Tag Archives: life

why we write: timothy schuler

7 Dec
The following is the second installment of “Why We Write,” a series of personal reflections on the craft of writing. Each installment is poignant in its own way, but in sum the series is a sincere and astounding collection of thoughts, emotions, and ambitions regarding the profession of writing. Take of each what you will.

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Timothy Schuler

It comes down to patience. And television. The warping of neural pathways and higher education and thinking ourselves into abstraction.

It’s about the Puerto Rican cafe around the corner and its plain black coffee in its plain white cups and the guava-and-cream-chese turnovers, which stick to their paper and shed sugary flakes like dead leaves. And how you can’t ask someone to sit there and listen to you calculate the mathematical correlation between suicide rates and GDP. Or hash out conspiracy theories about the Obama and Google based on the public listings of White House visitors. You can’t expect someone to listen as you tell them feminism isn’t working because it’s just making women into men. Tell them it’s like using money as the measure of success for the poor but no one else.

“This is what it comes down to. The absence of an infinite reciprocity.”

You can’t expect this because your coffee is hot now, but it will cool and you’ll take a drink and they’ll slip in a word edgewise. Like a wedge. And it’ll open up a chasm. And their ego will spill into the conversation and it will battle yours like beetles in late summer. Fifteen minutes and there’s no consensus or memory of the idea, which is fine because you weren’t saying it right anyway.

You need to go back and reread the Wall Street Journal article. There was something about work and family, about the brain and crime, about teacups and relationships and recycling in Switzerland and it was all canned and on the shelf earlier today, but something fell and now everything’s everywhere and they’re just looking at you, waiting for you to take a sip. Because they can’t clean it up either, and things are piling up, and the leak is getting worse, and there’s a clanging that sounds like armageddon.

This is what it comes down to. The absence of an infinite reciprocity. Relying on the page because it won’t ever disagree. It won’t check its phone for the time. It won’t change the topic. It comes down to synthesis. It comes down to understanding.

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“Why We Write” originated as part of Hostel Tuesdays, a writer’s collective that meets in the south study room on the seventh floor of Chicago’s downtown library. It meets on Wednesdays.

Previous authors: Sean Conner, Michael Danaher.

why we write: michael danaher

28 Nov
The following is the second installment of “Why We Write,” a series of personal reflections on the craft of writing. Each installment is poignant in its own way, but in sum the series is a sincere and astounding collection of thoughts, emotions, and ambitions regarding the profession of writing. Take of each what you will.

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Michael Danaher

I’d like to say it’s for some ultimate truth, like digging down deep into the clay of the human condition and unearthing something revelatory, something meaningful and genuine. That’s why I started, I suppose. Carver, O’Connor, Cheever, Vonnegut, O’Brien, Hemingway, Orwell, Salinger, Capote—they moved me, taught me things about myself, about my fellow man, that had been there all along but that I couldn’t see until I had consumed their sentences, digested their words, and attributed some significance to the meal of their works. And I knew, after reading “Cathedral” for my first Fiction Writing class sophomore year of college, that I wanted to be a writer.  Continue reading


22 Nov

The images below are of the Congo, from photographer Richard Mosse’s Infra series. Their coloring comes from their use of Kodak Aerochrome, a discontinued military film. Like other infrared systems, living things are rendered in a pinkish red; everything else is a stark gray-black.

The series is a compelling statement about the built environment when you think about it. All the man-made structures are dead, practically invisible. like black holes in a very-much-alive Seuss-like world.

Lava Floe by Richard Mosse

House Of Cards V

Flower Of The Mountain

Blue Mask


why we write: sean conner

22 Nov
The following is the first installment of “Why We Write,” a series of personal reflections on the craft of writing. Each installment is poignant in its own way, but in sum the series is a sincere and astounding collection of thoughts, emotions, and ambitions regarding the profession of writing. Take of each what you will.

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Sean Conner

I attended the baptism on a Sunday. I stood on the sand of a fake beach and watched a pastor tilt the heads of people into the stillness of Clinton Lake and bring them to Jesus. I always assumed God’s water, the holy stuff, the H-2-O of rituals and ceremonies, had to be blessed and ordained by some spiritual guru like the Pope, or an archbishop, or their hierarchal equivalents in other Christian denominations. It was hard to imagine that the molecules of holy water and the molecules of the water in this man-made lake were the same. Well, the molecules would be the same, but there’s my assumption that holy water has a little more magic powder thrown in. Some vestige of authority. Holy water, by my understanding, hadn’t been idly weaving towards shore day after day. Holy water doesn’t have gasoline in it, or fish shit. At the edge of the water I think about this and have a tough time disassociating this baptism from summer afternoons at the pool and the friendly dunking that oft ensued.  Continue reading

on reading, etc.

22 Nov

Mandy Brown, by Carrie Levy.

I do know Mandy Brown. I just didn’t know I knew her.

Since my friend Derek turned me on to The Great Discontent, I look forward to Tuesdays, when they post a new interview. A majority of the time, I abandon the text at about question three or four. It’s mostly about design, and I don’t know enough to really engage with their stories. But I enjoy going nonetheless.

But now, today, a designer and a writer. Predictably, I’m all ears. Then I realize I’ve seen her stuff before—also via Derek.

Mandy Brown created A Working Library and helped found A Book Apart. She does many other things as well. In reading the interview, I was drawn toward the aphoristic quotations off to the right, which had been pulled from Mandy’s writings and appear below.

What I found most intriguing was how many of them remarkably mimicked my thoughts of the past two days, as I’ve meditated on a new essay I plan to write for Anobium. Which, in the end, is a brilliant example of precisely what she’s talking about. Enjoy.

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Always read with a pen in hand. The pen should be used both to mark the text you want to remember and to write from where the text leaves you. Think of the text as the starting point for your own words.

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Reading and writing are not discrete activities; they occur on a continuum, with reading at one end, writing at the other. The best readers spend their time somewhere in between.

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A single book struggles to balance on its spine; it pines for neighbors. Keep as many books as you have room for.

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Read voraciously, many books at a time. Only then will you hear the conversation taking place among them.


17 Nov

Americans have to be told not to throw their pennies into small bodies of water. Anything smaller than a swimming pool and it’s inevitably lined with copper. There’s probably hundreds of dollars in the larger fountains. Do we even wish for anything when we do it? Or do we just toss out of habit?

I’m standing at end of a bridge, over the Metra tracks that mark the barrier between the Art Institute’s original building and its Modern Wing. A jutting piece of aluminum has collected the past month’s rain and the museum’s patrons can’t help themselves. There are pennies and nickels and dimes. Two keys. A perfect maple leaf. Etchings at the water’s edge look like fossilized shells. The water is drying up  slowly, leaving dirt on the aluminum in wide bands of varying colors. When it disappears completely, the sight will confuse people. Hundreds of coins in a bare aluminum trough, as if someone accidentally spilled a very large purse.  Continue reading

word association: darkside

17 Nov

There’s been a darkness to the day so coming across Darkside feels right. Composed of Nicolas Jaar, still an undergrad (studying comparative literature), and Dave Harrington, the group just released an eponymous EP available for $5. The song I heard, “AI” is ambient but grounded in a soulful guitar riff and seems made for staring at your computer screen and playing word association games with yourself.

“Darkside” –> Star Wars, Darth Vader, Superman, villain, evil, capes, juggernaut, comic books, video games, childhood.

It’s difficult to know if you’re being honest when you’re playing alone.

Listen to “AI” here.


1 Nov

Designer and illustrator Matt Stevens:

“All experience is valuable experience. We, a lot of times, come out of school and get horrible jobs or jobs we’re not that excited about. I would encourage folks to be patient. Some of the best lessons I’ve learned have been at the worst jobs I’ve had.”

I think that will resonate with just about everybody.

via The Great Discontent.

how to say no

26 Oct

My friend Derek and I have talked long into the night—and in the early morning before our friends wake up—about limits. Commitment. Smallness. About “traveling widely in Providence,” which is a line that’s stuck with me all these years, even if I’m getting it wrong. With so many people advocating for saying yesyes to everything—we need to know we can still say no. Liz Danzico says we not only can but should.

“Something a friend said to me several years ago has stayed with me,” she writes in The Manual. “‘It’s easy to say no if you love something.’ Wrong. Wrong, I thought at the time. If you love something, say yes. Say yes to everything. Yet what did he mean about loving something, I quietly wondered on the side. Did he mean to imply having a focus for one’s passion was another tool to help make better choices?”

She apparently comes around. Her final thought is this: “No matter what it is—be it a business, a person, a piece of art, a career, a song, a family, a way of life, or a pursuit of any kind—it’s easy to say no to all the choices that will present themselves if you love something. Finding that thing is the hardest part. But that’s another lesson.”

Alongside her post, she ran this quote from the late Steve Jobs, which is a timely and poignant conclusion to all this:

“People think focus means saying yes to the thing you’ve got to focus on. But that’s not what it means at all. It means saying no to the 100 other good ideas that there are. You have to pick carefully. I’m actually as proud of the many things we haven’t done as the things we have done.” 

the man who changed daily life

6 Oct

In the office today, on our Macs, listening to iPods, checking iPhones for updates, we’ve been pondering how much Steve Jobs actually affected our day-to-day activities.

Apparently in Tokyo there was a candlelight vigil—with candles pulled up on iPads.

Typically, I’m a rather grumpy old codger when it comes to technology, but today is no day to hold grudges. I think Jason Kottke said it best:

“Well, fuck. My condolences to his family.”