Wednesday, December 14, 2011

a new book about Link

So I entered the contest by The Indoor Kids podcast this month. I mentioned I was gonna try a couple of posts ago.

The results came in and I won a copy of Gears of War 3. Totally awesome. Really excited. The contest was 'Make something related somehow to video games and win something related to Gears of War 3 (the game, an xbox console, game art, etc.)'. You can see a bunch of the other entries on the Indoor Kids facebook page.

For my entry I put together a 3-page story about Link from the very first Legend of Zelda for NES. I told Link's story from his perspective. But instead of starting out from home and ending in a dungeon somewhere, I tell it in reverse. It starts with the end of his journey and him, sadly, losing this life. Then it goes in reverse back to when he's just left home on his quest. It's a mix of different kinds of writing and drawing with some collage too.

Here's a bit more detailed description of what the book is about. It's called Link's Story (or you can just scroll down and read it below):
  • The main page is the title page. Link's Story. There's a short description in the top half of the page that tells you what's on all the pages to come and what will happen. On the bottom is a poem written inside one of the dungeon rooms. If you haven't given up yet after seeing this page :) the story begins on the next page.
  • The first page of the story shows Link losing his life. He's comforted by a woman there. The writing in green is Link speaking or thinking. He is basically trying to convince the woman to help him up. He doesn't know how badly he's hurt. She's telling him to rest now. At the very end she gives him a bit of advice about approaching things differently next time. There are other things on the page too. There are a bunch of small boats around the main picture. There's also a lot of writing, some legible, some not so legible. That's all the stuff going on in Link's head at this point. It's the end of his journey, and he wasn't successful. This is sort of the messiest page of them all. Not to worry, they get less messy as we go.
  • On the second page of the story Link is fighting a battle. The writing is all him. He's talking about this weird feeling he has that a boy just like him will come after him and finally succeed, even if he doesn't. He snaps out of it and starts to motivate himself to fight.
  • The third page of the story is Link writing down his thoughts relatively shortly after he's left home on the quest. The writing is all from his voice again on this last page. He talks about what he remembers, what he misses. The picture is home.
  • SPOILER! There's one last little hidden thing that I may as well explain. I wanted the book to be like the Triforce. Just like the Triforce has three parts (Wisdom, power, courage), each page represents each of those parts in that order. And if you haven't already noticed it, if you take the odd looking boat in the upper right of the first page (not the cover page) and flip it over, it fits into the picture on page two. And take the garage sort of building to the right of the house on the last page, flip it over, and it also fits into the picture on page two. Just tried to tie the whole thing together from the start.
Here's my entry:
Link's Story

That's all there is to it. I hope you hung in there for it and maybe even enjoyed it.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The amazing video game podcast The Indoor Kids is having a contest and I'm gonna try and enter. They're looking for anything to do with video games, like fan art, essays, whatever. So I'm gonna try. I've been working on something since last week. Something to do with Link from the original Legend of Zelda for NES and the basic story of a kid leaving home to go on an adventure. So it's gonna be a three part like book sort of tho it'll only have three pages I think. It'll be writing with pictures like I've been doing in the other books. But this time very focused on the story of Link. It's not as weird maybe as the other stuff I've been writing. It's gonna come out all right I think.

I started with this layout of one of the pictures. Not sure what it is exactly yet. Link is in the middle and there are monsters to the left and right. The Triforce is in there. Hearts on the bottom maybe? Have to fill it in with other parts of the game.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Some of the gorgeous pictures I came across this morning at Kostel svatého Kříže on Na příkopě in their pamphlets and what not. Play this while you have a look.

Friday, November 11, 2011

I heard the whole second side of abbey road the other night at Cerna Vdova in Zizkov. I was telling P how cool it is. Hear this song? it's just one long track? notice how it's been going on like this for a while? It's all from the same album called abbey road. Funny to bring that to someone. Miles and miles and miles away from home. I've heard all the songs a hundred times, but sometimes you hear songs a lot then you hear them one time and they're different. So I read more about Golden Slumbers and it turns out Paul McCartney came across sheet music for the poem Cradle Song by Thomas Dekker left on a piano by his sister. The poem goes like this:
Golden slumbers kiss your eyes,
Smiles awake you when you rise;
Sleep, pretty wantons, do not cry,
And I will sing a lullaby,
 Rock them, rock them, lullaby.

Care is heavy, therefore sleep you,
You are care, and care must keep you;
Sleep, pretty wantons, do not cry,
And I will sing a lullaby,
Rock them, rock them, lullaby.
I'm not trying to steal this stuff. Most of the story is up on wikipedia. Just thought it was interesting.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

This is what I was talking about before with Esquire. All the dumb ads. And wondering why we can't squeeze some words in there to get us into the head of the people in there. Sometimes there are these great shots of guy or a man and woman sitting in a club. There are all sorts of things that come to mind. So I wanted to use that somehow. So here's this one from a CK ad. The text goes like this: I knew change from glass. I knew stupid interrupted. I would learn. I hoped I would. But maybe I was too old already. Maybe I was 21 with a glass eye. 

That's that. Maybe it makes no sense to anybody. I like it though.

Monday, October 31, 2011

and writing is everywhere in magazines still. It's a different world here. I pick up Esquire for 300kc. That's $17 american dollars for a magazine that doesn't cost more than $3 back home. And they're not all the Style Issue. Sometimes they're thin. It's still important for me to see the advertisements and the articles and the writers. You can see the lines they spend time with. Usually it's the opening and closing lines and maybe something clever to close off a paragraph here and there. Some lines just flow to get the story across, but some of those lines get a lot of care and concern and took time. The ads mostly all suck. They have no idea what they're doing. Oh the money Gucci must pay for someone to come up with idea of a dude on a couch in a suit with his lips pursed. If there's writing in the ads usually it's something that goes nowhere. I don't know why they don't try to tell stories. Louis Vuitton was on the right path with Annie Leibovitz. But where are the right words to go along with it. A small story. Something about the character in the picture. I'm doing it though. I'll show you when I get my scanner hooked up.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

how to get from the notebook to the printed paage without losing so much of the stuff I like

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Sheila Hicks in Prague

Yesterday I saw the Sheila Hicks exhibition at the Museum of Decorative Arts in the Jewish Quarter. She works with textiles and weaving. The exhibit is probably 30-40 pieces in one room. And there are a few examples of real genius there.

If you go, make it upstairs. There’s a documentary about the design school she started in Cape Town, South Africa. It’s an amazing place. They bring locals in and teach them to create clothing that they can sell. Except the clothing is made out of things like old newspapers and magazines, weeds and the roots, fallen branches and fronds. Artists come from all over the world to teach there.

Anyway the exhibition in Prague is 80kc - way cheap - til Nov. 6. 2011 at The Museum of Decorative Arts.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Car designer and artist Camillo Pardo and the GT40

2002 Ford GT40

It’s 1985 and Ford wants to take a run at Porsche, Ferrari, Lotus and the like. They buy a Ferrari Testarossa, a Ferrari 308, a Lotus Esprit and set their engineers and designers loose. After a while, Ford comes out with the ultra-modern GT90 and later the Ford GT (or GT40) pictured above. Given all that work and tinkering with European supercars though, to my eye it looks like the biggest influence on the redesigned Ford GT was the old Ford GT.

1966 Ford GT40

I love reading about design, about influences, how companies steal and redesign and take (or avoid) huge risks with design. I was listening to Ford car designer Camilo Pardo talk about designing the Ford GT in a Carcast podcast. Interesting if you’re into cars or design. He talked how he came to be a car designer, about how important transitions are from one design to the next, and how jumping too far forward can lose public support and lead to redesigns being scrapped completely.

Pardo is also a sculptor, painter and fashion designer. The best part of the interview was when he talked about cars that he liked, like these:

1965 Shelby Daytona
1969 Corvette Stingray

I like that because it’s great to see that line from the past to the present. You hear people talking about influences all the time, but to actually see them is something else.

Thursday, September 29, 2011


I work in a large room with 30 or so other people. The blinds are shut all day because the sunlight reflects off the computer screens. The fluorescent lights are off for the most part too because they flicker and strobe. So when it's sunny outside, it’s nighttime here. Even still, I have a pretty great job.

I have maybe an hour of work each day. The people are nice. I spend most of the time writing or drawing by small desk lamp or even sometimes in one of the bathroom stalls where the light is better. I don't write or paint for money, but the job sort of let’s me pretend that’s what’s happening.

I put all the books up on Amazon. I’ve been thinking more about that. My goal a while ago was to have a bunch of people download and read the books. Now I think the best way to do that is with direct free downloads of the books. It just feels right. You can get them here. There will be others.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Embassy blues

Since probably a year or so ago Czechs needed to apply for a visa and pass a face-to-face interview with someone at the embassy to visit the US. When it was time for my girlfriend’s visa interview, I told her I’d go with her to the US embassy. They wouldn't let me in the door. No reason. So I went for coffee.

I thought somehow that I would feel a little bit home visiting the US embassy. But that’s not really how things work. I’ve been back since and now I’m sure of it.

Everything requires an appointment (sometimes even a password). Police are everywhere outside. Almost no one you meet is actually American. And everyone except the lowly security guard is behind tempered glass.

I know that most of these people are just doing their jobs, but some of them absolutely do not care if they do that job well. So you get a lot of aggressive questioning and a lot of superior attitude and a lot of ‘come back tomorrow’.

I know that one step above my little life there’s a whole other level from which the strings are created and pulled. That’s fine. I know a lot of it’s about security. I know that people are trying to weasel their way into the US and its embassies to do horrible things every day. It’s just that every time I go to the US embassy I wish they understood that I’m a legal taxpaying dude who is just trying to get in and get out and get back to work. It doesn’t bother me that they think I’m a threat when I walk up to the door - they have to. It’s that once I’m inside and cleared, I ought to be treated better.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Friday, September 9, 2011

Marcel Duchamp and 'A nude never descends'

I never knew much about Marcel Duchamp other than the urinal fountain thing. Turns out he had some vicious detractors in his days including President Theodore Roosevelt.

Nude Descending a Staircase, No. 2 by Marcel Duchamp

About the above painting you have the following background from Wikipedia:
"Duchamp first submitted the work to appear in a Cubist show at the Salon des Indépendants in Paris, but jurist Albert Gleizes asked Duchamp's brothers, Jacques Villon and Raymond Duchamp-Villon, to have him voluntarily withdraw the painting, or paint over the title that he had painted on the work and rename it something else. The hanging committee objected to the work on the grounds that it had "too much of a literary title", and that "a nude never descends the stairs—a nude reclines".

Of the incident Duchamp recalled,

"I said nothing to my brothers. But I went immediately to the show and took my painting home in a taxi. It was really a turning point in my life, I can assure you. I saw that I would not be very much interested in groups after that."

He submitted the painting to the 1913 Armory Show in New York City located where Americans, accustomed to naturalistic art, were scandalized. Julian Street, an art critic for the New York Times wrote that the work resembled "an explosion in a shingle factory," and cartoonists satirized the piece. It spawned dozens of parodies in the years that followed.

After attending the Armory Show and seeing Marcel Duchamp's Nude Descending a Staircase, President Theodore Roosevelt wrote (using his own, also valid translation):

"Take the picture which for some reason is called 'A Naked Man Going Down Stairs'. There is in my bathroom a really good Navajo rug which, on any proper interpretation of the Cubist theory, is a far more satisfactory and decorative picture. Now, if, for some inscrutable reason, it suited somebody to call this rug a picture of, say, 'A Well-Dressed Man Going Up a Ladder', the name would fit the facts just about as well as in the case of the Cubist picture of the 'Naked Man Going Down Stairs'. From the standpoint of terminology each name would have whatever merit inheres in a rather cheap straining after effect; and from the standpoint of decorative value, of sincerity, and of artistic merit, the Navajo rug is infinitely ahead of the picture."
On a lighter note though:

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Drawing of Plato's Ion dialogue 'The nature of poetic inspiration'

I decided to draw this up. It's from Plato's Ion dialogue, which is basically a conversation between Socrates and the poet Ion. It's in ink on paper and then brushed over with oil. Oil makes the paper translucent and actually draws the pink pigment out of the black ink of the permanent marker. Funky but it works.


I've been playing a little bit with illustrations and ended up reading a lot about Norman Rockwell today. Didn't quite realize he was alive and working around the time Modern artists like Jackson Pollock were just taking off.

This article in LIFE magazine from Nov 13, 1970 was interesting. Click on it to view it larger and read it.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Really enjoying Woody Allen's new movie Midnight in Paris right now. Strange though how the trailer doesn't even really hint at the most clever parts of the story.

Anyway, made this this morning from one of my teaching textbooks. A different sort of perspective. Rearranging the sentences from the exercises to get something different. And the space at the bottom made sense there too. Liking it.

Thursday, August 25, 2011


I thought I'd throw up a couple of black and white photos. Some of them are up on Facebook already, so follow me there if you want to see different stuff (less writing, lots of paintings and pictures).

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

How advertising copywriters attract readers

I stumbled on the "21 Most Powerful Copywriting Rules of All Time by Dr. Joe Vitale" recently in a book called Mastering the World of Marketing. Why in the world would I be reading that you might ask? I happened to be reading something by Gary Vaynerchuk (a smart wine guy who was inspiring at TED and funny on Conan) and the list was on the next page. Anyway some of the most famous creative artists started as copywriters (Terry Gilliam, Salman Rushdie, Don DeLillo).

At least three of the "most powerful" rules on that list are interesting for creative writers, particularly for short forms like poetry, which is in the slump of a lifetime these days. Here are three I thought were interesting:
1. Write simply, directly, and in the conversational style of your prospects.

Who are you trying to reach? Housewives, business executives, children? You must know the type of person you are writing to. Write to one person from that group and you will speak to all people in that group. Forget trying to impress people, win writing awards, or please a past English teacher. Good copy often violates the rules of English but still makes the sale.

2. Use emotional appeal.

People buy for emotional reasons and justify with logic. Gene Schwartz wrote an ad that ran for 20 years and sold so many flowers it exhausted nurseries. It's packed with emotional appeal. It read in part:

"When you put this into the Earth, and you jump back (quickly), it explodes into flowers. And everybody in your neighborhood comes and they look. And people take home blooms because you've got so many you could never find a house big enough to put them. And you've become the gardening expert for the entire neighborhood."

3. Activate your writing.

Whenever you write the words "is," "was," "are," or "to be," train yourself to stop and change them to something more active. "The meeting is tonight" sounds dead; "The meeting starts at 7 PM sharp tonight" feels clear, direct and alive. "Clair Sullivan is the finest promoter in the country" doesn't convey the excitement that "Clair Sullivan creates corporate events better than anyone else on the planet" does.
The whole list of rules and book preview is here, but if you're like me you'll want to read more by Gene Schwartz, who is mentioned in number 2. You can somehow read his whole book Breakthrough Advertising free on Scribd or you can read a couple of chapters from his How To Talk And Write So That People Will Never Forget You here. Both are worth a look.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Douchebags vs. Karaoke (or the Eric Dravens vs. the Brandon Lees)

I'm going to try to explain why karaoke can be art.

Still there? Good.

It's so funny what happens now that we're flooded with music. Music music music. On the TV. In the car. At the work desk. In the earbuds. But still, even though we have the chance at all times to listen to whatever we want and not the radio, some people (I'll call them douchebags) can't deal with radio hits we all know the words to. So when my friend Boris brought his karaoke party to a goth bar nearby, the douchebags showed their douchebag fangs.

One Eric Draven in particular wanted to fight Boris. It didn't help that Boris loves to sing or that his voice has a sort of Old Man River flavor to it, or that Boris opened the evening with It's Raining Men. Surprisingly, none of that helped. But the place filled up regardless. People came from all around, and soon the douchebags were outnumbered.

The moral (but not the end) of this story is that douchebags are an angry, angry lot. If you ever want to do something that makes you happy regardless of what other people think of you, think long and hard because a douchebag is lurking. And he can't see through his or her own bullshit. Onward.

In Spain, when someone is doing a performance of any kind you sometimes hear people say "Arte!" It's rare and it's hard to translate*, but basically means their performance was beautiful and moving**. The people with the most Arte aren't necessarily the most talented. What they are doing is just being themselves, which is hard to do in front of a crowd of people. I have a hunch that a lot of the great portrait painters and directors recognize Arte in people better than us normal folk, and aim to capture just that.

So maybe it sounds strange, but sometimes you catch that Arte at a karaoke night or two. It's not every time. Takes balls to get up there though, not fangs.

p.s. Boris doesn't know I'm writing about him. He might not think it good for business to talk about the douchebags in attendance. But I might argue that it's great for business. Someone has to sing Anarchy in the UK.

Here's where you find out about his karaoke nights:

*Not really. Arte means art.
**One example of Arte might be this if you like Italian karaoke:

Friday, August 5, 2011

A drawing of the lyrics from Big Star's 'Take Care'

I heard a cover of the wonderful Big Star song 'Take Care' on the album Summer Sun by Yo la tengo and had to go back to hear the original.

Video link:

I love the lyrics.

So here they are partially drawn:

Monday, August 1, 2011

New paintings

I put up some new paintings and street posters on the Materurbium Facebook page. Here's a picture with tiny samples of 9 of the paintings.

Like I said they're over on Facebook. There's a bunch of stuff there anyway that's not on the blog. So if you're interested and on Facebook, have a look.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

To beautiful things come from here: The Tree of Life and Bedrich Smetana

This post originally appeared in The Prague Monitor.

I don’t know if you saw Winged Migration when it came out in 2001. If you didn’t, it was a nature documentary of sorts about bird migration. It was a success and ended up winning best documentary at the Oscars that year. It wasn’t that bird migration was so interesting. It was that the footage of the birds and their behavior was.

Even though you knew the camera crew was flying alongside in ultralights, that the birds were trained to fly and act naturally, there were scenes that just blew your mind. It seemed like the filmmakers got lucky. That the camera was on when a bird wandered into the frame, did something we'd never seen before and flew away.

There’s a lot of that in The Tree of Life, which I just saw the other night. For starters it's beautifully shot. The world we live in never looked better. And some of the scenes (especially with the young boys) seem like they were captured naturally in between takes of the actual movie.

So The Tree of Life is not like most movies. If you haven’t heard about it already (chances are you have though) you might want to read up on it first. There's plenty of controversy. It's up to you. I can't believe that The Tree of Life is in the local Cineplex alongside Harry Potter 8 though.

Oh, and the music. I’m proud a bit to recognize Czech composer Bedřich Smetana’s Vltava contribution to the movie and the trailer. You can hear it here:

Kino Aero is running The Tree of Life in English with Czech subtitles for a measly 100kc. Get on it.

Monday, July 25, 2011

"Lou Reed got married and didn't invite me" - Spoken word in music (part dva)

Green Coca-cola Bottles by Andy Warhol (1962)
"What’s great about this country is that America started the tradition where the richest consumers buy essentially the same things as the poorest. You can be watching TV and see Coca-Cola, and you know that the President drinks Coke, Liz Taylor drinks Coke, and just think, you can drink Coke, too. A Coke is a Coke and no amount of money can get you a better Coke than the one the bum on the corner is drinking. All the Cokes are the same and all the Cokes are good. Liz Taylor knows it, the President knows it, the bum knows it, and you know it." - from The Philosophy of Andy Warhol by Andy Warhol
I picked up a free book from Penguin a while ago that was a bunch of first chapters from what Penguin called "the best books ever written". It included chapters from books like John Updike's Rabbit Run, Saul Bellow's Herzog and Andy Warhol's The Philosophy of Andy Warhol.

I'd never heard of a book written by Andy Warhol other than his diaries. That quote up there turns out to be one of the better sort of insights into the way he thought, but the whole Philosophy of... is not like that. Like there's a whole chapter where he talks about buying underwear (briefs, if you must know). But I thought of the book recently when I decided to put up some worth-your-while spoken word videos.

Songs for Drella by Lou Reed and John Cale is a concept album dedicated to Andy Warhol. One of the tracks has John Cale reading from Andy's diary. The track is called 'A dream', and if you’re into Andy Warhol, I think you’ll enjoy it.

It was a very cold clear fall night.
I had a terrible dream.
Billy Name and Brigid were playing under my staircase
on the second floor about two o'clock in the morning.

I woke up because Amos and Archie had started barking.
That made me very angry because I wasn't feeling well and I
told them I was very cross, the real me,
that they just better remember what happened to Sam the bad cat
that was left at home and got sick and went to pussy heaven.

It was a very cold clear fall night.
Some snowflakes were falling.
Gee, it was so beautiful.
And so I went to get my camera to take some pictures.
And then I was taking the pictures
but the exposure thing wasn't right.
And I was going to call Fred or Gerry
to find out how to set it.
Oh it was too late.
And then I remembered they were still probably at dinner.
And anyway I felt really bad and didn't want to talk to anybody,
But the snowflakes were so beautiful and real looking
and I really wanted to hold them.
And that's when I heard the voices
from down the hall near the stairs.
So I got a flashlight and I was scared and I went out into the hallway.
There's been all kinds of troubles
lately in the neighborhood
and someone's got to bring home the bacon. Anyway
there were Brigid and Billy playing.

And under the staircase
was a little meadow sort of like the park at 23rd street
where all the young kids go and play frisbee.
Gee, that must be fun.
Maybe we should do an article on that in the magazine
but they'll just tell me I'm stupid and it won't sell
but I'll hold my ground this time, I mean
it's my magazine, isn't it?

So I was thinking that as the snowflakes fell
and I heard those voices having so much fun.
Gee, it would be so great to have some fun.
So I called Billy but either he didn't hear me or he didn't want to answer
which was so strange because even if I don't like reunions I've always loved Billy.
I'm so glad he's working.
I mean it's different than Ondine.
He keeps touring with those movies
and he doesn't even pay us and the film
I mean the film's just going to disintegrate and then what?
I mean he's so normal off of drugs.
I just don't get it.

And then I saw John Cale.
He's been looking really great.
He's been coming by the office to exercise with me.
Ronnie said I have a muscle
but he's been really mean since he went to AA.
I mean what does it mean
when you give up drinking and then you're still so mean?
He says I'm being lazy but I'm not.
I'm just can't find any ideas.
I mean I'm just not, let's face it,
going to get any ideas up at the office.

And seeing John made me think of the Velvets
and I had been thinking about them
when I was on St. Mark's Place
going to that new gallery those sweet new kids have opened.
But they thought I was old.
And then I saw the old DOM,
the old club where we did our first shows.
It was so great.
And I don't understand about that Velvet's first album.
I mean I did the cover.
I was the producer and I always see it repackaged
and I've never gotten a penny from it.
How could that be? I should call Henry.
But it was good seeing John.
I did a cover for him,
but I did in black and white and he changed it to color,
It would have been worth more if he'd left it my way
but you can never tell any body anything. I've learned that.

I tried calling again to Billy and John.
They wouldn't recognize me. It was like I wasn't there.
Why won't they let me in?

And then I saw Lou.
I'm so mad at him.
Lou Reed got married and didn't invite me.
I mean is it because he thought I'd bring too many people?
I don't get it.
Could have at least called.
I mean he's doing so great.
Why doesn't he call me?
I saw him at the MTV show
and he was one row away and he didn't even say hello.
I don't get it.
You know I hate Lou.
I really do.
He won't even hire us for his videos.
And I was so proud of him.

I was so scared today.
There was blood leaking through my shirt
from those old scars from being shot.
And the corset I wear to keep my insides in was hurting.
And I did three sets of fifteen pushups
and four sets of ten situps.
But then my insides hurt
and I saw drops of blood on my shirt and I remember
the doctors saying I was dead.
And then later they had to take blood out of my hand
'cause they ran out of veins.
But then all this thinking was making me an old grouch.
And you can't do anything anyway so
if they wouldn't let me play with them in my own dream
I was just going to have to make another and another and another.
Gee, wouldn't it just be so funny if I died in this dream
before I could make another one up.

And nobody called.

And nobody came.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Spoken word in music

Spoken word is tough to pull off. I've never liked any of the Def poetry jam things. Sometimes you catch a spoken word track here or there on an album of your favorite artist, like it's old news now that Kanye West used a part of Gil Scott-Heron's Who will survive in America on his last album. So sometimes you catch a sprinkling of it around. I would say that most people don't care for it. Just a guess. Not sure why. It's sort of tough to do it well. Usually background music helps.

In a few days I'll put up a spoken word I created recently using the fabulous ATT Voice synthesizer that I love so much and an instrumental electronic track by Fennesz. I don't expect anyone to love it. But it's something different. And that's later anyway.

For now, a couple of tracks with spoken word that I think work. I'll start with this one. It's by the electronic artist Loscil and it's called the Making of Grief Point. Loscil is Scott Morgan. The voice is Dan Bejar from the band Destroyer. Probably because Scott also plays drums in that band.

Video link:

I don't know really why I'm doing this. People ask Why don't people read poetry? But what they're really asking is Why aren't people buying books of poetry? Because artful writing is everywhere, and you can catch it if you're looking for it. You just don't call it poetry. You call it lyrics or you call it screenwriting. It doesn't really matter what you call it. It certainly doesn't matter to the person who wrote it. So I guess that's what this post is about. How occasionally musicians gray the line between reading and singing, books and music. Because that's what spoken word sort of sounds like.

Hope you enjoy this one. Later I'll put up more. If you know of some good ones, let me know.

Lyrics to the video thanks to
The journal starts late: six weeks into the making of "Grief Point," first off as "May Day," a song in honor of May 1st and the workers. Can you still be against the strike that only strikes for more pay? By "you," in this instance, I mean "me."

There is a certain kind of person to whom things come with great facility. They say this is the noise that gets made as my life is lived. So be it. But don't feel the need to record it. For a second I thought that this meant that they were not interested in history. But that's... wrong. Wrong, wrong. A bad reading of the situation. The right reading is that I just don't understand it. At all.

Grief Point — and "May Day," by extension — suffers from the same old shit. A potential, complete ignorance of ambience, real ambience, in that: Can you really construct it, every last bit of it, and just let the listener feel its effects? And is this the right treatment? Always the same question. In this case I would maybe say yes, just because it forces form onto the thing, "thing" as a bunch of words, two melodies, and the words sung in a handful of ways. Between J____ and D____, of course, the same old war rages: one into a tight and perfect digital palace, but super true to the genre; the other, wanting to draw on actual sounds, mix it up, humanize.

It's cool how for my part, this sleight of hand, the trick of making something confounding and great and potentially horrible, drawn up from air: all this is no longer of any interest. In fact, even seeing things in this light depresses me. And so I often come home at night depressed by what we have done, what we are doing. It's good. It means I've changed.

I have lost interest in music. It is horrible.

I should only make things I understand. I should only make things I know how to construct, however imperfect. It's not even like dictating to someone. It's less than that.

"May Day" itself is pretty cool, I have to admit. It condemns the world at such an easy pace. I intend to tell T____ it is like a happy "Shooting Rockets," a disgusting description of anything, to be sure. I think the world does not like me grim. It likes me melancholic, but not miserable. English on the Mediterranean, which is oddly enough some of the worst people there is.

At some point, when it is made, I will explain this record, word for word, swear to God. An ape with angel glands: when I know if it is good or bad, I will know what is good, and what is bad.

The answer to the making of "Grief Point" is picnic baskets, filled with blood.

Too rich, nothing at stake.

If ______ had to write lyrics for his songs, they would be cumbersome, pale blocks, like his riffs, but pale. So instead he went out and found a whaler, too stupid to commit to a single thing.

I assume not lighting up at the sight of your mother as a sign of madness in an infant. Patina, no name for a baby. Your firstborn, before they threw you from the bridge.

Bagna wrestles his dogs to the floor. Such a beautiful scene for some. They write plays, don't perform them.

The message from the critical reception of Dreams was quite clear: we will not be listening to you any further. Of course some tension is created. Cosmonaut in a bread line, et cetera.

I watched a pig devour the classics just to get to you. The barge endlessly circling, your mind finds out. It is done.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Marc Chagall

"Here, in the Louvre, before the canvases of Manet, Millet and others, I understood why my alliance with Russia and Russian art did not take root. Why my language itself is foreign to them. Why people do not place confidence in me. Why the artistic circles fail to recognize me. Why in Russia I am entirely useless.. ..In Paris, it seemed to me that I was discovering everything, above all a mastery of technique.. ..It was not in technique alone that I sought the meaning of art then. It was as if the gods had stood before me.. ..I had the impression that we are still only roaming on the surface of matter, that we are afraid to plunge into chaos, to shatter and overthrow beneath our feet the familiar surface."

Marc Chagall from Letters of the great artists – from Blake to Pollock

Thursday, June 23, 2011

The best way to promote your writing

I understand the temptation to self-promote at every turn. I see it all over the place. People write two or three lines in a comment reply somewhere and then pitch their site or book link. It's fast and easy. I think it comes from short-sighted goals on the side of the writers. We think the goal is to sell books. But the real goal is to give readers (whether they're reading your comments or your books) something of value.

Entertain and people pay attention. If not, they're on to something else. Think of all the web sites you visit regularly. They give you something of value. That's why you go back to them. And these are the readers you want for your books. Readers like yourself. Sometimes I think we expect readers to act differently than we do.

Anything you write is an advertisement for you as a writer. Every comment, tweet, or blog post has an impression on whoever's reading. The best promotion you can do to get others to look at your writing is to write well and have something to say wherever and whenever you write.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Bon Iver, Bon Iver: The lyrics

So much good music comes out every month it’s amazing.

A lot of bands let you stream their new albums for free, option to buy. Some even let you stream the album weeks before its official release without the option to buy immediately. Go figure.

The new Bon Iver album has been available for a while to stream but not to buy until later this month. Too bad because I wanted to buy it by the second song.
I’m tearing up, acrost your face
move dust through the light
to fide your name
it’s something fane
this is not a place
not yet awake, I’m raised of make

still alive who you love
Amazing and surprising. Different from the last album. Better. He’s in another place than you expect with the lyrics. And that makes the album better.
…and at once I knew I was not magnificent
high above the highway aisle
(jagged vacance, thick with ice)
I could see for miles, miles, miles
The lyrics hit me in a place that I’ll admit is probably not the same for others. Writing is everything to me. I love music, but it’s not my thing to make it. My brother is very good at music, maybe great. Music is powerful to people in ways that plain writing is not. But if the tune isn’t there, the lyrics don’t have a chance. So usually the less you’re trying to say with lyrics the better. It seems like that’s how lyrics are written. But not with this album.
our love is a star
sure some hazardry
for the light before and after most indefinitely
danger has been stole away
I’ve always thought that’s what writing should be. That if you write something and you turn it over and around and it’s at its best, adding music to it later would only make it better.
in a mother, out a moth
furling forests for the soft
gotta know been lead aloft
so I’m ridding all your stories
what I know, what it is, is pouring
I don’t want to look too much into the meaning of what he’s done. I think I read somewhere that he was more interested in the sounds of the words than the meanings. Not important. He’s in another place with this album, and the language looking back from there is foreign, surprising, beautiful.

Bon Iver, Bon Iver out 6/21 via Jagjaguwar.
Official lyrics thanks to Jagjaguwar.
Stream the album at NPR or Pitchfork.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Friday, June 10, 2011

More blog behavior I don't understand

A year ago literary agent Rachelle Gardner had a contest over on her blog for writers to send in their best one-sentence summaries of their books. The whole thing was about how a one-sentence pitch is important because it answers the question “What’s your book about?” and generates interest in the book. Something like 500 writers responded in the comments below the post and a winner was selected.

If you were a reader like moi and you liked any of the pitches you read it didn't matter because there were no links to any of the authors. There wasn’t even a link to the writer who won. I mean, the writers were pitching to Ms. Gardner, an agent, but weren't they also pitching to me, the reader who stumbled upon the post a year after it was written?

It is amazing now that if you’re an author, virtually anything you write anywhere is promoting your writing. If you contribute to someone else’s blog though (with a comment or whatever), the responsibility falls on the shoulders of the blog owner to make it so that your contribution has legs. Because if I like something you’ve written somewhere and after a few seconds there’s no easy way for me to read more by you, I move on. It happens so fast I almost don’t even think about it.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

There is no page

Where I work they block 99% of the internet during work hours. Understandable. Most anything related to Google is still available though, and that gives me enough of a hole that I can still read just about anything I want online by using the Google cache link.

The cache link is located below a Google search result and the cache is a snapshot of the page as it looked when Google indexed it. It’s not the most current version of the page, but it works just fine for articles. All the images on the page are blocked though, so basically all I get is cold text. But the text is really all I’m looking for.

I spent all day yesterday formatting an ebook that I’m preparing for Kindle. The first thing you learn when you’re putting an ebook together is that the only thing you really have control over is the text. How it looks (font size, page layout, line spacing, etc.) depends on the preferences of the reader and the limits of the device they are using. That's a good thing, but it does mean that once the book is done there are more than a few questions about how to get the book to look right. Luckily there are a few books out there that help explain ebook formatting.

One of them I like is a free ebook style guide by Mark Coker, founder of Smashwords. One section in particular talks about how ebook formatting is different than print. I liked it so I thought I’d bring it here:
"With print, you control the layout. The words appear on the printed page exactly where you want them to appear. With ebooks, there is no “page.” By giving up the control of the printed page, you and your readers gain much more in return.

Page numbers are irrelevant. Your book will look different on every e-reading device. Your text will shape shift and reflow.

Most e-reading devices and e-reading applications allow your reader to customize the fonts, font sizes and line spacing. Your customers will modify how your book looks on-screen to suit their personal reading preference and environment. By transforming your books into digital form, you open up exciting possibilities for how readers can enjoy them...

Most readers want your words, not your fancy page layout or exotic type styles. This is especially important for your ebook customers, because you want your work to display well on as many digital reading devices as possible so the reader can have their book their way."
When I’m not cache surfing, I actually do a lot of work with print formatting where I work. Generally it’s a nightmare because people don’t understand that we are not living in 1985 and printing user manuals is for dummies. But that’s okay. They have a lot to learn about how users find answers, and I’ve got a lot to learn about everything else.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Three annoying things that will get me to unsubscribe from my favorite blogs

This isn’t aimed directly at any of you dear readers. I know I don’t have a ton of you, and each of you is precious. I do subscribe to a lot of blogs though so I want to talk about the three things that a few of my soon-to-be ex-favorite blogs do.
1. Put commercials in their feeds.

I subscribe to Hugh Macleod’s blog because I like his cartoons and his writing. Now I get a cartoon every couple of days but a lot of time it’s part of a commercial. Here’s a recent example: ‘I drew this cartoon for Posterous, the fab photo-sharing site...’ hyperlinking to it and all. Recently he even included a cartoon that advertised free shipping on prints from his site. That’s not what I thought I was getting when I subscribed.
2. The posts are too long and come too often.

I subscribe to the Lefsetz letter as I’ve mentioned before. He may be talking about Lady GaGa for the 500th time, but he usually makes it about music and technology and art. The problem (and what is ultimately going to make me unsubscribe) is that his posts are super long and they come constantly. Sometimes I get three or four emails from him a day. It’s getting to the point where I read the first line or two and I shove off to somewhere else. I feel sort of bad about unsubscribing; I would like maybe one a week. But getting too many emails (even from someone you like) feels sort of spammy. If you had four voice mail messages from the same person everyday that would be annoying, no?
3. Make me go to your site to read the entire post.

This is the least offensive of the three but still something that a few blog sites do, and it bugs me. The reason I subscribe is so that I don’t have to go to your site to read what you write. So why are sending me back there? Is it for the traffic? At least tell me it’s for the traffic. Maybe I’m fine with it.
Early next week I’ll put up some of the things that get me to subscribe to blogs. For now, leave a comment and tell me about annoying blog behavior I should avoid for the future. I’d love to learn what else not to do.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Now for something completely different...

I started this blog with the idea that I'll write about things related to books and technology and what not. But I find myself moving more towards things that I like and things I want to talk about, which aren't always related to books or technology.

The more I talk about the things I like, the more I want to talk about the things I love. So I'm going to try to get an eensy weensy bit honest here and tell a story to the few of you who have yet to click away.

Almost nobody who knows me knows that I write a lot. Mostly you could say it's poetry, but that's hard for me to say (and it took me a long time to come to the point where it was acceptable if you said it). Silly really. But after a while of writing what you think is unclassifiable, what do you got? Something no one can read because they can't find it. So screw it.

Over to the right is a short poem I wrote on the back of a business card last night. It's sort of about football. It's more about the athletes who train everyday and the trophies or the cups they work for.

I ripped this business card style right from Hugh Macleod, an excellent illustrator I've linked to many times before. Just look at the older posts from this month if you want to see what wows me about that guy. I'm not looking to do the same thing as him. I'm just looking for a format that's short and small, that can travel light better than a whole book can.

I'll still be writing about all sorts of stuff related to technology and publishing. I just wanted to give this side of me, the part that I see with, a bit of air.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Why music beats most other art forms

Daniel Lanois For the Beauty of Wynona
Album art by reknowned Czech Artist Jan Saudek

I have a feeling music is more popular than ever before. This might be like a Golden Age we’re in or something.

Is there another art form that reaches people the way music does? Music is instant. 2 - 3 minutes. If you like the song, you want another one. Like enough of them, you'll pull together to see the band live.

Music is so powerful that there are tons of sites and bloggers that talk about how technology is helping bands break, changing music distribution, killing major labels, etc. etc. I subscribe to the Lefsetz letter. A lot of the time he talks about Katy Perry and Lady Gaga, how these types of acts will be gone in a couple of years, how grass rooters like Arcade Fire and Mumford and Sons are doing it the long-haul right way, how older artists aren’t engaging a young audience properly (You mean it’s not actually Stevie Nicks who’s Tweeting?). Sometimes it can be a little bit too much.

If you read enough of that sort of stuff, you sort of lose track of how powerful music is on its own. It’s just about good songs. 2-3 minutes that communicate something, that succeed in making you want more or do not.

So in the spirit of simplicity and good songs, here are two from Canadian songwriter and producer Daniel Lanois' For the Beauty of Wynona. It was released in 1993, but I just discovered them today. They are instant.

The Messenger
"Oh the door that closes tightly
is the door that can swing wide..."

Rocky World
"She's turning twenty, and out on the make
Pounding the blacktop with a habit to shake
She's looking for a manger in the eyes of a stranger
down in the streets of a rocky world..."

Read more after the jump...

Friday, May 20, 2011

Libraries can make it

This post is yeeeeears late. Google and Amazon have been using their nimble pink tips to digitize anything and everything for a long time now. Libraries are shutting down. Amazon is selling more e-books than book books. Publishers are limiting what libraries can e-lend. I figure I’m not too late to shoot my opinion to all 1 of you reading (love you dad!).

First off, everybody loves libraries and thinks they are valuable. This is great news for libraries. I remember saying once that the reason libraries are failing is that anything you need from a library can be found faster and easier online, but that’s not totally true. Libraries do offer something unique, and it’s the reason why we value them and will miss them if they’re gone.

Anyone can walk into a library and read a book (new or old) for free. That’s it. That’s the whole thing. And that’s completely unique even today (though Barnes and Noble was giving public libraries a run for their money for a while).

It's partially about money, and public libraries have none. What they do have are lots and lots of people who believe libraries are valuable and want to see them survive (which is actually way more valuable than the public funding right now). Can they come up with creative ways that their fans and followers can support them?

If you look for ways you can help libraries, most library sites and Facebook campaigns ask people to write their congressperson, demand more funding, vote on this or that, etc, etc. They’ve missed the point. I don’t want to write my congressperson and explain why they should give libraries more funding. I’ve never written my congressperson. That doesn’t interest me at all.

There are ways libraries can generate income that are better than waiting for funding or putting a clear plastic drop box near the book checkout. In many cases libraries already let businesses in (but who in the world clicks on banner ads?). It wouldn’t be a stretch for libraries to introduce their sponsors to their followers and ask their followers for support directly.

If I could help my local library keep the lights on from purchases I made at Amazon (hello Aceman) or for that matter ProFlowers (we’re desperate at this point, aren’t we?) I’d gladly click through them to buy from sponsors.

Basically you have a unique institution which everyone values and would miss on the brink of extinction with no money and nothing to lose.

What an opportunity.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Adam Carolla turns down million-dollar radio contract to stick with podcast

“Folks, I'm out. I told you and your guaranteed seven-figure deal to hit the bricks. So here I am.” ~ Adam Carolla on May 11, 2011
I've said it before, but Adam Carolla is great.

I was listening to his podcast today and he started talking about one of the ways he keeps his daily podcast free for listeners:
“We made this deal with Amazon where if you’re gonna buy something on Amazon you click through and you give us a couple pennies...Whatever you buy on Amazon, a flat screen TV or whatever, it costs you the same. There’s no moral decision. It’s just an extra 5, 6 seconds with your mouse and we can get a couple percentage points.”
Fans of the show have known about the Amazon click-through for a while, but today he made bigger news: he's turned down a multi-million dollar contract to do a terrestrial radio show and says he's dedicated to the podcast. Why? Listener support.

He says that listeners are using the Amazon click-through (and buying things they were gonna buy anyway from Amazon through his site) and are enlisting their friends to subscribe to the podcast (to help him reach the Guinness book podcast record no less). And one thing led to another:
“It said to me on sort of a grassroots level. It said to me, well, not only are we making some money from a practical standpoint...but I like the idea that people are listening and participating and wanting to participate and wanting to be involved and wanting to help and share and understanding this sort of dilemma of we’re here but it can’t all just be out of the goodness of our own hearts. Eventually we have to turn this into a business. And sort of right before my eyes it was turning into a business.”
Podcasts are cool because they're still sort of new and they're diverse and most of them are free. It’s even cooler that they're coming up with creative ways listeners can support them by basically doing nothing they weren't already going to do (I'm looking at you PBS and you public libraries). Adam gets a gigantic following from the podcast that helps him sell out shows and sell books. So the podcast helps him promote whatever he does, and that's huge.

Today, gaining followers is simultaneously easier and harder than ever before. It’s a bad time for lots of record companies and book publishers, but a better time than ever for bands and writers to reach an audience on their own.

Update: The ACE man has broken the Guinness Book of Records for the most downloaded podcast in the world beating out Ricky Gervais. Podcast here.

To read more about the Ace man, there was an excellent article in Fast Company last year: How Adam Carolla Became a Podcast Superstar.

The whole 5/10/11 show with guest Tim Daly where he talks about turning down the offer is available for a limited time over at his web site.

Or you can subscribe to his podcast free through iTunes.

Blogger sort of busted

Hello there. Well, Blogger (the blogging platform on which this and tons of other blogs run) has been sort of busted for the last day or so. So recent posts have disappeared completely. If you arrived here from a link to a post from Wednesday, my apologies. Google is working their hardest to get things situated and says everything should be back to normal by tomorrow.

So please do come back tomorrow for a piece of news about how one of the stars of the podcast world has turned down major dough from terrestrial radio to stay online.

UPDATE: All better now. The post mentioned above is back. Find it here.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

How technology is changing publishing and entertainment

I posted this a while ago but I'm bringing it back and updating it.

Re: The article about Seth Godin in the Wall Street Journal going his own way, I was thinking about how digital technology affects writers who haven't published yet. Seth Godin has published books through traditional paper publishers before and every one of his books has been a bestseller. So he's left his publisher and is partnering with Amazon, the largest digital bookseller.

But the most important thing that the article mentions is that he "has a significant following online" (though he might prefer to call it a tribe). His point for the last while has been this: selling a book (or spreading any idea) without followers is tough. If you're an author, you create an audience by posting stuff on a blog your audience likes and returns for. Artists in other media are also using blogs and doing other things to connect their audience to the work.

Bands are putting up more and more of their own stuff (albums, bootlegs, tweets, merchandise) on their own. When they tour, everyone who follows them on twitter or Sidekick knows where they'll be. And it is becoming a whole other way to enjoy music. Look what Phish did.

The comedian Adam Corolla has been on TV for while. He was also on the radio with CBS before he was fired. He has a podcast which is very funny and free. The podcast is so popular that when he does anything, he alerts fans, and they turn out. When he goes on the road, his shows sell out. When he writes a book, it becomes a bestseller.

Not everyone is good enough to get that many people to follow his or her podcast or blog - Adam Corolla is smart and funny - but a blog is a step into the audience for any author. Seth Godin will be very successful with Amazon, but it still doesn't seem entirely accurate to say he's publisher-free like the headline of the article does.

Update: Since the WSJ articles was published back in February, more information has come out about the partnership. Seth and Amazon have opened up The Domino Project, which is just brilliant (see below). The key is publishing digitally and spreading ideas.

From one of his blog posts.
The Domino Project is designed to (at least by way of example) remap many of these foundations.

1. There is no middleman. Because there is infinite shelf space, the publisher has more control over what the reader sees and how. In addition, the Amazon platform allows a tiny organization to have huge reach without taking significant inventory risk. "Powered by Amazon” is part of our name—it describes the unique nature of the venture... I get to figure out the next neat idea, and Amazon can handle printing, logistics and the platform for connection.

2. The reader is tightly connected with the publisher and the author. If you like the sort of things I write or recommend, you can sign up here (for free, using your email) and we can alert you to new works, send you free samples and otherwise make it easy for you to be smart about the new ideas that are generated. (RSS works too).

3. Pricing can vary based on volume, on timing, on format. With this project, I’ve made the decision to ignore the rules that publishers follow to get on the New York Times bestseller list. There’s no point in compromising the consumer experience or the product merely to get a nice ego boost and a small shot of promotion. More on this in a future post, but I'll let you use your imagination.

4. Digital goods and manifestos in book form make it easier to spread complex ideas. It’s long frustrated me that a blog post can reach 100 times as many people as a book, but can’t deliver the nuance a book can. The Domino Project is organized around a fundamentally different model of virality, one that allows authors to directly reach people who can use the ideas we’re writing about.
Read the full post here.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

May 1, Karel Mácha, and God Bless Blesk

May is a big time each year for the Czech poet Karel Mácha. This year pieces of his long poem May showed up in all sorts of unexpected places.

My particular favorite place was the tabloid Blesk. Blesk always spices up it's sensational articles and paparazzi photos with pictures of naked women (ah, Europe). But Blogger doesn't like that too much. So in order to show you what there was to celebrate this May, I had to crop these images very carefully. So here's a bit of Karel Mácha's famous spring poem getting a makeover. Wherever he is, Karel is psyched.

Czech: Byl pozdní večer - první máj - večerní máj - byl lásky čas. Hrdliččin zval ku lásce hlas, kde borový zaváněl háj.
English: Late evening, on the first of May - The twilit May - the time of love. Meltingly called the turtle-dove,Where rich and sweet pinewoods lay...

And continuing on the back:
Cz: O lásce šeptal tichý mech; květoucí strom lhal lásky žel, svou lásku slavík růži pěl, růžinu jevil vonný vzdech.

En: Whispered of love the mosses frail, The flowering tree as sweetly lied, The rose's fragrant sigh replied To love-songs of the nightingale.

There's a bit more to the actual photos than I can show. But you get the idea I guess. God bless the good people at Blesk for doing something to make poetry exciting.

Go get this free book: How to be Creative by Hugh Macleod

This book by cartoonist and businessman Hugh Macleod is really something special that you have to check out if you are into creating anything at all. It's really well written and designed, it's free, and it's been downloaded something like 4.5 million times. Here's a quote from the page:
MacLeod, an advertising executive and popular blogger with a flair for the creative, gives his 26 tried-and-true tips for being truly creative. Each point illustrated by a cartoon drawn by the author himself.

If you've ever felt the draw to do something creative but just haven't been able to pull it together, you'll love this manifesto.
Get it over at will definitely find something in it that will move you.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Poetry in Movies - The Proposition, Before Night Falls

I've been seeing a lot of amazing movies lately that use poetry in such an amazing way. Here are two of my favorites.

The Proposition (2005)

"There's night and day, brother, both sweet things; sun, moon, and stars, brother, all sweet things; there's likewise a wind on the heath. Life is very sweet, brother; who would wish to die?" from Lavengro (1851) by George Borrow

Before Night Falls (2000)

For Spanish speaking friends out there, this one from the amazing Before Night Falls. I'll put it here with a translation below. Even if you don't understand Spanish watch it anyway and read along. The music really brings it to life.

"Walking along streets that collapse from crumbling sewers. Past buildings that you jump to avoid because they will fall on you. Past grim faces that size you up and sentence you. Past closed shops, closed markets, closed cinemas, closed parks, closed cafes. Sometimes showing dusty signs, justifications: "CLOSED FOR RENOVATION," "CLOSED FOR REPAIRS." What kind of repairs? When will these so-called renovations be finished? When at last will they begin? Closed... closed... closed... everything closed. I arrive, open the countless padlocks and run up the temporary stairs. There she is, waiting for me. I pull off the cover, and staring at her dusty, cold shape I clean off the dust and caress her. With my hand, delicately, I wipe clean her back, her base and her sides. In front of her, I feel desperate and happy. I run my fingers over her keyboard and suddenly it all starts up. With a tinkling sound the music begins, little by little, then faster; now full speed. Walls, trees, streets, cathedrals, faces and beaches. Cells, mini-cells, huge cells. Starry nights, bare feet, pines, clouds. Hundreds, thousands, millions of parrots. A stool, a climbing plant, they all answer my call, all come to me. The walls recede, the roof vanishes, and you float quite naturally. You float uprooted, dragged off, lifted high. Transported, immortalized, saved. Thanks to that subtle, continuous rhythm, that music, that incessant tap-tap." - Reinaldo Arenas

Walt Whitman's Song of Myself read by James Earl Jones

You haven't heard anything like this. He goes off.

Poet Laureate's Gift to Prince William and Kate Middleton

I don't know what's going on with this royal wedding business. I'm out of the loop.

But it is interesting that Britain's first female poet laureate Carol Ann Duffy and textual artist Stephen Raw got together to create a limited edition print of Duffy's poetry for the royal couple. Turns out there aren't too many actual pictures of the piece (titled "Rings") floating around. These were posted recently over at Stephen Raw's website:


Text of the poem (thanks to the Guardian):

Rings by Carol Ann Duffy

for both to say

I might have raised your hand to the sky
to give you the ring surrounding the moon
or looked to twin the rings of your eyes
with mine
or added a ring to the rings of a tree
by forming a handheld circle with you, thee,
or walked with you
where a ring of church-bells,
looped the fields,
or kissed a lipstick ring on your cheek,
a pressed flower,
or met with you
in the ring of an hour,
and another hour . . .
I might
have opened your palm to the weather, turned, turned,
till your fingers were ringed in rain
or held you close,
they were playing our song,
in the ring of a slow dance
or carved our names
in the rough ring of a heart
or heard the ring of an owl's hoot
as we headed home in the dark
or the ring, first thing,
of chorussing birds
waking the house
or given the ring of a boat, rowing the lake,
or the ring of swans, monogamous, two,
or the watery rings made by the fish
as they leaped and splashed
or the ring of the sun's reflection there . . .
I might have tied
a blade of grass,
a green ring for your finger,
or told you the ring of a sonnet by heart
or brought you a lichen ring,
found on a warm wall,
or given a ring of ice in winter
or in the snow
sung with you the five gold rings of a carol
or stolen a ring of your hair
or whispered the word in your ear
that brought us here,
where nothing and no one is wrong,
and therefore I give you this ring.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

A Great BAnd

also great

and if you like those

watch the making of their great last album starting here

Quote from the end by William Lloyd Garrison:

“I will be as harsh as truth, and uncompromising as justice... I am in earnest, I will not equivocate, I will not excuse, I will not retreat a single inch, and I will be heard.”

Friday, April 29, 2011

Old school: John Donne's The Triple fool

Old School: Old stuff that you were supposed to read in college that didn't make sense and didn't mean anything to you ("What's a merchant?"). But now you're older and wiser and now it means something. Maybe.

Fun facts about John Donne:
  • He lost his father and several of his brothers and sisters when he was just a boy
  • He went to school, learned a bunch of languages and then joined the navy 
  • He married a woman in secret and then was thrown in jail by her father
  • He got out and became a successful priest (one of his most famous sermons contains the passage beginning, “No man is an island” and ending, “Therefore ask not for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.”)

Now read this carefully. It's great.
by John Donne

I am two fools, I know,
For loving, and for saying so
In whining poetry ;
But where's that wise man, that would not be I,
If she would not deny ?
Then as th' earth's inward narrow crooked lanes
Do purge sea water's fretful salt away,
I thought, if I could draw my pains
Through rhyme's vexation, I should them allay.
Grief brought to numbers cannot be so fierce,
For he tames it, that fetters it in verse.

But when I have done so,
Some man, his art and voice to show,
Doth set and sing my pain ;
And, by delighting many, frees again
Grief, which verse did restrain.
To love and grief tribute of verse belongs,
But not of such as pleases when 'tis read.
Both are increasèd by such songs,
For both their triumphs so are published,
And I, which was two fools, do so grow three.
Who are a little wise, the best fools be.

Leaving comments is broken

So leaving comments on my blog or on other blogs doesn't seem to be working perfectly. I guess a lot of people are having this problem according to the Blogger Help forums. If you do want to leave a comment, please click here for my profile and email me.

I'll post your comment later when Blogger fixes the problem.

Update: Looks like it may be okay now. Still, email if comments don't work.