Friends of the Bobst

So I signed up for the “Friends of the Bobst Library” at NYU today.

The guy at the access desk was being as kind as he could, knowing from the start that I wasn’t going to have any of the credentials I’d need to get into the building. But still I asked:

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The conformity of non-uniformity – Our day at the Apple store

“No, I only waited two hours his morning, I really thought it would be much worse, that’s why I fully expected to be back tonight to put in the extra time, and here I am” Shannon said to the orange T-shirted Apple Store concierge Sunday night.

She explained that the blue T-shirted Apple store sales person had ported some guy from Cincinnati’s phone number into her new 3G iPhone when he set it up that morning. As soon as we got home strange calls started coming in, thats how we knew he was from Cincinnati. What are the chances of being able to actually do something like that? With the 3G rollout, not that rare it seems. 

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Makin’ a commotion…

So what’s this web site all about? Being something of a polymath (and a peripatetic one at that, which causes some difficulties like occasionally meandering into  street lamps or other pedestrians) I’ve had trouble nailing it down.

Some ideas I’ve toyed with…

  • The life of a New York Writer (somebody call J.D. Salinger…)
  • Writing in New York (isn’t that what # 1 is about?)
  • Writing (just re-read Strunk and White: Simplify, simplify…)
  • Strategy secrets I’ve learned (opps… confidentiality agreements in place…)
  • Politics of our times (No, I‘m not a fascist)
  • How China is going to kick our *ss in the next 10 years (maybe just a little fascist)
  • The Irish (or) Italian American Immigrant story (see, a true friend of the working man)
  • The Chelsea Arts scene (till they get run off by increasing rents)
  • Doug’s great adventures (potential feedburner links > 2)
  • Nights of dubious mention (nope, “gota keep ‘em separated…”)
  • Long form essays (everyone in blog land says nobody reads them)
  • Snarky little posts (are you sure you can be that shallow? …sure…)
  • Personal finance for real people ( ! )
  • Lifehacker wana be (or 43 folders, or Tim Ferris, or … grovel, grovel)
  • The horrors of Corporate America (bitter just a bit, humm?)
  • The technology and economics of web 2.0 (*yawn*)
  • Middle aged adolescent gaming (that’s your other site, fool)
  • What do I have to do to get myself invited to TED? (isn’t channeling Ayn Rand enough anymore?)

You can see that it’s hard. What it’s kind of boiling down to is something like “Bill Buckley meets Chelsea Girl” or “McKinsey with an attitude – and a leather jacket” or “The New Yorker without the staff, or Si’s money”

But in blog land, ya gota have a cute little blurb about your site or you’re just nobody so here’s mine…

Dougist.com is makin’ a commotion in the new wired world, writing about business, finance, art, and about being a writer in New York City – our readers are those who didn’t forget that thinking people can read more than 55 words at one time, can still laugh at themselves and others, and are engaged in the new work of the new world.

…yeah, that’ll do for now…

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A journler of mythic proportions

I wrote about the recent revival of interest in Buckminster Fuller stemming in large part from a major show at the Whitney, and about my own small personal discovery about Fuller’s impact on the iconography of our day.

A second, and perhaps more important reflection came as I walked the halls of the Whitney’s fourth floor exhibition space and I spent some time looking at bound volumes of Fuller’s notes.

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In the future there are no right angles!

“You’re right Daddy, in the future there are no right angles,” my daughter said to me the last time we were on vacation.

We were walking through EPCOT in Disney World, the truncated final statement of one of our century’s great creative geniuses, Walt Disney. As we looked around at the AT&T Unisphere (called Spaceship Earth), the faux buttresses of the World Of Energy, and a series of exhibits called the Conunicore, not a single right angle was to be found.

Ovals, curves and triangles were present but the overwhelming level of acuteness was somewhere around 45 degrees, an angle that implies a forward-looking swoop, a race to the future, a break with the past. Even the simple concrete benches, strategically placed to reduce the level of emergency medical care needed by grossly overweight and heat exhausted Americans, defied the natural uprightness of ninety degrees, sloping instead to a rather lounge like attitude suitable for the Jetson’s living room.

I had noticed this many years ago, first in the Magic Kingdom’s Tomorrow Land and then in any number of graphical and architectural invocations of the future such as Expos and movie sets. It seems that many artists picked up on this vocabulary to invoke the future. During one obsessive period I surveyed hundreds of photographs of the 1964 New York Worlds Fair and I confirmed that this 1960’s inspiration for Walt’s EPCOT also had decided that the future of mankind would be devoid of Greco-Roman geometry. One look at the Futurama and you know that squares and cubes are doomed. It was then that I began to make my oh so wise observation out loud that, “In The Future There Are No Right Angles,” to the amazement of otherwise bright people who now, because I was calling it out, were noticing it for the first time.

Only this month did I realize that this clever observation that had made me look brilliant dozens of times was really the resonant echo of the work done by another creative giant, Buckminster Fuller.

Wired magazine once fawned over Bucky, saying that …

Pronounced the “Leonardo da Vinci of our time” by Marshall McLuhan, Fuller invented everything from the geodesic dome to a device that cleaned without soap. … his influence spanned generations and transcended disciplines…

And he made us all think of the future as place of increasing velocity composed of triangular packed tetrahedrons banishing the cube as an unstable remnant of a past age. All Fuller wanted to do, he told Fortune Magazine in 1946, his “simple aim in life, was to remake the world”, and he wasn’t going to do it out of blocks.

At a remarkable show of Fuller’s work currently at the Whitney, and a smaller presentation at the Sebastian + Barquet gallery on 24th Street, you can see the progression of this man’s ideas for an if not perfect, then certainly more perfect future, develop as ninety degrees succumbed to a geometry of his own creation.

Synergetics was the name Fuller gave to his geometry and he used it as the foundation for all his designs. E.J. Applewhite wrote that “for (Fuller), geometry was a laboratory science with the touch and feel of physical models–not rules out of a textbook. He started with models of the closest packing of spheres. From that basic starting point he derived triangles as the most economical relationship between events.”

In the Whitney as I looked at the creations Fuller made for a new future of the world, a world which he first called Spaceship Earth, I saw the foundational echo of my simplistic observation about the cartoonish mimicries of Fuller’s designs.

And just then my cute snarky snip sounded rather hollow. Fuller was attempting to create a future world of harmony and equilibrium, but all I had seen was an absence of right angles.


Recent work about Fuller and the Bucky revival

“Fixing Earth One Dome at a Time” – The New York Times, July 4, 2008

“What We Can Learn from Buckminster Fuller” – Wired, July 2008

“Can Fuller be rehabilitated as a 21st century design hero?” – International Herald Tribune, June 20, 2008

“The Love Song of R. Buckminster Fuller” – The New York Times, June 15, 2008

“A 3-Wheel Dream That Died at Takeoff” – The New York Times, June 15, 2008

“Fuller’s Dymaxion Houses” – New York Magazine, June 15, 2008

“Dymaxion Man: The Visions of Buckminster Fuller” – The New Yorker, June 9, 2008


See also –

The Buckminster Fuller Insiutue

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Copy protection and e-books

David Pogue’s email today continued his discussion of e-books and his struggle between copy protection vs unfettetered access to creative works. The story line is very poignant for him due to the unauthorized release of some of his work. In his email he cited a well reasoned post about copy protection on Future Lab, a strategy web site, and I decided to chime in.

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