Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy Halloween

Enjoy the Edward Gorey-esque Calamity Coach.

Before they knew what they should do
The scouts were killed by caribou.

Halloween in the Time of Cholera

Wired has a gallery of vintage Halloween photographs.

Newly Discovered Unpublished Edgar Allan Poe Manuscript Found

The Earth Times has the story of a poem by Edgar Allan Poe that's surfaced in rural Virginia.

From the story...

A recently discovered version of "Irene" or "The Sleeper," one of Poe's most important poems, has surfaced in rural Virginia. This is the first time the poem has been available for view to anyone outside of the family for whom it was written. It is not only the unpublished and earliest extant version of a poem that Poe considered even better than "The Raven," but it also features new verse never before seen by the public.

The finished poem, "Irene"...

I stand beneath the soaring moon
At midnight in the month of June.
An influence dewy, drowsy, dim,
Is dripping from yon golden rim.
Grey towers are mouldering into rest,
Wrapping the fog around their breast.
Looking like Lethe, see! the lake
A conscious slumber seems to take,
And would not for the world awake.
The rosemary sleeps upon the grave,
The lily lolls upon the wave,
And [[a]] million cedars to and fro,
Are rocking lullabies as they go
To the lone oak that nodding hangs
Above yon cataract of Serangs.

All Beauty sleeps! — and lo! where lies
With casement open to the skies,
Irene, with her destinies!
Ane hark the sounds so low yet clear,
(Like music of another sphere)
Which steals within the slumberer's ear,
Or so appear — or so appear!
"O lady sweet, how camest thou here?
"Strange are thine eyelids! strange thy dress!
"And strange thy glorious length of tress!
"Sure thou art come o'er far-off seas
"A wonder to our desert trees!
"Some gentle wind hath thought it right
"To open thy window to the night,
"And wanton airs from the tree-top
"Laughingly through the lattice drop,
"And wave this crimson canopy,
"Like a banner o'er thy dreaming eye
"That o'er the floor, and down the wall,
"Like ghosts the shadows rise and fall —
"Then, for thine own all radiant sake,
"Lady, awake! awake! awake!

The lady sleeps! — oh, may her sleep
As it is lasting, so be deep —
No icy worms about her creep!
I pray to God that she may lie
Forever with as calm an eye —
That chamber changed for one more holy,
That bed for one more melancholy!
Far in the forest dim and old,
For her may some tall vault unfold,
Against whose sounding door she hath thrown
In childhood many an idle stone —
Some tomb which oft hath flung its black
And vampire-wing-like pannels back,
Fluttering triumphant o'er the palls
Of her old family funerals.

Also, in Poe news, Baltimore is planning a year long festival celebrating the melancholic writer.

Library Ghosts of the United States

An encyclopedic compendium of library ghosts, care of Britannica Blog.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Meat Haiku

I don't think there's anything better than good meat haiku.

A few meat haiku, off the cuff...

Give me hamburger
Throw on some slices of cheese
Sweet, sweet nirvana

I want a kabab
Meat parts on a stick - awesome
I want another

Come here you big cow
Don't mind that huge whirring saw
Moo. Moo! Mooo! Moooo! MOOOOOO!!!!

Dave Eggers on Making a Difference

"The schools need you, the teachers need you, the students and parents need you," Eggers urges. "They need your actual person, your physical personhood and your open minds and open ears and boundless compassion. Sitting next to them, listening and nodding and asking questions for hours at a time. Some of these kids just don't know how plain good they are, how smart, and how much they have to say. You can tell them; you can shine that light on them one human interaction at a time."
- Dave Eggers, founder of McSweeney's and 826 Literacy Centers

You can see his short presentation about making a difference here.

For the Love of Scottie McMullett

A fun selection of romance novel covers, care of Longmire.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Let the Undead Enliven Your Halloween Reading

The San Jose Mercury News offers some suggestions for creepy reading this coming weekend.

Novelists Write Our Way Out of The Financial Crisis

Gawker takes a look at fiction to help our way out of this financial mess.

From the story...

Economic analysts on the right and left continue to openly suggest that we may not have hit bottom yet. If you want hope, don't talk to an economist, ask a novelist. Fiction writers tend to have a more optimistic view: once they've thrust characters into a financial abyss, they are forced to script a path out of it. What have our finest authors found to redeem us from this depression?

Friday, October 24, 2008

Friday's Poem

William S. Burroughs reads Jim Morrison's poem, "Is Everyone In?":

Beatnik Noir

Did you know that William S. Burroughs and Jack Kerouac collaborated on a novel together? I hadn't either, but the previously unpublished work will be printed in November. It's entitled And The Hippos Were Boiled In Their Tanks. Media Bistro has the news.

Steinbeck and his "Certain Angers"

BBC News has an audio clip of John Steinbeck talking briefly about his inspiration for The Grapes of Wrath.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Photographing Barack Obama

Callie Shell has been following his campaign and has been taking some great shots. The Digital Journalist shows off a few.

For the full slide show, "Barack Obama: Portrait of a Candidate" on Time Magazine, go here.


Meat haiku.

A few haiku, off the cuff...

What's this before me?
A pound of bacon to eat?
Greasy napkin pile

Would you like dessert?
The waiter asks formally.
Do you have meat cake?

There was a young boy
He really liked sloppy joes
Pant stains made mom mad

The Fine Art of Dust Jacket Copy

Care of Quill & Quire. Quill & Quire, quite possibly the best title ever for a magazine. Quill, ampersand, Quire. Nice.

From the story...

In general, the responsibility for writing jacket copy falls to the acquiring editor, although each house has its own rules. Compared with cover design, which generally involves a wide variety of voices and a considerable amount of office debate, the writing of flap copy is usually a fairly straightforward matter. At HarperCollins Canada, editorial director Jennifer Lambert says that the acquiring editor writes the text in consultation with the author and the agent, and another editor at the house does the copy editing. At Penguin Canada, executive editor Nicole Winstanley tries to channel the shared vision of the marketing, sales, and editorial departments when composing jacket copy, and then invites input from the author and the agent. And at House of Anansi Press, publisher Lynn Henry says she takes input from sales and marketing and consults with authors, but agents are generally not involved in the back and forth.

When asked why jacket copy isn’t approached in a more broadly collaborative manner, like cover design, Henry observes that the visual nature of cover design invites many more voices. Besides, she adds, cover copy is a delicate art. “It is a very charged kind of writing, where words are like signifiers to the reader that this is a book that’s going to appeal to a grandmother, say, or to a twentysomething man,” says Henry. “It’s very nuanced, almost a code.”

Lambert admits that it can be very hard not to get carried away and cross into cliché territory. “There are so many overused catch words – ‘compelling,’ ‘riveting,’ ‘a brand new voice in Canadian literature,’” she explains. “In every cliché there’s a grain of truth, but you have to catch yourself and make sure you’re not using these tired ways of describing a book.” Henry, too, finds that she has to be vigilant. “I tend to pay attention to the copy that other people put on their books: what makes me cringe and what’s fresh and new,” she says.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

The Best Foreign Books You've Never Heard Of

The list (with excerpts of some of the titles discussed), care of NPR.

Grand Old Times in the Future

There's an overview of groovy sci-fi art from back in the day of Amazing Stories, Science Wonder Stories, Planet Stories and more.

Talk to the Newsroom - The Obituary Desk

The New York Times Bruce Weber is interviewed, discussing his days at the obituary desk.

Ah, obituaries. I worked, myself, for a time, at the Seattle Times obituary desk. Good times, my friends, happy times.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008


Audio books for free using the classics in the public domain, like War and Peace, Middlemarch, and The Three Musketeers. What could be better?

StoryLine Online

Video programs of Screen Actors Guild members reading children's books. What could be better?

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

My Writing in Venuszine

"A Book is Worth a Thousand Words" is a short profile I wrote on the great artist Jennifer Khoshbin for Venuszine.

Pictured above: Her piece, "Balance."

Andy Taylor's Life Inside Duran Duran

Duran Duran fans, I know you are legion, Andy Taylor has written about his wild days as part of Duran Duran. Ah, Duran Duran. I've always loved them. I'm a dork. But, come on, "Hungry Like the Wolf"? "Girls on Film"? "A View to a Kill"? Wonderful songs, all. The LA Times discusses the book.

And, for fun, Duran Duran's "Rio" video:

Monday, October 13, 2008

William Claxton Dies at 80

William Claxton, a photographer who helped jazz trumpeter Chet Baker gain his fame, has died at 80. The Los Angeles Times obituary can be read here.

From the story...

In a career spanning more than a half century, Claxton also became well known for his work with celebrities including Frank Sinatra and Steve McQueen, who became a close personal friend; but he gained his foremost public recognition for his photographs of jazz performers including Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Mel Torme, Duke Ellington, Thelonious Monk and Stan Getz.

22 of the World's Most Creative Alphabets

A collection of alphabets gathered from the portfolios of artists, photographers and design students around the world, care of Reuben Miller's blog.

Top Ten Feminist Books

The list, care of

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Bad Economy is Bad for Music Magazines

PopMatters discusses.

Lolita Turns Fifty

Newsweek has a feature on Vladimir Nabakov's famous Lolita. You can read an excerpt from the famously controversial book here.

Pictured above: The cover of the 1st edition, published by Olympia Press in Paris in 1955.

Quote of the Week

Writers are a little below the clowns and a little above the trained seals.
- John Steinbeck

Friday, October 10, 2008

Friday's Poem

Emily Dickinson's "I Heard a Fly Buzz When I Died":

As a brief aside, in Slate, a story about Emily Dickinson's secret lover!

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Jon's Writing in Idaho Magazine

The new issue of Idaho Magazine has a small feature I wrote about the Bear Creek Massacre.

The massacre took place on January 29, 1863, between the US Army and the Shoshone Indians on the Idaho border. The attack was led by Col. Patrick Connor against Shoshone Chief Bear Hunter. With hundreds dead (including at least 90 women and children) it was the worst massacre against Native Americans in our history.

Mad Men - The Fonts

Pretty geeky, this post. Mad Men, the great award-winning show on AMC, is discussed, in regards to the fonts used in the show.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

The Upside Down Bookshelf

You can make one. Here's how.

The Ambition of the Short Story

Steven Millhauser, for the New York Times, writes an essay about short stories.

From the piece...

The short story — how modest in bearing! How unassuming in manner! It sits there quietly, eyes lowered, almost as if trying not to be noticed. And if it should somehow attract your attention, it says quickly, in a brave little self-deprecating voice alive to all the possibilities of disappointment: “I’m not a novel, you know. Not even a short one. If that’s what you’re looking for, you don’t want me.” Rarely has one form so dominated another. And we understand, we nod our heads knowingly: here in America, size is power. The novel is the Wal-Mart, the Incredible Hulk, the jumbo jet of literature. The novel is insatiable — it wants to devour the world. What’s left for the poor short story to do? It can cultivate its garden, practice meditation, water the geraniums in the window box. It can take a course in creative nonfiction. It can do whatever it likes, so long as it doesn’t forget its place — so long as it keeps quiet and stays out of the way. “Hoo ha!” cries the novel. “Here ah come!” The short story is always ducking for cover. The novel buys up the land, cuts down the trees, puts up the condos. The short story scampers across a lawn, squeezes under a fence.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Best Science Images of 2008

The awards were granted at the 2008 International Science and Engineering Visualization Challenge, given annually by the National Science Foundation and the journal Science for images that employ modern technology to visualize complex scientific topics. You can view all the winners here.

Bob Staake Creates a Cover for The New Yorker

One of my favorite sites, Drawn!, illuminates readers on how artist Bob Staake works towards a cover for the New Yorker.

The Bittersweet Art of Cutting Up Books

Dark Roast Blend showcases artists who use books in their art. Pictured above is the work of Brian Dettmer.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Speech Accent Archive

The Speech Accent Archive uniformly presents a large set of speech samples from a variety of language backgrounds. Native and non-native speakers of English read the same paragraph and are carefully transcribed. The archive is used by people who wish to compare and analyze the accents of different English speakers.