Monday, April 30, 2012

Tall Baby

Mabel likes to tell you that she is a "tall baby."
She also likes to walk on a ledge wearing overalls on a sunny day.

with ongoing thanks to Spencer Alley (my dad, Mabel's grandpa) for scanning assistance with the polaroids.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Farm Anatomy

Today's Friday art book is Farm Anatomy by the lovely Julia Rothman. Full disclosure: Julia is one of my authors, and a pal, and she gave me this copy of the book. That said, it stands one hundred percent on its own merits. I would love this book even if I didn't know Julia from a hole in the ground. Packed with info, this fine volume tells you everything you could ever possibly want to know about farms, all lavishly illustrated in Julia's trademark quirky/beautiful style. Basically, it's awesome. Check it out!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

The Series of Poems about the Autumn of 2005 Carries On

November 21, 2005
The major satisfaction of the weekend

came from cleaning out
the office
(well it’s a closet
but we call it an office
and it functions as one)

Perhaps it’s actually
sort of weird
how deep
my pride and enjoyment
of such things goes

I keep going back in just to look at it
and admire
The clean clear surfaces
desk, seat of chair, floor, top of cabinet
please my eye enormously

And the little touches
the navy blue ribbon now holding the wire rack up on the wall
the nails hammered in with the clipboards hanging from them

When what I should be talking about is
the opera and fancy dinner with my parents on Saturday night
both truly exceptional experiences
just as was to be expected

But in fact they were so momentous
as to become a bit of a blur

Only the pâté and house-made fresh pickles and rosé
and the lovely worn red velvet strip with bald patches
that ran along the edge of the balcony in front of our seats
really stand out in my memory at this moment

I know
not to comment on the music
but we take in what we are constituted to take in

image source is here

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Whence the Deck?

Here's a question: when did a Power Point presentation become known as a "deck"? This is one of those business locutions I'd never heard before in my life, and then in the last couple of weeks at least four different people must have said it to me--"oh, I'll send you our brand deck so you can see some statistics about how cool we are" and "after the meeting is over I'll send you all this deck, so you don't need to take notes right now" and "let me know if you want to see the deck I used for my presentation." What the what? All I can think is that the words "Power Point presentation"  just took to long to say, and/or perhaps conjured too many images of bad 90s graphics? Embarrassing fades between slides and animated spreadsheets that zipped into place? Who knows. I do love business-speak though. One year some friends and I all dressed up as office cliches for Halloween--I got to be Her Hair's Always On Fire About Something, someone was Herding the Cats, and someone else was Thinking Outside of the Box. Great fun. All of which is to say that I'm hard at work putting the finishing touches on my deck (the image above is the first slide) for a presentation I need to give later today. Known as pre-launch, this is where we give sneak peeks of few of our forthcoming books (in this case, Spring 2013 titles) to the sales and marketing folks. Then, in a couple of months, we'll have launch, where we present the whole list, with much fanfare, to even more people. But even for this smaller meeting one wants to put on a nice blouse and a necklace and lipstick. And one fails to write a very interesting blog post. But, hey, as we say here in officeland: It is what it is.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

On Getting Stuff Done

One of the the great cliches--indeed, perhaps the ultimate cliche--about being a working mother in the Twenty-First Century is that there's never enough time for all the things you want to do. Like many cliches (the "they get big so fast" one and the "I keep thinking its Friday" one come to mind), this sentiment has become a cliche exactly and precisely because it is absolutely true. There never is and never will be enough time to do it all--all the errands and all the housework and all the career stuff and all the personal fulfillment items and, most of all, all the games and hugs and snuggles and kisses and giggles you'd like to fit into your day. Some of each, yes. But all? It ain't happening. But this truism doesn't take into account two important facts. One: this phenomenon is true for everyone in the modern world--no one ever gets to the bottom of their to-do list--being a mother with a job exacerbates and brings the whole thing into sharper focus, but it doesn't really make one so special or different from anyone else. And, two: you do get some things done. Every day. Why not focus on that?

Take the photo at the top of this post. I took it from the waiting room window at Kaiser while waiting to go into my appointment with my new GP. And here's the thing about that: I haven't had a general doctor since I parted company with my childhood pediatrician around the age of fifteen. I've been meaning to get a real doctor ever since, but somehow never got around to it. Until now. Until, last week, I got to check an item off my to-do list that has been on said list for twenty years. Which I must say made me feel pretty fantastic.

I already talked at some length, here, about the frame-the-art-and-hang-it-on-the-wall project pictured above. And, as I mentioned, this endeavor was the outcome of a New Year's resolution. Is there anything in this world more likely to languish unfinished in the corners of your to-do list than a New Year's resolution round about April? But, hey,  we did it, and I am proud.

And you know, in a way I'm equally proud, though on a different much smaller scale of course, of having gotten my favorite black books and gray oxfords re-heeled last week. The end-of-the-winter-shoe-refurbishment project is exactly the kind of thing I think of myself as always meaning to do but never actually getting around to. Except I did get around to it. I have the boots on my feet to prove it right now.

All of which pollyannaish tooting of my own horn seems to be what comes of shifting focus. Assign yourself to think about all the stuff you've gotten done instead of all the stuff you haven't and all of a sudden--Wizz! Bang! Pow!--you find you were actually an accomplishful powerhouse all along. You just didn't know it.  

Monday, April 23, 2012

Baby's First Haircut

This was the day we decided to just bite the bullet and trim the front part (I am hesitant to say "bangs" because this hair tends to sproing up off her forehead, rather than lying down flat the way I picture bangs doing--not to mention the fact that there is a long-running prejudice against bangs in my own family, stemming from a long ago incident in which my own grandmother cut some janky crooked bangs on me while I was staying with her while my mother was in the hospital for minor surgery, after which she taught me, if I ever saw my grandmother with a pair of scissors in hand again to declaim, loudly and firmly "My mama does not like bangs!"). But for a curly-haired girl whose afro was starting to dangle into her eyes, some sort of proto-pseudo-bangs were clearly what was needed. Nervous as heck we were, but we got out the towel and the scissors and the tumbler of water to dip the comb in, and all went well. Mabel was as good and calm and mildly interested as could be, and the end result was pleasing. And I quite like the polaroid Bill captured of the moment as well.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

The Frame All the Art and Hang it On the Wall Project

One of our new year's resolutions this year was to frame and hang the dauntingly large number of artworks stashed in the linen closet. Because I work on art books a number of authors/artists have been kind enough to gift me with prints of their work, and there have also been gifts from friends and even a few self-purchases--all of which added up to a lot of tubes and cardboard folders tucked away, in some cases for years. So we've spent the last few months inventorying and measuring everything, buying frames for it all, and putting the stuff into the frames. And on Friday, while Mabel's Grandpa took her to the playground, Bill and I stayed home and hung it all in one fell swoop. First we had to take down the vintage kimono (which belonged to my great aunt Harriet, a gift from her beaux Tommy, who was in the merchant marines), which had hung there since we moved in almost nine years ago.

This revealed by far the largest swath of empty white wall we've seen in this joint in the nearly a decade we've lived here. So, that's the "before"--and I did mean to take some "during" shots, but got too busy with the picture hooks and the pencil and the hammer and the ruler and all of that. So, we jump straight on to the "after":

I am so so pleased with how this came out I can hardly convey it. Just what we wanted. From left to right, top to bottom, here's who made these things: Jorge Colombo, Misha Ashton-Moore, Jen Altman, Kari Herer, (unknown), the Hubble Telescope, Mike Perry, Tom Bachand, (unknown), (unknown), David Maisel, Jenny Volwaller, Julia Rothman, Matt Stephens, and Idiot's Books (this last one, unfortunately, does not photograph well, but you can see it here).

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Poetry Thursday, Where We Continue the Ongoing Saga About the Fall of 2005

November 18, 2005
Quite a few things

One is a red glass chandelier
I saw in a shop window
a few mornings ago
It captured my fancy
but I haven’t noticed it again
since they put mannequins and cloths in front of it
But it has remained in my mind

Two is the flatness of the fronts of buildings
A statement that
at first seems both
ridiculously obvious
and patently untrue
the fronts of buildings aren’t flat
they’re full of porches and bay windows
and fire escapes and architectural ornamentation and stuff
And that’s what I usually mostly look at
but if you take the thing as a whole
it’s a great big box
with a really relatively flat face abutting the sidewalk
And then you get a whole row of them lined up at various heights
like building blocks
or the face of a cliff
big and flat
a solid block
a mass
a wall
Your eye can slip down the street
across the surface of one to the next like chunks of granite

Three is how those same buildings soak up the light
and change colors in the morning
and the afternoon
making them all the more like stones
Yesterday in the late afternoon when I went to get coffee
the edges of everything
but particularly the buildings
were so crisp and so lit up
almost as if from within
With the sun down below your sightline
it's more like they're glowing than being shined upon

Four was later that night when I left work
I’d stayed late and it was dark
And the sky was absolutely black
like the void of space it is
like velvet
You could almost see the depth and the nap of the blackness
With just two faint stars like tiny holes in those heavy backstage curtains
And this is what we
in the city
live under all the time
Not stars
just blackness as deep as a well

image source is here

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Thinking, and Quoting Copiously, about the Current Publishing Debacle

So I've been wanting, since last week, to say something intelligent about the whole Department of Justice/Agency Five/Apple/Amazon debacle (long story short for those outside of publishing: the DoJ is investigating five big publishers and Apple for "colluding" to price ebooks higher on the Apple store than what Amazon had been charging). People I've talked to casually, again outside the industry, have generally had the attitude of good modern skeptics--namely, that if a bunch of corporations are in trouble for trying to monopolize and fix prices, they're likely guilty as hell. And, of course, I can't know what kind of back-room deals went on in all of this. But I've found myself in the odd position of wanting to defend these corporate muckety-mucks, and here's why: Sure, when publishers, both big and small, want to charge more than Amazon's decreed $9.95 for ebooks, they do it because they want to make money, yes. But they also do it because they truly believe that content--the words (or in the case of the books I work on, images) of an author--have value. That a whole book's worth of content has greater value than, say, a 90-minute-long 3D movie, greater value than a big mac, fries, coke, and one of those fried apple pies. Surely it wasn't just the pound of paper we were all paying $29.95 for in hardcover all these years? Surely it was also the valuable--some might even say invaluable--content?

So, as I say, I've been wanting to find something smart and apropos to say about all of this. And then I discovered that the industry newsletter Publisher's Lunch had already done an admirable job of rounding up the dissenting opinion, as expressed in various major publications. And this article sums it up so well that I cannot resit taking the unusual, for me, step of quoting it here more or less in full:

"It's rare to see the New York Times and Wall Street Journal philosophically aligned on how the government uses its power, but they and others in the press seem to be coming together to raise questions about why the Department of Justice is beating up on publishers, apparently serving the interests of a retailer bigger than the entire industry.

Holman Jenkins Jr. writes in the Wall Street Journal, 'in essence, Justice says that, beginning in 2008, several plankton, in the form of five publishers, conspired against a whale, Amazon, whose monopoly clout had imposed a $9.99 retail price for e-books.' He argues: 'Given Amazon's dominance, it's hardly offensive that all five used the opportunity of Apple's arrival in the market to reclaim that power. Justice calls it collusion. In reality, publishers have nothing to collude about...Books don't compete with each other. Nobody walks into a store and says, "Toni Morrison looks expensive today. Give me some Stephen Hawking."'

Jenkins says, 'let's face it: Publishers have every reason to fear Amazon's exploitative behavior.' He adds, 'the book industry is defending the very survivability of a book industry whose products are anything but uniform.' His closing line: 'Judging by Justice's slobbering over Amazon, as if whatever Amazon wants is the Lord's ordained order in the e-book market, many of those résumés are headed to Seattle.'

David Carr, writing in the New York Times calls the lawsuit and settlements 'the modern equivalent of taking on Standard Oil but breaking up Ed's Gas 'N' Groceries on Route 19 instead.' He suggests that 'why the crumbling book business is worthy of so much attention from Justice while Wall Street skates is a broader question we’ll leave for another day.' But Carr concludes that 'after a week of watching the Justice Department and Amazon team up, I’ve learned that low prices come with a big cost.'

For one more voice, there's Barry C. Lynn writing at Slate, who also believes 'the DoJ got this issue...spectacularly wrong.' He writes: 'Lower prices enable horizontal predation; when a fatly capitalized retailer (like Amazon) wants to bankrupt its less-wealthy direct competitors, it simply undersells them day after day after day. Furthermore, lower prices can be used in vertical predation, against producers; when a powerful retailer (like Amazon) wants to extract more wealth from its now-captive suppliers, it can set prices to promote those firms who accept its terms and to punish those who resist....

'Over time, it became clear that the best way to lower prices over the long run was in fact to allow producers to set higher prices today. That’s because doing so forces producers to compete with producers rather than retailers. And it forces retailers to compete with retailers rather than with producers. The result being that we end up with both producers and retailers doing a better job of serving the consumer.'

Michael Shermer writes another op-ed, for the LA Times: 'The Justice Department should have left things alone. Essentially, two titans — Apple and Amazon — clashed, and competition was working.... Amazon will gain a government-aided advantage over the competition.'

He adds: 'What this lawsuit probably will do instead is return to Amazon the power to monopolize the e-book market through predatory pricing to the detriment of publishers, authors and, ultimately, readers.'"

So, yeah, wow, if you've read this far thanks for sticking with me through such a long text-heavy post. To reward you, and in honor of the one plucky publisher who hasn't yet settled with the DoJ, here is a cute picture of a penguin wearing a sweater:

image sources are here and here

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Instagram Mon Amour

I've discussed here before, several times actually, how I tend to be a middle-to-late adopter of web technologies. So my latest mini obsession--and I do think it probably really is the most fun, and in an odd way most useful, of the bunch--is Instagram. And I must say that, while vintage-izing photos is fun, and sharing them with pals via the app is fun, the most fun of all is how having this tool in my pocket helps remind me to see (and to retain) the visual richness of the city and my life. So here are a few of my shots:


Monday, April 16, 2012

Driftwood, Keys, and Jewelry Box

Every now and then I like to post one of these old pictures of tiny Mabel just to trip myself out. Yesterday in Union Square she was playing with a little boy named Levi who was just shy of his first birthday--as she is in the photo above. He seemed at once so impressively well-formed--he could walk! and make faces! and touch things!--while at the same time so little and tottering and wee. That push/pull of being simultaneously impressed by and protective of these small people who have somehow been entrusted to our care continues. Probably forever, I now suppose.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Oakland Art Murmur

Some colleagues and I took an evening field trip out to the Oakland Art Murmur last Friday. I've written before about how much I like this event. This time around I overheard a lot of chatter about how it's not what it used to be--how it's gotten too big, too scene-y, too crowded, I even heard someone say too "corporate." And, well, yes, it is kind of crazy crowded. And I can't lay claim to having attended back in the good old days, before people like me found out about it. But, personally, I still think it's a great way to see a lot of interesting art all in one place, and also enjoy a festive atmosphere. Here's what I saw: Above, Vita Wells at Oakopolis.

Horizons of Promise group show at Vessel   

Brian Conry at Wall

Nicolo Sertorio at Photo

Eric Bohr at Mercury 20

Jason Michael Aumann at FM  

Blunt Graffix at the Telegraph pop-up location of Spoke

Eliza Fernand at Hatch

David Allan Peters at Chandra Cerrito

Varese Layzer at Krowswork

Thursday, April 12, 2012

The Poem Series About the Fall of 2005 Continues with this Installment

November 17, 2005
a list of the people I see on my way to work every day

There’s the woman with dyed red hair
white roots
sad face
tan trench coat

There’s the middle aged lady who dresses like a little girl

There’s the stylish woman
with the dog
who dresses in browns
and who I think of as being French
(and I used to see her on my old walk from the loft too)

There’s the bleachy haired woman
with the red leather backpack
and the little daughter

There’s the wet-haired skater girl

The long-faced
sour-faced woman
who looks like a greyhound
or a minor jane austen character

There’s the tubby man who waits
for his always-late boss
to come and open the art gallery

There are the various guys
who put the chairs on the sidewalk
and open the bodegas

There’s the big-headed jowly man
in the shiny suits and ties

There’s a plump sweet looking art student
who drinks mountain dew for breakfast

And another girl who always has a smoothie
but the smoothies are such distracting shades of pink and green
that I don’t know what that girl looks like

There’s the man in the blue coverall
who diligently polishes the brass
on the front door of the Franciscan club

The overly-made-up girl
with the blond highlights all over the top of her hair
who often walks with an older man
seemingly intent on ingratiating herself

There are the two real elderly guys
who look like cowboys
and wait for the stock trading place to open

The crazy homeless guy
who thinks he’s a shoe shine guy

There’s the other crazy guy
probably not homeless
who walks real fast
with all the green bags
stuffed full of who knows what

And the barefoot guy

And the big jogging guy with glasses
but I only see him if I’m running  late

And there used to be the guy
with the insanely crisp collars-up cowboy shirts
and a pompadour
but I haven’t seen him in a while

image source is here

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Before and After

Five years ago last week, the fine book publisher I work for moved from a couple of floors in a more or less standard downtown office building, to our very own really quite delightful offices (seriously? this place is really nice. It's a little bit like going to work in the movie version of your life). In honor of the anniversary, our nice office manager sent our a few old construction photos, paired with images of the same spaces in use today. And who doesn't love a good before and after?