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Posts Tagged ‘books’

Bart Schaneman’s Give Me Work or Give Me Death Love List

Tuesday, April 6th, 2010

1. Routine–I have developed an ironclad routine that allows me to tell people no because I know exactly where I’ll be at what time everyday and what I’ll be doing. This makes getting work done so much easier.

2. Work–We are our work. Nothing feels better than getting in a full day of accomplishment.

3. Korea–I love this place. It is good to me in important ways. I wish my life in America could be as easy.

4. Chamchi jjigae–Kimchi and tuna stew improves upon tomato soup tenfold on a cold day.

5. Joan Didion’s essays–Anytime I need to sharpen my eye I pick up Slouching Towards Bethlehem or The White Album. Didion is my whetstone.

6. Protein powder–Going pescetarian means you can’t always get the protein you need.

7. Horseradish–Far and away my favorite condiment. When the Yellow Dust blows in from the Gobi I fight sinus congestion one creamy dollop at a time.

8. The Antlers–All the hype was right. A great breakup record.

Bart Schaneman is an American writer. He writes about his travels and about Nebraska. Read more of his writing at http://bartschaneman.wordpress.com and http://rainfollowstheplow.wordpress.com.

Book Recommendation

Tuesday, March 30th, 2010

Kind of stumbled onto this one. My friend Thad was going through his textbooks to sell back at the end of the semester and I picked The American Tradition in Literature (12th edition) out of the box. With all my books in storage I needed something heavy to keep me going for a couple months and, at more than 2,000 pages, this one’s my baby.

I’m not much of a textbook person but the editors, George and Barbara Perkins really nailed some magic. Sixty pages of Walt Whitman, a whole Kate Chopin novel (The Awakening), F. Scott, Hemingway, Woody Guthrie. There’s Faulkner’s “Barn Burning,” Steinbeck’s great “The Chrysanthemums,” William Stafford, Nabokov, Flannery O’Conner, Norman Mailer, a ton of Mark Twain. It’s even got the uncut version of Raymond Carver’s staggering “A Small, Good Thing.” It’s a monumental collection. So much history and so much America. I imagine you can find a good used copy and, if you do, by all means buy this book. It’ll pay off.

BIO: Adam Gnade's (guh nah dee) work is released as a series of books and records that share characters and themes; the fiction writing continuing plot-lines left open by the self-described "talking songs" in an attempt to compile a vast, detailed, interconnected, personal history of contemporary American life. Check out recent writing here and songs here. Contact: adam@asthmatickitty.com

Bookcrossing–Set your books free!

Tuesday, March 9th, 2010

I started Bookcrossing about a month ago and haven’t stopped telling people about it since. Bookcrossing is the act of leaving books in public places for others to pick up, read, and then do likewise. It’s a great way to get people reading, and to share the books that you’ve read or aren’t interested in keeping anymore.

So how does it work? First you go to the Bookcrossing site (www.bookcrossing.com ), set up an account, and register the book you wish to set free. You’ll be given an ID number; you then write a  journal entry on your profile about the book. On the inside cover of the book you can either print out a label from the site, or hand-write a note which will tell the reader that the book is free, and that if they register the ID they can write about what they thought of the book once they have read it.  When they are done reading, they can once again set it out into the world to be picked up and read by another person.  Books can be tracked by journal entries all over your city and in some cases the world.

There are two different ways to release a book: wild releases where you leave books in designated places in the city for people to pick up, and controlled releases where you recycle a read by giving the book to a person, or group of people you know.

Bookcrossing was started in America by Ron Hornbaker in the spring of 2001. He was inspired by two community-driven and public-motivated schemes; first the Amsterdam bike system, where the public are encouraged to get around their city using bikes which are available to them at different pick-up and drop-off spots around town, and secondly by the “Where’s George? & Where’s Willy?”  money-tracking projects that were set up to trace US and Canadian dollar bills as they move around the country.

The Bookcrossing site has created an international network, a place that allows you to track books all over the world.

In Canada we just came to the end of the country’s annual Freedom to Read Week (Feb 21st-27th), a week that encourages Canadians to think about intellectual freedom. Bookcrossing along with the Freedom of Expression Committee saw this week as a great time to ask people to share books that are considered to be challenged books.

By registering challenged books such as To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee, The Catcher in the Rye by J.D Salinger, and Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain, and sending them out into the world, these organizations  hope to  make others aware of books that have been in some cases blacklisted within schools and libraries across the country. What a great idea! There are many challenged books that I have read over the years that I could pass onto others via the Bookcrossing site, maybe you should check it out too!

Leanda is a writer based in Toronto. For the past 13 years she has hosted & produced music radio shows, managed bands & worked in online music PR. She now runs a music site & also writes for music & culture magazine `Relevant BCN`. Read more of her writing here - http://www.bloggertronix.com

Cosmopolis II: Mongrel Cities in the 21st Century

Friday, February 5th, 2010

The heart of Leonie Sandercock’s Cosmopolis II lies in its subtitle, Mongrel Cities in the 21st Century. The mongrel nature the author considers is the accelerated multiculturalism of cities due to what some are considering an “Age of Migration.” While Sandercock suggests there are four ways in which cities are being socially and culturally reshaped, an argument may be made that the main focus of the book could be distilled to one of them primarily–international migration–with a lesser, but equally important emphasis on all forms of minority integration. Cosmopolis II addresses the age of migration by deconstructing the planning process and offering a reconstruction that co-opts modernism’s visionary nature and enthusiasm while adhering to a postmodernism acceptance of many narratives.

Planning needs to be deconstructed when faced with heightened flows of migration. Unlike large flows in the past, which were fairly homogeneous and amongst a handful of countries, the new ones are multinational creating an unprecedented plurality in many urban landscapes. In Europe, open border agreements fostered by the EU have facilitated a drastic change in the ethnic make-up of many countries. In some cases, this demographic shift is occurring in a time frame so short, that standard planning practices can’t accurately address the sweeping changes in neighborhoods, let alone in entire cities. Despite increase attention on its southern border, the United States continues to see high levels of immigration of both documented and undocumented individuals. Once across the border, however, the new arrivals are either dispersing to increasingly nontraditional locations of residence or concentrating at levels that have heretofore been unseen helping to create what are now urban areas just north of the border. Additionally, continued political strife in African and Middle Eastern countries is supplying a steady stream of the dispossessed that, if not forced into a new urban experience in an unfamiliar city, are creating vast refugee camps in their own right.

This time of a hypermobile global population demands an equally flexible planning process. The rapid and exceedingly dense multicultural change in cities requires a planning that breaks free of the rational measures effective at developing infrastructure. The speed of change and randomness of migration flows demands way more flexibility than a comprehensive procedure, which starts and stops on a dime and may take years to complete. Sandercock observes that the dense multiculturalism has created neighborhoods, cities, and countries that may contain multiple publics. And while Sandercock offers a “Radical Postmodern Planning Practice” paradigm that relies heavily on the communicative nature of those that have come before her such as John Friedmann and John Forrester, the resulting paradigm suggestion is not as revolutionary as the way in which she deconstructs the planning process to get there.

The most striking feature of Cosmopolis II is the consideration of “story.” In order to deal with multiculturalism, she first deconstructs that to determine its exact meaning. She finds that the new multicultural societies are collections of diverse peoples with a common bond not based on race, religion, or ethnicity, but on a shared commitment to a political community. Unlike the popular and homogenized history of Industrial-era United States immigration, these new communities are not static and will not eventually become “melting pots.” In order to deeply understand this community, it is important for planning to be political, and the planner to understand the history, customs, and desires of each immigrant community that makes up the larger whole. The planner needs to understand their “story.”

The author then argues that to understand the story of someone else, a planner must understand the stories created by planning and the ones excluded by it. She states, “In order to imagine the future differently, we need to start with history, with a reconsideration of the stories we tell ourselves about planning’s role in the modern and postmodern city,” adding, “If we want to work towards a politics of inclusion, then we had better have a good understanding of the exclusionary effects of planning’s past practices.” With that, the author then briefly examines how the history of planning has systematically excluded the stories of women, gays and lesbians, Native Americans, and African Americans from the history of planning. This exclusion implying that until planners understand these “planning insurgencies” to be of equal value as the myriad of paradigms discussed in planning education programs across the country, the possibility of planning being able to address single neighborhoods with a myriad of marginalized voices is not high.

After focusing the lens of story on where planning has been, Sandercock then operates on a meta level and presents case studies, or as she intimates earlier in the book, what could function as stories imparting wisdom from elders to those in search of knowledge. These provide the reader with the only semblance of practical procedural knowledge. And, while effective in that role, it is emblematic of a critique that may be leveled at the book. As a planning tome, the focus rests squarely on the community building social side of the issue at hand. Discussion of the physical is nascent at best, and the consideration of any quantitative perspective is entirely absent. Granted, the theoretical analysis is so detailed that strands of the physical or quantitative are not hard to see. For example, when considering the author’s train of thought concerning dense multicultural neighborhoods, an immediate thought for cultural geographers may be, how does the neighborhood provide for multiple houses of worship? This is a topic the book touches on briefly. The statistical nature of the immigration flows are not detailed, but the general nature of the flows is easily enough understood through the book’s discourse on the subject.

Sandercock examines what works and what does not, then utilizes story to consider the future. In detailing the varying ways stories can be used in planning–as catalyst for change, speculation on the future, tool for mediation, non-verbal representation, etc.–the author furthers the concept that communication is a necessary tool in understanding the “other.” This understanding is crucial when one of the common responses by both immigrant and native is to fear each other. In a dense multicultural neighborhood, that fear is subject to dangerous economies of scope and scale.

As stated previously, Cosmopolis II does not offer an especially groundbreaking planning paradigm in response to the new age of migration. Sandercock’s “Radical Postmodern Planning Practice” paradigm functions as a subtle tweak to what has been presented by other theorists who did not have the opportunity to present discourse in a time when the nature of migration has radically transformed in speed and scope. The book may be critiqued for having too narrow a focus in terms of planning, relying on concerns of community without substantial, or any, consideration of the physical or quantitative. Some may also find the sheer density of the information and a narrative that is occasionally tangential to be a distraction to the author’s substantial vision. Incidentally, this is a critique easily levied against another sprawling work published in 2003 that had significant impact on the discipline of geography, Connell and Gibson’s Soundtracks–indication that perhaps, it is a critique worth having.

Regardless, Cosmopolis II: Mongrel Cities in the 21st Century is an indispensable addition to the library of planning theory. It is easy to dismiss globalization as a theoretical construct spatially removed and homogeneous in nature. In reality, globalization means that the local is becoming more heterogeneous. Sandercock’s critical examination of planning theory’s history of exclusion is a bold and welcome statement in a world where the global is next door. Her use of story is equally bold and welcome for an understanding of planning theory’s future of inclusion.

Michael is a doctoral student in urban planning and public policy at the University of Texas at Arlington. You can follow him on Twitter here, visit his website here, and listen to his band here.

Top 10 List for 2009

Saturday, January 23rd, 2010


I am in a band with my wife, Jenny. She is a Ph.D. fellow studying the history of borderlands, bakes a mean apple pie, and was born on the same day as Willie Nelson. As Shiny Around the Edges, we enjoy making music together and occasionally have a chance to collaborate on things non-musical because of the band. The kind folks at Popshifter asked what our “Top 10″ list was for 2009. We hadn’t even thought about this throughout the year, but had a good time putting a list together late one evening over a glass of wine. It should be noted that we would have had our bassist Kerm contribute, but he was on a vision quest exploring his roots in beautifully sparse west Texas. The resulting list is what my wife and I have listened to, watched, and read throughout the year that made an indelible impression. It is either hopelessly out-of-date or incredibly prescient depending on your personal politics. In no particular order:

1. Emma Goldman: Living My Life

A two-volume autobiography penned by one of the leaders of the anarchist movement of the 1900s. Exploring Emma Goldman’s life story is a first-hand look at anarchism, feminism, Marxism, and more in the early-to-mid-twentieth century. This is a great read and helps one understand from where much of modern counter-culture has originated. It is well written and full of wit and insight into the United States and Russia at the dawning of modernism.

2. Frank Sinatra with Antonio Carlos Jobim: Sinatra & Company

A forgotten masterpiece (and out of print in the United States) that is filled with standards like “Bein’ Green” along with bilingual gems such as “Drinking Water (Agua De Beber).” Like all of Sinatra’s albums, the arrangements are superb. Hearing Sinatra and Jobim collaborate is worth the effort to find the vinyl used or order the import CD. I believe it might also now be available digitally.

3. Dust Congress: Regurgitate Sunshine State

Broken down folk with marimba and trumpet from Denton, Texas. They live up the street from us and we never tire of hearing Nick Foreman’s contemplative wail while the notes supporting him waver and stumble in a beautiful procession. The 12″ vinyl is also worthy of coffee table display.

4. Mad Men, Seasons I & II

What started as a deft, retro look at the time when media and commerce began to intersect is now one of the darkest commentaries on the beginning of the end of modernism.

5. Castanets: Texas Rose, The Thaw, & the Beasts

We always enjoy hearing Ray’s new songs and this album is the perfect marriage between Rafter’s production skills and Ray’s songwriting: a sonic voyage greater than the sum of its substantial parts.

6. Leonie Sandercock: Cosmopolis II

This book looks at the questions urban planners will have to answer in a time of hypermobile global population shifts. The speed and diversity of immigration is creating neighborhoods, cities, and countries that are hybrids demanding new approaches to planning.

7. Sonic Youth: Confusion Is Sex

This is on our list every year, with good reason.

8. Russian Ark

Unbelievably (and spectacularly), this film is one entire shot from beginning to end. It takes the viewer through 33 rooms of what is now Saint Petersburg’s Hermitage Museum, involved literally a cast of thousands, and details events in Russian history in a non-linear way. The narrators are ghostly presences slipping between observation and interaction with a disquieting ease. The resulting effect is dreamlike.

9. Michel Foucault: History of Sexuality Volume 1: An Introduction

A philosophical staple that crosses academic disciplines, this book offers a new way of thinking about sexuality, knowledge, and power and the ways they are created and transmitted.

10. Black Sabbath: Paranoid

Our elderly VW Golf’s CD player stopped working at the beginning of the year. Inexplicably, this cassette made its way into our car and we have been revisiting it throughout the year. Our recently recorded collection of songs reflects this to some degree.

Michael is a doctoral student in urban planning and public policy at the University of Texas at Arlington. You can follow him on Twitter here, visit his website here, and listen to his band here.

List: Winter Reading!

Thursday, November 5th, 2009

My summer and winter reading couldn’t be more different. In the summer, like a lot of people, I want something fast; something that moves and communicates and gives me a good, satisfying story. But with winter on its way I want books as heavy as bowling balls; stories you feel like crawling into a cave with and rolling the stone to shut yourself in. I want dense, crowded books that give you a universe but make you work for it.

This is my to-read list…

Imperial, William T. Vollman

With fiction, I write about where I grew up and, because of that, I do a lot of reading within the region. Narrowing the focus even further, Vollman’s Imperial is 1,300 pages on a single county in my hometown. I’d say that makes it essential.

Ulysses, James Joyce
I’m actually on this one already. Halfway through. People talk a lot about Ulysses being dense and referential to the point of unreadability but I think I must’ve just found it at the right time in my life. I get this book. It’s funny, engaging, and it hits you with some truth that’s hard to miss. Over the course of 900,000 pages we follow Leopold Bloom through one day in 1904 Dublin. But it’s more than that. It’s life; a big, struggling, wormy, steaming, scary, laughing, vomiting chunk of it.

Black Spring, Henry Miller
I started Black Spring a few years ago and thought it was crazy, unintelligible B.S. This was before I’d read any Miller and a book like this is not a good gateway. You need to read the lighter stuff first, the Tropics, maybe the Rosy Crucifixion. But now, just a few years later, Miller’s my guy. I’m ready.

The Reivers, William Faulkner
Same as above. This was the first Faulkner I read. Story of three thieves and a car. Not a lot of payoff. Very Southern and dry. Didn’t feel it. Then, this summer, a friend gave me Faulkner’s The Wild Palms, and his style suddenly made sense. Now I’m down for a reread.

Moby-Dick, Herman Melville

Moby-Dick is no simple man versus whale story. Melville’s greatest is a wordy, complex, labyrinthine piece of experimental prose. To think this was published and read when it was blows my mind. Where were people’s heads at back when this was released? Definitely not where they are now. Maybe we’ve hit a sagging point in culture–or maybe the collective consciousness doesn’t need books like this anymore. Whatever it is, no agent in their right mind would pick this up in 2009. And that’s a shame.

So there’s my list. None of these are easy books but they’re worth your time. Dig in. Hunker down. Here come the dark months…

BIO: Adam Gnade's (guh nah dee) work is released as a series of books and records that share characters and themes; the fiction writing continuing plot-lines left open by the self-described "talking songs" in an attempt to compile a vast, detailed, interconnected, personal history of contemporary American life. Check out recent writing here and songs here. Contact: adam@asthmatickitty.com

Photo Diary: The Warped Tour, Part 1

Monday, October 12th, 2009

Couple months ago I went on the Warped Tour as … a book tour. Yeah, I know. Here’s how it looked. What you won’t see in these photos is how horrible the music was, how mean people were about a table of books, and how HOT it was all summer. This is the Warped Tour, part 1.

Caught up with Castanets' tour in Bloomington on the pre-tour and drank some whiskeys.

Caught up with Castanets' tour in Bloomington on the pre-tour and drank some whiskeys.

Castanets' tourmate Mikey Turner sets off fireworks and me and David Stith and his pal hide behind a tree.

Castanets' tourmate Mikey Turner sets off fireworks and me and David Stith and his pal hide behind a tree.

The much maligned book table. My books.

The much maligned book table. My books.

Wild sumac outside Hartford.

Wild sumac outside Hartford.

The wonderful E. Chris Lynch was along tabling Microcosm Publishing and Deep Roots Animal Sanctuary.

The wonderful E. Chris Lynch was along tabling Microcosm Publishing and Deep Roots Animal Sanctuary.

Early early early morning. Crazy from no sleep.

Early early early morning. Crazy from no sleep.

Eastbound and down.

Eastbound and down.

BIO: Adam Gnade's (guh nah dee) work is released as a series of books and records that share characters and themes; the fiction writing continuing plot-lines left open by the self-described "talking songs" in an attempt to compile a vast, detailed, interconnected, personal history of contemporary American life. Check out recent writing here and songs here. Contact: adam@asthmatickitty.com