Archived entries for

How to Make Friends by Telephone

1940s phone etiquette booklet

How To Be a Retronaut features a 1940s-era manual on telephone etiquette produced by Bell Telephone. Reminds me of those “Using Social Media to Market Your Business” guides I keep seeing.

Descent IV

Descent iv

(larger at flickr)

Amazon Recommendation Networks

amazon recommendation networks

Christopher Warren created a program for visualizing Amazon recommendation networks (Windows/Mac/Linux). Jill Walker Rettberg points out that it’s an excellent guide for deciding what to read next in an area.

[via jill/txt]

xkcd on kerning

The Aesthetics of URLs

The Wall Street Journal stands firm against the tendency toward simple, readable URLs. Here’s an example, the URL to an article on the apparent Japanese obsession for appropriating, transforming, and then perfecting products from other locations (bomber jackets, sweatshirts, espresso):

It’s not just an article issue, though. Here’s how WSJ handles sections, in this case US Business News:

For comparison, here’s the URL to a post from my weblog, a picture of a creek near Fort Jackson, NY titled, unsurprisingly, “creek, fort jackson“:

And here’s a link to articles tagged “design“:

I guess it’s arguable whether URLs need to make sense to users. I think there’s not a good argument for not making them cleaner and simpler given that the process of creating them can be automated. Maybe that’s just me.

Postmodernism, DeLillo, & the Trance State

In “A Different Kind of Delirium” at the NY Review of Books, Charles Baxter has an interesting analysis of subjects struggling to come to grips with their relationship to reality in the works of Don DeLillo.

Increasingly, DeLillo has turned his attention in his recent books to trance states that have little or no actual content but for that very reason have become central to the story. In his most recent novel, Point Omega (2010), the main character finds himself at MoMA viewing Douglas Gordon’s 24 Hour Psycho. Hitchcock’s film, slowed down to near immobility, startles the correct sort of amateur semiotician into a dazed disquiet:

In the time it took for Anthony Perkins to turn his head, there seemed to flow an array of ideas involving science and philosophy and nameless other things, or maybe he was seeing too much. But it was impossible to see too much. The less there was to see, the harder he looked, the more he saw. This was the point. To see what’s here, finally to look and to know you’re looking, to feel time passing, to be alive to what is happening in the smallest registers of motion.

Note that the “array of ideas” isn’t paraphrased. How could it be? If the array could be paraphrased and reduced to verbal units, the trance might be broken; we would enter the fallen world of meaning. To be transfixed in that twilight condition signals the presence of postmodern awe, emptied of its traditional attachments to divinity but with some shreds of religiosity still hanging on. Having retreated into namelessness, the condition correspondingly empties out all thought, resulting in a kind of mystical opacity verging on enlightenment but never arriving there. Enlightenment remains eternally on the other side of the door.

This is akin to Jameson’s “cognitive mapping,” the futile attempt to gain critical distance or to situate the self into some larger, objective reality. That trance state as the user clicks link after link, compulsively/convulsively.

Here are some pictures of unicorns.

[via The Millions]

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