Frank Sinatra Has a Cold

FRANK SINATRA, holding a glass of bourbon in one hand and a cigarette in the other, stood in a dark corner of the bar between two attractive but fading blondes who sat waiting for him to say something. But he said nothing; he had been silent during much of the evening, except now in this [...]

Thinking About Nothing Much

When an object is lost, a subject is found we learned from Freud over a century ago, but it is an observation that seems to have particular relevance today. Absence, as well as presence, I find myself thinking, figures increasingly into the experience of making things in the first decade of the 21st century.  Our [...]

Digestive Aids

The AV Club, the arts arm of The Onion, publishes a feature on its blog called Sound and Vision, which looks at the use of pop songs by movies and TV. The latest one, from earlier this month, discusses the pregnant cultural moment in which Garden State appropriated The Shins’ “New Slang.” That instant, it has been argued elsewhere, [...]

Odes to Objects

Mortar + Pestle
Alan E. Rapp
Let’s put some suggestive
undertones aside for a bit,
the whole yoni and lingam thing.
It’s not awesome because it’s primitive.
The Microplane grater might be better,
its handle molds to my hand
and the sharp tiny scales can’t
have existed in the last millennium.
But while we’re at it with the spices
and the nuts and the seeds, which [...]

Just Beneath the Surface

In graphic design, the word “river” refers to the white space between words that sometimes connects in a rippling vertical pattern down the printed page. Such a river is to be avoided because it can interrupt the flow of text in an irregular pattern and distract the reader’s eye from the horizontal progression of the [...]

The Vegetable Peeler

When I was very young, we lived in Japan, and a woman who lived with our family then and took care of my sister and me introduced us to the sorcery of common objects. If you are longing to have a visitor leave your house, Masako Ohara told us, you need only have a broom [...]

Against Interpretation

The earliest experience of art must have been that it was incantatory, magical; art was an instrument of ritual. (Cf. the paintings in the caves at Lascaux, Altamira, Niaux, La Pasiega, etc.) The earliest theory of art, that of the Greek philosophers, proposed that art was mimesis, imitation of reality. 
It is at this point that the peculiar question of [...]

I Am a Tree

I am a tree and I am quite lonely. I weep in the rain.  For the sake of Allah, listen to what I have to say. Drink down your coffee so your sleep abandons you and your eyes open wide.  Stare at me as you would jinns and let me explain to you why I’m [...]

Clip Art

Professional men can’t wear much in the way of jewelry. The gemless wedding band, the watch, the belt buckle, the key chain—possibly the quietly costly blue-enameled pen in a shirt pocket—are among the few sanctioned outlets for the male self-embellishing urge. Occasionally permissible are the shirt stud, the cufflink, and the nautical brass blazer button. [...]


When I was six or seven years old, growing up in Pittsburgh, I used to take a precious penny of my own and hide it for someone else to find. It was a curious compulsion; sadly, I’ve never been seized by it since. For some reason I always “hid” the penny along the same stretch [...]

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