Wednesday, April 30, 2008

the festival of books: ray bradbury

Royce Hall

Ray Bradbury

Ray Bradbury recalls telling John Huston that he has become Herman Melville

This was finally the year I managed to see Ray Bradbury, who has almost a cult-like following among the Festival of Books crowd. The line for ticket holders wrapped almost all the way around Royce Hall, and once inside, I sat next to a man who religiously attends Bradbury's talk each year. After a sweet introduction by Bradbury's old friend Sid Stebel, the man himself was wheeled out onto the stage. His theme for this year: loving your life.

Bradbury touched on his memories of being born and circumcised, the Hunchback of Notre Dame, the Phantom of the Opera, dinosaurs, King Kong, Mr. Electrico's sword, how to live forever, meeting the Illustrated Man at 12, beginning to write on a toy typewriter and writing every day for the next 70 years, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Norman Corwin, the planet Mars, using the telephone at the gas station, letting people know you exist, taking a Greyhound to New York, The Martian Chronicles as a novel he hadn't realized he'd written, being paid $700 each for The Martian Chronicles and The Illustrated Man in one day, Christopher Isherwood, tea with Aldous Huxley, book burning, spending $9.81 ($.10/hour) to rent a UCLA typing room to write Fahrenheit 451, Hugh Hefner, proving his love to John Huston, Shakespeare, seeing Laurel & Hardy in Ireland, embodying Herman Melville, becoming a playwright, Bernard Berenson's first fan letter in 89 years, Fellini, Chaplin, Halloween, cartoons, Chuck Jones, hating The Great Pumpkin, The Halloween Tree, Gene Kelly, Singin' in the Rain as science fiction musical, Something Wicked This Way Comes, Buck Rogers, ComicCon, and living on Alpha Centauri.

Memorable quotes:
"I finally got engaged to this girl. She took a vow of poverty."
"Forget about universities. Live in the library."
"Jump off a cliff - on the way down, build your wings."
"Jesus God! That's love!"

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

the festival of books: women of the slipstream

Like Callie (whom I was delighted to finally meet in person), I am going to take a few days to do the Festival of Books justice. Day One begins...

The return of bad event photography!

The one disappointment of the Festival (aside from my inability to accomplish all I had intended) was Kelly Link's absence at the Women of the Slipstream panel. Even without her, however, it was still an incredibly inspiring collection of very smart women (and man). In the photo above, from left to right, we have Rob Spillman, Shelley Jackson (filling in for Kelly Link), Miranda Mellis, Sarah Shun-lien Bynum, and Aimee Bender. Not only did this conversation provide the key to unlock a problem I was having with my novel, but I also discovered my new haircut. (Thanks, well-coiffed woman in the audience!)

Bat Segundo style, I am going to deliver my notes to you in a subjects discussed prose poem form. Here goes: Anais Nin, Walker Percy's "Naming & Being," sparrows in prison, depriving readers of familiar meaning, growing up in an anarchist collective, Murakami, the hostile environment of rationalism that is Shelley Jackson's brain, Nabokov's galley slaves, myth making, daughters of Angela Carter, pagan hand fasting, rewriting the New York Times, Judith Grossman's mythic vs. public stories, Miranda Mellis's Encyclopedia Project, 1992's tiny Mac screens, Georges Perec's A Void, impulsive synapses to beehives, fairy tales, Donald Barthelme, Richard Yates, going back to the Norton Anthology, The Potrait Of A Lady, teaching the books you want to steal from, Beckett, The Castle, Moby-Dick, Pynchon, Zeroville, astronomy, books on knots, parental euphemisms, Albert Einstein, treating the absurd with realism, Magic for Beginners, slipstream vs. the new weird, being overeducated about writing, the writer brain vs. the editor brain, Kelly Link's "skin" tattoo, finding your own voice by falling short of your models, Norwegian death metal, the dizzying array of speculative writing labels...

Friday, April 25, 2008

the festival of books: and so it begins

In case you haven't picked up on this yet, I love the Festival of Books. I plan on attending most, if not all, of the following panels. Hope to see you there!

*Saturday, April 26*

1:00 PM Fiction: Novel Lives

Moderator Mr. Robert Roper
Ms. Jill Bialosky
Mr. Nicholas Delbanco
Mr. Brian Hall
Ms. Marianne Wiggins

2:30 PM Women of Slipstream
Moderator Mr. Rob Spillman
Ms. Aimee Bender
Ms. Sarah Shun-lien Bynum
Ms. Kelly Link
Ms. Miranda Mellis

3:00 PM California: The Great Experiment
Moderator Mr. Kevin Roderick
Mr. William Deverell
Mr. Matthew Jaffe
Mr. D.J. Waldie

4:00 PM First Fiction: New Voices
Moderator Ms. Carolyn Kellogg
Ms. Antonia Arslan
Ms. Rebecca Curtis
Ms. Pamela Erens
Ms. Ellen Litman

4:30 PM Ray Bradbury with an Introduction from Sid Stebel
Introducer Mr. Sid Stebel
Mr. Ray Bradbury

*Sunday, April 27*

10:30 AM The Lyrical Line: Conversation & Music with Aimee Mann & Joe Henry
Interviewer Mr. Steve Almond
Mr. Joe Henry
Ms. Aimee Mann

11:30 AM Carolyn & Lisa See in Conversation with Veronique de Turenne
Interviewer Ms. Veronique de Turenne
Ms. Lisa See
Ms. Carolyn See

12:00 PM Surf Culture: Shooting the Tube
Moderator Mr. Antoine Wilson
Mr. Steve Hawk
Mr. Steven Kotler
Mr. Kem Nunn
Mr. David Rensin

12:30 PM Contentious Ground: The Middle East
Moderator Mr. Zachary Karabell
Mr. Reza Aslan
Mr. Chris Hedges
Ms. Amy Wilentz

1:00 PM Fiction: Alternative Visions
Moderator Mr. David L. Ulin
Mr. Steve Erickson
Ms. Shelley Jackson
Mr. Zachary Lazar
Ms. Nina Revoyr

2:30 PM Nonfiction: Laughing Between the Lines
Moderator Ms. Erika Schickel
Mr. Steve Almond
Ms. Meghan Daum
Ms. Stacey Grenrock Woods
Mr. Marc Porter Zasada

3:00 PM Biography: Literary California
Moderator Mr. Richard Rayner
Mr. Anthony Arthur
Mr. Philip L Fradkin
Ms. Judith Freeman

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

a proud earth day

Los Angeles embarked on one of its most ambitious projects to combat global warming on Monday, becoming the biggest city in the nation to impose "green" building rules that would potentially cut millions of tons of pollution over the next decade.

In a unanimous vote, the City Council passed an ordinance requiring builders of large commercial and residential developments to adopt such measures as planting drought- resistant landscaping and using recycled materials and energy-efficient heating, cooling and lighting.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

magic highway USA

A 1958 Disney television show gives us a preview of transportation IN THE FUTURE...

Monday, April 21, 2008

stop making me feel lonely

Relative newcomer to the webcomic world - Mr. Huggins & Snugglypoo - seeks your patronage.
It's not all sweetness and light, despite the name.

(Click to embiggen.)

you are not dead

I'm not sure how I came across this site - You Are Not Dead: A Guide to Modern Living - and I can't exactly say I understand what's going on, but I like it. I think. Maybe it scares me.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

sunday short stack

"Writing is not necessarily something to be ashamed of, but do it in private and wash your hands afterwards." - Robert Heinlein

Friday, April 18, 2008

mark your calendars

Dreamy Darin Strauss will be reading from his third novel at Vroman's on June 24. I will be masquerading as a New Yorker by that point, but I will be sure to pick up More Than It Hurts You on some coast.

This third novel from Strauss (Chang and Eng) tracks a Long Island family crisis. Josh Goldin is a happily married TV airtime salesman with an eight-month-old son. When baby Zack is treated twice for mysterious and life-threatening symptoms, the head of a pediatric ICU, Dr. Darlene Stokes, tells Child Protective Services that she thinks Josh's wife, Dori, suffers from Munchausen syndrome, whereby the afflicted injure their children deliberately to draw attention to themselves. The Goldins' ensuing battle to keep Zack provides grist for public debate about issues ranging from parents' rights to race.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Saturday, April 12, 2008

52 books in 52 weeks

6. Vanilla Bright like Eminem by Michel Faber

I had great hopes after The Crimson Petal and the White (which I loved) that were dashed by this somewhat icky short story collection. I have not given up on Faber; it's possible he's just an epic guy.

7. Run by Ann Patchett

I also had great hopes after Patchett's Bel Canto (which I loved) that were not disappointed. Run is not quite as good and takes place on a much smaller scale, but the characters were very memorable. The plot is a bit far-fetched - a similarity to Bel Canto - but well-paced and satisfying.

8. Death of a Murderer by Rupert Thomson

I've been hearing the Thomson hype for years, but I'm thinking Death of a Murderer was not the best place to start. It was a short, somewhat interesting narrative, but it almost seemed like a sketch for a more developed story or a section of a larger novel.

9. Then We Came to the End by Joshua Ferris

Talk about hype. Ferris's manic office second-person soap opera was unexpectedly original and enjoyable. I wondered how he was going to pull it off, but the execution was impressive.

10. Man Gone Down by Michael Thomas

I can't believe I have finally finished this book. Thomas's narrative of African-American experience in contemporary America and the details of our culture's complex relationship with race might have been extremely powerful if the prose wasn't so indulgent. I may be overly critical because it was such a slow read.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Jonathan Ames and Nick Bertozzi have collaborated on a comic strip at Smith magazine.

in search of splendid plumage

Slate uses game theory to explain the shortage of appealing, available men. Apparently, I am a "strong bidder" (as good an excuse as any).

You can think of this traditional concept of the search for marriage partners as a kind of an auction. In this auction, some women will be more confident of their prospects, others less so. In game-theory terms, you would call the first group "strong bidders" and the second "weak bidders." Your first thought might be that the "strong bidders"—women who (whether because of looks, social ability, or any other reason) are conventionally deemed more of a catch—would consistently win this kind of auction.

But this is not true. In fact, game theory predicts, and empirical studies of auctions bear out, that auctions will often be won by "weak" bidders, who know that they can be outbid and so bid more aggressively, while the "strong" bidders will hold out for a really great deal...But you can also see how this works intuitively if you just consider that with a lot at stake in getting it right in one shot, it's the women who are confident that they are holding a strong hand who are likely to hold out and wait for the perfect prospect.

This is how you come to the Eligible-Bachelor Paradox, which is no longer so paradoxical. The pool of appealing men shrinks as many are married off and taken out of the game, leaving a disproportionate number of men who are notably imperfect (perhaps they are short, socially awkward, underemployed). And at the same time, you get a pool of women weighted toward the attractive, desirable "strong bidders."

Where have all the most appealing men gone? Married young, most of them—and sometimes to women whose most salient characteristic was not their beauty, or passion, or intellect, but their decisiveness.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

mister lonely

In Harmony Korine's new film Mister Lonely, "a Michael Jackson impersonator (Diego Luna) lives alone in Paris and performs on the streets to make ends meet. At a performance in a retirement home, Michael falls for a beautiful Marilyn Monroe look-alike (Samantha Morton) who suggests he move to a commune of impersonators in the Scottish Highlands..."

good on ya

The Washington Post kicked ass yesterday at the Pulitzer Prize Award announcements.

Monday, April 07, 2008

subway reader

This photo blog of subway readers in New York is making me really excited to ride the rails reading for two months this summer. I might even make it to 52 books this year.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

sunday short stack

"People who throw kisses are hopelessly lazy." - Bob Hope

  • How Jack Handey wants to be remembered: "No one is really sure how old Jack was, but some think he may have been born as long ago as the twentieth century. He passed away after a long, courageous battle with honky-tonkin’ and alley-cattin’."
  • The news that Scarlett Johansson's Tom Waits tribute may not suck is bittersweet.
  • Joe Queenan takes a hard look at the "Questions for Readers" in the back of books and develops some of his own: "In describing a woman who can effortlessly turn a man into a pig, is Homer criticizing men in general? Or only sailors? Do you personally know any women like that? Are any of them named Brandi? What time does her shift end?"
  • A walrus gets his dance on. So does a young Chinese man - in his livingroom - while his mother sits by knitting.

Friday, April 04, 2008

hollywood apocalypse

I'm in debt to Skylight Books for sending me an e-mail about the Hollywood Apocalypse event at Black Maria Gallery this Saturday. Somehow, I had missed the LA Times write-up. Writer-artist Ray Zone organized a "competitive invitational" for artists to submit their rendition of the painting "The Burning of Los Angeles" from Nathanael West's The Day of the Locust. Here is how it is described in the novel:

Across the top, parallel with the frame, he had drawn the burning city, a great bonfire of architectural styles, ranging from Egyptian to Cape Cod colonial. Through the center, winding from left to right, was a long hill street and down it, spilling into the middle foreground, came the mob carrying baseball bats and torches. For the face of its members, he was using the innumerable sketches he had made of the people who come to California to die; the cultists of all sorts, economic as well as religious, the wave, airplane, funeral and preview watchers -- all those poor devils who can only be stirred by the promise of miracles and then only to violence. A super “Dr. Know-All Pierce-All” had made the necessary promise and they were marching behind his banner in a great united front of screwballs and screwboxes to purify the land. No longer bored, they sang and danced joyously in the red light of the flames.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Classic photos recreated with Legos...