28 September 2012



1) Faking It: Manipulated Photography Before Photoshop

[Room With Eye] 1930 Maurice Tabard

2) Fruit Salad Tree

From their website:

A fruit salad tree, developed by the West Family, who established the Fruit Salad Tree Company in 1990, in New England, New South Wales, Australia, bears up to six different fruits of the same family on the one plant. All fruits retain their own individuality, with staggered ripening times.

There are four types the company offers: stone fruit, citrus, all-apple, all-nashi. You can mix and match and even list your preference in order of the fruit you want dominant on the tree. So far only available in Australia.

3) Stoker

Oldboy is one of my favorite weird movies. Director Chan-wook Park is bringing his particular brand of awesome to the US with Nicole Kidman in tow. Stoker looks creepy. Maybe incestuous? No matter it will be bat-shit great.

26 September 2012

RePrint : Non-Voting

Non-Voting (Bigfoot) 10/15/11

It’s going to be November
and you live in those places
where politics are hot

Where are your door to doors
your promises of military service

Where are your inalienable rights

When you go to the polls
and cast your vote the ballots
aren’t even in your language

Will you stomp the ground til it breaks

Leave your size 18s in concrete

Tell me what sort of campaign promise
a Bigfoot desires from a candidate

More schools          Healthcare

Barbers ?

24 September 2012

Sellers : Killing Lincoln

Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin (9/27/11)
352 pages

I am not interested in giving O'Reilly any press. Even the small press a post on this blog would give.

As of next week this book has sat on the bestseller list for a year. It has held firm at number 4 or 5 on the list for months. So I have to acknowledge it if I am going to seriously consider these posts as looking at best-selling books.

So this book has been selling for a year. Selling a lot. There are apparently 1million copies in print. In 2012 that is a giant number.

Is it an obsession with Lincoln? Or an obsession with O'Reilly? My guess is a mix of both. I have a hard time getting any sort of excitement up about the man or this book.

What new things are there to be told of this over-discussed part of our history? Why is O'Reilly privy to these new things?

It was the first successful assassination of a sitting President. Yes, it was shocking. But does it warrant the scare quote sub-title? Especially when you consider that we had just exited a much more shocking period in the Civil War/Reformation period.

In 1835 Andrew Jackson had two pistols pointed at him at point blank range. The guns misfired allowing the President to beat his attacker with a cane. In 1864 Abraham Lincoln was riding a horse when a gunman fired at him. His horse bolted and later they found his hat with a bullet hole in it. This breach of security is way more shocking given that the shooter was only a few yards away hiding in bushes.

Yet did any of these change America forever?

O'Reilly's follow-up to this will be called Killing Kennedy. Seriously. Was that death less a change forever? I would argue that Kennedy dying at the height of the civil rights movement was way more emblematic of the time he lived in. Was way more shocking for the movement. It said that no one was safe in an America. I think that Lincoln's death was a sad end to a long war. It seemed pre-written that he would not survive. Kennedy is an odd mirror death. A sort of other end of that civil rights question that the Civil War was/was not about.

I don't think either death really changed much though. Garfield and McKinley were killed while in office. Were their deaths somehow less changing? Both of them were killed by half-craze men. Garfield by a former speech writer who wanted to be an ambassador to France; McKinley by a man who claimed anarchist ties and hoped to gain an unnamed political outcome.

I find these more shocking due to their less ideological or political-based reasons. These senseless killings. are the ones that I wish we described as 'changing America'.

I'm not saying Lincoln or Kennedy deserved to die but their deaths, the reasons behind them, they make sense. From a position of the where's and why's. These were deaths for reasons political, racial, class-based. They were deaths with sanity attached.

I'd love to see a book about McKinley in the top ten for a year.

Though I think this book is there for darker reasons.

I think it points to the great racial problem in our nation's past and it says 'this, this is where it started'. I mean that it is where the civil rights fight started in earnest. And to some this is not positive. Lincoln represents all that is great and conflicted about us. Race, politics, class. All of it.

The death of Lincoln did change America. But so does every moment in time. Every death. I think we are obsessed with the deaths of great men and women. We obsess over life cut short. We obsess over our own dark hearts, could we do the same? Will we?

I look at politics today and see the same type of faces that have always been there. The same crazed men brandish guns for the same reasons. The shooter in Norway with his vague political motives. Gabby Giffords shooting in Arizona. All of these things are the same as the other, older ones.

In essence, we have never forgiven ourselves for ourselves.

Sellers is my attempt to examine what books are topping the best-seller list and why. To talk about and understand the trends in popular writing.

21 September 2012

THIS! 9/21/12

THIS! on September 21st, 2012

1) Hook & Irons

First off, it's a great logo.

Second: This new company is about fire fighters. It's about the legacy of fire fighting in America and about creating a brand that recognizes it. Think Nike swooshes for the putting out burning buildings crowd.

The store is great.

2) Sanborn

This 144 year-old map company has a terrible current logo, but once upon a time they would redesign it for every map they made. They started out making maps for fire insurance and moved into historic map making and modern cartography.

Here is a run down of 30 of those very awesome, really great, old logos.

20 September 2012

Over at Reuters, Felix Salmon takes a more technical approach to dissecting a book cover than I normally do. He looks at Why I Left Goldman Sachs by Greg Smith.

19 September 2012

Process : Part 2

The video above shows Riusuke Fukahori preparing works form his exhibit 'Goldfish Salvation' that appeared at the ICN Gallery in London last winter. Fukahori painstakingly paints a layer of the work then covers it in clear resin. He then paints the next layer, and the next, and so on until he has a shockingly realistic work of sculptural painting.

You are probably expecting me to make some sort of parallel between my writing and Fukahori's work. And I easily could. The comparison is right there.

Writing is a layered process. It is slow. You add a layer and then another. Between are bits of mortar. The work is unseen, flat, lifeless, until you add that final layer of glue on top.

I could leave it there and we'd all be happy about it. But I don't think it works like that.

I view writing as a long-form game. Like history. There are maps and charts, and plans, and budgets and steps along the way. But there are also lengthy periods of not much happening. It's those moments that I think matter the most.

I don't write for half the year.

That fact alone probably discredits me to many as a 'serious' writer. As I mentioned in the first post on process, I also don't really plan. These two admissions together make me look a little sloppy in the seriousness department. I recognize this fact and I respect the opinion in it.

Honestly though, I need that time off. After undergrad I didn't write for 6 months. I panicked over it, went without sleep, spoke to my friends, my teachers, I actually thought I had 'lost it'. That mythical thing that brings the words to the tongue. I feared the death of my muse.

Then I started again. Just one day. I picked up a pen and started. And then wrote some amazing stuff for about 10 months or so. Then I broke away from it again.

And I realized after a second moment of panic that this was my method: I sponge for a bit, then spit it out.

Take my novel (the one I'm trying to get an agent for). I thought about it for over two years. And by thought, I mean had the idea sitting there. I didn't actively think on it, but it sat, collecting mind dust until I had four months free to spit the thing onto paper.

And it felt good. It felt like the right time.

Or course this method could lead to things sitting for years. To things not happening. But that happens to people who write every day also.

I did that write every day thing. I know I can. It also felt like work, like a bore. It felt like something I had to, not wanted to. It felt as wrong as a thing could. So I stopped. It took three years, but I did.

So what is my point?

That I think my process of disorganized writing is perhaps closer to Fukahori's process of painting than I initially allowed. That my process is certainly layering. That the time between layers is very drawn out as I wait for the resin to hold. That the paint looks flat, lifeless, definitely unreal. Then I add, eventually, the final layer and it pops into focus. It spins into life.

17 September 2012


Hours of the Virgin 15th cent.
Dictionary.com defines 'process' as:

a systematic series of actions directed to some end (to devise a process for homogenizing milk) or; a continuous action, operation, or series of changes taking place in a definite manner (the process of decay)

When asked about my writing process I find that people are shocked at my lack of organization. I don't plan what is going to happen. I never have. Of course I do my research, I do a lot of it, but I don't plot structure or end points. Structure grows organically as I go. Maybe this makes me a 'bad' writer. A 'not serious' writer.

My writing is more a procession than a process. There are people/objects/events and they are elaborately clothed. They walk along some street, it may be quiet or packed with observers. There may be an object of worship being carried on the backs of those processing. There may be a queen on a seat. A virginal child to be slaughtered. A bull. They could be chanting. There is more than likely inexplicable smoke.

The crowd is moving towards a unified future. An ill-defined site of finality. That period at the end of the thought. Along the way one of them will take focus, will form relationships with the others, will enact something akin to story. And then they will find their site of period. Another will rise.

Funeral Procession for Elizabeth I

That I choose to describe my thoughts as a mob of people stalking streets in religious fervor is probably all kinds of crazy. You can tell me that to my face. I won't mind.

J recently asked me about how the writing of my second novel is going. I should catch you up:

I wrote a novel last year. I spent a full year working on it, worrying about it, caring for it. I recently started the process (that is certainly a structured set of actions) of finding an agent. It is going well but is early days. A visceral response to the process was to delve back into the world and start the second book. Eventually it will be a trilogy.

So J asked me how it was going. The outline, the acts, etc. I don't do that. I wrote the first book from beginning to end in 2 months. I wrote 10 or so pages a day. I have been editing and rewriting since then. This is how my procession works. I write something in a flush of energy. Then I stand away a bit, and stare into what happened.

Orion Nebula
It is like looking at the nebula left from nova and trying to find new stars.

Then I go in and arrange, rewrite. I emphasize certain parts, take others out. In general I try to shape what naturally happened in the initial outpour.

Do not misunderstand, I do not adhere to the wrong-headed idea of 'first thought best thought'. I adhere to a strict sense that the initial impulse creates its own momentum, that how it expressed itself was on purpose. It is a matter of finding the facets and polishing.

Did you know that some stars turn into diamonds when they die? Our own sun is predicted to end this way. At the end of the procession is a huge frozen nova core. Reflecting endlessly into space.

And that is a body of work isn't it? Millions of facets polished until they reflect the author perfectly. Of course some of us never get that far. Some do. Some leave behind cracked mirrors.

You can say that my lack of focus will impede my attempts to leave something. Even an imperfect something. And you may be right. But so might I.

14 September 2012

THIS! 9/14/12

THIS! on September 14th, 2012

1) Murp

2) The Donkey Sanctuary

This is a great organization that rescues abused and elderly donkeys. They give them a place to rest and recover from their lives. They have an amazing store where you can buy cute donkey things or give money towards improving working conditions for these animals.

3) Farren's Dream Dog

Farren is a special lady. She is a talented writer/editor and an amazing person. Earlier this summer she lost her cat very suddenly. Her dog was diagnosed with a terminal illness almost at the same time. She's finishing grad school and facing bills bills bills and no one should do that alone. Give a dollar or two to help her get a French Bulldog!

4) Ampullae of Lorenzini

Sharks and a few other marine animals have gel-filled spots on their noses that allow them to sense electric fields. This is awesome.

12 September 2012

ReWrite : Monogenic

I am in England until Monday. Here is an experiment. First is the original poem from September 2010:

Monogenic (chair) 9/11/12

A rightful sit an upright solid thing filling with light and flesh

Dead tree you are carved up and stoic in your cage

Smooth from asses worn until dirty and never washed

Chair you are a rain spotted site a fresh filled meadow covered in dung

An essay on resting

And now the new one, which has nothing to do with the original:

Monogenic 9/12/12

The parallel world is that oblong mirror behind the door
hanging - like a picture frame - angling your finely-tuned self

You look like a dead man

          from a tree - feet swinging like that woman in that painting

Do you kick your shoes the same ?

Here - here - press your finger to the cool glass and wait
as the door swings shut - that creaking is the breath of that
other universe

When the lights are off and your clothes hung in the closet
and the A/C hums along with the cicadas in the trees

That running along side of this but never intersecting world
picks at your locks - turns on your faucets - reaches with fingertips
and opens your eyelids - just enough - to see

10 September 2012

Review : Telegraph Avenue

Telegraph Avenue
Author: Michael Chabon
Publisher: Harper (9/11/12)
480 pages

It says a lot that Michael Chabon's publisher, Harper, has pumped more than $250,000 into marketing his new book. Some of those marketing dollars are going to open a pop-up record store in Oakland themed after the one he writes about. A lot of the rest seems to have gone to the special e-book edition:

"an interactive map of Oakland, eight videos of Mr. Chabon, a playlist created by Mr. Chabon, an animated cover, audiobook clips performed by actor Clarke Peters from "The Wire," and a "Telegraph Avenue" theme song composed by Peter Lerman."

If that sounds like a lot of gimmick for a novel, I'm with you. Also, eight videos of Chabon!? Doing what?

The basics are thus: Archy and Nat own a long-suffering record store in Oakland. Things are made worse when a superstar football player decides to open a huge record store nearby. At the same time Archy's junky ex-Blaxploitation film star father shows up because he is trying to blackmail a city councilman. Archy's until now unknown 14-year-old son also pops up and starts a friendship/sexual relationship with Nat's son. Archy's wife, Gwen is pregnant, a mid-wife, and has a run-in with a doctor that quickly gets heated.

The plot is a seems more convoluted then it is. Chabon is clearly attempting to write a Quentin Tarantino movie. He even references the director a lot and goes to pains to describe a few scenes from Kill Bill. He's aiming for that feeling of overlapping narrative, of threads weaving a whole, it comes across more like blatant ass-kissing.

The reviews of this book have all spent a lot of time discussing how great an author Chabon is. They wax on and on about his writing ability and the beauty of his prose. They all say they have problems with the book, that it is not 'perfect' but they all also say that they give him a pass because he's just so good!

It just isn't. The writing is sloppy. His attempts at writing in a musical style are irritating. His endless music and film referenced tossed into dialogue are distracting. The 12-page sentence that makes up one chapter is not creative, it's tedious. Car doors have 'lamentable lamentations' that sound like the 'gate on a crypt filled with vengeful dead folks'.

And 'From the lowest limb of a Meyer lemon, a wind chime searched without urgency for a melody to play.' It is overwrought and trying way too hard to sound interesting. It comes across like a dad at a high school party trying to be into the Lady Gaga's and Rihanna's that the kids love so much.

This isn't even discussing the questionable racial politics he plays.

The book is centered on a black family. The husband is cheating on his pregnant wife. He does it twice. The pregnant wife is portrayed in the book in mostly angry ways, she is either shouting or grumpy the whole time. The 14-year-old is having a homosexual relationship that he refuses to acknowledge because he 'isn't gay' he just likes to fuck the white boy.

The minor black characters are; an NFL star, a deadbeat junky, a fading Blaxploitation star, and a hand full of older jazz-heads who talk a lot about Mingus and Davis.

I have no issue with a white man writing black characters, but this is a grab bag of stereotypes. I think, he was trying to play with that. I think he failed.

On page 48 of the book Gwen catches her husband talking to a woman in a restaurant. Flirting. He follows her outside and they argue. She accuses him of cheating. He lies and says he isn't. In broad daylight she shoves her hands into his pants where 'Her fingers found the heavy coil of hose'. This is what follows:

"Her fingertips were briefly snagged by a film of bodily adhesive as weak as the glue on a Post-it. She tugged her sticky fingers loose, brought them to her nose...Market stalls, smoking braziers, panniers of lentils. All the spice and stink of Ethiopia: turmeric, scorched butter, the salt of the Red Sea."

Again. I THINK he is trying to play with the tropes of racism and the language of Blaxploitation and Tarantino. I dare anyone to read that quote, realize that it is a white author talking about black people, and tell me that it works for them. This is just one example, the worst in my opinion. He goes on to describe several black characters in various spice and earthen terms. A white woman is described as smelling like 'rose perfume'. My eyes fall from my face and roll on the floor.

This is before Barak Obama shows up to offer marriage advice and call a jazz trio 'funky'. The novel is set in 2004. In Oakland. The section is from Obama's perspective. It's odd and makes zero sense. You are pulled from the story and slammed into election year 2012.

This passed a cadre of editors, PR men, lawyers, etc...and they decided to throw $250,000 behind it and tart up the ebook. I'm not saying that it was to distract us, but all the reviews mention it. And so far they all say the book is flawed but Chabon is just so damn good it doesn't matter.

Sorry. It may be an attempt at something, but it ain't good. If this works for you, I'm interested in knowing why. And I want to know in terms other than Michael Chabon once wrote a good book so this one also must be good.

07 September 2012


Take a look at this:

Those are called Stromatolites. These ones are in Shark Bay in Australia. You will be forgiven for thinking they look like rock formations. They do, but in reality they are living, breathing colonies of bacteria. Some several thousands of years old.

Fossils of the colonies have been dated back to 3.5 billion years. They are some of the earliest life to exist on earth and are STILL HERE!!!

Here's another:

Now I know it's a drawing, but stick with me. That is the cross-section of Prototaxites. It is no longer with us but the fossil record has these growing up to 26 feet tall. Ready for the crazy part?

It is thought to be a giant fungus. A tree-sized mushroom!

You all should go to Field Of Science. It's a collective of 28 science blogs. Always informative, and always worth the time.

05 September 2012


That is a 1992 video by Edson Cordeiro and Cassia Eller. It is a mash-up of The Rolling Stone's Satisfaction and Mozart's Queen of the Night.

Cordeiro is one of the few modern male sopranos. He has a five-octave range and seems to hit the high F6 in Queen easily. Watching the video I started thinking about gender in the arts.

The woman in the song is Cassia Eller. She is a contralto.

Of course she isn't really bending gender, just expectations. She is more in line with Nina Simone. A woman who's voice could be mistaken for a man's without the visual. Victoria Legrand of Beach House falls into this category as well.

Ms. Jones
While these artists are clearly playing with gender norms I have always found artists that play with true androgyny fascinating. Grace Jones, Boy George, even Adam Lambert. They clearly touch on and tread the line of what people find comfortable with strict gender roles.

Watching the videos from the two Brazilian artists led me to a series of videos from other artists working outside their gender roles. Below we have a 70s disco queen, a woman who may have slept with Frieda Khalo, and a woman who lived her life as a man playing jazz.

Quick note on Billy Tipton: No one knew he was a woman until he died.


Chavela Vargas:

Billy Tipton:

What does this have to do with books? The history of gender twisting exists there as well. Woolf's Orlando, Eugenides Middlesex, Shakespeare practically used it in every comedy. These are only three, the list stretches on.

Why does it matter?

My view of the arts is that they are a place for us to expand the boundaries of what it means to be a human. To ask ourselves questions and to get answers. They aren't mirrors exactly, more dreams of what we could be. And the twisting of strict gender roles is just another way to point out that our arbitrary boundaries can be pushed outward a little.

03 September 2012

Dust Jacket : Schild's Ladder

Schild's Ladder
Designed by: Emma Wallace

A star field. Motes of dust in a shaft of sunlight. Sugar on a table top. Aside from the pitch-perfection of a book about an accidental scientific catastrophe involving molecular replication, this cover by Emma Wallace serves as a void to pour your imagination into. That container for imagination is what a great cover should be. It should inform but not allow you to pre-judge what is going to happen inside.

This looks like a strange close-up and crop of the cover for Frank Bidart's Star Dust.

Which actually makes the cover even more interesting. It creates a strange connection in my brain that works for me.

I wish more cover designs were brave enough to go the no text route. The only real place the title needs to be is the spine. And even there it's only so it can sit on a shelf at a book store. A similar effect can occur with creative use of text.

This is the cover for the hard back edition of Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth by Chris Ware. It is disconcerting and confusing to the eye but it sets you up for the flow of the art to come inside, where the reader is asked to follow pages of art and story that look like this:

The paper back edition is similar:

It references the original cover but also manages to clarify the elements.

The art inside Ware's book also reminds me of the Wallace cover. The small dots of ink used to print comics, the multitude of panels on one page that make up the whole. They are like those little spots of white in the field of black.

It's a bit of a reach, but feels right.

Dust Jacket is a sometime article about the design and art of book covers. The idea is to shine a spotlight on the work of the designer separate from the author. Literally judging a book by its cover.