No one who arrives in Los Angeles comes without baggage. I came with a whole lifetime of seeing the city through the filter of its culture industries and the region's relentless self-promotion. This did not prepare me for the real thing. Watching Thom Andersen's Los Angeles Plays Itself—a brilliant
The desire to capture the intersections and overlaps of love and consumer capitalism isn't new—after all, Fitzgerald packed The Great Gatsby's doomed romance with God-like billboards, lethal cars, and semi-famous lady golfers nearly a century ago. But in the last fifty-odd years, love, consumer
America's attitudes toward its most destitute citizens have always been sharply polarized. Consider, for instance, the philosophical divide between Emerson's uncharitable self-reliance ("Are they my poor?") and proto-liberal Thoreau's opinion that "none can be an impartial or wise observer of human
I came of age online in the late '90s. Some of the friends I made on listservs and LiveJournal at the time are still friends today, in "real life." I was blogging and keeping a diary online years before I even had a cell phone. In retrospect, participating in a space that was public but still felt
Few outsiders have seen North Korea, in spite of the increasing international urgency to understand it. Perhaps for this reason, stories from the hermit kingdom hold a unique power over us. Like books about China written from behind the bamboo curtain, our only understanding of this "workers' paradise"
You're a rare writer if you don't occasionally suspect yourself of plagiarism, of unconsciously stealing phrases from your favorite author or appropriating plot points from books you've read as a child. Or maybe, you're haunted by a sneaking suspicion that everything is something you've read before.
In fiction, video games act as both the harbingers of dystopia and the means of salvation from bleak techno-futures. Between these two poles lies a vast possibility space, something William Gibson formulated with the idea of cyberspace in his 1982 story "Burning Chrome," a "colorless non-space of
Something is lost when tennis is televised. The blocky, overhead vantage favored by networks compresses the court and caricatures its occupants. The ball becomes a blur of fuzz and neon, often shot in histrionic slow-mo. Reduced to a series of zoom-ins and zoom-outs, the game congeals into a mass of
In theory, nothing should give us greater satisfaction than being fundamentally good, likable human beings. People trust us, tell us secrets, look to us for advice, rave to others about how we helped them that night they drank too much or got a flat tire. In theory, kindness wins us the admiration
"There's a fascination frantic / In a ruin that's romantic" – Gilbert and Sullivan, in The Mikado. Ruins have for several centuries been objects of literary and artistic veneration, reminders of real and imaginary catastrophe, images of historical hubris and souvenirs from dashed futures. Central