Friday, September 28, 2012

Installation Art

As I scamper about among the art blogs, I've recently been finding myself especially drawn to installation art. I think the reasons for this will become apparent once I've shown you these three disparate, but all amazing, pieces. Above "Prismatic Vortex" by Amanda Browder, as seen on Brown Paper Bag.

Then there's "Giant Slugs" by Florentijn Hofman (yes, those really are humongous slugs formed from plastic bags, crawling up the steps of an ancient French town), which was brought to my attention by Beautiful Decay

And finally this installation of thousands of books and LED lights all over a street in Melbourne by the collective Luzinterruptus, also featured on Beautiful Decay (which, as you can perhaps guess, has been one of my favorite reads lately).

Thursday, September 27, 2012

In Which the Long-Running Poem Series About the Winter of 2005 Proceeds at its Own Stately Pace

December 14, 2005
This morning’s fog utterly different from the day before’s

a great high mass of hard steely gray
sat up there
made all the light flat
and you could tell just by looking
it wasn’t going anywhere
the bank had settled in for the day

a fine sheer wet silvery mist floating around in the sky
glowing from within and draping the tops of the buildings
Clearly as ephemeral as it was immediate and chilly
with an icy cold breeze that flew right in your face
but softly
and therefore bracingly rather than bone-chillingly

Around here
we need a lot more words for fog
like the Inuit are supposed to have for snow
(though I’ve heard that’s an urban legend)

image source is here

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

The Big Book Sale

One of my absolute favorite days of the year is the SF Public Library's Big Book Sale. Held in one of the giant pavilion buildings at Fort Mason, this is seriously the largest used book sale I've ever seen or heard of in my life. Not only that but it's incredibly cheap: hardbacks are three dollars and paperbacks are two dollars. We go every year. We used to make a day of it, literally, going all day long and coming home with so many books we could hardly carry them. These days we've pared things down a bit, just going for the morning and purchasing fewer volumes, but it's still super fun.

Indeed, I think it's fair to say that the whole happening is really a thing of great beauty. A fact which I tried to put into words once, here, and which perhaps the two images above do begin to hint at.

Afterwards we went out for a grown-up lunch date with adult beverages and annoyed the waiter by spreading books all over the table in order to look through our spoils. 

And when we got home I stacked them in a sunbeam. Twenty books for fifty bucks. Not too shabby. I suppose the publisher in me ought to shudder that not a penny of that money went to either the fine publishers who published these books nor the fine authors who wrote them. But, heck, it went to the ever embattled library system instead. And the book-lover (and cheapskate) in me is darn happy with that.

The children's section is one of the most haphazardly stocked and thoroughly picked-over areas of the sale, for obvious reasons. We did manage to find one book about sea creatures (which upon closer inspection mostly seems to be about them devouring one another, so Mabel's sure to love it), but in the above picture she's actually reading a library book to her two friends Mini Suzette and Raggedy Ann. Seriously, people, this is self-instigated imaginative play involving reading to the dollies. Could it be any better?

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Mail Candy

Like many of us in these screen-obsessed times, I love the idea of sitting down and writing a letter. Do I actually get around to doing so very often? Nope. But a girl can dream. And what better spark for dreams than the above letter-writing kit made by Randi of Swoon that I spotted yesterday on Poppytalk? I mean, come on!

This in turn reminded me of another kit I'd seen ages back, this one the traveling supplies of mail artist Jennie Hinchcliff of Red Letter Day. Can you imagine? How lovely would it be to be the person who takes either one of these neat little parcels of gear on an airplane, say, and sits there and writes letters and makes art and other wonderful things?

And speaking of mail art reminded me of my pal Alyson Kuhn who makes the most awesome handmade envelopes and adorns them with all kinds of old stamps and other vintage ephemera. Getting something in the mail from her is always the greatest treat.

And thinking about treats in the mail naturally lead my mind--as how could it not--to the World's Smallest Postal Service, brainchild of wildly creative Lea Redmond of Leafcutter Designs (full disclosure: Lea is an author associated with the fine publishing house for which I work--and a good thing, too, because it means I can now send you to see, or even to buy if you happened to be so inclined, the World's Smallest Postal Service Kit).

Monday, September 24, 2012

Reading With Daddy

Am I a sucker for a good reading-with-parent (or grandparent, or anyone really) shot? Especially when the golden light is slanting in sideways? Why yes, yes I am.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Crown Point Press

Some coworkers and I took a little field trip to Crown Point Press this week. They are a big beautiful print shop who, for the past fifty years, have been inviting non-print-making artists in for two week residencies during with they (the artists) get to create whatever they want. We got to tour the current show--of all the new artists they've  worked with this century--in the big light-filled gallery space and then go on a tour of the press itself and even got to watch the printer's printing. It was fab. Here are some images from the tour and from the exhibition.

 Amy Sillman

 Wilson Sheih

 Darren Almond

Anne Appleby

Pia Fries

First and fifth photo by Kate Woodrow, third photo by Peter Perez.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

The Poem Series About The Winter of 2005 Carries On

December 13, 2005
At the annual company craft fair

I bought for Christmas presents
some colorful duct tape wallets
emblazoned with bus transfers

And for myself
a pair of little silver alligator hair clips
embellished with forest green buttons

Which made me realize
that I have never written
about my love for buttons

Absolutely one of those cases
of something that jumps out of itself
forward at me and into my eyeball

and straight into
for lack of a better term
my self

What speaks to me
or anyone
in this way is mysterious

Why buttons? Is it good design?
The creative mind of the person who first invented them
brilliantly calling out across the ages

Or something more sensual?
a question of shape and contour and surfaces
a face that seems friendly somehow

The other day I was walking with Bill
saw a button on the ground
and automatically bent to pick it up

The ground was dirty and he was disturbed
but I’d just done the natural thing
Reaching out your hand towards the thing that is calls your name

image source is here

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

The Ebook Settlement

The big news in publishing while I was out last week was Judge Denise Cote's approval of the settlement between the Department of Justice and the three settling publishers (Hachette, HarperCollins, and Simon & Schuster) in the big ebook price-fixing suit.

As always, Publisher's Lunch has done a wonderfully concise job of summing up the legal morass. Here's their summation of some of the judge's pertinent remarks:

"...the judge took respectful note of the many objections filed during the comment period. 'Clearly, this is no ordinary Tunney Act proceeding.... Given the sheer volume of comments opposing entry of the proposed Final Judgment and the significant harm that these comments fear may result, hesitation is clearly appropriate in this case.' Among those comments, she concluded that 'perhaps the most forceful species of criticism leveled at the decree is that it will have manifestly anticompetitive effects. The comments make a variety of arguments along these lines; the gist of their critique, however, is that Amazon was a monopolist engaged in predatory pricing and other anticompetitive practices, defendants’ use of the agency model reduced Amazon’s market share and capacity to engage in these practices, and the consent decree will encourage a return to the anticompetitive status quo.' She rejects these arguments for a variety of reasons, including the reasoning that 'even if Amazon was engaged in predatory pricing, this is no excuse for unlawful price-fixing.'"

Also of note is the fact that early results seem to suggest that ebook prices for these three houses are actually going up after the settlement, rather than down as much of the hoopla around the suit would have seemed to imply would be the case. Of course the real circus will come to town when those who are fighting the suit (the two other "agency" publishers, Penguin and Macmillan, plus Apple) come to trial. 

image source is here

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Hello Civic Center!

There's something to be said for spending a week in a part of town you don't usually spend much time in. In the case of my jury duty last week this meant hanging around a lot in Civic Center, an area I never really thought much of before. But I found I really warmed up to it and started to appreciate it's charms.

Actually, I attribute a fair portion of this new found appreciation to Mabel. The main public library, the Asian Art Museum, and the UN Plaza farmer's market are some of her and her daddy's favorite weekday haunts, and on a few occasions lately I've gotten to tag along with them down here.

Which meant that in a way I was perfectly primed to spend some time in the same vicinity on my own--appreciating one thing and another through fresh eyes which were partly my own, and partly those of a toddler.

I get why, for many folks, the experience of having a child, and the inevitable concerns about safety that go along with becoming a parent, can reduce the inclination toward city life. It makes perfect sense that so many previously city-dwelling parents of school-age children decide to move their families to less urban environments.

And yet for me somehow it's turned out to be just the opposite. Having a kid around makes me relish the place we live on a whole new level. Makes me see wonders where maybe before I would have seen not much special.    

And that makes me feel immensely lucky.

On a side note I was also quite gleeful to look over on one of our many breaks in the hallway and see all three of my fellow jurors with whom I was sharing a bench reading real live actual books!

Monday, September 17, 2012

Combing Daddy's Hair

Sometimes, as we know, I like to trip myself out by looking at pictures of tiny Mabel. Like this one from just before her first birthday. She is the same! And yet she is different! She was so small! She liked to comb hair! She wore clothes I'd nearly forgotten about! And the light that shone from her eyes was the same light I saw when she woke up this morning, just a little bit younger.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Jury Duty

Three days later and I'm still somehow surprised to realize that I have been selected to be on a jury. The trail is supposed to be short, however, so interruption of service here on the Cabinet should only continue through the rest of this week. While I'm off doing my civic duty I leave you with a glowing Rothko to keep you company in my place.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

The Ongoing Poem Saga About the Winter of 2005 Gets A Whole Lot More Wintery

December 12, 2005
One of those

Christmas is nearly upon us
weekends of bustle and shopping

wooly scarves!
witty cards!
red tulips with green stems!

card writing
menu planning
but most of all

cookie baking

Every year I remember that it takes a long time
but I never remember quite how long or quite how exhausting
making many many dozen thin cut-out cookies really is

mixing the huge amount of dough
and all the rolling out and cutting and decorating
and the perpetual rotation of trays in and out of the oven and to the cooling racks

Then again
I never quite remember how good the cookies taste either
how pretty the colored sugar on top

on one level of course I do
or I wouldn’t want to go to all the trouble of making them
But not on a sensory level

Not on a detail level
Not the way each color of sugar is not just a different color but
Because all the jars were acquired piecemeal at different times and places

also a different coarseness and consistency
big fat iridescent blue grains like rock salt
fine fine almost sandy pale pink and pale green

And then there’s the satisfaction
of engrossing labor
and then the eating

image source is here

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

The September Issue

Ah, the September issue. The joys and perils (to one's wrists, if nothing else) of 916 Pages of Spectacular Fall Fashion For All. Oh Vogue, your insistence on outdoing yourself year after year is really quite endearing. And the persistence of glossy magazine publishing in this day and age makes me extremely happy somehow.

One of my favorite features in this year's issue features Stella Tennant shot by Mario Testino wearing various lavish getups in Peru. One thing I especially liked was the silhouette, repeated several times throughout the story, of a below-the-knee A-line skirt over cropped pants. Jackets and heavy jewelry also predominate.

And so, yesterday, I put together my own humble approximation of this look (and if there's anything more vanity-deflating than featuring a crappy picture of yourself on the same post as photos of the miraculously attenuated Ms. Tennant and an infamously Photoshopped Gaga, I don't know what it is. Oh, wait, yes I do: it's this). Regardless, though, I was quite happy with the outfit. Thanks Anna Wintour, or more likely Grace Coddington, actually.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

California Hills

In my mind's eye this landscape--the classic California rolling hills, golden in color and dotted with dark green oaks--is the platonic ideal of landscape. Say "hills" to me and this is what I picture. Born and raised here, I will never be able to shake off (nor would I want to) the persistent belief that this, right here, is exactly what nature looks like. My mother tells the story of moving to the Bay Area from the Midwest in the 60s and how these hills struck her then--and on some level still strike her today--as an "exotic" landscape. I understand this, because that's just how I feel about pretty much every other landscape on earth, whether natural or man-made: Pine trees descending right to the water line in Maine? Irrigated lawns abutting desert washes in Arizona? Brownstones in Brooklyn? Mansard roofs in Paris? Exotic. The above? Normality at its very best.

Reading Mamma and Daddy's Books

In the moment captured here, Mabel had decided to arrange both of her parents' hardcover reading books (sans their jackets) on the floor side by side where she could move between them easily and flip the pages of each with impunity.