Thursday, September 29, 2005

this preview has been approved for all audiences

I wouldn't even know who to credit for this remake of The Shining trailer as a heartwarming family film, because it's everywhere. And now it's here and will make your day.

Update: Here are some more refurbished trailers (from the same company, PS260) - one that makes Titanic into a horror flick and one that transforms West Side Story into a zombie nightmare. (via boing boing)

short stack

"Happy slapping a chav who is indulging in a bit of dogging, however, might be the way to go." (via Verbose Coma)

Judd Apatow keeps a diary at Slate.

The Gallery of Annoying Email Signatures (via Lindsayism)

What do people stare at on the subway to avoid contact with other riders?

Send an SMS in #1!

"WHAT'S THE PRICE?" the classic Thunderbird theme song, a rollicking, country tinged number, famously asked. The answer: "Thirty twice." (via boing boing)

Part one of "A Guide to Literary Jonathans": Jonathan Ames

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

what should I read next?

At this handy-dandy site, you can enter a book that you like and you'll receive a handful of recommendations. I experimented with my most recent favorite book - David Mitchell's Cloud Atlas - and was pointed in some interesting directions. The range and quirkiness of these titles are quite impressive.

Wild Seed - Octavia Butler
Divided Kingdom - Rupert Thomson
Sex Crimes of the Futcher - Billy Childish
The Invention of Solitude - Paul Auster
Cherry - Matt Thorne
Year 501: The Conquest Continues - Noam Chomsky
Idz Kochaj - Tomak Tryzna
The Living Room of the Dead - Eric Stone
A Werewolf Problem in Central Russia and Other Stories - Victor Pelevin, Andrew Bromfield
The Box Man - Kobo Abe

you should design a restaurant

The gods talk design in this week's New Yorker.

Day No. 6:

“Today I’m really going out there,” said the Lord God. “And I know it won’t be popular at first, and you’re all gonna be saying, ‘Earth to Lord God,’ but in a few million years it’s going to be timeless. I’m going to design a man.”

And everyone looked upon the man that the Lord God designed.

“It has your eyes,” Zeus told the Lord God.

“Does it stack?” inquired Allah.

“It has a na├»ve, folk-artsy, I-made-it-myself vibe,” said Buddha. The Inca sun god, however, only scoffed. “Been there. Evolution,” he said. “It’s called a shaved monkey.”

“I like it,” protested Buddha. “But it can’t work a strapless dress.” Everyone agreed on this point, so the Lord God announced, “Well, what if I give it nice round breasts and lose the penis?”

“Yes,” the gods said immediately.

“Now it’s intelligent,” said Aphrodite.

“But what if I made it blond?” giggled the Lord God.

“And what if I made you a booming offscreen voice in a lot of bad movies?” asked Aphrodite.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

#4: kissing bandit

thomas denver jonsson - barely touching it

A few months back, I discovered singer-songwriter Thomas Denver Jonsson over at swedesplease. I posted a comment about how much I enjoyed the songs, and who should send me an e-mail all the way from Sweden, personally thanking me, but Thomas himself. We began a correspondence around his music and the songs of another Swedish singer, Nina Kinert. Not only is he a talented musician, but he's very sweet as well. Thomas sent a note the other day to say that his new album - Barely Touching It - will be coming out from Kite Records on October 28th, and he deserves your attention. In the meantime, here are two songs: the first with Nina Kinert, the second with Ned Oldham.

Dreams at the Film Club
Silver Boy

Sunday, September 25, 2005

mix post: literary edition

If you know me at all, you knew this edition was going to come along one day soon...

Wrapped Up in Books - Belle & Sebastian
@ Something Old, Something New

Written All Over Me - Joel Plaskett
@ *sixeyes

San Marosa - Bugs Eat Books
@ largehearted boy

Inquizative, Derivative - Silent Poets featuring Last Poets
@ Can I Bring My Gat?

The Electric Love Letter - Langhorne Slim
@ songs:illinois

The Lemon of Pink, pt. 2 - The Books
@ You Ain't No Picasso

The Text Is Written (Upside Down) - Audrey
@ swedesplease

Wuthering Heights - The Decemberists
@ My Old Kentucky Blog

My Boyfriend Writes Plays - Pants Yell!
@ So...Where Is Helsinki?

The Secret Life of Emily Dickinson - Robert Deeble
@ songs:illinois

Sylvia Plath - Ryan Adams
@ indoor fireworks

The Author Surrenders - Kimone
@ Ninja's Dojo

The Book of Right-on - Joanna Newsom
@ Louder than War

***You can buy the refurbished book purse above (with many other titles available) at Rebound Designs.-

to linger in the observation of things

The 2005 MacArthur Fellows
The Top 40 Most Important Works in the World (since 1927, at least)
The Top 100 Public Intellectuals
The Top 10 Artists to Watch 'Who Will Rule 2006'
The 12 Best Popular Science Books
The 13 Most Corrupt Members of Congress
The 50 Most Cited Works in the Arts & Humanities Index
The Top 10 People Who Should've Been Drafted into the Wu-Tang Clan
The 10 Most Frequently Challenged Books of 2004

The last category commemorates Banned Books Week and the ALA poster has a perfect Mark Twain quote: "Censorship is telling a man he can't have a steak just because a baby can't chew it."

Thursday, September 22, 2005

hella fulla

The New York Times
profiles Fulla, the Middle East's version of Barbie.

Fulla's creator, NewBoy Design Studio, based in Syria, introduced her in November 2003, and she has quickly become a best seller all over the region. It is nearly impossible to walk into a corner shop in Syria or Egypt or Jordan or Qatar without encountering Fulla breakfast cereal or Fulla chewing gum or not to see little girls pedaling down the street on their Fulla bicycles, all in trademark "Fulla pink."

Let's all sigh in relief that she "shares Barbie's size and proportions."

jesus es grande

Writer and musician Kinky Friedman is campaigning to become the Governor of Texas and has unveiled this animated commercial that skewers his opponents.

book club blues

I was always reluctant to join a book club, because I was in grad school (isn't that just one big, expensive book club?) and because I feared I couldn't make the transition from name-dropping Deleuze and Derrida to chatting about film adaptation casting. Upon moving to L.A., I joined my friend's book club after hearing about its rigor and - I'll admit it - the food. I was happily surprised by the level of conversation and by the fact that I escaped this kind of badinage described by Courtney Sullivan:

If I’m going to spend any time reading for a group discussion, I want there to actually be a discussion. Last month, for example: The cute redhead (Warner Books) tried to mix it up a bit when she suggested we read Tom Perrotta’s Little Children. I actually finished that one. But the conversation rapidly devolved into what it was like to grow up in suburban New Jersey, and whether Reese Witherspoon was better in Election or Legally Blonde 2.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

the shining knives

Sharon Olds is my new hero. She speaks truth to power in a letter to Laura Bush explaining why she will not accept her invitation to the National Book Festival, thank you very much.

But I could not face the idea of breaking bread with you. I knew that if I sat down to eat with you, it would feel to me as if I were condoning what I see to be the wild, highhanded actions of the Bush Administration.

What kept coming to the fore of my mind was that I would be taking food from the hand of the First Lady who represents the Administration that unleashed this war and that wills its continuation, even to the extent of permitting "extraordinary rendition": flying people to other countries where they will be tortured for us.

So many Americans who had felt pride in our country now feel anguish and shame, for the current regime of blood, wounds and fire. I thought of the clean linens at your table, the shining knives and the flames of the candles, and I could not stomach it.

I don't like the word obligation either

The Elegant Variation has a three-minute interview with new LA Times book editor and escapegrace crush David L. Ulin.

And finally, ask yourself any question you'd like - but be sure to answer it.

DU: When is criticism a creative act?

Actually, it's probably more appropriate to pose this question from the opposite perspective: When is it not a creative act? For me, criticism is fundamentally creative because it begins with a writer or a thinker interacting with the world. Such a process is, necessarily, one of engagement; when we read or go to the movies or listen to music - when we walk down the street, for that matter - we are first and foremost experiencing something, and all criticism stems from the desire (need?) to make sense of that. This shaping impulse is at the heart of creativity; life may be chaotic, but there is order in thought. What does this mean in regard to Book Review? I'd suggest it gives us permission to look at reading and writing through whatever filter works. The best criticism, after all, has less to do with answers than with questions, and the more we embrace that, the more open and creative our questions can become.

neighborhood knowledge

You can use this UCLA search engine to get to know your California neighborhood intimately. For example, in Silverlake, the majority of tenants shell out less than 30% of their annual income for rent. I can live with that.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

can't hear it? let me turn it up for you

If you missed Jon Stewart on the Emmys, check it. I love that man. (Via Crooks and Liars)

spies in our midst

Someone at 52 Projects has catalogued my favorite procrastination tools in a not-to-do list. You could have just politely suggested I get back to work.

l.a. firsts

1) I attended my first event at the Ford Amphitheatre, which is a gorgeous venue. I shall return.

2) It's raining! A lot! And there's thunder!

Monday, September 19, 2005

hysteria is so over

Enfant terrible Michel Houellebecq has been recently endorsed by the Raelian cult. (Via The Elegant Variation)

In a statement earlier this week, the Raelian movement praised 'The Possibility of an Island', describing Houellebecq as a "top-ranking intellectual who dares to say publicly that he finds Rael sympathetic and that its ideas are interesting."

"At last — a stone in the pool of intolerance of the French intellectual milieu," it said.

Houellebecq, who attended a Raelian congress two years ago, told Le Monde that he found the sect "well-adapted to modern times, to our leisure-based civilisation. It imposes no code of morality and it promises immortality... For a science fiction fan like me, its ideas are interesting."

Meanwhile, Yankee Pot Roast proves, once and for all, that you pronounce it "wellbeck" and Michel himself gives us an A to Z of culture. (Via The Literary Saloon)

D is for Depression:

This is the archetypal modern disease - hysteria is over. Everyone will end up prone to depression after a certain age. There's not really anything you can do about it because while the demands people make of their lives are going to go on growing, their ability to achieve them won't. There may be a chemical solution.

The advantage is that depressives can often be extremely funny. There's nothing like a good depressive for having a humorous and perceptive take on the world. I am very fond of the depressive narrator as a character. Perhaps too much so.

Methods Other Than Song by Which One Can Be Killed Softly

planned parenthood is smarter than you

Planned Parenthood has come up with a brilliant plan to infuriate the protestors outside their clinics.

Here’s how it works: You decide on the amount you would like to pledge for each protester (minimum 10 cents). When protesters show up on our sidewalks, Planned Parenthood Southeastern Pennsylvania will count and record their number each day from October 1 through November 30, 2005. We will place a sign outside the health center that tracks pledges and makes protesters fully aware that their actions are benefiting PPSP. At the end of the two-month campaign, we will send you an update on protest activities and a pledge reminder.

Friday, September 16, 2005

budding prospects

I just had an interview at USC and saw TC Boyle buying a soda from a vending machine. I thought about stalking him to his office, figuring I could get away with it because I was wearing a suit, but I was out of opening lines.

Update: The Los Angeles Times reviews Boyle's latest, Tooth and Claw.

photo by Milo Boyle from the author's website

Thursday, September 15, 2005

read this!

The Litblog Co-Op has unveiled its latest Read This! selection: Steve Stern's The Angel of Forgetfulness.

In other selection news, I am currently reading Ingrid Hill's Ursula, Under for book club. Has anyone ever read/heard of this novel?

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

it's all about expectations management

Richard Nash of Soft Skull Press introduces this live e-panel of first time authors.

Ron Hogan (The Stewardess is Flying the Plane: American Films of the 1970s): I owe all my successes to my willingness to go drinking with any industry professional at any time. Editors, agents, other writers, you name it.

Felicia Sullivan (We Don't Live Here Anymore): Good writing gets noticed regardless of where you live. I actually think it's better not to live in New York – sometimes I find it's difficult to focus on the writing, the work, when most folks talk about the business of writing (agents, book deals, numbers, etc).

Marcy Dermansky (Twins): I have some readers who will only tell me my work is great. I don't believe them. But I also rely on them.

Benjamin Percy (The Language of Elk): My magic 8-ball has also come in handy.
Brad Listi (Attention. Deficit. Disorder.): Sometimes the six-figure advance can be a kiss of death.


M is for the million things she gave me...

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

mental dungeons in the air

1947 Project informs us that on this day in 1947, a divorce was finalized between novelist James M. Cain (The Postman Always Rings Twice, Double Indemnity) and "one-time silent screen starlet and fruit company heiress" Aileen Pringle.

In her complaint, Mrs. Pringle, who was formerly married to Jamaican aristocrat Charles McKenzie Pringle and romantically linked to H.L. Mencken, charged that Cain was a "moody, melancholy and grim" husband, who "built mental dungeons instead of castles in the air." In a letter to Mencken in 1946, she quipped "If I had remained married to that psychotic Cain, I would be wearing a straight jacket instead of the New Look."

from 1947 Project: Cain to remarry!

as long as necessity is socially dreamed

Jeremy Adam Smith lists the ten stupidest utopias in an attempt to answer the age-old question: "If utopia is supposed to be the ideal and perfect place, where everyone lives in harmony, then why do so many of them turn out to suck?"

delete - no one cares

In lieu of a career, I've been doing a lot of editing, tutoring, and grading, and I can tell you that this list of lesser-known proofreading marks is just what the non-doctor ordered.

Via Maud Newton
Of course, I could always change careers...

be afraid, Elijah...

Be very afraid.

Monday, September 12, 2005

a time of assassins

On the fourth anniversary of 9/11, Benjamin Kunkel (Indecision) looks at the American terrorist novel.

Soon after the attacks, critics began asking what would become of two literary preoccupations of the 90's: the tone called ''irony'' and the genre called, with more justice, the social novel. Novelists have lately begun to return their answers. And yet there was something in the American novel of what you might call the long 1990's -- from 1989 to 2001 -- at least as conspicuous as the tortured wish for emotional sincerity and the appetite for historical significance. This was -- and is, since for the novel that period is ending only now -- the extraordinary number of fictional terrorists jostling one another for our attention. About as many major authors wrote about terrorists during the 90's as did not, and you are probably more likely to meet a terrorist in the pages of a recent American novel than anyone besides a college professor.

under construction

Jeanette Winterson wonders why writers are so wary of websites...

Type in a few well-known names and the results are unexpected and amusing: try Rushdie, and Salman’s Web Site looks promising, but out pops a single line — Under Construction. Martin Amis appears to have no web presence at all, apart from “Allo, les amis”, a French holiday log-in. Smiths Ali and Zadie have plenty of web threads, but A Web of One’s Own they have not...Hanif Kureishi has a miserable site, which looks as if it’s been generated at an Early Learning Centre based in Wigan, while Ruth Rendell has a publisher’s site harder to navigate than Bugdom Level Eight.

...but she can't include Pete Townshend, who will be blogging his new novella, "The Boy Who Heard Music."

Thursday, September 08, 2005

not late-breaking, just heartbreaking

Louisiana Senator Mary L. Landrieu implores the President to "relieve unmitigated suffering" and end FEMA's "abject failures."

But perhaps the greatest disappointment stands at the breached 17th Street levee. Touring this critical site yesterday with the President, I saw what I believed to be a real and significant effort to get a handle on a major cause of this catastrophe. Flying over this critical spot again this morning, less than 24 hours later, it became apparent that yesterday we witnessed a hastily prepared stage set for a Presidential photo opportunity; and the desperately needed resources we saw were this morning reduced to a single, lonely piece of equipment.

In The New Yorker, David Remnick takes a look at the political ramifications of Katrina.

And yet, to a frightening degree, Bush’s faults of leadership and character were brought into high relief by the crisis. Suntanned and relaxed after a vacation so long that it would have shamed a French playboy, Bush reacted with fogged delinquency, as if he had been so lulled by his summer sojourn that he was not quite ready to acknowledge reality, let alone attempt to master it.

My roommate's been wondering where Dick Cheney's been. Apparently, in Mississippi, being told to go f*ck himself.

Firefighters sent to Atlanta to help instead sat around a hotel and learned how to answer phones under FEMA's orders.

On Monday, some firefighters stuck in the staging area at the Sheraton peeled off their FEMA-issued shirts and stuffed them in backpacks, saying they refuse to represent the federal agency.

A trio of Duke University sophomores say they drove to New Orleans late last week, posed as journalists to slip inside the hurricane-soaked city twice, and evacuated seven people who weren't receiving help from authorities. A teenager commandeered a bus to evacuate people to Houston before officials could get their act together.

The Martian Anthropologist breaks it down.

  • The type of devastation and loss of life that Hurricane Katrina has inflicted on New Orleans was predicted. And not by crackpots. By FEMA and a host of others.
  • Despite that, earlier this year, President Bush cut funding to major hurricane and flood protection projects in New Orleans. Also because of this, a study to determine ways to protect the region from a Category 5 hurricane was shelved.
  • Because of President Bush's pet War in Iraq, the National Guard is stretched way too thin. The National Guard is supposed to protect the homeland and help with local disasters, not go fight wars.
  • Because of Katrina and the nation's lack of preparedness, you will soon be paying $4.00 a gallon for gas.
Donna Tartt: The levee breaking was always the terror of the Delta.

The recent hurricanes in Jeb Bush's Florida were handled briskly, there was immediate on-the-ground help, delivered with military efficiency. But these people in New Orleans are poor, they're elderly, they're African-American, they aren't important to politicians: they've waited for days, they're sick and dying, and the help still hasn't come. It's an emergency and a disgrace.

An interview with a New Orleans resident on the situation at the Convention Center before evacuation.

I didn't vote for him.

Tingle Alley and Maud Newton provide some additional links.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

thinking of you

One of my favorite underappreciated bands is Louisville, KY's Freakwater and lo & behold, they're just about to come out with their first album since 1999's End Time. The time in between has seen solo efforts from both Catherine Irwin and Janet Bean, but now they're back together - much to my delight - on Thinking of You. It'll be released next Tuesday, but in the meantime, you can listen to two songs from the new album and many from their previous efforts here as well as finding out more about Freakwater. (Amazon also has five mp3s to download -I recommend "Good for Nothing.") As if the new album wasn't enough, they're even touring. Have you ever had one of those moments where it seems like you're up against an endless stream of blah - if you're lucky, that's all it is - and all of sudden, something beautifully unexpected comes at you? That's what I feel like right now.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

this week's netflix

I haven't checked in with my Netflix reviews for a couple of weeks, so there are several films here, including two that would have been a hell of a lot better with the last 20 minutes chopped off.

Northfork: I think the Polish brothers have a fine film in them, but they just haven't made it yet. I was originally interested in Northfork because I'm fascinated by the phenomenon of towns flooded to create reservoirs, explored also in the film O Brother, Where Art Thou? Near where I grew up, the Quabbin Reservoir was constructed through the "taking of the towns of Dana, Enfield, Greenwich, and Prescott" in the late 1930s. In Northfork, a team of men have been guaranteed lake-front property in return for evacuating a collection of kooky citizens of the town. The art direction is pretty spectacular, but there are bizarre, nonsensical subplots that don't really work.

Entourage, Season 1, Episodes 1-4: Rick of Futurballa recommended this series to me, and there are many entertaining incidents as a pretty-boy up & coming star (Adrian Grenier) carries on in celebrity style accompanied by his Queens white-boy posse. Kevin Dillon is particularly hilarious as C-list older brother Johnny Drama. Unfortunately, watching Entourage has made me never want to date in LA again. Dana Stevens of Slate dissects the problems with the series in her article "Let's Script-Doctor It Out, Bitch."

Raising Victor Vargas: This is a very charming film of young Dominican love on the Lower East Side. The female lead (Judy Marte) does an excellent job of capturing the attitude of tough girls who mask their vulnerability with ferocity. Meanwhile, the male lead (Victor Rasuk) struggles with a grandmother who is so realistic it seems she was filmed in home movies and then edited into her scenes.

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead: A Fool in the Forest recommended this film after my DVD of Meantime wouldn't play, and I can't believe I hadn't seen Tom Stoppard's brilliant tale of these minor characters from Hamlet. The script is a smart, smart hodgepodge of Shakespeare, Beckett, Pirandello, and well, Stoppard. Gary Oldman and Tim Roth are simultaneously clever and bumbling as they follow their theatrical fate. The plot is too complicated to recount here, but the quotes on IMDB will give you a sense of how shrewd the script is.

The Upside of Anger: After Joan Allen's husband (supposedly) runs off, she is left to pick up the pieces and raise her four daughters (Alicia Witt, Erika Christensen, Keri Russell, and Evan Rachel Wood) with the help of alcoholic ex-baseball pro Kevin Costner. There are some decent moments in the film, but for the most part, the emotions don't really match the catalysts for those emotions. Then something happens in the final 20 minutes that casts a huge shadow of stupidity on everything that precedes it.

The Brown Bunny: For most of this film, I was somewhat amused in an oh-look-at-the-funny-egomaniac way. As Michael Wilmington of the Chicago Tribune wrote, "Gallo focuses on himself so obsessively, it's as if he'd become his own stalker." However, when the final scenes arrive, the money shot is over, and we discover exactly why we're supposed to feel so bad for the poor narcissist, I was left with a nausea that didn't subside for days.

Monday, September 05, 2005

This clip of Jefferson Parish president Aaron Broussard on Meet the Press is incredibly moving.

We have been abandoned by our own country. Hurricane Katrina will go down in history as one of the worst storms ever to hit an American coast. But the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina will go down as one of the worst abandonments of Americans on American soil ever in U.S. history... Bureaucracy has committed murder here in the greater New Orleans area and bureaucracy has to stand trial before Congress now...

Nobody’s coming to get us. Nobody’s coming to get us. The Secretary has promised. Everybody’s promised. They’ve had press conferences. I’m sick of the press conferences. For god’s sakes, just shut up and send us somebody.


Saturday, September 03, 2005

Friday, September 02, 2005

uglier than a perfect storm of fug

The trash-tastic website Go Fug Yourself has put together an excellent list of "charities and local relief, donation-matching foundations and organizations, donation-matching retailers, and retailers sending profits straight to relief organizations" to help with the hurricane recovery.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

four fingers for the lord

Stay Free! has an interview with a man named Joe who creates robots and murals for Christian theme parks.

STAY FREE!: Can you share anything that's struck you as over-the-top?

Some churches want a sort of natural environment, like rocks and trees. And then there's the other extreme where you build a time machine prop that lights up and fogs as people walk out of it in costume on stage: Moses brought back from the past, for example. We do Bible stories, and there's a Jesus-in-space theme, which is basically the idea that this religion will endure into the Jetson age. That's a pretty popular theme, actually; it's not about the Apocalyptic side of the religion.

You haven't made any animatronic Antichrists or 666 beasts or anything like that?

No. A lot of the people at the company, myself included, do not have any kind of religious belief. So we joke about getting a contract for a Satanic church. The only non-Christian theme we've done is a Hindu wedding. And it wasn't even a wedding, it was actually just a presentation of the couple for a very rich doctor. We built an entire Hindu temple ruins and fountains and everything.

STAY FREE!: You were talking about Jesus in space.

Yeah, Jesus in space. Jesus with four fingers instead of five! That's another really striking thing about the company: every Bible character that we do has four fingers on each hand instead of five.

one finger for the president

Mississippi Goddamn. Something is rotten.


I'm the first to admit maybe I don't think critically enough about modern conveniences. Google & Amazon seem like little slices of heaven, regardless of how such superficial, rapid-fire information tidbits may be rendering my neural pathways incapable of deep thought. This project from the Museum of Media History is a fascinating prediction of what we can expect further down the highway. (Via Old Hag)

For lighter fare, there's this week's Onion top story: Google Announces Plan To Destroy All Information It Can't Index