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On Divas

Courtesy of Alex Ross, whose blog The Rest Is Noise should be required reading for lovers of the new classical music scene, comes this, from the Metrpolitan Opera’s head of costumes Lesley C. Weston:

“I’ve seen more divalike behavior in Starbucks over soy milk than I’ve seen backstage at the Metropolitan Opera.”

The full article is here.

A Look Back

Excerpted from an article by William A. Fetter entitled “Computer Graphics at Boeing,” Print magazine, November/December 1966:

“My conviction about the possible change in some creative processes brought about by the computer is that speculation in this matter is valuable so long as it is coupled with a conscious effort to shape the technology toward meeting basic human goals—including human creativity. I feel it is not completely a question of what the computer will do to us, but a determination of what we will best have the computer do for us.”

This entire issue of Print (still a relevant design publication today) was dedicated to “The Designer and the Computer.” Here’s the opening line from the editors: “What will the effect of the new computer technology be on graphic design? On the designer himself? On the total design environment?”

Quote of the Week

“The malady of our age is mediocrity.”

I found this several years ago while reading a volume of the collected spiritual writings of Kierkegaard, edited by Charles E. Moore (the line is actually Moore’s).

The thought stands on its own, of course—apart from any spiritual meaning.

“The wood nymph fairies blissfully pranced…”

Speaking of bad writing, it seems the winners of the 2010 Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest have been announced. Named for Edward George Bulwer-Lytton, the man behind “It was a dark and stormy night,” the contest challenges entrants to compose the opening sentence to the worst of all possible novels.

This year’s grand prize winner is Seattle’s Molly Ringle, who penned the following:

For the first month of Ricardo and Felicity’s affair, they greeted one another at every stolen rendezvous with a kiss—a lengthy, ravenous kiss, Ricardo lapping and sucking at Felicity’s mouth as if she were a giant cage-mounted water bottle and he were the world’s thirstiest gerbil.

A brief history of the contest, as well as contributions from winners and runners-up in categories like adventure and purple prose, can be found here.

Summer Reading

I’ve often puzzled over summer reading recommendations, the implicit assumption being that we all have more time to read during June, July, and August. Or that people who normally find fulfillment in So You Think You Can Dance will suddenly turn to Dostoevsky simply because there’s more light in the day.

With that said however, I offer the last word‘s first book recommendation, which just so happens to be a great summer read—if for no other reason than I just finished it, and it’s summer.

It’s Philip K. Dick’s Dr. Bloodmoney, or How We Got Along after the Bomb. It’s a brilliant—and creepy—story of a group of World War III survivors that includes a phocomelus with psychokinetic powers, an eight-year-old girl and her parasitic twin, a talking dog, and a paranoid atomic physicist. Great stuff.

Time for Tattoos?

Some of you will be receiving via mail the latest edition of PROOF! magazine, a biannual publication that, in each issue, focuses on a uniquely creative individual—and also showcases Johnston Printing’s capabilities.

AMD is responsible for subject selection, writing, design, and photo art direction. PROOF! 03 features wonderful images by Chad Ramsey and Jennifer Raudebaugh. If you would like to receive your free copy of this issue, or to sign up for future magazines, visit

Welcome Roundballers!

In a couple of days, Spokane will make its annual sacrifice to the basketball gods—and more than 200,000 players, fans, and volunteers will do their part to ensure Hoopfest’s status as the world’s largest 3-on-3 street basketball tournament.

Not only do I heartily approve of the economic shot in the arm, I also gape at the military-like precision with which the entire downtown area undergoes a remarkable transformation.

Particularly when it comes to handling the, er…load. Perhaps mindful of the Turkish proverb “Nerede çokluk, orada bokluk” (“Where there are people, there is excrement”) Hoopfest organizers have done yeoman’s work in securing what certainly must be the Western hemisphere’s entire inventory of Porta-Potties—and tastefully assembled them to properly serve 40 city blocks.

Yeah, sure, the athletes are great and all that, but this is truly an impressive feat.

A Word of Warning to Aspiring Writers

To those who read the last word and say, “Hey, I can do that”—and  then wonder what’s to stop them from reaping untold riches by putting some words together and selling them on the open market—I point to scientist and scholar Charles Murray.

He’s way smarter than I am, writes way better than I do, and, frankly, he’s a lot better looking. Yet the New York Times pays him only $75 for an 800-word opinion piece.


How to Impress an 18-Year-Old

A week ago, our oldest daughter graduated from high school. The following Sunday, this milestone was celebrated with family, friends, and classmates. It was a beautiful event. The house, yard, and deck were as perfect as we could make them. The weather, food, and invited guests were delightful. We could have stopped right there and be left with all the wonderful memories this rite of passage has to offer. But no, that wasn’t enough for her graphic designer parents. This needed to be a branded event—with the proper messaging, colors, and tchotchkes!

There were the prerequisite and strategically placed streamers and balloons, pictures from birth through her 18th birthday, and various trophies with academic achievements from grade school on up. But we just had to special order and display her future school’s branded materials. And we couldn’t be without those custom-colored M&Ms featuring the guest of honor’s miniature likeness, favorite sayings, and her college’s color scheme.

Even the custom event T-shirts were important. They featured the names of her close-knit circle of friends along with their universities of choice. Fortunately, we considered the demographic (and high GPAs) and opted for the bright lime green shirt color. As it turned out, her high school friends and their parents loved the free giveaway (many could be seen wearing them throughout the evening). This, of course, only goes to prove the value of branding. After all, there really is no better testament to this than hearing an 18-year-old scream, laugh, and nearly cry over a shirt with her name on it.

Deep Thoughts

A few years ago, the journal Philosophy and Literature sponsored the Bad Writing Contest, its aim to celebrate “the most stylistically lamentable passages found in scholarly books and articles published in the last few years.”

The first-place prize in 1998—the fourth and final year of the contest—went to  Judith Butler, a Guggenheim Fellowship-winning professor of rhetoric and comparative literature at the University of California at Berkeley. The following sentence (yes, it’s one sentence) appeared  in “Further Reflections on the Conversations of Our Time,” an article published in the scholarly journal Diacritics:

The move from a structuralist account in which capital is understood to structure social relations in relatively homologous ways to a view of hegemony in which power relations are subject to repetition, convergence, and rearticulation brought the question of temporality into the thinking of structure, and marked a shift from a form of Althusserian theory that takes structural totalities as theoretical objects to one in which the insights into the contingent possibility of structure inaugurate a renewed conception of hegemony as bound up with the contingent sites and strategies of the rearticulation of power.

I was reminded of Ms. Butler’s steaming pile of prose when I came across an observation by British essayist Walter Bagehot. “In the faculty of writing nonsense,” he wrote, “stupidity is no match for genius.”

50 Welcome Signs from 50 States


This is fun. But a word about Oklahoma’s tagline, if I may: Are you frickin’ kidding me??? It has the sickly sweet smell of focus groups and the fingerprints of a taxpayer-funded committee all over it. Bet it cost ’em a pretty penny, too.

Oh, and by the way, Virginia, I’m not exactly feeling welcomed.

From 0 to 768 in 45 Years

Considering the rate at which technology seems to be advancing these days, it’s almost heterodoxical to suggest that it might have always been so: I just learned that when Orville Wright died in 1948, Chuck Yeager had already broken the sound barrier. So in just 45 years, we’d gone from 12 seconds of wobbly, barely controlled  flight just 20 feet off the ground to a jet-powered Bell X-1 hurtling through the air at more than 760 miles an hour.


Words of Wisdom from an Unlikely Source

Last weekend—and, it turns out, for the first time in my life—I read a Sports Illustrated article from beginning to end. Written by Frank Deford, the man GQ called “the world’s greatest sportswriter,” the story is primarily a reminiscence; a look back at five decades in the trenches.

One line in particular struck me. Early in his career, Frank had wondered aloud to SI‘s managing editor, Andre Laguerre, whether writing about sports was really substantial.

“Frankie, it doesn’t matter what you write about,” said Laguerre. “All that matters is how well you write.”

An International Perspective

If you want to be inspired by design—or simply amused by it—check out It’s a great opportunity to visit, and comment on, interesting architecture, furniture, interiors, graphics, and more from around the world.

A Usage Note

So I was reading a news release from a reputable NYSE-listed corporation the other day, and I came across the phrase “was comprised of.” This, much like the use of “reference” as a verb, causes me no end of consternation. (“Comprise” means “to consist of” or “be composed of”; “was comprised of” is therefore redundant.)

Corporate communication is rife with bad writing, due in large part to simple ignorance—not to mention marketing types’ insatiable need to speak in jargon—which, in turn, leads to the unnecessary manipulation of the English language.

I’m all for celebrating the glorious mosaic of our diverse, dynamic, and living language, but c’mon. Change is only good when it’s needed. And you don’t need “of” when you write “comprised.”

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