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3 dimensions of art

04/22/14 18 Comments


here’s a cool take on blackout poetry that blends prose, poetry, and drawing (via nprbooks).  how do you read the resulting poem?

a.) “we learn

as a child

to feel the wind

and exist in consciousness,

lost moments,

our remembering”


b.) “we learn

as a child

to feel the wind

and exist in consciousness

remembering our lost moments”


c.) something else…


vivian maier’s master class in selfies

11/18/13 1 Comment

Undated, New York.

from a lightbox piece on nanny/undercover photog vivian maier:

One of the things that fascinated me early on was the fact that Maier was shooting photos prolifically while she had a career as a nanny and, at the same time, didn’t show her work to anyone for feedback. So, to me, this is the mark of a true artist; someone who can create a large body of work by themselves as an expression of their true self and it speaks to all of us in our own way. That’s important. She didn’t try to become famous, she didn’t create images for others and she didn’t see things that she knew others would appreciate. She saw the world in a personal, uninfluenced way, and her photos are a raw depiction of that world she saw. 

for a taste of this prolific/personal art, check out the collection of ms. maier’s self-portraits below (click for closer looks + captions).  vivian’s selfies are cooler than the ones that saturate social media in the creative ways that her pics show her without her always being the center of attention.

catch more of ms. maier’s work and story here.  also, nyc folks, the howard greenberg gallery has a vivian maier exhibit going on until early dec. 1st spotted via npr.

mug shots from banned books


Harry Potter (Harry Potter)

Harry Potter (Harry Potter)

Books won’t stay banned. They won’t burn. Ideas won’t go to jail. In the long run of history, the censor and the inquisitor have always lost. The only sure weapon against bad ideas is better ideas. —Alfred Whitney Griswald

kate of jubilant antics created some great mug shots inspired by banned books week.  featured are the protagonists from their eyes were watching god, the catcher in the rye, the scarlet letter, looking for alaska and the harry potter series.

check out her art below (order the prints here).  you’ll also find a list of banned classics after the jump:

as promised, out of radcliffe’s top 100 novels list, here are the ones that have been banned at some point (via ala):


a thumbprint portrait colored with your favorite things

06/11/13 1 Comment


details via artist cheryl sorg:

Thumbprint portraits use your own thumbprint to create a large (three feet high!), modern, colorful work of art that will be absolutely YOU.  I will use your own thumbprint and recreate its unique patterns using snippets of imagery, text and color from your favorite things (you’ll provide a list and I’ll pore through and gather hundreds of images to best represent that list).  Your favorites could include much-loved books, music, films, poetry, quotes, places traveled and lived and more.  The result is a truly one-of-a-kind portrait that captures your personality and passions.  It makes a wonderful gift for yourself or a loved one.  A great way to do a unique family portrait – you could create one for each family member, or (like the one shown above!) use one family member’s thumbprint and incorporate the interests of all family members into one portrait.

take a close look at the portraits in the gallery below.  think about what you might include your portrait (you can buy one here) and share in the comments.  to help you along, listen to “my favorite things” by john coltrane.

hear a.a. milne read his classic “winnie-the-pooh”

via open culture:

Here’s a rare recording from 1929 of the British author A.A. Milne reading a chapter of his beloved children’s book, Winnie-the-Pooh. Milne was a prolific writer of plays, novels and essays, but he was most widely known–much to his chagrin–as the creator of a simple and good-natured little bear.

Pooh was inspired by his son Christopher Robin’s favorite teddy bear. In Milne’s imagination, the stuffed bear comes alive and enters into little adventures (or one might say misadventures) with Christopher Robin and his other stuffed animals. The name “Winnie” was borrowed from a famous resident of the London Zoo: a black bear from Canada named for the city of Winnipeg. The young Christopher Robin liked visiting Winnie at the zoo. He also liked a graceful swan he saw swimming in a pond at Kensington Gardens, who he named “Pooh.” His father combined the two names to create one of the most popular characters in children’s literature.

listen to milne read the story “in which pooh and piglet go hunting and nearly catch a woozle” (you can follow along with the text after the jump).  on a related note, pictured above are christopher robin milne’s original stuffed animals (l to r, eeyore, kanga, piglet, pooh, tigger) then housed at the new york public library. you can find more info on them here.



In a way, you are poetry material; You are full of cloudy subtleties I am willing to spend a lifetime figuring out. Words burst in your essence and you carry their dust in the pores of your ethereal individuality.

– lovely words by franz kafka, taken from his letters to milena jesenská.  my favorite part is the bit on cloudy subtleties.  those nuances that make people/things unique.  unlike kafka, we’re not always willing to spend a minute, much less a lifetime, figuring them out.  why not?  part of it could be not caring enough, being too busy or maybe just being scared of what we might find underneath the uncertainty.  whatever the reason to avoid it, we should remember that within those subtleties are the materials needed to better understand the world around us and the people within it (yourself included).

spending time on cloudy subtleties

05/07/13 2 Comments

“until the lions have their own historians…”


“I grew older and began to read about adventures in which I didn’t know that I was supposed to be on the side of those savages who were encountered by the good white man. I instinctively took sides with the white people. They were fine! They were excellent. They were intelligent. The others were not . . . they were stupid and ugly. That was the way I was introduced to the danger of not having your own stories. There is that great proverb—that until the lions have their own historians, the history of the hunt will always glorify the hunter. That did not come to me until much later. Once I realized that, I had to be a writer. I had to be that historian. It’s not one man’s job. It’s not one person’s job. But it is something we have to do, so that the story of the hunt will also reflect the agony, the travail—the bravery, even, of the lions.”

chinua achebe, from an interview with the paris review. the renown author died today at the age of 82. rip.


theory of multiple intelligences


check out my favorite line from this past season of homeland:

it seems contradictory, but in the case of carrie, it was so apropos.  on one hand, claire danes’ character is smart enough to figure out conspiracies in ways that nobody else can.  still, she’s such a mess emotionally that it causes her to make dumb decisions in her personal life.

carrie’s supposed inconsistency in smarts speaks to the idea that there are different forms of intelligence.  now, intelligence is most often defined by academic criteria.  however, our everyday understanding of it should go further than that.  howard gardner expounds on this in his book theory of multiple intelligences (via explore):

1. Linguistic Intelligence: the capacity to use language to express what’s on your mind and to understand other people. Any kind of writer, orator, speaker, lawyer, or other person for whom language is an important stock in trade has great linguistic intelligence.

2. Logical/Mathematical Intelligence: the capacity to understand the underlying principles of some kind of causal system, the way a scientist or a logician does; or to manipulate numbers, quantities, and operations, the way a mathematician does.

3. Musical Rhythmic Intelligence: the capacity to think in music; to be able to hear patterns, recognize them, and perhaps manipulate them. People who have strong musical intelligence don’t just remember music easily, they can’t get it out of their minds, it’s so omnipresent.

4. Bodily/Kinesthetic Intelligence: the capacity to use your whole body or parts of your body (your hands, your fingers, your arms) to solve a problem, make something, or put on some kind of production. The most evident examples are people in athletics or the performing arts, particularly dancing or acting.

5. Spatial Intelligence: the ability to represent the spatial world internally in your mind — the way a sailor or airplane pilot navigates the large spatial world, or the way a chess player or sculptor represents a more circumscribed spatial world. Spatial intelligence can be used in the arts or in the sciences.

6. Naturalist Intelligence: the ability to discriminate among living things (plants, animals) and sensitivity to other features of the natural world (clouds, rock configurations). This ability was clearly of value in our evolutionary past as hunters, gatherers, and farmers; it continues to be central in such roles as botanist or chef.

7. Intrapersonal Intelligence: having an understanding of yourself; knowing who you are, what you can do, what you want to do, how you react to things, which things to avoid, and which things to gravitate toward. We are drawn to people who have a good understanding of themselves. They tend to know what they can and can’t do, and to know where to go if they need help.

8. Interpersonal Intelligence: the ability to understand other people. It’s an ability we all need, but is especially important for teachers, clinicians, salespersons, or politicians — anybody who deals with other people.

9. Existential Intelligence: the ability and proclivity to pose (and ponder) questions about life, death, and ultimate realities.

thinking about this list, which forms of intelligence are your strongest?  which ones are your weakest?  also, are there any more versions of intelligence that you feel aren’t addressed in gardner’s categories?  if so, include a definition like the ones above.

how to get filthy rich in rising asia



i know the saying. don’t judge a book by its cover. got it. still, it’s okay to be enamored by a book’s poster, right? the one above hooked me when i saw it on thesmithian. the title is interesting enough but each listed step made the story behind it even more intriguing (particularly loved the poetry in #9 & #10). after getting my hands on some of the novel, i quickly saw that my infatuation wasn’t misplaced.

read an excerpt from the book below (via the new yorker) and let me know what you think. you can also check out this interview with mr. hamid & pre-order the novel here:

One cold, dewy morning, you are huddled, shivering, on the packed earth under your mother’s cot. Your anguish is the anguish of a boy whose chocolate has been thrown away, whose remote controls are out of batteries, whose scooter is busted, whose new sneakers have been stolen. This is all the more remarkable since, wealth-obsessed though you will come to be, you’ve never in your life seen any of these things.

The whites of your eyes are yellow, a consequence of spiking bilirubin levels in your blood. The virus afflicting you is called hepatitis E. Its typical mode of transmission is fecal-oral. Yum. It kills only about one in fifty, so you’re likely to recover. But right now you feel like you’re going to die.

Your mother has encountered this condition many times, or conditions like it, anyway. So maybe she doesn’t think you’re going to die. Then again, maybe she fears it. Everyone is going to die, and, when a mother sees in a third-born child like you pain that makes you whimper under her cot, maybe she feels your death push forward a few decades, take off its dark, dusty head scarf, and settle with open-haired familiarity and a lascivious smile into this, the single mud-walled room she shares with all her surviving offspring.

What she says is “Don’t leave us here.”

She is addressing your father, who has heard this request before. That does not make him completely unsusceptible to it, however. He is a man of voracious sexual appetite, and he often thinks, while he is away, of your mother’s heavy breasts and ample thighs, and he still longs to thrust himself inside her nightly rather than on his three or four visits per year. He also enjoys her unusually rude sense of humor, and sometimes her companionship as well. And although he is not given to displays of affection toward his young, he would like to watch you and your siblings grow. His own father derived considerable pleasure from the daily progress of crops in the fields, and in this, at least insofar as agriculture is analogous to the development of children, the two men are similar.

He says, “I can’t afford to bring you to the city.”

“We could stay with you in the quarters.”

“I share my room with the driver. He’s a masturbating, chain-smoking, flatulent sisterfucker. There are no families in the quarters.”

“You earn ten thousand now. You’re not a poor man.”

“In the city, ten thousand makes you a poor man.”

He gets up and walks outside. Your eyes follow him, his leather sandals unslung at the rear, their straps flapping free, his chapped heels callused, crustacean-like. He steps into the open-air courtyard situated at the center of your extended family’s compound. He is unlikely to linger there in contemplation of the single, shade-giving tree, comforting in summer, but now, in spring, still tough and scraggly. Possibly he exits the compound and makes his way to the ridge behind which he prefers to defecate, squatting low and squeezing forcefully to expel the contents of his colon. Possibly he is alone, or possibly he is not.

Beside the ridge is a gully as deep as a man is tall, and at the bottom of that gully is a slender trickle of water. In this season the two things are incongruous, a skeletal figure wearing the tunic of an obese pastry chef. Only briefly, during the monsoon, does the gully fill to anything near capacity, and even that is an occurrence less regular now than in the past, dependent on increasingly fickle atmospheric currents.

The people of your village relieve themselves downstream of where they wash their clothes, a place, in turn, downstream of where they drink. Farther upstream, the village before yours does the same. Farther still, where the water emerges from the hills as a sometimes gushing brook, it is partly employed in the industrial processes of an old, rusting, and subscale textile plant, and partly used as drainage for the foul-smelling gray effluent that results.

Your father is a cook, but, despite being reasonably good at his job, he is not a man obsessed with the freshness or quality of his ingredients. Cooking for him is a craft of spice and oil. His food burns the tongue and clogs the arteries. When he looks around him in the countryside, he does not see prickly leaves and hairy little berries for an effervescent salad, tan stalks of wheat for a heavenly balloon of stone-ground, stovetop-baked flatbread. He sees, instead, units of backbreaking toil. He sees hours and days and weeks and years. He sees the labor by which a farmer exchanges his allocation of time in this world for an allocation of time in this world. Here, in the heady bouquet of nature’s pantry, your father sniffs mortality.

Most of the men of the village who now work in the city return for the wheat harvest. But it is still too early in the year for that. Your father is here on leave. Nonetheless, he likely accompanies his brothers to spend his morning cutting grass and clover for fodder. He will squat, again, but this time sickle in hand, and his movements of gather-cut-release-waddle will be repeated over and over and over as the sun retraces its own incremental path in the sky.

Beside him, a single dirt road passes through the fields. Should the landlord or his sons drive by in their S.U.V., your father and his brothers will bring their hands to their foreheads, bend low, and avert their eyes. Meeting the gaze of a landlord has been a risky business in these parts for centuries, perhaps since the beginning of history. Recently, some men have begun to do it. But they have beards and earn their keep in the seminaries. They walk tall, with chests out. Your father is not one of them. In fact, he dislikes them almost as much as he does the landlords, and for the same reasons. They strike him as domineering and lazy.

Lying on your side with one ear on the packed earth, from your worm’s-height perspective you watch your mother follow your father into the courtyard. She feeds the water buffalo tethered there, tossing fodder that was cut yesterday and mixed with straw into a wooden trough, and milks the animal as it eats, jets of liquid smacking into her tin pail. When she is done, the children of the compound, your siblings and cousins, lead the buffalo, its calf, and the goats out to forage. You hear the swishing of the peeled branches the children hold, and then they are gone.

Your aunts leave the compound next, bearing clay pots on their heads for water and carrying clothes and soap for cleaning. These are social tasks. Your mother’s responsibility is solitary. This is not a coincidence. She squats as your father is likely squatting, a handleless broom in her hand instead of a sickle, her sweep-sweep-waddle approximating his movements. Squatting is energy-efficient and better for the back. But, after hours and days and weeks and years, its mild discomfort echoes in the mind like muffled screams from a subterranean torture chamber. The pain can be borne endlessly, provided it is never acknowledged.

Your mother cleans the courtyard under the gaze of her mother-in-law. The old woman sits in shadow, the edge of her shawl held in her mouth to conceal not her attributes of temptation but, rather, her lack of teeth, and looks on in unquenchable disapproval. Your mother is regarded in the compound as vain and arrogant and headstrong, and these accusations have bite, for they are all true. Your grandmother tells your mother she has missed a spot. Because she is toothless and holds the cloth between her lips, when she speaks it sounds like she is spitting.

Your mother and grandmother play a waiting game. The older woman waits for the younger woman to age; the younger woman waits for the older woman to die. It is a game both will inevitably win. In the meantime, your grandmother flaunts her authority whenever she can, and your mother flaunts her physical strength. The other women of the compound would be frightened of your mother were it not for the reassuring existence of the men. In an all-female society your mother would likely rise to be queen, a bloody staff in her hand and crushed skulls beneath her feet. Here the best she has been able to manage is, for the most part, to be spared severe provocation. Even this, cut off as she is from her own village, is no small victory.

Unsaid between your mother and your father is that on ten thousand a month he could, just barely, afford to bring her and his children to the city. It would be tight but not impossible. At the moment he is able to send most of his salary back to the village, where it is split between your mother and the rest of the clan. If she and you children were to move in with him, the flow of his money to this place would slow to a trickle, swelling like the water in the gully only in the two festival months when he could perhaps expect a bonus.

You watch your mother slice up a lengthy white radish and boil it over an open fire. The sun has banished the dew and, unwell as you are, you no longer feel cold. You feel weak, though, and with the pain in your gut it is as if a parasite were eating you alive from within. So you do not resist as your mother lifts your head off the earth and ladles her elixir into your mouth. It smells like a burp, like the gases from a man’s belly. It makes your gorge rise. But you have nothing inside that you can vomit, and you swallow it without incident.

As you lie motionless afterward, a jaundiced village boy, radish juice dribbling from the corner of your lips and forming a small patch of mud on the ground, it must seem that getting filthy rich is beyond your reach. But have faith. You are not as powerless as you appear. Your moment is about to come.


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