How Long Gone: Cool Brands & Cringe Brands

Cool Brands

Le Crueset, Venmo, Tesla, Alison Roman, Caroline Calloway, Puffin Cereal, Rimowa, Globetrotter, Stussy, sweetgreen, Kacey Musgraves, Barry’s, Grailed, Converse, The Smiths, Dua Lipa, Drake, Diplo, Tyler Brûlé, Erewhon, Suki Waterhouse, Oasis, GQ, President’s Choice, Uniqlo etc.

Cringe Brands

Outdoor Voices, Joe Rogan, Chrissy Teigen, Patreon, Stevia, Game of Thrones, Marvel, Chris D’Elia, Marc Maron, Criterion Collection, Death Cab for Cutie, Samsung, Miranda July, Community, Logan Paul, Next Door, Under Oath, Charlamagne tha God, J Cole, SUGARFISH, Deftones, Kendrick Lamar, Costco etc.

Ambiguous Brands (Hosts Divided, A Cool Brand Downgraded)

NIN, Nirvana, Marie Kondo, The Office, Louis CK, Mad Happy, Jerry Saltz, Morrissey, The Weeknd, Monocle etc.

J.G. Ballard Quotes

“The advanced societies of the future will not be governed by reason. They will be driven by irrationality, by competing systems of psychopathology.”

“I certainly do believe that we should immerse ourselves in the destructive element. Far better to do so consciously than find ourselves tossed into the pool when we’re not looking.”

“A widespread taste for pornography means that nature is alerting us to some threat of extinction.”

“Presumably all obsessions are extreme metaphors waiting to be born. That whole private mythology, in which I believe totally, is a collaboration between one’s conscious mind and those obsessions that, one by one, present themselves as stepping stones.”

“I believe in the power of the imagination to remake the world, to release the truth within us, to hold back the night, to transcend death, to charm motorways, to ingratiate ourselves with birds, to enlist the confidences of madmen.”

“The endless newsreel clips of nuclear explosions that we saw on TV in the 1960s (were) a powerful incitement to the psychotic imagination, sanctioning everything.”

“Even their insistence on educating their children, the last reflex of any exploited group before it sank into submission, marked the end of their resistance.”

“Science and technology multiply around us. To an increasing extent they dictate the languages in which we speak and think. Either we use those languages, or we remain mute.”

“Sooner or later, all games become serious.”

“Science is the ultimate pornography, analytic activity whose main aim is to isolate objects or events from their contexts in time and space. This obsession with the specific activity of quantified functions is what science shares with pornography.”

“Art exists because reality is neither real nor significant.”

“A new social type was being created by the apartment building, a cool, unemotional personality impervious to the psychological pressures of high-rise life, with minimal needs for privacy, who thrived like an advanced species of machine in the neutral atmosphere. This was the sort of resident who was content to do nothing but sit in his over-priced apartment, watch television with the sound turned down, and wait for his neighbours to make a mistake.”

“Over our lives preside the great twin leitmotifs of the 20th century – sex and paranoia…In a sense, pornography is the most political form of fiction, dealing with how we use and exploit each other, in the most urgent and ruthless way.”

FORREC: Toronto’s Fantasy Factory

  • FORREC planned and designed Canada’s Wonderland (opened in 1981). The first huge theme park in the countries’ history.
  • It’s all about “visitor experience”. People are shopping to forget their problems and watching Netflix in their basements then get together and share experiences/”moments”.
  • There were amusement parks before Disney but today it’s about branded parks. Universal Studios, Legoland: people want to see and feel the brands. Disney Carnival Cruises is a huge market.
  • Canada’s Wonderland would not be built today, now it’s about integrated developments (“a destination, “a place to go” “mixed use” “retailtainment”).
  • As shopping changes its about finding ways to draw people in.
  • FORREC did Expo 67 (some pavilions). At the time FORREC was a landscape architecture company (did Ryerson, Eaton Centre etc.). Clients said “can you do this?” and we said “why not?”. We do wayfinding, creative, graphic design etc.
  • Question: what about Toronto gives you the edge? Answer: there are 28 languages spoken in our office. FORREC has 140 employees in Toronto. “We’re Canadian” (we care, listen, are thoughtful, respectful etc.). There’s an office in Shanghai (offices in USA -Orlando/LA- as well but more for business development).
  • FORREC has done projects in Vietnam, Korea, Dubai (it’s handy to have employees from there who understand cultural subtleties). It doesn’t matter if people have a license to work here or not because we’re working globally.
  • We’re more global, not really known locally and that makes recruiting people a challenge.
  • We’re not focused on awards rather servicing clients
  • Did a project for AS Roma (client was googling around for designers) to build a football stadium.
  • What we’re really strong at is mixed-use developments (single use doesn’t make sense revenue wise). RDE: retail, dining, entertainment. “Retailtainment” experience.
  • A major consideration: how do you engage people? How do you handle crowds and keep them there. People don’t come for just one thing, it’s about having multiple aspects.
  • We’re working on Legoland Shenzhen (just across causeway from Hong Kong). We did Legoland Germany. Legoland now integrates resorts.
  • FORREC services the project from end to end as the design people and deals with speciality consultants. Random example of complexity: the necessity of having no variance in the electric current when dealing with screens.
  • You have three clients: developer, brand and end user.
  • In China they are scared their culture is a disappearing so have to be more culturally sensitive. There’s this dichotomy around western brands: they want them but you have incorporate the local aspect and it’s tricky because the brands want to be true to themselves. In China they have large integrated visions.
  • Our industry is different, it’s not just matter if creating a commercial centre as there are special considerations. We get hired to do visioning. The feasibility study is where projects live or die.

Lessons From Toronto – Jennifer Keesmaat On Complete Communities

This image shows Jennifer Keesmaat at a Toronto mayoral debate.
Keesmaat (centre in blue) running for Mayor in 2018.

Jennifer Keesmaat was once Toronto’s chief urban planner and ran for mayor of the city in 2018 (she lost badly). These are notes from a presentation Keesmaat delivered on “complete communities”.

  • Toronto is the third largest region in North America by population. It’s one of the largest tech hubs outside Silicon Valley and the financial capital of Canada.
  • Over 50% of Toronto is foreign born. Immigration and refugees are seen as central to the city’s character and economic growth. It’s “a beacon”.
  • The hook that brings together every single planning decision: vibrant neighbourhoods and complete communities.
  • This opposed to a live/work view with “super fast highways” that take you from one place to another.
  • Affordable housing will be achieved by planning for it and recognizing it as part of every complete community.
  • Toronto has the unfortunate honour of making the list of the most expensive cities. There’s been a complete seperation between local wages and house prices.
  • “The market can no longer provide affordable housing for all.”
  • Housing has become commodified, an asset to be traded, something to generate wealth vs. a vision of housing as a home (where families “eat dinner”).
  • If we don’t get this right (housing), who cares about walkability, who cares about complete communities, who cares about sustainability, if we’re only designing for a small and lucky portion.
  • An affordable high quality transit system is the backbone that allows complete communities to be connected. It enables the option of never needing to own a car.
  • A vibrant downtown designed for connectivity and innovation that can attract and facilitate stable and high paying jobs is essential to the overall health of the city. The complete community vision has the creative economy in mind.
  • All nine of our beaches in Toronto are “blue flag beaches”. Clean air and water right where people live is a part of the complete community vision.
  • Green spaces of a variety of different sizes and public squares that bring people together. When we design public spaces right they provide for spontaneous interaction that expands the humanity of everyone in our cities.
  • Options for recreational activities should be provided. The notion that you have to leave the city for outdoor recreation is an old model. With complete communities you can walk out your door and undertake recreational activities in close proximity to home.
  • How we design and plan our waterfront is critical to ensuring that our waterfront is a shared asset, not an asset only developed for the super wealthy which was the old model in Toronto (the wealthier the closer to the waters edge). The waterfront should be a shared resource where we can all come together.
  • Cultural facilities that celebrate the best of city living are an important part of complete communities, they help us tell our story and understand ourselves.
  • When we get architecture and urban design right that becomes a magnet for people and we astonish/inspire as part of everyday life. Complete communities are intentional about design and don’t leave it as something that’s superfluous but rather essential to how we live together.
  • All growth isn’t good but when we get the design right, have mixed-use and attend to streetscape we can deliver places that are livable.
  • The greenbelt is a matter of emphasizing where growth WILL NOT go in order to assert where growth will go. The greenbelt is the policy framework for the transition from sprawl to density.
  • One of the other drivers of change in the GTA is shifting consumer preferences. Millennials have a fundamentally different preference and want to walk to work (either driven by experiences with commuting or environmentalism).
  • We want to attract the 16-34 demographic because Toronto’s vitality is contingent on attracting young people into the core.
  • When we paint this vision of the future, of complete communities, the vast majority of the public put their hands up and says “I’m in”.
  • Very few people in the overall Toronto region can walk to work. In the downtown core its 75%. But when we scan the entire region and give people choices many would take a smaller house adjacent to transit (36%).
  • Queens Quay makeover: generous public realm, separate bike lanes, prioritizing the transit corridor.
  • Recent adapation of taking the cars off a transit corridor (King Street).
  • Private investment is responding to the opportunity of providing walkable communities where people can live work and play right within their neighbourhood.
  • The Greenbelt has driven growth into the core. The area of the city that’s the most walkable with the best transit and the best parks is growing four times faster than elsewhere. If we can create walkable communities everywhere can we attract investment everywhere? Can we begin to adapt the city in a variety of different places? Growth follows consumer preference and sustainability increases.
  • But this only happens when we link employment with residential growth. The two must be linked together to deliver on this option/opportunity (of complete communities).

How Toronto Switched From Buildings And Infrastructure To People And Complete Communities

1. Detailed Precinct Planning

The details matter. We have to deliver on the ground level. Prioritizing the public realm is essential if we add density. We have to think about public space and pedestrians first rather than the character and quality of individual buildings.

2. “Extreme” Mixed-Use (The Distillery District)

In the distillery district over forty buildings are linked by an exclusively pedestrian realm. These are Victorian era buildings. It’s a college campus, there’s light industry, it’s an event venue, there’s a brewery, it’s a residential neighbourhood, an employment district, a district for artists, a place for children and senior citizens. We broke all the rules and it’s a place people want to be.

3. Strategic Site-Specific Infill

A big part of planning is urban repair. Neighbourhood example of Sheppard and Don Mills: we added new density to a poorly serviced suburban area, added buildings to create main street retail, added community and social events, added a library, a school and community centre. There were no clear public spaces and places for pedestrians. The “beacons” (public art) draw pedestrians into the site and terminate in the neighbourhood where theres a new school, pool, library and community hub. This is urban repair and not “one use” thinking. There’s a new subway station at this location. Adapt the urban environment and deliver the dream of walkable communities.

4. Urbanizing Avenues: Adding Density And Creating Main Streets

The Golden Mile: repairing and transforming the environment. A new LRT will serve as the backbone for how people can move. Also adding cycling infrastructure and widening sidewalks. Adding green infrastructure, new mid-rise buildings and a mix of uses. An old suburban street transforms into a complete new community.

5. Urbanizing Classic Suburbs (Gentle Density And New Housing Types)

Humbertown: a 1950’s strip mall, the adjacent area is very green with ranch-style 1950’s suburban homes. There’s nowhere you can go within walking distance of your home. Transformed: all parking put underground, green roofs, new public square in the centre. You can downsize by moving into a new multi-residential unit of seniors housing. New retail has been added to complete the hub.

6. Adaptations In The Public Realm

We’ve wanted to link together the public spaces in Fort York and the waterfront. Adapting the infrastructure below the highway that currently creates a barrier between eight different hoods and the rest of the downtown core.

7. Transforming The Discourse

We need to talk about the city in a different way, talk about about how we might live differently, why this matters and how we can elevate quality of life. We’re changing rapidly and the risk is that people will resist change if they don’t buy into the rationale of why this is good and valuable.

None of this matters if we don’t get affordable housing right. We’ll be designing places that only get more and more exclusive.

Mark Fisher, Kafka & Deleuze (Control Societies, The Trial & Work From Home)

“Deleuze is right to argue that Kafka is the prophet of distributed, cybernetic power that is typical of Control societies. In The Trial, Kafka importantly distinguishes between two types of acquittal available to the accused. Definite acquittal is no longer possible, if it ever was (‘we have only legendary accounts of ancient cases [which] provide instances of acquittal’). The two remaining options, then, are (1) ‘Ostensible acquittal’, in which the accused is to all and intents and purposes acquitted, but may later, at some unspecified time, face the charges in full, or (2) ‘Indefinite postponement’, in which the accused engages in (what they hope is an infinitely) protracted process of legal wrangling, so that the dreaded ultimate judgment is unlikely to be forthcoming. Deleuze observes that the Control societies delineated by Kafka himself, but also by Foucault and Burroughs, operate using indefinite postponement: Education as a lifelong process… Training that persists for as long as your working life continues… Work you take home with you… Working from home, homing from work. A consequence of this ‘indefinite’ mode of power is that external surveillance is succeeded by internal policing. Control only works if you are complicit with it. Hence the Burroughs figure of the ‘Control Addict’: the one who is addicted to control, but also, inevitably, the one who has been taken over, possessed by Control.”

Anton Jäger On Bowling Alone

  • Bowling Alone (2000) by Robert Putnam should be seen in context with the “civic crisis literature” of the 1990’s.
  • What Putnam predicted about the internet has held up well.
  • Social capital is a measure/concept responding to “the demands of quantification”. Social capital is a purely individualistic and instrumental view of social ties.
  • There is no mention of the Volcker shock or union density in Bowling Alone.
  • Party political life in the mid-20th century (example of french communists) was not merely instrumental but wholly social, sacrificial. Church and party had an active stake in personal life.
  • The internet should be considered as a social form itself. Online has neutralized and sanitized risk.
  • The British Tories were the first mass party.
  • Assumption: right-wing associations have survived so that’s why they are stronger. Actually it’s even worse, the right has the advantage of operating in capitalism and increases in asset prices sustain homeowners associations.
  • The decline in social capital drives social inequality. Middle class associational life has weathered the storm as simple economic power floats middle class ties.
  • Police unions are very strong. All this said, some right-wingers perceive that the crisis is even worse on the right.
  • Neo-feudal notion that “we’ve all become peasants” is false. Peasants were self-sufficient and Marx said that they don’t have the experience of social labour. Now the work we do on a laptop is extremely social.

Margaret Atwood On The Novel, Time, Upheaval & Utopia

“Novels are about other people and poems are about yourself.”
  • Novels are about people. Novels happen in a particular time and place with certain conditions. If it’s a place in crisis the individuals cannot isolate themselves from the crisis
  • Time is always involved in a novel, maybe not a lyric poem or prayer but always a novel. “If it’s a novel theres a clock in it” (Henry James biographer)
  • Novels are concerned with “the human condition”: people in a particular situation dealing with issues of power and control.
  • Plato on poets: they should be expelled because they lie about the gods. Logical positivism did not interest me, ethics and aesthetics did (so I switched to english). But novels have to tell the truth in some way.
  • Writers don’t create conditions, they have no power (the pen is not mightier than the sword, the opposite).
  • “I was a Victorianist”: the Victorian era created so many utopias that it was parodied, utopias put into action “went pear shaped”.

Counterpoint: J.G. Ballard

“The bourgeois novel is the greatest enemy of truth and honesty that was ever invented. It’s a vast, sentimentalizing structure that reassures the reader, and at every point, offers the comfort of secure moral frameworks and recognizable characters. This whole notion was advanced by Mary McCarthy and many others years ago, that the main function of the novel was to carry out a kind of moral criticism of life. But the writer has no business making moral judgments or trying to set himself up as a one-man or one-woman magistrate’s court. I think it’s far better, as Burroughs did and I’ve tried to do in my small way, to tell the truth.”

Simon Critchley On Philosophy

“Take your time.”
  • The form of a philosophical question is “what is x?” What is “justice” universally? Philosophy is a matter of universal questions. “Philosophy is the education of grownups”. Philosophy must influence the wider culture and how it thinks about itself.
  • Simon Critchley ran “The Stone”, a philosophy column in the New York Times. “It’s hard to get a sense of the importance of the New York Times” as it separates “civilization from barbarism” for many.
  • At one time (an earlier era of the internet) on what was called “the website” there was a lot of freedom and we found a genuine public interest in philosophy. It didn’t matter to the readers who the writers were, it mattered the topic.
  • Philosophy is often rooted in friendship. Philosophy begins and ends with the question of “what is philosophy?” leading to accusations of navel gazing.
  • Philosophy begins in ancient Greece with Socrates who was eventually charged with impiety towards the gods and corruption of the youth. Sophists were people who thought they “knew something” but Socrates just asked them questions and exposed that they “didn’t know”.
  • Taking this view of philosophy (a Socratic one) it is deflationary.
  • Philosophers aren’t wise, philosophy is the love of wisdom not its possession.
  • Heidegger’s whole enterprise was organized around the question of being, we have lost sight of the question of being.
  • Thales was looking up so much that he fell into a well/ditch: a philosopher looks at the sky and falls in a ditch provoking laughter (a philosopher is an absent minded buffoon). Philosophy is clumsy in relation to worldly affairs.
  • The Greek water clock and the theft of time. To philosophize is to “take your time” (Wittgenstein). If we don’t take time we make ourselves small.
  • It does not occur to the philosopher to join a political club or party (Socrates).
  • The good of philosophy is to create accusations of impiety, whatever the gods are you call them into question.
  • The notion that philosophers should give policy advice is a slippery slope, philosophy is really characterized by its uselessness.
  • There is no basic agreement on any fundamental question, the point of philosophy is to prick holes.
  • Plato’s academy was private and outside the city walls.

Agnes Callard On ‘The Paradise Paradox’

The spectre of evil, badness and suffering.
  • Genesis: Eden, they eat the fruit, they get kicked out (current philosophy students think things get interesting when we got kicked out, they’re glad).
  • Plato’s republic is the ideal society.
  • People are not attracted to written/imagined utopias (we don’t want to live somewhere based on lies or repression).
  • But it’s not just single qualities, theres a paradox about paradise: we don’t like it.
  • What Makes a Life Significant? by William James.
  • “What human society might be” without suffering and no “dark corners”?
  • BUT: “this order is too tame”, “this atrocious harmlessness”.
  • James’ answer to why we are not satisfied with utopia is the absence of struggle and strife.
  • We can’t merely insert struggle and strife (like arbitrary competitions), we want it to be real. And not just any struggle and strife: effort for a purpose, towards a better world.
  • James feels that leisure is unsatisfying.
  • Aristotle contra James: leisure is the point of life. BUT he distinguishes leisure from simple rest and relaxation.
  • Aristotle downs simple R&R along the lines of “restaholics are addicted to rest”. Set apart from struggle and relaxation is Aristotle’s leisure, the proper use of leisure. It’s the point of life, the purpose of cities.
  • But what is leisure as leisure? Contemplation (ie. not a process like research or problem solving). When we contemplate we imitate god thinking of god.
  • Aristotle’s god outputs nothing. So why didn’t Aristotle imitate that? “Not even Aristotle understood leisure”.
  • “Struggles to improve the lot of man” are non-arbitrary, but we can’t make use of such struggles in utopia.
  • However, there are non-arbitrary struggles that aren’t oriented to construction of utopia.
  • The struggle of explaining/teaching could be an example of struggle that is not arbitrary.

My Notes:

(visual presentation: orange turtle neck over blue dress, goofy light green watch, oversized round thin framed purple glasses, girly mannerisms, eccentric graphic art decorated room, imitation-fire space heater on a pedestal / review: fun and engaging speaker)