Everything great about Richard Scarry in one picture

This is my favorite Richard Scarry illustration ever.  It's from the story "Building a Road", which appears in Scarry's marvelous guide to infrastructure/modern life, What Do People Do All Day?

"Building a Road" is filled with satisfying nitty-gritty details of how a road actually gets built-- it covers everything from surveying to asphalt mixing to grading/leveling to guardrails and traffic lights.  But it also has Richard Scarry's trademark sense of humor, which is nowhere more evident than in this picture.

So many great things going on here... where to begin?

Fig A: Note the mayoral sashes. I wish mayors were required by law to wear sashes. Also, note the transparent bags filled with money... so much classier than opaque bags marked "$$$".

Fig B: To avoid any confusion, the mayors brought this helpful chart.

Fig C: BULLDOZER DESK! In case you were unclear what the chief engineer's job was. Srsly, I know all these things are to help pre-literate kids figure stuff out, but Scarry must have been laughing his ass off as he drew this.  And you know if road engineers actually COULD have bulldozer desks, they'd jump at the chance.

Fig D: Unfortunately, Scarry was a product of his time, and so his books sometimes contain outdated stereotypes.  For instance today, his lady secretary would almost certainly be using a personal computer.

Notes on Top 100 Kids Books List that I probably won't write unless someone starts a Kickstarter

Cube Farm by jcruelty
Cube Farm, a photo by jcruelty on Flickr.

One of the many half-baked projects that's always stewing around in my head is a guide to children's books. "Top 100 Books You Should Read To Your Kid," something like that.

I want to have icons next to each book in my list similar to the icons in The World's Flags Given Letter Grades (tremendous page by the way, you should definitely check it out.) For the most part the flags would be negative, so for instance if a book has talking pigs that would be -10 points. I don't know what icon would represent anthropomorphism, I guess a talking pig maybe. But is that too detailed? Icons have to be schematic. Maybe I can get Alice Chau to help.

(why is it that 99% of all kids books feature heavy use of anthropomorphism? inevitably there are pigs and cows and whatnot dressed in clothes, in place of humans. WHY? It seems like the obvious answer is "it's less intimidating/threatening to kids" but I don't get why this is such a universal trope.)

Other negative icons:

NIGHTMARE INDUCING - canonical example would be this book I picked up at SF Public Library Big Book Sale about this giant trapped in a well... there's this one page where you look directly into the well and see the giant's huge unblinking eye staring back at you... I shudder to think of it

WTF - here the canonical example is this Richard Scarry book we were reading, one of his standard "here's how the world works with handy labels" type deals. And we're looking at a farm... and the farmers are of course anthropomorphised... so it's Farmer Pig raising cows... and I guess pigs... WTF? Even Izzy saw what was wrong with this picture. I guess WTF at a lower level becomes "illogic / dissonance" like why is Little Bear friends with all these animals but he eats fish... why isn't he friends with fish? Every book would probably get that icon though so not very useful.


RHYME WITHOUT METER - UGH I hate when people do this. Look at Dr. Seuss and learn from his example people!!

CAPITALIST DOGMA - This is for any book that has "Worker Bee" and "Postman Dog" and so forth... you know the kind of books I mean. If you don't, this guide will show you (if it ever comes out)

PERPETUATES OUTDATED GENDER STEREOTYPES - Mommies belong in the kitchen and so forth.

There would be some positive icons too

EXCEPTIONAL ART - let's face it, kids books live or die by art. A book with great art and terrible writing will do just fine, the other way around forget it. Most good kids books have exceptional art though so perhaps we'd have to break it down further into art style...
-WHIMSICAL YET FRIGHTENING (Maurice Sendak is the exemplar)

PAGES WITHOUT WORDS - not enough books make use of this technique. Have a break in the action and for several pages it's just a wordless sequence

ABOUT SOMETHING OTHER THAN FAMILIES OR ANIMALS OR SHIT - for instance, "How big is a million" - thank you

INTERESTING USE OF FORM - notable pop ups would go in here, and those McSweeneys books that expand into posters

BREAKS THE FOURTH WALL - Harold and the Purple Crayon, Monster at the End of This Book

LEADS NICELY INTO BEDTIME -- you know like "Goodnight Moon" or "Harold and the Purple Crayon" where the book ends with the kid getting into bed


That's quite a good name for a store actually.

Izzy: Why is the corner grocery store called Good Life?
Amar: It's just an arbitrary name... they could've called it anything. Like "Blah" or "Veronica's Shop for People"

For some reason I woke up with this old song in my head:

Christmas - This Is Not a Test

Christmas was this weird cool band from back in the day... I stumbled across their LP Ultraprophets of the Psykick Revolution in the 25 cent remainder bin at the late great Benway Bop in Vegas in early 90's... vinyl of course, this is back in high school when I had a record player. I had endless time back then to listen to random 25 cent albums. Mostly they were crap but you'd find some real diamonds in the rough, Ultraprophets Yadda Yadda being one.

Christmas - "Richard Nixon"

I think the folks in Christmas went on to form the slightly more popular band Combustible Edison. But Christmas remains unknown as hell. They're so obscure you can't even find most of their songs on YouTube!! To me that's the definition of obscure.

It's too bad, Ultraprophets Blah Blah was actually a really good album. I should buy a CD off ebay and rip it. Except, my computer doesn't even have a CD drive anymore! Plus nobody except me cares.

Pro tip: if you're naming your band, don't name it "Christmas." Name it something memorable, like "Veronica's Shop for People"

Christmas - Stupid Kids

2012 Year in Review

Found this in Documents. Better late than never, I suppose.

Best purchases
1. stuffed walrus
2. chess.com membership
3. triple weighted chess pieces w/ vinyl mat

lina+rich - naomi
anthony+daniela - delfina
fraidy+tani - ephriam
us - asha
daphne + zoho - phoenix (rainbow sweater)
heather + jeff - penelope
paru + jeff - lazlo
john h - lily
sandeep + mith - ayan

Swam in:
Pinecrest Lake
Twain Harte Lake
Rio Grande
Russian River (?)
Pacific Ocean (MX)
Hotel pool in NYC (josh wedding)
Terra Linda pool

Temporary Obsessions
1. tao lin
2. probabilistic graphic models (? not really though)
3. beer
4. chess
5. paper airplanes - link to that one helicopter design?
6. jeremy lin
7. al-qaeda / saudi arabia
8. rye whiskey / scotch
9. land art
10. state sponsored malware (flame/stuxnet/duqu)

1. Stay in shape
2. Make beer (still have beer making kit sitting at home)
3. Learn to properly fold a shirt
4. Learn a few useful knots
5. Ironing

Recurring ideas
1. Domesday Book cataloging all Izzy's toys

People I beat in chess at least once (face to face)
1. William C.
2. Eric
3. Dav
4. Ettore
5. Virgilio
6. Alexa
7. Louise
8. Arnab

People I did not beat in chess even once (face to face)
1. Dave D.
2. Patrick
3. Seth

todo done


heart by jcruelty
heart, a photo by jcruelty on Flickr.

Things that I bought that I thought would make me happy that didn't

  1. Big acquarium for ant farm
  2. Really powerful magnifying glass (actuallly, "Zeiss magnifying lens")
  3. Machete (for chopping wood)
  4. Hacksaw (also for chopping wood)
  5. 3 issues of tasteless ultra violent comic book about N.W.A.
  6. Homicide Investigation Textbook
  7. Beer making kit
  8. Japanese coin bank that eats your coins

Things that I bought that I thought would make me happy that did

  1. Stuffed walrus
  2. Stuffed yellow man
  3. Stuffed pizza face
  4. Stuffed shark
  5. Stuffed chicken
  6. Wolf in sheep's clothing puppet

If you're reading this through RSS, clap your hands

I mean, comment. On Metafilter a lot of people were moaning about the demise of Google Reader. Amidst all the sturm und drang they brought up some interesting points. For instance: Google Reader + RSS made it easy to keep up with blogs that update very sporadically (like on the order of months, even years.) This in turn gave people who wrote those blogs incentive to continue. In lieu of RSS, people just stop coming to your site if you don't update it constantly. This gives rise to the endless Buzzfeed Twitter Facebook status updates model at the expense of old-school content

On the other hand, I think this guy has it right too:

RSS is a niche technology people were excited about in 2006, back when people still cared about traditional narrative blogs. People who were really into blogs back in 2006 still use them, and everyone else is just kinda scratching their heads about why anybody gives a crap. The need for RSS has been subsumed by Facebook, Twitter, and a thousand million linkblogs that filter the web for you.
I want to write here occasionally but then how do I get people to read it? Put it on FB? But lots of people aren't on FB. Print it and send it in the mail? I've been tempted. haha i always mean to start a newsletter

Names of rental houses we've stayed in (this LJ is now autistic)

  1. Sobre Vista
  2. Lone Star Lodge
  3. unnamed Marquetta Healdsburg house w/ the amazing indoor/outdoor swing chair space
  4. Heron Hill
  5. that one Russian River house
  6. that other one by our swimming spot with the haunted attic
  7. Will's bday house with the saline pool
  8. luxury house in Costa Rica w/ infinity pool
  9. Zamora house w/ the hot tub built into the pool
  10. god my memory is gone to shit

Definitely at this point in my life, I want summer to just be a series of rental houses with friends... always by a body of water, or, failing that, a pool. A infinity saline pool. W/ hot tub built in.