What do architects do for fun?

Apparently they design miniature golf holes for Washington’s National Building Museum.

One of the design concepts for a mini-golf hole at the National Building Museum. Don’t let them loose on Augusta!


From the exhibit web site:

The Museum invited firms and individuals to sponsor, design, and construct a hole with a building-related theme inspired by an actual building, bridge, landscape, or monument—or a completely fanciful one.

The following organizations and individuals answered the call, and their ingenuity will be on display all summer. Many have teamed up with other building industry professionals to make their hole as dynamic as possible. To stir the team’s competitive juices, the Museum will present a Best in Show award determined by a jury of design experts, and players will vote for People’s Choice.

Pictures to come after my championship round later this summer.


Poetic words: Frank O’Hara as a Real Estate Agent

These lines of Frank O’Hara keep coming back to me as we hunt for a new place:

“I can’t even enjoy a blade of grass unless I know there’s a subway handy, or a record store or some other sign that people do not totally regret life.”

One of my old haunts: Penn. Avenue in Washington’s Capitol Hill neighborhood. The bookstore and the record store are closed.

Me too. My word problem for the perfect apartment involves drawing a polygon with points joining a public  library, a coffee shop, a movie theater, subway stop, and a place to go on a long walk. Fill in the area, and put a dot more or less in equidistant from all the points. That’s where we want to live. The rub is, for city people at least, that’s where we all want to live, and the premium is high.

Walk Score does a version of this (although its algorithms are a little shaky). But there’s something missing, that sense of how you feel about a neighborhood as you leave or come back to your place. As an architect friend of mine points out, this is perhaps the most important ingredient, and one, unlike the inside of your home, that you have very little influence over.

Link Mania

For any digital producers out there: herewith a list of sources that can help you keep up with the mad pace of change. Culled from a LinkedIn discussion and other sources.

Blurbs are from their “about” paragraphs. Links valid as of 7/25/2012.

  • http://5by5.tv/ “5by5 is an Internet broadcasting network, home to shows like The Talk Show, Back to Work, The Big Web Show, The Pipeline, and more, with hosts including Dan Benjamin, John Gruber, Merlin Mann, and Jeffrey Zeldman.”
  • http://5by5.tv/webahead ” weekly podcast about changing technologies and the future of the web, discussing HTML5, mobile, responsive design, iOS, Android, and more.”
  • http://allthingsd.com/ “AllThingsD.com is a Web site devoted to news, analysis and opinion on technology, the Internet and media. But it is different from other sites in this space. It is a fusion of different media styles, different topics, different formats and different sources. (owned by Dow Jones/Wall Street Journal.)
  • http://arstechnica.com/ “A trusted source for technology news, tech policy analysis, breakdowns of the latest scientific advancements, gadget reviews, software, hardware, and nearly everything else found in between layers of silicon.”
  • http://bits.blogs.nytimes.com/ NYTimes: “The Business of Technology”
  • http://daringfireball.net/“Daring Fireball is written and produced by John Gruber.”
  • http://digitaldoughnut.com/ “Connected Intelligence: Digital Doughnut has been created by digital marketers for digital marketers.”
  • http://mashable.com/ “Mashable is the largest independent news source dedicated to covering digital culture, social media and technology.”
  • http://nerdrepublic.co.uk “A weekly newsletter from a group of like-minded uber-nerds who share a passion for digital – condensing everything worthy of your eyeballs from across the interwebs into one, neat, weekly email. Expect lashings of gaming, tech wizardy, obscure virals and the occasional fanboy music video.”
  • http://teamtreehouse.com/ “Our goal is to teach Web Design, Web Development and iOS, to everyone in the World who wants to learn. ”
  • http://www.alistapart.com/ “A List Apart Magazine (ISSN: 1534-0295) explores the design, development, and meaning of web content, with a special focus on web standards and best practices.”
  • http://www.codecademy.com “… a better, more interactive way to learn programming by actually coding.”
  • http://www.cynopsis.com/editions/digital/ “The goal of Cynopsis: Digital is to help readers stay up-to-date with the rapidly ever-changing Digital Platform. Television is reinventing itself to satisfy Consumer demand of their favorite content to be available on a variety of platforms, in a variety of formats. “
  • http://www.digitalbuzzblog.com/ “Featuring the latest digital ad campaigns, hot new websites, interactive marketing ideas, virals, industry news, social media, insights, and other great digital trends from all over the world.”
  • http://www.fastcodesign.com/ “Our focus is on highlighting the world’s best examples of design and innovation, working in concert. We started this site with a few simple premises in mind. First, design is a window onto the world at large, and the culture we live in.”
  • http://www.gizmodo.com.au/ “Gizmodo loves technology. A lot. We’re obsessed with the gadgets, science and geek culture that change the way we live, work, love, eat, play, think and feel.”
  • http://www.lynda.com/“lynda.com helps anyone learn software, creative, and business skills to achieve personal and professional goals.”
  • http://www.mediapost.com/publications/MediaPost Communications is an integrated publishing and content company whose mission is to provide a complete array of resources for media, marketing and advertising professionals.
  • http://www.netmagazine.com/ “.net is the world’s best-selling magazine for web designers and developers”
  • http://www.smartbrief.com/news/iab/(Interactive Advertising Bureau) “The premise behind SmartBrief is simple: there’s too much information out there and too little time in the day to read it all. Our editors hand-pick the most relevant and important news from all over, summarize it, link to the original sources and deliver it.” (Service covers multiple industries, including other tech topics.)

Movie Map: Hang a Left at The Mummy’s Tomb

The British Designers We Are Dorothy have created a map of the movies. Cute idea. You can zoom in (but not print) at http://www.fastcodesign.com/1670348/infographic-a-street-map-of-famous-places-in-the-movies and can order it on We Are Dorothy’s site, where they describe it:

A street map made up of over 900 film titles including cinema classics such as Lost Highway, On the Waterfront, Jurassic Park, Reservoir Dogs, Carlito’s Way, Nightmare on Elm Street, Valley of the Dolls and Chinatown.

The Map, which is loosely based on the style of a vintage Los Angeles street map has its own Hollywood Boulevard and includes districts dedicated to Hitchcock and Cult British Horror movies. Like most cities it also has its own Red Light area. There’s an A-Z key at the base of the Map listing all the films featured with their release dates and names of the directors.

They’ve got a sense of humor, among other things putting “Grindhouse” at the end of “Howards End.” But what the hell is “The Mole Man of Belmont Ave?”

Career Advice Courtesy of Johnny Bunko

Daniel Pink (he of the remarkable RSA video on motivation) has written a manga career guide with art by Rob Ten Pas, and it’s very good. The protagonist, Johnny Bunko, is a creative type stuck in an accounting job he’s terrible at. Enter magic chopsticks and a kind of tough love career genie (to be played by Angelina Jolie in the film I bet). Johnny gets six work and life lessons. Good advice, engagingly delivered:

  1. There is no plan.
  2. Think strengths, not weaknesses.
  3. It’s not about you.
  4. Persistence trumps talent.
  5. Make excellent mistakes.
  6. Leave an imprint.

#5, an echo of Samuel Beckett’s line,

“Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better.”

Unreasonable Words: Corporate Gobbledygook

At the risk of shooting fish in a barrel, I provide this company blurb found at the bottom of a job listing:

“… is an Emmy-nominated media company driving the creative revolution in interactive television through solutions that break through the “fourth wall” to engage audiences, extend subscriber loyalty, and deliver census-level measurement and reporting. The company’s EBIF solutions include the Ad Widgets® end-to-end advertising system and TV Widgets® applications both of which drive viewer engagement and convenience. The AdAim™ Audience Measurement Suite offers census-level measurement of television audience activities and innovative metrics and analytics. … is a leading provider of EBIF technology platforms for Cisco, Motorola, and tru2way set-top boxes and the cloud-based AirCommand™ gateway that connects external devices to digital cable set-top boxes. … products and technology are distributed through partnerships with Comcast Media Center, Time Warner Cable, Charter Communications, Bright House Networks, Rovi, Motorola Mobility, DISH Network, and several smaller operators. …

I assume it’s akin to a “dog whistle,” that is, people who need to know what it means can parse it. And, god knows, I have contributed a lot of organizational double speak in “corporate communications” I’ve “written,” but this bit is pretty incomprehensible to a tech civilian (even one who is a digital producer) and the bits I do understand are a little unsettling. I don’t really want my media to reach out of the device, break the fourth wall, and have a beer with me (while quietly passing all my data to Time Warner).

Great fodder for http://www.wordle.net/, though.

A Poet’s Prose: Adam Zagajewski

Coming across many nice bits as I read Another Beauty, a memoir by the Polish poet Adam Zagajewski. Like the language of his poems, the prose is full of lightly brushed depths. It resonates with me, a would-be philosophy major, as much of it is about his serious study of philosophy in Krakow.

Passages I copied out:

“Twenty-year-old students talking poetry and philosophy until dawn, sitting in a cheap café in Krakow or Paris: who can match their ardor, who can defend or indict all writers, living and dead, with greater passion? No one better honors the works of the human spirit than students sitting for hours in the smoke-filled rooms of little restaurants, students caught up in conversations. ”

“Anyone who writes, or tries to write, and plans his day around the thought of the task that awaits him, has to grapple with two basic problems: (1) how to get up in the morning, and (2) (if he manages to the first) how to get sleep at night. ”

Reasonable Words: How to Respond to a Bad Review

Oscar Wilde has it down. Here’s his reply to a newspaper that ran a scathing review of one of his plays, in which the writer flunked the first rule of fact-checking, get the playwright’s name right. From Letters of Note:

16 Tite Street

February, 1892


John is an admirable name. It was the name of the most charming of all the Disciples, the one who did not write the Fourth Gospel. It was the name of the most perfect of all the English poets of this century, as it was the greatest English poet of all the centuries. Popes and princes, wicked or wonderful, have been called John. John has been the name of several eminent journalists and criminals. But John is not amongst the many delightful names (they included, besides Oscar, Fingal O’Flahertie Wills) given to me at my baptism. So kindly let me correct the statement made by your reckless dramatic critic in his last and unavailing attack on my play.

The attempt he makes to falsify one of the most important facts in the history of the arts must be checked at once.

Oscar Wilde

Unreasonable Words: What Results When Handel Meets Mad Men? An “Uncontrollable Gush”

20120721-175857.jpgLetters of Note (via the Sydney Morning Herald) dug up the writing tips of David Ogilvy (above), the advertising mastermind behind Ogilvy and Mather. It only takes a small adjustment of the vertical hold to apply these insights to other kinds of writing, particularly item 9.

Personally, I have never used booze and Handel to make it through a writing project, but do confess to exploiting the rousing character of the “Tannhäuser” Overture or Pilgrims’ Chorus to make it through the last push on a grad school paper now and then.

Perhaps some empirical research on which period of music (or individual piece for that matter) correlates to word count is in order? Do you have anything you put on to get the writerly juices flowing or sprint to a deadline?

April 19, 1955

Dear Mr Calt:

On March 22nd you wrote to me asking for some notes on my work habits as a copywriter. They are appalling, as you are about to see:
1. I have never written an advertisement in the office. Too many interruptions. I do all my writing at home.
2. I spend a long time studying the precedents. I look at every advertisement which has appeared for competing products during the past 20 years.
3. I am helpless without research material—and the more “motivational” the better.
4. I write out a definition of the problem and a statement of the purpose which I wish the campaign to achieve. Then I go no further until the statement and its principles have been accepted by the client.
5. Before actually writing the copy, I write down every conceivable fact and selling idea. Then I get them organised and relate them to research and the copy platform.
6. Then I write the headline. As a matter of fact I try to write 20 alternative headlines for every advertisement. And I never select the final headline without asking the opinion of other people in the agency. In some cases I seek the help of the research department and get them to do a split-run on a battery of headlines.
7. At this point I can no longer postpone the actual copy. So I go home and sit down at my desk. I find myself entirely without ideas. I get bad-tempered. If my wife comes into the room I growl at her. (This has gotten worse since I gave up smoking.)
8. I am terrified of producing a lousy advertisement. This causes me to throw away the first 20 attempts.
9. If all else fails, I drink half a bottle of rum and play a Handel oratorio on the gramophone. This generally produces an uncontrollable gush of copy.
10. The next morning I get up early and edit the gush.
11. Then I take the train to New York and my secretary types a draft. (I cannot type, which is very inconvenient.)
12. I am a lousy copywriter, but I am a good editor. So I go to work editing my own draft. After four or five editings, it looks good enough to show to the client. If the client changes the copy, I get angry – because I took a lot of trouble writing it, and what I wrote I wrote on purpose.
Altogether it is a slow and laborious business. I understand that some copywriters have much greater facility.
Yours sincerely,