Still working through the best books of the 2010s, I just finished Salvage The Bones by Jesmyn Ward.
Set at the time of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, Salvage The Bones is an intense novel about a dirt-poor black family in a dirt-poor black hamlet on the Mississippi Gulf. Motherless, four kids and their abusive alcoholic father live in a shack in a wooded wasteland of endless poverty. One son hopes and prays for a basketball scholarship as his way out, the youngest just likes to play and eat, and the third son lives for his fighting dog and her puppies. The story is told in the unpretentious and honest but confused voice of the pregnant 14-year old daughter, Esch, who likes to read Greek mythology.
The father, irascible drunk or sober, is convinced that a storm brewing in the Gulf will be the big one, and he tries to cajole his family into helping him prepare; but they are busy with their own lives: Randall has important games to win that will help him get selected, Skeetah needs to look after his dog’s puppies while getting her ready for the big revenge fight with the other kids’ dogs, Esch, who has been having sex since she was twelve because it was easier than saying no, has to confront the fact that the father of her unborn child won’t acknowledge it, and Junior is too young to know any better.
The hurricane hits in the final fifty pages of the novel, slamming into the hamlet with greater fury than even the father had ever imagined; and Ward does a masterful job of describing both the lashing of the storm at his height, and the immense devastation that was left in its wake. But the strength of this fine work is in the first 200 pages where we learn what it is like to live poor and black in southern Mississippi, where the only real safety (still tenuous) is in the closeness of the sibling bond.
This is tragedy. There is no happy ending, just real life carrying on.
In the late 1990s, I spent a lot of time in Bukowski’s, a raucous bar and restaurant at Commercial & Grant that is sorely missed. I went there to drink, to eat, to party, and, just about every week, to shout my poetry above the din of the bar crowd. If your performance could grab attention at Bukowski’s, you were doing really well.
With the likes of RC Weslowski, Shane Koyczan, and Angus (the Svelte Ms Spelt) Adair also performing, I was never the best or the most popular, but I had a wonderful time; and that period of my life was heady and life-affirming and just plain fun.
I am sure my memory has gaps, but it seems to me at this distance that all I ever ate at Bukowski’s was their wonderful patatas bravas, a dish which, when Bukowski’s closed, was lost to me. So it was a joy when I was looking through some food videos on Youtube and came across a patatas bravas recipe from Food Wishes, one of my go-to video chefs.
I made it the first time (with some deliciously sauteed chicken) and it was, all modesty aside, just superb: I could eat that sauce with just about anything. Moreover, all those memories of Bukowski’s came flooding back to delight and entertain.
Proust was right.
In an effort to promote access to its resources and increase public engagement, the Smithsonian Institution has released 2.8 million images from copyright restrictions on its site, Smithsonian Open Access. Visitors to the website can download and use the files in whatever way they wish without requesting express permission from the organization.
Made available from the institution’s 19 museums, nine research centers, libraries, archives, and the National Zoo, samplers now have an enormous range of new images to work with.
Every since elementary school, at least, most of us have understood that the earth has a moon — just one. Old farts like me even remember when humans walked on that moon, that it was important that we had been there. But it seems we have to revise our knowledge of this singularity.
For the second time in a few years, astronomers have discovered a second — albeit tiny — moon;
“The mini-moon appears to have been orbiting our planet since it was first captured by Earth’s gravity three years ago. Early observations also suggest it is small enough to fit in just about any garage or shed, with an estimated diameter between 2 and 3.5 meters (about 6 – 11 feet).”
It is, in fact, a captured asteroid and its stay with us might be quite brief:
A “previous asteroid … did time as a mini-moon … which did just a few trips around our planet in 2006 and 2007 before being ejected back out into the solar system. [The current asteroid] may be ejected as well later this year.”
So now I don’t feel so short-changed when I read that Jupiter has 80 moons.
BC’s newest and most exciting political party — the BC EcoSocialists (further left than the NDP and far greener than BC Greens) — are celebrating their founding with an All-Star musical extravaganza and fundraiser at WISE Hall this Friday.
Geoff Berner’s fine klezmer band headlines a great local line up, the fun and games begin at 7:30pm, and a donation at the door of up to $20 would be a wonderful help.
“It’s going to be a wonderful celebration of independent music and most of all, the birth of this new party, which we see as part of a larger Ecosocalist movement that is sweeping the world. We hope you can make it down to be part of it. Because it’s going to be a heck of a good time!! And you can say you were there when it all started.”
Mr. & Mrs. James (“Paddy”) Doran operated Doran’s Fish & Chip shop at 1244 Commercial from 1920-1923. They moved the shop to 1709 Commercial in 1924, changed its name to Grandview Fish & Chips, and operated until 1930. From 1931 until 1937, they were at 1906 Commercial, and, finally, under the name Paddy’s Fish & Chips at 1717 Commercial until August 1939.
Your soul is oftentimes a battlefield, upon which your reason and your judgment wage war against passion and your appetite.
Would that I could be the peacemaker in your soul, that I might turn the discord and the rivalry of your elements into oneness and melody.
But how shall I, unless you yourselves be also the peacemakers, nay, the lovers of all your elements?
Your reason and your passion are the rudder and the sails of your seafaring soul.
If either your sails or our rudder be broken, you can but toss and drift, or else be held at a standstill in mid-seas.
For reason, ruling alone, is a force confining; and passion, unattended, is a flame that burns to its own destruction.
Therefore let your soul exalt your reason to the height of passion; that it may sing;
And let it direct your passion with reason, that your passion may live through its own daily resurrection, and like the phoenix rise above its own ashes.
I would have you consider your judgment and your appetite even as you would two loved guests in your house.
Surely you would not honour one guest above the other; for he who is more mindful of one loses the love and the faith of both.
The Guardian has an excellent review by Kathryn Hughes of the new Andy Warhol biography: A Life As Art by Blake Gopnik.
Warhol exploded the art scene and art business; his pieces (in painting, advertising, design, movies) and style are everywhere and he made himself as popular and expensively collectable as Picasso. Gopnik’s book takes a thousand pages to explain why he is so important.
“Far from being a ready-made, assembled from the detritus of the scholarly-industrial complex, Warhol: A Life As Art is the product of years studying 100,000 or so original documents housed in Pittsburgh’s Andy Warhol Museum. The artist was a lifelong hoarder, and Gopnik’s research is intricately based on a florid haul of engagement diaries, business letters, love notes, theatre tickets and tax returns.”
There are numerous examples given of Warhol’s quirks:
“It is a testimony to Blake Gopnik’s skill that he is able to acknowledge how silly these provocations sound while simultaneously insisting on their enduring art historical significance. Dressing up as a box of Brillo may count as a stunt, but Gopnik, a veteran critic and contributor to the New York Times, sees it as the logical extension of Marcel Duchamp’s gesture 50 years earlier when he exhibited a porcelain pissoir as art. Responding to someone’s standard greeting with a detailed report on your bowel movements may be childish but it also pointedly disrupts the genteel discourse of a rapidly capitalising art market. The fact that today we are inclined to roll our eyes at such anecdotes is evidence not of Warhol’s nullity, but of his continuing ubiquity.”
“Whether we like it or not, we are still living in his world.”
Do you remember Foursquare? I guess it is still around but I haven’t heard of it for quite a while. It was an app that directed you to stores and restaurants close to where you were physically located based on the GPS data supplied by your mobile phone. I was reminded of it when I read this article from Creative Review called Creativity and Programmatic Advertizing. The article might be a bit inside-the-beltway for those not in the advertising and marketing business, but it includes some extraordinary insights into the kind of information databanks that corporation compile about you and me.
First of all, the definition of “programmatic advertizing”:
“Programmatic advertising offers the chance to connect with the right consumer at the right place and time … Programmatic allows you to run segmented work that will appeal to all of your audiences – it then optimises the creative to the version that best suits a media channel’s audience.”
There is nothing new about the first sentence. If you are placing ads on the TV show “Sesame Street” you are no doubt aiming at a different audience than if you place the same ad on “The Batchelor,” for example. Even the second sentence is unoriginal: the ad you place on “The Batchelor” will (or should be) different than the ad you used on “Sesame Street“.
The difference today is the matter of scale. Old campaigns may have had half-a-dozen different sets of copy and images for various market segments. Today, technology has exploded that almost infinitely.
“Unilever’s Axe brand in Brazil … recently used programmatic adverts to serve online viewers with up to 100,000 variations of its Romeo Reboot ad.”
The particular variation you get to see is not random, of course. It is designed to appeal specifically to characteristics about you that the advertiser already knows from your purchase history, demographics, browsing profiles, and a million other data points that you don’t even recognize you are giving away.
I have no doubt that within a few years almost every ad will say something like “Hello Jak, here’s a piece of cookware that we know you’ve been thinking about.” We already get this from Amazon.
I don’t need or want that kind of omniscience from corporations. And it sure makes me think more fondly of those quaint old Foursquare days.