Human beings are a strange bunch. Of all the available surface area on earth, nearly three-quarters of that is water. Of the remaining 30%, fully nine-tenths of that is either full of too high, too low, too hot, too cold, or too full of dreadful spindly killer spiders to warrant permanent habitation. Anthropologists like to think we’re communal animals – give primate an infinite radial plane and they’ll spend all their time hanging out as a group – but I think that people, if they could, would live apart from one another. We’re also territorial creatures, after all. The pressures of modern life mean that co-habitation is a necessity, but even within the cities we like a domain that is ours. Taking the long view, nothing that people do is surprising – interior decorating and IKEA are the latest in a long line of “personalizing measures” – by which we make a place our own – stretching back to the time when trogolodytes blew paint powder over their hands to leave prints behind on cave walls. The human ideal is somewhere warm and comfortable where a person can be sociable with their friends and family, alone if need be, and it must be a mixture of fortress, womb and cave. Keep that in mind, as we look at some of the weirdest places people end up.
Kapuseru Hoteru – Tokyo’s Capsule Hotels
Bizarre living arrangements – says I – that’ll be an easy write-up. I just need to look at what the Japanese are doing to save space and work from there. After all, everybody knows that Tokyo’s population density is one of the highest in the world Except it isn’t – that’s a misconception.Tokyo’s population density per square kilometer is a measly 6,000. Compared to other population centers, it’s not even in the top fifty. So what’s the deal with those little capsule hotel rooms? I don’t know. I’m one of those people that respects the history and culture of Japan while regarding modern Japan as the world’s Disneyland. It doesn’t have to make sense. Spatial limitations and the need to maximise dollar-cost-per-meter leads to these terrifying, coffin-like roomettes. Does that sell international tourism to you? Kids! Ever wondered what it would be like to be a microwave meal? Come to Japan, the Land of the Rising Blood Pressure.
The lure of the big city is great indeed, and I would do all sorts of terrible and unseemly acts to live in a city like London or New York. I would just about draw the line at a ninety-square-foot apartment. As shown on Youtube several years ago, and picked up by tabloid newspapers, Felice Cohen lived for five years in a room so small that the bed was stapled to the ceiling and she could only have one fork. It cost her $700 a month.
Coober Pedy, Australia
Next up on my list of places to avoid is Australia. My views on the land down under are best expressed by Australia’s own Scared Little Weird Guys :
So the idea that people would be living underground like Mole People in order to avoid any of Australia’s poisonous amphibians, snakes, spiders, platypuses, crocodiles, spindly killer fish, box jellyfish, octopodes, sharks or vegetation, as well as it’s bone-charring heat, lack of water, or funky accents, is hardly surprising. I exaggerate – most of the residents spend part of their time living in underground “dugouts” due to the high temperatures (around 40’C during the day), only emerging at night to play golf with luminous golf balls.
I swear to god I’m not making any of this up.
I might have said that I’m a fan of Soviet design because it’s brutal and rusty but works. I might have been lying a bit. While it’s true that the American Shuttle program has permanently bit the dust and ,were it not for Soyuz, human space travel would be retarded by decades, it’s also worth noting that everything from the Soviet era has some of the worst safety records since records began. Aeroflot, for example, has the single highest number of accidents of any air fleet. You know that old joke about how NASA spent, like, a billion dollars designing a pen that would work in zero-G, while the Russians just used a pencil? The ironic codicil to that joke is that pencils are really dangerous in space – floating graphite can blind a person, while wood shavings can contact circuits and start fires in the high-oxygen environment aboard a spacecraft. That joke summarizes the Soviet “good enough is” approach to strapping human beings to controlled explosions and firing them at half the speed of sound into a limitless void, a thought which must give pause to austronauts embarking for the ISS. Mir, the enormous Soviet space station built in the mid-80s, was another example of this policy. Particularly as it got older, coolant leaks became more frequent, making even the air unpleasant to breathe, as well as electrical failures that resulted in blackouts, increased radiation levels and frequent electrical fires. Amazingly, one astronaut broke the record for time spent in space aboard Mir- Sergei Krikalev lived in zero-gravity for a total of 803 days (2.2 years).