31 January 2012

Project 366: January

I knew I wanted to do some kind of year-long creative project in 2012, but was hitting a wall whenever I tried to brainstorm about it. I finally half-meekly decided to try a Project 365, encouraged by a Photojojo newsletter on photography project ideas for the new year. I was terrified that I wouldn't be able to do it, so I kept very quiet about it until, well, now. I love it, and one perk of doing this in 2012 is that I get to take one extra picture since it's a leap year.

I thought it would be very stressful (sometimes I find myself sprinting to markets at the witching hour before a Dietribes has to go out), but it's actually so much fun and not at all taxing on my sanity. It makes the time not fly by as quickly, and it forces me to look at things more, consider things more, and make definite decisions every day. One of the things I told myself I wouldn't do is pick my favorite photo out of several taken each day, and use it as that day's – each day, I say to myself, "This will be today's picture," and I take and use it.

Anyway, here is what January looked like --

Project366: January

Some highlights: Soup dumplings. Piping hot coffee on a below-freezing day. Pretty street lighting in another city. The ghost of a subway line. A flu of some sort (notice the string of pictures of my ceiling, my wall, my cat on my bed, and "feel good" food). Snow. A beautiful cream cheese case with blueish display lighting. A birthday dinner. Candy from my childhood.

I'll be doing one of these every month this year in lieu of "[Month] in Pictures," so keep your eyes peeled.

27 January 2012

What NYC looks like in post-rock.

I just saw this 3-minute homage to NYC on NYC Digital's Tumblr.

It's a beautiful video, but the thing that struck me in particular was the soundtrack – I've usually only heard very sweeping, epic, performed-by-an-orchestra songs backing videos like this (like Philip Glass in the Scorcese AmEx spot I linked to last week). This time, post-rock. I sifted through the comments and found out it's by a band on the West Coast called Dredg. Gives the swelling a slightly different, determined feeling. Very cool.

22 January 2012

La mer de pianos

This is a great little video I found on Kottke.org about the oldest piano parts shop in Paris.

This man is awesome – he's been working there for almost 30 years. When he gets his hands on an old piano, he holds onto it so that he can sell the parts to others who have that same piano and can't find replacement parts.

The sounds are my favorite bit – the music, of course, but also the wood rattling as he pulls a keyboard and action out of a piano, the metallic reverberation of assorted parts dancing around on the strings while someone plays. The attic of skeletons.

I felt a bunch of things while watching this – delight, longing, fondness, worry, regret – how about you?

20 January 2012

Here is New York.

A dear friend was in town visiting last weekend, and his eyes lit up as we walked by an independent bookstore in my neighborhood. While he spent the next hour poring over everything from philosophy to cookbooks and stationery, I found myself wandering into the New York section. Remembering a book that's been on my wish list for ages, I scoured the shelves until I found it.

20/366: Here is New York.

While physically a book, Here is New York is more accurately an essay that E.B. White wrote one sweltering summer in 1949, as he strolled through this fair little city. It is seventy five hundred words of inspiration, longing, and majesty, and every one of those words made me swell in a frenzy of underlining. If you have ever gazed at this site in silence –


...or have felt something, anything upon watching this AmEx spot -

...then you should read it. I don't even know which bits to share with you since I've underlined half the book, but here's a shot at a few.
And the fan takes over again, and the heat and the relaxed air and the memory of so many good little diners in so many good little illegal places, with the theme of love, the sound of ventilation, the brief medicinal illusion of gin.

By comparison with other less hectic days, the city is uncomfortable and inconvenient; but New Yorkers temperamentally do not crave comfort and convenience – if they did they would live elsewhere.
One of my favorite things about Here is New York is that despite there being some things that date it, like elevated trains on 3rd Avenue or mentions of "in baskets" at work (heh!), it still feels like he is writing it today.
Police now ride in radio prowl cars instead of gumshoeing around the block swinging their sticks. A ride in the subway costs ten cents, and the seats are apt to be dark green instead of straw yellow. Men go to saloons to gaze at televised events instead of to think long thoughts. It is all very disconcerting.

The glib barker on the sight-seeing bus tells his passengers that this is the "street of lost souls," but the Bowery does not think of itself as lost; it meets its peculiar problem in its own way – plenty of gin mills, plenty of flophouses, plenty of indifference, and always, at the end of the line, Bellevue.
But the best part – the very part that made me almost throw the book up into the air and do a dance as it made its way down, was this. I love it so much that I am putting it on the Internet again so that as many people as possible happen upon it.
There are roughly three New Yorks. There is, first, the New York of the man or woman who was born there, who takes the city for granted and accepts its size, its turbulence as natural and inevitable. Second, there is the New York of the commuter—the city that is devoured by locusts each day and spat out each night. Third, there is New York of the person who was born somewhere else and came to New York in quest of something. Of these trembling cities the greatest is the last—the city of final destination, the city that is a goal. It is this third city that accounts for New York’s high strung disposition, its poetical deportment, its dedication to the arts, and its incomparable achievements. Commuters give the city its tidal restlessness, natives give it solidity and continuity, but the settlers give it passion. And whether it is a farmer arriving from a small town in Mississippi to escape the indignity of being observed by her neighbors, or a boy arriving from the Corn Belt with a manuscript in his suitcase and a pain in his heart, it makes no difference: each embraces New York with the intense excitement of first love, each absorbs New York with the fresh eyes of an adventurer, each generates heat and light to dwarf the Consolidated Edison Company.
This post is for Nicole. ♥

09 January 2012

On meetings and feeling like a fraud.

I found both of these articles at least a year ago, but have been reading and re-reading both lately.

Maker's Schedule, Manager's Schedule. This talks about two major ways people in business/entrepreneurship/the startup world allocate their time in order to best get things done. The maker's schedule allows for long stretches of productivity (or, "maker time"), while a typical manager's day is divided up into one-hour increments. Bringing the two together can be problematic, and it's something I've noticed in myself the more I've grown in my career and have had to move toward the latter. I haven't figured out how to reconcile the two yet, but I've tried to experiment with meeting clustering as much as possible, to allow for at least 2 to 3 hours of uninterrupted work time every day. It's a challenge, but a fun one to take on.
When you're operating on the maker's schedule, meetings are a disaster. A single meeting can blow a whole afternoon, by breaking it into two pieces each too small to do anything hard in. Plus you have to remember to go to the meeting. That's no problem for someone on the manager's schedule. There's always something coming on the next hour; the only question is what. But when someone on the maker's schedule has a meeting, they have to think about it.
Cross eyed and exhausted

No One Knows What the F*** They’re Doing (or “The 3 Types of Knowledge”). I've linked to this before (when I wrote about interdisciplinarity), and here it is again.
Have you ever received praise, or even an award, for being great at something despite having no clue what you’re doing? Do you feel like a fraud, wondering what sort of voodoo you’ve unwittingly conjured up to make people think you know what you’re doing, when the reality is quite the contrary?
This opening paragraph gets me every time. This post talks about these three types of knowledge: shit you know, shit you know you don't know, and shit you don't know you don't know. Steve Schwartz describes the last as the most dangerous, and poses that the goal should be to make that slice smaller – even if it's goes into the "shit you know you don't know bucket," rather than making the "shit you know" bucket bigger. He says that the more things there are that you know you don't know, the more stressed you can be or feel like you have no idea what you're doing. I frequently feel overwhelmed by all the stuff and expertise out there that I don't have a grasp on yet, but maybe that's better (or "less dangerous") than being blissfully ignorant of it all? Really interesting stuff, and easier to follow if you click through and look at his charts in comparison with one another and read his examples.

02 January 2012

NY _____.

Meet NY_____. (pronounced "NY Underscore"), Laura's latest. In her words, it's a magazine "about the things that make New York New York." She had been thinking about starting a new magazine (this is her third) for a while, and we tossed ideas around at my apartment one afternoon in September. We then brainstormed a miles-long list of themes for each issue (everything from nightlife to bodegas, transit, and sex) over ice cream, and the first issue launched last month with a fantastic party and reading. The theme of issue 1 is apartments.

NY_____, issue 1

The magazine features photography, art, creative nonfiction, short fiction, and poetry. I am so delighted and impressed by the design and layout of NY_____. and with all of the work within it. I stayed up well into the night reading it when I first got my hands on one.

NY_____. issue 1

NY_____. issue 1

One of my favorite parts is Laura's intro, which was printed in 5pt font, circling the back cover.
Everybody in New York has an apartment story. People who live in other places also have apartment stories, but like most other things, they aren't as good as the ones from New York. The great density of population that makes New York a place we want to live also makes our apartments, by necessity, bizarre. They are expensive little boxes of endearing idiosyncrasy, if we are lucky, and sorrow, if we are not. Our buildings are old; they have history and vermin. Our neighbors are weird and play the bass. We climb five flights of stairs without complaint. Our heaters scream like tea kettles; we lack a closet. People who are too fat can't fit in our bathrooms. We live next door to the ice cream truck dispatchery, or down the block from the sewage treatment plant. We live on parade routes. Our walls aren't real walls. Our walls have seventeen coats of paint of varying color and lead content. As we lay awake in our lofted beds, we hear rats running in the tin ceiling two feet overhead. It's awful but not nearly as awful as not living here. This is why I thought "apartments" would be a good first theme for NY_____. Sincerely, Laura.
You can buy a copy of NY_____. here. I urge you to do so! Something else you can do is submit for Issue 2; the theme is Jobs. As is the case with apartments, it's hard to find anyone in this fair little city without a strange or amusing story about making a living here.

Many excited congratulations to Laura for starting this. I love how it's turned out so far, and I can't wait for the next issue.

01 January 2012

What I listened to in 2011.

Happy New Year everyone!

I think this is my third year putting one of these together, but my first time doing anything with it beyond posting on Flickr. Here (from my last.fm charts) are the 10 bands/artists I listened to the most in 2011 --

Most listened-to of 2011

1. Manu Chao. I think this has a lot to do with seeing Drama Mex last year, which put me in the mood to listen to energetic music in Spanish a lot.

2. The Hundred in the Hands. I discovered this band a few years ago, actually, but somehow failed to do anything about how amazing I thought they were until this video ran around the Internet.

3. Daft Punk. This is 100% because of the Tron:Legacy soundtrack and the remix album.

4. MGMT. I was never curious enough to listen to them until I heard their album Congratulations playing in a store. So strange and good.

MGMT: Congratulations

5. Michael Jackson. I was actually surprised to see him on here!

6. Twin Shadow. I first heard his album on a train to a small town in Switzerland last March; the music matched what I gazed at from my window perfectly.

7. The Amplifetes. Per this post, do everyone a favor and listen to them. Phenomenal.

8. Mark Ronson and the Business Int'l. One of the only spillovers from 2010. It's just so good.

9. Crystal Castles. This was one of the only bands I had on my phone for most of last year, which explains why I listened to them so much. Also, more 2010 spillover - I love that 2nd album.

10. New Order. No explanation needed.

My top 10s for 2009 and 2010 are sort of similar, featuring my top artists of all time like Blonde Redhead, Metric, Morrissey and Mew. 2011 was markedly different, especially with the bands that were in heaviest rotation. I'm really terrible at seeking out new music most of the time, but I guess the stars just aligned. So happy that The Hundred in the Hands, Twin Shadow and The Amplifetes are in my music library.

What was your favorite music in 2011?
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