chris.hamby + books   45

The 30 Harshest Author-on-Author Insults In History
Sigh. Authors just don’t insult each other like they used to. Sure, Martin Amis raised some eyebrows when he claimed he would need brain damage to write children’s books, and recent Pulitzer Prize winner Jennifer Egan made waves when she disparaged the work that someone had plagiarized, but those kinds of accidental, lukewarm zingers are nothing when compared to the sick burns of yore. It stands to reason, of course, that writers would be able to come up with some of the best insults around, given their natural affinity for a certain turn of phrase and all. And it also makes sense that the people they would choose to unleash their verbal battle-axes upon would be each other, since watching someone doing the same thing you’re doing — only badly — is one of the most frustrating feelings we know. So we forgive our dear authors for their spite. Plus, their insults are just so fun to read. Click through for our countdown of the thirty harshest author-on-author burns in history, and let us know if we’ve missed any of your favorites in the comments!

30. Gustave Flaubert on George Sand

“A great cow full of ink.”

29. Robert Louis Stevenson on Walt Whitman

“…like a large shaggy dog just unchained scouring the beaches of the world and baying at the moon.”

28. Friedrich Nietzsche on Dante Alighieri

“A hyena that wrote poetry on tombs.”

27. Harold Bloom on J.K. Rowling (2000)

“How to read ‘Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone’? Why, very quickly, to begin with, and perhaps also to make an end. Why read it? Presumably, if you cannot be persuaded to read anything better, Rowling will have to do.”

26. Vladimir Nabokov on Fyodor Dostoevsky

“Dostoevky’s lack of taste, his monotonous dealings with persons suffering with pre-Freudian complexes, the way he has of wallowing in the tragic misadventures of human dignity — all this is difficult to admire.”
Books  buzz  D.H._Lawrence  Ernest_Hemingway  Harry_Potter  Jack_Kerouac  James_Joyce  Mark_Twain  Martin_Amis  Virginia_Woolf  Vladimir_Nabokov  walt_whitman  from google
june 2011 by Chris.Hamby
Bureaucratics: A Portrait of the World’s Red Tape
Unless you’ve lived in a country plagued by the kind of institutional inefficiency characteristic of oppressive political regimes (like we have — hello, motherland), you can never fully appreciate the sometimes comic, often tragic, and invariably debilitating magnitude of red tape. Now, thanks to Dutch historian and documentary photographer Jan Banning, you can: In Bureaucratics, he brings a conceptual, typological approach to the dreariest of desk jobs, blending humor and absurdity with an astute portrait of sociopolitical ineptitude.

Bureaucratics [is] the product of an anarchist’s heart, a historian’s mind and an artist’s eye. It is a comparative photographic study of the culture, rituals and symbols of state civil administrations and its servants in eight countries on five continents, selected on the basis of political, historical and cultural considerations.” Jan Banning

The countries represented are Bolivia, China, France, India, Liberia, Russia, the United States, and Yemen. In each, Banning visited dozens, in some cases hundreds, of offices across the spectrum of services and executive levels.

India, bureaucracy, Bihar, 2003. India-15/2003

Suresh Prasad (b. 1947) is assistant clerk of the 'Bihar House' department in The Old Secretariat, Patna, State of Bihar. Monthly salary: 9,000 rupees ($197)

India, bureaucracy, Bihar, 2003. India-01/2003

Ram Prabodh Yadav (b. 1970) is sub-inspector (deputy inspector) of police in Maner Block, Patna district, State of Bihar. Monthly salary: 10,000 rupees ($220)

India, bureaucracy, Bihar, 2003. India-21/2003

Dr. Munni Das (b. 1960) is Block Development Officer in Thakurganj block, an administrative entity within Kishanganj district, State of Bihar. Monthly salary: about 10,000 rupees ($220)

To preserve a maximum degree of authenticity, he kept the visits unannounced, preventing the subjects from tidying up for the interview.

India, Bihar, Bureaucracy, 2003. India-28/2003

Om Prakash (1963) is Block Development Officer (BDO) in Makhdumpur Block (200.000 inhabitants), district Jahanabad, Bihar. Prakash has 45 subordinates and is responsable for public order and the development of his block. As the highest civil servant in Makhdumpur, he has a towel on his chair. The plate behind him contains the names of his predecessors. Monthly salary: 12,000 rupees ($263)

Bolivia, bureaucracy, Potosi, 2005. Bolivia-13/2005

Rodolfo Villca Flores (b. 1958) is chief supervisor of market and sanitary services of the municipality of Betanzos, Cornelio Saavedra province. Previously he worked as a bricklayer, electrician, plumber and handyman. Monthly salary: 1,150 bolivianos ($143)

Bolivia, bureaucracy (police), Potosi, 2005. Bolivia-08/2005

Constantino Aya Viri Castro (b. 1950), previously a construction worker, is a police officer third class for the municipality of Tinguipaya, Tomás Frías province. The police station does not have a phone, car or typewriter. Monthly salary: 800 bolivianos ($100)

Bolivia, bureaucracy (police), 2005

Marlene Abigahit Choque (1982), detective at the the Homicide Department of the Potosi police. The department has only broken typewriters, no computer, no copy machine, not even telephone. It shares a car with the Vice Squad: 'If there is no petrol in the car, we have to buy it from our own money. If the car is gone, we take the bus. We have to pay the tickets ourselves.' The head on the cupboard to the right is used to make witnesses of murder cases show where the bullets went in or out. Monthly salary: 920 bolivianos ($114)

China, bureaucracy, Shandong, 2007. China-09/2007

Wang Ning (b. 1983) works in the Economic Affairs office in Gu Lou community, Yanzhou city, Shandong province. She provides economic assistance to enterprises in her region and is the liaison officer between the government and local enterprises: she helps them get a permit for land use, personnel insurances, environmental permits and taxation registration. There was (at the time) no heating in the room. The maps show regional industrial zones. Wang Ning is not married. She lives at home with her parents. She works from 8.30 to 12 am and from 14 to 16 am. She has no official paid holidays, except the national bank holidays and the weekends. Monthly salary: 2,100 renminbi ($260)

Even the visual narrative of the book exudes the monotony of its subject matter: Shot from the same height, with the same and from the same distance, and framed in an appropriately square format, the 50 subjects may vary greatly in age, appearance and location, but appear somehow homogenous in their shared slavery to paperwork.

France, bureaucracy, Auvergne, 2006. France-05/2006

Maurice Winterstein (b. 1949) works in Clermont-Ferrand for the Commission for the Advancement of Equal Opportunity and Citizenship at the combined administrative offices of the Auvergne region and the Puy-de-Dome department. He also is in charge of the portfolio of religious affairs, Islam in particular. Monthly salary: 1,550 Euro ($2,038). The young lady next to him is Linda Khettabi (b. 1989), an intern pursuing training as a secretary.

France, bureaucracy, Auvergne, 2006. France-16/2006

Roger Vacher (b. 1957) is a narcotics agent with the national police force in Clermont-Ferrand, Puy-de-Dome department, Auvergne region. Monthly salary: 2,200 Euro ($2,893).

Liberia, bureaucracy, 2006. Liberia-04/2006

Major Adolph Dalaney (b. 1940) works in the Reconstruction Room of the Traffic Police at the Liberia National Police Headquarters in the capital Monrovia. Monthly salary: barely 1,000 Liberian dollars ($18). Traffic accident victims at times are willing to pay a little extra if Dalaney's department quickly draws up a favorable report to present to a judge.

Liberia, bureaucracy, 2006. Liberia-19/2006

Warford Weadatu Sr. (b. 1963), a former farmer and mail carrier, now is county commissioner (administrator) for Nyenawliken district, River Gee County. He has no budget and is not expecting any money soon from the poverty-stricken authorities in Monrovia. Monthly salary: 1,110 Liberian dollars ($20), but he hadn't received any salary for the previous year.

Russia, bureaucracy, Siberia, province Tomsk, 2004. Russia-19/2004

Marina Nikolayevna Berezina (b. 1962), a former singer and choir director, is now the secretary to the head of the financial department of Tomsk province's Facility Services. She does not want to reveal her monthly salary.

Russia, bureaucracy, Siberia, province Tomsk, 2004. Russia-23/2004

Sergej Michailovich Osipchuk (b. 1974) is the lone police officer in the village of Oktyabrsky (some 2000 inhabitants), Tomsk province. He does not have a police car or one of his own, not even a bicycle. He does not want to reveal his salary, but informed sources put the monthly salary of an officer of his rank and age at approximately 4,000 rubles ($143).

USA, bureaucracy, Texas, 2007. USA-11/2007

Shane Fenton (b. 1961) is sheriff of Crockett County (about 3000 inhabitants), Texas, and based in Ozona, the county seat. Monthly salary: $3,166

USA, bureaucracy, Texas, 2007. USA-04/2007

Dede McEachern (b. 1969) is director of licensing, Texas Department of Licensing and Regulations, in the state capital, Austin. Monthly salary: $5,833

Yemen, bureaucracy, 2006. Yemen-03/2006

Nadja Ali Gayt (b. 1969) is an adviser at the Ministry of Agriculture s education center for rural women in the district of Manakhah, Sana Governorate. Monthly salary: 28,500 rial ($160)

Yemen, bureaucracy, 2006

Mohammed Mohammed Shams Adeen (about 1950) is manager of the garbage collection service in At-Tawilah, governorate Al-Mahweet. He is responsible for 11 employees and 4 workers paid on a daily basis. Seven of them work in the office, eight (included 4 paid on a daily basis) collect the garbage. The service has two trash trucks and several handcarts. The garbage is being dumped and set on fire in the mountains outside the city. On the wall a letter from the prime minister about a banning order for smoking in public offices and two educational announcements, about Kleenex tissues that ought to be thrown in trash bins and 'don’t cut trees, they are the property of all of us.' Monthly salary: 29.000 Riyals ($163)

Poignant and petrifying in its institutional honesty, Bureaucratics holds up a mirror against humanity’s most ineffectual attempts at self-organization, and at the same time manages to elicit newfound empathy for these very human wardens of the red tape prison.

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culture  photography  PICKED  politics  books  cool  world  from google
april 2011 by Chris.Hamby
Google Labs - Books Ngram Viewer
graph words and phrases rise and fall over the decades through Google books
google  books  graphing  visualizations 
december 2010 by Chris.Hamby
architecture  inspiration  video  audio  images  media  books 
september 2010 by Chris.Hamby RAIONIROVANIE.
The Affirmative Action Empire: Nations and Nationalism in the Soviet Union 1923-1939
" everyone who's studied the Soviet Union at all, I was aware that each official nationality was awarded its own territory in which its language would be taught and its customs maintained, but I had no idea how complex the system had been. How many such territorial units do you think there were? Fifty, a hundred, a few hundred? At its peak, tens of thousands."
soviet  nationalism  history  books  politics 
august 2010 by Chris.Hamby
Saint Jane
The Pelican edition of Death and Life, with cover by Germano Facetti.A spectre is haunting urbanism - the spectre of Jane Jacobs. The American-Canadian writer and activist died in 2006, but she continues to exert influence over the urban debate, primarily via that dreary federacy of messianic dovecote enthusiasts, the "New Urbanists", who have taken her up as a kind of guiding prophet. Outside the ranks of the Kunstlers and Kriers, there is a great swath of architects, thinkers and writers on the city who have read Jacobs and hold her in high regard. With a touch of embarrassment, I should include myself in this latter category. Not being an architect, I was an auto-didact in urban theory. When I came across a Pelican edition of Jacobs' best-known book, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, in a second-hand bookshop almost a decade ago, I had never heard of her. But I loved the Germano Facetti cover design, the back sounded interesting enough, and the price was right, so I took it home.At that point, my reading on urban theory had been scattershot, based entirely in what I found in 2nd-hand bookshops: Corbu, Lewis Mumford, Thomas Sharp, Steen Eiler Rasmussen, an odd band who had given me all sorts of interesting ideas and imagery, but nothing very coherent. What they had in common, more or less, was that I didn't really enjoy reading them all that much, and had mostly got through to the end in a spirit of patient self-improvement. I picked up Jacobs, expecting more of the same, and instead ploughed through it in a matter of days. If nothing else, she taught me that book-length urban theory could be hugely entertaining, and since then I have sought out books about the city with enthusiasm, as opposed to a worthy sense of I-really-should-know-more-about-this. (I haven't read The Economy of Cities which I understand unwisely broadens some of Jacobs' microcosmic conclusions, which is probably why its profile has declined in recent years while that of Death and Life has done little but improve.)At the time, I lived in a basement flat in Pimlico. I worked from home. From the desk where I read and worked, I could see feet passing on the pavement outside. I could stroll out during the day and visit the market on Tachbrook street, which had a book stall. I knew the names of local shopkeepers. It was, when I had money, all very comfortable. Westminster council was on its never-ending crusade to fuck up everything with vast shiny office buildings. Jacobs had an obvious appeal in this context. Since then, I've learned a lot more, but much of what she says about the folly of monolithic single-use zoning and the importance of mixed activity on the street, still seems to me to be self-evident. She has remained on my mind since, popping up from time to time in both expected and unexpected places. I recently read Joe Flood's account of New York's 1970s organisational meltdown, The Fires (review scheduled in Icon 088). Flood has a criticism of some form for nearly everyone in 1970s New York - except Jacobs, who floats, omniscient and benign, above the crumbling city. This kind of veneration obviously grates with some people. In an essay in The Atlantic, Benjamin Schwarz complains that the writers Sharon Zukin and Michael Sorkin are hopelessly in thrall to Jacobs in their recent accounts of NYC, and that Jacobs' description of the city was a mirage - if it ever existed, it was only for a split-second in the city's life.Jacobs, Schwarz complains, presented a "transitional and unsustainable, if golden, moment" in the life of a certain neighbourhood as an ideal, and in doing so distorted our whole idea of the urban good life. This critique was picked up by Kosmograd: ever since Death and Life, urbanists have been attempting to conjure a steady-state Jacobs Moment in neighbourhoods globally, and always end up with a runaway reaction on their hands: gentrification. Working-class communities and affordable housing are swept away, and the district ends up as a "bo-ho theme park". Jacobs' "sentimental ... matronising" opinions have precious little to offer a world that is throwing up such terrifying urban environments as the FoxConn complex in Shenzhen.When I first read Schwarz and Kosmograd's essays, my first instinct was to spring to Jacobs' defence. She was a lone voice raised in defence of a certain kind of community. That community was worth defending - the contemporary notion of what constituted a slum was a nonsense, a nonsense that was being used as a tool for massive and wholly un-progressive urban clearance and social engineering. This clearance was not the comprehensive redevelopment and state planning that took place in the UK - Moses-manner planning was an unlikely and grotesque, wholly corrupt, public-private aberration, one that sadly proved repeatable within the USA; imagine PFI joint ventures crossed with the LDDC and given untrammelled power, and you get a rough idea. At the time Jacobs wrote, gentrification and yuppification were inconceivable: New York would continue to experience the flight of the middle classes for 20 years after the publication of Death and Life. Industrial New York might not have been pleasant, but its destruction was a man-made disaster: the city deliberately dismantled its blue-collar manufacturing base in pursuit of white-collar employers, and almost killed itself in the process. (Flood details this insane policy in The Fires.) So Jacobs has nothing to offer the inhabitants of FoxConnopolis - she didn't have much to say about the Gaza Strip or Dubai, either, because she was writing about local issues in the 1960s. Jacobs could not be held responsible for what has been committed in her name by the New Urbanists and their insipid watercolour view of the city. Also, wasn't a lot of the disdain for Jane a distaste for her (American, rather twee) literary style? And the book has this great Germano Facetti cover. Don't you see?In other words, Leave Britney Alone.That was my first instinct, but thought better of it. For a start, I didn't particularly want to write an ode to Jacobs and place myself in the company of the Nurbanists. Secondly, it wasn't long after the ArcelorMittal Space Tangle controversy, and I didn't want to get into an argument with Kosmograd again, given that he's one of the most interesting and perceptive architecture bloggers in the UK, and I'm generally behind him 100%.Anyway, the cult of Saint Jane is developing into a menace. It's worth mentioning that Death and Life is not really (or not wholly) an attack on modernism. Besides the Moses approach to planning, Jacobs is primarily arguing against decentralisation, "decentrists" such as Mumford, suburbanisation, Howard's "Garden City", monolithic zoning, and residential monoculture. Although the organic, dense, city seemed chaotic, Jacobs argued, it could be understood; it had hugely complex systems, and the systems worked. In suggesting this, she was making the case that the technocratic city-as-diagram planners in the Moses mold were not replacing a chaotic lack of system with a working system - they were replacing a working system with a dysfunctional system. Many of Jacobs' ideas (particularly to do with mixed uses) can and should be safely integrated into modernist planning. Indeed, they have been - compare the mixed housing and culture of the Barbican with the Lincoln Center, a Moses project that Jacobs complains about. However, in deposing the Moses planning priesthood, Jacobs cut the vestments for a new priesthood. "You have misunderstood the city," she says, "and I understand it" - as Kosmograd says, this equation meant that by bearing the relics of Saint Jane, the Nurbanists can set themselves up as the only people who understand the city, and swaddle their agenda in authenticity and legitimacy. They claim to be the people who understand the city, who tend the guttering pilot light of "vibrancy" that keeps it alive.They are wrong. I am not going to presume to have a deeper understanding of Jane Jacobs than the Nurbanists, and attempt to snatch the relics back - they are, frankly, welcome to them. We are never going to move forward if we get bogged down into a recondite dispute about "what she really meant". But Jacobs appealed to me because it chimed with what I saw in cities and what I liked about them - and the Nurbanists have no idea what this quality is. Their agenda for "neighbourhoods", "contextuality", "walkability", is fundamentally anti-urban. These qualities aren't necessarily bad in themselves - but combined in pursuit of the singular Nurbanist vision, they mean the vivisection of the city into un-urban cells. Taken to its conclusion, "walk-to-work" ideology means cottages clustered around the mill. While a short commute is desirable, in a neoliberal world this would severely limit social mobility and the overall broadening of horizons that is the best the city has to offer. If people wish to live within walking distance of their workplace, they of course should be able to. But basing a housing system on proximity to workplace is not progressive - or at least it is not as progressive as cheap, plentiful public transport and cheap, plentiful rented accommodation. The FoxxConn workers live in and around their workplace.The Nurbanist vision of carving up the city in this way is as diagrammatic and retrograde as Moses' planning - and, similarly, it's an assault on the complexity of the city, the city's ability to generate its own fabulously complicated internal patterns that defy cursory inspection. The emphasis on little neighbourhoods, the stoop, local shops and walking distances, the "human scale" only tells part of the story of the city - after all, these things can be found in villages and small towns. All cities need sublimity, a touch of holy terror, a defiance of human scale that asserts connection to the greater urban whole. Elevated highways, crowds, tall buildings, interconnection and confusion - these things can be to some people dismaying and unpleasant, but the awe they strike is the … [more]
urbanism  thinking  books  me_me_me  heritage  architecture  regeneration  London  from google
august 2010 by Chris.Hamby
Good Show Sir
Only the worst Sci-fi/Fantasy book covers
funny  humor  books  images  scifi  fantasy 
april 2010 by Chris.Hamby
Why There Is No Jewish Narnia > Publications > Jewish Review of Books
Although it might seem unlikely that anyone would wonder whether the author of The Lord of the Rings was Jewish, the Nazis took no chances. When the publishing firm of Ruetten & Loening was negotiating with J. R. R. Tolkien over a German translation of The Hobbit in 1938, they demanded that Tolkien provide written assurance that he was an Aryan. Tolkien chastised the publishers for “impertinent and irrelevant inquiries,” and—ever the professor of philology— lectured them on the proper meaning of the term: “As far as I am aware none of my ancestors spoke Hindustani, Persian, Gypsy, or any related dialects.” As to being Jewish, Tolkien regretted that “I appear to have no ancestors of that gifted people.”
cslewis  religion  toread  literature  book  books  writing  research  blogs  culture  history  article  judaism  scifi  jewish  christianity  fantasy  sf 
march 2010 by Chris.Hamby
Hamish Hamilton: Five Dials
Five Dials is a magazine published by Hamish Hamilton, edited by Craig Taylor.
inspiration  illustration  pdf  reading  book  writing  books  toread  magazine  publishing  fun  diy  literature 
february 2010 by Chris.Hamby
A team of publishing nerds hit the subways, streets, parks & bars to find out what New Yorkers are reading now.
nyc  culture  books  literature  tumblr  design 
february 2010 by Chris.Hamby
2010: Living In the Future | the book
Back when I was a boy, I bought a children's book at my town's library book sale called "2010: Living in the Future" by Geoffrey Hoyle. Written in 1972, it had been withdrawn from the library's collection by the mid-80s, when I picked it up. I've somehow managed to hang onto it for 25 years and now, suddenly, here we are: 2010. I'm reproducing this long out-of-print book here to see how we're doing. Are we really living in the future?
art  illustration  inspiration  humor  blogs  future  predictions  life  graphic  book  publishing  books  prediction  futurism  1972  interesting  2010 
january 2010 by Chris.Hamby
space time play
My weekend reading "Space Time Play: Computer Games, Architecture and Urbanism" - Good essays, so-so game by game blurbs.
architecture  book  books  space  urban  design  gaming  urbanism 
december 2009 by Chris.Hamby
Infinite Summer
Read Infinite Jest this summer, 75 pages a week
books  infinitejest  reading  todo 
may 2009 by Chris.Hamby
 When I moved to New York, one of the first tasks I set out for myself was to find a few good novels to augment the limited knowledge I had of my new metropolis. The first book I picked up happened to be Salman Rushdie’s “Fury”, set in Manhattan a  financial bubble or two ago (2000). He describes a city that “boiled with money.  Rents and property values had never been higher, and in the garment industry it was widely held that fashion had never been more fashionable.”I was sheltered in academia when the excesses of that dotcom-inflated era went pop, but by the time I had arrived, life in New York had once again begun to imitate Rushdie’s art. In 2006, the booming real-estate market deluded city leaders into approving a municipal bond-backed boondoggle, the controversial Atlantic Yards stadium/office tower/luxury condos complex. And in 2007, punk couture became more fashionable than actual punk rock: CBGB, the legendary concert venue and birthplace of punk in America, was bought by designer John Varvatos.  James Murphy, a New York native and the frontman for LCD Soundsystem, expressed his dissatisfaction with the city's debt-driven frenzy on the band’s second album, “Sound of Sliver”.  Released in spring 2007, the album concluded with a wallop: the bitterly heartfelt track "New York I Love You, But You’re Bringing Me Down". The song expressed Murphy's sense of alienation from the culture of fast money that had taken over:And so the boring collect—I mean all disrespectIn the neighbourhood bars I'd once dreamt I would drinkNew York, I love you but you're freaking me outIt wasn’t until the Lehman Brothers bankruptcy that I, like many other New Yorkers, realised that “the boring” people—the overleveraged real-estate developers and fashionistas and the derivatives traders—were poisoning more than just the local bar scene.   As a modest Midwesterner, I never fully adjusted to the culture of excess that has always pervaded this manic metropolis. After every relaxing spell away, I always returned with a distinct ambivalence towards the city. While I’ve always wholeheartedly embraced Frank Sinatra’s vision of New York, I wanted to make it and then get the hell out.  And yet the last few times I’ve returned to its stinking subways after a breath of fresh air, I’ve been surprised to find that I’m happy to be back in the stench of it all. This may be because the New York of today has more in common with the hardscrabble city of early CBGBs than with the stratified millionaires’ playground that turned a musical monument into a fancy coat rack. While I don’t take pleasure in seeing the real suffering the financial crisis has wrought, I’ll admit that Wall Street's woes have it much easier to scrape by in one of the world's greatest, hardest cities. James Dario, my first landlord in New York, used to wax on about the joys of the city during the dark days of the mid-1970s. In his thick Brooklyn accent, he would grow wistful over the cheap rents and flourishing culture that accompanied New York's floundering on the edge of bankruptcy.“Life is fury” Rushdie wrote, and nowhere is that more true than in the New York of today.  “Out of furia comes creation, inspiration, originality.” By all indications, the city's return to prosperity will involve a long and difficult journey. But if the bad old days are any indication, we will surely have some good music to listen to along the way, and maybe a bit more room at the bar. Picture Credit: fluzo (via Flickr)~ CORBIN HIAR
Books  Music  News  places  from google
march 2009 by Chris.Hamby
Introducing Urbanism: Top Books for Curious Novices
In January, I asked Where readers and contributors what books they’d recommend to introduce the basic concepts of urbanism to curious, non-expert friends. I asked for a short list of accessible, concise books.Since the initial query more than 30 titles have been suggested. Because I was already familiar with only a handful of the books, I headed to the library to get better acquainted with at least some of the other suggestions.Based on that library visit, on posted comments from readers, on behind-the-scenes advice from Where contributors and my interpretation—from my own very amateurish (and American) perspective—of what counts as “accessible” and “concise,” here are five books about the basics of urbanism that I’d now recommend to relatively clueless, but curious friends.Almost all of the links in this post connect to Google Book Search.The Top 51. The Death and Life of Great American Cities by Jane Jacobs (1961). At about 450 pages, “concise” is probably not the most apt description of this book. But, as this is the single best written, most accessible, most compelling book I’ve ever read about cities, I’m willing to forsake the concision criterion even in my first recommendation. If you want to know what can make cities pleasant, safe and interesting places to live, read this book. If you want to read one of the best non-fiction prose stylists of our time, read this book. It’s a classic, and deservedly so. As one Where reader put it: “It’s a great book for explaining why we care about all of this.”2. The Option of Urbanism by Christopher Leinberger (2007). While not as fun to read as The Death and Life of Great American Cities or The Geography of Nowhere (see below), this slender volume briskly highlights difference between drivable sub-urban development and walkable urban development, and does a good job of explaining the benefits of walkable city neighborhoods. It’s good primer on the basics of density, zoning and the hidden subsidies fueling drivable sub-urban development.3. The Geography of Nowhere by James Howard Kunstler (1993). This book is an exploration—and excoriation—of the rise of suburbia and sprawl. It also explains how the more traditional patterns and places of city life and country life are superior to the “geography of nowhere.” Accessible and ferocious.4. Cities Back from the Edge by Roberta Gratz, with Norman Mintz (1998). According to a Where reader, this book is “in the spirit of Jacobs” and discusses “how existing cities can be improved with citizen participation in contrast to destructive master plans.” The book is filled with lots of specific ideas about how to improve downtown areas, all of them lavishly illustrated with real life examples from successful efforts in dozens of cities.5. How Cities Work by Alex Marshall (2000). Squarely aimed at the lay person, this book seeks to discover what forces shape places and cities—and finds that one of the most powerful forces is political choices, particularly those having to do with transportation policy. A Where reader gave this recommendation: “It’s not comprehensive, of course, but it’s a good snack, possibly the kind that could interest a person in a larger meal.”A Tall Stack of Other SuggestionsMany other titles were suggested. They’re all listed here in no particular order, with quoted comments—when available—from the Where readers and contributors who recommended them.Cities of Tomorrow by Peter Hall is “a great history of urban planning, knowledge of which is essential for understanding modern cities.”The Last Landscape by William Whyte “focuses on the benefits of relatively dense urban form.”Good City Form by Kevin Lynch is a “very engaging overview of urban history and theory” with “compelling ideas for developing vibrant cities.”The Granite Garden by Ann Whiston Spirn “introduces thoughtful ways of improving the relationships between cities and the ecosystems in which they’re built.”Building Suburbia by Dolores Hayden covers the sociology and history of suburbia. “It's written in a way a layperson…can understand.”Till We Have Built Jerusalem: Architecture, Urbanism, and the Sacred by Philip Bess “does a nice job” explaining “exactly why urban design matters.” It may not be a simple primer, but “a few of the chapters are perfect intros to the subject.”The Old Neighborhood: What We Lost in the Great Suburban Migration, 1966-1999 by Ray Suarez is an “excellent introduction to the challenges experienced in aging, post-industrial cities, including Chicago, Cincinnati and Philadelphia.”Building the Dream: A Social History of Housing in America by Gwendolyn Wright is “an essential resource for understanding the social movements and political processes that have shaped urban/suburban cultural landscapes.”The Culture of Cities by Louis Mumford is a “great classic” by an “exceptional writer.” The book includes introductions to the ideas of Ebenezer Howard and Patrick Geddes, two influential early modern urban planners.Crabgrass Frontier by Kenneth Jackson “does a great job of explaining how we ended up with the urban landscape we have,” and is “very accessible, too.” Power Broker by Robert Caro, while “not short at all, reads like a novel” and “illustrates the state of city administration and urban planning during the past century better than anything else I’ve ever read.”Delirious New York by Rem Koolhaas and “On Liberty” by John Stuart Mill are good to read together because Koolhaas’s book “provides an essential perspective on why contemporary urbanism discussions are where they are today,” and Mill’s essay is a “classic for anyone who wants to learn about living with other people, things and places.”Who's Afraid Of Niketown? by Friedrich von Borries “investigates the contemporary effect of global corporations on public space and urbanism.”Books, essays, articles by J.B. Jackson because his “short, easily digestible” work “looks at cities and other environments in such a different way,” and “inspires people to think beyond the clichés.”Psychogeography by Will Self is an “interesting anecdotal urbanist book.”Nature's Metropolis: Chicago and the Great West by William Cronon is “longish,” but provides historical perspective on urbanism issues.The Essential William H. Whyte as a substitute for the out of print City: Rediscovering the Center by William H. Whyte."Junkspace" an essay by Rem Koolhaas.A Better Place to Live: Reshaping the American Suburb by Philip Langdon.Poetics of Cities: Designing Neighborhoods that Work by Mike Greenberg.The Living City: Thinking Big in a Small Way by Roberta Gratz.To Scale: One Hundred Urban Plans by Eric Jenkins.American Project: The Rise and Fall of a Modern Ghetto by Sudhir Venkatesh.Off The Books: The Underground Economy of the Urban Poor by Sudhir Venkatesh.(Photo from Flickr users danlorentz and docman. The original full-sized color version can be viewed by clicking the photo.)
urban_policy  urbanism  urban_nature  urban_politics  books  jane_jacobs  urban_planning  cities  from google
march 2009 by Chris.Hamby
The Vignelli Canon
Massimo Vignelli has published an amazing 96 page book on better understanding typography in graphic design. Wonderful! The book is available for free online in PDF format. Thank you Massimo!

(via aisleone)
books  designers_i_like  from google
february 2009 by Chris.Hamby
J&L books variety show
if you're in nyc tomorrow night, tuesday 12/2, this is seriously not to be missed!J&L books variety show12/2 at 6:30pmat aperture547 w 27th street, 4th floor(btwn 10th + 11th aves)featuring performances by:david reinfurtamy o'neillandrew lampertharrell fletchercorin hewittserge onnenjason fulfordmichael schmellingleanne shaptondavid la spinadave hilland others...highlights to include kaleidoscopes, overhead projectors, and blind-folded dancing.more info here.
jason_fulford  david_la_spina  books  harrell_fletcher  j+l_books  from google
december 2008 by Chris.Hamby
Decades on, Joseph Mitchell's journalism still feels fresh. Garth Risk Hallberg examines a man who immortalised the fading treasures of a changing city ...


This summer marks the 100th birthday of the late Joseph Mitchell, who helped to redefine the art of journalism. In 1938, when Mitchell wrote his first profile for the New Yorker, the notion of the reporter as stylist was still a novelty. By 1992, when the omnibus "Up in the Old Hotel" hit bestseller lists, it was ubiquitous. The recent republication of Mitchell's finest collection, "The Bottom of the Harbor", brings back into focus innovations that have faded into familiarity or fallen into neglect. It couldn't have come at a better time. Our current crop of reporter-stylists would do well to study the qualities that make this book remarkable.

Chief among these is patience. Contemporary magazine journalism often seems torn between ratifying conventional wisdom and railing against it. The twin temptations of sensationalism and contrarianism hover over online discourse, in particular. Not that technology is solely to blame; as a newspaperman in the 1930s, covering the Hauptmann murder trial and interviewing George Bernard Shaw for the Herald Tribune and the World-Telegram, respectively, Mitchell was near the centre of the media circuses of his day. Once the New Yorker freed him from deadline pressure, however, Mitchell conserved his attention for (and lavished it on) subjects he felt it might dignify.

It turns out just about anything is fascinating if you look at it hard enough. What Mitchell chose to look at, in his increasingly lengthy "profiles", were the remnants of Old New York that were disappearing beneath the city's relentless growth: waterfront rooming-houses ("Old Mr Flood"), petty criminals ("King of the Gypsys"), Epicurean ritual ("All You Can Eat for Five Bucks") and, in "The Bottom of the Harbor", the maritime life of a city most people forget is an archipelago.

In contrast to his colleague and friend A.J. Liebling, Mitchell was an elegist. Yet what strikes one about "The Bottom of the Harbor" is its lack of sentimentality. Of the harbour's pollution, Mitchell observes, "The sludge rots in warm weather and from it gas-filled bubbles as big as basketballs surge to the surface. Dredgemen call them 'sludge bubbles.'" Even as he laments the transformations of modernity, his language--brisk, declarative, reportorial--is recognizably our own. As the sentences pile up, however, Mitchell the stylist begins to assert himself. "Nevertheless," he writes,

there is considerable marine life in the harbor water and on the harbor bottom. Under the paths of liners and tankers and ferries and tugs, fish school and oysters spawn and lobsters nest. There are clams on the sludgy bottom, and mussels and mud shrimp and conchs and crabs and sea worms and sea plants. Bedloe's Island, the Statue of Liberty Island, is in a part of the harbor that is grossly polluted, but there is a sprinkling of soft-shell clams in the mud beneath the shallow water that surrounds it.

English teachers tend to reduce literary style to rules of thumb--use active verbs; subordinate rather than conjoin--but Mitchell violates them conspicuously. He seizes on the neglected verb "to be" and, through repetition, makes it new. As in the Old Testament (which, not coincidentally, also favours intransitive verbs), the act of description becomes an assertion of truth. Luckily for his readers and his subjects, Mitchell is a connoisseur of nouns and adjectives. Here, for example, is Harry Lyons, one of the "Rivermen" from the article of that name:

He is one of those short, hearty, robust men who hold themselves erect and swagger a little and are more imposing than many taller, larger men. He has an old-Roman face. It is strong-jawed and prominent-nosed and bushy-eyebrowed and friendly and reasonable and sagacious and elusively piratical.

That Mitchell's judgments feel so credible, so final, is not merely a stylistic effect; it is a product of his deep immersion in his subjects. By the time of "The Rivermen", Mitchell was spending years on each piece. He himself became a part of the stories he was telling, and the rhythms of his subjects' voices became indistinguishable from his own. His finest profiles are built on dialogue as much as description, and he is a master of it. Mr George H. Hunter, an elder of an African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church in the Staten Island community of Sandy Ground, explains his Sunday routine thusly:

"After dinner, we sit around the table and drink Postum and discuss the Bible, and that's something I do enjoy. We discuss the prophecies in the Bible, and the warnings, and the promises--the promises of eternal life. And we discuss what I call the mysterious verses, the ones that if you could just understand them they might explain everything--why we're put here, why we're taken away--but they go down too deep, you study them over and over, and you go down as deep as you can, and you still don't touch bottom."

By convention, dialogue is the most unmediated part of any narrative, and the syntax of this passage is clearly Mr Hunter's. The repetitions and the expository thrust, however, express Mitchell's own sensibility. And here again we see the reporter-stylist taking a risk. Having put aside the newspaperman's artifice of objectivity, Mitchell is straining, like a fiction writer, for a deeper kind of fidelity--in this case, to the way things feel when one talks to a kindred spirit. This makes us nervous in the James Frey era, but Mitchell was writing in an age when the journalist did not merely amass authority, but was willing to risk it, in pursuit of truth. As he put it in a 1995 interview, "You can pile up facts, but it won't be true. Inside a fact is another fact, and inside that is another fact. You've got to get the true facts."

At times, Mitchell's artful arrangement of dialogue proves less than flattering for his subject. In his pieces on the Greenwich Village vagrant Joe Gould, Gould's bloviations reveal him as a manipulator, a self-aggrandizer, and, to put it mildly, an eccentric. Yet there seems to be no record of any Mitchell subject--even "nonsensical and bumptious and inquisitive and gossipy and mocking and sarcastic and scurrilous" Joe Gould, or the men of whom "Old Mr Flood" is a composite--complaining of misrepresentation. Nor should there be. Mitchell's generous brand of irony wonders at human excess, but refuses to look down it. Of all of Mitchell's excellences--patience, style, judgment--his compassion may be the hardest to capture, or to match.

It bears noting that any reporter's achievement is also, in part, his editor's. The New Yorker's William Shawn pretty much let Mitchell do as he pleased, and the articles in "The Bottom of the Harbor" are unconstrained by "news hooks", "angles" or counter-intuition. Paging through celebrity profiles in more recent New Yorkers, or the cavalcade of provocations that is the Atlantic Monthly (Rumsfeld misunderstood; feminism bad for women; Google making us stupid) puts me in mind of an early Mitchell piece called "Obituary of a Gin Mill", about the rebranding of a joint called Dick's Bar and Grill. Of the eponymous bartender, Mitchell complains, "In the old days he never acted that way."

Yet, unlike Dick's gin joint, Mitchell's "Obituary" is no artefact. It is patient, truthful, wry and understanding--qualities we could use more of in our magazines and newspapers. Which is why, at 100, Joseph Mitchell still feels fresh: not because he speaks to our concerns, but because, as he might put it, he speaks to our condition.

Photo credit: Maryland Stuart; American Academy of Arts and Letters Archive

Garth Risk Hallberg is the author of "A Field Guide to the North American Family", and is a 2008 New York Foundation for the Arts fellow in fiction. He contributes to the literary weblog, The Millions.
books  from google
august 2008 by Chris.Hamby
Ooh! Shiny! Holiday Shopping Guide - There’s STILL TIME!
From cards and wrapping paper

to stocking stuffers

to little gifts for the co-workers you don’t really like but have to give something 

to gifts for that someone you can’t live without…

here they are!






Plaid Sewing Kit $2

Key Caps $3 

Cup Cooley$4

Pink Polka Dot Purse Manicure Set $5

Vintage Luggage Tag $5  $6

Tie Caddy $7


Snowman Holiday Nyokki Grass Pet $10

Screaming Superfly Monkey: $9.95 $10

The Stupidest Angel $11

Neoprene iPod Cases $12

Ice Ice Bunny Cards $12

Bowl and Chopstick Gift Set $15

Rock’Em Sock’Em Robots: $14.95 $15

Ceramic Bird Vase $16 $20 $20

Candy Cane Tea for One Set $22

Carabiner Flash Drive $22

Tracy Porter Collectible Trays $25

Design Lapdesk $25

Le Creuset 14-oz. Petite Strawberry Casserole, Red $25

Neoprene Laptop SleeveGraphic Lap Desk $25



USB Missile Launcher: $29.99 $30

RC Mosquito Helicopter $30

deLux The Provence Cloche, Hats for Women $34

Aquolina Chocolovers Sweet Kiss Gift Set $35

Philosophy Candy Cane Gift Set $35

Philosophy The Gingerbread Man Gift Set $35

ThinkGeek Gadgets $40  $40

Khet The Laser Strategy Game $40

Mathmos Aduki $50  $50

Calvin Klein euphoria 1.7 oz Eau de Parfum Spray $55

Take Flight Necklace $59

DomoKun Flash Drive $60

Corintho Strategy Game $63 $70

Ammo Bag $78


Beer Dispenser $99

Plusdeck2c PC Cassette Deck, Tape To MP3 $108

Baseball Stadium Seat Cufflinks $150-230

Wusthof 15-pc. Grand Prix II Knife Block Set $550 $600
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december 2007 by Chris.Hamby

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