Coffices, Letter Racers, Chasing Ghosts
A Room of Everyone’s Own
The Millions has this editorial about the futility of writing in coffeehouses. Strangely, it does not mention that pulling a single shot of espresso can sound like a sputtering demon being born, which can be distracting. Instead, Lombardi talks about how weird it is to create something in public - - writing as performance.
“Writing in public feels like a performance, but, when we’re dealing with literature, the performance is not what endures. To put it another way: the final outcome is the performance. I can’t help but assume when I see the coffice-bound writer as one who privileges persona over results.
I’m not sure that someone typing at a computer is really a persona. Maybe if the cofficeur is smoking a pipe and wearing a vest and pacing around the café table, while a white page and the words “MY NOVEL” is in a 242 point font on his screen. But what I do on Sunday mornings is my own goddamn business.
And yet I agree with Lombardi’s conclusion that, “literature is a relationship both with solitude and with the rest of the world, and I suppose what bothers me about the laptop hive of the ‘coffice’ is that it offers neither.”
Sure. Although one can feel very isolated while standing in line, waiting to order their cortado. Very isolated indeed…
The Letter Racers
“The letter racers were in his conception totally functional, like models to
demonstrate how the letters would work if they were ever to be mechanized and able to fly into battle.”
Speaking of writing, once upon a time there was a graffiti artist who felt that paint was not enough for something as important as the alphabet, and that letters should be able to defend themselves. His name was Rammellzee, and although that wasn’t his real name, it suited him.
I saw the Letter Racers at the Suzanne Geiss gallery about two weeks ago, and I’m still thinking about them. Each racer is a letter of the alphabet, rendered in what you could call a graffiti-lettering-by-Voltron aesthetic. It wasn’t immediately apparent to me which letter is which, and maybe you may can see why - - the photo I’ve included in this post is the letter Z.
What’s surprising about the Letter Racers is how solid and consistent they are - - each one has parts in common. Sometimes a cheapo umbrella handle is used, sometimes it’s toy spaceship parts, but they all share a common language of adornment and embellishment.
What they all have in common is that that they’re mounted on skateboards, and they all have a plastic toggle on the back - - the clicking belt component of a backpack or shoulder bag - - which must have connected to a corresponding clip in Rammellzee’s studio, the Battle Station. Each racer is big, you’d need two hands to pick up each one, and you really get the sense that they are meant to be raced, or played with, or possibly animated. That’s what I keep thinking about - - it seems like they shouldn’t be just on display in a gallery.
Chasing Ghosts: Beyond the Arcade
A coin-operated mess of video game history and personalities with no real focus. If this documentary (currently on Netflix) was a game, it would be Centipede, with the filmmaker shooting at a large, connected mass, succeeding only in splitting up the various sections that make up the movie, and probably losing a few quarters in the process.
And yet it has made me think a lot about the idea of the social nature of games; about what kind of games appeal to people; about what people saw when they looked at these early games, which you have to admit, don’t really look like much.
What makes Ottumwa, Iowa the home of the Video Game Hall of Fame? What turns a video game champion into a religious evangelist, or someone who describes themselves as being (professionally) just shy of a pimp? What makes someone gravitate to Missile Command over Pac-Man?
Is it that that Ottumwa is so cold that it makes for a stronger arcade? Is it really, as Mr. Awesome (not exactly his real name but kind of) says, that Missile Command is more masculine than Pac-Man? How weird is it that someone would even describe a video game as masculine?
Chasing Ghosts has a bit of unfriendly sensibility to it, sometimes mocking its subjects with computer graphics or editing japery (the mullet montage comes to mind). But it also brings a much-needed sense of messiness and confusion about video games. We act like it’s completely normal that people are playing Angry Birds right next to us on the subway. We watch TED talks about the benevolent nature of video games. Forget all that. Let’s talk about using an electric knife or a pencil to cheat at Track and Field - - that game is hard.