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I am not interested in writing about the deafening kind of noise that causes irreversible damage to the human ear. Nor in the wide range of sounds that you can hear outdoors, like the roar of surf, birdsong, or wind. What interests me far more is that elusive category in-between. Ranked highest among the sounds I find most unpleasant are: compulsive and demonstrative finger-cracking in libraries, and the high-pitched squeal of feedback from PA systems. Others can be driven insane by a dripping faucet, or even a ticking alarm clock, elevator music or in-store Muzak — noise that we have to hear whether we want to or not. My neighbor owns an admittedly quite attractive hunting dog that is genetically hard-wired to bark incessantly, or so she tells me. Why she has to keep this dog in the middle of a city is beyond me, but that’s beside the point here.

If you think you fall into the category of noise-sensitive people, you are in good company. It is known, for example, that Proust’s smoke-filled study, which doubled up as a bedroom, was completely soundproofed with cork. Hypersensitivity to noise doesn’t automatically qualify you to write masterpieces. But the renowned Frenchman knew how to tap his remarkably acute perception to be extraordinarily, even enviably prolific. Noise, in his opinion, was a kind of assassination of the senses. However, his labored breathing was beyond his control. Luckily, it was so loud that it not only drowned out the sound of his quill, but also the construction work being carried out on a bathroom a story above him.
More… “The Art of Noises”

Bernd Brunner writes books and essays. His latest book (in German) is When Winters Were Still Winters: The History of a Season. His book Birdmania: Remarkable Lives with Birds will be published by Greystone Books in 2017. He is a fellow and nonfiction resident of the Carey Institute for Global Good in Rensselaerville, New York. His writing has appeared in Lapham’s Quarterly, The Paris Review Daily, AEON, TLS, Wall Street Journal Speakeasy, Cabinet, Huffington Post, Best American Travel Writing, and various German-language newspapers. Follow him on twitter at @BrunnerBernd.
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My wife, the over-observant Shuffy, noticed a group of children playing with geometric shapes cut from pieces of black paper. The children were arranging these shapes on larger sheets of construction paper. The construction paper was lying on the floor of the Guggenheim Museum and the Guggenheim Museum was in the midst of its exhibit of Italian Futurism.

“Italian Futurism, 1909–1944: Reconstructing the Universe.” Through September 1. Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York. 

One wonders what Filippo Tommaso Marinetti would have thought about these children. Marinetti (1876-1944) was the founder of Futurism. In 1909, he wrote a document that has since become the most famous testament of Futurism. It is known as The Futurist Manifesto. The fourth “principle” of Futurism states, infamously: “We declare that the splendor of the world has been enriched by a new beauty: the… More…

If the Marx brothers had ever taken to food writing, they might have produced something very like F.T. Marinetti’s marvelously slapstick work, The Futurist Cookbook. The provocative (and regrettably Mussolini-approved) Italian artist Marinetti was infatuated by all things sleek, sharp, electronic, and shiny, but he was also an avowed enemy of pasta, which he denounced as a pathetic Italian addiction to nostalgia and tradition. Instead, he preferred his Futurist meals to combine the radical use of color, shape, music, lighting, and ideas, leaving taste and nutrition off the list entirely. In fact, the modern vitamin supplement industry should make Marinetti a patron saint: He argued that all sustenance should come from pills, freeing up food to be the raw material of art, preferably to be consumed while listening to the soothing hum of an airplane engine.

His oddball cuisine debuted in the first (and only) Futurist restaurant, in… More…

In the early part of the 20th century, the automobile blew people’s minds. In his Futurist Manifesto, Filippo Tommaso Marinetti equated the automobile with the liberation of the human spirit. Hearing the sounds of automobiles beneath his window in 1909, he wrote: “At last mythology and the mystic cult of the ideal have been left behind. We are going to be present at the birth of the centaur and we shall soon see the first angels fly!” Later in the Manifesto, Marinetti proclaims: “We want to sing the man at the wheel, the ideal axis of which crosses the earth, itself hurled along its orbit.”

All of this Futurism ended, unfortunately, in fascism. This was the kind of fascism that wanted to blast the old world into a million smithereens to make way for the new man, hard and steely and worthy of the age of machines. In a Russian… More…

If you’re seeking some suggestions for celebrating Helvetica’s 50th birthday, might I recommend a trip to New York’s Museum of Modern Art, which is presenting an exhibition devoted to the typeface? To mark the occasion, the MOMA acquired an original set of 36-point lead Helvetica letterforms. Of course, I don’t need to tell you to fly American Airlines to get there (their fuselage bears the grand imprint of Helvetica, as does and Lufthansa). Those looking to save money might consider renting a Toyota from National, or taking a Greyhound or Amtrak to New York (all of the aforementioned companies use Helvetica in their logos). Once in Manhattan, don’t forget to take a ride on the subway system, whose signage utilizes – you guessed it. And be sure to sip some VitaminWater, shop at American Apparel, and memorialize it all with your Olympus camera (powered with Energizer batteries), since all of… More…