Sunday, December 28, 2014


 1) FROZEN MAGIC - It wasn’t marketing that made FROZEN successful, it was the elusive secret ingredient that makes a film a hit: MAGIC. And this is top-of-the-line CGI magic. The snow and ice effects are dazzling, the camera angles are breathtaking, the lighting is spectacular, the  character designs wonderful, the backgrounds stunning. But, by far, the biggest star of FROZEN is the animation. . .

2) FROZEN: A SECOND RENAISSANCE AT DISNEY ANIMATION? - We would love to see Disney use its best-in-the-world art on a broader spectrum of animated subjects to reach new audiences. Come on Disney, branch out, we dare you. Your top-of-the-line animation should include more than princesses and fairy tales. Bring the quality of the content up to the quality of the animation art. What do you say Bob Iger, John Lasseter, Ed Catmull, Kathleen Kennedy?...                   

3) TWITTER’S DESIGN DECLINE - Good design doesn’t complicate, it simplifies, it’s intuitive, easy to read and a pleasure to look at. The golden rule of good design is: FORM FOLLOWS FUNCTION. If we judge Twitter by its current design form, its function must be an illogical jumble . . .

4) The SIMPSONS  - I went to school with a boy who modeled himself on Bart Simpson, his parents being off at work every day and he being newly arrived in the US from Uzbekistan and having no other influence but TV . . . 

5) SHOULDERS of ANIMATION GIANTS - Please let’s stop going on and on and on about Disney’s Nine Old Men. Doing so suggests nobody was as good before or since which is just not true. They stood on shoulders of giants like Emile Cohl, Winsor McCay, Lotte Reiniger . . .

6) BEAUTIFUL ART, UGLY ARTISTS - Should we celebrate an artist who’s done something shameful? Can we venerate art produced by someone capable of evil? Should the two be separated? Can we love the art and not the artist? ...

7) WRITING RITES  - There’s so much literary advice online, I thought I’d offer some practical ideas for beating out the words. Be prepared and you won't waste time looking for stuff when you're aflame with inspiration: 1) Stock up on tea/coffee, chocolate, waters and champagne.  2) Surround your desk with spider plants, ferns and aloe vera for extra oxygen to fuel your brain . . .

8) ROBIN WILLIAMS - Animation and Robin Williams were made for each other as you can see in this fabulous ALADDIN number animated by Eric Goldberg. The art was inspired by Al Herschfeld’s lyrical lines visible in the curled fingers of the Genie and the  actual Hershfeld drawing . . .

9) Day of the Dead: MARCEL PROUST - ...this little pearl from Remembrance of Lost Time
“And behind a drape I surprised a little alcove which, 
stopped by a wall and unable to escape, 
 had hidden itself there and was sheepishly 
looking at me with its oeil-de-boeuf 
made blue by the moonlight.”

10) The FUNCTION of ART - “Art” is such a short word it doesn’t really do justice to all the glorious colors, shapes, ideas creativity and structures it represents. Or all the delight, rage, curiosity and satisfaction it provokes. I wish it were a bigger, longer more juicy word befitting such an important concept.
                                 Ai Weiwei, Coca Cola Vase, 2011

Sunday, December 21, 2014


These subjective impressions (↑ Mmm to ↓ Ugh)
should not be taken for proper reviews. 

THE GOLDFINCH by Donna Tartt
↑ ↑ ↑ This huge book won the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and deserved it if only for length and complexity. Lots of action: an explosion, a coming-of-age unrequited love story, secondary characters more interesting than the protagonist, theft, travel, guns and, of course, Carel Fabritius’s real painting that can be seen at the Mauritshuis in the Hague. I enjoyed it and did finish it, by the way. 

THE BAT (A Harry Hole Novel) by Jo Nesbo  ↓ – As much as I wanted to love Jo Nesbo, I didn’t.

THE SECRET HISTORY by Donna Tartt  ↑ ↑ ↑
The characters in this book are more vivid than those in The Goldfinch. Slow, deliberate narrative with expertly planted bits of back-story to hold the suspense. Very Crime-and-Punishment.

THE CIRCLE by Dave Eggers
↑ ↑ - Dave Eggers writes so well the eye just slides over the page like butter on a lobster. This is a cautionary tale about providing too much information to social media. Not one of his best but written, I feel, in anger and dread for what we’re getting ourselves into.

THE IMPERFECTIONISTS by Tom Rachman – ↑ ↑ ↑ Loved these aromatic Roman stories written by a former journalist stationed in Rome. The characters are alive with irrationality, ambition, drive, oddness. Food and drink are mentioned often as they should be in a book set in Italy. An altogether delicious book.

↑ ↑ - Meaty debut crime novel introducing brave and tortured DI Marnie Rome and a terrible villain we look forward to unpacking in subsequent books. Surprises and twists although I did guess the biggest twist because of the way the first two thumped me upside the head. Layered, well-constructed and the first of a series.

WILD: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed 

↓ ↓ ↓ – A very disappointing book. Yet another self-indulgent tale of a woman trying to avoid dealing with life’s problems and expecting a medal for walking along a trail with a big backpack and not even the wit to lighten it allegorically as she goes along.

HEART SONGS and Other Stories by Annie Proulx 
↑ ↑ ↑ - Austere stories of suffering and malice from wonderful Annie Proulx who knows how to write about the big stuff. No vapid sniveling and whining here. "Stong's eyes shone like those of a greedy barn cat who had learned to fry mice in butter." (from HEART SONGS) There is a stunningly evocative description of running water and reeds in the The WER-TROUT story.

POSTCARDS by Annie Proulx
↑ ↑ ↑ - The postcards are sent by Loyal Blood to his family. He's run away after accidently killing his woman and hiding her body in a stone wall. Searing, high definition writing.

Edition française complète, 10 tomes augmentée, illustrée et commentée
↑ ↑ ↑  -  I spent most of 2014 continuing to wade through this massive tome. Halfway through, I find the protagonist pathalogically observant, sharply funny and his lush, extravagant writing is certainly worth the effort. Sometimes a sentence is two pages long with only two commas! If you want to understand the French, this is the manual.

Saturday, December 13, 2014


Why is it every time an expert is consulted about the rules of grammar or spelling, they almost always follow their explanations with a disclaimer along the lines of: “Language is constantly changing so it's perfectly all right to say whatever you like and spell any old way.” If this is an effort to save people embarrassment, it’s painfully misguided because it only fosters ignorance and confusion.

Yes, language is a living thing and does evolve as we can easily see in constantly changing swearing and slang, but everybody wants to communicate eloquently and effectively, whether we’re rappers, used car sellers, teachers, inspirational speakers or best-selling writers. And to do this we
not only need talent and inspiration but a solid knowledge of good grammar and, for writers and taggers, correct spelling. 

We know we’re all judged by how we speak and write, by our accents, our choice of words and the expressions we use. Bad grammar and spelling is dangerous, it can cause bosses not to hire us, potential friends to take us for illiterate ignoramuses
and grandmothers to be eaten. And often this judgment happens without our knowledge because it’s considered offensive to correct someone’s grammar. Frankly I’m offended if my grammar and spelling aren’t corrected.

Grammar and spelling are supposedly taught in schools but so many people are confused or ignorant of the rules by the time they need them in real life we wonder what the hell they do teach in schools. If grammar can be got consistently wrong it can be corrected and got consistently right. The same mistakes are so prevalent that it seems they are what are being taught in schools: 

If I HAD done it not If I WOULD HAVE done it.
I feel BAD not badly 
I LIE on the floor now not  I LAY on the floor now. 
ANY MORE is used only with a negative: I don't do that any more.
The difference between TAKE and BRING (Bring it to me then take it away.) 
WHO usually refers to people, THAT to things.

There are rules and we need to know them before we can flout them. So, grammaticists, grammaticians, grammarians, just give us the rules already so we can choose for ourselves when and how to deliberately misuse language for fun.