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A scrapbook of stuff I'm reading / looking at / listening to / thinking about...



Aug 26, 2014
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Aug 25, 2014
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Aug 23, 2014
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We hear “do what you love” so often from those few people who it did work for, for whom the stars aligned, and from them it sounds like good advice. They’re successful, aren’t they? If we follow their advice, we’ll be successful, too! […] We rarely hear the advice of the person who did what they loved and stayed poor or was horribly injured for it. Professional gamblers, stuntmen, washed up cartoonists like myself: we don’t give speeches at corporate events. We aren’t paid to go to the World Domination Summit and make people feel bad. We don’t land book deals or speak on Good Morning America.

Aug 22, 2014
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Short was good in a book.
— Charles Portis, Gringos

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Denis Johnson, Train Dreams: A Novella

Novellas hit a wonderful sweet spot, I think, and are perfect for Kindle/Kindle-on-iPhone reading. Anthony Doerr (my wife, I just realized, has his new novel on her nightstand) wrote this appreciation in the NYTimes:


  The novella runs 116 pages, and you can turn all of those pages in 90 minutes. In that hour and a half the whole crimped, swirling, haunted life of Robert Grainier rattles through the forests of your mind like the whistle of the Spokane International he hears so often in his dreams.
  
  In an 1842 review of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “Twice Told Tales,” Edgar Allan Poe said that apart from poetry, the form most advantageous for the exertion of “highest genius” was the “short prose narrative,” whose length he defined as taking “from a half-hour to one or two hours in its perusal.” Novels, Poe argued, were objectionable because they required a reader to take breaks.
  
  “Worldly interests intervening during the pauses of perusal,” he wrote, “modify, annul or counteract, in a greater or less degree, the impressions of the book.” Because you have to stop reading novels every now and then — to shower, to eat, to check your Twitter feed — their power weakens.
  
  Short stories and novellas on the other hand offer writers a chance to affect readers more deeply because a reader can be held in thrall for the entirety of the experience. They offer writers, in Poe’s phrasing, “the immense force derivable from totality.”


This was the first Denis Johnson book I’ve read (I know, I know), and it’s the 3rd good novella I’ve read this year (added to Sleep Donation and The Sense Of An Ending).

Thanks to @robinsloan for the recommendation!

Filed under: my reading year 2014

Denis Johnson, Train Dreams: A Novella

Novellas hit a wonderful sweet spot, I think, and are perfect for Kindle/Kindle-on-iPhone reading. Anthony Doerr (my wife, I just realized, has his new novel on her nightstand) wrote this appreciation in the NYTimes:

The novella runs 116 pages, and you can turn all of those pages in 90 minutes. In that hour and a half the whole crimped, swirling, haunted life of Robert Grainier rattles through the forests of your mind like the whistle of the Spokane International he hears so often in his dreams.

In an 1842 review of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “Twice Told Tales,” Edgar Allan Poe said that apart from poetry, the form most advantageous for the exertion of “highest genius” was the “short prose narrative,” whose length he defined as taking “from a half-hour to one or two hours in its perusal.” Novels, Poe argued, were objectionable because they required a reader to take breaks.

“Worldly interests intervening during the pauses of perusal,” he wrote, “modify, annul or counteract, in a greater or less degree, the impressions of the book.” Because you have to stop reading novels every now and then — to shower, to eat, to check your Twitter feed — their power weakens.

Short stories and novellas on the other hand offer writers a chance to affect readers more deeply because a reader can be held in thrall for the entirety of the experience. They offer writers, in Poe’s phrasing, “the immense force derivable from totality.”

This was the first Denis Johnson book I’ve read (I know, I know), and it’s the 3rd good novella I’ve read this year (added to Sleep Donation and The Sense Of An Ending).

Thanks to @robinsloan for the recommendation!

Filed under: my reading year 2014

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Humor is an antidote to — or at least an analgesic for — a condition we’re all suffering from. I would call this condition clarity, not depression; humor and depression are two different, but not mutually exclusive, responses to it. I know we’re told to regard depression as a disease, its victims no different from people who succumb to cancer or diabetes. But because it’s a disease whose symptoms take the shape of ideas, it can get hard to parse out pathology from worldview. The Harvard psychologist Daniel Gilbert once told me that “there are people who have no delusions; they’re called clinically depressed.” Depression’s insights aren’t necessarily invalid; they’re just not helpful. Depression uses clarity as an instrument of torture; humor uses it as a setup. Comedy tells us, “But wait — that’s not the good part.” Depression condemns the world, and us, as hateful; laughter is a way of forgiving it, and ourselves, for being so.
— Tim Kreider on the death of Robin Williams

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If you’re not listening to the wonderful Song Exploder podcast already, here’s Spoon drummer/producer Jim Eno taking us through the recording of the song “Inside Out.”

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The Office will not register works produced by nature, animals, or plants. Likewise, the Office cannot register a work purportedly created by divine or supernatural beings…

Examples:

• A photograph taken by a monkey.

• A mural painted by an elephant…

• An application for a song naming the Holy Spirit as the author of the work.

The US Copyright office says you can’t copyright things made by animals, gods, or ghosts

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Using the tools of improv to deal with Alzheimer’s

From a great This American Life segment:

Chana Joffe: Step into their world was a familiar phrase to Karen from the many nights she had spent doing improv comedy. She and her husband are actors. Step into their world is a mantra in improv. You walk on stage, another actor says something, and you step into their world, whatever world they’ve just created. You don’t ever say no. You don’t question their premise. You just say yes. And—

Karen: I didn’t even see it. I didn’t see the whole parallels of improv and Alzheimer’s. And when I did, it with just so obvious. It’s a whole “yes, and” world.

Chana Joffe: If all you’ve got is “yes, and,” you can’t say things like, but you don’t even like pickles, or, you don’t have a sister, Mom. You don’t tell someone they’re wrong, which Karen says is exactly what you always want to do. When her mom says she wants to go home, the most natural response is—

Karen: Oh, but this is your home now, Virginia. Come let me show you your room. But this woman is looking at you saying, I want to go home. And you’re telling her she lives here. So now you’re telling her she’s a liar. You’re going to see her little veins start popping out in her neck and her little fists. But if you look at her and you say— she says, I want to go home. Yes, and tell me about your home.

Chana Joffe: Now she’s not a liar anymore. Karen felt like she’d discovered an instruction manual.

Karen teaches folks how to use improv over at In The Moment.

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