5 Cool Things for 1.13.12

FCT has a very fine new look, all thanks due a certain Portland based web designer. Hope you like. With the new look, comes a new little section. Metier will feature little morsels about writing — whatever has struck my fancy. All right then, onward. Mr. George Saunders is white hot. Get to know Richard Blanco, he’s got a big day coming up. Barry Lopez was on Fresh Air talking about being Barry Lopez. Richard Nixon would have been 100 years old this past week and if only Hunter S. Thompson was around still. Or Hitch, for that matter. What’s a Sunday in winter without Bossa Nova? “When the president does it, that means that it’s not illegal.” Richard Nixon

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1. Man of the Hour | George Saunders

George Saunders, photo Tim Knox

One hardly knows where to begin. Oh wait, I know exactly where to begin. Saturday, January 12, 2013 I took myself to Elliott Bay Books to poke around, work in the cafe and so forth. On the way out I asked about the new George Saunders book, The Tenth of December. “I’ll look it up,” said the nice person behind the counter. “No need,” said her colleague. “We’re out, everyone’s out, even the distributor.” That tells you something, no? Brand new book! So I’m just going to provide some links here and you can follow your nose as you see fit. But, if you love fiction, read it all, read everything. Great writer, cool guy and, a Nyingma Buddhist. I double dare you to not love the man.

Chicago Christmas, 1984
CivilWarLand in Bad Decline: Preface
George Saunders, A Life in Writing

“And I’m starting to realise that I always thought the answer was just to work hard. And it’s true, but there’s another component, which is that you have to keep pushing yourself to open up to the widest possible vision of the world. And find a prose style that will make that compelling. And that is a beautiful challenge.”

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 2. American the Beautiful | Richard Blanco

Inaugural poet, Richard Blanco – photo by Nikki Moustaki/AP

When I Was a Little Cuban Boy

O José can you see… that’s how I sang it, when I was
cubanito in Miami, and América was some country
in the glossy pages of my history book, someplace
way north, everyone white, cold, perfect. This Land
is my Land, so why didn’t I live there, in a brick house
with a fireplace, a chimney with curlicues of smoke.
I wanted to wear breeches and stockings to my chins,
those black pilgrim shoes with shiny gold buckles.
I wanted to eat yams with the Indians, shake hands
with los negros, and dash through snow I’d never seen
in a one-horse hope-n-say? I wanted to speak in British,
say really smart stuff like fours core and seven years ago
or one country under God, in the visible. I wanted to see
that land with no palm trees, only the strange sounds
of flowers like petunias, peonies, impatience, waiting
to walk through a door someday, somewhere in God
Bless America and say, Lucy, I’m home, honey. I’m home.

I don’t know about you, but the idea of a man who writes poems like this one giving the inaugural poem? Too good to be true.

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3. The Courage to Create | Barry Lopez

Long time ago I read Barry Lopez’ opus, Arctic Dreams and fell for the man, head over heel. Gorgeous book. Very sensitive, a bit on the romantic side, but what’s not to like about that? It turns out that Barry Lopez may have come by his sensitivities via a difficult journey.

Barry Lopez, photo by David Littschwager

In Sliver of Sky, an article that appeared in a recent Harper’s Magazine, he details the years of boyhood sexual abuse he suffered at the hands of a true monster. The story at Harper’s is paywalled, but he did a radio interview with Terry Gross on Fresh Air. It’s unbelievably wrenching. But you can’t help admire a writer facing that kind of moment — to tell the world or not. His voice, compassion, and wisdom are worth every second. Listen to Barry Lopez here >>

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 METIER

William Zinsser

“If you would like to write better than everybody else, you have to want to write better than everybody else.”

Zinsser, William

 

I’m not sure about the ‘better than everybody else’ part. But better yes. Wanting, yes. I love that word. In other words, desire. Speaking of Barry Lopez again and his great big book, Arctic Dreams – Imagination and Desire in a Northern Landscape. I’ll never forget the hook in the subtitle, that imagination shapes desire. We can only desire what we can imagine for ourselves. I’ve always thought that hunger, desire, wanting, an almost painful wanting — were essential ingredients to the pursuit of writing. Otherwise, how could you?

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 4. 100 Years Old | Happy Birthday Dick

Richard Nixon campaigning in New York, photo by Gary Winogrand

This past week, January 9, 2013, was the birthday of number 37, one Richard Milhouse Nixon. Had he lived, he’d be 100 years old. There is no American politician, living or gone, who can make as large a claim on our darkest imaginings as Richard Nixon. In celebration, here’s an excerpt from the infamous Dr. Hunter S. Thompson eulogy, He’s a Crook, in The Atlantic Magazine.

“Richard Nixon is gone now, and I am poorer for it. He was the real thing — a political monster straight out of Grendel and a very dangerous enemy. He could shake your hand and stab you in the back at the same time. He lied to his friends and betrayed the trust of his family. Not even Gerald Ford, the unhappy ex-president who pardoned Nixon and kept him out of prison, was immune to the evil fallout. Ford, who believes strongly in Heaven and Hell, has told more than one of his celebrity golf partners that “I know I will go to hell, because I pardoned Richard Nixon.”

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5. Song for Sunday | Elza Soares, Pranto Livre


Whoa. Learn more here >>

5 Cool Things for 12.9.2012

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.

The long haul of irony

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 —

DFW

“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 >>

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2. Through Adler’s Telling | Speedboat, by Renata Adler Returns

Speedboat, by Renata Adler

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.”

Buy Speedboat here >>

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 3. Two Hot Broads | iPhone Photo of the Month

Two hot broads being true to themselves.

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.

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Song for Sunday :: Canto De Ossanha :: Jurassic 5

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4. Reader, Reader, New York, New York | The Underground Library

Is this hipster ironic or sincere as he reads John Berger on the subway? I say both. (This is for the other John Berger. You know who you are. )

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 >>

Note the “Borrow’ and ‘Read’ buttons.

(Not affiliated with the NYC public library.)

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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.

The Modern Library of the 100 greatest novels. How many have you read?

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A Gift Idea for You | Book Book from twelve south   

You so need this. I so need this. An iPhone case that thinks it’s a book.

 

The company is called 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?

Thank you.

5 Cool Things :: Sept. 2, 2012

Life, a wise person told me, is yes and no. Fate hangs in the balance — one or zero, on or off, in or out. Live or die, eat or go hungry. No, instead of yes. Yes, instead of no. Here to weigh in are Yoko, 37 Signals, Charles Bukowski, Georg Duckwitz and Tobias Wolff. “The only calibration that counts is how much heart people invest, how much they ignore their fears of being hurt or caught out or humiliated. And the only thing people regret is that they didn’t live boldly enough, that they didn’t invest enough heart, didn’t love enough. Nothing else really counts at all,” said Ted Hughes. Agreed. Yes. Onward then. (Thanks to JP)

 1. Yes, Painting | Yoko Ono

Yoko Ono | Yes Painting

Where were you in November of 1966? (Boarding school.) Do you recall? Yoko Ono was exhibiting her Yes, Painting at the Indica Gallery of London. (To my London pals — were any of you there?) As you might be able to tell, you’d climb the ladder, use the glass, look up at a piece of paper affixed to the ceiling and you would find there, written in tiny letters, Yes.

From Yoko-

“‘YES’ was my work and John encountered it and he went up the stairs and he looked at this word that said ‘Yes.’ At the time I didn’t really think it would be taken so personally. But I don’t really connect it with John as much as I connect it with my view of life. My view of life is the fact that there were many incredible negative elements in my life, and in the world, and because of that I had to conjure up a positive attitude within me in balance to the most chaotic … and I had to balance that by activating the ‘Yes’ element. ‘Yes’ is an expression that I always carried and that I’m carrying.”

More about Yoko’s art >>

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2. The Power of No at Work | 37 Signals

“It’s so easy to say yes. Yes to yet another feature, yes to an overly optimistic deadline, yes a mediocre design, yes, yes, yes. We all want to be loved.

But the love won’t keep you warm for long when you’ve taken on yet another obligation that you don’t whole-heartedly believe in. You very quickly become trapped in a pit of guilt when the stack of things you’ve said yes to loom so high that you can’t even see the things you really should be doing.

That’s not a good way to live or work. Which is why you have to start getting into the habit of saying no. No to things that just don’t fit, no to things that just aren’t the most important right now, and no to many things that simply don’t cut it.

It’s incredibly rare that I’ve actually regretted saying no, but I dread my yes’s all the time.

Use the power of no to get your priorities straight. Take the brief discomfort of confrontation up front and avoid the long regret down the line.”

Who is 37 Signals? They’re the folks who make BaseCamp and numerous other web-based collaboration tools. Started out as web designers, morphed into a smart, savvy, edgy software company. Chicago based. Visit the Signal vs. Noise blog. Read a brief, thoughtful interview with 37 Signals’ CEO, Jason Fried.

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A Song for Sunday :: Wynton Kelly :: Softly As In a Morning Sunrise 

Wikipedia: Softly, As in a Morning Sunrise is a song with music by Sigmund Romberg and Oscar Hammerstein II from the 1928 operetta The New Moon. Covered here by: Wynton Kelly, Jimmy Cobb, Paul Chambers.

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3. Oh, Yes | Charles Bukowski

there are worse things than
being alone
but it often takes decades
to realize this
and most often
when you do
it’s too late
and there’s nothing worse
than
too late.

– Oh, Yes, Charles Bukowski

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4. No | Georg Duckwitz and Denmark Say No

Denmark, 1943: A nation conspires to save the lives of 7,000 Jews.

Museet for Danmarks Frihedskamp

On September 28, 1943 one man said no. “In September 1943, the Nazis prepared for the deportation of all Danish Jews to concentration camps and death. But Georg Duckwitz, a German diplomat with a conscience, deliberately leaked the plans for the roundup, which was due to begin on Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. Armed with the information from Duckwitz, Danes swung into action. This is a very great — and under reported — story. You should read it >>

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5. Say Yes | Tobias Wolff

Tobias Wolff is such a beautiful short story writer. I remember being transfixed by a collection I read long ago — In the Garden of the North American Martyrs. Gorgeous stories. As luck would have it, Wolff wrote a terrific story, Say Yes, that takes yes and no into the thicket of love and marriage in a surprising way. Worth reading and perfect for today.

Say Yes

by Tobias Wolff

{Our Story Begins | Vintage Contemporaries}

They were doing the dishes, his wife washing while he dried. He’d washed the night before. Unlike most men he knew, he really pitched in on the housework. A few months earlier he’d overheard a friend of his wife’s congratulate her on having such a considerate husband, and he thought, I try. Helping out with the dishes was a way he had of showing how considerate he was.
They talked about different things and somehow got on the subject of whether white people should marry black people. He said that all things considered, he thought it was a bad idea.
“Why?” she asked.
Sometimes his wife got this look where she pinched her brows together and bit her lower lip and stared down at something. When he saw her like this he knew he should keep his mouth shut, but he never did. Actually it made him talk more. She had that look now.
“Why?” she asked again, and stood there with her hand inside a bowl, not washing it but just holding it above the water.
“Listen,” he said, “I went to school with blacks, I’ve worked with blacks, and we’ve always gotten along just fine. I don’t need you coming along now and implying that I’m a racist.”
“I didn’t imply anything,” she said, and began washing the bowl again, turning it around in her hand as though she were shaping it. “I just don’t see what’s wrong with a white person marrying a black person, that’s all.”
“They don’t come from the same culture as we do. Listen to them sometime – they even have their own language. That’s okay with me, I like hearing them talk” – he did; for some reason it always lifted his mood – “but it’s different. A person from their culture and a person from our culture could never really know each other.”
“Like you know me?” his wife asked.
“Yes. Like I know you.”
“But if they love each other,” she said. She was washing faster now, not looking at him.
Oh boy, he thought. He said, “Don’t take my word for it. Look at the statistics. Most of those marriages break up.”
“Statistics.” She was piling dishes on the drainboard at a terrific rate, just swiping at them with the cloth. Many of them were greasy, and there were flecks of food between the tines of the forks.
“All right,” she said, “what about foreigners? I suppose you think the same thing about two foreigners getting married.”
“Yes,” he said, “as a matter of fact I do. How can you understand someone who comes from a completely different background?”
“Different,” said his wife. “Not the same, like us.”
“Yes, different,” he snapped, angry with her for resorting to this trick of repeating his words so that they sounded crass, or hypocritical. “These are dirty,” he said, and dumped all the silverware back into the sink.
The water had gone flat and gray. She stared down at it, her lips pressed tight together, then plunged her hands under the surface. “Oh!” she cried, and jumped back. She took her right hand by the wrist and held it up. Her thumb was bleeding.
“Ann, don’t move,” he said. “Stay right there.” He ran upstairs to the bathroom and rummaged in the medicine chest for alcohol, cotton, and a Band-Aid. When he came back down she was leaning against the refrigerator with her eyes closed, still holding her hand. He took the hand and dabbed at her thumb with the cotton. The bleeding had stopped. He squeezed it to see how deep the wound was and a single drop of blood welled up, trembling and bright, and fell to the floor. Over the thumb she stared at him accusingly. “It’s shallow,” he said. “Tomorrow you won’t even know it’s there.” He hoped that she appreciated how quickly he had come to her aid. He’d acted out of concern for her, with no thought of getting anything in return, but now the thought occurred to him that it would be a nice gesture on her part not to start up that conversation again, as he was tired of it. “I’ll finish up here,” he said. “You go and relax.”
“That’s okay,” she said. “I’ll dry.”
He began to wash the silverware again, giving a lot of attention to the forks.
“So,” she said, “you wouldn’t have married me if I’d been black.”
“For Christ’s sake, Ann!”
“Well, that’s what you said, didn’t you?”
“No, I did not. The whole question is ridiculous. If you had been black we probably wouldn’t even have met. You would have had your friends and I would have had mine. The only black girl I ever really knew was my partner in the debating club, and I was already going out with you by then.”
“But if we had met, and I’d been black?”
“Then you probably would have been going out with a black guy.” He picked up the rinsing nozzle and sprayed the silverware. The water was so hot that the metal darkened to pale blue, then turned silver again.
“Let’s say I wasn’t,” she said. “Let’s say I am black and unattached and we meet and fall in love.”
He glanced over at her. She was watching him and her eyes were bright. “Look,” he said, taking a reasonable tone, “this is stupid. If you were black you wouldn’t be you.” As he said this he realized it was absolutely true. There was no possible way of arguing with the fact that she would not be herself if she were black. So he said it again: “If you were black you wouldn’t be you.”
“I know,” she said, “but let’s just say.”
He took a deep breath. He had won the argument but he still felt cornered. “Say what?” he asked.
“That I’m black, but still me, and we fall in love. Will you marry me?”
He thought about it.
“Well?” she said, and stepped close to him. Her eyes were even brighter. “Will you marry me?”
“I’m thinking,” he said.
“You won’t, I can tell. You’re going to say no.”
“Since you put it that way—”
“No more considering, Yes or no.”
“Jesus, Ann. All right. No.”
She said “Thank you,” and walked from the kitchen into the living room. A moment later he heard her turning the pages of a magazine. He knew that she was too angry to be actually reading it, but she didn’t snap through the pages the way he would have done. She turned them slowly, as if she were studying every word. She was demonstrating her indifference to him, and it had the effect he knew she wanted it to have. It hurt him.
He had no choice but to demonstrate his indifference to her. Quietly, thoroughly, he washed the rest of the dishes. Then he dried them and put them away. He wiped the counters and the stove and scoured the linoleum where the drop of blood had fallen. While he was at it, he decided, he might as well mop the whole floor. When he was done the kitchen looked new, the way it looked when they were first shown the house, before they had ever lived here.
He picked up the garbage pail and went outside. The night was clear and he could see a few stars to the west, where the lights of the town didn’t blur them out. On El Camino the traffic was steady and light, peaceful as a river. He felt ashamed that he had let his wife get him into a fight. In another thirty years or so they would both be dead. What would all that stuff matter then? He thought of the years they had spent together, and how close they were, and how well they knew each other, and his throat tightened so that he could hardly breathe. His face and neck began to tingle. Warmth flooded his chest. He stood there for a while, enjoying these sensations, then picked up the pail and went out the back gate.
The two mutts from down the street had pulled over the garbage can again. One of them was rolling around on his back and the other had something in her mouth. Growling, she tossed it into the air, leaped up and caught it, growled again and whipped her head from side to side. When they saw him coming they trotted away with short, mincing steps. Normally he would heave rocks at them, but this time he let them go.
The house was dark when he came back inside. She was in the bathroom. He stood outside the door and called her name. He heard bottles clinking, but she didn’t answer him. “Ann, I’m really sorry,” he said. “I’ll make it up to you, I promise.”
“How?” she asked.
He wasn’t expecting this. But from a sound in her voice, a level and definite note that was strange to him, he knew that he had to come up with the right answer. He leaned against the door. “I’ll marry you,” he whispered.
“We’ll see,” she said. “Go on to bed. I’ll be out in a minute.”
He undressed and got under the covers. Finally he heard the bathroom door open and close.
“Turn off the light,” she said from the hallway.
“What?”
“Turn off the light.”
He reached over and pulled the chain on the bedside lamp. The room went dark. “All right,” he said. He lay there, but nothing happened. “All right,” he said again. Then he heard a movement across the room. He sat up, but he couldn’t see a thing. The room was silent. His heart pounded the way it had on their first night together, the way it still did when he woke at a noise in the darkness and waited to hear it again – the sound of someone moving through the house, a stranger.

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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.”

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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.

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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>>

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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>>

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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”

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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 :: July 8, 2012 {Seattle, Wa.}

Five Cool Things has just completed a corporate move to Seattle, WA. You say you didn’t know? Alas, readers, its true. So this is an inaugural issue of sorts. And to celebrate this first-from-Seattle issue, we’re reviewing a gorgeous, hand bound, limited edition book of photographs — the real physical thing itself — by photographer Alen MacWeeney. (John Simmons you can jump right to No. 4.) In this July 2012 issue — Gertrude, a train journey into the human heart, pictures of Hong Kong, MacWeeney illustrates Yeats, and finally, John McPhee cusses. Salman Rushdie, “We are described into corners, and then we must describe ourselves out of corners.” That last is tricky, Salman.

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1. Write Like a Cubist | Gertrude Being Gertrude

gertrude stein

Once upon a time, there lived a writer who was compelled to write about Henri Matisee and Pablo Picasso. Her name was Gertrude…And here’s a little of what Gertrude wrote.

“One whom some were certainly following was one who was completely charming. One whom some were certainly following was one who was charming. One whom some were following was one who was completely charming. One whom some were following was one who was certainly completely charming

Some were certainly following and were certain that the one they were then following was one working and was one bringing out of himself then something. Some were certainly following and were certain that the one they were then following was one bringing out of himself then something that was coming to be a heavy thing, a solid thing and a complete thing.”

“This one always had something being coming out of this one. This one was working. This one was working. The one always had been working. This one was always having something that was coming out of this one that was a solid thing, a charming thing, a lovely thing, a perplexing thing, a disconcerting thing…This one was one certainly being one having something coming out of him. This one was whom some were following. This one was one who was working.”

Want the book? This book is certainly being here>>

Ed. note: This one is always certain to being best read aloud to yourself. Or, always to one whom is unlucky enough to be near you. Try it.

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2. “Taste the bitterness first.” |  Last Train Home

Last Train Home is a documentary film by director, Lixin Fan. Told through the story of one family, Last Train Home chronicles a grinding, urban worker-bee existence and the annual migration of 130 million Chinese migrant workers who return home to extended families and children, for Chinese New Year. A stunning film visually and emotionally. This very beautiful work of art will absolutely break your heart and who doesn’t need plenty more of that? Heartbreak or not, you must see it. Stream it on Netflix.

Zeitgeist films is here>>

Times review here>>

Ed note: Via James Fallows

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3. Pick Up Some Democracy on Your Way Home | Picturing Hong Kong

Photo by Mark Leong | National Geographic

From the NY Times Lens Blogs — dated June 19, 2012 and posted at 5:00 a.m. The copy for this portfolio, Whimsy & Menace, says that photographer Mark Leong, in the spirit of Ridley Scott, went “looking for Hong Kong on a very bad day.” The street performer above, was part of a commemoration of the anniversary of the 1989 Tianneman Square protests. The Post-It Notes? All about freedom and democracy.

Photo by Mark Leong | Hong Kong candlelight memorial

See the slideshow here>>

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4. Love’s Labors Found | Alen MacWeeney Shoots Yeats

title page from under the influence, alen macweeney | book photo by richard pelletier

Here’s Alen MacWeeney and his hand bound book. New York based Irish photographer Alen MacWeeney, (at 20 he was Avedon’s assistant in Paris) has paired some of his exquisite work to selected excerpts of W.B. Yeats’ poetry in a stunner of a hand-bound book called, Under the Influence. In his younger days, Alen had found his way to Robert Frank’s The Americans, which struck him like a thunderbolt as it did me and countless others. For that alone we give thanks. Alen was kind enough to ship a copy of his book to FCT for a hands on review.

Specs

Limited edition of 30 – 13 x 18 overall size.
27 black & white photographs of Ireland shot in 1965, the centenary of W. B. Yeats birth.
Photos are interleaved with a vellum sheet — printed with an excerpt of a Yeats poem.
Each book is signed, numbered, hand-bound and slip cased.
Photography and text: Alen MacWeeney
Book Design: Yolanda Cuomo
Associate Designer: Kristi Norgaard
Printing: Erin Mulvehill
Binding: Judith Ivry

The book is created in partnership with Hammond Editions in New York.

Contact Alen MacWeeney for purchase information.

Learn about the book making process here>>

There are multiple pleasures here. The pairing of word and image is really what this project is all about — and, of course, the tactile pleasure of a real book, with sumptuous paper, upon which are printed big, fat, gorgeous black and white photographs. Consider the two images below: one without Yeats and the next one with Yeats and you can see how language and image play off one another. So perfectly lovely. Only a romantically inclined Irishman could conjure this up. For collectors and arts libraries dedicated to book arts and photography, this book is a must have.

 

photo by alen macweeney

with vellum interleaving, photo by alen macweeney

Come away, O human child!
To the waters and the wild
With a faery, hand in hand,
For the world’s more full of weeping than you
can understand.
…. 

Photography by Alen MacWeeney, “Policeman, man and priest, Rathmines, Dublin” (1966); excerpt from Yeats’s “The Old Men Admiring Themselves in the Water.”

“I heard the old, old men say,
‘Everything alters,
And one by one we drop away.’

…..

If I make the lashes dark
And the eyes more bright
And the lips more scarlet,
Or ask if all be right
From mirror after mirror,
No vanity’s displayed:
I’m looking for the face I had
Before the world was made.

…..

The wind is old and still at play
While I must hurry upon my way,
For I am running to Paradise …

….

Photography by Alen MacWeeney, “Ruined house, Donegal” (1965); excerpt from Yeats’s “The Curse of Cromwell.”

I came on a great house in the middle of the night,
Its open lighted doorway and its windows all alight,
And all my friends were there and made me welcome too;
But I woke in an old ruin that the winds howled through..

….

under the influence, alen macsweeney | book photo richard pelletier

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 5. New Yorker Chronicles | John McPhee, Fucker

Photo by Peter Cook U.S. MacMillan

John McPhee | photo by Peter Cook

It took years for the New Yorker to print “fuck” in the magazine and now John McPhee talks about it and makes up for lost time. Absolutely hilarious. And he looks like such a nice man. 

“Fuck, fucker, fuckest; fuckest, fucker, fuck. In all my days, I had found that four-letter word–with its silent “c” and its quartzite “k” — more shocking than a thunderclap. My parents thought it was a rhetorical crime. Mr. Shawn (longtime New Yorker editor, legend, prim) actually seemed philosophical about its presence in the language, but not in his periodical. My young daughters, evidently, were in no sense as burdened as he was. Or as I was. Or as their grandparents were. In the car in their middle-school years, they batted that word between the back and front seats as if they were playing Ping-Pong. Driving, and hearing those words reach critical mass, I once spontaneously bellowed (in an even-tempered, paternal way), Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck — I can say it too!”

– John McPhee, in the July 2, 2012 issue of the New Yorker (Subscribers only.)