Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Quasi semi

If [Shop Class as Soulcraft author Matthew B.] Crawford is correct about the decline of America's information economy, we should brace ourselves for a series of mournful, indignant books that eulogize the modern office—a highly networked, quasi-social, semi-autonomous refuge, where turn-of-the-century workers spent their pleasant days solving problems, exploring the limits of cöoperation, and wasting valuable company time on the Internet. —Kelefa Sanneh, "Out of the Office," The New Yorker

For a eulogy for the pre-Internet office, go here.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Remember the pre-Internet office?

Here's an extract from a little EP memoir, up at the L Magazine as part of its "Office Issue":

We used an editing system called Atex, amber letters glowing on dusty screens so old the black fields had burned to brown. A story editor would put an article in the copy queue and one of us would call it up, make corrections, and place our initials in the space at the top. When I first started, I would keep checking the queue and pounce on any new piece. Then I learned to sit back like the veterans in the department and at least finish the chapter I was reading.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

What fuchsia means

"She doesn’t really understand the use of ellipsis so a lot… of her…..emails…look like this…"

Thursday, August 13, 2009


For Daniel Morrison, CEO of the D.C.-based international relief nonprofit 1Well, the wrong sign-off posed an impediment to deeper romance. "I sent an e-mail to a girlfriend, and she was very put off by me signing off with 'Regards,' saying that I sounded very 'emotionally detached,' " Morrison says via e-mail. "We did break up shortly thereafter, so maybe she was right."—Washington Post

(From Jenny)

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Richard Russo on PD

BNR: You wrote the introduction to the Collected Stories of Richard Yates, and you once said, "(H)is work is so honest and his vision is so clear, so clear-eyed, that when I'm reading a Richard Yates story, I'll go back to work on something of my own at the desk and I'm suddenly a different person. I see the world differently, and the story that comes out of me is not going be influenced in that sense by Yates, but while I'm there with him, his vision for that period of time is my vision, and it's that way with most really good writers." In the same interview, you also mentioned Alice Munro. Beyond Yates and Munro, what other writers have this effect on you? Are any of them young, up-and-coming writers?

RR: There are several young writers whose vision is so precise and spot-on that I'd follow them anywhere. Joshua Ferris and Ed Park have staked out similar territory (cubical culture) in Then We Came to the End and Personal Days. Doug Dorst's Alive in Necropolis and Hannah Tinti's The Good Thief also took my breath away. And I cannot recommend strongly enough the work of Jess Walter, whose eye and wit are unparalleled. If you want to understand post 9/11 America, he's your guy.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Cutting costs

The company was owned by old showbiz people. They ran the place like the family they were, and we responded like family. We had each other’s backs. Our loyalty was fanatical. Once, I worked 60 days in a row, got a day off, and worked 30 more straight. My wife was pregnant at the time, but we thought it was worth it. I was building something that would carry us to retirement, with a pension and a body of work behind me that we could be proud of. I got promoted, early and often. The family trusted me, and I trusted them right back. For 13 more years, I was happy as a clam.

Then the management changed.

We were always profitable, but the new guys wanted more. They got it by cutting costs to the bone. I was a cost. I got cut.

—"My Good Life After Being Fired," Lee Child (author of the Jack Reacher novels)

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Edward Hall, RIP

Space as a form of communication, a field he dubbed proxemics, embraced phenomena like territoriality among office workers and the cultural meanings of architecture. The use of time as a form of communication can be seen, he argued, in the executive or the movie star who keeps a client waiting for a precisely calibrated number of minutes. His ideas were synthesized in “Beyond Culture” (1976). —NYT