The Casual Optimist

Books, Design and Culture

Midweek Miscellany


Psycho-Drama — Pat Kirkham reassesses the collaboration between Saul Bass and Alfred Hitchcock for Design Observer:

The entire Bass/Hitchcock collaboration deserves to be better known, partly because of the sheer quality of the work, partly because it offers an interesting case study of the complex interchange between film and design, and partly because of the controversy surrounding Bass’s contribution to what is arguably the most famous scene in U.S. cinema — the shower scene in Psycho. Serious discussion of Bass’s contribution to the shower scene — a fascinating collaboration, from novel and script to musical score — remains problematic, not least because issues of authorship are far from dead in many academic disciplines, design history and film studies included.

Portmanteau — William Gibson’s new collection of non-fiction, Distrust That Particular Flavorreviewed in The New York Times:

Everything he notices seems to be a this grafted onto a that. In these essays, we see a man fascinated by objects and places containing their own contradictions. It makes sense, then, that Gibson’s novels have helped promote several portmanteau words and neologisms, like “cyberspace,” into widespread English use. This is the essence of Gibson-think — anything can be a kind of portmanteau, a glued-­together paradox.

See also: Gibson interviewed in The National Post (who get bonus points for their “Neuromantic” headline) and The Globe and Mail.

And finally…

What You Want, But Not What You Need — An interesting article by Ian Leslie, author of Born Liars, on serendipity:

[T]here is a reason why Amazon is successful and bookshops are closing: in a world of infinite choice, efficiency is hard to resist. The pleasures of the bookshop or the library are easily outgunned by the knowledge that we can order or download a book instantly, or find the information we’re looking for within seconds. Serendipity, on the other hand, is, as Zuckerman says,  “necessarily inefficient”. It is a fragile quality, vulnerable to our desire for convenience and speed. It also requires a kind of planned vagueness. Digital systems don’t do vagueness very well, and our patience with it seems to be fading.

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