The Frick Collection, New York City

New York City. Sunset: 5:47pm. Sunny with a high of 53 and lows in the upper thirties. There’s a new supermoon tonight, which means the moon is invisible but massive as it draws near its closest point to Earth.

Writing. It’s such a slippery, terrible habit. Always thinking I should be writing. Or that I’m not writing enough. Or I’m not writing well. How did I wind up in this position? Maybe writing isn’t so important anymore. The baton has passed to other forms. Then again, perhaps it’s more vital than ever, this need to pin down and make sense of an increasingly insensible world.

Today I learned the definition of abattoir—one of those half-familiar words I’ve glossed over whenever it appears. I’d always thought it referred to something churchy and medieval, maybe a monastery. But it’s a slaughterhouse. Now I’m wondering what the hell I was reading where my religious definition made any kind of sense.

But I can’t remember. I seem to remember less and less. I worry about my attention span. I worry about my brain. I often think about an essay Douglas Coupland published last summer. He notes that “around 2010 my own brain started feeling truly different. I realised that I was never going to go back to my old, pre-internet brain: I’d been completely rewired. Ten years later I don’t even remember what my pre-internet brain felt like.” Coupland takes comfort in the idea that we’re all in this together, that we’ve all been “neurally homogenised.” But I find this idea frightening, even if this means punishing myself for no longer living up to some romanticized ideal of literary discipline.

Maybe the only solution is some cognitive leap similar to how the Constructivists and Futurists plunged into the future a century ago, determined to fuse with the machine. Embrace speed. Groove on distraction. Let everything get garbled and weird.

In this spirit, today C. and I visited the Frick Collection, where Renaissance paintings hang in Marcel Breuer‘s brutalist ziggurat. The only way to access any information about each painting was via your phone. People gazed into their personal devices, hunting for details as they stood before oil portraits of the dead. I go to museums to get away from screens, so I walked around feeling very old and confused.

Topdown Dialectic – 03

/​\​\​02 | Aught, 2014 | Bandcamp

My new favorite band: blurred transmissions from an unknown station that conjure the lowlight hiss and mystery of vintage Basic Channel. Be sure to check out their new release on Peak Oil.

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