10 rules for writing fiction, or just for all endeavors →
In 2010, the Guardian asked writers for some tips and guidance - for ten of their “personal dos and don’ts”. Zadie Smith’s read like a dictum for any creative endeavor:
When still a child, make sure you read a lot of books. Spend more time doing this than anything else.
When an adult, try to read your own work as a stranger would read it, or even better, as an enemy would.
Don’t romanticise your “vocation”. You can either write good sentences or you can’t. There is no “writer’s lifestyle”. All that matters is what you leave on the page.
Avoid your weaknesses. But do this without telling yourself that the things you can’t do aren’t worth doing. Don’t mask self-doubt with contempt.
Leave a decent space of time between writing something and editing it.
Avoid cliques, gangs, groups. The presence of a crowd won’t make your writing any better than it is.
Work on a computer that is disconnected from the internet.
Protect the time and space in which you write. Keep everybody away from it, even the people who are most important to you.
Don’t confuse honours with achievement.
Tell the truth through whichever veil comes to hand - but tell it. Resign yourself to the lifelong sadness that comes from never being satisfied.
These feel universal - truths across time and disciplines (granted, with a little adaptation). Most of them certainly feel relevant to my lil’corner of science.
Saw this photo taken by Diane Arbus in ~1968 at the Whitney a month and a half ago and did a triple take. It has Mad Men / Matthew Weiner inspiration written all over it: squint a little, and you can see Betty, Bobby, and Don, surrounded by litter, cigarettes, and disdain.
Cleaning up the server and stumbled upon this unpublished draft. Updike, sigh, swoon.
This seems to be an era of gratuitous inventions and negative improvements. Consider the beer can. It was beautiful — as beautiful as the clothespin, as inevitable as the wine bottle, as dignified and reassuring as the fire hydrant. A tranquil cylinder of delightfully resonant metal, it could be opened in an instant, requiring only the application of a handy gadget freely dispensed by every grocer. Who can forget the small, symmetrical thrill of those two triangular punctures, the dainty pfff, the little crest of suds that foamed eagerly in the exultation of release? Now we are given, instead, a top beetling with an ugly, shmoo-shaped tab, which, after fiercely resisting the tugging, bleeding fingers of the thirsty man, threatens his lips with a dangerous and hideous hole. However, we have discovered a way to thwart Progress, usually so unthwartable. Turn the beer can upside down and open the bottom. The bottom is still the way the top used to be. True, this operation gives the beer an unsettling jolt, and the sight of a consistently inverted beer can might make people edgy, not to say queasy. But the latter difficulty could be eliminated if manufacturers would design cans that looked the same whichever end was up, like playing cards. What we need is Progress with an escape hatch.
A reflection on common fears in societies where anxieties have become a lifestyle choice (2010 - ongoing).
Regarding the piece above:
Public dread and actual deaths caused by most common sources of energy. Based on a longterm study by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
image from coclimate.com
Nicola Twilley, writing at ediblegeography.com:
After running around New York City in order to source our precursor ingredients (a huge thanks to Kent Kirshenbaum, chemistry professor at NYU and co-founder of the Experimental Cuising Collective), we spent Thursday afternoon and evening in the kitchens of Baz Bagel (excellent bagels, amazing ramp cream cheese, and truly lovely people) assembling the cart, mixing different chemical precursors, and then “baking” them under UV light to form a London peasouper, a 1950s Los Angeles photochemical smog, and a present-day air-quality event in Atlanta.
We chose these three places and times to showcase three of the classic “types” that atmospheric scientists use to characterize smogs: 1950s London was a sulfur- and particulate-heavy fog, whereas 1950s Los Angeles was a photochemical smog created by the reactions between sunlight, NOx, and partially combusted hydrocarbons. Present-day Beijing often experiences London-style atmospheric conditions, whereas Mexico City’s smog is in the Angeleno style.
Meanwhile, at its worst, Atlanta’s atmosphere is similar in composition to that of Los Angeles, but with the addition of biogenic emissions. An estimated ten percent of emissions in Atlanta are from a class of chemicals known as terpenes, from organic sources such as pine trees and decaying green matter. We had also hoped to create a Central Valley smog as well, but time got the better of us.
Each city’s different precursor emissions and weather conditions produce a different kind of smog, with distinct chemical characteristics—and a unique flavour.
Netflix has picked up “A Very Murray Christmas” — an homage to classic variety shows starring Bill Murray as himself — set to debut on the streaming service Internet TV network this December.
The special is being written by Sofia Coppola, Bill Murray and Mitch Glazer and directed by Sofia Coppola. In “A Very Murray Christmas,” the comedian worries no one will show up to his TV show due to a massive snowstorm in New York City. Through luck and perseverance, guests arrive at Gotham’s Carlyle hotel to help him — dancing and singing in holiday spirit.
There's been a (lucky) stream of artwork flying around the internet. From Spoon and Tamago, this incredible cross section of life in Kowloon's Walled City: That reminded me of Mattias Adolfsson, whose illustrations are full of detail and whimsy: And then, today, Kottke linked to yet another illustrated cross section of a building -- this time Washington DC's Evening Star: He and others have pointed out that this looks comfortable amongst the works of Chris Ware, albeit a bit before his time. I highly recommend clicking on the above images to embiggen.
Haida's Story: A folktale from Haruki Murakami's new novel, Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage. →
Read an excerpt from Murakami’s new story. Slate’s also got an interactive site that presumably offers some insights into the novel. Looking forward to it.
Midorikawa hesitantly began playing “‘Round Midnight.” At first he played each chord carefully, cautiously, like a person sticking his toes into a stream, testing the swiftness of the water and searching for a foothold. After playing the main theme, he started a long improvisation. As time went by, his fingers became more agile, more generous, in their movements, like fish swimming in clear water. The left hand inspired the right, the right hand spurred on the left. Haida’s father didn’t know much about jazz, but he did happen to be familiar with this Thelonious Monk composition, and Midorikawa’s performance went straight to the heart of the piece. His playing was so soulful it made Haida forget about the piano’s erratic tuning. As he listened to the music in this junior-high music room deep in the mountains, as the sole audience for the performance, Haida felt all that was unclean inside him washed away. The straightforward beauty of the music overlapped with the fresh, oxygen-rich air and the cool, clear water of the stream, all of them acting in concert. Midorikawa, too, was lost in his playing, as if all the minutiae of reality had disappeared. Haida had never seen someone so thoroughly absorbed in what he was doing. He couldn’t take his eyes off Midorikawa’s ten fingers, which moved like independent, living creatures.
A short story from Murakami in the New Yorker:
Erika stared at the candle flame flickering in the breeze from the A.C. “I often have the same dream,” she said. “Aki-kun and I are on a ship. A long journey on a large ship. We’re together in a small cabin, it’s late at night, and through the porthole we can see the full moon. But that moon is made of pure, transparent ice. And the bottom half of it is sunk in the sea. ‘That looks like the moon,’ Aki-kun tells me, ‘but it’s really made of ice and is only about eight inches thick. So when the sun comes out in the morning it all melts. You should get a good look at it now, while you have the chance.’ I’ve had this dream so many times. It’s a beautiful dream. Always the same moon. Always eight inches thick. I’m leaning against Aki-kun, it’s just the two of us, the waves lapping gently outside. But every time I wake up I feel unbearably sad.”
Erika Kuritani was silent for a time. Then she spoke again. “I think how wonderful it would be if Aki-kun and I could continue on that voyage forever. Every night we’d snuggle close and gaze out the porthole at that moon made of ice. Come morning the moon would melt away, and at night it would reappear. But maybe that’s not the case. Maybe one night the moon wouldn’t be there. It scares me to think that. I get so frightened it’s like I can actually feel my body shrinking.”
Hard to say if this is real or not, but booksellers claim to have found a dictionary used and annotated by Shakespeare. They’ve digitized it and made it available on the internet (requires registration).
In simplest terms it goes as follows: with Baret’s Alvearie we are faced with a book that has not once been reprinted since 1580. A most obscure book. A humble copy. An extensive network of annotations that, through obscurity and a lack of attention, comes to light only now, never previously studied or speculated upon. These are the basic stepping-stones to providing plausibility to the dream that such a monumental discovery is possible. The rest is in the evidence.
A collection of shots of the miniatures from the film as they were being created. The details are pretty incredible.
Beth and I went and saw Wes Anderson’s newest film, The Grand Budapest Hotel, at our customary and preferred pre-noon showtime. In attendance were a healthy set of other 30 somethings and a substantial number of significantly older clientele. I love Anderson’s films without reserve. This one did not disappoint; in fact, it has stuck with me in peculiar ways.
The film is typically quirky, beautiful, and flagrantly not of this reality: set in a made-up eastern European country, it takes place slightly before a large conflict that draws from both the first and second world wars. The external, wide shots of the hotel and many of the sets are clearly models — though exquisitely detailed ones. The story floats through history, moving us back in time somewhat quickly. At the beginning, a young woman visits a statue of a dead author, paying tribute as the snow falls around her in a somewhat drab courtyard. She holds a book -�The Grand Budapest Hotel - by ‘The Author.’ We see a picture of him on the back cover, than cut to him behind a desk, alive and recounting how he came to the story of the hotel and its owner (and seemingly breaking the fourth wall as he describes storytelling). These scenes are all shot in a typical, modern aspect ratio. We cut to the past, where Jude Law plays a younger version of The Author. The aspect ratio changes and Law becomes the narrator. We learn a little about the hotel, a quieted place of fading glory, ornamentation discarded for brute utilitarianism; and of its proprietor, Zero Mustafa. Zero recounts how he came to the hotel as a lobby boy, and we shift further back in time. F. Murray Abraham, who plays the older Zero, takes over as narrator. Zero, now played by Tony Revolori, is a refugee from an unnamed somewhere. The casting is smart — in no human world does Revolori grow into Abraham, but both convey otherness and outsider. We meet his flirtatious, bisexual, at times well-mannered and at times flagrantly vulgur mentor M. Gustave, portrayed with brilliant aplomb by Ralph Fiennes. The aspect ratio changes again — this time dramatically, to one slightly taller than wide. A striking, uncommon effect. The combination of shifting aspect ratios and narrators helps the viewer organize the periods of the film, but also confuses. A neat way of depicting the manic and wily sands of memory, transposing and mixing up bits and pieces of recalled experience.
The story goes off the rails from there — in fun and memorable ways. There’s a thug who removes some of another character’s fingers, a love story between a savant baker and Zero, a prison break, incredible sets and many, many familiar faces. To describe any of it in detail would be tantamount to pilfering little bits of delight. Like all Anderson films, there’s subtle humor, detail, and insane exposition.
So why’s it bugging me? I’m not sure. Anderson doesn’t address the obscenities of history directly, but lightly and from glancing angles. This pisses people off (not me), especially those who think Anderson’s films are superficial nods to aesthetes. There are palpable senses of loss and longing: for older Zero, an understandable one; an equivalent saudade for Gustave, who by wily strength of charm maintains his bizarre interpretation of old-world decorum and propriety at the Hotel. He lives by a code, as it were, and watches the world crumble around him.
The melancholy extends to the connection between Zero and Gustave, to the Hotel and the world it represented, and to a perceived brightness of a forgone time. It permeates throughout the film and ultimately gives way to an acknowledgement of passing. If Anderson’s worlds of whimsy are creations of joy, then the drab scenes set in the ‘present’ of the film (mid-80s) and in the recent past of Law’s Author seem to come from a muted woe daubed with signs of former glory.
That last bit sounds remarkably abysmal — it’s not, at all. I’m keen for a repeat viewing. The film’s a delight and the best I’ve seen in quite a while.
“Slow” marine animals show their secret life under high magnification. Corals and sponges are very mobile creatures, but their motion is only detectable at different time scales compared to ours and requires time lapses to be seen. These animals build coral reefs and play crucial roles in the biosphere, yet we know almost nothing about their daily lives.
The NYT has two interesting beer-related articles available online from the forthcoming (in print) NYT Magazine. The first is about the Bjergso brothers, two beer brewing mavens:
The number of phantom brewers is growing, and Mikkel, who got into the game in 2006, views this with a mixture of magnanimity and trendsetter’s pride. But he pays particularly close attention to one Brooklyn-based phantom brewery, because it is owned by his identical twin, Jeppe Jarnit-Bjergso. Jeppe started his brewery four years after Mikkeller began and, in an act of winking provocation, named the outfit Evil Twin. It is a smaller operation than Mikkeller, but similarly well regarded among connoisseurs. (Jeppe used to help Noma curate its beer selection.) The Bjergso brothers have opposite temperaments: Mikkel is reserved; Jeppe is an extrovert. And they are not on good terms, despite — or rather, because of — their shared infatuation with beer. They haven’t spoken to each other in more than a year.
Fun read, especially for beer aficionados.
A second, equally fun piece has Milton Glaser’s thoughts on some modern beer branding and labels.
“I have a theory that most of design, in general, is the creation of affection,” says Milton Glaser, the 84-year-old graphic-design legend, who created the I ♥ NY logo. When it comes to craft beer, Glaser, who also designed the Brooklyn Brewery identity, believes that it comes down to creating a label that looks quirkily amateurish — if not downright unprofessional. “The one thing you don’t want to look like is Budweiser,” Glaser says. “This creates a paradox: How do you deliberately create the illusion of not knowing what you’re doing when you actually do?” As he notes below, some companies do it better than others.
This is a gem. The hidden language of bars. Completely beautiful nonsense. Intriguing little microclimates of language — some which seem to exist between bars, and some within.
A specially prepared drink that is sealed (say, with plastic wrap or a rubber glove) and dispatched as a gift to a nearby bar. Of dubious legality, BOOMERANGS are a way of ‘having a drink’ with industry friends during work. BOOMERANGS are often shuttled from bar to bar by regulars, who are thereby identified as guests of quality.
[I] One who sneaks out, leaving his friends to pay.  A cool and composed drinker.
Wealthy client, not spending.
This is relatively old news in the world of the internet... but it's still a pretty awesome visualization. The story's full of interesting facts. For instance:
The distillery in Lawrenceburg, Indiana is known colloquially as LDI, but is now part of MGP, a food conglomerate that specializes in bioplastics, industrial proteins, and starches for use in salad dressings,energy bars, imitation cheese, and fruit fillings. One of the products made in the Indiana facility is a rye whiskey with a mash bill of 95 percent rye, 5 percent malt barley. Most rye whiskeys are no more than 70 percent rye. According to author Chuck Cowdery, this particular whiskey was developed by Seagram's as a flavoring agent for blended whiskeys like Seagram's 7. When Seagram's disintegrated due to mismanagement in the 1990s, the whiskey, then in the process of aging, was sold to other distilleries in the fire sale of assets, as one salvage company after the next tried to determine what to do with the distillery and its excess inventory. This is how one generic whiskey became known by more than a dozen names, including Templeton Rye, Redemption Rye, Bulleit Rye, Willet, Smooth Ambler, and George Dickel Rye, among others. The companies that own each of these brands have purchased LDI rye whiskey and now bottle it under their own labels, adjusting the proof and length of aging in order to create their own differentiations.
What the what.
Christmas in early November. Enjoy!
Pretty awesome little video from a French video production and graphic design firm. Not entirely sure about the veracity of the math or the visualizations… but that’s perhaps missing the forest for the trees.
Best viewed fullscreen.
This beautiful tome arrived today. The New Yorker summarizes it best:
Were it only for the text of his introductory essays and extended interviews with Wes Anderson, Matt Zoller Seitz’s book “The Wes Anderson Collection,” which discusses all seven of Anderson’s feature films in copious detail, would be an indispensable resource, as well as a delight….
But the text isn’t all there is to it: the book is entirely in the Andersonian spirit—it’s a beautiful object, not a coffee-table book (except in size) but one that’s designed and thought out to its slightest detail, with its amazingly wide and deep offering of visual documentation. (Far be it from me to diminish the images and artifacts by calling them “illustrations.”) Still photographs from the set, frame enlargements, storyboards, influences (from “Peanuts” to Holbein to Welles), references (record covers, school insignias), and memorabilia (newspaper clippings, casting snapshots) are matched with informative and discursive captions that play like stage whispers, and all are brought together with taste, insight, and joyful celebration.
The introduction by Michael Chabon praises Anderson as much as it reflects on aging and growth:
The world is so big, so complicated, so replete with marvels and surprises that it takes years for most people to begin to notice that it is, also, irretrievably broken. We call this period of research “childhood.”
There follows a program of renewed inquiry, often involuntary, into the nature and effects of mortality, entropy, heartbreak, violence, failure, cowardice, duplicity, cruelty, and grief; the researcher learns their histories, and their bitter lessons, by heart. Along the way, he or she discovers that the world has been broken for as long as anyone can remember, and struggles to reconcile this fact with the ache of cosmic nostalgia that arises, from time to time, in the researcher’s heart: an intimation of vanished glory, of lost wholeness, a memory of the world unbroken. We call the moment at which this ache first arises “adolescence.” The feeling haunts people all their lives.
Everyone, sooner or later, gets a thorough schooling in brokenness. The question becomes: What to do with the pieces? Some people hunker down atop the local pile of ruins and make do, Bedouin tending their goats in the shade of shattered giants. Others set about breaking what remains of the world into bits ever smaller and more jagged, kicking through the rubble like kids running through piles of leaves. And some people, passing among the scattered pieces of that great overturned jigsaw puzzle, start to pick up a piece here, a piece there, with a vague yet irresistible notion that perhaps something might be done about putting the thing back together again.
Two difficulties with this latter scheme at once present themselves. First of all, we have only ever glimpsed, as if through half-closed lids, the picture on the lid of the jigsaw puzzle box. Second, no matter how diligent we have been about picking up pieces along the way, we will never have anywhere near enough of them to finish the job. The most we can hope to accomplish with our handful of salvaged bits—the bittersweet harvest of observation and experience—is to build a little world of our own. A scale model of that mysterious original, unbroken, half—remembered. Of course the worlds we build out of our store of fragments can be only approximations, partial and inaccurate. As representations of the vanished whole that haunts us, they must be accounted failures. And yet in that very failure, in their gaps and inaccuracies, they may yet be faithful maps, accurate scale models, of this beautiful and broken world. We call these scale models “works of art.”
“The ache of cosmic nostalgia.” “The bittersweet harvest of observation and experience.”
The first trailer for Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel was released today. Looks positively Wes Anderson-errific. Can’t wait.
The Best American Infographics 2013 came in yesterday. It’s chock-full of goodness and inspiring visual displays of data. Some are nonsensical, some are dense and shocking. They’re all pretty engaging and the collection appears well-curated. Wired has a number of the selected graphics online.
The book’s introduction was written by David Byrne. I’ll add a link to the essay if it appears online. In the meantime, my favorite bit follows.
The very best of these, in my opinion, engender and facilitate an insight by visual means - allow us to grasp some relationship quickly and easily that otherwise would take many pages and illustrations and tables to convey. Insight seems to happen most often when data sets are crossed in the design of the piece - when we can quickly see the effects on something over time, for example, or view how factors like income, race, geography, or diet might affect other data. When that happens, there’s an instant “Aha!” - we can see how income affects or at least correlates with, for example, folks’ levels of education. Or, less expectedly, we might, for example, see how rainfall seems to have a profound effect on consumption of hard liquor (I made that part up). What we can get in this medium is the instant revelation of a pattern that wasn’t noticeable before.
One would hope that we could educate ourselves to be able to spot the evil infographics that are being used to manipulate us, or that are being used to hide important patterns and information. Ideally, an educated consumer of infographics might develop some sort of infographic bullshit detector that would beep when told how the trickle-down economic effect justifies fracking, for example. It’s not easy, as one can be seduced relatively easily by colors, diagrams and funny writing.
One part Peanuts comic strip, one part Smiths lyrics. One hundred percent hilarious. See more here.
The Verge highlighted some amazing photos from NASA and University of Arizona’s HiRISE (High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment). From the HiRISE FAQ page:
HiRISE returns images of the Martian surface with higher resolution than ever seen before from an orbiter. This means we can see extraordinary detail in all kinds of surface features. Scientists all over the world are already using these images to understand many previously-unexplained phenomena on the Red Planet. We might also discover brand new types of features never seen before! The stereo and color capabilities will also allow us to explore Mars in 3D, and with compositional information. The ultra high resolution also makes HiRISE the perfect tool for investigating the safety of future landing sites for other missions, such as the Phoenix lander or the Mars Science Laboratory. We’ve also done some searching for past Mars landers, both successful and not. But even without the higher resolution and added capabilities, additional cameras in Mars orbit are always valuable for imaging new terrains on Mars, and for monitoring the dynamic surface and atmosphere for activity and changes.
A few more favorites:
Errol Morris is at it again. From an interview at The Daily Beast:
… Of all the so-called nefarious characters within the George W. Bush administration, why Rumsfeld?
If I’m asked to think about the two major Secretaries of Defense of the last fifty years, it’s Robert S. McNamara and Donald Rumsfeld—two Secretaries of Defense who presided over disastrous wars and were major public figures. People are going to say this is The Fog of War 2. One very big difference between [McNamara and Rumsfeld] is that McNamara says the war was a mistake, it was wrong. He didn’t say it at the time, but has subsequently said it. Rumsfeld? Not so much. I always say it’s Tabloid 2.
The topic of war seems to fascinate you. Why are we in a seemingly constant state of war?
Because I think people are crazy. I talk very briefly about Shakespeare, and with Shaskespeare, the motivating force of history is insanity, greed, jealousy, hate, power. Rumsfeld said, “Well, maybe that was true then, but it’s different now.” Then he reads this memo to Condi Rice where he basically tells her to shut up, you’re not in the chain of command, nobody wants to hear from you, and if you continue to talk out, I’m going to the president and I’m going to have you muzzled.
This is going to be fascinating. And terrifying.
John Nelson, writing about the creation of these images:
Having spent much of my life living near the center of that mitten-shaped peninsula in North America, I have had a consistent seasonal metronome through which I track the years of my life. When I stitch together what can be an impersonal snapshot of an entire planet, all of the sudden I see a thing with a heartbeat. I can track one location throughout a year to compare the annual push and pull of snow and plant life there, while in my periphery I see the oscillating wave of life advancing and retreating, advancing and retreating. And I’m reassured by it.
Of course there are the global characteristics of climate and the nature of land to heat and cool more rapidly than water. The effects of warm currents feeding a surprisingly mild climate in the British Isles. The snowy head start of winter in high elevations like the Himalayas, Rockies, and Caucuses, that spread downward to join the later snowiness of lower elevations. The continental wave of growing grasses in African plains.
But, overall, to me it looks like breathing.
This speech slays.
Since, according to me, your life is going to be a gradual process of becoming kinder and more loving: Hurry up. Speed it along. Start right now. There’s a confusion in each of us, a sickness, really: selfishness. But there’s also a cure. So be a good and proactive and even somewhat desperate patient on your own behalf - seek out the most efficacious anti-selfishness medicines, energetically, for the rest of your life.
Do all the other things, the ambitious things - travel, get rich, get famous, innovate, lead, fall in love, make and lose fortunes, swim naked in wild jungle rivers (after first having it tested for monkey poop) - but as you do, to the extent that you can, err in the direction of kindness. Do those things that incline you toward the big questions, and avoid the things that would reduce you and make you trivial. That luminous part of you that exists beyond personality - your soul, if you will - is as bright and shining as any that has ever been. Bright as Shakespeare’s, bright as Gandhi’s, bright as Mother Theresa’s. Clear away everything that keeps you separate from this secret luminous place. Believe it exists, come to know it better, nurture it, share its fruits tirelessly.
And someday, in 80 years, when you’re 100, and I’m 134, and we’re both so kind and loving we’re nearly unbearable, drop me a line, let me know how your life has been. I hope you will say: It has been so wonderful.
Thomas Prior's Insane Photos from Fireworks in Tultepec, Mexico & El Torito de Antigua →
Kottke linked to Thomas Prior’s collection of celebrations laden with fireworks in Mexico. Madness.
The original article at Wired tells us a bit more:
The annual nine-day festival attracts more than 100,000 people to bathe in the glow of pyrotechnicians’ expert displays. The main event is the Pamplonada — a seven-hour running of the (wooden) bulls in which more than 200 timber-framed toros of fire roll through the streets with up to 4,000 fireworks on each in perpetual explosion.
Tultepec is the center of the country’s firework industry, accounting for half of all fireworks made in Mexico. Approximately 30,000 of the 120,000 Tultepec townsfolk work in the pyrotechnics industry building frames, supplying parts and distributing goods. Two thousand work daily in the 300 registered workshops manufacturing fireworks.
The National Pyrotechnic Festival takes place in honor of Saint John of God, the patron saint of hospitals, the sick, nurses, firefighters and alcoholics — quite fitting given the occasion’s flaming revelry and danger.
Those photos reminded me of some revelry I encountered in Guatemala. Witness El Torito de Antigua:
The video actually captures it pretty well. The nonchalance of the fellow who’s got explosives strapped to a wooden bull he’s wearing over his head. The nervous, bemused excitement and terror of the crowd. The madness of the entire endeavor. Not quite the same level insanity as in Tultepec… but of a similar. Mothers, don’t let your babies grow up to be pyrotechnics.
We also monitored air pollution in the plaza (of course) during the march of El Torito.
“Life evolved or was created. Cells trembled and divided and gasped and found dry land. Soon they grew legs and fins and hands and antennae and mouths and ears and wings and eyes—eyes that opened wide to take all of it in: the creeping, growing, soaring, swimming, crawling, stampeding universe. Eyes opened and closed and opened again; we called it blinking. Above us shone a star that we called the Sun and we called the ground the Earth. So we named everything, including ourselves. We were man and woman, and when we got lonely we figured out a way to make more of us. We called it sex and most people enjoyed it.”
No excerpt will really do this justice; Hollowell’s reading is funny, poignant, and devastating. Begins around 3 minutes in, though the whole podcast is worth a listen.
Today is Towel Day, in honor of Douglas Adams, author of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Last Chance to See, the Dirk Gently series, etc. Why Towels?
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy has a few things to say on the subject of towels.
A towel, it says, is about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitchhiker can have. Partly it has great practical value. You can wrap it around you for warmth as you bound across the cold moons of Jaglan Beta; you can lie on it on the brilliant marble-sanded beaches of Santraginus V, inhaling the heady sea vapours; you can sleep under it beneath the stars which shine so redly on the desert world of Kakrafoon; use it to sail a miniraft down the slow heavy River Moth; wet it for use in hand-to-hand-combat; wrap it round your head to ward off noxious fumes or avoid the gaze of the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal (such a mind-bogglingly stupid animal, it assumes that if you can’t see it, it can’t see you); you can wave your towel in emergencies as a distress signal, and of course dry yourself off with it if it still seems to be clean enough.
More importantly, a towel has immense psychological value. For some reason, if a strag (strag: non-hitch hiker) discovers that a hitchhiker has his towel with him, he will automatically assume that he is also in possession of a toothbrush, face flannel, soap, tin of biscuits, flask, compass, map, ball of string, gnat spray, wet weather gear, space suit etc., etc. Furthermore, the strag will then happily lend the hitch hiker any of these or a dozen other items that the hitch hiker might accidentally have “lost.” What the strag will think is that any man who can hitch the length and breadth of the galaxy, rough it, slum it, struggle against terrible odds, win through, and still knows where his towel is, is clearly a man to be reckoned with.
Worship power, you will end up feeling weak and afraid, and you will need ever more power over others to numb you to your own fear. Worship your intellect, being seen as smart, you will end up feeling stupid, a fraud, always on the verge of being found out. But the insidious thing about these forms of worship is not that they’re evil or sinful, it’s that they’re unconscious. They are default settings.
They’re the kind of worship you just gradually slip into, day after day, getting more and more selective about what you see and how you measure value without ever being fully aware that that’s what you’re doing.
And the so-called real world will not discourage you from operating on your default settings, because the so-called real world of men and money and power hums merrily along in a pool of fear and anger and frustration and craving and worship of self. Our own present culture has harnessed these forces in ways that have yielded extraordinary wealth and comfort and personal freedom. The freedom all to be lords of our tiny skull-sized kingdoms, alone at the centre of all creation. This kind of freedom has much to recommend it. But of course there are all different kinds of freedom, and the kind that is most precious you will not hear much talk about much in the great outside world of wanting and achieving…. The really important kind of freedom involves attention and awareness and discipline, and being able truly to care about other people and to sacrifice for them over and over in myriad petty, unsexy ways every day.
That is real freedom. That is being educated, and understanding how to think. The alternative is unconsciousness, the default setting, the rat race, the constant gnawing sense of having had, and lost, some infinite thing.
Haruki Murakami, author and avid runner, in the New Yorker:
Why? I can’t help asking. Why did a happy, peaceful occasion like the marathon have to be trampled on in such an awful, bloody way? Although the perpetrators have been identified, the answer to that question is still unclear. But their hatred and depravity have mangled our hearts and our minds. Even if we were to get an answer, it likely wouldn’t help.
To overcome this kind of trauma takes time, time during which we need to look ahead positively. Hiding the wounds, or searching for a dramatic cure, won’t lead to any real solution. Seeking revenge won’t bring relief, either. We need to remember the wounds, never turn our gaze away from the pain, and—honestly, conscientiously, quietly—accumulate our own histories. It may take time, but time is our ally.
For me, it’s through running, running every single day, that I grieve for those whose lives were lost and for those who were injured on Boylston Street. This is the only personal message I can send them. I know it’s not much, but I hope that my voice gets through. I hope, too, that the Boston Marathon will recover from its wounds, and that those twenty-six miles will again seem beautiful, natural, free.
Soderbergh on Cinema and parallels with doing science →
Steven Soderbergh recently gave a “State of the Cinema” talk at the San Francisco International Film Festival (embedded above, transcript here). If you’re interested in film, cinema, and the arts, it’s worth a read. Soderbergh is an excellent, intelligent storyteller.
The passages below stood out — mainly because I think his description of art, and of cinema, parallel creative scientific thinking nicely. We face some of the same problems of “entrenched ideology” — the scientific enterprise can be slow to respond to alternative viewpoints. Second, there’s a similar and interesting distinction between science and “Science” that resembles the distinction he draws between cinema and movies.
Art is also about problem solving, and it’s obvious from the news, we have a little bit of a problem with problem solving. In my experience, the main obstacle to problem solving is an entrenched ideology. The great thing about making a movie or a piece of art is that that never comes into play. All the ideas are on the table. All the ideas and everything is open for discussion, and it turns out everybody succeeds by submitting to what the thing needs to be. Art, in my view, is a very elegant problem-solving model.
Now we finally arrive at the subject of this rant, which is the state of cinema. First of all, is there a difference between cinema and movies? Yeah. If I were on Team America, I’d say “Fuck yeah!” The simplest way that I can describe it is that a movie is something you see, and cinema is something that’s made. It has nothing to do with the captured medium, it doesn’t have anything to do with where the screen is, if it’s in your bedroom, your iPad, it doesn’t even really have to be a movie. It could be a commercial, it could be something on YouTube. Cinema is a specificity of vision. It’s an approach in which everything matters. It’s the polar opposite of generic or arbitrary and the result is as unique as a signature or a fingerprint. It isn’t made by a committee, and it isn’t made by a company, and it isn’t made by the audience. It means that if this filmmaker didn’t do it, it either wouldn’t exist at all, or it wouldn’t exist in anything like this form.
via daring fireball
…graciousness reflects a state of being; it emanates from your inventory of self. Start with what you already possess. You, for instance, have a job. Live up to that.
When wandering the world, forget your business cards. Don’t look for more contacts. Instead, observe. Say hello to the people you see every day, but don’t make a fetish out of it. Stay interested in others. Be generous in your attentions but not showy. Don’t wink, snap your fingers, high-five, or shout, though laugh with those who do. It bears repeating: Look around. Remember names. Remember where people were born.
On the street, in the lobby, square your shoulders to people you meet. Make a handshake matter — eye contact, good grip, elbow erring toward a right angle. Do not pump the hand, unless the other person is insistent on just that. Then pump the hell out of their hand. Smile. If you can’t smile, you can’t be gracious. You aren’t some dopey English butler. You are you.
Remember that the only representation of you, no matter what your station, is you — your presentation, your demeanor. You simply must attend. Stand when someone enters the room, especially if you are lowly and he is the boss, and even if the reverse is true. Look them in the eye. Ask yourself: Does anybody need an introduction? If so, before you say one word about business, introduce them to others with pleasure in your voice. If you can’t muster enthusiasm for the people you happen upon in life, then you cannot be gracious. Remember, true graciousness demands that you have time for others.
So listen. Be attentive to what people say. Respond, without interruption. You always have time. You own the time in which you live. You grant it to others without obligation. That is the gift of being gracious. The return — the payback, if you will — is the reputation you will quickly earn, the curiosity of others, the sense that people want to be in the room with you. The gracious man does not dwell on himself, but you can be confident that your reputation precedes you in everything you do and lingers long after you are finished. People will mark you for it. You will see it in their eyes. People trust the gracious man to care. The return comes in kind.
there is so much amiss in this photograph.
I don’t know if this is a curated collection or just a fan finding every behind the scenes image he can from ESB… but it doesn’t matter. The pictures are amazing. Enjoy.
via Daring Fireball
I stumbled upon a Jason Molina and Songs: Ohia fansite while a junior in college. I liked his music then, and still do, a great deal. Molina had been quiescent for a few years, dealing with his health and alcoholism. A note had surfaced suggesting he was okay, on the mend. Unfortunately, he passed away on March 18.
I got to meet Molina once, back in 2005. I’d heard stories that he could be prickly and unapproachable, to the point where I hesitated to say hello, but decided to suck it up as an act of selfishness; I just couldn’t resist the chance to tell him how much I’d come to love his music. The man was sweet and warm to the point where, when we parted, he reached into his bag and handed me a sheet of paper. He’d been scribbling some strange drawings — a little reminiscent of Dinosaur Jr’s album covers, but primitive and drawn in black pen — on the back of loose paperwork while bored on tour, and figured I might like one as a keepsake. He was right.
That sheepish generosity, coming from someone whose relationship with the world could be so difficult, stuck with me, and always will.
This shouldn’t work, but Baldwin nails it. Listen below or read the transcript here.
Pretty amazing time-lapse photography from Babak Tafreshi, a science journalist, photographer, and astronomy communicator. Captured on March 20 in northern Norway.
Happy Easter. A tale from David Sedaris (listen to him read it here), who casts all holidays in ridiculous and appropriate light.
Jesus Shaves by David Sedaris
“And what does one do on the fourteenth of July? Does one celebrate Bastille Day?”
It was my second month of French class, and the teacher was leading us in an exercise designed to promote the use of one, our latest personal pronoun.
“Might one sing on Bastille Day?” she asked. “Might one dance in the street? Somebody give me an answer.”
Printed in our textbooks was a list of major holidays alongside a scattered arrangement of photos depicting French people in the act of celebration. The object was to match the holiday with the corresponding picture. It was simple enough but seemed an exercise better suited to the use of the word they. I didn’t know about the rest of the class, but when Bastille Day eventually rolled around, I planned to stay home and clean my oven.
Normally, when working from the book, it was my habit to tune out my fellow students and scout ahead, concentrating on the question I’d calculated might fall to me, but this afternoon, we were veering from the usual format. Questions were answered on a volunteer basis, and I was able to sit back, confident that the same few students would do the talking. Today’s discussion was dominated by an Italian nanny, two chatty Poles, and a pouty, plump Moroccan woman who had grown up speaking French and had enrolled in the class to improve her spelling. She’d covered these lessons back in the third grade and took every opportunity to demonstrate her superiority. A question would be asked and she’d give the answer, behaving as though this were a game show and, if quick enough, she might go home with a tropical vacation or a side-by-side refrigerator-freezer. By the end of her first day, she’d raised her hand so many times, her shoulder had given out. Now she just leaned back in her seat and shouted the answers, her bronzed arms folded across her chest like some great grammar genie.
We finished discussing Bastille Day, and the teacher moved on to Easter, which was represented in our textbook by a black-and-white photograph of a chocolate bell lying upon a bed of palm fronds.
“And what does one do on Easter? Would anyone like to tell us?”
The Italian nanny was attempting to answer the question when the Moroccan student interrupted, shouting, “Excuse me, but what’s an Easter?”
Despite her having grown up in a Muslim country, it seemed she might have heard it mentioned once or twice, but no. “I mean it,” she said. “I have no idea what you people are talking about.”
The teacher then called upon the rest of us to explain.
The Poles led the charge to the best of their ability. “It is,” said one, “a party for the little boy of God who call his self Jesus and … oh, shit.”
She faltered, and her fellow countryman came to her aid.
“He call his self Jesus, and then he be die one day on two … morsels of … lumber.”
The rest of the class jumped in, offering bits of information that would have given the pope an aneurysm.
“He die one day, and then he go above of my head to live with your father.”
“He weared the long hair, and after he died, the first day he come back here for to say hello to the peoples.”
“He nice, the Jesus.”
“He make the good things, and on the Easter we be sad because somebody makes him dead today.”
Part of the problem had to do with grammar. Simple nouns such as cross and resurrection were beyond our grasp, let alone such complicated reflexive phrases as “To give of yourself your only begotten son.” Faced with the challenge of explaining the cornerstone of Christianity, we did what any self-respecting group of people might do. We talked about food instead.
“Easter is a party for to eat of the lamb,” the Italian nanny explained. “One, too, may eat of the chocolate.”
“And who brings the chocolate?” the teacher asked.
I knew the word, and so I raised my hand, saying, “The Rabbit of Easter. He bring of the chocolate.”
My classmates reacted as though I’d attributed the delivery to the Antichrist. They were mortified.
“A rabbit?” The teacher, assuming I’d used the wrong word, positioned her index fingers on top of her head, wiggling them as though they were ears. “You mean one of these? A rabbit rabbit?”
“Well, sure,” I said. “He come in the night when one sleep on a bed. With a hand he have the basket and foods.”
The teacher sadly shook her head, as if this explained everything that was wrong with my country. “No, no,” she said. “Here in France the chocolate is brought by the big bell that flies in from Rome.”
I called for a time-out. “But how do the bell know where you live?”
“Well,” she said, “how does a rabbit?”
It was a decent point, but at least a rabbit has eyes. That’s a start. Rabbits move from place to place, while most bells can only go back and forth—and they can’t even do that on their own power. On top of that, the Easter Bunny has character; he’s someone you’d like to meet and shake hands with. A bell has all the personality of a cast-iron skillet. It’s like saying that come Christmas, a magic dustpan flies in from the North Pole, led by eight flying cinder blocks. Who wants to stay up all night so they can see a bell? And why fly one in from Rome when they’ve got more bells than they know what to do with right here in Paris? That’s the most implausible aspect of the whole story, as there’s no way the bells of France would allow a foreign worker to fly in and take their jobs. That Roman bell would be lucky to get work cleaning up after a French bell’s dog -and even then he’d need papers. It just didn’t add up.
Nothing we said was of any help to the Moroccan student. A dead man with long hair supposedly living with her father, a leg of lamb served with palm fronds and chocolate. Confused and disgusted, she shrugged her massive shoulders and turned her attention back to the comic book she kept hidden beneath her binder. I wondered then if, without the language barrier, my classmates and I could have done a better job making sense of Christianity, an idea that sounds pretty far-fetched to begin with.
In communicating any religious belief, the operative word is faith, a concept illustrated by our very presence in that classroom. Why bother struggling with the grammar lessons of a six- year-old if each of us didn’t believe that, against all reason, we might eventually improve? If I could hope to one day carry on a fluent conversation, it was a relatively short leap to believing that a rabbit might visit my home in the middle of the night, leaving behind a handful of chocolate kisses and a carton of menthol cigarettes. So why stop there? If I could believe in myself, why not give other improbabilities the benefit of the doubt? I accepted the idea that an omniscient God had cast me in his own image and that he watched over me and guided me from one place to the next. The virgin birth, the resurrection, and the countless miracles -my heart expanded to encompass all the wonders and possibilities of the universe.
A bell, though, that’s fucked up.
Back in 2008, the Tokyo Metro system launched a three-year-long campaign aimed at reminding subway passengers to mind their manners while riding the trains. It featured the slogan “Please do it at home” or “Please do it again” alongside an illustration of the featured manner or rule. All posters are written in Japanese and English, some featuring hilariously outrageous and sometimes confusing activities that make you wonder, “Do people actually do that on a train?!”.
Via The Loop
I’ve come up with a set of rules that describe our reactions to technologies: 1. Anything that is in the world when you’re born is normal and ordinary and is just a natural part of the way the world works. 2. Anything that’s invented between when you’re fifteen and thirty-five is new and exciting and revolutionary and you can probably get a career in it. 3. Anything invented after you’re thirty-five is against the natural order of things.
Google marked the birthday of Douglas Adams, raconteur supreme and creator of the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, today with a pretty fun doodle. Beyond his comedic creations, Adams was a technologist-futurist and a conservationist. The doodle’s awesome — a fitting little tribute to DNA.
thanks to Dr. CLK for pointing the doodle out!
Beautiful, devastating, and appropriate: Nora Ephron's Final Act →
A moving tribute and farewell from son (Jacob Bernstein) to mother (Nora Ephron).
In the play my mother wrote, there’s a scene toward the end, in which McAlary, sick with cancer, goes to the Poconos to visit his friend Jim Dwyer, then a columnist at The Daily News. It’s a glorious summer day, and McAlary’s 12-year-old son, Ryan, wants to do a flip off the diving board, but he gets scared and can’t do it. So McAlary takes off his shirt, walks to the edge of the diving board and says to him: “When you do these things, you can’t be nervous. If you think about what can go wrong, if you think about the belly flop, that’s what’ll happen.”
And then McAlary does the flip himself and makes a perfect landing.
It’s a metaphor, obviously, for his view about life. And I’ve come to think it might as well have been about my mother. The point is that you don’t let fear invade your psyche. Because then you might as well be dead.
As she saw him, McAlary was a role model not so much in life, but in death, in the way that he used writing to maintain his sense of purpose and find release from his illness. In the six years my mother had MDS, she wrote 100 blog posts, two books and two plays and directed a movie. There was nothing she could do about her death but to keep going in the face of it. Work was its own kind of medicine, even if it could not save her when her MDS came roaring back.
As part of an effort to save the Eames House and come up with a 250 year plan, the Eames Foundation is selling 500 copies each of 4 limited edition prints at 75 USD each. The prints are interesting and well-designed.
They’ve also got a great timeline up of the Eames’ achievements. Pretty cool and definitely worth checking out if you’re a fan of the Eames and their work.
Normann Szkop, a French photographer, took some amazing photographs of Tulips in the Netherlands. See them all at this Flickr page.
Flying over the Tulips Fields in Anna Paulowna a municipality and a town in the Netherlands, in the province of North Holland. The tulip has come to be a loved symbol of the Netherlands. Many tourists visit the country just to see the bright coloured flower and the astonishing view over the bulb fields. The season begins in March with crocuses, followed by the daffodil and the yellow narcissi. In April the hyacinths and tulips blosssom to some time in mid May, depending on the weather. Later, in August it is time for the gladioli. Even when spring is over, the Netherlands is still a garden, visitors can enjoy flowers in the Netherlands all year round. In the 20th century, the bulb flower business continued to boom, resulting in the establishment of auction and trading houses, large-scale cultivators and cooperatives. Today, The Netherlands exports bulbflowers in large quantities to over a hundred countries worldwide.
Photo courtesy NYC Scout
To quote Dr. Peter Venkman: I guess they just don’t make them like they use to, huh?
NYC Scout has an amazing set of photographs from the old Loew’s Valencia Theatre in Queens. According to Cinema Treasures, the theater opened originally in early 1929 and was the first of five “wonder theatres” that Loew’s built in NYC. It had over 3,500 seats. It closed in 1977 and has since served as the Tabernacle of Prayer for All People church.
The NYT has a couple articles about the other wonder theatres. Pretty fascinating stuff. Nice to see that one of them is well maintained and lives on. Hard to imagine going to a show or a movie in such an opulent setting. A far cry from today’s theater experience.
From the Cy Kuckenbaker, the creator, at petapixel:
The concept is simple: shoot the individual planes flying across a pure blue sky, then chroma key the blue out as if it’s a green or blue screen leaving only the plane behind. Then put them all together on a video timeline. I did some tests and discovered that it didn’t work well if there were trees in the edges of the frame so scouting good locations took the most time. I watched the weather for a cloudless day then sat in a park and shot every plane that flew over. I locked the camera (Canon 7D with a EF-S 17-55 f/2.8) on a tripod and shot the planes with 1080p video at 24fps with an exposure I’d tested the day before (50/s, f/13, ISO 100) that would keep the sky deep blue with no blowout for a good chroma key.
To give the video a sense of temporal change as the planes fly by I did an 8 hour time-lapse under a bridge nearby shot at the same angle and composited it over the planes. Without it there’s no sense of time passing. I used an intervalometer to shoot about 800 images with the same exposure as the video. Once I had it posted as a regular video clip, I keyed the sky out of it as well. I put everything together in Adobe Premiere, which challenged my system since I needed 40 video tracks to stack all the airplane clips together. The last piece was to put a new sky back in — a still image with depth and clouds that’s panned using key frames in Premiere.
The University of California system undertook a substantial rebranding effort, highlighted in the video above. It is a dramatic shift -�and without a doubt feels more modern. The impetus for the change as described by Vanessa Kanan Correa follows:
Previously, the UC system only used its seal as its primary visual identifier, where it was abused with impunity. We feel it is an important component of the university’s visual ecosystem. But it is a non-distinctive symbol which serves an important bureaucratic function. Now we limit its use to formal systemwide communications, diplomas, official regental and presidential communications, and other official documents. Many of our campuses, and other universities across the country have limited use of their official seals in similar ways.
From this perspective, this is less of a rebranding exercise, but instead the creation of a coherent, consistent, and relevant brand identity where before there was none.
Jury’s out on whether that’s a good thing or not — or how much it will actually impact design choices at each of the separate UC campuses. Probably minimally, at least initially.
The typographic choices are pretty safe — modern, but not too showy or strong. The designers chose Kievet, a sans-serif humanist typeface in the vein of Source Sans or Droid Sans. Kievet has a number of weights and a corresponding web font.
The initial work on FF Kievit began in 1995, as part of a school project. The concept was finished several years later for a corporate client of Method Inc., a design firm in San Francisco. The openness of the characters and their proportions makes it an ideal typeface for use in small print. The clarity of classic sans serif faces (Frutiger and Univers) and the humanistic characteristics of old styles (Garamond and Granjon) were the inspiration for this contemporary design that is equally at home in a headline or a body of text.
The new UC badge itself I’m not particularly fond of. It took me five or ten looks to realize they’re trying to make the background approximate a U through use of negative space. And that C is really, really round. I’ll grant that it looks really modern and catchy — as does the rebrand of the University’s “let there be light” tagline. The problem - and my fear - is that you want to go for a timeless design for properties like this and not capitulate to what’s trendy now. The whole thing looks hip and cool — and could feel dated in six wee little months. We’ll see what happens.
Emma Brockes, a British author and journalist at The Guardian, interviewed Maurice Sendak before his death. She writes in the preface to the interview:
After his death, in May, much was written about Sendak’s legendary crossness, but it was really just impatience with artifice. “I refuse to lie to children,” he said. “I refuse to cater to the bullshit of innocence.” There was no roughness in his delivery. It was spiked with merriment. He was also very tender. Sendak’s memories of his family, the suffering they had gone through during the war, and the effect this had on his development as an artist, still brought him close to tears. He recalled his mother and father as bewildered, hurt people, first-generation immigrants from Poland set at sea in America.
He had been grieving since the death, in 2007, of Eugene Glynn, his partner of fifty years, and was not afraid of dying. He wanted a “yummy death,” he said, in the style of Blake. Famously, he hated being called a “children’s illustrator”—it reduced him, he thought—and while he leaves a body of work that speaks as profoundly to adults as to children, he spared his youngest readers at least one aspect of grown-up heartache. By and large, after their adventures, Sendak’s young heroes get to do something his own family did not get to do, something which Sendak knew to be a more mythical journey than his wildest imaginings, fueled as it was by an unfulfilled yearning: they got to go home.
The interview is touching, with Sendak sincerely reflecting on the whole of his life. There are some gems in the interview, like his take on e-books:
BLVR: What do you think of e-books?
MS: I hate them. It’s like making believe there’s another kind of sex. There isn’t another kind of sex. There isn’t another kind of book. A book is a book is a book. I know that’s terribly old-fashioned. I’m old, and when I’m gone they’ll probably try to make my books on all these things, but I’m going to fight it like hell. [Pauses] I can’t believe I’ve turned into a typical old man. I can’t believe it. I was young just minutes ago.
I can’t read the papers anymore. I just feel sorry for Obama. I want him so much to win. I would do anything to help him win. He’s a decent, wonderful man. And these Republican schnooks are so horrible. They’d be comical if they weren’t not funny. So. What’s to say, what’s to say? It’s very discouraging. Which is probably why I’m going back in time. I’m a lucky man, I can afford to do that. I can afford to live here in silence, in these trees and these flowers, and not get involved with the world.
and, hilariously, on Salmon Rushdie:
[The phone rings. It is NPR letting Sendak know that a recent interview with him has run and is generating a lot of responses. He praises Terry Gross, the interviewer.]
MS: The only thing she said wrong was that her favorite interviews had been me and that stupid fucking writer. Salman Rushdie, that flaccid fuckhead. He reviewed me on a full page in the New York Times, my book Dear Mili. He hated it. He is detestable. I called up the Ayatollah, nobody knows that. What else shall we talk about?
The announcement of the Veolia Wildlife Photographers of the Year has been floating around the internet for a few days. I’ve been wanting to link to it, but have been having a hard time finding high resolution images on their website. Thankfully, the Atlantic took care of that. Click here to see more.
Rorik Smith, “an Artist and Draughtsman based in North Wales,” has created some amazing, disorienting drawings somewhat reminiscent of M.C. Escher.
Library, Corporation St. Wolff’s carbon pencil, conte and paraloid B67 on hardwood ply, 702 x 1221 x 9mm, Rorik Smith, 2012
The composition, executed on site, prior to the relocation of the town library, is calculated to disorient, to convey a sense of uncertainty, while retaining a sense of sublime and overwhelming awe felt when faced with the sheer volume of information which libraries contain. Aiming to encapsulate the opportunity, absurdity and ultimate futility of attempting to make sense of it all. With reference to Borges; “The Universe (which others call the Library) is composed of an indefinite, perhaps infinite number of hexagonal galleries… from any hexagon one can see the floors above and below” Borges, the Library of Babel, 2000, from Collected fictions, translated by Andrew Hurley, 1998
Nailed it, I’d say.
Photo by Andreas Laszlo Konrath
Impossibly good looking super-musicians David Byrne and Annie Clark have been making small rounds discussing their collaborative effort Love this Giant.
There is very little eye contact made in a room with David Byrne and Annie Clark in it. Seated a healthy distance apart from each other on a SoHo studio couch, the pair genially trade compliments and jokes, but their restless eyeballs seldom, if ever, light on each other’s, as if the energy exchange involved in a head-on glance might scorch their fragile nerve endings. Byrne’s legs joggle constantly, his hands clutching absently at the green fabric of his pants when he is lost for words, while Clark, carefully sipping water with her legs arranged neatly beneath her, gives thoughtful answers from beneath the partial shade of an artful hat.
On what they admire in each other’s work:
DB: I know I’m not the first to remark on this, but I hear an acceptance of melody without any fear in Annie’s work, which isn’t totally common in up-and-coming musicians. But these beautiful melodies are often undercut by very creepy or disturbing subject matter. When I met Annie, I complimented her on how disturbing her video was.
AC: David is capable of so many shades and moods, and one of them is a rare combination of paranoid mania and ecstatic joy. It’s a really unmistakable, singular tone. He also has an ability, lyrically and musically, to talk about or address big subjects in a way that never feels pretentious or lofty. David never seems to be suffering from a dearth of creative energy. It takes many forms, but he doesn’t seem to be a nostalgic person. He always wants to be moving forward. That’s inspiring.
David Byrne on being David Byrne:
I feel like I’m a fairly boring, almost well-adjusted person. But I am fascinated by extreme mental states. I love outsider art from people who are making up their own worlds, exposing some part of human life that would be really uncomfortable for most of us. Or they do something that touches some part of you and you go, “I recognize this person is probably out of their fucking mind, but I recognize that part in myself, too.”
And, of course, stream the whole album at NPR.
I first saw Baraka in college and was blown away by the imagery and the format — a beautiful 70mm film, silent, relying solely on the power of its images to carry narrative force. It succeeded. The follow-up - 20 years later - took five years to make and was filmed in 25 countries. From the creators’ website:
SAMSARA is a Sanskrit word that means “the ever turning wheel of life” and is the point of departure for the filmmakers as they search for the elusive current of interconnection that runs through our lives. Filmed over a period of almost five years and in twenty-five countries, SAMSARA transports us to sacred grounds, disaster zones, industrial sites, and natural wonders. By dispensing with dialogue and descriptive text, SAMSARA subverts our expectations of a traditional documentary, instead encouraging our own inner interpretations inspired by images and music that infuses the ancient with the modern.
Expanding on the themes they developed in BARAKA (1992) and CHRONOS (1985), SAMSARA explores the wonders of our world from the mundane to the miraculous, looking into the unfathomable reaches of man’s spirituality and the human experience. Neither a traditional documentary nor a travelogue, SAMSARA takes the form of a nonverbal, guided meditation. Through powerful images, the film illuminates the links between humanity and the rest of nature, showing how our life cycle mirrors the rhythm of the planet.
The filmmakers approach non verbal filmmaking with an understanding that it must live up to the standard of great still photography, revealing the essence of a subject, not just its physical presence. SAMSARA was photographed entirely in 70mm film utilizing both standard frame rates and with a motion control time-lapse camera designed specifically for this project. This camera system allows perspective shifts to reveal extraordinary views of ordinary scenes. The images were then transferred through the highest resolution scanning process available to the new 4K digital projection format that allows for mesmerizing images of unprecedented clarity. SAMSARA will be a showpiece for the new, high-resolution 4K digital projection, the HD format, as well as standard digital and film projection.
apparently, this isn’t Banksy, but is the Criminal Chalkist. Thanks to those who pointed this out and referred me to the above link.
click above to view image sources
For more information about Banksy, check out Artsy’s Banksy page.