I love New York on summer afternoons when everyone’s away. There’s something very sensuous about it ~ overripe, as if all sorts of funny fruits were going to fall into your hands.

F. Scott Fitzgerald in The Great Gatsby

(shared earlier today by the best Friday afternoon spot, Ample Hills)

In the 1950s, having the Encyclopaedia Britannica on the bookshelf was akin to a station wagon in the garage or a black-and-white Zenith in the den, a possession coveted for its usefulness and as a goalpost for an aspirational middle class. Buying a set was often a financial stretch, and many families had to pay for it in monthly installments.

After 244 Years, Encyclopaedia Britannica Stops the Presses, by Julie Bosman

This is sad, even though I understand all the reasoning and good that will come from pouring energy into the online and educational resources. But gosh, I used to LOVE spending hours reading our encyclopedia (circa 1996) and accidentally learning about alphabetically-similar places, ideas, tools, and people to what I was intending to look up. That stumble-upon method of learning is continuing to be lost on the dusty shelves of libraries in lieu of curated, search-by-keyword internet sites.

Although what I think I feel is sad, it’s probably more so nostalgia. We should embrace the exciting opportunity to have greater access to up-to-date resources at lower cost rather than wanting something that certainly was incredible for 244 years but perhaps is becoming too outdated for this increasingly fast-changing world.

Here’s to the next era of Britannica.

New York architect John Locke saw a unique opportunity and now has made very cool-looking and practical libraries/book drops that fit nicely on our existing infrastructure. Some say they will be trashed, but I honestly don’t think they will be any more than anything else.

I support this project and will definitely donate a book when I find one!

How cool and practical is this art/furniture?!

These bookshelves that can be taken apart and reconstructed into a coffin are pretty amazing. No, I’m not being morbid….just think about how awesome it is that you fill the shelves with items of importance or that were at some point a part of you, and that the same wood that holds components of your life eventually holds you. It’s also a cool statement about one’s relationship to death – that the owner is willing to acknowledge its eventual takeover, but also that they are in control of what surrounds them and is on display in life. The construction is thoughtful both as a design triumph and poetic musing. Not to mention that it’s resource efficient…

William Warren, nice work. Artis, thanks for making me aware of it.

Shelves For LifeShelves For Life

Book List!

My buddy Kate asked friends about their favorite books and compiled a list. Here’s the list (which I’m super excited to dive into!) and her email if you’re interested in being a part of the shared google doc.

Edwind Abbott, Flatland
Paul  Auster, City of Glass
Anthony  Beevors, Stalingrad and The Fall of Berlin
Roberto Bolaño , 2666
Paul Bowles, The Spider’s House
Italo  Calvino, If On a Winter’s Night a Traveler
James  Clavell, Shogun
Richard  Dawkins,, The Blind Watchmaker
Antoine  de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince
Antoine de St Exupery, Sand, Wind and Stars
Don  DeLillo, White Noise
Daniel  Dennett, Kinds of Minds
Joan  Didion, Slouching Towards Bethlehe
Fyodor  Dostoevsky, Crime and Punishment
Daphne  du Maurier, Rebecca
 Dumas, The Count of Monte Cristo   <===== editor's note: my contribution to the list.
Ralph Waldo Emerson,  “Self-Reliance” 
Hans  Fallada, Everyman Dies Alone
William  Faulkner, As I Lay Dying
Gabriel  Garcia Marquez, 100 Years of Solitude
Joseph Heller, Catch-22
Ernest Hemingway, The Complete Short Stories
Herman  Hesse, Steppenwolf
Douglas  Hofstadter, Godel, Escher, Bach
INCITE!, The Revolution Will Not be Funded: Beyond the Non-Profit Industrial Complex
Henry James, Portrait of a Lady
James  Joyce, Ulysses
James  Joyce, Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
Miranda  July, No One Belongs Here More Than You
Naomi  Klein, The Shock Doctrine
Milan Kundera, The Book of Laughter and Forgetting
Milan  Kundera, The Unbearable Lightness of Being
Ray  Kurzweil, The Singularity is Near
Reif Larson, The Selected Works of T.S. Spivet
Ron  Leshem, Beaufort
C.S.  Lewis, The Chronicles of Narnia (series)
Mark  Mazower,  The Dark Continent
Carson  McCullers, The Heart is A Lonely Hunter
Herman  Melville, Moby Dick
Herman  Melville, Billy Bud, Sailor
Toni  Morrison , Beloved
Vladmir  Nabokov, Lolita, 
Mary  Oliver, Mary Oliver Poems
Charles  Petzold, The Annotated Turing
Philip Pullman, The Golden Compass (series
Daniel  Quinn, Ishmael
Salman Rushdie, Midnight’s Children
Salman  Rushdie, Midnight’s Children
Salman  Rushdie, The Satanic Verses
J.D.  Salinger, Nine Short Stories
Orson  Scott Card, Enders Game (series- stick with the first 3
Mary  Shelley, Frankenstein 
Rebecca  Skloot, The Immortal Life of Henriette Lacks
Wallace Stegner, Angle of Repose  
Wallace  Stegner, Crossing to Safety 
John Steinbeck, Cannery Row
John Steinbeck, East of Eden
John Steinbeck, Travels with Charley
Gary Steyngart, Super Sad True Love Story
Mark  Twain’s, Pudd’n Head Wilson 
John Updike, Rabbit Redux  
John  Updike., Rabbit, Run, 
Craig  Werner, A Change is Gonna Come
Cornel  West, Democracy Matters
Cornel  West, Race Matters
Elie  Wiesel, Night
Howard Zinn, A People’s History of the United States
Abraham Verghese, Cutting for Stone

Well, I’m officially a published author.

Shouldn’t there be some sort of super-excited-feeling that goes with this?!?!

I never wrote an “aftermath” post to the Find the Future game that I played back in May, because the truth is, I felt a little deflated. Unimpressed for sure. Disappointed overall. It was tricky to articulate that, because I didn’t want to pop the balloon for everyone else who (completely fairly) loved it.

The library itself is a masterpiece, as are the artifacts in it including books, paintings, technology relics, timepieces, cultural symbols, the stacks, and the architecture itself. The game was not a masterpiece – what work really is on the first go around though? – but to me fell very short.  It fell a little bit too short, where I felt like many driving game mechanics for me – including the hand-in-hand qualities of cooperation and competition, and following a set of rules – missed the mark, and where the seven secrets (of the artifacts, powers, stories, teams, collaboration, clock, and stacks) felt terribly unimportant for and disjointed from the achieving the ultimate goal of writing a book. The size of the game, web interface, time of play, and mechanism for unlocking each artifact seem like the biggest areas of improvement, and their combined shortcomings unfortunately lowered my appreciation for the game. The experience on whole was fine enough, but the promise of a really neat social game was relatively unfulfilled. 

I think I felt let down on the game aspect because I went in with very high expectations. I love Jane McGonigal‘s whole paradigm of changing the world through games, because it makes sense both in theory and, with time, in practice. The short term game didn’t live up to either my personal expectations or the expectations created from the opening speech, that’s for sure, and the structure and mechanics just felt off. But, Jane did say that we wouldn’t play the whole game that night. What she meant in context was that we’d have to come back to find all of the artifacts on our own and write all of our own stories, but my glimmer of hope is that the game’s not done in a different way. The game might, in the long term, ultimately be a success in the change-the-world kind of way because of this: I (and, I think, everyone else there) met some pretty neat people and interacted with even more. I’m now buddies with them on Twitter and Facebook. As a result, they have and continue to in many ways influence my thinking, and my future opportunities, and my approach to group interactions. So, while this doesn’t help me win the Find The Future game anymore, I think there’s potential for the overall experience to feel like a win over time.

So, am I psyched about the published author thing? Meh. But maybe when I go see what promises to be a gorgeous book with some stuff I’ve never read in it, it’ll hit me how cool this is and how we won together.

Well, I’m officially a published author.