Today in brief: In this week's Friday High Five, we visit David Simon's blog, share rejected New Yorker covers, watch a savvy Belgian attempt to stop teens from texting-and-driving, read Jason Epstein on why books have a future, and view art made out of schoolbooks.
A terrific new coffee table book by the art director of the New Yorker, Françoise Mouly, collects her favourite covers that were either rejected (often for being too controversial) or have an intriguing story behind them. Blown Covers: New Yorker Covers You Were Never Meant to See comes with commentary by Mouly – and the images range from the shocking to the hilarious, to the absurd. Here’s a taste:
At the height of the Lewinsky affair, Art Spiegelman proposed this sketch titled ‘Clinton’s Last Request.’ ‘When a word like “blow job”, which you never dreamt of finding in the paper is on the front page every day,’ he explains, ‘I had to find a way for my image to be as explicit without being downright salacious.’
Sometimes it looks like an artist is poking fun at the more sedate New Yorker covers. This was proposed by M. Scott Miller, years before Janet Jackson’s wardrobe malfunction. He claims that the inspiration for this jeté is an experience familiar to anyone who follows classical ballet.
Fans of Wire and Treme, rejoice! David Simon, creator of what is generally agreed to be the Best Television Series Ever, is now blogging. Simon was a writer of journalism (and books) before he turned his hand to television, which means that his writing is well worth reading. What’s more, he’s opinionated and loves to share his opinions. The posts so far vary from an impassioned article on journalism, prize culture and the Pulitzer to bite-sized observations from the streets of Baltimore, or his own lounge room. Bookmark this one.
A Belgian not-for-profit, Responsible Young Drivers, has hit on a brilliant strategy for teaching teens that texting-and-driving is insanely dangerous. They tricked student drivers into believing that in order to pass their driving tests, they also had to demonstrate proficiency in texting while driving. The responses? ‘I’ll stop driving if this is introduced as law’, ‘People will die’ and ‘This is dangerous’.
It’s a bit like that urban myth, where a parent catches their kid smoking and forces them to chain-smoke an entire packet of cigarettes (and they never smoke again). From the looks on these kids' faces, the message has sunk in. This video is genuine car-crash viewing – almost literally.
Jason Epstein, former editorial director of Random House and co-founder of the New York Review of Books, has written optimistically for the former about why he believes ‘actual’ books will survive the digital age (as will bookshops and libraries), and will coexist with digital books:
Few technological victories are ever complete, and in the case of books this will be especially true. Bookstores will not disappear but will exploit digital technologies to increase their virtual and physical inventories, and perhaps become publishers themselves. So will libraries, whose vast and arcane holdings will soon be available to everyone everywhere.
All book lovers are fond of the idea that books are art. Chinese artist Lui Wei has taken the idea literally, creating intricate cityscape sculptures from stacks of schoolbooks, held together by steel rods and wood clamps. His sculptures include a range of iconic buildings from the Pentagon to Saint Peter’s Basilica, and depict cities in a state of metamorphosis, a concept familiar in his native Beijing.
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