The Invention of Jaywalking

•September 7, 2015 • Leave a Comment

nation rousedDid you know that the crime of jaywalking was invented by the auto industry? There was a time when city streets were the preserve of every sort of locomotion, including moving about on foot. It’s something I’ve seen many times in old footage of American cities, like this film of turn-of-the-century San Francisco:

The story of how pedestrians lost the use of city streets and how the myth of America’s “love affair with the automobile” was created is told in this fascinating episode of one of my favorite podcasts, 99% Invisible:

If you’ve never listened to 99% Invisible, you really should.

There’s also an excellent article on the invention of jaywalking at Vox magazine.

Macklemore & Ryan Lewis: Downtown

•September 2, 2015 • Leave a Comment

Singing about my now downtown and filming in my old downtown. Warms the heart.

Macklemore & Ryan Lewis.

God Bless the Grass

•August 18, 2015 • Leave a Comment

This beautiful performance of God Bless the Grass, Malvina Reynolds‘ haunting song about truth, has made me an instant fan of Frances Everett.

This is a song my sister and I used to sing together.

There’s more of Frances Everett’s music here. Watching her videos is like sitting with a friend playing favorite old songs.

Scarfolk Council

•August 13, 2015 • Leave a Comment

The ever-interesting Nag on the Lake has turned me on to yet another fascinating blog, the Scarfolk Council.

From the homepage:

Scarfolk is a town in North West England that did not progress beyond 1979. Instead, the entire decade of the 1970s loops ad infinitum. Here in Scarfolk, pagan rituals blend seamlessly with science; hauntology is a compulsory subject at school, and everyone must be in bed by 8pm because they are perpetually running a slight fever. “Visit Scarfolk today. Our number one priority is keeping rabies at bay.” For more information please reread.

Just go look at it.

The Core of the Sun, by Johanna Sinisalo

•August 4, 2015 • Leave a Comment

Johanna Sinisalo‘s newest novel, The Core of the Sun, translated into English by your faithful correspondent, is scheduled for release in the U.S. in January, 2016!

It’s a very fun book with a sharper satirical bent than Sinisalo’s earlier works, but it’s still filled with the speculative elements, nature focus, and assemblage of real and created found texts that made Troll and The Blood of Angels so interesting.

The story is set in an alternative present, in which Finland never repealed prohibition and gradually became an authoritarian “eusistocracy”, where every aspect of life, including procreation, is controlled for the promotion of a “healthy” society. The newest substance to be banned is the chili pepper, and our heroes are illicit chili pepper dealers.

It’s a great book, and with its mixture of straightforward narrative with ad copy, didactic children’s stories, school instructional films, and many other kinds of writing, it was great fun to translate.

More about the book at Grove/Atlantic .

Tacoma Buildings

•July 21, 2015 • Leave a Comment

There are many interesting old shops and warehouses in downtown Tacoma.

Wholesale hardware


Warehouse sunrise

Clown window

Dedicated to women

Elephant window

Map window


More photos

When the Doves Disappeared, by Sofi Oksanen

•July 16, 2015 • 1 Comment

Doves3When the Doves Disappeared, Sofi Oksanen’s most recent novel to appear in English (translated by yours truly), was published this spring by Knopf in the US, Anansi, Canada and Atlantic, UK.

When the Doves Disappeared is a complex, suspenseful story about life under occupation in Estonia, from the WWII era to the 1960s. It has a main character based on a real person who is a fascinating study in chameleonic machination.

Here are some of the reviews:

“A piercing look at characters striving to retain their humanity amid fear, violence, and secrecy.” – The New Yorker

“This is powerful fiction that stirs history, war crimes, and psychology into a compelling mix.” –  Booklist

“Oksanen depicts civilian life in wartime and under communist oppression in rich Doves Anansihistorical detail, skillfully manipulating chronology and threading clues subtly throughout the narrative as suspense builds. Highly recommended.” – Library Journal (*starred review)

“A brave and important voice from the ex-communist world… Betrayal, secrecy and memory are the haunting themes of Sofi Oksanen’s accomplished new novel.” – The Economist

I also recommend it.

U.S. cover by Kelly Blair. Canadian and UK cover by Richard Evans.

Dusty Bluebells

•July 15, 2015 • Leave a Comment

This short 1971 BBC documentary is full of haunting children’s folklore from Belfast. I was surprised to hear several songs that I sang with my sisters as a child. But only a little surprised. Children’s songs and rhymes have a remarkable way of spreading and outlasting all other forms of folklore.

I wonder, though, if it’s possible for the poetry and song and dance of children to be eradicated by screens and recordings.

Found on the always interesting Nag on the Lake.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 318 other followers

%d bloggers like this: