Friday, March 31, 2006

Watching the Detectives

From "Through the Looking-Glass," a piece I wrote for the VLS last spring:

Lewis Carroll's Alice was Lee Tandy Schwartzman's age when she ventured through the looking-glass in 1871. Intriguingly, the crippled detectives' main weapon against the Red Romer is a large mirror, inherited from their grandfather, which they find under their house. Any assault gets reflected back. And the name "Red Romer" conjures the "Redrum" revelation in Stephen King's 1977 novel The Shining. Is he so afraid of the children's mirror because it shows him to be a murderer? Mirrorlike, the book overflows with repetitions, twinning (Lee and Sylvia are the same age), echoes. (Emphasis added)

It's been years since I read The Shining, and quite a while since I saw the film, but reading this passage, I was shocked to find another Crippled/Shining resonance, which escaped me when I wrote it. The twins! The creepy twins in The Shining (played by actors who were actually not identical twins, but sisters two years apart)! I was going to post a picture here, but that might be too much for anyone to handle.

Googling "Shining twins" produced this nugget (from

Lisa and Louise Burns (“The Shining Twins”) are living in London and pursued careers outside of acting (Lisa has a degree in Literature and Language, while Louise is a microbiologist).

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Poignant/chilling message on workphone screen


Wednesday, March 29, 2006

The club scene

Pringle said: 'The smell in this club is awful.
'It is bad.'
'It always smells like this,' said Barlow. 'I asked the secretary about it once. He said it was done deliberately. I don't remember why.'
Pringle said: 'Now I have become a member I shall write and complain of the club smell.'

—Anthony Powell, Afternoon Men

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

One Human Minute

Stanislaw Lem, R.I.P.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Smells Like Spirit Photography (an occasional series), #1: Chinese Whispers

Los Angeles, January 2006

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Best blurb ever?

On the back of Mladen Dolar's A Voice and Nothing More (MIT):

"Mladen Dolar acts as if he is not an idiot and looks as if he is not an idiot, but this should not deceive you—he is NOT an idiot!" —Slavoj Zizek

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Commonplace variation on a quote found in a recent Times article

"The dream is the aquarium of the night." — Victor Hugo

"Sleep, our daily hospital." —Harry Mathews

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Breaking the Frames

While we still have comics on our mind, those of you who remember the "Spider-Man" episodes on the old Electric Company show should check out this delightful post from the blogger-interns over at Termite Art.

Someone should write an essay or a long, long book about the titles The Electric Company and Dynamite!—what a powerful era to be a kid.

* * *

Speaking (still) of comics, a sketch from a dream is up Chez Saturnhead. And speaking of Saturnhead, the fellow who first published the strip has just put up a hilarious virtual home for his new book...everything you need to know about the fictional "Stutts University."

And speaking of dreams (see first sentence, previous graf), isn't it time for your regularly scheduled visit to William Poundstone's Dream Blog?

Why did you spend the '90s cowering?

The world woke up one day to proclaim:
"Thou shalt not take part in, or make, bad art."

—Destroyer, "The Bad Arts"

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Pulp fictions

In this week's Voice, I look at the conclusion of Osamu Tezuka's massive Buddha manga, and a curious Philkdickian writer with a foot in the pulp world and the other in comic books.

These are diverging examples of fake biographies. Here is a real one.

What was on the notepad on August 5 last year

"People who since childhood have been accustomed to the rectilinear are inclined, when they reach middle age, to prefer the serpentine." —Harold Nicolson, "Another Road to Xanadu" (review of Hugh Honour's Chinoiserie), The Observer, Sun Dec 10, 1961

"It is a book to give and to keep." —Ibid.

"We shall all die symmetrically." —Mme de Maintenon

"Things grow, things die, is it." —Stanley Crawford

"I turned it over in my mind like a living Chinese finger trap." —Mountain Goats

"And I want life in every word to the extent that it's absurd." —Postal Service

Monday, March 20, 2006

Jonathan Coe & Mr Mitchell

This weekend I took down from yonder shelf Jonathan Coe's The Rotters' Club, and was powerless to do anything else but read it to the very end. His novel The Winshaw Legacy was one of those great bought-for-a-buck-at-the-library discoveries*, and I also enjoyed The House of Sleep . . . not to mention his recent B.S. Johnson bio, Like a Fiery Elephant.

There are traces of his LAFE/BSJ research in TRC — the 27-chapter format might be a nod to BSJ's 27-pamphlet novel, and a very minor character, a Pakistani worker named Zulfikar, must allude to BSJ's best friend, novelist Zulfikar Ghose. Synopsized, TRC seems a fairly straightforward book, a social novel focusing on several interlocking families in '70s Birmingham, with the tongue-tied high-schooler Benjamin Trotter as (seemingly) the organizing intelligence. But the structural tactics are varied and fascinating—articles from the school paper (including a brilliant/hilarious review of a Yes album), a vocabulary-deficient man attempting a crossword, a short story written by Benjamin, etc. (Coe's other books play with structure as well, so maybe this bit of BSJ influence should be seen as having always been present in Coe.)

A sequel emerged last year, The Closed Circle, which I hope to read soon. I like the idea of books beyond that, sort of a Dance to the Music of Time thing (perhaps with Benjamin's annoying brother Paul emerging as a sort of Widmerpoole character) — I don't know if that's in the cards...

My "new favorite book" was supposed to be David Mitchell's tremendous Cloud Atlas, which I finished recently, but it's getting some strong competition from TRC.

Which book do Dizzyheads prefer?

I should note that I began Susanna Clarke's Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell in January and it was rapidly becoming my new favorite book. But then I needed to read other stuff and JS&MN was so distracting I had to tie it up with string so that I wouldn't open it. I was just getting back into the Norrellian swing of things when TRC hit me. Yow!

That's all for now.

* * *

*Further story about The Winshaw Legacy — my first copy was lent, then stolen (by a felonious, unknown third party); my second copy was lent, then lost on a trip to Europe; I gave up on owning a copy, then found the British paperback, entitled What a Carve Up!, at the old Bryn Mawr Bookstore on the Upper East Side. I am not lending it.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Happy birthday . . .

. . . to the person on the right!

Thursday, March 16, 2006


Some Believer news!

Mission statement

The artwork [for Mission of Burma's 1981 EP Signals, Calls, and Marches] exhibited significant postpunk damage....The cover was originally intended to be raw cardboard, the ultimate in minimalism, but for technical reasons, they used a photograph of cardboard, which actually made it even more conceptual. The lyric sheet took all the words used in the songs and arranged them in alphabetical order.

—Simon Reynolds, Rip It Up and Start Again: Postpunk 1978–1984

Color me mildly amused . . .

. . . when Charlie Rose cues a film clip by saying, "Roll tape!"

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Word up

"The word is tenacity."
—Unelaborated remark by NBC Olympics commentator during figure skater Emily Hughes's long program, February 2006

Monday, March 13, 2006

Underwater moonlight

—I've been talking to a prominent divorce lawyer.
—How prominent?
—He has his own submarine.

—From Game 6

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Description of water

—It's as smooth as oil.
—I don't know why, but I hate all comparisons involving oil.

—From L'Avventura

Saturday, March 11, 2006

This never happens . . .

An ad in yesterday's Times gave us an unexpected kick...(In today's ad, I've been replaced by something called "Ebert & Roeper"[sp?].)

Strangely, there's no grand mention that DeLillo's at all involved in the project—wouldn't that be a draw? For at least 30, 40 people?

Side note: Griffin Dunne is also excellent as a playwright gone bonkers, and Catherine O'Hara has a brilliant little laugh she deploys exactly once in her single short scene.

Friday, March 10, 2006

It's really nice out . . .

. . . here in New York. Or wait, is it going to rain? Before it does, why not wallow in the pleasures of a new* Mr. Saturnhead, hand-picked for fair-weather enjoyment?

Plus there's genuine Saturn news—on the front page of the Times, we learn that "plumes of ice crystals" have been detected near the south pole of Saturn's fourth-largest moon, Enceladus. "Pockets of liquid" near the surface might mean . . . extraterrestrial life! Don't attack us, please.


*By "new," of course, we mean 15 years old.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Late-winter pensées

I want someone to do a video mashup of Alexander Sokurov's Russian Ark and Barbra Streisand's Color Me Barbra.

Failure to Launch is the worst movie title since __________.

Notes from latest dream: A group of people were gathering at Columbia in support of a local personality who was ailing. I agreed to help out, along with Dizzyhead Chrita. What I didn't realize was that the helping out would involve traveling to D.C. for the day and delivering pizzas. The local personality was in fact a pizza delivery guy, and not really local.

I like: What I've heard of Belle & Sebastian's The Life Pursuit. (The deeply moving Gretta interviews them here.)

Looking for something to read? Why not try The Boy Who Fell Out of the Sky?

Why I woke up: The pizza delivery dream ended with the title sequence from some sequel to The Howling.

My new way of saying "bye": "Toodles!"

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Game On

In this week's Voice, I have a brief review of Game 6, a new film based on a screenplay by Don DeLillo.

I highly recommend it to any DeLillo fan, and suspect that even those people unfamiliar with his novels might like it. (People who actively dislike DD, however, should probably stay away.) Baseball fans—especially Mets or Red Sox followers—should also check it out.

The dialogue works wonderfully well—somehow, reading DD on the page, I think: People don't really talk that way, even as I enjoy it. But a production of his play Valparaiso convinced me that his speech can work when spoken—deliriously elevated at times, but never stilted. If I can find my notes, I'll share some of Game 6's choice lines. For now, here's the way Nicky Rogan (Michael Keaton) greets a diner owner he hasn't seen in a while: “You’re so healthy, thick-bodied—I just want to punch you!”

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Notes After Nap, 1/1/06

If they called him professor again he’d scream

List of questions for fellow incarcerees:

Who or What is Union Spike?
What’s on the other side of the building?
Who are we hiding from?
What do they want?

Something about a David Letterman cookbook—reading the prologue

Pattern of shoe sole on blanket (actually made of sand/some sort of powder), seen near the door, looks like a model or small relief map of ruined ancient city

Keeping the fluorescent lights off — transoms!

Who is the teammate?

Going through ceiling tiles to escape?

Fashioning weapon out of long wooden pole

Monday, March 06, 2006

The Heat Is On

Six o'clock. The heating systems composed works in the style of John Cage.
—David Mitchell, "The Ghastly Ordeal of Timothy Cavendish"

Light flickers from the opposite loft
In this room the heat pipes just cough...
—Bob Dylan, "Visions of Johanna"

* * *

The March Believer is out! Over at its virtual home, Magic Circles author Devin McKinney has a great piece about his almost namesake Colin MacInnes.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

"Young Americans" b/w "Da Doo Ron Ron"

David Bowie + Cher = WOW.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Unexpected fun find of the day

Q: Let me play this track here for you, it's by Echo and the Bunnymen—
A: I'll pass.

—Donald Barthelme, Paradise

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