At Fast Company, a look at what Frank Lloyd Wright’s unbuilt designs would look like today. The Illinois is quite something.
At Fast Company, a look at what Frank Lloyd Wright’s unbuilt designs would look like today. The Illinois is quite something.
Rick Rubin, talking with Tyler Cowen, gets to the heart of what we lose as streaming music fans:
I’ll say the most difficult thing about it now is that all of it has a disposability that it didn’t have before. In the old days, you would buy a piece of music, you would own it, and you would be invested in that piece of music as yours. Now everything is available, which is fantastic and I love it. As a fan, I love it.
When something comes out by an artist that you love, it doesn’t have the same gravitas that it once had because it’s on this conveyor belt of music that’s always going by. Even the thing you love, you listen to it, but then there’s something new right behind it, coming right behind it, always something new coming right behind it. I don’t know how the music of today can get to the point of the canon of the music of the past based on that short term, the fact that the music goes by so quickly. Even the things we love, the shelf life is very short now.
“After Yang” was a beautiful, sensitive, and contemplative movie. Quiet, unrushed. The characters' world is strikingly, confidently created — of the future, but earthy, calm. Written and directed by Kogonada, whose “Columbus” I also loved. He’s got a singular vision and vibe. I’ll watch whatever he makes for however long he makes it.
At Brand New, a new logo and identity for Catskill Art Space designed by Athletics. Lovely.
Speaking of ChatGPT, the recent “Ezra Klein Show” episode with A.I. expert Gary Marcus was insightful. This seems concerning:
Klein: And what unnerved me a bit about ChatGPT was the sense that we are going to drive the cost of bullshit to zero when we have not driven the cost of truthful or accurate or knowledge advancing information lower at all. And I’m curious how you see that concern.
Marcus: It’s exactly right. These systems have no conception of truth. Sometimes they land on it and sometimes they don’t, but they’re all fundamentally bullshitting in the sense that they’re just saying stuff that other people have said and trying to maximize the probability of that. It’s just auto complete, and auto complete just gives you bullshit.
And it is a very serious problem. I just wrote an essay called something like “The Jurassic Park Moment for A.I.” And that Jurassic Park moment is exactly that. It’s when the price of bullshit reaches zero and people who want to spread misinformation, either politically or maybe just to make a buck, start doing that so prolifically that we can’t tell the difference anymore in what we see between truth and bullshit.
Media keeps falling in love with technology and finding out it’s a really bad boyfriend. Super hot, but it just takes your money.
From “The Death of the Link," the latest episode of “The People vs. Algorithms” podcast. Some good discussion on ChatGPT and how it may impact media. (That quote could have also been about Instant Articles back in 2015.)
“A Tweet Before Dying”: Paul Ford, perceptive and funny and deep yet again, writing in Wired. Here he is on stepping away from his social stream to dive into curious PDFs unearthed from decades past:
But the seeking is important, too; people should explore, not simply feed.
In the NYT, "‘Snow Fall’ at 10." I can clearly remember when this immersive multimedia piece came out — discussing it with my agency colleagues, trying to figure out how we could get clients on board.
Speaking of year-end traditions, I enjoyed this 2022 retrospective episode of the “Conversations with Tyler” podcast. A lot of podcasts have a year-end episode of curated guest segments, but here Cowen and one of his producers have an entertaining chat about surprising or memorable conversational moments, underrated shows, guests they tried in vain to secure, and more. Per tradition, Cowen is also asked to return to the books and movies he heralded a decade ago and weigh in on how he feels those evaluations have fared.
Since 2000, I’ve been publishing a kind of year in review — mainly cultural highlights from the prior 12 months, along with a few personal notes. Here’s my post for 2022.
In the mid–2000s, I was completely taken by the book “Everything That Rises: A Book of Convergences,” written by Lawrence Weschler and beautifully published by McSweeney’s. Weschler surfaced “strange connections” between images and wrote about them intriguingly. I still think of the book when I come across an image — a photograph, a painting, a movie moment — that brings to mind another one.
I spent part of this evening with Julie Blackmon’s absorbing book of photographs, “Midwest Materials.” Blackmon has some intentional allusions in her photographs, but others I think just come from the consciousness of the viewer.
There’s something, for instance, about the turf and peculiar (and menacing) objects in her photograph “Spray Paint” that brings to mind Bong Joon-ho’s “Parasite” (picture the poster, and the final 30 minutes).
Or, seen below, “Snow Days,” which immediately brought me back to a moment in Tarkovsky’s “Mirror,” which I recently rewatched and posted about early in the month:
I realize there’s a risk in it seeming like I’m undervaluing the originality of one work by graphing it over another. But one of the pleasures I get in taking in art of all kinds is not just the pieces themselves — which I’m grateful for individually — but for how they intermingle in my mind.
Book-wise, I will remember 2022 as the year I read (and listened to) Robert Caro’s massive and magisterial (and long-lauded) biography of Robert Moses, “The Power Broker,” first published in 1974. It’s not just the scale and depth of the research, but the skill with which Caro builds sentences and paragraphs that build his argument. For example:
To compare the works of Robert Moses to the works of man, one has to compare them not to the works of individual men but to the combined total work of an era. The yardstick by which his public housing and Title I feats can best be measured, for example, is the Age of Skyscrapers, reared up the great masses of stone and steel and concrete over Manhattan in quantity comparable to his. The yardstick by which the influence of his highways can be gauged is the Age of Railroads. But Robert Moses did build only housing projects and highways. Robert Moses built parks ane playgrounds and beaches and parking lots and cultural centers and civic centers and a United Nations Building and a Shea Stadium and a Coliseum and swept away neighborhoods to clear the way for a Lincoln Center and the mid-city campuses of four separate universities. He was a shaper not of sections of a city but of a city. He was, for the greatest city in the Western world, the city shaper, the only city shaper. In sheer physical impact on New York and the entire New York metropolitan region, he is comparable not to the works of any man or group of men or even generations of men. In the shaping of New York, Robert Moses was comparable only to some elemental force of nature.
Nature can be cruel. Moses could as well.
Franklin Foer writing after today’s incredible World Cup final: “The Lionel Messi Guide to Living”. Sharp contrast drawn vs. Ronaldo.
Astute, probing, and personal: A recent Sally Rooney address on “Ulysses,” published on The Paris Review’s website.
Rewatched Andrei Tarkovsky’s “Mirror,” a dozen years after first seeing it. Some unforgettable moments, meditative and life-enriching.
“The E-Mail Newsletter for the Mogul Set”: Fascinating NewYorker.com piece on Puck, the new digital media brand that impressed me enough — strong brand out of the gate, intriguing framework — to count me among its paying subscribers.
Elegant and welcoming: Picnic, a new piece of office furniture inviting collaboration, designed by +Halle.
Nice detail from Emily Heyward’s “Obsessed: Building a Brand People Love from Day One”, which I enjoyed: When her Red Antler agency helped develop a brand for home essentials company Snowe, the team photographed the line of pillows — soft, medium, and firm — with a potted plant atop each one, to demonstrate the amount of give. Clever and useful.
Learned today in the NYT that there is an active “unofficial Tumblr historian” who is no longer on Tumblr, and who is also 22.
It took several days — and a few sections floated past me without comprehension — but what a treat it was to take in Matt Levine’s 40,000-word feature “The Crypto Story”, which took up an entire recent issue of Bloomberg Businessweek. Liked this bit:
Crypto, in its origins, was about abandoning the system of social trust that’s been built up over centuries and replacing it with cryptographic proof. And then it got going and rebuilt systems of trust all over again. What a nice vote of confidence in the idea of trust.
Levine’s “Money Stuff” newsletter is one of my favorite finds of 2022. Consistently entertaining, informed, and in-depth. Not sure how he does it, and so frequently.
Everything is brand now, and everything is storytelling now…. People want to know more about these things [that a company is doing]… There’s more interest about the story behind things than ever. And brands have the means to be able to connect that to audiences directly, both in their consumer business and with their storytelling.
— Sam Grawe, speaking to Jarrett Fuller on Fuller’s Scratching the Surface podcast about the convergence of editorial and brand work. Grawe, the former EIC of Dwell and Global Brand and Editorial Director at Herman Miller, is the Chief Brand & Marketing Officer at The Eames Institute of Infinite Curiosity. Cool gigs. Good conversation.
Revisiting an oldie from David Foster Wallace’s magnificent novel “Infinite Jest”:
At Joelle’s first interface with the whole sad family unit – Thanksgiving, Headmaster’s House, E.T.A., straight up Comm. Ave in Enfield – Orin’s Moms Mrs. Incandenza (‘Please do call me Avril, Joelle’) had been gracious and warm and attentive without obtruding, and worked unobtrusively hard to put everyone at ease and to facilitate communication, and to make Joelle feel like a welcomed and esteemed part of the family gathering – and something about the woman made every follicle on Joelle’s body pucker and distend. It wasn’t that Avril Incandenza was one of the tallest women Joelle had ever seen, and definitely the tallest pretty older woman with immaculate posture (Dr. Incandenza slumped something awful) she’d ever met. It wasn’t that her syntax was so artless and fluid and imposing. Nor the near-sterile cleanliness of the home’s downstairs (the bathroom’s toilet seemed not only scrubbed but waxed to a high shine). And it wasn’t that Avril’s graciousness was in any conventional way fake. It took a long time for Joelle even to start to put a finger on what gave her the howling fantods about Orin’s mother. The dinner itself – no turkey; some politico-familial in-joke about no turkey on Thanksgiving – was delicious without being grandiose. They didn’t even sit down to eat until 2300h. Avril drank champagne out of a little fluted glass whose level somehow never went down. Dr. Incandenza (no invitation to call him Jim, she noticed) drank at a tri-faceted tumbler of something that made the air above it shimmer slightly. Avril put everyone at ease. Orin did credible impressions of famous figures. He and little Hal made dry fun of Avril’s Canadian pronunciation of certain diphthongs. Avril and Dr. Incandenza took turns cutting up Mario’s salmon. Joelle had a weird half-vision of Avril hiking her knife up hilt-first and plunging it into Joelle’s breast. Hal Incandenza and two other lopsidedly muscular boys from the tennis school ate like refugees and were regarded with gentle amusement. Avril dabbed her mouth in a patrician way after every bite. …
Just before desert – which was on fire – Orin’s Moms had asked whether they could perhaps all join hands secularly for a moment and simply be grateful for all being together. She made a special point of asking Joelle to include her hands in the hand-holding. Joelle held Orin’s hand and Hal’s smaller friend’s hand, which was so callused up it felt like some sort of rind. Dessert was Cherries Jubilee with gourmet New Brunswick ice cream. Dr. Incandenza’s absence form the table went unmentioned, almost unnoticed, it seemed. Both Hal and his nonstimulating friend pleaded for Kahlua, and Mario flapped pathetically at the tabletop in imitation. Avril made a show of gazing at Orin in mock-horror as he produced a cigar and clipper. There was also a blancmange. The coffee was decaf with chickory. When Joelle looked over again, Orin had put his cigar away without lighting it.
And on. Turn to page 744 of your copy to read along.
(And Happy Thanksgiving.)
Charming and savvy detail from Ana Araujo’s new book on the work of Florence Knoll, “No Compromise”: In 1964, the company Knoll released this letter it says it received from one of its textile suppliers, running it as a print ad (one assumes full-page):
Dear Sir, Thank you for your letter of the 6th of October which we have received today. Please be assured that we have not forgotten about you. We have only one weaver making this cloth. He is rather more of an artist than a practical man and he has an artist’s temperament. In other words he makes the colour that he wants to make and not necessarily the colours we want to have from him, and if it is a nice day he will go fishing or shooting leaving the weaving for another day. You will agree that this is not very business-like and from our point of view it is impossible, but the fact is that if we want this cloth, which we do very much, we just have to put up with it. From past experience we would say that it is no use asking him to submit patterns of his future colourings as he will be unable to tell us what these are to be. The sort of thing that happens is that we get a letter from him saying that yesterday he saw a piece of rock covered with Lichen in a most beautiful colour. Sure enough in a few weeks we will get a Brown/Green mixed tweed of this colouring and this is what we mean when we say that he is an artist rather more than a weaver. With the colder winter weather approaching perhaps this man will get down doing some work to keep himself warm, we can only hope.
Beneath the letter was the tag line, “It’s worth waiting for a good catch.”
Since Michael Bierut stepped away from co-hosting the DBBD podcast, I’ve been missing audio access to his insights and opinions. I was excited to learn tonight of a new 90-minute+ interview with Bierut on the Time Sensitive Podcast. Eager to dig in.
(Relatedly, I was bummed to have juuust missed the chance to purchase one of only 1,000 copies of Unit Edition’s special two-volume book on Pentagram’s first 50 years. It sold out in 72 hours — good for them. The folks there had told me a few weeks ago there were no plans to reprint, but the page today makes it seem like they might be rethinking that, based on interest. I really enjoyed their “Studio Culture Now” and have my fingers crossed they’ll print some more of the Pentagram book.)
Nice detail from the recent WSJ profile on Jony Ive, about his move from Apple to the creative collective LoveFrom:
One of the first employees hired by Ive was a full-time writer. (There are now more than 30 employees, many of whom worked with him at Apple.) Ive says LoveFrom is the only creative practice he knows of to have an on-staff scribe whose job is, in part, to help conjure into words the ideas that his team of graphic designers, architects, sound engineers and industrial designers come up with for its collaborations with Airbnb, Ferrari and others.