January 31, 2008

Ms. Eythorsdottir made a "chandelier" of "beads of glucose that clung to twine and caught the natural light" designed to disintegrate in 5 months.

And you're hearing about her in the NYT. But why? Because she's part of a design movement that embodies a philosophy of slowing down. Is the notion of savoring life so alien to you that you would buy household objects intended to create awareness of the passage of time?
Thorunn Arnadottir, an Icelandic designer, made a clock using a string of beads draped over a notched metal disc. One bead drops every five minutes, marking time in a way that seems to slow it down.... A rattan basket designed by Alastair Fuad-Luke, a British sustainable design facilitator, as he described himself recently, will tip over if filled too quickly, “thus momentarily slowing you down as you rebalance it,” explained Mr. Fuad-Luke. (A student of Mr. Fuad-Luke’s once designed an actual speed bump for a living room. “You’d either step over it,” he said, “or perhaps you’d lie down and give it a cuddle.”)
Don't let the names deceive you: This is not a satire. This is the slowness movement. Personally, I like to take my time (or hurry up) when it suits me. I don't want some tippable object tripping me up. I don't want things that make life harder. Do we rejoice when we arrive at a traffic jam or hear that our flight is delayed? But why fly at all? Walk! It will take so much longer, and then maybe you will appreciate what it means to be alive.

As for timepieces that alert you at short intervals: My parents had a mantel clock that emitted a sequence of chimes every 15 minutes. It made me think — every 15 minutes — another 15 minutes, irretrievable. They were charitable enough to turn off the chimes when I was visiting.

Whether we need to buy objects to slow us down, we might still want protection from things that push us to speed up:
A 2005 study sponsored by Hewlett-Packard showed that the I.Q.s of workers who responded quickly to the constant barrage of e-mails they received during the day fell 10 points, more than double the I.Q. drop of someone smoking marijuana.

“Fast isn’t turning us into Masters of the Universe,” [said Carl HonorĂ©, author of “In Praise of Slow: Challenging the Cult of Speed.”] “It’s turning us into Cheech and Chong.”
The article links to Honoré's website. (Hey! The NYT is hotlinking! They didn't use to do that. I thought I'd have to cut and paste the URL, and here it would have slowed me down, possibly thereby enriching my life.) I see Honoré has a blog. You may ask: Is that slow? But here's his post on "slow blogging" (which I can't find a way to link):
By its very nature, blogging is all about speed - instant analysis and reaction from the front line. At every conference I go to there are always a few people in the audience, laptops open, screens glowing eerily in the half-darkness, blogging away in real-time while speakers strut their stuff on stage. I'm in two minds about this. On one hand, I love the energy and insights that come from an instant reaction. I've read these real-time blogs and the best ones are sharp and profound. But sometimes I wonder how much these nimble-fingered bloggers are really getting out of the speeches - are they picking up all the shades of meaning, the different layers of the message? Might they see, hear and understand more if they gave their full attention to the speech, and then blogged a few minutes, hours or even days afterwards?
That's a good point. Live-blogging can screw up your listening. I tend to do it precisely because something is long and I want to keep engaged. But some things are worth listening to with full attention, unprocessed into writing, and the writing you produce afterwards may be superior, with so much dross efficiently sieved out by your brain.

Of course, this idea about writing is not limited to blogging. Are those people at conferences really blogging, or are they taking notes?

I think that slow blogging idea could be applied to taking notes in class. I've suggested to more than one law student that it might be a good idea to close up the computer (or put down the pen) during class, to engage and really listen, and then, after class, write a page notes. The material could be clearer and better digested.

Don't you find, when you read those voluminous notes you took during class that they are full of redundancies and filler? You might be better off if you relied on — and hence developed — your memory. Listen closely during class and then, when it's over, write down what you now see as the main point, followed by a few things that struck you as interesting. Are these not better notes? And more important: Isn't your mind working better?

I've strayed pretty far from the absurd objects that got me started writing this post. I see there's something here that I love to laugh at, but also something that I can appreciate. But let me tie it together — with glucose beaded twine! — by saying that I also appreciate entrepreneurs who find a way to make money embodying a philosophy in a product. I don't object to commerce. I can buy or not buy what I want. And if their merchandise makes me laugh, have I lost? No, I've won.

So keep what you like, use what seems usable. Remember something important, along with the trifles that amuse you.

IN THE COMMENTS: Meade observes that one of my tags for this post is "fat." He writes:
Fat? I must have missed that part... must have read the post to quickly... need to slow... down, pay...

attention.
After taking a goodly amount of time to laugh, I went back to the article to retrieve something I'd had in the post but edited out:
[The architect John Brown says] that fast can make you fat and make you sick. “A cookie cutter house in a new development is like a Big Mac and fries,” he said the other day. Not only are you undernourished by awkward spaces and huge houses, he said, but far-away developments require lots of driving, stealing your time and your health. Mr. Brown’s hope is to raise awareness “about resources and options,” he said. “If you learn about materials, think about where your house comes from, you’re going to be more involved with the culture of the house, rather than just engaging with it as a financial instrument.”"
By the way, going back for that missing quote about "fat," I noticed a picture caption: "Christien Meindertsma knits rugs with wool from sheep she has met." Sheep she has met. Oh, I don't think that's good enough. A mere passing acquaintance with said sheep? Please form a lasting relationship with the sheep. Then, we'll see about obtaining the sheep's genuine enthusiasm about contributing its wool to your little knitting project.

33 comments:

rhhardin said...

Bob and Ray Slow Talkers of America

George said...

That lady Mrs. Eyghtisordotttorishni needs to conserve consonants.

Meade said...

Labels: aesthetics, commerce, fat, law school, philosophy, psychology

Fat? I must have missed that part... must have read the post to quickly... need to slow... down, pay...

attention.

rhhardin said...

You can also scythe your acre of lawn, rather than using a mower, which extends it to a daily couple of 10' swaths across the lawn each day until it's done ; in the spring, you can then start over right away.

I recommend this is you like to take a break outdoors from time to time. You can hear birds, and you can mow early Sunday morning without waking the neighbors.

But it has to be a hobby.

pic1
pic2
pic3

European (soft steel) scythes here . Warning : it's addictive ; you soon want all the blades so you don't miss any that are perfect for conditions at each instant.

Cool plus : the thing that you swing around is called a snath.

MadisonMan said...

This is the type of meandering, slow-to-the-point blog post I love. But what would John Moschitta say?

Middle Class Guy said...

I only have two speeds. Slow and stop.

peter hoh said...

I found that taking notes (written by hand) during class helped the material stick in my brain. I rarely looked back at my notes, but having written them, I could remember them.

michaele said...

Ahh, when it comes to savoring the reality of being slowed down....remember how much we loooved dial up internet access.

fstopfitzgerald said...

I see there's something here that I love to laugh at, but also something that I can appreciate. But let me tie it together — with glucose beaded twine! — by saying that I also appreciate entrepreneurs who find a way to make money embodying a philosophy in a product. I don't object to commerce. I can buy or not buy what I want. And if their merchandise makes me laugh, have I lost? No, I've won.

So keep what you like, use what seems usable. Remember something important, along with the trifles that amuse you.


You know, after reading the above, it strikes me that it's really a shame some 14 year old girl can't write "How true!!!" in a flowery script in the margin.

Pogo said...

There is more to life than increasing its speed.
- Gandhi

And they tell him,
Take your time, it won't be long now
Till you drag your feet just to slow the circles down

- Joni Mitchell



A nice sentiment, the slowness movement, and interesting implementations, but all in vain, I fear, to try to slow the circles down.

Can you imagine us years from today,
Sharing a parkbench quietly
How terribly strange to be seventy

I wonder if Paul Simon will think so in 2011?

Lawgiver said...

I haven't smoked my morning joint yet so let's see if I got this right. If you don't smoke pot and work at a slower, stoned pace then at the end of the day your I. Q will be 5 points higher than the non-smoker?

A 2005 study sponsored by Hewlett-Packard showed that the I.Q.s of workers who responded quickly to the constant barrage of e-mails they received during the day fell 10 points, more than double the I.Q. drop of someone smoking marijuana.

Since 2005 HP's stock price has doubled. There's a message in there somewhere and if I only had a few more IQ points I could probably figure it out.

ricpic said...

Every now and then I chance upon some piece of writing that is genuinely profound. It is at such moments that the loss of attention incurred by the habit of speed (in this case speed reading) shows most clearly. It takes a conscious effort to slow down enough not to skip across the subtle depths in the writing.

Which brings me to an article I just read in the New English Review (newenglishreview.org) titled Enderby Upstairs, by David Guaspari. If you have the time, or even if you haven't, slow down and give it a read.

P.S. It's lively as well as profound. You won't be bored.

Maxine Weiss said...

No.

Most professors and teachers...don't want to be stared at during a lecture. It's better if the students have their head buried in a laptop, or notes.

And, most students don't want to have to make eye contact with their professors/teachers during a lecture.

Even if the Professor is good looking...why let on by never taking your eyes off him/her ????

If someone's good-looking, you look away so as not to let on.

Only the needy, exhibitionist Professors encourage students to stare at them for the full class period.

Nothing worse than having to make eye contact, both with the pretty people, and the ugly !

Maxine Weiss said...

Forced to make eye contact....

...why do you think nobody shows up at the meet-ups?

When Althouse does her Vlogs, doesn't she feel uncomfortable knowing that readers are staring at her?, or someone like me who freeze-frames, and zooms way in at ever turn.......

Awkward.

Maxine Weiss said...

I don't want people looking at me, even though I secretly look at them.

There's people looking at me right this very minute. They're trying to make eye contact....

It is repulsive.

Sheriff Cobb said...

"It is repulsive"
I didn't know that mind reading was one of your many talents Maxine.

Meade said...

Maxine Weiss said...
I don't want people looking at me, even though I secretly look at them.

Balfegor said...

Don't you find, when you read those voluminous notes you took during class that they are full of redundancies and filler?

Yes. Usually they are full of stutters, um's, er's, and ah's, because those come out the slowest and are the easiest to transcribe. They have the look of human speech, which is fun, but not always all that useful. Have to go back and pare that down after the fact. But doing so is, in itself, a helpful kind of study.

Ann Althouse said...

I'm laughing a lot over the puzzlement at the "fat" tag. It made sense before I did some editing that removed this passage:

"Mr. Brown, in Calgary, who makes his case for the artisanal house (designed by an actual architect, not a developer) on theslowhome.com, would go even further, suggesting that fast can make you fat and make you sick. “A cookie cutter house in a new development is like a Big Mac and fries,” he said the other day. Not only are you undernourished by awkward spaces and huge houses, he said, but far-away developments require lots of driving, stealing your time and your health. Mr. Brown’s hope is to raise awareness “about resources and options,” he said. “If you learn about materials, think about where your house comes from, you’re going to be more involved with the culture of the house, rather than just engaging with it as a financial instrument.”"

Maxine Weiss said...

Who has cousins?

One time, one of my cousins tried to look at me, and held the gaze a little too long.

You know, you hold someone's gaze for more than two seconds, and it means you want to have their babies.

Anything over three seconds means your souls are fused together and you are inexplicably intertwined for all eternity.

So, why on earth would a Professor want a whole room full of students to stare at her for an hour!

That's a whole lot of babies gonna be born.

Chip Ahoy said...

You're a riot. How'd the ice arch turn out? All melty, I bet.

Chip Ahoy said...

I checked out a book on speed-reading but only got half way done before I had to return it.

Meade said...

Calm yourself, Maxine.

Of course we all want to have Althouse's babies. Why wouldn't we?

But for now, who has time?

Until biotechnology and bioethics catch up with one another, all we can do is gaze in rapt amazement, keep our bone marrow cells sound, and dream our little futuristic fecund dreams.

Are you taking notes on this, Maxine?

Good. Now relax.

Mr. Bingley said...

I'm still stuck on exactly what this is:

a British sustainable design facilitator

I really have no clue, but somehow I'm sure he gets government funding in the UK.

Sheriff Cobb said...

"a British sustainable design facilitator"

It was shown in the first Austin Powers movie, but has fallen out of common usage since the swinging sixties. Know as the "Wank-o-matic" a knock-off verison was publized on late night TV by Whammo and was endorsed by Lance Rentzel in a famous commercial staring Joey Heatherton.

Sir Archy said...

To Professor Althouse.

Madam,

As the Ghost of a Scotsman, dead these 250 years and more, of good Family and tolerable Estate—yet who would never have been styled a Laird—I can tell you that both my Tenants and I had more than met our Sheep.  I did not think it Necessary to host a weekly Levee for the Purpose of making Introductions.

Several Crofters on my Estate, who possess'd lawful Looms, would also have been glad to inform the Readers of the New York Times, that their Weaving was slow enough.  I congratulate Fraulein Meindertsma on her Success in knitting Rugs.  At least She has not had to acquire the Habit of working at the Loom Fourteen Hours a Day, as did my Tenants; from which Labour they were able to weave but a few Yards of indifferent Fabric, sufficient to buy some Barley and a few Onions on which to subsist.

If I hadn't turn'd a Blind Eye to Poaching, I fear'd that in Lean Years, they would have starv'd.  My own Income fell below that requir'd by the Game Act not a few times, and I had to make do to keep up Appearances, as they say.  Perhaps if Miss Meindertsma were to have return'd to my Time and work'd the Shuttle in her own Slow Way, such that her hands were not bleeding at the End of a Day, she would have receiv'd a few good Knocks, sufficient to compleat her Education in the Value of Time.

It may be that the Readers of the Times remain unacquaint'd with the History of the late French Queen who valu'd Trifles that amus'd Her, and pretended to be a Milk-Maid.  If 'twere in my Power to conduct any of the Audience in this Theatre of Topicks (as I call it), back to my Day, they would have seen few Trifles enough, and had little Time, except were they among the Rich in London, or the Idle at Paris.

Desirous that the Over-Fed of the Modern World may escape the Fate of Those who play'd Wolves to the Sheep of the Common People in France at the End of my Century,

I remain, Madam,

Your humble & obt. Servant,

Sir Archy

Pogo said...

a British sustainable design facilitator

I hate facilitators. Can't think of a single experience with one that didn't leave me wanting to scream. They are unable to speak the truth, but instead engage in this enraging crap soup of PC-educator-legalese-corporate-self-help psychobabble styles completely empty of all content or meaning, all given with a vacant smile and wan encouragement.

In one particularly tense workshop, a colleague blew up and screamed at another worker. The facilitator did not acknowledge it at all, but simply went on to the next part, Teamwork. I kid you not.

Facilitators are a sub-class of Vogons:
Vogons are one of the most unpleasant races in the galaxy. Not evil, but bad tempered, bureaucratic, officious and callous. They wouldn't even lift a finger to save their own grandmothers from the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal without orders signed in triplicate, sent in, sent back, queried, lost, found, subjected to public enquiry, lost again, and finally buried in soft peat for three months and recycled as firelighters. On no account should you allow a Vogon to read poetry to you.

Maxine Weiss said...

I would go to the meet ups, if only I could be guaranteed absolutely NO eye-contact with anyone.

Also, it would be nice if tank tops had sleeves.

Sir Archy said...

To Mrs. Weiss.

Madam,

I am a Ghost, and You are a Figment. There is, in each of our Cases, no Need of Worry about either Cloathing or Eyes.

I am, Madam,

Your humble & obt. Servant,

Sir Archy

Meade said...

Maxine "Frank Booth" Weiss: What are you looking at?
Meet up Commenters [in unison]: Nothing.
Maxine "Frank Booth" Weiss: Don't you look at me, f*cks!
Meet up Commenters: [whispering]
Maxine "Frank Booth" Weiss: I shoot when I see the whites of the eyes.

Still shot from meet up. (Maxine, stage right)

Ruth Anne Adams said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
former law student said...

re: taking notes in class.

In law school I found that I wasn't able at first to distinguish what was important from what was unimportant. I was better off writing down too much than writing down only the things that first struck me as important. Later, comparing my outlines with friends, I found that some distinctions had flown right over my head early on.

This corresponded with my experience in undergrad. I found that by taking scanty notes I was missing too much of the class content. When I went back to look at them the notes were useless. So, what worked for me was to write down as much as possible, then immediately rewrite the notes into a usable form after class. Rewriting highlighted the gaps in what I had written down so that I could fill them.

Theo Boehm said...
This comment has been removed by the author.