This weekend’s Consumed in the NYT Mag — is the last!

[ADDENDUM JUNE 2011: In addition to my new Times Mag arrangement noted below, I’m now contributing to Design Observer, and thus is now defunct. Please find me over there.]

Flattered as I was by Book of Joe’s recent suggestion that the NYT Mag jack up my fee for Consumed, I knew something different was underway: This Sunday’s column (here) is in fact the finale of Consumed’s six-year run in the magazine.

I’ll remain a contributing writer, doing more features instead. Having written 300+ Consumeds, I’ve toyed with a change like this, and I’m happy with my new arrangement. BUT, I am of course sad to lose this regular venue and its great audience.

I’ll maintain the Consumed Facebook page, since I still care about the subjects I wrote about in the column, and value conversations that result from the stuff I post there. I plan to keep writing about Consumed-y stuff in a Consumed-y way, whether published by someone else (entertaining possibilities now) or by me (but on more of a monthly schedule). If you’re interested in hearing (or influencing) whatever else comes next, sign up for the new Consumed/Rob Walker mailing list below.

Now, obviously, I’m not going to bullshit you by suggesting that this specific handling of things was my idea. If you’re a media-gossip junkie, you may know that the whole front of the book of the Times Mag is being revamped. But I’m a longtime fan of the Times Magazine‘s new editor, and genuinely excited about the stuff he wants me to do. Plus the new editor handling the new front of the book seems really smart, and as a reader I totally look forward to seeing what he comes up with. It’ll be a few weeks, I gather, before the new version debuts, but once I had a sense of my new role, I decided to go ahead and shift to the next thing sooner rather than later. (That bit really was my idea.)

Anyway, my sincere gratitude to all who have followed & enjoyed & contributed ideas to & and said nice things about the column over the years. If you’re interested in what’s next, sign up to the email list (and please spread the word about said list) and I’ll keep you posted. Thank you!

Feb 13 Update: Bonus! Friend of Consumed Molly sends this, which she says is the QR Code for the column’s last NYT installment:

(And if  you don’t know what a QR code is, well, of course it’s something I wrote about in Consumed.)

“Scalies” update

[2/12: Be sure to see the updates at the end, and also I’m adding a “Scalies” tag to my Letters From Here Tumblr to track future notable items. Click here.]

I couldn’t be more pleased with the reaction to last weekend’s Consumed, which has practically made it mandatory for me to take time I really don’t have to assemble this post.

If you read the column, you know the most recent one was about the little figures in architectural renderings, and their function. On one level that function is simply to suggest the scale of whatever building or project is being proposed, which is why, as I say in the column, one architect friend of mine refers to these figures as “scalies.” (Revealed here exclusively: That friend is Kirsten Hively. And as of this moment, there’s evidence on Twitter that people like that term; thus I feel she should get credit.)

The reason this update is mandatory is that the feedback I’ve gotten has included lots of great visuals, so I am collecting them below.

But before I get to that: Maybe the most surprising response I got was from Amy Herzog, Associate Professor of Media Studies at Queens College, CUNY, who is presenting a paper on this very subject at the Rendering The Visible Conference, this very weekend, in Atlanta. I so wish I could attend! On the off chance any of you go, please report back.

Now on to more reactions & visuals:

Most of all, I was thrilled to see a follow-up (click on the image above) on BLDBLOG, a truly great site whose proprietor, Geoff Manaugh, I interviewed for the column. In addition to what I was able to include, he made at least two excellent observations that I couldn’t get in for lack of space. Both are revealed in this post that you should read right now. One involves parkour, the other Don DeLillo.

I also really recommend clicking through the images and reading the captions on this Curbed post. Smart, entertaining, funny — exemplary critical/design writing in my opinion!

On Twitter, @jmuspratt asked: “Have you ever seen Kapitza’s human typologies as fonts?” (Above.) I had not! But what a great tip! Check it out here, pretty fascinating.

Longtime pal Marc Weidenbaum, a font of unexpected knowledge on all things, dropped a line to draw my attention to An Apartment For Space-Age Lovers. The image above will probably make it clear why he made this connection.

Also via email: K.B. Norwood alerted me to this post on Never Learned, comparing scalies to the famous “Little  People in the City” street-art project of Slinkachu. An insightful connection.

Finally, there were a lot of really useful and smart reactions on the Consumed Facebook page, but since this post is getting long I’ll just single out Andy Hickes, who said he is writing a history of architectural rendering in the 20th century, an idea that I think is laudable. If you like looking at renderings you’ll love this site: Some fabulous examples. [Feb 10 update: To be clear, that site is not connected to his historical project; see comments. Didn’t mean to imply it was related, but I did.]

The other FB comment I have to note came from Laura Forde, who wrote about how interesting she found it that “architects refer to not just the people in the renderings—but trees, plants, vehicles—as the grammatically singular word ‘entourage.’ It certainly makes everything subordinate to the building. The ‘scalies’ may be chosen for their style, but are a group of faceless attendants (in the same category as plants) more than individual participants.”

Also taking note of the column: Unbeige, with a nice post, @architectmag, which declared “scalies” the “word of the day.”

Feb 10 Update: This morning I came upon this post on Things Magazine, which cites the column and observes that “generic digital offerings” have “largely replaced the characterful and highly detailed figures made by Paul M.Preiser, many of which have that casual central European sauciness.” I clicked around on that Preiser site for quite a while. I don’t totally get what’s on offer (reader Mike D. says these appear to be railroad model figurines) but I sure enjoyed looking.

Also: The comments on the above-mentioned BLDGBLOG post are particularly good. Aside from thoughtful reactions, somebody chimed in with nothing more than a link — but it’s an awesome link: People For The Architecture is “an index of imagined realities from a growing list of architectural offices, minus everything but the people.” The screen grab above (“Zaha Hadid / Cairo”) does not do it justice, please go waste some time there, it’s great.

Feb 12: Fantastic short film stars animated scalies! Watch it here: Real Estate by Jonathan Weston.

Less progress than Grandma experienced.

MY grandmother, who was born in 1905, spoke often about the immense changes she had seen, including the widespread adoption of electricity, the automobile, flush toilets, antibiotics and convenient household appliances. Since my birth in 1962, it seems to me, there have not been comparable improvements.

Of course, the personal computer and its cousin, the smartphone, have brought about some big changes. And many goods and services are now more plentiful and of better quality. But compared with what my grandmother witnessed, the basic accouterments of life have remained broadly the same.

That’s the opening of a recent Tyler Cowen column, and it surprised me. Read the rest here. Whether you agree with his points about economics, innovation and income, I think the underlying point about progress and the pace of change (and how it feels) is pretty provocative and very much worth pondering. Dedicated readers may remember this perhaps-related post on this site from 2007: “Totally Wildly Uprecedented Change, and Its Precedents.”