“At first, you’re like: Why are they stealing the color white? I had to Google it to figure out what titanium dioxide even was,” says Dean Chappell, acting section chief of counterespionage for the FBI. “Then you realize there is a strategy to it.” You can’t even call it spying, adds John Carlin, the assistant attorney general in charge of the U.S. Department of Justice’s national security division. “This is theft. And this—stealing the color white—is a very good example of the problem. It’s not a national security secret. It’s about stealing something you can make a buck off of. It’s part of a strategy to profit off what American ingenuity creates.”
Culling its name from the 1999 satirical film directed by Mike Judge, the group show "Office Space" at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco focuses on the soft power and absurdity inherent in the alienating strategies and the sometimes-productive ambiguity of the modern workspace.
The architects and planners profiled by Wade Graham in “Dream Cities,” his ambitious study of the forms and ideas of the contemporary city, come in two categories. There are those few, like Jane Jacobs, who drew the deeper lesson of “Utopia,” which is that one must approach the organic interconnectedness of society with humility and deference. A vast majority, alas, are like those who have only dipped into its second half, emerging as incorrigible believers in the power of rational thought, right angles and good intentions to perfect society. In this category fall Daniel Burnham, Robert Moses, Le Corbusier and all those who marched in the cause of urban renewal.
Daniel Pennac’s latest novel doesn’t behave the way novels are meant to behave. It is told in diary form over one man’s long lifetime, but manages to withhold the most basic biographical details along the way. The focus, instead, is on the narrator’s body: the physical body, rather than the person who inhabits it, is hero and subject of this book. Or to be more exact – and the narrator is very exact on this question – it’s about the life-long process of reconciling himself to his body, this “intimate stranger” that is simultaneously himself and a constant mystery to him. Our bodies, he writes in a note to his daughter, are “generous with surprises”. So he anatomises (an apt word) those episodes when his body makes its presence felt: when he is ill (or rampantly hypochondriac, which is frequent), and when he feels particularly bad pain or particularly ecstatic pleasure.
Swooshtika, flashpacking, moobs, swaption: English is awash with new portmanteaus. But what determines whether yours will be a buzzword, or a bum word?