Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Philip Graham Reports: International Short Story Conference in Lisbon

Author and erstwhile 9L fiction editor Philip Graham reported to us this summer from the 2006 International Conference on the Short Story in English, which was held in the beautiful city of Lisbon, Portugal. Many stellar writers from across the globe participated in this year’s conference, including Portuguese author Gonçalo Tavares and Irish author William Wall, both of whom have new work featured in the latest issue of 9L. Former 9L contributors Katherine Vaz and Robert Olen Butler were also among those who shared their talents. Thanks to Philip and to video producer Nathaniel Gottlieb-Graham, we can get a taste of this amazing literary event…

(PS: You can also read Philip's dispatches from Lisbon at McSweeney's Internet Tendency)

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Tee-riffic Art Apparel

Among the plethora of internet-based companies providing unique apparel, Threadless (www.threadless.com) and Waffo (www.waffo.com) are two outfits worth looking into, particularly if one is in quest of the ever-elusive perfect t-shirt, a certain staple in any wardrobe.

Threadless screen prints its shirts primarily on American Apparel tees. In fact, although I have not researched the matter extensively, one could easily hypothesize that the Los Angeles-based American Apparel, a company that prides itself on being sweatshop-free, and on providing superb benefits and excellent working conditions for its employees (the web site notes that the company pays "the highest wages in the garment industry"), is seemingly the primary provider of tees for internet-based screen printing companies, particularly those of the more artistic variety ( you can read the American Apparel mission statement here: http://www.americanapparel.net/mission/).

In addition to the American Apparel web site, storefronts are now in place in more than 25 states. But the best part is, while a bit pricier than non-American tees, the shirts and other items are, in my experience, well-made and able to withstand significant washing and wearing (never mind the fact that buying American Apparel means you can feel good about supporting a fair-minded and ethical company). Among my personal favorites are the basic tees and, for women, the cotton spandex jersey bandeau dress (which can be worn in a variety of ways and also doubles as a skirt), and the totally adorable boy brief, which comes in an assortment of fabrics and colors.

However, be warned that despite the site’s models, which are both exotic and "real" in the sense that their bodies are average in size, the clothing itself caters to the fit and trim. This means that you will likely need to order items at least one size larger than you normally would.

Much of the merchandise offered by American Apparel, particularly the t-shirts, screen prints beautifully, which is why companies like Threadless have found such success with the tees. For those unfamiliar with Threadless, a large part of the appeal is the ability for anyone to submit an original t-shirt design to the site. Registered users can then vote for their favorite entries, with the winning designs then manufactured by and available for purchase through Threadless. Most of the designs are eventually retired, although the more popular the tee, the greater the likelihood that it will stay in print. The shirts are first and foremost aesthetically pleasing, but additionally, many convey some sort of message through the illustration, whether it be a light and clever pun or a political or environmental commentary.

While Waffo offers far fewer designs than Threadless, with the designs themselves stemming from Waffo employees rather than customers, the t-shirts, while not American Apparel, are unbelievably soft and comfy. The designs themselves range from playful skeleton and tuxedo-printed tees to a black tee emblazoned with a large white "8 ½," an obvious nod to Fellini’s classic film of the same name.

I myself am the proud owner of the now discontinued "Fuck Heineken Drink Pabst Blue Ribbon" tee. The best part of the web site itself is the "arcade" section, which offers browsers the opportunity to play such classic video games as "Space Invaders," "Donkey Kong," and "PAC-MAN" on-site, with no downloads.

Check out www.threadless.com and www.waffo.com for killer tees and more information, such as select storefront locations.

Monday, January 15, 2007

So, we’ve all heard of alcohol poisoning, but..."water poisoning?"

According to Wikipedia, "water poisoning," also referred to as water intoxication or hyperhydration, entails "a potentially fatal disturbance in brain function that results when the normal balance of electrolytes in the body is pushed outside of safe limits by a very rapid intake of water."

Ideally, excess moisture leaves the body in significant amounts when we sweat or urinate, or more gradually as we exhale carbon dioxide and small amounts of moisture into the atmosphere. Yet when water is consumed more quickly than it can be removed, a potentially fatal electrolyte imbalance within the body’s fluids results. This imbalance is due primarily to the dilution of sodium compounds (a particular kind of electrolyte), which must be kept within a very small window of concentration.

Hyponatremia, the most common cause of water intoxication, results when this overdilution of sodium occurs within the blood plasma, causing an osmotic-type reaction in which the water outside of the cell filters into the cell. The cell will then swell and likely shut down. When hyponatremia occurs within the cells of the central nervous system and brain, it causes water intoxication. Thus, it would seem that water poisoning is every bit as possible as alcohol poisoning; but does it ever actually happen?

As unlikely as it sounds, less than one week ago, CNN reported that twenty-eight year old Jennifer Strange of Sacramento, California was found dead after participating in KDND radio station’s "Hold Your Wee for a Wii" contest. The contestants, competing for a Nintendo Wii, were to drink vast quantities of water without urinating. The contestants were reportedly told not to continue if they felt their health to be at risk.

This truly bizarre occurrence comes on the heels of another death by water intoxication that took place in February of 2005 at California State University in Chico. As part of a Chi Tau fraternity hazing, twenty-one year old Matthew Carrington was to drink large amounts of water while completing various physical tasks when he collapsed and died due to water intoxication.

But, before all of us hypochondriacs go freaking out and boycotting Evian, let us note that while dehydration is fairly common, hyperhydration is incredibly rare; hydration, then, is more important than fretting over hyperhydration.

Water intoxication occurs more frequently in infants, presumably because of their relatively small stature, and in those who both sweat excessively and consume large amounts of water, such as long-distance runners or workers functioning in extreme heat and humidity. Obviously, to avoid water intoxication, you want to keep your body’s intake of electrolytes and water at pace with your losses. Avoiding inane contests, or any contest, really, that contains the phrase "Hold Your Wee," is advised.