Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Time for cheer

Via I Am Bored.
If California and New York State were businesses, they'd be going bankrupt. If you're among the nearly 20 percent of Americans who live or work in these two states, the fiscal crisis is coming home for the holidays. And the worst is still on its way.
-First paragraph of John Avlon's "What if New York goes bust?"

I am not keen on the "forget about the auto industry, journalists have the real trouble" argument, but I wish we could still afford to make heroin jokes this year.

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Paris Is Burning

Image via The New York Times.

The Times recently published a tribute to Ball culture at Club Remix. This was especially a tribute to Willi Ninja, who made voguing look so good even Madonna was in. (Watch his SHOULDERS in this video. The man is incredible.)

We watched Paris is Burning, the documentary of the Ball scene. This was my parents' New York: the mid-eighties, gay culture influencing everything trendy and exciting and getting remarkably little credit for it.

Now Willi Ninja's successor Benny Ninja is featured on America's Next Top Model, training girls like Isis to strike a pose.

It's not a perfect world - certainly the documentary hits issues that are alarmingly resonant in 2008, and the ending is deeply sad. But the fact that the people who were playing dream roles in underground clubs are on television strutting their stuff - well, TV isn't the be-all, end-all, but it's publicly viewed and accepted. And modern choreographers, dancers, actors, etc. are more likely to be open about their sexuality, without fear of ruining their careers (I hope). It's not as much progress as I wish we'd had in the twenty years since this documentary was released (the homeless man on my subway tonight still used the words "the virus" to describe his condition), but it's something.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Just try to catch him

Image via Mahalo.

Best place to watch the Giants online:

So thrilled about that game. Derrick Ward had 215 yards on 15 carries! And Jacobs was back.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Now in 3D

Image via Lifehacker and Gizmodo.

Check out the new intensely detailed images of New York on Google Earth.

Netbooks aren't new

...but they're catching on.

Drawing from 1972.

Gruber links to Dave Winer, both responding to the question, "Are netbooks something new?"

I would say no. Netbooks are just a new word for an old concept. As my boss pointed out a couple of weeks ago, Alan Kay invented the concept of a dynabook in 1968. This is, on a very basic level, a small computer that is quick enough to run what you want it to run. The laptop must have been a response to this concept, and those little Mac Powerbooks, and the PC tablet. The iPhone is perhaps the most advanced of any of these, but we won't count it since it is pocket-sized and there is no keyboard (other than the touch screen). Something that is small, light, has decent memory (if you can find that - Gruber makes a fair point against Vista on such a small machine), and costs $400 to $600, you might have something marketable.

Is this "the first Dynabook-like computer good enough to criticize?" No, but it'll take some heat anyway.

Ordinary polar bears

"My life is pretty ordinary," said Tracy Day, 47, wearing a bikini and clutching a Thermos of peppermint schnapps. "I've worked for the Social Security Administration for 26 years. I ride the bus five days a week. I come home and watch TV."

Then the Green Lake resident saw the polar poetry event on Craigslist. "I said, 'It's time to create.' "

The Seattle Times covers the Polar Bear Poetry Club. (via Silliman's blog)

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

There's a bear in there

Image via Said the Gramophone.

We always talk about how websites serve as places (you go to them and from them, you arrive somewhere and you interact with others employing certain terms and social codes). It makes sense that writers go to great lengths to make them homey.

There are lots of chairs around blogs these days. Take a seat, make yourself comfortable. We've got Wright, natural crystal, or bear.


Elbow-Toe has an opening tonight in L.A. C-MONSTER posted "Carleton Arms" this morning - lovely.

I realize I've been posting more beautiful pictures these past few weeks than stories about publishing. I hope that's not too bothersome. This industry is gruesome at the moment; when we finally have our hands on a copy of How To Talk To Girls, or the economy improves, maybe the publishing angle for blogs will be rejuvenated.

I'd like to post a little bit about each of the books I read this year. It's nice to put together a list so none of them is forgotten. If you've done the same, please leave me a little comment - I'd love to read what you're reading.

Bicycle bell watch

Currently I'm taken with Poor Life, who designed all of those lovely clothespins that were popping up on blogs last week.

Things that make you wonder

Art made from money. Some very nice paper hats for our presidents and others'.

The Explainer posts many questions they did not answer in 2008. A few favorites:

"Could you please explain why it is that squirrels are capable of such amazing athletic feats? What is it about their brains and, to a lesser degree, their bodies that allows it? I watch them at my house and have seen some amazing things."

"It is a common baseball prank to give someone a cream pie in the face during a TV interview. Where do these cream pies come from? Do baseball teams keep cream pies in the dugout?"

"My toaster identifies which of the two slots should be used for making a single slice of toast. Why does it make a difference which slot I use?"

The New York Public Library is on Flickr (via C-MONSTER). Flickr is getting some serious institutional action these days. Here's Ruth St. Denis in Yosemite Valley.

Time to hook up the holiday microwaves

I am still enamored of this video from AKQA (via SwissMiss and others).

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Two things we learned on the internet today

Photo via The How Zone.

1) "In a situation in which part of the troposphere is very near or just above freezing, the snowflake will partially melt. This produces a liquid film on the snowflake. This makes it much easier for snowflakes to stick together. Thus, it is liquid water that is the "glue" to producing large snowflakes and snow that is easy to make snowballs with. While a dry heavy snow tends to have a huge amount of small snowflakes, a heavy wet snow tends to have a smaller number of snowflakes but the individual snowflakes are large." (The Weather Prediction)

2) The four founding Warner brothers (born Wanskolaser) are named Harry (born Hirsz), Albert (born Aaron), Sam (Szmul) and Jack (born Itzhak), Jews who emigrated from Poland, Russian Empire to Ontario, Canada. (Wikipedia)

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Play with the Life photo archive

Go make yourself a fake book cover.

Even the critics are stumped

Earlier this fall, I saw John Ashbery read at the 92nd Street Y.

I wish I'd read this piece by Meghan O'Rourke first.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Journalists can live off the land this winter

Here's how:

[This video refuses to embed, no matter how much I sweet-talk it. I admit defeat.]

Interview tips for lion-tamers

And other people, too.

(If they ask, "Do you have any qualifications?" just say, "Yes, I have a hat.")

Scared of Santa

What a brilliant idea for a photo collection online. And timely, too. (via Gothamist) [A note: this may be one of the trashiest things I've posted on the blog.]

One more Post-It

Via Language Log. I took on their challenge of finding an example of "will have been being" in a reasonable context, but all I found was a rather dirty nonsense poem.

On a sad note

All the best to Alex after the loss of his dog. She looks so lovely on camera and in photos.

From his archives:
The body is a language sculpture. It is a thing built from a circular story - the double helix code that tells a stomach to be a stomach, the liver a liver, the brain a brain and the heart to be a heart. When the grammar of that language breaks down and the body starts to babble to itself, the body grows in chaotic, nonsensical ways. That is what cancer is.

The media of the recession

Post-Its by Marc Johns. (via My Love For You Is A Stampede of Horses)

Clockwork Atomics x302 by Scott Wilson. (via C-MONSTER)

Perfectly spectacular uses of scrap paper.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

To Eyeballs

This is a really good girlfriend. (via SwissMiss)

Since I chose the picture of lots of eyes, I figured I'd show you this, too (video by ENESS, via CoolHunting):

Always seemed fishy to me.

"Ghoti" is a Klingon joke.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Another gossipy article that's a vaguely interesting topic of conversation

“It‘s hard for me to imagine a big corporation that’s not already involved in books wanting to buy a publishing company now,” said Laura Owen, who spent a year working at independently owned Skyhorse Publishing after graduating from Harvard in 2006 and currently serves as the editor of the monthly trade newsletter Publishing Trends. “I mean, it’s funny. There must have been something that was more appealing about it then.”

An article from The Observer about moguls in the publishing business. A few nice quotations in there from Lindy (she's right; we rarely spoke of Perkins during the course - we were more anxious to meet new editors who were doing excellent work).

It is hard to make a blockbusting book. You can put a great cover on a vampire novel and market it well and get a couple of movie deals out of it if you're a very smart company. But buying a small collection of short stories from a new literary fiction writer isn't going to please your investors.

On a related note: MobyLives pointed out last week that a publisher inadvertently differentiated between fiction and literary fiction (via Three Percent). Today in a rough interview on Bookslut, Cynthia Ozick differentiates between culture and high culture. How big is the gap between these two? If you specify that fiction and literary fiction are different demographics, does that make you a snob?

Thursday, December 4, 2008

A tall order

Christoph Niemann has a perfectly adorable collection of napkin illustrations chronicling his relationship with coffee. (via SwissMiss)

Can you find the artist?

Just found Todd Selby's portraits - writers, artists, editors, film directors, fashion designers, multitaskers, ice cream truck drivers, all photographed in their homes or offices. Really strange and really vibrant. (via SwissMiss)

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Let the music wash over you

Sara the Walrus can play the saxophone. And she claps! Thank you, Telegraph (and thank you, Dan). For one minute and two seconds, I absolutely did not need a job.

Black Wednesday

Yet again, we're on the cutting edge of things at our company: we're all unemployed, at least for now. Guess who else is? The publisher of Houghton Mifflin, 10% of Thomas Nelson, much of Simon & Schuster and Random House, according to Editorial Ass (also on Andrew Wheeler's blog, via GwendaBond). Maud Newton elaborates.

Even my coworker wrote about it. Gosh, we are so trendy. But we knew we might be laid off well before the economy crashed. That's what you have to do when you work in Williamsburg: be way ahead of the trends, and act pouty and pissed when you become a trendsetter. Or when you become homeless.

You can almost hear it

I've been spending a lot of time at IT IN place. This is a piece I found in Alex's archives. Check out his blog here.

Video from 4th Estate

This Is Where We Live from 4th Estate on Vimeo.

(Thanks, Gene.)

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Thousand Miles Crane

1000 Miles Crane from Alex Itin on Vimeo.

When I'm being pulled in a lot of directions, I like to be in motion. Cars, subways, planes, whatever. When I can't move, time lapses are a decent substitute. I watched this one by Alex Itin without sound and felt a little better.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Let's go clubbing

Photo via The Gothamist.

I don't know why we're not going out more. We could be hanging out with Plaxico Burress and this angry girl. I just hope Bloomberg doesn't shake his head and say we're bad citizens.

Fey has her cake, eats it too, before Annie Leibowitz photoshoot

Photo from Flickr, by Tracey Gessner.

The Tina Fey interview is as bland as a grocery store cupcake with a photo sprayed on it, except for one section:
Her true vice is cupcakes.

Beyond Helvetica

Everything you ever wanted to know about subway fonts.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Turkey Day

Turkey photo via The Gothamist.

The Scientific American explains Thanksgiving.

Whirls and Twirls

Working on another post about the LeWitt exhibit. Here's a video of one of the walls by JackAdam on Vimeo:

Sol Lewitt Wall Drawing #1112 & #1152 from jackadam on Vimeo.

Also, a photo essay of the painting process, and a piece about the process in The Believer.

Embarrassing moment for a Fluxus kids

Beck's grandfather was Al Hansen; he was a fabulous artist who made collages out of Hershey bar wrappers in the shape of Stone Age Venuses, and wrote the primer on Happenings. Al's daughter Bibi lived with him in New York when she was a teenager, at the peak of the Fluxus period. She has hilarious stories to tell, because unlike my parents--who always made sure dinner was on the table and knew when to shop for school clothes--Al was completely oblivious. So Bibi, after being home alone for a few days without food, opened some cans of tomato soup in the kitchen cupboard--and they turned out to be signed Warhols.

Interview with Hannah Higgins.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

A $10 Million Pet

Penn State says we can make a woolly mammoth! Now we should just breed it enough to make it small, domestic, and hypoallergenic. (via Gwenda Bond)


Friends of mine have a fireplace: we determined, after some research, that the best place to go is either The Woodman (in Park Slope) or Key Food.

On a related note, Tarzian Housewares happens to carry Swiss Fire gel - if you're planning for fondue. This stuff is difficult to find; Sur La Table carries it sporadically, but multiple employees tell me they sell out the minute they get it in.

My little apartment is fireplaceless, but the fondue maker is very good for toasted marshmallows on cold days. I am hoping to make homemade marshmallows this winter; I will post a recipe as soon as I find one. Hope it's in time for the first snow.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Networking books

I want a social networking site for books, please.

Internet Gods, are you listening?

I want to create a profile with my favorite authors, titles, and excerpts. I want to gush about my favorite editions. I want strangers who love Amy Hempel to write on my wall and tell me about one of Hempel's former students who has just published a collection of short stories. I want to know when an author I'm reading is participating in a panel in the city. I want to read reviews and comments from other users and other publications. I want to be able to read excerpts from literary magazines or brand-new novels. I want to read the first two pages so I get excited to rush to the bookstore after a long day at work and a long commute on the crowded subway. I want to be so excited to open that new book that I can't even take the time to take my gloves off. I want to peek at the book in the bag as I walk out of the store - no, I don't even want a bag, I want to carry it so I can open it as I walk.

I will happily list my location and photographs of my bookshelves if this is granted to me. I will happily receive advertisements from publishing houses. I will happily buy a drink at a bar where my new favorite author is reading, and I will pay full price for the hardcover. If it's good, I'll buy multiple copies as gifts.

Facebook will not suffice. I want something more specialized. I want to judge other people by their favorite writers. If authors want to participate, I would be happy to send little messages with flattering notes or constructive criticism, whichever they need more.

I want to make more connections with people on the internet that read. Blogs do not put this content together in a perfect form. Perhaps the social networking world could do better.

Feeling ambitious

(A photo I took of my friend Sarah on our most recent baking day.)

"I don't want no trouble. I just want to make pies. That's all I want to do, make pies."

Thoughts for tonight's baking adventure:
Chocolate Bourbon Truffle-Turtle Tart
Pear Gruyère
Candy Apple Pie
Bailout Pie
Pie Chart

Carrot flowers

They look a lot like asterisks to me. We made some for dinner Monday night and I must say, they punctuated the green beans. If you need instructions, check out Apartment Therapy.

You too can browse the internet

Life Magazine contributes its photo archive to Google.

Kafka's handwriting is about to be released as a font. (via BookNinja)

Chad W. Post of Three Percent linked to BookTrib today. A good find: book reviews and links galore.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Sol LeWayfamousnow

The LeWitt exhibit at MASS MoCA made it into CoolHunting. They are so famous now. Internet famous.

Investigating nothing in particular

Binoculars from Paraphernalia. (via My Love For You is a Stampede of Horses)

Philadelphia, land of Ben Franklin's free library, is shutting down 11 libraries in order to save money. (via Silliman's blog)

Slate loves Buster Keaton's "The General."

Eavesdropping on Tom Stoppard. (via Maud Newton)

Some beautifully scanned Russian Avant-Garde books. If you're going to go PDF, this is the way to do it right. (also via Silliman's blog)

Miss college? Audit courses from Oxford for free, via podcast. Or check out Oxford's ten most irritating phrases, to remind yourself what your classmates might say. (also via Maud)

Monday, November 17, 2008

Lewis Hyde on Creative Commons

(Image via UMASS.)

From NYTimes.com:
The law of conservation of charge, the eponymous stove, the precise path of the Gulf Stream: Hyde shoves aside each of Franklin’s “discoveries” to uncover thick foundations of pre-existing knowledge and scientific collaboration. The point of all this is not to prove that Franklin wasn’t a genius but to show that his genius didn’t burst out of thin air. “It takes a capacious mind to play host to … others and to find new ways to combine what they have to offer,” Hyde writes, “but not a mind for whom there are no masters, not a ‘unique.’ Quite the opposite — this is a mind willing to be taught, willing to be inhabited, willing to labor in the cultural commons.”


(Image via Slate.)

"Meh" made it into the dictionary.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Thanksgiving, economy cycle back around

The Gothamist links to a nice collection of photos of New York from the 1930s.

It is a relief that the recession has not made the city revert to existing only in black and white.

Time person of the year

Congratulations, Barack Obama: you are up there with Elizabeth II, Stalin, Churchill, and "The Computer."

They've had some pretty silly people over the years: remember 2006, when the honoree was "you"?

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

A Richard Ford quotation

(Image via SlyOyster.)

"Middle-range literary convention really persuades us that, when we have momentous conversations, there are guns going off in the background and symbols clashing, when in fact we're talking to our realtor in the front seat of a car," Ford observed. (The Australian)


I usually peruse Craigslist for silly missed connection stories and free furniture, but last night I discovered the wonder of Household Items.

From an entry advertising a fondue maker:

Are you lucky enough to have a lactose intolerant spouse? Looking to prove to them that you know very little about him/her? Well, take a queue from my boyfriend and buy them this fondue pot that they'll get absolutely no use out of because cheese will kill them! It's really the perfect gift! I was certainly bowled over by the amount of thought and effort that went into it, and your lactose intolerant spouse will be too!

This Tuesday

On our drive back from Ohio, I read an issue of Tuesday: An Art Project. I happen to have a weakness for postcards in general, but there was something lovely about having a series of postcards printed on fine, thick paper with both poetry and images.

This may be my favorite new little literary magazine. (Indubitably I've professed love for Ninth Letter on this blog before, and you know how I feel about the Kenyon Review.) Tyler Meier recommended these to me, because the outside of the journal folds out to be a poster and the inside is full of things you can mail.

There is something about the presence of a crowd of poems settled into your lap that quietly demands your attention. I highly recommend a back issue for a long drive, if you have one coming up in the next few weeks.

Things to read

1) Jonathan Lethem's review of 2666.

2) The women who took care of Marc Chagall and the way they changed his art. (I'll admit I wish I could look at his art without knowing he left his 19-year-old girlfriend for his best friend, and that he cut his daughter out of his life because of his last wife.)

3) The Golden Notebook. I think I've mentioned our project, but Barack Obama liked it, and perhaps you trust his taste.

Iraq War Ends

I received a copy of this paper on my way to work this morning. Gawker and Blackbook have kindly revealed the source of this Times issue. (But I must admit the whole issue's quite impressive - it's thick, it has ads, the layout and printing are impeccable. The paper is just the right weight, and there are little touches in each corner: it's dated July 4, 2009, and to the left of the title, it says, "All the News We Hope to Print." The man who handed it to me had a very lovely Irish accent and carried a newsbag outside the Bedford stop in Williamsburg. Well planned and well executed, dear Yes Men.)

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Follow the flu instead of the election.

Google now has a map so you can check out the flu trends in the United States.

Cool map, Google. Unfortunately, I had the flu last week, and I certainly didn't have the chance to Google it - I was busy having the flu. As were many people around New York, and even more in Ohio this weekend.

I suppose it is best if you are feeling miserable and in the mood for company.

Things I am into today:

1) Christine Callahan's photos. (via CoolHunting)

2) Charles Schultz's use of ellipses. (via LitKicks)

3) Doing an apartment entirely in Sharpie Marker. Though I am certain that more than $10 worth of Sharpies went into this project.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Two internets

Superstar bloggers are ahead of their time - To paraphrase John Edwards, there are two Internets. First we have the mainstream, casual, prime-time Internet. These folks think of the Internet as a supplement to TV and radio. They get their news from CNN and the "Today" show and visit Web sites they see on TV.

They surf major news sites and circulate kitty pictures in e-mail. They use Google to check movie times and look up trivial pursuit answers, but they don't really belong to the Internet. Their tastes, their lifestyles and their media expectations froze in 1996.

The other group has adopted the Internet as a fundamental part of their lives. They host blogs, use RSS feeds and keep up with friends on Twitter. These people are connected 24/7. They send text messages while they sleep and check e-mail before they put their pants on.

They are young, smart and upwardly mobile, but there aren't enough of them yet. They're hyper-literate, hyper-critical and hyper-connected. These are true alpha consumers. They want to be first with a new gadget, first to review a great book, first to complain about a bad movie and the first to celebrate when an old brand does something new.

Do you think Michael Duff's right? The recent Radar shutdown was a major loss (though that magazine somehow always rises from the dead, no worse for the wear - if anything, more cynical) but I'm pleased all the writers are too stubborn to stop blogging. How does the publishing world adapt to Choire Sicha?

This article is a little strange, but I'm fond of it for managing to work pants into a sentence about compulsive email checking, and for finally giving Choire Sicha and Alex Balk some credit. Ask anyone in my household who they love most, and they will say (a) Michelle Obama, then (b) Choire Sicha. For good reason. Will someone please publish him now so I can give him my hard-earned money?*

*I have still not been paid. I am out of toothpaste. Thanks to one of my favorite kitcheny blogs, I now have a recipe for homemade toothpaste, which includes ingredients that are already in my house (peppermint extract and baking soda donated by my next-door neighbors when they moved). There are two kinds of broke: the kind where you are casually broke, and see being broke as a symptom of a failing economy. Then there is the kind where you accept you really want to write on the internet, maybe full-time as a career, but you end up doing it for free, because not even the internet superstars are paid these days, and you hit a point where you start making toothpaste out of ingredients left in your neighbors' cabinet, because the idea of not spending four dollars makes you giddy. Choire Sicha and I may have this in common. Ahh, the great equalizing power of electronic writing.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Itty bitty letters

Today I am rather enamored of the World's Smallest Postal Service. (via CoolHunting) Also, Lea Redmond's blog is adorable.

Animal Crackers

If Hannah Tinti's short story collection Animal Crackers had been illustrated, it would probably have been photographed by Joseph O. Holmes, the artist featured this week in the Jen Beckman gallery. Tinti's story about the woman painting the backdrops in a museum of natural history is absolutely haunting.