Thursday, January 31, 2008

symbol: ho

The image above represents the element Holmium as depicted in the Periodic Table Printmaking Project, where 96 artists have come together to support their slogan: "Arts and science: together in college catalogs; together in life."

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

there was no hurry, for there was nowhere to go

As someone who has spent some time thinking about how regions (or at least one region in particular) produce distinctive literature, I'm very interested in the unfolding series at the Columbia Spectator: Fifty States of Literature, Starting with Alabama.

let the people listen in

It'll be a miracle if you can hear the commentary on Titlepage above all the litblog buzzin'.

Daniel Menaker, who left his post as executive editor in chief of the Random House Publishing Group in June, is moving online in March to be the host of a new Web-based book show.

The show, to be called “Titlepage,” will feature a round-table discussion between Mr. Menaker, 66, a former fiction editor at The New Yorker, and a group of four authors. The first episode will be streamed online at on March 3. The idea is to take advantage of the fact that it’s much easier to post video online than to get a show on television.

“Titlepage” will combine elements of “Apostrophes,” a popular French literary program; “The Charlie Rose Show” on public television; and “Dinner for Five,” in which a group of actors discussed their craft, on the Independent Film Channel...

The first episode will feature Richard Price, who wrote “Clockers” and the coming “Lush Life”; Susan Choi, author of “A Person of Interest”; and Charles Bock, whose debut novel, “Beautiful Children,” went on sale last week.

(Does it bug anyone else that titles are designated by quotation marks in newspapers? Or is that just an MLA nerd thing?)

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

smart and pretty, not together!

Via indexed, a continuation of the smart/pretty conundrum:


Marshal Zeringue often asks people what they're reading right now, and today he asked my friend Caroline Tiger! But I must have been a lousy friend lately because I didn't know she's had a Philly design blog for over a year: design-phan. Bad, bad me.

Monday, January 28, 2008

givin' gettin' givin' gettin' it on

Neko Case and Kelly Hogan on...Aqua Teen Hunger Force? As sadistic singing sisters? This has been a weird day.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

sunday short stack

"Three o'clock is always too late or too early for anything you want to do." - Jean-Paul Sartre (See Fitzgerald on 3 AM.)

Saturday, January 26, 2008

lucky number three

Today marks the third anniversary of escapegrace's first post.* While I move in and out of devoted commitment to this site, I'm still glad for its presence in my life and continue to be surprised by the joys it brings me. What more can you ask from a long-term relationship?

*Miss you, D.


The book reviewers in this weekend's New York Times seem particularly ornery.

"...the novel’s prose is so breathless that it simply looks out of shape..." - from a review by Troy Patterson

"...this musing...serves also to illustrate the artless, wordy and underarticulated writing that makes 'All Shall Be Well' such a Black Death of a chore to read." - from a review by Ken Kalfus


Friday, January 25, 2008

I rest my case

Ever since I returned to Los Angeles, one pet peeve has slowly moved up to the top of the list: when people -- especially people in New York -- say that there are no seasons in L.A. I tell them that there are most certainly seasons in Los Angeles; they just don't reach the painful extremes that identify seasons back east. I still experience showers where the air beyond the hot water spray is bitterly cold. I just don't have to cover every possible inch of skin to leave the house or huddle for hours under blankets until the landlord decides he wants to turn on the heat. I still get to wear my cute sweaters and scarves; I still get to celebrate that first day in sandals after months of cold and rain. The difference is that I don't have to suffer. This Los Angeles winter is especially real. Last night, I tried to go to a show at The Echo and it was canceled because the band couldn't get through the SNOW.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

uncensored gut reactions to the oscars nominations

Performance by an actor in a leading role: Viggo Mortensen in “Eastern Promises” - Hell yeah!

Performance by an actor in a supporting role: Hal Holbrook in “Into the Wild” - Well deserved. He stole this film.

Performance by an actress in a leading role: Julie Christie in “Away from Her” - Sigh. No one else comes close.

Performance by an actress in a leading role: Ellen Page in “Juno” - WTF?

Achievement in music written for motion pictures (Original score): No Jonny Greenwood? He was robbed! (I know it's a technicality - a lame one.)

Original screenplay: “Lars and the Real Girl” - Written by Nancy Oliver - Why did no one see this film? It's adorable.

Overall: Where's Zodiac?

More here...

Sunday, January 20, 2008

it's the stupid details that my heart is breaking for

Sometimes all the time I waste on the wide wide world of web proves itself completely justifiable, such as when I find this 2006 VH1 video of Fiona Apple with Elvis Costello performing my favorite EC song ever, "I Want You." It may not be new, but it's new to me. This song has some of the most striking lyrics about betrayal, from the simple question of "Since when were you so generous and inarticulate?" to "The truth can't hurt you it's just like the dark/It scares you witless/But in time you see things clear and stark." Her performance of the song, how much the very act pains her, matches the angry despair of the song perfectly.

sunday short stack

"Never look back unless you are planning to go that way." - Henry David Thoreau

Saturday, January 19, 2008

that guy deserves the gold

Via TV Squad, this live action Olympic highlight reel on the Japanese game show Kinchan and Katori Shingo's All Japan Costume Grand Prix is like nothing you've seen before...

Thursday, January 17, 2008

the fate of fifty index cards

Should Nabokov's last unpublished work be destroyed?

It's a decision that has fallen to his sole surviving heir (and translator), Dmitri Nabokov, now 73. Dmitri has been torn for years between his father's unequivocal request and the demands of the literary world to view the final fragment of his father's genius, a manuscript known as The Original of Laura. Should Dmitri defy his father's wishes for the sake of "posterity"?

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

stimulation overload

A quick list of some of my favorite things includes mint chip ice cream, Barton Fink, the '55 Thunderbird, Tom Waits, The Road, and Viggo Mortenson. So there was threat of heartflood when I learned this morning that Viggo is going to star in a film adaptation of McCarthy's post-apocalyptic novel. I fear it may be the case that I'll either be too distracted by Mr. Mortenson or by my vigilant attention to the truth of the adaptation to fully enjoy either. Now if only the Coen Brothers were directing with a Tom Waits soundtrack...

While I'm on the subject, the profile of Cormac McCarthy in December's Rolling Stone is definitely worth a read. It details McCarthy's relationship with the genius science geeks at the Santa Fe Institute, where he spends his days as a Research Fellow after riding up on a mule one day.

Monday, January 14, 2008

any zeitgeisty parvenu

I'm not sure how I feel about one of my favorite short story writers weighing in on the presidential race, but Lorrie Moore makes an intriguing argument:

In the progressive Midwestern city where I live, the high school dropout rate for these alienated and written-off boys is alarmingly high. Some are even middle-class, but many are just hanging on, their families torn apart by harsh economics and a merciless criminal justice system. Why does it seem to be the Republicans who are more vocal about reforming our drug laws? Why has no one in the Democratic Party campaigned to have felons who have served their time made full citizens again? Their continued disenfranchisement is a foolhardy strike against these men and their families.

Perfect historical timing has always been something of a magic trick — finite and swift. The train moves out of the station. The time to capture the imagination of middle-class white girls, the group Hillary Clinton represents, was long ago. Such girls have now managed on their own (given that in this economy only the rich are doing well). They have their teachers and many other professionals to admire, as well as a fierce 67-year-old babe as speaker of the House, several governors and a Supreme Court justice. The landscape is not bare.

Boys are faring worse — and the time for symbols and leaders they can connect with beneficially should be now and should be theirs. Hillary Clinton’s gender does not rescue society from that — instead she serves as a kind of nostalgia for a time when it might have. Only her policies are what matter now, and here — despite some squabbling and bad advice that has caused her to “go negative” — the Democrats largely agree. But inspiration is essential for living, and Mr. Obama holds the greater fascination for our children.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

sunday short stack

"One has to be able to count, if only so that at fifty one doesn't marry a girl of twenty."
- Maxim Gorky

Saturday, January 12, 2008

anonymity = notoreity?

Not necessarily in blogging, but in literature:

[Sir Walter] Scott's case illustrates a paradox that we find over and over again: the anonymous writer who does not truly attempt to remain unknown. For the most part, he enjoyed the speculation his anonymity attracted. "I have seldom felt more satisfaction than when, returning from a pleasure voyage, I found Waverley in the zenith of popularity, and public curiosity in full cry after the name of the author". English (and Scottish) literature is full of similar cases - of authors who went to great lengths to maintain anonymity, but thereby promoted their readers' interest in the authorship of a work. The main lesson is a simple one: that anonymity is most successful when it provokes the search for an author.

Friday, January 11, 2008

she started a heat wave by letting her seat wave

Ginger Strand on "femininity, Niagara Falls, and the genuine allure of an American fake" in the latest issue of The Believer:

After World War II, Niagara’s honeymoon promoters aimed to leverage the postwar travel boom. Magazines dedicated to tourism sprang up, like Holiday, which declared in June 1946 that “Niagara Falls is still America’s honeymoon capital.” The Niagara Falls, Ontario Chamber of Commerce began issuing “honeymoon certificates” in 1949, handing out more than forty-two thousand of them in ten years. The auto industry was on board as co-marketer. A magazine called Friends, published by General Motors and handed out by Chevrolet dealers, ran an article in June 1950 titled “Here’s Why They Honeymoon at Niagara.” In it, a variety of couples give their reasons for choosing the Falls. Andrew and Mary DiCicco of Detroit, for instance, chose the Falls “partly because of its romance and partly because it was conveniently close to Detroit—motorists can drive from there to Niagara Falls in less than six hours.”

The postwar Niagara honeymoon was now promoted as an American tradition: a slew of stories about Falls honeymoon history appeared. Honeymooning at the Falls was an American rite of passage. The Niagara Falls Gazette ran a 1946 feature titled “Lore and Sentiment behind Niagara’s Fame as Nation’s Honeymoon Capital.” Referring to the waterfall as “sentiment in liquid form,” they recounted the results of an informal survey asking visiting couples why they came to Niagara. “Eleven couples queried in succession,” the paper reports, said, “‘Our parents came here. We could have gone anywhere, but somehow, this just seemed right.’” And why not? The Falls were an American icon, the Canadians our allies, and a trip to Niagara a way to touch the national past. Returning soldiers, many articles declared, had seen enough of Europe. They’d rather enjoy the sights of their own nation now.

A visit to Niagara was, like much of postwar culture, a reassuring encounter with what the nation had just been fighting for: the American way of life. What did that mean? It went beyond democracy and freedom to embrace a host of lifestyle ideals valorized as the way it should be: the wholesome family life of Leave It to Beaver and Father Knows Best, the small-town community values of Norman Rockwell and Life magazine, the modernity and progress represented by the torrent of household consumer goods Americans adopted en masse—refrigerators, televisions, Tupperware. And of course, the “traditional” gender roles of I Love Lucy, The Honeymooners, Marjorie Morningstar, and the era’s fashions: tiny waists, full feminine skirts, and high heels for women, gray flannel suits for men. The marriage manuals of the era affirmed this natural order: the man was to dominate and the woman was to let him.

Marilyn’s star turn as Rose Loomis turned this stereotype over and examined its seamy underside. She was a wife gone bad—like the Falls, a feminine force, with the emphasis shifted from beauty to power. The movie publicity made the connection explicit: “Marilyn Monroe and Niagara,” crowed the poster, “a raging torrent of emotion that even nature can’t control!”

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

she came to stay

I share my birthday with some rather dapper gentlemen, but for a long time I was equally proud to have been born on the same day as one special bad ass complex chick - Simone de Beauvoir. Years went by before I was disabused of this notion and came to accept the fact that while we may have been born in the same general calendaric vicinity, I'm 8, she's 9.

Via Campaign for the American Reader comes a list from Lisa Appignanesi of the top 10 books by and about my almost birthday-mate.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Monday, January 07, 2008

but if not the humanities, what?

Stanley Fish asks: "Will the humanities save us?" (Hint: The answer is no.)

The premise of secular humanism (or of just old-fashioned humanism) is that the examples of action and thought portrayed in the enduring works of literature, philosophy and history can create in readers the desire to emulate them. Philip Sydney put it as well as anyone ever has when he asks (in “The Defense of Poesy,” 1595), “Who reads Aeneas carrying old Anchises on his back that wishes not it was his fortune to perform such an excellent act?” Thrill to this picture of filial piety in the Aeneid and you will yourself become devoted to your father. Admire the selfless act with which Sidney Carton ends his life in “A Tale of Two Cities” and you will be moved to prefer the happiness of others to your own. Watch with horror what happens to Faust and you will be less likely to sell your soul. Understand Kant’s categorical imperative and you will not impose restrictions on others that you would resist if they were imposed on you.

It’s a pretty idea, but there is no evidence to support it and a lot of evidence against it. If it were true, the most generous, patient, good-hearted and honest people on earth would be the members of literature and philosophy departments, who spend every waking hour with great books and great thoughts, and as someone who’s been there (for 45 years) I can tell you it just isn’t so. Teachers and students of literature and philosophy don’t learn how to be good and wise; they learn how to analyze literary effects and to distinguish between different accounts of the foundations of knowledge. The texts Kronman recommends are, as he says, concerned with the meaning of life; those who study them, however, come away not with a life made newly meaningful, but with a disciplinary knowledge newly enlarged.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

sunday short stack

"In a real dark night of the soul it is always three o'clock in the morning, day after day."
- F. Scott Fitzgerald

Saturday, January 05, 2008

your nose needs some corrections

In a post over at The Millions listing their most popular entries ever, I was introduced to this handy guide: Hard to Pronounce Literary Names (Redux). All I really needed was that Simpsons episode where Mo becomes a poet, and Michael Chabon has a fan in the crowd at "Wordloaf" who yells "SHEA! BON!" at a crucial supportive moment.

Friday, January 04, 2008

correlations between dieting & increased food blogging

Follow the beautiful food photos at TasteSpotting to the yummy recipes beneath, such as panna cotta with an orange-clementine twist (above), Viennese cucumber salad, and a goat cheese and shallot tart.

I wish I were special

Who knew Radiohead's "Creep" was an animated baguette-shaped office drone? In retrospect, I suppose I could have guessed.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

strung out on science fiction

The Gawker empire has launched another new site - this one focused on science fiction, of all things: io9. (Its official launch date is today, but it has archives going back to September.) I was a little skeptical as to whether I'm the intended audience when the main categories on the front page included books, movies, science, and Hayden Panettiere. Subsequent page clicks, however, replaced Hayden with categories like Photography, Must Read, and Space Porn. Annalee Newitz tops its masthead.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

it's a new dawn it's a new day it's a new life

Oh, how I wish I could post a video of Nina Simone singing "Feeling Good" live, but sadly, I have to settle for Muse: