Saturday, September 30, 2006



1. Think about going to the Housing Works book sale (see post below).
2. Get life organized. ("Fitness initiative"?!)
3. DL/DL: Read Dennis Lim on David Lynch in the NYT.
4. Check out Dizzyhead Drew's eye-opening new blog, the Royal Scam. (Warning: quotes include adult content!)
5. Speaking of "Royal"—the excellent used-book dealer, Royal Books, has a sale going on. Included is this item, of interest to Lovecraft fans.

[Lovecraft, H.P.] Hoag, Jonathan E. The Poetical Works of Jonathan E. Hoag (First Edition). New York: Privately Published, 1923. Hardcover. First Edition, Near Fine in blue boards with gilt stamping. Biographical and critical preface by H.P. Lovecraft, who contributes six poems to the Appendix, and who also had a large hand in the publication of the book. A lovely collector's copy of a scarce title, noted in the Lovecraft bibliography.
Price: $350.00
save 30%$245.00

Friday, September 29, 2006

Stuff for a dollar...stuff for *no* dollars

My guess is that you, like me, simply have too many books as it is...but doesn't this sound great?

Meanwhile, it's not too late to sample The New-York Ghost—absolutely free, absolutely inessential information about the city...entirely composed in one sitting, and designed to be read from cover to cover. Simply go to the blog and send a blank e-mail (subject line "Betamax!!") to the address therein.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Then what does "Organic Strawberry Banana" mean?

From the Times:

Accusations of cheating in chess matches are not unprecedented, and they are sometimes a little outlandish.

In 1978, during the world title match between Anatoly Karpov and Viktor Korchnoi, Mr. Karpov had yogurt delivered to him about three hours into Game 2. Mr. Korchnoi’s camp protested, saying that the flavor, blueberry, was a code to suggest a move or strategy to Mr. Karpov.

Mr. Korchnoi’s team later said that the protest was meant to be funny, to show how ridiculous some of the protests during the match had been, but the appeals committee took it seriously. It ruled that yogurt could be delivered to Mr. Karpov at a fixed time during each game, and that the referee would have to be notified before the game if it would not be blueberry.

Wait a second...

Is Sharon Small, who plays "D.S. Havers" (below) in The Inspector Lynley Mysteries, the same person as Kate Atkinson, novelist (Case Histories, et al.)(right)?

Did the people who put together the slouch-tastic poster for Standoff have a certain . . . other poster in mind?

Find out, possibly, in a future issue of The New-York Ghost, the newsletter you'll read cover-to-cover. Visit the blog and e-mail "Betamax!!" for your free copy of the debut issue.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

The Weekly Newspaper You Print Out at Work!

The New-York Ghost, already hailed by tastemakers as "What is this?" and "Thanks!," is in beta mode — check out the rudimentary blog, and sign up to be one of the first to experience this...thing!

Each issue is a four-page MS Word document that gets e-mailed to you. Download, print, read. What could be better?

(How to get the Ghost: Send an e-mail to the address on the blog, subject line "Betamax!!" Make sure you throw in two exclamation points.)

Third down

William Godwin on Caleb Williams (1794), from the invaluable Light Reading:

I began my narrative, as is the more usual way, in the third person. But I speedily became dissatisfied. I then assumed the first person, making the hero of my tale his own historian; and in this mode I have persisted in all my subsequent attempts at works of fiction. It was infinitely the best adapted, at least, to my vein of delineation, where the thing in which my imagination revelled the most freely, was the analysis of the private and internal operations of the mind, employing my metaphysical dissecting knife in tracing and laying bare the involutions of motive, and recording the gradually accumulating impulses, which led the personages I had to describe primarily to adopt the particular way of proceeding in which they afterwards embarked.
* * *

Over at Ought, they once posted John Irving's explanation of rewriting Until I Find You: After it was all done, he decided something wasn't right, so he went back and changed it from first person to third.

A character in Harry Stephen Keeler's The Mystery of the Fiddling Cracksman (1934) has a similar revelation:

"[...] You see my publishers [...] finally decided that my book would be more subtle—yes, I know I haven't even told you yet what it's about—but I will—well, they decided that it would be more subtle if narrated in the third person form instead of the first person. And so since they want to slap it on press inside of ten days, I've been sitting in a hotel room there on Broadway with a coffee percolator, changing tenses, pluperfects, points of view and whatnot for three days and nights, and having to retype the whole 80,000 words because nobody alive could read my revisions [...]"

* * *

Dizzies Trivia: Which Stephen King book goes from first person to third person?

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

A Confucian confusion

Via the Complete Review: China is standardizing the way Confucius should look:

"Acting as a symbol of Chinese history and culture, Confucius is widely known around the world. A standard portrait is needed so that different countries could have the same image of him," said CCF general secretary Zhang Shuhua.

Born in 551 B.C., Confucius, a great thinker, philosopher, statesman and educator, has more than 3 million descendants [...] There are 2.5 million descendants of Confucius in the Chinese mainland, 100,000 in the Republic of Korea, and many in the United States, Malaysia and Singapore.


The real question is, does he resemble this fellow—one of his supposed descendants, brooding in an elevator?

A: Not so much.

Monday, September 25, 2006

From A to S and Back Again

I caught some of the first part of Ken Burns's Andy Warhol documentary on PBS last week. Very interesting. (It was additionally delightful to see a former teacher of mine, Stephen Koch, as one of the talking heads.) I knew that Warhol's surname was originally Warhola, but I didn't know (or forgot) that it went from three syllables to two after someone had mistakenly dropped the "a" from his first illustration credit (for a magazine).

He just let it slide—it became his name!

People, even nice people, often tack on a superfluous sibilant to my last name. Pourquoi?! I always want to say, like in those mattress commercials: Leave the last -s off . . . for savings!

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Yankee doodle — The Collins Theory

“The Metallic pen is in the ascendant, and the glory of goosedom has departed forever,” one textbook stated flatly.

The full text to Paul's introduction to a new book of presidential doodles can be found here.

* * *

Last bit of this Times piece, on a chess championship held in Elista, was pretty great:

He mentioned the 2004 championship in Tripoli, Libya, which used a knockout system like that at the Wimbledon tennis championships.

Partly because of the location and partly because of the format, only 5 of the world’s top 20 players participated. It was won by Rustam Kasimdzhanov of Uzbekistan, who was ranked No. 47 at the time. Mr. Short said, “In Libya, the world championship final was watched by two men and a dog.”


Saturday, September 23, 2006

Welcome to Park Street

Photos by Arlo Ogg, September 2006, Buffalo

Jersey City

Obligatory daily Buffalo post, on the Sabres' new logo, from U.K. Dizzyhead Jane.

It does look rather strange (more tadpole than auroch), and at the same time anonymous (it has that "electrified" quality found on so many logos — I think only the NFL's Chargers can legally get away with it).

So—I don't know what I think of it yet, and I suppose it doesn't matter. One had gotten used to the "Beauty and the Beast"–style logo of the past decade...

...and yet old-timers like moi will always be attached to the original version, which is both dignified and dynamic (not as stolid, say, as that era's big leaf or the letter C). Those two white "action" lines speak volumes!

Friday, September 22, 2006

Framing devices

I (seriously) like this press release from Fantagraphics for the new The Complete Peanuts 1961–1962. It begins:

Launching into the 1960s, which many Schulz fans consider the first true Golden Age of Peanuts, The Complete Peanuts introduces a new cast member. Two, in fact: The obnoxious Frieda of "naturally curly hair" fame, and her inert, seemingly boneless cat Faron.

Later we read:

[I]n one of the strangest continuities in the history of Peanuts, the (off-panel) Van Pelt parents acquire a tangerine-colored pool table and become obsessed with it! Plus baseball blowouts (including a rare team victory), Beethoven birthdays, and plenty of dubious psychiatric help for a nickel.

* * *

In other important comics news, a deluxe Saturnhead is up. . . .

. . . and Dizzyhead Brent forwards a link to this amazingly framed Mary Worth adaptation. (Also via boingboing.) I seem to recognize former Yale Herald art editor/illustrator Annie Killelea in the first of these mini-movies; she is also one of the producers.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Starr attraction

1. Buffalo rising? The Times reports optimistically on the city's waterfront development; over at the Willamette Week fellow Buffalo native Karla Starr fills Portlanders in on the revels of displaced Bills fans.

2. Have you picked up your copy of A Public Space?

3. James Atlas mentions The Believer in his New York magazine piece on The New York Review of Books. (That's a lot of itals for one sentence.)

4. If they make a Susan Sontag biopic, I want Selma Blair to play the young S.S.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

From B. to C. and back again

The enigmatic, spiky B. Kite's passionate missive to the Voice is featured as its "letter of the week." The published version still has oomph, but it condenses much, and B. has asked me to post the whole thing here. (He wrote a very nice thing about me, which was cut in the printed version; my inclination is to remove this mention, but this could cause him to find another blog that will publish the real uncut version! I'm going to just use my initials.)
When it comes time to write the history of how the Voice went from a vital news and review source for readers across the country to a carbon copy of the lame and forgettable "alternative weeklies" owned by the inbred new management, I think we'll be able to assign at least three stages to the decline. First there was the brilliant idea of removing the Voice from the national stage by firing the likes of James Ridgeway and putting the lid on any but local political coverage.

Now, many managers, finding themselves in charge of a paper with national (and even international) influence, might imagine they had come into a pretty hot property, and seek to expand its reach. But this team takes "Go parochial!" as its rallying cry and rushes to restrict the paper's influence to a narrower sphere. It's an idea! And besides, rumor has it that the new head man doesn't like to hear people say nasty things about Bush anyway.

Stage two is the ongoing destruction of the film section. Here again management makes a bold move by taking what was widely considered to be the most essential and intelligent film coverage of any American weekly and dumbing it down to the level of the other links in their sorry chain, largely by making the editors use their (mostly) slackjawed syndicate critics. You know, running more capsule reviews from these yobs doesn't really equate to expanding arts coverage, as you've claimed. (Neither does expanding your damn LISTINGS!)

Stage three, the most recent, is the gutting of the books section (maybe the most eclectic and readable around, way better than the NY Times') and, to top it off, firing E- P---, the section's editor and long one of the Voice's most engaging, sharp, and funny writers. Do you have any idea what you're losing?

I'd like to think there's some greater plan behind all this, but judging from your past work, it seems you just suck.

B. Kite

Art (that's his name — it's very conceptual) told me about this short video, "C for Vendetta," which has a pretty high chuckle quotient.

The test

He had a plan, he said, a wonderful plan that lacked only a partner. If I was interested in being that partner he would let me in on it. I told him I was interested. He said that before he could let me in on the plan he had to test me. I asked him what the test was. He said I had to find someone who looked like me and pinch him on the arm. I then had to tell him I had a plan and ask him if he would like to be my partner and, if he agreed, test him in the same way.

Your plan is to make people who are already dizzy even dizzier, I said.

It's not really my plan, he said.

—Laird Hunt, The Exquisite

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Pernice work if you can get it

Dizzyhead Akiva sends in the following, via Stereogum—it's Joe Pernice, of the band the Pernice Brothers, talking:

"B.S. Johnson" is simply an homage to the late great writer of the same name. It's safe to say that he was not/is not widely read here in America, but he should be. My brother is a pretty bright guy. He's read a couple books, and upon seeing the title, thought I'd created fictional character, a Walter Mitty type, named Bullshit Johnson. I told him I had, but that's for the next record.

Jonathan Coe (a master in his own right), upon hearing the song, emailed to let me know I'd managed to sum up BSJ's life in two minutes, twenty-two seconds, and that it took him 500 pages to do so in his spectacular bio of B.S. called Like a Fiery Elephant. I'm a big fan of JC's, and it was as if Elvis (Costello) had written. I told my UK publicist I am indebted to him for getting the record to Mr. Coe. And that if he gets one to Elvis Costello, I'll swim the Atlantic and wash his (my publicists, not EC's) feet.

More info on B.S. Johnson here!

To read: Pernice's book Meat Is Murder. (Nick Hornby dug it.)

Monday, September 18, 2006

Not so sweet Française

Over at Nextbook, the great La Farge blows the whistle on the Suite Française lovefest.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

A little brain rest...

...while you struggle with your Wire quiz answers!

Adrian was very peculiar, I think. . . . He was a classicist and was known to be working on a book, provisionally entitled Did the Ancient Greeks Smoke Cigarettes? I do not know where Adrian is now and certainly his book has not been published, but I gathered from certain mumbled remarks that Adrian let drop that the planned book was going to demonstrate that there was indeed nothing new under the sun, that the ancient Greeks were great cigarette smokers and that there were lots of references to smoking in the Iliad, if only one translated certain words correctly. This, however, was practically all I, or anyone elese, ever got out of Adrian.

—Robert Irwin, Exquisite Corpse (1995)

* * *

This recalls Donald E. Westlake's God Save the Mark (1967), in which one scribe wants to publish his masterpiece, Veni Vidi Vici Through Air Power. The book poses the question: What if Julius Caesar had access to biplanes?

* * *

I Don't Know How to Embed Videos Dept.: Time to relax with this Lionel Richie chestnut, courtesy of Dizzyhead Brandon.

Thursday, September 14, 2006



We (okay--I) love television as much as we love books, the Internets, music, spirit photography and Buffalo sports teams. And there is no better realization of the formal possibilites of television than HBO's The Wire. It has been described by experts as "an American War and Peace," "a postindustrial riff on Dos Passos' U.S.A. trilogy" and "a reason for living." S4 just began last week (10pm, Sundays, HBO) and it's shaping up to be, oh, the greatest thing ever.

This is why, after much serve-and-volley, I have convinced our fearless leader Ed to host a Wire trivia contest on The Dizzies, in the hopes of both drumming up some interest in this severely underwatched show and rewarding you, faithful Dizzyheads, with the chance to win some free Wire-related merchandise. Up for grabs: a limited edition Akademiks hoodie, a copy of The Wire s3 on DVD and beautiful posters (see above) from the new season.


"You either real or you ain't..."

1> In January 2005, the NYPD broke up a drug ring that had adopted a strategy from The Wire for their own operation. What did they do?

2> What is the relevance of this picture to fans of the Barksdale gang?

3> What is the relationship between Mystic River, Clockers and The Wire?

4> Starting in season three, a retired police officer joined the cast, but not to play himself--someone else was already doing that. What is his/their name?

5> What is the relationship between P. Diddy and George Pelecanos' King Suckerman?

Tiebreaker #1: In return for his confession for multiple murders, what meal does Wee-Bey request while he's in the interrogation room?

Tiebreaker #2: In return for his aid in a drug trafficking case, what drink does White Mike request while he's in the interrogation room?

Bonus Tiebreaker: Is there any other show in the history of television as good as The Wire?

Email your answers to tercentary at gmail dot com.

UPDATE: Just answer as many as you can and we'll see what happens. You no longer have to get all five questions correct!

Contest ends Sunday at 10pm, when the new episode airs on HBO.

This is the last time we'll be using this space for vaguely commercial purposes, at least until s5 of The Wire.

Timrod steward

In the Times today, there's a piece by Motoko Rich on how Bob Dylan's new album, Modern Times, contains lyrics similar to some poems by Henry Timrod ("sometimes known as the poet laureate of the Confederacy"). Timrod isn't credited or acknowledged in any way; most (but not all) of the exegetes quoted in the article seem to have little problem with the borrowing. (Modern Times, someone has noted, contains the letters in Timrod's last name.)

As I read the article, I did think about the Kaavya Viswanathan/Megan McCafferty imbroglio, and wondered: How come no one argued that K.'s plagiarism was just part of the "folk process"? (A cheekier me might have made the case for Opal Mehta as avant-garde text, presumably employing the cut-up technique.) But mostly I was reminded of Dylan's most recent prior borrowing—from Confessions of a Yakuza, on 2001's "Love and Theft".

Which recalled this long-forgotten piece of whimsy from the Parkhives.

* * *

Side note: Ron Rosenbaum's dismissal of Modern Times in the Observer contains hilarious repeated mentions of "Winterlude" (off of New Morning) as the nadir of Dylan's songwriting. (I hadn't thought of it, but it is a pretty terrible song!)

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Gran illusion

From a fun essay in the Sunday Times that I just read, by the novelist Sara Gran:

There’s a rumor going around that Brooklyn is some kind of heaven on earth for writers. I think it started in The Believer, the magazine of optimistic writing founded by the same people who brought us the McSweeney’s ferret-wash store (and which, by the way, should stop bothering with individual contributors’ bios and just go with “the writers live in Brooklyn”).

Did it start in The Believer? I don't have any recollection of this . . . though the last part is kind of true ("the writers live in Brooklyn"). In fact, this 2003 piece in the San Francisco Chronicle, about SF's literary universe, bizzarely pegged me as one of that fair borough's denizens.

The truth, as my friends know, is that I am rather clueless when it comes to Brooklyn. I have been to a number of neighborhoods over the years, and I like Brooklyn and all that, but I'm not sure how everything fits together. Every time I go, I have to write down the directions very carefully and read them a thousand times once I get off the train. At every corner I'm convinced I've lost the directions and will never make it to my destination, let alone Manhattan.

* * *

Gran makes the self-deprecating claim that "Park Slope is a neighborhood almost exclusively populated by writers; to be specific, writers who are better than I am . . . " But hold the phone! Gran rocks. Her novels Dope and Come Closer are fast, furious reads—I highly recommend them. You will burn through each in a couple of hours, then scream at passers-by: Where can I get more?!

(Oh wait, there is one more: Saturn's Return to New York — you know how I love all things saturnine. Must read it!)

* * *

Oh and: Speaking of things Believer-y, the games issue just arrived. Of course, every issue is well worth your time (and hard-earned dough), but this one is packed with major goodies. I would not steer you wrong.

Anyone unfamiliar with the Oulipo should click through to Christopher R. Beha's piece, available online—those first two paragraphs are genius. And the article ends with a very moving passage by Harry Mathews, a remembrance of his friend Georges Perec (whose essay on crosswords is in this issue as well—I told you it was a good one!). When I first read this memorial, years ago (in the Review of Contemporary Fiction?), it took me a second or even third read to put my finger on what was going on.

* * *

And speaking of Oulipo (isn't "And speaking of" the best segue? A: Perhaps.) — during the excavation/cleaning of my office, I found several printouts of a very early review I wrote, for the website n.b., on The Oulipo Compendium. I had thought this piece was lost forever, as n.b. does not exist as even the faintest cyberghost (as far as I could tell, it was a site connected to "The Reader's Catalog," itself somehow attached to the New York Review of Books, though the connections were never clear to me) . . . Various "Parkhivists" are rejoicing, I know, but I need to give it a read; if it passes muster, I'll have Julio or Maxine (my new Dizzies interns) transcribe and post it here.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Brighten the corners

His exhaustion is that of the gladiator after the combat; his labor was the whitewashing of a corner of the wall in his office.

—The Zürau Aphorisms of Franz Kafka (#34)

Monday, September 11, 2006

Take time to read...

...the Anne Sexton poem up at MUG today:


Floor two hundred:
mountains with the patience of a cat,
silence wearing its sneakers.


Sunday, September 10, 2006

The Beautiful Room Is Empty

—Saturday, September 9, 6:25 p.m.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Initial reaction

Graffito on front of grocery store, Amsterdam near 86th, 11:30 a.m.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Heartbreak Beat

What to do with my unused business cards? Dizzyheads Drew and Dennis used some to create a touching corkboard display outside my (err, "my") office:

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Monocle de mon oncle

At Rust City Books in downtown Buffalo—the store's website is busted and there's no business card that I can scan in—I picked up a curious, agreeably elongated publication from 1963 called Monocle. I didn't even know what it was, hadn't heard of it before, but within five seconds knew I had to buy it, despite the fact that I should not buy any more printed matter ever, for the rest of my life, owing to a sudden influx of books from my now vacated office.

But take a look:

Nice, eh?

The entire issue is devoted to the CIA, not necessarily an area of interest for me, but there's something about the writing and the design that I found instantly appealing—just glimpsing a few passages and illos made it clear this was a document meriting further study. Later I saw that the editor was none other than Victor Navasky (later of The Nation). Come back for a full report later. For now I will mention one headline/byline that gave me a kick:

Hhooww ttoo bbee aa DDoouubbllee AAggeenntt

By E.C. Hobbs
By E.C. Hobbs

(That was a lot of fun to type!)

The article's epigraph is also great:

"Sometimes I feel we are both paying the same agents twice." —Nikita Khrushchev

* * *

Some other weekend highlights:

1. High Society at the Shaw Festival in Niagara-on-the-Lake—best lyric: "Even bugs roll up in rugs for their diversion/Let's find some Persians/Let's misbehave!" (Odd side note: There's a nice version you can listen to here, but I can't find the bugs/rugs lyrics anywhere.) Another song had a Circe/controversy rhyme that I need to look up.

[In codger voice]: They don't write 'em like they used to, that's for sure!

2. Seeing a garter snake slip into the brush when I went to retrieve a lost tennis ball.

3. Watching the first five episodes of [important: do not read this title if you do not want to entertain the possibility of becoming hopelessly addicted] Dae Jang Geum, a 54-episode (-hour) historical Korean soap opera that so far is like Harry Potter meets Iron Chef—except much better than even that formula suggests. (The version we watched was on DVD, with generally excellent English subtitles.)

4. Following the accounts of local fugitive "Bucky" Phillips (splashed across the front page of the Buffalo News). Seeing choppers in the air during a walk around the trail near the university.

5. Visiting the Karpeles Manuscript Library Museum on North Street—a former Christian Science church converted into a . . . somewhat bizarre exhibit space. I've never noticed this building before, and "Manuscript," "Library," and "Museum" are probably on my top 10 list of favorite words. There were tinges of Keeler on the title card, with a Masters of Atlantis vibe throughout. The current show was about...female aviation pioneers. Amelia Earhart you know; but what about Bobbi Trout? Louise Thaden? Clara Adams, "the Honored Aviatrix Who Never Piloted a Plane"?

6. Seeing a watercolor my mom painted years ago and just had framed.

7. Seeing a yellow warbler (near house) and blue heron (in Delaware Park).

8. Running into my old English teacher from high school while walking around the lake in the park with Arlo Ogg and Wife of Dizzies.

9. Reading really amazingly/embarrassingly nice things people have been saying online. (I can't link to them here—it's really too face-reddeningly embarrassing.)

10. My aunt demonstrating yoga poses, to the mystification of our guests.

11. Wearing "Crocs" around the house. (My aunt now sells them.) Very comfortable!

12. Hearing some...slowed-down, sorta jazzified version of Elvis Costello's "Human Hands" while walking in Boulevard Mall, right after talking to the Times.

13. Realizing I never threw away the Neil Young electronic album, Trans. (Am newly fascinated thanks to this post from Geeta.)

14. Riding bikes with my dad, morning after heavy rain. Remembering how riding around "islands" used to bring to mind the image of a boa constrictor swallowing its prey whole. This takes us back to #2.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

36 is the new 60

...but this guy says I'm "young"!

New Saturnhead is up. New post here soon.

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