Archive for July, 2008

Architecture of happy-enough-ness

Tuesday, July 29th, 2008

I love the building where I work. Even after almost four years I’m still routinely struck by the little details which make it so interesting and beautiful.

In The Architecture of Happiness Alain de Botton notes:

Belief in the significance of architecture is premised on the notion that we are, for better and for worse, different people in different places – and on the conviction that it is architecture’s task to render vivid to us who we might ideally be…

However, architecture is perplexing in how inconsistent is its capacity to generate the happiness on which its claim to our attention is founded. While an attractive building may on occasion flatter an ascending mood, there will be times when the most congenial of locations will be unable to dislodge our sadness or misanthropy.

We can feel anxious and envious even though the floor we’re standing on has been imported from a remote quarry, and finely sculpted window frames have been painted a soothing grey. Our inner metronome can be unimpressed by the efforts of workmen to create a fountain or nurture a symmetrical line of oak trees. We can fall into a petty argument which ends in threats of divorce in a building by Geoffrey Bawa or Louis Kahn. Houses can invite us to join them in a mood which we find ourselves incapable of summoning. The noblest architecture can sometimes do less for us than a siesta or an aspirin…

Beautiful architecture has none of the unambiguous advantages of a vaccine or a bowl of rice. Its construction will hence never be raised to a dominant political priority, for even if the whole of the man-made world could, through relentless effort and sacrifice, be modelled to rival Saint Mark’s Square, even if we could spend the rest of our lives in the Villa Rotonda or the Glass House, we would still often be in a bad mood.

As ever, de Botton explores the sublime potentials and bleak pragmatics of his subject thoroughly. I’m sure I don’t do credit to this beautiful building by the moods, depressions, tempers, silliness or pettinesses I indulge in here but just now at least I found simply walking around it enough of a distraction to make me grateful for it.

hello kitty stress test

Saturday, July 26th, 2008

My results for the Hello Kitty stress test:

I better enjoy the green and the wood.

Things I saw today (Animation backgrounds)

Saturday, July 26th, 2008

Animation Backgrounds gathers the beautiful backgrounds of cartoon movies.

As a child, cartoons strongly informed my understanding of other places in the world, how adults interacted or how things worked (or as with a favorite Bugs Bunny cartoon, formed the entirety of my knowledge of opera). It’s interesting to re-see these spaces with adult eyes and to realize the degree to which they lurk in my subconscious.

From Cinderella

From Bambi

From Bugs Bunny

From The Rescuers

From Tom and Jerry

From Peter Pan

From Lady and the Tramp


Wednesday, July 9th, 2008


Today in one of the pyschology feeds in my rssreader I read an interesting take on technology and connection — something much closer to my own experience, rather than the “technology is isolating!” meme.

…Freud even noted in Civilization and its Discontents that

“If there had been no railway to conquer distances, my child would never have left his native town and I should need no telephone to hear his voice; if traveling across the ocean by ship had not been introduced, my friend would not have embarked on his sea-voyage and I should not need a cable to relieve my anxiety about him.”

We use technologies so that we may be closer to those for whom we most care and we use them so that we may keep our distance from those we cannot or will not yet face.

The author, Dr. Christopher Ramey, concludes with an interesting take on how language, communication itself, works – transforming private, internal thoughts to the public, external words.

In one sense, one can regard language and metaphor as the making publicly observable of one’s private observations. It is a blurring of boundaries of sorts. This is a blog by someone whom you have not met. I doubt it will ever prove ‘touching’ in some overly sentimental sense of that word, but it is certainly true that even though we are no closer to each other than strangers, these words have brought us together for a short while. What language in general and a metaphor like ‘reaching out and touching someone’ in particular reveals is that—despite our seemingly paradoxical search for personal identity and individuality, as well as our insistence on privacy—we seek each other out. All psychology is inherently and constitutively a social psychology.

Things that made me laugh (Wodehouse again)

Tuesday, July 1st, 2008

She gazed at me, but without the lovelight.

“Oh, for goodness sake, go away and boil your head, Bertie!”

I drew myself up.

“That,” I replied, with dignity, “is just what I am going to go away and boil. At least, I mean, I shall now leave you. I have said my say.”


“But permit me to add—-”

“I won’t.”

“Very good,” I said coldly. “In that case, tinkerty tonk.”

And I meant it to sting.

-PG Wodehouse Right Ho, Jeeves