Friday, July 31, 2009

blueprint envy

The LA Times showcases Homes of the Times, including this beauty in South Pasadena, The Bart Prince House.

2009 man booker prize longlist

In case you missed it...

  • A.S. Byatt - The Children's Book
  • J.M. Coetzee - Summertime
  • Adam Foulds - The Quickening Maze
  • Sarah Hall - How to Paint a Dead Man
  • Samantha Harvey - The Wilderness
  • James Lever - Me Cheeta
  • Hilary Mantel - Wolf Hall
  • Simon Mawer - The Glass Room
  • Ed O'Loughlin - Not Untrue & Not Unkind
  • James Scudamore - Heliopolis
  • Colm Toibin - Brooklyn
  • William Trevor - Love and Summer
  • Sarah Waters - The Little Stranger
I've read a whopping total of zero.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

sunday short stack

"Beauty is all very well at first sight; but whoever looks at it when it has been in the house three days?" - William Shakespeare

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

total eclipse of the sun

I hiked up to the Griffith Park Observatory yesterday to witness the solar eclipse via live video from an island near Shanghai. I arrived after the total eclipse had happened, so while there is still a live feed here, clouds - or something - had obscured the view. Note the blank screen beyond the planets in the Gunther Depths of Space.

This is a much better photo via The Associated Press:

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

52 books in 52 weeks

19. The Best American Short Stories 2008

Salman Rushdie edited last year's collection and it seems he's fond of shorter, action-driven stories. Kevin Brockmeier's story "The Year of Silence" was quite nice as well as Rebecca Makkai's "The Worst You Ever Feel" and Danielle Evans's "Virgins." I'm always amazed how many heavy hitters - Munro, Lethem, Millhauser, Saunders, Homes, Woolf - rise to the top despite their anonymity.

20. The Inner Circle by T.C. Boyle

Boyle had me at "Kinsey" so I was predisposed to the subject before beginning this fictionalized chronicle of Kinsey's sex studies and the man's personal life. The narrator, however, is what makes the novel impressive. Perhaps based on real-life assistant Ralph Voris, John Milk relates events with a consistent, conservative voice that makes the narrative seem a convincing historical record.

21. The New Valley by Josh Weil

At a Skylight Books reading a couple of months ago, Josh Weil read from the third novella in this collection of three, and I was pretty blown away. "Sarverville Remains" is chilling, poignant, and told in a well-executed, effective form of West Virginian dialect. The other two novellas are sadly not as good. "Ridge Weather" establishes the setting of the collection well and has its touching moments, but "Stillman Wing" didn't do it for me at all.

22. Heavy Rotation: Twenty Writers on the Albums That Changed Their Lives, edited by Peter Terzian

I reviewed this book here.

23. Throw Like A Girl: Stories by Jean Thompson

I borrow most of the books I read from the LA Public Library, so while the waiting list for Thompson's latest Do Not Deny Me was on the long side, I was able to get this earlier story collection pretty quickly. The variety and depth of the many female characters she created here may be unrivaled. Thompson has great range and a finely tuned sense of when a story should end.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

sunday short stack

"I do not read advertisements. I would spend all of my time wanting things." - Franz Kafka

Friday, July 17, 2009

all festivals should do this

Stream the Pitchfork Music Festival all weekend.

5:00 Tortoise
6:10 Yo La Tengo
7:20 The Jesus Lizard
8:40 Built To Spill

1:00 Cymbals Eat Guitars
1:45 Plants and Animals
2:30 Fucked Up
3:20 The Pains of Being Pure at Heart
4:15 Final Fantasy
5:15 Yeasayer
7:25 Beirut
8:40 The National

1:00 The Mae Shi
1:45 Frightened Rabbit
2:30 Blitzen Trapper
3:20 Pharoahe Monch
4:15 The Thermals
5:15 The Walkmen
6:15 M83
7:25 Grizzly Bear
8:40 The Flaming Lips

heavy rotation

I reviewed Heavy Rotation: Twenty Writers on the Albums That Changed Their Lives for Sunday's LA Times.

Reflecting on how Eurythmics taught him about the ironic power of fakery, Daniel Handler describes record albums as "pegs on which to hang stories." In "Heavy Rotation," 20 contemporary writers hang stories -- of alienation and identity, of growth and nostalgia -- on a particular music collection. Editor Peter Terzian largely succeeds in his goal of bringing music and literature together. What could have been a crop of fanboy/girl exercises is a collection of informed essays that offer personal insight and literary merit.

"Heavy Rotation" features essays on 11 bands, four singers, three soundtracks, a trio of singles and an archival collection. A distinctive feature of this anthology is that the contributors are not primarily known for their music writing. Most are novelists (including Colm Tóibín, Joshua Ferris and Kate Christensen), and the journalists are better known for their writing about literature, with the exception of music critic John Jeremiah Sullivan. Sullivan's album of choice is a Revenant Records release of prewar country blues (1897-1939), and he most convincingly portrays the cultural -- rather than personal -- importance of an album.

More here...

Thursday, July 16, 2009

the most beautiful slime you'll ever see

Many more slime mold supermodels here.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

I think we can take it

Wilco and Feist last night on Letterman:

Also, Brooklyn Vegan has some Wilco/Andrew Bird video bonbons from their Coney Island show over the weekend.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

soundtracks to jump rope

I couldn't have conjured this better. Beck launches a new interview series, Irrelevant Topics. First up: Tom Waits!

BH: I was thinking about influences and people who jump on a train or a trend, follow something. I was reading about the Greek playwright, Euripides, and a few others. He had written 105 plays and two of the plays survived from antiquity. I was thinking, "Can you imagine writing 105 plays, and you had to write 105 for one or two of them to survive?" I was thinking maybe in a way that the people who were influenced by the lost plays are the ones who are going to help them survive in some way. It's not really about what you're doing originally, it's about the transmitting of the thing to the next person. It mutates along the way and turns into other things.

TW: You leave a little map for somebody. Maybe the others were lesser works. Or maybe the two that survived were lesser works.

BH: Maybe they were the throwaways? You never know. Maybe there's things in there that were lost that would've changed everything?

TW: That's very possible.

BH: The throwaway ones that he wrote to make the deadline are the ones we have.

TW: It's like they found one of those van Gogh's at a garage sale. This woman bought it and she was using it to block out the sun in her kitchen. She was using it as a window shade, so it was getting all faded from the sun. And she cut it because it didn't fit the window. When they finally discovered she had a van Gogh as a window shade, they brought in all these experts from the museum and they were all filling in her living room and they said, "How can you cut off the top off this painting?" And she said, "It was just a little piece of the sky." Sometimes it's the value you attach to things. It's subjective. And we record on stuff that's going to disintegrate. Just like films are made on celluloid that's going to vanish, it's going to be gone. It's like drawing on wax paper or something.

BH: Yeah, I think I read that only twenty percent of the films made before 1930 have survived.

TW: It's the way of all flesh. Even in the world we're down to the last of 20 percent of all animals that were originally here on earth are left. There were millions of other species that vanished. You really have to fight. Only the strong survive. Whose song was that? "Only the Strong Survive"? Your songs have to wind up being used as soundtracks to jump rope. Tapes will go, but people will still be jumping rope. They'll need tunes for jump rope.

On a related note: Hip hop Tom Waits.

Monday, July 06, 2009

why chicks cry

Not being able to afford go-go boots and 65 other reasons from romance comics...

Sunday, July 05, 2009

sunday short stack

"Most human beings have an almost infinite capacity for taking things for granted."
- Aldous Huxley

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

shot in the back of the head

David Lynch directs the new Moby video.