8/24/2009 8:06:30 AM
Allow me this personal aside: I blame featherproof books. Until today, I was impervious to iPhone envy. No more.
This September, featherproof is releasing its first iPhone app: TripleQuick fiction. Almost too cute/cool to bear, TripleQuick will allow users to download super-short stories (exactly 333 words, or three iPhone screens) to their mobiles. The Chicago-based publisher, which already offers free, downloadable mini-books from an impressive array of hip writers, reports that it has a bunch of fun writers lined up for the launch.
Here’s the most forward-thinking part: TripleQuick is a two-way street. “Those with the writerly inclination can just type in three screens of their best work, type in a bio, even take an author photo using the iPhone’s camera, and submit the story to the featherproof editors,” copublisher Zach Dodson writes.
“So, what more could you want? Oh yeah, an iPhone. Well now you have the best excuse yet: great literature compressed for the digital age.”
Yeah, I’d tend to agree.
Source: featherproof books
Image courtesy of featherproof books, featuring Shane Jones, author of Light Boxes.
8/22/2009 10:54:13 AM
In 1654, people weren’t smoking tobacco. They were “drinking” smoke from pipes. And in the early nineteenth century, English speakers referred to a set of false teeth as a “ratelier,” derived from the French word for “rack.” These insights come from the food magazine Gastronomica, where Mark Morton has compiled a linguistic history of chewing tobacco, false teeth, and other non-food items that people stick in their mouths.
In the article, Morton revives the word “gamahuche,” an awkward and little-known euphemism for oral sex. He also sheds some light on the history of “toothpaste,” a word which appeared in English long after the Romans were using human urine to whiten their teeth. An advertisement in The American Railroad Journal used the term “toothpaste” in 1832, just 13 years after the Family Receipt Book suggested the use of gunpowder as a tooth whitener.
8/21/2009 10:22:06 AM
Curing your own meat is easy—and there are many artful ways to display your hunk-of-meat work in progress, as Yolanda de Montijo explains in the new issue of Meatpaper (article not available online). Once you’ve begun your quest to cure your own salami, prosciutto, or pancetta, she writes, “you are faced with a challenge that many an artisan curer has pondered: Where to hang?”
De Montijo offers a number of fun (and functional) suggestions, including the “kitchen hang”— which “gives your kitchen an immediate pastoral or country look, as though you could just as well be churning butter or turning out garlic braids. Be sure to hang it away from direct sunlight”—and the “full frontal hang,” wherein “you simply pick any workable place in your living space without regard for aesthetics or the squeamishiness of houseguests. Corners work well—especially those near the front or back door.”
For her inaugural home-cured pancetta project, De Montijo chooses the closet in her guest bedroom, which houses her slab o’ salted pig flesh for a couple of weeks. It seems like a good option for the urban curer: “It’s likely to maintain a consistent temperature, and in hot weather you can leave the door ajar, or set a fan nearby for air circulation.” But, she warns, “check regularly to see that your clothes or other items don’t embrace the smell of the meat. More than you want them to, anyway.”
Image by marcelo träsel, licensed under Creative Commons.
8/19/2009 10:09:42 AM
The title character of Junot Diaz’s excellent, Pulitzer Prize winning novel The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao is a pudgy, awkward kid from the Dominican Republic. In an interview with Guernica, Diaz tells how he got the inspiration for the book’s title:
That night we were just all hanging out and it was a bunch of Mexican bohemians and me and my Guatemalan buddy. And one of these Mexican cats just pulled a book off a shelf and just cornered me and was like, “My favorite writer in the world.” He was telling me, “My favorite writer in the world is Oscar Wao, I love Oscar Wao, Oscar Wao is brilliant.” And I was dying because I knew he meant Oscar Wilde. That’s where the book began. After that party I went home and I laid in bed, and I suddenly had this idea of this fore-cursed family. This idea of this awkward fat boy and this idea that this family would be cursed in love, that they would have great trouble finding love. You know it just felt like a real good kind of novella, telenovela type plot. I just thought, “Hey, I can work with this, you know, I can really change this into something else.”
8/14/2009 2:19:55 PM
I'm a faithful reader of Matt Novak's Paleo-Future blog. His "look into the future that never was" never disappoints, especially if you like laughing at foolish futurists (because you never lulled yourself into a prepubescent sleep with images of jet packs and flying cars, right?). I'm most fond of Novak's posts about children imagining the future. There's the 14-year-old from Milwaukee in 1901 who imagines a advertisement on the 199th floor of a 120-floor skyscraper in the year 2001 that reads: "Old People Restored to Youth by Electricity, While You Wait." And there's another 14-year-old from Milwaukee, also imagining 2001, who predicted that "The people of the Earth will be in close communication with Mars by being shot off in great cannons. The cannon ball will be hollow to contain food and drink."
My favorite might be Letters by 4th Graders to the Year 2000. "These kids really hit all the major futurism topics of the 20th century," Novak says in his setup, "robot maids, moving sidewalks, flying cars, meal pills, push button everything, education through television, socialism, and candy. Lots of candy." Here's the future these kids imagined:
In the year 2000 I think that cars can fly in the air as fast as they want to without using gas. You can get whatever you want, including candy. Houses will be way up in the sky. You can have robots to do the housework for the mothers. Instead of walking, the the sidewalks will move for you. Your friend, Laurie Smith
In the year 2000 I think thay kids will be taught at home on their TV. The army will be using lazor guns. Cars will be like spaceships and the strreetlights will be on long tall poles. Another means of transportation will be push buttons. Select where you want to go, push a button, step through a door, and you'll be where you wanted to be. Food will be in tablet form, put on water on the tablet and your food will be on your plate. Sincerely yours, R.C. Brown
I think in the year 2000 the earth will be much more polluted than it is. I also think that we will have no more school, and cars can go as fast as they want without getting a ticket. Sincerely, Yolanda Tejeda
Want more? We asked Novak all about Paleo-Future for the Utne Reader podcast.
Image by Bruce Mcall.
8/13/2009 1:49:35 PM
What’s the future of fiction? The stalwart American Book Review has the answer. Well, answers: The publication collected opinions from over 60 people (largely scholars, writers, and literary critics), and printed the delightful/depressing offerings in its July-August 2009 issue.
From mini-dissertations to one-liners, from quoted lyrics to URLs, the collected thoughts aren’t merely prophecy; they’re also a sounding board for the mood of the literary community at this moment when print is largely considered to be in peril. Here are some standouts:
Jim Ruland: Fiction is alive and well; it’s the machines through which these inventions are expressed (i.e., books) that are going the way of the dodo. If this process comes to be known as the de-commodification of fiction, then the next few decades will be extraordinary.
Michael Bérubé: I’m inclined to reply with a URL:
Kelly Cherry: The future of fiction may lie in some combination of hypertextuality, intertextuality, and video, but if so, it will have to do without me. Of course, it will ultimately have to do without me no matter what direction it goes in, so at this point I’m not very invested in the question. But I believe that no matter what fiction will continue to be interested in character and language. How otherwise?
Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni: I see fiction’s future as strong in the coming years: in tough times, people turn more than ever to stories, which tell the truth aslant and cleanse us through catharsis, and novels are still the least expensive and most meaningful way to travel the world.
Marjorie Perloff: I predict future fiction will be much more transnational than it was in the 60s–70s. Witness the attention Roberto Bolaño, Javier Marías, W. G. Sebald, and others are receiving.
Larry Fondation: The future of fiction rests with its ability to regain its public function—as a principal way we relate narrative, as an indispensable means of telling our story and that of our era.
Stephen Graham Jones: Fiction’s future: it’s all made up.
Source: American Book Review
Image by helgasms!, licensed under Creative Commons.
8/9/2009 7:45:00 AM
By now you’ve heard of the staycation, touted as the recession-friendly cousin of the vacation. But, as political comic Will Durst writes in Funny Times, “The problem with most folks planning a staycation is they focus on the high points of local landmarks but forget to include all the little moments that truly distinguish memorable holiday excursions.” He then offers up his own list of tips for having an authentic vacation experience at home, adding all the waiting and frustration that happens in reality. You can find all of Durst’s suggestions for “Staycation Fun” in his column archives, but here are a few favorites:
Pack luggage like you’re really headed on a trip, then pick a piece to misplace for the duration.
Duplicate inevitable airport delay by wasting four hours at a 7/11.
Sit on curb outside your house for 90 minutes because your room isn’t ready yet.
Every two hours, burn 60 dollars.
Set alarm for 6 a.m. to receive wake-up call for room next to yours. Knock on door at half-hour intervals with a cry of: “Housekeeping!”
Eat at a strange restaurant and grunt and point at the menu, unable to speak the native language, even if it’s only Floridian.
For full tropical experience, dump sand in your bed.
Source: Funny Times
Image by masochismtango, licensed under Creative Commons.
8/7/2009 4:41:54 PM
A little more affection for airplanes could fight the fear of flying, Javier Marías writes for Granta. He would feel a lot more at ease if pilots would show the respect for their planes that ship captains once displayed for their vessels. Marías tends to anthropomorphize the planes he rides on, thinking of them as a living entity, capable of its own personality. He writes:
Given how often we travel in planes, the odd thing about our relationship with them—those complex machines endowed with movement to which we surrender ourselves and that transport us through the air—is that it isn’t more ‘personal’, or more ‘animal’, or more ‘sailor-like’, if you prefer.... That’s what I would like to see, less cool efficiency and more affection.
8/7/2009 7:58:04 AM
It's a bold move for Hollywood to resurrect GI Joe in a time of war—not that the archetypal warrior figure ever really disappeared from the national psyche. Many of our warriors in Iraq and Afghanistan are men. Those men were once boys and those boys, no doubt, spent hours belly down on the floor pitting one tiny GI Joe action figure against another.
When writer Leah Larson's brother came home from nine months in Iraq she wrote about the "unspeakable damage" to her brother and their relationship. And she wrote about GI Joe. We printed her piece two years ago and offer up this excerpt as a sort of footnote to Hollywood's fantastical treatment of the famous toy warrior:
Two days after he came home from a nine-month tour of duty in Iraq, my older brother showed me some pictures. 'I just bombed that building,' he said. In the photo, children in Fallujah are clustered beside their broken school.
During his first two weeks back, my brother, the demolitions expert, plied me with photos of the carnage and mayhem wreaked by his platoon. Fifteen memory cards worth of bizarre and disturbing photos—half-naked soldiers dancing in the desert, a severed goat's head in a noose, Marines dressed in traditional women's clothing found following a house raid.
I wanted to hit him, banish him, to create a giant dent in his soul. But he wouldn't care, wouldn't budge. This is what the Marines have trained him to do—warp, destroy, and believe it is for good.
When recruiters came to take him, I howled, groped, twisted, and shivered at the horrible separation from him. At a young age, long before I recognized politics, my spirit understood many things. I knew that if he joined the military, our kinship would be severed, and it has been. It saddens me when I am unable to hug him because he cannot tolerate affection. Our mother recalls that my brother could only be comforted by his GI Joe toys. Lying in the top bunk, while I slept on the bottom, he would watch a sky of little green men dangle from the ropes he tied to the ceiling.
Now, instead of green men, my brother keeps metal, wood, and crystal beaded crosses in his room. Some hang over pictures of friends killed in the war.
8/6/2009 10:35:27 AM
It’s a cliché to call any place, “a city of contradictions.” After living in Japan for almost a decade, Pico Iyer realized, “contradiction is in many ways in the eye of the beholder.” He writes for WorldHum that foreigners often interpret contradictions in their superficial readings of situations. For example, Japanese people may be quite comfortable mixing traditional and modern cultures, while Americans think it’s strange to see a Buddhist priest popping a beer and watching television.
“The biggest challenge today is how to make our peace with alienness,” Iyre wrote for Utne Reader back in 2000. It’s helpful for foreigners abroad to remember how strange they must seem to other people. Recognizing the mutual strangeness, and finding comfort in the contradictions, teaches people as much about themselves as it illuminates other cultures. Iyer writes, “The global village has given us the chance to move among the foreign, and so to simplify and clarify ourselves.”
, licensed under
8/4/2009 11:32:50 AM
If the internet is killing books, the blog to book deal is an ironic reward for blogosphere fame, writes Sarah Hromack in the July/August issue of The Brooklyn Rail:
How strangely anachronistic is it (and yet, extraordinarily telling) that those who participate in perhaps the most monumental democratic exercise ever—and who do so daily, often for a living—would seek to tame the great, unbridled, immaterial beast that is the Internet with some high-gloss stock and two binding boards? How thoroughly odd it is that one would attempt to translate the particular digital reading experience of the Tumblr blog, or Twitter feed, or Facebook update into an analog one.
Source: The Brooklyn Rail
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