Tuesday, July 31, 2007
Think you're not easily manipulated?
In a recent experiment, psychologists at Yale altered people’s judgments of a stranger by handing them a cup of coffee.
The study participants, college students, had no idea that their social instincts were being deliberately manipulated. On the way to the laboratory, they had bumped into a laboratory assistant, who was holding textbooks, a clipboard, papers and a cup of hot or iced coffee — and asked for a hand with the cup.
That was all it took: The students who held a cup of iced coffee rated a hypothetical person they later read about as being much colder, less social and more selfish than did their fellow students, who had momentarily held a cup of hot java.
Posted by escapegrace at 8:21 AM
Monday, July 30, 2007
This Japanese rice art is phenomenal:
Each year since 1993 the farmers of the Japanese town of Inakadate have been creating massive images with rice by growing a purple and yellow-leafed kodaimai rice alongside the local green-leafed tsugaru-roman rice.
Posted by escapegrace at 7:12 AM
Sunday, July 29, 2007
- That's Dr. Brian May to you.
- Maybe Dr. May has something to say about the UFOs over England.
- Planet Hiltron shows us what celebrities would look like if they lived in Nebraska and worked in the accounting department of the local paper mill.
- French women don't get fat because they choose not to have kids.
- Ovid in Ovid, Colorado
- That's it. I'm the victim of a scam.
- Our distant cousin has won the Olaudah Equiano Prize for Fiction.
- The home of hip hop gets historic landmark status.
- The Top 10 Weirdest and Funniest Japanese Condoms
- Damn. Now what's my excuse?
- If you could be any animal, what would you be?
Posted by escapegrace at 10:32 AM
Thursday, July 26, 2007
Wednesday, July 25, 2007
I love the photos over at Bluejake. They make me nostalgic for my New York days. However, the latest photo description contained a phrase that just should NOT EXIST:
...to the East is Ridgewood, in Queens, which is apparently where all the artists priced out of Bushwick have been moving.
What the hell is going on over there??
Posted by escapegrace at 7:27 PM
Tuesday, July 24, 2007
Sunday, July 22, 2007
I often looked to Theresa Duncan, aka Wit of the Staircase, as someone who had all the things I wished I had.
She seemed to live this charmed, glamorous, sensual life, but now she's dead by her own hand and her partner of 12 years, artist Jeremy Blake, is missing and presumed dead. There is so very little that makes life less difficult.
Posted by escapegrace at 10:47 AM
Friday, July 20, 2007
It seems to be a summer tradition to revive the age-old question: Where is the novel that can capture the essence of rock'n'roll?
Some have been better than others, a few have been excellent, but none have truly convinced. And here's why:
a) Writing about music is hard enough at the best of times; try writing about music that doesn't exist. The basic inescapable flaw in every rock novel is the fact that the reader can't hear the music and thus struggles to identify with the artist. Strip away any audible, self-evident sign of talent - ie the songs - and most rock stars are simply posturing bores. Hardly the stuff of great fiction.
b) Good novelists have a tendency to get sloppy when they write about popular music - it's an exercise in cultural slumming that almost inevitably lends itself to unoriginal plots and indulgent writing. From their names on down - Ormus Cana? Bucky Wunderlick?! - the characters rarely ring true, apparently hell-bent on playing out the author's own fantasies rather than attempting to illuminate what this great rock and roll circus actually means.
c) Rock novels are pitched at an enormously demanding readership. If the atmosphere and language isn't spot on, we turn off. If we don't share the musical tastes of the writer, we struggle to engage: think of Iain Banks' patently awful prog rock band Frozen Gold in Espedair Street. We're so acutely aware of the tiniest rituals of a gig or the peculiarly nuanced language deployed by musicians that an author has to avoid a minefield of cliche while still creating something familiar enough to convince - and that's a tough tightrope to walk.
Posted by escapegrace at 10:58 AM
Thursday, July 19, 2007
Via Slate: "And the L.A. Times' Robert Abele breathes contempt for [Captivity]'s once-acclaimed director: 'Roland Joffé … has seen his career go from bewailing 'The Killing Fields' of Cambodia to slobbering over the hell-maze of a hooded kidnapper/ murderer. It's the movie business equivalent of encountering someone you once knew begging for money on the street.'"
Posted by escapegrace at 8:14 PM
If I were in Brooklyn right now, I wouldn't need a car, but I would also be happy to accept Jonathan Ames's - uh, the Herring Wonder's - invitation to the literary bout of the century, an event I'm sure will soon be as infamous as the Gore Vidal/Norman Mailer smackdown. New Yorkers, mark your calendars. The e-mail promises card girls and costumes.
Posted by escapegrace at 9:23 AM
Last night, as I pulled out of my employer's parking garage, my car made a thunkety sound and died. No efforts would get the engine to start again even though it was happy to turn over as many times as we asked. I now await word as to my future from the Russian mechanics. Please send any good car karma my way.
Posted by escapegrace at 9:18 AM
Wednesday, July 18, 2007
Tuesday, July 17, 2007
I was just telling someone the other day that I think I walk more here in Los Angeles than I did in New York. Yes, you read that right. I may not clock as many actual miles - the subway was never close enough - but I can walk from my home in Los Feliz to more frequent destinations here than I ever could in Brooklyn. So my neighborhood walking score of 77 (a C+!) seems plain wrong.
In a stunning twist, my old 3rd Avenue home address in Gowanus also scored a 77, but my Gramercy Park work address scored an impressive 98! My current work address on the outskirts of downtown scored an 80, so clearly the index does not factor in whether you'd actually be comfortable walking in that neighborhood.
Posted by escapegrace at 11:03 AM
Monday, July 16, 2007
Friday, July 13, 2007
Thursday, July 12, 2007
I've been in a really bad mood, but it's nothing a zombie infection simulation couldn't clear up. Or maybe just a zombie infection.
Posted by escapegrace at 10:04 AM
Tuesday, July 10, 2007
LAist plans to provide a lovely little overview of each of LA's 172 known designated communities. They have begun with Little Armenia. (I am withholding my rant about the neighbors of Armenian descent that were exploding fireworks outside my window last night at midnight - July 9th - and not for the first time. You, gentlemen, are giving Armenians a bad name.)
Posted by escapegrace at 11:21 AM
Monday, July 09, 2007
18. Remainder by Tom McCarthy
This is an odd novel that plays much with your mind and little with your heart. It's full of imagination and atmosphere and suspense, but I never particularly cared about the narrator.
19. All Aunt Hagar's Children by Edward P. Jones
Fantastic! Jones reminds me of Alice Munro in his depth and pacing. I wish there were more published writers describing the African-American experience with such literary flair and mastery.
20. The Post-Birthday World by Lionel Shriver
I missed the characters in this book immediately upon finishing it. Yet more proof that Lionel Shriver tells a great story. I've said it before and I'll say it again: Read We Need to Talk About Kevin.
Posted by escapegrace at 8:45 AM
Sunday, July 08, 2007
- More "geek quotes" like the one above can be found here.
- Also from Neatorama, a clip of a four-year-old calling 911 with a math emergency.
- Virginia Heffernan of the New York Times believes celebrity reality shows pick up where Fitzgerald left off. I would so watch Hey Zelda.
- Metroblogging LA looks at how bloggers have taken on the City Council in the aftermath of the Griffith Park fire.
- The Proust Archive looks at one of my favorite topics: apocalypse.
- Why didn't folks try harder to save Coney Island?
- It's been too long since I've posted anything about David Mitchell.
- 10 Mind-Boggling Psychiatric Treatments
- OnBeing is a project based on the simple notion that we should get to know one another a little better.
- Underwater tigers!
Posted by escapegrace at 11:47 AM
Friday, July 06, 2007
Thursday, July 05, 2007
Ed's description of the NJ/NY fireworks battle of 2007 made me nostalgic for my past Brooklyn Fourths*, even the one where I almost fainted on the Promenade from some weird combination of dehydration, vertigo, and claustrophobia. And maybe a hangover.
Until I observed last night’s series of fireworks displays across the East River, I had not encountered political fireworks in the literal sense. It seems that the Jersey authorities were extremely pissed off after Battery Park was closed to the public. So from Jersey’s side of the Hudson, the Jersey boys proceeded to offer as momentous a show as public money could offer — minutes before the Macy’s display had begun. Their fireworks, which declared with every burst that Jersey was as much a part of the July 4th celebrations as the big boys, were designed to be seen across a considerable expanse of water. At first, the assembled throngs on the Brooklyn Heights Promenade appreciated this. And I had to smile and empathize over the Jersey effrontery. Yes, it was a case of flagrant dick wars. But it was the kind of symbolic penis measurement that reminds everyone that there’s more to life than deep pockets. All of us ducked beneath umbrellas, buffeting a downpour that lifted shortly before Macy’s 9:20 PM start time. But the minute that Macy’s began launching jellyfish low-risers and smiley-shaped explosives into the sky, the crowd quickly turned on these apparent Jersey upstarts, becoming deeply vociferous about how “we” — meaning New York — had showed the folks in Jersey. Yet, “we” entailed Brooklyn and Queens for the most part. There was something deeply allegorical about all of this: private money vs. public money, proletariat vs. bourgeoisie, New York vs. New Jersey. And I soon began to understand that East Coast provincial lines were more ridiculous than I ever imagined. But it was still a good show. And I’m not just referring to the fireworks.
*(I just remembered how my cousins, my brother, and I were terrified by a scrawled note in my aunt and uncle's basement that was there when they bought the house: "Years have passed since the Fourth." Cue dramatic organ music.)
Posted by escapegrace at 8:18 AM
Tuesday, July 03, 2007
Andrew Gallix on the virtues of writing slowly:
In Plato's famous dialogue, Socrates argues that the eponymous Ion and his fellow rhapsodes (the slam artists of Ancient Greece) are possessed by the gods whenever they tread the boards. According to this tradition, the artist, in the throes of creation, is under the influence -- be it of the Muses, drugs, alcohol, a dream vision or some other variant of divine inspiration. Ionic Man does not speak: he is spoken through (or played upon like Coleridge's Aeolian harp), hence the cult of "spontaneous prose" in its various guises. The work of art comes as easily as leaves to a tree, appearing fully-formed in a blinding flash of inspiration or in an accretive, free-associative manner as if under dictation. In both cases, logorrhoea beckons.
The Surrealists' experiments with automatic writing belong to this school. So do the numerous penis-extension tall tales of binge typing. A driven Kerouac composed On the Road in a three-week, benzedrine-fuelled session after fashioning a scroll manuscript which allowed the all-important free flow of words to go unimpeded. Capote's famous quip - "That isn't writing; it's typing" - unwittingly captured the histrionic quality of Kerouac's feat. This is action writing that transforms a sedate, sedentary, haemorrhoid-inducing activity into a heroic performance.
Another prime instance of Ionic braggadocio is the legend according to which Georges Simenon once locked himself in a glass cage to toss off a novel in three days and three nights while spectators gawked. This planned publicity stunt never actually occurred, but it may well have inspired Will Self who, back in 2000, wrote a novella in a London art gallery during a two-week residency: the words were projected live on to a plasma screen behind the desk where he sat. These experiments, and others like National Novel Writing Month, are all interesting enough, but perhaps the time has come to ditch literary hothousing in favour of the Platonics' "precious little" aesthetics.
Posted by escapegrace at 8:25 AM
Monday, July 02, 2007
"The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds new discoveries, is not 'Eureka!' (I found it!) but 'That's funny ...'" - Isaac Asimov
In a crazy turn of events, the Sunday Short Stack appears here on a Monday. What could be next?
- A coffee table that transforms into a couch?
- A Kwik-E-Mart come to life in Burbank?
- A house made entirely of mosaic tiles?
- A reality TV version of Ugly Betty?
- A magic Portuguese barn full of classic sports cars?
- Lying babies?
- A funny Woody Allen?
- An indie rock cookbook?
- The Supreme Court rules in favor of segregation?
Posted by escapegrace at 10:50 AM