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The quantified self

Sometime in the early 1980s — I can’t have been any older than 14 — I tagged along with my father on a trip he made to New York to commission some work from the artist Agnes Denes. You shouldn’t get the idea that my father was any sort of Medici, or generally has taste quite as refined as his choice of Denes suggests; that I know of, this was the only time he ever did anything along these lines, and certainly there weren’t a whole lot of hard-drinking, Lacan-reading conceptualists in our family life.

Agnes immediately struck me as one of those force-of-nature types, and her studio was everything you’d expect and hope, a cabinet of curiosities furnished entirely with the everted contents of her own mind. The things I saw that day, little shardy glimpses of SoHo and the daily lifestyle of a SoHo artist circa 1983, remain indelible in my mind.

There was one piece of hers in particular I’ll never forget, at least in its general outlines. It was an open glass bowl, containing what to all appearances was a mound of incinerated human remains, bone chunks and all. And the placard mounted alongside the bowl read something like this:

These are the earthly remains of Firstname Lastname, who lived 71 years, 10 months, 13 days, 3 hours, 26 minutes and 17 seconds. In his lifetime he experienced 2,521,490,585 heartbeats and breathed 605,491,268 times. He urinated 39,280 times, for a total output volume of 48,872 liters, and experienced 24,718 bowel movements. In the course of his life he married twice, and enjoyed 3,668 sex acts with these two wives and 16 other partners (fourteen women and two men); including 12,463 acts of masturbation, mostly to completion, these resulted in a total of 15,531 orgasms.

I’m pretty sure about most of that stuff being there. (I’m absolutely certain of the word “orgasm,” because I’d never seen it outside of a verrrry furtively thumbed book before, and there it was on the wall in screaming 48-point Helvetica.)

What I’m less sure about is whether or not I’ve embroidered into the memory a final statistic, which was a figure representing the weight of the ashes. Anyway, that’s what I think of every time I hear someone talk about “the quantified self.”

Five delights of the moment

- “Dot Dash,” Wire. For all its vaguely foreboding, crypto-Ballardian content, this 1978 single never fails to send me. A two-minute, twenty-five second vessel of irrepressible glee.

- A cup of Kimo Bean Company’s Kimo Primo on waking. 100% Kona Fancy. Yes.

- Jan Chipchase and Craig Mod routinely crank up the jealous by mentioning – in passing, yet! – dawn rides through an all-but-deserted Tokyo. I do have ways of fighting back, though: while it’s been too nasty here lately for me to countenance getting up and out that early, I have been spending a decent amount of time on my still-newish bike. Been really getting into the single-speed thing, too. I blame Mr. Migurski.

- These here Go stones. Black has that great matte-velvet texture, while White is cool and smooth. Satisfying to the touch and when played (and especially so at this price point). I’ll be writing more about how much I’ve been enjoying Go soon.

- Zak Smith‘s series of “Drawings From Around the Time I Became a Porn Star,” which we discovered at the Armory Show last weekend. I think there were 139 of them? The closest description I can come up with is dystopian porn manga obsessively executed in ballpoint, and vaguely reminiscent of some of Jake and Dinos Chapman‘s output. Not at all my usual cup of tea, but decadent in the best possible way.

I almost didn’t believe this exists…

…but then I remembered what it’s truly like to live in Japan.

Gentlemen, the future of masturbation is here: Tenga! (Link courtesy of good ol’ Younghee.)

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