Friday night’s Issue 35: Better/Worse launch party was a huge success!

A huge thank-you to our friend Elisabeth Samuels, of Indigo Art in Allentown, for curating such a beautiful show. Samuels invited eight noteworthy local artists to interpret the Better/Worse theme in their work. The result was a stunning selection full of variety, depth, color and introspection.

I had a wonderful time discussing the new issue with many new friends, including more than a few from out of town, here for the weekend. It’s always fun to share notes on our cities and work with people who notice your input. I’m looking forward to following up and learning more!

If you haven’t gotten your hands on a copy of Better/Worse, we will be re-distributing in May, you can always read it online, and if you prefer your very own guaranteed copy, subscriptions are available.

Thanks again to all who came and explored our shared pursuit for better.

-Ben

I spent the weekend among my people—our people. The kind of people who make things with their hands, of their hearts and for their neighbors. The kind of things that make you go, hmm, this is new.
This year’s Buffalo Small Press Book Fair was once again an embarrassment of riches, from which we met fellow publishers, printers, writers, illustrators, designers, photographers, entrepreneurs, artists and active citizens. All of them were fans, and all were producers.
I picked up just a few objects for my growing but wrongfully small collection of zines and small-press publications. I especially liked Sean Nickerbocker’s collection of graphic novels, enticingly titled Rust Belt. I purchased all three volumes, which came with that awesome print (in the top right corner) that reminds me of Roald Dahl’s “The B.F.G. (Big Friendly Giant),” a favorite book of my childhood.
Major, huge, arms-open kudos to Chris Fritton and his team with the BSPBF, as well as their partners at WNYBAC, for assembling such a great group of vendors from our city and others. I think it’s a testament to having produced seven successful years (this year was the event’s eighth), and to our city as a whole, that we can attract so many eager, excited, curious travelers from cities around North America. We are so lucky to be able to share this great creative work with everyone who’s interested! We should always connect over art and design; we have no good reason not to.
Thanks for stopping down and seeing us, and thanks for supporting the printed word!
-Ben

I spent the weekend among my people—our people. The kind of people who make things with their hands, of their hearts and for their neighbors. The kind of things that make you go, hmm, this is new.

This year’s Buffalo Small Press Book Fair was once again an embarrassment of riches, from which we met fellow publishers, printers, writers, illustrators, designers, photographers, entrepreneurs, artists and active citizens. All of them were fans, and all were producers.

I picked up just a few objects for my growing but wrongfully small collection of zines and small-press publications. I especially liked Sean Nickerbocker’s collection of graphic novels, enticingly titled Rust Belt. I purchased all three volumes, which came with that awesome print (in the top right corner) that reminds me of Roald Dahl’s “The B.F.G. (Big Friendly Giant),” a favorite book of my childhood.

Major, huge, arms-open kudos to Chris Fritton and his team with the BSPBF, as well as their partners at WNYBAC, for assembling such a great group of vendors from our city and others. I think it’s a testament to having produced seven successful years (this year was the event’s eighth), and to our city as a whole, that we can attract so many eager, excited, curious travelers from cities around North America. We are so lucky to be able to share this great creative work with everyone who’s interested! We should always connect over art and design; we have no good reason not to.

Thanks for stopping down and seeing us, and thanks for supporting the printed word!

-Ben

Going through old files today, doing a little spring cleaning on my iMac, and I found this little gem from a few summers back. I must have been melting a chunk of ice from our freezer, drip by drip, when it occurred to me to record and reverse it. The result is a little moment of zen, in which warmth turns to cold, and drips turn to ice. Seems topical given our rollercoaster of a winter and spring. Enjoy. :-)

-Ben

Good news from the film industry: original ideas do still exist!
Check out this list from io9 of 50 upcoming movies that are neither standard Hollywood fare (romcoms, buddy road trips, cars that turn into monsters that turn into spaceships that turn into shark tornados that shut down lower-Manhattan on a sweltering July day—for instance), nor sequels, remakes or reboots.
I’m of the belief, like many others, that there are only a few stories in existence, with an infinite number of combinations of details, skins, layers and masks. Comedy and drama, if you think Shakespearean. Love, loss, redemption, if you think Darwinian, or maybe spiritually; I’m not really sure of this theory yet, still working on it.
But more to the point, the wheel’s been invented. It’s how we adapt our narratives to these bones that give us fantastical, far-reaching, daring, inventive new concepts. This list gives me hope for the screen.
NEW IDEAS! NEW TALENT! NEW STORIES!
-Ben
Photo credit: The Signal

Good news from the film industry: original ideas do still exist!

Check out this list from io9 of 50 upcoming movies that are neither standard Hollywood fare (romcoms, buddy road trips, cars that turn into monsters that turn into spaceships that turn into shark tornados that shut down lower-Manhattan on a sweltering July day—for instance), nor sequels, remakes or reboots.

I’m of the belief, like many others, that there are only a few stories in existence, with an infinite number of combinations of details, skins, layers and masks. Comedy and drama, if you think Shakespearean. Love, loss, redemption, if you think Darwinian, or maybe spiritually; I’m not really sure of this theory yet, still working on it.

But more to the point, the wheel’s been invented. It’s how we adapt our narratives to these bones that give us fantastical, far-reaching, daring, inventive new concepts. This list gives me hope for the screen.

NEW IDEAS! NEW TALENT! NEW STORIES!

-Ben

Photo credit: The Signal

Save the date!
Block Club and City Dining Cards, proud sponsors of this year’s Buffalo Small Press Book Fair, will be on hand for both days of this year’s event. If you haven’t been, you must check out their website and get a taste for something completely amazing.
Basically, if you like to read, to write, to hold and touch deliciously designed paper goods, if you like to call your collection a “library,” if you like to call your doodles “illustrations,” if you like to be around infinitely creative individuals who put their minds to work and made something original JUST FOR YOU, then you must come on down. I can’t say enough about it, clearly. :-)
See you there!
-Ben

Save the date!

Block Club and City Dining Cards, proud sponsors of this year’s Buffalo Small Press Book Fair, will be on hand for both days of this year’s event. If you haven’t been, you must check out their website and get a taste for something completely amazing.

Basically, if you like to read, to write, to hold and touch deliciously designed paper goods, if you like to call your collection a “library,” if you like to call your doodles “illustrations,” if you like to be around infinitely creative individuals who put their minds to work and made something original JUST FOR YOU, then you must come on down. I can’t say enough about it, clearly. :-)

See you there!

-Ben

Biking season is upon us!

(For some, there isn’t a season. Year-round biking seems more and more common, but anyway. Also: there’s this guy’s approach to bike culture.)

Holding us over until roads are clear is the enticement of artists like this fella, whose bike-wheel print of the Empire State Building is simple and raw.

I tend to be drawn into images that appear significantly different at different depths, where from a distance we see a crude NYC landmark but up close we see road work.

Check out more of the bike-related art and design at 100 Copies. Cool shop, over there.

-Ben

Images courtesy 100 Copies.

Better is relative, isn’t it? These kids know what’s up. They know a lame joke is better than a bad joke, but a great joke would be better than anything. Let’s start there.

The next issue of Block Club looks at these words, “better” and “worse.”

We’re finishing work on it this week and can’t wait to show you. April is right around the corner, which is worse than July but better than January. So.

-Ben

Three years ago, right before Valentine’s Day, I had a meeting with a prospective intern. He came to me recommended by a mutual friend, which usually turns out to be a good idea. Come to find out, as we usually come to find out, that we had many more mutual friends, colleagues, school mates, and all the other incarnations of a young, creative, urban commune. This was sure to work out.
We met for coffee to discuss his knowledge of Buffalo, his level of creative and artistic taste (a tricky kind of criteria to base a hiring decision on, but important for a job in an environment like this), and just to get an idea. In most interactions with potential new friends, hires, interview subjects, wash-and-fold workers, I like to gain at least a feeling of your personality (if you’re a creep, if you’re going to steal my stuff, if you know how to roll t-shirts), and then leave the details for later. Go with your gut, has gotten me far in life and work.
Patrick showed up, looking perfectly like an intern—60% eager, hungry, voracious; 25% precious; 15% incapable of speaking properly—with one extra thing not typically found: he had a personality. It should not be a revelation that many people out there in the world are too plain and easy to notice. Writers, especially, are notorious for blending into their surroundings. Patrick had moxie, a kindness, a politeness, and a laugh that appeared only when it wanted to, and a scope of inquiry that confirmed for me that he’d be great at probing the lives of strangers. As for personality, I don’t recall what he wore exactly, but based on the last three years of his wardrobe, it likely included cute visible foxes and cute hidden ice cream cones.
(At the end of our interview, which had quickly veered into conversation between two old chaps, he asked where he might take a girl he was hoping to impress for Valentine’s Day. I suggested some restaurants, and he later followed up with me, before hearing of his hiring, of the recommendation’s success. He also asked if he should cut his hair—an unmistakable junior mullet—which I laughed at and thought, oh that’s sweet, but no. “You’re just going to be an intern, that won’t be necessary,” I thought to but didn’t say.)
I won’t belittle the subsequent three years of work—for Block Club magazine, on Block Club’s administrative team, for City Dining Cards’s expanding community ventures; as a smiley, warm, trustworthy, professional, creative and invaluable face for this family of a company—with workplace stories. Retrace our steps since his first day, and you’ll see his input, words, direction and sensibility. His byline will continue to appear. He’s not going anywhere. But he won’t be here, and that makes me sad and more.
Today is Patrick’s last day. He will not be far from us. His new work will keep him close to the ideals I know he’s absorbed having worked here, and the work that we all believe so much in. It hasn’t hit me that he won’t be high-fiving me Monday morning; or answering the phone with a length explanation of how his name is Patrick, and our boss’s name is Patrick, and really they are two different Patricks; or sending me screen-caps of songs he likes, websites he laughs at, and intra-office chat nuggets, all of which make me laugh like a dying hyena; or me advising him to tell me “no” when I know his heart tells him to say “yes,” a fault I have a hard time faulting; or making me proud to print his byline for an article he put an inordinate, inaccessible amount of time into, given his expansive duties; or just his hidden ice-cream cones, that appear when you least expect it. His journalistic backbone has informed all that he’s done, no matter the project. His attention to detail has both saved my life and given me headaches. But it’s okay.
Patrick, “the other Patrick,” Bro, Hey Girl, colleague, buddy, high-five sensei, brother: you’re my favorite.
Peace out,Ben

Three years ago, right before Valentine’s Day, I had a meeting with a prospective intern. He came to me recommended by a mutual friend, which usually turns out to be a good idea. Come to find out, as we usually come to find out, that we had many more mutual friends, colleagues, school mates, and all the other incarnations of a young, creative, urban commune. This was sure to work out.

We met for coffee to discuss his knowledge of Buffalo, his level of creative and artistic taste (a tricky kind of criteria to base a hiring decision on, but important for a job in an environment like this), and just to get an idea. In most interactions with potential new friends, hires, interview subjects, wash-and-fold workers, I like to gain at least a feeling of your personality (if you’re a creep, if you’re going to steal my stuff, if you know how to roll t-shirts), and then leave the details for later. Go with your gut, has gotten me far in life and work.

Patrick showed up, looking perfectly like an intern—60% eager, hungry, voracious; 25% precious; 15% incapable of speaking properly—with one extra thing not typically found: he had a personality. It should not be a revelation that many people out there in the world are too plain and easy to notice. Writers, especially, are notorious for blending into their surroundings. Patrick had moxie, a kindness, a politeness, and a laugh that appeared only when it wanted to, and a scope of inquiry that confirmed for me that he’d be great at probing the lives of strangers. As for personality, I don’t recall what he wore exactly, but based on the last three years of his wardrobe, it likely included cute visible foxes and cute hidden ice cream cones.

(At the end of our interview, which had quickly veered into conversation between two old chaps, he asked where he might take a girl he was hoping to impress for Valentine’s Day. I suggested some restaurants, and he later followed up with me, before hearing of his hiring, of the recommendation’s success. He also asked if he should cut his hair—an unmistakable junior mullet—which I laughed at and thought, oh that’s sweet, but no. “You’re just going to be an intern, that won’t be necessary,” I thought to but didn’t say.)

I won’t belittle the subsequent three years of work—for Block Club magazine, on Block Club’s administrative team, for City Dining Cards’s expanding community ventures; as a smiley, warm, trustworthy, professional, creative and invaluable face for this family of a company—with workplace stories. Retrace our steps since his first day, and you’ll see his input, words, direction and sensibility. His byline will continue to appear. He’s not going anywhere. But he won’t be here, and that makes me sad and more.

Today is Patrick’s last day. He will not be far from us. His new work will keep him close to the ideals I know he’s absorbed having worked here, and the work that we all believe so much in. It hasn’t hit me that he won’t be high-fiving me Monday morning; or answering the phone with a length explanation of how his name is Patrick, and our boss’s name is Patrick, and really they are two different Patricks; or sending me screen-caps of songs he likes, websites he laughs at, and intra-office chat nuggets, all of which make me laugh like a dying hyena; or me advising him to tell me “no” when I know his heart tells him to say “yes,” a fault I have a hard time faulting; or making me proud to print his byline for an article he put an inordinate, inaccessible amount of time into, given his expansive duties; or just his hidden ice-cream cones, that appear when you least expect it. His journalistic backbone has informed all that he’s done, no matter the project. His attention to detail has both saved my life and given me headaches. But it’s okay.

Patrick, “the other Patrick,” Bro, Hey Girl, colleague, buddy, high-five sensei, brother: you’re my favorite.

Peace out,
Ben

I spent Saturday afternoon and evening in West Manhattan Toronto, where I caught some small-gallery art, some tasty Thai, some legit record stores, some vertical gardens, some interactive sculpture, some sweet graffiti alleys, some damn fine coffee, some fancy furniture stores, and a day-ending show by Mississauga band The Hidden Cameras. It was a superb day out on the town, and one which I hope to revisit again really soon. Check out the sights above. I feel explaining them would take away from the wonder I had when coming across them in person.

-Ben

Just getting back from eight days in sunny Puerto Morelos, about 30 minutes south of Cancún and 30 seconds north of heaven. I won’t bore anyone stuck Vortexside with my accounts—you know what’s entailed. I’m working on a draft of an essay about either the food at my all-inclusive resort or the boring tendencies of my fellow Americans, or both. I don’t know, still working on it. But in the meantime, I’ll share these panoramas I shot on my regular afternoon walk. On the beach. You’re welcome.

I can’t explain many of these, nor would I care to, since such natural beauty needs no commentary. I will say, though, that by tossing around my iPhone’s built-in pan-functionality, I got a whiff of what this horizon means to me in the absence of touch; photos represent the beauty or truth (philosophically redundant when not aesthetically) of a singular moment. I don’t think these photos are necessarily pretty, but that’s exactly my point: they could never be as pretty as the reality they represent. My memory of this beautiful space will never live up to being there.

There’s debate about this among Instagrammers, what with their faux filters and immediate nostalgia, that it creates insincerity for our realities, that we may in fact be mocking our truths by making our memories—captured just seconds ago—seem more quaint, more beautiful, more idealized than they had time to become. A naturally aged photo is more precious to some than a stylishly edited one. I won’t choose sides as it’s up to everyone’s own tastes; I am an avid Instagram user, however, both despite and because of its psychological trappings.

I also think, maybe, it’s not a big deal, haha. Creativity shouldn’t be entrapped by universal law; what we make, what we capture, what we interpret, is up to us, based on us, and obliged to us.

ANYWAY…before I Debbie Downer this to the point of stupidity, I’ll leave you to explore. Enjoy, however you can. :-) -Ben

WHO’S EXCITED FOR THE SUPER BOWL!

I have a hunch, a pseudo-educated-though-not-positive hunch that this year’s Super Bowl ads are going to crush. I predict they will bend toward the socially conscious (maybe one, like the above, Axe’s Make Love, Not War spot that’s getting rabid attention), or perhaps the mysterious, where you don’t even know who the ad is for (until months later…that could be cool maybe?) or maybe there’s a revival of a classic Super Bowl ad in the works? I dunno, but I know it’ll be fun to watch.

Axe’s ad, by the way, is all kinds of smart. It really pulls you in a few directions, and then makes you smile.

Enjoy!

-Ben

I can’t tell you how much I love receiving mail. Especially when it’s from one of my talented contributors, who sent me something simply because she felt like it. Yep, one day on Facebook, Lauren was all, “Hey y’all”—I’m paraphrasing—”I’m making things. Who wants one?” I promptly said, “Me! Me! I want one! I want one!” and boom, I got one. Life can be that simple.

It’s exactly what I needed. I didn’t even know I wanted it. She gets me, that Lauren.

Thanks, you made my day!

P.S. Lauren’s upcoming book, “I’m a Horse Bitch,” out soon from Trifecta Editions, is at the top of my must-read list. I can’t wait!

-Ben

By Tim

Check out these runners-up for Issue 33’s cover and image series. For this issue, everyone on the design team took photos (or pulled from their own libraries) and we chose from a selection to convey the theme of Gray.

Our only criteria was that it should reflect the beauty of gray in either the natural or manufactured world. You can see, here, how our differing eyes wandered.

-Ben