artfully adding patinas and coatings as Hirst’s fantasia… Although we also have the example of Duchamp’s Unhappy ReadymadeReadymade Malheureux of 1919: the geometry textbook despoiled by weather… , well, done by Duchamp’s sister, Suzanne, on his instruction… The trade in instant antiques–chairs whipped with chains and scorched and splattered with grease–reproduces the effects of aging: but death is kept at bay. The Nihonese attitude seems different.

It has been said that the quality wavers of the works exhibited at Hakone Open-Air Museum but it may be just this aspect of taste.

It ought also be considered that the sculpture park is the first of its type in Japan; the collection was started in 1969. By any standards, it is exceptional.

The snap above shows the hot-spring footbath–an onsen for feet.

The Picasso pavilion was closed for renovation. I snapped it because of its big Hollywood letters. The figure in front, called the flower who walks, La Fleur qui Marche, is by Fernand Léger. Like the Miró, also above, its colours have been kept as bright and clean as if it was just done.

This tower is Gabriel Loire’s Symphonic Sculpture, from which the views of cloud sweeping the hills around above are snapped too.

And the first of the Henry Moores, to be continued… by the biggest collection I have seen anywhere.

Antony Gormley lies prostrate in there too.

The Hand of God — Carl Miles, raising the question, and figuring the raising of the question, of taste.

These are Barry Flanagan’s The Boxing Ones–with a vista behind giving a sense of the scale of the place.

Giuliano Vangi’s Grande Racconto recalls us to the hilltop behind Kosan-ji in Ikuchijima, on the Seto Sea, where the whole hill is Carrara marble, 5,000 square metres of it. It is dazzling white enough to give sunstroke–I had to buy a hat after that–perhaps dazzled with the glare of its title, as it is called Maraishin no Oka, Englished as Heights of Eternal Hope for the Future by the sculptor from Hiroshima, Kazuto Kuetani. Here: at squarewhiteworld

Ryoji Goto’s Intersecting Space Construction recalls us to the imbrication of human subjects–like interlocking rooftiles.

We leave Hakone Open-Air Museum having not seen the Picassos, hoping to return perhaps tomorrow… as this substantial collection is being temporarily housed in the gallery where we enter… the one with the big name being closed… and I do not show here the indoor exhibitions, featuring a Giorgio de Chirico sculpture, an Yves Klein blue relief work, with gold figures, Giacometti’s thin woman without arms, Femme Mince sans Bras, captivating, some of which can be seen here: https://www.hakone-oam.or.jp/en/exhibitions/article_reg.cgi?id=829688

The Tonzan back as far as our stop, Tonosawa–the path along the hillside, descending to Ichinoyu Honkan–we check in at last to the most beautiful room we have stayed in, of beautiful humanscale proportions, on the corner of the 400 year-old building, overlooking the river, itself curving around our room, with a private onsen in our room. And we go out searching for dinner. We find a place with the TV on, playing the incomprehensible–to us–reality shows we have seen before–still incomprehensible–and the bowed-over ancient proprietor welcomes us, instructs us on dining etiquette at one point, while his equally ancient, but less bowed-over wife cooks for us. There is for a time nobody else there, but two guys drinking beer and chuhai from enormous glasses, who soon leave. Then a traveler enters in a summer suit with a straw hat and engages the proprietor in a discussion which could as easily have been about the races or rice crops as about the new Emperor.

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Shoshana Zuboff defines:

Sur-veil-lance Cap-i-tal-ism, n.

  1. A new economic order that claims human experience as free raw material for hidden commercial practices of extraction, prediction, and sales; 2. A parasitic economic logic in which the production of goods and services is subordinated to a new global architecture of behavioral modification; 3. A rogue mutation of capitalism marked by concentrations of wealth, knowledge, and power unprecedented in human history; 4. The foundational framework of a surveillance economy; 5. As significant a threat to human nature in the twenty-first century as industrial capitalism was to the natural world in the nineteenth and twentieth; 6. The origin of a new instrumentarian power that asserts dominance over society and presents startling challenges to market democracy; 7. A movement that aims to impose a new collective order based on total certainty; 8. An expropriation of critical human rights that is best understood as a coup from above: an overthrow of the people’s sovereignty.

see also: https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2019/jan/20/shoshana-zuboff-age-of-surveillance-capitalism-google-facebook

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highly unlikely

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how many does it take to turn things around?

a billion people

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06.08.2018 Shinjuku, Roppongi

The galleries and the art—you might as well say all other ends—are as nothing to the city. Benesse’s ethically informed and ecological business, putting the engine of capitalism to scaling up a public and cultural interest, are nothing beside the electricity bill of a single district, beside just the electricity bill of Shinjuku.

We went to Mori Art Museum today—again the policing of photography, so few snaps, an exhibition tracing genealogies of architecture in a Japanese cultural context—and the idea of scale was given graphic representation, of human scale: the measurement of a standing body, the reach of an arm, the height of a seat under a seated body, the headheight of one sitting on the floor, the length of a footstep and a stride. But there is also a scale to human dreams; there is a scale to a life: and to the dreams of one living. The question What is to be done? is abstract, purely speculative, beside the question What do you want to do? What do you want to do? expresses a human scale. However What are they doing? What are they doing behind their counters? What are they doing walking in the streets? What are they doing working? What are they doing paying for the service provided? What are they doing looking at the local colour? What are they doing using the subway? What are they doing at the nuclear plant? These are questions that scale up rapidly to encompass other ends: What? What, the energy you draw from the thermonuclear reaction is just for the trains? It is just for the lights? It is just so at night you can carry on selling yakotori at night? (The energy for the hibachi barbecues comes from charcoal … but the charcoal is shipped into the centre of Shinjuku … and so is the meat, as are the vegetables, the drinks. The glasses are from factories. The beer is from an industrial brewery. Consider the size of Asahi: Asahi also supplies streetvending machines; it manufactures peppermints … at least its brand is on peppermints.)

What is every good effort at improving human life compared to the dreams of one living now? Who is not Japanese, serving in Memory Lane, at a yakotori counter barely over a metre wide. But who is Chinese, as are the two women working with her. They are studying at university. What you asked was—put in mind of the women running the ramen place in Kyoto—Is this business yours? The answer given: We are not Japanese. We are Chinese. I am a student. What are you studying? Business studies.

Where do you come from? New Zealand. I would like to go there. To New Zealand? Yes. It is big. It is bigger here! No—more… space. Yes.

To try and get closer to the question: Will you find a Japanese man? No. Japanese man drinks too much. In New Zealand… No. New Zealand men don’t drink at all! Laughter.

Another of the young women was also studying business. In Japan for 4 years, she dreamed of going to New Zealand. This was her dream. She was shy, shy about not having very much English.

Stepping out into the street, after the most expensive meal we’ve had here, we were immediately among the throngs of tourists, all attracted to these few lanes and alleys—Memory Lane!—by a recommendations of others. Look at them, with their cellphones, getting as close as they could to the natives in the area, in their tiny bars, doing their native things in their native tongues, drinking and eating and talking—pressed tightly together in their native humanity. But we are not Japanese.

And then the play of lights above, in the streets, the signage, the displays just for the sake of display: the scale of the city.

The press of people is Japanese. Genealogies of architecture in Japan, from Japan, and the Japanese influence on the contemporary world—of architecture and architectural thinking—did not include the press of bodies, the scale of one compressed on the subway. I felt the bones of the short woman in front of me, in the squeeze.

We were trying not to panic. It was the Oedo line, Roppongi to Shinjuku, the return trip from Mori Art Museum, just after 6pm. The first train that pulled up, although we were only three or four people back in the queue, we did not board. The way to board, when the press is so great, is backwards, pushing back first into the others in the doorway cavity. Then, use the door jambs and overhead lintel for leverage to pull in your legs and arms. If the doors can’t close, they will reopen, so you can push harder back, and pull in the remaining foot or hand. You are holding your bag close against you.

The second train came and J. was determined. The price of success was to be squashed tight in the door area—those standing in the aisle protected their space; those seated were safe. We were squashed so tightly I could not raise my arms. And with a righteous indignation that is embarrassing, when the press increased, with one large guy determined to get on, we yelled Hey! This did attract attention. But the large guy, using the lintel to pull his body in through the door, did get on—the skin of his face would have been pressed against the glass windows of the door, like we had seen with the earlier train: vacuum-sealed skin, faces, arms, bodies.

The fear was that at the ensuing stations—we had seven to cover—more people would be waiting, more would squeeze on: and what if the train broke down? Or what if there was some kind of scare and the crowd got spooked? What if we lost our footing and fell?

At the next station, a few got off, and more got on, but we had made our way, like those puzzles where you slide letters around a square with only one space free, to the corner, to the door opposite the one where we boarded. We had breathing space. I could grab the hanging strap and handle. Another gaijin next to me: he was using his back as a baffle and concentrating on his phonescreen.

What we decided we had meant by Hey! was Hey! That’s enough! That’s not how we do things! … And it was really unnecessary. These people, determined to board, to the discomfort of others, would know there would be another train along in minutes. Another question—because once on, J. said let’s get off, at the next station; we didn’t: If we had not got on the train, had known what we were in for, how long would have had to wait before the commuting press subsided? Or would we have walked? Right across Tokyo.

The Golden Gai, like Memory Lane—tourist gaijin prowling, cellphones at eyeheight.

But the snaps you want—the world is not designed for you either.

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