The Museum of Personal History

Beacon, "Preserve"

I saw a Salvation Army bell-ringer out on 14th Street yesterday. In Union Square they’re setting up the holiday market. The news is full of Black Friday stories. There is no denying it: We have entered the Festival of Dread. How long before you hear “The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year” in the Duane Reade? There’s no going back now. The only things we have to look forward to are the new Missy and the new Beacon, from which the above track comes. Enjoy.

New York City, November 11, 2015

weather review sky 111115★★ The flat gray of the river looked a little whiter than the rumpled gray of the sky. The wood furniture and paneling on the new building’s roofdeck were dark with water. It took all morning and past lunchtime for some color and sun to work their way under the clouds. Suddenly the shadow of someone’s balcony gear to the south appeared on the apartment facade where it jutted out to the north. The near west turned blue, with more blue streaks opening in the clouds in the distance. A sweater and the wool coat were not wrong for the outdoors at first, but after a stuffy subway ride the coat had to come off, and in the office so did the sweater.

Vacancy Curbed

Throwing it back.😂😂😂 #nyc #summeranalyst2008

A photo posted by Pete Wang (@pwang1025) on

The Real Deal reports that Vox Media “is in advanced discussions to sign a lease for more than 70,000 square feet at 85 Broad Street.” Vox Media’s New York headquarters, which houses much of its editorial, Vox Dot Com excepted, is currently in Midtown Manhattan. A move to the Financial District would have Vox following in the footsteps of Conde Nast, Time Inc., and News Corp., who have all fled Midtown for the austere-but-prosperous canyons of downtown, or announced plans to do so, adding another data point to the story that the “center of gravity” in New York media and dining has shifted southward.

If the deal goes through, Vox, a recent-but-proud member of the billion-dollar-valuation club, will be settling into the former headquarters of Goldman Sachs, a “brownish tower [that] isn’t interesting enough to be ugly,” according to the New York Observer:

Goldman Sachs became the world’s most important firm in a spectacularly dull, purposefully frumpy, desperately anonymous tower. Inside, it smelled like cigarettes in the 1980s and homemade chocolate chip cookies on the 30th floor. Babies cried in the first-floor day-care center; Jon Corzine worked outside in a Town Car parked on the curb after his ousting; and Hank Paulson felt sad when birds flew into the windows.

After being sold to MetLife and subsequently abandoned by Goldman in 2010 for a new headquarters at 200 West Street—which “appears to have been designed in the hope of rendering the company invisible”—85 Broad Street was the home of the “largest vacant block of available space on the market,” which it couldn’t seem to fill until rather recently.

If Vox runs out of space again soon, it can always send employees down a few flights to the building’s new WeWork location.

A Theory of Technology

khjWhat follows are some passages of text from a piece about technology in the New York Review of Books.

Just as the market or the free play of competition provided in theory the optimum long-run solution for virtually every aspect of virtually every social and economic problem, so too does the free play of technology, according to its writers. Only if technology or innovation (or some other synonym) is allowed the freest possible reign, they believe, will the maximum social good be realized.

Technology, in their view, is a self-correcting system. Temporary oversight or “negative externalities” will and should be corrected by technological means. Attempts to restrict the free play of technological innovation are, in the nature of the case, self-defeating. Technological innovation exhibits a distinct tendency to work for the general welfare in the long run. Laissez innover!

My Thinking Only Seems Magical Because Reality Has Not Been Sufficiently Optimized to Match It

“Uber is so obviously a good thing that you can measure how corrupt cities are by how hard they try to suppress it.”

As with the word “implicitly” in that first tweet, the word “obviously” serves here as a proxy for an entire unexamined worldview–the tip of a technocratic, Rand-ian ideological iceberg that regards what “works” (as defined first by engineering achievement and second by success in the market) as self-evidently correct. It’s a software engineer’s view of capitalism as a kind of genetic algorithm, gradually advancing society through a massively parallel search for product-market fit. Regulators, politicians, pearl-clutching social commentators and other unenlightened busy bodies who would seek to place limits on this process are bugs in the system, perverting its just course. Never mind that we’ve seen this algorithm operating at full efficiency before and found that, left unchecked, it tends to exhibit some problematic biases (toward income inequality, exploitation of labor, and disregard for public safety to name a few). Silicon Valley is different because unlike the robber barons of the last industrial revolution, the Titans of Silicon Valley are “smart” (a word used almost totemistically by Graham and his acolytes) and thus implicitly benevolent. The kind of haughty sentiment evinced by these two statements has long been a staple of tech’s response to criticism. In their reductive glibness, blinkered certainty, and “us-against-them” mentality they’re a prime example of what psychiatrist Robert Jay Lifton described in his book Thought Reform and the Psychology of Totalism as “thought-terminating cliches.”

Awl pal Buzz Andersen has a newsletter, and it is called Thinkpiece Dot Club.

How Do You Cook Fancy Local Food When There's Nothing to Cook?

Romesco Chicken with creamy Risotto, almonds, rosemary and garlic. #PuertoRico #CLMDOmenu #CLMDO

A photo posted by CLMDO (@clmdo) on

The Puerto Rican food supply is fragile: Eighty percent of it is imported, and pricing regulations generally favor imports over local goods. This is often lost in the discussion of its ongoing $72 billion debt crisis, rampant unemployment, and people leaving the island in droves for Florida or New York. Its native agriculture is being restored, but the pace is too slow to supply the island’s restaurants, while the Jones Act, enacted in 1917, still requires the U.S. territory to buy all imported goods from American-made ships staffed with American crews, severely limiting options and increasing costs.

Chef Wilson Davalos owns and operates the twenty-seat small-plate restaurant CLMDO in the west coast city of Isabela. He went from working in tech, to being a photographer, to moving back to Puerto Rico and teaching himself how to cook and opening the restaurant in 2014. CLMDO comes from the word “colmado,” which is what they call bodegas on the island. “My menu was changing weekly. One week a tagine, the next Portuguese codfish and potatoes,” he told me. He makes homey, refined food, like lemon chicken with red quinoa, chili eggplant with almonds, and creamy egg with butter-poached beets and feta. But right now, he’s still suffering the effects of food lost because of a cargo ship’s early October sinking in Hurricane Joaquin.

How do you usually stock the kitchen at CLMDO?

Shopping in Puerto Rico is difficult. From what I understand, only two percent of farmland in Puerto Rico is actually farmed. Tourists always ask me if the soil is bad; I say that it’s not. Monsanto has an R&D lab in Isabela.

Puerto Rico does not have many wholesale suppliers. And CLMDO, being such a small restaurant, I can’t buy in massive bulk from the ones that do exist. I use weekend markets, road-side sellers, small independent farms. I also have to use warehouse club stores like Costco and Sam’s Club.

Since my menu changes often, I’m able to adapt. Until last week, our entire menu was handwritten on butchers’ paper and hung on the wall. Fillet steak and spinach have been my biggest problems. My salads are spinach based; I’ve considered using Iceberg or Romaine lettuce, but even those were gone. I was able to find fresh spinach in small, less popular supermarkets, buying up every bag of spinach that I found.

What is the food availability like in Isabela? Is it worse than in San Juan, and how does it compare to the rest of the island?

Food diversity in the majority of the island, including Isabela, is not too dissimilar. You’ll see large stocks of soda crackers, rice, beans, plantains, and soft drinks in supermarkets. San Juan has much more food diversity. I remember once freaking out because I found fresh rosemary at a market in San Juan.

A Poem by Patrick Cotter

The Discoveries of Thomas Fynch

The noise of trees is mostly unheard by man
but trees are full of feeling like people
and leaves are their vocal cords.
So discovered Thomas Fynch
who became aficionado of rustles,

expert on the Aspen leaf’s white sonic poise;
who grew to know pine needles keened
before their boles were felled for coffins
and wrote of the chestnut’s clack-clack
when slapped by raindrops and the crackling
of underground fire amidst the ash tree’s rooted filigree.

“He has generally been on time in the past six months, is sometimes early and is rarely more than 20 minutes late for public and private events. He seems more aware of the clock. He sometimes reminds others around him to hurry and budgets more time for trips around the city. His team also schedules few events in the early morning.#

Bing & Ruth, "Broad Channel"

You have three stories about yourself.

The story you tell to others is your ideal version of who you are, edited and curated to create an impression of the person you wish you would be. Sometimes you even act like the star in this story, but the fact that you need to keep telling it means that most days it remains an aspiration at best.

The story you tell to yourself is the one that acknowledges some of the flaws you’re glossing over in the other story but comes up with reasons to justify or explain away most of those faults. This is the story that helps you survive, the one that allows you to make as much peace as you can with the ways you fall short that you can’t quite ignore.