I don't know who at Google had the wit to think that the 93rd birthday (?) of the late Saul Bass (??) was an occasion calling for celebration via a "Doodle" -- a one-day tribute on the home page.
But whoever that person was, was right. The click-to-play montage of Bass's classic movie-title sequences that now occupies Google's home page is sublime, especially as set to Dave Brubeck's Unsquare Dance.* Anyone who knows the movies of what we now consider the Mad Men era will recognize the visual references, including Psycho, Spartacus, West Side Story, North by Northwest, Anatomy of a Murder (source of the initial static shot below, which opens and closes the number), and more:
It's worth recognizing small touches of elegance that shine out from the chaos and dross that often surround us. The execution of this Doodle is such a touch. I had not realized that just one person had been responsible for so many of the design elements that played a large part in setting the style of an era, let alone been aware that the person was Saul Bass. Now I do know, thanks to whoever thought up and produced this feature. I am glad, too, that the powers that be at Google** have decided an ongoing investment in Doodles, and an allowance for their quirkiness, is worthwhile.
* Brubeck's Take Five is so universally known that its 5/4 time signature now seems almost normal. The less-well-known Unsquare Dance is written in much-less-familiar-sounding 7/4 time.
** Routine disclosure: many of my friends work at Google, as does one of my sons.
James Fallows is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and has written for the magazine since the late 1970s. He has reported extensively from outside the United States and once worked as President Carter's chief speechwriter. His latest book is China Airborne.
James Fallows is based in Washington as a national correspondent for The Atlantic. He has worked for the magazine for nearly 30 years and in that time has also lived in Seattle, Berkeley, Austin, Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur, Shanghai, and Beijing. He was raised in Redlands, California, received his undergraduate degree in American history and literature from Harvard, and received a graduate degree in economics from Oxford as a Rhodes scholar. In addition to working for The Atlantic, he has spent two years as chief White House speechwriter for Jimmy Carter, two years as the editor of US News & World Report, and six months as a program designer at Microsoft. He is an instrument-rated private pilot. He is also now the chair in U.S. media at the U.S. Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, in Australia.
Fallows has been a finalist for the National Magazine Award five times and has won once; he has also won the American Book Award for nonfiction and a N.Y. Emmy award for the documentary series Doing Business in China. He was the founding chairman of the New America Foundation. His recent books Blind Into Baghdad (2006) and Postcards From Tomorrow Square (2009) are based on his writings for The Atlantic. His latest book is China Airborne. He is married to Deborah Fallows, author of the recent book Dreaming in Chinese. They have two married sons.
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