About Alis

Alis Franklin is a thirtysomething Australian author of queer urban fantasy. She likes cooking, video games, Norse mythology, and feathered dinosaurs. She’s never seen a live drop bear, but stays away from tall trees, just in case.

Modern rejection.

The Modernists believed that form should follow function. Though their buildings were as ugly as minimalism is boring, the Modernists saw beauty in them because they were cheap, and therefore egalitarian. Like today’s minimalists, they criticized ornamentation and focused only on the essentials. But like minimalism, modernism was cold and uninviting. In the end, it repelled people.

The gold standard of modernism, at least in theory, was the Pruitt-Igoe in St. Louis, conceived as an “oasis in the desert.” Architectural Digest called the proposal “the best high apartment of the year.” To manufacture equality among residents, the elevators only stopped at the 1st, 4th, 7th, and 11th floors—that would reduce congestion by forcing residents to use the stairs. To create camaraderie, those same floors had communal laundry rooms, garbage chutes, and public gathering spaces. But that paradise was a pipe dream. The world turned against the concrete towers that the Modernists had once pushed for, and local residents kept away from it due to high crime rates. So many people moved out that almost half of the buildings were boarded up by 1971, and five years later, all 33 buildings were demolished. In retrospect, the Pruitt-Igoe mirrors the rise and fall of modernism.

Modernism’s collapse is a reminder that total efficiency is for robots. It was inspired by a noble and egalitarian vision of the future whose reality was as hostile as its vision was inspiring. From it, we learn that humans want to live in a world decorated by color and pattern. A world without ornamentation is as bland as soup without spice—and humans want spice.

David Perell on no-spaces.

I’m always kind of fascinated by articles like this because, confession, I love minimalism. Broad expanses of well-lit, neutral tones (“adult beige” as I once described it to my husband) with only the smallest hint of, preferably natural, ornamentation? Love it.

On the other hand, I do also loathe a lot of Modernist (and, worse, Brutalist) architecture, mostly because it always looks, uh. Cheap. Even when it’s not; most of our major national public buildings here, for example, are very brutalist, and they are definitely not cutting costs on construction. And I just don’t buy the “cheapness is egalitarian!” argument, mostly because of the “the poor don’t deserve nice things, they should be grateful to have anything at all!” undertones. So . . . yeah. There’s that.

Some additional thoughts:

  • Modern “Apple minimalism” comes from the fact that Steve Jobs was very, very heavily influenced by Japanese aesthetic minimalism and, in particular, Zen art. So the Western backlash against minimalism always feels like it’s a teensy tiny bit touched by racism (see also: the Western reaction to Marie Kondo).
  • The Pruitt-Igoe was actually designed by Minoru Yamasaki who, in case the name didn’t give it away, was a Japanese American architect.1
  • It was technically based on (or at least cribbed heavily off the ideas of) the Plan Voisin, which was basically the same thing but in Paris. Parisians loathed the idea and it was never actually built. If you’ve ever seen High-Rise (you know, that arty Tom Hiddleston film) and/or read the book it was based on, the Plan Voisin and its descendants were its Really Real World inspiration.
  • In comparison to “Apple minimalism,” its maximalist backlash is pretty much always just upcycled 19th century Orientalism. My parents live in this sort of house—all Persian rugs and antique Chinese cabinets of dubiously legal export origin—and while I don’t hate it, the aesthetic never feels entirely “comfortable” to me because of its history, in a way “Apple minimalism”—which takes style notes but doesn’t, like, wholesale steal artefacts—does not.
  • Relatedly, “backlash maximalism” also reads as extremely “university-educated-upper-middle-class white ex-hippie Boomer” to me, because it’s a really common aesthetic here for people of my parents’ age and demographic. So it has unfortunate notes of inter-generational/class conflict, as well as colonialism, in a way I think maybe doesn’t register to Americans as strongly. (See also: the stereotypical Aspirational White Australian Bunnings Buddha Statue.)
  • For what it’s worth, I also have traditionally hated Art Deco (mostly because it’s not Art Nouveau, which is the Obviously Far Superior “Art Something”-named aesthetic), though it’s growing on me as I get older.

In conclusion:

Stereotypical cartoon beatnik man emoting at the sky. The text beneath reads “ART”.

  1. Fun fact: His most famous building? The World Trade Centre. []
2021-03-29T08:43:59+11:0014th April, 2021|Tags: , |

Untalking filibuster.

Here’s how they actually work now: senators’ offices get “hotline” emails from leaders asking if anyone wants to filibuster a given nominee or bill. While US senators (and state-level equivalents like Wendy Davis) who engaged in “talking filibusters” sometimes had to go as far as equipping themselves with urinary catheters before all those hours of talking, today a junior staffer can simply call their party’s “cloak room” to let them know that the senator they work for intends to “place a hold” on whatever the “hotline” was about. That’s it. That’s the filibuster.

On the new filibusters.

The filibuster is such a strange institution in general (with a ridiculously racist history, to boot), but the fact that it exists in its current form at all is, uh. Probably not that great, hey.

2021-03-25T07:57:46+11:0013th April, 2021|Tags: |

True type(writer).

A dude got mad about shitty fake Ye Olde Typewriter fonts in film (you know the ones, where every “mis-struck” letter is messed up in exactly the same way, making it very obviously a font) and created a new font to be better capture the True Typewriter Experience.

Maybe Tom Hanks can licence it for his typewriter app?

2021-03-25T07:36:21+11:0010th April, 2021|Tags: , |

Haunted.

The way the older and younger House members think about and engage with the Republican Party may be the starkest divide between them. Democratic leaders like Pelosi, Joe Biden, Steny Hoyer and Chuck Schumer were shaped by their traumatic political coming-of-age during the breakup of the New Deal coalition and the rise of Ronald Reagan — and the backlash that swept Democrats so thoroughly from power nearly 40 years ago. They’ve spent the rest of their lives flinching at the sight of voters. When these leaders plead for their party to stay in the middle, they’re crouching into the defensive posture they’ve been used to since November 1980, afraid that if they come across as harebrained liberals, voters will turn them out again.

The Ocasio-Cortezes of the world have witnessed the opposite: The way they see it, Democratic attempts to moderate and compromise have led to nothing but ruin. Republicans aren’t the ones to be afraid of. “The greatest threat to mankind is the cowardice of the Democratic Party,” Trent told me.

On political trauma.

Speaking of political parties playing the wrong game . . .

Incidentally, I want to point out how this article quotes Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez: “For us, it’s never been normal, and before that the bipartisanship was s—ty anyway and gave us the War on Drugs, DOMA” — the Defense of Marriage Act, which barred federal recognition or benefits for same-sex couples — “and stripping the leg[islative] branch of everything.” It’s hard for me to describe exactly what pings me about this–is it the prissy censoring of “shitty”? the pedantic interjection to expand the acronym? the “translation” of “the leg”? all of it?–but it is definitely, absolutely . . . Something.

2021-03-23T09:02:00+11:009th April, 2021|Tags: |

The right Left.

The most obvious irony in Australian politics is that our conservative party is called the Liberal Party. Even more ironic, albeit less obviously so, is that actual neoliberalism was instituted in Australia by the Labor Party, who’ve been its eternal champions ever since.1 It’s also why they’ve only been in (federal) power for like seven years out of the last thirty.

But, like. Yanno. Double-down harder, boys. I’m sure it’ll work eventually . . .

  1. The man responsible for it, Paul Keating, has, in recent years backpedaled . . . a little bit. []
2021-03-23T07:56:04+11:008th April, 2021|Tags: |

Winning is death.

What makes Bitcoin worth $47,000 is not that its code is somehow worth that amount; what makes it worth $47,000 is that people are willing to buy it for that price. And the reason that they’re willing to buy it for that price is—in part, in increasingly important part—that it fits in with the rest of the financial system, that the traditional systems of trust that make up the mainstream financial system have accepted and incorporated Bitcoin. (I mean, the asset-management bits of the financial system; you still can’t, like, spend Bitcoins.) Nothing can really be a reliable store of value until you can custody it at BoNY Mellon. Now you can.

Matt Levin on the life and death of BTC.

2021-03-23T07:40:37+11:008th April, 2021|Tags: , , |

👈🏼

For the next time you lose your cursor.

Confession: I spent an inordinate amount of time using the dirt on my laptop monitor as a guide to try and see how many different images the site has for different parts of the screen . . .

2021-03-22T10:15:49+11:007th April, 2021|Tags: |

The Master’s tools.

Further, kindness is the default position even with the worst people. If you allow rapists to be raped, you become a rapist. If you torture torturers, you are now a torturer. You do not, in the old phrase, sink to their level. That doesn’t mean being a pushover [ . . . but] even if someone is the worst of the worst beyond even the shadow of a doubt, they must be treated with kindness [ . . .] not just because it is the right thing to do, but because doing anything else degrades those who do it. Torturers are always corrupted by torturing, occupying armies always become weak, corrupt and brutal. You cannot do evil and not be, yourself, scarred by it.

Ian Welsh on kindness.

Welsh is making a point about state violence here specifically, which I agree with. But it also applies on an individual level, or at least a communal one.

You don’t have to put up with or even be polite1 to people being assholes, but too often I see people conflate enforcing boundaries with pushing them. If you’re an asshole to assholes it makes you an asshole, not actually the righteous avenging angel you imagine yourself to be in your head. Revenge is a base urge and indulging in it feels good besides, as instant gratification always does. But it does take its own toll. And “punishing the guilty” is rarely a more important task than “consoling the hurt.”

You’ve only got so much energy to spare. Make sure you’re investing it wisely.

  1. Being “kind” is not necessarily being “nice,” as any Discworld fan will tell you. []
2021-03-22T10:12:36+11:006th April, 2021|Tags: , |
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