Wednesday, August 31, 2011


...That's what I mean when I say without focus you can't accomplish anything.

After focus, the next most important thing for a novelist is, hands down, endurance. If you concentrate on writing three or four hours a day and feel tired after a week of this, you're not going to be able to write a long work. What's needed for a writer of fiction—at least one who hopes to write a novel—is the energy to focus every day for half a year, or a year, or two years. You can compare it to breathing. 

In private correspondence the great mystery writer Raymond Chandler once confessed that even if he didn't write anything, he made sure he sat down at his desk every single day and concentrated. I understand the purpose of his doing this. This is the way Chandler gave himself the physical stamina a professional writer needs, quietly strengthening his willpower.

Haruki Murakami

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Top 10 Documentaries

Finally, the list of the top 10 in tonight's last installment for 50 Documentaries To See Before You Die:

Grizzly Man (Werner Herzog, 2005)
Trouble the Water (Carl Deal and Tia Lessin, 2008)
An Inconvenient Truth (Davis Guggenheim, 2006)
The Celluloid Closet (Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman, 1995)
The War Room (D.A. Pennebaker, 1993)
Super Size Me (Morgan Spurlock, 2004)
Waltz With Bashir (Ari Folman, 2008)
Roger & Me (Michael Moore, 1989)
The Thin Blue Line (Errol Morris, 1988)
Hoop Dreams (Steve James, 1994)

Hoop Dreams Trailer from Kartemquin Films on Vimeo.


A skillful but short-lived decorator.

—Edward Degas on Claude Monet

Claude Monet, Japanese Footbridge (1899)

Still Life With a Bull's Head--my little granddaughter of six could do as well.

—Norman Rockwell on Pablo Picasso

Pablo Picasso, Still Life With a Bull's Head (1958)

Don't talk to me of Gauguin. I'd like to wring the fellow's neck.

—Paul Cézanne on Paul Gauguin

Paul Gauguin, Aha oe Feii? ( Are You Jealous? 1892) 

I began a happening in New York by announcing in front of 3000 spectators that Cézanne was a catastrophe of awkwardness--a painter of decrepit structures of the past. I was applauded, principally because nobody knew who Cézanne was.

—Salvador Dali on Paul Cézanne

Paul Cézanne, Still Life With a Curtain (1885)

He was a good man but he didn't know how to paint.

—El Greco on Michelangelo

Michelangelo Buonarroti, Sistine Chapel Detail (1508-1512)

Monday, August 29, 2011

Down time

Sunday, August 28, 2011


Gustave Caillebotte,  Les raboteurs de parquet (The Floor-scrapers, 1875)

Rejected by the jury of the 1875 Salon in Paris.

Currently resides at the Musée d'Orsay, Paris

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Telegram for...

Dorothy Parker to Viking Press

Duke Ellington to Ella Fitzgerald

Lauren Bacall and Humphrey Bogart to Judy Garland

Western Union hand delivered messages of joy and condolence for over 150 years. In 2006, the service was discontinued, outmoded by the likes of email, text messaging and inexpensive long distance rates.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Go forth

Ad magic, with a poem by Charles Bukowski.

Levi's – Legacy from triggerhappyproductions on Vimeo.

The Laughing Heart

your life is your life.
don't let it be clubbed into dank submission.
be on the watch.
there are ways out.
there is light somewhere.
it may not be much light but
it beats the darkness.
be on the watch.
the gods will offer you chances.
know them.
take them.
you can't beat death but
you can beat death in life, sometimes.
and the more often you learn to do it,
the more light there will be.
your life is your life.
know it while you have it.
you are marvelous
the gods wait to delight
in you.

--Charles Bukowski

Thursday, August 25, 2011

50 Documentaries To See Before You Die

I've been watching (and enjoying) Current's series hosted by documentarian Morgan Spurlock.

Part 1 (50-41)

Spellbound  (Jeff Blitz, 2002)
Truth or Dare  (Alex Keshishian and Mark Aldo Miceli, 1991)
The Kid Stays in the Picture  (Nanette Burstein and Brett Morgan, 2002)
One Day in September  (Kevin Macdonald, 1999)
Little Dieter Needs to Fly  (Werner Herzog, 1998)
The Decline of Western Civilization  (Penelope Spheeris, 1981)
Burma VJ  (Anders Østergaard, 2008)
When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts  (Spike Lee, 2006)
Catfish (Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman, 2010)
King of Kong  (Seth Gordon, 2007)

Part 2  (40-31)

When We Were Kings  (Leon Gast, 1996)
Biggie and Tupac  (Nick BroomField, 2002)
March of the Penguins  (Luc Jacquet, 2005)
Inside Job  (Charles Ferguson, 2010)
Taxi to the Dark Side  (Alex Gibney, 2007)
Paragraph 175  (Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman, 2000)
Brother's Keeper  (Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky, 1992)
Tongues Untied  (Marlon Riggs, 1989)
Dogtown and Z-Boys  (Stacy Peralta, 2001)
Jesus Camp  (Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady, 2006)

Part 3 (30-21)

Farenheit 9/11 (Michael Moore, 2004)
Man on Wire  (James Marsh, 2008)
Gasland  (Josh Fox, 2010)
Tarnation (Jonathan Caouette, 2003)
Murderball (Henry Alex Rubin and Dana Adam Shapiro, 2005)
Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room (Alex Gibney, 2005)
Paradise Lost  (Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky, 1996)
The Eyes of Tammy Faye  (Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato, 2000)
Shut Up and Sing  (Barbara Kopple and Cecilia Peck, 2006)
Exit Through the Gift Shop  (Banksy, 2010)

Part 4  (20-11)

Capturing the Friedmans  (Alex Jarecki, 2003)
Touching the Void  (Kevin MacDonald, 2003)
Food, Inc. (Robert Kenner, 2008)
Street Fight  (Marshall Curry, 2005)
Bus 174  (José Padilha and Felipe Lacerda, 2002)
Crumb  (Terry Zwighoff, 1994)
Dark Days  (Marc Singer, 2000)
The Fog of War  (Errol Morris, 2003)
Bowling for Columbine (Michael Moore, 2002)
Paris is Burning  (Jennie Livingston, 1990)

Part 5 (10-1)  will air August 31, 2011

My guess is that the following will be among the top 10:

The Thin Blue Line (Errol Morris, 1988)
Super Size Me (Morgan Spurlock, 2004 )
Hoop Dreams  (Steve James, 1994)
Grizzly Man (Werner Herzog, 2005)
The Times of Harvey Milk (Rob Epstein, 1984)
An Inconvenient Truth (Davis Guggenheim, 2006)
Waltz with Bashir (Ari Folman, 2008)

All of the documentaries on the list were made in the last 25 years.

The Up Series  (Paul Almond and Michael Apted) spans 49 years, so it won't make the list. It's a commitment to watch all seven episodes, but as a whole it is incredibly fascinating.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Le champion du monde

I made a lot of mistakes out of the ring, but I never made any in it.

--Jack Johnson (1878-1946)

Johnson won the world heavyweight boxing title on December 26, 1908. The fight lasted fourteen rounds in front of an audience of 20,000.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Brief history

Big stories served up fast and funny, from First Floor Under.

History of Marie Antoinette

History of Michael Jackson

History of Darth Vader

You can order a print of these or others.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Don't move

Alfred Giess, Mon Atelier á Rome (1932)

Artists and models. Long hours and nudity are a given, but wives and family members deserve equal credit for their patience and support!

Sunday, August 21, 2011


The music and images of the title sequence for To Kill A Mockingbird mesh perfectly
as a meditation on Scout and her wonderment.

You can view the poignant title sequence at Art of the Title, lovingly crisp without any ads.
Thank you and hurrah!


Stephen Frankfurt describes his work on the title sequence for To Kill a Mockingbird

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Some pig

P. came to Chicago on business. I met him at The Publican. I didn't wake up and think, "I'm gonna be bad today!" but these things happen.

The pig painting is enormous.  Several of these porcine cuties decorate the restaurant.

Ham as an appetizer

Perfect frites; crispy with a faint scent of bacon fat...

A waffle for dessert, because breakfast shouldn't be limited to the AM

Friday, August 19, 2011

Enid the writer

Enid Blyton, her daughters and her trusty typewriter

I didn't read all 21 books in the Famous Five series, but as a grade schooler, I was a huge fan. Julian, Dick, Georgina (who insisted on being called 'George'), Anne and Timmy (George's dog) solved mysteries, thwarted danger and managed to have rich, independent lives without much adult interference.

The writer Enid Blyton published hundreds of books spanning several decades. According to The Enid Blyton Society webpage, "at the height of her powers she produced 10,000 publishable words per day." Astonishing, considering that she typed her manuscripts using just her two forefingers, with her typewriter perched on her lap.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Visual impact

There are two ways of looking at a thing. Either you feel that a thing must be perfect before you present it to the public, or you are willing to let it go out even knowing that it is not perfect, because you are striving for some-thing even beyond what you have achieved, but in struggling too hard for perfection you know that you may lose the very glimmer of life, the very spirit of the thing that you also know exists at a particular point in what you have done; and to interfere with it would be to destroy that very living quality.

William Gedney

Let us first say what a photograph is not. A photograph is not a painting, a poem, a symphony, a dance. It is not just a pretty picture, not an exercise in contortionist techniques and sheer print quality. It is or should be a significant document, a penetrating statement, which can be described in a very simple term--selectivity.

Berenice Abbott

There is one thing the photograph must contain, the humanity of the moment. This kind of photography is realism. But realism is not enough--there has to be vision and the two together can make a good photograph.  It is difficult to describe this thin line where matter ends and mind begins.

Robert Frank

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Complete Moomin

Thank you Drawn & Quarterly, for reprinting Tove Jansson's lively work.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011


Sunday, August 14, 2011


When a popular book is adapted into a film, in no time at all the original book cover is replaced with images from the movie. And no matter how good the film version is, I miss the original cover.

Occasionally, a great effort is made to pay homage to the original cover; notice how the colors and layout of the movie poster mimic Kathryn Stockett's fine novel?

Friday, August 12, 2011


Frank Sinatra

Elvis Presley

The Beatles

James Brown

Thursday, August 11, 2011


Definitive, delightful; a book to own and loan.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

This charming man

John Macallan Swan, Orpheus (1896)

Poet, musician, lover, thief. With his lyre and his rich voice, Orpheus enchanted the river, flowers and animals as easily as he charmed men and women alike.

George Frederic Watts, Orpheus and Eurydice (1869-72)

His lovely wife, Eurydice, suffers a cruel death after being bitten by a poisonous snake. Heartbroken, Orpheus travels to the underworld to plead for her return. The dark rulers of the underworld are moved by his music and agree that he may take Eurydice back, provided he does not look at her until they return to the land of the living. In one moment of forgetfulness, he looks back at her, she dies a second time, vanishing forever.

Gregorio Lazzarini, Orpheus and the Bacchantes (1710)

Inconsolable and faithful to his lost love, Orpheus spurns the advances of the Thracian women. In a fit of intoxicated rage and jealousy, the women tear his body apart and cast his head into the river.

John William Waterhouse, Nymphs Finding the Head of Orpheus (1900)

The head of Orpheus floats to the Island of Lesbos, where it is retrieved by the Muses and buried in a sanctuary.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Captain Future

Dazzling covers for the Man of Tomorrow aka the Wizard of Science 
circa 1940-1950.