Monday, November 28, 2005

The Self Vs. The Other

The Dizzies generally does not post job listings, but a friend sent this to our attention. The odd part is that we recently had a dream, during one of our increasingly frequent couch slumbers, in which we viewed a brief animated film (directed, we thought, by our new favorite painter, Duncan Hannah) entitled The Self Vs. The Other. The Self was a thin humanoid, eyes mostly closed and vaguely sad-seeming; the Other was a blobbish figure, a sort of jovial monster, a bit like Grimace of McD's fame. There was no audio that we can remember.

The dream-title perhaps comes from the recent Noah Baumbach hit, The Squid and the Whale (has anyone noted the Aquatic co-helmer's nautical name?), more likely/directly from Orientalism, which we had (honestly!) been thumbing through earlier in the evening. Which is all to say that reading this posting made our postcolonial hair stand on end:


A film written and directed by: Suzanne Harvin and Shetal Shah

A 15 minute short comedy/satire that exposes the devastating effects
that European influence and colonialism have had on women and
various cultures across the globe via the mindsets of
four "infected" women of color in a restroom. Even after the Civil
Rights Movement, Feminist Movement and Black Revolution movement we
are still confronted with the same issue at hand: mental enslavement.

This mindset of "the other" as better than "the self" has been
manipulated over time yet cannot be eradicated through legislation.
Therefore, our gravest challenge still exists within our mind. And
much like a weed, Racism and Sexism (the cores of this colonial
mindset) in America ke ep growing and expanding despite the
consistent yanking that occurs within each new generation.

If you are interested in assisting in the production of this film
please email:

Presently we are seeking: Cast and Crew, Equipment and Location

1) Seeking Non-Union Actresses as follows:

A- FOUR women of color (African American, Latina, Asian, Indian) :
Age ranges-25-30 years old
African-American woman should have long hair or weave; Asian woman
should have blonde or light brown hair; Latin woman should be busty;
Indian woman should be small framed and should be able to speak in
Native Tongue. We are looking for women with dynamic personalities
and great acting range.

B - We also need a Traditional African woman age range: 40-late
50's; a Traditional Asian woman age range: late 40's – 50's; a
Traditional Indian woman age range: 40-50

C - FOUR young women of color age range: (7-11)

--Compensation: (Movie will be Seen in Festivals; food provided; the
satisfied feeling of contributing to a greater good.)

E-mail headshots and resumes to

2) Seeking CREW as follows:
Grip, Gaffer, Sound (can provide boom mic), Line Producer, Script
Supervisor, Make-up Artist (needs to be able to recreate scars),
Hair Stylist, Production Assistants,

3) Seeking Grip/Gaffing Equipment – especially lights

4) Seeking LOCATION as follows:
RESTROOM that is spacious enough to fit 4 people comfortably. With
mirrors and, ideally, an open area that could fit 2 people
comfortably. Could be in a club, lounge, restaurant, church, etc.
Should look clean and funky.

If you are interested in assisting in the production of this film
please email:

* * *

This sounds good, except that it appears to take place in a restroom.

* * *

New Ten Words Literary Supplement is out!

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Fun (not fun)

Looking for something to do this Sunday? Ten Words offers some options in their first "Leisure Issue."

* * *

Not to bum you out, but in the Times today reports on a distressing Japanese publishing phenomenon—popular books deriding Korea and China.

I just wrote and deleted a long thing here about Japan, Korea, China, and Taiwan. I'll let the article speak for itself—here's a bit from the first page, from the Times site:

TOKYO, Nov. 14 - A young Japanese woman in the comic book "Hating the Korean Wave" exclaims, "It's not an exaggeration to say that Japan built the South Korea of today!" In another passage the book states that "there is nothing at all in Korean culture to be proud of."

In another comic book, "Introduction to China," which portrays the Chinese as a depraved people obsessed with cannibalism, a woman of Japanese origin says: "Take the China of today, its principles, thought, literature, art, science, institutions. There's nothing attractive."

In "Hating the Korean Wave," a young Japanese woman says, "It's not an exaggeration to say that Japan built the South Korea of today!"
Enlarge This Image

The two comic books, portraying Chinese and Koreans as base peoples and advocating confrontation with them, have become runaway best sellers in Japan in the last four months.

In their graphic and unflattering drawings of Japan's fellow Asians and in the unapologetic, often offensive contents of their speech bubbles, the books reveal some of the sentiments underlying Japan's worsening relations with the rest of Asia.

They also point to Japan's longstanding unease with the rest of Asia and its own sense of identity, which is akin to Britain's apartness from the Continent. Much of Japan's history in the last century and a half has been guided by the goal of becoming more like the West and less like Asia. Today, China and South Korea's rise to challenge Japan's position as Asia's economic, diplomatic and cultural leader is inspiring renewed xenophobia against them here.

Kanji Nishio, a scholar of German literature, is honorary chairman of the Japanese Society for History Textbook Reform, the nationalist organization that has pushed to have references to the country's wartime atrocities eliminated from junior high school textbooks.

Mr. Nishio is blunt about how Japan should deal with its neighbors, saying nothing has changed since 1885, when one of modern Japan's most influential intellectuals, Yukichi Fukuzawa, said Japan should emulate the advanced nations of the West and leave Asia by dissociating itself from its backward neighbors, especially China and Korea.

"I wonder why they haven't grown up at all," Mr. Nishio said. "They don't change. I wonder why China and Korea haven't learned anything."

Mr. Nishio, who wrote a chapter in the comic book about South Korea, said Japan should try to cut itself off from China and South Korea, as Fukuzawa advocated. "Currently we cannot ignore South Korea and China," Mr. Nishio said. "Economically, it's difficult. But in our hearts, psychologically, we should remain composed and keep that attitude."

The reality that South Korea had emerged as a rival hit many Japanese with full force in 2002, when the countries were co-hosts of soccer's World Cup and South Korea advanced further than Japan. At the same time, the so-called Korean Wave - television dramas, movies and music from South Korea - swept Japan and the rest of Asia, often displacing Japanese pop cultural exports.

The wave, though popular among Japanese women, gave rise to a countermovement, especially on the Internet. Sharin Yamano, the young cartoonist behind "Hating the Korean Wave," began his strip on his own Web site then.

"The 'Hate Korea' feelings have spread explosively since the World Cup," said Akihide Tange, an editor at Shinyusha, the publisher of the comic book. Still, the number of sales, 360,000 so far, surprised the book's editors, suggesting that the Hate Korea movement was far larger than they had believed.


So far the two books, each running about 300 pages and costing around $10, have drawn little criticism from public officials, intellectuals or the mainstream news media. For example, Japan's most conservative national daily, Sankei Shimbun, said the Korea book described issues between the countries "extremely rationally, without losing its balance."

As nationalists and revisionists have come to dominate the public debate in Japan, figures advocating an honest view of history are being silenced, said Yutaka Yoshida, a historian at Hitotsubashi University here. Mr. Yoshida said the growing movement to deny history, like the Rape of Nanjing, was a sort of "religion" for an increasingly insecure nation.

"Lacking confidence, they need a story of healing," Mr. Yoshida said. "Even if we say that story is different from facts, it doesn't mean anything to them."

Friday, November 18, 2005

Geek love

This comes via two different blogs and originates at The Guardian's technology blog: a list of the 20 top "geek" books. I've bolded the ones I've read. One asterisk means I own it but have never finished it. Two asterisks means I'm reading it (well, Watchmen) right now. I've added senile comments as well. Dizzyheads should chime in!

1. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy -- Douglas Adams
Am one of maybe three people who enjoyed the movie version; am listening to the old radio shows these days on iPod. I actually read the first sequel, The Restaurant at the End of the Universe, first—I started reading it at Kmart!
2. Nineteen Eighty-Four -- George Orwell
3. Brave New World* -- Aldous Huxley
I'm so embarrassed that I haven't read this that I should just read it.

4. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? -- Philip Dick
I'm still not sure why the movie is called "Blade Runner"—I don't think the phrase comes up in the book.
5. Neuromancer -- William Gibson
Why haven't I read any Gibson?

6. Dune -- Frank Herbert
Had sizable impact on the young Ed, though strangely, of the sequels, I only finished Dune Messiah.
7. I, Robot* -- Isaac Asimov
Never finished this one—but did read and enjoy IA's robot detective novels (with the oddly named "R. Daneel Olivaw"—surely an anagram for something!)

8. Foundation -- Isaac Asimov
I wonder what it would be like to read Foundation again? Oddly, I think I have Foundation's Edge with me here in New York.
9. The Colour of Magic -- Terry Pratchett
10. Microserfs -- Douglas Coupland
11. Snow Crash -- Neal Stephenson
12. Watchmen** -- Alan Moore & Dave Gibbons
13. Cryptonomicon -- Neal Stephenson
14. Consider Phlebas -- Iain M Banks
15. Stranger in a Strange Land -- Robert Heinlein
I was just thinking about this one—I bought a copy in 7th grade, and it fell apart as I read it. I remember finding it slightly tedious—possibly much of it was over my head. I did enjoy some other Heinlein, later.
16. The Man in the High Castle -- Philip K Dick
Perhaps his best? I read this soon after reading Do Androids..., but liked it more later (during my big PKD phase, c. '95-96)
17. American Gods* -- Neil Gaiman
18. The Diamond Age -- Neal Stephenson
19. The Illuminatus! Trilogy* -- Robert Shea & Robert Anton Wilson
This was part of the legendary Bloomingdale library book sale haul!

20. Trouble with Lichen - John Wyndham


Surely they were onto something in the '90s, reflecting and shaping the culture and whatnot, but last night, as I toggled between Howard Stern on Letterman and Jerry Seinfeld on Leno, I just kept thinking: Stop. Both of you. Go away. Enough.

I may be on some sort of anti-celebrity jag, after reading about Nicole Richie's book. There really is no point in getting upset about these things—I prefer to be a detached, amused observer—but maybe I've reached some sort of limit for the year.

Instead I am going to bury my sorrows in books put out by small presses.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Nabokov, Kelly Link, and more in 'Ten Words Literary Supplement'

Check out Ten Words' weekly TWLS—info you can use!

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

'Ten Words' launches! World cheers! Part of the world, anyway.

Got an opinion? Can you state it in ten words?

The shape of thoughts

Many have bounced off this fun Slate piece, in which various folks recall the book that most influenced them during their college years. My favorite contribution is by Nicholson Baker—appropriate, since I devoured Baker's The Mezzanine during college, as well as U and I (I enjoyed, to a lesser degree, Room Temperature and Vox).

I'm not quite sure how I came to The Mezzanine; I do remember buying about six copies afterward, to give to friends as gifts. I read a lot of Nabokov in college, especially senior year; probably the most influential assigned, non-Nabs book for the young Ed was Borges's Labyrinths. (Best bookstore discovery in those days: The TriQuarterly issue devoted to JLB!)

Extracurricularly, I quite enjoyed Mark Leyner back then. I started reading Ishiguro...and I believe my first exposure to Frederick Exley was in college (Pages From a Cold Island before A Fan's Notes—Pages was deeply discounted at the Co-Op!). And Lester Bangs!

I have a feeling I read more poetry then—García Lorca, Neruda. On the comix front, the first installment of Art Spiegelman's Maus had a big impact on me, and I remember Spiegelman coming to speak about it. (Bill Griffith and Harvey Pekar were other big likes.)

I feel old and vaguely depressed now but also amused.

The Yeh Yeh Yehs

Old pal Jane Yeh's long-brewing, just released poetry collection Marabou is the bee's knees—and I'm not the only one who thinks so: She's just been nominated for the Whitbread! (The bee in question, however, is unhappy, and wants its patellae back.)(Wha?)

Anyway—she had better win! Or I'm never buying a book of poetry again! Ye Whitbread judges! Do the right thing! And while you're at it, let's give Nick Hornby a Whitbread, too!

Here is one of Jane's top hits, just in time for ye olde Goblet of Fire! (I like this one because it shows her sense of humor, or as they say over there, "humour.")(Wha?)

—article on preproduction for the first Harry Potter film, New York Post, August 2000

Claw up. Claw down. Cut.
My fine eyes. My fine eyes are— Cut.

I was fluffed and plucked, like a beauty-pageant winner,
Between takes. Like a news presenter.
Could I be a news presenter?

Rider: 5 rashers bacon. 8-oz. tin mixed nuts.
2 lbs. rabbit fillets. Assorted drupes.

Between takes, I did leg-lifts in my trailer.

If asked what is your most treasured possession, I would say
The woolly toy Tracey, my personal trainer, gave me when young.
I learnt to spy it from afar, then swoop down and seize,
But only on cue. Mr Sheep goes everywhere with me now.

If I could wake up having gained one ability,
It would be the capacity for more facial expression.
It is so tedious to have one's beak set in a permanent frown.

My greatest talent is impersonation—
To simulate a person's idea of an owl.
Sadly, I owe my success to typecasting.

My greatest fear is to be found wanting.

At the premiere party, the women were not very clothed.
It is of advantage to be clad always in feathers.

I allowed fake friends to pet me.
My picture was taken several times with the boy.
I enjoy parties because otherwise I see only Tracey.
Afterwards, you wonder what the glitter was for.

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Friday, November 11, 2005

Humor in three parts

Dizzyhead Andy's comments about some novelty books he picked up at a library book sale brought to mind something called The Profit, a parody of Kahlil Gibran's The Prophet. Googling "The Profit" didn't help—but then I remembered that it was published by Price Stern Sloan, the same folks who put out Mad Libs.

Behold—paydirt! (This is one of those moments where I love the Web.)

The whole thing is in the sententious tones of Gibran's quasi-mystical booklet. A typical entry consists of dialogue on lofty matters, gradually punctuated by odd details and capped off with a groaner. My favorite passage might be this one:

A priest asked,
What is Fate, Master?

And he answered:
It is that which gives a beast of burden its reason for existence.
It is that which men in former times had to bear upon their backs.
It is that which has caused nations to build by-ways from City to City upon which carts and coaches pass, and alongside which inns have come to be built to stave off Hunger, Thirst and Weariness.
It is that which has caused great fleets of ships to ply the Seven Seas wherever the wind blows.

And that is Fate? said the priest.

Fate... I thought you said Freight, responded the Master.

That's all right, said the priest. I wanted to know what Freight was too.


Years later, when I started reading all the DeLillo I could find, I noticed that a book named Amazons, by Cleo Birdwell, would show up on my searches at the library. I eventually learned that Birdwell was a pseudonym for DeLillo, and this "Intimate Memoir by the First Woman Ever to Play in the National Hockey League" was his most entertaining book. It's a hilariously racy, amazingly well-sustained comedy, an absurd sports-bio parody, and (along the way) a gloss on some of DD's more serious themes.

I bring up Amazons because a running joke is that nearly everyone in the NHL is reading the books of a (made-up) Gibran-like author named "Wadi Assad." His titles include The Mystic Prince I, The Barefoot Rose, and The Mystery of Being. The book's epigraph is from Assad: "Only childhood is ours. The rest belongs to strangers." The first line is also from Assad: "What must the child wonder about his elders when he sees they are so big—yet the size of betel nuts when compared to elephants?"

Conceptual SNL skit: Darryl Hall and . . . Joyce Carol Oates.

Today my colleague Jesus (Jesus Diaz—not Jesus Christ!) came into my office. My intern and I were there. He said, "Gentlemen, gentlemen...and Ed."

He's told this joke dozens of times, but I always fall for it.

Then I asked him to tell me a joke I must have heard five years ago—something about the Pope and...Kentucky Fried Chicken? I'd wanted to tell it recently, but had lost the thread.

Jesus knew the one I meant. He gave me some advice.

"First," Jesus said, "you have to warm 'em up with a related food joke. Here's one. 'Have you heard of the new Chinese German restaurants? Half an hour later, you're hungry . . . for power!'"

Now we are ready for the big joke. (The meta-joke is that it is told to me by Jesus.) Jesus advised me to drag it out, add embellishments.


So Frank Perdue, the Perdue chicken guy, goes to the Vatican to talk to the Pope about sponsorship opportunities. He says, "I really want to get some mention of chicken in the Lord's Prayer. I'm willing to pay the big bucks."

The Church needs money, but the Pope is a bit nervous. "I...I don't know. It's the Lord's Prayer. It's sacred. I don't think we can tamper with it."

"It's not really a big change I'm asking for," Perdue says. " about that line, 'Give us this day our daily bread.'"

"What about it?"

"How about instead you have them say, 'Give us this day our daily chicken'?"

"What? Out of the question!"

"Twenty million dollars?"

"I don't think so."


"Really, this isn't appropriate. I appreciate your interest in the Church, but no means no—and that's final."


"Forget it."


"Frank, please. Try to understand my position."

"How about you try to understand . . . fifty million dollars?"

"Fifty . . . million?"

"You heard me." Perdue smiles. "Do we have a deal?"

The Pope sighs, nods. The paperwork is brought out, signed, notarized. A week passes. There's a big Church convention in Brussels. The Pope is nervous during his trip. He keeps looking at the contract, shaking his head, saying, "Well, money's money." As he takes to the stage, the assembled faithful cheer. He waves for silence, at the same time that he dreads what he has to tell them.

"Thank you. As you know, we've experienced some financial difficulties this past year. I bring you some good news . . . and some bad news."

"Good news first!" shouts one of the rowdier cardinals.

"The good news is that we have a much needed fifty million in our coffers." The crowd applauds. "It's money we sorely need."

The noise dies down. An altar boy pipes up, "What's—what's the bad news?"

The Pope holds up his palms and shrugs. "We lost the Wonder Bread account."

Wednesday, November 09, 2005



The new Voice Literary Supplement is out! I hope you enjoy it.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Sit-down drama

While I'm not always the biggest fan of Margaret Cho's art, I sometimes find myself on the same wavelength as her when it comes to race matters. This is a long and not very interesting setup: The other day I abandoned a very list-y post in which I enumerated things that were wow (Rachel Ingalls fiction), things I still liked (Harry Stephen Keeler, Italian food), and things I was sick of. This last category included George Carlin (whose shtick/persona/whatever I find completely, bafflingly unappealing) and the "Harujuku Girls," the uber-fashionable Japanese pixies, denizens of the fastest-forward district in Tokyo, who serve as muses and mute chorus for Gwen Stefani.

I must have been prompted to grumbling by the recent Times photo of GS with her Nipponese posse, because Cho had a reaction, too. I like her ambivalence: "I want to like them, and I want to think they are great, but I am not sure if I can. I mean, racial stereotypes are really cute sometimes, and I don't want to bum everyone out by pointing out the minstrel show."

I wonder what Cho thinks about...Sarah Silverman. I know some Asian-Americans who aren't convinced she should be disliked for a joke she made on Conan a while back, but forgive me for not being a Silvermaniac.

This is from Steve Almond's recent piece in Nextbook:

Silverman knows about the risks of taking such an approach. A few years ago she found herself embroiled in a national controversy after she told the following joke on Late Night with Conan O'Brien: Silverman receives a summons for jury duty. A friend suggests she send back the form with something racist written on it, such as "I hate chinks." "I didn't want them to think I was racist," Silverman says, "but I did want to get out [of] jury duty, so I wrote, 'I love chinks.'"

In Jesus Is Magic, she admits that newspaper stories about the episode did bother her. Specifically, she's concerned that Jews are losing control of the media. "What kind of world are we living in," she demands, "where a totally cute white girl can't say 'chink' on TV? I mean, come on. You have to be able to laugh at yourself. I tell Asian people that all the time."

* * *

POSTSCRIPT (11/12): Author Dean Koontz's recent anti-Japanese remarks at a mystery writers' convention have drawn some coverage; the Guardian has some of the story here.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Cheerful, nervous, ambiguous, and strong

Today's the last day of the fall book sale at the NYPL's St. Agnes branch. I stopped by yesterday, intent on not buying too many books. Within the first five minutes I had accumulated a ludicrous stack, so I took a long hard look at myself, thought about my overcrowded shelves, and ruthlessly shedded several titles that looked great but that I felt would fall into the "I'll never get around to it category"—Robert Kelly's Cat Scratch Fever, John Banville's Eclipse, Rebecca Brown, Kathy Acker, Springer's Progress (!)...

I finally emerged with:

1. Cheerful Weather for the Wedding by Julia Strachey
2. Nervous Conditions by Tsitsi Dangarembga
3. Seven Types of Ambiguity by William Empson
4. Strong Opinions by Vladimir Nabokov

These were $2 apiece! It's consistently one of the best bang-for-buck book sales in the city—always a lot of worthwhile (and also/additionally quite obscure) titles. Go today if you have a chance, maybe after you finish the marathon in record time.

[Cue strings]

My favorite—my legendary—NYPL haul was back in '98 or so, at the Bloomingdale branch of the library (not located in the legendary department store, but on 100th Street). This wasn't a sale, per se—just the regular cart of books they wanted to get rid of. Here I found Jaroslav Hasek's The Good Soldier Svejk, Jonathan Coe's The Winshaw Legacy (the first of three copies I would come to own, two of which disappeared), John Calvin Batchelor's The Further Adventures of Halley's Comet, et al.

The only haul that could rival it was at the Ridgewood, New Jersey, library, back when my sister used to live there (in Ridgewood, not the library). Titles included Thomas Bernhard's Gargoyles, Nabokov's Transparent Things, Isherwood's terrific Prater Violet, et al.—all in cloth, and some with the remains of the librarian's plot summaries penciled in the back!

[Insert commentary about how Google Print is the antithesis of this sort of delirious book hunting.]

Dizzyheads are invited to share their accounts of prized hauls!

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Pancakes and pans

Those of us on gmail are familiar with the ads that appear, unbidden, in the margin of our messages, ostensibly keyed to the gist of the correspondence. At worst it's a distraction; at best, it's a source of quick merriment

Yesterday, I was e-mailing my friend Samantha about assorted things, including her excellent piece on the short-story writer Breece D'J Pancake.

I've not yet read any Pancake, but I've been fascinated by the myth around him, as elucidated by Sam's piece. Well, not only the myth, but the name!

Because, you see . . . I like pancakes. And I think in the back of my mind, when I think of the legendary short-story writer Breece D'J Pancake, I'm also thinking of flapjacks, johnnycakes, silver dollar half-stacks, griddle pads (I just made that one up), German babies (something like that—those enormous productions at the Original Pancake House)[Correct term is "Dutch Baby." —Loretta (intern)], doused with syrup, with maple butter, with blueberry compote, and so forth.

And so the gmail ads, as they so often have in the past, function as the royal footpath to the subconscious. Yesterday, between two ads for writing-related things, these tasty notices popped up:

Snoqualmie Falls Pancakes
Used by fine restaurants in NW Soft wheat flours and buttermilk

Buckwheat Pancake Mix
Enjoy the rich nutty flavor & healthful benefits of this pancake!

Mmmm... (Please note: The Dizzies does not endorse and has indeed never tried the pancake mixes in question.)

* * *

Every so often, a movie critic will throw off the usual formalities in her analysis and not only tell it like it is, but register something beyond a movie's badness—the visceral/existential argggg that an especially bad film sets reverberating in one's bosom. I like these occasional departures from form. (It's not restricted to negative criticism: I recently wrote that a page of a book was so good I wanted to tear it out and eat it.) Today's lesson comes from The New Yorker's David Denby (on Elizabethtown) and The Voice's Jessica Winter (on Domino). I haven't seen either movie, but feel like I've experienced similar soul-deep groans in my day.

At times, the movie became so boring that I experienced the uncanny sensation that I could physically feel the film passing through the projector. As I counted sprocket holes, my sense of what the movie was “about” simply dissolved, and the projector threw onto the screen meaningless images of children screaming, a memorial service going awry, landscapes unfurling outside a car window.

The movie staggers toward you like a jabbering tweak freak, reeking of chemical sweat, a feral blankness in his beady eyes. He corners you with jumbled stories of wild times and severed limbs and this one time in Nevada and, affronted that your attentions flag, throws a sucker punch about his sick kid in the hospital. You listen and you feel yourself getting stupider.

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