Ad It Update

A day after I finished my ramble about how advertising tends not to get mentioned in articles about The Future Of Magazines, I read the following passage in Holy Terror, Bob Colacello’s “insider’s portrait” of Andy Warhol. Mr. Colacello ran Interview magazine for about 11 years, shortly after its launch.

Selling advertising also helped me become a better editor: It forced me to focus on what kind of readers we wanted and how to get them, to see the magazine as a complete process, with editorial feeding circulation, circulation feeding advertising, advertising feeding editorial, rather than separate parts working against each other. That didn’t mean doing everything the advertisers wanted, though we did a lot, and Andy would have had me do more. It did mean that a certain kind of reader led to a certain kind of advertiser and vice versa. And in explaining the magazine’s editorial policy to advertisers, I was also formulating it for myself — defining it in sharper, clearer terms, giving it direction, identity, finding not only its niche in the market, but also its place in the culture. There was another thing I liked about selling advertising: Success could be measured in dollars and cents, pages and half pages and quarter pages, and like Andy, I was soon counting them and measuring totals against the previous year’s. I liked the feeling of building something from the ground up.

As an editor who is involved in the advertising side of a magazine (trade, not consumer), this entire piece resonated with me. Except my boss doesn’t wear an outrageous white wig and invite me to parties with Bianca Jagger.

What It Is: 8/2/10

What I’m reading: Holy Terror: Andy Warhol Close Up, Bob Colacello’s bio of Andy Warhol. I also updated the On My Nightstand page, if you’re interested in seeing other books I hope to get to. Here’s a little bit from Mr. Colacello’s book:

Sometimes I wonder if Andy wanted it to work. I wonder if any of it — the video projects, Interview, even the movies, anything other than the art and the selling of the art — was meant to be serious. Paul was serious about the movies, Glenn and I cared about the magazine, Vincent was committed to coming up with a TV show that worked — but was Andy? He certainly never minded the typos and other mistakes in Interview. “Why do you have to spend so much time proofreading?” he’d always ask. He liked things to be “bad,” he liked things to be “boring” — concepts that may or may not have worked in the realm of art, but were not of much use in the movies, magazines, or television. Sometimes I found this attitude refreshing; other times it was just discouraging. If Andy didn’t really care whether anything came of our efforts, then how should we Maybe all these side businesses were just a way to keep himself busy, to surround himself with creative young people, to put friends on the payroll, to run up expenses and tax deductions against the art profits, to promote the sale of art and make Andy more famous, to spend the days and kill the nights, to ward off his fear and anxiety and emotional distress, to not be alone.

Or maybe Andy genuinely believed that if we took ourselves too seriously, fretted and sweated and tried to be professional instead of just doing it fast and easy and cheap, the end result would be stale and dull instead of turning out different and modern, magic and new.

What I’m listening to: Sir Lucious Left Foot, Rattlesnakes, You Could Start a Fight in an Empty House, Night Work, Walking Wounded, We Are Born, and Spirit of Radio.

What I’m watching: Zombieland and A Single Man. Reviews tomorrow!

What I’m drinking: Stella Artois, and 209 & Q-Tonic, although I didn’t drink much last week.

What Rufus & Otis are up to: Hiking! To Ramapo Lake! And Monksville Reservoir! (and then sleeping a lot.) And getting into their first-ever fight on Sunday! I fed them and went downstairs to read, figuring they’d follow me down after they finished. Instead, I heard loud barking. Near as I can tell, Rufus, as is his wont, finished his bowl quickly and headed over to Otis’ to get whatever bits his brother left behind. Maybe he pushed for the bowl a little too early, because it seems Otis wasn’t having any of it. By the time I ran upstairs, Ru was standing in the middle of the living room, with a little nibble taken out of his cheek, tail pretty firmly stuck between his legs. I looked them both over for any other wounds, but didn’t find anything. Ru hurried down the hall and stayed with his mom for a while. I’m glad Otis stuck up for himself, because I’m always telling Ru to leave him in peace when they’re eating. Sigh.

Where I’m going: Scotch Bowl next Saturday! Charity bowling night for our greyhound adoption group, Greyhound Friends of NJ!

What I’m happy about: Taking last Thursday and Friday off, and not once looking at my work e-mail, checking my voice-mail, or otherwise staying on top of work.

What I’m sad about: I’m going back to the office today.

What I’m worried about: The dogs will eventually figure out that jumping into the back of the car sometimes leads to long-ass, overheating hikes, and they’ll stop being so willing to head off on any old adventure involving the Subaru. On the other hand, my wife is pretty sure Otis is flat-out retarded (this post convinced her), so the chances of them figuring this out are pretty slim, I guess.

What I’m pondering: Undertaking another ruthless purge of my bookcases. Is it an overreaction to my impending 40th birthday, this compulsion to look at a stack of books and tell myself, “You will never have time in the remainder of your days to read (or re-read) this book”? How do other people deal with their mid-life-thing? I sure don’t want to end up like Stewart Lee.

High Line, Low Key

[There’s a slideshow, which will be much more interesting than this post, I’m sure. This is one of those lengthy rambles / reminiscences / meditations (ha!) in NYC.]

Last week, I had a conference in NYC, so my co-workers and I stayed at The Inn on 23rd, a great little hotel (14 rooms). Amy & I were in the Skylight room, which is on the top (5th) floor, in the back of the building. Awesome space, really quiet, and the skylight was just marvelous (except when I was leaving the shower to gret dressed and realized that I may have given a free show to the people in the adjacent office building).

The hotel was a 1.5-mile walk from the convention center, so I managed to get in my customary 3+ miles of walking each day. It wasn’t the same without Rufus & Otis, but I figured they wouldn’t take well to the din of the city. Or the cat who lives in the lobby of the hotel.

On top of the round trip (and the extensive walking inside the convention center to visit clients and sessions), I walked another 2+ miles on Tuesday evening, to meet up with coworkers and advertiser-pals for dinner at Il Cortile, a wonderful Italian joint on Mulberry Street. I’d never been down Mulberry before; my only exposure to it was the Billy Joel song and a dream-sequnce from Moonlighting, c.1988. As Mulberry heads south toward Canal St., almost every storefront is either an Italian restaurant or a souvenir shop. Each of the restaurants had a guy on the sidewalk, trying to talk people into that joint for a meal. I don’t recall ever seeing that in the U.S. before. As opposed to having seen it in every single European city I’ve visited. So that was nice.

I decided to take that walk after a day at the conference (rather than cabbing down to the restaurant) when I opened my RSS reader in the evening and found a note that a couple of cartoonists I like — Frank Santoro and Dash Shaw — were going to have a conversation / Q&A at McNally Jackson Books in SoHo. I’d never been to that bookstore, so I thought I’d walk down, see it and Frank and Dash, and dash.

McNally Jackson was fine, but walking among the shelves made me lament the fact that bookstores don’t mean as much to me as they used to (because of online accessibility and the immensity of my personal library, not because I don’t read anymore). On the other hand, the conversation between Dash & Frank was awfully entertaining. I only got to stay for the first portion, which consisted of Dash asking questions and Frank answering while also discussing a number of panels and page layouts projected on a screen behind them. Frank, whose work I’ve seen but haven’t read (I’ll get to Storeyville this week, before I see Frank a week or so from now at TCAF), had some very ‘interesting’ remarks about his approach to drawing. As someone who’s seemingly incapable of visual thinking, I find it illuminating when artists talk about how they see / render the world. (Speaking of which, you should read this article about Jaime Hernandez in the Village Voice.) In this case, I enjoyed hearing Frank’s takes on how he can’t use photo-reference, the benefits of collaboration and the assembly-line style of mainstream comics production, the importance of grounding scenes in space, why he won’t use gutter space between panels (because of the “black dot” optical illusion at the intersection of perpendicular gutter spaces) and why he’ll sometimes write “LAKE” in a landscape sketch rather than draw waves, shading, etc.

I sorta blissed out over this stuff. See, I was in the midst of three days of conversations about the pharma industry, contract manufacturing, bankruptcies, executive idiocy, the decline of the West, and the like, so it was really just a joy for me to hear two smart guys talk about making comics.

SO: the rest of the week was the aforementioned pharma-conference, which went fine. I got out Thursday afternoon, picked up the dogs, got home and promptly fell asleep for 45 minutes, till my wife called, so I could pick her up at the bus stop.

Friday was an absolutely frenetic day at work, trying to get the May issue into shape. My production manager was supposed to return from an 8-day tour of Italy the previous weekend, but the volcano in Iceland left her stranded in Rome. There was no sign of her as of Friday, so I just took care of everything I could, and hoped all the ad materials will be in place when we send the book out this Tuesday. (She got home over the weekend and spent most of Monday busily trying to get our magazine together.)

And then there was Saturday, which brings me to the center of this post. Amy had a photography class / seminar in NYC on Saturday afternoon, so I drove her in and then spent the next four hours wandering around. I was really looking forward to just strolling through the city in a different way than I did during the week: no suit, comfy shoes, bright sunlight, and no work-emails to keep up with.

I had a few destinations in mind — LEO Design, The Liquor Store, Porto Rico Importing, and maybe Beto Hernandez’ book signing at Midtown Comics — but really I just wanted to wander. Like the way I’m doing now!

My first stop was LEO, following a recommendation by The Sartorialist a few weeks ago. It was a cozy store, with three friendly staffers behind the counter, one of whom talked me into buying a pair of cufflinks that I should not have spent quite so much money on. That said, they are gorgeous little things, aren’t they? I mean, I am an editor, right?

I chatted with the clerk (owner?) for a bit, and perhaps too eagerly mentioned that I had the afternoon free because my wife was in class (as we all know, of course, no man can resist my charms). He asked me if I’d visited the High Line park yet. I hadn’t, and Amy & I had talked about it during the drive in. I asked him where the best access point is, and he directed me to 14th and Washington St.

For those of you not in the know, the High Line is a stretch of abandoned elevated rail line on Manhattan’s west side that was recently converted into a park. Well, a 10-block length of it was; there’s another mile or so that they’d like to rehabilitate, but I think that’s under dispute with the MTA. I saw part of the unconverted line last week during my walk back from the Javits Center and I thought, “Boy, that sure doesn’t look like a park.” Also, on one of my walks home, I took 7th Ave. and discovered the irony that the Fashion Institute of Technology operates out of a monstrously ugly building. But that’s just New York.

Anyway, I took his advice, stopped off at The Chocolate Bar on 8th for a coffee and a brownie, walked up to 14th, and took the elevator up to the High Line (the stairs were blocked by construction).

The High Line is a symbol of everything that’s wrong with Bloomberg’s New York. Or it’s a symbol of the city’s revitalization, or its Disneyfication, or something else altogether. I forget. I can tell you that it’s pretty up there. The views aren’t breathtaking, but it’s an adorable oasis. I mean, it’s not like people are clamoring for a view of Chelsea and the hideous new architecture. You should take a break from this meandering post and check out my pix from the High Line. I’ll wait.

* * *

Enjoy it? I even cataloged a bunch of those awful new buildings for you! I’m the best.

Anyway, after the park, I decided to take a long walk to TriBeCa and visit The Liquor Store, J. Crew’s men’s boutique. Amy & I tried to go there on Easter Sunday, after a brunch with some friends in the Village, but discovered that it was closed for the holiday. I was bummed, because it was a longish walk and Amy didn’t have the most comfortable shoes on. Still, she’s a trouper. Also, I think she’s just happy that I’m finally interested in dressing well. There’s a whole other lengthy / self-justifying post about my new-found interest in (understated) fashion, but I don’t have the heart to write it just yet.

That Easter walk was down high-fashion-retail-centric West Broadway, which was crammed with shoppers and outdoor-brunchers. Last Saturday, I walked downtown via Greenwich St., two(ish) blocks from the Hudson, and the population grew sparser with each block. Crossing Houston was a non-event, in contrast to the usual frenetic crossing as you head further east. Here, it was all office buildings and occasional storefronts. One of the most telling signs of its business-only vibe was when I saw a Starbucks that was closed on weekends.

Canal St., on the other hand, was marked by the endless procession of cars trying to get to the Holland Tunnel. I crossed that at a light, headed over to Varick, and made it to the Liquor Store pretty quickly. Of course, it was a disappointment. The shop carried a few things unavailable at a regular J. Crew men’s and the catalog — like $250 straw hats (!) — but the store really wasn’t anything special. Even the layout, a converted liquor store, worked against it, as 6 or 7 shoppers and a couple of staffers added up to a cluttered, unnavigable space. Still, they conned me into making the trip, so I guess that’s working for them.

Crestfallen-ish, I headed back up to Canal St. The volume of people grew rapidly and I began getting a little antsy. Foolishly, I turned up Broadway to head back north. The funny thing about Broadway between Houston and Canal is that it’s like an outdoor version of New Jersey. Seriously: it’s just one mall clothing or shoe store after another. There are a couple of other NYC neighborhoods that also make me feel like they’re aspiring to be a high-end NJ mall, an irony that I’d find funny if it weren’t so sad.

Anyway, bugging out from the sudden overload of noise and bodies, I ducked into Muji, one of the only B’way stores that isn’t in NJ. Readers with too much time on their hands may recall a Muji visit in one of these meandering posts a few years ago. For those of you who don’t, I put the link there for a reason.

The Muji (Japan’s Ikea) store was busy, but I found it immediately calming. Something about the simplicity of the designs on display just puts me at ease. I found my thought patterns mimicking those structure of that Warhol book I just finished, except I didn’t come up with any good aphorisms.

There are some neat passages about shopping in New York in the book. I went into Macy’s on 34th St. one day last week on the way home, and it reminded me of the part where A goes underwear shopping with B. Warhol ‘writes,’ “I would rather watch somebody buy their underwear than read a book they wrote.” I found a casual dress shirt at Muji and convinced a couple of women to buy their famous fold-up cardboard speakers. I thought about buying one of their notepads, but I have too many notepads that are nearly empty. I haven’t written in my journal more than once in the past three weeks. I need to get back to a weekly early-morning breakfast at the Skyline Luncheonette, where I’m the weird guy who starts writing after finishing his meal.

After Muji, I returned to the fray, hurrying up Broadway to get back to NoHo and put some distance between me and the madding crowd. Not likely, on such a lovely day, but at least it’d be a different madding crowd. I stepped into Porto Rico Importing to buy some coffee beans, since my regular brand seems to be under embargo. The store was busy and crowded, but the smell of all that coffee was as comforting as Muji’s clean lines. I used to go to Porto Rico’s store on St. Marks Place, but the charms I once found on that street have largely dissipated. It was a mutual breakup; the street got more touristy-punk and my interests in buying comics and used CDs has waned. I still have a sentimental attachment to the neighborhood, since St. Marks Bookshop is where my wife & I first laid eyes on each other (in person; our first contact was online, so it’s not like it was a totally blind date), but New Jersey-fication has crept into this area, too.

With 24 oz. of coffee beans wrapped up in my pack, I stopped for a schawarma around Minetta & MacDougal, where I listened to a couple of NYU kids discuss how prep school didn’t prepare them for the possibility that they’d get poor grades for not attending classes. I laughed to myself, then thought about how these kids were literally half my age, and stopped laughing. A few years ago, a pal of mine who’s an NYU prof invited me to one of her classes. I thought maybe it was a grad class and the girls were in their mid-20’s; they were freshmen, mostly 18.

For some reason, I then subjected myself to walking through Washington Square Park. Parts of the park are being worked on, so the tourists and students were packed into a much smaller area. No one offered to sell me weed this time, but no one mistook me for a narc this time, either. At the center of the park, as the leaf-canopied path opened up to bright sunlight, I was reminded of the bridal photo-shoot Amy did here last November, and what a lovely time that was, even though I was sick/exhausted in an undefined way.

From the park, I walked up to Forbidden Planet, in hopes of finding the new issue of Pete Bagge’s Hate. Embarrassingly (for them), they didn’t have any copies. I did manage to pick up Brendan McCarthy’s new comic, so it wasn’t a waste of time. I wrote off a stop at Midtown Comics early in my wanderings; trekking up to 40th would’ve been too out of the way, and the neighborhood would’ve reminded me too much of the previous week’s walks up to the Javits Center.

Instead, I headed back toward the garage where I’d parked on 13th St. It was near 5 p.m., and Amy’s photo-class would soon be finishing, so I’d have to pick her up around 28th. I had a coffee and a gelato at an Italian-ish dessert place that would have been laughed at by the Mulberry St. crowd, but I’m as much of a tourist as everyone else.

She called, and I picked up the car and headed west along 13th to 8th Ave., which would take me uptown. Under normal circumstances. In this case, sawhorses blocked off 8th Ave. at 14th St. for a street fair, forcing all traffic west or east along 14th. I phoned Amy and told her to head over to 10th Ave., so I could pick her up there and then head over to the Lincoln to get back to NJ.

8th Ave. was a crawl. Traffic police were only waving through a few cars at a time, mostly from the designated left-turn lane. I was trapped in the center lane, waiting for my turn. At one point, the two cars ahead of me were waved through, but as I started to advance, the cop held up the open palm of “stop.” I flinched with rage, and he walked over to my car. He gestured for me to lower the window. I did, and he said, “Sir, I know that you’re frustrated, but –”

I cut him off, saying, “– Oh, I understand. It’s just that the car ahead of me pushed his way through and ended up getting rewarded for being a douchebag. Don’t worry about it.”

“Well, there’s a lot of volume because of the fair, and technically, this lane isn’t even allowed to make a left turn,” he told me.

I looked at the street fair, then back to the cop. “Hey, man,” I said, gesturing at the fair, “I can drive straight through that, if that’s what you’re saying, but I really don’t think you want to deal with the paperwork.”

“. . . Good point,” he said, strolling back to the intersection. I soon drove away, under the High Line, to pick up my One True and return to the only home I’ve ever really had.

[Here’s that slideshow link again. Thanks for sticking with me.]

Exorcism Weekend

If a man cannot forget, he will never amount to much.

–Soren Kierkegaard

Ever wonder where all those Unrequired Reading links come from? I use NetNewsWire for my RSS reader. It helps me keep track of 150+ RSS feeds, and has its own browser for feeds that I want to click through. The problem is, I have a tendency to save tabs “for later”, and there are presently more than 60 browser windows open in the program.

I save some pages for my own edification, not necessarily for posting. Still, I have a feeling all these tabs are starting to impair my computer’s ability to keep me happy, so I’ve decided to thin out the ranks today. After all, there are also more than 800 unread items in the feed. That’s about two days’ accumulation of feeds. I’ll zap through some of them en masse, but read some of the others pretty intently.

So let’s go through a whole ton of links that I meant to write about, but never got around to and likely never will! I’ll even share the “just for me” links, goofy as they are! (I thought about writing this as 88 Lines about 44 Links, but didn’t think I’d be able to make it all rhyme; sorry.)

Orwell

I meant to write a whole lot about George Orwell, and that’s why the following links have been sitting in my tabs for so darned long.

The Masterpiece That Killed George Orwell – Orwell’s last days on Jura, writing 1984. (5/10/09)

Oxford Literary Festival: George Orwell’s son speaks for the first time about his father – Richard Blair was only 6 when his adoptive dad died, but he liked life on Jura. (3/15/09)

TS Eliot’s snort of rejection for Animal Farm – Ha-ha! You were wrong, Tough Shit! (3/29/09)

A Fine Rage – James Wood on Orwell. I haven’t read this yet; the link is only for an abstract, and I’m not a New Yorker subscriber, so I gotta hit the library sometime and find the original. Sure sounds interesting, and it’s got a great Ralph Steadman illo of Orwell. (4/13/09)

Eternal Vigilance – Keith Gessen on Orwell’s essays, eventually getting around to the problematic nature of my favorite one: Inside the Whale. (5/28/09)

Bumming Smokes in Paris and London: George Orwell’s Obsession with Tobacco – I once argued that the real horror of 1984 isn’t the rats in a cage or the police busting down the door, but rather the dull razor blades and the cigarettes that fall apart. This PopMatters article may cover that, but it’s SEVEN PAGES LONG and the single-page version is poorly formatted and won’t resize in my browser. So I’ll never know. (6/19/09)

Curse Ye, Orwell! – I hadn’t gotten around to reading this Popmatters article about the limitations of Orwell’s Why I Write essay till now, but it strikes me that the author takes Orwell’s writing as far too canonical and literal. Pfeh. (1/22/10)

Libraries

I wanted to write about the thinning out of my library. I had some thoughts about the process of admitting that there are books you will never get around to reading, a theme I hit on before, and how my tastes and interests have changed.

Shelf Life – William H. Gass on his library. (12/07)

Longing for Great Lost Works – Stephen Marche on the (maybe) wonderful books, plays and poems that were lost. Sorta like all the blog-posts I abandoned, right? (4/18/09)

Books do furnish a life – Roger Ebert on the books that mount up in his office library. (10/5/09)

Antilibraries – Jason Kottke on Nassim Nicholas Taleb on Umberto Eco on how the books we haven’t read menace us. (6/1/09)

2009 Commencement Address by Daniel Mendelsohn – Beautiful story about why we read the classics, which would’ve helped (in part) with my justification for tossing many contemporary/ephemeral books from my library. (5/15/09)

Middlebrow Messiahs – A review of a book about the history of the Great Books as a commercial concept. The book is uncharitable toward St. John’s College, where I went to grad school, but the reviewer takes the writer to task for that. (1/16/09)

Confessions of a Middlebrow Professor – Here’s another essay inspired by that book and the idea of middlebrow culture striving for intellectual achievement. Obviously, I was going to write some sort of essay about my time at St. John’s around this. (10/5/09)

The Arcadia Fire

Speaking of the classics, destroying libraries, and the conversation with the past, I really wanted to write about Tom Stoppard’s play Arcadia. I may still. Here are the first few paragraphs of an abortive attempt:

I’ve written before about my evolving relationship with works of art (mainly books, movies and music) and their touchstone-y nature in my life. I think my best take on it was my year-end post in 2008 — I’ve written plenty on works that meant a lot to me once upon a time, but make me cringe now, as well as works that have grown in my estimation over the years.

Sometimes I think I’ve neglected to tell you about the works that have retained their importance to me all these years. Partly it’s because of how familiar I am with them, how much they’ve come to inform who I am and how I understand things. Partly it’s because I’m afraid that I’ll fail to do them justice, that I’ll come up short in my descriptions of them and their importance.

I could give you a list of books that have stuck with me all this time, beginning with Orwell’s essays and Miller’s Tropic of Cancer, and it’d be a nice counterweight to my 0-fer series, where I celebrate all the lacunae in my reading universe.

Which brings me to Arcadia.

Eh. Here are some of the links that would’ve woven into the piece.

Et In Arcadia – Mark Sarvas of The Elegant Variaion kicked things off for me by noting two revivals of Arcadia in D.C. and London. (5/15/09)

Warmly, an ‘Arcadia’ That’s Most Calculating – Peter Marks at The Washington Post reviews the D.C. revival. I imagine that the editor who wrote that headline must be very difficult to understand in conversation. (5/15/09)

Dinner with the FT: Sir Tom Stoppard – Illuminating conversation covering the London revival of Arcadia and Stoppard’s adaptation of Chekhov. Plus you get to find out what they spent on the meal.(5/15/09)

Books

Interview: Katherine Dunn – I could’ve sworn I posted this AV Club interview with Katherine “Geek Love” Dunn before, but I’m not finding any link for it on the site. Oops. (5/21/09)

Outsmarted – Another big John Lanchester review/essay in The New Yorker about finance. I’m undecided about reading his new book on the subject, I.O.U.: Why Everyone Owes Everyone and No One Can Pay. (6/1/09)

50 Must-Read Novels from the 20th Century – Do you miss that Literary 0-fers series I used to post, about authors and series I’ve never read a word of? I was going to use this list for that. Since it has White Noise on the list and describes it as “beautifully postmodern,” you don’t really have to subject yourself to this one.

When Lit Blew Into Bits – This was going to be near the center for my Books of the Decade post, which got derailed when a pal of mine died unexpectedly. It’s got some neat arguments, even if it neglects to mention that Oscar Wao is a prose hybrid-rewrite of the Hernandez Bros.’ Love & Rockets comics. (12/6/09)

Rilke the clay pot – I wish I had the stamina to make it through this review of a new translation of Rilke’s poems, a new bio and a collection his correspondence with Lou Andreas-Salomé. Alas, I’m going to delete it after six months. (9/16/09)

The Hack – How did Gabriel Garcia Marquez’ time as a journalist affect his prose? Sadly, I don’t care enough to finish the article. (Jan/Feb 2010)

Hollywood’s Favorite Cowboy – A rare interview with Cormac McCarthy. I don’t dig his work very much, but it’s a fascinating conversation. (11/20/09)

Court of Opinion – A New York Magazine book club-style discussion of Bill Simmons’ Book of Basketball. I quit reading that book after discovering that the Robert Horry writeup consisted of a 3-page reprint of one of Simmons’ columns. Still, it was fun to get other people’s perspectives. (12/8/09)

Movies

Vulcan: The Soul of Spock – A video essay from Matt Zoller Seitz on Spock-As-Othello. (5/6/09)

Zen Pulp: The World of Michael Mann, Pt. 1: Vice Precedent – Zoller Seitz also did a series of video essays on Michael Mann’s movies, partly focusing on the idea that Mann is obsessed with work, albeit not in the way that Charlie Kaufman’s scripts all seem to be about work and how it defines us. (7/1/09)

The Ubiquitous Anderson – A video essay about the pernicious influence of Wes Anderson, from the prism of Rian Johnson’s movie The Brothers Bloom. I haven’t watched this yet and, since I didn’t like The Brothers Bloom very much, probably won’t. (5/21/09)

Quentin Tarantino lists his top films of 2009Star Trek was #1, so whatever.(12/14/09)

Bourgeois Surrender

A pal of mine from St. John’s has been blogging under that handle for a while. I’ve reposted him from time to time.

Music Post – I haven’t clicked through all the links to the music and videos. Glad we share an affinity for the Pet Shop Boys. (Gayyyy. . . .) (10/5/09)

Yeats: “Sailing to Byzantium” – B.S. is a good reader (and re-reader) of books, plays and poetry, so I’ve saved some of the ones for pieces that I’ve yet to read.

Shelley: “Ode to the West Wind” – I wish I read more poetry. (11/4/09)

Julius Caesar: Part I and Part II – Embarrassingly, I haven’t read Julius Caesar yet. I really oughtta get on that. (4/25/09 and 5/1/09)

People Must Love a Good Blog Post – He covers a couple of subjects, but focuses on Hollywood of the 1970’s, considered via Peter Biskind’s book Easy Riders, Raging Bulls, (or How the Sex, Drugs, and Rock and Roll Generation Saved Hollywood).

Books in a Digital Age – I’m afraid this long Sven Birkerts’ essay will boil down to “books good, internet bad,” but I haven’t read it yet. Given the nature of this post of mine, he’s probably right. (Spring 2010)

Comics

Interview: Joe Sacco – I’m saving this till I read Sacco’s Footnotes in Gaza. (1/18/10)

Preface to Mid-Life Creative Imperatives, Part 1 of 3 – Springboarding off Jeet Heer’s post about what great cartoonists did in their middle-age, Gary Groth recently wrote an epic take on the subject. I think. Approaching 40, I was interested in the topic, but feared I wouldn’t finish reading it before turning 50. (2/24/10)

CR Holiday Interviews #9 (Jeet Heer) and #11 (Timothy Hodler) – Tom Spurgeon at Comics Reporter published a great series of interviews around the holidays. I pulled a couple of them and keep meaning to go back and read the whole shebang, but I was most interested in checking out these guys, who are both good comics critics. (12/29/09 and 12/31/09)

Etc.

The Architect of 9/11 – I haven’t gotten around to reading these posts about Mohamed Atta, and how his architecture background may have influenced his radicalism and his role in 9/11. (9/8/09)

The Chess Master and the Computer – I was gonna tie this Garry Kasparov review into a conversation I had c.1994 about how the changeover to CD and digital recording may have subtly affected the way music was played and recorded. Nowadays, some artists are recording in ways that play to the narrower range of MP3 compression and/or ringtone speakers, and I’m glad to be vindicated in that. Playing chess against computers changes the way we learn and play chess. (2/11/10)

Ennui Becomes Us – A National Interest article about how the world’s going to hell or something, as per the second law of thermodynamics. No, seriously: information entropy is behind everything. It’s like Thomas Pynchon c. 1965. (12/16/09)

Seizing the Opportunity to Destroy Western Civilization – Speaking of which, World War I was a black swan. (3/4/10)

Edge People – The latest installment in Tony Judt’s memoirs, post-ALS. (2/23/10)

The agony of a body artist – I’m not sure what I was going to do with this Roger Ebert blog post about performance artist Chris Burden. (10/14/09)

Andy Warhol’s TV – I still wanna write about Plimpton and Warhol and celebrity in New York. I’ll probably get some good material out of watching these Warhol TV shows from the ’80’s.(7/1/09)

NYC Grid

I love Paul Sahner’s daily photo-essays of New York, one block at a time on NYC Grid. But I fell behind last month, and have a couple of them tabbed (as well as a bunch as unread news items).

Just For Me

The Essential Home Bar – I care about my gin. (2/18/10)

This year, I started to care about how I dress, so I have some men’s fashion sites in my RSS.

Feature: Footwear With Jesse Thorn of PutThisOn.com – I need some variety in my shoes, okay? (3/9/10)

The Pants After Jeans – It’s difficult for me to find a pair of pants that fit well (not too tight in the crotchal region, not too balloony for the rest of the leg). (2/28/10)

I still want to get back to fiction writing someday. So:

Ten rules for writing fiction – A bunch of writers offer up their antidote to Elmore Leonard’s weird 10 rules. It took me a while to start it, because I’m that good at procrastinating when it comes to my own writing. (2/20/10)

How to Write a Great Novel: Junot Diaz, Anne Rice, Margaret Atwood and Other Authors Tell – Sort of a shorthand version of those Paris Review Writers At Work interviews. (11/13/09)

Overcoming Creative Block – Strategies visual artists use to get out of a rut. There’s some good stuff in here. I’m sure one technique is to quit reading so many RSS feeds. (2/10/10)

Sometimes

I don’t open books at random too often, but I just did, because I’m kinda bored with Shopgirl, and this was the book I was using as a mouse-pad for my new jerry-rigged media center:

Before I was shot, I always thought that I was more half-there than all-there — I always suspected that I was watching TV instead of living life. People sometimes say that the way things happen in the movies is unreal, but actually it’s the way things happen to you in life that’s unreal. The movies make emotions look so strong and real, whereas when things really do happen to you, it’s like watching television — you don’t feel anything.

Right when I was being shot and ever since, I knew that I was watching television. The channels switch, but it’s all television. When you’re really really involved with something, you’re usually thinking about something else. When something’s happening, you’re usually thinking about something else.

—The Philosophy of Andy Warhol (From A to B and Back Again)

Unrequired Reading: Oct. 23, 2009

Last night, I had dinner with pals in Brooklyn and walked in the door at 1:15 a.m. (at least 40 minutes of my lateness was due to a two-car collision in the Lincoln Tunnel and two separate construction zones near the Meadowlands that turned magically turned three lanes of Rt. 3 into one). This morning, I drive down to suburban Philadelphia to deliver a flatscreen TV to the winner of a raffle at my annual conference. Because my publisher doesn’t want it to get damaged in shipping.

So while you read these links, I’ll be cruising along the highway, checking out the foliage, trying to stay awake, and wondering how this ever became part of my job description.

Oh, just click “more”!

Continue reading “Unrequired Reading: Oct. 23, 2009”

What It Is: 10/19/09

What I’m reading: I finished Moby Dick last week, and got swept up in George, Being George, an oral history of George Plimpton, over the weekend. Reading the section on Plimpton’s divorce from his first wife, I felt really sad for his kids. I went to college with his oldest daughter, but don’t recall having any interaction with her during our time at Hampshire. When I finished that chapter, I thought, “Man, I hope she has kids and they give her a big hug today.” Outside of that, the book’s very entertaining. The scenes at the Paris Review offices sound like they were wonderful, although I’m guessing that, had I submitted a resume back in my post-college days, my name would’ve triggered a lack of a callback. (Not that Plimpton was anti-semitic, so much as, um, well, it just sounds like there weren’t many Jews (or black people) working at the Review, is all I’m saying.) Midway through the book, it occurred to me that Plimpton was “Fitzgerald who wanted to be Hemingway.” I thought this was a pretty good insight until I reached the last quarter of the book, where I learned that Plimpton had in the 1990’s adapted Fitzergald and Hemingway’s correspondence into a dramatic dialogue that he performed with Norman Mailer and Mailer’s wife Norris Church (who played Zelda). So I’m no genius. Anyway, it’s a really fantastic book, despite the sadness of the closing years of Plimpton’s life, where it became clear that his devotion to the social sphere had taken its toll on his body (and was part of his inability to be a good husband). Here’s the only passage that I dog-eared:

JAMES SCOTT LINVILLE: The only time I saw George nervous was when he was about to interview Andy Warhol for the magazine. There was something in Warhol’s voice, which had always been so flat, almost inhuman-seeming, but here . . . well, I thought: My God, he really wants George to like him. I realized he’d have had to have been hurt by the Edie book years before, and here he was talking to him. And George, George clearly did not like him, but he was fascinated by him. I suddenly realized these two guys had in some sense studied each other, for decades, how the other fashioned himself in the media — George of course with his effortlessness, the patrician thing, and Warhol . . . well, whatever he was. It was clear they had each paid attention to how the other had moved through some grid of public awareness.

It’s a topic I’d love to spend time writing about, trying to understand these two representative figures and how they shaped our ideas of celebrity. But I’m too busy watching the Balloon Boy story unfold. (Just kidding; I laughed about the story when it first began and devoted zero time to it after that.)

What I’m listening to: Nothing specific; just letting the iPod shuffle away.

What I’m watching: Adventureland (meh), the Yankees (yay!).

What I’m drinking: Not a thing till I’m over this cold.

What Rufus is up to: Wearing his coat when we go out for walks, and making friends at our local dry cleaner. I was a little nervous when the proprietor said, “Greyhounds are very valuable in Korea!” but he didn’t make any comment about how tasty their haunches are, so yay.

Where I’m going: Probably down to suburban Philadelphia, to deliver a TV. Don’t ask. Also have a get-together with a bunch of pals at Peter Luger in Brooklyn on Thursday evening.

What I’m happy about: That my wife’s pal Kate delivered her baby! Welcome, Charlotte!

What I’m sad about: Getting snow on Thursday. And being sick for basically two straight weeks. Grr.

What I’m worried about: Pettitte will have That One Inning this afternoon in Anaheim. You Yankee fans know what I’m talking about.

What I’m pondering: When NJ diners began getting liquor licenses. Was it around the same time they got rid of their jukeboxes?

Waiting for the eclipse

I haven’t slept well lately, so I assume my fourth estate alter ego has been working overtime on plumbing my mind for good arts articles. What’s in today’s edition of the Official Newspaper of Gil Roth?

  1. a walking tour of the architecture of Park Slope,
  2. a review of an exhibition on the origins of abstract painting in America,
  3. what we draw about when we draw Babar,
  4. Van Gogh: just because,
  5. and the coup de grace: the history (and sales record) of a possibly fictitious acolyte of Andy Warhol.

I guess this means I’ll get better nights of sleep once the Sun closes up shop, but my arts life is going to be a lot less interesting.