How To Be Polite

Paul Ford writing on Medium about politeness

Here’s a polite person’s trick, one that has never failed me. I will share it with you because I like and respect you, and it is clear to me that you’ll know how to apply it wisely: When you are at a party and are thrust into conversation with someone, see how long you can hold off before talking about what they do for a living. And when that painful lull arrives, be the master of it. I have come to revel in that agonizing first pause, because I know that I can push a conversation through. Just ask the other person what they do, and right after they tell you, say: “Wow. That sounds hard.”

Restoration Hardware’s Mail-Order Extravagance

Amy Merrick, writing in The New Yorker, explores why Restoration Hardware mailed a 17-pound catalog: 

Why do we still have catalogues? Web and mobile browsers have improved dramatically in the past decade. It’s hard to argue that catalogues, like books, are objects worth preserving for their aesthetic value; they will be obsolete within months. Yet Americans received nearly twelve billion catalogs last year.
Marketers say that people who browse catalogues buy more than those who shop only online. The U.S. Postal Service works hard to promote catalogues, which have become an increasingly important segment of U.S.P.S. business as people mail fewer first-class letters. The online retailer Bonobos, which began shipping catalogues last year, told the Wall Street Journal that twenty per cent of its new Web customers placed orders after receiving their first mailings, and spent more than other new shoppers.
Those incremental sales are accompanied by enormous waste. Industry surveys from groups like the Direct Marketing Association estimate that catalogues get average response rates of four to five per cent. In the case of Restoration Hardware, that means that for every sixty thousand pages mailed, approximately three thousand pay off.

The Week’s Links: August 8, 2014

All the links posted on social networks this week:

  • Poetry? There's an app for that.
  • Dancing and Hoping to Win Fans for Life
  • Peeking Under The Hood Of NPR's New Mobile
  • Spike Jonze Reveals His Favorite Ad and How to Stay Creative With Clients Around
  • How to Tell a Great Story
  • Can Benefit Corporations Work?
  • Creativity Top 5: The Best Brand Ideas of the
  • 4 Things You Didn't Know About Chuck Jones, Brilliant Creator Of Road Runner And Wile E.
  • ◉ Recommended: Sin and Syntax: How to Craft Wickedly Effective Prose
  • ◉ Picasso in his studio, 1956
  • TED Playlist: Fascinating psych
  • 10 Dark, Creepy Children's Books Every Kid Should Read
  • Beautiful: Ogilvy & Mather Induction Box
  • MIT Rethinks How You Consume News
  • ▶ How Much Sleep Do You Actually Need?
  • Kern Your Enthusiasm (2)- analyzing and celebrating a few of our favorite (and least favorite)
  • Digital Weddings 2.0: Hashtags and Retweets
  • A Night of Dinosaurs and Stargazing (No Children Allowed). At Museum of Natural History in New
  • ◉ Recommended: Spunk & Bite: A Writer's Guide to Bold, Contemporary Style
  • ◉ Adam Savage: Ground Rules for
  • Download Over 250 Free Art Books From the Getty Museum
  • HitchBOT, the hitchhiking robot, bums 1st
  • 7 ideas from ancient thinkers that will improve your modern life
  • The history of the word “scientist”
  • Can Reddit Grow Up? -
  • NASA unveils plans for a new rover: Mars
  • ◉ Recommended: All In a Word: 100 Delightful Excursions into the Uses and Abuses of
  • ◉ The Adobe Illustrator Story…
  • ◉ New Beginnings: NYC Ballet's 9/11
  • How Yahoo Research Labs Studies Culture as a Formal Computational Concept- MIT Technology Review
  • The Early Jobs of 24 Famous Writers
  • Playing an Instrument Is a Great Workout For Your Brain: New Animation Explains Why
  • A market for emotions: With emotion-tracking software, Affectiva attracts big-name clients, aims for “mood-aware” Internet....
  • AIGA: What Creative Directors are Really Looking For in an Online Portfolio
  • In 1858, People Said the Telegraph Was 'Too Fast for the Truth'
  • 4 Kinds of Bad Advertising Millennials Have Killed
  • This American Lear, or Is Ira Glass crazy?
  • SciShow Explains How Different Species of Animals Are Able to Change Color
  • ◉ Recommended: The Invention of Air
  • For WWI Anniversary, the Tower of London Has Become Surrounded by a Sea of
  • ◉ Nuance: A Dance Battle
  • :Fantastic: The Talking Walls of Buenos Aires  - Google Cultural Institute
  • ◉ Can you relate?…
  • The Economics of Your Face
  • Advertising's New Frontier: Talk to the Bot -
  • What would big cities look like in complete
  • Today's Google Doodle is great: John Venn's 180th Birthday
  • Handwritten Typographers: THe handwriting of great typographers.
  • Stanford Team Achieves 'Holy Grail' of Battery Design: A Stable Lithium Anode
  • Solving The Scourge That Is Slow Hotel
  • Injectable foam could keep wounded soldiers
  • 6 ways to banish guilt from your life
  • Shakira's 'La La La' is Now the Most-Shared Ad of All Time
  • How 60 Seconds And One Word A Day Can Reduce Your Stress
  • NYT considering shorter print edition with unlimited digital access
  • Why TED Has Given All Of Its Employees A Mandatory Two-Week Summer Vacation
  • Full-Page Marijuana Ad to Appear in Sunday New York Times
  • How the Internet of Things Changes Business
  • Ideo Rebrands Disaster Preparedness
  • When It Comes To Creativity, Are Two Heads Better Than One?
  • World's coolest bookstores
  • US military studied how to influence Twitter users in Darpa-funded research
  • Hip-hop producer J Dilla's beat-making gear headed to Smithsonian
  • The Evidence Is In: Patent Trolls Do Hurt
  • Kickstarting a doc about making a living in the
  • The Science Behind TED's 18-Minute Rule
  • 30 for 30 Shorts: ‘The High Five’ - a documentary short on the history of the high five.
  • How Marvel Became the Envy (and Scourge) of Hollywood
  • The Fasinatng … Frustrating … Fascinating History of Autocorrect
  • Where Restaurant Reservations Come
  • The Down And Dirty History Of TMZ
  • Smart Things in a Not-Smart World -
  • ◉ What's the Point of Creativity?
  • ◉ Recommended: What the Great Ate: A Curious History of Food and Fame
  • Art by algorithm: Computer evolves new
  • PBS Digital Studios to Premiere First Scripted Series, "Frankenstein, M.D." on Tuesday, August
  • The secret of Minecraft
  • 20 New Yorker Design Stories To Read
  • McDonald's Will Spend the Next 18 Months Rebranding

Can you relate?

Rebecca Mead, writing in The New Yorker, uses Ira Glass' tweet declaring "Shakespeare sucks" as the starting point to explore whether relatability is relevant to works of art: 

What are the qualities that make a work “relatable,” and why have these qualities come to be so highly valued? To seek to see oneself in a work of art is nothing new, nor is it new to enjoy the sensation. Since Freud theorized the process of identification—as a means whereby an individual develops his or her personality through idealizing and imitating a parent or other figure—the concept has fruitfully been applied to the appreciation of the arts. Identification with a character is one of the pleasures of reading, or of watching movies, or of seeing plays, though if it is where one’s engagement with the work begins, it should not be where critical thought ends. The concept of identification implies that the reader or viewer is, to some degree at least, actively engaged with the work in question: she is thinking herself into the experience of the characters on the page or screen or stage.
But to demand that a work be “relatable” expresses a different expectation: that the work itself be somehow accommodating to, or reflective of, the experience of the reader or viewer. The reader or viewer remains passive in the face of the book or movie or play: she expects the work to be done for her. If the concept of identification suggested that an individual experiences a work as a mirror in which he might recognize himself, the notion of relatability implies that the work in question serves like a selfie: a flattering confirmation of an individual’s solipsism.