In the Times :
Our Very Motto
15 August 2013

¶ What a lucky kid Holland Cotter was, growing up in a family devoted to cultural pleasures. (The luck is that it was right for him.) And how sweet of the Times to start one of its art critics’ autobiographical fragment on the front page!

I spent a lot of time there from the age of about 9, mostly on Saturdays, mostly wandering around on my own. (My parents tended to use the museum as a surrogate nanny.) No one was telling me to look at this or at that, so I looked at whatever appealed. I loved the Japanese Buddhist hall because it was set up in the form of a circular temple, with a ring of life-size carved-wood Buddhas sitting in a kind of twilight. It was transporting. When you were there, you were someplace new.

Like any kid, I was interested in art that told stories, as a good amount of pre-modern art, especially painting, does. Some narratives were familiar, or obvious. Rogier van der Weyden’s 15th-century “St. Luke Painting the Virgin” depicted exactly the placid scene its title describes, but was set in an interior that looked airy, just-cleaned.

We had to fight for this kind of pleasure, in the teeth of a surburban philistinism that Cotter’s family escaped.

¶ Stacy Perman’s story about reinvention at Emma, a Web-based marketing and communications company, gave us something that we’ve been looking for.

At Emma, the project took 18 months, six months longer than anticipated. And it cost $4.5 million. Preliminary research and design began in the summer of 2010. The company relied primarily on its own engineers and developers, hiring a small outside team to build one set of e-mail tools.

The principal operating guideline was to design a flexible system that would remove the need to do anything like this again. “We didn’t know what the marketplace would look like in five years,” Mr. Smith said. “Also, we didn’t know how databases would evolve in five years either. We couldn’t design for the future, but we could design something that could adapt to what the future will bring.”

Our very motto: Don’t build to last; build to upgrade!

¶ We don’t go in for bad reviews, but, having read every page of Special Topics in Calamity Physics, including the five hundred unnecessary ones, we couldn’t suppress a burp of gloat when we read Janet Maslin’s review of Night Film, Marisha Pessl’s “long-awaited” second novel.

There is a haunting suspicion running all through “Night Film”: that this book was more exciting to write than to read, and that Ms. Pessl reveled too contentedly in the universe she created. On the rare occasions when she calls attention to double meanings or bits of wordplay, they fall terribly flat. Yes, Cordova used a lighting company called Phil Lumen, and that more or less means “love of light” in Latin if you stop to notice. But “Night Film” is content to deliver small, self-satisfied rewards. Ms. Pessl seems to take it as a given that this book, like its absent genius, warrants fascination. Where’s the evidence? Not on the page.

One Response to “In the Times :
Our Very Motto
15 August 2013

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