In Need of Excitement?

Photo by Roman.

Blood pressure 97 / 58 pulse 61…

It may be that I am in need of some excitement…

Though it’s wise to be careful with one’s wishes. Back in October of 2019, I noted an ominous gathering of suits on the sidewalk outside my apartment building. This was followed by a survey by an architect. These were evil flags of pending change, and change was not likely to be good news.

Sure enough, the building management (and maybe the ownership*) changed. The original management could not be said to be friends of tenants, but they were competent, responsive and not particularly greedy. The building seemed to be a long term investment that did not need major immediate returns.

The new management company seems (too soon to be sure) to be equally competent and responsive, but they also have a gentrification record: buying properties around Rogers Park (and elsewhere), doing some amount of rehab on the units and raising the rents considerably. This seems to be the new gentrification strategy. Prior to the Great Recession, it would have been more common to turn the property into condominiums. Consequently, the new management had been the object of a community campaign over one of their new properties in Rogers Park a few years ago. That experience maybe has had an interesting consequence: The company seems far more aware of their tenants as people who need to be sold on doing business with them; the company (prior to the plague) had been organizing happy hours, book clubs, give-aways, and other social activities for tenants.

My Geezer Downsizing Project (now on covid-19 hold) was an attempt to get out in front of this, to be able to fit into a studio apartment and to raise at least some of the costs of moving. It appears as though I’ve been far too geezerly in doing this. My lease is up at the end of July and the newly advertised rate for an apartment my size in my building is 122% of what I’m paying right now. This is a lot more than the nice plague support money the IRS so kindly deposited in my account.

Of course, this is assuming they will propose charging the advertised amount for an already occupied, unrehabed apartment. But don’t accuse them of thoughtless greed if they do just that. Greed, yes, but thoughtless, no.

If I object and move, they can begin work on making the unit seem new and shiny and expensive. During the summer when students from Northwestern and Loyola are absent, during the summer of our plague depression, it may not matter much if the unit is off the market, even if Rogers Park real estate does not go back to something resembling normal come September. Just where that would leave them depends on just how abnormal things remain… but with testosterone intoxication, overcoming anything will seem possible.

If I acquiesce, the cash continues to flow… but all my income will go to rent.

What about negotiations? It’s always worth a try, but my experience has been that for all but the most trivial issues, tenants are not regarded as having any standing worthy of a response. In Chicago we have in law a “Tenants’ Bill of Rights” but elsewhere a tenant has fewer protections from abuse than your average minimum wage employee.**

But if the plan is to rehab and rent gouge (as it seems to be), they may simply decline to do a new lease or insist that I move to a different apartment within the building or within their empire.***

It’s worth noting that as a geezer, it’s a bit problematic to organize a moving party.

Eh, well. As I wrote in an earlier post: Sufficient unto the day is the haemorrhoid therein. Even if trouble is on the way, it ain’t here yet.


* The old management company said they were going out of business. The letter from the new management company referred to the building as having been sold. Whatever. Illinois has multiple ways of concealing ownership of real estate and of privately held companies incorporated in Illinois. The game, as they say, is rigged.

** The Real Estate Industry, in general, views any attempt at giving tenants “rights” to be obscenely unnatural. At best, tenants are cattle to be milked and at worst destructive, conniving thieves and, by golly, what good is government if it doesn’t kick the butts of the latter? Tenants, in general, view landlords as leeches, thieves, or incompetent bumblers. If you talk to either side, you’ll get an earful of war stories involving outrageous bad behavior. The one thing both sides agree on is that the courts do not provide relief unless, maybe, you’re all lawyered up. In any case, it’s viewed as a zero sum process: I win! You lose! Note that I do have a dog in this fight as I am a tenant and was once, briefly, a tenant organizer.

*** I hear there are some plague related temporary restrictions in Chicago at least, but I’m not hip (for example). In any case, the end of July will probably fall between the cracks.

Alive

This post is something of a place holder for the Vimeo channel of Cycle supĂ©rieur d’animation de l’Atelier de Sèvres. They have over 150 short animations posted there when I stumbled upon them a few weeks ago. The few that I’ve watched have a common technique of taking a story to a major “and then” point but then… ending.

 

“Alive” is one of those. And, of course, the end of the video may indeed be the end of the story, a circumstance with quite possibly existential consequences: Horror with subtly.

Night Cab

This is brilliant. Except the parts don’t quite go together… It’s similar to the way some tastes, when combined, don’t quite work out: for me, maybe something like graham crackers and lemon pudding… Though maybe driving a cab or ride-share at night in a major metro area is like that? The video is from Alix Bortoli. See what you think (full screen and headphones are worth it):

 

Kukuschka

This is an amazing work of stop-action animation by Dina Velikovskaya. The description, alas, inadequately describes: “Kukuschka is a bird, who follows the Sun. It seems to her as if she already could touch It, but the Sun is still far away. Suddenly she is not alone anymore, but for two it’s even more difficult to keep going so fast. She will reach the Sun, may be tomorrow may be the day after.”

Still, it’s a short piece, so anything more could arguably be a spoiler. I’ll just add that this is deliciously weird.

 

“Please Don’t Eat the Daisies”

Photo by Roman.

If the tulips in the courtyard are looking more than a bit ragged… chewed on, to be precise, this is the culprit. The bunny looks like someone’s dinner, if you ask me.


“Please Don’t Eat the Daisies” is also the title of one of the late Jean Kerr’s biggest hits. A 1957 comedic memoir of a Manhattanite exiled to suburban housewifery, the book was made into a movie (starring Doris Day and David Niven) and into a TV situation comedy series that ran for a few seasons.

I mention this because, as part of my Geezer Downsizing Project, I reread Kerr’s book several months ago. The mere act of reading the book destroyed any resale value it may have had as the book disintegrated with each turn of the page. But it was worth doing. When I was an adolescent, the book had seemed enormously funny to me. Upon rereading, I admired the craft that went into it, but I did not smile never mind laugh, not even once.

This is not unique. Other works have lost their humor for me. I could not and cannot abide J.D. Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye, but Salinger’s Franny and Zooey was once upon a time, for me, a romp hilarious. Now? Don’t ask. And Giovanni Guareschi? No, you really don’t want to know.

This is interesting to me as I don’t believe it is humor that has changed but instead its audience. And thinking of how the audience has changed led me to propose a Grand Unified Theory of Humor: We laugh at things that make us uneasy.

I’m not a scholar but I figured I should make a stab, at least, at research and so arrived at the Wikipedia entry for “humour” where, without surprise, I found I had been anticipated by the benign-violation explanation of humour: “The theory says ‘humour only occurs when something seems wrong, unsettling, or threatening, but simultaneously seems okay, acceptable or safe’.”

The Wikipedia entry is a better statement because, after all, we don’t laugh at everything that makes us uneasy. Some things just make us… uneasy. On the other hand, both formulations would also seem to discount the social dimension to humor. Funny is as contagious as a yawn, and maybe as elemental. Laughter gives us permission to laugh. Laughter can encourage a change in perspective. The focus on “uneasy” or “wrong, unsettling, or threatening” seems to ignore the role of surprise and delight.

Actually, these things can be encompassed by the “benign-violation” theory, but it requires more explanation, evidence and logic chopping than I’m competent to provide. In any case, I’ve already moved on to another question: Is it possible to gain useful, quantitative information about the state-of-mind for any given population by examining in some way the jokes that are in circulation within that population?

I’m far too lazy to do more than pose the question. But you might keep it in mind the next time you laugh: Does your chortle leave you naked?

At the End of the Cul-de-Sac

This short video is more disturbing than entertaining and so not at all what most of us want to see in these times. I wasn’t going to post it. But the memory of it kept worrying me. This is not exactly a comedy, but it should resonate with anyone who has had to deal with the board of directors for a condominium or coop or home owners association. And, yes, it has some resonance with small town life and social media.

There’s actually a field of literature about this. Not being a scholar, I won’t even attempt to suggest a bibliography except to say that my introduction to it was from Evan McKenzie’s Privatopia: Homeowner Associations and the Rise of Residential Private Government. The link is to the Google Books entry for the volume.

The video is by Paul Trillo, whose Vimeo channel is also worth a visit.