Wednesday, December 19, 2007


From The Box Man by Kobo Abe:

"..But I think you understand...somehow..why everybody wants news the way they do. Are they preparing for times of emergency by knowing in advance the changes taking place in the world, I wonder? I used to think so. But that was a big lie. People listen to news only to feel reassured. Because however great the news of catastrophe they hear, those listening are still perfectly alive. The really big news is the ultimate news announcing the end of the world, I suppose. Of course, everybody wants to hear that. For then one does not need to abandon the world alone. When I think about it, I feel the reason that I was addicted was my eagerness not to miss this ultimate broadcast. But as long as the news goes on, it will never get to the end. Thus news constitutes the announcement that it is not the end of the world. The following trifling cliches are merely abridgments. Last night the greatest bombings of North Vietnam this year were carried out by B52s, but somehow you are still alive. Gas lines under construction ignited and eight persons received serious and light wounds, but you are alive and safe. Record rate of rising prices, yet you continue to live. Extinction of marine life in bays by waste produces from factories, but somehow you survive everything."

After my initial encounter with the story in the pages of Perspecta, the Yale Architectural Press, my interest in Box Man was re-sparked after a friend sent me an NYT article about a new Japanese design technique intended to protect against muggers. It is a skirt that, when unfolded over one's head, disguises one as a vending machine.

Needless to say, this is the feminine mode of box man. It's a cute skirt, but it turns into a way to hide from being raped, or the attentions of an unwanted suitor.

I have come to conclude that the figure of the box man, who is self-contained, self-sheltering, utilitarian and highly mobile is paradigmatic for dudes in general. So goes the observational research I have made on dudes with whom I have regular social contact. I recall a number of off-hand remarks: "the less stuff the better." "I wish I could throw away everything I own." "Only the essentials." "I wish I could be a man who lived in a box, a kind of box man, who was self-contained and highly mobile." Abe's box man figure takes Walter Benjamin's flaneur, who uniquely experiences urban life in a mode of detachment and purposeless wandering, and not only radicalizes him, but makes him a figure of high design. There could be Louis Vuitton boxes, etc.

A variant on Box Man is the DJ. Booth Man, or Console Man. Self-contained and anonymous. Before the Daft Punk pyramid, there was, to name just one example, Daniele Baldelli, DJ at the Italian club Cosmic in the early 80s.

I am providing here a remarkable mix by Baldelli recently made of the material he played at this club, which actually has little in common with words like "cosmic" or "disco". Or above all, "italo disco." Baldelli is known for eclectic, unpredictable combinations - with its weird collages of drums and vocals this mix sounds more its extended sonic family is more Eno/Byrne "My Live in the Bush of Ghosts" than Giorgio Moroder: that is, while technically it's an 80's italian disco mix, it sounds more like a signal being beamed in from a country you've never heard of, rather than a slick sonic approximation of a neon synthesizer future.


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