The Casual Optimist

Books, Design and Culture

Something for the Weekend


Impressionable Minds — Edward Tenner on Al Capp: A Life to the Contrary and the legacy of the controversial cartoonist, at The Atlantic:

I still think of Fosdick as Capp’s masterpiece, running postmodern-style as a comic strip within a strip and accepted good-naturedly by Chester Gould, creator of its target Dick Tracy, for whom Capp always professed the highest regard. Its greatness exists even if Capp bowed to 1950s social conservatism in marrying Li’l Abner and Daisy Mae (which his emerging rival Charles Shultz called the worst comic-strip decision ever) in 1952. Even Disney didn’t hitch Mickey and Minnie Mouse.

Yet Fosdick, who had been introduced a decade earlier, was a pivotal character, probably the most subversive of authority of any of the comic personalities, but presented with such engaging absurdity that even Dr. Fredric Wertham’s anti-comic crusade could not stop him. As Shumacher and Kitchen say, it was an adult strip—and yet it was one acceptable on a Sunday morning around the family dining table, whatever its effects on impressionable young minds.

Friends Electric — Nicholas Carr, author of The Shallows, on the difference between online and offline experiences:

The reason people struggle with the tension between online experience and offline experience is because there is a tension between online experience and offline experience, and people are smart enough to understand, to feel, that the tension does not evaporate as the online intrudes ever further into the offline. In fact, the growing interpenetration between the two modes of experience—the two states of being—actually ratchets up the tension. We sense a threat in the hegemony of the online because there’s something in the offline that we’re not eager to sacrifice.

And finally…

Who says publishing is full of over-caffeinated alcoholics?Prospero on the future of bookstores:

For a bookstore to remain successful, it must improve “the experience of buying books,” says Alex Lifschutz, an architect whose London-based practice is designing the new Foyles. He suggests an array of approaches: “small, quiet spaces cocooned with books; larger spaces where one can dwell and read; other larger but still intimate spaces where one can hear talks from authors about books, literature, science, travel and cookery.” The atmosphere is vital, he adds. Exteriors must buzz with activity, entrances must be full of eye-catching presentations and a bar and café is essential.

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