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Current Topic: Arts

Diary, by Jenny Diski | LRB
Topic: Arts 3:46 pm EDT, Aug  2, 2008

Inexpert though I am in all other fields, I am a connoisseur of sleep. Actually, my speciality is not sleep itself, but the hinterland of sleep, the point of entry to unconsciousness.

The great delight was in deferring sleep, hovering on the edge, pulling myself back to the same point in the story and trying to move it along, but always dropping off, hanging by the story-thread, the fingertips losing their grip but managing to haul back to the tale on the waking side of the world. The trick was to sustain my stay in the no man’s land for as long as possible, knowing all the while that I would inevitably, sooner or later, lose my grip on consciousness.

Later, you can remember or feel, but the only actual experience of sleep is not-knowing. And not knowing thrills me – retrospectively or in anticipation, of course. That one has the capacity to be not here while being nowhere else. To be in the grip of unconsciousness, and consciously to lose consciousness to that grip.

Far away, so close:

"Being in the water alone, surfing, sharpens a particular kind of concentration, an ability to agree with the ocean, to react with a force that is larger than you are."

If Schnabel is a surfer in the sense of knowing how to skim existence for its wonders, he is also a surfer in the more challenging sense of wanting to see where something bigger than himself, or the unknown, will take him, even with the knowledge that he might not come back from the trip.

To be truly challenging, a voyage, like a life, must rest on a firm foundation of financial unrest. Otherwise you are doomed to a routine traverse, the kind known to yachtsmen, who play with their boats at sea--"cruising", it is called. Voyaging belongs to seamen, and to the wanderers of the world who cannot, or will not, fit in. If you are contemplating a voyage and you have the means, abandon the venture until your fortunes change. Only then will you know what the sea is all about.

... What does a man need---really need? A few pounds of food each day, heat and shelter, six feet to lie down in---and some form of working activity that will yield a sense of accomplishment. That's all---in the material sense.

... Where, then, lies the answer? In choice. Which shall it be: bankruptcy of purse or bankruptcy of life?

From earlier today:

I honestly believe that for my startup(s), the personal edge I gain from swimming or surfing in the ocean every day in a small town in Florida is larger than any advantage I got by living in Atlanta.

Diary, by Jenny Diski | LRB

Font Conference
Topic: Arts 6:33 pm EDT, Jul 23, 2008

This video wasn't long enough, so we made it double-spaced.

"Mailbox!! Mailbox!! Mailbox!!"

From the archive:

These widespread abuses of printed type threaten to erode the very foundations upon which centuries of typographic history are built.

WE LOVE COMIC SANS ... and we'll kill animals to prove it

Typography is not simply a frou-frou debate over aesthetics orchestrated by a hidden coterie of graphic-design nerds. You need only imagine a STOP sign that utilizes the heavy-metal typefaces favoured by bands Dokken or Krokus to realize that clear, clean and direct typography can save lives, or at the very least prevent drivers from prolonged bouts of confused squinting.

Because everything you read, every sign, book and logo, is in a font. Fonts are like the air: you don't notice them when they are fine, only when they are mucked up or obscure.

The reality is that, despite fears that our children are "pumped full of chemicals" everything is made of chemicals.

Virginia Postrel talks with Gary Hustwit — director of Helvetica — about filmmaking, creativity, and the expressive implications of one of the world's most popular typefaces

Helvetica essentially takes any word or phrase and pressure-washes it into sterility. I love it.

It sort of reeks of old thrift-shop, Danish furniture, and not in a good way.

Font Conference

Stefanie Posavec “On the Map”
Topic: Arts 7:23 am EDT, Apr  9, 2008


Stefanie Posavec's maps capture something above and beyond that of the others. Rather than mapping physical geography, her maps capture regularities and patterns within a literary space. The pieces featured in On the Map focused on Kerouac’s On the Road. The maps visually represent the rhythm and structure of Kerouac’s literary space, creating works that are not only gorgeous from the point of view of graphic design, but also exhibit scientific rigor and precision in their formulation: meticulous scouring the surface of the text, highlighting and noting sentence length, prosody and themes, Posavec’s approach to the text is not unlike that of a surveyor. And similarly, the act is near reverential in its approach and the results are stunning graphical displays of the nature of the subject. The literary organism, rhythm textures and sentence drawings are truly gorgeous pieces. It’s not often that I am so thoroughly impressed by the depth of an artist’s work, but somehow, for me, these pieces do it all. I know, who would’ve thought I’d have stumbled upon such incredible work in the gallery across from our hotel in Sheffield! It just goes to show the world is full of surprises.

High-res images below not to be missed!

Stefanie Posavec “On the Map”

The Horror
Topic: Arts 8:41 pm EDT, Mar 27, 2008

Louis Menand:

We’re likely to find the outrage and alarm over comic books psychologically simplistic and politically opportunistic. But this is winner’s bias. Other people’s culture wars always look ridiculous. That’s partly because we frame cultural controversies as battles between the old and the new, and, given that the old is someone else’s status quo and we have no stake in it, we naturally favor the new. So one way to look at the comic-book inquisition is to see it as an effort to repress an edgy, provocative, satirical popular form and to dictate to people what books they should and should not read. In this view, a big, powerful, established social entity is squashing a bunch of little, powerless entities.

But the psychiatrists and the officials almost certainly perceived things the other way around. For youth culture is commercial culture. If an industry is moving a hundred million units a week, then someone is making money. The comic book creators were no doubt interesting, complicated, talented people who believed in what they did, but they were businessmen manufacturing entertainment for children.

An argument can be made that comic books were dying anyway ... At the beginning of 1950, there were four million television sets in the United States; three years later, there were more than twenty-five million. Fifty per cent of American homes had one. There was a new place for children to be seduced.

Television was the Cold War intellectuals’ nightmare, a machine for bringing kitsch and commercialism directly into the home. But by exposing people to an endless stream of advertising, television taught them to take nothing at face value, to read everything ironically. We read the horror comics today and smile complacently at the sheer over-the-top campiness of the effects. In fact, that is the only way we can read them. We have lost our innocence.

See also:

Brian Unger looks at how comedy has changed and evolved in the five years since the Sept. 11 attacks. Ironically, predictions of the end to the "age of irony" never materialized. Irony, it seems, is made of tougher stuff ...

The Horror

Peeps Show II
Topic: Arts 10:51 am EDT, Mar 22, 2008

The second annual Sunday Source Peeps Diorama Contest drew more than 800 sugar-filled entries from our readers. Here, the 37 best creations.

Peeps Show II

Not Quite What I Was Planning: Six-Word Memoirs by Writers Famous and Obscure
Topic: Arts 9:23 pm EST, Feb 18, 2008

Can you describe your life in six words?

That's what the editors of storytelling magazine SMITH asked readers in 2006; the results, though decidedly uneven, make for compulsive reading and prove arguably as insightful as any 300+ page biography. Taken as a whole, this cascade of quotes from contributors famous and unknown creates a dizzying snowball effect of perspectives and feelings.

Highlights from professional writers and artists include journalist Chuck Klosterman wondering, "Nobody cared, then they did. Why?"; pop singer-songwriter Adam Schlesinger lamenting, "We still don't hear a single"; and comic strip artist Keith Knight illustrating "I was a Michael Jackson impersonator."

At their best, these nano-memoirs evoke the same kind of rich emotional responses as a good story: 9 year old Hannah Davies considers herself "Cursed with cancer. Blessed by friends"; Zak Nelson says "I still make coffee for two"; Scott Birch claims "Most successful accomplishments based on spite." Some entries read like bumper stickers (Rip Riley: "No wife. No kids. No problems"), and others are just plain weird (Amy Sedaris: "Mushrooms. Clowns. Wands. Five. Wig. Thatched"), but this compelling little book will have readers and their friends hunting for favorites and inventing six-word self-definitions of their own.

This review in six words? Read. Enjoy. Pass it on. Repeat.

Not Quite What I Was Planning: Six-Word Memoirs by Writers Famous and Obscure

Design and the Elastic Mind | MoMA | Exhibitions | 2008
Topic: Arts 9:23 pm EST, Feb 18, 2008

Ben Fry, author of Visualizing Data, is featured in this new MoMA exhibition. From the news:

... a thoughtful and provocative collection of ideas, theories and experiments, which raise dazzling possibilities for the future. Some will work. Others probably won't. But that's part of the fun of an inspiring exhibition that poses (at least) as many questions as it answers.

About the exhibit:

In the past few decades, individuals have experienced dramatic changes in some of the most established dimensions of human life: time, space, matter, and individuality. Working across several time zones, traveling with relative ease between satellite maps and nanoscale images, gleefully drowning in information, acting fast in order to preserve some slow downtime, people cope daily with dozens of changes in scale. Minds adapt and acquire enough elasticity to be able to synthesize such abundance. One of design's most fundamental tasks is to stand between revolutions and life, and to help people deal with change. Designers have coped with these displacements by contributing thoughtful concepts that can provide guidance and ease as science and technology evolve. Several of them—the Mosaic graphic user's interface for the Internet, for instance—have truly changed the world. Design and the Elastic Mind is a survey of the latest developments in the field. It focuses on designers' ability to grasp momentous changes in technology, science, and social mores, changes that will demand or reflect major adjustments in human behavior, and convert them into objects and systems that people understand and use.

The exhibition will highlight examples of successful translation of disruptive innovation, examples based on ongoing research, as well as reflections on the future responsibilities of design. Of particular interest will be the exploration of the relationship between design and science and the approach to scale. The exhibition will include objects, projects, and concepts offered by teams of designers, scientists, and engineers from all over the world, ranging from the nanoscale to the cosmological scale. The objects range from nanodevices to vehicles, from appliances to interfaces, and from pragmatic solutions for everyday use to provocative ideas meant to influence our future choices. The exhibition will be accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue.

Design and the Elastic Mind | MoMA | Exhibitions | 2008

The Nerve and the Will
Topic: Arts 10:02 am EST, Feb 17, 2008

"Being in the water alone, surfing, sharpens a particular kind of concentration, an ability to agree with the ocean, to react with a force that is larger than you are."

If Schnabel is a surfer in the sense of knowing how to skim existence for its wonders, he is also a surfer in the more challenging sense of wanting to see where something bigger than himself, or the unknown, will take him, even with the knowledge that he might not come back from the trip.

Have you seen "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly"?

The Nerve and the Will

The rise and rise of brand McSweeney’s
Topic: Arts 6:51 am EST, Feb 11, 2008

In less than a decade, McSweeney's has gone from an idiosyncratic literary magazine to a new-look publishing empire. Now, it's the American literary scene’s most astute soothsayer.

What really sets Eggers’s empire apart, though, is that it possesses that most elusive and valued of modern attributes: a brand.

The ideal McSweeney’s reader (or writer) lives in Brooklyn, wears interesting T-shirts, has a blog he works on in coffee shops, and knows it’s cool to oppose globalisation but uncool to go on too much about it.

McSweeney’s also strives to be socially relevant. It wants to make the world a better place – or at least more like the cooler parts of Brooklyn.

The rise and rise of brand McSweeney’s

Famous Authors Predict the Winner of Super Bowl XLII
Topic: Arts 6:51 am EST, Feb 11, 2008

From McSweeney's, featuring Cormac McCarthy, Raymond Carver, Ayn Rand, Jack Kerouac, Jane Austen, and James Joyce.

Here's the start of Cormac:

Overhead, the sun is a wrathful god. It is made to ravage a dying land.

The boy stands in a dry gulch. He tilts his hat to the sting of the wind.

These men are patriots, says The Coach.

I reckon.

Have you seen No Country For Old Men?

Famous Authors Predict the Winner of Super Bowl XLII

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