Change we can use

"For as long as I've been alive, publication formats have been getting smaller. First, oversized magazines like Life and Esquire either disappeared or switched to conventional formats to save money on paper and mailing. Then editorial content started moving online, shrinking to fit computer screens and then even smaller PDAs and 140-character tweets. The iPad represents the first time this trend has been reversed. Instead of small, more low-res content, we have the chance to get bigger, brighter, sharper content."
Luke Hayman on one of the 5 ways the new iPad will change publications, including a new way of telling stories that may bring back long-form journalism.



Left: Rural Electrification Administration, poster design by Lester Beall, 1934. Right: Wind Farm, China, 2009. via Design Observer

"Imagine ... People would have to pay for the congestion, the pollution, and the health care problems that they themselves create. In such a scenario, the suburbs would likely shrink, and the exurbs would likely atrophy altogether.

Imagine what would result. Imagine dense green urbanity, surrounded by nothing but nature. Imagine lanes of interstates reused for high speed rail. Imagine a healthy population that walks and bikes throughout their neighborhoods, and rides transit to their jobs. Imagine New Jersey as a nature preserve. Imagine being number one for takeoff.

Imagine a country of cities."

Vishaan Chakrabarti, "A Country of Cities" UrbanOmnibus

"Why is it that here in the United States we have such difficulty even imagining a different sort of society from the one whose dysfunctions and inequalities trouble us so? We appear to have lost the capacity to question the present, much less offer alternatives to it. Why is it so beyond us to conceive of a different set of arrangements to our common advantage?"

Tony Judt, What is Living and What is Dead in Social Democracy, New York Review of Books

"There's the challenge. To imagine a different sort of society, a different set of arrangements, with a reinvigorated public, and a new era of great public works."

Nancy Levinson, The Public Works, Design Observer


Starry Night

Vincent van Gogh, "The Starry Night," Saint Rémy, June 1889, oil on canvas

Prompted by Adam Gopnik's article in the New Yorker on van Gogh's art after the quarrels with Gauguin that led up to the famous ear mutilation, I saw "The Starry Night" again after a long time. It is an absolute marvel, and in Gopnik's eloquent analysis, it reflects van Gogh's personal and artistic transformation after the falling out with Gauguin:

"We tend to see the arc of his work, from the departure from Paris, in early 1888, to his death, in 1989, as more or less continuous, and miss the decisive break marked by the Christmas crisis. Even through the pictures of 1888 he's still mostly a prose painter, with something of the 19th-century illustrator in him–children, postmen, absinthe-soaked café scenes. He still wanted to be Dickens or Daumier. After the Christmas crisis, he accepted that he was only Vincent. His new pictures–"The Starry Night," "Cypresses," and the pictures of the gardens at Saint-Rémy–are depopulated, emptied of any vision of common life. [...] He wrote, 'Let's not forget that small emotions are the great captains of our lives.' Stars wheel, cypresses flame; the whole world comes alive. The common unity is the animism of the ordinary. [...] In the 1889 "Starry Night," it's all night and stars and rolling nebulae: me and the night and the music of the spheres. He's a man alone, and for good."

At the end of his life, van Gogh seemed to have given up his dreams of the community of artists and accepted his isolation, which ironically had the effect of setting his talent free. As another New Yorker art critic, Peter Schejeldahl, wrote, "The delirious "Starry Night" and the hellish "Night Café" attain serenity in their realization, cruising at an altitude of talent beyond imagining."


Shoe Box Living

Shoe Box Living: Through the Eyes of a Child is a brilliant project done with the children of a primary school in Peckham, one of London's most deprived areas.

"125 children aged between 8 and 10 were given a shoe box and asked to recreate their bedroom, or a room from their home, and to write a few sentences about it. The boxes were then stacked end to end to form an imposing tower block installation, encased in perspex and mounted on wheels... Each shoe box provides a charming, thought-provoking and frequently surprising insight into vulnerable children's lives. It is as if they have each granted us permission to enter their private worlds, and to witness life from their perspective."

"This is the room I share with my two cousins and my two dogs. One's a Staff and the other is a Bulldog. The dogs protect you from danger. I've put curtains to keep you away from bugs and insects."

"I sleep on the floor. I am watching my baby brother so he doesn't fall out of bed. I cook his food. My mum is not lazy she just teaching me. I like sleeping on the floor anyway. I made the rice for us, and if my mum goes out I change my brother's nappy."

I am particularly moved by this work. In those few words, the child unintentionally reveals so much of his/her life: the weight of responsibility, the desire to protect his/her mother and brother, and the self-sacrifice necessitated by poverty.


Charlotte Gainsbourg

Charlotte Gainsbourg at the Bell House January 19, photos via Brooklyn Vegan

Charlotte Gainsbourg plays in Brooklyn for two nights. Alas, the shows are sold out. Her new album IRM, a collaboration with the mercurial Beck, would do her father proud.


Katie Holten

Etc, Ink on Paper, 2005

New York Trees I, Ink on Paper, 2005

New York Trees II, Ink on Paper, 2005

Paths of Desire, mixed media

Katie Holten was born in Dublin and now lives and works in New York. "At the root of Katie Holten's practice is a curiosity with life's systems. Examining the meaning of 'environment' and the significance of place, her work is on ongoing investigation of the inextricable relationship between man and the natural world. She has previously collaborated with historians, geophysicists, musicians, botanists, ecologists, teachers, and architects, on projects as diverse as creating a temporary outdoor museum along a street in New York City or revealing the affects of climate change on weeds."
I love her delicate black and white drawings and the brilliant public art project Tree Museum that celebrates the communities and ecosystems along the Grand Concourse in the Bronx.


Polaroid Magic

Looking through my old photos, I am reminded of how much I love Polaroids. As the NYT art critic Michael Kimmelman wrote, "Mystery clung to each impending image as it took shape, the camera conjuring up pictures of what was right before one's eyes, right before one's eyes. The miracle of photography, which Polaroids instantly exposed, never lost its primitive magic. And what resulted, as so many sentimentalists today lament, was a memory coming into focus on a small rectangle of film... Glossy talismans in unreal colors, as ephemeral as breath on glass, they wreaked all the more havoc with our emotions for being so unassuming and commonplace."
These ordinary pictures are snatches of Lily's childhood preserved on unassuming small rectangles of film, but they are worth more to me than all the treasures in the world.


Winter Landscape

The temperature has not risen above freezing for over a week. On Saturday my friend Kathleen drove upstate to Matterhorn nursery. We walked around the frozen garden on fresh white snow.



Image via MaizeCreation

Robert Indiana Love sculpture

Paper artwork by Yulia Brodskaya

Sending lots of love to my friend Chantal, whose mother just passed away. In the last couple of days Chantal has written me some of the most thoughtful and beautiful reflections on the subjects of losing a parent and life in general. We both agree that what lives on, long after we are dust, is the love that our parents planted in our hearts and that we in turn pass on to our children.


Winter Elsewhere

Just as I was contemplating the temperature this morning, which according to Weather.com, was 15º F, feel like 4ºF, my friend Craig sent this photo of a guest room he's built in his house in Hawaii. Get me to Hawaii, please. That blue Eames chair is beckoning me.



A beautiful winter day today. At the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, the pond was frozen but the magnolia trees were exploding with buds, just a sign to encourage me to make it through what is rumored to be a record cold winter.


Fugitive Beauties

These lovely illustrations are from a folio entitled "A Selection of Hexandrian Plants" by Priscilla Susan Faulkner (1793-1869), a self-taught watercolour artist who painted exotic plants from her family's estate near Liverpool, England. The folio was published from 1831-1834, and in the preface, she wrote that it was "an endeavor to preserve some memorial of the brilliant and fugitive beauties of a particularly splendid and elegant tribe of plants." (Hexandrian plants are a Linnean class of plants having six stamens, including lilies, crinums, pancratiums, and my favorites, hippeastrums, commonly misnamed as amaryllis, which refers to a South African genus. Hippeastrums looks slightly like them, but they come from subtropical regions of the Americas. I have grown them almost every year to brighten up the dark winter days.

Portishead + Amnesty International

Portishead released a track for Amnesty International.


Happy New Year

From Maira Kalman's The Pursuit of Happiness

Like Maira Kalman, I am hoping to have more time to spend in gardens this year. But I am greedy. I also want more time to read, to take photographs, to make videos, to make things for Lily, and to be with friends and family.