Friday, November 29, 2013

Red and Green

Now that we can officially embrace the Christmas season, I offer you this image by Michael Borremans--a fantastic user of red and green.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

The Still Small Voice

From "Ode for Music" by Thomas Gray, 1769

Sweet is the breath of vernal shower,
The bee's collected treasures sweet,
Sweet music's melting fall, but sweeter yet
The still small voice of gratitude

image source is here and also here

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Getting Pensive on the Eve of the Holidays

I'm the first to admit that I'm as much a part as anyone of the great chain of consumerism that unites our strange society.  I buy stuff all year long that I don't strictly speaking need (more cardigans, more novels, more ceramic bowls); I always end up spending more on Christmas gifts than I originally intended; heck, I just penned one of those testaments to shopping in our modern age--the Gift Guide (with which I must admit I'm inordinately pleased and about which, never fear, more here anon); but more than all of this: as a book editor I am actively engaged every day in the making of ever more consumer goods which I am constantly and fervently hoping lots and lots of people will buy.

I bring all of this up because, over the last few days, as the retailers' howling frenzy leading up to Black Friday has reached its deafening crescendo, I've been thinking about how utterly absurd, how downright fantastical it is that the well-being of our economy (and, ergo, the well-being of our nation) depends upon how many presents people buy for one another in the four weeks between our harvest festival and our solstice festival. It's not just me--that's insane, right?

But this morning something else occurred to me--of all the great amoral engines that have driven societies down the ages I guess I'd rather be caught up in one that's essentially based on people liking each other. In our reality we show that liking by buying each other stuff. In the era of Courtly Love they wrote for one another, in the Roaring 20s they got drunk together. Did those eras, like our own, have their share of cruelty and horror? Oh yes. Was/is this affection for one's fellow-creature just a thin veneer on top of the baseness of human nature? Almost certainly. But if I had to choose between having that veneer and not having it, between a society based on preposterous gift-giving versus one based on open hatred or disregard of others (Fascism or the heyday of the slave trade come to mind), I guess I know what I would pick. 

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Pumpkins Before Turkeys

I just realized that, what with all the crazy travel I've been doing lately, I never posted pics from Halloween up here. Now, normally, I might at this point just say ah well, it's too late, and blow it off. But I'm sorry, Mabel's costume this year was just too awesome and hilarious to let slide. She decided, all off her own bat, and from whence the idea came I've no idea, that she wanted to be a wizard. I guess most of the householders whose doors she trick-or-treated to did not realize she was a little girl in drag, but to those of us who know her well, the sight of her in a long white beard was pretty darn funny. So I'm figuring as long as I get these in under the wire before Thanksgiving I'm good to go. We also went to a pumpkin patch and conquered a mountain of hay bales, so those images are down below as well.

Monday, November 25, 2013


I hold the firm belief that no one who's age is in the double-digits ought ever to wear shorts. But while you are young and your legs are tiny, go for it!

Friday, November 22, 2013

Real Fake Clouds

I love the real live manufactured clouds of artist Berndnaut Smilde and how they just hang there, floating in their rooms like that.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Poetry Thursdays Continue With This Next Installment About the Spring of 2006

March 8, 2006
Yesterday was

the first time in many months
that the sun was directly in front of me
at the end of the street
as I walked home
I recall from previous years
that the glare in the eyes
gets old pretty quickly
but the first time is always
kind of entertaining
The great big gold orb
just floating there
and the extra-long shadows
of the people on the street
crisp near the feet
fuzzier near the head

image source is here

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

This Is Happening on American Photo's List of 2013 Photo Books of the Year!

All I can say is: Holy smokes! American Photo recently announced their 2013 Photo Books of the Year--five dozen or so volumes honored across five different categories--and This is Happening, the book of Instagrams I not only edited but also authored, is on the list! It's in such spectacular company in the "Reflection" category that I can't resist reproducing the whole "Reflection" list just below (to see the other four fab lists, go here). So many people's amazing hard work went into making this book--both the phenomenal photographers who contributed images, and the super-smart folks I'm lucky to be colleagues with at Chronicle Books. Every book is a group effort, but this one is especially so, making this honor an especially sweet tribute to these loads and loads of talented people.  

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

A New York Minute

Last week I took the extremely unusual step of jetting off to New York for a single meeting. What the heck? Suffice to say this is not my usual mode of being and made me feel terribly fancy and important. I've also, over the years, grown to love New York and how it looks. Long ago, before I'd ever been there, I had some dreamy romanticized notion of how it would look, based largely I now see on Nora Ephron and Woody Allen movies. And when I first finally got there I was not so much disappointed as just entirely overwhelmed, confused, and mystified. Where was the beauty I'd been expecting? There was no beauty here! Just a million little crappy bodegas and pizza joints and key-cutting stores block after block after block. It took another half dozen or so trips before I was able to clear the cobwebs of preconception and disillusionment from my eyes and see the beauty that actually is, rather than some imagined notion that was not. Perhaps that's the way it is with all fabled locales--you have to move the legend out of the way so you can see the actual thing (except for Paris, of course, Paris whacks you over the head with its relentless beauty like a ton of bricks, creating its very own special brand of gobsmackedness. But I digress). Herewith, a few glimpses from my trip.

PS: Only after having written this whole post did I look back through my archive and realize I said something similar (and honestly, said it a whole lot better) after my last visit to NYC this past Spring. Not to mention, I'd originally (or, I should say, un-originally) titled today's post "New York, New York" a title I've used not once but twice before, for crying out loud! Jeez, Watson Payne, get an editor! However this sentiment remains somehow of interest to me, so I'm letting the text of today's post stand, just changing the title to earn my editorial keep. One of the great things about having a blog, I find, is you get to do just whatever the heck you want. So there. xoxo b

Monday, November 18, 2013

Picking Blueberries with Zari!

One of the (many) great days of our summer was this one. When we went with our friends up in Portland out to a farm where you can pick your own berries, and Mabel and her small friend picked and picked like anything, and came away out of the field each with about three berries in her carton because, just like in Blueberries for Sal, nearly every berry they picked went straight into their mouths.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Art in L.A.

I looked at a whole lot of art while I was in L.A. Today, a few of the highlights.

Above, just one of the many amazing art-made-from-books installations at The Last Bookstore (one of my absolute top favorite stops of the whole trip). 

The astonishing James Turrell exhibition at LACMA makes your brain do all kinds of things.

The architecture of the LACMA Japanese Pavilion blew my mind a little bit.

There's a great Abstract Expressionist room at LACMA, too, of which this Rothko is just one sampling (there's also a great huge Franz Klein, and one of my favorite DeKoonings from his relatively brief period of pure abstraction). 

Basquiat at MOCA--their whole Modern show was lovely, other highlights included a gripping Agnes Martin, and a whole room of Rothkos glowing away like anything. 

Speaking of glowing, this piece by Mark Handforth was my favorite thing in the Contemporay show at MOCA

I visited a slew of galleries in Bergamot Station. The rest of this post shows what I saw and liked there. Above Sebastio Salgado at Peter Fetterman.

 Chuck Close at Ikon

Ned Evans at Craig Krull

Corey Grayhorse at DNJ

Eric Nash at Lia Skidmore

Katherine Rohrbacher at Tag

Laura Karetzky at Lora Schlesinger

Jose Alberto Marchi at Latin American Masters

Thursday, November 7, 2013

The Newish Poem Series About the Spring of 2006 Carries On in the Following Manner

March 7, 2006
It’s been really rainy the past few days and nights

And I’ve been remembering how much I like
falling asleep listening to the rain on the roof
Even though in our current home you don’t
actually hear the rain on the actual roof per se
there being those floors of apartments above
and so instead you hear the rain falling onto
the street and the trees and the windowsills

And that sound is quite different
than the sound of rain hitting
a roof just above your head
more roar and whoosh
less plink and plonk

but the sensation of comfort
of being swaddled
and sung to sleep
in a ship on a
stormy sea

image source is here

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

My Books in the Wild

I think I can pretty safely speak for all book editors, and probably most everyone in publishing come to that, when I say that there are very few things more gratifying than seeing the projects you worked on prominently displayed in stores (especially when those stores are very nice stores). This happened to me a lot as I poked around in various boutiques in L.A. and in my glee and pride I just had to snap (sometimes admittedly not very good) photos. I share these with you now in a burst of unmitigated own-horn-tooting.