11 July 2009


As well as Blogger has served me here, I am moving my blog to Wordpress.com in what I dub a "sweeping web move." I like grand, I like dramatic.
I've been thinking about doing this for a couple weeks now. It's easier to set up multiple pages on Wordpress, which I'll use for the purpose of turning the blog into a more encompassing personal portfolio. It'll have pages for my photography and writing. I hope to be tweaking the layout a fair amount over the next couple of weeks, so don't get anxious as the site undergoes its troubling adolescent "trying to find itself" stage.

Presenting: Aesthetics of Everywhere, version 2, Wordpress edition, whatever... Please meet me there, and update your bookmark:

02 July 2009


...and brief, since all I'm focused on is unwinding.

One. A brief ode to Twitter, presented in precisely 140 characters as is the rule:
twitter is trending topics. brief bursts of convo, rather meditated-upon, succinct. minimalistic in a maximalistic screen-immersion culture.
Two. Dr. Oliver Sacks, whose book Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain I picked up last week, was a guest on the June 29th episode of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. Talks about how music stimulates the pleasure center of the brain. It's neat how things seem to rush at once into your life. Trending topics, again.
Three. I may have forgotten my third thought. Will just say that I've been continuing with my David Foster Wallace binge... devouring Brief Interviews with Hideous Men nowadays on the bus ride to and from work. It's a collection of his short stories, wild yet controlled. DFW's got a way of reigning in these bizarrely constructed tales, in an auto-crash, can't-look-away fascination. They're urgent, causing the reader to feel that not only is it rude to stop reading, it may in fact be unsafe to do so. Fictional characters will hang in your conscience well after you've scrubbed your hands of the grit and oil. It's not simply that it's dark. It's also sad and here and real.
I can safely say that he does short fiction as well as he does essays as well as he does hyper-lengthy fiction. What a guy.

30 June 2009

In Defense of Food, Michael Pollan

Finished off reading an amazing "eater's manifesto" by Michael Pollan called In Defense of Food. It's a short and engrossing read on the problems with the American diet and how we can choose to reverse them. Pollan has an excellent way of subverting the obtuse language of food as we know it in the Western context. And much of it, Pollan argues, cannot even be called "food" - he cuttingly deems much of it "edible foodlike substance," ha! His writing is sincere and his tips for changing one's own diet to be healthier and more conscious are easy to incorporate. By not pushing vegetarianism or veganism but leaving the choice of diet open, Pollan hopes to change the death path of the quote-unquote average American.

Sidenote, re: deathpath - "In 1960 Americans spent 17.5 percent of their income on food and 5.2 percent of national income on health care. Since then, those numbers have flipped: Spending on food has fallen to 9.9 percent, while spending on health care has climbed to 16 percent of national income." This is outrageous.

In Defense of Food is a work that all people must read, because though we all eat, we are too often misguided or wrongly mystified, largely by a movement championed by the food industries (hand-in-hand with scientists) known as Nutritionism: studying nutrients in isolation to extract their supposed benefits, then injecting these into our food products.
  • Wonder Bread with the whole grain removed and manipulated in the lab with any number of additives to make it white and soft.
  • Milk with the fat removed, then - since the health benefits of the milk have been cancelled by doing so - adding in vitamins that are really only fat-soluble anyway. Low-fat or skim milk isn't real milk: you're drinking milk rendered less nutrient-dense and then patched up with additives so it resembles milk.
  • And so on, and so on. Won't spoil the book.
Seriously though, best guide to eating I've read yet. And I thought I already had an idea of what's essential to nutrition... it's liberating to forge a path to more deliberate eating. It'll debunk those myths that are perpetuated all around us in order to sell more food-like substances in our groceries. Go pick it up as soon as you can: In Defense of Food, Michael Pollan.
Then take a good look at what you have on your plate. Is it food?

22 June 2009

"Tales of music and the brain"

Schopenhauer is quoted in the introduction to Musicophilia by Oliver Sacks, "The inexpressible depth of music, so easy to understand yet so inexplicable, is due to the fact that it reproduces all the emotions of our innermost being, but entirely without reality and remote from its pain... Music expresses only the quintessence of life and of its events, never these themselves."

21 June 2009

Going through old notebooks

Considering I'm something of a pack-rat, I started to scrapbook recently in order to keep all my ticket stubs, scraps of paper, photos, etc. all together for some future nostalgia-ridden viewing. Here's a scribbled note I came upon from 2005- or 2006ish: "I can't even express how beautiful it was flying into Atlanta as the sun set, through big fluffy clouds like wisps of pulled cotton candy." The handwriting's shaky, as if the thoughts were pinned to paper amidst a scene more viscerally confrontational than careful ink and set line-widths. And that's it, you know - the scrambling attempt to turn those feelings into sticky preserves, knowing all the while that the pulp'll liquefy, spill away. Words can come close, and they'll capture the pulse behind it, but mostly they will sound less real, more idealized.
I don't remember that sunset now (I barely remember flying to ATL): I can guess at the sensations from the words I saved through this minute description.

16 June 2009

Consider the Lobster and other essays, David Foster Wallace

Looking for entertaining reading that is also seriously thought-provoking and keen?
The essays in David Foster Wallace's Consider the Lobster, which cover a variety of topics (the porn industry, the English language's clash between Descriptivists and Prescriptivists, sports memoirs, etc), are substantial enough to get into the real grit of things and raise some downright profound questions, and short enough that one doesn't have to commit to a much more lengthy text [read: Infinite Jest. No, seriously, read it this summer].

Quick run-through of faves from Consider the Lobster.
My #1 is absolutely "Authority and American Usage," which can be found online, but is certainly better consumed in traditional format on the page - and consider that fact modernist irony, please. Plus, the footnotes look better rapidly scaling down in font size. If you're a linguistics geek or have just completed a course reviewing the histories of the English language (as I have most recently done), you will devour it. And even if you think you've heard everything there is to be said about the English language's development, you will benefit from DFW's wit and candor in treating the subject. Trust me... but, disclaimer: please be a geek about language.

"How Tracy Austin Broke My Heart" is the one about sports memoirs. Really it's more about what we seek from such supremacy in sports skill - the kind of grace that is also sought by Updike's Harry "Rabbit" Angstrom, for example. Choice tidbit: "Maybe what keeps us buying [these sports memoirs] in the face of constant disappointment is some deep compulsion both to experience genius in the concrete and to universalize genius in the abstract." We want answers, and we want insight into how to be great. Or what that might feel like, at the very least.

"The View from Mrs. Thompson's" is an article on DFW's experience of September 11th 2001 in Bloomington, Illinois. I found this line about residents of midwest towns such as Bloomington to be notable:
"...And they watch massive, staggering amounts of TV. I don't just mean the kids, either. Something that's obvious but important to keep in mind re Bloomington and the Horror is that reality - any felt sense of a larger world - is mainly televisual." Just painfully well-put.

Other great, much longer essays are "Up, Simba" in which Wallace travelled with McCain's 2000 campaign for Rolling Stone Magazine, and "Host" which profiles talk radio host John Ziegler. It's tough choosing favorites from this collection because I couldn't help but read the book straight through, even though originally I had asked myself, "Really? Am I going to want to read the article about a lobster festival?" Yeah, I guess I did.

First thoughts upon waking.

The knowledge that comes to you in a dream - from whence does that information spring? Could it be a filter of the world that is unconscious while awake, then becomes consciously foregrounded while asleep? How is it that I seem to learn things from my dreams? I'm not talking "oh I learn that I'm anxious about X or Y event." Rather, say, a fact about an artist, details about a historical figure, or some piece of information that a friend has kept from you. And it's not a regular occurrence but I could believe that this happens more often to some others. Probably we catch a whole lot more in passing than we can account for.