Archive: April 2011

Talking while jogging:

“‘He got transferred,’ Jerry answered, squeezing the words out of himself like toothpaste from a tube. He was in good shape because of football but he wasn’t a runner and didn’t know the tricks.”

– Robert Cormier
The Chocolate War

Drumroll Please …

This has been in the works for a while now, and it has been killing me not to be able to share it.  But at long last Abrams has released their Fall 2011 catalog, which means I can finally unveil the cover for Peter Nimble & His Fantastic Eyes!

It was drawn by Gilbert Ford (of “secret series” fame) and designed by Chad Beckerman (of Chad Beckerman fame).  The two of them went through a couple of rounds of brainstorming — including a fairly involved cover involving cutaway eyes.  I am truly astounded with the final product.  Seriously.  Just look at the thing …

To see a little bit more Peter Nimble (and to see the other wonderful books Abrams will be putting out this year) check out the catalog.  Then rush to Amazon and pre-order 100 copies.


“The poster showed a wide expanse of beach, a sweep of sky with a lone star glittering far away. A man walked on the beach, a small solitary figure in all the immensity. At the bottom of the poster, these words appeared — Do I dare disturb the universe? By Eliot, who write the Waste Land thing they were studying in English.”

– Robert Cormier
The Chocolate War

The Shame Shelf …

Some of you might remember when I posted a link to Kirby Field’s fantastic article about file-sharing.1 Well, clear your schedules because Mr. Fields has struck out on his own!  He recently launched a site called Reading Remainders, in which he will slowly tackle all the unread books on his shelf.

This is a noble pursuit.  Pretty much every reader I know is plagued by stacks and stacks of unread books.  For years, I had a personal rule that I could not put a book on a shelf unless I had read it in its entirety.  I considered a shelved book no different than the mounted head of a deer — it was a trophy.

Of course, this all got ruined when I met Mary.   All of a sudden there were somebody else’s books cluttering up my shelf.  The horror!2  I eventually managed to convince her to at least allow me the “no unread books on the shelf” rule.  Those books can be broken up into two basic categories:

1) the one book Mary is about to actually read

2) the many books Jonathan swears he will read so can he pretty-please buy them all?

These books are strategically-placed above Mary’s desk, where they can inspire maximum guilt.  My old pal Kirby, however, has elected to display his shame shelf before the whole world.  And it’s not just a bunch of classics that everybody knows of and hasn’t read — he’s also reading all the crappy books that have somehow ended up in his possession.  Consider this week’s piece, which is an extended, thoughtful meditation on an Anthony Robins self-help book from the 80s.

These are less book reviews than platforms for reflection on a lifetime of reading and thinking. (The above Anthony Robins piece, for example, is set against Kirby’s first-ever brush with unemployment.)  In his NFQs page3, he refers to the blog as an “online manuscript.”  Whatever you call it, it’s a fun way to spend an afternoon.

  1. I also encourage you to check out his great Popmatters article about his favorite childhood used bookstore.
  2. One of our first real arguments was about how to organize said books … during which I was informed that my longtime sorting method (“grouped conversations”) is nothing short of insane.
  3. Which I can only assume stands for “Never Asked Questions”

Another lovely description:

“He had a terrible case of acne, his face like a relief map.”

– Robert Cormier
The Chocolate War

Behold the Library of the Future!

After spending waaaaay too many hours with ink-stained fingers, I recently decided to drag myself into the digital world.  This included buying and learning Adobe Photoshop — a double-challenge as I am both stingy and lazy.  I asked Mary what I should draw to practice, and she suggested The Library of the Future.

“The what,” you say?

A few weeks ago, Brooklyn librarian Rita Meade participated in a city-wide competition in which kids wrote essays describing “The Library of the Future.”  She recently posted some of her favorite responses on her excellent blog, Screwy Decimal.1  I’ll reprint them here (her responses are in parentheses):

1) “The future library will be located in a spaceship. The spaceship will have blue tables and purple chairs. The walls of the future library will be green and magenta. Also, the future library will have many skylights.”

2) “Libraries will have flying desks and iPads for each person.” (Is this in the budget?)

3) “The future library will be open twenty four hours.” (I’m not sure, but I THINK this goes against union bylaws.)

4) “The library will have ninety thousand computers. The library will also have a café.”

5) “If you have a book that is out of date, it will warp back to the library. It also allows you to warp to other libraries.”
6) “Libraries will be floating in the sky. People will have their own planes to get there.”

7) “As much as I love the library, I’m 100% sure future libraries would be even more awesome. Just think how amazing the library will be in the future, with robots and electronics.”

8) “I also believe that there will be robot librarians. But then again a lot of people know that someday robots will take over the world. Also people think that there will be a war of good robots vs bad robots but here is the good part about all this is that the good robots will be teamed up with all of humanity. But earth is a very strong place and can fight with or without human help.” (This kid’s going to be a sci-fi writer, you wait and see.)

9) “[Robot librarians] will be very cost effective because we will not have to pay them.” (Thanks, kid!)

10) “The librarians are so friendly, even the shyest person in the world won’t be shy anymore.” (Awww.)

So, I sat down and tried my best to draw a picture of the wonders described by our young prophets.  To see all the details, click through the image:

Awesome, right?  I fit in pretty much everything but the iPads, which I sincerely doubt will be around in the future (unlike evil robots, which are fact).

  1. Screwey Decimal is sort of a repository for all the adorable things kids say to her at work.  For a less adorable blog about things overhead at work, I direct you all to Our Valued Customers, where Mr. Tim does a daily comic strip documenting something he overheard at his local comic shop.

From chapter 16:

“Worse than that, however, he had allowed Brother Leon to blackmail him. If teachers did this kind of thing, what kind of world could it be?”

– Robert Cormier
The Chocolate War


From chapter 15:

“The world was made up of two kinds of people — those who were victims and those who victimized.”

– Robert Cormier
The Chocolate War

Easter Traditions …

Mary and I are orphans here in Los Angeles.  For the last few years, we’ve taken shelter each Easter with some kindhearted relatives.  These relatives are big fans of games and such, and so last year, they initiated a holiday tradition of doing dollar-store crafts.  We began with paint-by-numbers.  As some of you may recall, I have a low tolerance for toys that require patience or instruction-reading.1  So in order to keep myself interested in such projects, I have to add a few personal touches.  Here’s what I came up with last year.  It’s a landscape entitled Dragon and Valley, a Study:

The more observant among you will notice that the above painting has a frame around it.  That’s because it is Art, ladies and gentlemen.  Art that currently hangs on the wall of my office.  And, as of yesterday afternoon, it will be kept company by another addition to the oeuvre.

This year, I decided to tackle the art of engraving (on holographic foil, no less!).2  The task took many hours, and when the flimsy metal “scraper thingy” became worn down to a nub, I turned to a 120v Dremel electric engraver to finish the job.3   While traces of my earlier style are still present, I think you’ll agree that my technique has grown to accommodate my conceptual ambitions.


Without further ado, I present HoloShark with Easter Bunny:

You’re welcome, Art World.  See you next year.

  1. Mary and I are very different in this regard. While she could do puzzles all day long, I can only sit down at a puzzle long enough to … hey look, cartoons!”
  2. The holographic foil is why the image looks funny (like any good artist, I blame all flaws on the materials).
  3. This is true — my uncle has the best tool shed ever.

From chapter 10:

“There was nothing more beautiful in the world than the sight of a teacher getting upset.”

– Robert Cormier
The Chocolate War


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