Saturday, September 22, 2007

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

baby, we gotta go to the library

I didn't realize the question of whether the world is flat was still a controversy. Miss South Carolina can look forward to a slot on The View if nothing else works out. (Video)

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Monday, September 17, 2007

it's consistently some of the best stuff out there

Pitchfork Gives Music 6.8

CHICAGO—Music, a mode of creative expression consisting of sound and silence expressed through time, was given a 6.8 out of 10 rating in an review published Monday on Pitchfork Media, a well-known music-criticism website.

According to the review, authored by Pitchfork editor in chief Ryan Schreiber, the popular medium that predates the written word shows promise but nonetheless "leaves the listener wanting more."

"Music's first offering, an eclectic, disparate, but mostly functional compendium of influences from 5000 B.C. to present day, hints that this trend's time may not only have fully arrived, but is already on the wane," Schreiber wrote. "If music has any chance of keeping our interest, it's going to have to move beyond the same palatable but predictable notes, meters, melodies, tonalities, atonalities, timbres, and harmonies."

Schreiber's semi-favorable review, which begins in earnest after a six-paragraph preamble comprising a long list of baroquely rendered, seemingly unrelated anecdotes peppered with obscure references, summarizes music as a "solid but uninspired effort."

"Coming in at an exhausting 7,000 years long, music is weighed down by a few too many mid- tempo tunes, most notably 'Liebesträume No. 3 in A flat' by Franz Liszt and 'Closing Time' by '90s alt-rock group Semisonic," Schreiber wrote. "In the end, though music can be brilliant at times, the whole medium comes off as derivative of Pavement."

Read the rest...Brilliant.

swerve festival

Sadly, I will not be around for the Swerve Festival at Barnsdall Park, but you can check out escapegrace favorite Devotchka, We Are Scientists, The Black Angels, Thee More Shallows and more for free. Or "with registration" - whatever that means.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

sunday (super) short stack

"I loathe the expression 'What makes him tick.' ...A person not only ticks, he also chimes and strikes the hour, falls and breaks and has to be put together again, and sometimes stops like an electric clock in a thunderstorm." - James Thurber

Friday, September 14, 2007

existential celebrity

Ann Powers looks at Justin and Britney and asks: "Why has one teen phenomenon made such a spectacular transition to adulthood, while the other languishes in the muck of her own misdeeds?"

Though he dates A-list actresses, Timberlake has since worked to maintain emotional distance from celebrity culture, making clear that becoming a better musician is his primary interest. When he released "Cry Me A River," a song allegedly about his breakup with Spears, the real news was its striking production and nuanced vocals. Timberlake had arrived as an artist and in doing so made his private life not a nonissue but not the main issue.

The sad thing is, Spears could have taken this route. Her 2001 "Dream Within a Dream" tour spun an elaborate fantasy about girl culture and the role of the princess that suggested Spears might actually be really thinking about the image she was trying to maintain. By 2004, when she covered fellow celebrity disaster Bobby Brown's biggest hit, "My Prerogative," she was publicly struggling with her bad reputation but doing so through music, not by stumbling through the tabloids.

But Spears lost the thread by choosing -- or being forced by the very media-driven culture now busy chastising her -- to make her private life the main focus of her fame. Yes, she had children young, and yes, she's proven herself an exhibitionist unable to handle the excesses she can afford. But the absence of Britney the Artist (and yes, she deserves to be called an artist) is what made space for Britney the Wreck to take over.

Like many creative women, she took time off to start a family and lost career momentum, reduced by many to the role of "bad mom." Like her tragic spiritual sister, Anna Nicole Smith, she soon found that fame for its own sake is a toxic pursuit.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

I’ve got two ears and a heart, don’t I?

Via Very Short List:

a crossing of threads in the fabric of fate

That Callie Miller makes me feel like such a slacker.
Reviewing Jon McGregor's So Many Ways to Begin for The Quarterly Conversation and getting married all in one week! Congratulations!

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

everybody hates us and we don't care

On the occasion of this year's posthumous collection of poetry, Tony O'Neill argues for a Bukowski reappraisal in the UK. I don't think it's really needed here what with Hank being firmly entrenched at the Huntington and all.

Bukowski's lack of pretension, his repetitive subject matter and his seemingly simple free verse style often leaves the poets who came after dodging accusations of being Bukowski-esque. Of course, a lot of people's lives, and indeed poets' lives, are blighted by poverty, alcohol abuse, and problems with the opposite sex. Yet some young poets really are nervous of citing Bukowski as an influence or tackling his mostly universal themes.

His influence is everywhere: in an era where it can be difficult to give away poetry books, the many volumes of poetry that Bukowski produced during - and after - his lifetime take up more shelf space that any other contemporary poet I can think of.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Sunday, September 09, 2007

sunday short stack

"Chance is always powerful. Let your hook be always cast; in the pool where you least expect it, there will be a fish." - Ovid

Saturday, September 08, 2007

the man booker short list

Friday, September 07, 2007

madeleine l'engle (1918-2007)

Second only to Judy Blume in my childhood literary influences, Madeleine L'Engle has died. (I find it a little eerie that the obituary is dated for tomorrow. A wrinkle in time, indeed.)

Ms. L’Engle was best known for her children’s classic, “A Wrinkle in Time,” which won the John Newbery Award as the best children’s book of 1963. By 2004, it had sold more than 6 million copies, was in its 67th printing and was still selling 15,000 copies a year.

Her works — poetry, plays, autobiography and books on prayer — were deeply, quixotically personal. But it was in her vivid children’s characters that readers most clearly glimpsed her passionate search for the questions that mattered most. She sometimes spoke of her writing as if she were taking dictation from her subconscious.

“Of course I’m Meg,” Ms. L’Engle said about the beloved protagonist of “A Wrinkle in Time.”

The “St. James Guide to Children’s Writers” called Ms. L’Engle “one of the truly important writers of juvenile fiction in recent decades.” Such accolades did not come from pulling punches: “Wrinkle” is one of the most banned books because of its treatment of the deity.

52 books in 52 weeks

25. Ten Days in the Hills by Jane Smiley

This did not have as much pornography as I was promised! After seeing Jane Smiley discuss her new novel at the Festival of Books, I was looking forward to reading what sounded like a sexy experiment in plotlessness. It was entertaining if a little too long, but sadly I'm afraid I liked her description of it more than the book itself.

26. The Secret Lives of People in Love by Simon Van Booy

There was something slightly cold about this collection of short stories, but it's obvious from the the details and use of language that Van Booy has a spectacular book in him. I look forward to it.

27. The Mistress's Daughter by A.M. Homes

I usually avoid memoirs, but I'm drawn to most everything Ms. Homes attempts. This concise tale of family and identity was a striking example of how tone is everything, and when it's successful, it can be damn near perfect.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

because if it's on the internet, it must be true

Shaolin monks in China have taken serious offense to a rumor they got their asses kicked by a ninja.

China's Shaolin Temple has demanded a public apology from an Internet user who claimed a Japanese ninja beat its kung fu-practising monks in a showdown, a lawyer said Friday.

An open letter from the temple posted on the Internet on Thursday denied the fight ever took place and called on the person who posted the claim under the name "Five minutes every day" to apologize to the temple's martial arts masters.

Monks from the temple, nestled in the Songshan Mountains of central China's Henan province, said they will consider legal action if he or she doesn't make a public apology.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

its unshorn and expensively sunglassed head

I gave Entourage a two-disc chance to prove itself off my Netflix queue, and I had never experienced such a sense of exclusion from a television series. There seemed to be no place for me - or women in general, unless as a way for the boys to relate to one another in their competition for her. Adrian Grenier's recent rumored romance with Paris Hilton seemed perfectly fitting, if not an outright bid for publicity. It was especially odd to watch scenes of the city in which I live and feel like it was completely alien to me. Also, I was bored. Tom Wolfe, however, is a bit more inspired:

Clad in milquetoast shirtsleeves, combat-style Bermudas, and the unshowered film of day-old hangovers, the young men go about their Hollywood business with the same haughty unconcern that pervades their overslept lives. These are the new crusaders of cool. They are perpetually late to meet with representation, to accept graft, to sign hedge-fund-sized checks, and to slip into bed with stargazing young actresses. They are late to everything except success, their laissez-faire nonchalance a testament to the fuck-off patois of a generation. These insolent pop pilgrims provide a window into the machismo-fueled fantasy world of meteoric laziness. They are a scruffy gaggle of would-be pizza boys reluctantly poised to plant their half-finished Betsy Ross into the terra firma of the aught decade.

Crusaders of cool? Insolent pop pilgrims? Ahem. Wolfe and I do agree on one point:

But there is hope in this moxie wasteland of moviemakers. Johnny Drama draws not my ire. Here is the bravado-laden torch of the past, its fire fueled by protein shakes and casting off the nearly forgotten aroma of desire. His ginseng-toned body twisting and gyrating with anxiety and self-doubt, he's a New Age Neal Cassady, passed up here for a Lifetime movie, there for a Hallmark Channel special—the Houghton Mifflin and HarperCollins of the television world. Johnny Drama is no mere muzzled bus driver, however. He is a symbol of irony, that word now recognized only by the literati. Played by Kevin Dillon, Sancho Panza to real-life brother Matt, this role oozes the true Hollywood pathos of silver-screen heartbreak. If watch Entourage you must, then watch it for Drama.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

I'm free to do what I want any old time

I'm sure every blogger hopes that if they are unable for some reason to keep up their normal posting pace, people will notice. In many cases, this is probably unlikely, but on the off chance you've been wondering why my posts of late have been, frankly, so lame, I will now explain.

I've been working a job for the past two years that did serve a purpose at one time - I was able to complete my dissertation and I made a few lovely friends - however that time had come and gone. I was languishing in complete boredom and lack of productivity and no one even seemed to notice. This state of affairs was not helped by the fact that when my student loans kicked in, my once comfortable salary had become insufficient. I applied to similar jobs. I applied to jobs in slightly different fields. I had no luck, including one harrowing episode in which the Getty broke my heart. All the while, I was convincing myself and others that a life of teaching and writing would never work out. No, no, no, I would say, it won't work out. If I can't pay my bills with a steady administrator's paycheck, how on earth will I make it freestyle?

Well, apparently, as with many aspects of my life, I was completely wrong. My last day at that job was Friday. The details are still being ironed out, but it appears that with little change to my financial situation, I will be engaged in nothing but occupations that please me with more than twice as much free time - to publish my dissertation, to return to fiction (finally!), to pursue several pleasurable get-rich quick schemes, to feed any and all creative urges, and to hopefully breathe new life into this blog and the other one. As someone who needs to always know what's going to happen next and plan for it extensively, this has not been an easy decision to make. I'm sure there are many challenges ahead, but as Pema Chodron describes it, I will lean into the sharp points. With grace, if possible. With humor, if not.

In other words, I am now available for imaginative projects, literary and otherwise, so please keep me in mind.