I am a sometimes patron of Los Angeles cafes, where I meet stray talent and ponder life as a decidedly unzuckerberg-like twentysomething. Find me at @chavarisa.

The sadness is in realizing how phenomenally lucky I am, not only to have never been hungry or cold, but to be educated, to have access to books. Never before in history has a country been so blessed, materially and intellectually, and yet we’re miserable.
- David Foster Wallace in a 1996 interview, newly unearthed and digitized 
Tagged: #dfw

NYC 1

I was open everywhere

Luckily, none of the passersby noticed.

They were mostly sweating, running in the heat

a form of voluntary torture

peculiar to urban dwellers.

One young man stopped to wipe his brow

A shower of sweat fell from him

into my open spaces.

I licked it thirstily, my sudden summer blessing,

but it had evaporated on contact.

The sun was faster than I.

The young runner moved on. 

Strange, I thought, 

that the sun didn’t reach me. 

A Handwriting Analysis

At work the other day, I was doing the tedious job of typing up handwritten notes from customers. It was for a client, an appliance repair company, and most of the notes were some combination of “professional”, “courteous”, “got the job done”, “punctual”, “thank you” - the same message written over and over in big loopy handwriting, in illegible scrawl, in carefully shaped capitals, in prim or flourishing cursive.

One note was written in thick purple marker. It was a unique purple - violet, bluish - probably from a giant 64-pack of markers that kids use. It brought to mind a dining room table strewn with yesterday’s playtime, or a junk drawer full of the flotsam of family life. A mother in a house somewhere with a now-fixed dryer had reached for the nearest writing utensil, the purple marker, and written “Very efficient! Fixed problem fast.”

As I typed it up, I stripped it. Gone was the imaginary mother, the house, the coloring books. There were just 5 words in black 11-point Arial, listed with hundreds of similar comments, all uniform. I felt like I was robbing the world of something. The more I tried to convince myself that these notes were meaningless in the grand scheme of things, written briskly out of politeness or casual gratitude, the more I saw them as poetry, as artifacts of humanity.

I tried to think of a digital equivalent to the expressiveness of handwriting, and when I couldn’t, for a digital compensation for this glaring detriment. And then I wondered how much individuality is lost in the digital transposition of everything. I’m still wondering.

Full Sentences

Does it ever happen to you that you see a phrase and you think, that would make a good title. It will trigger a flow, or at least the suggestion of flow. Just by putting the two words at the top of the page, or in the title line of a post, they will birth the possibility of something. Of what? A transient thought, a snippet, a post, to publish or for you alone. 

It’s like they’ve opened the curtains on an empty stage and there’s an audience waiting for something to emerge. 

They aren’t expecting anything in particular, just a general, pregnant expectation. Will it be music, poetry, comedy, an idea, a sadness, a satire, an attempt at irony? Will it be a fully formed story or a piece of dialogue overheard in a parking lot that has every kind of meaning because of lack of context. 

Will it be less than 140 characters? Will it be a half sob, the kind that despairs mid-sob of even sobbing?

Will it be an homage or imitation? Will it ramble or state, stammer and lose its footing? Will it choke on its own cliches?

For me it was the words “Full Sentences”, and this is what came of it. I was visualizing a Tumblr post when I wrote it (originally in a notebook), that empty white space. But that’s really a visual metaphor for the space it space it creates in your mind, a coaxing {Insert text here}, and your mind complies without knowing why. 

Tagged: #writing

The Macklemore Matter

Read the question below and circle the correct answer. 

Macklemore wore a disguise that looked like the nazi caricature of a Jew to a surprise concert in Seattle. This implies that Macklemore:

a. is a Jew hating Nazi-sympathizer who purposely dressed to look like the caricature of a Jew while singing about how great it is to be thrifty. 

b. picked up a a random mask and a beard as a disguise and meant no harm. You are a Jew hater if you look at a big nose and think “Jew!” And jeez people need to stop getting so worked up and thinking that everything is about them.

c. (his audience, and anyone who circles b) is ignorant of the propaganda against Jews during the Nazi era. They’ve never seen the posters/cartoons which depicted Jews with large hook noses. Like this one:

  image

If they had they might have realized how insensitive such a visual is, regardless of intent.

d. (and his audience) is an idiot, who should have known better (a la c) but slept through history class so either didn’t know or didn’t care about the implication of using a visual homage to Nazism as a disguise.

PS

Please be advised that the four options are a consolidation of the many hundreds of comments on the issue found on the internet. The original language in said comments was much more colorful, and not appropriate for publication.

PPS

For your edification, From a children’s publication in Germany in 1938:

image

"The Jewish nose is bent at its tip. It looks like a number 6…"

Journalism Tales

Kara Swisher about Ben Bradlee, Washington Post reporter:

He hardly knew who I was, of course, but one time when I was working in the business section covering the rapidly declining retail landscape in the Washington area, the lifeblood of the Post’s business, he did me a solid I have never forgotten. A major mogul who paid for a lot of the bills for the newspaper was haranguing me — via phone and via peckish lawyers — for being too hard on him in my coverage of the spectacular meltdown of his family business.

It was a mess through and through, and I had not backed off so far, but I had to admit I was scared when the heat from the mogul got a little stifling. Bradlee — who loved my stories of this retail version of “Dallas” and now and then came over and asked, “Whatcha got today, kid?” (he actually said “kid”) — was there when such a call came through and could see I was distressed.

After I explained the situation, he took only one second to give me a piece of advice that I have been following since: “If your reporting is right, tell them to f#*k off.”

This is an excerpt from Kara Swisher’s letter (really article) about Jill Abramson getting fired from the NY Times. I’m not particularly interested in the “she was fired because she’s a woman in power”, “it’s possible to fire a woman unrelated to the fact that she’s a woman” argument, but I liked this anecdote.