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robertogreco : sx-70   3

Tupperwolf - Lichen names
"Yesterday I happened across that Eames promotion for the SX-70 for the first time. It reminded me, among many things, of an old friend, now dead – Bob Rodieck.

My high school was my mother (a qualified teacher), our neighbor R., and me. One of the classes was to make a book on our island’s natural history. When we were planning it, we visited Bob on an extremely gray spring day to talk about desktop publishing, because he’d been talking about how he was writing a book himself. (I may have the timeline slightly wrong here. Please consider this an As I Remember It story.)

We explained what we wanted to do. Bob, who was a freshly emeritus professor, scratched his stubble and leaned forward, then leaned back. He asked if we knew the difference between vector and raster graphics. I started explaining how they’re actually fairly isomorphic, since pixels can be represented as squares and, conversely, control points are in a discrete space, and from then on we were friends. It was Bob who turned me on to Tufte, and I turned him on to Bringhurst.

The natural history book was a well chosen project. We interviewed a lot of the oldest and most eccentric people on the island. They had records, written or in memory, about when flowers used to bloom, where the clams used to live before they were depleted, how many eagles used to nest on the point, how the old Samish woman had treated leather, when the last puffin was seen, what time of year the beaver showed up, and so on. There was the mystery of the flying squirrel.

We got a lot of very guarded mushroom knowledge from Dorothy H., who was in her eighties and roughly three times as vigorous and alert as I was. It’s really hard to come by good mushroom knowledge, because the people careful enough to understand mushrooms tend to be careful about risking other people on possibly poisonous food. Dorothy played her cards close to her chest.

Bob eventually finished his book, which was called The First Steps in Seeing. It was very well received, but as far as I can tell never sold well – Amazon has only four reviews, though they’re all five-star. I think it’s because he wasn’t around to promote it. He’d told me this wonderful story about graphic design and experimental design once: He went to get a check-up. He was given a form to fill out that included dietary habits. He said that he was about to check “1 serving of green vegetables/day” when he noticed that the checkbox itself was red! He figured that, being of northern European stock, he was adapted to fewer greens, and checked the first box that wasn’t red, 3 servings, and called it good. Not long after finishing the book, he was diagnosed with gut cancer.

Towards the end, he was on the island resting when he started having an unusual type of trouble moving his eyes. He said it was clearly a certain potassium channel failing, and it was time to go back to Seattle and die.

I think that, had he been around to promote it and put out a second edition, his book would be a classic now. It’s in the details and how they’re subordinated to the big-picture view. He drew all the illustrations himself. He chose the spot colors. He thought very hard about what path through the material he could provide that would be easiest for the beginner but pass the best trailheads for those who went further. He threw a lot of textbook conventions out the window and never missed them. He gave a crap but didn’t give a fuck.

Dorothy’s reluctance to tell us which mushrooms we could eat drove us to the classic texts, David Arora’s books. We could use him as a lever on her – “Arora says …; is that really true?”. In other fields we found other guidebooks: Pojar & MacKinnon on plants, Love’s Probably More Than You Want to Know About the Fishes of the Pacific Coast.

If you don’t spend a lot of time with natural history guidebooks, you might not know that the best ones have voice – authorial voice. It’s necessary, I think, to make a book that’s basically a huge list of details interesting enough to pay attention to. And I suspect you’re unlikely to excell in mycology, botany, or marine biology unless you have a sense of perspective. If you are humorless, it’s a lot easier to be a businessperson than to spend three weeks in a tent, looking at little tufts of fungus–alga symbionts.

It’s the big picture and the little picture. It’s Philip Morrison’s speech at the end of that Polaroid film. It’s the SX-70 letting you be more inside experience, less concerned with problems of representation, in something more than a tree or a net. It’s an idea of technology that seems a little dangerous and very good to me. It reminds me of Twitter a little. Lately there I appreciated a map of surf conditions from Bob’s son, and reconnected with my fellow student R.’s cousin."
charlieloyd  highschool  projects  projectbasedlearning  pbl  naturalhistory  lichen  names  naming  2013  memory  learning  education  books  writing  teaching  sx-70  philipmorrison  polaroid  mushrooms  bobrodieck  unschooling  deschooling  sight  seeing  memories  imaging  photography  publishing  promotion  fun  play  words  wordplay  design  davidarora  trevorgoward  brucemccune  delmeidinger  science  interestedness  interestingness  interested 
march 2013 by robertogreco
Polaroid’s SX-70: The Art and Science of the Nearly Impossible
"We could not have known and have only just learned–perhaps mostly from children from two to five–that a new kind of relationship between people in groups is brought into being by SX-70 when the members of a group are photographing and being photographed and sharing the photographs: it turns out that buried within all of us–God knows beneath how many pregenital and Freudian and Calvinistic strata–there is latent interest in each other; there is tenderness, curiosity, excitement, affection, companionability and humor; it turns out that in this cold world where man grows distant from man, and even lovers can reach each other only briefly, that we have a yen for and a primordial competence for a quiet good-humored delight in each other: we have a prehistoric tribal competence for a non-physical, non-emotional, non-sexual satisfaction in being partners in the lonely exploration of a once empty planet."
design  technology  art  history  science  polaroid  harrymccracken  edwinland  steevejobs  apple  photography  gadgets  entrepreneurship  tinkering  invention  sx-70  relationships  people  anseladams  normanlocks  andywarhol  OneStep  kodak  consumerelectronics  electronics  instantphotography  cameras  granthamilton  2011  children  companionship 
july 2011 by robertogreco

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