December 28, 2004
Church Sign Generator
Just in, this awesome site, via a joehead.
The inspiration for sending the link was the church sign in this morning's 10:01 a.m. post.
But I digress.
Simply put in the text you'd like, and for $5 the company will create a refrigerator magnet with your very own customized church sign.
Definitely gotta take a bunch of these on my world tour to give out as swag.
The Tao of Tea
It's a big subject, tea.
But it starts with a single cup.
And that cup starts with top-notch tea bag management, if you're dealing with your tea in a bag.
Hey, let's not be stuffy; everyone, every now and then, in restaurants that are often otherwise quite good, finds herself drinking tea made with a tea bag.
The first - and last - rule of tea bags: don't squeeze them.
I was much older than I had any right to be before I learned this fact.
That's what happens when your brought-up-si, as they say in Jamaica, is lacking.
But this is about tea, not me.
When you squeeze the last drops from your tea bag you destroy your tea, because the pressure forces out acids and tannins that were never meant to enter your cup.
Makes your tea harsh and bitter, like life used to be.
Never, never do that again.
So you won't need to buy the $4.95 device pictured up top, which is none other than a... tea bag squeezer.
From the website:
- This clever stainless steel accessory puts the squeeze on tea bag dilemmas.... Grab the bag with the 6.5" tongs, then squeeze the perforated handle using the comfortable thumb grip.
You will decline this offer, thank you very much.
'A Little Journal for Nearly Every Literary Voice'
Headline of yesterday's New York Times story by Felicia Lee on the explosion of literary journals in recent years.
There are now around 1,000 literary magazines in the U.S.
Most have average readerships of around 2,000 and annual budgets under $10,000.
Hey, that's just like bookofjoe - except my annual budget's $14.95 (my monthly TypePad hosting fee) x 12 = $179.40.
Well, you get what you pay for.
Hats off to Wendy Lesser (her picture leads this post), founder of the Threepenny Review, which recently celebrated its 100th issue and 25-year anniversary.
As the Times article noted, "many [such journals and magazines] publish
an issue or two and then die."
What I don't understand is why people bother with the old-fashioned production of a paper journal.
You want to read bookofjoe away from the computer?
Hey, it's easy, and I know lots of people who do: simply print out the day's postings and Bob's your uncle.
I mean, "Blue Collar Review: Journal of Progressive Working Class Literature," is a poetry quarterly with an annual budget of $5,500 and a print run of 600.
I guarantee you that Al Markowitz, its founder, spends most of his publication-related hours (his day job is being a hospital coordinator) dealing with things other than reading and editing and writing his review.
Bricks-and-morter publication adds a whole other layer of complexity and a very high barrier to distribution.
Charles Flowers began "Bloom," a gay-centered journal, in February of this year.
He's published two issues so far, each costing $7,000, and has 275 subscribers.
Not the way to go, in my opinion.
But then, who asked me?
Here's the Times article.
- A Little Journal for Nearly Every Literary Voice
When The Threepenny Review celebrated its 100th issue and 25th year recently, the literary quarterly received headlines for that milestone and gave itself a big party.
After all, 25 years is old for a literary magazine with 9,000 subscribers, a $200,000 annual budget and no big-money patrons or university support.
But here's the surprise: while Threepenny represents the triumph of the bookish little guy in the age of publishing giants and gossip magazines, it is a behemoth in a landscape crowded with 1,000 literary magazines.
That is more than at any time in history.
Most of the magazines are geared toward specific audiences, with average readerships of 2,000 and annual budgets under$10,000.
Examples of the small and the struggling include Quick Fiction, which publishes stories under 500 words and was founded in 2001 by two recent college graduates in the Boston area.
It has a print run of 900, an annual budget of less than $6,000 and an unpaid staff of student interns.
Or Blue Collar Review: Journal of Progressive Working Class Literature, a quarterly of mostly poetry from Norfolk, Va. (founded by a poet who works as a hospital coordinator), that aspires to give to voice to working-class values, all on an annual budget of about $5,500 and a print run of 600.
"There are more literary magazines out there than ever, and it's an important part of the literary world's unsung heroes," said Jeffrey Lependorf, executive director of the Council of Literary Magazines and Presses, founded to help literary magazines compete in the marketplace.
"If you're interested in experimental poetry there's a journal for you. If you're interested in Southern culture, there's a magazine for you."
The council's Web site (www.clmp.org) lists more than 400 literary-magazine titles, with categories including everything from "African-American" to "Youth."
They have tantalizing names like Alligator Juniper (from Prescott College in Arizona) and Blithe House Quarterly (an Internet site based in Chicago for fiction by gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender authors).
The magazines come from all 50 states and the District of Columbia, but are clustered on the East and West Coasts or in Chicago.
Most are supported by a university; many get by with private donations, subscriptions and grants.
Many publish an issue or two and then die, but about 500 magazines have longer track records, Mr. Lependorf said.
They range from tabloids to glossy books.
Ask the editors who their readers are and the answers include professionals, academics, aspiring writers, retirees, prisoners.
Some magazines pay a modest amount for pieces, but many do not.
For almost everyone, it is a labor of love.
"We needed something to make our lives worthwhile; we needed a creative outlet," said Adam Pieroni, 25, who puts out Quick Fiction with his fiancée, Jennifer Cande, 26.
He works as a copy editor at a legal publisher and she is a publications coordinator at a health-care advocacy group.
Both are writers.
Their magazine, Mr. Pieroni said, is a way to have "a conversation going on about what is prose, what is fiction, what is prose-poetry."
Mostly through their Web site (quickfiction.org), direct mailings (printed from home) and word of mouth, submissions pour in from academics, prisoners, grandmothers, high school students and people in creative writing programs, he said.
Contributors are paid with free magazines.
To commemorate their April marriage, Mr. Pieroni said, they are compiling a wedding-stories edition.
Magazines like Quick Fiction are multiplying because desktop-publishing technology has made printing cheaper and easier than ever, the Internet helps get the word out (some magazines are online only), and the spread of university writing programs in the last 20 years has created a flock of university-sponsored literary magazines.
The little guys serve as farm teams for big publishers.
"Many of us read a range of literary publications, from the elite to the obscure, in hope of finding the next great quirky American voice," said Jonathan Karp, senior vice president and editor in chief of Random House.
"I think the proliferation of literary magazines parallels the fragmentation of culture at large.
"There are more independent films, TV networks, radio stations, and even book publishers than ever before, thanks to technological advances in production and distribution."
Some in publishing said that the magazine scene had exploded simply because the marketplace is tighter.
"I think it's hard for young writers to get heard and the Internet demands that everyone wants to be heard in a personal way," said Robert Weil, the executive editor of W. W. Norton.
"Fiction is in tough shape in America right now. There's a huge chasm between commercial fiction and serious literature. We'll depend on these magazines to grow the talented young writers."
Wendy Lesser, editor of The Threepenny Review, said: "We benefit in some ways from the crassness of the culture. The Tina Brown years at The New Yorker were golden years for us. She commissioned all these pieces and she'd get them and they were too literary for The New Yorker."
Much new poetry and many new essays and short stories would not see the light of day without the magazines, many in publishing say.
That is true even though history shows that literary magazines like Poetry (founded in 1912 and still in existence) have been the first avenues for most of major writers of the last century, from T. S. Eliot to William Faulkner to Erica Jong.
"It's real rewarding; it's built this community of poets around the country," said Al Markowitz, 49, who founded Blue Collar Review in 1997.
Mr. Markowitz said that he started the magazine to counter what he saw as the elitism of most literary magazines and to serve as a progressive political voice.
The nonprofit magazine is circulated widely enough to have attracted $200 from Michael Moore, he said, as well as poems from Marge Piercy and Amiri Baraka.
Contributors, though, are more likely to be house painters who write poetry, and they are paid with copies of the magazine.
One poem in the Summer 2004 issue is titled "How to Lose a Democracy."
"This is not necessarily about work, but life from the perspective of people who work for a living, people who have bosses and bills," said Mr. Markowitz, who puts the magazine together with printing equipment in his basement and says he desperately needs money to keep going.
In New York Charles Flowers, 39, began Bloom in February (with a third issue scheduled for February 2005) to challenge the stereotype that gay and lesbian publishing is mostly erotic.
The contributors to its fiction, art and poetry are gay, he explained, but its editorial policy states that subject matter need not be explicitly homosexual.
That tri-quarterly bound book has about 275 subscribers, Mr. Flowers said, and an e-mail list of about 300 people.
It costs him about $7,000 to print each issue, and he said he raised all the money himself for the first issue, which included two poems by Adrienne Rich. (He pays $25 a poem and $50 to $100 for a story.)
"I figured if people can make independent films on a credit card, I can charge a literary magazine on a credit card," said Mr. Flowers, who has worked as an editorial assistant at Scribner and at Anchor/Doubleday.
Now an associate editor at the Academy of American Poets, he noted that at least two of his colleagues there have also started literary magazines.
"I know the N.E.A. came out with the 'reading at risk' report," he said, referring to the National Education Association, "but there's a huge audience for readers, from the book clubs to Oprah. It's more diverse, too: you have Asian writers, you have gay writers, you have experimental writers. It's a very vibrant scene."
Very nicely done.
The boxy AC-to-DC conversion circuitry for many things electronic these days is all very well and good in terms of debulking the device at your end, but what about when you go to plug the power cord in?
If, like me, you use a multiple-receptacle power strip, you find to your annoyance that each of these transformers blocks the receptacle next to the one it uses, thereby cutting the capacity of the power strip from its intended six outlets to as few as three.
Enter the Powerstrip Liberator.
You plug it into the power strip, then use the socket at the end of foot-long extension as a receptacle.
Suddenly, your power strip's working the way it was meant to.
$14.95 here for five cords.
But wait - there's more.
The inventors pushed their idea one step further and created a Y-splitter version which offers two plugs for each power strip outlet.
"10 amp/125 volts; will not overload power strips."
$14.95 for two here.
Trick your power strip out with six of these and all of a sudden you're in transformer heaven, with 12 little black boxes all converging on one wall outlet.
A bookofjoe Design Award 2004 winner, with a special shout-out to the creator(s) for pushing their concept one step further with the Y-splitter.
What we're about here is taking something wonderful, and making it even better.
Because though we love things as they are, we also love to ask, "What if?"
Paradiso - by Kenneth Koch
There is no way not to be excited
When what you have been disillusioned by raises its head
From its arms and seems to want to talk to you again.
You forget home and family
And set off on foot or in your automobile
And go to where you believe this form of reality
May dwell. Not finding it there, you refuse
Any further contact
Until you are back again trying to forget
The only thing that moved you (it seems) and gave you what you forever will have
But in the form of a disillusion.
Yet often, looking toward the horizon
There—inimical to you?—is that something you have never found
And that, without those who came before you, you could never have imagined.
How could you have thought there was one person who could make you
Happy and that happiness is not the uneven
Phenomenon you have known it to be? Why do you keep believing in this
Reality so dependent on the time allowed it
That it has less to do with your exile from the age you are
Than from everything else life promised that you could do?
Oh, so you're just getting into your rhythm now, huh?
OK, then, let's go where the world itself becomes dots... into the looking-glass.
Distractions and Daydreams
You know the old saying, "If you're not with us, you're against us?"
I apply the same zero-sum philosophy in almost everything I do: it's either life-enhancing or life-detracting.
You never hear the phrase "life-detracting," probably because it doesn't have the nice mouthfeel and tongueflow of "life-enhancing."
But being aware of things that are life-detracting is important, because the fewer of those that intrude into your world/life-line, the better the quality of your hours and days.
Here then, without furthur ado, are things I consider life-detracting:
• Frequent-flyer miles - they take up mental energy, but don't get you where you're going one second faster. Not close to worth the aggravation.
• Frequent-shopper cards - for occasionally saving a little money, you sacrifice your privacy (the store gets to file away in its computers, next to your name and particulars, what you bought on a particular date, and sell the information to who knows who?).
• Self-checkout - how do they get the nerve to charge you the very same price when you're doing the work? Unbelievable. You could be reading People, The Enquirer, The Star, and their ilk while someone else does the heavy lifting.
• Gift cards - a gift for the merchant, a pain for the recipient. I've dealt with this one before so I won't go on.
• Buying things in stores that you can obtain online. This one applies especially to those who have internet access at work. Going shopping, for the most part, is no longer worth the time and effort considering you can't find what you want more often than not. And invariably, online you find it comes in more colors/styles, is cheaper, and bonus: it comes right to your front door.
Not taking part in life-detracting activities frees up time for daydreaming, which I believe is woman's - and man's - highest and best use, to borrow a phrase from the real estate business.
In dreams lie magic.
There's no magic in the mundane, no matter how many books you read telling you otherwise.
Not tying yourself up in knots with frustration that's mostly self-generated and inevitable, well, that automatically puts you on the slow track.
Which is precisely the one you want to be on.
As you very well know, contrary as it may be to what you profess to those around you.
Don't worry, I can keep a secret.
Surf's Up! - Snow Surfster
Kind of a cool concept: put an air cushion under a sled, then let 'er rip.
From the website:
- Air-Cushioned Thrill Ride Lets You Skim Over the Snow Like a Surfer Shooting The Curl!
Our Snow Surfster puts a 6” cushion of air between you and hard-pack snow.
So instead of digging in and rattling your teeth, Surfster glides over the snow with exhilarating speed and impressive smoothness.
Durable Durantex [huh - and to think I thought they only were rock stars... just goes to show, you shouldn't assume anything... but I digress] outer shell won’t tear or wear.
Tough webbing handles come with thickly padded knuckle guards.
On the bottom, molded EVA runners give you edge control just by leaning.
Inflates/deflates in seconds; rolls up into tidy 35”x 10” bundle when you’ve conquered the hill! 46” long.