Lovely to be back with you. I’ve missed you. We open with flag ads. Then, Gerhard Steidl is an art book lover like no other. Happy People do exist and they live in Siberia. Imagine what a hut and a curious soldier and a good magazine can do together. James Fallows goes a wandering with his wife and some ideas about America and some cool mapping technology. Bonus: 12 writers write about home….
I flew to London and bussed up to Oxford to hang out and work with a lovely bunch of writers. I stayed at Merton College. Visited in London with two lovely people. Saw an English football match. (“Arsenal, Arsenal, Arsenal, Arsenal!”) Had a nice visit with these lovely folks. Then to 26 Rue de la Reynie, Paris. (1st Arrondissement.) Great big heartfelt thanks go to John and Linda Simmons, Jamie Jauncey, Stuart Delves, Philip Pullman, Jeff and Jeannie Schraeder, Meg Bortin and the Dark Angels of Oxford 2013. Paris is so relentlessly beautiful it takes your breath away..
Sending all good thoughts to everyone in the Northeast, many of whom are in shelters this morning. Geolocation technology makes for some interesting picture making. Pecha what? Pechakucha. Yep, there’s another cloud based music platform and 5CT has it for you. Wanna self help book that charts a whole new course? Of course you do. Also, a very cool restaurant / lounge reaches back to its great stories. Love this by the great Anne Lamott, “Your problem is how you are going to spend this one odd and precious life you have been issued. Whether you’re going to spend it trying to look good and creating the illusion that you have power over people and circumstances, or whether you are going to taste it, enjoy it and find out the truth about who you are.” Onward we go, pals. Thanks for being here.
1. Picture the Tweeting Places | Nate Larson & Marni Shindelman
Well now, this is a clever and creative meld of some fairly new technologies. Imagine “A” sends out a tweet from a rural town in Georgia.
why dont people try making bracelets or necklaces with chips in them so kids can avoid being kidnapped and lost forever?
Person “A”, our tweeter, has her geolocation thingy turned on in her twitter settings. Which means you or me or Nate Larson and Marni Shindelman can figure out exactly where “A” was when she tweeted. So the tweet is bound to the land. All of which is to say that Nate and Marni gathered a whole slew of publicly available tweets, along with all the geolocation info for those tweets. Went to the very spot from whence those tweets came. Then made some lovely pictures and then paired their imagery to said tweet. Got it?
2. 20 x 20 | The Art of the Presentation — Pechakucha
Click the photo to watch the presentation.
Very cool development in the world of public presentations. Useful for educators, architects — anyone who makes presentations. Pechakucha is the creation of Astrid Klein and Mark Dytham of Klein Dytham architecture. The first one was held in Tokyo. The idea is that you can gather a group of professionals, or artists, or anyone really, and in a spirit of shared intelligence and community and ideas, put on a bunch of cool, fairly quick presentations. The kicker? Only 20 slides allowed. And each slide is up for only 20 seconds. Hence, the 20 x 20 thing.
The photograph you see above is from a pechakucha on hitchhiking. By Myles Dickason. Charming tour into one man’s life on the road.
3. More Music | SoundCloud
From the very cool and very social SoundCloud website:
SoundCloud is a social sound platform that gives users unprecedented access to the world’s largest community of music and audio creators. SoundCloud allows everyone to discover original music and audio, connect with each other and share their sounds with the world. In addition, sound creators can use the platform to instantly record, upload and share sounds across the internet, as well as receive detailed stats and feedback from the SoundCloud community.
“Ever since I was a little kid, I’ve thought there was something noble and mysterious about writing, about the people who could do it well, who could create a world as if they were little gods or sorcerers. All my life I thought there was something magical about people who could get into other people’s mind and skin, who could take people like me out of ourselves and then take us back to ourselves. And you know what? I still do.”
That beautiful place where she says, ‘take us back to ourselves.’ One of the more perfect descriptions of what great writing does. The writing that makes you want to stop strangers on the street — that’s writing that takes you back to yourself. The writing that makes you read out loud to your lover, that’s writing that takes you back to yourself. The writing that makes you buy a certain book for your favorite clients, that’s writing that takes you back to yourself. We love Anne. Wanna longer visit?
4. Swimming Upstream | The Antidote, Oliver Burkeman
After a few pleasant exchanges via Twitter, I popped on over to my favorite Seattle haunt to hear Oliver Burkeman read and talk about his new book, The Antidote. So fascinating, such a cool, refreshing, intellectually rigorous plunk down of the positive thinking that infects much of the self-help canon. Fun and serious. Here’s an excerpt:
Yet it is a curious truth that the Stoics’ approach to happiness through negativity begins with exactly the kind of insight that Norman Vincent Peale might endorse: that when it comes to feeling upbeat or despondent, it’s our beliefs that really matter. Most of us, the Stoics point out, go through life under the delusion that it is certain people, situations, or events that make us sad, anxious, or angry. When you’re irritated by a colleague at the next desk who won’t stop talking, you naturally assume that the colleague is the source of the irritation; when you hear that a beloved relative is ill and feel pained for them, it makes sense to think of the illness as the source of the pain. Look closely at your experience, though, say the Stoics, and you will eventially be forced to conclude that neither of these external events is ‘negative’ in itself. Indeed, nothing outside your own mind can properly be described as negative or positive at all. What actually causes suffering are the beliefs you hold about those things. (Italics mine.) The colleague is not irritating per se, but because of your belief that getting your work done without interruption is an important goal. Even a relative’s illness is bad only in view of your belief that it’s a good thing for your relatives not to be ill. “Things do not touch the soul,’ is how Marcus Aurelius, the Stoic philosopher-emperor, expresses the notion, adding: ‘Our perturbations come only from the opinion which is within.’ And, ‘There is nothing good or bad, but thinking makes it so,’ Shakespeare has Hamlet say.
Fascinating book. Click the photo above, or click here, to head over to Amazon.
5. Storytelling and Urban Cool | Vito’s Restaurant and Lounge on First Hill, Seattle
Is this a great country or what? This place might even be too cool for Seattle. As I write this at 11:03 pm on Saturday night, I just left Vito’s Restaurant and Lounge (two Council of Ten’s) where I heard The Fig Trio do their wonderful supper club, cool Mose Allison jazz/blues thing. So fantastic. The lights were low, the horseshoe shaped bar was busy, the red naugahyde booths were tiny cocktail heavens. The drinks are fair and the food is quite good. Vito’s has been on this spot at the corner of Madison and Ninth for ages and ages, since 1953 actually. Note how Vito’s decided to make use of story (married to a great photo) to create a vibe and a sense of time and place. Wonderful.
To you and to yours I send heartfelt tidings. May your heart (and glass) be full, your children close, your season chipper and your tree tall and straight. As a lover of irony, I did a double take when I read that we ought live without. Speedboat is a fine (if ironic) book from the 70s by a great writer and rebel and it’s coming back round. Two powerful and beautiful women laugh, shoot and play with technology. A website offers an irresistible visual and virtual tour of reading underground. What if a search engine took us to all the cool places, people and things we find in books? Oh, you would like the perfect gift? Check. I had coffee with Voltaire the other day. After I told him my story he looked into my eyes and said, “Life is a shipwreck, but we must not forget to sing in the lifeboats.” I could only agree. Thanks for being here. Build yourself a great big fire, light up the tree and have yourself a warm and lovely holiday.
1. Spanking the
Monk Hipster | Christy Wampole Speaks
Hipster culture is nothing without irony. And irony, fun and delicious, is after all, posturing. So it was only a matter of time before someone issued a course correction to try and make things right. Here is the first sentence from Christy Wampole’s recent
screed article in the New York Times, How to Live Without Irony:
“If irony is the ethos of our age — and it is — then the hipster is our archetype of ironic living.”
Well. Tell us how you really feel. But what follows is important, I think. It calls on us to be better humans, more genuine and true. Sincere. And no surprise, David Foster Wallace smartly elbows his way into the conversation.
From Christy Wampole: “….the ironic clique appears simply too comfortable, too brainlessly compliant. Ironic living is a first-world problem. For the relatively well educated and financially secure, irony functions as a kind of credit card you never have to pay back. In other words, the hipster can frivolously invest in sham social capital without ever paying back one sincere dime. He doesn’t own anything he possesses.” (Not sure how financially secure most hipsters are, but that’s off point.)
Deep into this piece comes mention of something new, at least for me — The New Sincerity. Here’s a slice of the New Sincerity articulated by the late David Foster Wallace. From 1993 —
“The next real literary “rebels” in this country might well emerge as some weird bunch of anti-rebels, born oglers who dare somehow to back away from ironic watching, who have the childish gall actually to endorse and instantiate single-entendre principles. Who treat of plain old untrendy human troubles and emotions in U.S. life with reverence and conviction. Who eschew self-consciousness and hip fatigue. These anti-rebels would be outdated, of course, before they even started. Dead on the page. Too sincere. Clearly repressed. Backward, quaint, naive, anachronistic. Maybe that’ll be the point. Maybe that’s why they’ll be the next real rebels. Real rebels, as far as I can see, risk disapproval. The old postmodern insurgents risked the gasp and squeal: shock, disgust, outrage, censorship, accusations of socialism, anarchism, nihilism. Today’s risks are different. The new rebels might be artists willing to risk the yawn, the rolled eyes, the cool smile, the nudged ribs, the parody of gifted ironists, the “Oh how banal.” To risk accusations of sentimentality, melodrama. Of overcredulity. Of softness. Of willingness to be suckered by a world of lurkers and starers who fear gaze and ridicule above imprisonment without law. Who knows.”
Whether or not DFWs argument for art with reverence and conviction, real feeling and sentiment was rooted in his own suffering, who can say? But reading his words only reminds us of how much we lost when David Foster Wallace took his leave. Snark and ironic detachment are difficult to hold onto when you’re so truly and seriously attached to making great art and you are so unwell that you can no longer live.
But what if Christy Wampole is all wrong?
All in all a provocative, necessary discussion. Here is How to Live Without Irony. And here, via hipster Jonathan Fitzgerald writing in The Atlantic, is the perfect rebuttal to Christy Wampole and a deeper look at the New Sincerity >>
2. Through Adler’s Telling | Speedboat, by Renata Adler Returns
You heard it here first. Speedboat, a 1976 award-winning novel by former New Yorker writer and bomb thrower, Renata Adler, will be reissued by the New York Review of Books. Mark your calendar for March 19, 2013, the same date that the sequel, Pitch Dark, will also be published by the NYRB.
Paris Review writer Anna Wiener fell in love with this book. “To fall head over heels for Speedboat is a fitting reaction to this particular novel, I think. Language—not character, not culture, not love or money or society or truth or journalism or sex or politics or technology or connection, although all of these things are essential, are crucial satellites—pins the center of this book down. Language is the thing. Upon the first reading, during that gray and yawning time, I no longer wanted to see the world for another person; I wanted to see it refracted through Adler’s telling.”
3. Two Hot Broads | iPhone Photo of the Month
If Helen Mirren had been there, the universe would have imploded. Of the many memorable quotes uttered by Hilary Clinton, I dig this, “You have to be true to yourself.” If Hilary becomes more beloved than she already is the sun will fall out of the sky. Fair warning.
Song for Sunday :: Canto De Ossanha :: Jurassic 5
4. Reader, Reader, New York, New York | The Underground Library
Utterly irresistible photographs of New York Subway riders deep into books. What are they reading? The Financial Lives of the Poets, Don Quixote, Atlas Shrugged, How to Win Friends and Influence People, Ways of Seeing (shown above), The Broom of the System, A Short History of Women, Night, etc. Go look >>
(Not affiliated with the NYC public library.)
5. A Very Cool Thing | Small Demons Literary Search Engine
Absolutely brilliant idea. Think of all the places that a good book takes you. Then think about the people, real and not, that a good book brings you. And then imagine a search engine that can connect all those dots and you have Small Demons. Whatever you might find in a story — a cocktail, a cockatoo, a cockpit, a cockroach, a pianist named Ryder, a count named Vronsky — it’s all here. Hard to tell how many books are listed, but there are many. Check it out >>
The screenshot below is from Small Demons.
A Gift Idea for You | Book Book from twelve south
twelve south makes cases for iPads and laptops too. Apple products only, so you Android users can just move along, there’s nothing to see here.
Dear twelve south, contact me and I’ll help with the copy.
Here’s a snippet of the copy for all my copywriting friends. It’s workmanlike, but uninspired. For such an uber cool product I want more than phrases like, “convenient ID window” and “slots for your debit/credit cards.” Zzzzzzzzzzzzzz. What say you?