5CT January 2015

O ne fine writer says a pen might change the world. The Guardian celebrates the birthday of a fine jazz label.  An English filmmaker films an America that’s a little off — and a little other. In tech, there is a nice clean way to write on your iPhone or Mac and sync your work to everywhere. And still another publisher is kicking out stories in a gorgeous mode. Happy 2015, I wish you wisdom and prosperity. “Do not read,” said Gustave Flaubert, “as children do, to amuse yourself, or like the ambitious, for the purpose of instruction. No, read in order to live.” Make sure to scroll down to the end. A small treat awaits.

The world’s most famous jazz label – celebrated for its striking use of design as much as for its groundbreaking recordings – is 75 this year. John Fordham tells the story of Blue Note through a selection of its famous album covers. - The Guardian

 1.
Readers, get your biro’s out

Screen Shot 2014-12-03 at 11.18.00 AM

It seems sacrilegious, no? No, says Tim Parks, the English writer who blogs on a regular basis at the NY Review of books, and who always enthralls. Get the pen out, he says. When our powers of concentration are in mortal peril, like now, this seems a brilliant stroke. The upside to the pen he says, is to improve the lot of mankind and to crack the code, to boldly go where the writer has gone and expose their shenanigans. Check this out from his piece, Weapons for Readers,

We have too much respect for the printed word, too little awareness of the power words hold over us. We allow worlds to be conjured up for us with very little concern for the implications. We overlook glaring incongruities. We are suckers for alliteration, assonance, and rhythm. We rejoice over stories, whether fiction or “documentary,” whose outcomes are flagrantly manipulative, self-serving, or both. Usually both. If a piece of writing manifests the stigmata of literature—symbols, metaphors, unreliable narrators, multiple points of view, structural ambiguities—we afford it unlimited credit. With occasional exceptions, the only “criticism” brought to such writing is the kind that seeks to elaborate its brilliance, its cleverness, its creativity. What surprised me most when I first began publishing fiction myself was how much at every level a novelist can get away with.

Ed. note: It’s been reported that the recently deceased Mario Cuomo had an impressive personal library with dozens of his books heavily annotated.

Tim Parks’ brilliant piece >>

Screen Shot 2014-10-24 at 7.08.45 PM

2.
Uncompromising expression, great cover art

The world’s most famous jazz label – celebrated for its striking use of design as much as for its groundbreaking recordings – is 75 this year. John Fordham tells the story of Blue Note through a selection of its famous album covers. - The Guardian

The world’s most famous jazz label – celebrated for its striking use of design as much as for its groundbreaking recordings – is 75 this year. John Fordham tells the story of Blue Note through a selection of its famous album covers. – The Guardian

(Moanin’ by Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers – with scorching solo by Lee Morgan)

Screen Shot 2014-12-20 at 12.05.39 PMFounded by two German immigrants escaping the Nazis, Blue Note Records turned 75 in 2014. I’m not enough of an audiophile to truly lament the loss of vinyl and the sonic truths that were lost in the great digital swap out. But we have lost something very real in terms of album cover visual art. Having Blue Note’s big art and music in your home was like traveling The Left Bank with your own little black beret and pack of Gitanes even though you were really on Union Street wearing flannel shirts. Courtesy of The Guardian, here’s a mini tour of Blue Note’s terrific cover art. Happy 75th Blue Note. As a side note, enjoy the most succinct press release of all time that announced it all.

If only every press release were this many words.

Imagine a world where every press release is only 46 words.

 Tour Blue Note’s gorgeous cover art >>

 Watch a fascinating 12 minute history of Blue Note >>

Screen Shot 2014-10-24 at 7.08.45 PM

 3.
There’s this other place called America

Black Owl, a film by James Coulson

To travel across this country can be awe inspiring. Unsettling too. It’s grim in a lot of places. But even in the forgotten places, or the too easily forgotten places, there are powerful stories of people pushing hard against the headwinds.

James Coulson, (yet another Brit doing fine creative work) has set out to make a series of short films of The Other America. These are places that are truly and imaginatively in between.

These short films are quite beautiful >>

Screen Shot 2014-10-24 at 7.08.45 PM

4.
Write and sync easily on your mac, phone or tablet

Screen Shot 2014-12-23 at 5.01.59 PM

Here comes a sweet little app for distraction-free writing. It’s called Write. Technically, this is a ‘Markdown writing app’ which means it’s mainly for HTML. But these apps (Byword is another one) can be fantastically beautiful to write in, especially since Word is not exactly beautiful to write in. It works on your laptop, tablet or iPhone, it will sync with iCloud and Dropbox. There is a running word count, which I love because of this.

Want to export your note or publish it as a web page? No problem, Write has got you covered. With full MultiMarkdown 4 support, you can export properly formatted HTML with tables, references and images.

Screen Shot 2014-10-24 at 7.08.45 PM

5.
Five Dials

How I love Five Dials. The fonts, the stories, the design, the writers…Published by Hamish Hamilton publishers, (home to Sartre, Camus, Truman Capote and Lydia Davis’ Can’t, Won’t) this quirky, gorgeous, publication makes me want to redesign everything in sight. Wondering if my English pals know about this. I’m not familiar with most names I see there, except for Nick Hornby who shows up in a Q & A. Here’s a taste of how Five Dials does its thing.

Screen Shot 2014-12-27 at 10.15.34 AM

captions...

Five Dials and its great use of b/w graphics…

What seems beautiful to me, what
I should like to write, is a book about
nothing, a book dependent on nothing
external, which would be held together
by the strength of its style, just as the
earth, suspended in the void, depends on
nothing external for its support; a book
which would have almost no subject, or at
least in which the subject would be almost
invisible, if such a thing is possible. The
finest works are those that contain the
least matter; the closer expression comes
to thought, the closer language comes to
coinciding and merging with it, the finer
the result. I believe that the future of Art
lies in this direction. – The Selected Letters of
Gustave Flaubert, 1954 (Five Dials No. 1)

caption here..

Story and illustration…

caption here...

Lovely, no?

caption here...

Love this so much…

Screen Shot 2014-10-24 at 7.08.45 PM

we regret to inform you

we regret to inform you

we regret to inform you

You never know where the next piece of fine writing is going to come from. Might not be the big novel. Might show up in the form of a chapbook meant to be read while listening to an audio performance of same, that you find while poking around Elliott Bay Books, two blocks from your house. This is from Brenda Miller’s fine suite of letters themed around the we regret to inform you trope.

Dear Potential Wife,

Thank you for your application to get married. While I saw much to admire here, I regret to inform you that you do not meet my needs at this time.
I do want to commend you for your efforts over the past five years. You did your best, but your anxiety made it difficult to proceed on a clear path. Even so, we did love our coffee in the mornings, the meals in the evening, the travels through the Middle East (let’s just forget the argument we had while walking the walls on the old city of Jerusalem. Water under the bridge…). You laughed at my jokes, thanks for that. And of course, being fledgling writers together, in the salad days of artistic expression, before the marketplace intervened.
Try to remember that we loved the way we could: not perfectly, not entirely well, but genuinely—one injury against another’s. I loved your lisp. And the little mole above your lip. I touched your scars, and you touched mine. We tried. But at some point, a relationship shouldn’t have to try so hard, right?
It may just be a timing thing. Best wishes in your future matrimonial endeavors; I’m sure your talents will be put to good use elsewhere. I hope we remain friends.

Your grad school boyfriend

The Sun Magazine has more from we regret to inform you >> 

Equally interesting is the story behind this publication — The Furnace. Look…. 

 THANK YOU.

3 Comments
  • Mary Garner-Mitchell
    January 8, 2015

    You write in virtual 3D — a wonderful analogy, this:

    “But we have lost something very real in terms of album cover visual art. Having Blue Note’s big art and music in your home was like traveling The Left Bank with your own little black beret and pack of Gitanes even though you were really on Union Street wearing flannel shirts.”

    Enjoying 5 cool things — Hope 2015 is a good year for you my dear friend!

    –M

  • Richard
    January 8, 2015

    Mary! Hi! Thank you, I didn’t know you were even getting this! We need to catch up.
    Love,
    R

  • Jamie Jauncey
    January 13, 2015

    Richard – my friend James Robertson is a Five Dials author. His most recent work is the wonderful ‘365’, one 365-word story for every day of the year – see http://fivedials.com/365 (Most wonderfully and unexpectedly of all, he dedicated the 2nd story in the book, Jan 2, to me!) FCT continues to live up to its name, a monthly feast for heart and mind. Keep that pencil sharpened! Jamie

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *