May 31, 2010
posted by Caroline Picard
Artifice posted an interesting blurb about our books a few weeks ago. You can see the entire post here. Basically the question is raised: does high-design detract from or overshadow the work encompassed/portrayed by that design. It’s pretty awesome that the GL is mentioned as an example of what she’s thinking on and talking about. In their words:
Because highly designed is “in.” It’s part of what makes the “celebrity culture” of indie presses run. How many times have you bought a book based on the cover design on a website?
They make me want them. All of them. They flip the consumer switch in me, which doesn’t want fancy jewelry to show off, but rather understated little jewel-books. Is that bad? It is true that I first said about them, “I love Green Lantern Press; their books are so gorgeous” rather than “I love Green Lantern Press; the authors they publish are so good.”
Is this a problem? Are presses and magazines that focus on highly designed layouts giving people the carrot in order to try and convince them to like the stick, too? I don’t know: as soon as I sat down with a couple of Green Lantern’s books, I revised my thinking. “I love Green Lantern Press; their books are so gorgeous and the authors they publish are so good.”
Then I found this response also pretty interesting. You can read the entire post by going here.
Secondly, too much focus on design is just annoying — not from the perspective of the press, the journal, the designers. They should absolutely devote resources to design. From the perspective of the reader. The point of design is not just to look good; it’s at least as much about usability. A really beautiful spoon is not necessarily a well-designed spoon unless it’s merely an art object; if you’re actually supposed to eat soup with it, good design implies that it’s pleasurable to use, that it gets the job done in an elegant way. And I feel like some journals, both print and online, put so much effort into looking hot, into trying to impress readers with the design itself rather than the content, that it’s actually difficult to focus on or even physically read the stories. (Or, if it’s an online magazine, it’s difficult to navigate the pages.) A sign of good design is that the object is so functional you don’t think about the object too much; it just does what it does and does it well. You can focus on the process at hand, in this case reading.
It’s also weird how in Small Press Land, there’s an insane amount of focus on who put a book out. If you say you have a book or just read a book, someone always asks immediately who put it out. What press is it on? This reminds me of junior high, when every compliment on an article of clothing or piece of jewelry was followed up with “Where did you get it?” or “What brand is that?” I remember being really embarrassed in seventh grade when someone noticed that my knock-off Birks were fake. Too much spooging over design feels like a kind of snobbery (duh, fancy design usually costs significantly more) and superficiality. When you’re talking about a new album you love, only the ultimate music snob asks what label it’s on.
posted/written by caroline picard
Greenberg is an interesting next step in Noah Baumbak’s collection of films. The movie centers around Roger Greenberg (Ben Stiller) who suffered a mental breakdown in New York, where he works as a carpenter, and consequently moved out to LA to live in his brother’s house. Meantime his brother’s family is away on holiday. Greenberg grew up in LA, was in a band in LA and spends the duration of the film re-connecting with friends from his past, while pursuing a fraught and half-hearted romance with the family nanny/personal assistant, Florence Marr (Greta Gerwig). Greenberg is doomed to fail from the start, in so far as it is a movie about a man who is incapable, depressed, self-loathing and self-obsessed. In other words, it is intended to fail because it is about a flailing character who’s troubles stem from his inability to empathize, or step beyond his own, relatively boring preoccupations. What happens, then, is that the supporting characters, former alcoholic and near divorcé Ivan Shrank (Rhys Ifans) and 20-something Gerwig are significantly more interesting. Their lives illustrate a myriad of challenges as Gerwig struggles through the post-college confusion, fraught with a desire to please and Shrank tries to whether a storm in his marriage while also raising a son. And that’s the film, more or less. Greenberg connects more with 20 year-old than people his own age, living more in the past than the present.
While the film might not be one of Baumbak’s strongest movies, it further develops his seeming obsession with the narcissistic personality (particularly the parent). Think of The Squid and The Whale, or Margot at the Wedding–even The Life Aquatic and Fantastic Mr. Fox. In each of those films the main parental figures endanger their closest dependents with an unconscious self-absorption. I’d agree that Fantastic Mr. Fox is the benevolent counterpart in the equation, but that is more due to the outcome of the film, the delightful caricatures of Boggis and Bunts and Bean and, the ingenious world of animals. The very premise of that same film is that Mr. Fox is unable to stop hunting, despite the way in which it endangers his community. Again, I realize that the story is not really about that, but I do feel it resonates with themes in Baumbak’s other films. Further, his ongoing collaboration with Wes Anderson makes sense in this same regard, for Anderson seems fascinated with the absent-minded self-obsession that motivates people through relationships.
The early Kicking and Screaming is the farthest removed. It focuses on the college graduate, kids who don’t want to step beyond their college environment, their inside jokes, their shared sense of greatness. While this film might seem the weakest link in my argument, I’d suggest that it is nevertheless the beginning. The community he depicts is insulated, a click, involved in themselves, hesitant if not incapable of stepping out of that self-involvement to new possibilities. If one were to think of the Ben Stiller/Greenberg character in this environment, it’s likely that his crippling self-involvedness would show up as nothing more than an idiosyncratic, ironic and laughable tick. It would be buffered by the community of friends he inhabits. In this world of college, there is a little real consequence, and thus, nothing at stake exactly–beyond a sense that there is probably more to life than beer and sex on dorm room beds.
Squid and the Whale, meantime, shows a later development. The scene I always remember takes place between Bernard Berkman (Jeff Daniels) and Joan Berkman (Laura Linney). They play tennis with their two sons on either side and after the son almost hits Linney with a tennis ball, Daniels (the father/husband) does hit her, hard and deliberately. To me, this film spoke to the accidental and inherent idealization of the parent by the child–what occurs between the eldest son (Jesse Eisenberg) Walt Berkman and father Jeff Daniels, as it also happens between the youngest son Frank Berkman (Owen Kline), and mother Laura Linney. The movie is as much an examination of the way families can deteriorate as it is about the realization of a parent’s flaws by the children who venerate them.
The last film I wanted to mention is Margot at the Wedding, which demonstrates a further step–i.e. what happens when the family has already collapsed, when the young child (in this case a son) has no other means of support and security outside of the manipulative mother figure–he serves her, adulates her, seeks to please her again and again, to be good in her eyes. As one outside of the frame, the portrait Baumbak reveals is unsettling, perverse even, as the unequal inter-dependency is fleshed out in all its ways so that by the end, you can’t tell if you want Margot (Nicole Kidman) to abandon her son on the bus, or if you’re relieved that she changed her mind at the last-minute.
The progression that came into focus once I saw Greenberg was the narrowing view of the narcissist and his or her impact on the world. The college kids are accidentally narcissistic, acting out a stage that one grows out of, a stage that is shared collectively. Squid and The Whale shows the impact of narcissistic parents with children. Margot at the Wedding shows that relationship between the narcissistic mother and the doting son. And then. The final step, it would seem, in the experiment, what happens when you just focus on the narcissist? You get Greenberg. There seems to be real promise in the fact that those peripheral characters are so much more interesting–they show a new step to take, a step beyond the examination of self-centeredness. That’s not to say Baumbak will take that step, but I feel like whatever step he does take has the potential to be very interesting in so far as his study of the neurotic, manipulative, self-involved individual seems complete. The resulting portrait is pathetic, impotent. The solipsistic world-view of that character collapses, as the eye of the viewer is un-compelled by that world-view, fascinated instead by the life and curiosity of other character’s less-selfish struggles.
I can’t help but hope that a new step might be taken–Wes Anderson’s films show a similar study through a different light, similarly one can think of Garden State, or Running with Scissors–there is a deep interest in the banal train wreck of that insatiable central character, the parent absent because of his or her own preoccupation with themselves, the insipid manipulations and machinations of their personality–I want to draw a connection between that and the climate of America, the widespread abundance of our first-world lifestyle combined with an insatiable appetite for more new things, even the characteristic “the world is your oyster” attitude that so many schools want to impart on its youth. Obviously everyone wants the world to be his or her oyster, and yet without responsibility there is no purpose, without opportunities to share, there is no value in prosperity. Again, let’s study those peripheral characters, let’s follow the color their bring to Greenberg’s lonely little world. There might be a clue there. Something to follow to get beyond the self self self.
posted by caroline picard
What follows is a series of clips from a video I made in which I collaged any number of clips from various sources to support a long story I’d also written (which is narrated). There are four parts to the series.
Part THREE (divided into 4 parts)
Part FOUR (divided into 3 parts)
May 27, 2010
posted by caroline picard
Something I’ve been working on lately….
Are of the same stuff
Because you are the mother of my mother because I am the child of your child
“That’s how I imagine it. I imagine there is a lot of sun and sand. And when it rains it rains sand and when you bite into a sandwich there is sand in the mustard and when you wake up in the morning there is a pile of sand in your bed. And the sand keeps everything warm so you never need blankets and sometimes, maybe, it makes one a little nostalgic, the sand. Is it true?”
The tombstone/it said QED
when I blew the seeds
“So the sun is not the same as sun by the sea, for instance. And the sand, it’s very very fine, and it fills the air, so it is mostly referred to as dust, and when you breathe it gets in your lungs, and when you walk it gets in your hair, and it covers your clothes and your shoes. And since it rarely rains, everything outside is covered in dust. Everything inside would be covered in dust had we not a lady who comes to clean once a week.”
My great grandfathers are my sandal straps, a membrane between my body and the earth
When I said
QED it was
as if I judged the life (the one passed, under the ground, the pile of bones from before great great grandmothers) to be fulfilled
“I know an artist and her specialty is painting on bits of sand. She uses a microscope and a very tiny brush. She makes her brushes by hand also–they’re so specific they can’t be bought. In order to make her brushes she travels once a year to a remote part of China where a peculiar breed of trout spawn. She catches a trout and takes a whisker–which is precisely why these trout are so unique, because they have mustaches, or actually they’re like cat fish whiskers, but I prefer to think of them as mustaches because I like thinking about fish with British Bobby facial hair–In any case, she spends any where from one week to one month collecting these trout whiskers and then when she comes she wraps a single one to a toothpick with a dollop of Elmer’s glue. She uses the contraption as a kind of brush with which to paint the sand. I’ve never seen her work in person–only pictures. She says every year, as a kind of meditative offering. She lets one of those single bits of sand go, lets it loose in the air, to be forgotten. She only makes five bits of sand a year, so they are absolutely precious. If I were her I wouldn’t give any of them away.”
There is sand
in concrete also
(in my) memory
Often all a year’s crop is consumedeven the seeds of next year’s planting.
“In the last year my laugh has changed. I think it’s because I didn’t laugh very much the four or five years before, so I got out of practice. It’s funny to think about laughter as an instrument to be practiced. When I was a teenager, for instance, I think I only ever laughed silently. My shoulders would shake and that’s how I knew I was laughing. It frustrated me to no end so I tried to make myself laugh with some sound but it was very difficult and never felt natural. For one thing I couldn’t find the right ‘sound’ to make when I laughed. In my 20s I forgot about it and I would hear myself laughing sometimes but because it hurt me, the sound, becuase it was such a sharp and barking sound. I think I was angry in my 20s though I don’t think I have a reason why. I just made a sound like a stepped-on dog, a yelping sound, which I didn’t like either. I tried to go back to being silent but I couldn’t even do that anymore–I became so self-conscious about laughing that I just never really laughed, except when I did, it was because I forgot myself and then I would make that high-pitched yelp. So I forgot about it again and then, somehow, lately, I think maybe because I’ve had more practice, I feel I’ve discovered the strengths of my particular voice, the way its best suited to laugh, and now it just happens all the time and now it just makes me want to laugh even more.”
May 27, 2010
posted by caroline picard
I read this a few months ago at the Joan Flasch Artist Book Collection….
May 26, 2010
posted by Caroline Picard
EITHER THE WALLPAPER GOES, OR I DO.
Some people collect those little tabs from the tops of assorted soda cans. Others accrue tacky, plastic key chains from various tourist traps in order to document what travels they’ve embarked upon throughout their lives. Certain little old ladies may even eventually accumulate a horde of housecats over the years. What I’ve begun to collect are items of an entirely different variety. A horse of a different color, you might say. These are not just knickknacks haphazardly displayed on shelves or meowing in a senior citizen’s apartment; what I have begun to collect are last words.
They’re our final moments—the ultimate statement of our entire lives. After that, are no second chances, no re-dos, and there’s no going back. That’s it, you’re done, the end.
In numerous instances, human beings have been reported to utter some rather interesting things with their final dying breaths. Take inventor Thomas Edison for instance, who proclaimed, “it is very beautiful over there,” wherever over there is. Or perhaps you’d like to give leave some words of wisdom to the world, as international hotel mogul Conrad N. Hilton did when he advised to “leave the shower curtain on the inside of the tub.” Perhaps even the case of “Severus…. please…” should be included in this mix. These were the last words spoken by the great Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore moments before being killed by the Avada Kedavra curse in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.
Most of us probably aspire to say something at least somewhat meaningful with our last words, like Dumbledore did in my humble, unbiased, unprejudiced opinion. But the fact of the matter is that in most cases we cannot exactly choose our last words, now can we? And though it is certainly not healthy to live your life in fear of death, sometimes it is pertinent to realize that not all of us will be lying on our deathbed at a ripe old age, surrounded by our loved ones. Unfortunately, if you think about it, we really could die at any given moment of time. We could be involved in a car accident or a plane crash, be hit with a stray bullet from a gang fight, drown in the bathtub, or choke on the Frosted Flakes we’re eating for breakfast. There are an infinite number of different manners in which we could perish, and we can never know if or when one of those many ways might happen to us.
Take extraordinarily witty author and poet Oscar Wilde for example. His last exclamation in life was, “My wallpaper and I are fighting a duel to the death. Either the wallpaper goes, or I do.” And then he died, on November 30, 1900. For some inexplicable reason, perhaps partly because of the wonderful irony of that final statement, to me that just seems like such a sensational last thing to say. When the time comes for me to speak my last, I can only wish that more than a century later my words will hold a minuscule shred of importance in the life of an arbitrary student as well.
Now, to be completely honest, I am rather terrified of the thought of death. The notion of simply not existing petrifies me beyond belief. To be even more forthright, I have absolutely no clue what happens to us when we do die, and though I would really love for there to be a life after this one, there is really no way to know for sure. After we slip away from our existence on earth, what we leave behind through our actions and our words is all that we will have left to be remembered by. We all hope to leave a legacy; to be remembered after our passing is the closest thing that we have to immortality.
This is why we need to make sure that our words count. Of course I’m not saying that every single word that escapes our lips needs to be laden with unparalleled wisdom, knowledge, and eloquence. Everything we say doesn’t have to be entirely empowering and profound. Let’s face it, in a generation where people communicate widely through omgs and lols, that’s going to be pretty difficult to come by. All that I’m trying to keep in mind is that we need to be a bit more conscientious of what we’re saying, because we can never exactly be aware if those words will be the last ones that we ever utter.
Natalie DiCenzo, and I am currently a sophomore at Quaker Valley High School in Sewickley, Pennsylvania.
May 25, 2010
posted by Heather McShane
Sally Alatalo of Sara Ranchouse has been my mentor for the past year. She sent out this call for submissions:
Sara Ranchouse is collecting stories for a publication to benefit Share Your Soles, a not-for-profit organization based in Alsip, IL, whose mission is to collect and distribute shoes to people in need all over the world. (www.shareyoursoles.org).
The publication is inspired by a 1963 performance score by the artist Alison Knowles:
Shoes of Your Choice (March, 1963)
“A member of the audience is invited to come forward to a microphone if one is available and describe a pair of shoes, the ones he is wearing or another pair. He is encouraged to tell where he got them, the size, color, why he likes them, etc.”
Please submit short writing (400 words maximum recommended, or formatted to use a 5″ x 8″ page) to firstname.lastname@example.org. If you have something longer, an unusual format, or are working visually with text, please contact us to discuss. We are keen to include alternative and experimental forms!
Submissions of writing and images must be received by June 1, 2010. More details at sararanchouse.com
Please contact Sara Ranchouse at email@example.com with any questions.