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May 1999

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  past petermemes  

June 8, 1999
So, I've been researching new media companies here in London, and turned up a few tasty links.
Clever - go to the Flash site, and dig that tasty navigation!
Arehaus - these folks seem very very smart. 
Mediumrare - I know I've pointed to them before, but I just adore that pull-down sentence construction navigation. Find out their coffee likes. 

June 7, 1999
Bibliomania. Spurred by looking for texts on themeparks, I bought a few books this weekend (most of them at the best bookstore in SF, Green Apple).

These first three I bought because I was told to (I pretty much do anything I'm told):
The Death and Life of Great American Cities, Jane Jacobs. Looks to be a fascinating discussion on urban life.
Art Objects (hardcover), Jeanette Winterson. After posting the May 17th petermeme about art vandalism, a couple folks pointed me to this book in hopes I better understand the importance of preserving art. We'll see. 
Foucault's Pendulum, Umberto Eco

It's my job, you know?
The Inmates are Running the Asylum, Alan Cooper. I feel obliged to read this, as it's a popular book about my particular field. I'm hoping it lacks the overbearing arrogance of About Face.
The Invisible Computer, Donald Norman. Because, you know, it's *Don*. 
Information Graphics: Innovative Solutions in Contemporary Design, Peter Wildbur and Michael Burke. A richly designed book showing full-color examples from transit systems to interfaces. 

Because I love smart talk about movies
Who The Devil Made It, Peter Bogdanovich. Interviews with some great directors.
Film Form, Sergei Eisenstein. I'm currently (well, continually) obsessed with the forms of media. I'm surprised it's taken so long to get this classic.

Architecture fascinates me more and more
Blueprints for Modern Living: History and Legacy of the Case Study Houses, Elizabeth A. T. Smith, editor. Back in print, this is a textured, large-format book discussing the famous Los Angeles Case Study Houses project, wherein noted architects built exemplary homes around the city. 
Iconography and Electronics upon a Generic Architecture: A View from the Drafting Room, Robert Venturi. Lots of bite-size thought nuggets on architecture, wonderful for short-attention-span people such as myself.
Charles and Ray Eames: Designers of the 20th Century, Pat Kirkham. Because it's the Eames. And because it's an MIT Press book. (I so unabashedly love the MIT Press.)

Richard Feynman: A Life in Science, John Gribbin and Mary Gribbin. I've read so many books about the man (The Illustrated Feynman is definitely worth reading), but still don't quite appreciate his contributions to physics. This book should change that. 
Longitude, Dava Sobel. An interesting topic (the race to develop an accurate chronometer), but I think it's the attractively compact book design that sucked me in. 

There's more to life than facts
The Sot-Weed Factor, John Barth. It received a passionately glowing review as a sidebar in this dispatch from Slate. And I found an old mass market paperback at a used bookstore, and it only cost $.63. For over 800 pages! That's literary value!
The Elephant Vanishes, Haruki Murakami. He had a hauntingly lyrical short story in The New Yorker a few months back, and I also treasured the awkwardly titled Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World (a name which for me is reminscent of Lola Versus Powerman and the Moneygoround.)
Will Eisner Color Treasury, Will Eisner. While I continue to grow more fascinating with the form, I have trouble finding any actual comics that look worth reading. Will Eisner's The Spirit is a welcome exception.

London Town (obvious reasons)
Access London, Richard Saul Wurman. I love the Access Guides. How come no other travel books are so smart?
The Rough Guide London, Rob Humphreys. It was hard to choose which other guidebook I'd get--Let's Go? Lonely Planet? Frommer's, Fodors, etc. etc.? I favored this one for the sheer wealth of information.
London AZ. Widely considered the must-have map of the city. 

Last but not least
The Control of Nature, John McPhee. Because you should read everything he writes. He's one of those magic authors who finds the story in any situation.

Funny thing is, I never did find those theme park books. 

Yesterday I biked all the way out to one of my favorite SF places, the Musee Mecanique (shame there doesn't seem to be a good Web page about the place), where I was sucked into Star Wars. I think I want to own that coin-op.

June 6, 1999
An alert reader has notified me that Fast, Cheap, and Out of Control is playing on PBS stations across the country on Monday, June 7, at 9pm. (Of course, check local listings.)

June 4, 1999
I suppose I'm getting a bit Anglo-centric on these pages, but, why have I never seen the Gilbert and George site before? I adore their work, though the Web doesn't do justice to the SIZE and power of their imagery. I'm grateful for the publishing of their manifesto, WHAT OUR ART MEANS. I love that all the links are BOLD ALL CAPS GRAPHICS.

Poke around this online portfolio of a student enrolled in the highly-esteemed (and rightly so) Royal College of Art's Computer-Related Design program. Her thoughts and design for a Cyber Seder are quite intriguing (and have tasty links to follow). 

June 3, 1999
The first and most complete attempt I've seen to construct a pattern language for human-computer interaction. Definitely still a work in progress, it suffers from, well, defining patterns in what is still a terribly nascent field. Guidelines so early in the development of a discipline can be stultifying. Not that I mean to be discouraging--I applaud this attempt, as a formalism to this field will help. 

Theme parks are possibly the apotheosis of design--when done well, the visitor's experience is very tightly directed, though she feels such free will. I've been meaning to study their creation further. 

June 2, 1999
Wander with me on a little thought journey. I'm reading Zone 1|2 (out of print, but there are other books in this amazing series), where Italian Futurist Umberto Boccioni's Technical Manifesto of Futurist Sculpture is thusly quoted:

...areas between one object and another are not empty spaces but rather continuing materials of differing intensities, which we reveal with visible lines which do not correspond to any photographic truth. This is why we do not have in our paintings objects and empty spaces, but on a greater or lesser intensity and solidity of space.

This got me thinking about comics (this happens often, now that I've pored over Understanding Comics multiple times).
See, in the real world there are simply continual materials of differing intensities, but we're able to distinguish objects as we move through that world. A recent study shows that the timing of visual changes is a key element (if not the key element) in how we order things perceptually. (If that tickles you, head to the source.) 
These visual changes lead to objectizing. (Sorry for making up that word, but it works for me.) Two-dimensional representations such as photographs and paintings offer no visual changes, so the viewer must exert extra effort to properly objectize the elements in a scene. 
Except in comics. Forced by its typically low-resolution nature to depict only that which is truly essential to transmit ideas, comics uses those "visible" lines to objectize elements in a panel, mimicking those visual changes. This creates a third dimension, inviting us into the panel to better "see" the world. 
(This line of thought adds to Scott's premise of how "amplification through simplification" encourages heightened reader interaction in order to fill-in the details. I'm suggesting that it's not only a matter of the reader's mind fleshing out what is in the panel, but additionally having the panel envelop the reader. I'm going to stop now, because I just got that A-ha video for "Take On Me" stuck in my head.)
If you made it this far, please let me know what you think.

Modern Living is a biweekly source of delightfully surreal animations and interactions. 

Whoo-eee! An amazing collection of resources around the subject of architecture. Check out the "research" and "links" areas. This site will distract me for many hours, I fear.

June 1, 1999 (Happy Birthday, Mom!)
In wandering after that overused prefix "meta-", Sarah Townsend has pieced together an exquisite essay on writing and online community.

Clay Shirky is a very smart man who writes very smart things about the Internet (which is why he's a perfesser of "New Media" at Hunter College). Ignore his very smart thoughts at your peril.

On Blogs:

- Tara Calishain in email to me

Tara Calishain is a blogging fiend. One isn't enough! She's maintains a general interest blog (with geek leanings towards tech stuff), an internet research blog (with some amazing pointers for information hounds such as myself), and, because idle hands are the devil's playground (or something), a book publishing and commerce blog. Oof.

For reasons I cannot explain nor even begin to fathom, I am Crackbaby's inaugural Geek Boy of The Week.

And if you haven't been to Camworld lately, go. He's been turning up some amazing interface design links.