mint jelly

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Lubalin Now Opens Tonight

Lubalin Now opens tonight! That’s pretty much dominating my world right now. I’m so excited. Hope you can come!

p.s. it’s pronounced \lübe-ˈal-in\

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Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Books I Have Stolen: Cleopatra, the Story of a Queen, Viking Press 1937

Cleopatra by Emil Ludwig, 1937
(it’s not out of focus, it’s truly impossible to see clearly)


This is the first book I ever stole. I found it in a model home, in a neighborhood we would ultimately move to the summer before my freshman year of high school. Initially I just pulled it off a bookcase to read while I hung around waiting for adults to conduct their business, and returned it before we left. The next time, I snuck it home with me, then replaced it again when we returned from a subsequent meeting, library-style. Finally, when it looked like the meetings were over, and the model home would no longer be accessible, I broke down and took it again, this time with no intention of replacing it.

Until then, I’d never stolen anything in my entire life, except for the one time I took a piece of gum from an open pack at the checkout line in the grocery store when I was five. My mom caught me and I felt a huge, crushing shame that I didn’t care to experience again.

Cleopatra by Emil Ludwig, 1937


I didn’t feel that with this book. This was a book that needed to be saved. It was so old — and weird! — by modern standards. Titled “Cleopatra,” translated by Bernard Miall, New York: The Viking Press, 1937. I could barely read the cover and spine but I loved the look and feel of it.

Cleopatra by Emil Ludwig, 1937


The weird part was the story itself. Told from Cleopatra’s point of view, the story opens when she is fourteen years old, childishly aware of her beauty but interested in geography, the ocean, and the art of politics. I’d never read a story told as if it were history, in the first person perspective, about such a notable figure. It’s peppered with quotes from Goethe that say things like, “When a woman takes on some of man’s attributes, she must triumph; for she intensifies her other advantages by an access of energy, the result is a woman as perfect a can be imagined.”

I didn’t feel bad about stealing the book because it was brittle and water-damaged, and nobody was loving it over at the model home. The pages crackled like leaves when you turned the pages. Nobody would notice it was gone. That didn’t seem right.

I feel less guilty in my adulthood knowing that this book isn’t completely out of circulation, and isn’t expensive to buy a copy like this from a rare book dealer, in fact, it costs less than a new hardback would (from anywhere but WalMart, ouch). From the two covers I see on Goodreads, it must have had a least a couple softcover editions. It has no ISBN but is listed with the Library of Congress.

I can’t believe I’ve never wondered when ISBNs started. Huh. Interesting.

I still feel unsettled by weird old books. Whenever people talk about books out of print, but not in the public domain, I think of the books I’ve secretly stolen and loved. Everyone’s worried about what will be lost due to piracy. I worry about what will be lost due to short-sightedness.

It makes me crazy to think that bits of culture, voices from the past, can just disappear without a flutter. Only with books can you hear a voice directly from thousands of years ago. I’m no more comfortable with digitization being in the hands of one single company than anybody else, but I don’t think we should hold off on digitizing whatever we can. I need to educate myself about the archival projects going on around the world, to reassure or worry myself.

Over the years I stole more books for various reasons, and I’m going to post the others, along with detailed photos on flickr, scattered over the course of this month, to think about ideas of book piracy, theft, demand, and preservation. 


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Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Hot Type

We’ve been having long days and late nights around these parts. Brett MacFadden came in yesterday morning from San Francisco to help install Lubalin Now, “The inaugural exhibition in the newly re-located Herb Lubalin Study Center of Design and Typography” which is in the new building at 41 Cooper Square. From what I’ve seen of the pieces that will be in the show (including Brett’s work) and the work they’ve done thus far on the installation, it’s going to be super, super cool. The exhibition is free and open to the public. I hope to see you there!


I didn’t know this until last night, but Brett and his studio partner Scott Thorpe recently designed/made a book called Hot Type(Chronicle Books). It’s a weighty, mesmerizing envelope containing 30 typographic fabric transfers, iron-ons of words, phrases, and alphabets that reward the urge to get some DIY on. The custom type is different on every sheet, but they all feel like they’re part of the same movement (I’m totally going to refrain from pretending to know how to talk about type).

Earlier today Maayan Pearl tweeted a link to a 2010 Calendar done by Post Typography, who also have work featured in the Lubalin Now Exhibition.

I can’t wait to have time to do crafty stuff again. I’ve been hanging out with more than a couple unfinished hand-made book and monster projects. Not to mention Expression Engine 2 is finally coming out in the beginning of December. That update has been long in coming, and it’s a big reason (excuse) why I haven’t done my mintjelly overhaul yet. For instance, I bookmark interesting and useful things, but you probably don’t go looking at my Delicious. I need to make that an easier option, rig a better way to place photos, and generally make things more sensical. Hopefully there will be much rejoicing. 

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Monday, November 02, 2009

but I Work from Home

Warning: not book related and kinda demoralizing.

It’s November 2, and a new, totally out-of-the-blue New York Commuter tax is due. Because I’m a freelancer, I have to pay this tax even though I don’t commute, and even though the cost of riding the subway has already gone up substantially. I work from home as opposed to renting a desk in one of those friendly professional spaces because I don’t make enough to pay “another rent” and aside from working in my pajamas and not showering, the benefit of working from home is saving money on things like commuting, an office-appropriate wardrobe, and lunches that never seem to cost less than $12.

So I keep from going insane by tweeting too much and by going back and forth with other friendly types around the world, who also work alone.

It’s extremely hard to maintain discipline, to take care of 6 clients and the laundry, to not be insulted when I see an ex girlfriend of my husband’s on the way to the grocery store, who assumes and says out loud (because it’s the middle of a Tuesday) that I’m a housewife and not a writerandprogrammer thankyouverymuch, to be physically alone much the time, and that’s all before I have panic attacks about estimated taxes, student loans, and try to work harder still to achieve that ever-elusive feeling of financial stability and independence.

The New York Commuter Tax is extra infuriating, since it was MTA ineptitude and shenanigans that put in bids late for the special fuel that these buses run on, and the result is a $26 million dollar contract for fuel that costs three times what it did the year before. This is just one of their costly mistakes. I love the subway, but man do I hate the MTA.

And there’s nothing, it seems, that anyone can do about it. All we can do is bitch. Then figure out the paperwork, dig up old records, and pay taxes on a day that is not a tax day.

I suppose I could stop worrying and learn to love the bomb. This is the price I pay for caring about where I am, about what I contribute to the world. It’s dear, living here. 

Usually I do my best to make everything look easy, near effortless. Sometimes in the middle of my day I pause and think of how amazing my life is, how lucky I am. It’s just… hard.

Earlier today I read an essay by an author whose undergraduate professor left her $75,000 in her will without any explanation. Needless to say, I wept. 

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Sunday, November 01, 2009

Lydia the Tattoed Lady

I don’t (yet) own any of her books, but a couple weeks ago I totally fell in love with Lydia Davis through reading the review of “The Collected Stories of Lydia Davis" (Farrar, Straus & Giroux; $30) in The New Yorker. Then there was the marvelous interview in The Believer, where I felt a nice kindred-spirit-ship (spiritship?) with her over her taste in literature and how she feels about writing. I’m just not used to people liking Beckett for the reasons she likes Beckett. I liked that. 

Last week I met another Lydia through an interview, this time in The Rumpus (more weird kinshipness, over the fact that a year ago author and founding editor Stephen Elliott came to my writing workshop (taught by Jonathan Ames), and not long after I was attending a fundraiser for getting The Rumpus started with classmates. Of course, there’s also the connection with Richard Nash, who I’ve been working with on his startup Cursor since he left Soft Skull, and so really it all feels very unreal — the way worlds tend to collide. But I suppose we all make our own tiny worlds.

Lydia Millet’s interview in The Rumpus is just so charming, so intriguing, “I’m full of hope, I have to be. I can’t believe all this loveliness will wink out.” So now I’m dying to read both “Oh Pure and Radiant Heart"and at the very least, “Love in Infant Monkeys: Stories.”


The title of this post is because I have the Groucho Marx song (youtube link) in my head, “she was the most glorious creature under the sun...”

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