Tagcities

Long, New Interview with Michael Moorcock

Michael Moorcock

In contrast to the rural decencies of Tolkien, Moorcock’s writing belongs to an urban tradition, which celebrates the fantastical city as a place of chance and mystery. The wondrous spaces of M John Harrison, China Miéville, Fritz Leiber, Gene Wolfe and Alan Moore are all part of this, as are Iain Sinclair’s London, Judge Dredd’s Mega-City One, the part-virtual cyberpunk mazes of William Gibson and the decadent Paris of the Baudelarian flâneur. Like these other urban fantasists, Moorcock delights in a kind of sublime palimpsest, in imagining an environment that through size, age, scale or complexity exceeds our comprehension, producing fear and awe. Crucially, the city isn’t a place of moral clarity.

Moorcock’s dislike of authoritarian sentiment has led him in many directions: Jerry Cornelius’s ambiguity is sexual, social and even ontological; one of Moorcock’s most popular heroes, Elric, was written as a rebuke to the bluff, muscular goody-goodies that populate so much fantasy fiction. Elric, a decadent albino weakling, is amoral, perhaps even evil. As a not-so-metaphorical junkie, Elric allowed Moorcock to revel in unwholesomeness, and helped return fantasy to its roots in the late romanticism of the decadents, a literary school close to Moorcock’s heart. In a recent introduction to The Dancers at the End of Time, which is set in a decadent far future, Moorcock claims to have sported Wildean green carnations as a teenager, not to mention “the first pair of Edwardian flared trousers (made by Burton) as well as the first high-button frock coat to be seen in London since 1910”. Elric, much less robust than his creator, who admits his dandyish threads gave him “the bluff domestic air of a Hamburg Zeppelin commander”, is part Maldoror, part Yellow Book poseur and part William Burroughs; within a few years of his first appearance in 1961, British culture suddenly seemed to be producing real-life Elrics by the dozen, as Keith Richards, Jimmy Page and others defined an image of the English rock star as an effeminate, velvet-clad lotus-eater. Moorcock was very popular among musicians, and it’s tempting to see him as co-creator of the butterfly-on-a-wheel character, which still wanders the halls of English culture in guises ranging from Sebastian Horsley to Russell Brand. I ask him whether he felt at the time that the 60s rockers were living out a role he’d imagined. He’s too modest to agree, but tells an anecdote that seems to sum up psychedelic London’s openness to fantasy of all kinds. “I’m in the Mountain grill on the Portobello Road, where everyone used to meet to get on the tour buses. I’m sitting there, and this bloke called Geronimo is trying to sell me some dope. He says ‘have you heard about the tunnel under Ladbroke Grove?’. He starts to elaborate, about how it’s under the Poor Clares nunnery, and you can go into that and come out in an entirely different world. I said to him, ‘Geronimo, I think I wrote that’. It didn’t seem to bother him much.”

The Guardian: When Hari Kunzru met Michael Moorcock

Richard Florida = Lyle Lanley

Lyle Lanley

Willy Staley writes:

The Plot: Springfield comes into a few million dollars from Montgomery Burns, who had been fined by the EPA for dumping nuclear waste in city parks. At a town hall meeting to decide what to do with the funds, Marge suggests they fix up Main Street, and the people of Springfield appear ready to agree on that, until Lyle Lanley steps in from nowhere and sings a song about the benefits of a monorail. Long story short, Lanley sells Springfield a faulty monorail and skips town with the profits. It turns out—like Florida—that he had been doing his song-and-dance routine all over the country.

Now I am not suggesting Florida went from town to town deliberately scamming people just like Lanley did (MacGillis stops just short of doing so). But, his product—shiny and new as it is—simply isn’t a fit for every community, just like Lanley’s monorail.

As MacGillis points out, a “tautology lies at the heart of Florida’s theory that has limited its instructive value all along: Creative people seek out places that draw a lot of creative people.” Worse yet, Florida is now admitting that this is true, and by doing so, he “has now taken this closed-loop argument to another level by declaring that henceforth, the winners’ club is closed to new entrants.” And yet before taking this stance, Florida spent years selling his brand of economic development to places like Elmira, New York and Sackville, New Brunswick.

Next American City: Richard Florida’s Monorail

Staley goes on to cite approvingly Matthew B. Crawford’s Shop Class as Soulcraft on economic development.

My thoughts on Florida, and his rival Joel Kotkin, are here and here.

Video: Kowloon Walled City Documentary

A German documentary on the Kowloon Walled City from 1989.

(via Theoretick)

For more on Kowloon, see Justin Bolland’s guest post on the subject.

Bruce Sterling Interview on Modern Cities

Bruce Sterling

The state of modern cities, with Bruce Sterling and Boing Boing guest editor Chris Arkenberg (I interviewed Chris a few months ago):

The obviously dangerous aspect of modern cities is urban organized crime, narcoterror, low-intensity warfare, war in urban terrain, favela shoot-’em-ups, whatever faddish name the trouble has this year. Baghdad, Mogadishu, Grozny.

But I’d also like to point out that large financial centers in certain cities around the planet are certainly going to kill millions of us by destroying our social safety networks in the name of their imaginary financial efficiency. You’re a thousand times more likely to die because of what some urban banker did in 2008 than from what some Afghan-based terrorist did in 2001. *Financiers live in small, panicky urban cloisters, severely detached from the rest of mankind. They are living today in rich-guy ghetto cults. They are truly dangerous to our well-being, and they are getting worse and more extremist, not better and more reasonable. You’re not gonna realize this havoc till you see your elderly Mom coughing in an emergency ward, but she’s going there for a reason.

Boing Boing: Bruce Sterling Interview: Cities

Flame-throwing elephants clash with humans over resources in Bangladesh

Elephant

AN increasing number of humans are being killed by wild elephants each year in Bangladesh – with many of the fatalities occurring because people settle in the animals’ migration corridors.

Bangladesh is home to only an estimated 227 wild Asian elephants, but up to 100 more migrate through the country each year, mostly through the north and northeast, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

As more people in Bangladesh, one of the world’s most densely populated nations, settle in the elephant corridor areas, they are more likely to be attacked by confused, angry pachyderms. […]

“I’ve seen an elephant snatch a torch from a man with its trunk while we were driving away a herd, and throw the flame on a house, setting it on fire,” said Luise, 51.”

Herald Sun: Flame-throwing elephants clash with humans over resources in Bangladesh

It’s a little hard to know if the torch thing is real or not – elephants are quite smart, so it’s certainly within the realm of possibility.

(Thanks Trevor)

Previously: Human-Elephant Conflict

(Photo by Digiart2 / CC)

Futuristic Mega-Projects by Shimizu

The Mega-City Pyramid
The Mega-City Pyramid

Japanese construction firm Shimizu Corporation has developed a series of bold architectural plans for the world of tomorrow. Here is a preview of seven mega-projects that have the potential to reshape life on (and off) Earth in the coming decades.

Pink Tentacle: Futuristic mega-projects by Shimizu

See also:

Archigram archive

open_sailing

The Totalitarian Buddhist Who Beat Sim City

Hallucinatory Urban Architecture of the Future

Dark Roasted Blend has a big round-up of trippy architectural visions of future cities. Here are some highlights:

Luc Schuiten's Vegetal City

Luc Schuiten’s Vegetal City

Walking City

The Walking City by Archigram, an old favorite of mine.

'Shroom City, by Frederic St. Arnaud

‘Shroom City, by Frederic St. Arnaud

There are many more at Dark Roasted Blend: Hallucinatory Architecture of the Future

(Thanks Trevor!)

City Dwellers Drive Deforestation in 21st Century

deforestation

Globally, roughly 13 million hectares of forest fall to the blade or fire each year. Such deforestation has long been driven by farmers eking out a slash-and-burn living or loggers using new roads to cut inroads into pristine forest. But now new data appears to show that, at least for the first five years of the 21st century, big block clearings that reflect industrial deforestation have come to dominate, rather than smaller-scale efforts that leave behind long, narrow swaths of cleared land.

Scientific American: City Dwellers Drive Deforestation in 21st Century

(via Chris Arkenberg)

Conway’s Game of Life generates a city

A 3D model city has been generated using the open source, easy to learn programming language Processing.

(via Digital Urban via Bruce Sterling)

See also: Slime mould could design Tokyo’s railway

5 Modern Abandoned Cities

abandoned city Hashima Island Japan

5. Prypiat, Ukraine
4. Humberstone and Santa Laura, Chile
3. (Parts of) Detroit, Mich.
2. Hashima Island, Japan
1. Centralia, Penn.

HowStuffWorks: 5 Modern Abandoned Cities

(via William Gibson via Mister X)

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