More sad Christmas news.
Eartha Kitt, who purred and pounced her way across Broadway stages, recording studios and movie and television screens in a show-business career that lasted more than six decades, died on Thursday. She was 81 and lived in Connecticut.
Friday, December 26, 2008
Thursday, December 25, 2008
Sad Christmas news.
Harold Pinter, the British playwright whose gifts for finding the ominous in the everyday and the noise within silence made him the most influential and imitated dramatist of his generation, died on Wednesday. He was 78 and lived in London.
Posted by escapegrace at 8:32 AM
Monday, December 22, 2008
Slate: The Best Music of 2008
New York Times: The Buzzwords of 2008 (Very proud of WeBFF Jim Groom and edupunk!)
Medialoper: Musical Moments to Die For
Independent Weekly (Raleigh/Durham/Chapel Hill): 40 Best Songs of 2008 (with mp3s)
The Morning News: 2008 by The Writers
The A.V. Club: The Worst Films of 2008
Centre for Learning & Performance Technologies: Top 100 Tools for Learning 2008
Wuthering Expectations: Best Books of the Year (Nineteenth Century Edition)
LA Times: Top 10 Movies of 2008
Jezebel: Elisabeth Hasselbeck's 25 Most Annoying Moments of 2008
Time Out New York: Books - The Best (and Worst) of 2008
Regret the Error: Crunks 2008 - The Year in Media Errors and Corrections
Amazon: Top 100 Books of 2008
Seed: Seed Picks 2008
Grammar Girl: Top Five Pet Peeves of 2008
Frisky: The Best Male Bloggers of 2008
The Smoking Gun: 2008 Mugshots of the Year
The New Yorker: 2008 - The Year in Fiction
Posted by escapegrace at 4:31 PM
Sunday, December 21, 2008
- The American Novel database at PBS could keep you busy for hours.
- Make your own custom cookbook.
- Zombie gingerbread house = awesome!
- While we're on the subject of geek boy fetishes, here are some robot statistics.
- Follow Google searches in real time.
- Sock & Awe: The presidential shoe-throwing game
- Visuwords is an online graphical dictionary and thesaurus.
- Obama: The College Years
- Take a quiz on literary anecdotes.
- Elizabeth Alexander has been chosen as the inaugural poet.
Posted by escapegrace at 9:31 AM
Saturday, December 20, 2008
Lisa Spiro has a very interesting post on using Google Books to research publication history.
Posted by escapegrace at 9:36 AM
The AV Club interviews Darren Aronofsky.
AVC: So, more pop psychology for you: Why do people want to watch wrestling and violence, but not deal with a film that has to do with death?
Posted by escapegrace at 9:35 AM
Friday, December 19, 2008
When I was driving downtown for the Toni Morrison event last month, I passed Bob Baker's Marionette Theater, a building I had never noticed before under an overpass along Glendale Boulevard. It reminded me how often LA can surprise like that, popping up a Marionette Theater where you least expect it. As often happens, suddenly Bob Baker's Marionette Theater was everywhere. The LA Times featured an article on the financial problems Baker is facing about a week later.
The Bob Baker Marionette Theater is a place that is both magical and earth-bound. Operating from the corner of 1st Street and Glendale Boulevard just west of downtown Los Angeles for 49 years, it is a vestige of childhoods lived, where vegetables dance to old vaudeville tunes and musical instruments dance and jump across a black box theater festooned with crystal chandeliers...But it's also been struggling for years, trying to eke out an existence on $15-a-head admission, amid the fickle nature of children's passions. Last week, reports began circulating that the theater was in trouble. A manager sent out an e-mail saying that Baker had been the victim of "an elaborate mortgage fraud operation bent on stealing his theater and home" and asked fans of the theater help pay nearly $30,000 in past due mortgage payments on the two buildings. If the funds weren't raised, the manager said, the buildings would be sold "and Bob and his thousands of puppets will be homeless."
About a week after that, the New York Times followed suit, suggesting a bailout for the puppet show.
There are many ways to measure California’s tanking economy: an 8.2 percent unemployment rate; a multibillion-dollar state budget gap; threatened endowments of the city’s museums, causing some cultural institutions to nearly default on mortgages; and the continued weakening of the Hollywood studio system. But the meltdown of the marionettes may say it all.
In this Nutcracker season of sugarplum dreams, maybe Santa will find some cash in his sack for the Marionette Theater.
Posted by escapegrace at 3:03 PM
Thursday, December 18, 2008
David Bennum makes the argument that Canada rocks harder than the U.S.
Since then, wave after wave of excitement and innovation—punk, post-punk, indie, hip-hop, house, techno, grunge—has surged back and forth between America and Britain. Generations of Canadian hipsters have gazed enviously at those two countries, and groaned in embarrassment as their compatriots instead embraced progressive rock and its geeky offshoots. Asked to name a globally successful and recognisably Canadian band, until recently most non-Canadians might have cited Rush, the stupendously overblown pomp-rockers. Bryan Adams, Celine Dion, Alanis Morissette, Shania Twain, Avril Lavigne and Nickelback have conducted their blockbusting careers as undercover Americans.
But just as it did for British pop in the early 1960s, all that outward scrutiny, that eager consumption by ambitious, dissatisfied youngsters of the fresh and thrilling from abroad rather than the second-rate and derivative at home, is paying dividends. There is no particular Canadian sound. Even as media ubiquity shrinks our world, the sheer geographical vastness of Canada makes such a thing improbable. What we are seeing—and hearing—is a new-found confidence. Canadian acts at last have the wherewithal to make music without a sense of obligation or apology; and without the ingrained assumption that a Canadian artist must either pander to the United States or settle for being at best a local hero. Pound for pound, no other country’s music scene is punching harder.
Posted by escapegrace at 10:01 AM
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
Zadie Smith reflects on her father's death and the comedy legacy he left to his family.
Left unchecked, comedy snobbery can squeeze the joy out of the enterprise. You end up thinking of comedy as Hemingway thought of narrative: structured like an iceberg, with all the greater satisfactions fathoms under water, while the surface pleasure of the joke is somehow the least of it. In my father, this tendency was especially pronounced. He objected to joke merchants. He was wary of the revue-style bonhomie of the popular TV double act Morecambe and Wise, and disapproved of the cheery bawdiness of their rivals, the Two Ronnies. He was allergic to racial and sexual humor, to a far greater degree than any of the actual black people or women in his immediate family. Harvey’s idea of a good time was the BBC sitcom “Steptoe and Son,” the grim tale of two mutually antagonistic “rag-and-bone men” who pass their days in a Beckettian pile of rubbish, tearing psychological strips off each other. Each episode ends with the son (a philosopher manqué, who considers himself trapped in the filthy family business) submitting to a funk of existential despair. The sadder and more desolate the comedy, the better Harvey liked it.
Posted by escapegrace at 8:11 AM
Is Jonathan Franzen clairvoyant?
The names George W. Bush and Osama bin Laden don't appear once in Jonathan Franzen's novel "The Corrections." And yet the book, which was published on Sept. 1, 2001, anticipates almost eerily the major concerns of the next seven years. Franzen conjures up a nation kept awake at night by nameless dread. The second sentence of the book: "You could feel it: something terrible was going to happen." Something did, of course—but anyone who revisits "The Corrections" now will be reminded how many of the preoccupations we've labeled as "post-9/11," or "Bush era," in fact predate both. In his story of the Lamberts, a Midwestern family with three adult children who resist their mother's hysterical insistence that they make it home for one last Christmas, Franzen lays out many of the themes that would come to dominate the millennium's first decade: global warming, economic recession, HMOs, psychopharmaceuticals, viral marketing, Eastern European instability, even the organic-food movement. (Just one trivial, but spot-on, example: Denise, the daughter, who is a chef, investigates "the Smith Street culinary scene in Brooklyn." Fast-forward seven years, to July 9, 2008, and you'll find an article in The New York Times about "the culinary flowering of Brooklyn," centered on Smith Street.)
Posted by escapegrace at 8:07 AM
Monday, December 15, 2008
Village Voice: The Best Books of 2008
Sasha Frere-Jones: The Best Recordings of 2008
Edward Champion: Top Ten Books of 2008
New York Magazine: The Year in Culture
Merriam-Webster: Words of the Year 2008
Salon: Salon Book Awards 2008
New York Post: The Best Films of 2008
Posted by escapegrace at 8:15 AM
Sunday, December 14, 2008
- Between the UCLA digital photo archive, Google's Life archive, and NYPL's digital gallery, the past has never been so accessible.
- Do you have a seasonal reading pattern? (My only pattern is shorter and shorter books as I try to make it to 52.)
- Gabriel Garcia Marquez is working on a new novel.
- David Foster Wallace's undergraduate honors thesis in philosophy is dissected.
- Swink is back.
- What is the worst band in the world, according to Google?
- The Indie Music Alphabet (via @largeheartedboy)
- The Guardian considers the fine art of literary rejection letters.
- LAist has two visit-worthy features: a guide to independent music stores and a history of Griffith Park.
- Stream new 50 Foot Wave.
- Jon Stewart rocks.
- Forbes tracks the number of layoffs since November 1 at America's 500 largest public companies. Current total = 176,331.
- Just in time perhaps, The New York Times profiles Dharma Punx.
- And while we're at it, let Obama smoke in the White House.
- Which Obama commemorative gift came from the DNC?
- Fun with literary feuds: Darin Strauss vs. the bloggers, Jonathan Safran Foer vs. the multitudes
- Jim Groom asks: "Why is an 'empowering feminist doctrine' always accompanied by a 'dark and violent side' in popular culture?"
Posted by escapegrace at 9:35 AM
Friday, December 12, 2008
In her trademark raven bangs, spike heels and killer curves, Ms. Page was the most famous pinup girl of the post-World War II era, a centerfold on a million locker doors and garage walls. She was also a major influence in the fashion industry and a target of Senator Estes Kefauver’s anti-pornography investigators.
But in 1957, at the height of her fame, she disappeared, and for three decades her private life — two failed marriages, a fight against poverty and mental illness, resurrection as a born-again Christian, years of seclusion in Southern California — was a mystery to all but a few close friends.Read more from The New York Times...
A cult figure, Page was most famous for the estimated 20,000 4-by-5-inch black-and-white glossy photographs taken by amateur shutterbugs from 1949 to 1957. The photos showed her in high heels and bikinis or negligees, bondage apparel -- or nothing at all.
Decades later, those images inspired biographies, comic books, fan clubs, websites, commercial products -- Bettie Page playing cards, dress-up magnet sets, action figures, Zippo lighters, shot glasses -- and, in 2005, a film about her life and times, "The Notorious Bettie Page."
Read more from The LA Times...
Posted by escapegrace at 8:38 AM
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
Monday, December 08, 2008
The Best of... lists will be rolling in at a rapid clip over the next few weeks. A start:
The Washington Post: 10 Best Books of the Year
The Los Angeles Times: Favorite Books 2008
The New York Times: The 10 Best Books of 2008
I may be biased but the LA Times picks are so much more interesting than the others.
Largehearted Boy: Favorite Albums of 2008
Susie Bright: Favorite Dozen Movies in 2008
Computerworld: Top 10 Best-Written Blogs
Yahoo!: Top Searches of 2008
Lifehacker: Most Popular Top 10s of 2008
The Hype Machine: Submit Your Top 10 Albums
Den of Geek!: Top 5 Writer's Block Movies
Posted by escapegrace at 9:17 AM
Bookslut has an interview with Cynthia Ozick:
[Susan Sontag] took Patti Smith as seriously as Henry James, which you do not. Do you fear that in cutting yourself off from contemporary culture you handicap yourself in any way?
I would say, rather, that contemporary culture has cut itself off from the wellspring of culture in general, and in particular from literature, and in particular from history. It’s contemporary culture that has, by and large, done this. I say “by and large” because you can’t make generalizations of this kind; I can recite names of deeply literary young writers who are not cut off. I was boggled by one review of The Din in the Head, for instance, which faulted me for failing to write about hip-hop and various other types of popular music. But if you’re writing about literary figures you’re clearly not writing about music, whether it’s Mozart or any other kind of music. I find it a flabbergasting charge. The charge should be on the other foot: why aren’t writers on hip-hop writing about Lionel Trilling? (laughs)
I’m not asking you to write a hip-hop song. But I have not seen anything in your work that attempts to engage directly with the culture of your time.
I can hardly agree with that. If I go to the supermarket I’m engaging with the culture of my time. If I have a conversation, including this very one with you as interlocutor, I’m engaging with my time. When I spend hours at the computer absorbing news and opinion I’m engaging with the culture of my time. I think what you are saying is that I have a kind of history-consciousness. True, and it seems to me that you’re not engaging directly with the culture of your time if you are deaf and blind or even merely indifferent to that culture’s deep heritage. Not long ago I published in the New Republic a review of an abandoned novel by Lionel Trilling, newly unearthed in the Columbia University archives. And I discovered that nowadays people don’t even know Trilling’s name, not to mention this culture-shaping critic’s work. The same with Edmund Wilson, Alfred Kazin, Irving Howe. O lost, and by the wind grieved, ghost…
Posted by escapegrace at 8:43 AM
Sunday, December 07, 2008
As you may know, my favorite weekly ritual is listening to Chris Morris's morning radio program Watusi Rodeo and posting the Sunday Short Stack. When I tuned in to Indie 103.1 this morning, I found out the hard way that the station canceled the show four days ago with no notice. The show's defunct URLs don't even explain what happened. From Chris Morris's MySpace blog:
It grieves me to inform my faithful "Watusi Rodeo" listeners that Indie 103.1 has cancelled my show, effective immediately. My third anniversary broadcast, which would have aired this coming Sunday, Dec. 7, will not take place. A sneak attack, and it isn't even Pearl Harbor Day yet! When Max Tolkoff, the program director at Indie, called me yesterday morning to inform me that my show was being dropped, he told me it was in the interest of making the sound of the station more "consistent." So far, the Rodeo -- the only roots/Americana show on L.A. commercial radio -- is the only victim of this drive for consistency. Max magnanimously offered me a midnight slot during the week FOR ZERO COMPENSATION; this offer was declined, since I did college radio for free 40 years ago, and I don't want to revisit my penniless youth as I near retirement age.
Morris says Scion (maker of the escapegrace hotrod) has offered him a spot on their online station. Indie's loss, Scion's gain.
Posted by escapegrace at 9:16 AM
- RIP Forrest J. Ackerman, although I hope my friend is correct: you will rise from the dead as a zombie or have some mad scientist put your brain in another body, so we'll be seeing you soon.
- A BeTaMaXMaS
- Preview Who We Were: A Snapshot History of America!
- The blog Daily Routines collects the obsessive compulsive behavior of "writers, artists, and other interesting people" (via Maud Newton).
- Improve your brain.
- The gethuman database reveals how to bypass the robots and speak to an actual human customer service rep.
- The Readerville Journal has an excellent recurring feature of Most Coveted Covers and The Book Design Review has Favorite Covers of 2008 (via Condalmo), while The Designer's Review of Books focuses on design between the covers.
- Where is your username registered?
- From the Random department: The baby from Nirvana's Nevermind is now Shepherd Fairy's intern.
- EveryBlock is a newsfeed for your block. Really.
- The New Yorker will publish new Mark Twain this month.
- Moving to New City To Solve All of Area Man's Problems
- From the WTF department: Cruise and Beckham families merge in bizarre wedding ceremony.
- If you're in New York, here is a handy guide for your indie bookstore holiday shopping.
Posted by escapegrace at 9:15 AM
Saturday, December 06, 2008
1. Put your iTunes (or any other media player you may have) on shuffle.
2. For each question, press the next button to get your answer.
3. YOU MUST WRITE THAT SONG NAME DOWN NO MATTER HOW SILLY IT SOUNDS!
Go! (Via @titoperez)
IF SOMEONE SAYS “IS THIS OKAY” YOU SAY?
Lived in Bars (Cat Power)
WHAT WOULD BEST DESCRIBE YOUR PERSONALITY?
I'll Begin Again (Dropkick Murphys)
WHAT DO YOU LIKE IN A GUY/GIRL?
Radiate Nothing (Money Mark)
WHAT IS YOUR LIFE’S PURPOSE?
True (The Frames)
WHAT IS YOUR MOTTO?
The Con (Tegan & Sara)
WHAT DO YOUR FRIENDS THINK OF YOU?
Polly Come Home (Plant & Krauss)
WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT VERY OFTEN?
Tables and Chairs (Andrew Bird)
WHAT DO YOU THINK OF YOUR BEST FRIEND?
Mary (Langhorne Slim)
WHAT DO YOU THINK OF THE PERSON YOU LIKE?
Naked If I Want To (Cat Power)
WHAT IS YOUR LIFE STORY?
I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel to Be Free (Nina Simone)
WHAT DO YOU WANT TO BE WHEN YOU GROW UP?
A Little Better (M Ward)
WHAT DO YOU THINK WHEN YOU SEE THE PERSON YOU LIKE?
Thirteen (Big Star)
WHAT DO YOUR PARENTS THINK OF YOU?
Kiss of Fire (Geraldine Fibbers)
WHAT WILL YOU DANCE TO AT YOUR WEDDING?
Tell Me on a Sunday (Mountain Goats)
WHAT WILL THEY PLAY AT YOUR FUNERAL?
Blink (Scott Walker)
WHAT IS YOUR HOBBY/INTEREST?
Effect & Cause (White Stripes)
WHAT IS YOUR BIGGEST SECRET?
Wayfaring Stranger (Neko Case)
WHAT DO YOU THINK OF YOUR FRIENDS?
You Think You're Hot Stuff (Jean Knight)
WHAT’S THE WORST THING THAT COULD HAPPEN?
Weary Blues (Madeline Peyroux)
HOW WILL YOU DIE?
Crying (Roy Orbison)
WHAT IS THE ONE THING YOU REGRET?
Friend Is a Four Letter Word (Cake)
WHAT MAKES YOU LAUGH?
Breakfast in Hell (Slaid Cleaves)
WHAT MAKES YOU CRY?
The Bleeding Heart Show (New Pornographers)
WILL YOU EVER GET MARRIED?
Get Down on Your Knees (The Sunshine)
WHAT SCARES YOU THE MOST?
Hanging on Too Long (Duffy)
DOES ANYONE LIKE YOU?
Sick, Sick, Sick (Freakwater)
IF YOU COULD GO BACK IN TIME, WHAT WOULD YOU CHANGE?
You Were Right (Built to Spill)
WHAT HURTS RIGHT NOW?
Moonage Daydream (David Bowie via Of Montreal)
Posted by escapegrace at 9:04 AM
Tuesday, December 02, 2008
Dear Santa - I've been incredibly, relentlessly unnaughty, so please reward me for all my hard work. Go on, check your list. Here's mine. XO XO
Signed First Hardcover Edition of Cloud Atlas @ Alibris $150
Chuck Taylor All-Star Sparkle (Champagne) @ Converse $64.99
Bat Segundo 3 DVD Set @ edrants.com $50
Prairie Underground Long Cloak Hoodie @ doe $222
The Kansas City Star Bundle @ Dzanc Books $40
USB Key Skull Ring @ Geek Stuff 4 U $199.02
Punk Rock Xmas @ lala $8.56
Bling Hammer @ Glamourpuss $34.95
Cultural Package @ Chiang Mai Luxury Resort, Northern Thailand $3,885.27
Fuiji Instax Camera @ Urban Outfitters $130
The Slanket @ SkyMall $44.99
Faster Pussycat Kill! Kill! Lunchbox @ The BUST Boobtique $17.95
Into-the-Woods Dress @ Anthropologie $149.95
Electric MINI E @ Los Angeles Auto Show $TBD
Franco Sarto Era @ Piperlime $49.99
Tenure Track Job @ First Choice University - Priceless
Posted by escapegrace at 6:01 PM
Monday, December 01, 2008
As I told a story to my friend Greg Q, for the umpteenth time I had to stop and try to figure out how to describe someone with whom I have a primarily web-based relationship. We decided it was time for there to be proper names for those folks, so here is what we came up with:
Someone you would identify as a friend: WeBFF
I was so sad when Buffy moved away, but between Facebook, Twitter, Gmail Chat, and Goodreads, now I feel like we're WeBFFs.
Someone you would identify as a friendly acquaintance: Interpal
Can you believe my interpal was in a flame war with Billy Joel?*
Someone you would identify as an enemy: Netesis
I always knew I didn't like her, but when she tagged me in that ugly photo, she officially became my netesis.
Posted by escapegrace at 9:09 AM