Since Susan began this week of recommendations, she asked if she could finish it with a few more, and of course I said yes. (Although I hope by now everyone realizes they are welcome to make a recommendation here anytime—I love it.) So, without further adieu, Susan recommends those of you out there who are confident with your English grammar skills sharpen your red pencils and try your hand at NYT’s After Deadline quiz. (Even if you don’t take the quiz, the comments are both useful and priceless.) Answers here, but don’t cheat! She also recommends you urbanists and architecture lovers have a peek at Chad Smith’s excellent blog Tropolism.com. And for those of you who fancy a very—ahem!—specific bit of architecture, Susan recommends the highly erotic blog Stair Porn, which is most decidedly NSFW (if you work in a walk-up). And while we’re on the subject of porn, I’ll end this week of recommendations with one of my own: Hugo Lindgren’s recent New York Magazine article on Pessimism Porn, which had me laughing and crying at the same time earlier this week.


The nine categories of magical effects, according to Wikipedia: production, vanishing, transformation, restoration, teleportation, levitation, penetration, prediction, and escape.


Ten great things from Rad Mountain’s Design Remixed talk last night: 1) Peter Max’s Paper Airplane Book; 2) the illustrations of Dick Bruna; 3) This Is Cape Canaveral and 4) its illustrator Miroslav Sasek; 5) the mid-’70s British animation series The Flumps and how it inspired 6) Garrett Morin’s Good Magazine video collaboration Mr. Trash with help from 7) Golden Lucky animation studio; 8) the band Tokyo Police Club; 9) the illustration magazine Fasthetic; 10) the How and Why Wonder Books series, and in particular the book about “sound.” Thanks for the inspiration, guys!


I’m so excited to have the opportunity to be in DC for the Obama Inauguration next Tuesday. As the big day draws near, I was re-reading this excellent post from London’s The School of Life on Obama’s roots as a Chicago community organizer. Community organizing as we know it now was also the brainchild of a Chicagoan, a man named Saul Alinsky who developed his approach while trying to defeat the influence of organized crime in Chicago’s Back of the Yards neighborhood in the 1940s. In 1971 Alinsky wrote a primer on community organizing called Rules for Radicals. The rules, slightly abridged, follow: “1) Always work inside the experience of your people. 2) Wherever possible go outside the experience of your opponents. 3) Power is not only what you have but what your opponent thinks you have. 4) Ridicule is our most potent weapon. 5) Keep the Pressure On. 6) The Price of a successful attack is a constructive alternative. 7) Pick the target, freeze it, personalise it and polarise it. 8) The Action Is In The Reaction.”

13 ways

The Table of Contents of Jane Smiley’s 13 Ways of Looking at a Novel:

  1. Introduction
  2. What is a novel?
  3. Who is a novelist?
  4. The origins of the novel
  5. The psychology of the novel
  6. Morality and the novel
  7. The art of the novel
  8. The novel and history
  9. The circle of the novel
  10. A novel of your own (I)
  11. A novel of your own (II)
  12. Good faith: a case history
  13. Reading a hundred novels.

A good list, possibly a nominee for Design Observer’s next book of Contents? Speaking of Design Observer and “13 ways,” see Michael Bierut’s post on “13 Ways of Looking at a Typeface,” from 2007.

We get this little formula, of course, from Wallace Stevens’s haunting poem "13 Ways of Looking at a Blackbird," where the specifically 13 ways of looking, an unlucky number, create a sense of unease as ominous as the sight of the blackbird itself. When you Google “13 ways,” Stevens’s poem is still the first result. Bierut’s post is close behind. Also there is an article titled "13 Ways to Promote Your Next Blog Post." Number 8 on that list is “Follow-up posts.” Maybe I should do a follow-up post that lists all the different 13 ways we have of looking at something?

Update: Mark Larson is already off to a good start.


Animator and director Chuck Jones’s rules for writing Road Runner cartoons: 1) Road Runner cannot harm the Coyote except by going “beep, beep.” 2) No outside force can harm the Coyote—only his own ineptitude or the failure of Acme products. 3) The Coyote could stop anytime—if he was not a fanatic. (Repeat: “A fanatic is one who redoubles his effort when he has forgotten his aim.” —George Santayana) 4) No dialogue ever, except “beep, beep.” 5) Road Runner must stay on the road—for no other reason than that he’s a roadrunner. 6) All action must be confined to the natural environment of the two characters—the southwest American desert. 7) All tools, weapons, or mechanical conveniences must be obtained from the Acme Corporation. 8) Whenever possible, make gravity the Coyote’s greatest enemy. 9) The Coyote is always more humiliated than harmed by his failures. 10) The audience’s sympathy must remain with the Coyote. (Via Charles Miller via Daring Fireball)


Oh, Wikipedia, you’ve outdone yourself yet again with this list of eponymous laws. Includes everything from the famous Moore’s Law to the lesser-known Goodhart’s Law, which states rather poetically: “When a measure becomes a target, it ceases to be a good measure.”


I was recently reminded of this stellar article by David Robbins for Artforum in 2004 entitled "Concrete Comedy: A Primer." It’s pretty much all quotable but here’s a taste: “By 1920 or so, then, the two foundations of concrete comedy have been established. From the comedian Karl Valentin we get the idea of an invented, theatricalized context. Objects and gestures of the Valentinian persuasion stand on their own merits as comedy and infer their own comedic context. Artifacts created and gestures enacted by figures such as Jack Benny, Robert Benchley, the Ramones, Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters, David Letterman and Jeffrey Vallance are appropriately placed in this category. Of equal weight, import, and value are comic actions that explicitly recognize, engage, or activate context, including the art context. Use of context as a material is a possibility derived from the example of Marcel Duchamp. The comedic output of Marcel Broodthaers, Andy Kaufman, Maurizio Cattelan, and others fall into this category.” Any list that mixes Jack Benny and Andy Kaufman with Duchamp and Broodthaers is unquestionably onto something.


37signals has a great write-up on some of their early projects and experiments. The most intriguing to me is 37express, which “offered quick, effective, subtle revisions done for a fixed price in one week. It was our way of getting work done quickly without having to deal with all the back and forth headaches that typically accompany client work.” To me, you could build an entire studio practice around this idea. I love the notion of framing projects so that they’re fast, cheap, and fun. Designers have more impact over a shorter period of time, and clients get a few simple ideas on how to make some dramatic impovements to their existing design solutions.


Five types of businesses, according to Pine & Gilmore’s book The Experience Economy: “1) A commodity business charges for undifferentiated products. 2) A goods business charges for distinctive, tangible things. 3) A service business charges for the activities you perform. 4) An experience business charges for the feeling customers get by engaging it. 5) A transformation business charges for the benefit customers (or ‘guests’) receive by spending time there.” The more you move up the chain, the more stuff you might have to give away to get to the next stage. There’s a succinct review here.