Friday, June 29, 2007

ne me quitte pas

I've had family in town all week and very much look forward to a return to this site. In the meantime, enjoy some subtitled Jacques Brel.

Monday, June 25, 2007

taste not truth

Justin Smith dissects hipster irony:

But why is hipster ridicule directed at the cultural output of a generation ago? Why is irony focused upon the recent past? Contrary to some facetious fears that the retro gap is closing, and that soon we will be celebrating for its ironic value the cultural output of this very day, in fact it seems that the ironic focus is eternally fixed upon the detritus that was floating about right around the time of one’s own origins, the things that could help to explain how one came to be at all, including the invitation to a moustache ride that just might have led to one’s own conception.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

you'll miss the best pal you ever had

The lovely Miss Brenda Lee sings the songs of Sophie Tucker...

Thursday, June 21, 2007

you better not touch that, you'll never get tenured

It's the week for universities trotting out their fantasy and horror collections. UC Riverside is up next:

In 1969, English professor Robert Gleckner helped the school acquire 7,500 rare science fiction, fantasy and horror novels from an eccentric Bay Area physician, J. Lloyd Eaton. Among them was a first edition of Bram Stoker's "Dracula." Eaton had scribbled plot summaries and succinct criticisms of nearly every book on faded sheets of letterhead.

But Gleckner's colleagues mocked the collection, and he banished the volumes to a storeroom and never touched them again.

And for 10 years, no one paid the books any attention — until UC Riverside's head librarian, Eleanor Montague, found them and cracked open a few. She and comparative literature scholar George Slusser began cooking up an improbable scheme: Science fiction, for all its talk of wormholes and galaxies far, far away was a form of 20th-century American literature that someone ought to keep as a cultural archive.

welcome back, kafka

Literary TV Programs Yet to Be Produced

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

that'll beat a drunken maid of honor any day

I've been trying to find a perfect occasion to return to Descanso Gardens. I've only been there once for a rather high drama wedding, and I'd like to partake in their restorative powers. Somehow, though, I think my next visit might resemble the first: Richie Ramone will join the Pasadena Pops August 17-19 to drum a 17-minute interpretation of West Side Story.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

alchemists' party

These images above are just two of the many, many spectacular offeringss available online at The Fantastic in Art and Fiction collection from the Cornell Institute for Digital Collections.

Smart and pretty, together!

Monday, June 18, 2007

the will and the talent

Alex de Lucena on Why and When Fiction Writers First Publish:

“If you don't make masterpiece by time you twenty five you nothing,” went the advice of a drunk literature professor. I was a sophomore. The nineteenth century authors I admired had all first published before the age the professor put forward. Twenty five became the longitudinal line where my flat world ended. Twenty-five was crossed without masterpiece or incident. I found solace in the biographies of contemporary writers, most of whom first published at an older age.

Why the age difference from one century to the next?

To begin I posit that the apprenticeship period of a writer, before a publishable novel is completed, lasts approximately eight years and involves three components: 1) lots of writing, much of it crap, an unfinished or rejected opus or three, a novel that was talked about more then it was ever written, some short stories; 2) A fair amount of reading, not from any cannon in particular, enough to get a sense of what is out there; 3) Life experience—bullfighting and shooting heroin, sure—but more having lived and become aware of one's existence in a way that can be processed many many times over to be used in stories. The healthy realization that instead of writing the greatest book ever one should focus on a good story one can tell well can be filed under the third component. Factor in necessary talent and the budding writer is on his or her way to a literary debut.

Some bozo said the same thing to me - about 25 being some kind of death knell - and while it made 24-26 a little queasy, I got over it soon enough.

Friday, June 15, 2007

never ever without a reason that was normal

My new favorite show...

Thursday, June 14, 2007

brave and faithful soldier of the proletarian cause

Das Kapital as graphic novel (Hugo Gellert, 1934)
Das Kapital is our guide. Like the X-ray, it discloses the depths below the surface. it is my hope that in this abbreviated form the immortal work of Karl Marx will become accessible to the Masses: To the huge army of workers without jobs and farmers without land; to the workers in mills and mines, to all who toil with brain or brawn. This book is made for them. For my existence -- and yours, depends upon them: "Labor is a necessary condition of all human existence, and one which is independent of the forms of society. It is through all the ages a necessity imposed by nature itself, for without it there can be no interchange of material between man and nature -- in a word, no life.

come to me the way I came to you

The founders of The 1947 Project have turned their tour gaze on John Fante.

Saturday's tour, which will include walking and a bus ride to Hollywood and to Fante's now-condemned apartment in Koreatown, will look at the places where Fante and his protagonist lived, ate and drank. It includes old-school L.A. sights such as Angels Flight, as well as places like Little Italy, where Union Station now stands, that exist only in memory. "This was where it all happened!" Schave says, pointing at Pershing Square, with its mix of fountains, corporate plazas and homeless people. "Pershing Square was the bellybutton of the world — it's where everybody went. Arturo Bandini would go to the library to read a book of poetry, and then hit Bookseller's Row on 6th Street. This is so ugly; it used to be such a great place!" Though other Southland writers — including Raymond Chandler and Charles Bukowski, who will also be tour subjects this year — are better known, Fante may be, to the faithful at least, the most beloved.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

guess what? so is my money

The Detroit Free Press throws a birthday party for Respect.

I want my kavalier and clay...

...just not with Tobey Maguire and Natalie Portman. Please.

20 Movies Not Coming Soon to a Theater Near You

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

beowulf = heap of gangrened elephant's sputum

Peter Green reviews Zachary Leader's The Life of Kingsley Amis:

The idea for Lucky Jim was planted in Amis's mind as early as October 1948, while he was still at Oxford. Larkin, degree in hand, had moved to a sub-librarian's post at University College in Leicester, where Amis visited him. On Saturday morning they dropped in for coffee at the college common room. Amis looked around -- a cold-eyed anthropologist among the natives -- "and said to myself, Christ, somebody ought to do something with this.'" He pinpointed the scene as "strange and sort of developed, a whole mode of existence no one had got on to from outside." The new world of provincial university life had found its fictional chronicler, though it would take more than six years, and several false starts and rejections, before Jim Dixon finally made his famous debut, in the publisher Victor Gollancz's trademark pus-and-permanganate-colored dust jacket. The effort of this prolonged literary birth seems to have cleared a block in Amis's psyche: from then on he turned out books steadily and methodically, as though on a conveyor belt.

But back in 1948 Amis was in a far from comfortable position. He had scraped a First in his finals, but apart from this, his prospects looked less than encouraging. He had very little money. His girlfriend since 1946, Hilary ("Hilly") Bardwell, had gotten pregnant, and after first considering an abortion, they had a highly unromantic shotgun marriage, gloomed over by all four parents. Throughout his noisy undergraduate career Amis had made a point of targeting both the revered figures of English literature and the dons who taught them with childish, highly public, and often obscene anti-Establishment rant: Beowulf got zapped as an "anonymous, crass, purblind, infantile, featureless HEAP OF GANGRENED ELEPHANT'S SPUTUM"; the fellows of his college in procession had "much less dignity than a procession of syphilitic, cancerous, necrophilic shit-bespattered lavatory attendants." With lethal mimicry ("Shakespeare" emerged as something like "Theckthpyum") he mocked the verbal affectations of the Goldsmith's Professor of English, Lord David Cecil. Cecil was not amused, and subsequently ensured that Amis's B.Litt. thesis failed...

One of the best things in Leader's vast biography is his subtle teasing out of this process: his assessment of what, and how much, the manuscript that became Lucky Jim owed to Larkin, his untangling of the two friends' intricate and improbable collaboration. His careful verdict (with which I basically agree) would seem to be that while Amis benefited enormously from Larkin's astringent suggestions, the overall debt was not as great as Larkin -- discouraged by Lucky Jim's huge success from writing further fiction himself -- ultimately came to believe. Leader dismisses the rumors that Larkin had virtually written Lucky Jim, boosted by his catty comment to Monica ("I refuse to believe that [Kingsley] can write a book on his own -- or at least a good book"), and his claim to another girlfriend, Maeve Brennan, that Amis had "stolen" Lucky Jim from him, showing such comments to have been, at best, envious exaggerations. It is good to see that old canard finally laid to rest.

avert calamity

Your feelings on Dave Eggers aside, McSweeney's needs your money right now. Treat yourself.

Monday, June 11, 2007

richard rorty (1931 - 2007)

Philosopher Richard Rorty has died.

Mr. Rorty’s enormous body of work, which ranged from academic tomes to magazine and newspaper articles, provoked fervent praise, hostility and confusion. But no matter what even his severest critics thought of it, they could not ignore it. When his 1979 book “Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature” came out, it upended conventional views about the very purpose and goals of philosophy. The widespread notion that the philosopher’s primary duty was to figure out what we can and cannot know was poppycock, Mr. Rorty argued. Human beings should focus on what they do to cope with daily life and not on what they discover by theorizing.

To accomplish this, he relied primarily on the only authentic American philosophy, pragmatism, which was developed by John Dewey, Charles Peirce, William James and others more than 100 years ago. “There is no basis for deciding what counts as knowledge and truth other than what one’s peers will let one get away with in the open exchange of claims, counterclaims and reasons,” Mr. Rorty wrote. In other words, “truth is not out there,” separate from our own beliefs and language. And those beliefs and words evolved, just as opposable thumbs evolved, to help human beings “cope with the environment” and “enable them to enjoy more pleasure and less pain.”

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

city limits

I'll be visiting my metropolitan mistress this weekend, so no posting for me. Enjoy the weekend!

clean in two

If you're stopping by the Kill Rock Stars site to purchase Holly Golightly's latest, You Can't Buy a Gun If You're Crying, make sure to pick up some tiny underwear on sale.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

the road vs. the secret

Preceding Cormac McCarthy's appearance on Oprah today, the Rake (now blogging at Black Garterbelt) looks at the opposing visions of Oprah consciousness.

I would also guess that Oprah--or whoever in fact selects her books--detects no inconsistency in touting both The Secret, its popularity an unwitting and ghastly indictment on humanity's greed and gullibility, and The Road, where bad, cataclysmic things happen to good people, no matter how hard they clap to prove their undying belief in fairies.

Monday, June 04, 2007

scenes from the culver city art walk

Probably my third favorite annual event (after the Festival of Books and Sunset Junction) is the Culver City Art Walk, which took place on Saturday.

Each year, I see more art that I would actually want to purchase and display in my home than anywhere else I encounter art. I had two favorite exhibits this year. BLK/MRKT (a gallery that also ran one of last year's standout exhibits from Tara McPherson) devoted their space to Mike Stilkey's "Horse Stories":

Of course, any art that incorporates books is bound to please me (no pun intended).

My other favorite collection was Josh Dorman's incredible map collages at the George Billis Gallery. Photos really don't do them justice at all, but here is one titled "Oceana" - you can view more here.

Another exhibit of note at Taylor De Cordoba featured Timothy Hull's Soviet-influenced illustrations (click to view closer).

The top photo is from the Buff Monster installation at the Corey Helford Gallery.

Following the art walk was LACMA's afterparty at HD Buttercup, where they let us wander around drunk and play with the furniture. Good times.

Giant Drag played in what seemed to be a large discount room, while the audience lounged around on couch and chair configurations.

All in all, a lovely outing. Unfortunately, I can't post the photos of various posing hijinks that were gotten up to in HD Buttercup, but rest assured, they are incredibly silly.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

sunday short stack

"A finished person is a boring person."
- Anna Quindlen

Friday, June 01, 2007

do you ever wear less than you are wearing now?

This entertaining video of Salvador Dali on "What's My Line?" comes from a thorough Dali post over at A Fool in the Forest on the occasion of a new exhibit at the Tate Modern.

cooky puss

Art Decade has two tracks from a 1983 Beastie Boys EP - when the boys were but wee teens (via Idolator).