Sufjan Stevens

About one week ago, I was at a used/new children’s bookstore and heard the dulcet, torrid sounds of Sufjan Stevens who sounds a bit like he met Neutral Milk Hotel on a strange night in the middle of a rough-and-tumble Michigan bar. That probably doesn’t do justice to his music, which is plaintive, solemn, and surrendering – a bit like Steven Merrit but more down-home, more straight for lack of a better word. You can purchase his music on Amazon, but you might as well buy the goods for $12.00 each, postage paid, on the SoundsFamilyre label site.
I listened to the Magnetic Fields’ new album in the car this weekend and was moved almost to tears by the last song on the album, It’s Only Time, on which Merrit cries “Marry Me, Marry Me” with a warble in his voice that defies gravity.

Saddest Music in the World

I had the privilege of seeing Guy Maddin’s Saddest Music in the World last night. Set in the Great Depression in Winnipeg, Manitoba (that’s Canada), the movie forges odd familial relationships among odd characters who are witness to the oddest pairings of national musics. In her seach for the saddest music of the countries of the world, Isabella Rosselini, a beer baronness, plays the beautiful Lady Port-Huntley and looks 20 years younger thanks to the tremendously fat grains of the film’s raw, physical texture.
This is the most linear of Maddin’s films, perhaps because it’s based on a story by Kazuo Ishiguro and not by Maddin and his Winterpeg knights in white armor. The film gets away with a huge amount of conceit because it’s both funny and sad and takes itself only serious enough to convince you that this is a movie of beauty. The funniest part of the film is the loud gong heard during the musical match-offs between countries like Siam and Mexico or Canada and the United States. (Canada is eliminated early on.) The gong sounds like it was clipped from a WWF procession, taped on top of the soundtrack, and the volume then turned to “11.”
Maddin’s one of my favorite directors in the world.


I can’t help but compare the aesthetics and insanity of the superbly hyped Subservient Chicken with many of the photos taken at Abu Ghraib. Milliions of people have recently “discovered” the Burger King-sponsored site, which allows visitors to control, punish, or humiliate a person in a chicken suit. By typing in commands within the site, the chicken-man abides, slowly, deliberately, and reluctantly. The photos taken at the infamous Abu Ghraib seem to show the same basic disregard for life, the same lack of shame, and the same power-wielding effect on how others are seen and can be seen.
(Susan Sontag recently wrote about the photos in the Times’ Magazine but her argument is more political than it is philosophical; it is also less interesting than it could be because of this. While she does talk about the photographs of torture and sex in the context of contemporary pornography, she somehow loses track of the “artistry” of these photographs and what the aesthetic of humiliation means to all of us.)

Passed Sites

I use a little app (more about an unsuccessful attempt at writing about small apps here) that keeps track of my dozens of passwords, identifications, and serial numbers as well as a host of other important information. The database storing this info is virtually uncrackable — using 448 bit encryption.
But in updating the software the other day and deleting old accounts from it today, I found the following websites had been acquired, changed hands, or just plain disappeared. It was odd to see sites that had been killed. Here are some of them:

  • Zine-X, formerly a site for e-zine folks and now
  • Let Em Know, formerly a contact management company, if I remember correctly
  • WebProsNow, formerly a clearinghouse for companies looking for Web designers

More updated info about passed sites can be found at Ghost Sites, which, too, will be blank one day.


I downloaded via iTunes the new Magnetic Fields’ I. Here’s my review:

  • I adore “I.”
  • “I” is Cole Porter wrapped in John Cash and covered in the sexual melting pot of Morrissey and Modest Mouse.
  • “I” puts the lie to the death of AOR.
  • “I” is a coherent, sad, and ultimately guilty explication of what happens when a person loves falling out of love with someone.
  • “I” is somehow timely yet impotent in the face of gay legal marriage.
  • The Magnetic Fields has a very fine website which also houses info about sister/brother bands Future Bible Heroes, The 6ths, and The Gothic Archies.


In no particular order, here are a few things that are different recently:

  • Because Poland, along with many other Slavic countries, are now part of the EU (which now comprises 458 million people), fonts and font usage is going to have to chance. Polish, in particular uses many different diatrics which I’ve always found very beautiful and initially confounding. has an updated page on this topic.
  • My big fat monitor, an Apple 20″ Cinema Display went wack-0 (sic) today but Apple was good about my returning it for repair.
  • My daughter has a number of new expressions, including: “This isn’t regular milk.”
  • I went through my change pile and sorted out the pennies from the non-copper items. Now I have two change piles.
  • I’m expecting to see Guy Maddin’s The Saddest Mustic in the World. This is considered a change because I do not see movies anymore.

Spam Censorship

Over the past five days, has been hit with a massive amount of comment spam, which is mechanically implemented spam placed in the comments sections of a blog. It’s awful and there’s only one good tool to get rid of most of it, Jay Allens’ excellent MT-Blacklist plug-in. I generally use this little program to get rid of spam that has already been identified by others which means that the spammers are on the blacklist.
Somehow, though, this time I am part of the avant-garde and was hit by approximately 1500 spam comments. In order to destroy the unwarranted spam, here’s the regex [sp. correct] or series of words I had to use: rape|sex|incest|videos|collection|rpe|illic it|porn|pics|eager. Alas, if someone now actually wants to post a comment about rape, sex, incest, videos, porn, or they are perhaps “eager,” Deckchairs will knock that comment out. Censorship? Yes. Preservation of sitehood? Yes. Another sign of spam pushing us all to the wall? Yes.

Design Signs

Very interesting that after yesterday’s post about the paucity of online design group weblogs, I noticed that three features indicating that design itself is becoming an increasingly viable profession, a respected career, and a potentially lucrative job (well, let’s hope so).
They are: Today’s Op-Art piece in the Times by W. Michael Cox and Richard Alm called Opinion > Op-Chart: Where the Jobs Are” href=””>Where the Jobs Are (in case it’s gone, here’s the graphic from the piece); Fast Company’s cover story Masters of Design which I can’t read perhaps because it’s all about industrial design and you might not read perhaps because the magazine’s online content is limited to subscribers; finally Doug Bowman, the smartie of Stopdesign, has rebuilt with much fanfare and deserved kudos The new Blogger interface is quite luxe and is a tribute to the possibilities of our collective online future.


I’m seriously considering whether to start a new group weblog that can take a on a variety of subjects and gain a more critical view of the online design world than either the relatively boring SpeakUp or the new and horrendously designed template called Design Observer. The object would be to build site that focuses on some of the critical, strategic, philosophical, and more importantly, the commercial, practical, and future-bearing ideas of Web design and development. There’s a huge, gaping hole for this kind of work.
There are a few good examples of small, successful group blogs out there, including Daily Gusto, a cultural and political NYC blog, but most suck very hard and none deal with online design. The goal would be for it to replace the defunct eDesign magazine, psyche out the badly-URLed Speak Out, and focus on Web standards and design approaches the way Zeldman does and his fairly technical A List Apart do.
If you’re interested in this project in any way, please let me know. Thanks.

App 3. No More

After reading today’s horror stories about Iraq (both here and abroad), I’ve decided to discontinue this little series of banal tales about little apps. While I applaud those who are working to make computing better and easier, I can’t wholeheartedly provide positive reflection about it right now.
I sometimes admire folks like Aaron Swartz, who wrote a post today called All News is Bad News. Despite its slightly cynical tone, he’s right about the placebo effect news and news-saviness has on one’s reading one’s own life.