Saturday, September 30, 2006

take back the noise

Paper Thin Walls previews a compilation of 47 women working in "experimental noise, field recordings, glitch rock, drone and other related genres." The post features an interview with Ninah Pixie, curator of Women Take Back the Noise and creator of the "noise cookie" custom-made, circuit-bent packaging.

I was surprised at how many women on the compilation were wives and mothers. Were there any surprises for you while you were putting together the artists?

The very first track I received when I posted the call for submissions back in 2003 was from Aedria Hughes, of the Oklahoma-based noise ensemble Ctephin, made up of her husband StF and the eldest of their seven children, Kaylan. They are the very first "noise family" that I’ve run into in my relatively short experience. I loved finding out that people are doing noise with their kids. Leporidae is another great example of this. I had no idea until recently that she has a 12-year old daughter who has her own solo noise act called Tarantula Princess. I suppose the thing that amused and surprised me most about putting this compilation together was that there are so many women involved in these unusual avenues of the noise and experimental genres.

try writing a book under these circumstances

I really hate to be reminded that I left behind a literary utopia, but there may be something to Sara Gran's anxiety of influence argument.

Let me tell you the hard truth: Brooklyn is the worst place on earth for a writer. The competition is fierce and sometimes deadly. The “local authors” shelf in your bookstore has Kathryn Harrison and Paul Auster. Take your laptop to your local coffee shop to do a little work, and you’re likely to find Touré (“Soul City”) sitting at one end of the counter and Norman Mailer at the other.

Jonathan Safran Foer and Nicole Krauss might be sharing the vegetarian special at a booth in the back, and don’t be surprised to find Colson Whitehead and Darin Strauss commiserating about book tours over coffee and pie.

The phrase “anxiety of influence” takes on a whole new meaning when your influences are right there in the room with you, eating lunch.

(This article actually brought back some fond memories of accosting Darin Strauss on the F train before I discovered he was spoken for. I had tangentially met him at Galapagos during his Real McCoy tour as part of a hilarious Little Gray Book lecture that somehow ended with me winning a copy of Fargo Rock City from Chuck Klosterman for guessing the right answer to something I now don't recall. Klosterman signed the book - "To Chris: You are the queen of rock" - my second favorite inscription ever.)

Thursday, September 28, 2006

people who love jesus and people who don't

The compelling documentary Jesus Camp opens in theaters tomorrow:


Wednesday, September 27, 2006

and fans of classic rock like to eat peaches

Also from 3quarksdaily: Scientific American reports on a UK study that looked into how musical tastes influence lifestyle.

Almost 38 percent of hip hop devotees and 29 percent of dance music fans were more likely to have had more than one sexual partner in the last five years compared to just 1.5 percent of country music fans.

However they were also more likely to have broken the law, with more than 50 percent of both hip hop and dance music lovers admitting committing a criminal act.

A quarter of classical music fans have tried cannabis while 12 percent of those who liked opera had experimented with magic mushrooms.


when you see bones

I recently went down a size for no apparent reason. A friend suggested I was seeing the results of a retail trend to accommodate the growing size of the American consumer. It seems she was right. At 3quarksdaily on Monday, Jennifer Ouellette examined shifting size charts, the emergence of full-body scanners, too-thin models in Madrid, and the HP slim-cam.

Apparently, it's true: women's clothing sizes in the US are being progressively "down-sized," so that what was a size 8 in 1990 is now a size 6, and so on. One assumes the strategy works -- unless you happen to work in the fashion industry and are hip to the Big Lie. However, I doubt there's a broad master conspiracy afoot in fashion circles, with a secret cabal of sadistic, fat-loathing-yet-greedy designers reaching a consensus on what the new sizes will be and then foisting them on an unsuspecting public. I think it's far more complicated than that.

Monday, September 25, 2006

the joy of cooking

For some reason, I approach cooking like a final exam at a culinary school. I can't just prepare a quick homemade meal for myself. I have to invite an audience to witness my experiments and choose recipes with ingredients I've never seen before. I think perhaps this says something troubling about my personality, but I have too many concoctions to tackle to worry about it. I decided that I would have a series of small dinner parties this fall - my table only seats four - and the first was Saturday. If the dishes are a success, I will link to the Epicurious recipes here. Voilà:

Beet, Chickpea, & Almond Dip (the craziest color I've ever seen in a food - bright fuschia)
Gorgonzola & Grape Pizza (I made mini-pizzettes)
Orange Roughy with Miso Glaze (add brown sugar)
Wasabi Mashed Potatoes (mashed potatoes are my nemesis)
Bok Choy with Fried Shallots (I had to find the bok choy by reading the supermarket signs)
Lime Marscapone Panna Cotta with Raspberries (my favorite part of the menu)
Photo: Romulo Yanes, Gourmet

etta baker (1913-2006)

Etta Baker, influential Piedmont blues guitarist, has died in Fairfax, VA. Baker quit her shoe factory job at age 60 to pursue her musical career.

From Billboard: Baker was raised in a musical family in western North Carolina. She made her first mark in music in 1956, when she appeared on a compilation album called "Instrumental Music of the Southern Appalachians." The recording influenced the growing folk revival, especially her versions of "Railroad Bill" and "One-Dime Blues."

Baker became a hit on the international folk festival circuit, playing Piedmont blues, a mix of the clattery rhythms of bluegrass and blues. She won a 1991 Folk Heritage Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts.

[Taj] Mahal, who recorded an album with Baker in 2004, was among those who found inspiration from her rhythmic finger-picking. "I came upon that record in the '60s," Mahal said. "It didn't have any pictures so I had no idea who she was until I got to meet her years later. But man, that chord in 'Railroad Bill,' that was just the chord. It just cut right through me. I can't even describe how deep that was for me, just beautiful stuff."

NPR has some tracks available here.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

my previous life as a filthy whore

Back in the New York days, I was a founding member of the champion pub quiz team, The Filthy Whores. (OK, maybe we weren't champions every time, but I did once serve as guest quizmaster with an excellent "Sex in Books" round.) We would play at venerable NYC institution Rocky Sullivan's, and no one was more fervent than fellow Filthy Whore John Dicker. John now lives in Denver with his lovely wife and has upped the ante by dedicating his entire life to the pub quiz pursuit. If you are visiting this site from Colorado, welcome! You are proud to call yourself Geeks Who Drink and I salute you. John has asked me to host this week's free drink question. Ready?

Write your answer on a piece of paper with your name on it and bring it to the Quizmasters table before the end of Round 7.

Name the songwriter who wrote the following tribute to Vincent Van Gogh:

You took your life
as lovers often do;
But I could have told you
this world was never
meant for one
as beautiful as you.

My understanding is that if you are a winner, you will receive a wall-mountable giant ear. This question is good at all Geeks Who Drink locations:

Nallen's Irish Pub
The Irish Rover
McCabe's Tavern
Pearl Street Grill
CooperSmiths Pub
The Exchange Tavern

Geek on...

Thursday, September 21, 2006

nausea: not just the new beck song

Why is this international news?!

the residue of design

The Cooper-Hewitt Museum and Target have paired up to present the People's Design Award. I personally like the Katrina Cottage by Marianne Cusato, a dignified update on the temporary FEMA trailer, and the iSub. The nomination of the Constitution and the book are worth noting as well.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

we shall always have trouble with sentiment

I somehow missed this essay on Louis-Ferdinand Céline by Will Self on the occasion of a new edition of Journey to the End of the Night, one of the darkest, most hilarious, bleakest, and most profound books I've ever read. You can randomly open the book to any page and find something remarkable. For example:

I'd pretty well come to the point, the age, you might say, when a man knows what he's losing with every hour that passes. But he hasn't yet built up the wisdom to pull up sharp on the road of time, and anyway, even if you did stop you wouldn't know what to do without the frenzy for going forward that has possessed you and won your admiration ever since you were young. Even now you're not as pleased with your youth as you used to be, but you don't dare admit in public that youth may be nothing more than a hurry to grow old.

In the whole of your absurd past you discover so much that's absurd, so much deceit and credulity, that it might be a good idea to stop being young this minute, to wait for youth to break away from you and pass you by, to watch it going away, receding in the distance, to see all its vanity, run your hand through the empty space it has left behind, take a last look at it, and then start moving, make sure your youth has really gone, and then calmly, all by yourself, cross to the other side of Time to see what people and things really look like.

From Self's essay:

What else is there in “Journey” to relieve the succession of taunts, jibes and foul-mouthed insults Céline flings against the world? A great deal. There are so many aphorisms — at least one per page — that the whole reads like La Rochefoucauld on LSD. (“Since we are nothing but packages of tepid, half-rotted viscera, we shall always have trouble with sentiment.”) Céline offers devastating critiques of Christianity, capitalism, socialism — all the kleptocratic belief systems devised to keep the poor in their place, and the bourgeoisie in theirs as well. But liberationists of all stripes — including William T. Vollmann, who supplies an afterword for the new edition in the style of le maître — are mistaken in claiming Céline as one of their own. Despite a critique of imperialism that reads like a scrambled “Heart of Darkness,” passages set in the United States that recall a crazed reworking of Kafka’s “Amerika,” and even the war sections, with their echoes of “The Good Soldier Schweik,” “Journey” is no political picaresque. Rather, the novel is a furious attempt to place one man’s consciousness at the epicenter of a world that is exploding under the centripetal influences of capitalism, imperialism, consumerism and licentiousness. In this, Céline anticipates the essentially apolitical rodomontades of the American Beats, quite as much as he belongs with the excruciating Marxian posturing of the interwar French existentialists and Surrealists.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

hot library smut

The Nonist is right on when he states that these photos of libraries around the world from Candida Höfer's collection are "like porn for book nerds." The photo above is from Rio's Real Gabinete Portugues de Leitura.

smile! no one cares how you feel

On the occasion of the upcoming release of The Gothic Archies' The Tragic Treasury: Songs from a Series of Unfortunate Events, Stephen Merritt interviews Lemony Snickett at the Guardian.

SM: Well as you have discovered, Mr S, the world is in fact a scary place, very much so, and I wanted people to know that. I read all about it in your third book, The - if memory serves - Wide Window, in which the Baudelaires continue their progress toward the inevitable fate awaiting them in The End. As you know, The Tragic Treasury features 15 of my songs vaguely about your books, one per book, all originally included on the audiobook versions, but now retooled for even wider distribution to the hapless public. And I have recorded it under the name of the Gothic Archies, so that no one will ever know who really made it. (I have many disguises: the Magnetic Fields, etc.) Sometimes it is necessary to write songs under assumed names and sometimes the situation calls for an assumed persona to sing the song. In the case of The World Is a Very Scary Place, it is the rightly timorous Aunt Josephine, who as it turns out should have been even more careful. Either way, as the song says, the wolf is at the door. Will you excuse me a moment?

LS: But of course. Your brief absence will allow me to add a jigger of brandy to the snifter in my trembling hand. For surely you have heard that the histories that inspired your educational songs have not been received as intended - that is, for the education of the general public. Instead, the books have largely been regarded, astonishingly, as entertainment. I have even heard instances in which children, scarcely as old as the Baudelaires themselves, have been encouraged to read A Series of Unfortunate Events, rather than devoting themselves to looking at photographs of daisies, or composing limericks to be recited by finger puppets. Are you afraid that the songs in The Tragic Treasury might be regarded as catchy rather than cautionary?

Monday, September 18, 2006

neither threats nor flames shall force our doors

A modern day Lysistrata is under way in Colombia.

In what is being called Pereira's "strike of crossed legs", supported by the city mayor's office, the wives and girlfriends of gang members have said they will not have sex with their partners until they vow to give up violence.

"We want them to know that violence is not sexy," said Jennifer Bayer, 18, the girlfriend of a gang member.

She and at least 24 other women have said the sex strike will continue until their men hand over their weapons and sign up for vocational training offered by the mayor's office.

it was a baby boy so we bought him a toy

The White Stripes "appeared" on The Simpsons last night...


Saturday, September 16, 2006

old school epithalamium

This will likely be the only post of the weekend because I'm off to a nuptial celebration at the beautiful and historic Biltmore Hotel in downtown Los Angeles, "home to presidents, kings, and Hollywood celebrities since it opened in 1923."


Friday, September 15, 2006

holy vanity case!

"Gotham City, like any other large metropolis, abounds in girls of all shapes and sizes: debutantes, nurses, stenographers, and (pregnant pause) librarians..." Here is the 1967 pilot for Batman spin-off, Batgirl (via David Cotner). I love how she takes the time to conscientiously hang her librarian duds before changing into her superhero costume.


Thursday, September 14, 2006

time sucking central

Enter at your own risk...


Wednesday, September 13, 2006

it's so nice to be insane

Months ago, I came across this post at Fitted Sweats (now apparently called "The Fsweats") that brought back sharp memories from my childhood, revolving around the songs of Helen Reddy: "Pretty much every song depicts some kind of struggle that as a 5 year-old, I didn't know quite what to do with. All I know is it made me sad." The post goes on to outline the reactions to various songs by the young "hottvinegar" and what our narrator came to expect from adulthood. It seems he and I shared a relationship with "You and Me Against the World" that hinted at possibly inappropriate mothering. It's just not right to bond with your young tot around the lines: "And when one of us is gone/And one of us is left to carry on/Then remembering will have to do/Our memories alone will get us through..." Sweet sentiment perhaps; fear of parental abandonment most definitely. I read through the post with eager anticipation, hoping to finally have someone else's take on the song Reddy referred to as the textbook for her course on songwriting, "Angie Baby." It appears Fsweats was spared the scarring of this intensely f*cked up song written by Alan O'Day. Imagine being a small child - I would guess I was six or seven - trying to make sense of these lyrics:

You live your life in the songs you hear
on the rock and roll radio.
And when a young girl doesn't have any friends
that's a really nice place to go.
Folks hoping you'd turn out cool
but they had to take you outta school.
You're a little touched you know, Angie Baby.

Lovers appear in your room each night
and they whirl you across the floor.
But they always seem to fade away
when your daddy taps on your door.
Angie girl, are you all right?
Tell the radio good-night.
All alone once more, Angie Baby.
Angie Baby, you're a special lady.
Living in a world of make-believe.
Well, maybe.

Stopping at her house is a neighbor boy
with evil on his mind.
'Cause he's been peeking in Angie's room
at night through the window blind.
I see your folks have gone away.
Would you dance with me today?
I'll show you how to have a good time, Angie Baby.

When he walks in the room, he feels confused
like he's walked into a play.
And the music's so loud it spins him around
'til his soul has lost its way.
And as she turns the volume down
he's getting smaller with the sound.
It seems to pull him off the ground.
Toward the radio he's bound never to be found.

The headlines read that a boy disappeared
and everyone thinks he died.
'Cept a crazy girl with a secret lover who
keeps her satisfied.
It's so nice to be insane.
No one asks you to explain.
Radio by your side, Angie Baby.
Angie Baby, you're a special lady
living in a world of make-believe.
Well, maybe. Well, maybe.

No maybe about it. I was terrified, confused, and uncomfortably titillated. I couldn't find a complete mp3, but you can get a taste at Amazon. I'm opening the comments up on this one because perhaps it's not too late for the healing to begin.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

plato! zen buddhism! friedrich nietzsche!

Maybe my philosophy students would be more inspired by one of these comic books in the Action Philosophers! series.

this is not a paradox, this is perversity

There was nothing worthy I could have said yesterday, so I took a moment of silence.

For today, here's Fredric Jameson on Slavoj Zizek's The Parallax View:

As every schoolchild knows by now, a new book by Zizek is supposed to include, in no special order, discussions of Hegel, Marx and Kant; various pre- and post-socialist anecdotes and reflections; notes on Kafka as well as on mass-cultural writers like Stephen King or Patricia Highsmith; references to opera (Wagner, Mozart); jokes from the Marx Brothers; outbursts of obscenity, scatological as well as sexual; interventions in the history of philosophy, from Spinoza and Kierkegaard to Kripke and Dennett; analyses of Hitchcock films and other Hollywood products; references to current events; disquisitions on obscure points of Lacanian doctrine; polemics with various contemporary theorists (Derrida, Deleuze); comparative theology; and, most recently, reports on cognitive philosophy and neuroscientific ‘advances’. These are lined up in what Eisenstein liked to call ‘a montage of attractions’, a kind of theoretical variety show, in which a series of ‘numbers’ succeed each other and hold the audience in rapt fascination. It is a wonderful show; the only drawback is that at the end the reader is perplexed as to the ideas that have been presented, or at least as to the major ones to be retained. One would think that reading all Zizek’s books in succession would only compound this problem: on the contrary, it simplifies it somewhat, as the larger concepts begin to emerge from the mist. Still, one would not have it any other way, which is why the current volume – which, with its companion
The Ticklish Subject (1999), purports to outline the ‘system’ as a whole (if it is one), or at least to make a single monumental statement – inspires some apprehension.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

commence living on its hint

This graffiti on Hillhurst made my day. If it turns out to be a marketing campaign, I'm throwing in the towel.

sunday short stack

"There is much pleasure to be gained from useless knowledge." - Bertrand Russell

Update: Lonelygirl15 unmasked by the New York Times.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

52 books in 52 weeks

20. The Third Policeman by Flann O'Brien

It's quite surprising to me that I had to come to this remarkable book - reminiscent of Beckett, Gogol, and Sterne - through an episode of Lost. It is ripe for academic probing.

21. Oblivion by David Foster Wallace

DFW's last short story collection left me cold. Occasionally, there were interesting ideas, but some stories were so obtuse as to be unreadable. As a lover of his previous collections, I was sorely disappointed.

22. There Will Never Be Another You by Carolyn See

As if Golden Days had matured into an even more prescient narrative, See's latest tells a straightforward, engaging story of living with (rather than giving in to) apocalypse.

22 down, 30 more to go. I better start reading shorter books.

Friday, September 08, 2006

that which does not completely unhappen

These asylum photos from Chris Payne are haunting me because I feel I've seen them somewhere before - a gallery? the New England of my childhood? my worst nightmares? Either way, they're beautifully eerie in their emptiness.

In the last forty years, psychiatric hospitals nationwide have closed as advances in mental health care have rendered them obsolete. Due to their size, age, and condition, rehabilitation is difficult and many are now abandoned and threatened by demolition. Because the term "insane asylum" has negative connotations, older hospitals are seen as vestiges of a less enlightened era and do not provoke the same nostalgia as other historic structures. Sadly, much of the public doesn't realize that these institutions, once considered progressive and the embodiment of high ideals, were built with good intentions by leading architects and physicians who envisioned the asylums as places of refuge, therapy, and healing.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

all the sediment of loneliness

In The New York Review of Books, Lorrie Moore takes a long look at Eudora Welty.

Sixteen years ago I was in Jackson, Mississippi, and the owner of the bed- and-breakfast at which I was staying gave me Eudora Welty's address at 1119 Pinehurst Street, across from Bellhaven College. Miss Welty loves visitors, I was told, and I should feel free and welcome to go knock on her door. I was surprised that Welty was being openly offered up this way as a public site to a casual tourist fresh from Faulkner's Rowan Oak. For a minute I saw Welty as perhaps a kind of political prisoner, held hostage by southern graciousness—perhaps even the Jackson Chamber of Commerce—for I knew that no writer in her writer's heart welcomes impromptu visits from people she doesn't know. But a writer's heart is often dressed up in the local protective coloring of her address. And no writer is entirely a writer—she is also many other things. But the writer part—the accident of mind that prompts the private, secreting away of phrases and ideas—is never understood the way a neighborhood might imagine, because it is never really glimpsed, though this is seldom acknowledged.

living deflowers the eyes and the mind

If "experiential" is more your speed than experimental, you might want to check out Grégoire Bouillier's The Mystery Guest. The author is interviewed at The Brooklyn Rail and gives me hope for the much delayed release (and hell, composition) of my first novel.

Bouillier: I don’t feel as if I came late to literature. In fact I’ve always written and read. Even when I was painting, I wrote on the side. But it’s true that I didn’t make up my mind to publish until I was 40. This wasn’t an accident. In Rapport sur moi I explain that I’d always thought I would publish a book when I was 40 and not before, because when I was five and caught a staph infection, they put me in quarantine [quarantaine] at the hospital, and I think it must have been so traumatic for me as a little kid, being a boy in a bubble, that the word “quarantine” was etched in my brain. So deeply etched that I became convinced, unconsciously, that I’d never do anything worthwhile until I made it past 40 [quarantaine]. Who knows, maybe if they put people in trentaine [thirties] instead of quarantaine I’d have written something in my thirties (laughs). That’s the neurotic version. But there are other things I could say. In a world where being young is valued above all else, I wouldn’t have liked to be labeled a young writer, with the emphasis falling on “young” not “writer.” In my opinion the writer has to place himself or herself in a time outside societal time, and in this sense, it seems to me, writing a book when you’re 40 could even be called a vaguely—very vaguely—political act. Plus, I still think that to write something worth reading you have to have lived. You need to have been up against things and beings, love, death, etc. Living deflowers the eyes and the mind. It tests our mettle. Cioran said that no philosophy survives a bout of seasickness; he could never have written that sentence if he hadn’t spent a day being seasick.

Still unconvinced? Maybe his book trailer will persuade you...

Interview via Maud Newton; Trailer via The Elegant Variation

keep post-its and patience handy

The LA Times gets in an early review of Mark Z. Danielewski's new novel, Only Revolutions.

Is it gimmicky and self-important? Undeniably. Is it a substitute for good, clean writing and a well-crafted story? No. But "Only Revolutions" is not without sweeping ambition and fierce intelligence. A phenomenon shot through with the cool factor, it succeeds as an experiment in both design and book publishing. As literature, however, it's cryptic to the point of paralysis, utterly inaccessible, almost burdensome. James Joyce's "Finnegans Wake" was linguistically playful, David Foster Wallace's books are admittedly difficult, Shelley Jackson's "Skin" doesn't even exist in any one printed place — but it's possible to unearth beauty, pathos, insight and substance in these works. The opacity of "Only Revolutions" may be its biggest flaw: If no one beyond a small, marginalized fan base is going to reach the end, then what's the point?

Danielewski will be at Skylight Books on Saturday, September 16.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

romance, sarcasm, math & language

The web comic XKCD entertains me more each day...


Monday, September 04, 2006

feliz cumpleanos los angeles!

Today marks the 225th birthday of our fair metropolis. I was delighted to discover recently that the northwest corner of the original settlement, El Pueblo de la Reina de Los Angeles, is walking distance from my apartment.

Over the weekend, the Los Angeles sky was bedecked in its birthday finery.

This post at LAist has some additional birthday links, including LA City Nerd's excellent 225 ways to celebrate LA. Turn Here features video tours of local neighborhoods (via Apartment Therapy). I also love this collection of old LA postcards (via

Happy Birthday, baby!-

Sunday, September 03, 2006

sunday short stack

"I didn't want to work. It was as simple as that. I distrusted work, disliked it. I thought it was a very bad thing that the human race had unfortunately invented for itself." - Agatha Christie

Friday, September 01, 2006

orange-flowers, swallows, and regret

Autumn Rhythm, Jackson Pollock

By all these lovely tokens
September days are here,
With summer’s best of weather
And autumn’s best of cheer.

- Helen Hunt Jackson, September

September: it was the most beautiful of words, he’d always felt,
evoking orange-flowers, swallows, and regret.

- Alexander Theroux

There comes a time when autumn asks,
"What have you been doing all summer?"

- Anonymous

My favourite poem is the one that starts 'Thirty days hath September' because it actually tells you something.

- Groucho Marx

various curatorial probes

LA Weekly profiles the singular Center for Land Use Interpretation and their "institutional autobiography" Overlook:

Basically, CLUI is a relentless curiosity machine focused on the intersection of humans and the Earth’s surface, particularly in America since the Industrial Revolution. It compiles and cross-references enormous amounts of information in its public digital and paper databases, then explores aspects of the landscape normally hidden from view — ranging from the Nevada nuclear-test site and bullet-ridden police-training mockups of suburban strip malls to the subterranean world of “show cave” architecture and the decaying art-ruins of ’70s earthworks. These slices of de-tourism are then presented as exhibitions in one of CLUI’s handful of nationwide facilities (or venues like last year’s Whitney Biennial), as one of its exemplary small publications, or as a public program — most notably in the form of a guided bus tour of the region in question.