Take Care of Your Little Notebook [nybooks.com] – This piece reflects on (and gently romanticizes) the instant, tangible, temporal act of jotting down a note. Jotting does validate a thought, document the moment and capture it for future reflection by self or others. The writer suggests that ink on paper is somehow more permanent, or at least more accessible, than similarly documented digital thoughts. The piece relies on the conceit that analogue note-jotting is perilously endangered; this seems exaggerated to me.
Writing with a pen or pencil on a piece of paper is becoming an infrequent activity, even for those who were once taught the rigorous rules of penmanship in grade school and hardly saw a day go by without jotting down a telephone number or a list of food items to buy at the market on the way home, and for that purpose carried with them something to write with and something to write on…No question, one can use a smart phone as an aid to memory, and I do use one myself for that purpose. But I don’t find them a congenial repository for anything more complicated than reminding myself to pick up a pair of pants from the cleaners or make an appointment with the cat doctor. If one has the urge to write down a complete thought, a handsome notebook gives it more class. Even a scrap of paper and a stub of a pencil are more preferable for philosophizing than typing the same words down, since writing a word out, letter by letter, is a more self-conscious process and one more likely to inspire further revisions and elaborations of that thought…Just think, if you preserve them, your grandchildren will be able to read your jewels of wisdom fifty years from now, which may prove exceedingly difficult, should you decide to confine them solely to a smart phone you purchased yesterday.
Revolution in a Can [foreignpolicy.com] – Has Western graffiti standardized itself into a visual language that is easily exportable, a global commodity? I disagree with some of his assertions – that Western graffiti is merely aesthetic, that graffiti expressions are cliched and “tired” – but the idea that graffiti has been appropriated by Middle Eastern and other very different cultures around the world as a visual form to communicate back to us on recognizable cultural terms is provocative.
…it does seem clear that the stylistic clichés of graffiti in the West — the huge loopy letters, the exaggerated shadows dropped behind a word — have become an international language that can be read almost transparently, for the content those clichés transmit. Look at New York-style graffiti letters spelling “Free Libya” on a wall in Benghazi or proclaiming “revolution” in Tahrir Square: Rather than aiming at a new aesthetic effect, they take advantage of an old one that’s so well-known it barely registers. That thing called “art” in the West is essentially an insider’s game, thrilling to play but without much purchase on the larger reality outside. We have to look at societies that are truly in crisis to be reminded that images — even images we have sometimes counted as art — can be used for much more than game-playing.