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Jon Udell

Original memories

Were it not for the Wayback Machine, a lot of my post-1995 writing would now be gone. Since the advent of online-only publications, getting published has been a lousy way to stay published. When pubs change hands, or die, the works of their writers tend to evaporate. I’m not a great self-archivist, despite having better-than-average … Continue reading Original memories

The Modesto Pile

Reading a collection of John McPhee stories, I found several that were new to me. The Duty of Care, published in the New Yorker in 1993, is about tires, and how we do or don’t properly recycle them. One form of reuse we’ve mostly abandoned is retreads. McPhee writes: A retread is in no way … Continue reading The Modesto Pile

A wider view

For 20 bucks or less, nowadays, you can buy an extra-wide convex mirror that clips onto your car’s existing rear-view mirror. We just tried one for the first time, and I’m pretty sure it’s a keeper. These gadgets claim to eliminate blind spots, and this one absolutely does. Driving down 101, I counted three seconds … Continue reading A wider view

The New Freshman Comp

The column republished below, originally at, was the vector that connected me to my dear friend Gardner Campbell. I’m resurrecting it here partly just to bring it back online, but mainly to celebrate the ways in which Gardner — a film scholar among many other things — is, right now, bringing his film expertise … Continue reading The New Freshman Comp

Continental drift

In a 1999 interview David Bowie said that “the potential for what the Internet is going to do to society, both good and bad, is unimaginable.” I had no problem imagining the good, it was the bad where my imagination failed. The web of the late 90s was a cornucopia of wonder, delight, and inspiration. … Continue reading Continental drift