Sunday, December 31, 2006

so long oh six

This is the year that was:

The Least Essential Albums (AV Club)
The 10 Gayest Moments (VH1 Best Week Ever)
Best Fiction (Salon)
25 Favorite Books (Village Voice)
10 Best Books (Times Online)
Best Music (AV Club)
The Year's Best Scuzz Rock (Seattle Weekly)
Books of the Year Symposium (Ready Steady Book)
Top 100 Tracks (Pitchfork)
Most Dangerous Roads in the World (Dark Roasted Blend)
Underrated Writers (Syntax of Things)
Best Inventions (Time)
Top 10 Books (Ed Champion)
Year-End Music Lists (Largehearted Boy)
Top 10 Yoga Retreats (Gayot)
10 LA Disappearing Acts (LAist)
Top 10 Records from LA Bands (You Set the Scene)
List of Lists of Lists (YesButNoButYes)

Much gratitude to those of you who visit regularly and best wishes for a grand new year...
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Saturday, December 30, 2006

this week's netflix

And it is with this post that we bid adieu to the recurring "this week's netflix" series. It's been a good two years, but apparently life really interferes with one's DVD watching.

Carrie: Yes, the original Brian DePalma version, and yes, I'd never seen it before. As I'm sure you know, it's thoroughly enjoyable and fairly horrific (especially the shower scene in the beginning). Aside from wondering why there aren't more actresses like Sissy Spacek these days - vulnerable and sympathetic but creepy at the same time - I mostly wondered what Hollywood was like in 1976 to lead to a movie like this garnering two Oscar nominations. Fun, I'd think.

The Notorious Bettie Page: As a big fan of Mary Harron and Bettie Page, my expectations for this film were probably too high. Although if I were asked, I couldn’t tell you what I was expecting exactly, but probably not to be sort of bored. I did enjoy the art direction and general atmosphere of the film and I wouldn’t not recommend it.

Loverboy: You know, I really wish Kevin Bacon and Kyra Sedgwick well. I want them to make movies that are compelling but not icky. I want them to find a vehicle that showcases Kyra’s acting ability. I want them to find stories that match the mood Kevin wants to use. I want them to partner with an excellent composer for the score. I have hope this will happen one day, but not today.

The Devil and Daniel Johnston: There is hardly a false move in this documentary about the life of musician/artist Daniel Johnston who has had a lifetime struggle with mental illness – a struggle that he loses more often than he wins. Great footage, great interviews, great narrative arc.

Art School Confidential and Clerks II: Is it a grab for cash, a misguided sense of infallibility, or an indication that we are all human and liable to f*ck up on occasion? While Art School Confidential was far superior to Clerks II, both films were low points for their directors. After Crumb and Ghost World, I was willing to believe Terry Zwigoff could do no wrong, but ASC is disappointing on many levels: the casting, pacing, and tone all seemed way off. Clerks II is just a sad excuse for a Kevin Smith film. I can watch Dogma over and over again, but you couldn’t pay me to sit through this a second time.

The Dying Gaul: How could a film with such a great premise and cast go so wrong? The story didn’t even make sense. Boo.

Joyeux Noël (Merry Christmas): This is the Christmas movie for people who hate Christmas movies (such as myself). The first half hour – as the World War I setting is established – is a tad slow, but once Christmas Eve arrives, oh boy. Without spoiling anything, let me just say that when you hear the first strains of “O Come All Ye Faithful,” I challenge you not to cry your eyes out if you haven’t already started. The fact that the film is based on a true story makes it all the better.

just long enough for him to catch his breath

Dave Eggers gets his long-awaited NY Times review for What Is the What from Francine Prose.

The lyricism, the detail and, most important, the absolute specificity of these sentences are what make “What Is the What” so persuasive. It’s a real high-wire act, yet Eggers manages to maintain this level of intensity throughout the book as Achak and the other Lost Boys encounter minefields and massacres, loneliness and fear, starvation, disease, predatory wild animals, the seemingly endless varieties of cruelty, the sustenance of fellowship and the surprising manifestations of instinctive human kindness. What’s remarkable is that, given its harrowing subject matter, the book isn’t simply horrifying or depressing. The considerable appeal of Valentino’s personality and the force of Eggers’s talent turn this eyewitness account of a terrible tragedy into a paradoxically pleasurable experience. As with any book we enjoy and admire, we keep turning the pages to find out if everything will turn out all right in the end. And just as in life — I don’t think I’m giving away any suspense-ruining plot points here — things do work out for some characters, if not, alas, for others.
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Friday, December 29, 2006

are you coming to dinner?

Yeah, but first I'm gonna go comatose for a few hours, hallucinate vividly, and then maybe suffer amnesia about the whole experience.
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window shopping





If you can't be in New York to appreciate the holiday storefronts, you can at least view this slideshow.

garbagemen do not eat people

A 1978 Philip K. Dick speech explains How to Build a Universe That Doesn't Fall Apart Two Days Later:

Science fiction writers, I am sorry to say, really do not know anything. We can't talk about science, because our knowledge of it is limited and unofficial, and usually our fiction is dreadful. A few years ago, no college or university would ever have considered inviting one of us to speak. We were mercifully confined to lurid pulp magazines, impressing no one. In those days, friends would say me, "But are you writing anything serious?" meaning "Are you writing anything other than science fiction?" We longed to be accepted. We yearned to be noticed. Then, suddenly, the academic world noticed us, we were invited to give speeches and appear on panels — and immediately we made idiots of ourselves. The problem is simply this: What does a science fiction writer know about? On what topic is he an authority?

is happiness looking for me in the wrong place?

Artforum has eleven #1 art moments of the year. Okwui Enwezor supplies the only literary entry:

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Half of a Yellow Sun (Knopf) The last few years have seen an explosion of new postcolonial writing by sophisticated, confident young African writers. Adichie is a Nigerian writer justly lauded for her lucid, well-crafted novels. Half of a Yellow Sun uses the genre of historical fiction to unfold and illuminate the anguish of fratricide and social disintegration brought about by Nigeria’s civil war during the 1960s. Adichie’s first novel, Purple Hibiscus (2003), made her a writer to watch; this book establishes her as a contemporary talent comparable to Zadie Smith, Kiran Desai, Monica Ali, or Chris Abani.
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Thursday, December 28, 2006

reading cheerily along

One of my new year's resolutions is to return to an ancient unfinished short story I haven't worked on for ages. The story is narrated by an extremely minor character in a major 19th century novel. I'll take it as a sign that Campaign for the American Reader's Marshal Zeringue has posted this look at twice-told tales, which includes my favorite "underrated" novel, Marianne Wiggins' John Dollar.

Then there is the case of
John Dollar and Lord of the Flies. As much as I admire Wiggins’ novel, I think Golding’s achievement outshines it. But the novelist Anne Tyler does not agree. She has written, “Lord of the Flies was more predictable, more relentless; it was, in my opinion, not half as thoughtful a piece of work."
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Wednesday, December 27, 2006

32 books in 52 weeks

27. Philosophy: The Power of Ideas by Moore & Bruder

Part of the reason I didn't read more books of choice was that I was teaching philosophy with this text whose tagline should read "From Plato to Derrida in three weeks!"

28. The Death of the Heart by Elizabeth Bowen

This domestic novel is a lovely little time capsule from an era when people of means walked around discussing the dawning lack of meaning in their lives without quite admitting their involvement. Superb dialogue.

29. Everyman by Philip Roth

I suppose this book might have been touching if I were an aged white man with a fairly selfish past.


30. Special Topics in Calamity Physics by Marisha Pessl

Despite Pessl delivering one of the most annoying Q&A sessions I've ever attended, I gave this book a shot. It wasn't as bad as the reading, and with an actual editor, it might have even been great. It wasn't though.

31. When Things Fall Apart by Pema Chödrön

You don't have to need "heart advice for difficult times" to appreciate the wisdom practically dripping off the pages of this book.


32. The Dissident by Nell Freudenberger

The characterization in this novel is really its main strength. The story is decent, but it's the actors who keep the reader's interest.


Well, 32 isn't 52, but I predict that next year I shall be triumphant.
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Sunday, December 24, 2006

stocking stuffers

See more cards from The Nonist

Santa on the Riviera (via Activate)

Santas in Liverpool


The original plan had been for Bowie and Crosby to sing just "Little Drummer Boy." But "David came in and said: 'I hate this song. Is there something else I could sing?' "

Merry merry all...
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Wednesday, December 20, 2006

what you gotta do to make it through winter

John Darnielle is in the middle of composing thirty short poems about his favorite metal band.


thirteen

I'm gonna keep on loving you
'cause it's the only thing I wanna do
I don't wanna sleep
I just wanna keep on loving you

the way parents imagine their children
will feel toward them always
no matter what
they do

the desperate way husbands
expect wives
to love them
even after they don't any more

the love ascribed to Christ
who given over to state-sponsored torture
accepted his lot
and only complained once

this is how the guy from Drastus
feels about the serpent whose mighty coils
hold the earth together and will crush it
if our luck holds out

I'm gonna keep on loving you
great snake of the infinite void
I don't wanna sleep
I just wanna keep on loving you, great snake of the infinite void
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the little moments

Slate has Ann Powers, Jon Caramanica, Jody Rosen, and Carl Wilson in conversation about the year in music.

JR: It feels tacky to start our discussion of the year in pop with sales stats, but Topic A in '06 was the continuing slow-motion collapse of the record business, a process that was accelerated this year by YouTube and MySpace and online leaks and peer-to-peer mischief, and dramatized by the triumph of Disney pop. What does it mean for popular music when 7-year-olds are the most reliable record buyers?

JC: Let me get this out of the way since it's going to come up sooner or later: I find Gnarls Barkley annoying. Further exposition upon request.

CW: There's no such thing as a bad year for music. Not even a bad week. There is always some young asshole-genius somewhere wrenching newness out of the same old notes. But if forced to plot the passing year on a tentative pop-historical bell curve, I'd come out on the flip side of Jody's cautious optimism: 2006 was a half-bad year for pop music.

AP: It's endemic to the pop experience, based around the complementary pleasures of listening to "records" (or whatever we call them this epoch) and rocking out/rocking it live. As we spend more time connecting across cyberspace, what happens to our beat- and noise-craving bodies? I get a lot from the blogosphere, but for me there's still nothing like a roomful of people united in connection to sound moving through space.
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Tuesday, December 19, 2006

outsider cosmopolitanism

The LA Times' Greg Goldin defends the Persian Palace:

A Persian Palace brazenly combines motifs and wantonly disregards proportion and scale. A giraffe could glide through the front door without stooping, then turn around and peer out the clerestory window while grazing on a crystal chandelier. In Beverly Hills, where the Persian Palace may have originated and certainly came to prominence, the design is now banned. In Glendale, where steep ravines have been piled high with faux stone and banded entablature, it must abide by strict official architectural guidelines. Elsewhere—as in Valley Glen, where some residents have begun leafletting against encroaching mansionization—it is often unwelcome, a sign that, if nothing else, a neighborhood is in for sniping over the look and size of its homes.
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no, no really, it was nothing

If you accomplished nothing else this week, at least you are Time's Person of the Year.
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the canyons

This will either be terribly fun or horribly awful: Bret Easton Ellis is developing a series for Showtime.
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Sunday, December 17, 2006

sunday short stack



"You yourself are your own obstacle - rise above yourself."
- Hafiz (via whiskey river)


Saturday, December 16, 2006

pink slip

Despite her defense that she and Nicole Simpson were somehow soul sisters, Judith Regan has been fired:

The memoir-peddler labeled her position as being on the side of justice, saying, "I made the decision to publish this book and to sit face to face with the killer, because I wanted him, and the men who broke my heart and your hearts, to tell the truth, to confess their sins, to do penance and to amend their lives."

If it was a line, no one was biting, including multiple Fox affiliates, who said prior to News Corp's ultimate decision to scuttle the project that they wanted no part of it. And if this tells you anything, the book didn't even encounter a warm reception from the Internet, the place where everyone assumed the tome would end up anyway.

Booksellers alibris.com and biblio.com both removed listings for the book last Friday, and eBay also knocked at least eight copies from the auction block—although not before at least one inquiring mind picked up a copy for $50, USA Today reported this week.

"It's a disgusting book and we don't want to sell it," even if "people may have a right to sell it," Alibris CEO Martin Manley told the newspaper.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

santa baby

Christmas in California is easy to overlook, but that doesn't stop a girl from dreaming of a joyous man stopping by in the middle of the night laden with gifts for moi, such as:




PB Grand Cordless Phone @ Pottery Barn $129










Tom Waits, Orphans: Brawlers, Bawlers, and Bastards @ Amazon $44.99









Electra Cruiser (June - Champagne Matte) @ Electra Bike $350








My Normal Approach Is Useless Here T @ xkcd.com $16.99










Rakku Shoe Wheel @ rakkudesigns.com $65












Leica D-LUX 3 @ Amazon $599











Isabella Ring @ wendyculpepper.com $78










The World from Here: Treasures of the Great Libraries of Los Angeles @ Amazon $42










Historical Embroidered Fine Tulle Dress @ Max Studio $198


















Bialetti Mukka Express 2-Cup @ Amazon $89










7-Day Yoga Retreat in Costa Rica @ Tierra de Milagros $1500











Chirp Truckette Shoulder Bag @ buyolympia.com $60
















Retro iPod Speaker System @ SpeckProducts $149.95

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it's still raining in my bathroom

More on Alain de Botton's The Architecture of Happiness:

As John Ruskin observed, we don’t want our buildings merely to shelter us; we also want them to speak to us. But of what? De Botton has an answer. Great buildings, he says, “speak of visions of happiness.”


This claim is bolder than it sounds. Architecture, after all, consists mainly of abstract forms. A building by Santiago Calatrava may suggest a dove taking flight, but that’s a far cry from expressing an ideal of the good life. Think of music, though. A movement from a late Beethoven quartet manages to convey a sense of joyous resignation, perhaps because its abstract tonal structures mirror the dynamics of our emotional lives. Mightn’t architecture work the same way?

De Botton thinks so, and he makes the most of this expressionist theme on his jolly (and handsomely illustrated) romp through the world of architecture. He writes eloquently of how different architectural features hint at aspects of human flourishing: how, say, pointed Gothic arches “convey ardor and intensity,” whereas their rounded classical counterparts “embody serenity and poise.” His visions of happiness range from the ordered complexity of the Doge’s Palace in Venice to Richard Neutra’s sleek modernist pavilions in the Hollywood Hills, which speak “of honesty and ease, of a lack of inhibition and a faith in the future.” Wherever he casts his eye, what he sees, in material form, are the lineaments of gratified desire.
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more like an invocation

Michael Chabon believes in "a quick prayer of thanks offered up to your ancestors before you paddle your canoe over the falls."

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

to close the open hand because one loves

The Family Circus seems to be keeping some promiscuous philosophical company these days. I linked to the FC/HP Lovecraft mash-ups last year and now those crazy kids are hangin' with Nietzsche.
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Monday, December 11, 2006

grammar errors of the stars

There's a lovely little dose of schadenfreude in seeing the complete dearth of writing skills in already annoying celebrities. The recent weeks have brought us two gems in this department. Defamer posted the Britney Spears book report that was up on the Christie's auction block earlier this month.

Note Spears's incisive analysis of Antigone: "Antigone is about a girl who looses her brother during a war. She wants to bury them, but the new king, Creon, will not allow it, and who shall ever do so shall be killed. Antigone wants her brother buried, because she wants him to be able to be in the heaven of ghost. So she goes and buries him. Their was a rumer about her burying her brother, so the gaurds keep a good look out. Finally, they catch her." At this early age, Spears is already sensitive to the plague of innuendo.

Lindsay Lohan is also concerned with the rumor mill - and with Al Gore's help, god damn it, she will prevail. However, she may have to take the correctional advice of the Fug Girls first (click to embiggen and click here for page one), who have gone to the trouble to edit Ms. Lohan.

I hereby offer all grammatically challenged starlets with money to burn the opportunity to hire me to proofread any rambling missives they may wish to send.
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Sunday, December 10, 2006

sunday short stack


"It is the answering of life with more questions and doubt — endlessly promising and ceaselessly terrorizing." - McKay McFadden



Wednesday, December 06, 2006

washing dishes is the antidote to confusion



Maira Kalman's latest illustrated NYT column is up: Ich Habe Genug.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

finish fetish

In Contemporary Art Quarterly, Damon Willick applies the "there is no there there" argument to Los Angeles art while considering two recent exibitions: the Centre Pompidou’s Los Angeles 1955-1985: A Birth of an Artistic Capital and Translucence: Southern California Art from the 1960s and 1970s at the Norton Simon Museum.

Common clichés of Los Angeles as the sum total of Hollywood movies, Disneyland, congested freeways, urban sprawl, gangland crime, and temperate climate often obscure views of L.A. art. Los Angeles is obviously more than these stereotypes; at its root, the city is essentially a working-class town, though more geographically dispersed and climatically sunny than most American urban centers. However, art critics and historians, particularly New York-based writers starting in the 1960s and 1970s, have long approached Los Angeles art as the anomalous product of a foreign region, surprised that serious art can come out of the shallow eccentricities of a West Coast city. As the subtitle to Barbara Rose’s Art In America article of 1966 announced: “A report from the sprawling, palm-studded land of Disney and DayGlo colors suggests a distinct and recognizable ‘LA sensibility’—derived from as disparate sources as the bizarre atmosphere of Hollywood and the surrealist forms of Arp and Gorky—has been forming among younger artists there.” Or, as Jules Langsner proclaimed in 1963 of L.A. art’s emergence: “In the space of a half-a-dozen years the status of Los Angeles in the art community has changed from the home of the nuts who diet on nutburgers to a lively and vital center of increasing importance on the international art map, having become in the interim the country’s second city.” Ignoring for the moment what exactly is a nutburger, such essays cast Los Angeles art as of secondary importance to New York art, the product of outsiders unaware of their own contributions to art history. An extreme example of such inaccurate if not negative notions of L.A. art is Peter Schjeldahl’s 1972 New York Times essay, aptly entitled “LA Art? Interesting – But Painful” that declared all important American artists were New York artists. Schejeldahl wrote: “It is perhaps a little foolish to speak of California art versus New York art. New York’s gravitational field is so strong that any American working in the mainstream (New York) mode will, should he become influential, more or less automatically be a ‘New York artist.’” Needless to say, such notions of Los Angeles marginalize its art as peripheral to an East Coast center. Whether it be the trumpeting of the Ferus Gallery artists in the early-1960s or the recent recognition of the area’s vibrant MFA programs and faculties, the significance of L.A. artists is something critics, historians and curators have been wrestling with for the past half-decade. Too often, however, L.A. is perceived as continually emerging in a state of adolescence or gets cast as other or foreign to the staid, serious, and historically significant New York scene.

Monday, December 04, 2006

the day after tomorrow

YouTube now has the Jon Stewart/Tom Waits interview and Mr. Waits's live performance:



Stewart later showed footage of the ceiling that fell on Waits, during which he kept his poise, his balance, his rhythm.
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Sunday, December 03, 2006

sunday short stack


I am incapable of conceiving infinity, and yet I do not accept finity. - Simone de Beauvoir



Friday, December 01, 2006

all computers are lousy actors

I really enjoy imagining what's being said in this Japanese version of the current Mac campaign.

Another version originally seen on panopticist

Thursday, November 30, 2006

when you let your subconscious off the leash

Whenever I see something written by Daphne Merkin, I cringe a little. A few years ago, she was teaching a course on essay writing at the 92nd St Y. I knew of her work, but clearly, not that well. To apply for the course, I unknowingly submitted an essay I had written that was on the very same subject as one of her most famous essays. Needless to say, I wasn't accepted. Either she thought I had pulled some virtuoso kiss-ass move by writing an homage to her brilliance (yuck) or she thought I hadn't bothered to do half of the homework I should have (the truth). She was right to reject me. This reminiscence has been brought to you by her recent profile of Tom Stoppard.

Stoppard leans over again a minute or so later and whispers, “I love scrims.” He is referring to the sheer cotton or linen hangings that are used as opaque backdrops or semitransparent curtains. This strikes me as a comment straight out of Wilde, much like his character Guildenstern’s line “Give us this day our daily mask,” suggesting a preference for the veiled over the overt, for artifice over reality. Stoppard says it with a measure of catch-me-if-you-can irony. Do not come any closer. Full stop. Trespassers will be made to feel foolish, or worse yet, presumptuous. Full stop. Or maybe I read all this sub-rosa meaning into what is in the end is just a clever comment only after the fact, once I have met with the playwright several more times and still find myself scrambling for clues to the man behind the poise.

Around an hour into the rehearsal, Stoppard and I repair to a small table in the corner of the theater lobby for conversation and a much needed smoking break for him. Stoppard, who is 69, is frequently photographed with a cigarette hanging off the end of his lower lip, like an Aging but Perpetually Angry Young Man, although he was hardly ever that — not even before “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead” brought him international prominence nearly 40 years ago. “Very seldom has a play by a new dramatist been hailed with such rapturous unanimity,” Kenneth Tynan observed in his 1977 profile of Stoppard in The New Yorker. Right from the start, while he was still working as an underpaid journalist and writing his one and only novel, “Lord Malquist & Mr. Moon” (which was published to little stir in 1966, a year before the triumph of “Rosencrantz”), Stoppard appears to have had the habits of a squire rather than those of a subversive. According to his long-time agent, Kenneth Ewing, his client was always inclined to luxury. “When I first met Tom,” Ewing is quoted in Tynan’s profile, “he had just given up his regular work as a journalist in Bristol, and he was broke. But I noticed that even then he always traveled by taxi, never by bus. It was as if he knew that his time would come.”
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I had the exact same thought

...if this is the future of hair, we all best sell our shares in VO5 and get ready to style our hair with those little blow torches they sell for creme brulee.
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Wednesday, November 29, 2006

boy, I'd love to lie in the street nearly dead with that guy

Just when you think the day is going to be as bad as it seems, you find your two favorite men in conversation. Jon Stewart interviews Tom Waits. I can't imagine how many times I'm going to watch this video. I only wish it was ten times as long. Or taking place in my apartment over a long weekend.
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Tuesday, November 28, 2006

save us from relevance

At TEV, Mark Sarvas interviews Jonathan Lethem about Daniel Fuchs. (There's a fun game there - substituting randomly generated names in place of these three. You could use the Wikipedia random article search. Stewie Griffin interviews Thomas Edison about Catherine the Great. Aleister Crowley interviews Dolly Parton about Vladimir Putin. Anyway...)

Daniel Fuchs is most well-known to me for his early portrait of hipsterville, Summer in Williamsburg, which is included in this recent collection of Fuch's novels with an introduction by Lethem. Like many writers from the '30s, he also has Hollywood Stories.

TEV: Fuchs headed to Hollywood but unlike Fitzgerald and Faulkner (with whom he collaborated), he neither imploded nor became embittered. Rather, he seemed to thrive in the vanilla sunshine and wrote without disdain about being a writer for the studios. (I love his "A Hollywood Diary" from last year's collection The Golden West; it's a wonderful bit of freeze-frame of a bygone era when screenwriters were contract workers.) Do you think his unwillingness to at least bite the hand that fed him contributed in any way to his marginalization by East Coast Literary Types?

JL: Yes, he's refreshingly clear-eyed and good-humored about the advantages and disadvantages of writing for the movies in the great era of the studio system, and provides a much less hysterical window into the fate of a studio writer than the pervasive Barton Fink images suggests. And I don't doubt (as a writer who's flitted from West Coast to East in my own subject matter, and is now about to flit back again) that there can be a self-reinforcing fascination in New York intellectual circles with local topics -- a leaning that may sometimes overrate certain dullish books that happen to be P.C. (provincially consonant) and either overlooks or patronizes books from elsewhere -- and which, even more specifically, might fail to disguise disappointment when one of its 'own' violates Eastcentricity (I remember some memoirist of NY in the '50's, though I can't remember whom, saying that a certain segment of the New York scene had never forgiven Bellow for fleeing to Chicago). But then again, how can we blame the marginalization of Fuchs-as-novelist on anyone but himself? I mean, given that he A: basically quit, and B: persistently, for decades, whenever anyone asked, downgraded his own accomplishment, claimed he'd used up what little he had to say and hence was no particular loss to the reader?

turnabout is fair play?

The Rake breaks down a little inconsistency in Dave Eggers's opinion of Infiinite Jest.

The book is approachable, yes, because it doesn’t include complex scientific or historical content, nor does it require any particular expertise or erudition. As verbose as it is, and as long as it is, it never wants to punish you for some knowledge you lack, nor does it want to send you to the dictionary every few pages. (2006)

Vs.


Aside from being incredibly verbose, Wallace has an exhausting penchant for jargon, nicknames and obscure references, particularly about things highly technical, medical or drug-related. (1996)


And there's so much more...
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Monday, November 27, 2006

signs of passion appear like rashes

As the Edward Hopper exhibit closes at the Whitney, Donald Kuspit asks if the artist was a closet Cubist.

Hopper is an ironical intimatist, perhaps most obviously in his interiors. They are as geometrically barren and alienating as his exteriors. Intimacy is impossible in them, only loneliness, as the figures who pass through them -- often leaving their luggage unpacked -- suggest. The interiors convey the false intimacy of mass culture. It involves the need for the organically exciting and enlivening -- and the socially perverse transformation of it into boring lifeless kitsch almost as soon as it is experienced. This expressive reduction is evident in the fake ornament and homogenizing color that routinely adorn Hopper’s buildings and rooms. They are deceptive tokens of superficial difference on indifferent facades. There is no escape from life-draining anonymity and banality in Hopper’s world. There is only false uniqueness hiding radical sameness.

Friday, November 24, 2006

mix post: the mix post is not dead edition

After a crazy long hibernation, the mix post returns. Since the last outing marked the beginning of the year, it's only fitting this should mark the end. As much as I rankle at premature wrap-ups, I doubt I'll get around to another mix post before 2007, so hear ye, hear ye. These are a few of my favorite songs of the year. Released in 2006? Some. I don't know. It doesn't matter. This is about me.

Blue Veins - The Raconteurs @ KCRW & YouTube
I bought this album on a lark, and damn, if I'm not wearing it out already. This song is one of my favorites among many.

Could We - Cat Power @ rbally
The selection of this song is fairly random, because it's really the entire album that I love. My tickets to the Orpheum show tomorrow night glow with promise.

Diablo Rojo - Rodrigo y Gabriela @ MySpace & YouTube
If you had told me that I would have a thing this year for thrash metal-influenced flamenco guitar, I would have thought you were nuts. I would have been wrong.

Dimension - Wolfmother @ Veritas Lux Mea
This fills a deep arena rock need in me for which I will not be ashamed.

I Don't Feel Like Dancin' - Scissor Sisters @ Lost in Your Inbox & YouTube
Oh, but I do.

I'll Sing a Love Song to You - Candi Staton @ ortf
This is only one great song from the best contemporary soul album out there.

I Wish I Had an Evil Twin - Magnetic Fields @ Heartache with Hard Work
Stephen Merritt has certain moments of sheer genius and this is one of them.

Love Is Stronger Than Death - Angela McCluskey
You'll have to buy the album to hear her cover of this The The song, but you can hear the original here.

Sap - Freakwater
Sadly, there are no songs readily available from the latest album, including this song that breaks my heart every time, but WFMU does have this excellent cover of "War Pigs" instead.

Such a Lovely Thing - DeVotchka @ MySpace
The tuba, the fiddle, the slurred gypsy inflection...I can't get enough.

Think About the Good Times - Baby Washington @ WFMU's Beware of the Blog
A song has never been so happy and so sad at the same time.

Walking with a Ghost - The White Stripes @ La Blogotheque
This Tegan & Sara cover isn't necessarily special, but it gets to me.

Wolf Like Me - TV on the Radio @ Both Sides of the Mouth & YouTube
I can tell if this song is playing within a one mile radius by the way my head and hips are moving.
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Wednesday, November 22, 2006

happy thanksgiving, kids

Turkeys Try to Catch Train Out of NJ:

A spokesman for the NJ Transit said train officials reported a dozen or so wild turkeys waiting on a station platform in Ramsey, about 20 miles northwest of New York City, on Wednesday afternoon. The line travels to Suffern, N.Y.

''For a moment, it looked like the turkeys were waiting for the next outbound train,'' said Dan Stessel, a spokesman for NJ Transit. ''Clearly, they're trying to catch a train and escape their fate.''

Transit workers followed the bird's movements on surveillance cameras. ''I have no idea how they got there,'' Stessel said.

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Tuesday, November 21, 2006

robert altman (1925-2006)

According to NPR, Robert Altman has died in Los Angeles.

Later tributes include The New York Times times two, the Chicago Tribune, and the Los Angeles Times, among many others.
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findings: children do not like this man

Thanks to Lindsayism for the Scared of Santa Gallery...


Monday, November 20, 2006

I wanted these 'see librarian' books and I wanted them now

John Waters relates how Tennessee Williams saved his life:

Yes, Tennessee Williams was my childhood friend. I yearned for a bad influence and boy, was Tennessee one in the best sense of the word: joyous, alarming, sexually confusing and dangerously funny. I didn’t quite “get” “Desire and the Black Masseur” when I read it in “One Arm,” but I hoped I would one day. The thing I did know after finishing this book was that I didn’t have to listen to the lies the teachers told us about society’s rules. I didn’t have to worry about fitting in with a crowd I didn’t want to hang out with in the first place. No, there was another world that Tennessee Williams knew about, a universe filled with special people who didn’t want to be a part of this dreary conformist life that I was told I had to join.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

sunday short stack

"Before we set our hearts too much upon anything, let us examine how happy those are who already possess it." - Francois de La Rochefoucauld


Friday, November 17, 2006

I thought I heard the shuffle of angels' feet

This video for Johnny Cash's "God's Gonna Cut You Down" is chock full o' cool. Stereogum has the full list.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

animal magnetism

"The Life and Times of LaFontaine the Mesmerizer" from nthposition:

It's 1874, and he is having one of his usual triumphs. Huge and perfect, a demigod with a mountain of shining black curls on his head, he stands on the stage of the freshly built Paris Opera House.

The place is a neo-baroque marvel, with marble statues, jewel-studded arches, crystal chandeliers and gold-leafed pillars gleaming everywhere. The vast dome overhead features a fresco of God in his Heaven, being serenaded by hundreds of plump, rosy angels.


Several princes are in the audience, along with marquises, duchesses and various other continental glitterati of the time, each dressed more beautifully than the next. It's a capacity crowd, and they're all on their feet, loudly expressing their amazement, and their love, for Monsieur LaFontaine, the greatest of all mesmerizers.
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Wednesday, November 15, 2006

to any female of respectability

These two Believer pieces have been up for a little while, but they're worth the link. Paul Collins, author of The Trouble with Tom: The Strange Afterlife and Times of Thomas Paine, gives credit for the creation of modern crime to a nineteenth-century journalist.

Curtis was the original shoe-leather reporter, with an encyclopedic intimacy with the streets of London and its denizens that came from an absolute horror of any form of locomotion save walking; he utterly refused to use a horse or coach. Once up from his armchair in his rumpled clothes, he invariably set out from his apartment to walk upward of eight miles in the predawn hours, starting out near his house at Farringdon Market, and making a peculiarly coiled loop—often retracing his steps several times over—through the vegetable sellers at Covent Garden Market, down through Hungerford Market, and milling with the famously foul-mouthed fishmongers at Billingsgate as they laid out Thames oysters, Scottish salmon, and Norwegian lobsters upon the stroke of their market’s 5 a.m. opening.

By the time he reached the opening of the Old Bailey, the sun was up and he was ready to write. The other reporters were only just now rubbing the sleep out of their eyes and stumbling in; none could hope to compete with Curtis, and they didn’t really try. Curtis alone recorded every trial, regardless of whether it had any news interest, quite simply because he liked to keep his own record of the court. Such a monumental task would have crippled the hand of any other journalist. But Curtis was known to have a fearsome ability at shorthand—he was so fast, in fact, that he published his own guide, titled Shorthand Made Shorter.

Curtis covered the conviction of a brutal killer, whose trial was seemingly as gruesome as his crime. The victim was a woman responding to an ad for matrimony, and The Believer also supplies samples of these responses.

[Sir,]

On taking up the paper this morning, your advertisement was the first thing that met my eye, and in seeing the word ‘Matrimony,’ I laughing said, a gentleman wants a wife, but I suppose he is in still greater want of money, otherwise he wishes to make himself warm this cold weather, by laughing at the credulity of the female sex… Having said all I have to say, I fetched a deep sigh, conscious, I suppose, of my own defects, and again looked at the paper without intending to do it. I read your advertisement through, and was not a little surprised upon finishing it; for, although there may not be one word of truth in it, it certainly wears the semblance of sincerity…. I repeat, if your tale is true, upon my word I pity you: if it is a fiction, I hope my sex may be revenged by your being obliged, at some future period, to pass a month, one month, in a house of discord….
*
Sir,

I beg to answer your advertisement of last Sunday, but really think it nothing but a frolic; I know a charming young woman of no property, her friends highly respectable, nineteen years of age, exceedingly agreeable person, has had the charge of her parent’s house these three years, and brought up by a truly amiable and virtuous mother. I can with great truth say the young lady is not aware of my answering your advertisement. If you think proper, you may address a line to Mrs. ‒—. I hope you will act honorably with regard to the name, as the writer is a married woman. A friend will put this in the twopenny post.

Your obedient servant,

[signed]

[P.S.] The young lady has never been attached to anyone, nor has she ever left her friends.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

listen, pussycat, smile a bit

Salon analyzes "What's real in Borat?" (Like this is news to anyone, but I saw the film and it is outrageous and painfully funny. Sacha Baron Cohen is dangerously insane and, to be frank, hot.) This MetaFilter thread about the poor humiliated frat boys is also entertaining: "Your friend can reasonably console himself that people who pay to see this movie, almost by self-selection and operation of simple destiny, will not likely be in a position to detrimentally affect his life in any substantial way." Oh, yes, I am sure that is true - NOT!
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Monday, November 13, 2006

do we, vampire-like, feed on each other?

The Independent looks at literary partnerships - who's musing who?

But it is those 20th-century heterosexual relationships, charged by sexual passion and either flittering out when that passion dies, or, in some cases, imploding with horrific consequences, that are the most complex, the most teasing, and ultimately the ones that intrigue us most. Above and beyond their work, West, Mansfield, Rhys, Beauvoir, Gellhorn, Plath and Smart are famous for being essentially "victims of love". At least four of them were deserted by their lovers or husbands (Mansfield escaped this fate by dying young and Beauvoir by participating in sexual games that she seems to have had little real interest in); West threatened suicide when Wells left her shortly after the beginning of their liaison, and even wrote a short story, "At Valladolid" about it; while Madox Ford's rejection of Jean Rhys after 18 months, according to one biographer, drove her further towards alcoholism. Plath, who might be called the poster girl for this group, and for abandoned women everywhere, did of course actually kill herself.

And yet. While the female half of the literary partnership tended to be less famous at the outset than her male counterpart - Barker was a flamboyant and hugely promising published poet when Smart began her pursuit, Hughes had a considerable reputation at Cambridge, and Wells was fast approaching the peak of his fame, as was Madox Ford - it is that female half who has posthumously either equalled or even exceeded her partner's reputation. Quite a remarkable feat for these poor, lonely, abandoned "victims".

Via WOTS

Sunday, November 12, 2006

sunday short stack



"Everywhere is walking distance if you have the time." - Steven Wright


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Saturday, November 11, 2006

do not fall in love




R Train Wisdom via Wooster Collective

Friday, November 10, 2006

das parfum

I can't decide whether this preview for Run Lola Run director Tom Tykwer's adaptation of Patrick Suskind's novel makes it look great or awful. It might be fine without the voiceover. (The German trailer is a little better - NSFW.)


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Thursday, November 09, 2006

how did the feeling feel to you

One other exciting thing happened on Tuesday - the long-awaited remastered release of Karen Dalton's second album, In My Own Time. Part of the Greenwich Village folk scene in the 1960s, Karen Dalton seems to have inspired many artists and created few songs. She's pictured above with Fred Neil and Bob Dylan, who cites her as one of his influences. She's often compared to contemporaries Vashti Bunyan and Linda Perhacs and referenced in discussions of Josephine Foster and Joanna Newsom. Pitchfork claims that she hated the most frequent comparison to Billie Holliday. She battled the usual demons before her death in 1993.

I received Dalton's first release - It's So Hard to Tell Who's Going to Love You the Best - as a gift and after growing accustomed to her unusual voice, I have almost worn it out through constant rotation. The album is worth buying for the liner notes alone that tell of a single mother who hated performing but found music to be the only way she could relate to people. Reed Fischer of Paper Thin Walls writes:

Folk luminary Bert Jansch and newbies White Magic have both released versions of "Katie Cruel" this year, and each is greatly indebted to Karen Dalton’s 1971 interpretation of the traditional tune. Dalton, also known as Sweet Mother KD, unleashes each note with a weathered bray that sounds less jarring to Banhart-ized ears than it did when she was kicking around New York in the ’60s with Fred Neil and Bob Dylan. Like Billie Holiday’s thick, dirty-on-purpose tones even further unhinged, Dalton’s alto is rife with bends and rasps that turn in on themselves. “When first I came to town/They bought me drinks aplenty/Now they’ve changed their tune/Hand me the bottles empty,” she sings as a woman in her 30s. But vocally, Dalton doubles her age and plants herself in a ramshackle hut with a lifetime of regret. Her masterful long-neck banjo picking and the shrill violin in the background roll together like dust on the road to a foreign, timeless place. Much like how Nick Drake predicted his posthumous notoriety on “Fruit Tree,” Dalton makes “Katie Cruel” about her own doomed career by the final stanza: “If I was where I would be/Then I’d be where I am not/Here I am where I must be/Where I would be I cannot.” In My Own Time was Dalton’s second and final album, and her hard life ended in 1993.

You can stream "Katie Cruel" here. There are some other sound files at Stefan Wirz's fan site, where I found the photo above, and at NPR. She even has a decent MySpace page. At the Seattle Weekly, Brian J. Barr asks, "Why wasn't she huge?"
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Wednesday, November 08, 2006

a sight for sore eyes

OK, Dems, don't screw it up.
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