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An Essay by Miho Nonaka | Kenyon Review Online
[So good. There's really no good way to quote this one, so here are just a few sections.]

"Heavenly Worm

Mrs. Itō, our fourth-grade teacher, drew a new kanji character on the board: 蚕. “Worm from heaven,” she announced, “as you can see.” Heaven splits open like a curtain (天) and inside it dwells the worm (虫). For each student, she took out five worms from her basket and put them in a small paper box to take home. Having just hatched from their eggs, these worms were still covered in little black hairs. That’s why at this stage they are called kego (hairy baby), Mrs. Itō told us. To feed these dark babies, julienne your mulberry leaves first."



"Platinum Boy, 2006

After decades of research, Japanese silkworm breeders discovered a reliable method of hatching exclusively male silkworms. Female silkworms eat more, sleep more, take up more space, and are measurably less efficient in transforming mulberry leaves into silk. The verdict was clear: female silkworms are inferior for silk production.

Silk spinners and kimono weavers are unanimous in their praise of male silk: their thread is consistently finer, sturdier, glossier, whiter, and their cocoons are easier to harvest when boiled.

The birth site of Platinum Boy is literally black and white. When you look at a piece of paper where silkworm eggs are laid, white eggs are the empty shells from which male larvae have already hatched. They will thrive on the diet of tender mulberry shoot which, combined with their spit, will eventually turn into raw silk, translucent like frosted glass. The dark eggs contain female larvae that will never hatch and only keep darkening."



"Ten Thousand Leaves I

Compiled in the mideighth century, Man’yōshū (Collection of Ten Thousand Leaves) is the oldest Japanese anthology: more than forty-five hundred poems in twenty books. In the sweltering heat of the attic, I wasn’t looking for any particular motif when I happened on poem No. 2495, composed by Kakinomoto no Hitomaro, a low rank courtier and one of the “Saints of Japanese Poetry”:
like my mother’s
silkworms confined
inside cocoons,
how can I see my love
who lives secluded at home?

Poem No. 2991 is almost the same poem by another poet, simply tagged “unknown”:
like my mother’s
silkworms confined
inside cocoons,
sadness clouds my heart
when I cannot see her

The motif of a silk cocoon as the inaccessible, lyrical interior goes back to the dawn of Japanese poetics. The cocoon encases the image of the beloved, the poet’s longing that keeps building inside, and in my poem it holds the mother as a mythical seamstress, stitching blue in each wrist of her unborn daughter."



"職人 I

I used to blame my grandmother on my father’s side, who was described to me as fierce, frantic, funny, a destructive visionary and unsuccessful business entrepreneur during the critical times of the Second World War. When I felt defeated by the radical pull of my own emotion, I would attach them to the face of the woman I had never met in person, only in a fading picture where she stands next to my young father without glasses, still a student with surprisingly gentle eyes.

My father recently told me during one of our late-night international calls from Tokyo: “Your grandfathers were both shokunin (craftsman), remember? It’s in your DNA, too.” His father had come from a large family of silk farmers. After he left home, adopting the newly introduced Singer sewing machines, he began manufacturing Japanese cloven-toed socks, the traditional kind that used to be hand-sewn, and during the war, he took the assignment to sew parachutes for the Imperial Japanese Army Air Force. While he worked under dimmed light, my young father put up his primitive drawing of warplanes on the wall, covered in fine grains of sand."



"Small Things

They say (I love the convenience, but who are “they”?) that attention to detail is a characteristic of the Japanese. I am drawn to small things: tadpoles, silica beads, star sands in a vial, a notebook the size of a thumbnail, fish scales, a nativity scene inside half a walnut shell. I am terribly myopic like my father, and I like things that are near. Large things loom over and terrify: airports, Costco, churches in Texas, the Tokyo Skytree, Mount Rushmore (those granite faces I once believed had surfaced in response to the historic atomic bombing), and that elusive word “global.”"



"Komako

It didn’t occur to me until I tried translating a few passages from Snow Country that the young geisha’s name Komako (駒子) means Pony Child. What inspired the author Kawabata to portray his heroine as a woman of equine grace? We don’t know her family name. On the other hand, we don’t know the first name of Shimamura, who is referred to only by his last name.

I imagine if your family name is a gate to the house, your first name must be its interior. In the days when the first book of Man’yōshū was composed, asking a maiden’s first name was synonymous with proposing to her. Knowing it meant possessing the person.

Komako’s body is translucent like a silkworm, and an unearthly room encloses her fruitless passion like a white cocoon. While writing Snow Country, Kawabata says he distanced himself from Shimamura, who serves merely as a foil to Komako. “As an author, I entered deep inside the character of Komako, but casually turned my back to Shimamura,” he writes in the afterward. “Especially in terms of emotion—Komako’s sadness is nothing other than my own sadness. . . .” And so it is; his heart has become subsumed into her heart."



"Body

I find it impossible to talk about the body (mine and everyone else’s) without sounding embarrassed or oddly distant. I don’t mean to self-deprecate, but it has been almost too fashionable, too charged a topic for me to feel safe around. (A cowardly thing to say—the truth is, no one is safe.)

I won’t pretend my body is a plain blockhouse, or a slab of flesh aching with desire or lack thereof. Who could have taught me to stay at home in my own body all the while I traveled from one country to another, turning from the spontaneous, if careless, music of my mother tongue to the cautious economy of English, reaching out, in the hope of actually reaching and being reached?

For the subjects most critical to me, I find no teachers. Perhaps there is not enough demand? I believe I am badly behind everyone and that I missed an opportunity to ask questions long ago. People my age in this country sound fluent in the body, discussing it with just the right amount of sarcasm and laughter without revealing much, like they have been on intimate terms with it since they learned to speak. I suppose I should have listened to the body harder, without ulterior motives."
mihononaka  silk  essays  canon  howwewrite  2017  silkworms  multispecies  japan  japanese  language  gender  via:ayjay  poetry  writing  fabric  textiles  srg  glvo  insects  history  cocoons  craft  translation  languages  childhood  change  materials  process  form  details  weaving  texture  morethanhuman  shinto  bodies  body  small  slow 
february 2019 by robertogreco
How to build a book: Notes from an editorial bricoleuse | HAU: Journal of Ethnographic Theory: Vol 7, No 3
"This piece offers an editor’s reflections on the ethos and craft of writing. General suggestions, words of encouragement, and detailed tips emerge through a discussion of unexpected affinities between writing and building. An annotated list of further readings accompanies the text.

Ce texte offre les réflexions d’une éditrice sur l’ethos et l’art de l’écriture. Des suggestions générales, des encouragements, et quelques conseils précis se dégagent d’une discussion sur les affinités inattendues entre l’écriture et la construction. Une liste annotée de lectures complémentaires accompagne ce texte."



"The inevitable risk in writing a document like this one is that authors will interpret my advice as an example of editorial fascism that is appeased only when others subsume their ambition to conformity. I would hate for that to be the lesson of this meditation (which is, in itself, something of an oddity).

Times change, architectural styles go through inevitable change and recombination, and books change too. No intelligent person would demand that every room conform perfectly to a single model or that every book do the same. Variation is one cornerstone of beauty. So, please, surprise me. But do so from a position of intimate understanding. Mastery of tradition, in writing as in other crafts, is the first condition for innovation."

[via: https://twitter.com/npseaver/status/944918352773951494

"Some nice, not obvious advice in this piece on writing academic books (aimed at anthro, but more broadly relevant), from @priyasnelson: http://www.journals.uchicago.edu/doi/full/10.14318/hau7.3.020 … (I especially like the “finding the center” metaphor.)

Not that anthropologists are unique snowflakes, but I wish we had more writing advice like this aimed at us particularly: we have some particular strengths and weaknesses that generic academic writing advice doesn’t appreciate."]
writing  editing  craft  2017  priyanelson  variation  conformity  innovation  citation  anthropology  srg  neologisms  socialsciences  academia  revision  publishing  serendipity  details  planning 
december 2017 by robertogreco
Conner Habib on Twitter: "13 I learned not just about science from Lynn, but a whole new way of thinking. One that allows me to stand back and see the big picture - G… https://t.co/hhQKBzfPTl"
"I learned not just about science from Lynn, but a whole new way of thinking. One that allows me to stand back and see the big picture - Gaia - and to lean forward and see the tiniest details - the microcosm.

She is one of the most brilliant visionaries of our time."



"1
I want to tell you about an amazing woman who changed my life, and who you need to know about if you don't already: biologist Lynn Margulis.

She died on this day, 6 years ago.
She was my main intellectual mentor in life, my friend, my second mom.

2
Lynn made quite a few major scientific discoveries.
She's best known for proving that organisms and cells that have nucleuses have symbiotic origins - that they originate from the coming together of different bacteria (and sometimes protoctists/protozoa)

3
She also discovered, with James Lovelock, that the Earth regulates itself quite a bit like an organism - particularly through the interactions of bacteria and the abiota (the non-living aspects of the environment). This is called the Gaia Theory or biogeochemistry.

4
She created a whole new theory of evolution, of which Lewis Thomas said, "Darwin was wrong, and Lynn Margulis is right." That theory is in her book Acquiring Genomes with co-author Dorion Sagan.

5
When offered potentially millions of dollars by the US govt to do research on bacteria that could help with defense, Lynn Margulis hung up on the phone on them. She said, "If it's not public, it's not science."

6
If you've heard anything about gut biomes, that is a direct result of Lynn's tireless work, yet she is rarely credited.

7
Lynn's theory of evolution came from rejecting the capitalistic cost-benefit analysis version of evolution adopted by ppl like Richard Dawkins (who has almost no lab experience comparatively). She rediscovered the science of symbiotic evolution, pioneered by Russian scientists.

8
She was well-versed in postmodern theory and studied philosophy. She was fond of saying, "the first thing scientists need to learn is that there's no objective truth."
She knew hundreds of Emily Dickinson poems by heart and lived in the house next to hers in Amherst.

9
She won just about every science award you could ever win, except the Nobel, which she no doubt would have won had she not died of a stroke on this day in 2011.

10
In spite of her being one of the most influential and profound minds of our time, she is often overshadowed by her late husband, Carl Sagan. He was a fine person, but nowhere near as arduous in his efforts or profound in his thinking as Lynn Margulis.

11
I approached her after I started my grad studies as an MFA student. Lynn tried to dismiss me at first. "What does this have to do with environmental evolution?" was the first thing she said to me.

12
"I want to take your classes," I said.
"Oh!"
She was thrilled that I was in the humanities&wanted to take science courses. I studied with her for three yrs.
She became my closest teacher. She took me to science conferences and gave me my most profound educational experiences.

13
I learned not just about science from Lynn, but a whole new way of thinking. One that allows me to stand back and see the big picture - Gaia - and to lean forward and see the tiniest details - the microcosm.
She is one of the most brilliant visionaries of our time.

14
Lynn was a huge supporter of my decision to be in gay porn. She was lustful and sexual and very much a proponent of sexual liberation.

15
Please join me in honoring this tremendous intellect today.
I wrote an essay summarizing her work shortly after her death. It's under my Birthname so that her colleagues would recognize me as the author.
Here it is: http://www.wildriverreview.com/lit/essays/lean-forward-stand-back/ "
lynnmargulis  zoominginandout  earth  perspective  connerhabib  details  systemsthinking  bigpicture  gaia  microcosm  science  andrekhalil  carlsagan  postodernism  philosophy  principles  bacteria  evolution  richarddawkins  charlesdarwin  doriansagan 
november 2017 by robertogreco
Espacio y sujeto | Arquine
"Pienso que la arquitectura comienza por la ropa y gradualmente va creciendo; de la ropa pasamos a las herramientas y de las herramientas al mobiliario, que prácticamente es como la primera morada."



"El problema viene cuando se relaciona con museos y se vuelve una nueva versión de iglesia. Como sucede en las iglesias, forma parte de la vida cotidiana donde las cosas no se tocan."



"Cuando veo o leo cosas demasiado abstractas siento que es algo que necesita de una creencia a la fuerza, como pasa con la religión, por esto mismo la arquitectura mas específica y detallada como Archigram da una esperanza que tal vez eso puede funcionar o pueda ser construida."
vitoacconci  art  design  museums  archigram  2013  clothes  clothing  wearables  experience  details 
april 2017 by robertogreco
CCA Wattis Institute for Contemporary Arts
"February 23 – April 9, 2016

Wang Bing: Three Portraits

Opening reception: February 23, 6:30-8:30 pm.

Details are what make humans human. The slight intonation that gives emphasis to one word over another. The tightened jaw that accompanies impatience. The compliment disguised as a question. The hand gestures. The hesitations.

Film has the time to see the details. A film can linger, wait, and be patient. Wang Bing's films are about the details, how they accumulate, and how they come to determine entire lives and tell the story of entire cultures and entire ideologies.

Most are documentary films, but their lack of linear narrative and their extreme duration bring them closer to being history paintings. Unlike many history painters, however, he is not interested in spectacular events but prefers the minor and the mundane—the details—because he knows that the minutiae of daily routines can be the building blocks of life itself. (AH)"

[See also: http://www.wattis.org/MEDIA/00777.pdf ]
wangbing  film  srg  2016  wattis  art  humans  documentary  narrative  details  time  patience  slow  everyday  mundane  tosee 
february 2016 by robertogreco
Matt Jones: Jumping to the End -- Practical Design Fiction on Vimeo
[Matt says (http://magicalnihilism.com/2015/03/06/my-ixd15-conference-talk-jumping-to-the-end/ ):

"This talk summarizes a lot of the approaches that we used in the studio at BERG, and some of those that have carried on in my work with the gang at Google Creative Lab in NYC.

Unfortunately, I can’t show a lot of that work in public, so many of the examples are from BERG days…

Many thanks to Catherine Nygaard and Ben Fullerton for inviting me (and especially to Catherine for putting up with me clowning around behind here while she was introducing me…)"]

[At ~35:00:
“[(Copy)Writers] are the fastest designers in the world. They are amazing… They are just amazing at that kind of boiling down of incredibly abstract concepts into tiny packages of cognition, language. Working with writers has been my favorite thing of the last two years.”
mattjones  berg  berglondon  google  googlecreativelab  interactiondesign  scifi  sciencefiction  designfiction  futurism  speculativefiction  julianbleecker  howwework  1970s  comics  marvel  marvelcomics  2001aspaceodyssey  fiction  speculation  technology  history  umbertoeco  design  wernerherzog  dansaffer  storytelling  stories  microinteractions  signaturemoments  worldbuilding  stanleykubrick  details  grain  grammars  computervision  ai  artificialintelligence  ui  personofinterest  culture  popculture  surveillance  networks  productdesign  canon  communication  johnthackara  macroscopes  howethink  thinking  context  patternsensing  systemsthinking  systems  mattrolandson  objects  buckminsterfuller  normanfoster  brianarthur  advertising  experiencedesign  ux  copywriting  writing  film  filmmaking  prototyping  posters  video  howwewrite  cognition  language  ara  openstudioproject  transdisciplinary  crossdisciplinary  interdisciplinary  sketching  time  change  seams  seamlessness 
march 2015 by robertogreco
Paris Review - The Art of Fiction No. 69, Gabriel Garcia Marquez
"When García Márquez speaks, his body often rocks back and forth. His hands too are often in motion making small but decisive gestures to emphasize a point, or to indicate a shift of direction in his thinking. He alternates between leaning forward towards his listener, and sitting far back with his legs crossed when speaking reflectively."



INTERVIEWER How do you feel about using the tape recorder?

GABRIEL GARCÍA MÁRQUEZ The problem is that the moment you know the interview is being taped, your attitude changes. In my case I immediately take a defensive attitude. As a journalist, I feel that we still haven’t learned how to use a tape recorder to do an interview. The best way, I feel, is to have a long conversation without the journalist taking any notes. Then afterward he should reminisce about the conversation and write it down as an impression of what he felt, not necessarily using the exact words expressed. Another useful method is to take notes and then interpret them with a certain loyalty to the person interviewed. What ticks you off about the tape recording everything is that it is not loyal to the person who is being interviewed, because it even records and remembers when you make an ass of yourself. That’s why when there is a tape recorder, I am conscious that I’m being interviewed; when there isn’t a tape recorder, I talk in an unconscious and completely natural way.



GARCÍA MÁRQUEZ I’ve always been convinced that my true profession is that of a journalist. What I didn’t like about journalism before were the working conditions. Besides, I had to condition my thoughts and ideas to the interests of the newspaper. Now, after having worked as a novelist, and having achieved financial independence as a novelist, I can really choose the themes that interest me and correspond to my ideas. In any case, I always very much enjoy the chance of doing a great piece of journalism.



INTERVIEWER Do you think the novel can do certain things that journalism can’t?

GARCÍA MÁRQUEZ Nothing. I don’t think there is any difference. The sources are the same, the material is the same, the resources and the language are the same. The Journal of the Plague Year by Daniel Defoe is a great novel and Hiroshima is a great work of journalism.

INTERVIEWER Do the journalist and the novelist have different responsibilities in balancing truth versus the imagination?

GARCÍA MÁRQUEZ In journalism just one fact that is false prejudices the entire work. In contrast, in fiction one single fact that is true gives legitimacy to the entire work. That’s the only difference, and it lies in the commitment of the writer. A novelist can do anything he wants so long as he makes people believe in it.



INTERVIEWER How did you start writing?

GARCÍA MÁRQUEZ By drawing. By drawing cartoons. Before I could read or write I used to draw comics at school and at home. The funny thing is that I now realize that when I was in high school I had the reputation of being a writer, though I never in fact wrote anything. If there was a pamphlet to be written or a letter of petition, I was the one to do it because I was supposedly the writer. When I entered college I happened to have a very good literary background in general, considerably above the average of my friends. At the university in Bogotá, I started making new friends and acquaintances, who introduced me to contemporary writers. One night a friend lent me a book of short stories by Franz Kafka. I went back to the pension where I was staying and began to read The Metamorphosis. The first line almost knocked me off the bed. I was so surprised. The first line reads, “As Gregor Samsa awoke that morning from uneasy dreams, he found himself transformed in his bed into a gigantic insect. . . .” When I read the line I thought to myself that I didn’t know anyone was allowed to write things like that. If I had known, I would have started writing a long time ago. So I immediately started writing short stories. They are totally intellectual short stories because I was writing them on the basis of my literary experience and had not yet found the link between literature and life. The stories were published in the literary supplement of the newspaper El Espectador in Bogotá and they did have a certain success at the time—probably because nobody in Colombia was writing intellectual short stories. What was being written then was mostly about life in the countryside and social life. When I wrote my first short stories I was told they had Joycean influences.



INTERVIEWER Can you name some of your early influences?

GARCÍA MÁRQUEZ The people who really helped me to get rid of my intellectual attitude towards the short story were the writers of the American Lost Generation. I realized that their literature had a relationship with life that my short stories didn’t. And then an event took place which was very important with respect to this attitude. It was the Bogotazo, on the ninth of April, 1948, when a political leader, Gaitan, was shot and the people of Bogotá went raving mad in the streets. I was in my pension ready to have lunch when I heard the news. I ran towards the place, but Gaitan had just been put into a taxi and was being taken to a hospital. On my way back to the pension, the people had already taken to the streets and they were demonstrating, looting stores and burning buildings. I joined them. That afternoon and evening, I became aware of the kind of country I was living in, and how little my short stories had to do with any of that. When I was later forced to go back to Barranquilla on the Caribbean, where I had spent my childhood, I realized that that was the type of life I had lived, knew, and wanted to write about.

Around 1950 or ’51 another event happened that influenced my literary tendencies. My mother asked me to accompany her to Aracataca, where I was born, and to sell the house where I spent my first years. When I got there it was at first quite shocking because I was now twenty-two and hadn’t been there since the age of eight. Nothing had really changed, but I felt that I wasn’t really looking at the village, but I was experiencing it as if I were reading it. It was as if everything I saw had already been written, and all I had to do was to sit down and copy what was already there and what I was just reading. For all practical purposes everything had evolved into literature: the houses, the people, and the memories. I’m not sure whether I had already read Faulkner or not, but I know now that only a technique like Faulkner’s could have enabled me to write down what I was seeing. The atmosphere, the decadence, the heat in the village were roughly the same as what I had felt in Faulkner. It was a banana-plantation region inhabited by a lot of Americans from the fruit companies which gave it the same sort of atmosphere I had found in the writers of the Deep South. Critics have spoken of the literary influence of Faulkner, but I see it as a coincidence: I had simply found material that had to be dealt with in the same way that Faulkner had treated similar material.

From that trip to the village I came back to write Leaf Storm, my first novel. What really happened to me in that trip to Aracataca was that I realized that everything that had occurred in my childhood had a literary value that I was only now appreciating. From the moment I wrote Leaf Storm I realized I wanted to be a writer and that nobody could stop me and that the only thing left for me to do was to try to be the best writer in the world. That was in 1953, but it wasn’t until 1967 that I got my first royalties after having written five of my eight books.



INTERVIEWER What about the banana fever in One Hundred Years of Solitude? How much of that is based on what the United Fruit Company did?

GARCÍA MÁRQUEZ The banana fever is modeled closely on reality. Of course, I’ve used literary tricks on things which have not been proved historically. For example, the massacre in the square is completely true, but while I wrote it on the basis of testimony and documents, it was never known exactly how many people were killed. I used the figure three thousand, which is obviously an exaggeration. But one of my childhood memories was watching a very, very long train leave the plantation supposedly full of bananas. There could have been three thousand dead on it, eventually to be dumped in the sea. What’s really surprising is that now they speak very naturally in the Congress and the newspapers about the “three thousand dead.” I suspect that half of all our history is made in this fashion. In The Autumn of the Patriarch, the dictator says it doesn’t matter if it’s not true now, because sometime in the future it will be true. Sooner or later people believe writers rather than the government.

INTERVIEWER That makes the writer pretty powerful, doesn’t it?

GARCÍA MÁRQUEZ Yes, and I can feel it too. It gives me a great sense of responsibility. What I would really like to do is a piece of journalism which is completely true and real, but which sounds as fantastic as One Hundred Years of Solitude. The more I live and remember things from the past, the more I think that literature and journalism are closely related.



INTERVIEWER Are dreams ever important as a source of inspiration?

GARCÍA MÁRQUEZ In the very beginning I paid a good deal of attention to them. But then I realized that life itself is the greatest source of inspiration and that dreams are only a very small part of that torrent that is life. What is very true about my writing is that I’m quite interested in different concepts of dreams and interpretations of them. I see dreams as part of life in general, but reality is much richer. But maybe I just have very poor dreams.

INTERVIEWER Can you distinguish between inspiration and intuition?

GARCÍA MÁRQUEZ Inspiration is when you find the right theme, one which you really like; that makes the work much easier. Intuition, which is … [more]
gabrielgarcíamárquez  1981  interviews  colombia  writing  journalism  truth  reality  fiction  literature  latinamerica  drawing  kafka  jamesjoyce  stories  storytelling  everyday  williamfaulkner  imagination  biography  autobiography  politics  childhood  fantasy  magicrealism  credibility  detail  details  belief  believability  responsibility  history  bricolage  collage  power  solitude  flow  dreams  dreaming  inspiration  intuition  intellectualism  translation  mexico  spanish  español  gregoryrabassa  borders  frontiers  miguelángelasturias  cuba  fame  friendship  film  filmmaking  relationships  consumption  language  languages  reading  howweread  howwewrite  routine  familiarity  habits 
april 2014 by robertogreco
Walls, floors, house numbers: In Mexico City, all surfaces are activated.: Observatory: Design Observer
"In Mexico, everyone seems to be Alexander Girard. Not afraid of color, of two colors together, of tiles and stripes, of patterns on pattern, of humble materials made noble by aggregation. The Loeb Fellowship took me to Mexico City for a week in February, and there I found the roots of Girard's "opulent modernism" still growing. Everywhere I looked — underfoot, on the walls, over the doors — something particular was happening. I understood why he had been so inspired to collect and reinterpret Mexican precedents; more importantly I also saw Mexican designers and everyday people reinterpreting for themselves. Design with a small "d" was everywhere, reflecting a culture that seems to understand the small gestures that make a room, a building, or a city special. A church in Queretaro with checkerboard floors, a neo-classical facade, and a golden altarpiece of many doors. A museum in Mexico City with real Mayan artifacts, reconstructed Aztec facades, red-and-purple upholstery, bowls floating on plexiglass mounts. Girard distilled the elements of Mexican style, transforming them into an American modernist idiom, but it is not as if Mexican modernists weren't doing the same. Architect Luis Barragran spotlit a golden angel with a perfectly placed skylight. Artist, architect, designer Mathias Goeritz remade the baroque icon as a simple gold-leaf square. Contemporary projects embed ceramic trees of life in Art Deco hallways, or echo the peacock circles of traditional decor in industrial spiral staircases. At the studios of Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera, lines of cacti march past Bauhaus silhouettes.

As I made my way through the city, primarily on a large red-white-and-blue bus, I tried to take note of these extraordinary planes, posting PicFrames of walls, floors, and other details that simultaneously clashed and sang. How dull the medium-width oak floors of my childhood began to seem. The brick walls of my Brooklyn neighborhood. The cookie-cutter house numbers from the hardware store. The white subway tile on backsplashes, wainscots, walk-in showers. Why do we do this to ourselves? In Mexico City, it felt like all surfaces were activated. Why not get an artist to paint a mural on the concrete slot between a building's wings? Why not park a bike up the green wall in your restaurant garden? Diana Vreeland's observations about Indian color style apply equally here, with yellow swapped in for pink, cobalt for navy blue.

Architects from the global north may revere Barragan for the subtle cast of pink on a white wall, but many won't go beyond blush themselves. His Mexico City house, and the villa he designed for the family Prieto, suggested that cobalt and coral, sunshine and flame, are easier to live with than you might think. Seeing so many examples of skillfully deployed color and pattern over a handful of days, examples high (Casa Barragan, below), low (turquoise apartment building foyer, top), sacred (three-tone cathedral floor), durable (two-tone rubber garden path) allowed me to understand the intense patterns I snapped not as a precious, professional choice but as part of a larger cultural valuation of the visual. What I loved was the too-muchness of it all, which felt like aesthetic freedom. My current housemates make fun of my desire for everyday bling, which manifests itself in plastic necklaces from Forever 21 and silver sneakers and metallic sweatshirts. I saw that blinginess everywhere in Mexico and it made me feel unexpectedly at home.

Pictures of the houses of Luis Barragan tend to focus on the colorful moments, as I have in the rainbow collages above and below. But the white walls, and the windows on to sky and garden, are equally important. Barragan isn't trying to overwhelm you (as Ricardo Legorreta does at the Camino Real), but to get you through the day, in the house, with a series of views that surprise and delight. In his own home, each room is shaped to a particular activity and time of day. The pink cross is built in over the door of his solo breakfast room, to offer a wordless blessing. The sunshiny Albers painting is set next to a two-story window, providing an alternative sun on a rare cloudy day. At Casa Prieto, a tree with flame-like flowers grows out of a rock in front of a coral wall, emphasizing its heat from the cool of the aqua pool. Contemporary architects can't help but pay homage. I visited the clever, elegant Lisboa 7, designed by at.103, and found those murals tucked into slots. There, the hot colors are reserved for the sunken garage, flashes of orange through a block wall, common storage in lime. Upstairs, the palette is paler, allowing residents to create their own Barragan moments, or not. In the apartment we visited, the walls were gray and the rainbow palette provided by a collection of California pottery. It was fun to recognize an old friend, transformed by geography into a different reference.

My last night in Mexico was spent at the home of a Mexican architect and an American recovering landscape architect. Mark, the latter, traveled to Mexico on a Fulbright some years ago and never came home. His decor seemed to me another entirely accessible version of the simple and baroque, minty and regal, combinations that I was seeing outside. The homemade cork boards stood in for the tricky, intricate ceramic Trees of Life, incorporating photos and other mementos. The white-painted floor offered the simplified backdrop of the neo-classical ceilings in many churches. A Crate & Barrel table kept company with hand-stitched pillow covers in patterns made since time immemorial. He even had a vase full of hand-blown glass balls, an inadvertant homage to the oversized bowl of such bubbles at Casa Prieto. Maybe this is a stretch, though it was a charming apartment. It was fun to see what happens to your taste when you fall in love with Mexico City now."
architecture  design  df  mexico  mexicodf  color  alexandralange  2014  everyday  texture  surface  detail  details  querétaro  alexandergirard  modernism  mathiasgoeritz  tiles  luisbarragán  ricardolegorreta  mexicocity 
march 2014 by robertogreco
Infovore » First Read / Second Read
"Disclaimer: like so many of the so-called “smart things” I’ve ever said, this is basically a Matt Jones paraphrase.

Jones once explained, talking in the studio one day, a theory that had come from car design: First Read / Second Read.

What I remember him saying:

to design a really memorable car, you need a strong first read. A really strong first read. That’s the single shape, barely a single line that you remember at a glance. Like this:

You know what car I’m showing you already.

But: it’s not enough to have a strong first read. Then, when you’re closer, or double-taking, you need a strong second-read: that detail echoed, firming up the original shape, but making the coherence clear:

And then, on the third read, once you’ve encompassed the detail therein, you still need something to satisfy the eye: details to take in, subtleties and shapes.

The Beetle is an obvious way of showing this, but it really works: it’s not just that strong first read that makes the Beetle so beautiful; it’s the strong first, second, and third reads all co-existing at once that make it work quite so well. Detail that you never get sucked into won’t work; a striking first impression that goes nowhere won’t work.

And Jones, astute as ever, would point out this applied to many forms of design: often, getting the strong first read would be hard, sucking someone into the detail we’d made – but sometimes, you’d also have to focus on backing up that first read with detail."
design  tomarmitage  mattjones  layering  details  zoominginandout  2014  subtlety  engagement  games  gaming  attention  cars  via:tealtan 
february 2014 by robertogreco
Mark Eichenlaub's answer to Learning: Do grad school students remember everything they were taught in college all the time? - Quora
""you've got to forget the memorizing of formulas, and to try to learn to understand the interrelationships of nature. That's very much more difficult at the beginning, but it's the only successful way."

Feynman's advice is a common theme in learning. Beginners want to memorize the details, while experts want to communicate a gestalt.

Foreign language students talk about how many words they've memorized, but teachers see this as the most trivial component of fluency. Novice musicians try to get the notes and rhythms right, while experts want to find their own interpretation of the piece's aesthetic. Math students want to memorize theorems while mathematicians seek a way of thinking instead. History students see lists of dates and facts while professors see personality, context, and narrative. In each case, the beginner is too overwhelmed by details to see the whole. They look at a cathedral and see a pile of 100,000 stones."
richardfeynman  learning  understanding  via:tealtan  memorization  context  narrative  fluency  interconnectedness  nature  intelligence  details  interconnected  interconnectivity 
july 2013 by robertogreco
On Sleep No More, magic and immersive storytelling | Fresh & New(er)
"Towards the close of their talk Pete Higgin had a nice line – “explanation is the killer of wonderment”.

It reminded me of a recent article from Salon on the effect of YouTube on the traditions & social practices of magicians.

“The biggest problem with DVD and YouTube exposure is that it has damaged the skill of learning through asking…

What if we designed exhibitions to have the same ‘dense, cinematic detail’ that Punch Drunk’s productions have? (And trusted visitors to respect and engage with them appropriately through scaffolding the entry experience?)

What if we designed our exhibitions to hold things back from some visitors? And to purposefully make some elements of an exhibition ‘in-accessible’ to all? (The Studio Ghibli Museum in Tokyo is wonderfully designed with some spaces and passages that are only accessible by small children that lead to experiences that only children can have separate from their parents.)

What if we made ‘wonderment’ our Key Performance Indicator?"
theatricality  magic  explanation  parallelism  mitmedialab  colinnightingale  petehiggin  transmedia  storytelling  punchdrunk  via:tealtan  storycode  immersive  exploration  museums  themeparks  theater  exhibitions  inaccessibility  accessibility  nyc  lcproject  experiencedesign  experience  studioghiblimuseum  studioghibli  details  wonder  wonderment  sebchan  2012  sleepnomore  design  medialab 
july 2012 by robertogreco
Everything is Interesting - Aphorisms and Paradoxes
"Paging through an accounting textbook, walking past a wig shop, or listening to a lecture on early American basket-making, I never say "that is uninteresting" but rather "I am uninterested", for it is always more reasonable to assume that I fail to see what is there than that devotees see what is not there. I love to hear of people devoting their lives to pursuits that sound dull to me, for I know that their enthusiasm is right and my boredom is wrong, and I am happy for the rebuke. I convert my specific boredoms into general fascination with passion's possibilities, reflecting that, under altered alignments of choice and chance, I might have given my days to different causes. There is more worth loving than we have strength to love.

A foolish trope of modernity is that experience leads to disenchantment and ennui. Boredom with life does not result from exhausting life's riches, but from skimming them. Nothing is boring, except people who are bored."
boredom  brianjaystanley  interesting  interestingness  interested  toshare  boring  boringness  details  ignorance  love  interestedness 
june 2011 by robertogreco
Flourishes, Craftsmanship, Dates, History, and Flickr - Laughing Meme
"I fret about the warm bath of now-ness we seem to be currently living in; real time a synonym for ephemerality and disposability."

"…giving you the ability to label your photo as being taken solidly 800+ years before anything most of us would describe as the invention of photography…a little silly. But I do love this photo of the Blue grotto…taken in 1890…

Fundamentally this split btwn system activity time, & human editable creation date models a world where the people who use your software do something other then use your software. You have to decide how you feel about admitting that possibility…

…if you visited that Blue Grotto photo you’ll notice date is listed as “This photo was taken some time in 1890.” That’s date granularity. Flickr taken dates come in 4 levels of granularity, exact, year-month, year, & circa.

…Circa is a flourish…sort of feature you only get when you care about craftsmanship…

Computers demand exactitudes by default, but it’s a laziness of which we are collectively guiltily that we’ve traded a few programmer & compute cycles for a rich & nuanced societal understanding of time."
flickr  design  dates  detail  circa  perception  computing  human  kellanelliot-mccrea  granularity  squishiness  fuzziness  nuance  meaning  meaningmaking  2011  florishes  details  disposability  bighere  longnow  craft  craftsmanship  ephemerality  ephemeral 
june 2011 by robertogreco
collision detection: How Instagram changes the way I look at things
"really deep appeal of Instagram…It changes the way I look at the world around me.

I’m not a super visual person; I do not normally take a lot of photos. But now I am, & do. Whenever you join a new social network, there’s this sudden, gentle pressure to be more interesting. In the case of Twitter…a pressure to post ever-more-cool undiscovered URLage. In the case of Instagram, it means posting ever-more-nifty snapshots. And this in turn means that I’ve begun looking at the world around me anew. I used to walk around my neighborhood blissfully — or stressfully — ignoring my surroundings, while staring at the sidewalk (or, ironically, my iphone). Now I find myself spotting unusual bits of graffiti, or patterns that fall trees make against the sky, or how super strange the robot is on Yo Gabba Gabba when my kids watch in the morning. Or that blue door on the brownstone in the picture above: How did I not notice how pretty it was? It’s like my third eye has opened up!"
attention  instagram  photography  noticing  classideas  details  clivethompson  glvo  lomo  lomography  socialmedia  visual  interestingness 
december 2010 by robertogreco
Eide Neurolearning Blog: Gifted Big Picture / High Conceptual Thinkers
"HTCs are often...Omnivorous Learners..Because of their quest for the "interesting", they may love Internet, read entire encyclopedias, or incessantly question adults about real world, & so learn a little bit about everything. They may not hit ceiling scores on conceptual knowledge IQ subtests because omnivorous approach to figuring out world around them...New is the Thing: HCTs prefer novelty (this is how they develop new conceptual categories) & are tickled by unconventional viewpoints or discoveries...Big Picture, Not Little Details: HCTs don't always transition well to "precision years" of late elementary, middle school, or beyond...Boredom is Death:...these kids rebel against what they see as boredom. Boredom may really seem like death to young HCTs. If young HCTs seem "driven by a motor", it's intellectual restlessness and it can be a blessing as well as a burden. Not surprisingly, these kids often find classroom learning unsatisfying."
highconceptualthinkers  generalists  bigpicture  cv  teaching  learning  gifted  omnivorouslearners  internet  encyclopedias  curiosity  novelty  unconventionl  details  tcsnmy 
march 2010 by robertogreco
Stock and flow « Snarkmarket
"Flow is the feed. It’s the posts and the tweets. It’s the stream of daily and sub-daily updates that remind peo­ple that you exist. Stock is the durable stuff. It’s the con­tent you pro­duce that’s as inter­est­ing in two months (or two years) as it is today. It’s what peo­ple dis­cover via search. It’s what spreads slowly but surely, build­ing fans over time. I feel like flow is ascen­dant these days, for obvi­ous reasons—but we neglect stock at our own peril. I mean that both in terms of the health of an audi­ence &, like, the health of a soul. Flow is a tread­mill, & you can’t spend all of your time run­ning on the tread­mill. Well, you can. But then one day you’ll get off & look around and go: Oh man. I’ve got noth­ing here...& the real magic trick in 2010 is to put them both together. To keep the ball bounc­ing with your flow—to main­tain that open chan­nel of communication—while you work on some kick-ass stock in the back­ground. Sac­ri­fice nei­ther. It’s the hybrid strategy."
robinsloan  stockandflow  productivity  economics  media  creativity  ideas  stock  flow  attention  blogging  twitter  business  social  blogs  marketing  philosophy  online  web  writing  design  journalism  socialmedia  content  life  balance  bigpicture  details 
january 2010 by robertogreco

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