Substances of abuse used to be the subject of much hand-wringing. It started with opium dens, moved to speakeasies, then to crack houses, then to “smoking permitted” anterooms. Since Nancy Reagan’s “Just Say No,” the war on drugs has taken a back seat, but not because it has been won. Rather, because a different war has cluttered the headlines — the war on obesity. And a substance even more insidious, I would argue, has supplanted cocaine and heroin. The object of our current affliction is sugar. Who could have imagined that something so innocent, so delicious, so irresistible — just one glucose molecule (not so sweet) plus one fructose molecule (very sweet) — could propel America toward economic deterioration and medical collapse?
Read more. [Image: Larina Natalia/Shutterstock]
Good art is a kind of magic. It does magical things for both artist and audience. We can have long polysyllabic arguments about how to describe the way this magic works, but the plain fact is that good art is magical and precious and cool. It’s hard to try and make good art, and it seems to me wholly reasonable that good artists should be concerned with their work’s cultural reception.
David Foster Wallace, from a letter to the editor in Harper’s Magazine in 1996.
Earlier that year, Jonathan Franzen wrote his famous essay, “Perchance to Dream: In an Age of Images, a Reason to Write Novels,” where he lays out his attitude toward contemporary fiction, and proposed a template that would later be implemented in his novel The Corrections. The next month, Harper’s published a letter from Kurt Vonnegut in response to Franzen’s article, where he said, “Novelists are people who believe they can dampen their neuroses by writing make-believe. We will keep on doing that no matter what, while offering loftier explanations.”
Wallace sacked Vonnegut on this observation, calling it “horseshit,” saying that if Vonnegut’s statement were the whole truth, “who would want to devote hours of brain work to something somebody had written just to dampen his own neuroses?”
I love this whole exchange, from the spirited argument of purpose and ideals, to the importance and consequence of the audience’s presence. I have a tendency to romanticize the process of making and the opportunity of speaking directly and sincerely to other people, but it’s comforting to see that others can find the magic in the arrangement. We have a tendency to over-use “magic” for unfitting purposes without much mystery, so it’s encouraging to realize that there really are magical things out there accessible to all of us. Auspicious wonder need not live in an ivory tower, so I’ll continue tending to my sentences.
And Everything Is Going Fine
Directed by Steven Soderbergh
In theaters: December 10th, 2010
AND EVERYTHING IS GOING FINE, an incisive and entertaining portrait of Spalding Gray by director Steven Soderbergh provides an intimate look at the master monologist as described by his most critical, irreverent and insightful biographer: Spalding Gray. Soderbergh distills 25 years of rare and revealing footage to construct a riveting final monologue. An official selection of the SXSW, True/False and Edinburgh film festivals, this inspired one-man show is a bittersweet display of the writer-performer’s playful and embattled intelligence, and his gift for tracking universal truths by looking himself squarely in the eye.
In David Eagleman’s Sum, 40 tales about afterlife, he reshuffles and organizes all life’s experiences into a new order, grouping all like-moments together:You spend two months driving the street in front of your house, seven months having sex. You sleep for thirty years without opening your eyes. For five months straight you flip through magazines while sitting on a toilet.
You take all your pain at once, all twenty-seven intense hours of it. Bones break, cars crash, skin is cut, babies are born. Once you make it through, it’s agony-free for the rest of your afterlife.
But that doesn’t mean it’s always pleasant. You spend six days clipping your nails. Fifteen months looking for lost items. Eighteen months waiting in line. Two years of boredom: staring out a bus window, sitting in an airport terminal. One year reading books. Your eyes hurt, and you itch, because you can’t take a shower until it’s your time to take your marathon two-hundred-day shower. Two weeks wondering what happens when you die. One minute realizing your body is falling. Seventy-seven hours of confusion. One hour realizing you’ve forgotten someone’s name. Three weeks realizing you are wrong. Two days lying. Six weeks waiting for a green light. Seven hours vomiting. Fourteen minutes experiencing pure joy. Three months doing laundry. Fifteen hours writing your signature. Two days tying shoelaces. Sixty-seven days of heartbreak. Five weeks driving lost. Three days calculating restaurant tips. Fifty-one days deciding what to wear. Nine days pretending you know what is being talked about. Two weeks counting money. Eighteen days staring into the refrigerator. Thirty-four days longing. Six months watching commercials. Four weeks sitting in thought, wondering if there is something better you could be doing with your time. Three years swallowing food. Five days working buttons and zippers. Four minutes wondering what your life would be like if you reshuffled the order of events. In this part of the afterlife, you imagine something analogous to your Earthly life, and the thought is blissful: a life where episodes are split into tiny swallowable pieces, where moments do not endure, where one experiences the joy of jumping from one event to the next like a child hopping from spot to spot on the burning sand.
History by Peter Biľak. With help of Eike Dingler, Ján Filípek, Ondrej Jób and Ashfaq Niazi.
Based on a skeleton of Roman inscriptional capitals, History includes 21 layers inspired by the evolution of typography. These 21 independent typefaces share widths and other metric information so that they can be recombined. Thus History has the potential to generate thousands of different unique styles. History is available as a collection of 21 OpenType fonts that can be used just as any other fonts, and also as part of the layering software History Remixer.
(From left, Emilie Azoulay, Elisa Cammarota and Anthony Azoulay get to choose articles at a meeting at the Mon Quotidien office.)
“Both Elisa and Anthony are 10 years old and entering the fifth grade in the fall. And both are regular subscribers to one of the most popular daily newspapers in France.
On a recent morning, the two children sat at a large rectangular table with several of the newspaper’s editors. The paper, Mon Quotidien, or My Daily, invites several of its readers twice weekly to help edit the paper, except for the front page, choosing stories that will be featured in its seven other pages.
The national editor, Caroline Hallé, was proposing an article about a school in Britain that had bought hawks and falcons to drive off a plague of seagulls that were dirtying the premises.
Alternatively, she proposed news of how divers had recently found bottles of French Champagne that King Louis XVI had sent to the czar of Russia, but had gone down when the ship transporting them sank in the Baltic Sea.
‘How did Louis XVI end?’ asked Olivier Gasselin, 40, the paper’s deputy editor.
‘Guillotine,’ Elisa shot back, without raising her eyes from the notes she was making.”
One of the rare times that I wish I was 10 again.
Source: The New York Times
Togetherness in a warm tub
“Adults and children crowd a small public pool in Reykjavík to soak in natural hot water drawn from nearby springs. Although air temperatures range from the high 50’s in summer to below freezing in winter, the water remains around 85 degrees. Numerous outdoor pools operate year-round, doing a brisk business even in cold weather. Those who have taken the plunge say that few pastimes are more exhilarating than sitting in the warm bath when arctic winds are swirling about them.”
Kodachrome © National Geographic Society
Vol. 136, No.2
Source: Flickr / 100kr
The fear of youth is called ephebiphobia. First coined as the “fear and loathing of teenagers,” today the phenomenon is recognized as the “inaccurate, exaggerated and sensational characterization of young people” in a range of settings around the world.
Machiavelli is said to have realized that a fear of youth is what kept the city of Florence from keeping a standing army. Ancient Venice and ancient Greece are also said to have had floundering public policy because of their fear of youth, as well.
followyourbliss / danogj: This is Jonathan Kambouris’ Last Meal Project feature along the Esplanade underpass in Singapore. The pictures depict those committed to lethal injection and their last meal requests.
This guy, John W Elliot wanted tea from a tea bag and six cookies. There’s another who asked for a jar of pickles, and one who asked for “justice, world peace and…” (something else, I forgot) and all he got was a sheet printed with those words.
What would your last meal be?
I’m taking notes. I love reading about other people’s daily routines, it’s inspiring.
Pencils made from the carbon of human cremains. 240 pencils can be made from an average body of ash - a lifetime supply of pencils for those left behind.
Each pencil is foil stamped with the name of the person. Only one pencil can be removed at a time, it is then sharpened back into the box causing the sharpenings to occupy the space of the used pencils. Over time the pencil box fills with sharpenings - a new ash, transforming it into an urn. The window acts as a timeline, showing you the amount of pencils left as time goes by.