Sunday, March 29, 2009

sunday short stack

"Excess on occasion is exhilarating. It prevents moderation from acquiring the deadening effect of a habit." - W. Somerset Maugham

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

extreme sheep LED art

This does nothing to dispel my belief that people in Wales are slightly off and awesome.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

ada lovelace & susan kozel

Today is Ada Lovelace Day, "an international day of blogging to draw attention to women excelling in technology." While there are many women who inspire me in this realm (...taking a brief pause to appreciate the twenty-first century...), I'm going to focus today on video artist/choreographer/theorist Susan Kozel. Kozel writes about "the physical experience of digital technologies to create new philosophical paradigms...Through her work, [she] researches the physical and philosophical vocabularies emerging from the convergence of dance and media technologies."

I have to give Kozel some credit for jumpstarting my personal explorations of technology about four years ago at the UC Riverside (Dis)junctions Conference. The highlight of the conference for me was the talk given by Kozel. She discussed her projects Trajets (involving video projected on screens that are choreographed to respond to participants walking on a sensored floor), Whisper, and Between Bodies ("wearables" that monitor participants' heartbeats, breath rates, and muscle contraction and transmit them through video or garments to other participants), among others.

Her latest book is Closer: Performance, Technologies, Phenomenology, out last year from MIT Press.

Monday, March 23, 2009

52 books in 52 weeks

7. Sleepless Nights by Elizabeth Hardwick

My trusted dissertation advisor recommended Sleepless Nights to me years ago, and now I know why. Hardwick refuses to conform to genre, offering what reads like a lyrical blend of fiction, memoir, poetry, journalism, and whatever else she fancies. The prose sparkles at the sentence level to the point I was unable to resist sharing excerpts with all who would listen.

8. U.S.! by Chris Bachelder

Bachelder deserves props for versatility and bravery in this strange and entertaining collection of "songs and stories" all centering around a repeatedly resurrected (post-assassination) Upton Sinclair. While the book is experimental in form, it's also heartfelt and wise. I look forward to whatever Bachelder gets up to next. (And who knew Sinclair was such a babe? See left.)

9. The Keep by Jennifer Egan

While not as deep or well-written as Egan's Look at Me, this gothic thriller/prison novel was a blast. It's a testament to the author's power of description that I can't remember the last time I could picture a setting quite as clearly.

10. Paradise by A.L. Kennedy

I read this novel about a young Scottish woman who also happens to be a raging drunk over the course of a day and a half, and I felt like I was on a bender with her. Considering little happens and the narration is filtered through a constantly replenished glass, the fact I couldn't put the book down says something. Unfortunately, I found the ending very unsatisfying.

10 down, 42 to go.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

sunday short stack

"It is not a bad idea to get in the habit of writing down one's thoughts. It saves one having to bother anyone else with them." - Isabel Colegate

Thursday, March 19, 2009

improv everywhere strikes again

Man, I miss New York.

via @mkgold

Sunday, March 15, 2009

sunday short stack

"All paid jobs absorb and degrade the mind."
- Aristotle

Saturday, March 14, 2009

those scribbling women again

Katha Pollitt's Slate review of Elaine Showalter's new book A Jury of Her Peers has convinced me of my next book purchase.

Showalter sees women's writing as a story of progress toward self-definition: from feminine (imitation of prevailing modes) to feminist (protest) to female (self-discovery), and, finally, free. "American women writers in the twenty-first century can take on any subject they want, in any form they choose." We have indeed come a long way, but I'm not so sure we've reached nirvana yet. The marketplace, with its many gendered strictures and codes, has not disappeared. Thus, it matters that girls and women will buy fiction by and about both sexes, but boys and men—the relative few who buy fiction at all—stick to their own gender. (There was a reason that J.K. Rowling used her initials instead of her name, and that her student magician hero was not Harriet Potter.) It matters that the Great American Novel for which critics are always hunting is imagined as a modern Moby-Dick, not The House of Mirth. It means there's a certain kind of critical receptivity, a hope of greatness for certain kinds of books by men that hardly ever comes into play with books by women, no matter how wonderful they are. Moreover, in literature as in life, men have much more license to display their whole unlovely selves and be admired for it, as the career of Norman Mailer shows.

Pollitt wonders whether critical reception is necessarily influenced by the author's gender. I'm reminded of a conversation earlier this month where we tried to imagine Jane Austen and Emily Dickinson as modern sexually active liberated women in 2009. It's fun - try it.

investment, I say!

On Rate Your Students today, Beatrice from Boca describes a version of the academic life that I fear is much too common.

Is it worth going to MLA for just one interview? I decided in the end it must be, and in a way it was: I booked my last-minute travel plans, bought interview clothes, went, did great, got called for a flyback, and, after dancing the dance of Snoopy happiness, checked my finances. I’m used to being broke, but I’d never been maxed out before. Maxed out. All my credit cards (4 of them) maxed out at about what I earn in a year. Actually a little more than what I earn in a year.

Suddenly I realize I’ve bet the house: if I get the job, I’ll be fine. But if I don’t get the job, I’m bankrupt. I can’t afford to pay my bills. And if I’m back on the job market next year, I have no more credit for plane tickets and hotels – I’ll have to start saving for that now. Suddenly all this “investing” I’ve been doing looks like nothing more than an increasingly deep hole I’ve been digging for myself. Again, I’m doing great work: I’m publishing admirably and teaching great classes, well – I even got invited to sit on a MFA student’s thesis committee, which is unprecedented for a mere instructor! But none of that seems to matter right now, as I find my eyes lingering on the roadside billboards of local bankruptcy attorneys.

Friday, March 13, 2009

city of the seekers

I feel (appropriately) like I'm getting a message from the universe to get back to my dissertation on Los Angeles literature and alternative religion. This week, the Los Angeles Conservancy - along with the Philosophical Research Society, Synchronicity Gallery, and the Silent Movie Theatre - is exploring "LA's Unique Spiritual Legacy." I don't think I'll be making it to the driving tour, but Erik Davis will probably think I'm stalking him by Wednesday. You can read excerpts of my project Urban Fervor if you scroll down the right side of this page.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

the tournament of books

The Morning News Tournament of Books got under way earlier this week. On opening day, 2666 easily defeated Fae Myenne Ng's Steer Toward Rock, but since then, it's been anyone's game. Louis de Berniere's A Partisan's Daughter took down Netherland, and then today in a frankly shocking turn, Harry, Revised thwarted The White Tiger. Up tomorrow, Unaccustomed Earth vs. City of Refuge. I'm rooting for The Lazarus Project to take it all in an upset. Stay tuned...

Monday, March 09, 2009

it's not going nowhere, my girls

The old folks at Breakfast at Sulimay's review Young Jeezy and Animal Collective.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

sunday short stack

"Don't ask who's influenced me. A lion is made up of the lambs he's digested, and I've been reading all my life." - Giorgos Seferis

Friday, March 06, 2009

on to the question of baseball

The New York Times was kind enough to post the full video of John Cheever and John Updike on The Dick Cavett Show in 1981.

it turned smart girls bold

I was just recommending Don't Need You to a friend a couple of days ago, so I'm thinking it's Riot Grrrl Week. Laura Barton of The Guardian looks at the movement 15 years on.

But even for those too young to have revelled in the first days of the movement, Riot Grrrl's influence has lingered, instrumental in establishing girls' rock camps such as Willie Mae Rock Camp in New York (where Kathleen Hanna mentors) and Portland's Rock'n'Roll Camp for Girls, which aim to encourage young girls and women to make music. "I went to see Babes in Toyland and Hole in the early 90s," says Allison Phillips, who is currently setting up a London-based girls' rock camp, "to really empower girls in the way I felt empowered by the Riot Grrl movement".

There have been other effects. Nadine Monem, editor of the book Riot Grrrl: Revolution Girl Style Now! puts it succinctly. "This is the real product of Riot Grrrl: women making things for themselves and for each other. It turned smart girls bold."

Thursday, March 05, 2009

sting got served

This makes me want to get back to my story about a woman who tries to kidnap The Edge.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

I got ready for the future to arrive

In San Francisco last month, Tobias Wolff backed up John Darnielle for a version of "Woke Up New":

Sunday, March 01, 2009

sunday short stack

“Ninety-nine percent of the world's lovers are not with their first choice. That's what makes the jukebox play.” - Willie Nelson