?> this is annie |

Steal this look?

12 Aug

Steal this look?

I’ve spent the last ten years moving back and forth from print magazines to online publications. I used to worry that the shifts would make me look unfocused, but now the lines of print and digital are blurring. You can’t be a good print editor if you’re not thinking about digital, and — while this is perhaps less obvious — you’re a stronger digital editor if you understand how to put a well together.

Lately, for reasons that will be obvious in a moment, I’ve been thinking about ethics with regard to ownership and copyright. As anyone who’s been following Fareed Zakaria’s plagiarism and Jonah Lehrer’s quote fabrication knows, even journalists at the top aren’t necessarily above lifting the work of others or just plain making stuff up.

Which brings us to BlackBook magazine.

A few weeks ago, Sabs informed me that I was in BlackBook. More specifically, the back of my head was sitting next to Katniss Everdeen’s face. The photo was taken for a braid tutorial at Sugar, and it was used without permission. Did we receive an email asking us about the photo? Not at all. I expect this sort of lifting from Tumblr blogs, but not from a print magazine. So I emailed BlackBook’s editor, Joshua David Stein, to let him know about the issue. After two weeks without a reply, I nudged him this morning, and he’s putting me in touch with the photo editor. Story at 11.

I’m writing about this not to trash BlackBook; I assume this isn’t standard procedure for them. Do mistakes happen? Yes. Of course. I’ve worked with writers who, knowingly or unknowingly, lifted someone else’s work — and I’ve had to let them go. But for some people, the idea of content ownership is passé, a dusty old-guard way of thinking. That’s fine if you’re into curation, but not so great if you’re hoping to encourage originality and creativity. And it’s definitely not good for writers and photographers who’ve traditionally been paid for their work.

Last week, in some sort of publishing-industry balancing karma, a different magazine’s photo editor reached out about publishing a photo from Admiring Distance. And as excited as I am about that, I’m also glad that seeing my photo in the magazine won’t be a surprise.

Laundry girl

29 May

Laundry girl

The laundromat in the Mission was hell, but it was also my private escape. The one down the street from my old apartment has terrible cell reception, no internet, and walls the color of congealed French’s mustard. Aside from a few flyers for yoga and writing classes, the only other decor is a wobbly table and two plastic lawn chairs. I sat in one of those chairs a while back while the machines did their thing. Every time I do laundry, I bring a notebook and try to eke out something creative. This time around, I brought art supplies for a new project: a photograph, tracing paper, a fine-point marker, and a blue pencil. I’d just put my things out when a mother and her two children came in to move their clothes from washers to dryers.

“A question in Spanish,” the woman said to her daughter as she stopped her son’s stroller next to her. “Something about soap and clothing that Annie can infer from her limited knowledge of Romance languages.”

“Si, Mami,” the girl said. As her mother hauled a family’s damp clothing out of the washers, the girl sat down at the table next to me. I smiled at her and she tucked her head away shyly, the way seven-year-old girls do. From a backpack she plucked a pencil, Xeroxed multiplication exercises, and a large pink eraser. Her homework was halfway done. (more…)

I am a cliche you’ve seen before

7 May

I am a cliche you’ve seen before

The Southern Gentleman and I were eating somewhere the other day. I can’t remember where, because lately I can’t remember details too well. I blame my 10+ hours of internet each day and its nonstop flow of information demanding to be evaluated, filtered, parsed, tossed away. Too much for the mind. Anyway, the setting isn’t as important as this moment is:

We were talking about our respective birthdays — coincidentally, the same number of days and years apart — and how growing older means grasping new things and letting go of other ones. “I used to be a writer,” I lamented, and I meant it. I tried to remember the last time I’d written something strictly creative, or the last time I saw a byline on paper. I didn’t even try to remember the last time I’d gotten lost in the act of writing. It’s been months. Maybe a year. Maybe more.

Writers write, as they say, but lately I don’t write. I work, I cook, I clean, I occasionally and happily read. I don’t write, though. And writing is something I always did, even when I was three years old. Without it, I don’t really know what to do. Or maybe the things I want to write about are too personal, or maybe you don’t want to read about how much I still miss my father, or maybe — with the noted exception of feeling like a failed writer — I’m happy with my life and just want to sit back and enjoy that rather than work, work, work. (Writing is work.)

“You’re still a writer,” the Gent said, because he loves me.

In unrelated and seemingly (seemingly!) contradictory news, I’ve started a travel website as a hobby. I did it mostly because I spent 100+ days traveling last year, and all of those pictures had to go somewhere. I call it The Website That Nobody Reads, but officially, its title rips off a Joy Division lyric: Admiring Distance. So there you go.

Random, late Thanksgiving musings

14 Dec

Random, late Thanksgiving musings

First of all, I can’t figure out why there’s that ?> at the top of the page. Sorry. I think it’s a PHP typo. Not the first, not the last.

Secondly, my mother came to visit for Thanksgiving. I don’t think it would have been possible to please her more than I did this time, as I was afflicted with a brutal sinus infection. (Has since been downgraded to one that is merely debilitating.) She wasn’t exactly overjoyed to have a sick child, but she did seem to find great happiness in spooning Delsym into my mouth. I think it reminds her that I need her. To please her, I gave in and finally started using a neti pot as she’s been requesting for years. This is probably the sign that California has weakened my Midwestern practicality, making me now begin my days pouring salty water up my nose. Sexy.

The Southern Gentleman’s parents flew to SF, too. Our parents, bless their hearts, held off for one full day before the talk of wanting grandchildren began. Grandchildren, our parents agreed in between bites of turkey, would be nice. “You might want to get some orange juice from the store,” Betty advised me at one point. “You need to make sure you’re getting enough folic acid.” And when SG drove we Lady Tomlins home one night, my mother hopped out of the car and crowed, “I’ll leave you two lovebirds in the car so you can have KISSYFACE.” As you can imagine, that night’s goodbye kiss was the chastest in history.

Curved-letter cities

12 Dec

Curved-letter cities

Last night, Dylan asked me where I would move if we didn’t have to worry about practicalities. “Brooklyn,” I said. “Portland. Berlin.” Cities that start, comfortingly, with nice rounded capital letters. There’s almost some aural symmetry in their pronunciation, as though they might sound the same if spoken by a tipsy Frenchman with a speech impediment. These cities couldn’t be more different, but I like all three of them, and it’s not just the lousy weather patterns that unites this trio. I love cities that fidget with creative energy, mostly because I hope some of it will rub off on me. I love these cities because parts of each remind me of Chicago, of home, and because they have rusty run-down things along with the shiny new ones.

Lately I’ve been sculpting a romantic notion out of going to Berlin in the winter. When you don’t live around snow, it’s easy to think of it as a beautiful backdrop to wonderful scenes. And maybe it is for a minute or two, but then it’s cold and your nostrils feel like tiny igloos, and you feel like you’ve been walking the tundra for weeks even though all you’ve done is take a three-block walk to a coffee shop. But I keep thinking that a Berlin winter cannot possibly be as brutal as its wicked Chicago sister. Wikipedia temperature information confirms this theory.

Realistically, though, it’ll first be Brooklyn in February and Portland in March; the Southern Gentleman and I need to save up some shacking-up costs anyway, so big trips are not in my near future. Berlin will have to wait, as will a more thorough explanation of why I like that city so much in the first place. (Been sick for six weeks, and can’t stay awake past 9 so well these days.)