The Right Fit

Rosten Woo on Nicholas de Monchaux’s Spacesuit: Fashioning Apollo.

Spacesuit, architect Nicholas de Monchaux’s wonderful material history, is mostly about these membranes. The book begins with that iconic photograph of Buzz Aldrin’s figure against the surface of the moon — along with a simple question: “Why is this spacesuit soft?” For an answer, de Monchaux finds it necessary to look as far back as 1783, pulling in examples from fields as far-flung as computer simulation, psychopharmacology, haute couture, and the work of Gil Scott-Heron.


Spacesuit: An Interview with Nicholas de Monchaux

What I find nearly as fascinating as the substance of de Monchaux’s answers is the very French way in which he goes about making an argument. I often find French intellectuals more interesting than convincing.

One of the things I find most fascinating about the idea of the spacesuit is that space is actually a very complex and subtle idea. On the one hand, there is space as an environment outside of the earthly realm, which is inherently hostile to human occupation—and it was actually John Milton who first coined the term space in that context.

On the other hand, you have the space of the architect—and the space of outer space is actually the opposite of the space of the architect, because it is a space that humans cannot actually encounter without dying, and so must enter exclusively through a dependence on technological mediation.

via BLDGBLOG: Spacesuit: An Interview with Nicholas de Monchaux.

Joseph Nye Jr: The Dialectics of Rise and Decline

No matter how compelling the structural factors driving history, individual personality and human agency remain relevant.

That still leaves the question, “Why 1989? Why under this leader?” To some extent, Gorbachev was an accident of history. In the early 1980s, three old Soviet leaders died, one soon after the other. It was not until 1985 that the younger generation, the people who had come up under Khrushchev, the so-called generation of 1956, had their chance. But if the members of the Communist Party Politburo had chosen one of Gorbachev’s hard-line competitors in 1985, it is quite plausible that the declining Soviet Union could have held on for another decade. It did not have to collapse so quickly. Gorbachev’s personality explains much of the timing.

Source: Russia in Global Affairs.

Obama’s abysmal record on civil liberties

Obama is not a disappointment. He is a travesty.

President Barack Obama is about to sign into law the National Defence Authorisation Act, which authorises indefinite detention in military custody of ‘terror’ suspects.

Source: The Guardian