Monday, March 31

I AM NOT I, by Juan Ramon Jimenez

I am not I.
I am this one
walking beside me whom I do not see. whom at times I manage to visit,
and at other times I forget.      
The one who remains silent when I talk,      
the one who forgives sweet, when I hate,      
the one who takes a walk when I am indoors,
the one who will remain standing when I die.                

(Translated by Robert Bly)

Sunday, March 30

At long last: "Stone Cold Jane Austen"

Reader, I finished it. I can now say that I've read all of Jane Austen's novels, a goal that has rather curiously sustained me these last few months.

I don't think of myself as a hero, but if I've inspired just one person with this undertaking, then it will have been worth it. To you, I say just keep believing in yourself and follow your dreams, and you too can achieve the impossible.

Here are links to the individual threads, with all of their typos and cheap jokes and clumsy insights:

The original announcement.
Northanger Abbey
Mansfield Park
Sense And Sensibility


Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go never read a book again for the rest of my life.

Friday, March 28

Philippe Starck tells magazine design is dead, intends to retire; is put on suicide watch

I assume this is like that time Jay-Z retired:

(Uh, nice jacket, hombre...)

Seriously: save it for your LiveJournal...

Thursday, March 27

Also, no minors allowed, regardless of rating...

So you've probably heard this already, but a bunch of developers are building luxury movie theaters that will feature recliners and sushi and oh yeah tickets that cost three times as much:

The theater chains seriously just Don't Get It, as the web-types would say. The problem with movie theaters isn't that the chairs don't recline or you can't get a cocktail, it's that the owners don't give two shits about the movie-going experience because they make their money off refreshments, not tickets. If you've already bought your popcorn, you and your movie can get fucked as far as they're concerned.

People don't Bittorrent movies because they're cheap or lazy--unlike pirated mp3s, there's a difference between a film in the theater and a film on your laptop--people steal movies because going to the theater just SUCKS. Whenever the death of the music industry is discussed, there are always more than a few who are willing to gleefully dance on its grave. Well, I'm the same way about the movie theater industry: they get everything they deserve.

But: would I pay $35 for a movie ticket? You bet I would. But not so I could eat samosas and drink appletinis...I'd pay that much if the theater would guarantee the following things:

-No pre-film commercials. I don't mean trailers, I mean the Movie Watcher's Network.

-After the film begins, no one else is allowed in. Sorry, time buy a watch.

-The film is displayed at the brightness the director intended, not the money-saving dimmer settings the bulbs are capable of, and at a volume that's reasonable but not excessive.

-All cell phone batteries confiscated at the door.

-The second someone begins to speak during the movie, an usher appears who walks him out of the theater, refunds his money, and takes a picture of him that goes on the Banned For Life wall.

Thirty-five bucks? Hell, I'd call that a BARGAIN.

Wednesday, March 26

Affluenza: March 26

Brocade Home, a perennial favorite of Affluenza, has a gorgeous Ribbon Quilt:

How comfortable does that look? Too bad no self-respecting guy--or even me--could get away with owning it. Head's up, ladies...buying this quilt greatly increases the chances you'll get me into your bed one day. (Doing some sit-ups would help, too.)


I guess it was inevitable that Express would get in the "designer collection" game, but, wow, Celia Birtwell is a hell of a catch:


Maison Martin Margiela's Knuckle Duster:


Banpresto DangerBomb Clock, which requires you to disconnect the right wire to make the alarm stop:

Perfect for carry-on luggage!


It's A Log You Idiots, part of a continuing series:


The Flemming Dress, by Rag & Bone:


Gigi, over at Roadside Scholar, points us to Hope Gangloff, who works with ballpoint pens, drawing from photgraphs:

And Jaime, at Design Milk, shows us these incredibly charming illustrations from Janice J, which are reminiscent of picture books from the 70s:


Here's a CLASSIC example of a designer ruining their work through over-thinking: Yasser Ballemans' Beautiful Times is a really cool standing digital clock that's almost an installation piece...

...except it's not actually a clock. It only shows "beautiful" times, like 12:34 or 5:55 or whatever the fuck. So basically it's a huge digital clock that doesn't work. Great.

Also: uh...wasn't this a Depeche Mode album?


Do people actually use those pasta serving measurers? If so, this one is appreciably nicer that those plastic deals you see hanging off the shelf at the grocery store:

On the other hand, you can get those at Big Lots for like two bucks, and this one has to be imported from Germany and costs "24,50 €," whatever the hell that means. Did a cat jump up on the keyboard???


An Open Flame Is The New Bowl Of Rocks, part of a continuing series:

This is sort of a borderline entry, since these are intended for outdoor use, and aOFitNBoR was created to highlight the stupid trend of using open flames in INTERIOR decoration. However, three things put these over the top:

1. This was a reader submission. Honorable mention, Melanie...

2. I actually sorta like the first one.

3. The other two are rendered in hilariously pitiful CGI, possibly by the same team who did Dire Straits' "Money For Nothing" video.


I like this convertible sofa from Urban Outfitters, especially in grey:

Also from UO, this cute squid brush:


Okay, this is the last straw:

Affluenza out!

Cowboy Hat And Red Lips

Say what you will about Fergie--and believe me, I have--but she tells a good meth story. This is actually genuinely funny:

"I had about 20 different conspiracy theories. I painted the windows in my apartment black so they couldn't see in. One day, when I was about 90 pounds, a guy comes up to me. I'm searching in the bushes for clues about whatever they're after me for. I'm in a cowboy hat and red lips....he hands me a muffin. I'm thinking: 'He's in on it.'"

Sunday, March 23

More by William Stafford

Some of you really liked that William Stafford poem I posted last week. Here are a few more. Stafford taught English and Creative Writing in Portland, Oregan until his death in 1993. He woke up at three every morning for the sole purpose of writing at least one poem. The last poem printed here is fairly well-known (and infamous); if you've read a Stafford poem before, it's probably that one.


Your exact errors make a music
that nobody hears.
Your straying feet find the great dance,
walking alone.
And you live on a world where stumbling
always leads home.

Year after year fits over your face—
when there was youth, your talent
was youth;
later, you find your way by touch
where moss redeems the stone;

and you discover where music begins
before it makes any sound,
far in the mountains where canyons go
still as the always-falling, ever-new flakes of snow.


Fog in the morning here
will make some of the world far away
and the near only a hint. But rain
will feel its blind progress along the valley,
tapping to convert one boulder at a time
into a glistening fact. Daylight will love what came.
Whatever fits will be welcome, whatever
steps back in the fog will disappear
and hardly exist. You hear the river
saying a prayer for all that's gone.

Far over the valley there is an island
for everything left; and our own island
will drift there too, unless we hold on,
unless we tap like this: "Friend,
are you there? Will you touch when
you pass, like the rain?"


There's a thread you follow. It goes among
things that change. But it doesn't change.
People wonder about what you are pursuing.
You have to explain about the thread.
But it is hard for others to see.
While you hold it you can't get lost.
Tragedies happen; people get hurt
or die; and you suffer and get old.
Nothing you do can stop time's unfolding.
You don't ever let go of the thread.


We would climb the highest dune,
from there to gaze and come down:
the ocean was performing;
we contributed our climb.

Waves leapfrogged and came
straight out of the storm.
What should our gaze mean?
Kit waited for me to decide.

Standing on such a hill,
what would you tell your child?
That was an absolute vista.
Those waves raced far, and cold.

"How far could you swim, Daddy,
in such a storm?"
"As far as was needed," I said,
and as I talked, I swam.


straw, feathers, dust—
little things

but if they all go one way,
that's the way the wind goes.


Steel hardly known what a hint is, but for the thistledown
all you have to do is breathe. And a patch of new cement
will remember a touch forever.

One time I asked Agnes to dance. How she
put up her arms—I thought of that this morning
fifty years later.

Salmon return out of a wide ocean
and find their home river all the way back
through the bitter current.

Under sequoias, tiny blue flowers, dim
all day and almost invisible, grow out of moss.
They reach deep into night for that color.


Traveling through the dark I found a deer
dead on the edge of the Wilson River road.
It is usually best to roll them into the canyon:
that road is narrow; to swerve might make more dead.

By glow of the tail-light I stumbled back of the car
and stood by the head, a doe, a recent killing;
she had stiffened already, almost cold.
I dragged her off; she was large in the belly.

My fingers touching her side brought me the reason—
her side was warm; her fawn lay there waiting,
alive, still, never to be born.
Beside that mountain road I hesitated.

The car aimed ahead its lowered parking lights;
under the hood purred the steady engine.
I stood in the glare of the warm exhaust turning red;
around our group I could hear the wilderness listen.

I thought hard for us all—my only swerving—,
then pushed her over the edge into the river.

Friday, March 21

Method Izaz

Izaz Rony is a unique portrait photographer: you give him your daily schedule, and he surreptitiously takes pictures of you living your life:

I love the form at the bottom. It's like something from a Paul Auster novel.

Thursday, March 20

Sacrifice The Face

Oh, you think you're hardcore? You're not hardcore...CHARLIE ROSE is hardcore:

Not just for the face plant, but for being like "fuck it" and going back to work.

Wednesday, March 19

Affluenza: March 19

Okay, don't get too excited. I know this digital replica of the classic Rolleiflex camera is heart-stoppingly beautiful and shockingly affordable:

but read the article again after you've calmed down a little: it's a MINIATURE's three inches high. Basically, this is a glorified keychain.


The Kengsington "Pram":

For another thirty-three hundred, you could probably buy a kid to put in it.

From the same site, this insane solid mahogany rocking horse:

and this (ugly) high chair:

I bet you guys are super-pissed that there's a website called Luxist and I've never linked to it before, huh? Well, nothing says "high-end luxury" like "owned and operated by America Online"!


ZUse (sic), a toaster concept that will finally bring my dream of Galaga toast to life:

Though I have a feeling Inseq Design would deny to their dying breath that this is anything as vulgar as a toaster. "It's an activator for the digitalization process of toast! It transcends the dominant toast paradigm!"


When I first heard of these Chalkboard Napkin Rings, I rolled my eyes. But seeing them in action, I have to say they look cute and clever.

Sixty-five bones, but your mother would like to point out that you could buy wooden napkin rings and chalkboard paint for like seven bucks.

(Is there a creepier phrase than "workshops for the physically challenged in Germany"? Arbeit macht frei!)


Janine Golbert Jewelry:


Dutch designer Nienke Sybrandy has taken ASCII art to a whole 'nother level:


With a name like "Letters Of Marque," Affluenza is pretty much guaranteed to feature whatever it is. Oh, it's a lingerie line inspired by the 17th century? Even better! [Obviously I trust my readers will know that the website of a lingerie company is NSFW.]

I like a lot of these pieces, actually. Most fancy underwear is so pretentious, and the majority of it looks like something a chubby girl would buy for her dire burlesque routine. These have an understated elegance I really dig, though.

The kicker, of course, is that Letters Of Marque is designed by Stacey Dash, known for:

-being the sister of Damon Dash
-her role in Clueless
-being the only person in this world who may prompt me to utter the utterly vulgar phrase "MILF."


I like both the idea and the design of the Still Life, a space-saving wall-mounted fruit storage solution:

"Fruit should be stored in single layers, so keeping it in crispers or fruit bowls isn't the best alternative, unless the fruit is turned regularly. [...] Also, did you know that it's important to store fruit and vegetables separately?"

So let me get this straight: not only do you bust my balls because I don't get my fruit at Whole Foods or some dingy farmer's market, but now you're gonna tell me what to do when I get it home? Foodies!

Tuesday, March 18

His take on Ron Paul is surprisingly nuanced, however...

[An excerpt from an interview with rapper DMX.]

Q: Are you following the presidential race?

A: Not at all.

Q: You're not? You know there's a Black guy running, Barack Obama and then there's Hillary Clinton.

A: His name is Barack?!

Q: Barack Obama, yeah.

A: Barack?!

Q: Barack.

A: What the fuck is a Barack?! Barack Obama. Where he from, Africa?

Q: Yeah, his dad is from Kenya.

A: Barack Obama?

Q: Yeah.

A: What the fuck?! That ain't no fuckin' name, yo. That ain't that nigga's name. You can't be serious. Barack Obama. Get the fuck outta here.

Q: You're telling me you haven't heard about him before.

A: I ain't really paying much attention.

Q: I mean, it's pretty big if a Black...

A: Wow, Barack! The nigga's name is Barack. Barack? Nigga named Barack Obama. What the fuck, man?! Is he serious? That ain't his fuckin' name. Ima tell this nigga when I see him, "Stop that bullshit. Stop that bullshit" [laughs] "That ain't your fuckin' name." Your momma ain't name you no damn Barack.

Monday, March 17

Two Ways Of Misunderstanding The Spitzer Scandal

When the Spitzer scandal first broke on Monday, all the headlines said that there was proof he was "involved" with a prostitution ring. In retrospect, that makes journalistic sense: there was proof that he wired a shit-ton of money to the Emperors Club, but the papers couldn't claim as fact that the money was used as payment for sex.

But when I saw the headline Spitzer Had Ties To Upscale Escort Agency, my mind didn't immediately go to "john." At first I thought it was another tempest in a, someone had discovered he co-owned a condo that was used for a rendezous, or he had invested in a modelling agency run by a friend, not knowing the true nature of the business.

Then, when I clicked over to Google News, and saw that basically every newspaper in the world was reporting Spitzer Involved In Prostition Ring, I thought it meant that Spitzer was RUNNING the prostitutes. And I was busy, had a lot going on, so I actually spent most of the day thinking that.

Here's a fun thought experiment: how would the past week have been different if the world saw the lights of the Goodyear blimp and it said Governor Eliot Spitzer's a pimp?


Moving on to the prostitute in question, it's weird that most media outlets are going with the worst picture of her...the one where she's giving a backwards peace sign with her black fingernails:

Or they go with the second worst picture of her, the one from her MySpace page:

(I have no idea how long that last one will be up. Also, even by the standards of MySpace, the comments on her site are PRICELESS.)

She's clearly an attractive girl--though after an exhaustive inspection of the Emperors' Club website cache, I can say she wouldn't have been my first choice if I had $5000 burning a hole in my pocket--but she doesn't seem very photogenic.

In fact, she seems really, uh, masculine in those pictures, and this caused my second misunderstanding of the Spitzer scandal: for about ten minutes, I wondered mightily if the real story was that Spitzer had hooked up with a transvestite, and--like the "involved with" and "tied to" issue above--the newspapers couldn't actually SAY that.


Talking about this today, nearly a week too late, is really just a way for me to link to this interesting FAQ about the scandal, put together by the New York Times:

Note that they clear up the cause of my first misunderstanding. (They maintain their silence on the tranny issue.)

I wish the Times would do this for all big news stories. Hell, I wish there was a site that just compiled these.

Saturday, March 15

Jason Earles

[WARNING: This post is super-creepy. Do not read it alone.]

Have you ever watched Hannah Montana? No, of course you haven't, but maybe you've seen even two seconds of the show, long enough to catch a glimpse of Hannah's 17-year-old brother:

Well, get ready: that thing is 31 years old. It was born in 1977, and graduated college in '00. The upsetting little man even found someone to marry him.

But mostly I'm writing because if you've ever wondered what it would look like if a bunch of home-schooled autistics recreated All The President's Men, you'll enjoy the long-range investigation into Mr. Earle's age carried out on his Wikipedia article's Discussion page:


In 1995, Pulp released one of the best singles of the 90s, "Common People." Jamie Hewlett (of Tank Girl and Gorillaz fame) drew a six-page mini-comic as a companion piece to the single:

That wasn't the last comic adaptation of the classic song, however:


Yes, everyone in the entire world, I know that William Shatner covered it and I know you think it fucking rocks. THANK YOU FOR SHARING. IT MEANS SO MUCH TO ME.

Friday, March 14

OUR STORY, by William Stafford

Remind me again—together we
trace our strange journey, find
each other, come on laughing.
Some time we'll cross where life
ends. We'll both look back
as far as forever, that first day.
I'll touch you—a new world then.
Stars will move a different way.
We'll both end. We'll both begin.

Remind me again.


"CNN apologized today for getting on-air analysis of Gov. Spitzer's legal options from a former U.S. Attorney who resigned after being accused of biting a stripper."

Thursday, March 13

The academic citation was a nice touch...

[A sign in the bathroom of San Francisco pizza place Little Star.]


Whether or not it says so in so many words, the fuck you message is implicit in the use of graffiti as communication. The medium itself implies alienation, discontentment, marginality, repression, resentment, rebellion: no matter what it says, graffiti always implies a "fuck you". Though addressing the larger society in this contemptuous manner may be a secondary or even tertiary element of the graffiti writer's agenda, this element always lurks in the background of every graffito on every wall. (Phillips 1999:23)

Honestly we rather you give us the finger on the way out than destroy our mirror, garbage can, and walls.
And we already have enough graffiti on our walls.

With love,
Little Star


And here's a similar note asking the political artist who tagged a public school to contribute to its repainting:

Contemporary Sweatshirt Hell

Spending $110 on a plain gray sweatshirt is so crazy that this post should probably just be an Affluenza entry, but I've found myself falling in love with the look and the very IDEA of this Buzz Rickson set-in sleeve four-needle sweatshirt:

I'm dead serious when I say that the copywriter of this ad is a straight-up genius who knows exactly what buttons to push in a person who is susceptible to being convinced of dropping a C-note on a sweatshirt. Not only does he know how important authenticity is to us--eighty year old looms! identical down to the label!--but he also speaks directly to the root of our sickness with lines like this:

"A Buzz Rickson's sweatshirt is for real men, not hip-hop kids or those with a build they want to hide. Take a bite of old-time machismo and see how true sweatshirts used to look and feel."


Wednesday, March 12

Affluenza: March 12

When I first saw "Campfire by Klein/Reid" pop up in my RSS reader, I was excited, sure that we'd have a new entry for An Open Flame Is A New Bowl Of Rocks.

Sadly, this doesn't feature an open flame, but nevertheless it's still mindblowingly stupid:

Okay, remember a few months ago, when I was talking about "organic minimalism," where rocks and twigs are used as decorating motifs? Klein/Reid just took it to a whole 'nother level: now you can decorate your home in overpriced and meticulous CERAMIC REPRODUCTIONS of rocks and twigs.

Bravo, Klein/ truly have transcended the dominant paradigm.


More fake wood:


Now this is more like it. It's A Log You Idiots, part of a continuing series:

From the same company, I looove these bowls:

Imagine how great they would look filled with Boo Berry and chocolate milk...


Ornamental Drain Catchers:


Double-walled bottle by Roman Gauthrot:


Marimekko's spring 2008 pattern collection was just released:


Remember a couple weeks ago when I featured those weird candles that were in the shape of a classical statue and oh yeah also eight hundred dollars?

Here's the crayon version. For some reason.

So are neo-classical statues a new trend? I suppose we'll see, but how tacky if it's true. Guess I'll break out my Beethoven bust and put a pair of Ray-Bans on it. That always KILLS.


All the design blogs have been going ape over this plastic moon you hang on your wall, but can I remind everyone that it's basically one tiny step above putting glow in the dark stars on your dorm room ceiling?

How hard would it have been to put a digital clock on the back so that it automatically knows what phase the moon is in?

"Shines just like the real thing." Oh really, Resto? It reflects the light of of the sun?


Another thing the design blogs have featured prominently this week is this stamp, and I don't get it:

At first I thought it was a pretty hilarious dis, like you'd use that stamp when someone was being inappropriately TMI with you. Like if someone sent you a letter all about their relationship troubles, you could just hit it with the stamp and send it back to them. Pwned!

But I don't guess that's what this actually is. Maybe it's supposed to be used on thank you cards, but who says "thank you for sharing" after they get a gift? The wording is awkward.

Or maybe it really IS for when someone shares some personal information with you, and you want to thank them for that. But is a rubber stamp the way to go about it? And wouldn't the recipient assume you were being a sarcastic asshole?

So I ask you, readers: what is the point of this thing?


Aruga, by R-evolution:


The Endless Nile table by Karim Rashid:

Also from Karim Rashid, the self-watering planter:

Trivia: Sportscaster-turned-designer Karim Rashid is the ex-husband of Phylicia Rashid, best known for her role as Clair Huxtable on The Cosby Show.


"Fornello a gas mobile Glas Gib Gas"

(Uh, I think it's a single-burner cooker.)

Haul Out the Old Cliches, It's Time to Shoot an Author Photo

This article, about why author photos are always bad, is fifteen years old now, but still just as true and enormously entertaining:

Tuesday, March 11

Exposed To D&D Early In Life

A charticle!

(Note that the 'no' answer basically has you inseminating the 'egg' in the center of the diagram. Clever!)

The Life And Death Of An Urban Recluse

"One quiet day the weight of the collected mail and newspapers pushed open the inner door and the papers slithered down and spread out across the hall floor. There was now space for more."

Monday, March 10

David Simon on blogs

David Simon, creator of The Wire, on criticism that this season's focus on journalism didn't mention the effect of blogs:

"If you're saying that there needed to be scenes of the Internet interacting with journalism and bringing down journalism, I will now write you a scene: Interior, garden apartment anywhere. A white male, mid-30s, sits at a laptop computer in his underwear, linking to a Baltimore Sun story. He then scratches his left testicle until satisfied and continues to type commentary about that story onto his blog. Cut to drug corner, and on to the next scene."

Security Patterns

An "on-going project to collect and organize envelope security patterns from around the world":

The Salinger Of Indie Rock (their title, not mine)

"At the end of In The Aeroplane Over The Sea's final song, you can hear Jeff Mangum—Neutral Milk Hotel's singer, songwriter, and all-around mastermind—set down his guitar and walk off. And that's exactly what he did":

"What if Mangum is just being honest? What if he poured his life into achieving musical success only to discover that it wasn't going to make him happy, so he elected to make a clean break and move on?"

Sunday, March 9

La GĂ©ode

La Géode is one of the largest geodesic domes in the world, measuring almost thirty-four feet in diameter. Created in 1983 by Adrien Fainsilber, a French architect, it was built two years later by engineer Gérard Chamaillou. La Géode sits in the Parc de la Villette, just behind the Cité des Sciences et de l'Industrie, and houses a 1000-square-meter hemispheric IMAX screen and the world's only 12:1 sound system.

Pretty boring, huh? Oh, hey...did I mention that La Géode is CHROME-PLATED!?

Saturday, March 8

Sense And Sensibility

This is the thread where I'll be posting notes as I read Sense And Sensibility. Here's the permanent address of this post:

As before, you can either bookmark it or subscribe to the post's RSS feed. If you'd like to read along and join the discussion, you'll find the reading schedule I'll be following in the first comment of this thread.

Wednesday, March 5

Affluenza: March 5

I'd love to see a Vinn diagram of "wants well-designed minimal dining room furniture" and "wants a pool table":

(Sometimes it can be hard to parse my comments on these things, so let me be a bit less opaque: I think these are pretty awesome.)


Finally, a tote bag that lets everyone know you're a l33t h4x0r AND a total badass that the world better not mess with:

This is probably the most pitiful thing I've ever posted here.


Speaking of tote bags, you guys know I'm not the biggest Stephen Colbert fan...the man himself is fine, but his fan club annoys the everliving shit out of me. However, I saw this last night at Barnes & Noble--uh, I mean a funky yet charming local independent bookstore!--and it cracked me up:


At first these Chocolate Pencils seem sorta dumb, but they're actually pretty whimsical and clever.

Sure, you could do the same thing with a Hershey's bar and a potato peeler, but who are you...Alton Brown? Nice tiki shirt, you fucking nerd.


Karl Lagerfeld's utterly redonk carousel set for Chanel's fall 2008 show:

Mickey Boardman is a professional writer. He got paid to write that.


Clay Moulton's master thesis is the Gravia lamp, an LED powered by gravity, which just took second place in the 2008 Greener Gadgets Design Competition:

Nice catch, blanco niño, but too bad your ass got SAAAAAAACKED:


It's A Log You Idiots, part of a continuing series:


Chiasso's Baroque Bathroom Scales:


Stamp the image of the Virgin Mary on your toast:

[For those of you keeping track, this is not technically a toaster concept.]


Gmail Soap. For some reason.


Outdoor Themometer by Rosendahl:


Neat article on organizing your bookshelves by color instead of, say, usefulness:

Since when did COLOURlovers have articles?


Molly sends us this pretty incredible spread of wedding cakes that will make you feel bad about your lifestyle:

We particularly like the cake with the baroque filigree.

Dixie Gas wants us to know that she is totally in love with Roberto Cavalli's Spring 2008 ready-to-wear collection:

I couldn't agree more. Ladies Of Affluenza, you have some shopping to do.


Julius Popp's water printer:

Blah blah blah: No, Julian, It's not a "metaphor for the incessant flood of information we are exposed to" it's just a really cool installation.

I'm not being snarky doesn't have to about anything other than blowing people's minds. If your goal as an artist is to make people go WTF? instead of NFW!, then you are a lazy failure and should be ashamed.

Now I Know What an Etui Looks Like

Geek Out New York on the 2008 American Crossword Tournament:

This is a great article, well-written and funny, but I'm just as impressed by what the author, John Teti, has done: left his computer desk and produced an original piece of reportage. The "are bloggers the new journalists?" argument rages on, despite the fact that most bloggers AREN'T doing any real journalism...mostly they're just riffing lamely on the work of real journalists. Bloggers are journalists the same way tour guides are architects.

So it's nice and even a little inspiring to see someone create original work for his blog.

Elsewhere on his site is this neat tribute to Teti's Friendly Local Game Store:

That picture of game shelves stretching back to the vanishing point seriously made my heart hurt. Christ, I wish this town had a FLGS. Oh, don't get me wrong, we have a game store, and it even has a decent selection, it's just run by humorless socially awkward dicks who consider selling board games to be a necessary evil so their Warhammer store can stay open.

I mosty just run in, pick up my special order*, and run out. How nice it would feel to be part of a gaming community that wasn't comprised of, as my favorite writer puts it, guys with their "creepy dusters and that classic militaristic fervor of a guy who would NEVER survive in the military."

I run into these guys every time I go to buy board games, and lately I've been thinking about how they are TOTALLY the modern-day equivalent of Don Quixote.

Think about it: they're so addled by their consumption of media that their waking life has become a sort of dreamworld where they star as the ultimate badass, during which they pontificate at length about the particulars of their delusions, and all attempts to dissuade them from this certainty gets absorbed into their self-mythos or just ignored.

(Also: frequently accompanied by fat guys.)

I'd love to see someone make a modern-day Man Of La Mancha about a sad sack military fetishist's increasingly pitiful adventures with his adoring chubby sidekick.

*The way they do special orders is so annoying,'re not ordering it for YOU, you're ordering it for the store. When it comes in, they just put on the shelf and yu better hope you get there and buy it before anyone else does.

Tuesday, March 4

How To Cook Everything Vegetarian

After grappling with a leek on Saturday while preparing split pea soup, I found myself thinking that surely there must be some kind of 'user's manual' for vegetables...something that tells you, say, how to cook everything.

Later that day I was by Barnes & Noble, so I went to their cookbook section and found this:

Uh...HOLY CRAP. Like everyone else in the world, I'd always eyed Bittman's original classic, but there were just too many sections I didn't care about.

But this is awesome. It's a thousand pages long, and has in-depth instruction on how to select, prep, and prepare every vegetable, fruit, rice, grain, bean, herb, pasta, mushroom, and specialty vegetarian item in the entire world. Seriously.

Like the original How To Cook Everything, he gives you a bunch of recipes for each item. The recipes are (ahem) minimalist, of course, and unlike a lot of vegetarian cookbooks he doesn't include a lot of fake meat or dairy products. Most of them are just, you know, Broiled Leeks With Butter.

Be warned, though...he doesn't skimp on the butter or the cheese or the eggs. (One of the negative reviews on Amazon call the book How To Cook Vegetables With Cheese. Heh.) However, since the bulk of the book is about preparing produce, there ARE a bunch of vegan recipes, and in most non-vegan recipes he takes the time to explain in each instance what can be taken out to render it so.

Here are some sample recipes:

In the store it's $35, but Amazon has it for $24. I just bought it at the store cause I wanted that shit IMMEDIATELY. I'm not kidding or being sarcastic when I say that I probably would have paid $350 for it. It's that awesomely useful.

Big Mom must be so disappointed...

There's a story about the New Orleans Police Department looking for a body out in the bayou, a notorious dumping ground for murder victims.

The chief homicide detective took a class of police academy cadets out to the swamp to help in the search. "Remember," he warned, "we're looking for a white male, six feet tall, with blonde hair. If you guys start yelling every time you find a dead body, we're gonna be here all day."

I'm starting to feel the same way about these stories of memoir writers revealed as liars...if I start featuring every single one, we're never gonna get anything done.

Today's story is some chick who wrote a hilariously awful book I'd never heard of about being a white girl who was a drug runner in South Central. Do publishing industry players have their heads so far up their asses that this story even sounded remotely plausible?

Anyway, the best part is that she was busted by her own sister:

That article is notable for a couple of other things:

1. How confusing the Times house style is when the article includes more than a handful of players...good luck keeping all those Ms.'s straight!

2. It also feeds into my current obsession with pictures of what people my own age look like. For the record, that is what a lady I could have gone to college with looks like now. Huh!

Back to Margaret Seltzer for a minute. She was the recipient of a lot of pre-publication buzz from the Times, including a glowing review by Michiko Kakutani and a Home & Garden profile that I guarantee you will be the funniest thing you read all day:

Gawker wonders: could it have anything to do with the fact that Seltzer's long-time editor is the daughter of veteran Times Book Review editor Charles McGrath?

This nugget blows me away: "A Book Review editor, Barry Gewen, said last year he had never met Kakutani in 18 years at the paper."

Finally, there's this blog post from Book Reporter, which reads like an email forward my mom sent me:

Now send this to ten other people or something bad will happen!

The post sets out some good (if a bit obvious) points, but I want to take issue with number four:

"4) Did you ever think....hmmm...this could be a powerful fiction story? I do not need to make it MY story!"

The fact is, we're in the middle of a huge memoir craze right now, and any vaguely successful memoir sells about ten times better than any novel that's not about a boy wizard. This isn't to take any culpability away from the authors in question--they're not just liars, they're greedy liars!--but it explains why these books are written as phony memoirs instead of poorly-written novels.

When James Frey was being busted, he claimed that he had submitted the work as a novel, but the big bad publishing house insisted he call it a memoir instead. At the time this seemed like the last refuge of a despicable worm, but since then we've heard this from other writers as well. Considering how profitable the memoir business is, it's not too hard to imagine, is it? If the lie isn't caught, great. And if it is, just throw the writer under the bus. "We feel shocked and and betrayed by this author's actions..." and so on.

But I'm more concerned with the idea that a memoir and a novel are indistinguishable aside from where they're shelved in the Dewey Decimal system. A memoir is an entirely different form from a novel, with completely seperate rules of construction, and those who are saying "just call it fiction" are being disingenious at best.

Imagine slapping "A Novel" on phony-baloney memoirs A Boy Called It or Running With Scissors. Forget for a second that Pelzer and Burroughs are mediocre writers...that's not what I'm talking about here. Considered as novels the books just don't work: the timeline is too compressed, the viewpoint is too narrow, the prose is too matter-of-fact. They literally couldn't be marketed as novels. Memoirs and novels have different goals, and you can't just call a memoir--real or imagined--a novel any more than you can call a personal essay a short story.

As for why the authors didn't just write them as novels in the first place...well, I know we're not supposed to make value judgements about genres, but let's be real: writing a novel is fucking HARD, and uses different muscles from telling a straightforward story about your upbringing. I don't want to get into a pissing match about genres, but I think it's safe to say that writing a bad memoir is much easier than writing a bad novel.

I should know: I'm a huge liar AND a bad novelist.

Monday, March 3

Fail Dogs

There was always something really charming about the LOLcats and the way they recontextualized our notions of the feline personality: instead of aloof and slightly arrogant, the LOLcats presented themselves as amiable goofballs, a little naïve but always enthusiastic. "Of course we don't know proper grammar...we're just cats!"

Well, on the other side of the coin, Fail Dogs presents dogs not as man's best friend or noble companions but as utter fucking retards:

And though the site is only a few days old, I find myself wondering how this most recent Internet folk art will degrade. When I first saw the LOLcats, maybe a year ago, they seemed so fresh and original...I couldn't imagine that the humor would ever get stale. So what happened?

What always happens: the fad was discovered by the mediocre, the wannabes, the bandwagon jumpers, and none of those Lollers Come Lately got the point.

I Can Has Cheesburger turned into just misspelled cutesy-pie baby talk, which wasn't at all what was so attractive to the original fans of the first LOLcats. (Plus, they don't even get the misspellings right.) At a certain point the site became indistinguishable from Cute Overload, when just a few months before it was as diametrically opposed to it as you could be while still featuring pictures of kittens.

LOLsecretz reinvigorated the form for a while, but in an act of clear-eyed self-appraisal that seems almost like a kind of heroism, they realized the vein had run dry before they wore out their welcome:

So I'm curious how the Fail Dogs concept will get's literally only pictures of unimaginably stupid dogs with the word FAIL written beside them. In theory they could run forever and still retain the same essential spirit they had on Day One.

But just because I can't imagine how the meme could possibly degrade doesn't mean it won't happen: the lamest and most hackneyed minds of our generation are undoubtedly working on it even as we speak.

Sunday, March 2

Comic Sans Is Illegal

Stickers that graphic design assholes can put on poorly-designed work:

Christian Lander Interview

A two-part interview with Christian Lander, the writer of Stuff White People Like:

(This is the last I'll post about this site, I swear.)

File Destructor 2.0

File Destructor creates custom-made garbled files that you can use to extend deadlines an extra day:

Saturday, March 1

"Higher fences" apparently not an option...

Universal Studios has tried to block a bike path along the Los Angeles river, because of fears that aspiring screenwriters will hurl their scripts onto the NBC lot:,0,5229089.story

Favorite quote from a discussion thread about this: "You know how trolls feel about their opinions? Writers feel that way about their ideas." HA!

Rotten Girls

Molly sends along this interesting article about fujoshi, the female otakus:

Here are two pretty great video clips:

Interestingly, whereas those two links equate fujoshi to "girl geeks," the Wikipedia entry on fujoshi is only concerned with their interest in slash fan-fic:

I wonder if the Reuters article does this to whitewash the term, or if Wikipedia has confused effect for cause. That is, Harry Potter nerds are ALSO interested in romantic couplings of (underage) fictional characters, but by and large that's an offshoot of their fandom, not the reason they got into the world.

I suppose the truth is somewhere in the midde, but a good rule of thumb is: If you have two explanations, and one of them is "Wikipedia sucks," always choose that one.


Speaking of, librarians have ANOTHER reason to hate Nicholson Baker: he loves Wikipedia...

Actually, this article--a review of a book called Wikipedia: The Missing Manual, the existence of which makes my head explode--is an interesting read, full of great observations, even if I don't share his enthusiasm for the faith-based encyclopedia.