I think that reporters almost always make a mistake talking about more than one person at a time. There was an editor at Time. In those days it was sort of a double system. Time was written and edited in New York, and then there were reporters [in the field.] And there was one guy in New York who had risen quite high in the firm without ever having been a reporter. He went on one of these fact-finding trips to England. According to the story, I’ve never known if it’s true, he got in at night and sent a cable the next morning that started something like ‘The people in England believe.’ Well, the people in England in that case must have been the cab driver, or whoever picked him up on the way in. When I read about what people are like or what they believe, if it’s more than one person at a time I’m always a little suspicious.
This is a great quote, and relevant to critics too. How often does a review start: “New York is a city of walkers” (so they will love this new building with ramps). Or, “New Yorkers have been avidly awaiting…” (a building by Steven Holl). I know I am guilty of this too, because it is the easiest lede in the world. But I always circle it on student papers and write: Says who?
Stephen Burn reviewing Geoff Dyer in the Times Book Review:
In the space of just two pages of an article about fashion, he points to Pynchon, Cheever and Poe (one imagines the original audience — the readers of Vogue magazine — with their heads spinning).
Burn is the author of Jonathan Franzen at the End of Postmodernism.
Jonathan Franzen on David Foster Wallace and a terrible trip to Chile in the New Yorker. Oh yeah, and Robinson Crusoe too.
And so, although I no longer wanted it, or because I didn’t want it, I had the experience of being truly stranded on an island. I ate the same bad Chilean white bread at every meal, the same nondescript fish served without sauce or seasoning at every lunch and dinner….I practiced mentally inserting into Chilean Spanish the “s” that its speakers omitted…I hiked over the mountains to a grassland where the island’s annual cattle-branding destival was being held, and I watched hoseback riders drive the village’s herd into a corral. The setting was spectacular—sweeping hills, volcanic peaks, whitecapped ocean—but the hills were denuded and deeply gouged by erosion. Of the hundred-plus cattle, at least ninety were malnourished, the majority of them so skeletal it seemed remarkable they could even stand up. The herd had historically been a reserve source of protein, and the villagers still enjoyed the ritual of roping and branding, but couldn’t they see what a sad travesty their ritual had become?
Will they ever learn?
The neighborhood of Excess Heights has implemented a new waste management initiative. Under the city council’s new recommendations, the collection of recyclable refuse will continue, but non-recyclable trash will no longer be collected or processed on the municipal level. The inhabitants of each private residence will be expected to compost all organic material and handle all of its own non-recyclable waste on-site. For all non-recyclable materials, a compaction system will be implemented whereby trash is condensed and deposited underneath the same residence in which it was generated. If residences are brought to excessive heights as a result of growing refuse stacks under building structures, then piers may be installed to provide stability. The use of green walls encasing refuse stacks is strongly encouraged to both cover the unsightliness of the trash and to promote green living.
Architecture fiction really requires a poker face.
Last week Slate ran an example of the design criticism I am missing: “I hate my iPad,” by John Swansburg.
Swansburg disusses the tablet’s browsability and readability, distractions of the internet and requests for payment from iTunes. Then he gets into an IM duscussion with his tech-loving colleagues, and wins a few points.
Last semester I was looking for examples of interaction design criticism for my D-Crit class and came up short. Reviews I read were either in love with the idea of the app, never mind the execution; or too technical for the lay reader; or too focused on the device and not the experience. I’ve seen the iPad reviewed as fetish object and as tech advance, but never before the whole user experience. What Swansburg provided was what I have been missing: a walk-through of how a regular person might use the device. It is sidewalk criticism for the digital world, and we need more (a lot more) of it.
Read the rest, including some great, thought-provoking comments, here.
I don’t know what to do with this book. The Story of Eames Furniture, by Marilyn Neuhart with John Neuhart (Gestalten, 2010), is a labor of love, a two-part, richly-illustrated history of some of the most famous modern chairs in the world. To reject it seems harsh. It contains fascinating tales of false starts and under-known design careers, what could be a separate book of clever mid-century magazine covers, furniture catalogs, and abstract photographic odes to mass-production. And yet I was unable to enjoy it. It is the kind of book that the design blogs love, picking out 10 fabulous images, glorying in its heft entirely in the abstract. Another chance to cite the Eameses! But as a real thing and as a work of history, it is less than the sum of its pages.
Read the rest at Design Observer.
Arts & Architecture, 1946: Eames plywood furniture.