The Daily

Posts Tagged ‘dads’

Summer Hours, Part 2

July 26, 2016 | by

slough header pr Catch up with Part 1 of Vanessa Davis’s new column. Read More »

Points of Sale

December 24, 2015 | by

We’re away until January 4, but we’re re-posting some of our favorite pieces from 2015. Please enjoy, and have a happy New Year!

Christo, Red Store Front (Project), collage, 1965, 40" x 48" x 2”, pencil, charcoal, enamel paint, wax crayon, wood, fabric, Plexiglas, and electric light. Image courtesy Craig F. Starr Gallery

Notes on shopping and giving.

I used to get coffee at Pret a Manger almost every morning. It’s a noisy and bustling shop in Union Square, the sort of high-impact environment that teaches people how to shout at one another without sounding unfriendly. (“No, I said I would not like cream cheese!” he yelled at the cashier, smiling with his eyes.) The staff there has been rigorously trained, and no matter how large the crowds are, you can expect to get in and out in just a few minutes. Obviously this is because you’re gently shepherded through the stages of a scripted consumer experience, with the store’s layout, color scheme, music, temperature, and copywriting all doing their part to vectorize you. Later I would learn that Pret, which has more than 350 locations worldwide, holds its employees to stringent standards of affective labor, demanding that they touch one another frequently and display signs of authentic happiness, but I was only intermittently aware of this when I visited regularly. Usually I emerged (my coffee cup snug in its cardboard sleeve, to keep my hand from burning) with the prideful sense that I’d mastered the form of the transaction, with its nested sets of thank yous and predetermined courtesies. I knew the questions the cashier would ask, always with a brittle rictus of corporate-mandate cheer, and I knew the exact order of the questions, and how to answer them. The only bumpiness came at the end of the script, after I’d declined a receipt and the cashier had said, “Thank you, have a great day.” For a while, I responded, “Thanks—you, too,” and the transaction ended there. But I discovered that a slight tweak to this response could advance the dialogue to a third, hidden stage. If I said “You, too—thanks,” the cashier would say, “You’re welcome. Come see us again.”

I tried for several months to find some rejoinder to this, something to elicit some unscripted reaction. “Count on it!” Or, “Don’t mind if I do!” Or, “You know I will, you see me here every morning, five days a week!” Even my best efforts got me nothing but canned laughter (very lifelike canned laughter, it must be said) or another perfunctory exchange of thank-yous. But I was after a human moment. I wanted to parry one rote cordiality against another until the cashier, at last, gave in and acknowledged the ruse. “Look at us,” he’d whisper, “dragooned day after day into this hollow pas de deux of late capitalism.” Then we’d go rob a bank together. Read More >>

Poe’s Only Best Seller, and Other News

December 17, 2015 | by

An illustration from Wyatt’s Conchology. This and other beautiful illustrations were omitted from Poe’s much cheaper abridged edition.

  • Edgar Allan Poe had only one best seller in his lifetime. It wasn’t The Raven and Other Poems. Nor was it The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket, his only novel. It was The Conchologist’s First Book: Or, a System of Testaceous Malacology, Arranged Expressly for the Use of Schools, in Which the Animals, According to Cuvier, Are Given with the Shells, A Great Number of New Species Added, And the Whole Brought Up, as Accurately as Possible, to the Present Condition of the Science. The first edition sold out in two months. And Poe wasn’t even its original author; the book was an abridgment of Thomas Wyatt’s Manual of Conchology. “Poe re-ordered the plates, arranging the organisms from simplest to most complex, and contributed a new preface and introduction. Though the book was intended ‘expressly for the use of Schools,’ the author appears to have done little calibration of his writing style for a young audience. Poe biographer Jeffrey Meyers writes: ‘Poe’s boring, pedantic and hair-splitting Preface was absolutely guaranteed to torment and discourage even the most passionately interested schoolboy.’ ”
  • Sōtatsu, a seventeenth-century Japanese artist, found fame for his screens, the most popular of which depicted roiling waves and rocks. (NB: I’ve refrained, with some difficulty, from deploying a “making waves” joke here, but the link you’re about to follow has no qualms about wave jokes.) Sōtatsu’s name faded from memory, but now he’s due for a comeback, courtesy of the Smithsonian: “The six-fold screen at the center of the exhibit, Waves at Matsushima, with its shimmering gold and silver tones, is believed to have been created about 1620 … Likely originally commissioned for a temple by a wealthy sea captain, Waves at Matsushima only became wider known after a pair of exhibitions in the early twentieth century.”
  • What does Rodin’s Thinker teach us about violence? “In the original 1880 sculpture, the thinker actually appears kneeling before the Gates of Hell … Sat before the gates, the thinker appears to be turning away from the intolerable scene behind. This, we could argue, is a tendency unfortunately all too common when thinking about violence today … In the original commission the thinker is actually called ‘the poet.’ This, I want to argue, is deeply significant for rethinking the future of the political. The Thinker was initially conceived as a tortured body, yet as a freethinking human, determined to transcend his suffering through poetry. We continue to be taught that politics is a social science and that its true command is in the power of analytical reason. Such has been the hallmark of centuries of reasoned, rationalized, and calculated violence, which has made the intolerable appear arbitrary and normal. Countering this demands a rethinking of the political itself in more poetic terms.”
  • It’s settled! Here’s what you should buy Dad this Christmas. “I had cufflinks made out of World War II history books ripped out of his favorite old baseball stadium. Headphones made out of whiskey stone drillbits. It tracks your fitness barbecues. Dads love it. Wireless meat suitcase. A watch made out of more expensive watches. Steve McQueen is here, and he named a star after you. I want to give you something, but your hands weren’t made to accept anything.”
  • You’ve seen Michael Mann’s Heat, right? Al Pacino? Robert de Niro? Val Kilmer? Come on! Heat! It’s got that famous scene in it, you know, where de Niro and Pacino meet for a cup of coffee even though they’re mortal enemies? Anyway, it came out twenty years ago, and now Michael Mann has some critical information about that scene: it’s based in life. “Heat began really with a friend of mine named Charlie Adamson, who killed the real Neil McCauley in Chicago in 1963; he’d been telling me about how interesting this guy was. Charlie had great admiration for Neil as a thief, because he was very professional, very disciplined, and very, very smart … Charlie was dropping off his dry-cleaning at a little shopping center in Chicago on Lincoln Avenue, and he saw McCauley, who he had already been surveilling, getting out of his car to go in for a cup of coffee … Adamson says, ‘Come on, I’ll buy you a cup of coffee.’ They went in, sat down and had coffee at the Belden Deli, which is no longer there. They had kind of a version of that same dialogue scene that I wrote and put in the movie, but it was very personal—the kind of intimacy you can only have with strangers who think in ways that are not dissimilar to the way you think.”

Points of Sale

November 30, 2015 | by

Notes on shopping and giving.

Christo, Red Store Front (Project), collage, 1965, 40" x 48" x 2”, pencil, charcoal, enamel paint, wax crayon, wood, fabric, Plexiglas, and electric light. Image courtesy Craig F. Starr Gallery

I used to get coffee at Pret a Manger almost every morning. It’s a noisy and bustling shop in Union Square, the sort of high-impact environment that teaches people how to shout at one another without sounding unfriendly. (“No, I said I would not like cream cheese!” he yelled at the cashier, smiling with his eyes.) The staff there has been rigorously trained, and no matter how large the crowds are, you can expect to get in and out in just a few minutes. Obviously this is because you’re gently shepherded through the stages of a scripted consumer experience, with the store’s layout, color scheme, music, temperature, and copywriting all doing their part to vectorize you. Later I would learn that Pret, which has more than 350 locations worldwide, holds its employees to stringent standards of affective labor, demanding that they touch one another frequently and display signs of authentic happiness, but I was only intermittently aware of this when I visited regularly. Usually I emerged (my coffee cup snug in its cardboard sleeve, to keep my hand from burning) with the prideful sense that I’d mastered the form of the transaction, with its nested sets of thank yous and predetermined courtesies. I knew the questions the cashier would ask, always with a brittle rictus of corporate-mandate cheer, and I knew the exact order of the questions, and how to answer them. The only bumpiness came at the end of the script, after I’d declined a receipt and the cashier had said, “Thank you, have a great day.” For a while, I responded, “Thanks—you, too,” and the transaction ended there. But I discovered that a slight tweak to this response could advance the dialogue to a third, hidden stage. If I said “You, too—thanks,” the cashier would say, “You’re welcome. Come see us again.”

I tried for several months to find some rejoinder to this, something to elicit some unscripted reaction. “Count on it!” Or, “Don’t mind if I do!” Or, “You know I will, you see me here every morning, five days a week!” Even my best efforts got me nothing but canned laughter (very lifelike canned laughter, it must be said) or another perfunctory exchange of thank-yous. But I was after a human moment. I wanted to parry one rote cordiality against another until the cashier, at last, gave in and acknowledged the ruse. “Look at us,” he’d whisper, “dragooned day after day into this hollow pas de deux of late capitalism.” Then we’d go rob a bank together. Read More »

Spooky Staff Picks: Bat Bombs, Phoney Phootey

October 30, 2015 | by

Dorothea Tanning, Guardian Angels, 1946, oil on canvas, 48 1/8" x 35".

Last Halloween we recommended some things that scared us. But there are many such things—we’re easily frightened—so this year we’re doing it again. Stay spooky.

In college, I took a seminar about female Surrealist artists—Remedios Varo, Unica Zürn, Claude Cahun, and Dorothea Tanning, et al. Many of these women’s life stories were harrowing, and their artwork, which often mines frightening psychological territory, is dark, humorous, visionary, and uncanny. It still creeps me out. Dorothea Tanning’s paintings, for instance, are full of tattered clothing and deserted hallways. They’re haunted by somnambulant young girls and oddly sentient sunflowers. Her painting Guardian Angels scares me whenever I look at it: strange, ragged, winged creatures that look like vicious, plucked chickens swirl and tear at each other, rippling with some obscene energy. Later in life, Tanning made forays into sculpture, fashioning soft, upholstered structures that ooze across the boundary between furniture and human figure. My favorite work of Tanning’s is The Birthday, a self-portrait in which she has painted herself stepping through an open door into a corridor that’s full of other doorways. A monster—sort of like one of the flying monkeys from The Wizard of Oz—huddles, couchant, at her feet, and her expression is otherworldly. Is she letting this beast in or sending him across another threshold? —Hannah LeClair Read More »

New Tricks

September 11, 2015 | by

From Popular Science, 1896.

Last November, my brother and I went out with my mother for her birthday dinner. It was a special birthday—she was becoming a senior citizen—so we went somewhere nice, where the waiter told us that it was the start of scallop season and the sweet local bay scallops were a special. My mother ordered them and, after the waiter had left the table, informed us, “I’m going to get my scalloping license this winter.”

“No you’re not,” scoffed my brother. Which is the sort of thing he can get away with, and which in any case was tinged with affection. He and I were thinking of other abandoned schemes: the metal detector, the archery set, the very brief period when our parents walked quarantined dogs at the local shelter. Read More »