Philae Comet Landing=Transwarp Beaming

It’s rare enough to be legitimately struck by awe and wonder (that people click on so many links promising a dropped jaw proves the hunger for it), but I can’t remember the last time I was so amazed, so impressed with human ingenuity, patience, and resolve, as I am with the European Space Agency’s successful landing of a craft onto Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. Check out these photos, which hardly seem real, they are so real. Downright Kubrickian. Makes me want to get a tattoo.

The Rosetta spacecraft’s successful ten-year chase of a speeding comet—a 2.5 mile wide chunk of rock and ice traveling at 85,000 mph over 315 million miles from earth—and then landing on it, reminds me of this:

Pablo M. Ruiz

Strictly speaking, potential literature is everything and everything is potential literature. For the simple reason that anything can be turned into literature. We find the idea in Homer: “That is the gods’ work, spinning threads of death / through the lives of mortal men, / and all to make a song for those to come” (Odyssey). And we find in Nabokov: “The art of writing is a very futile business if it does not imply first of all the art of seeing the world as the potentiality of fiction.” And nothing else is saying Mallarmé in his famous dictum: “Everything in the world exists to end up in a book.”

—Four Cold Chapters on The Possibility of Literature
 

Chili Pepper Tango

“I think Chili is a good ingredient to have in many parts of your life.” More artists should combine performance with the downing of habañero peppers, as the Danish National Chamber Orchestra does here.

Antiques Roadshow: Future Edition

Today’s news is too bleak to bear, between the bullets, bombs, and boors, so here’s a glimpse at what’s in store for us.

If you like that (or even if you don’t) then read this short story, Appraisals, by Robert Long Foreman, although I would not be surprised to learn it’s at least part memoir. Regardless, read it and do one less regrettable thing for the race to add to its store of regrettable things today.

I went to the Antiques Roadshow with my mother’s green marble frog in the inside pocket of the jacket of the black suit I wore to her funeral that morning. I had taken the frog from her house. I wanted to know what it was worth.

7 Reasons Not to Write a Novel

Spanish novelist Javier Marias on why one should and should not write novels. The seven reasons against are painfully obvious enough—no money, no fame, no self-satisfaction, etc.—so, to skip to the end…

First and last: Writing novels allows the novelist to spend much of his time in a fictional world, which is really the only or at least the most bearable place to be. This means that he can live in the realm of what might have been and never was, and therefore in the land of what is still possible, of what will always be about to happen, what has not yet been dismissed as having happened already or because everyone knows it will never happen. The so-called realistic novelist, who, when he writes, remains firmly installed in the real world, has confused his role with that of the historian or journalist or documentary-maker.

The real novelist does not reflect reality, but unreality, if we take that to mean not the unlikely or the fantastical, but simply what could have happened and did not, the very contrary of actual facts and events and incidents, the very contrary of “what is happening now”. What is “merely” possible continues to be possible, eternally possible in any age and any place, which is why we still read Don Quixote and Madame Bovary, whom one can live with for a while and believe in absolutely, rather than discounting them as impossible or passé or old hat.

App Store Sale: Ulysses and Slugline and Scrivener

The Mac App Store is having a sale on creative apps, and so if you’re a writer looking to change your life for less money, here are a few apps I use and recommend:

Ulysses III: I can’t say enough good things about Ulysses, which gets better and better all the time. Especially if you still write in Word, I feel sorry for you, and even if I don’t know you, because you’re a human being I love you too much to stand idly by while you waste your life unnecessarily. Learn markdown and come to love plain text! I write everything in Ulysses, which in turn keeps everything organized and backed up, and am close to finishing my first book written entirely within it and it’s unalloyed pleasure to work with it. Be happy and buy it at now for 50% off.

Slugline: I haven’t used this much because, you know, I’m only just about to write that screenplay, but it’s a beautiful plain text app that uses the Fountain syntax for script formatting.

Scrivener: I’ve tried to love this app that a lot of writers, mostly novel writers, use and love. Maybe you will succeed where I have failed. What it can do well is format, so even though I’d never use it for a writing environment I can see using it as a place to typeset a book for PDF export and printing, although I use Mellel for that.

Acorn 4: The best light not-at-all-lightweight image editing app.

Marked 2: This is not part of the creative app sale, but is on sale this week. If you write in plain text, you’ll need eventually to preview/export/print what you write in the font and format of your choice. Ulysses has a function like this built-in, but Marked 2 is a bit more feature-rich and will of course work with any other editor.

The Daily Routines of Famous Artists

Someone at Podio (?) has compiled a lot of information about the habits of creative people into an interactive chart. Most of this info appears to come from Mason Currey’s exhaustive book and blog Daily Rituals (as well as a few other sources). Slate ran a serialized version of Currey’s work prior to the book’s publication, which is all quite good.


Click image to see the interactive version (via Podio).

Mason Currey:

Given how much time I’ve spent reading and thinking about artists’ schedules and working habits, you might expect that I would have some insight into what makes for an ideal daily routine. Is there some combination of sleep, work, exercise, coffee, and focused head-scratching or brow-furrowing that is most likely to lead to creative breakthroughs? Or, at the very least, are there some basic guidelines that will stave off blocks and guarantee a minimum level of intellectual output?

Short answer: no, not really. The one lesson of the book is that there is no one way—the rituals and habits that helped Artist A create a masterpiece would never work for Artist B; and, actually, they might not even work for Artist A for very long.

One’s daily routine is a highly idiosyncratic collection of compromises, neuroses, and superstitions, built up through trial and error and subject to a variety of external conditions.

The same data visualized differently, made by RJ Andrews at InfoWeTrust. Click to enlarge (or see it larger here.)

 

daily-rituals-sm

One Less Bookstore You Didn’t Know About

New York’s secret upper east side bookstore has been evicted from its secret location. From Shelf Awareness:

New York City’s Brazenhead Books, a “secret bookstore that has operated out of an Upper East Side apartment since 2008, may be facing its final chapter,” DNAInfo reported. Owner Michael Seidenberg, who achieved a measure of notoriety when a short documentary film about him was released in 2011, announced on his Facebook page that the operation “turns its last page on October 31st. Lost our lease… lots of things must go.” A Plan B(razenhead) sign-up page has been set up, “if you want to stay updated on how you can help.”

Here is the short, sweet film Etsy made a couple years ago:

Gish Jen

So much of becoming a writer is called finding one’s voice, and it is that; but it seems to me it is also finding something—some tenor, or territory, or mode, or concern—you can never abandon. For some it is a genre like comics. For some, it is a fascination with metaphysics or misfits or marriage. Not that you don’t have other interests; but there must be some hat you would not willingly take off. It is the thing that gives a writer, “b.s. artist” that he or she is, at some level the chutzpah to drop the “b.s.” It is the source of his or her “authenticity”—this sense that however imaginative the work, the writer has a real stake in it, that he or she is driven by some inner necessity.

—“What Comes of All That,” from Tiger Writing
 

A Putter Putting Together Handmade Scissors

Cliff Denton of Ernest Wright & Sons assembling scissors for what is apparently the last maker of hand-forged scissors on earth.

When Making a Blowpipe You Must Think Carefully

Kurt Vonnegut

Billy couldn’t read Tralfamadorian, of course, but he could at least see how the books were laid out—in brief clumps of symbols separated by stars. Billy commented that the clumps might be telegrams.

“Exactly,” said the voice.

“They are telegrams?”

“There are no telegrams on Tralfamadore. But you’re right: each clump of symbols is a brief, urgent message—describing a situation, a scene. We Tralfamadorians read them all at once, not one after the other. There isn’t any particular relationship between all the messages, except that the author has chosen them carefully, so that, when seen all at once, they produce an image of life that is beautiful, surprising, and deep. There is no beginning, no middle, no end, no suspense, no moral, no causes, no effects. What we love in our books are the depths of many marvelous moments seen all at one time.”

—Slaughterhouse-Five, or The Children’s Crusade
 

Reading: The Struggle

Tim Parks, Writing for the New York Review of Books, thinking through the fate of complexity and how writing will adjust over time to readers’ dwindling spans of attention:

What I’m talking about is the state of constant distraction we live in and how that affects the very special energies required for tackling a substantial work of fiction—for immersing oneself in it and then coming back and back to it on numerous occasions over what could be days, weeks, or months, each time picking up the threads of the story or stories, the patterning of internal reference, the positioning of the work within the context of other novels and indeed the larger world.

From the conclusion:

I will go out on a limb with a prediction: the novel of elegant, highly distinct prose, of conceptual delicacy and syntactical complexity, will tend to divide itself up into shorter and shorter sections, offering more frequent pauses where we can take time out.

Similar ideas being thought about here, on reading and “the attention war.”

Charles Taylor

Thus the salient feature of the modern cosmic imaginary is not that it has fostered materialism, or enabled people to recover a spiritual outlook beyond materialism, to return as it were to religion, though it has done both these things. But the most important fact about it…is that it has opened a space in which people can wander between and around all these options without having to land clearly and definitively in any one. In the wars between belief and unbelief, this can be seen as a kind of no-man’s-land; except that it has got wide enough to take on the character rather of a neutral zone, where one can escape the war altogether. Indeed, this is the reason why the war is constantly running out of steam in modern civilization, in spite of the effort of zealous minorities.

— The Secular Age
 

Male Novelist Jokes

A short sample of these.

Q: How many male novelists does it take to screw in a lightbulb?
A: The terrible sex had made him feel deeply interesting, like a murder victim.

Q: How many male novelists does it take to screw in a lightbulb?
A: “It’s only the institution I have a problem with,” he explained to the empty bar.

Q: How many male novelists does it take to screw in a lightbulb?
A: [4000 words from the narrator about his feelings on his childhood circumcision]

Q: How many male novelists does it take to screw in a lightbulb?
A: The time had come for him to go to war, and also find himself, and also reject the rules of your society.

Q: How many male novelists does it take to screw in a lightbulb?
A: His alcoholism was different, because someday he was going to die.