5 items

April 7th, 2010 | Uncategorized

I just emailed my colleague James Sturm to congratulate him on his new book, Market Day. I got an automatic response that read, “I will be off-line from March 19 through June 18. Any e-mail sent during this time will not be read. Apologies for any inconvenience.”

I get auto-responses all the time from people who are on vacation or something. But I’d never seen one that said YOUR EMAIL WILL NOT BE READ. What a thought! Don’t you DIE if you don’t read your email?

Apparently James is quitting the internet for four months, and documenting his experience at Slate.com. (And no, the irony of blogging about being online does not escape him.)


A kind reader, Antje from Berlin, sent in this photo collage she took in a shop on a German island in the Baltic Sea. She calls it “Mo’s Paradise.”

3. When I was in Chicago in February, I did an interview with a smart young woman from a blog called “Gender Across Borders.” See how hard I’m trying to look smart too?

4. You’ve probably all seen this by now, but Martina has breast cancer. Prognosis excellent. But she went four years without a mammogram! Don’t any of you be so lax, okay?

library books

Carey Maloney of the New York Public Library’s LGBT Committee just sent me this photo from the newly renovated St. Agnes branch of the NYPL, with Fun Home on display at the checkout desk with Catcher in the Rye.

48 Responses to “5 items”

  1. MaggieGrace says:

    I’ll hopefully leave the first comment!
    About James Sturm: I’ll come back to him. I know nothing about him but I’ll be sure to look him up when I have the time.
    #2: I like to shop..kind of looks like Victoria Secret!(with Zebra stripes) (I’m Femme, I can’t help it!)
    #3, you look good..own it! Be secure in who you are.
    #4: As a physician, get your yearly checkups and don’t procrastinate. It will cost you dearly. You can check yourself if you want to! Just Google and you’ll find out how.

    About two and a half weeks ago my state (NC) experienced some traumatic tornadoes. In my own neighborhood, we lost a lot of homes and several lives. I have been busy, to say the least, and it’s been an emotional roller coaster trying to get folks back on track. My schedule is so incomplete that I don’t know what I’m doing from one day to the next. Just trying to find homes for the displaced.
    Does anyone own any real estate down in my neck of the woods?
    I can fix them, physically, but I’m not too sure if I can place them. It is truly a bad situation.
    If you pray, please keep us in your prayers.

  2. --MC says:

    Sturm. He’s going to be in our neck of the woods, doing a signing at the Fantagraphics Bookstore (Seattle) in two weeks, then making an appearance at Stumptown (Portland) a week later. I am certainly going to pull his coat about email.

  3. --MC says:

    Er, not pull his coat. I see that usage was wrong.

  4. Alex K says:

    5) Whoa! Lookit that company ol’ JD is keepin’! Movin’ on up, Holden!

    4) Four YEARS?! Oh, dear.

    3) “Smart” works for you. It’s not at all the same pose — but it reminds me of the lean forward into commanded space that Picasso found to embody Stein. Oh, and yes. I really DO expect people reading this blog to know that VERY lesbian-friendly image.

    2) Germans, unlike Americans, do not require slenderising vertical stripes.

    1) If you’re thinking of quitting this blog yourself for four months — DROP THAT THOUGHT. MOVE AWAY FROM THE THOUGHT. IF YOU DROP THE THOUGHT NOW, NOBODY WILL GET HURT.

  5. j.b.t. says:

    1. loved the interview.

    2. really glad to hear that maybe… just maybe…we’ll get more DTWOF.

    3. there’s a lot of controversy about regular mammograms for non-high-risk women – seems they might be carcinogenic. Hmm. It’s not a simple “get one every year” = protection equation.

    4. just found out that the Citizen Cafe in S. MPLS is having BACON MONTH! It’s true. And locally sourced, good quality bacon is featured throughout the menu. Thought you all might like to know – esp. the Minneapolitans.

    5. I like the new/old cover of Catcher in the Rye – an old favorite from highschool that I’ve actually been thinking of rereading. Some of those old faves hold up really well, others don’t. (Glad to say Sula held up splendidly – so much more meaning now that I’m a grown-up!)


  6. Jain says:

    I recommend the Glass family stories before Catcher in the Rye.

  7. j.b.t. says:

    Franny and Zooey was my favorite, by I loved them all. I’ll be interested in seeing if I still like them as much now.

  8. Andrew B says:

    Ginjoint provided a link to that interview shortly after it was done. Thanks to her for that.

    Hm, if Sturm is going to ignore the email people send him for three months, he could at least say so in the active voice.

    Mo’s paradise is very funny.

  9. hairball_of_hope says:

    If you’re in NYC and you want to check out the St. Agnes branch of the NYPL, it’s on the Upper West Side, Amsterdam Ave. & W.81 St., near the Museum of Natural History/Hayden Planetarium.

  10. Ellen Orleans says:

    Much of what James Sturm wrote resonated for me. I can’t give up email entirely (my job depends on it and I don’t have a wife to do work for me), but it’s engaging to ponder where I could cut back.

    Buy a newspaper to look up the weather? Call friends to get directions? Print photos, then mail them to individual friends? Go to the library to research information for stories and essays? Would I spend more or less time doing it this way?

    Four years ago, I gave up television. I save hours each day by not watching repeats of Friends, Law & Order, Star Trek, or MASH. Much of that time slid into reading websites, or writing for Facebook.

    The web lives up to its name — it is sticky, it ensnares you. It lures you from one site to the next. Including this one.

  11. Bechadelic1 says:

    I really like Martina. She’s such a legend and great tennis player. I feel so bad that she’s been diagnosed with breast cancer and I admire her even more for putting out the message to women to be more vigilant with regular checks, in context of her current circumstance. I hope she recovers completely. So glad that the cancer is not at an advanced stage. Lots of positive energy and good wishes going out to her.

    On a happier note, I felt a thrill course through me when I saw that picture of Fun Home. Is it wrong to feel slightly snobbishly better than some people I know who haven’t read this awesome book and to whom for various reasons including small-mindedness, I can’t recommend it? Ohhh, such guilty pleasures 😀

    Last but not least, I loved the interview too, and you’re looking real good in in AB, but oh my, I shall go into mourning if you stop posting on this blog.

    *heads off to listen to Phranc singing M.A.R.T.I.N.A. another guilty pleasure :)*

  12. Bookbird says:

    I like Mo’s paradise…though it would probably give me a headache to be there in person.

    Of COURSE you need to look smart! Because if you didn’t, we’d have no way of telling, right?

    MaggieGrace, don’t forget to take care of yourself while you’re taking care of other people.

  13. Therry and St. Jerome says:

    Mammograms may be carcinogenic, j.b.t., but self exams are not. Don’t know if Martina’s kind of breast cancer shows up on self-exam, but it might be worth finding out. My parents were both at Los Alamos during WWII, and I came out okay. Didn’t I, Johnny? Of course you did.

  14. Kat says:

    The Mo’s paradise photo is fun, and sparked a lengthy discussion with Maggie (Jochild) about whether the store had all those striped shirts because it was nautically themed (because it’s on an island). If not, then why?
    Did the photo-taker have an answer?

    I loved the interview. And looking smart is cool.

  15. Ready2Agitate says:

    Moi? Sans TV since 1983, Ellen! Shall I blog about it, ya think? (kidding) (Also, apologies if I sound too damn smart and self-righteous for my own good!)

    AB – rock it, girl!

  16. Ready2Agitate says:

    ps the photo’s a collage, Kat & Maggie, so maybe there’s some redundancy there for effect?

  17. The graduate says:


    Long-time lurker here. (Not out of fear of being intimidated by other commenters, though – I love reading this blog – time’s the issue for me.) My particular web curse is my inability to find my way back to certain images I KNOW I’ve seen, but not where.

    A particular photo is bugging me at the moment, and I thought I’d ask an open question here: Does anyone remember the photo of Alison posing as her dad, for the drawing on p. 197 in Fun Home? Bruce/Alison is seen from below, and I remember Alison explaining that she needed that photo reference to get his lapels right.

    For the record: I’m hoping to use the photo as an illustration of Alisons reference shot technique in my master’s thesis. It would make such a great example, paired with the drawing!

  18. Ian says:

    @The graduate(17): There was a post on this blog where you saw AB’s photos and the accompanying drawings made from them, but it must have been a while ago. In fact, it may have been on the old blog???

    Btw, speaking of things cultured, I went to see a production of The Glass Menagerie last night. I’m not typically a drama maven, but I really, really enjoyed it. I don’t know why I’m telling you this, but I just wanted to share it with someone! Plus it was good to distract myself from Britain’s forthcoming, depressing, general election.

  19. Bechadelic1 says:

    @ The Graduate
    Hi, I remember seeing the photograph you are looking for, in the video of a talk that AB gave on Fun Home, but I couldn’t find that particular one for you. One video where she shows her process is at this link:



    And after you watch that video, go to the third video featured on that same page for more of the process.

    Sorry for not doing the HTML link thingie, I didn’t have the time to learn how to do it.

    And also if you click on ‘The Artistic Condition’ link on the side of this blog, the second post ‘Self-Documentary’ has two videos that AB has made. The first video also shows her process, but in context of DTWOF.

    I’m sure the reference to the photo you are looking for is in one of the videos on the Internet, because I have definitely seen it.

  20. Alex K says:

    @13 / Thierry & St Jerome: Ductal carcinoma in situ and identifiable-on-self-exam?

    I doubt it.

    Here’s the reason. Carcinoma doesn’t evoke an inflammatory, scarring response till it leaves the inside of the epithelium-lined structure in which it begins. We feel the scarred tissue, the result of the response to the infiltrating cancer cells.

    (Not talking lymphoma or sarcoma here. Carcinoma. Arising in the cells that cover surfaces — inner surfaces of “hollow organs” like blood vessels or the digestive, respiratory, and genitourinary tubes, or outer surfaces of both the body as a whole and of organs inside a body pouch such as the thoracic or abdominal cavity. Bounded by a “basement membrane”.)

    The carcinoma cells within a duct pile up and expand and die and calcify. That calcification can be seen on mammography. But… the pile-up of cells is still minute, and without the amplifying effect of inflammation and fibrosis, it’s hard to feel.

    My understanding is that suspect regions of calcification are excised both to eliminate them and to make sure that tiny, early invasion, invasion so scant as not to have created a palpable mass, will also be excised. My understanding is that mammography is used PARTICULARLY because it is more sensitive to potential early invasive disease, in this respect, than is palpation.

    Once the carcinoma cells breach the basement membrane, then step by step they can also move into lymphatic and blood vessels, and can be transported to other parts of the body, and can set up housekeeping there (“invasion”, “metastasis”).

    The presence of invasion, like the presence of metastasis, calls for more therapy than does just ductal carcinoma in situ. Mind you, Martina is on for radiotherapy. In case the laboratory to which the lumpectomy specimen was sent missed a microfocus of invasion, you want to mop up potential nasty stragglers… But so far as I’ve read, she’s not on for systemic chemotherapy, as in, “We are SURE there are nasty stragglers.”

  21. NLC says:

    The graduate#17:

    The image you are looking for appears on the Wikipedia page for Fun Home


  22. NLC says:

    … and
    (using a separate posting to avoid the two-URL limit) another example of Alison using the photo-pose technique (although not with herself as model) appears on AB’s flickr photo-stream:


  23. NLC says:

    … and finally: (yet another URL)
    The graduate mentions finding your “way back to certain images I KNOW I’ve seen, but not where.”

    A good tool here is the Google image search page:


    It took about 45 secs to find the first image above (AB as Dad).

    The page actually searches for text near the image –since even Google can’t really search images themselves (yet)–, so you don’t always get exactly what you want immediately; but with a little patience it can often be very helpful.

  24. Aunt Soozie says:

    sunlight is also carcinogenic… for my personal set of tatas getting the mammogram is worth the bit of exposure… but, to each her own.

    Self exams are good too and important. Most women discover their lumps on their own so do touch your boobies. They have revised the suggested technique but I think I posted a link to that previously so I’ll spare you. : ) just go on and feel ’em. that’s all I’m saying.

    I gave up cigarettes (many. many years ago) and do wear copious amounts of sunscreen but I haven’t given up venturing out in daylight or getting my boobs smushed in the name of early detection. …to those of you who will warn about the carcinogenic effects of that sunscreen I’m slathering on… yeah, yeah, yeah… I hear you… I hear you…

  25. Aunt Soozie says:

    and AB… you are looking smart (as usual) but how much of that is in the pose and how much in the eyewear?

  26. Aunt Soozie says:

    one pair of extended wear contact lenses and it’d be all over.

  27. The grad says:

    @ NLC: Thank you. I can’t believe it was on Wikipedia! It’s like I’ve been looking for my glasses while wearing them.

    And thank you for the image search link. Such a useful tool.

  28. Acilius says:

    @j.b.t. 5: X-rays are definitely carcinogenic, but that doesn’t seem to be the chief issue in the mammogram controversy. It’s more about questions surrounding the rate of false positives, so far as I can tell.

  29. R2A, re Mo’s Paradise, you’re right, the photo is ID’d as a collage, somehow I missed that term on first reading. But on enlarging it, I can’t see seams where images were joined together, What gets me — what Kat and I pondered — is how overwhelmingly B&W it was. Very, very funny.

    For those of you who troll the ‘net copying images for use later (as in blog posts), but realize you don’t know who created a saved image or how to attribute it, there’s an invaluable tool called Tin Eye which is a reverse image search. Give it an image and it will tell you where it first appeared on the web. It will also tell you if modified versions of the image exist or how to find higher resolution versions. It has a plug-in for either Firefox or IE. It’s a short URL, so I’ll copy it in directly below.


  30. Kat says:

    Yep, I COMPLETELY missed that the photo’s a collage. Whoopsie!

  31. Kat says:

    When I zoomed in I could see the seams….I’m a little sad, but it’s still a super cool picture

  32. Pam I says:

    @MJ, if that Tineye works, it will help me find my stolen photos that I know are out there. Will give it a test run real soon.

  33. Anonymous says:

    Books by J.D. Salinger and A. Bechdel side by side in a NYC public library. The planets are, momentarily, properly aligned.

    Re: Dying if one doesn’t read one’s e-mail. The way I’ve been checking my e-mail lately I’ve been wondering how I managed without this compulsion in my life previous to say, 1996, the year I got a hotmail account.

  34. Kate L says:

    In a flash of bright bluish-white light, Kate L reappears from the rift in space-time that the CERN Supercolossal Supercollider had opened up, sending her to the far future of May 1, 2010. She brings with her advanced technology from that distant time, such as Mentor’s instructions on posting in italics.

    I’m back! I’m back! “Out of the nowhere, into the now”, to quote my favorite line from the original Star Trek! But this timeline seems strangely, subtly altered from what I once knew… Star Trek Voyager apparently went off the air years ago, to name just one difference. AND I can actually access the DTWOF web site from my office computer!!! 🙂

  35. Ready2Agitate says:

    Go Kate!

    Let me try my newly acquired technique. Eureka! It works.

    Now everyone go ahead and print the following words on a piece of paper and stick ’em on your bathroom wall:

    Aunt Soozie sez – Go ahead and touch your boobies


    ps I got email in November 1999. At the time, it seemed I was very late to the party….

  36. Aunt Soozie says:

    R2A…. I love the notion of being in everyone’s twalet as a reminder to touch one’s self. thank you.

  37. hairball_of_hope says:

    @Aunt Soozie (#36)

    Twalet? Is that a Philly accent? Sure glad it’s not turlet.

    (… hangs up a sign en la salle de bain reminding herself to go ahead and touch her boobies …)

  38. Andrew B says:

    Could I respectfully point out that the photo of Alison above is credited to somebody named Lokchi Lam on the original interview page? She did a nice job of composing and editing her images. There doesn’t seem to be any mention of her either on this page or on the (publicly accessible) flickr page for that photo. (Pardon my earnestness, which kind of breaks up the spirit of the discussion here!)

  39. hairball_of_hope says:

    (… off-topic opera alert …)

    Hey Therry, were you at the HD broadcast of ‘Die Zauberflöte’ today? I was wondering if the reference to the spaghetti being al dente was in the libretto or if that was an ad lib. I can’t imagine Mozart or Schikaneder writing that in the late 1700s, but maybe they did. The audience laughed at it, modern addition or not.

    (… goes back to a glorious spring day with pollen thick in the air …)

  40. Kate L says:

    Ever since I returned from the future (the future of May 1st, 2010 to be precise), I’ve been seeing ways in which this time-line is not the one that I left when the CERN supercollider began operation and dragged me through a rip in the space-time continuum. Did you know that in this world’s version of recent history, George W Bush became president after the 2000 presidential election??? There’s no trace of President Gore’s Green Society programs, and America never became the leader in environmentally-friendly energy and in the fight to reduce global warming. In fact, it’s like some politicians here don’t even want to admit that the fossil fuel-enhanced greenhouse effect even exists! That’s just crazy! Even worse, in this time-line, America seems to be involved in not just one but two wars overseas! Where I come from, America is at peace, and is prosperous and respected around the world, just like when President Hillary Clinton completed her third term in office.

  41. Kat says:

    Hairball–ad lib.

    (ad libbing in english translations of spoken dialog of Mozart’s “sprechstimme” operas has been happening a lot lately. At one of the performances of “Abduction from the Seraglio” at SF opera a few years ago, the woman playing Blonchen broke the 4th wall and declared “Here I am, and English girl, speaking to a Turk in German. It’s NO WONDER we can’t understand each other!!!”

  42. hairball_of_hope says:

    @Kat (#41)

    Today’s performance of Zauberflöte was in German, and that’s why it was especially funny when the flying food puppets were tempting Papageno and Tamino, and Papageno (who can’t keep his mouth shut for either talk or food) named all the food floating by and pined for “spaghetti… [pregnant pause] …al dente.” The audience laughed. For all I know, the spaghetti reference might have been in the libretto for this production, Magic Flute productions have taken lots of liberties over the centuries.

    It was a good comic performance, the operatic equivalent of a screwball comedy.

  43. jessez says:

    I liked the interview–very smart, very funny.

    I do however resent the implication that people who are smarter / more ambitious / more together in college go into academia instead of becoming lowly HS teachers

    (WHICH is what i do–not for the intellectual glamor, but because i really love the energy, insight, & humor of 14 yr olds)
    (& I am not so interested in quoting my interpretation of foucault’s opinion of minutiae)
    (which maybe is not the same reason alison’s parents became teachers)

  44. Kat says:

    Hairball, was it Act 2, scene 9? I checked the libretto, and actual food items are not mentioned at all. Julie Taymor apparently took quite a few liberties with visuals and such in that production….Which is fine, because all directors do, with Magic Flute. It’s almost incomprehensible, and lends itself well to adaptation.

    My voice teacher is currently directing it, actually, at the university where he works, and is setting it in modern times with the Queen of the Night as a kind of Sarah Palin-esque character.

  45. hairball_of_hope says:

    @Kat (#44)

    It was Act 2, not sure which scene #, I was listening to the live broadcast over WQXR, so I’ll assume you’re correct that it was scene 9.

    Palin as Queen of the Night? Depending on one’s political persuasions, there might be a very interesting reaction in the house when she is revealed to be evil. No surprise to the lefties, and the righties might start throwing fruit and veggies at the stage.

    (… goes back to another beautiful spring day, ACHOO! sniffle, sniffle …)

  46. Kat says:

    Yeah, it’s at Cal State Sacramento…Sacramento’s not exactly a liberal area…

    Well, hey, throwing fruit onto the stage would be historically accurate!

    Jealous of your beautiful spring day. It’s raining and cold here. Sick of it.

  47. Kate L says:

    Here’s an interesting story from another not exactly liberal area of the country. Kansas Governor Mark Parkinson has vetoed a restrictive anti-abortion bill that the state legislature had approved and sent to him for his signature. This comes two days after the governor of Nebraska signed a restrictive anti-abortion bill into law. Parkinson, a former chair of the Kansas Republican Party, became a Democrat to run as former Governor Kathleen Sebelius’ lieutenant governor in 2006. Sebelius is now the Secretary of Health and Human Services in the Obama Administration. Here is the link to a Topeka Daily-Capitol newsstory on the veto.

  48. Roxanne S. says:


    Thanks for posting the link to the interview here! It got such great traffic immediately after you did so! I’m glad your readers enjoyed it!

    I’m not quite sure what’s going on with the discussion about the photos, but those in the interview were taken by a close friend of mine, Lokchi Lam, an independent Chicago photographer. Glad y’all enjoyed her pics!


    P.S. We didn’t have to do anything to get Alison to “look smart”; she exudes intelligence without cue!