mint jelly

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Hopping Down the Bunny Trail

After years of unsubtle strategery, I’ve injected bunnies into the lexicon of professional journalism!

ha HA!

Behold, the NY Times review of Barnes and Noble’s eReader: “Yes, but it’s not all sunshine and bunnies.”

This is my bunny from a time in my life when I liked to play pretend (note the twine for pulling car-driving bunny).

I no longer play pretend, except when enjoying the notion that my usage of the word bunnies has infected the social web to the degree that David Pogue, New York Times Technology reporter, is speaking my language.

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Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Book Expo America Needs to be Like Nerd Prom

Lance Fensterman, Vice President of Reed Exhibitions and the guy responsible for running BookExpo America, New York Comic Con, C2E2, and New York Anime Fest, posted a refreshing article on Publishing Perspectives about how cons challenge the status of industry insiders (via @R_Nash).

Fensterman compares these cons to the wildly popular and impressive San Diego Comic Con (aptly nicknamed “Nerd Prom"). Everyone has probably heard of San Diego Comic Con, even if they haven’t got the slightest interest in comics themselves. Comic Con has become a generative event. It moves individual interest and events far beyond the scope of the event and its insider attendees.

I think the article made its point, even though the first commenter does not. Maybe I understand this article because I fit the categories of someone who would attend BookExpo America (BEA), but also someone who would go to Fensterman’s other cons, as well as SDCC (ComicCon), as either a fan or an insider.

I can consider myself invited to attend ComicCon as nothing more than a fan of a tv show, book, movie, or comic. Panels often involve creators discussing production, or reveal a sneak peek of things to come. Industry professionals interact with each other while basking in feedback and interest from their audience. This seems to be very good for everyone both inside and outside.

But if I were merely a big fan of an author, or someone who just really liked reading, I wouldn’t feel invited to BEA, nor would I expect I’d be able to go find an author, interact with him or her, or have my photo taken, etc. I couldn’t expect there would be “stuff” at BEA “for me.”

The panels at BEA wouldn’t be “for me” unless I was, at the very least, a wanna-be writer. BEA tends to feel very much funded and fueled (on the floor) by wanna-be writers who are still held at arm’s length by an alternately smug and insecure in-crowd of publishers and the published. That’s not the part of high school an organizer should be echoing with these “proms.” I’m sure at both BEA and SDCC there are annoying fans who are tolerated until they’re intolerable, but still, that’s what customer service is about. 

BEA currently reflects an industry really, really interested in maintaining its control on the input and output, and is not conducive to the gush of consumer interest and response (especially online) that benefits and informs the industries represented at SDCC. At BEA all the panels are about what publishers want: How to pitch a story. What agents are looking for. But what about what the actual reading public wants? The industry needs to stop complaining about how few people read, stop milking a model that seems to rely on Oprah’s book club, and those who buy whatever book is on sale at Sam’s Club (the Dave Matthews of literature—do people who like Dave Matthews really even like music? Debatable.) and think about people devoted to reading, to books, and to all things even slightly related.

At future BEAs, what about answering questions the reading public is interested in: Where can I meet other people who share my interests? When will my favorite titles fiiiinally become available on an eReader, and why is it taking so long to have a good selection? What is an eReader anyway? Is my favorite publishing imprint in trouble? How long is that line to get my picture taken with Nora Roberts, and where did those people in the Harry Potter costumes find such fabulous robes? Let’s also be sure to attend a presentation honoring the life of Frank McCourt.

The experience should share the proximity and wonderment enjoyed at SDCC. Except instead of Stan Lee and Dave Gibbons, it would be, “Holy cow I just walked past Salman Rushdie, and there’s Maya Angelou!” BEA should include everyone from the masters of literature to the kindergarten reader, the librarian, poets of every kind, and the memoir writer who lived to tell the tale.

Two seconds ago, mdash tweeted, “The trailer for adaptation of The Lovely Bones is up" and I will click that link. Why is this not an event at BEA? The big thrills of any SDCC are the movie previews of comic book adaptations and new seasons of television shows. The book industry has been helping the movie industry long enough, why not take credit? The fans are here. I fear the publishing industry might not recognize them until the fans show up at the BEA “con.” And then, would they be made to feel welcome?

BEA could be so much more, and I think that’s Fensterman’s whole point: the biggest challenge is in the publishing industry’s willingness to open up and listen to its audience.

One last anecdote: The book I am currently reading was obtained by a book designer who was at SDCC last year (they were on a panel) who happened to be in a booth next to Knopf, who gave him an “early reader edition” of Nick Harkaway’s The Gone Away World (which I’ve already championed on twitter more than once). I can’t stress enough that this happened at Comic Con. Comic Con! When I tweeted my love for the book, guess who replied — the author himself. Wow! See!

Do you see? I’m having the Comic Con experience, not the BEA experience.

I hope they see. 

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Tuesday, August 04, 2009

The Cult of Done

Back when I was neck deep in thesis outlines, additions, and revisions, Bre Pettis (co-founder of MakerBot) and Kio Stark (writer, do-er, educator, interactorator) co-wrote The Cult of Done Manifesto

Their pragmatic and seemingly merciless list of rules for getting things done redefines what done is, and how to think about drafts. The manifesto addresses things that I’d had grey gobs of anxiety over — why would publishing an idea on the internet feel like a jinx (see #12)? Why do I feel pride rather than the embarrassment expected when women in offices and elevators tell me I need to get my nails done? Ah yes… (see #9).

Is what I’m doing incubation, or procrastination?

Is it Tuesday already and I forgot to post yesterday? Um, yes. This I realized while logging in to finish coding a lovely client site, while fantasizing about the books I’ll read after I finish the book I’m reading. This is actually a pretty chill day for me. Feels like a Saturday, which contributes to that whole forgetting it’s Tuesday thing.

The Done Manifesto haunts and inspires me, reminds me that all these constant internal whirrings, the ones that propel thought and action, are also responsible for the sense of being pulled in too many directions at once.

With these ideas and rules put into words — a comforting list, no less — the whirring of ideas and projects and responsibilities can be set in alignment, so that the done of one feeds the engine of more.

Unlike the sentence that got stuck in my head yesterday “my lack of caffeine is making it difficult to address my lack of caffeine” the statement (see #13) “Done is the engine of more” provides motivation at any stage of doneness.

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Friday, July 31, 2009

Summer Time

I’ve never been very good at summer. At a time of year when most people are planning vacations or packing picnics, I tend to be home. I tend not to leave the house.

Don’t get me wrong, I look forward to the summer even when the break is only imaginary. I imagine that I’ll have more time to finish projects, that I’ll have more time to read.

A number years ago, when I was far enough into adulthood to realize I wasn’t acting like other adults who made at least some plans to mark the summer, I realized this was a very old pattern with me. Summer was the part where I went off for visitation, and my friends got used to life without me. It was the part where I’d go away for a long time, and come home to things that had changed.

As an adult, I don’t want to go anywhere because I like to be home. I have traveled enough. I step outside and the air feels like the north-east without air conditioning, or the Caribbean in hurricane season. I don’t have wanderlust. Moving 35 times in 34 years has removed all that.

Until about second grade I simply got up and went to the pool every morning. I played all day, every day, in the water, the sandbox, the playground, the grass, and returning to adult supervision when I got hungry or tired or bored. The pool was pretty fabulous, and it was easy to pretend I was a princess, or a dolphin.

After this age began the traveling visitation. I’d be put on a plane in a special “young child traveling alone” category, and I’d find myself in a house on a street in say, Massachusetts, with a dog and a yard and big playground nearby — everything I fantasized about having that I didn’t have growing up in the condo. I didn’t know how to ride a bike.

For a month in the summer I’d be dropped back into my father’s care and into a different world. My oldest brother was just joining the Marines, and the next in line was in his teens, preoccupied with punk rock and skateboarding. His attention usually involved punching me in the stomach until I’d willingly perform a back-spin or helicopter on the bare hardwood floor of his bedroom, which he had waxed especially for that purpose. We were our own Chinese Opera Breakdancing Company. I would have performed the stunts without physical coercion, but probably with too much hesitancy to actually pull them off. This was how he’d been taught everything, so this was how he taught me.

The truth was I’d always been dying for my brothers’ attention and approval, and they were better than boredom, than loneliness. I couldn’t ride a bike, but I could breakdance. Back home, I owned a pair of parachute pants. I was already listening to The Art of Noise.

My stepmother was usually nice, and once or twice would take me to the beach or to the toy store. She bought Kool-Aid and Captain Crunch, and every form of real sugar unthinkable at my mom’s place back home.

I’d get in trouble if I used the word “home” to refer to the other place I lived.

More than anything, I just remember trying to fill hours and hours of empty time to stave off my homesickness. My mom sent me sticker books and tiny, packable trinkets, and I blurred time by sending away for cereal box toys that wouldn’t arrive before I was gone. Anything that glowed in the dark, shrank, oozed, or spun, I had to have.

The one mercy, the one bit of childish fun that didn’t involve as many sucker punches and charlie-horses was, ironically, playing with my brothers’ G.I. JOEs.

My unhappy punk brother still loved his G.I. JOEs, and he swore me to secrecy on this, on the off-chance of his friends finding out. In a very military family, playing war was something we just constantly did. I played dress-up in my father’s flight gear and helmet, and my brother’s camouflage pants.

The pear tree in the backyard didn’t grow pears — it made grenades. Pull the stem, throw the fruit, cover your ears and open your mouth while dipping gracefully into a crouch. Boom! Good times.

On the exciting occasion of a new G.I. JOE being brought into the house, my brother and I took a long time to savor the packaging. This could be worth something one day, we said to each other.

I liked the toys regardless of which side they were on. Cobra operatives usually had cooler outfits, and I was precociously hip to the romance between Scarlett and Snake-Eyes. It was impossible to tell from name or outfit whether a character was good or bad — which appealed to my sense of fairness. Behind every profile and every tough front, postulated so firmly on the package, I wondered about their private lives, their pasts. Weren’t they tired of fighting and wearing those clothes? Didn’t they want to go home?

Major Bludd looked sad. He was my favorite, and his handlebar mustache made him look like he was frowning. I was sad for Major Bludd.

Even the package he came in made fun of Major Bludd. He looked so tough, but they said he wrote poetry in his spare time — “badly.” I felt like I could tell that about him. He wrote bad poetry. So did I.

The original 1983 packaging featured a poem I still have committed to memory. Even G.I. JOE fans think I’m crazy, but it comforted me. I was grasping, I could empathize with linoleum. Major Bludd’s eyes, his pout — he was mine. He was my favorite. 

Later packaging changed the poem to something less fun, more Go Joe! but I liked the sad, bitter humor of the original:

When you’re feeling low and woozy
slap a fresh clip into your uzi.
Assume the proper firing stance
and make the suckers jump and dance.

I love that my husband and his friend made a pie-chart joke out of our G.I. JOE memories. I love that the t-shirt they’re selling is “fully wearable” just as the characters used to be “fully poseable.” Check out his great artwork, and buy that special someone in your life a present, especially if they’re feeling low and woozy. 

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Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The Workers Are Going Home

Hey bunnies, sorry it’s been forever since I’ve updated this site. So much has happened.

I moved into a new apartment, turned in my thesis, finished my MFA in nonfiction from The New School, became prose editor for LIT magazine, got engaged to the love of my life, and we eloped to the court house less than two weeks later.

I turned in my thesis on a Monday, then hopped onto a consulting gig that Tuesday. For the first time in almost two years, I was commuting to an office — but now as an editor. From my desk I could overhear programmers dealing with database transfers and content managing systems. I understood everything that was going on, but it wasn’t my problem. That alone was surreal and tremendous. In the new economy, it felt like a miracle.

It had been a long time since I had to think about things like shoes and alarm clocks, and I was very, very tired. That first week I overlapped, leaving early to race up to 12th Street to attend our thesis readings and graduation ceremonies. I was sad two years of grad school were coming to a close, feeling terribly tender about the friends I’d made and people I’d met, but so relieved to have finished.

I didn’t get my old life back, which was basically the whole point.

I loved the act of going to work again. When I was given the address, they told me 250 Greenwich, and I’d worked on Greenwich Street before, but the building hadn’t existed then. I realized 250 Greenwich is World Trade 7, which opened in May 2006. 

photo taken by Julie

At first I tried to walk towards the building from the side, but soon discovered that by design, it was impossible to walk straight up to this building no matter how I approached it. Out in front is a giant piece of artwork titled Balloon Flower (Red) by Jeff Koons, famous for his giant metal work. Surrounding Flower is a courtyard with a fountain, which is then encompassed by curbed and sloping marble benches that resist being walked or stepped by any but the most the sure-footed. In a wider radius, there are wooden benches, flowering trees, walkways, the entrance to the PATH, the Federal Building, construction blocks and construction workers.

It took me a while to get past my impatience and realize that I was being routed and diverted — my movements had been accounted for — a consideration which prevented the possibility of anyone or anything simply storming the glass front of the lobby (the sides are paneled with metal — probably mithril).

Between the giant flower and the lobby are a curbed band of mysterious metal pillars that remind me of the sonar fence on Lost. The metal pillars have little holes in them, which I liked to imagine could shoot out machine-gun fire like the pointy bras of Dr. Evil’s Fembots. There were often soldiers or police standing around, which was the case even when I worked further up Greenwich a handful of years ago.

My tenure wouldn’t last long enough to qualify for a permanent ID badge, so every morning I had to linger in the lobby while checking in with the security guards. The walls are a sheer, pale stone, which fits well with an installation of glass by Richard Jolley. The front station is a long, low wall of greenish marble that feels nice on hot days, like cool pond water, but happens to also be blast- and bullet- proof, which is nice all the time. Over this wall, and visible from the outside, scrolls my favorite piece, an animated text installation by the renowned Jenny Holzer, that features prose and poetry from several authors, all of which evoke the spirit of New York City (by which I mean its bodegas and grime and first person narratives).

The badges became a bit of a joke. I had assumed that I was simply confirming information they had in front of them, and didn’t realize for a long time that the guards had to manually type my name and destination onto the badge. This could be an oversight in efficiency, or perhaps it gives the guards something to do which forces them to think about what they’re doing. Anyhoo, the vowels stringing my first and last name together are troublesome: Mia Eaton — that “eee aah eee.” No matter how clearly I enunciate, my name is like an aural smear.  And my last name — Eaton — is too much like Easton. The head guard began to call me Sheena.

Almost every day my badges bore a different name, which I found hilarious and charming.

My favorite part of the building was the elevators. They’re organized into banks, which is typical for very tall buildings, but you indicate your floor as you call the elevator — instead of pressing ^ you press 29, which will then only stop on 29, unless someone comes along and presses say, 34, then it will go to both. At this point there are several layers of glass, mithril, and something not exactly like marble between you and the front of the building. The outer doors of the elevators are reflective so you can straighten up while you wait.

No rushing for closing elevator doors, and no holding the doors just because you hear footsteps makes for a more civilized and calm experience. The antisocial part of myself that has no patience for people’s tomfoolery loves this. I grew up in a high-rise and have wasted enough of my life on bouncing elevator doors. Once inside the elevator, the only buttons are |< and |> and the movement is fast and still. There is nothing to touch and nothing to lean on. The interior metal is etched and non-reflective, so you are spared accidental close-proximity eye contact. Your ears pop. I like that.

On the 29th floor, every time I got up for a fresh cup of water I was distracted by the view. I could see tiny sailboats in the Hudson River, and white puffy clouds dancing around the Woolworth building, transforming its turrets and verdigris into something like a fairy tale — or the future. When storms rolled in, the building felt utterly enclosed as we’d look uptown and watch the rest of Manhattan disappear.

On my third day, an all-hands email let us know that some F-14s would be doing a fly-by in honor of fleet week, which was a nice consideration given the collective heart attack that happens when they don’t warn New Yorkers what’s coming.

We were brought to the top floor for a photo shoot of the editors (results? TBD!) and it felt very fancy, but also very much like the first Die Hard movie, because the 45th floor is unfinished, showing pink insulation and still-dusty drywall. I am, and I am not, afraid of heights. I wanted to test paper airplanes and camp there at night.

To look down is to see a massive construction site. To stand directly in front of this building, next to the giant shiny poodle flower does not give you the same feeling as standing 40 feet stage right, closer to the covered fence and stream of tourists, PATH commuters, and working people. The walk from the office to the subway took exactly the amount of time as listening to Weezer’s “My Name is Jonas.”

Every girl loves a waltz, and I liked how the lyrics are about workers and trains and construction, and felt very much glad to be back out in the world.

[And today, I’m very glad to begin working from home again.]

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Friday, January 16, 2009

Knuckle Tattoos

I can’t think of anything better for a Friday night writing constraint.

The words must represent what are, to you, the best knuckle tattoos evar (must be a two-word combo of four words).

What I have so far:

  1. I want this one now. I can’t decide.
  2. as in Fire Walk with Me or doing a fire walk, either way == cool
  3. I would totally start brawls in pubs if I had these
  4. this one probably doesn’t qualify
  5. Clearly I like sissy tattoos
  6. aka Kara Thrace. Battlestar is back tonight!

*Special gang sign throw up to Que Sera Sera for READ WEEP.

Also, a shame that the BAKE CAKE knuckle tattoos featured in billboards for Ace of Cakes aren’t real, because Duff should man up, like this guy who knows about TEAM WORK, as does my s/o who has PITY the FOOL.

Is it so wrong that I want really dorky knuckle tattoos?

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Sunday, November 16, 2008

Superman and Green Lantern Ain't Got Nothing On Me

It says, “I think the rising popularity of comic book hero stuff might have something to do with the same kind of fear that inspired them in the first place.”

Pretty sure that little Batman logo was once the chest sticker of a Batman action figure. 

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Saturday, November 08, 2008

D.F.W. on Political Writing

From David Foster Wallace’s tremendous 2003 interview with Dave Eggars:

My own belief, perhaps starry-eyed, is that since fictionists or literary-type writers are supposed to have some special interest in empathy, in trying to imagine what it’s like to be the other guy, they might have some useful part to play in a political conversation that’s having the problems ours is. Failing that, maybe at least we can help elevate some professional political journalists who are (1) polite, and (2) willing to entertain the possibility that intelligent, well-meaning people can disagree, and (3) able to countenance the fact that some problems are simply beyond the ability of a single ideology to represent accurately.

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