Archive for March, 2010
* Above, they took the DJ's headphones, too. Via The Exiled.
Monterrey -- and all of Mexico's northeast, really -- is a war zone right now. The Zetas and the Gulf cartel are hashing out their historic break-up in the only way that a Mexican drug-smuggling organization knows how, by brutally killing as many members of the enemy as possible, and by terrorizing everyone else.
On Sunday there was a huge march in Monterrey to call for peace as the bloodshed rages on. I wonder if some of Monterrey's ravers were there. At The Exiled, an online magazine with a readable edge, writer "Pancho Montana" reports on the Zetas' recent practice of crashing big all-night parties and roughing up the kids.
Why? The Zetas are desperate to retain control of the lucrative drug market in Monterrey. If you don't buy from them, they seem to be saying, you won't buy from no one. An excerpt:
When the thugs had all the ravers assembled into a flock, the little bastards proceeded to rob everyone. Going person to person, they took cell phones, cameras, jewelry, cash, and anything else shiny that got their attention. They were like little ravens with automatic weapons. They even stole the DJ's passport and credit cards. Fuck, they even took his headphones.
But that was all just collateral. The main purpose of their visit were the drugs. With flashlights in hand, they scouted the floor for baggies of weed, pills, LSD, coke, anything ... They must have felt like they were on an Easter egg hunt.
The leader then addressed the people: "Raise your hand if you like weed," he asked the crowd. But nobody raised a hand or so much as moved. They were too scared. So he repeated his question, this time while firing a quick burst from his R-15 into the air. "I said who likes fucking weed?!!" Naturally, a lot of hands went up.
The entire piece is worth the read, even if you're a bit more on the skeptical side and don't fully buy that this pseudonymous writer is telling the pure truth. He suggests toward the end that the Zetas' hold on Monterrey may be close to running its course.
* Previously, "The drug tienditas of Monterrey."
For those who attended and everyone else who’s interested, here follows a summary of the Librarians Get Graphic preconference at the 2010 Public Library Association conference, with more links than I believe I have ever included in a post before! (In fact, there are a few that are included more than once because they were mentioned by more than one presenter.)
I guess you could even call it a con report, though there is a sad lack of amusing photos of cosplayers. (In passing, “Librarians Get Graphic” is a popular name for any library/comics intersection; Michele Gorman recently wrote Ten Years of Getting Graphic about her experience sharing comics and graphic novels with librarians and library users over the past decade.)
First presenter of the day Shaun Huston showed footage from an upcoming documentary about the comics community in Portland. Huston also writes for PopMatters.com; his essay Creator: Various is about the complex and problematic notion of authorship in comics.
Traci Glass, Eugene Public Library, who both spoke on and organized the librarian panel (yay Traci!) shared resources for selecting graphic novels for kids and teens. Here’s her extensive list!
Sites Traci Likes:
- Cooperative Children’s Book Center Resources on Graphic Novels, including Hollis Rudiger’s 2006 Horn Book article, “Reading Lessons: Graphic Novels 101” [in PDF]
- YALSA’s Great Graphic Novels for Teens
- The Beat
- Comic Book Resources
- Comics Worth Reading
- Every Day Is Like Wednesday
- Fresh Ink – G4
- Graphic Novel Reporter
- Journalista « The Comics Journal
- no flying, no tights
- School Library Journal’s Good Comics for Kids
Newsletters & Discussion Lists:
- Diamond Bookshelf
- Graphic Novels in Libraries Listserv (GNLIB)
- Graphic Novel Reporter Newsletter
- Publisher’s Weekly Comics Week
- Comic Buyers Guide
Titles Traci Recommends:
- The Muppet Show –Roger Langridge
- Lunch Lady –Jarrett J. Krosoczka
- Marvel Adventures –Various Authors
- Tiny Titans –Art Baltazar
- Bone –Jeff Smith
- Amulet –Kazu Kibuishi
- Toon Books –Various Authors
- Happy Happy Clover –Sayuri Tatsuyama
- Jellaby –Kean Soo
- Johnny Boo –James Kochalka
- Leave it to PET –Kenji Sonishi
- Rapunzel’s Revenge –Shannon & Dean Hale
- Star Wars –The Clone Wars Adventures –Various Authors
- The Legend of Zelda –Akira Himekawa
- Yotsuba! –Kiyohiko Azuma
- Kingdom Hearts –Shiro Amano
- Clan Apis –Jay Hosler
- Satchel Paige: Striking Out Jim Crow –James Sturm and Rich Tommaso
- Houdini: the Handcuff King –Jason Lutes & Nick Bertozzi
- Adventures in Cartooning –James Sturm, Andrew Arnold & Alexis Frederick-Frost
- Lockjaw and the Pet Avengers –Chris Eliopoulos
- Mouse Guard –David Petersen
- Understanding Comics: the Invisible Art –Scott McCloud
- The Librarian’s Guide to Graphic Novels for Children and Tweens –David Serchay
- Getting Graphic! Comics for Kids –Michele Gorman
Laural Winter, Multnomah County Library. Discussed programming with graphic novels, including Multnomah’s positive experience with the ALA Public Programs Office bookgroup series Modern Marvels: Adventures in the Graphic Novel, which included A Contract with God by Will Eisner, The Complete Maus: A Survivor’s Tale by Art Spiegelman, Julius Knipl, Real Estate Photographer: Stories by Ben Katchor, The Quitter by Harvey Pekar, and The Rabbi’s Cat by Joann Sfar. Also how Multnomah added Zinesters Talking and Cartoonists Talking to its long-running Writers Talking program series.
Bob Renfro, Lead Cataloger, Multnomah County Library. Discussed cataloging issues — not so much with graphic novels, since now graphic novels are increasingly common & mainstream — but more with zines and minicomics. And yes, his original cataloging is shared with OCLC.
Cathy Camper, Multnomah County Library’s Zine Library Group, discussed the ZLG’s outreach to zinesters and comics creators at the Stumptown Comics Fest and the Portland Zine Symposium. She talked about the importance of a full-circle approach: developing relationships with creators, purchasing their work, hiring them for programs. This helps support local independent and small press creators, who have been as hard hit by the recession as everyone else. The outreach also helps ensure that the creators, who are often in their twenties and thirties — a generation sometimes less served by traditional library programming — feel valued by the library.
- Teach a Zine Librarian to Fish: Zine Distro Reviews edited by Jenna Freedman
Katie Anderson, Oregon State Library & Oregon Intellectual Freedom Clearinghouse, discussed intellectual freedom issues and graphic novels. Very few graphic novels have been challenged in Oregon! Resources mentioned:
- A Dirty Little Secret — Debra Lau Whelan on self-censorship in libraries, from School Library Journal
- Oregon Intellectual Freedom Clearinghouse annual reports
- Spreadsheet compiling challenges collected by both the ACLU of Oregon’s and the Oregon Intellectual Freedom Clearinghouse
Jessica Lorentz-Smith, school librarian at Bend High School in Bend, Oregon, spoke about how she shares graphic novels with her students, and also about her experience as a member of YALSA’s Great Graphic Novels for Teens committee.
- YALSA’s Graphic Novels and Teen Readers: The Basics and Beyond with instructor Francisca Goldsmith, one of this year’s Eisner Award judges
- ALSC’s Introduction to Graphic Novels for Children with instructor Janet Weber
Douglas Wolk’s keynote: TRIBES OF AMERICAN COMICS READERS
“The comics art form has blossomed from one that even its most devoted fans left behind at age 14 to one that could conceivably stop producing art today and the heartbroken reader present at its funeral couldn’t get to all of the corners and travel down all of the side roads already brought to life before she joined comics on the other side.” – Tom Spurgeon (from “The Blind Man’s Elephant in the Room” at Comics Reporter)
Comics publishers didn’t grow up in a book-publishing environment; it’s taken them a while to figure out how to do things book-business style, and maybe they don’t know how to work well with libraries, but they do respond well to people making suggestions.
1. The Wednesday People
Really into serialized superhero comics; go to the store every week. (New comics arrive on Wednesdays.) Big names are Brian Michael Bendis, Geoff Johns, Mark Millar, Grant Morrison; “Siege,” “Civil War,” “Final Crisis,” “Blackest Night.”
2. The “Mature Readers”
More or less created by Karen Berger and Vertigo; Sandman and Transmetropolitan are the gateway drugs. Readers sometimes read new stuff as serials, sometimes as trades. Big names are Warren Ellis, Neil Gaiman, Garth Ennis, “The Walking Dead.” Readers like creator-driven, design-conscious, not-particularly-kid-friendly adventure serials. Web sites are based around particular creators: Neil Gaiman’s blog, Warren Ellis’s Whitechapel, Barbelith.
3. The Mangaphiles
Terrifyingly huge in Japan, very big here. Thin end of wedge is Naruto/Fruits Basket. Probably lots of subcultures within it–so big that “scanlations” exist! Original English-language “manga” hasn’t quite taken off yet, but Bryan Lee O’Malley’s “Scott Pilgrim” is making that change.
4. The Art-comics People
Focused on cartooning as artistic expression above all. Blossomed out of the underground scene of the ’60s and the RAW generation of the ’80s (Françoise Mouly and Art Spiegelman). Publishers: Drawn & Quarterly, Fantagraphics, Top Shelf. Artists: David Mazzucchelli, Charles Burns, Daniel Clowes, Gilbert Hernandez, Jaime Hernandez, Joe Sacco.
(Be very careful about thinking of them as “literary”: the virtues of literary prose and of comics are not the same.)
The L.A. Times Book Prize nominees for graphic novels for this year: Gilbert Hernandez’s “Luba,” Taiyo Matsumoto’s “GoGo Monster,” David Mazzucchelli’s “Asterios Polyp,” Bryan Lee O’Malley’s “Scott Pilgrim Vs. the Universe,” and Joe Sacco’s “Footnotes in Gaza.”
5. The Webcomics People
There are subtribes galore of this category; many of the most popular strips aren’t even available in print form, or are barely available in print form (“Diesel Sweeties“!). Popular ones include “Penny Arcade,” “Achewood,” “Hark! A Vagrant,” etc.
6. The Europhiles
This might even be a sub-category of art-comics; only a thin sliver of the wide range of European stuff is available in translation right now. Joann Sfar, Lewis Trondheim, Emmanuel Guibert–the L’Association group is the scene Marjane Satrapi’s “Persepolis” came out of.
7. The “I Read A Comic Once” People
Maybe they’ve read “Maus” or “Fun Home” or “Persepolis”: where to next? There’s a lot of blatant product about people recounting their difficult relationships with their fathers aimed at these people. (Also some great books, like C. Tyler’s “You’ll Never Know.”) One good way to tell the difference: if cartoonists credit their agents with pointing them toward comics as a way to tell their story, stay very far away.
8. The Moviegoers
They saw the movie, and now they want more. They are civilians who are ready to be converted. If there’s not a clear thing to point them toward–like, which Iron Man book do you hand them, out of the dozens out there?–one really useful resource is local comic book stores, who know the material very well and will be happy to fill you in. (Also, “The Invincible Iron Man, vol. 1,” by Matt Fraction and Salvador Larroca, is quite good…)
9. The Kids
There are a lot of great comics for kids right now; they’re not the same comics for kids that were around when we were growing up. “Bone,” the Marvel Adventures digests, the Toon Books material, maybe even include “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” in there…
WATCH OUT FOR:
- Bad product aimed at library buyers and nobody else. (Avoid e.g. a 40-page bio of Michelle Obama.)
- Weak adaptations, of which there are a lot.
- Comics that are blatantly failed movie pitches. These are actually pretty easy to identify.
(There are some good adaptations: Marvel’s “Wizard of Oz,” Roger Langridge’s “Muppet Show,” the Joss Whedon-associated “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” comics– but they’re outnumbered.)
HOW COMICS GET TO READERS
- The “direct market” — stores that buy directly from Diamond Comic Distributors on a nonreturnable basis
- Bookstores, a market that keeps growing
- Downloading stuff online. Aside from webcomics, there are not a lot of authorized outlets for this. Too bad: the demand exists, and therefore the supply exists. (Try typing the title of a comic, then the word “torrent,” into your favorite search engine.)
- Conventions. Some specialize in art-comics and self-published and small-press stuff, some cater to the Wednesday crowd, some encompass both. People go to cons to spend a lot of money. It is people’s happy place.
- Libraries! Connect with your local comics shop for Free Comic Book Day; the shop can stamp the free comics with their address/contact info, you can give them away in your libraries; it’s a win/win.
Comic creators panel
Some topics discussed: the economics of making comics for a living and how they are not totally dissimilar from the economics of librarianship — e.g. you do this because you love it, not for the money; the care and feeding of editor-author-artist relationships; how the iPad could be a great solution for online comics; how you know when a graphic novel is good (short answer: read a lot of them and see which ones you respond to, pay attention to the art, see the resources above). One of the many audience questions: What have you (the comic creators) read lately that you enjoyed?
- Dylan Meconis recommends Carla Speed McNeil
- Shawna Gore recommends Kate Beaton
- Farel Dalrymple recommends Gipi
- Jeff Parker recommends Jim Ottaviani and Jay Hosler
Attendees and presenters, please fill in gaps and/or ask questions in the comments! Everyone else, that goes for you too! (Well, you can’t really fill in the gaps if you weren’t there, though I guess you could make things up.)
When Polvo comes out of the extended bridge in “Lucia,” that’s pretty rocking. Digging the Allman Bros. vibe with those major-key hammer-ons.
And that’s your Firestone/Bridgestone Tires “Good Music Moment of the Day.”
Charles Dickens’s Swiss chalet has fallen into disrepair, and local (English) officials are looking for some $150,000 in donations to fix it.
I’m conducting a discussion of contemporary poetry with Chris Lydon for PEN-New England at Upstairs on the Square, the restaurant, tomorrow (Thursday, April 1) at 5:30pm: apparently there may be free wine. No foolin’.
In the debate over disparities in pay between men and women, there is a camp that attributes the gap largely to sexism. Then there’s a camp that says that, while pockets of sexism linger, women often voluntarily give up the fast track for a better, or at least different, balance between work and life.
Members of the second camp must then ask why women bear the brunt of the family-work tradeoff–and whether this is necessary, desirable, or just.
In the debate over disparities in pay between men and women, there is a camp that attributes the gap largely to sexism. Then there’s a camp that says that, while pockets of sexism linger, women often voluntarily give up the fast track for a better, or at least different, balance between work and life.
Members of the second camp must then ask why women bear the brunt of the family-work tradeoff–whether this is necessary, desirable, or just.
It’s safe to say that one self-described successful professional and workaholic, recently given the floor on the subject by Andrew Sullivan, has not thought much about structural issues underpinning the pay gap. Defenders of equal pay, meet one of your adversaries …
"Give him [sic] enough direct quotation—at least one extended passage—of the book's prose so the review's reader can form his own impression, can get his own taste."
There's an art to quotation; sometimes a rave review will contain a passage from the work in question that will be so lackluster that it makes you go, "Eh?" (More interesting is when a negative review gives you a sample of the source prose, and the sample is so good that you're immediately suspicious of the reviewer—has s/he no ear?)
Dwight Garner's review today of Josh Axelrad's Repeat Until Rich is particularly generous with its quotes. I had little interest in actually reading this book (having come across it in a few other articles)—but now it seems like something worth seeking out. This is pretty good, no?:
“I’d been napping for close to a year. I’d found a job because you had to find a job; it was the rage, people worked. In the corporate world, pay is ‘compensation.’ That’s their bare-bones way of expressing it. Something is being made up for, amends are being made: reparations. If you’d expected of life some vital engagement that shook your soul, broke your mind, drew blood from your eyeballs, breath from your throat, shattered front teeth, minced your fingers and your toes, and left your heart squeezed dry as a juiced lime, you might have been at risk of disappointment, might have turned into one of those effete, wan-faced chumps reading Camus on the subway if you weren’t compensated sufficiently.”
(Followed by DG's aside: "Note to self: Quit being one of those effete, wan-faced chumps who reads Camus on the subway.")
This was also reasonably funny:
As if in response to criticisms of Mr. Mezrich’s book, Mr. Axelrad (who, unlike Mr. Mezrich, actually played on the blackjack team he writes about) pre-emptively announces: “Where I changed names, I changed other details too — cities of residence, prior occupations, physical descriptions (sexying everybody up, as a rule, with an eye toward a Hollywood version someday: longer legs, bigger pecs; I went ahead and added a half inch to my own height while I was at it).” But he adds: “The incidents are true.”
II. And this: "The culprit may be the Higgs boson particle traveling back in time to destroy itself."
Holger Bech Nielsen: "It would look as if the future has an influence on what happens today or yesterday."
Pauline Murray’s solo Peel session was broadcast March 31, 1980. Here’s “When Will We Learn” from it.
The Lightning Raiders’ “Psychedelic Musik” single came out March 31, 1980.
There’s some more content coming (indeed, there will be a good deal of content published tomorrow). But in the meantime, I feel compelled to direct your attention to this morning’s Barnes & Noble Review, where my essay on the cannibal film genre has just run. What happened here is that my editor had me review a film. Then, knowing very well of my tendency (indeed, one could more accurately style it a full-blown obsessive commitment) of performing serious background research, I began watching a good deal of cannibal films. And so this rather unusual cannibal film essay emerged in its place. You can read the results here. Here are the first few sentences:
The cannibal film, much like its topical larder, may be the genre of last resort. But open-minded cineastes wishing to move beyond Hannibal Lecter’s fey gravitas may be surprised to find an edgy contextual reframing that mainstream cinema lacks the guts to approach.
The Hicks from the Sticks compilation came out March 31, 1980. Here’s “True Colours” by Radio 5.
In the game of water polo, the goalie must be strong enough to rise from the water and stay vertical without sinking, to track the ball and lunge for it. This was the position I played for one season, when I was a sophomore in high school. I tried out because Stacia Kaminski mentioned me to Coach Mackey, and he called me in.
My father had told me once—he was watching a nature show at the time, and I’d made the mistake of walking into the room—that it’s better to be a shark than a seal. When Stacia Kaminski approached me, after a soccer scrimmage in which I’d scored four goals, this is what I told her. She said, “You’re strong, and I bet you can swim like a fish,” and I said, “Better to be a shark than a seal.”
It was the most I’d spoken all day, maybe all week. In my house no one talked, though every so often my father hollered at the TV, or at my mother. After my first match—we won—Stacia handed me a pink gift bag with a white bow on it, and inside were these two pens. She said now I didn’t have to choose.
I didn’t realize how much other families talked until Stacia took me to her house. Her father was in the garage when we arrived, and Stacia told me he was building an airplane that he would fly himself. When her mother called him for dinner, he came to the table wearing a headlamp. Mrs. Kaminski reached over and turned it off. “Who are you?” he said to me. Stacia told him. “Let me tell you something,” he said. “That plane’s got one hundred and ten thousand, five hundred and ninety-three parts, total.” He laced his fingers together. “Guess how many pieces were missing when those boxes arrived.”
“How many?” I said quietly.
“Eight hundred and forty-two. I went through every box, counting. I made a list. I called the company and they sent the pieces. They overnighted them, which gave me a chuckle. But you can’t make something if you don’t have all the ingredients. Like this lasagna. Right, honey?”
“That’s right!” said Mrs. Kaminski, and Stacia’s father went on: the cheese, both ricotta and mozzarella; the tomatoes; croutons for the salad. I thought at the time—and still I think it, though I’ve learned to stand on my feet in the world, to speak my thoughts, even to chit-chat—that he was the most interesting person I’d met.
Stacia invited me again the next week, then the next. Every time, Mr. Kaminski wore his headlamp and Mrs. Kaminski said grace. After Stacia’s accident—they said what happened to her was something called shallow water blackout, and they blamed Coach Mackey, who’d taught us to hyperventilate before going under—Mr. Kaminski called my house and invited me for dinner. If I could find my way, he said, I was welcome. So that week and every week until I graduated, I took the bus to their house, and I helped set the table, and I spoke when spoken to, and I listened. Sometimes while he was talking, Mr. Kaminski wept a little. I watched the tears sink from his eyes to his lips, which kept moving.
P. O’Neill, at Best of Both Worlds, highlights what he calls an “excellent euphemism” deployed by Pope Benedict in his recent letter to Irish Catholics–the pontiff’s response to a deep and widening sex-abuse scandal in that country.
In the letter, the Pope cited “fast-paced social change” that “adversely affect[ed] people’s traditional adherence to Catholic teaching and values” as one of the underlying causes of abuse, as well as confusion within the Church, in the 1960s and ’70s, about the meaning of Vatican II and how best to implement its institutional reforms. “In particular,” he wrote, “there was a well-intentioned but misguided tendency to avoid penal approaches to canonically irregular situations.”
Canonically irregular situations. The victims of abuse do not often use the phrase.
“Gad, Easter, where was I?”— “The soft son, the flowers and here I was going down the street and thinking ‘Why did I allow myself to be bored ever in the past and to compensate for it got high or drunk or rages or all the tricks people have because they want anything but serene understanding of just what there is, which is after all so much, and thinking like angry social deals,— like angry— kicks— like hassling over social problems and my race problem, it meant so little and I could feel that great confidence and gold of the morning would slip away eventually and had already started— I could have made my whole life like that morning just on the strength of pure understanding and willingness to live and go along, God it was the most beautiful thing ever happened to me in its own way— but was it all sinister.”— Ended when she got home to her sistsers’ house in Oakland and they were furious at her anyway but she told them off and did strange things; she noticed for instance the complicated wiring her eldest sister had done to connect the TV and the radio to the kitchen plug in the ramshackle wood upstairs of their cottage near Seventh and Pine the railrood sooty wood and gargoyle porches like tinder in the sham scrapple slums, the yard nothing but a lot with broken rocks and black wood showing where hobes Tokay’d last night before moving off across the meatpacking yard to the Mainline rail Tracy-bound thru vast endless impossible Brooklyn-Oakland full of telephone poles and crap and on Saturday nights and the wild Negro bars full of whores and the Mexican’s Ya-Yaaing in their own saloons and the cop car cruising the long sad avenue riddled with drinkers and the glitter of broken bottles…
— Jack Kerouac, from The Subterraneans (1958)
Caz “Golden Gate” Dolowicz Regrets: he never had the famous oatmeal of Oakland, although once in Sausalito he was sodomized and remembers it fondly. Sausalito means “small willow grove.” Stalin means “man of steel.”
Artist Shannon Rankin does amazing things with maps. Treating them as mere pieces of decorated paper to be manipulated—clipping out spirals, folding crevassed roses of ridges and faultlines, pinning up confetti-like clouds of circles and zigzags—she creates “new geographies, suggesting the potential for a broader landscape.”
The maps thus become more like the terrains they originally referred to: textured, complex, and subject to eruption. Unexpected forms emerge from below—like geology, overlapping, igneous, and dynamic.
Outlines of new island continents appear in the process, polar regions and archipelagoes that out-Dymaxion Buckminster Fuller in their collaged vortices and coasts.
But seeing these makes me want to feed full-color sheets of obscure maps through laser-cutting machines, slicing elaborate and random geometries to reveal the longest possible distance between two adjacent things, or to discover previously unknown proximities, the whole Earth cut-up and unspooled like a lemon rind.
There are a variety of distinct styles at work, as you can see, from tiling and tesselation to straight-ahead origami.
Another approach is to reduce every map to capillaries—pure roads. The geography is simply how you get somewhere.
And lest all of these look diminutive, or simply too tiny to see, the scale of execution is often surprising.
Consider supporting her work, as well, by purchasing a piece or two; you can contact the artist via her webpage.
(Originally spotted via Data is Nature).
Boy this UNC / URI game is a thing of beauty … did Michelangelo carve it?
* Above, the subjects, from afar, in an apparent dining ritual. Via LAist.
The Entryway is an online project created by two aspiring journalists -- "maybe the whitest people we know" -- who move into a crowded immigrant household in Los Angeles to learn Spanish, so that they can, eventually, better report on their city. It's getting wonderfully fawning feedback so far, and hopes to raise $3,240 to keep going.
Kara Mears takes photos and Devin Browne writes and designs the entries, which are published sort of like a diary, with words and phrases alternating between large and small typeface. The first thing we learn about the young women, in their opening entry, is that they chose their family after an apparently grueling two years of searching because -- unlike other houses in MacArthur Park, I guess -- "This family cares about cleanliness. They cannot live with bedbugs."
There's a sign about cleanliness on the wall. "The sign in the bathroom made me feel better," Devin writes.
We learn nothing else in the first entry about Juan and Maria, the immigrant hosts, other than their home is in fact infested with cockroaches, and that maybe Kara 'shouldn't have brought her other boots.' From there on, nothing about where everyone is specifically from, why and how they moved to the United States, how they make money, how they survive, and, most crucially, the underlying forces that cause migration, poverty, and social marginalization.
You know, the stuff of journalism. But The Entryway, I figured out upon quickly consuming the entire site, isn't a journalism effort. The authors are wasting an incredible journalistic opportunity, in the service of their own vanity.
The Entryway is not about the immigrants living there but about how two "white people" intrepidly enter an unknown space -- what I'd call the home of any regular working real-life Angeleno, nothing more, nothing less -- and manage to 'survive' there. It's evident in the authors' self-satisfied gloating up front.
"Of course, we could have learned Spanish in Mexico or Chile or Ecuador, could have gone to a coffee farm in Costa Rica, or the Mountain School in Guatemala ..." the first entry says, evidently regarding those options as inferior to their choice. ('Going to Guatemala to learn Spanish is soo Stuff White People Like.')
With eight diary entries so far, The Entryway has established no connections between the lives of the people in the house and the issues facing the immigrant community at large. They're busy mentioning how they have to "put the toilet paper in the trash can next to the toilet." There is little evidence of any meaningful engagement with L.A.'s well-organized immigrant advocate community (see here), the local community police officers (see here), or legal and housing aid workers (see here). All the voices that a real journalist, as opposed to a safari trooper, would go to pains to incorporate in such a project.
That's something I know several of my colleagues at the L.A. Times or La Opinion would do. But they're old-school media. In the future of journalism, where every new-school-trained journalist is first and foremost "a voice" before a fact-gatherer, day-to-day reporters who live off nothing but their bylines don't seem to count. I'm thinking of many young journalists of color, too, who spend years working courts, cops, records (and yes, homes) in poor communities for little glory or recognition.
A day ago, I sent The Entryway to a bunch of young SoCal contacts, among them white, black, Mexican, Guatemalan, Salvadoran, Argentine, Puerto Rican, and Venezuelan professionals, all of them journalists, academics, or lawyers. The uniform response was "Ugh."
The root problem is one that so many journalists in L.A. are still unable to shake, and which I've discussed here, here, and in the LA Weekly, here. Journalist Eileen Truax, who reports for La Opinion, sums up the "Ugh":
Latinos are half of the population of L.A. but they still see us as an uncomfortable appendage, as if we were a tumor that grows on and invades half the body; it is occupying the space but it is not the body itself.
Journalist Aura Bogado, former host of the nationally broadcast Free Speech Radio News and now a student at Yale, shared with me an email she wrote to Spot.us, one of the project's sponsors. This part nails it:
Beautiful photographs and a sentence about the inability of a family to afford to buy a child's birthday cake does not explain the political, economic, and social underpinnings which create reality in MacArthur Park. At best, I consider The Entryway a traveler's public journal. To ask the public to fund it seems to mock the very fact that some families can't afford a birthday cake.
The Knight Foundation, which partners with Spot.us, is encouraging readers to contribute cash donations so that Devin and Kara can keep taking up space in Juan and Maria's pest-infested overcrowded house. So far, $760 have come in ... for their thoughts about rationed toilet paper, and on the absence of tampons in MacArthur Park -- and not in Spanish, by the way.
Another L.A. contact writes me:
WHO gets to tell their story? The subjects or the (privileged, white albeit female) observers? If the answer is the observers then this can only be exploitation. Voyeurism which gives white people yet another excuse to hold the Other at arm's length while all the while assuming they know what they are about... basic, Nanook of the North stuff, really.
This is not what we need. Not what we need to celebrate, not what we need to encourage. Not anymore, LAist.
Progress is needed in media values in the same way we've seen progress in media platforms. So if independent media workers (or wealthy foundations, or documentary filmmakers) truly care about giving voice to marginalized voices, they should empower immigrants and poor people to tell their own stories. All it takes is a cheap or donated camera, an Internet connection, and a bit of encouragement.
MacArthur Park deserves better. "The barrio will have it's own voice," another friend responds, a young immigration lawyer, and a native of the neighborhood. "That's the only way it can be."
Until then, maybe Spot.us and the Knight Foundation could fund a project where aspiring journalists like Juan or Maria might move into a wealthy white home 12 miles from MacArthur Park, maybe in the study or sitting room, and report for us on the ticks and quirks of that "other L.A."
* Previously, "MacArthur Park: 'You see more white people now.'"
I finished my first read of my first real draft. It felt great. I celebrated with Posole and a Belgian beer. These posts may be boring, but I want to document a little bit of the process. (If not for you, then for me.)
The easy part was: I started at the beginning of the draft and just read. As I saw small errors, I marked them in regular pen. Nothing fancy. But I wanted a way to denote places where larger work was necessary, so I devised this flag system that you see above. Here’s the concordance:
- Blue = add something.
- Green = fact check something.
- Yellow = rework in some formal or structural way.
- Red = Cut.
There’s a lot more blue than anything else, which makes sense to me. A project like this is so broad that you end up leaving things out even by accident! Other things, like the story of Birdsill Holly and the first district heating system in America, just haven’t found a place in the text, even though I’ve done lots of research on them. Other times, I’ve found new sources for sections I wrote months and months ago. Luckily, a surprising amount of that kind of stuff occurred to me while I was reading.
As I finished reading each chapter, I also took notes on it that were broad and overarching. Sometimes I wrote them on the first page of the chapter, but usually I just scribbled them in a little red notebook. These pages are messy, necessarily so. They are half brain map, half future hint. The ideas I’m usually expressing aren’t quite well formed enough to write out in detail. Instead, they are impressions that need to be worked into arguments and real ideas. Because I am knocking the book into rough shape before going in with the tiny hammer to do the detail work, I didn’t want to take the time to think through each one. Going halfway and writing down some bullshit without thinking it through would have made it worse, collapsing the impression into a half-truth. So, instead, I just scribble what makes sense probably only to me. These pages look like this:
On the left, I’m puzzling over what to do about sections describing basic features of renewable and fossil system. On the right, I’m thinking about what to do with these three chapters I have on different themes in teh 70s. The red pen doesn’t mean anything: I happened to lose my normal pen in the couch cushions for a minute.
Then, at the very broadest level, I sat back and pondered what was missing that I’d originally wanted to include when I just had themes and not stories. I realized that I’ve shortchanged photovoltaic development since the 1970s, 1990s environmental thought, electric transportation, and the development of the grid. So, I’ve highlighted those areas as spots where I need to translate the research I’ve done on them into words on the page. That will probably be the last step after I finish going through the flags.
One last thing: I’m tremendously enjoying fleshing out the citations. I had been doing in-text stuff or just noting where something came from in quickie footnotes. Now, I’ve stepped up my game. I’ve got whole hog citations on a couple of chapters now and the process of checking through and asking myself, “How do I know this?” on every single fact is amazing. Talk about a practice for learning intellectual discipline. Sometimes, I’ve realized that I think something is true by some combo of an interview and atmospheric distillation, e.g. the nitty-gritty details of PURPA’s implementation, and need to go back to my sources and find the groundtruth.
Something about doing this over and over is what’s really making me feel that the book is almost done. It’s not that the deadline is approaching. Rather, I have exhausted my brain silo, compressing, and transmitting the energy it stored. On one topic after another, I realize that there is nothing more for me to say.
Ok, back to it.
Apparently, in 6th grade or thereabouts, I wrote a short play called “DOOM DUST.”
JARM: How can I get out (of the prison planet)?
ISK: There is a passage Hunngggghh!
JARM: The dust! Calm down!
ISK: Passage in a rock Akkglllk!
JARM: Don’t talk!
ISK: That rock there Hnmmkgkk!
JARM: Shut up!
ISK: Press the top and Eggklh! You will see an opening Vsstht!
Narrator: Reaching into his suit Jarm removes a tiny capsule.
JARM (Desperate): Eat this!!
Narrator: Isk does as he is told.
ISK: (Talking calmly): Go down the passageway from there you will warp back to 1983. Ahhhgllk!
Bookplates, like books themselves, were once the province of the rich and so tended to feature aristocratic flourishes, like coats of arms. They have been radically democratized–chains like Barnes and Noble sell mass-produced examples you can slap into the latest Patterson thriller. For high-born and low-born book owners alike, however, their meaning is the same, writes the Globe’s Alex Beam, in the Yale Alumni Magazine: “Think of a bookplate as a wedding ring binding the reader to the book, and vice versa.”
Yale has one of the world’s largest collection of bookplates, numbering as many as a million, from florid handprinted examples dating to the 15th century to designs donated by eccentric modern bibliophiles. But the collection is a jumble, and its treasures have largely gone unexplored.
It’s spring cleaning time, and I just found a manila envelope filled with junk from my elementary school days. Check out these two poems … I think I wrote them in 6th grade:
If you can’t read my handwriting, the poems are:
Ugly and grotesque.
Puffing up pollution.
Why can’t you be replaced by gum.
Lonely and scary.
Drifting in to unsuspecting victims.
Must you be so sudden?
I guess the assignment was to write the most depressing poems possible, making sure that each poem ends with a question that speaks to the futility of existence?
“Why can’t you be replaced by gum.”
I also found a short story I wrote in which I am the 11-year-old President of the United States and I’m visited by an arms dealer who tries to sell me weapons and I just make wisecracks until he “looked at me as if he wanted to kill me.” Maybe I’ll serialize it later this week.
“My Block” by Scarface is one of the greatest songs ever recorded.
[Image: Map via University of Maine Civil War Webquest].
An “acoustic shadow” is when the sounds of an event—here, a battle—cannot be heard by people nearby—say, in the neighboring valley or a parallel city street—but those same sounds can plainly be heard over much larger distances. This effect is caused by “a unique combination of factors such as wind, weather, temperature, land topography, forest or other vegetation, and elevation,” we read. For example, “battle sounds from Gettysburg fought on July 1, 2, and 3, 1863 could be heard over one hundred miles away in Pittsburgh, but were not heard only ten miles from the battlefield.”
Without my own access to contemporary accounts of these battles and their acoustic shadows—sonic phantom limbs haunting distant landscapes—I simply have to trust the accounts that I’m quoting from here; nonetheless, these stories are fascinating. “More than 91,000 men were engaged in battle at Gaines’s Mill, Virginia on June 27, 1862,” for instance. “Confederate commanders and troops were less than two miles from the battlefield and could plainly see the smoke and flashes from the guns and artillery, but not a sound could be heard of the battle for two hours. Strangely, the battle sounds from the Battle of Gaines’s Mill were easily heard in Staunton, Virginia over one hundred miles away.”
The unexpected atmospheric reflection of sound, and sound’s complicated relationship with certain topographies, levels of humidity, climatic systems, and more presents an amazing—if impossibly complex—dimension to the future of urban design and landscape architecture. Could 5th Avenue be retrofitted to cultivate acoustic shadows—or might a neighborhood in eastern Brooklyn someday find itself overhearing distant traffic events and individual human conversations that have been carried on the winds from Midtown, acoustic effects soon traced back to the mirage-like venting of a new steam plant on the East River?
This also makes me wonder if instances of ghostlike visitation in ancient times—a king crazed by invisible whispers in his fortified tower bedroom, a city cursed by nocturnal voices, a village terrified by bodyless beasts unseen by any hunter—might actually have been examples of acoustic shadows. How could acoustic shadows be archaeologically and historically investigated without exactly reproducing the landscape topography and climatic conditions of the time?
(Vaguely related: a very old post about sound mirrors).
[Image: U.S. helicopter over Baghdad, via (scroll down)].
I’ve mentioned The Forever War by Dexter Filkins before, but I was struck again the other day by a passage in which Filkins catalogs the mechanically unprecedented sounds of the American siege of Falluja, a collection of noises so alien and overpowering that he describes it as “an entire ecosystem” with its own hidden predators and prey.
Filkins writes that “rocket-propelled grenades whizzed out of the darkness, striking the M-1s and exploding but doing no harm. Whoosh-bang, like a fireworks show. Whoosh-bang.” He quickly adds, however, that “the real weirdness was circling above.”
- The night sky echoed with pops and pings, the invisible sounds of frantic action. Most were being made by the AC-130 gunships, whose propellers were putting out a reassuring hum. But over the droning came stranger sounds: the plane’s Gatling gun let out long, deep burps at volumes that were symphonic. Its 105mm cannon made a popping sound, the same as you would hear from a machine that served tennis balls. A pop! followed by a boom! Pop-boom. And then there was the insect buzz of the ScanEagle, the pilotless airplane that hovered above us and beamed images back to base. It was as if we were witnessing the violent struggles of an entire ecosystem, a clash of airborne nocturnal beasts we could not see.
Of course, the unnatural acoustic ecology of humans at war is surely something you could find throughout history, from the fibrous zing of crossbow strings and the thunderous lurch of the catapult to endlessly irritating scrapings of metal on metal as swords and shields collide. What ancient Roman warfare actually sounded like is something for the acoustic archaeologists.
[The auction for this object, with story by Katie Hennessey, has ended. Original price: $2.00. Final price: $50.00. Significant Objects will donate the proceeds from this auction to Girls Write Now.]
This little statue stood on the window sill in my favorite aunt’s front hall. Perched between plants of varying shapes and sizes, surrounded by shards of broken pottery and miniature ceramic elephants from the Red Rose Tea box, dappled with sunlight shining through the leaded glass figures of St. Francis in his garden and the mossy Celtic Cross, the woodland creature stood by her cauldron, day after day, night after night, for all the years of my childhood.
Indistinct at first, her jack-knived features came, for me, to represent benevolence itself. What was she cooking, there in her pot? Was it a witches’ brew of bark and herbs, meant to quell my fears and slow my speeding thoughts? Was it essential oils, drawn from petals and seeds, distilled into droplets and lovingly collected to act as a salve, summoning spirits long forgotten to soothe my aching unconscious?
I wondered who had made her, and of what type of wood. No one seemed to know. Was her burlap outfit, glued together and barely hemmed, some sort of disguise?
My aunt put holy water in the cup on special occasions, but from time to time my uncle used it as a shot glass. To each his own, I guess.
Conservatives are having a field day with this statement on newsroom diversity by the Washington Post’s ombudsman, Andrew Alexander. Whatever your position on diversity–a malleable term; and using the phrase “racial preferences” hardly improves matters–it’s a must-read, if only as an unwitting guide to the underexamined philosophical assumptions of newsroom managers. Here, for example, is a doozy of a quote from Bobbi Bowman, a former Post editor who is now a diversity consultant for the American Society of Newspaper Editors: “You can’t cover your community unless you look like your community. If you have a community of basketball players, it’s difficult for a newsroom of opera lovers to cover them.” Oy …
I just noticed that it’s been raining non-stop for like 5 weeks. I’m not even kidding. My relationship with my sump pump has entered a more profound level of intimacy and trust.
Hell, I might as well list some other things I’ve noticed recently:
1. The Pope is a freak.
2. Whole-wheat cornbread tastes good if you let go of society’s prejudices about cornbread.
3. The best podcast in the world is “Philosophy Bites.”
4. It’s hard to motivate yourself to swim when the entire world is already sopping wet.
5. “Chicken Battle 2000″ is the greatest work of art ever. (More on this soon!)
This was during Gaga’s “hair-bow” phase—that would be pre-hair-hat and pre-hair-telephone—and when I asked about the bow’s whereabouts, she rested her head on a pillow of her hands and said, “She’s sleeping.” —"Growing Up Gaga," Vanessa Grigordias, New York
I’m just going to go ahead and pronounce the “Telephone” video by LADY GAGA (born 1986) and Beyoncé the most impressive avant-garde film of the year: nine and a half minutes of glorious, relentless WTF, all the star-power and spectacle and verfremdungseffekt of a Matthew Barney movie with zero tolerance for boringness. —Douglas Wolk, HiLobrow
Sylvester Stallone, deli counter attendant. After getting no career traction as an actor in his 20s, Stallone attacked his 30s like any 5'3 man should: He wrote a movie where he was an all-American hero with unbelievable success in sports.
That movie was "Rocky"... he banged out the "Rocky" screenplay in three days, in between working at a deli counter and as a movie theater usher... and it launched his career with an Academy Award for Best Picture.
—11 Famous People Who Were in Completely the Wrong Career at Age 30 (11 Points)
I used to read exclusively fantasy fiction for years. I loved Ursula LeGuin, the Earthsea Trilogy, The Sword of Shanara – David Eddings was a grocery checker at a local grocery store in Spokane where I grew up. —Benjamin Parzybok, author of Couch (via)
Why he has never called in sick since 1960: Every evening is the soup. This is my medication.
What he eats for lunch: Only homemade eating. No restaurants. Everything from home. Today I have ham salad and cake. Cake has to be every day. I love cake. Cake every day. This I have to have. My wife makes the cake. If my wife don’t bake, then I bake. Soup and cake. This is my favorite. —"Experience Necessary," NYT
I’m listening to the song “In A Big Country” by the band Big Country and I’m really enjoying it. If you can, listen to it on a good stereo and pay attention to the bass.
I thought I had strep throat so I went to the doctor. They did a strep-throat test and it was negative. I was positively gobsmacked — for the love of God, if this wasn’t strep throat, what was? Turns out I have a sore throat.
Then on my way out of the doctor’s office, I heard “Let the Music Play,” by Shannon, one of my top favorite jams of all time.
And that’s what life is like for America’s favorite blogger, i.e. ME.
(UPDATE: Ellen Wernecke also has a cover. Should there be a Photoshop contest or something?)
The Poynter Institute, a journalism think tank of sorts, and YouTube both recently advertised jobs for “curators.” Needless to say, they aren’t looking for art experts. At the Tomorrow Museum, Joane McNeil explores how the new-media world has co-opted the lovely old job title, and perhaps diminished it.
When I heard MacArthur Genius, National Book Award nominee John Edgar Wideman was doing a book with self-publisher Lulu, I was more than a little surprised. Then when I learned I could catch him at a Wordtheatre production in Santa Monica, I jumped at the chance. What he told me about writing, microfiction and the business of publishing is in today’s LA Times.
“Stories, in a way, are about time,” Wideman says. Now 68, he holds up his hands to indicate how much of his time has passed — and the smaller span that lies ahead. “What’s that mean?” he asks. “I’ve lost the best of what I have? Or is there something that I can look forward to in another scale, as life crystalizes?”
Following in the footsteps of Richard Wright, who began to write haiku near the end of his life, and taking inspiration from Yasunari Kawabata’s “Palm-of-the-Hand Stories,” Wideman is miniaturizing. He’s taking “the same ambitions” he’s always had and writing them into drastically smaller works.
As much as these stories grow out of Wideman’s current circumstances, they’re also built to connect with busy, distracted readers. “In the pace and rhythm of life we have around us today,” he says, “it’s a struggle to get a private minute. For me, the private minute is what it’s all about. It’s what a powerful culture like ours tends to crush.”
And yet, for all that Wideman wants readers to find focus in his micro-stories, his main concern ultimately is that of a writer trying to take control of his own work. “Most people write,” he notes, “because they want independence. And that independence is threatened when you have to kowtow to the means of production.”
Okay folks, this is going to be our biggest comedy show yet. Our goal is to make Beacon, NY the hottest comedy town in America.
Please come out for this night of hilarity. Charter a bus from New York City with your friends. Rent a limo and drive up from Westchester. Steal a helicopter and fly in from Texas. Use your teleportation ring and zap in from South Dakota.
Patrick Borelli is very funny. So is Sam Anderson. I’m not sure about this Count Andrew “Dice” Dracula guy, but my friends insist he’s funny. We’ll also have special guests and a brief charity auction and all sorts of fun stuff. Be there or be squashed.
Two recent graduates of McGill University plan to cycle from Seattle to New York, over two months beginning May 15, to bring attention to the cause of curing ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease).
The two young men, Saul Goldberg and Augustin Quancard, were inspired by Tony Judt, the NYU historian and author of “Postwar,” who suffers from the disease. Goldberg says Judt “has been my university professor, my mentor, my friend and, at times, a father figure.”
The sixties are sexy again in the latest issue of the Believer, which gives new life to the moribund genre of boomer kitsch by exporting it to Yugoslavia. A bonus DVD presenting the short films of Slovenian director Karpo Godina manages to stimulate in all the right ways, featuring floppy-haired boys and sunny-looking girls in varying states of cinematic experimentation. In “The Gratinated Brains of Pupilija Ferkeverk,” the camera cuts back and forth between avant-garde magazine covers and a swing set which stands on a flooded plane and is intermittently visited by abstract arrangements of half-naked, drugged-out youths. A note in the magazine reveals that several of the films were banned by censors “on the mere suspicion” that they “contained subversive hidden messages.” Budding revolutionaries might not find much inspiration here, but makers of Levi’s ads should take note.
Academics are organizing courses around The Wire, the late HBO series that touched on (or more than touched on) such topics as de-industrialization, failing public schools, and the underground drug economy. Among those professors, reports the Ideas writer Drake Bennett, writing in Slate, is the Harvard sociologist William Julius Wilson–whose book “When Work Disappears,” as it happens, shaped the show.