Friday, December 23, 2005

In love with New Mexico?

Mikaela says:
No? Well you will be after checking out these photos from local journalist Miguel Navarot.

Such an amazing mix of the natural and urban and how the world around us is more beautiful than we can possibly be aware of even a fraction of the time.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Gap in Logic

Mikaela suggests:
Check out this VERY funny Gap ad you won't ever see, directed by Spike Jonze.

Here's the full story from Slate (Don't have Quicktime? You can also check out the slightly less funny version w/ Real Player or Windows Media Player.)

Some back story: Gap decided a while back that its retail stores were looking dated; the displays needed freshening up. So, the company made some changes in the layout of its shops. (For instance, the Manhattan Gap at 59th and Lexington is getting an overhaul.) The point of this ad, as Gap deployed it, was simply to announce the remodeling effort. ...

Instead of running the "Dust" spot in just a couple of markets, and tying it exclusively to the remodeling effort, Gap should have used this ad as the centerpiece of a national campaign. Directed by Spike Jonze (the man behind Being John Malkovich and Adaptation), the spot is hilariously funny.

The spot has been linked to all over the Web—evidence of how entertaining it is. And it would have been the perfect solution to the Gap's brand problem: Some self-deprecating humor, mixed with an ingenious visual metaphor. They wouldn't need to change a single word in that tag line. Alas, a spokesperson says they have no plans to run the spot in the future.

I just can't understand spending all that money on a big-name director, and a big-budget shoot, and then frittering the results away on such a limited purpose. Did Gap not see the possibilities? Were they too scared to go for broke?

Sunday, December 18, 2005

For that special time of the month

During the holidays...


The celebratory Christmas Tree

And the celebratory Menorah

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Guilty Confessions

Mikaela admits:
I, too, have bought books. Yes, even though I'm supposed to be focused on my thesis. Some of them were relevant. Some weren't. I admit it! I'm a book addict. Amazon is my dealer.

For the thesis, I bought a copy of John Forester's classic Planning in the Face of Power. I write about his distinction between hearing and listening here.

While I was at it, I bought Dolores Hayden's beautiful picture book, A Field Guide to Sprawl.

I was inspired because a former professor of mine, Robert Bruegmann, at the University of Illinois at Chicago just came out with his own book on sprawl that he had been working on since I was first a student there in 1998. He sponsored a National Institute of Health seminar on Sprawl the first summer I was in Chicago that I got to work for.

He had all the heavy hitters there, including Dolores Hayden and Kenneth Jackson (Crabgrass Frontier: The Suburbanization of the United States). It was fascinating. Of them all, Bruegmann was the only one openly advocating sprawl. His main argument was that all the arguments against sprawl are not factually correct, and the only substantial argument is simply aesthetic: Sprawl is ugly. He argues that sprawl is environmentally sound, that it's what people want, and that it supports racial diversity, rather than creating white enclaves as is so often argued, wrongly in his opinion. His ironic title: Sprawl: A Compact History. Isn't he clever? Well, you can borrow the book and see for yourself.

I also bought Pierre Bourdieu's Language and Symbolic Power for the thesis. The smartest woman I know swears by it. We'll see when I dive into it after Christmas. He's one of the cultural studies key theorist, mentioned often in the same breath as Gramsci, Foucault, and LeFebvre. You can read my flippant poem of frustration with these cats here.

For fun and temptation, I just bought Brian Green's Fabric of the Cosmos, which I fantasize about here. To round out my popular science library, I picked up a copy of Heinz Pagel's Cosmic Code (now out of print). I haven't even cracked them open, I swear!

Monday, December 05, 2005


marjorie says...

Well, I’ve been buying books since November 7!

I picked up another copy of Orientalism by Edward Said. I also picked up Women, Race and Class by Angela Davis. I've been floored by her essays but have never had them in a book of my own. Now I do. Additionally, I purchased Feminist Theory: From Margin to Center by bell hooks, another amazing thinker.

In addition to those, I've been on a Vampire kick. Yes, that's right, a Vampire kick. No need to get too serious! First I picked up The Historian, by Elizabeth Kostova, which I haven't liked half as much as I thought I would. The concept is pretty intriguing and it does provide quite a bit of historical information, but at times it reads like a tour guide. Still, that book has really gotten me fired up to read other bloodsucker books, so I picked up Salem's Lot (which I've never read believe it or not) and a “Vampire Sextette” of novellas--erotic vampire novellas that is. I’m a little disappointed in that one--not very erotic or scary. Oh, and I also tried to read one of the Anita Blake series last month because they are all the rage. I picked up the most recent in the series, Incubus Dreams, and can't even finish it -- it's that bad. Hamilton has lost the thread--it's pretty clear to me even if I haven't read the others. This book perfectly illustrates the problem with series.

I also picked up three books by Simone de Beauvoir. Following a recent conversation with someone else who likes Vampire books, I thought I would reread All Men are Mortal (not about Vampires but the character *is* immortal-it's an existential freak-out, or at least was when I was much younger). The Mandarins is chockfull of characters based on people who SdB ran with (such as Sarte and Nelson Algren) and I've always wanted to read it but have never gotten around to it. It's interesting to note that All Men are Mortal is dedicated to Sarte and The Mandarins is dedicated to Algren. And, since we might as well throw a little straight up philosophy in there, I also picked up the Ethics of Ambiguity.

Oh…you mean, what books am buying for others?? Hmmmm…

Well, here’s what I have in mind:

I figured I'd pick up a book by Richard Bach for Vicki: Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah (you aren't reading this are you?). It seems like a good book for her right now.

For J.D. I'm either going for Chomsky on Anarchism or some kind of book about Gramsci. I'm still looking.

For my mother, not sure that I will get her a book, but I may. If I do, it will probably be a big book of crossword puzzles.

I probably won't get my dad a book, but if I do, it will probably be some kind of anthology on pop culture.

As for myself, if someone were to buy me a book, I'd most like to own The City and The Grassroots, by Manuel Castells. But good luck finding it.

Also on my list are Iceland's Bell by Halldor Laxness and Strong Motion: A Novel by Jonathan Franzen.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Holiday book shopping

Maggie says:
Sitting at Winning's putting together my "what books will I buy for whom?" list for the holidays, here's what I'm come across so far. Notice how these excursions inevitably become "books I would like to buy myself" lists, but anyway...
  • Dance Dance Dance, Haruki Murakami. All I know about this book is what I got in an e-mail from Erik, who said to me "What a great f*cking novel." And I notice that his newest, Kafka on the Shore, is also getting some attention. Now Erik and I do have some passionate disagreements about Philip Roth, but maybe this one is worth a try. Hmmm....
  • Prep, Curtis Sittenfeld. Is it lame or downright brilliant that a single sentence in an excerpt makes me want to buy this one for myself? In a classic, "outsider goes east/prep to make her way in a supposedly smarter world" story, how's this: "I'd pretended it was about academics, but it never had been. . . . I imagined that if I left South Bend, I would meet a melancholy, athletic boy who liked to read as much as I did and on overcast Sundays we would take walks together wearing wool sweaters.'' Isn't it funny, our perceptions of how things will be (like, you know, going to college in Boston instead of your home state of North Carolina...) versus how they actually are?
  • Lately I have no patience for men writing epic tales about women. I wanted to get my mom a great novel that's not already on her Christmas list, but I kept running into the same thing: "Man Writes As Woman." Sigh. Take Widow of the South by Robert Hicks, for instance. Sounds like a compelling read, is maybe even very good, but I just have no patience for how he'll inevitably be describing her with less-than-real terms, not really getting the female perspective at all, yet drawing grand, sweeping conclusions about the lives of women after the Civil War. Sorry, can't go there right now. And to pre-empt the remarks that I loved Shopgirl although it was written by Steve Martin, sure, I hear you. I also loved Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All, written by a man and possibly having similar elements as Widow of the South. I know I'm not consistent. But at this moment, men writing about women bug me. Write about yourselves, and let us write about ourselves, okay? Enough said.
  • I usually get my dad nonfiction or history for Christmas. We both loved - and read together - John Adams, Locked in the Cabinet, All Too Human, any Al Franken, and Founding Brothers. This year, I've gotten him something besides a book, but I'm thinking he still needs What's the Matter with Kansas?, A People's History of the United States, and maybe the newest Jimmy Carter.
How about you guys? What books top your list this year?

Friday, December 02, 2005

What We're Doing This December

Brian Francis predicts (via Planet Waves):

A 'grand cross' will be repeated in early November and will make additional appearances in early December and mid January. For you, this represents a development area in your capacity for giving yourself credit where it's due. If you can do that, others will too. The world is poised and waiting to meet you on the level you respect, and to value your creations, your desires and indeed your existence. Your recent efforts at untangling yourself, at really making a commitment to how you feel about yourself and your life, are achievements of this distinctive era in time. In our world it's easy to decide that nothing matters. I doubt you would ever take that approach. That is good for everyone.
Finally, some new and different doors are opening. I see a mix of gateways to inner vistas and worldly ones. This is all the sweeter when you've endured a long era when meeting even your most basic needs seemed to require a key and map you could never quite find, or rules you could never follow. I'll repeat one of my favorite Patric Walker quotations yet again, which is that Saturn always gives more than he takes away. What Saturn has bestowed for the past three years, and what you are likely beginning to feel now, is that patience, endurance and optimism really are the best policy for living. And even though there were times when people seemed unwilling or unable to give you what you needed, those who can live on sand and stones are also the ones who appreciate the smallest fruit.
You are the master of the niche; the highly specialized role with which nobody can compete, and few can imagine is possible, yet what many need. There is a catch, though. What having a singular place in the world does is withhold from you many benefits of relating to others as a sport. And there is much to be said for healthy competition, team playing, and a bit of rough and tumble for its own sake. You can do quite well for yourself in a state of isolation, but it's way, way too easy for you to lose touch with the larger reality of life around you. Therefore you must be content to be different, and to assess your effectiveness in a way that is fair, and be willing to do so without making too many comparisons. As you well know, comparisons bring you down, but that's only because they are inaccurate measures of anything even worth considering. You stand on your own merits, and you always have.
Such excitement!