Daily Arts
Never Mind Those Thousand Words
You want something when you're in a foreign country: Eventually this is true. You want to go somewhere, you want to find someone, you want to purchase something. Hell, maybe you just want to use a toilet, even if it might be a toilet unlike any other you've seen in your life thus far. But, ah, damn, you can't make yourself understood. You don't speak the local language; the locals don't speak your language. What's a monoglot to do?

ICOON, which sounds like some provocative cyber-project from William Pope L., is a perfectbound booklet packed with precise line illustrations and full-color photos of people and things and situations. The idea is, you carry this mini-tome (written and gorgeously designed by Gosia Warrink) with you on your travels, and when language is a barrier, you simply locate an illo of what you're trying to communicate and then point it out to the person you're trying to talk to.

Brilliant? We think it might be called that, sure, especially as its precise and pleasing images are arranged in handy categories like "clothing," "hygiene," "health," "money," "food," "emotions," and so on. And, even if you're not planning on traveling beyond the borders of your own lingo's comfort zone anytime soon? It's quite a sweet little volume to peruse and share with others, and at $10 would make an excellent stocking stuffer for that holiday [points to image of Santa Claus] coming up.

4:37PM Tue. Oct. 28, 2008, Wayne Alan Brenner Read More | Comment »

Radio Stars Who Are Fit to Print
In this week's issue, Arts Editor Robert Faires reviews Sarah Vowell's newest book, The Wordy Shipmates. Vowell, of course, first sprung to national attention as a contributor (later "consigliere") to Public Radio International’s This American Life, and she's one of several little-voices-in-our-ear culture commentators who have new books in print. In More Information Than You Require (Dutton Adult, $25), John Hodgman – also a TAL vet (but more famous as the lumpy-looking PC guy) – expands upon The Areas of My Expertise with another wild ride through made-up history, including bogus entries to a page-a-day calendar (as in Oct. 30, 1938, when Orson Welles supposedly followed up his The War of the Worlds panic-inducing broadcast with a radio adaptation of Whitman’s Leaves of Grass – “Listeners fall for it again: Across America, hysterical citizens run through the streets singing the body electric, and falling in love with teenage boys”). Next month, Ricky Gervais podcast superstar Karl Pilkington releases his third volume of simple-man, (semi-)wise-words musings in Karlology: What I’ve Learnt So Far (Dorling Kindersley, $20). And two regulars from NPR’s quiz show Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me hit the stands and hit the town at next month’s Texas Book Festival: Roy Blount Jr., of the baroquely worded Alphabet Juice: The Energies, Gists, and Spirits of Letters, Words, and Combinations Thereof; Their Roots, Bones, Innards, Piths, Pips, and Secret Parts, Tinctures, Tonics, and Essences; With Examples of Their Usage Foul and Savory (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $25), and Wait Wait host Peter Sagal, who’s just reissued his The Book of Vice: Very Naughty Things (and How to Do Them) (Harvard Paperbacks, $13.95), will hold court on Saturday, Nov. 1, at 3:30pm in the Capitol’s Senate Chambers. Speaking of, check next week's issue for our advance coverage of the Texas Book Festival and the Austin Jewish Book Fair. It's a good time to love books and be in Austin, no?

8:03PM Thu. Oct. 23, 2008, Kimberley Jones Read More | Comment »

'The Snowball: Warren Buffet and the Business of Life'
Timing is a crucial factor in investing and with the world's economy struggling (to put it nicely) it's the perfect time for the legendary investor to share his principles on life and investing. The Snowball: Warren Buffet and the Business of Life is a 960-page tome documenting the Oracle of Omaha's life and business theories. Buffet's only request of biographer Alice Schroeder was, "Whenever my version of the story is different from someone else's … use the less flattering version." And unflattering much of it is. His obsession with business left him distant from those close to him, he doesn't believe in loaning money even to close relatives, and there's also a little adultery mixed in as well. Regardless of any personal shortcomings, he is nothing less than a brilliant businessman and shares his thoughts on the stock market, reinvesting savings, buying "cigar butts" (cheap and unwanted stocks that you can suck one last puff out of), investing in Berkshire Hathaway, and following your "Inner Scorecard" ("a toughness about financial decisions that had infused him for as long as anyone could remember"). The Snowball is a must-read for anyone even remotely interested in the investment world and its release comes not a day too soon. That is if anyone can still afford to buy it. Author Alice Schroeder will appear at the Texas Book Festival on Saturday, Nov. 1, 2:30pm, in Capitol Auditorium Room E1.004.

5:28PM Mon. Oct. 20, 2008, Mark Fagan Read More | Comment »

'Boys Will Be Boys'
Jeff Pearlman wastes no time establishing the tone and situation of the Nineties Dallas Cowboys in his new book Boys Will Be Boys: The Glory Days and Party Nights of the Dallas Cowboys Dynasty (Harper Collins, $25.95). There is no introduction and no preface, because Pearlman has no use for such things. On the first paragraph of the first page, the author paints a picture of star wide receiver Michael Irvin stabbing teammate Everett McIver in the throat with a pair of silver scissors. Irvin had exhibited poor judgment before this, often acts involving cocaine, strippers, as well as attacking a referee during a charity basketball game, but on this occasion Pearlman shows us that McIver was getting a haircut and refused to give up his barber seat to Irvin. Remember, this is only the first page. Boys Will Be Boys is a straightforward, no-nonsense examination of the reclamation and fall of “America’s Team," nor does it need to be anything else. A franchise that was the beacon of the NFL in the Seventies had crumbled, and was being rebuilt with the kind of characters usually sequestered for Oliver Stone films. The antics of Irvin are just the tip of the iceberg. The ‘Boys replaced the only coach they had ever known, the legendary and Bible-fearing Tom Landry, with the egomaniacal Jimmy Johnson, whose interests included listening to Barbra Streisand, violent movies, white shag carpet, and the consumption of cold Heineken. Owner Jerry Jones eventually dumps Johnson for Johnson’s former college teammate and coaching rival Barry Switzer, who famously brought a handgun to the airport. These are just the coaches.

2:04PM Fri. Oct. 17, 2008, Timothy Braun Read More | Comment »

The Winningly Wordy Patriot
History buff and political essayist Sarah Vowell (The Partly Cloudy Patriot) has never been shy about her liberal leanings – in one of her most famous pieces, "The Nerd Voice," she wrote about weeping at W.'s first inauguration – and, honestly, one wishes the Democratic Party could put her on the payroll stat, such an engaging, ingratiating personality she is.

Case in point – last night's appearance on The Daily Show, in which she neatly cut down to size the Republican Party for repeatedly invoking the tragedy of 9/11 in one breath, and then dismissing New York – even the whole Eastern seaboard – as a liberal orgy of unpatriotism in the next:

"I feel like the East Coast was American enough for Al Qaeda, so it should be American enough for them."

The whole six-minute clip is embedded below – and it's good stuff, especially her impassioned defense of elitism – but if you're looking for more, then mark your calendar now – Vowell will be at Book People on Tuesday, Oct. 28, at 7pm promoting her new book The Wordy Shipmates.

11:19AM Wed. Oct. 8, 2008, Kimberley Jones Read More | Comment »

How Do You Say 'Au Revoir' to a Writer Like James Crumley?
The Frenchman looked a little uneasy. He had, he explained, come to Missoula for two reasons. The first, to explore the highways of the American West at Mach speeds (back in the ‘90s, Montana had no designated speed limit); the second, he said, was to meet the crime novelist James Crumley. We had a laugh as Frenchy related how he had sped into Wyoming without seeing the signs – out of Montana and into the arms of the waiting highway patrol. Then my pal Charley marched him down the block to meet Crumley. James Crumley, who knew a thing or two about living hard and driving fast, died on Wednesday, Sept. 17. He was 68. He was born in Three Rivers, south Texas, but lived for nearly four decades in Missoula, Montana. A one-time member of the University of Montana writing faculty, he was a familiar sight in the local bars, and offered kind words of advice to this and nearly every other writer who sought him out. Crumley was most famous for his crime novels, which received mixed critical reviews. Regardless, his books were celebrated by legions of fans for their visceral violence (always moral, rarely gratuitous) and Jim’s fine way with words. No remembrance would be complete without quoting the opening from his 1984 classic, The Last Good Kiss. That indelible first line: "When I finally caught up with Abraham Trahearne, he was drinking beer with an alcoholic bulldog named Fireball Roberts in a ramshackle joint just outside of Sonoma, California, drinking the heart right out of a fine spring afternoon."

2:02PM Wed. Oct. 1, 2008, Dan Oko Read More | Comment »

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It's Comic! It's Art! It's … Spiegel-Man!
Everybody's favorite chainsmoking, vest-wearing, Pulitzer prize-winning, Garbage Pail Kids-drawing, creatively neurotic and artistically groundbreaking Jew – Art Spiegelman, ladies and gentlemen! – brightens Pantheon's fall releases with a reissue (and reconsideration) of Breakdowns, his oversized and rare 1978 collection of experimental comix.

The original offered enough of the artist's weird graphic brilliance from the 70s to, like, blow your mind, man. This new edition's got all that, plus an illustrated introduction that runs for pages and pages to provide an autobiographical context for the original collection and an afterword that sums up the introduction, the original collection, the artist himself, and what makes comics worthwhile (and what it takes to make worthwhile comics). This vastly enhanced edition is subtitled Portrait of the Artist as a Young %@#*!, which is fucking hilarious, and it makes one wish that all young %@#*!s were this entertaining to read when they've gotten this old.

12:43PM Wed. Oct. 1, 2008, Wayne Alan Brenner Read More | Comment »

Austin Public Library Tightens Belt, Introduces New Branch Hours
Nobody's safe these days from the great battering ram of the imploding economy, and that, sadly, includes our public libraries. The Austin Public Library will put into effect this week a rotating schedule of one-day-a-week closures for each of its 20 branches. (Downtown's Faulk Central Library will keep its regular hours.) A press release sent out late last week announcing the measure stated that "funds from the one day closures will be reallocated in the areas of custodial, security, maintenance and the materials budget for the library system." The release also reassured that the branches' days' off would be staggered so that no neighborhood would be without service. Schedule of closures at geographically paired libraries after the jump. For more on APL, check out their website here.

3:16PM Tue. Sep. 30, 2008, Kimberley Jones Read More | Comment »

Crime Writer James Crumley Passes Away at 68
Mystery/crime author James Crumley passed away this weekend in Missoula, Montana, according to The New York Times. A native Texan whose papers are archived at Texas State's Southwestern Writers Collection, Crumley is most famous for two separate and enduring book series starring detectives Milo Milodragovitch and C.W. Sughrue. NY Times obit here. Read Jesse Sublett's 2001 profile of Crumley in the Chronicle here.

3:09PM Tue. Sep. 23, 2008, Kimberley Jones Read More | Comment »

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