From an episode of the TED Radio Hour that I heard on the way to work tonight. The speaker is Paul Bloom, the author of How Pleasure Works.
BLOOM: (P)eople sometimes ask, how do you get more pleasure out of life? And my answer is extremely pedantic. It’s study more. Anything that you don’t understand, unless it’s a sugar doughnut, is really going to be – sort of say, I don’t get it. So that the key to enjoying wine isn’t just to guzzle out a real expensive wine. It’s to learn about wine. Music, learn about music, and so on.
INTERVIEWER: Art, art history.
BLOOM: Exactly. Art history is basically a mechanism for enhancing artistic pleasure. The more you know about it, the more you’ll like.
Yes, yes, yes… “Confirmation bias.” Still…
From Gombrich‘s Art and Illusion:
“Art being a thing of the mind, it follows that any scientific study of art will be psychology. It may be other things as well, but psychology it will always be.”
– Max J. Friedländer, Von Kunst und Kennerschaft
Thus, why Gombrich’s subtitle is, “A study in the psychology of pictorial representation.” (And, looking at another source [.PDF//pg. 145], this may well be Gombrich’s own translation of the passage.)
I was mulling over the way architecture has hit creative vapor lock, but rhetorically insists that recently designed buildings are somehow more current than classically designed buildings, which are dismissed as “mere pastiche.” I’ve talked about this before, in response to seeing the TV program Architecture School.
To give an idea of the stasis I see, I’ve come up with what I call the Expo 67 Test:
If this building had been built or proposed as a national pavilion at Expo 67, would it have caused any aesthetic controversy at all?
(It’s the “…or proposed” that’s the real key — as any student of 20th century architecture knows, there are an awful lot of unbuilt but influential projects out there.)
This article at TheAtlanticCities about yet another proposal by Zaha Hadid that fails the Expo 67 Test was the immediate spark. That ceiling, from inside the stadium, looks like nothing so much as the Olympic Stadium in Munich for the 1972 games, and that in turn was clearly based on the BRD (West German) Pavilion at Expo 67.
Jobshenge is another building that utterly fails the Expo 67 Test. It keeps being described as “futuristic,” and I suppose it is, but only with those ironic scare quotes — it would look completely at ease in a 1960s Kubrick SF movie.
The interesting thing is how the Expo 67 Test can be expanded to other arts as well:
Would this painting look out of place in a gallery show at Expo 67?
Would this piece of music have sounded out of place as “new music” in a concert at Expo 67?
Etc., etc., et bloody cetera.
I originally put this in my Flickr account four years ago. But the point remains — Barack Obama is Mr. October.
From left to right — the official London 2012 logo; the London Underground logo; and the logo the Washington Post is using for the Olympics.
I find the WaPo logo, with its simultaneous reference to the Underground logo and the Olympic rings on top of each other in a pile, to be quite graphically witty. Much better than the official thing, which seems intended to show there is far less design talent in the UK than one would think.
I think I’ve figured out why numbered streets are such a nuisance for me. It may just be personal wiring, but there it is.
My work is on 194th St. It’s a reasonably quiet street. On the other hand, 196th St., just two blocks to our south, is a busy commercial strip.
I was giving directions to our building to a delivery driver over the phone. And, as I frequently do, I started to tell him to turn on 196th to get to us. I corrected myself (and a good thing, too — it would never have worked out), but it got me to thinking about why I’m making that mistake.
I suspect it’s because when the numbers get that high, hey, in my head I just start rounding. Looked at that way, the difference between 194 and 196 is negligible. In other words, I’m not thinking of the two numbers as labels, I’m thinking of them as values. If they were Washington Ave. and Fillmore St., I’d almost never get them mixed up.
It was the realization that those digits are labels, not values — that is, they’re not really numbers except in the most attenuated sense — that struck me as a real usability issue. Even if it doesn’t happen often, it’s tough to believe I’m unique in seeing the numbers this way.
Seth Godin’s post today saunters towards this idea, although he doesn’t use that phrase.
But it’s one I’ve kicked around for a while: Well-built environments will generate good events; Poorly designed environments will generate bad events.
I would argue, in fact, that one of the reasons for the sterility and repetition we’ve seen in many fields (painting, literature, architecture) throughout the 20th Century was because “Modern” architecture tended to treat buildings as sculptures with their own aesthetic aims, rather than as incubators and shelters for innovative human actions. In other words, the client got dumped in favor of the beauty of the model and/or rendering. The actual finished building — and its effects on the actions of its inhabitants — has been an afterthought for almost a century.
I suppose this may be thought of as yet another Geo. Washington post, as I think about it.
Anyway, I recently ran across this post by Tinky Weisblat, describing the Red, White, and Blue Pie made by my college friend, Elizabeth Pyle. The post is illustrated with this charming picture of Elizabeth in her very patriotic pants for Fourth of July:
This all reminds me of the following routine from Stan Freberg, about Washington going to call on Betsy Ross to see how our nation’s flag was coming along:
George Washington: All right, let’s see the flag.
Betsy Ross: Just a minute. Let me bite the thread off here…
George Washington: Well, snap it up. Spread it out on your lap there and we’ll… Heh, heh. You, uh, having a little fun at your country’s expense, here?
Betsy Ross: How’s that?
George Washington: Are you kidding with these colors? Red, white, and blue?
Betsy Ross: Well, those are the only remnants I had around the…
George Washington: Wait a minute! Stars?! I deliberately said polka-dots.
Betsy Ross: Huh?
George Washington: Stars with stripes? How does that work together, design-wise?
Betsy Ross: All right, you want to be the big man and put on the thimble, huh?
George Washington: No, it’s just…
Betsy Ross: Then how’s about you let me run the Flag Department and you run the Army like a nice Father of Our Country, okay?