5 Cool Things for 9.30.2012

Place — emotional, spiritual, physical, creative — such a rich vein, no? In the arts and especially literature, place has given us so much pulpy goodness. Updike, Roth and many others in the East, Wallace Stegner in the West, Flannery O’Connor, Eudora Welty in the South. With place as a theme, we tour Paris via the work of Toulouse-Lautrec and Eugene Atget. Then a flyover to Detroit and South Africa with Sixto Rodriguez. Richard Ford talks writing in New Jersey, Vermont, Montana and Jamestown. We wrap with a killer list of place-based apps. “I know you can dream your way through an otherwise fine life, and never wake up, which is what I almost did,” said Frank Bascombe in Richard Ford’s, The Sportswriter. Me, I haven’t the foggiest idea what he’s on about. You?


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1. Painter, Printmaker, Haymaker | H.T.L.

Paris was his place. A wicked alcoholic, there’s a cocktail to his name, the aptly titled Earthquake. (Three parts absinthe to three cognac.) He had a love/hate relationship with his mother and was an incorrigible womanizer. For these maladies and others, art was his salvation. He wooed the avant-garde and the masses, too. Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec was born in 1864 and died in 1901 at only 36 years old. In that time period he stayed busy — 737 canvasses, 275 watercolors, 369 prints, 4784 drawings, 300 0f which are erotic / pornographic. Paris seems to have been good to him. Someone said that without Toulouse-Lautrec, no Warhol. Get the full story here >>

1893. Lithograph, composition: 31 15/16 x 23 3/4″ (81.2 x 60.3 cm); sheet: 31 15/16 x 24 1/2″ (81.2 x 62.2 cm). Publisher: Édouard Fournier, Paris. Printer: Edward Ancourt, Paris. Edition: Unknown. Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Fund

1893. Lithograph, composition: 48 13/16 x 34 15/16″ (124 x 88.8 cm), sheet: 49 5/8 x 36 1/8″ (126 x 91.8 cm). Gift of A. Conger Goodyear

Aristide Bruant in his Cabaret (Aristide Bruant dans son cabaret)

Going to Paris?

A complete set of Toulouse-Lautrec prints and posters is in the Cabinet des Estampes, Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris.


 2. For the Love of Paris | The Photographs of Atget

Without the City of Light, there would be no Eugene Atget, one of the most beautiful photographers who ever ducked under a dark cloth. Gary Winogrand said of Atget, “He knew where to place the camera.” And he placed his camera tens of thousands of times in many of the loveliest, most architecturally significant corners of a beautiful city that was changing before his eyes. The expat Man Ray claimed to have discovered him for the Surrealists. But it was Berenice Abbott, Man Ray’s assistant, and Julien Levy, who rescued his work and brought it to us. One of the giants of photography and among the most modest of men. I love this man. The National Gallery of Art has a beautiful set of web pages on Atget. You should absolutely look at this >>

Eugene Atget

Eugène Atget, Interior of a Photographer, Atget’s Apartment, 17 bis rue Campagne-Première, 1910–1911, Bibliothèque nationale de France, Paris


Song for Sunday :: La Vie En Rose :: Edith Piaf, Live

“La Vie en rose” was released on a 10″ single in 1947 by Columbia Records, a division of EMI, with “Un refrain courait dans la rue” making the B-side. It met with a warm reception and sold a million copies in the USA.[7] It was the biggest-selling single of 1948 in Italy, and the ninth biggest-selling single in Brazil in 1949.[8]Piaf performed the song in the 1948 French movie Neuf garçons, un coeur. The first of Piaf’s albums to include “La Vie en rose” was the 10″ Chansons parisiennes, released in 1950.


3. Lost, Then Found | Searching for Sugar man

Rodriguez is Sugar Man

This documentary of fame, music, place, humility and greed begins in Detroit, but has its apogee in South Africa. The story of Sixto Rodriguez is one for the ages, but “story” doesn’t quite do it justice. It’s a fable, an American mythology. Riveting and amazing on every level. It’s hard to imagine you could see a better documentary this year or next. Do not miss. Catch a bit of Sixto Rodriguez here >>

Note: The less you know about this story, the better your movie experience will be.


4. The Places of Fear and Creativity | Richard Ford

Screen Shot 2014-11-06 at 10.35.45 PM
Richard Ford

“I wrote The Sportswriter in a period of sustained panic in the middle 1980s—most of the novel written while I was living in New Jersey, Vermont, and Montana—and at a time when my writing vocation was threatening to dematerialize in front of me, literally frightening me into a bolder effort than I ever supposed myself capable. Independence Day—begun in 1992, in a rented, seaside house in Jamestown, Rhode Island—I first imagined as a novel with no relation to any other book I’d written. It was to be a story about a beleaguered, well-intentioned divorced father who takes his “difficult,” estranged teenage son on a trip to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York—and in so doing draws himself and his son emotionally closer to each other. All seemed to go well through the planning stages (a year). But over that time I began to notice that all the father’s projected calculations about life and events seemed, in my notes, to “sound” like those of Frank Bascombe—the character who’d narrated The Sportswriter. I made dogged efforts to scuttle all thought of a “linked” book. I was fearful of helplessly writing that first novel over again; fearful of having more ambition than skill or sense; fearful of gloomy failure. And yet these fears finally succumbed to the recognition that to be given a “voice” and with it an already-plausible character who can transact the complex world in reasonably intelligent, truthful, even mirthful ways was just too much of a gift from the writing gods to decline. And so Independence Day, after some considerable prewriting adjustments to my original plan, came into existence.” Visit Richard Ford’s place on the web >>


5. Where are You? | Mobile Device Apps 

Place has become big business. Location Based Services are mobile device apps that pinpoint your own location, or the location of nearby persons and/or the nearby BEST MOST AWESOME PHO in SEATTLE, (in the International District), or the super hip French Cafe up the hill, or the best walking route to Macrina. Here, courtesy of Glen Farrelly’s, Webslinger, is an astonishing list of geo based apps.  Behold the world we now live in. Thank you Glen!

Coordination, Communication, and Safety

  • Crowdmap – open-source hosted solution to present location-specific crowdsourced info whether for activism, crises, or community projects
  • Glympse – share your location with your contacts and specify the duration of visit
  • Groundcrew – “coordinates on-the-ground action with your people. Use location, availability, and skills to mobilize in realtime.”
  • Guardly – “When an emergency occurs, your personal safety network will always know where you’re located….we can pin-point your exact GPS location and provide you with valuable information about what’s located around you, and how it can aid your situation.”
  • Moby – family member tracking and coordination
  • Swim Guide – find nearby beaches, their safety status, and historical info
  • YWCA Safety Siren – sends geolocation to emergency contacts, maps and directions to women’s health clinics & resources, etc.

Commerce and Marketing

  • MapDing– hyperlocal classifieds
  • Placecast – service provider for brands to create geolocative mobile apps
  • Priority Moments – proximity-based promotions & deals (only in London, UK)
  • Realtor.ca – allows a user to
    search and receive info and pix on properties for sale in their vicinity
    or across Canada. Also offers proximity-based new listings and open
    houses (Rightmove has this for London, UK)
  • Shopkick – “gives you rewards and offers simply for walking into stores, for scanning products, and for signing up friends”
  • Shopcatch – location-based deals (Canadian company)
  • Sociallight – service provider of geolocative apps
  • Where – proximity-based promotions and deals
  • YellowPages – detects your location or enter one to retrieve nearby businesses or people


  • Flickr – upload & search for georeferenced photos (also the ZoneTag tool from Yahoo appears to facilitate this)
  • Geoloqi – “securely shar[e] location data, with features such as Geonotes, proximal notification, and sharing real-time GPS maps with friends.”
  • Historypin – enables users to add old photographs and text narratives to locations
  • Instagram – popular photo-sharing app that allows georeferencing & sharing with foursquare
  • Murmur – recorded oral histories of place, uses old cellphone tech as users see plaque and call specific number to hear targetted message
  • Tagwhat – a “mobile encyclopedia of where you are… learn all about the world around you through interactive stories, videos, and photos”
  • urbantag – tag and share lists of places with friends

Geosocial Networking

  • Banjo – geosocial discovery – helps you find friends and people with similar interests near you
  • BuzzE – proxmity friend finding and networking
  • CheckIn+ – “all-in-one check-in app with augmented reality”
  • Citysense – “real-time nightlife discovery and social navigation”
  • Find My Friends – Apple-based friend finder
  • Glassmap – friend tracking
  • Google Latitude – “see where your friends are right now”
  • Grindr and Blendr gay and straight friend and dating finder
  • GyPsii – claims to be the world’s largest geosocial network
  • Highlight – “if your friends are nearby, it will notify you. If someone interesting crosses your path, it will tell you more about them”
  • Hurricane Party – “helps friends find, share, and create spontaneous parties”
  • Locle – geo-based friend finder
  • Plazes – proxmity friend finding
  • Skout -“find interesting singles close-by, strike up a conversation, maybe grab a drink or share a cup of coffee”

Local Discovery and Hyperlocal Information

  • Around Me – find business near your location by biz type (similar for gas is GasBuddy)
  • EveryTrail – “find and follow trips from other travelers”
  • Geopedia – geotargetted Wikipedia entries – as also offered by WikiMe
  • Google+ Local – combines Google’s old Places listings with Zagat content and their Google+ social network features
  • Junaio – AR-based vicinity info search, including business and attractions
  • Layar – augmented reality browser
  • Local Books by Library Thing “It shows you local bookstores, libraries and bookish events wherever you are or plan to be.”
  • Nearest Wiki – “AR view, with a synopsis against points of interest near you. Tapping on the place you wish to learn more about will give you more in-depth information on the location with images” content from Wikipedia
  • Poynt – local search with proximity based reviews and mapping
  • Star Chart– not exactly local, but uses your position and AR view to offer info on the heavens (Google offers similar functionality with their Google Sky Map service)
  • Trover – “log remarkable places and things by snapping a photo and adding a quick note. When your friends and others pass by in the future they, too, can experience your discovery. Track the paths of friends and other interesting folks using our “follow” mode”
  • Twitter Places – search for tweets within a specified area or tag places in your tweets
  • Zeitag – historical photographs

Location-based Games

  • Booyah – variety of games, including MyTown and Nightclub City
  • My Town – “built around your local shops, restaurants, and hangouts. Level-up, unlock items, and earn cash to buy your favorite real-life locations.”
  • SCVNGR – “share where you are & what you’re up to with your friends. Do challenges to earn points and unlock badges & real-world rewards.”
  • TapCity – “play with friends as you build and defend your very own city made up of your favorite places in the real world.”

Navigation and Transportation

  • BlackBerry Traffic by RIM uses GPS and customized maps to “establish your estimated time of arrival, find out if a road is closed, or decide to take a faster, alternate route”
  • MyCar Park – “capture your parking location on a map, add a photo, and comments… Then built in maps direct you to your car from your current location.”
  • Nearest Subway – locates nearest subway station for New York, Chicago, Tokyo, Paris, Madrid, etc.
  • Red Rocket – Toronto transit maps, routes, schedules, and nearest stop
  • SitOrSquat – find nearby bathrooms with user reviews of their cleanliness by Charmin (genius marketing effort and I must say the most useful LBS to come along in ages!)
  • Waze – “free, community-based traffic & navigation app”

Personal Efficiency and Organization

    • Siri‘s Location Services – directions, recommendations, and personal efficiency services based on your location
    • Task Ave – “location-aware reminders. Magically get alerts when you’re nearby a task.”
    • Voxora – “voicemail for places”, integrates with foursquare

Social Recommendation and Navigation

  • DeHood – tap into neighbourhood buzz to find local businesses
  • DontEat.at – foursquare-based and
    only in NYC it sends “a text message when you check into a NYC
    restaurant that is at risk of being closed for health code violations”
  • Goby – suggests “fun things to do” based on your location or category (US only)
  • Localmind – get answers about a specific place & real-time events by people who are there
  • Urbanspoon – location and shaking based restaurant recommendations
  • Urbantag – customize a list of favourite places and share with friends
  • Wikitude – offers A.R., map, or list view of various types of proximal content (reviews, deals, and Wikipedia entries)
  • Yelp and Citysearch – user-generated local reviews combined with local search engine

Travel and Place Guides

  • Ask a Nomad – answered on your travel questions from fellow travellers
  • Compass by Lonely Planet – “plot itineraries on dynamic, GPS-enabled map. Grab practical information and useful tips using our augmented reality camera view”
  • Gogobot – travel tips from friends & other users
  • MobilyTrip – social networking travel diary app
  • mTrip – “automatically customizes your trip itinerary…guides you to each tourist attraction with directions, uses augmented reality to display tourist attractions in your area, and allows you to share your trip with personalized e-postcards”
  • Ski & Snow Report – detailed ski info snow amounts, traffic volume, weather, lift times, etc)
  • Ski Tracks – a GPS-enabled ski log of your routes, velocity, etc. with ability to geotag your pix
  • TimeOut – travel guide apps for various tourist hot-spots
  • TripAdvisor – get TripAdvisor’s content on your mobile with proximity search option
  • Tripbirds – travel tips from friends
  • Trippy – get trip advice from your social network



Thank You.

FCT Special Edition :: The Lines are Open

jackie b. | me

1. Call Me at the Station, the Lines are Open

Last week I had the chance to do a live radio interview with my friend and business mentor, Jackie B. Peterson. We talked for about an hour about all kinds of things. The bumpy path of a writing business. Being afraid to write. The challenges of finding clients. The notion of voice in business writing. The time I met Kim Phuc. My visit to Spain with the Dark Angels. Joni’s song, It All Comes Down to You. The deal with creative staffing agencies. And much more. She was and is awesome. Thank you Jackie and thanks to Barbara Saunders at Solo Pro Radio.

To listen — just click my name or the little arrow. {When you click, your screen might go darker. Just click anywhere on the page, and your screen will return to normal. :)}

[audio: http://www.fivecoolthingsblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/Richard-and-Jackie-Interview.mp3|titles=Richard and Jackie Interview]

2. David Rakoff :: Freud Rides the Hampton Jitney

This past week the writer David Rakoff died at the age of 47. He was a regular on This American Life. If you don’t know him, he is David Sedaris’ soul brother. This should tell you something: Remember David Sedaris and his job as Santa’s elf in Macy’s those many years ago? His pal David Rakoff played — wait for it — Freud. In a store window. At Barney’s in New York. At Christmas. His essay is titled Christmas Freud.

Last summer at a writer’s conference on Long Island, David Rakoff read one of his signature essays to a packed-to-overflowing auditorium. I have never laughed so hard. (It was an unpublished piece on the life of a writer.) David Rakoff had 200+ people in tears, which, from all evidence he could do at will. Like his friend Sedaris, David Rakoff read with a very distinctive voice. You almost had to experience his writing through the sound of his voice. He was smart, talented, funny, cynical and compassionate. Completely irresistible.

At the end of the writers conference last year, I climbed onto the Hampton Jitney with my friend Peter Bolger. Across the aisle from us was David Rakoff, heading back home to Manhattan. He shared his New York Times with us and we swapped stories.

Excerpt below is from a 2006 Rakoff essay, Streets of Sorrow. (Worth reading entirely.)

“I take one final stroll over to Vine on my last morning on the Boulevard. Most of the businesses are still shuttered. The tourists have yet to arrive at Grauman’s. I pass Dan Avey’s star once again. It is all of four days old, but I see that it is patched. No doubt it left the workshop patched. There, against the salmon pink of the five-pointed star, is a cloud of darker red, like a bruise or the small beating heart of a tiny creature. There is such hope and poignancy, an almost animal frailty in that blemish, that I stop in my tracks for a minute. People have been coming out West with stars in their eyes for so long, and for just as long, some have returned to where they came from, their hopes dashed. But if the fulfillment of one’s dreams is the only referendum on whether they are beautiful or worth dreaming, then no one would wish for anything. And that would be so much sadder.” — from Streets of Sorrow, by David Rakoff

Times culture blog post here>>

Times obit here>>

Lovely New Yorker piece here>>

Doubleday plans to publish Rakoff’s final work next year. The title: Love, Dishonor, Marry, Die; Cherish, Perish.

Five Cool Things :: August 5, 2012

This weeks brew: A touch of nostalgia. And la, la, la, la, la.

A lot was made of Robert Frank’s The Americans. But his artist statement for the Guggenheim that made that book possible is something, too. Nico’s classic 60’s take on Jackson Browne’s tender-hearted teen lament. What is InstaCRT? Hip new photo app. Instagram goes to Syria and Amy waxes on AbEx. Will post my recent radio interview when it becomes available. Pema Chodron asked me to tell you. “You are the sky. Everything else is just the weather.”


1. Shooter, Writer, Beat Poet | Robert Frank’s Artist Statement

detroit river rouge plant – photo by robert frank

From U.S. Camera Annual, p. 115, 1958 (Statement written by photographer Robert Frank, to the Guggehneim Foundation.)

“One is embarrassed to want so much for oneself. But, how else are you going to justify your failure and your effort?”

– Robert Frank quoting Malraux. ‘To transform destiny into awareness.’

With these photographs, I have attempted to show a cross-section of the American population. My effort was to express it simply and without confusion. The view is personal and, therefore, various facets of American life and society have been ignored. The photographs were taken during 1955 and 1956; for the most part in large cities such as Detroit, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York and in many other places during my Journey across the country. My book, containing these photographs, will be published in Paris by Robert Delpire, 1958.

I have been frequently accused of deliberately twisting subject matter to my point of view. Above all, I know that life for a photographer cannot be a matter of indifference. Opinion often consists of a kind of criticism. But criticism can come out of love. It is important to see what is invisible to others—perhaps the look of hope or the look of sadness. Also, it is always the instantaneous reaction to oneself that produces a photograph.

My photographs are not planned or composed in advance and I do not anticipate that the on-looker will share my viewpoint. However, I feel that if my photograph leaves an image on his mind—something has been accomplished.

the americans

It is a different state of affairs for me to be working on assignment for a magazine. It suggests to me the feeling of a hack writer or a commercial illustrator. Since I sense that my ideas, my mind and my eye are not creating the picture but that the editors’ minds and eyes will finally determine which of my pictures will be reproduced to suit the magazines’ purposes.

I have a genuine distrust and “mefiance” toward all group activities. Mass production of uninspired photojournalism and photography without thought becomes anonymous merchandise. The air becomes infected with the “smell” of photography. If the photographer wants to be an artist, his thoughts cannot be developed overnight at the corner drugstore.

I am not a pessimist, but looking at a contemporary picture magazine makes it difficult for me to speak about the advancement of photography, since photography today is accepted without question, and is also presumed to be understood by all—even children. I feel that only the integrity of the individual photographer can raise its level.

The work of two contemporary photographers, Bill Brandt of England and the American, Walker Evans, have influenced me. When I first looked at Walker Evans’ photographs, I thought of something Malraux wrote: “To transform destiny into awareness.” One is embarrassed to want so much for oneself. But, how else are you going to justify your failure and your effort?” Let’s flip through The Americans together.


2. “I have not forgotten them” | Nico, These Days

So many covers of this beautiful song. None as gorgeous as this one. There’s a Wes Anderson soundtrack (The Royal Tannenbaums), a KMart commercial, Andy Warhol got his mitts on it, Greg Allman and on it goes.  By Jackson Browne — at a tender sixteen. Read more>>


3. iPhone Photo App | InstaCRT

instaCRT :: picture taking goodness

king street station, seattle, richard pelletier :: via InstaCRT

Cool new app that is essential for any serious iPhone shooter. You owe it to yourself to take a peek at how this analog-ish app works. You can do that here>>


4. Revolutionary App | Instagram on the Front Lines

syrian war captured via instagram

Instagram is a wildly popular photo app (unfortunately now owned by Facebook) that allows for social sharing and a way to “filter” images to create different looks and whatnot. As the Syrian war rages on, Syrians are taking to Instagram to document the hell that is raining down on them. More images here>>

This is the hashtag for this boys image: “#syrian #revolution #freedom #child #childhood #syria #Assad #killer #bombing #killed #guns #mortar #rocket #homs #hama #idlib #aleppo #dara #damascus #shaam #Suriye”


5. Amy Sillman | Painter, Writer

amy sillman

Such an abundance of talent. From a piece Amy wrote called AbEx and Disco Balls, In Defense of Abstract Expressionism II:

“I feel kind of bad for AB-EX. At sixty-something, the old bird’s gotten the gimlet eye from just about everybody: It’s vulgar, it’s the phallocracy, it’s nothing but an empty trophy, it celebrates bourgeois subjectivity, it’s a cold-war CIA front, and, well, basically, expression’s really embarrassing. A dandy wouldn’t be caught dead doing something as earnest as struggling, or channeling jazz with his arms.”

“So I don’t find it odd that AbEx practices have not been vitally reinvigorated by a queered connection of the vulgar and the camp. Many artists — not the least of them women and queers — are currently recomplicating the terrain of gestural, messy, physical, chromatic, embodied, handmade practices.”

Take in more of Amy here>>

Five Cool Things :: June 10, 2012

FCT Cafe

Just when you thought it was safe to go back outside here comes a summer issue of FCT. Apologies for the long absence. In this issue, Laetitia, Wislawa, Gill, Ida and Orhan. Speaking of Orhan Pamuk, this is what he wrote in Snow, “How much can we hope to understand those who have suffered deeper anguish, greater deprivation, and more crushing disappointments than we ourselves have known?” Not nearly enough, Orhan.


1. Laetitia Sadier | Find Me the Pulse of the Universe

laetitia sadier ~ she is french.


iPad / iPhone users listen here>>

I found this music — 10 mp3s you need to download for free this week — here>>


2. Wislawa Szymborska | The End and the Beginning

scorched earth | richard pelletier

The End and the Beginning

Wislawa Szymborska

After every war
someone has to clean up.
Things won’t
straighten themselves up, after all.

Someone has to push the rubble
to the side of the road,
so the corpse-filled wagons
can pass.

Someone has to get mired
in scum and ashes,
sofa springs,
splintered glass,
and bloody rags.

Someone has to drag in a girder
to prop up a wall,
Someone has to glaze a window,
rehang a door.

Photogenic it’s not,
and takes years.
All the cameras have left
for another war.

We’ll need the bridges back,
and new railway stations.
Sleeves will go ragged
from rolling them up.

Someone, broom in hand,
still recalls the way it was.
Someone else listens
and nods with unsevered head.
But already there are those nearby
starting to mill about
who will find it dull.

From out of the bushes
sometimes someone still unearths
rusted-out arguments
and carries them to the garbage pile.

Those who knew
what was going on here
must make way for
those who know little.
And less than little.
And finally as little as nothing.

In the grass that has overgrown
causes and effects,
someone must be stretched out
blade of grass in his mouth
gazing at the clouds.

Wislawa Szymborska Do you not love her face?

The fct guy reads The End and the Beginning


3. Not Drawing a Blank | Gil Blank Photographer

photograph by gil blank

Meet New York City based Gil Blank — such an interesting photographer. This is as good place as any to start>>

Have a look at his photographic series based in Portland, Maine>>

Read into the wee hours — look at all these essays>>

From an interview with the photographer Wolfgang Tillmans:

WT: “I like the idea of the photograph as something that joins me to the world, that connects me to others, that I can share. I can get in touch with somebody when they recognize a feeling: “Oh, I felt like that before. I remember jeans hanging on the banister, even though I’ve never seen that exact pair. I’ve seen my oranges on a windowsill.” It’s the sense that “I’m not alone.” That’s the driving force behind sharing these things—that I want to find connections in people. I believe that every thought and idea has to be somehow rendered through personal experience, and then generalized.”


4. Orhan Pamuk | Paris Review

“We could die here and nobody would ever know.” That’s Orhan Pamuk in a lively Paris Review interview. Well worth your time.

Choice excerpt: Although I was raised in a crowded family and taught to cherish the community, I later acquired an impulse to break away. There is a self-
destructive side to me, and in bouts of fury and moments of anger I do things that cut me off from the pleasant company of the community. Early in life I realized that the community kills my imagination. I need the pain of loneliness to make my imagination work. And then I’m happy. But being a Turk, after a while I need the consoling tenderness of the community, which I may have destroyed. Istanbul destroyed my relationship with my mother—we don’t see each other anymore. And of course I hardly ever see my brother. My relationship with the Turkish public, because of my recent comments, is also difficult.

Read the entire interview here>>


5. Power & Imagination | Ida Applebroog

copyright ida applebroog

copyright ida applebroog

I want those shoes, that’s all I can say. Ms. Ida is a bit of a national treasure. Now please watch this. (This video won’t work on iPad/iPhone. Desktop only.)

Happy Holidays from Five Cool Things

Hometown Girl
A few, but not many seasons ago, I bought my wife an angel. She was in a little box in a fine little shop. The place was called Hometown Girl, and it was on a street in a quirky/funky/trashy/arty, now it’s hip, now it’s not, Baltimore neighborhood called Hampden. Hometown Girl was trés Baltimore. You could buy ornaments and cards and books and ice cream sundaes and you could imagine John Waters in there. The very soul of Baltimore lived in the floorboards. Like the town and like the shop, there’s more than a little joie de vivre in my Hometown Girl — with her silver wings and her hat and her pink dress and her blue striped stockings and that “One fine day, I shall fly in the Cirque du Soleil” expression. And those lips! She is unbounded Hampden joy. Pure Charm City magic, floating above the cacophony.

As you’d expect, Hometown Girl handled the big trip from Baltimore to Portland in style. I suppose she’s happier now, minus the crackheads and the stickup boys and the boarded up rowhouses – those hometown flats that said, “Dresden 1945.” These days, she floats above it all; hanging from a lamp above a dining room table bought in an antique shop. In Baltimore.

Some days ago, we took Hometown Girl out into the Portland winter. We lay her down in some evergreen boughs, we parked her upside down in the crook of a tree. We hung her from a branch alongside a friendly walking path and waited for the dogs to pass by. But it wasn’t until we arranged her, just so, in this redberry bush, among these winter berries that Hometown Girl came alive and flew. For a couple of moments, she was aloft and this poem materialized.

Same Old Me
So, for all the places we all have been,
For all the things this same old me
shoulda/coulda/woulda been—
for all the lives you’ve lived till now,
for all the ways we live, but still don’t know how,
take flight, same old me,
take flight.

And in this gastronomic season,
Use only the Barrique Chardonnay smoked finishing salt,
(It’s only $7.75 for 1.2 oz!)
And ditch the boring taste of reason —
Pour the heavy, tasty cream,
Or at least consider the half and half,
And that old life in Baltimore, Hometown Girl?
That was just,
One long soft shell Chesapeake Bay lip smacking, mallet swing sweet crab
tasting dream.

Happy Holidays!

1. A New Way to Listen to Music | Spotify

It works on a Mac, a PC, a mobile phone or a home audio system. It runs on a peer-to-peer network. It’s integrated with Facebook, which means it’s highly social and you can share what you’re listening to. (As I write this, I’m listening to Coyote by Joni Mitchell.) It holds millions and millions of songs. And it’s free. Merry Christmas! Check out spotify here>>


The very cool Spotify

2. Calling Ray Parise | Twine + You = Smart House

Another success story from Kickstarter. From the Twine Kickstarter website: “In the future, your house will send you a text message to warn you that your basement is flooding.”

A durable 2.5″ square provides WiFi connectivity, internal and external sensors, and two AAA batteries that keep it running for months. A simple web app allows to you quickly set up your Twine with human-friendly rules — no programming needed. And if you’re more adventurous, you can connect your own sensors and use HTTP to have Twine send data to your own app.

Twine lets you create Internet-connected systems and objects anywhere you have WiFi. Compact, low-power hardware and real-time web software work together to make networked physical computing simple and versatile. Available right now.


This is Twine. Available Now.

3. Ken Russell | The Last of the Teddy Girls 

When the director Ken Russell was a young lad of 23, well before he made films, he made what he called, “still films.” These were street photographs in and around London’s East End. For 50 years the photographs were hidden away in a vault, only to be found in 2005. The images, 30 in all, were exhibited in London earlier this year. His camera? A Rolleicord. After the pics, a fascinating bit about Teddy Girls.

photo by ken russell

photo by ken russell


Ken Russell Duel

photo by Ken Russell

Ken Russell

photo by Ken Russell


Ken Russell Two Women

photo by Ken Russell

Wikipedia on Teddy Girls: Their choice of clothes wasn’t only for aesthetic effect: these girls were collectively rejecting post-war austerity. They were young working-class women, often from Irish immigrant families who had settled in the poorer districts of London — Walthamstow, Poplar and North Kensington. They would typically leave school at the age of 14 or 15, and work in factories or offices. Teddy Girls spent much of their free time buying or making their trademark clothes. It was a head-turning, fastidious style from the fashion houses, which had launched haute-couture clothing lines recalling the Edwardian era. Read the full Ken Russell story>>

4. Charles Dickens | A Christmas Carol Excerpt

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First Edition
A Christmas Carol
Charles Dickens


     The apparition walked backward from him; and at every step it took, the window raised itself a little, so that when the spectre reached it, it was wide open. It beckoned Scrooge to approach, which he did. When they were within two paces of each other, Marley’s Ghost held up its hand, warning him to come no nearer. Scrooge stopped.

Not so much in obedience, as in surprise and fear: for on the raising of the hand, he became sensible of confused noises in the air; incoherent sounds of lamentation and regret; wailings inexpressibly sorrowful and self-accusatory. The spectre, after listening for a moment, joined in the mournful dirge; and floated out upon the bleak, dark night.

Scrooge followed to the window; desperate his curiosity. He looked out.


Christmas Carol Cool Bits: Written in six weeks in 1843; Chapman and Hall publishers.
First run released on December 17 — 6,000 copies. Sold out.
Purchase price: Five shillings.
Twenty-four editions in the original form were published.

5. Jazz Pictures | Magnum 

How I love this photograph.

NEW YORK CITY—Louis Armstrong at his home in Corona, Queens, working on the second volume of his autobiography, 1958. More great jazz pictures, here>>