Lost in Space

Abstract topography.

Children were having a ball. They were fascinated by the constantly changing view […]. The feeling was of moving into another room every time a corner was turned. It was a massive game of “peek-a-boo” that they discovered almost instinctively. Parents were either unnerved that they couldn’t lay eyes on their progeny every second or joined in with gusto. Some were uneasy. Many of the works, especially those rendered in lead, appear to by very precariously balanced. The obvious weight of each one appeared to lead some to visualize the fact that if one fell, it would be a disaster. […] The sense of motion can be slightly dizzying. At the entrance is a massive visual joke - a slab of steel suspended from the ceiling. However, we spent an hour or so outdoors eating ice cream and watching people walk […]. Those that had the audio tour were marching like soldiers, dutifully examining what they were told to. Others moved slowly around, then through, mostly looking up, but periodically sideways, as though to assure themselves that the walls didn’t go on forever.The only fly in the ointment is that there are signs everywhere telling people not to touch anything, and large docents who reinforced the dictum vigorously. […]It’s hard to describe. On entering the room, all you’re conscious of is size. These things are massive and designed, in part, to make the viewer feel small. Stay for a moment though, and it starts to make sense. There’s a feeling of rightness to the arrangement, no matter how visually chaotic it seems on the surface. There are places where all you seem to see is a massive wall of rusted steel, but when a person appears, apparently from nowhere, you can see the spaces between the walls. It’s as much about the negative space as the positive.

Our reaction to the New Fray’s First Day? Not quite. The post above is actually  museum commentary from Frayster MessyONE, describing her experience of MoMA’s Serra exhibit, featured in yesterday’s slide show.

Though Fraywatch is still settling into our new cyberdigs, Fraysters are already back to business as normal. Beyond the Art Forum, great discussion is raging in our TV Club Fray—a perfect supplement for you Sopranos fans who can’t get enough discussion of the show’s looming finale.

If your interests run towards new frontiers, you might want to follow PhysicsGirlinto quantum space or join  William Saletan as he ventures into virtual space.

David Plotz’s Blogging the Bible has been receiving  a touching send-off on its way to the Great Beyond. Meanwhile, our chief political correspondent, John Dickerson, has made a classy entrance into the Politics Department’s Fray.

We Fray Editors now have our own place, too. You can track our recommendations in real time (aka, our “job performance”). So, maybe not everything about the New Fray is worthy of love. Still… if you’re stuck at a desk job, bookmark this link to keep tabs on the daily Editor’s Choice Awards.

Overall, the Fray’s face-lift has received a very warm welcome. We’re still working out the bugs and open to suggestions, so please keep the input coming in our Fix the Fray Forum. On several issues, we’ve heard you loud and clear: (1) something is seriously off with the view-counter; (2) it’s difficult to track replies to your posts; and (3) the central column is too narrow. We’re compiling a list of bugs and complaints, and our developers are working night and day to redress them all. Your supportiveness and patience have been overwhelming—thank you.

The lots apparently fell on Gregor_Samsa, grizzled Fray veteran, to fuse Fray assessment with performance art in his masterful post, “Utopia: A Postmodernist Hell:”

We live in difficult times. In the western world, compared to a century ago, the average person lives thirty years longer. Infant mortality and contagious diseases have nearly disappeared, violent crimes are lower and the work week has shrunk to almost half. Any schmuck living today can enjoy comforts, travel the world, appreciate the arts and wine and dine in a way that was possible only for the aristocracy not so long ago. Add to this the fact that haircuts are a lot cheaper nowadays and free porn is available everywhere, and things begin to look very gloomy indeed. If everything continues to improve at this rate, we could soon face an epidemic of severe depression, and possibly, mass suicide.Jerome K. Jerome writes about the time he was having some minor symptoms and decided to look up a medical encyclopedia to get a diagnosis. Bad idea. It soon became very clear that our man was suffering from every fatal disease known to mankind, except Housemaid’s Knee. Before the advent of modern medicine, people would cheerfully die at forty, run over by a horse or bleeding from unknown causes. Now we cower till eighty, putting everything we eat under a microscope, opening our posteriors to polyp hunters and worrying about insurance. No spam about penis enlargement has been found on the cave walls in Lascaux, proving that most of our anxieties have a modern origin.The Fray upgrade unveiled this week mirrors this human condition perfectly. I don’t know whether Fray 2.0 is superior to its predecessor, but if the loud collective whine of a million fusspots is any indication, it must be. We came here to seek refuge from the toxic fumes of progress that has engulfed civilization. I was expecting the new Fray to be viewable only in a DOS window in typewriter font, the messages scrolling down in real time providing a brief opportunity to catch them before they disappeared forever. Instead, we get this over adorned, unwieldy mess, proving that the caretakers had every resource at their disposal except wisdom.Social philosophers come in two stripes (depending on whether they were spanked as a child) – the sunny and the morose. Marx was convinced that all conflicts push society towards a final utopia of harmonious prosperity, while the forlorn Malthus saw us engaged in a Sisyphean struggle that will inevitably end in squalor. Suffice it to say that simpletons like these should have chosen pursuits more suited to their temperament, like pizza delivery or telemarketing. Schumpeter alone among modern thinkers realized that understanding progress calls for an ironic approach, which inspired him to call it ‘creative destruction’. With typical Viennese drunkenness, though, he got it exactly backwards.Every time we advance one step, our aspirations take two steps forward. Whenever you fix a problem, you’ll learn about two more in need of attention. Life used to be a brief adventure. Now it is nasty, brutish and long. I can see the Fray of the future – an infinitely customized hall of sighs, where people are too busy adjusting font colors, toggling between multiple screen views and worrying about the right combination of settings to ever post anything at all. It would reflect a similar existence outside, where every waking moment will be spent fiddling with the controls of life, adjusting blood pressure, dopamine, libido, nose length, financial portfolios, global climate and a zillion other things.I say, fcuk that. Somebody please bomb us back to the stone age.

If you haven’t yet joined us, we’re eagerly awaiting your arrival in the spruced-up Fray. The dust hasn’t settled yet, but the new furniture is breaking in nicely. GA4:00 am PDT.

Monday, June 4, 2007

Welcome, campers! Today’s a big occasion for us Fraywatchers. We consider this Day 1 of the Future. The Dawn of a New Era. The First Day of the Rest of our Lives. So, we’re a little disappointed that the “Bombastic Cliché Generator” is already stuck in overdrive.

We rolled out an entirely new Fray this morning. Over the next few weeks, we’ll be tweaking and twiddling with the software to bring you the best forum we can muster. In the meantime, we’re both excited and anxious to see what you’ll make of the new Fray.

If you want to keep abreast of developments with the wikimagidgets, cybermabobs, and sundry technical details, be sure to keep a close eye on Dan Engber’s “Fix the Fray” blog. Otherwise, just hop on in and start fooling around with our new gadgetry.

If you run into problems operating the new software, we recommend consulting the Fray Help file. If you can figure out how to submit a post and read the replies, share your worries with us in the Fix the Fray forum. We’ll be patrolling throughout the week, so you can count on a timely response from a Fray editor, a developer, or a savvy and generous Fray volunteer. If your troubles are more extensive and you can’t use the Fray at all, please feel free to e-mail our support team at We’ll do all that we can to get you online.

Over the next few weeks, we’ll be figuring out how to use the new software. The changes around here, however, will be more than cosmetic. Our team behind the is looking forward to this new system. With a more efficient back end, we should be freed up from all the work we’ve poured into merely keeping the lights on. We’re eager to devote more focus to the part of this job we love the most—reading your submissions and sharing your words, wisdom and insight with the widest audience possible.

That project will begin with Slate’s own published writers, who will be making a concerted effort to join your discussions in the Fray. While we welcome sharp disagreement, we do ask you to treat them with respect. A little dose of civility goes a long way toward producing a genuine exchange of ideas. We really do believe your ideas matter. If you do, too, we ask that you take an extra moment to express those ideas with a modicum of charity.

Speaking of your ideas, we’ll be redoubling our commitment to publishing your comments as appends to Slate articles. Over the last seven years, the number of Fraysters has risen exponentially, whereas the number of Fray Editors hasn’t. The new tools we’re unveiling should make it easier for you to find the kinds of posts you want to read. It should also make it easier for us to guide you to the posts you want to read. We’ll still have to keep an eye on the bottom of the barrel. But, with this new platform, it should be much easier for us to focus on the Fray’s strongest material, rather than its worst.

We encourage you to keep tabs on the Fray’s new front page. Most of our readers are also excellent thinkers and writers. Over the years, you folks have been churning out reams of material that deserves to be read. The new design for the Fray’s front page should give us the tools to spotlight much more of that excellent material. If you’re a Fray-writer, we’re hoping to give you the audience you deserve. If you’re just a reader, we’ll be offering you material you could really enjoy. Please do check in often.

What about this space? Will we be doing anything new with the Fraywatch column?

We sure would like to. Most of our columns have focused on discussions flowing from published Slate articles. Many of those discussions are too interesting and important for us to ignore … even if some of you don’t feel the same way about this column.

As always, if you manage to really knock our socks off, we’ll happily stand aside and devote our entire column to you. Let’s face it; seeing your words published on Slate’s front page is serious ego-candy. If you earn it, we’ll be happy to give you a taste. And unlike us, you won’t have to receive the ensuing hate mail.

What we’d really like to do, however, is develop a collaborative relationship with all of you. We hope you’ll trust us when we confess that hardly anybody’s in the news business for the money. At the end of the day, we believe that this job performs a genuine public service. As citizens, each of us is enriched by exposure to a diversity of perspectives and insights that defy conventional wisdom.

Most of you have real jobs, real lives, and real brains. You are, therefore, privy to newsworthy information. You have as much access to books, films, and television as our best critics. In the coming election season, our political commentators will be attempting to read the political mood of places just like your hometown. Our news reporters will cover fields in which you’ve developed expertise. We’ll all have questions at some point that you’re qualified to answer.

If all this high-minded talk brings out the cynic in you, let me just remind you that exposure through the Fray has a real value. Our advertisers pay a pretty penny for the kind of promotion we’ll be giving to you for free. One of us is a former Frayster himself, so we can assure you that giving your best to the Fray can indeed pay tangible, albeit unforeseeable, rewards.

If you’re willing to join us, we’d like to collaborate and open a new chapter in our relationship with you. We’ll be dependent upon your help to do so. If you have any ideas, you’d like to share about where to take the Fray from here, we’ll be available for discussion in the Fraywatch Fray or at AC & GA5:30 pm.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Tomorrow, May 31, is the old Fray’s last day of service. On Monday, we should be back—with entirely new and significantly improved software and interface.

Transitions are a melancholy time: One looks back with nostalgia and ahead with apprehension.

It’s easy to observe that the Fray is “just a chatboard.” It’s equally obvious that most human relationships are “just chatter.” We bond through talk, and the Fray is nothing but talk.

Over the years, Fraysters have formed genuine friendships and rivalries. The software going into retirement tomorrow has united lovers in matrimony, mourners in loss, friends in laughter, and critical thinkers in lively debate.

Over the course of today, we invite you to The Best of the Fray and ask you to add your words to this version’s closing chapter. Click this link to read the discussion.

Please do join us next week for the inauguration of our new Fray. We’ll be passing out a  free cookie with each new account. GA10:30 p.m. PDT