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Cat is Art Spelled Wrong

A new book that aims to explain why cat videos are so alluring

by Nara Shin in Culture on 20 August 2014

YouTube, Cat Videos, Coffee House Press, Walker Art Center, Books, Cats, Essays, Internet, Kickstarter, Minneapolis, Writing


The ancient Egyptians proclaimed their adoration for cats in hieroglyphics, statues and mummification. Today, many preserve the feline species forever in videos, print publications and even with dedicated television channels. When Coffee House Press' marketing director Caroline Casey and publisher Chris Fischbach attended the first Internet Cat Festival two years ago at Minneapolis' Walker Art Center, they were stunned by the turnout and the crowd's joyous reactions. "We were all doing this private thing (watching cat videos) together," Casey tells CH. "When we left, Chris and I immediately thought there had to be a book in there. What had happened? Why are people drawn to cat videos anyway? Why is it important that this happened on a museum's lawn?" Thus, the idea of a "Catstarter" was developed to commission smart and interesting writers to pen thought-provoking commentary on this near ubiquitous obsession with cat videos.

You could say that cat videos are mindless and disposable and a distraction, but they're also powerfully compelling in a way other animal videos, for instance, aren't.

"Carl Wilson's 'Let's Talk About Love: A Journey to the End of Taste' is one of my favorite books and the way he approached Celine Dion, and being Canadian and badness, and how much people love her, became the early model for how we were thinking about this book," says Casey. "Because you could say that cat videos are mindless and disposable and a distraction, but they're also powerfully compelling in a way other animal videos, for instance, aren't. And Chris and I love really smart laypersons writing about art, so we thought about who we'd want to read on the subject. We asked Carl, who said yes, and then we asked a whole list of our favorite people. Some said no, but a lot of them said yes. It's a really strange, funny, arty curious mix and it is completely un-ironic." The list of writers thus far includes The Atlantic's deputy editor Alexis Madrigal, Hyperallergic's senior editor Jillian Steinhauer, cat video professional Will Braden of Henri, le Chat Noir (the world's first feline philosopher), poet and Harvard professor Stephen Burt and others.


In partnership with Minneapolis neighbor and regular collaborator, Walker Art Center, Coffee House Press' upcoming book titled, "Cat is Art Spelled Wrong," takes the opportunity to examine a seemingly irrelevant subject from new perspectives—from "the line is between reality/self on the internet" to "how cat videos demonstrate either that nothing matters, or that any art matters if anyone thinks it does." Thus, it's an earnest attempt to uncover more about human nature—especially in today's internet-driven world.

"Serendipity is a big part of what we believe in—embracing the weird, the ambitious and the unexpected is why we're a nonprofit. So this was a natural extension of it. How do we take a thing that we love, turn it over to people we admire, and make something to share? And that's Catstarter," finishes Casey.

While readers have to wait until September 2015 for the book to be released, ensure its production by donating to their Kickstarter campaign, where the ultimate prize is getting the book dedicated your very own cat.

Final image courtesy of Paul Schmelzer, all others courtesy of Stacy Ann Schwartz and Walker Art Center

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The Yamaha Champions Riding School

Everyday riders learn the skills to win a motorcycle race at this permanent New Jersey location

by Katharine Erwin in Culture on 20 August 2014

Education, Motorcycle Riding, Motorcycles, New Jersey, Yamaha, Courses, Motorbikes, Schools, Training


On a cloudy morning in Millville, New Jersey, a group of men and women—who look like superheroes in full leather suits—gather around instructor Nick Ienatsch. "Clear your mind and have fun," he shouts. Ienatsch—who is the head instructor at The Yamaha Champions Riding School—is starting off the first day of the two-day course by asking students to be open-minded and with this, he ensures, "You will achieve great results."


Previously held in Utah, YCRS's new location at New Jersey Motorsports Park (NJMP), offers a much shorter travel time for East Coasters, just three hours from New York City. As one of the only permanent schools in the North East, YCRS is uniquely focused on translating race-winning skills to everyday riders. Although it has the word "Champion" in the title, the school does not subscribe to one particular racer's school of thought. "We didn't want to pick one way of riding" says Ienastsch, rather, it is an amalgamation of methods used by many successful racers. "Champion ideas" is how he refers the curriculum.

YCRS was deliberate in using the word "riders" rather than "racers." Ienatsch explains this intent is because, "It is the street riders that are causing so much grief. 'Riding' had to be in there. If we could get these ideas across to everyday riders—street and track—well, we could do a lot good."


The two-day course caters to all riders, from absolute beginner to professional, using on-track and classroom instruction. On-track drills, demonstrations and video give the rider physical context to apply methods. While the classroom sessions give students a cerebral understanding. "It shows them how simple the sport is, not easy but logical for the beginners," says Ienatsch. And for advanced riders, "The joy starts when we show them the little things that make them not only go faster, but safer."

A favorite drill of former student Moto GP racer Bradley Smith was the "point in" exercise, during which instructors at select corners lay several cones on their sides, pointing in or out. On each lap around the track, the rider has to modify the entry or exit line in order to maneuver their bike around the cone while maintaining a racing line. What makes this drill so affective is that the instructors change the cone layout on each lap, thus encouraging the riders to look further ahead. This drill doesn't just benefit track riders, because it reflects common obstacles in street riding.

YamahaChampionsRidingSchool-04a.jpg YamahaChampionsRidingSchool-04b.jpg

Another awareness drill is called "pit in," when riders pretend to be racers pitting in at each lap. Then the instructor tells the rider not to use a certain piece of equipment, for example, one lap with no front brakes or two laps with your left hand on the tank. The rider would then have to adjust mentally and physically to control the bike with fewer inputs. These practices, along with many other aspects of YCRS, have led them to become recognized by the Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF). YCRS is only the second third-party curriculum to receive this distinction by the world-renowned MSF, which is a non-profit organization that promotes safe riding through training, education and public programs.

The school runs from April through October annually, and provides Yamaha bikes ranging from models R6, FZ8, FZ9, R1 and FZ1. They will also provide proper riding gear if needed. Students are also allowed to bring their own bike, as long as it passes tech inspection. For more information contact YCRS.

Black and white images courtesy of Kate Erwin, color images courtesy of The SB Image

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Bad Seed's Chili Granola

A spicy but sweet treat co-created by respected NYC chef Sara Jenkins and app developer Peter Cortez

by CH Contributor in Food + Drink on 20 August 2014

Food + Drink, Granola, Health Food, Bad Seed, Chefs, Mouth, New York, Snacks, Spice

by Jenny Miller

Bad-Seeds-chili-granola-jar1.jpg bad-seeds-chili-granola-watermelon2.jpg

Occasionally an idea comes along that's so good it seems astounding nobody's thought of it before. This just happens to be the case with Chili Granola, a new product from Brooklyn-based company Bad Seed—a joint endeavor helmed by New York chef Sara Jenkins (who lists Porchetta and Porsena on her resumé) and smartphone app developer Peter Cortez, among others. The blend is exactly what it sounds like: a sampling of Chinese-style chili oil and chili paste mixed with a puffed rice- and hempseed-based granola. Though the namesake ingredient may sound intimidating, rest easy knowing there's enough sweetness from coconut and brown sugar to balance all the flavors out.

Cortez got the idea for the product from a granola-topped açai bowl he tried in Santa Barbara. "I liked the light airiness of that granola," he tells CH. And so, he approached Jenkins (a friend and colleague on the New Italian Pantry app) and together they developed the recipe. "We worked on it a lot so the granola doesn't get soggy," Cortez explains. "It has these clusters—we call them 'flavor bombs.' It isn't just one note of hotness or smokiness."


Cortez likes his Chili Granola on breakfast tacos, or on a salad of watermelon, feta and mint. Jenkins sprinkles some on her morning Greek yogurt. "It's crunchy and spicy, but with this funky undercurrent of ginger and onion. It's very complicated yet deeply satisfying," she says. Regardless of application method, Bad Seed's Chili Granola sells at a reasonable price—$11 from online food retailer Mouth and in-store at both Marlow & Daughters and Depanneur, where it's been routinely selling out.

Images courtesy of Bad Seed

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