Rants & Ramblings

random commentary about culture, media, politics, technology and whatnot.

books & literature

aug
10
2012

The Mystery of 221B Baker Street | Design Decoded | Smithsonian Magazine

The mystery of 221B Baker Street is not one of secret passages or hidden symbols. Rather, it could be described as a sort of existential spatial riddle: how can a space that is not a space be where it is not? According to Arthur Conan Doyle’s stories, Sherlock Holmes and John Watson lived at 221B Baker Street from 1881 to 1904. But 221B Baker street did not exist in 1881, nor did it exist in 1887 when A Study in Scarlet was published and Baker Street house numbers only extended into the 100s. It was a purely fictional address — emphasis on was. Time marches on, Baker Streets are renumbered, and 221Bs are revealed.”

may
21
2012

Make Good Art

Neil Gaiman’s commencement speech about making a career in the arts is lovely and inspiring — well worth watching / listening. (Transcript.) (If you can’t see the video above, it’s available on Vimeo.)

may
08
2012

The frequent fliers who flew too much | Los Angeles Times

Ken Bensinger writes, “Many years after selling lifetime passes for unlimited first-class travel, American Airlines began scrutinizing the costs — and the customers.”

The California Taco Trail: 'How Mexican Food Conquered America' | The Salt | NPR

Once upon a time, tacos were a Mexican snack. Now they’re an all-American institution. Gustavo Arellano leads us across Southern California in search of the roots of the American taco.”

mar
21
2012

As the harbor is welcome to the sailor, so is the last line to the scribe.

— Marginalia by monks working on illuminated manuscripts (source)

mar
18
2012

I Was a Cookbook Ghostwriter | NYTimes.com

By Julia Moskin. “Tales from the ink-stained (and grease-covered) wretches who actually produce most of the words attributed to chefs in cookbooks.”

jan
10
2012

The Joy of Books

I cannot even fathom the amount of work that went into this stop-motion video. Un-shelving, re-shelving, resetting the store the next morning, starting all over again at night… Still, this video is magical. About the project (from the YouTube page): …

nov
21
2011

The End of Borders and the Future of Books | Bloomberg BusinessWeek

Ben Austen offers “an inside look at the real reasons for the once-beloved chain’s demise.” Poor choices, poor timing. (Via Patrick Cooper)

nov
19
2011

And then in the afternoon I get to say things like, “The robot lost its claw!” That is just something you never get to say when you’re talking about the Garfield administration.

— Sarah Vowell, on recording for 'The Incredibles' and writing about history (source)

nov
17
2011

Who Left A Tree, Then A Coffin In The Library? | Krulwich Wonders | NPR

Gorgeous book sculptures left in Edinburgh libraries, and the question of whether to unmask their source.

sep
03
2011

I do not know how American Gods looks from the outside. I’ve never read it, not to find out what happened next, anyway. I wrote it to find out what happened next, and that’s a very different thing.

— Neil Gaiman, on writing the novel 'American Gods' (source)

aug
31
2011

Falser Words Were Never Spoken | NYTimes.com

Brian Mortan writes, “In a coffee shop not long ago, I saw a mug with an inscription from Henry David Thoreau: ‘Go confidently in the direction of your dreams! Live the life you’ve imagined.’ At least it said the words were Thoreau’s. But the attribution seemed a bit suspect. Thoreau, after all, was not known for his liberal use of exclamation points.”

aug
25
2011

Don’t Just See, Observe: What Sherlock Holmes Can Teach Us About Mindful Decisions | Scientific American

Maria Konnikova writes, “Every day, countless items, some glanced, or heard, or felt, or smelled only briefly — perhaps without ever registering in our consciousness–affect our minds and play into our decisions. But for the most part, we don’t pay attention; and we fail to realize what it is that is guiding us at any given moment — or fail to note something that would have made a crucial difference to our decision calculus.” (Via brainpicker)

aug
18
2011

Independent bookstores add a new chapter | The Washington Post

Neely Tucker reports, “The small, independently owned bookstore is staging a modest rebirth in the midst of a bone-killing economy.” Filed under #thingsthatmakemehappy. I still have yet to visit the One More Page bookstore mentioned in the story, though I’ve followed them on Twitter for months. Must make that happen (because, seriously — books, wine and chocolate?).

aug
11
2011

Literary Aside

I’m working through a book of George Orwell essays, Books v. Cigarettes, that I picked up at a shop in Victoria, B.C. A line in the essay “The Prevention of Literature” caught my eye this evening: What is really at …

jul
06
2011

Harry Potter Comes of Age One Hedcut at a Time | Speakeasy | WSJ

We went deep into our Hedcut Archive — our internal database of those iconic stipple portraits that appear in the Journal every day — and pulled out these drawings, all created by long-time Journal artist, Randy Glass, and dating from 2001 to 2007.”

jul
05
2011

Toto's 'Africa'” by Ernest Hemingway | McSweeney's Internet Tendency

The “[blank] in the style of Hemingway” is getting a little tired, but this one, by Anthony Sams, made me laugh. (Via Jess H.)

jun
04
2011

He spells it as it sounds. It’s not a bad strategy. The alternative is to guess where the errant letters are hidden, and in that way lies madness.

— From “American Bee” by James Maguire (source)

may
29
2011

Cowen Seeing Weak Growth Makes ‘Great Stagnation’ Hotly Debated Bestseller | Bloomberg

Interesting profile of GMU economist Tyler Cowen, discussing his writings, reading habits and (briefly) local food blog. (Via Russ.)

apr
01
2011

Books Interview: Sarah Vowell | The A.V. Club

I really like this interview with Vowell by Marcus Gilmer, in which she talks about her new book Unfamiliar Fishes.

mar
24
2011

Eleven very short stories about SXSW | Salad Onions

By James Mitchell. (Via Dave Wright)