Everything I always wanted to ask about Grape-Nuts



My son Ben gave me the above advertisement, which he found at a garage sale. (Thanks, Ben!) The plastic sheet that protected the ad is labeled 1920s. I have a bowl of sturdy, appetizing Grape-Nuts almost every morning, so this ad has found a good home.

I’m wondering: this scene carries a sexual implication, doesn’t it? The locked eyes seem to bespeak a desire for more than cereal. But does “Only time for Grape-Nuts” mean that there’s no time for more than breakfast, or does it mean that time already spent in the bedroom has left no time for a more elaborate breakfast? It’s possible of course that this ad might only be a comment on modern times and the death of cooking. The locked eyes though suggest more.

And who are these people anyway? Are they both headed off to work? (Would a woman have dressed in this way around the house?) If the couple are a husband and wife, why is he dressing next to what looks like a single bed? And why is his coat hanging on a chair?

[Readers of a certain age will recognize in this post’s title a play on the title of David Reuben’s book Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex (But Were Afraid to Ask) (1969).]

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Everything I always wanted to ask about Grape-Nuts

The Braindead Megaphone

Design by Rodrigo Corral


George Saunders’ first collection of essays is out, and before you say “What the HELL is that?”, read something that Saunders wrote on his Amazon.com blog:

“The central premise of the title essay in my new book, The Braindead Megaphone, is this: Our cultural discourse is being dumbed-down by mass-media prose that is written too quickly, and therefore fails to due justice to the complexity of the world.”

And now think about the latest newscast you watched and tell me that this design doesn’t hit all the right notes: ugly graphics, interchangeable talking heads, and most importantly, a real schizoid aesthetic that speaks directly to the way news is created and reported.

Thanks, Austin, for sending this in.

Buy this book from Amazon.com
The Braindead Megaphone

Begin YOUR happiness project! Need help getting started? Write a list of happiness commandments for yourself.

TencommandmentsA few weeks ago, I posted about my epiphany that EVERYONE should have a happiness project. Join in! Start your own!

I need to figure out some systematic way to address this topic, but until I do, I think I’ll just throw out some provocative suggestions to get people thinking.

One of the most difficult – and most helpful and fun – challenges I undertook in my happiness project was coming up with my list of Twelve Commandments. I should do a series of posts explaining the significance of each one, because a few are a bit cryptic, but for me, they are all extraordinarily meaningful:

1. Be Gretchen.
2. Let it go.
3. Act as I would feel.
4. Do it now.
5. Be polite and be fair.
6. Enjoy the process.
7. Spend out.
8. Identify the problem.
9. Lighten up.
10. Do what ought to be done.
11. No calculation.
12. There is only love.

So, for your happiness project, come up with your own set of commandments.

A reader wrote that she was trying to come up with her own set, but it kept turning into a to-do list. I had the same problem. Remember, this isn’t a place for things like “Put your keys away in the same place every night.” But maybe that resolution fits into a larger self-command you’d like to observe.

For inspiration, here are some examples.

The first is from Howell Raines’ Fly Fishing Through the Midlife Crisis.

Rule One: Always be careful about where you fish and what you fish for and whom you fish with.
Rule Two: Be even more careful about what you take home and what you throw back.
Rule Three: The point of all fishing is to become ready to fly fish.
Rule Four: The point of fly fishing is to become reverent in the presence of art and nature.
Rule Five: The Redneck Way and Blalock’s Way run along the same rivers, but they do not come out at the same place.

Here are two sets emailed to me from readers (who want to be anonymous):

1. Say yes.
2. Don’t keep score.
3. No fear.
4. Give without limits or expectations.
5. Take it in.
6. Expect a miracle.
7. Play the hand I’m dealt.
8. Recognize my ghosts.
9. Be specific about my needs.
10. React to the situation.
11. Keep proportion.

1. Overcome obstacles—you cannot overcome every obstacle but you can overcome more obstacles than you think, if you just persevere
2. Spend more—life is short, you have a tendency to hoard things (money, time), and you cannot take them with you when you go, so spend them while you can
3. Do what matters—resist the temptation to do something easy but forgettable or meaningless and instead do things that matter, even if they are more difficult; make memories
4. Pay attention—deadlines, politics, relationships, names, birthdays, what people are most proud of, their favorite things/activities, and especially their life dreams
5. Stay calm—unless you are seeking thrills and excitement (e.g. skydiving), stress kills and soothing attracts; you and your relationships will live longer if you stay calm
6. Empathize—put yourself in the other person’s shoes; resist the temptations to: argue, criticize, or complain, focus on yourself and not others, forget people’s names, deny your mistakes, boast of your successes and other’s failures, fail to reward those who do good by you
7. Get outside—almost everything feels better with sunlight on your skin
8. Get physical—being physical, whether in athletics or relationships, is a supreme source of joy
9. Do it now—life is short; procrastination will ruin the little life you have; fear it accordingly
10. Take care of yourself—if you value something, take care of it, and other people will notice
11. Believe you are the prize—confidence is a self-fulfilling prophecy, neediness is unattractive, and pride is not a sin
12. Be classy
13. Experiment—get out of the rut; boredom will kill you and your relationships
14. Feel the danger—many dangers (saturated fat, drunk driving) don’t feel dangerous until it is too late
15. Don’t pick—often one must leave well enough alone: acne, wounds, other people’s flaws and mistakes, topics of conversations that other people don’t want to talk about, these are things that should be left alone—despite the most burning desire you have to reopen them; let people cool down and things might heal themselves

One thing that interests me is how distinct these lists are. The commandments give a powerful sense of each writer’s character and of the kinds of challenges he or she faces.

Tomorrow, I’m going to post some tips on creating your own set of happiness commandments.

*
There’s an interesting post on LifeRemix today, 20 Simple Ways to Become a Bookworm. There’s a lot of great information there, resources that I didn’t know about, and I’m a real book addict. As for reading more, the most important things is – remember, it’s supposed to be FUN! I just found a new great book on St. Therese, and I’m amazed at how quickly I’m making my way through it.

*
New to the Happiness Project? Consider subscribing to my RSS feed: Subscribe to this blog’s feed. Or sign up to get email updates in the box at the top righthand corner.


Begin YOUR happiness project! Need help getting started? Write a list of happiness commandments for yourself.

Holy Nuts, Batman! This is The Worst Fucking Thing Ever!

My wife, my own wife sends me – THIS! MEIN GOTT!

It’s not work safe – it’s not safe-safe! Hide the children – I am serious, store them somewhere! It’s the worst fucking thing ever!

Just look at it. I did, and I lived to post about about it. Although I really don’t feel so very well now.

Anyway, look at it.

Then look at it again, it gets worse.

A third time, and it gets even WORSE.

You know it’s bad when I use ALL CAPS. You know this is true. Because it is.

Not only that – It’s the worst fucking thing ever! 


Holy Nuts, Batman! This is The Worst Fucking Thing Ever!

Utnapishtim's word-processor



[IBM Displaywriter disk, circa 1984, 8" square.]

Talking with my students about the ancient Mesopotamian story of Gilgamesh leads to all sorts of thoughts about impermanence. (The great truth of the story, expressed by the mysterious Utnapishtim, is that “There is no permanence.”) I like pointing out to my students that the tablets holding the Gilgamesh story are still readable (or at least largely readable) to anyone who can read cuneiform script. Also readable, a page from a 13th-century Book of Ezekiel that I bring into class (given to me by a friend who was divesting himself of his belongings). But the circa-1984 disks that hold the text of my dissertation (on E.D. Hirsch, Stanley Fish, and J.L. Austin, if you’re wondering) have been useless to me for many years — except for display purposes during discussions of impermanence.

I wrote my dissertation with Faber-Castell Uniball pens and legal pads bearing the imprint of the Boston University Law School (the ultra-wide left margin was great for revision; I’ve never seen such pads since). I made reading copies for my committee with a Panasonic electronic typewriter. And I produced the final text with what was then called a “dedicated word-processor,” an on-campus IBM Displaywriter.

Here’s a partial description of the machine:

IBM’s Office Products Division announced the Displaywriter in June 1980 as an easy-to-use, low-cost desktop text processing system. The Displaywriter System enabled operators to produce high quality documents while keying at rough draft speed. Users could automatically indent text, justify right margins, center and underscore. They could also store a document and recall it for review or revision, and could check the spelling of approximately 50,000 commonly used words. While these features are taken for granted in the post-PC era, they were novel for a time when most documents were created, formatted and revised on manual or electric typewriters.

The Displaywriter’s “intelligence” came in 160K, 192K or 224K bytes of memory. Single diskette drive diskette units with a capacity for approximately 284,000 characters of information were available. As requirements increased, customers could upgrade to a dual drive diskette unit… .

A basic system — consisting of a display with a typewriter-like keyboard and a logic unit, a printer and a device to record and read diskettes capable of storing more than 100 pages of average text — cost $7,895 and leased for $275 a month.
The disks (diskette seems coy, considering the size) went into a toaster-like drive (to the right of the CPU, monitor, and keyboard in this IBM photograph). Yes, that’s a disk drive, at least 12" wide (and that’s the printer to its right).



I knew a guy who was doing word-processing full-time in downtown Boston in 1984. His dream was to buy a Displaywriter of his own and freelance. I hope he was saving slowly enough that he saved himself a lot of money.
IBM Displaywriter (IBM)
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Utnapishtim's word-processor

Mason Pearson Hairbrushes

mason-pearson-brush_sm.jpg

A Mason Pearson is like the hairbrush analogue of baby shampoo: it takes good care of the hair, without tears. Our 10 year-old’s hair has never been cut, so it reaches almost to her knees; but with an MP, brushing her hair before school isn’t a big deal. The brushes are very effective at getting snarls out gradually and they don’t hurt the scalp. The ones we use have two kinds of bristles: mostly boar bristles, which are the same hardness as hair, so they don’t scratch or cut the hair; and there are some soft, molded nylon bristles that are much gentler than the extruded/cut plastic bristles in typical brushes. Only the nylon bristles touch the scalp, as they are a little longer. All of the bristles are slender and mounted in a flexible rubber mat, which also adds to the softness of the brush.

We learned about MP hairbrushes from a theater mom 10 years ago, when our first daughter was involved in community theater. We’ve been using one brush for 10 years. It is kind of frayed, but still works. These brushes are quite expensive, but they’re worth the money and more if you have kids with long hair - or if you do. I keep my hair very long, so my own brush gets a lot of use. It is five years old and is in fine shape. Note: at these prices, don’t turn the brush over to a child to keep; it’s too annoying for a kid to lose such an expensive item. In our house, we adults use the larger “Junior” model. For a child-size brush, we use the “Pocket Bristle & Nylon” model.

– Don Davis

Mason Pearson Hairbrushes
$72
(Pocket)
Available from Amazon

$114
(Junior)
Available from Amazon

Other types/sizes are also available via Amazon

Manufactured by Mason Pearson

Related items previously reviewed in Cool Tools:

mason_robi comb.jpg
Robi Comb

mason_grooming.jpg
Oster Grooming Rake

mason_zipit.jpg
Zip-It Drain Cleaner


Mason Pearson Hairbrushes

I have a 2-page spread in the P.I. today!!!!!!

As this month’s Seattle Post-Intelligencer’s Writer-in-Residence (a big huge honor!) I have a BIG HUGE COMIC in the paper today! Two pages, that’s just crazy. If you’re a Seattle resident, please please pick one up or shuffle through the pages at your favorite coffeeshop - it’s just so weird and amazing to see such a big space given over to a comic, especially in a daily paper. But, if you can’t see it in print, they did manage to stuff it onto their site.
piaugust30.jpg
I have a 2-page spread in the P.I. today!!!!!!

Time of Day operator, April 1937

A Time of Day operator and an exchange name: Ah! Telephony!

I clipped this item from the Chicago Tribune some time ago. With Time of Day service vanishing, I thought I should share this bit of the past here. (Click for a larger view.)

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No Time of Day in LA
Telephone exchange names
MOre EXchange NAme NOstalgia
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“This is the operator speaking”

All “dowdy world” posts (via del.icio.us)

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Time of Day operator, April 1937

Stark Masonic Theosophy

handwritten frontispiece - physica, metaphysica, hyperphysica


magickal schematic x 2


kabbalistic schema


kabbalistic schema (detail)


figura cabbalistica


instrumentum fiat natura


transmutation schematic


mysterium magnum studium universale


allegorical alchemical motif


instrumentum divinum - alchemy symbols


celestial configurations for metal transmutation


alchemy model


Johann August Starck Stark was a Professor of both oriental languages and theology in St Petersburg, Königsberg and (mostly) Darmstadt. He was a prolific author, particularly noted for his studies of comparative religions.

Starck joined the Freemasons in France when he was about twenty years old. The story goes that when he was in Russia he met with a Rosicrucian who had been closely acquainted with a founder of a Masonic Lodge in Florence in the early 18th century. The founder was a collector of ancient manuscripts and that Lodge became a centre for Rosicrucian, alchemy and theosophical discussion and enquiry. Secret knowledge divined from the 11th century Knights Templar, as laid out in the manuscripts, greatly contributed to the founding of Hermetic traditions within the developing Masonic fraternity in Germany.

Starck appears to have been what you might call a significant player in German Freemasonry as a direct result of his being exposed to the Florentine teachings. He was a leader of a faction (oh yes, Life of Brian correspondences seem appropriate) called the Klerkikat which joined with the existing Knights Templar order of Freemasons, the Strict Observance, but a schism eventually developed due to Starck’s peculiar brand of Masonic beliefs. He was accused of being a Catholic and became quite an unpopular figure despite his receiving plum academic and civil appointments (he was a colleague and friend of philosopher Immanuel Kant). Apparently many of the ideas formulated or advocated by Starck persist into modern day Freemasonry.

One of the more notable subjects of his authorship appeared in the 1803 book, ‘Triumph of Philosophy’, in which Starck:

“claimed that the Illuminati, a freemasonry group founded by Adam Weishaupt (1748-1830) in 1776, stood behind the French revolution and were secretly pursuing similar lawless and godless schemes in German lands and elsewhere.”
How does any of these conspiracy and esoteric shenanigans relate to the intriguing images in this post? The simple answer is: I’m not really sure. They appear in three manuscripts recently uploaded by Wolfenbütteler Digitale Bibliothek and all are attributed to Johann August Starck (or at least, they are listed under his name as author). It would seem they are either copies of, or notes and symbols dervied from, the renowned ‘Geheime Figuren der Rosenkreuzer’ (Secret Symbols of the Rosicrucians) from the late 18th century.

-Ms. Cod. Guelf. 454 Nov.
-Ms. Cod. Guelf. 455 Nov.
-Ms. Cod. Guelf. 456 Nov.

As you might imagine, background research about this topic is apt to lead a person to some ‘interesting’ websites to say the least, where everything from the world bank, Cagliostro and the twin towers make an appearance. Consequently I’m only going to recommend the Starck biography in the Immanuel Kant teaching site at Manchester College. Anyone with a deeper interest in all of this has already gone off on their own searching quests no doubt. Related: alchemy/‘La Très Sainte Trinosophie’.
Stark Masonic Theosophy

Home Carbonation System

home carbonator.jpg

I drink a lot of seltzer. So much that my fiancee says I couldn’t survive without bubbles in my water. After trying a SodaClub home soda maker (picture above right) and realizing it would cost $70 to buy a special part for it, I found a really detailed resource for building my own, simple home carbonation system for under a $100 using a CO2 tank, regulator, hose and a carbonator cap (details below). It took ten minutes to build. I love having very good homemade soda on the cheap and not having to lug around seltzer bottles or worry about it going flat. With a scuba-like tank in the kitchen, guests always ask “What is that?!” and I really love demonstrating. When one friend of mine said he didn’t like soda, I whipped him up a mango soda from this special puree of mango I had. He absolutely loved it! And a by-product of the cost of producing low cost seltzer water is that I can experiment with different flavored sodas. I mean some really wacky stuff, like lychee-tangerine or coconut-lucima. If I don’t like it, or it tastes weird, I don’t feel guilty about draining the entire liter or two-liter bottle.

My 20lb system makes over 1133 liters of carbonated water. In practice, efficiency is not perfect, with unavoidable losses in the hose and headspace. But at current prices of $20 per 20lb tank-fill, the cost to convert tap water to seltzer is under $0.02 cents per liter. A single fill of a 20lb tank charges over 500 bottles, which will keep you supplied for 1.5 years if you consume an average of one bottle daily. In terms of break even, assuming that you can find liter bottles of seltzer water for $0.99 per bottle, then it’ll take roughly 100 bottles for the system to break even. I definitely drink a liter a day, so it only took about 3 months for me to break even – not to mention all of the labor and space that it saves to lug in and store 8.3 dozen liter bottles of seltzer water.

I found a CO2 tank on eBay for about $30 bucks, including shipping. I use a dual gauge CO2 regulator; a single gauge one for CO2 output would work also, but I prefer the dual as it also tells you the amount of gas in the CO2 canister ($20 on eBay). You also need a hose (or “gas fitting tube”). To avoid the site’s detailed instructions on how to fit the CO2 hose onto a 2 liter bottle of soda, I bought a special carbonator cap that lets you easily insert the hose ($11 from Northern Brewer). You can’t refill a CO2 tank in NYC, as it violates several ordinances. However, you can exchange your empty tank for a full one for $20 at a local welding supply place (other spots include keg brewers and anywhere that refills fire extinguishers).

The operating instructions are fairly straightforward. On a dual gauge tank there are two gauges and two valves, one for the main tank and one for the output. The valve between the CO2 tank and the regulator, I’ll call the CO2 valve and the valve between the regulator and the carbonator cap, I’ll call the output valve:

1) Fill up a one- or two-liter bottle.
2) Screw on the carbonator cap fairly tight (it’s a ball release
cap, so you simply push the entire cap to release it from the hose afterwards)
3) Make sure the Output valve is completely shut off
4) Turn on the CO2 valve and watch the CO2 tank gauge shoot up (this will be
the remaining pressure in your tank)
5) Slowly turn the Output valve open until the pressure reaches about 50 PSI
(I’ve been experimenting with various PSI’s – 50 PSI works best for me)
6) As you feel the bottle get full (don’t worry, I read recently
that two-liter soda bottles are rated to handle 200 PSI), pick it up and start
shaking vigorously as you would a bar drink (this helps carbonate the water).
7) Turn off the CO2 valve and then the Output valve
8) Remove the carbonator cap

Incidentally, it was a SodaClub home soda maker I bought on eBay that inspired me ultimately to build my own home carbonation unit. The SodaClub unit has a proprietary design whereby it is nearly impossible to refill without a special adapter and the adapters I found online cost $70 bucks (more than I paid for the SodaClub). So rather than spend $70 to fix an inherent problem with the SodaClub (and I would still need a 20lb canister sitting somewhere in my house), I did some research and found this site. For about $95 bucks – less than the cost of a new SodaClub (they retail new for about $100) – I have more than 10 times the soda making capacity (SodaClub claims you can get 110 liters of soda). I should add that I’ve seen plans on eBay for $5 or $10 bucks for how to construct your own soda fountain gun that spurts out bubbly water on demand. With mine, the end result is the same, but the carbonator unit I built is so much simpler and cheaper and it doesn’t require a heat sink or a refrigeration unit.


– Alastair Ong

Home Carbonation System
Info available from Richard J. Kinch

Soda Supplies & Parts
$5+ (extracts)
$11 (carbonator cap)
Available from Northern Brewer


Related items previously reviewed in Cool Tools:

homecarb_homebrew.jpg
The Complete Joy of Homebrewing

homecarb_promash.jpg
ProMash

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Thermos Beverage Bottle Insulator


Home Carbonation System

Computer Workstation Ergonomics

I spend almost every waking moment in front of a computer. I’m what you might call an indoor enthusiast. I’ve been lucky because I haven’t experienced any kind of computer-related injury due to my prolonged use of computers, but it is a very real professional risk. I get some occasional soreness in my hands or wrists, mostly after marathon binges where I’ve clearly overdone it– but that’s about the extent of it. All too many of my friends have struggled with long-term back pain or hand pain. While you can (and should) exercise your body and hands to strengthen them, there’s one part of this equation I’ve been ignoring.

I’ve been on a quest for the ultimate computer desk for a few years now, and I’ve talked at length about the value of investing in a great chair. But I hadn’t considered whether my current desk and chair is configured properly to fit my body. What about the ergonomics of your computer workstation?

The OSHA has an official page on computer workstation ergonomics, which is a good starting point. But like all government documents, there’s a lot more detail here than most people will ever need. The summary picture does give you an idea of what an ergonomic seating position looks like, though. How close is this to the way you’re sitting right now?

OSHA computer workstation diagram

Microsoft doesn’t get enough credit for their often innovative hardware division, which first popularized ergonomic computer input devices, starting with the Microsoft Mouse 2.0 in 1993 and following with the Microsoft Natural Keyboard in 1994. With Microsoft’s long-standing interest in hardware ergonomics, perhaps it’s not too surprising to find that their healthy computing guide is one of the best and most succinct references for ergonomic computing I’ve found. But you don’t have to read it. I’ll summarize the key guidelines for computer workstation ergonomics here, distilling the best advice from all the sources I found.

I know I’ve harped on this, but it bears repeating: a quality desk and chair will be some of the best investments you’ll ever make as a software developer. If you value your physical health, this is not an area you want to economize on. Hopefully you’ve invested in a decent computer desk and chair that provide the required adjustability to achieve an ergonomically correct computer workstation, too.

Computing ergonomics, adjustable desk and chair

1. The top of your monitor should be at eye level, and directly centered in front of you. It should be about an arm’s length in front of you.

Computing ergonomics, monitor position

2. Your desk surface should be at roughly belly button level. When your arms are placed on the desk, your elbows should be at a ~90 degree angle, just below the desk surface. The armrests of your chair should be at nearly the same level as the desk surface to support your elbows.

Computing ergonomics, desk surface

3. Your feet should be flat on the floor with your knees at a ~90 degree angle. Your seat should not be pressing into the back of your knees; if necessary, tilt it slightly forward to alleviate any knee pressure. Sit fully back in your chair, with your back and shoulders straight and supported by the back of the chair.

Computing ergonomics, legs

4. When typing, your wrists should be in line with your forearms and not bent up, down, or to the side. Your keyboard should be directly centered in front of you. Other frequently used items should be nearby, within arm’s reach.

Computing ergonomics, arms

When it comes to computer workstation ergonomics, these are the most basic, most commonly repeated guidelines I saw. Ergonomics is a holistic discipline, not a science, so your results may vary. Still, I’m surprised how many of these very basic guidelines I’ve been breaking for so many years, without even thinking about it. I’ll be adjusting my home desk tomorrow in hopes of more comfortable computing.

[advertisement] Axosoft OnTime 2007 is a bug tracker that manages requirements, tasks, and help desk incidents. It’s designed to help teams ship software on time. Available for Windows, Web, and integrated with VS.NET 2005. Installed or hosted. Free single-user license.
Computer Workstation Ergonomics

Penguin Celebrations series

First, I have to give credit where credit is due: I first read about this series the other day over at Galleycat.

This new “Celebrations” series comprises 36 titles; all of the categories (fiction, biography, etc.) are represented here.

What’s great about these? Nothing, if you plant your feet firmly in the “nostalgia is a disease” camp. Lots, if you value simplicity and elegance in design and typography. No matter which side of the fence you’re on, though, it’s fascinating to read what Penguin’s John Miles says in The Penguin Collectors’ Society’s Penguin by Designers about the original designs that inspired these: “No matter how grand or famous the author the typographic treatment was exactly the same. So Robert Graves got exactly the same treatment as a little-known writer of a crime novel.” That’s an amazing thing to contemplate and speaks to the power of the Penguin brand.




Penguin Celebrations series

QotD Roger Mandel

“Quite broadly, I think of the fine arts as a method by which humans ask the big questions not necessarily knowing the answers, whereas design enables people to create answers quite concretely.  A strength of RISD (Rhode Island School of Design)’s balanced curriculum is that the fine artists help the designers consider the big unanswereable questions as they work on their chairs and buildings, while the designers inform the fine artists about how to make their ineffable expressions tangible. Art’s about more than being creative, it’s about developing a system of thought, by which you can solve complex problems to improve aspects of the world’s concerns.  More concretely, proportion, functionality, texture, and surface beauty are broad design attributes anyone should learn because they enrich visual literacy and acuity. Art education without elements of design is not useful in the end–which is why art teachers have had a hard time justifying to boards of education and parents that the visual arts are important in the curriculum.”ht I.D. magazine, September/October 2007How would you rewrite this paragraph if you replaced “fine arts” with “sciences”?  Talk amongst yourselves.
QotD Roger Mandel

One Red Paperclip: Or How an Ordinary Man Achieved His Dream with the Help of A Simple Office Supply

Design by Kyle Kolker

You might have heard this story: Man trades paperclip for house. More here.

We all should have seen this one coming. And I know from comments left on previous posts that there are some of you out there who question the marketing wisdom of covers with no titles, but I saw three people pick this up from the new paperbacks table, read the spine and then the back cover, and one of them bought it justlikethat.


There’s just no comparing a cover like this with all the other ideas that were probably pitched for this; you’ve got to think that someone, somewhere, still thinks that a photo of the house the guy eventually acquired with title type that looks like twisted red paperclips was the way to go. Thankfully, the person with that idea lost.

Buy this book on Amazon.com
One Red Paperclip: Or How an Ordinary Man Achieved His Dream with the Help of A Simple Office Supply

ASHLEY WOOD'S TELEPHONE LINES

These pictures by illustrator Ashley Wood seem to be a cross between drawing and knife fighting.







Wood is one of those artists whose drawings benefit from controlled accidents. His slashing lines and spattered ink are part skill, part chance and part hydrological experiment. When you work that way, you can’t be too picky about your materials. The reverse side of the above drawing shows how some of Wood’s more fortunate accidents take place on stray scraps of paper:



I like Wood’s work. I like that he seems to draw on every available surface, from the backs of envelopes to waste paper, sometimes taping pages together when his experiment runs out of room.

I find his emphasis on telephone lines in these drawings worth noting for two reasons.





First, they show an important difference between drawing and photography. In most photographs, phone wires are so thin and insubstantial they don’t even show up. They certainly never rise to the important compositional element that Wood has made them here. It takes a human brain to fix upon a physically insignificant element and amplify and distort it into a major part of the drawing.

Second, Wood’s awareness of the telephone lines reveals the care and sensitivity necessary to make a “spontaneous” style effective. Despite the vigorous, almost violent appearance of these drawings, it required a subtle eye to notice a detail like telephone lines and a thoughtful mind to play them up the way Wood has.

ASHLEY WOOD’S TELEPHONE LINES

Reading in the news

One in four U.S. adults say they read no books at all in the past year, according to an Associated Press-Ipsos poll released Tuesday… .

The survey reveals a nation whose book readers, on the whole, can hardly be called ravenous. The typical person claimed to have read four books in the last year — half read more and half read fewer. Excluding those who had not read any, the usual number read was seven.

“I just get sleepy when I read,” said Richard Bustos, a habit with which millions of Americans can doubtless identify. Bustos, a 34-year-old project manager for a telecommunications company, said he had not read any books in the last year and would rather spend time in his backyard pool.
Read the rest:
Poll: 1 in 4 U.S. adults read no books last year (International Herald Tribune)

Related post
American reading habits
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Reading in the news