Parallel Universe: Pazzo, Part One. ROBOTS

The first episode in its spine tingling entirety! Introduction by Josh Glenn! Here it is: the first episode of “Parallel Universe: Pazzo,” Hilobrow.com’s Radium-Age Science Fiction podcast, recorded every month (as of January ’10) at Pazzo Books, here in Boston. Below, you’ll find an introduction to Radium-Age (roughly, 1900-35) science fiction, about which I’ve written [...]

A [Very] Short History of Sauce Allemande

Not just a sauce; an allemande by Johann Jakob Froberger

Marie Antonin Carême (author of the encyclopedic, L’Art de la Cuisine Française, 1834) categorized all sauces as belonging to one of the five “Mother Sauces“, Sauce Allemande is from velouté sauce, a blond sauce of veal (or chicken) stock thickened with a roux of butter and flour. Later on, Escoffier (A Complete Guide to Modern Cookery) added a few mother sauces and further normalized preparations. I can find no mention of Sauce Allemande before Menon (Nouveau Traité de la Cuisine, etc.), Marin (Les Dons de Comus) and Le Cuisinier Gascon – this isn’t terribly surprising, as there is a gap in French cookbooks between La Varenne’s mid 17th century works and these:

Menon Nouveau Traité de la Cuisine, 1739

Sauce à l’Allemande.
Mettez dans une casserole. une tranche de Jambon que vous faites suer & un peu attacher : mouillez-la avec du bouillon &c du coulis : faites-la bouillir: quand elle eft réduite & dégraiflëe, paflez-la au tamis Se mettez dedans des soyes & persil blanchi , & hachez câpres & anchois ; hachez deux ciboules entieres , deux pains de beurre de Vambre ; faites lier la sauce furie feu , qu’elle ne foit pas trop épaifle ; ôtez le ciboules & mettez-y un peu de gros poivre , & le jus d’un citron.

Put in a casserole. a slice of ham that you sweat & just attach: moisten it with broth: boil it: when it is reduced & deglazed, pass it to through a sieve. With the blanched parsley, mill & chop capers & anchovies, chop two whole onions, two kilos of fresh, sweet butter [literally butter from Vanvres, an 18th century delicacy]; add the butter to the sauce with the fire raging, when not too thick, remove the onions & put it a little coarse pepper, and the juice of a lemon.

A Mention of Sauce Allemand in Oeconomische (Oekonomisch-technologische) Encyclopädie, oder allgemeines ... By Johann Georg Krünitz 1811

The cook’s dictionary, and housekeeper’s directory by Richard Dolby, 1833
Sauce à Г Allemande.*—Put a slice of ham, and some champignons (previously dressed and shred) into a stewpan ; set it on the fire, and when the ham begins to stick, moisten it with stock and consamie, boil and reduce it ; then take off the fat, strain the sauce, and add to it some scalded parsley, two fat livers, capers, anchovies, scalíions, all chopped, add a bit of butter, put it again on the fire, and when of the requisite consistence, take out the scallions, put in some migncmette and lemon juice, and strain it for use.

La grande cuisine simplifiée,: art de la cuisine nouvelle mise à la portée … By P. C. Robert, 1845

Sauce allemande.
Mettez dans une casserole sur le feu 3 cuillerées de velouté, une de consommé, faites réduire à point; mettez-y une liaison de 2 jaunes d’œufs, gros comme un œuf de bon beurre, un petit jus de citron; passez votre sauce à l’élamine et tenez-la chaudement au bain-marie jusqu’au moment de l’employer.

Put in a saucepan on the heat 3 tablespoons of sauce velouté , 1 tablespoon consommé, just so; make a liaison with 2 egg yolks, as big as an egg of good butter, a little lemon juice, pass your sauce through a strainer [I think élamine is just a highly technical term for sieve] and keep it warm in a bain-marie until ready to use.

Escoffier, A Complete Guide to Modern Cookery, 1908

Allemande Sauce is not, strictly speaking,, a basic sauce. However, it is so often resorted to in the preparation of other sauces that I think it necessary to give it after the Veloutes, from which it is derived.
Quantities Required for One Quart.

The yolks of 5 eggs. the juice of a lemon.
1 pint of cold white stock. pint of mushroom liquor.
1 quart of Veloute, well despu-
mated. .

Mode of Procedure.—Put the various ingredients in a thick-bottomed saute”-pan and mix them carefully. Then put the pan on an open fire, and stir the sauce with a metal spatula, lest it burn at the bottom. When the sauce has been reduced to about one quart, add one-third pint of fresh cream to it, and reduce further for a few minutes. It should then be passed through a fine strainer into a tureen and kept moving until quite cold.

Prepared thus, the Allemande Sauce is ready for the prepara tion of the smaller sauces. Butter must only be added at the very last moment, for if it were buttered any earlier it would most surely turn. The same injunction holds good with this sauce when it is to be served in its original state; it should then receive a small addition of cream, and be buttered so that it may attain its required delicacy; but this addition of butter and cream ought only to be made at the last moment, and away from the fire. When a sauce thickened with egg yolks has any fat substance added to it, it cannot be exposed to a higher tempera ture than 140 degrees Fahrenheit without risking decomposition.

The Picayune Creole Cook Book, 1922
Sauce Allemande
4 Pounds of Raw Veal.
The Bones of a Chicken.
1 Gallon of Water.
1 Carrot.
1 Turnip.
Celery Tops.
2 Tablespoonfuls of Butter.
2 Spoonfuls of Lard. 1 Herb Bouquet of Thyme, Parsley, Bay Leaf. 1 Stalk of Celery. 2 Long Carrots.

Take the veal and the bones of the chicken and put into a pot with a gallon of water. Add the herb bouquet, tied together, and one chopped carrot, one turnip, chopped, celery tops, and other ingredients of a good “pot-au-feu.” Let all boil slowly for three hours until it is reduced onehalf. Then salt and pepper to taste. This will give a white broth or consommé blanc. When boiled to this point take off the fire and strain the broth into a jar. Now put two tablespoonfuls of butter and three of flour. into a saucepan together, letting the butter and flour blend nicely, without browning. Add all the broth to this, stirring slowly while on the flre. Add a good, strong bouquet of herbs, Ihyme, parsley and bay leaf, all tied together whole. Add two large carrots, letting all boil till reduced to one-half again. After this process, season to taste, and when It has reached the consistency of starch take it from the fire, strain, and let it get cool. This sauce is fine for all white meats and fish. When used for fish take one tablespoonful and moisten with a little fish broth. Set on the fire to heat, and add a pint of consommé or broth. This sauce Allemande will keep at least one month in our climate, in the ice box. If one prefers to make it as needed, follow the proportions of one tablespoonful of butter, two of flour, and one pint of boiling broth.

Unfinished

I like the British genre of the review which, while otherwise favorable, enumerates a paragraph or two of errors in the penultimate paragraph:
Murdoch’s youthful mind is as sharp and polished as a sword, but Conradi’s editing is not. Random footnotes pop up like glove puppets interrupting a soliloquy, to explain that “Je t’aime” means “I love you” and that Baudelaire is a French poet. There is no index, there are typos galore and a footnote that refers to the missing last page of Thompson’s final letter to Murdoch is itself tantalisingly unfinished — “how Frank signed off his last letter we will probably never”.

New Review: Gail Godwin’s Unfinished Desires

My review of Gail Godwin’s Unfinished Desires appears in today’s Chicago Sun-Times. Here’s the first paragraph:

Over the past half-century, the extreme religious right, as documented in Michelle Goldberg’s Kingdom Coming, has transformed certain fidelities about faith into snaky traducements that resemble a spastic Tex Avery cartoon. This surrender of common sense has sullied the more sober connections between spirituality and American life, creating an exploratory reticence among novelists that has softly settled into the cultural berm. But Gail Godwin, one of American literature’s best-kept secrets, has quietly eked out a thoughtful bypass in which orthodoxy and human folly are often entangled.

You can also listen to my recent interview with Godwin on The Bat Segundo Show.

As widely reported, Amazon has removed all Macmillan titles from its site. This means that you won’t be able to buy new print or digital books from Paul Auster, John Scalzi, Richard Powers, or countless other authors bundled inside Macmillan’s many imprints through the Amazon website. The dispute, according to Macmillan CEO John Sargent, arose from a Thursday meeting Sargent had with Amazon, in which Sargent proposed new terms of sale for eBooks. Sargent desired to set the price for eBooks on an individual basis and under an agency model, sidestepping the austere $9.99 price point that Amazon has long insisted on for its Kindle titles. It is safe to say that Amazon, feeling particularly smug after reporting a profitable fourth quarter, felt compelled to not only have its cake and eat it too, but to throw numerous books beneath its oily guillotine. By the time Sargent returned to New York on Friday afternoon, the buy option for Macmillan’s books — both print and digital — had disappeared from Amazon’s website. Bookstores have often refused to stock individual titles. (In 2004, Amazon.co.uk refused to carry Craig Unger’s House of Bush, House of Saud.) But it’s important to understand that not a single bookstore chain has ever discriminated against a publisher like this before. It’s also important to understand that the laws of vertical integration — most famously ruled on through United States v. Paramount Pictures, Inc., in which motion picture studios, who produced the movies and owned the theaters that they played in, were ordered to break up their monopolies — don’t necessarily apply. Amazon may not be owned by the publishers, but there are some indicators that the company controls 90% of the eBook market, effectively securing a monopoly. While Sargent’s statement is the only real word that has emerged from this conflict (Amazon has remained mum), Amazon’s lack of transparency about the sudden removal of Macmillan books, as Michael Orthofer severely understates, is unacceptable, possibly violating federal price discrimination statutes that were guaranteed under the 1936 Robinson-Patnam Act. And it remains to be seen whether the Federal Trade Commission, which has recently devoted its resources to badgering bloggers, will investigate these troubling developments to determine if its creaky howitzers might be rolled out to combat this greater greed. But these developments have caused some authors, viewing Amazon’s aggressive pricing as a grave threat to their livelihood, to take umbrage. John Scalzi writes, “If Amazon is willing to play chicken with my economic well-being — and the economic well-being of many of my friends — to lock up its little corner of the eBook field, well, that’s its call to make. But, you know what, I remember people who are happy to trample my ass into the dirt as they’re rushing to grab at cash.” Charles Stross writes, “Amazon, in declaring war on Macmillan in this underhand way, have screwed me, and I tend to take that personally, because they didn’t need to do that.” UPDATE: I’ve just received word that the Amazon Kindle Team has addressed the situation in a forum, stating that “we will have to capitulate and accept Macmillan’s terms because Macmillan has a monopoly over their own titles, and we will want to offer them to you even at prices we believe are needlessly high for e-books.” Significant Tweets for 2010-01-31 Powered by Twitter Tools winter Noting > The Comic Book of Thoth This month, I began writing a series of articles for Hilobrow, one of my favorite websites for cultural commentary. I began with a look back at the Rider-Waite (or Rider-Waite-Smith) Tarot deck… pavilion.net [Image: Pole Dance, P.S. 1 competition-winning design by SO-IL]. I have to admit to being less than overwhelmed by the annual P.S. 1 competition—aka the Young Architects Program—as well as by the annual Serpentine Pavilion in London, but this year’s P.S. 1 winner, by Brooklyn-based SO-IL, looks pretty amazing. [Image: Pole Dance, P.S. 1 competition-winning design by SO-IL]. Although it will be nothing but a sea of bungee-anchored soccer nets and wobbly fiber-glass poles—with some colored balls thrown overhead as mobile ornaments—the structure has the feel of being the framework for an emerging game, an obscure sport whose spatial rules are yet to be determined. As the architects themselves explain in their initial proposal, “On discovery of its elasticity, visitors engage with the structure, to envision games, test its limits or just watch it gently dance.” [Images: Pole Dance by SO-IL]. Put another way, if Yona Friedman were to become president of FIFA, perhaps this would be the weird new playing field he might develop. [Image: Pole Dance by SO-IL]. The view from the street, of tall poles gently swaying amidst nets, will also be interesting to see. While you’re on SO-IL‘s website, check out their proposal Party Wall, as well as their well-weathered documentation of a garden shed in Belgium. Escoffier renamed it Sauce Blo… Escoffier renamed it Sauce Blonde after World War I. Week of Links 1/31 iPad…as family computer, as return to long form journalism, as taking over the textbook market, also entirely locked down, not a big iPhonefor old people….because it appeals to just about anyone. How to give a presention like Steve Jobs (no bulletpoints.) Jobs the auteur. Apple-free Engadget. Kim Morgan makes me want to see every movie she likes. Stag Heads With Human Faces. CD-Rom all over again. Caleb Crain on book pirates…and I’ve been thinking about this all week. The digital trashcan (a “boomeranged metaphor.”) Stefan Zweig is middlebrow. What’s next for Roger Hodge? Is Indie dead? Hilo microfiction contest. Interactive theater in Boston. Weekly World News on Google Books. Nick Denton’s blogs from minor to major league. At Sundance, New Routes to Finding an Audience. Globe Ideas on “cognitive fluency.” “I want the luxury of being able to push the pause button” – Douglas Rushkoff. Heather Havrikesky reviews his Frontline show “Digital Nation.” Ian Buruma on China/Google at WSJ on “Battling the Information Barbarians.” “Pay close attention to the most tedious thing you can find (Tax Returns, Televised Golf) and, in waves, a boredom like you’ve never known will wash over you and just about kill you. Ride these out, and it’s like stepping from black and white into color. Like water after days in the desert. Instant bliss in every atom.” – DFW. “The Internet is thrusting death upon me at a rate I’m not entirely equipped to deal with.” Boston is the “most challenging” large city to navigate in the United States. And congratulations Robin Sloan! R.I.P. Howard Zinn and J.D. Salinger I’m worried that all that’s going to be left of this blog is a running obituary, but both were great and deserve tribute. Below, a video of The People’s History of American Empire: And a fitting Salinger tribute you’ve probably already read at The Onion. Photo Help fun SketchyCon: The International Conference of Dr. Sketchy’s Organizers Wish List: Vintage Accutron “Astronaut” Watch The coolest watch ever? If you happen to have one you’re not using, please consider donating it to Significant Objects. *** This is the second in an irregular series of posts aimed at raising awareness, among the Significant Objects readership, of the project curators’ wants and needs. Hain-Matsumoto, “Galois actions on fundamental groups of curves…” I recently had occasion to spend some time with Richard Hain and Makoto Matsumoto’s 2005 paper “Galois actions on fundamental groups and the cycle C – C^-,” which I’d always meant to delve into. It’s really beautiful! I cannot say I’ve really delved — maybe something more like scratched — but I wanted to share some very interesting things I learned. Serre proved long ago that the image of the l-adic Galois representation on an elliptic curve E/Q is open in GL_2(Z_l), so long as E doesn’t have CM. This is a geometric condition on E, which is to say it only depends on the basechange of E to an algebraic closure of Q, or even to C. What’s the analogue for higher genus curves X? You might start by asking about the image of the Galois representation G_Q -> GSp_2g(Z_l) attached to the Tate module of the Jacobian of X. This image lands in GSp_{2g}(Z_l). Just as with elliptic curves, any extra endomorphisms of Jac(X) may force the image to be much smaller than GSp_{2g}(Z_l). But the question of whether the image of rho must be open in GSp_2g(Z_l) whenever no “obvious” geometric obstruction forbids it is difficult, and still not completely understood. (I believe it’s still unknown when g is a multiple of 4…?) One thing we do know in general, though, is that when X is the generic curve of genus g (that is, the universal curve over the function field Q(M_g) of M_g) the resulting representation $\rho^{univ}: G_{Q(M_g)} \rightarrow GSp_{2g}(\mathbf{Z}_\ell)$ is surjective. Hain and Matsumoto generalize in a different direction. When X is a curve of genus greater than 1 over a field K, the Galois group of K acts on more than just the Tate modules (or l-adic H_1) of X; it acts on the whole pro-l geometric fundamental group of X, which we denote pi. So we get a morphism $\rho_{X/K}: G_K \rightarrow Aut(\pi)$ What does it mean to ask this representation to have “big image”? Well, just as in the Tate module story above, we can ask about the image of rho when K is the function field of M_g and X is the universal curve. Denote the image of this Galois representation in Out(pi) by G. Then you might ask: for a curve X over a number field K, can we give a condition guaranteeing that the image of rho_{X/K} is open in G? The theorem of Hain and Matsumoto doesn’t quite answer that question, but it makes an impressive stride in its direction. For each positive integer m, let L_m be the mth term of the lower central series of pi (so that L^2 = [pi,pi], L^3 =[pi,[pi,pi]] and so on.) Let G_m be the image of G in Out(pi/L^{m+1}). So G_1, for instance, is just GSp_{2g}(Z_l). Now you can ask the following “big image” question for each m: (Q): Is the image of rho_{X/K} in Out(pi/L^{m+1}) open in G_m? Now we’ve already remarked that the question is subtle for G_1. So let’s assume that (Q) has an affirmative answer for m=1. We also take g(X) >= 3. Then Hain and Matsumoto prove: [HM, Th 9.1 a-b]: (Q) has a positive answer for m=2 if and only if it has a positive answer for all m >=2. You might think of this as a non-abelian analogue of the theorem (for which see [IV, 3.4, Lemma 3] of Serre’s book “Abelian l-adic Representations and Elliptic Curves”) that an l-adic Galois representation is surjective if and only if it is surjective mod l^k, for some k depending only on the target group. But wait, there’s more! One might ask whether, as in the case of elliptic curves, there’s a geometric condition distinguishing those X where (Q) holds from those where it doesn’t. It’s not hard to check, by the way, that (Q) isn’t always the case! Once again, extra endomorphisms can force the image of Galois can be smaller; for instance, when X is a hyperelliptic curve the image of rho_{X/K} will always be smaller than the generic image. (Did you remember I said the genus of X was at least 3…?) Now we come to the main theme of Hain and Matsumoto’s paper. Choose a basepoint x on X. Then the Abel-Jacobi map associated to X gives you an embedding of X in the abelian g-fold Jac(X). Consider the algebraic cycle Z = [X] – [-1]^*[X], where [-1] is multiplication by -1 on Jac(X). The cohomology class of Z in H^{2g-2}(J(X),Z_l(g-1)) is trivial; thus, Z has a well-defined cycle class in H^1(G_K, H^{2g-3}(J(X),Z_l(g-1)). We move this class over to H^1(G_K, H^3(J(X),Z_l(2))) by Poincare duality. Now H^3(J(X)) is just wedge^3 H^1(X), and we can put a copy of H^1(X) inside H^3(J(X)) by wedging it with the symplectic form in wedge^2 H^1(X). The quotient of H^3(J(X)) by this copy of H^1(X) is an l-adic Galois module we call V, which is pure of weight 1. We can project our cohomology class down to V to get a class nu in H^1(G_K, V), which turns out to be independent of the choice of basepoint. Now the theorem of Hain and Matsumoto says: [H-M, Th 9.2 c] (Q) has a positive answer for all m >= 2 if and only if it has a positive answer for m = 1 and the class nu has infinite order. Note that this is indeed a geometric condition — at least in the sense that if it holds after replacing K with a finite extension, it holds for K. Unlike “non-CM,” though, it’s not clear to make sense of it for a curve with transcendental moduli; just one more indication that you should really think of such an object, not as a curve, but as a family of curves over number fields, the dimension of the family being the transcendence degree of the moduli. (In this sense, maybe nu should be thought of as always infinite-order when the moduli of X are transcendental, just as an elliptic curve with transcendental j-invariant is automatically non-CM…?) I’ll leave it as an exercise to check that nu vanishes when X is hyperelliptic. One question remains: what made me go back to Hain and Matsumoto’s paper? It was the beautiful lecture series Shou-Wu Zhang gave here at Madison last month about his work on the Arakelov-theoretic properties of the Gross-Schoen cycle. And the Gross-Schoen cycle, as Hain and Matsumoto point out (Remark 1.1 d) is just three times nu! If time permits I’ll blog about his talks, too; but maybe there’s no need, since you can always read Terry Tao’s take on a similar lecture series at UCLA. My New Cover for Weird Tales Magazine I recently had the incredibly enviable task of doing the cover for Weird Tales’ Steampunk Spectacular. I did a wicked robot lady that referances several stories inside. Weird Tales rocks it, so be sure to preorder Significant fake branding Here’s yet another twist on adding an invented narrative to a seemingly low-value thingamabob: Designer Matt Brown bought a pack of 15 plastic horses for a couple of bucks. Then he dreamed up a name for each one, then packaging, reconceptualizing his two-dollar purchase as a line of toys, Night Horses, that were introduced in the late 1980s, and flopped. Hey, remember Night Horses? (No, you don't.) I love it! More recently Brown has embarked on another project, turning some toy cars into another failed product line. They’ll be retroactively rebranded as Throttle Dukes. More here. Throttle Dukes, to be. Is this more evidence of the “significant objects meme” Josh has detected? I don’t know. What I really want to know is: How can we work with this guy? He’s great! “I like taking things that are basically worthless and neglected and turning them into something that people could enjoy again,” he writes. Combine that with my longstanding interest in imaginary brands, and you can see why I’m so into it. (Via Metafilter, by the way, where Brown was referred to as a “design fiction enthusiast.”) Photo Gorey details I'm not sure what the concept is—but the jokes are pretty funny. (From Andrew) “On the Subject of Sex” At the NYTBR, Ben Macintyre reviews Christopher Andrew's history of MI5: Perhaps inevitably, in an organization relying on imagination and subterfuge, the ranks of MI5 included more than a fair share of eccentrics and fantasists. Among the most notable of these was one Maxwell Knight, whose agents successfully penetrated both Fascist and Communist networks in London. He was also a passionate naturalist who went on to become “Uncle Max,” a much loved children’s broadcaster on the BBC. Knight could often be seen taking his pet bear, Bessie, for walks around London. He published the definitive book on how to keep a domesticated gorilla. He also wrote a delightful internal MI5 memo, “On the Subject of Sex, in connection with using women as agents.” This declares: “It is difficult to imagine anything more terrifying than for an officer to become landed with a woman agent who suffers from an overdose of Sex.” (Knight consistently capitalizes “Sex,” of which he was plainly ­terrified.) Mellifluous selves At the Guardian Review, Rachel Cusk considers the apparently well-meaning question, posed to many university lecturers in creative writing, of whether writing can be taught: [W]riting, more than any other art, is indexed to the worthiness of the self because it is identified in people's minds with emotion. When a child writes a story she experiences her personal world as something socially valuable: her egotism, if you will, is configured as a force for good; by writing she makes herself important, she asserts her equality with – and becomes conterminous with – everything around her. But as she grows older this situation changes. She is no longer "good" at writing. This is partly because she sees that its representational burden has become more complex. But it is also because the nature of her own importance is no longer quite so clear. The private and the public have become uncoupled; and consequently there now appear to be two kinds of writing where before there was one. There is the private, emotional writing and there is the public, representational writing. The first is too subjective to be anything other than a secret; and the second is too daunting, too objective, to attempt. When worlds collide Lev Grossman comments on a Douglas Wolk piece. Blake effect (Via Jeff) Money, freedom, anxiety A great piece by John Lanchester at the FT on how he came to write a book about money (FT site registration required). Cockles and mussels Archeologists sift through remains to determine Elizabethan theatergoers' snack preferences: The preferred snacks for Tudor theatre-goers appear to have been oysters, crabs, cockles, mussels, periwinkles and whelks, as well as walnuts, hazelnuts, raisins, plums, cherries, dried figs and peaches. Some clues even suggest that 16th-century fans of William Shakespeare and Christopher Marlowe also ploughed through vast quantities of elderberry and blackberry pie – and some may even have snacked on sturgeon steaks. Bonus link: a nice WNYC piece about Tino's Guggenheim exhibit - I did a shift this afternoon, it was quite tiring but also very enjoyable... Three specially famous lady aerialistic stars Hubba hubba. aerialist #3 From 1890. I think I’m doing this series of posts on images of trapeze artists/ tightrope walkers because the word “aerialist” is so cool. aerialist #2 Aerialist wearing wings strapped to his shoulders and feet while suspended from a balloon Between 1870 and 1900 aerialist Aerial daredevils existed in the age of ballooning, as well as the age of powered flight. One assumes this woman was a circus performer who got swept up in the ballooning mania. The image itself has a surprisingly dreamlike quality, which is at odds with its inherent horror. a strong beat to step to It's hard to post something without spilling the beans when there are beans to be spilled. But the good news is that I've joined the team over at Time's Techland blog--I'll be writing about comics for them! My first piece for them just went up today: it's on "Wizzywig" and "Footnotes in Gaza." Other recent links with my name attached to them: I wrote about Rakim for Hilobrow, Binky Brown Meets the Holy Virgin Mary for Barnes & Noble, Siege for the Savage Critic, and a bunch of stuff for eMusic, like this piece on Loveless and its antecedents. Also, I'll be in this book, and maybe another one...! At some point, I plan to develop an interior life, too. My new year's resolution of drinking three glasses of wine a week (this represents a drastic increase, not a decrease) might help with that, I'm thinking. a strong beat to step to It's hard to post something without spilling the beans when there are beans to be spilled. But the good news is that I've joined the team over at Time's Techland blog--I'll be writing about comics for them! My first piece for them just went up today: it's on "Wizzywig" and "Footnotes in Gaza." Other recent links with my name attached to them: I wrote about Rakim for Hilobrow, Binky Brown Meets the Holy Virgin Mary for Barnes & Noble, Siege for the Savage Critic, and a bunch of stuff for eMusic, like this piece on Loveless and its antecedents. Also, I'll be in this book, and maybe another one...! At some point, I plan to develop an interior life, too. My new year's resolution of drinking three glasses of wine a week (this represents a drastic increase, not a decrease) might help with that, I'm thinking. a strong beat to step to It's hard to post something without spilling the beans when there are beans to be spilled. But the good news is that I've joined the team over at Time's Techland blog--I'll be writing about comics for them! My first piece for them just went up today: it's on "Wizzywig" and "Footnotes in Gaza." Other recent links with my name attached to them: I wrote about Rakim for Hilobrow, Binky Brown Meets the Holy Virgin Mary for Barnes & Noble, Siege for the Savage Critic, and a bunch of stuff for eMusic, like this piece on Loveless and its antecedents. Also, I'll be in this book, and maybe another one...! At some point, I plan to develop an interior life, too. My new year's resolution of drinking three glasses of wine a week (this represents a drastic increase, not a decrease) might help with that, I'm thinking. Newburgh??? Oh man, if the rumors are true, and KSM is tried in Newburgh (across the river from me), I will LIVE-BLOG THE SHIT OUT OF IT. That’s my word. Digital Nation – my new documentary – Tuesday 2/2 on PBS Digital Nation – a PBS Frontline documentary I’ve been working on for, gosh, two years now – is finally airing this coming Tuesday evening, Feb 2, at 9pm on pretty much all PBS stations in US. (I know: that’s during the Lost premiere that even Obama feared going up against. But you can Tivo Lost, watch us live, and watch Lost after without the commercials.) For those of you outside the viewing area or without TV’s, you can watch the whole thing anytime from broadcast onwards by going to http://pbsdigitalnation.org Meanwhile, I’m happy to announce that Frontline has agreed to let me host a series of Roundtable discussions following the broadcast. One per month, with invited guests and running commentary from you. (I’m shooting for something like the Talmudic format Steven Johnson used for Feed magazine – still the best threaded dialogues I can remember happening online between a central conversation and the general public. With any luck, these Roundtables will be the next main thing I’m doing – and I really do need quality conversation to happen there to keep it alive. The above clip – Patrick Stewart on Twitter, the iPhone, and his passion for gaming – is not in the show. But it is an example of the kind of conversations and guests we’ll be having in the Roundtables – both by text and video. So please, come to pbsdigitalnation.org after the show and share your thoughts with the people who were in it, see the discussion in progress, and push the participants to go deeper. Most important, suggest topics and guests – including yourself – you’d like to see on there. The Supreme Court’s campaign-finance decision: how big a deal? Heather Gerken, of Yale Law School, argues that critics of the Supreme Court’s recent campaign-finance decision may be exaggerating its practical effects. The truth, she says, is that the court had already largely stripped away the restrictions that reformers had championed. The Bat Segundo Show: Sue Grafton Sue Grafton recently appeared on The Bat Segundo Show #320. Grafton is most recently the author of U is for Undertow. Condition of Mr. Segundo: Looking for a man named Snake to help him escape from Santa Teresa. Author: Sue Grafton Subjects Discussed: Kinsey Millhone’s early announcement to the readers regarding the bad guys, foreshadowing murder, not writing the same book twice, the ethics of investigation, the emotions associated with kidnapped children, Jaycee Dugard, Scott Smith’s A Simple Plan, gray areas of moral conduct, the difficulties reconciling real crime and fictional crime, the horror of people killing each other over a pair of tennis shoes, Grafton’s comfort level, working from an arsenal of journals, juggling voices and large character canvases, the writer’s fantasy of having the luxury of time, the solace of observing creative struggle in past books, being influenced by the complaints of a single reader, the motivation behind creating a mystery writer character, Howard Unruh and Grafton’s “Unruh,” why Grafton wishes to take the alphabet series to Z, Grafton’s reluctance to embrace Hollywood and Grafton’s early career as a screenwriter, Nabokov’s The Original of Laura, and Grafton’s relationship with readers and the mystery community. EXCERPT FROM SHOW: Grafton: I don’t like to repel readers. I mean, we’re always dealing with homicide and violence of this sort, which is difficult enough. I don’t want to rub that in my reader’s face. Correspondent: So it’s like, on the one hand, with this crime, you wanted to keep it off stage so that the gory details didn’t come front and center. Grafton: Right. Correspondent: But in other instances, like what we just talked about, you like to foreshadow and give the reader a taste of what’s going on. Do you feel these are contradictory impulses? Grafton: I don’t know. If they are contradictory, I hope it’s an interesting contradiction. In some ways, in the reports you get about the crime itself from another child who is involved, by hook or by crook, nothing evil happens. And I hope I’ve gained a little sense. This is a story about people who make mistakes, people who use poor judgment. It is not the act of wicked evil men. These are kids who do something stupid and it backfires. Correspondent: But in a way, at least when I was reading you, it almost struck me as being more horrible — not to get into Hannah Arendt’s banality of evil, but that’s essentially what you set up here. These people are sucked into the situation by virtue of their own stupidity. Their drug use, who they hang out with. And it almost feels — have you read A Simple Plan by Scott Smith? Grafton: No. Correspondent: It was made into a movie with Billy Bob Thornton and the like. But it’s a similar thing, where you start off with one guy and he does one act, and then another action. And you suddenly realize you’re drawn into a world as he’s doing really horrible things. And there’s a justification for everything. And I really did find that you did establish that there’s a weird little justification for how things developed. And even though these are horrible crimes, there’s some underlying motivation. This goes back to structure and the like. What did you know about you prior to setting it all down? And I do want to get into the writing process a bit. But what did you know first off? Grafton: Well, part of what I feel I’m doing here is — and some of this I discover after the fact. I think of this as the anatomy of a crime. This is that strange subterranean accumulation of events that results in a crime. And I thought it was interesting to look at it from that perspective. One thing I’m fascinated by, at this pace in my career, is gray areas. Black and white and evil, while repellent, are not as representative of the public at large. Many people, I think, cross the line. That’s always a question to me. What makes people cross the line? Most people are law-abiding, good-natured, and yet circumstances. You know, I think many criminals are not evil people. They’re not pathologically twisted. Many ordinary folk somehow wander from the straight and narrow. And those kinds of deviations, and those kinds of crimes, are interesting to me. Because they’re a little closer to the norm. They are still outside what I consider acceptable behavior. But it’s not as cut and dried as many types of crime might be. The Bat Segundo Show #320 (Download MP3) This text will be replaced Globe Paperweight Object No. 40 of 50 — Significant Objects v2 [Bid on this Significant Object, with hand-written story by Debbie Millman, here. Significant Objects will donate the proceeds of this auction to 826 National.] The Mystery Object Revealed! Story-As-Object To Follow Congratulations to Paula Newman, for scoring The Mystery Object with Story By Ben Greenman, with a$103.50 bid! The auction’s final 30 seconds were pretty exciting.

So what is it? The answer below the fold, as they say.

The wily curators of Significant Objects will now follow up this story-without-a-known-object with a story that in a sense is itself an object. Debbie Millman has added Significance to a thrift-store doodad for us by way of a story hand-written on notebook paper — making the tale a unique item of its own, which of course the winning bidder will also receive. That auction begins shortly.

Now, back to the Mystery Object:

Read the story again, with this object knowledge acquired, here.

We’re auctioning off a copy of John Baskerville’s edition of Terence (Baskerville is best known for the eponymous typeface but also printed lovely editions of books in the mid-late 18th century). Benjamin Franklin liked Baskerville’s typefaces so much that he brought them back to the U.S. where they were the font of choice for government print [...]

My cousin—Louis Auchincloss?

After the invasion he was sent to the Pacific and while onboard a ship to Japan wrote another novel, only to throw it in the trash. He finally began his writing career with “The Indifferent Children,” a novel published by Prentice-Hall in 1947 after he had returned to Sullivan & Cromwell. It appeared under the pseudonym Andrew Lee, in deference to his mother, who thought the book “trivial and vulgar” and feared it would damage his career. —NYT

Tonight! Open Book: first meeting of the Boston bookfuturists

Tonight! Open Book: the first Boston Bookfuturists Meetup is at Microsoft’s Cambridge office at 7pm. We’ve got Joshua Glenn co-creator of Significant Objects and Hilobrow. Matthew Battles, also of Hilo, author of Library: An Unquiet History. New media artist Peggy Nelson and filmmaker Sean Fizroy are also presenting. As well as author Stona Fitch, founder of the Concord Free Press (with gifts.) Oh, yeah, and I’m going to be hosting it. C’mon! It’s going to be amazing!

Lunar Archaeology

[Image: Humans creating a future archaeological site on the moon].

In a meeting today in Sacramento, commissioners might vote to register items left behind on the moon by Apollo astronauts “as an official State Historical Resource,” the L.A. Times reports.

After all, “California law allows listing historical resources beyond the state’s borders—even if it’s more than 238,000 miles away.”

Some of the 5,000 pounds of stuff Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin abandoned at Tranquility Base was purposeful: a seismic detector to record moonquakes and meteorite impacts; a laser-reflection device to make precise distance measurements between Earth and the moon; a U.S. flag and commemorative plaque. Some was unavoidable: Apollo 11′s lunar module descent stage wasn’t designed to be carted back home, for instance.

“They were told to jettison things that weren’t important,” anthropologist Beth O’Leary, “a leader in the emerging field of space heritage and archaeology,” tells the newspaper. “They were essentially told, ‘Here’s eight minutes, create an archaeology site.’”"

If the Apollo site does become, incredibly, a California state landmark, this decision will open a legal path for the location to be recognized as an official UNESCO World Heritage Site. This, in turn, will help protect it from vandalism during “unmanned trips to the moon by private groups, and even someday by tourists.” While the implied vision of Indiana Jones, Astronaut, is an exciting one, the idea that the State of California could someday have historical jurisdiction—or something like it—over a fragment of the moon’s surface seems genuinely astonishing to me. Perhaps we could even have it declared part of Los Angeles County—the first offworld municipal exclave.

Texas and New Mexico also have plans to “place the items on historic registries” later this year, we read.

Must modernism be dour?

Magazines like Dwell can be beautiful and aesthetically inspiring, but is there something missing, a sense of joy, perhaps?

That’s the premise behind Unhappy Hipsters, a blog that reprints images from design magazines–okay, so far just Dwell–featuring people relaxing or working in high-taste, high-modern surroundings. And looking pretty miserable while doing so

[Image: Via montenegro.com].

Somehow this morning I ended reading about an artificial island and devotional chapel constructed in Montenegro’s Bay of Kotor.

“In 1452,” we read at montenegro.com, “two sailors from Perast happened by a small rock jutting out of the bay after a long day at sea and discovered a picture of the Virgin Mary perched upon the stone.” Thus began a process of dumping more stones into the bay in order to expand this lonely, seemingly blessed rock—as well as loading the hulls of old fishing boats with stones in order to sink them beneath the waves, adding to the island’s growing landmass.

Eventually, in 1630, a small chapel was constructed atop this strange half-geological, half-shipbuilt assemblage.

[Image: Via Skyscraper City].

Throwing stones into the bay and, in the process, incrementally expanding the island’s surface area, has apparently become a local religious tradition: “The custom of throwing rocks into the sea is alive even nowadays. Every year on the sunset of July 22, an event called fašinada, when local residents take their boats and throw rocks into the sea, widening the surface of the island, takes place.”

The idea that devotional rock-throwing has become an art of creating new terrain, generation after generation, rock after rock, pebble after pebble, is stunning to me. Perhaps in a thousand years, a whole archipelago of churches will exist there, standing atop a waterlogged maze of old pleasure boats and fishing ships, the mainland hills and valleys nearby denuded of loose stones altogether. Inadvertently, then, this is as much a museum of local geology—a catalog of rocks—as it is a churchyard.

In fact, it doesn’t seem inaccurate to view this as a vernacular version of Vicente Guallart‘s interest in architecturally constructing new hills and coastlines based on a logical study of the geometry of rocks.

Here, the slow creation of new inhabitable terrain simply takes place in the guise of an annual religious festival—pilgrims assembling islands with every arm’s throw.

HOWARD + JD + FOREVER

My friend and Portland neighbor Nicole Georges has posted this drawing she did for a magazine a couple of years ago.
And you kind of can't beat the The Onion's obituary for J.D. Salinger
CORNISH, NH—In this big dramatic production that didn't do anyone any good (and was pretty embarrassing, really, if you think about it), thousands upon thousands of phonies across the country mourned the death of author J.D. Salinger, who was 91 years old for crying out loud. "He had a real impact on the literary world and on millions of readers," said hot-shot English professor David Clarke, who is just like the rest of them, and even works at one of those crumby schools that rich people send their kids to so they don't have to look at them for four years. "There will never be another voice like his." Which is exactly the lousy kind of goddamn thing that people say, because really it could mean lots of things, or nothing at all even, and it's just a perfect example of why you should never tell anybody anything.
On the one hand, it's terrible to lose two greats on the same day. On the other hand, as long as you've got to leave this life, why not go hand-in-hand, temporally speaking, with another luminary? I'm fascinated with these accidental pairings: Michael Jackson and Farrah Fawcett. Zinn and Salinger. Who else?

Reworking the Pazzo website, so don't be alarmed if you end up there and it looks weird. # Nominate Pazzo for the Phoenix's Best '10 issue http://thephoenix.com/thebest/boston/vote/nominate.aspx?cat=shopping#10068 # Powered by Twitter Tools.