The Chimerist

Posts tagged apps

Our guest for today is Sharon Stiteler, AKA the Birdchick, birder, beekeeper and rabbit wrangler extraordinaire. She works as a ranger for the Mississippi River Visitor Center for the Mississippi National River and Recreation Area. — Laura

My iPad is used primarily for work and giving programs. I keep quite a few bird field guides and bird finding apps on there, so if someone asks where they can find a titmouse or how to tell a Cooper’s hawk from a sharp-shinned hawk, I can give them a fairly accurate answer. If it didn’t have so much public use, my desktop would have Peter Dinklage’s GQ Man of the Year photo on it.

Since it would be hard to explain how a park ranger accidentally showed a bunch of kids a hot dwarf with a naked woman, I have a photo I took when I was in Israel last fall. The Hula Valley is host to some 30,000 common cranes and we went out there to watch them one cool morning. The birds were surrounded by fog and mountains in the dawn’s early light. I held up my iPhone to my spotting scope and captured that all too brief moment and sometimes when I’m surrounded by bunch of unruly home schoolers, I can look down and remember that moment of peace.

My lock screen is a picture I took of one of my all time favorite birds, the bobolink. I love it so much, the male’s territory song is my general ring tone on my iPhone. And really, what’s not to love? The males are all black with what looks like a bleach job on the back of their heads and their song is a cacophony of notes that almost sound like it should come from a flock and not a single bird. Part of my work involves long days in the field documenting bald eagle movement, which can be surprisingly boring since they stay perched over 90% of the day. On one of my transects were several bobolinks on territory and the males sang all day long to defend their area from rivals. On days when I’m trapped indoors, especially in winter, I can get a glimpse of summer and remember my moment with them.

The song of the bobolink.

I don’t hate games. In fact, I can become as obsessed with a game as anybody else. It’s true, however, that I don’t care for most popular iPad games because 1) combat bores me and 2) I don’t like cartoon characters. I can offer no defense for myself on the second count: Animation, apart from Miyaazki and some Pixar, mostly just leaves me cold. 

For this reason, my eyes glaze over at the sight of countless app icons featuring the big-eyed, wacky/goofy cartoon heroes of the average casual iPad game. I don’t want to defend towers, help Squidgy the Squirrel get his nuts back, or plant crops. (The “time management” game genre baffles me more than any other — how did mimicking the least enjoyable aspect of modern life become a form of play?)

But here at The Chimerist, we love us some Vectorpark. Maud has already praised Levers and the delightfully bizarre Feed the Head. Now it’s my turn to celebrate Windosill, my favorite of the bunch. 

Windosill involves rolling a toy truck through a series of tableaux. In each scene, you have to figure out how to obtain a small cube (I think of them as sugar cubes) that will enable you to get to the next scene. This involves interacting with peculiar objects and beings: windmills made of feet, giant eyeballs, a sort of jack-in-the-box snake thing, colored dots that swarm like bees, and a little man in a space ship, among others. Clouds can be peeled back to obtain water, or shattered like glass. Disembodied tongues and beaks poke out of cubbyholes. Everything is bathed in a cool, blue glow like the light cast by a television set in a dark room.

Windowill is simple, I suppose, but it feels like its own little snow-globe world, consistent and self-contained. Yet it’s full of clever surprises. In its own small way, it’s just about perfect.

Laura Miller

Color, I recently realized, is a big reason why I love my iPad. I spend most of my day looking at black characters on (more or less) white pages. If I have the time to get out to a museum, I’ll sometimes stand in front of paintings, gorging on their colors, until I feel almost woozy. But I don’t often have the time for that. My iPad can give me a chromatic hit to tide me over.

Color Uncovered is a free app produced by the Exploratorium, a science museum in San Francisco. Each page explains how a certain aspect of color works, often using optical tricks, like asking you to stare at a color negative image for 30 seconds, then switching it with a black and white version of the same image, causing it to seem, briefly and gloriously, technicolored.

You may already sorta know this stuff — saturation and complementarity, etc. You learned it in school decades ago. But chances are you don’t really remember it that well, partly because tools like this weren’t around to teach it to you. I confess, though, that I’ve never entirely understood why TV screens are made up of tiny blue, red and green lights when I always thought the primary colors were blue, red and yellow. Now I know.

In addition to the various optical illusions and other illustrations of how our minds and eyes perceive color, this app includes some delightful, deftly edited videos in which people of various ages talk about what certain colors signify to them. Remember those late-night undergraduate bull sessions about how we can’t really be sure that other people are thinking of the same thing we are when they say “red”? Well, these videos could revive such talk. I was mystified by the emotional connotations the interviewees attached to my favorite color (green, if you must know).

Writing often gets short shrift in a visually -based app like Color Uncovered. Not so in this case. The text is perfectly calibrated to be understood by the many young visitors to the Exploratorium, without irritating adult readers. Every aspect of this app, down to its smallest design elements, is beautifully and expertly rendered. 

Laura Miller

Eric Shanower’s Age of Bronze , a graphic novel interpretation of the Trojan War, is no substitute for The Iliad, but then, it wasn’t intended to be.

For an event as thoroughly chronicled as it is, the Trojan War is still relatively mysterious: There’s no extant ancient document that presents its entire narrative. The war may or may not have actually taken place, in fact; from the judgment of Paris to the Trojan Horse, it’s only known to us through legends stacked atop legends, beginning with Homer’s “Iliad” and continuing through the movie  “Troy” and beyond. So the classification on the spine of  “Age of Bronze: Betrayal Part 1,”  the third and most recent collection of Shanower’s roughly thrice-annual black-and-white comic book, is “Historical Fiction/Mythology.” That’s a clever contradiction: Is it a recounting of something that didn’t happen, or an invention to dramatize something that did?

It’s sort of both. Shanower’s first smart idea was to treat every extant work related to the Trojan War as a potential part of his story — the “Iliad” and other classical Greek literature, of course, but also Shakespeare’s “Troilus and Cressida” and its medieval sources, Mozart’s “Idomeneo,” C.P. Cafavy’s poems about Achilles,even ABBA’s “Cassandra” and the movie “Troy. The proliferating versions of the war’s history are often incompatible, of course, and sometimes Shanower’s interpretations of key incidents synthesize multiple sources. (Was Philoktetes’ foot injured by an arrow or a snake? As far as “Age of Bronze” is concerned, both.) Piecing together the historical and mythological fragments into a coherent plot could be a dry exercise, but the passions and rages of Shanower’s Greeks and Trojans roar like a charging army of spearmen.

If you missed the series when it was collected, it’s being reissued for iPad as it originally appeared, in twenty-page installments, and with maps and a reader’s guide.

I’m revisiting them while my mind is still in thrall to "Stephen Mitchell’s propulsive, muscular rendering of ‘The Iliad’" and Madeline Miller’s gorgeous, modernity-stripped The Song of Achilles.

Maud Newton

I’m more drawn to games than you are, Laura, especially when I’ve spent the day writing, but I’ve never been good at shoot-em-up stuff.  I like cards and other kinds of strategy, and things involving connections or geometric shapes. Pipe Dream, derailer of many undergraduate papers, was an old Windows favorite. Tetris, too, but I never had nightmares about it, which is more than I can say about the pipes’ green goo.

I’ve found some great games for the iPhone — Eliss and, before the “upgrades,” Twistlink and Surfacer — but most either haven’t been reconfigured for the iPad or don’t translate well to the larger screen. One exception is Stay, another balance game, this one involving falling squares, rectangles, and skulls. Though Stay is sized for the iPhone, not the iPad, the washed-out, low-res images don’t suffer the way so many others do in the 2x-blowing-up. I prefer the larger version.

In the easiest mode, the idea is to keep your little red triangle on the seesaw as long as you can. Once you get the hang of it, it’s not so hard. Until the skulls start dropping.  They explode into eight or ten deadly little black asteroids.  

I’ve never gotten good enough to discover what horrors lurk in the more difficult settings.

—Maud Newton

Maud and I have been going back and forth on The Chimerist’s house style. My journalism background makes me unusually sticklerish on this subject; I care less about which style we use than that we’re consistent. Maud likes the Oxford comma, which I’m not used to since it’s not AP style (what most of the publications I write for use). I did adjust to it, though, when writing my book, which was governed by the Chicago Manual. So, we’re using the Oxford comma. Unless I forget, in which case, Maud gets to scold me.

The thing we’re hung up on, however, is how to set the names of apps. AP style puts the titles of most works of art in quotation marks, rather than italics. That’s due to something about typesetting in the newspapers where AP style emerged back in the olden days. (It also turned out to be good for early HTML publications, where the last character in an italicized word would lean into the space before the first character in the next word set in roman type — awful!) But italics do look better, and you don’t run into trouble with possessives.

Anyway, we’ve been kicking the question around, and at one point Maud went in to put the titles of all apps in quotes. This didn’t seem weird for apps like "Chopsticks" or "Meanwhile," which are obviously fictional, narrative works like novels or films. But what about Evernote or Flipboard? They’re apps, too, but setting their names in quotes or italics feels strange — they’re tools like Microsoft Word or Scrivener, not works of art. (Though Scrivener comes pretty close to art in my book.)

This question gets to the heart of what we want to explore with The Chimerist. Some apps are most definitely works of art; others are definitely not. But what about Strange Rain, an app that I approached as a piece of storytelling, but that my friend Clive uses as a sound effects machine when he’s having trouble getting to sleep? An app that’s not especially creative — say, a basic catalog of images from an art exhibit — would definitely get quotes or italics if it were published as a printed book, but requires a lot less ingenuity in the making than Evernote.

We decided from the start that The Chimerist would not cover the utilitarian apps that (along with games) dominate most app review sites. We want to do our small bit to foster and encourage the innovative use of tablets as a creative platform. But the App Store is a crazy hodgepodge of barely-organized stuff, from currency converters to interactive versions of T.S. Eliot’s “The Waste Land.” (As a former bank clerk, Eliot might have appreciated the irony of that.) It’s not always clear what’s art and what’s not. After all, most people think of Steve Jobs as immensely creative but he never made an actual work of art in any conventional sense of the term. 

Who knew that a little thing like quotation marks could trigger so much soul-searching about our mission?

—Laura Miller

I fell in love with Desi Leaves Town in spite of myself, and then fell out of love with it. It’s an app that tumbles through the awkward triangular space between novel, film and game. It doesn’t really work, but the reasons why are interesting.

Desi Leaves Town tells the story of a rich, jaded Parisian aesthete who shuts himself up in a suburban villa to escape the world he despises and to pursue various peculiar lifestyle and design choices. It’s based (loosely) on an 1884 novel by Joris-Karl Huysmans. However, the protagonist has been changed into a giant cravat-wearing frog, which alleviates much of the ridiculous (and, I have to say, very French) grandiosity of his carryings-on. Desi pursues elaborate and eccentric design schemes (buying a tortoise to set off the colors in his rug, then deciding to have the animal’s shell gilded and encrusted with gems), and then mopes around after he gets tired of them. That’s the extent of the plot.

At least as far as I can tell. The story is told by a series of short animated films alternating with basic puzzle games. The interactivity is all in the games, which did not much bother me. I was enchanted by the artwork (by Jakob Haglof) to the degree that I was willing to set aside my usual literary Francophobia. Desi, who would have been insufferably tedious as a human being, was much easier to take as a cartoon amphibian, sort of like Mr. Toad if he’d falling under the influence of Oscar Wilde. As befits the visual realization of a book about a person obsessed with color, the palette of Desi Leaves Town was so voluptuously saturated, its use of patterns and contrasting hues so bold, I felt happy just to stare at it.

However, I got stuck on one of the puzzles and could go no further. This was frustrating. Some of the puzzles were too rudimentary to be fun, but could be quickly gotten through. Others were challenging enough to hold my interest. My stumbling block, however, involved flipping exactly the right configurations of switches on a perfume machine, and it proved to be simultaneously difficult and boring. For reasons unknown to god and man, there is no “skip” option, and so I had to jettison the whole thing. By then, I cared — just a smidgeon — about Desi’s fate, but not enough to slog through all those lever combos. Instead of the interactivity opening up new experiences, it imprisoned me in a dead end.

Desi Leaves Town exemplifies how difficult it is to integrate narrative with games; each interferes with the other rather than advancing it. I’ve played puzzle games where I sat impatiently through the attempts to impose a “story,” but this is the first case in which I would happily have dispensed with all the puzzles to see what happened. 

"See" is the operative word. Puzzles that were uniformly elementary but fully as ravishing as the rest of the app would have been welcome. If they were clever or inventive, better yet, but in that case I probably would have lost interest in the story. The fact that I enjoyed it as much as I did suggests that I’m more easily swayed by eye candy than I’d like to believe.

Laura Miller

Once Magazine brings photojournalism to the iPad in monthly issues of three stories each. The format is simple — several pages of intelligent reporting interspersed with gorgeous photography — but native to the device, so that the essays are pleasing and straightforward to navigate, with surprising touches: a short, unobtrusive opening sound clip; a brief, dreamy video, easily skipped if you’re not in the mood on first read.

You can tell right away that this is not a periodical imported from print.  

The writers and photographers the editors work with have a way of making the people and places whose stories they’re telling feel present rather than bemusedly scrutinized.

For the March issue, photographer Thomas Lekfeldt and writer Lene Winther traveled to Zambia to document Chinese development and influence there. The resulting essay, Africhina, examines the tension between the region’s desperate need for jobs, education, and investment, which China is providing, and concerns about sustainability and — in a place where protesting miners have been shot at by their Chinese managers — human rights. 

And Satan Also Came Among Them,” by Noah Friedman-Rudovsky and Jean Friedman-Rudovsky, is about the rape, over three years, of 130 women (and girls) in an eastern Bolivian Mennonite colony by eight men who sprayed “a homemade anesthetizing substance” through bedroom windows at night to drug entire families. Even now, some members of the community deny that any of this actually happened. The victims, including the girl disappearing behind the door in the shot above, worry that the experience left them “stained.”

The March issue also featured Once’s first work of fiction, from Peter Orner, also photo-illustrated. With so few general-interest magazines publishing short stories these days, I’m interested to see what April brings.  

A subscription costs $1.99 per month; single issues are $2.99. The images below, taken from an essay on seal hunts in Greenland, appeared at the magazine’s debut last September. 

The photographer is Andrea Gjestvang. Once promises to split App Store revenues with contributors.

Maud Newton

Chopsticks ($6.99) falls somewhere between a book and an app. It’s a scrapbook “novel” telling the story of a difficult romance between two high school students, published by Razorbill, a Young Readers imprint at Penguin, in both app and print forms. The challenge of assembling this fusion of photography, video, animation, and audio clips was recently recounted in the Wall Street Journal as part of a longer story on the enhanced ebook genre. Chopsticks was held up as an important test case on the viability of the form.

I have my doubts about the inclusion of too much visual material in a text narrative (outside of picture books for young children, that is), but Chopsticks has very little text to begin with. The characters write each other notes and IMs, and there are faux documents from schools and the sanitarium where the character Glory, a piano prodigy, is sequestered for a while. You aren’t told the story, as is the case with prose novels and graphic novels; instead, you have to deduce it from the images and scraps of writing supplied by the authors, Jessica Anthony and Rodrigo Corral. While some of these are fairly straightforward — programs for Glory’s performances and newspaper clippings describing her breakdown at Carnegie Hall — others are winningly subtle: a stack of board games momentarily puzzled me until I realized it was meant to indicate how Glory killed time in the sanitarium.

This element of detective work made Chopsticks much more engaging than I’d expected. I think fiction works in part by eliciting an imaginative investment from its reader. Instead of the access to the characters’ inner selves that prose usually offers, Chopsticks shows us what they look like, what they draw (Frank, Glory’s boyfriend, is an artist), what they pack for a trip, what they scribble in the margins of the books they’re reading. From these clues, the reader is invited to imagine not just what’s happened, but how the two principles feel and think about it.

The only frustration I felt with Chopsticks resulted from the abundance of embedded YouTube clips showing what the characters watched on TV or compiled into the music mix tapes they swap. The Wall Street Journal article explains that this was a strategy to work around the rights nightmares associated with using music and video from copyrighted sources, which is clever, but ultimately not that successful. You can’t listen to the music while looking at the images in Chopsticks and I, personally, didn’t feel much like pausing to watch music videos by the Decembrists or Death Cab for Cutie. But then, I wouldn’t, and the inclusion of the characters’ favorite songs might be more meaningful to the intended audience.

Will I return to Chopsticks, the way I occasionally return to Touch Press’ landmark enhanced version of T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land? Probably not, but that has more to do with the subject matter than the form. I’d love to see an adult story told this way, with images, videos, and interactive garnishes luring me into a puzzle that offered more mystery and ideas. If the videos advanced the story instead of bringing it to a halt, they might seem less of an interruption. As the WSJ explains, putting something like this together is expensive and complicated, more like making a film than writing, editing and publishing a book. But I hope someone tries it.

Laura Miller

I use a Blackberry for my mobile phone and work email needs. For a long time, I fantasized about getting an iPad, after Levi Stahl at the University of Chicago Press sent me a note about their Gems and Jewels app, worth every penny and a few thousand more. I also wanted Show Dogs from Evil Twin Publications so I that could peruse various kinds of wolfhound.

It wasn’t until I had two publicity clients whose digital publishing endeavors could only be experienced on the platform –– Storyville and Booktrack –– that my desire became necessity. From there, my personal acquisitiveness took form in a wild jag from one jewelry app to another, including the Bulgari app for an exhibition I saw in Paris that included Elizabeth Taylor’s emeralds, large as eggs, and a Boucheron app that begins with a black cat materializing out of the darkness with a diamond ring in its mouth. 

The brass ring goes to Louis Vuitton’s 100 Legendary Trunks: "Crocodile-Skin Wardrobe, Mrs. Donohue, 1936" –– Nice to Paris, 1934: Mrs. Donohue saw the crocodile-skin suitcases of Mrs. E.E.C. Mathis, the wife of the auto manufacturer, in a Cannes hotel. She would like the same, but more stylish.

Lauren Cerand is a publicist in New York. She often shares her notes on living at LuxLotus.comFor details on submitting your screenshots, go here.

Alison Bechdel disclosed in a little preview booklet for Are You My Mother? that she used a font based on her own handwriting for the new book, as she did in Fun Home. Computer lettering looks so good when she does it, I got curious about the logistics and downloaded iFontMaker to give it a try. No one could mistake the results for the work of any kind of visual artist.

My first attempt resulted in an erratic collection of letters (first sentence above). Individually they may suggest my actual, scrawled-in-haste handwriting, but when put together to form words they’re much too widely spaced. My sentences look sloppier but less addled in person, more cramped print-cursive-hybrid than cheerful serial killer’s note.

On the next and last go-round, I produced a more traditional version of the alphabet (second sentence above). It doesn’t look quite like my writing, either, and not just because it’s so much tidier than what I usually dash off nowadays. To ensure some conformity of size and spacing, I used the app’s middle-line guide option; the rounded parts of the ds and gs and so forth wound up being far too large, and the tops and bottoms weirdly stunted.

The tension of my fat stylus against the iPad’s hard screen may account for the slight shakiness. But for the record, the semicolon-emdash pileup and the spelling of “visiter” come straight from my book of collected Poe.

Now that I’ve loaded the font into Pages, I could conceivably type entire documents in it, though I can’t imagine why I would want to do that. You can play around with it, too, if you’re so inclined.

Maud Newton

At Salon, Laura praises Skulls by Simon Winchester ($13.99), a newish app from Touch Press, the company responsible for The Elements and the special iPad edition of T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land.

"The ever-debonair Winchester, bestselling author of The Professor and the Madman, not only wrote the text that accompanies the app’s 300 rotatable images of human and animal skulls (as well as artifacts representing the human head) — he also reads it. The result is informative and thoughtful as well as gorgeous and diverting,” she says. “More, please.”

Maud Newton

LetterMpress is a simulation of an old-fashioned, wood-type printing press, complete with multiple sets of moveable display type and assorted borders, ornaments, dingbats and other images. 

In the Compose mode, you drag the type elements into the work area, which looks like a vintage hand-operated tin-tray press, using blocks and magnets to set the spacing. In the Print mode, you can pick ink colors and density, as well as paper color and texture. Then you drag the the inked roller across the paper. The result is a image of a sheet of paper that looks just like the product of an traditional letter press, although of course it doesn’t exist materially. There are even sound effects in Print mode to simulate the aural environment of a press room, humming, clicking and rolling.

This is what’s increasingly described as a skeuomorphic app, in that it simulates the look, functions and limitations of an earlier technology. (The Wikipedia entry on Skeuomorph makes for diverting reading.) I’m not sure that label fits perfectly, since a skeuomorph is usually an extraneous, ornamental design element on a modern object that’s retained purely to trigger a nostalgic or reassuringly familiar feeling. A perfect example of this is the little, round, non-functional handles near the necks of some glass jars of maple syrup, mimicking the shape of the handles on jugs. These subliminally signal that here you have authentic syrup, just like Pa Ingalls used to make in the Little House in the Big Woods.

With LetterMPress, on the other hand, the nostalgia is not only overt, it’s the entire purpose of the app (which you can also buy to run on your Mac). If all you really wanted was the image, I’m sure there are easier ways to make it. With this app, the process, complete with the maddening way the type blocks jostle out of alignment or end up printing backwards when you’re still figuring out how to use it, is as important as the results, if not more so. It’s toy as much as tool. Kids love it.

I’m not much for games, so when I want to play around on my tablet, this is the kind of app I prefer. It’s a craft project that requires no materials and makes no mess, one that can be tinkered with even when you’re stuck at the airport. The likelihood that I’ll ever get my hands on a real-world letter press are pretty slim, and even if I did, I’d probably fret about wasting paper with my amateur noodlings. Someone I described this app to seemed bewildered by the fact that you don’t actually end up with a physical piece of paper (although the creators of LetterMPress are supposedly working out a service that will produce one for  a fee). I’m not sure that’s such a big problem. What would I do with these but file them away somewhere until I was finally forced to toss them out? Who would ever see them?

Nevertheless, I have used LetterMPress to make title cards for photo albums uploaded to Facebook, and I’m sure there countless other uses to which the images could be put. They could be mailed to friend using one of the many photo-to-postcard services out there. You could design a CD cover for a band or perhaps labels for homemade gifts. I haven’t tried any of that, so I can’t tell you how well it works. 

For me, the immaterial nature of LetterMPress — or rather its strange immaterial evocation of an all-too-material tool — is the essence of its appeal, and one of things that makes it so chimerical. The fact that nothing gets used up except bits (the ultimate recycleables) is liberating.

Laura Miller

Meanwhile was published three years ago as a mammoth choose-your-own-adventure comic, but it began life in 2005 on Jason Shiga’s wall. The cartoonist (and mathematician) plotted all 3856 possible stories in an elaborate flow-chart so he could keep track of them while producing the book. And then, last November, in collaboration with text-adventure writer Andrew Plotkin, he released Meanwhile as an app. An app I downloaded as soon as my friend Chris Baker informed me of its existence last week. 

True, I haven’t played with the print comic, but the iPad seems like the perfect venue for this story, which serves up everyday choices — chocolate ice cream, or vanilla? — alongside more extraordinary ones. After using the (possibly mad) scientist’s bathroom in a rush, would you rather try out his time machine, his memory-reading device, or his… Killotron?  

"The inventions that you get to play with are all very standard science fiction tropes," Shiga has said, ”but I try to add a little twist to each one.”

One of the possible time machine subplots is “’a reworking of Hilbert’s Grand Hotel.’ (The Paradox of the Grand Hotel is a paradox proposed by German mathematician David Hilbert involving a hotel with an infinite number of rooms, all occupied, which can still accommodate more guests by shifting all occupants to the next room or to a mathematically-determined other room according to different situations.)”

There are, I can attest, many different loops to get stuck in. 

Obviously, if you’re looking for deep emotional layers, you won’t find them here, but Meanwhile offers intense puzzle-solving pleasure — and, just as important, tantalizing frustration. I’ve gotten far enough in to understand the complicated relationship between the characters, to read people’s minds, to (repeatedly) kill everyone, to confront “myself” and try to explain things and then resort to violence instead, and to end up in strange utopian worlds, but I don’t think I’ve solved it yet.

Maybe I’ll never think I’ve solved it yet, but everything I’ve read online suggests that you know when you do.  

If you finish Meanwhile and are in search of more Jason Shiga pleasure, Bookhunter and other books are available free at his site.

Maud Newton

Fallingwater, Frank Lloyd Wright’s masterpiece in rural Pennsylvania, is one of those places I’ve always hankered to visit, and yet am not quite motivated enough to seek out. The Fallingwater app from in-D media’s Planet Architecture series (they’ve also made apps about works by Zaha Hadid and Pierre Koenig) makes an excellent vicarious tour. 

Planet Architecture has produced books, DVDs and CD-ROMs about significant buildings, and Fallingwater is adapted from such materials. It’s a dense app, and at $9.99, more expensive than most tablet owners are accustomed to, but a deal compared to either a book or DVD. It’s obviously intended for readers whose architectural interest exceeds that of mere tourists, but the focus is more on images than on words.

The app has scores of ravishing color photographs (taken in all seasons) and 17 panoramas (I love panoramas), all linked to the architectural plans so that you can tap on the site map to see the house from almost any angle and any floor you please. You can get up under that spectacular main terrace and imagine that you’re dangling your toes in the cool stream just before it plunges over the waterfall, or you can look out over the terrace’s edge into the misty woods. The panoramas give a particularly exhilarating sense of the expanse of the main room.

There’s also a selection of clips from a documentary about the house, including archival footage of the clients romping in the stream before Fallingwater was built and an elderly Wright swanning around among his disciples in a beret. Perhaps the only disappointment in the whole package is that the current videos of the house itself are just panning over still photographs (AKA, the Ken Burns effect). The only thing you can’t see in the Fallingwater app is, ironically enough, water falling.

Laura Miller