OBSERVATORY : JOHN FOSTER
Having an appreciation for design, I have long been interested in military patches. This started as a teenager, when friends of mine were drafted to serve in the Vietnam War. Stripes and bars were common, but other patches were somewhat mysterious.
OBSERVERS ROOM : RICK POYNOR
For many people, a cemetery is a morbid location, a reminder of the hopefully distant but unavoidable end to our earthly tenancy. I have never been one of those people. I won’t say I feel at home in cemeteries (let’s not tempt fate too flagrantly) but these highly atmospheric and deeply revealing sites of remembrance have always struck me as some of the most fascinating places to visit when traveling.
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OBSERVERS ROOM : MARK LAMSTER
New York Magazine's great Intel interview column always concludes with the same question: "What makes a person a New Yorker." (Pharrell Williams: "The will to make it.") For me, the mark of a true native is the ability to navigate the American Museum of Natural History without a map. If you can make it from the Hall of Minerals from the African Mammals without a plan or a wrong turn, you're a New Yorker.
CHANGE OBSERVER : TOM VANDERBILT
MoMA's new exhibition "Talk to Me" purports to be about "the communication betwen people and things." If only it were that straightforward.
PLACES : ANTHONY DOERR
Anthony Doerr is among the best American writers on the subject of memory and place. In this selection from Memory Wall
, which won the 2010 Story Prize, an elderly seed keeper guards the history of an unnamed village on the Yangtze River soon to be inundated by waters rising behind the Three Gorges Dam: “Here, a thousand years ago, monks lashed themselves to boulders. Here a hunter stood motionless sixteen winters until his toes became roots and his fingers twigs.” As the seed keeper prepares for the future, her son returns to the village as a security liaison for the dam engineers.
OBSERVERS ROOM : ROB WALKER
The issue of wear and tear gets at a crucial crossroads: Designing something that is meant to be lived with vs. designing something that is meant to be replaced. Are worn-and-torn gadgets embarrassing — or oddly appealing?
OBSERVATORY : JOHN FOSTER
Accidental Mysteries, a weekly cabinet of visual curiosities curated by John Foster, highlights images of design, art, architecture and ephemera brought to light by the magic of the digital age.
OBSERVER MEDIA : RICKY JAY
Ricky Jay is an actor, a historian, a magician and a collector. He is also a superb storyteller with a keen eye for the most gruesomely enchanting detail, and he delights in tales of the most delicious oddity.
Design Observer is pleased to share a selection of recorded broadcasts — all read and authored by Ricky Jay — brought to you along with the visual catalyst that inspired its tale. This is the third of four installments.
PLACES : EMILY MITCHELL
Continuing our reading series on place in fiction, fabulist Emily Mitchell conjures up an alternate history of these United States. Travel to New York, the land of mirrors. Learn why Vermonters shout in public on the first Wednesday of November. Pull back the curtain on the great hoax of Louisiana. And remember, always, the official motto of Pennsylvania: “When in doubt, breathe, but not through your mouth.”