Presentation, Organization, Communication 1– Elements: Line

To me, there is little difference between art and design. If I had to separate the two, I would say art is primarily done for yourself and design done for others. I might even say design is art, just with a logo on it. However, the point of this article is not to define either term, but to show you how I build and critique both. This will be an in depth explanation to my mantra: "Good art is well designed; Good design is artfully done”. We start with the very basics, the elements of design.

The elements are the physical aspects of design, the things we can actually see. I think of design as presentation, organization, and communication with the elements being the presentation. They also are the primary identifiers in every style be it art deco, realism, vintage modernism, expressionism, etc. Almost all of the principals can be applied to each element.
1. a mark or stroke long in proportion to its breadth, made with a pen, pencil, tool, etc., on a surface:
2. something resembling a traced line, as a band of color, a seam, or a furrow: lines of stratification in rock.
Line is easiest to see in a sketch or pencil drawing, but just because there is no solid mark in a design or painting dosent mean there is no line. Line creates shape, and the separation of shapes may only be defined by color. An example is the painting below by Cyril Rolando; the clouds have no hard black line but there is an edge, a shape created by contrasting colors, and thus a line.
Line work is very important to illustrators and their line work alone can sometimes define their style. The illustration below shows thick, exaggerated lines through out the piece. They were likely drawn by hand with a marker. This style takes inspiration from both comic books and graffiti. You can also see a bit of crosshatching technique, where the artist uses lines to create an appearance of texture.
One of best line artist I know of is Joshua Smith of Hydro74 Studios. His technique is based on vector illustrations having the appearance of something that is hand drawn. The varied stroke widths and unexpected twist and turns of the lines through his work always makes for a very interesting piece. Even with the symmetrical balance and vector art, there is something very human and raw about his line work. The way he builds depth and texture with lines and shapes alone is something to be admired.
Sometimes you can get a feel for the time period a logo was designed by the line work. The Arizona Cardinals logo is a great example. The version on the left was created in 1988, the one of the right an update in 2005. The modern version features heavy, varied width strokes and much simpler curves and shapes, key identifiers of the modern sports style.
A logo favorite of mine is made entirely of lines. The New World Symphony mark was created by Michael Bierut of Pentagram, which includes the letters NWS and is inspired by both the movements of a conductors baton and the sound waves of music. Notice the separation of the abstract N and W letters by the varied line widths. More on that here:
Line is not just a direction or hard edge. It can also be a soft edge. A good example is a blurry or out of focus photo, where all the shapes have a soft edge. This works extremely well with the Contrast Principal of Design (see David Carson's work in RayGun) where the photo's soft edges and type's hard edges provide a pleasing contrast. I find that an exaggerated rounded letter like G and O are even more pleasing. I think its because it pushes the Contrast principal further; the rounded shape of the letter and the straight, sharp 90 degree corners of a page. The example below is a pure experiment in this of my own. Below that, a real world example with a round logo.

Bad Kitty: Carolina Panthers logo

Primary Logo
As ive been hearing about for months, the Panthers have introduced an updated version of their logo. (FYI, im also hearing black helmets and new uniform design but cant be sure of that). since the franchises inception they have had one of the worst identities in sports. They have gone from a poorly crafted logo and incredibly bad 90s word mark, to another poorly crafted logo and incredibly bad modern word mark.

oh the humanity!

Sports design is filled with logo cases of "great concept, poor execution" and the Carolina Panthers are a text book example. The concept having a Panther fill a rough silhouette of North Carolina is very clever. Its so disappointing to see a missed opportunity like this. And, frustrating because it screams of amateur design skill. There's too many great designers out there; the NFL has no excuse for its teams carrying terrible identities. Earlier today, Fraser Davidson ( pointed out some of these flaws and offered some solutions.

i would also point out the amount of tangents (an unpleasant aesthetic, causing visual tension, where 2 shapes/lines meet or slightly touch) is stagering. I count 7 of them, including one right in the middle of the face where the nose meets the cheek. The lack of an out line causes the logo's shape to disappear on black, losing its North Carolina reference. The inconsistency of line weight through out might be the most amateurish aspect of it all.

The Panthers official release was filled with inaccuracies, if not flat out lies, about the logo. Im not sure if the Panthers want to believe what they've released, are trying to get their audience to believe it, or if its what they wanted and NFL Creative completely failed at delivering it. Either way, its still one of the worst logo systems in sports even though it is an improvement over the original.

"The updated identity reflects a modernized version of the previous logo and logotype and visually connects the two together. It has been designed to provide a more aggressive, contemporary look to the logo while making it more three-dimensional for ever-increasing digital use.

"We have one of the finest and most recognizable logos in the NFL and wanted to make it as modern as possible without losing the dramatic essence of the mark," said Carolina Panthers President Danny Morrison.

The Panthers will transition to the refined logo throughout 2012. The primary tweaks made by the National Football League's creative department are primarily in the features in the eye and mouth. The logo will also be accompanied by a change in the primary logotype.

"It is a cleaner style that is easier to read and should be more applicable to different uses," Morrison said.

Staying true to the roots of the panther with subtle updates reflecting a tougher, more defined panther, the evolved logo is evocative of the popular panther statues found on the grounds of Bank of America Stadium. The white outline around the logo has been removed to create a more dimensional feel and to keep the focus on the features of the panther.

The logotype has been refined to be a modern reflection of the Panthers brand. The new font subtly nods to the swipe of a panther, through a three stripe element incorporated into the "A" of "PANTHERS." The angle and graphic accents in the letters were custom created and inspired by the swift, sleek nature of a panther."

Word Mark
The new typeface isnt so bad. Im pretty sure its Trade Gothic Condensed Oblique, same as the Orlando Magic use in their marketing. Its been altered of course with the spurs on the letters. Its a really nice font family, but they managed to butcher it up real nice. The consistency from letter to letter is just so bad.

You have those spurs going left, right, top, bottom. but none on the T. Some letters have the slashes in them. They're at different heights and that 3 slash A is just giving the finger to the rest of his letter buddies. It makes your eye jump around. Its just very visually uncomfortable. Probably true that we'll just see "Panthers" most of the time but its really not much better and is certainly no excuse for poor unity and harmony through out.

Alternate Options
A while ago i took on a personal project of updating the Panthers identity. Admittedly, its far from a great package, but i think NFL Creative could have used some ideas from it: My Panthers
At the same time, i got some advice from Fraser Davidson who also created an updated version of the logo and word mark, which can be found here: Davidsons Panthers In my opinion Fraser's marks here blow away anything the Panthers could have dreamed of.

UPDATE! - Fraser Davidson has updated his update of the update:

Beauty is Truth, that's all I know

Back in 2001 I slaved over a persuasive, compelling shelf talker for my first ever contribution to the store’s “Staff Favorites” display: Paula Begoun’s Don’t Go to the Cosmetics Counter Without Me.

Noone bought the book.

But, with a fresh breeze of enlightened curiosity blowing through our well-groomed readership, this is the perfect time to re-introduce Begoun’s deliciously comprehensive compendium which reviews the bogus claims and empty promises of 30,000 skin care and makeup products.

I’ve cultivated my life-long commodity fetishism for skin care technology through beauty blogs, cosmetic trade publications, those free department store cosmetic counter pamphlets, and Avon catalogue back issues.

But, none of those sources compare to Begoun’s truly subversive Don’t Go... which, if her confrontational message gets out, threatens the whole $29 billion cosmetics and toiletries industry, unfortunately, the news gathering that it’s generous ad budget supports (20% of the sector’s net sales, by one estimate), and a manicured and exfoliated army of magazine editors.

Begoun, a 25-year consumer reporting veteran, has compiled a concise, accurate efficacy rating system, and cosmetic ingredient dictionary, which sheds light on the silly “anti-gravity,” and “age-balancing” potions by cult brands with loyal consumer infatuation that have been repeating their lies so long some people believe them.

The book covers cleansers, toners, granular scrubs; eye creams; cuticle softeners, callous removers, anti-cellulite creams, lip plumpers, sunless tanning, night creams, flight creams, acne treatment, pre-shave oils and more.

Begoun (with Co-Contributor Bryan Barron), uses pointed, no-nonsense adjectives for luxury products like “mundane, out-of-date, exceedingly standard,” or “There is no logical reason to consider this product.” Likewise she often calls the prices of these so-called miracles in a jar, “ludicrous, obscene, and out of whack.”

You’ll usually find a used copy of Don’t Go to the Cosmetics Counter Without Me in the Red Delicious Room’s “Fashion and Beauty” alcove along with a super glamorous collection of books on tattoos, designers, and modeling, (and Gardening, ho hum).

We've Got Friends in Far Places

A bookseller can dream.

When we first launched our Apple-a-Month Club subscription service in October, it was with a mix of excitement, trepidation, and, to put it bluntly, low expectations. Admittedly, this was a defense mechanism, so that each new subscription would thrill us rather than the small numbers of people who blindly trust our taste feeling like a slight.

Instead, the number of new subscriptions that came rolling in over the holidays made us feel overwhelmingly flattered and just darn proud of how loyal and great Green Apple customers are. The biggest indicator of this is the reach our little subscription service already has -- whether you're subscribing because you've moved away from San Francisco and miss our dusty index cards or trust us to recommend the perfect new fiction book for your best friend/grandma/pen pal who's never even been to Green Apple, that's pretty cool.

Also pretty cool would be a giant wall map with thumbtacks where each subscription is going. I want to make one of these. That way, when they make a feature film about the making of the world-famous Apple-a-Month club in which we'll all get zingy dialogue and a super intense soundtrack by Trent Reznor, there can be a montage to carry us through the month of December where we'll be putting little pins in:

Carrboro, North Carolina
Oberlin, Ohio
Ann Arbor, Michigan
Gresham, Oregon
Fairfield, Texas
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Los Angeles
Mountain View
and just up the street in San Francisco, California

...and then some. Pins in a map. Montage. The stuff (my) dreams are made of.

This is all to say that January's Apple-a-Month Club pick, which by now should have reached all of the corners of the land for which it was destined, was Invitation to a Voyage by Francois Emmanuel.

The characters in this collection of linked stories are, as all characters are, on quests. But the quests herein take place in the smallest of spaces -- a detective's search for the inner truth of a person, the footsteps of an aging cartographer, everyone's desperate dialing in search of the click that means you're home. Emmanuel's writing, an ode to Baudelaire with echoes of Kafka and Borges, is both so precise and so vague as to attain something like universal meaning, spurring the reader into their own such reveries even as they tumble into those on the page. You're invited; you should go.

We hope you like it.

(To subscribe...)

Gsquid, fulfilled

I went to college in the middle of nowhere. In the library I found the legendary cosmopolitan newspaper, The Village Voice. In the back pages were the comics, including Lynda Barry's Ernie Pooh's Comeek. It blew my mind! The troubled and resilient children, the awkward cadence of their excited speech, the deft illustrations of their wild spazz-athons, and her disgust at the (then) mostrecent war--it all kept me excited for the next week's installment.

Years later, living here in the big city, I would check used bookstores and thrift stores for her out-of-print collections. At first, I had some successes, but as the years went on the supplies dwindled. Supposedly, Drawn and Quarterly was to reissue her complete works. I kept waiting. At the end
of 2011, extracted from corn-based packing peanuts in receiving, I saw it. Blabber Blabber Blabber - Everything Vol. 1 had arrived! Pre-da
ting her work for The Voice, this comics here were drawn during her days at Evergreen College and feature more desperate and confused adults than wild and reckless children. Of course this edition is beautiful. The best is still to come, this is just a taste!

Growing up in the suburbs on the East Coast, I would take the bus to bigger towns to rummage through scary-looking cassettes, searching for a powerful musical experience. I found it in a number of Bay Area and California thrash metal bands--Metallica, Exodus, Slayer, and Megadeth, among many other acts of lesser notoriety, if not quality. While I did grow older and wiser, my love
of this mid-80s scene remains a part of my life to this day. I made the international metal signal (pinky and forefinger up--the devil's horns, the goat, whatever) when we got our copies of Murder In The Front Row (Bazillion Points). Brian Lew and Harald Oimoen put their ears, equipment, and livers on the line to document the above mentioned titans of thrash (and tippling!) Especially close to my heart are the shots of Debbie Abono, a middle-aged woman who managed many second- and third-tier acts of this era. Teenagers Possessed shot their album photos in her backyard, and the dry golden hills offset the blood and flames nicely. I would like to have seen more bands who aren't as famous (Blind Illusion!), but we can wait for Volume Two. Liner notes of sorts add context and history. Praises due!

Desks: where it all begins

Name that writer's desk:



A Dispatch from the Kids' Section

Today's post comes from Ashley, with some thoughts on young adult recommendations, the joy of discovery, and that of sharing in it.

so the other night it was a little on the quiet side in the bookstore, and i was merrily working on the mezzanine shelving and rearranging the kids and young adult book sections. there were two other people on the mezzanine with me, a woman with her middle-grade school age son. they were chatting about books that he has read, liked and disliked, and how his mother was willing to get him something new if he could find something that interested him. of course, i politely interjected that i could give some suggestions if they wanted. after all, i may be a bit older, but spending pretty much full-time elbows deep in that section i have a fairly good idea of what the kids these days are into. it’s like that saying: “never trust a skinny chef.” i also happen to have my master’s degree in children’s book illustration from a certain university in the city, so i like to think that helps a little bit as well. as we started chatting, he mentioned that he liked steampunk stories like Leviathan by Scott Westerfield, so i suggested Candleman by Glenn Dakin. when he brought up Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, i suggested he take a look at The Unwanteds by Lisa Mcmann. now, you may be thinking right now, “well, he was just being a bookseller that evening.” no, there was more to it than that. after they left i remembered when i was younger and how my mom would take me to the bookstore and offer to buy me whatever caught my eye. how she always payed close attention to my rambling accounts of the science fiction storylines. how she expressed genuine interest in the robot and alien characters that i was so absorbed with. and how i couldn’t get myself out to the car and buckle myself in fast enough when she asked if i wanted to go to the bookstore to get a new book. i will never be able to thank my mom for those special times that we had together, but watching those two leave the store, books in hand, excitedly reading the descriptions from the dust jackets, sharing a moment, however brief and seemingly inconsequential, just, you know, you don’t see that too often these days. but how those moments and memories stick with you after so many years.

Ugly Books

"An indescribable joy always rushes out of great books, even when they speak of ugly, hopeless, or terrifying things." -- Gilles Deleuze

I'm reading a book called Assisted Living. It was just published by the envelope-pushing Dalkey Archive (for example, see this and this and this), was written by a Swedish author using the pseudonym "Nikanor Teratologen", and, even in our age of gratuitous violence and unapologetic vileness, is proving itself to be full of outrageously cringe-inducing moments. Without ruining the plot--however tenuous it may be--it's fair to sum up the novel as being a parade of debauchery, rape, sacrilege, pedophilia, racism, murder, and more. Name the vice and you'll likely be able to open a page at random and find an instance of it.

It's an ugly book.

Appearances aside, Assisted Living may represent a subtle critique of liberal democracy and the free market; it may expose the lurking dangers of fascism; it may be an outlandish commentary on the perennial battle of the generations; its excesses may even prove to be so cartoonish as to be a lampoon of such writing. I'm certain arguments can and will be made for all of these interpretations and more, but in the moment of reading, I find myself wondering: Why?

Not so much why write an ugly book, but why read it? To modern ears, it may sound naive to speak of the redemptive qualities of art, but I wonder if we've really moved beyond thinking that a book (or any piece of art) should serve a purpose, whether moral, instructional, or purely aesthetic. (And, despite its vileness, Assisted Living does have its literary qualities.) If we accept this as a valid question, what are we to make of books like this? Why do we read them? More personally, why do I read them?

I read ugly books.

The cartoonish violence and excesses of Assisted Living may not be my typical fare, but the works of some of my favorite writers--Thomas Bernhard, Michel Houellebecq, and Angela Carter to name a few--can certainly be ugly other, possibly more damaging ways. After all, we're desensitized to violence pretty early on, whether through Tom & Jerry or Mortal Kombat, but the kind of bleakness in the work of these authors is altogether of a different, more corrosive variety. For instance, I've found that I need to allot myself several months between readings of Bernhard; otherwise I find myself on edge, depressive. I don't think this is an uncommon reaction to his work.

So why do I continue to read them? Because I prefer my humor black? Do I think that cruelty and violence are capable, in art, of shocking me into a more grounded awareness of the world? Or that works like this will rattle my complacency or awake me from my dogmatic slumber? A punch in the face does provide pretty indisputable evidence of being alive.

This raises the question, of course: do we need an occasional jolt of ugliness (in the form of a bludgeoning book like Assisted Living) to keep our desire for endless beauty in check? Is ugliness necessary?

By our friends at Type Bookstore in Toronto...

The Best Books We Read 2011...One Old, One New.

In my last post The Best Books We Read 2011 I mentioned a lot of books that could have been my favorite of the year. I decided that two deserved special mention. The Land Breakers, a novel written by John Ehle in 1964 that remains- sadly- fairly unknown and Wunderkind the first novel by Nikolai Grozni, a Bulgarian-born, child-prodigy pianist who earned his MFA at Brown.

If you have never heard of John Ehle I am not surprised. Most of his books are out of print and though his wife and daughter are both well known actresses, he seems to have slipped into a literary underground. So, when a couple of us were at the NCIBA to talk to Michael Ondaatje about his latest novel The Cat's Table, when he asked us what we were reading (I mentioned Wunderkind) and I told him I had been reading a lot of Southern literature that he told the Random House people there that he's been wanting Random to put out John Ehle's books for years; mentioning specifically The Land Breakers. So I tracked down the small press, Press 53 out of Winston-Salem, NC and got a copy, read it, and was floored by this huge novel that focus on the settling of the Appalachian mountains. The characters, the tragedies, and the hardships are captivating and beautifully written with a knowledge of this area that is second to none. Ondaatje also mentioned the Harper Lee quote, who rarely did any blurbs or reviews, "Exciting... masterful storytelling." And she is not wrong.

As for new, I read Wunderkind. I carried this book around for a couple of months before I actually delved into it. I loved the cover (I'm a sucker for a good cover) and had read the first few pages a few times and saw that it was going to be good. But I was reading Faulkner, and nothing short of Faulkner seemed to be what I wanted to read. Then one night I started Wunderkind. I did not stop from that point on. Reading Grozni's characters (specifically the protagonist, Konstantin the rebellious piano prodigy) and his insight into the world of private music school and classical music became obsessive reading for me. The were chapters that I reread before continuing on and then tracked down the classical pieces that were the titles of each chapter. This is a powerful and gripping novel that opened up my understanding of life behind the iron curtain, music and what it means to be music and not just love it.

These are two books I think everyone should read and most importantly tell others to read.

By the book

There's a bibliomantic meme spreading around the internet (or at least Tumblr) that states the following: "Open the closest book to page 45. The first sentence will describe your sex life for the following year."

Naturally, I played along, opening The Wild Girl, Natural Man, and the Monster (thinking that with a title like that, there's got to be something good in store) to page 45, wherein I found the following sentence:
Once the girl is labeled an Eskimo (more precisely, a native of slightly less ferocious Labrador), her strangeness dissipates and her assimilation takes on greater value.
Seems like 2012 is going to be... hot? Weird? Both? ("... her assimilation takes on greater value.") Maybe I need more exciting bedside reading.

But some of the people I informed of the meme seem to be on their way to much less ambiguity (and, possibly in the case of the next quoted sentence, more profit) in their sexual future. For instance, the first sentence on page 45 of that classic culinary standby, Joy of Cooking, supplies one reader with the following:
Informal opportunities for comparisons abound: Walk-around tastings are increasingly popular, often as fund-raisers.
Another, er, culinary delight, which I was told of by one of our sales reps this morning, comes from Simonetta Agnello Hornby's novel, The Nun:
"Ah, how I love swordfish," Annuzza murmured, licking her wrinkled lips, certain she could already taste it.
As I was typing this, I explained the meme to a Green Apple employee shelving nearby. Perhaps unluckily, he was holding a India Calling, which informs him rather literally that:
The dependency scares you, as a needy lover's demands scare you, for it suggests a bottomless pit of giving that will devour you if you give in just slightly and allow yourself to care.
And, finally, another friend happened to have David Burns Feeling Good at hand, and was told unequivocally,
You are lonely and you decide to go to a social affair for singles.
I could do this forever. But now it's your turn.

Edmund White, an appreciation

by Green Appler Kevin Davis

This month I’m celebrating the publishing event of Sacred Monsters--a collection of Edmund White's “New York Review of Books” essays--and Jack Holmes and his Friend, a romance novel heavily informed by White’s pre- and post-Stonewall Manhattan life.

I have lived vicariously through this pioneer of gay sensibility in literature, who is also a generous, astringent critic with a monumental breadth of literary knowledge, entrenchment in high culture, and even friendships with late 20th century East Coast artistic luminaries.

White, who chairs Princeton’s Creative Writing Department, has lived a rarefied life by his pen in places like Rome, Key West, and the Ile Saint-Louis by cultivating wealthy patrons and grants.

In Monsters, White breathtakingly weaves criticism with biographical details that illustrate the wider story behind 20 artists and writers--Isherwood, Mapplethorpe, John Rechy, to name a few.

In his review of Paul Bowles’s The Sheltering Sky, a standout, White recalls the death of his lover in Morocco’s Atlas Mountain harrowingly wrought in his The Married Man.

Mr. White, who is 25 years my senior, first educated me at age 16 at San Diego’s Fashion Valley mall Waldenbooks on Christmas Eve, when I read his pointed instructions on the, to me, exotic gay men’s ritual of cruising.

He appeared again in timely fashion, to illuminate both our shared community and his own authentic, intricate emotional exploration when I read The Beautiful Room is Empty at age 27 in (former rare book dealer) Dr. Jack Collins's Queer Lit class at City College. The specific resonant events White illustrates from his young adulthood, are not so appropriate for this family medium though.

Today I still read White like those guys paint the Golden Gate Bridge. I read from one end of his memoir trilogy-- A Boys Own Story, Beautiful Room, and Farewell Symphony -- to the other, and back again. The consequences for me of foolishly opening a White title at bedtime is bleary sleep deprivation upon awakening. I am spellbound, entranced.

I’m not an open-minded, well-rounded reader, though. I tried Hunger by Knut Hamsun, a White progenitor who shares his exquisite cognitive honesty, only Hamsun operates in Nowheresville, Norway instead of Manhattan’s Chelsea Neighborhood, or Venice, and has no leather bars or casual sex to speak of.

I believe if one is lucky enough in life to discover one sympathetic artist applying his talent to elevate the customs and relationships of one’s tribe, well, that’s all I need.

Mr. White played a role in a mortifying event from my halting arts reporting “career.” I was given an open-ended 20 minutes of phone time in connection with a review I wrote of White’s 2006 memoir, My Lives. I crafted sweeping, informed questions, to convey my respect, and then out of nowhere, he turned the tables and asked, “Do you write?”

Flustered, I guffawed merrily. No, I don’t write in the sense that this Guggenheim fellow, and French Officier de L’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres, writes. But, tragically, I responded with one of those tactless, horrifying non sequiturs I’ve been guilty of many times which I now recall like a grisly slow-motion accident. I responded blithely, “Gosh your voice is so effeminate,” and laughed again.

Well, it really was high pitched, not the timbre I expected from one of the Great Men of Letters.

The newly created Magnus Books published Sacred Monsters under the aegis of esteemed longtime editor Don Weise, formerly of Carroll and Graf. Weise, who chose all the collection’s essays, was recently one of “Out” Magazine’s 100 most powerful gay people.

Book of the Month: The Orphan Master's Son

It doesn't arrive until tomorrow, but The Orphan Master's Son by Adam Johnson is Green Apple's Book of the Month for January 2012. Why, you may ask?

Or here's Kevin Ryan's shelf talker:

Adam Johnson has said (I’m paraphrasing) that not every writer has a story to tell, and that not every person with a story to tell has the skill to write it, so writers must tell their stories for them. In The Orphan Master’s Son, Johnson tells the story of Pak Jun Do, raised in a North Korean orphanage. Citizens in the DPRK not only don’t enjoy freedom of the press and freedom of assembly, they truly don’t have access to freedom of thought, closed off as they are from the outside world and force fed a steady diet of propaganda. This brilliant, thoroughly-researched novel imagines life in that country, from citizens forced to “volunteer” to carry goats to the roof of their apartment building to be raised for food, to the horrors of the gulag, where dying prisoners are drained of their blood. But far from being a mere documentary of life in the DPRK, this is a hugely entertaining, often hilarious novel of assumed identity, casual cruelty, and collective delusion. Includes perhaps the greatest love scene ever to be written in jingoistic propaganda (“At length, in depth, their spirited exchange culminated in a mutual exclaim of Party understanding.”).

It arrives Tuesday, January 10, and you can buy it here or in the store. And here's the eBook version, if that's how you roll.


Its always seemed odd to me that i would have such an interest in branding and advertising. Im rebellious in nature, the type that wants to do the opposite of what im told and mocks authority, rules, and played out traditions. So to be really drawn to a world that preaches a message to a wide audience of others (advertising) and helps people take other peoples money and making them feel good about it (branding) has been perplexing. For the longest time i havent been able to figure out why this is. How could i find "brandalism" so disgusting and corruptive, but still want to bring these things to other people and enjoy it?

I believe now what draws my artistic interest to all this is control. Or better yet a chance to change things for the better. I think it was Milton Glazer who said something like "a designers job is to fight against ugliness". Thats why i like branding so much, because as a freelance designer you get to take on the clients and projects you want. You get to start with good people, with a good message and product. Then, you get to make their identity look badass. You dont have to accept the job from some sleazy douche bag with shitty product whose entire message/campaign is based on a fallacy.

When i can work with people who genuinely care about their customers and making a positive impact on the world, thats when i love what i do the most. Those who want to push some status quo are even better. Those people make the world a better place and i like making other people aware of them through art and design. Thats the whole control aspect of it for me. When i see a fast food billboard advertising some bullshit "made with real" product on the same block as an elementary school, thats when i get pissed and despise advertising and branding. Thats "brandalism". And fuck that.

On Not Reading

To be with the one I love and to think of something else: this is how I have my best ideas, how I best invent what is necessary to my work. Likewise for the text: it produces, in me, the best pleasure if it manages to make itself heard indirectly; if, reading it, I am led to look up often, to listen to something else. I am not necessarily captivated by the text of pleasure; it can be an act that is slight, complex, tenuous, almost scatterbrained: a sudden movement of the head like a bird who understands nothing of what we hear, who hears what we do not understand.
Roland Barthes, The Pleasure of the Text

For being an easily distracted person, I've always sought out somewhat distracting environments in which to read. Some of this impulse is nostalgic -- reading to the sound of a football game on TV or clattering dishes, for example, are comforts from childhood -- and sometimes it feels necessary to have the extraneous noise to tune out to give me incentive to narrow my focus.

Last night, though, while reading what is so far a very good book in such an environment, I suddenly sat up straighter with a startled feeling, like I'd just come around a corner in my own brain and caught myself doing something that always makes me feel guilty. People don't often admit to this, but they do it too, right? I realized that for at least a few pages, I hadn't really been reading.

The practice that I'm referring to is different from drifting off while reading, staring at the page thinking other thoughts. I was, actually, moving my eyes from line to line. Probably every sixth sentence entered my brain in a real, resonating way. I turned the pages at my regular pace. I wasn't really listening to anything going on around me. I wasn't thinking about anything else in particular, just occasional thoughts coming and going, like they always are. I was simply reading without reading.

I'll be honest: this happens a lot.

This confession would probably confuse some of the people who think of me as a reader. I've often been told how absorbed I appear by books, how specifically and passionately I speak about them, how much I seem to enjoy reading, and it's true -- there are few things in the world I like more. But, just like sometimes we read to escape, sometimes to learn, sometimes to entertain, I think we must admit that sometimes we read just to be reading, and that this sort of reading is not an exclusive mental activity. There is shame in this, like we're doing it wrong, right? But is this kind of reading less valuable than any other? I enjoyed the experience, I felt satisfied with my progress in my book (which, no, I will not name, lest I recommend it here sometime in the future and, despite my pleas that you understand this phenomenon, you think that I'm a faker and the book must be boring) and put it down with a desire to pick it up again soon. I'm not going to re-read those sentences I missed. I didn't need them. The ones I did need found their way in. Am I alone here? Or is this what reading is, and the part that I've been doing wrong is feeling like I'm always supposed to be doing it better?

Best-selling books of 2011

Here are the ten best-selling books at Green Apple for 2011 (with links to eBooks, just in case you're tying to fill up your new device).
  1. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (young adult fiction, soon to be a movie). eBook
  2. A Game of Thrones: A Song of Ice and Fire by George Martin (the fantasy series adapted for HBO). eBook
  3. 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami (was it the free beer and tacos or just the pent-up demand for Murakmai's magnum opus?). eBook
  4. A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan (Green Apple was mentioned by name in the advance reading copy, only to be heartlessly edited out, alas). eBook
  5. A Clash of Kings by George Martin (as above). eBook
  6. Infinite City by Rebecca Solnit (we love when an eclectic university press book hits the top of our charts).
  7. Bossypants by Tina Fey (no one had ever heard of her until we started handselling this, right?). eBook
  8. Just Kids by Patty Smith (the Pulitzer didn't hurt). eBook
  9. A Storm of Swords by George Martin (yep, another one). eBook
  10. A Feast for Crows by George Martin (and another). eBook
Since George Martin nabbed four spots, let's list one more, eh?

11. Go the Fuck to Sleep by Adam Mansbach (proving that even if you can read a PDF free online, you still want the book. Or that parents today are horrible monsters).

No predictions for 2012, except maybe that this great book, which I'm currently devouring, will be much talked about. Now back to the stack of forthcoming books. . . .