After four years, Is Greater Than has ceased publishing. Thank you for reading and your support over the years.
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The thing about the way I troll for fodder for this column – going to [monolithic internet retailer]‘s web site, clicking on new music releases for a given week, seeing what catches my eye – is that I have no way of knowing whether the album covers that I write about are in fact new, or are just reissues of older albums. This is exacerbated by the fact that I’m looking for artists I’ve never heard of and don’t permit myself to do any research on them before I write about their album covers. So the odds that I will end up exposing my ignorance by writing about an established, classic artist that I’ve just never heard of are fairly high.
This month I crank those odds up a bit more by picking album covers with designs that are either inspired by classic designs of the past or, maybe actually are classic designs of the past. Once I finish writing this I’ll go and figure out what’s what, but for now we’ll just feast our eyes on some timeless (or perhaps just anachronistic) album covers.
The cats, brothers, never moved to Chicago. We brought them along with us—seven hours in the car in their individual carriers crying piteously—in spite of frequent spritzes with a spray that was supposed to mimic a calming feline scent pheromone. We were very calm—a little drowsy driving, even—but the cats were unrelenting in vocalizing their unhappiness. They were older, accustomed to having access to the yard in Minneapolis, to living in proximity to a compost bin that attracted a steady supply of small rodents, to open windows, and the cool cat hideout under the neighbor’s front porch they accessed through a missing slat in the porch skirting.
There are a lot of headbands in the National Basketball Association. And socks and towels and jerseys. And on every one of them; in fact on just about all things NBA, there is the logo. You know the one. It’s one of the most recognized images in the world. And anyone who has the slightest interest in basketball knows that the guy in the image is Jerry West. Everyone, that is, except the NBA, which tends to hedge questions about the logo saying that they don’t have a record of who it is.
It may be well into the glorious, green, sunny season of spring – at least for those of you not stuck in the interminably cloudy, cold weather sinkhole that is Seattle these days – but that doesn’t mean everyone’s releasing bright, cheery indie-pop records about bunnies and dancing and dancing bunnies and dancing with bunnies. There are still many musicians out there crafting dark, disturbing works and putting them out whenever they damn well feel like it. If you do pick up any of these albums, you’ll probably want to wait until nightfall to put them on the old hi-fi.
My introduction to Marc Chagall’s dreamlike figures, at least outside of an art history book, was in 1998, during a trip to France. But the first time I saw Marc Chagall’s America Windows was in the movie Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (it is, of course, the backdrop for Ferris and Sloane’s kiss at the Art Institute of Chicago). Beloved in both French museums and opera houses and to American moviegoers, Chagall is probably best known for reinventing the stained glass window.
When I moved to Chicago in 2005, America Windows was in the process of being deinstalled for the Art Institute’s expansion, so I didn’t get to see it in person until it was unveiled again last fall. I’ve since seen it many times in the Art Institute’s Modern Wing, where it’s exhibited near smaller versions of public art in Chicago, including Calder’s Flamingo and an unnamed Picasso sculpture. (Incidentally, the irony is palpable: an exhibit on public art in a space available to those who can pay nearly $20 for admission.)
This wooden box looks like my dad’s makeshift garage stepstool. Or my friend’s makeshift ferret bin. Due to the hole, one might assume it’s a makeshift stimulating aid from someone’s fetish closet. Regardless, it screams makeshift.
It’s actually a cajón, a lesser celebrated instrument in the contemporary world of percussion. When struck, this seemingly simple wooden box has all the pitches of a drum set’s snare, tom(s), and bass.
At first glance, it looks and sounds like something from Stomp, but it has a rich and interesting history. Rather than rip from Wikipedia, I’ll credit one of my dear friends D.G. who said the cajón was invented by African slaves who struck rhythms on fish crates during their time at sea. And so the cajón was born.
Lynette D’Amico considers the power of empty space in urban design
What name do you associate with the “We Can Do It” poster? Rosie the Riveter? Yeah, me too; until recently, anyway. Turns out, we’re wrong. Kind of. The iconic image captures an era and serves to remind us of a great—though somewhat unintentional—wave of American feminism that will always be associated with Rosie the Riveter, but, it’s not Rosie.
Last month I was introduced to Alex London’s work with surprised pleasure via the fall 2011 collection, Kagami. The clothing made it clear that this is not your average up-and-coming designer and gave me an obvious hint that I should find out more. Luckily, Alex agreed to sit down with me and tell me more about how Alex London Design came to be.
I have to admit that I love this time of year. Spring is right around the corner, and here in California the rain storms are raging and the citrus is still booming. All around me people are griping about the cold and impatiently awaiting Spring days and the long stint where we won’t see a drop of rain for at least 6 months. But as we get closer and closer the end of the season, I begin to lament the loss of the rain, which I love, and Meyer Lemons, which are possibly my favorite citrus. So, as it pours outside, I sit inside thinking of things to bake to keep my house warm and trying to find new ways to use my favorite lemon. That’s more or less how this cookie was created. It is a combination of some of my favorite sweets and favorite ingredients: salty, chewy, Meyer Lemon, olive oil, and it only uses one bowl!
Uli Westphal‘s photo collection of mutatoes, mutated and surreal fruits and vegetables from Berlin’s farmer’s markets.
Combatting air pollution with…glowing artificial trees?
MIT publishes back issues of its Technology Review dating back to 1969.
Much was made of how social media affected Egypt’s uprisings, but not about the role Google Earth played.
The Is Greater Than Digital Omnibus is now available for the Kindle and related iOS/Android/desktop apps, for download through Amazon. Fiction, art and essays. The eBook collection of essays, fiction and art includes some of 2010′s best of Is Greater Than as well as work never before published on the web. Buy it for $3.00 at Amazon. A brief overview of what you’ll find on our first eBook collection:
There’s been a slew of recent attempts glean insights from hip-hop’s history by exhaustively examining the genre’s lyrics. Yale University Press attempted to do so with The Anthology of Rap, to mixed reviews. Even though it focused on his own lyrics, Jay-Z’s Decoded served a similar purpose, arguably more effectively. Could a machine do better? Artist Tahir Hemphill thinks so, and is raising funds on Kickstarter to datamine the entire history hip-hop lyrics. Duncan Geere at Wired reports:
I consider myself a big believer in good stories on screen. Give me a plot that makes sense and characters that change and I’ll watch it whether it’s a film, a television show, or a web series. Put it on a shiny screen and I’ll watch it like the pop culture veal I am.
But why do I, like so many other people, enjoy the ubiquitous genre of reality TV? In reality television, there are no real plots. Often, the characters don’t change. Only occasionally do they show glimpses of vulnerability while their misanthropic leanings, Machiavellian manipulations, addictions, compulsions, flagrant greed, and general dysfunction get overexposed in a debauched light. Do I only watch because I enjoy being a spectator to the misery of others and feeling superior to those who struggle with poor life choices?
Our friend Cooper McBean of The Devil Makes Three has kept himself busy in the band’s downtime, putting together a backing band on the side for his solo efforts and recording a four-song ep available for download over at Bandcamp. Though many of his songs in The Devil Makes Three have a raggy, swingy lilt to them, the stuff on his side project Cooper McBean and the Vested Interests places its boot firmly in the honky-tonk camp.
I don’t gamble. Don’t really like going to clubs. Definitely don’t enjoy paying $8 for a small beer at a bar. So what is there for me to do in Las Vegas?
Plenty. The opportunities for people-watching in Las Vegas are unparalleled. And the amount of flash and glitter and distraction and spectacle is enough to keep any photographer happy for days.
So this is it. Borders has officially filed for bankruptcy. They have released a list of 200 stores they will be closing over the next several weeks, and it is expected that they will close at least another 75. How should we be feeling about this? As booksellers, as book lovers? Personally, I am afraid, delighted, and saddened. The part of me that works in a bookstore across the street from a Borders that is closing down is delighted. The part of me that works in a bookstore in a city that is losing two bookstores this month (only one of them a Borders) is saddened . . . but also hopeful we will get their business. The part of me that recognizes the impact of a major chain closing down that owes the six major publishing houses around $40 million each is actually freaked the fuck out. This is a big deal.
Deb Olin Unferth, in defense of the much-maligned memoir.
Schadenfreude/man’s hubris alert: Dubai’s man-made islands are sinking into the sea.
Nostalgia for the vintage Internet aesthetics of Myspace?