Thursday, November 30, 2006

A Canticle for . . . You!

Dizzyhead Martin (one of the last of my cherished interns, back at the PTSNBN) has a newly invigorated blog, on which he has recently uploaded...the poster that he designed for Terry Gilliam's bravura adaptation of Walter M. Miller Jr.'s science-fiction classic, A Canticle for Leibowitz! Scholars recognize the film as a momentous achievement on many levels—and rave about the rapport between Jeff Bridges and Ossie Davis in their only joint screen appearance.

Eh—what's that?

You didn't realize that said film existed?

That's because it has only played in...the cineplexes of Martin's mind.

Go to his post for the full story! You won't be sorry.

This Pope's No Turkey — Burtonology — More Ukes — Cormac McDrama

Note recounting dream, ca. summer 2006:
"[We were] praising Alexander Pope—that guy nailed suburbia!"
(Wish I could remember more—sounds like a great dream.)

* * *

After reading about "contagious gunfire" in the Times (the piece compared its spread to that of germs, laughter, fear), I opened The Anatomy of Melancholy (for a piece I was working on—I don't just spend my days dissecting the Anatomy!) and my agéd peepers fell on this line:
"Why does one man's yawning make another man yawn?"

* * *

69 Love Songs
: The uke circle closes...opens...closes...

* * *

Termite Artist James has a stellar post about Cormac McCarthy's play, The Sunset Limited.

I asked some other Termiters what "getting off the schneid" meant — I assumed it was something like "getting on the stick" — here is what Dizzies team members Matt and R.E.S. said:

Matt: "Off the schneid" is a baseball term—means finally getting a hit after going on a bad stint of 0 for whatever.

R.E.S.: Getting "off the schneid" means ending a run of bad luck (it's used a lot in sports when players end a hitless streak and such). No one ever says they're "on the schneid", they're always getting off it.

More in depth, from Sports Illustrated:

The term comes from gin rummy. In that game, a "schneider" or "schneid" is when one prevents an opponent from scoring a point in a game or match. In sports, the "schneid" has become a general term for being scoreless, winless, hitless or other unsavory "-less" states. Thus when one achieves that first run, point, win, hit, etc., one is said to have "gotten off the schneid." The actual word originates from the German and Yiddish term schneider, for one who cuts cloth, i.e. a tailor.

Curiously, the same day I read James's take on the Cormac, I started a Friedrich Dürrenmatt novel in which the murder victim's name is...Schneid.


Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Bookspotting: Bonus post

What are the books in this Belle & Sebastian video? (Specifically: What comic book is the woman reading between the covers of Political Thought in 20th Century Literature?)

I confess

...that I don't think about the English Beat as much as I perhaps should. Must I always "Save It for Later"?

(This is via the new virtual home of Dizzyhead Queen Khong, for which I've submitted a monocular creation.)

My resolution isn't good enough to catch all the titles of the books that the beatniks are reading...I can only make out Kapital...Any Dizzyheads have better eyes/screens?

Dig the proto–Jekyll-&-Hyde decor!

Call for a list: "Beatnik" scenes in videos?

* * *

Check out the latest—and last?—issue of Crowd magazine, full of good stuff, including fiction by Lynne Tillman (!) and Alan De Niro, an essay by Matthea Harvey, poetry by Johns Ashbery and Yau, comics by the addictive Jeffrey Brown — must I go on?!

* * *

Up at the Believer: Interview with Eat the Document author Dana Spiotta.

* * *

"[Salvator] Rosa's self-satisfaction was embarrassing and irritating, for he boasted that he had surpassed Michelangelo, and Passeri quickly changed the subject."
—Margot and Rudolf Wittkower, Born Under Saturn

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

The Crying of Uke 49

Another reason to pick up the Pynchon?

The biggest surprise, not counting the space devoted to Lake Baikal, white slavery, Tamerlane's tomb and Jonah and the whale, is an astonishing excess of ukuleles. I mean, they show up more often than doggerel and puns. There is even a ukulele version of Chopin's Nocturne in E minor.

—John Leonard, "Close Encounters of the Fourth Kind," The Nation

Monday, November 27, 2006

Small Change — The Outsider — The Citizen — The Ghost

1.I'll be moderating a panel at the Small Press Center (20 W. 44th St.) this Saturday, Dec. 2 at 4 p.m. It's part of the 19th annual Independent and Small Press Book Fair. The panel will include authors T Cooper (Lipshitz Six, or Two Angry Blondes), Joe Meno (Haircuts of the Damned), and Peter Plate (Fogtown).

Earlier this year I heard that Delano Greenridge Editions, which published John M. MacGregor's masterpiece, Henry Darger: In the Realms of the Unreal, back in 2002, had dissolved. Somehow it didn't register that this meant MacGregor's masterpiece was no longer in print . . .

Working on a piece today, I found myself thinking about the art of the insane . . . and the Darger book, and thought I'd see what people were saying about it on Amazon. Alas . . . there are only three copies on offer—at $269, $450, and $600!

I wish some publisher would make the book available at an affordable price—a tough job, given its heft and unusual layout.

(And distressingly, MacGregor's important book The Discovery of the Art of the Insane , formerly an affordable Princeton U. Press softcover, also appears to be out of print. This should not be happening!)

Update: Dizzyhead Andy—a/k/a Citizen Truth—reads tonight at P.I.T., the People's Improv Theater, with Mike Albo and others.

4. Update: The big 10th issue of The New-York Ghost is out. Here's what they're saying in the blogosphere:
My friend told me about a "3-listen record", a piece of music that takes 3 tries to hook you and I think that [the] New-York Ghost has my 3-read addiction going off the charts. Finally, with issue 9 I feel the familiar foaming in my stomach/sign of alarm that is the marker of a thing worthy of love.
True Panther Sounds
Subscribe today—it's free!

Destroyer — Creeley — Betjeman — Jealousy

Destroyer mastermind Dan Bejar is interviewed about his involvement in the group Swan Lake, at Radio Free Canuckistan (via Zoilus):

Did making this record illuminate anything in your own work that you hadn't realized before?

Those guys, especially after having to learn all those Your Blues numbers, seem to think I gotta lot of songs in the key of B, or maybe it was E. Anyway, I never realized that till it was pointed out to me in their usual brutal manner. They also like to point out how numbingly simple my songs are, which is something I've been suspecting for a while now.

Double poetry reviews (triple, really) at the Buffalo News:

Jeff Simon looks at the recent double-volume collection of longtime Buffalonian Robert Creeley—dig the Western New York spin:

All you have to do is take a later poem clearly related to a Buffalo occasion—the playful, homonym-stuffed "Breath" dedicated to Susan Rothenberg and clearly inspired by the exhibit of her work at the Albright-Knox gallery—to know that the poem, like the horse painting it celebrates, is "a gift to all that lives/ and looks and breathes."
And Michael D. Langan looks at A.N. Wilson's new Betjeman bio (as well as a collection of JB).
[Betjeman's Oxford mentor C.S.] Lewis thought him deeply superficial and wrote him in a letter, "I have never heard you speak of any serious subject without a snigger. It would, therefore, be odd if you expected to find gushing fountains of emotional sympathy from me whenever you chose to change the tune. You can't have it both ways..."
Incidentally: How do you pronounce "Betjeman"?!

Rebecca Tuhus-Dubrow reviews Was She Pretty? at Salon. (I like that she mentions Noah Baumbach's underrated Mr. Jealousy.)

We stopped before the last comma

In “Against the Day,” his sixth, his funniest and arguably his most accessible novel, Thomas Pynchon doles out plenty of vertigo, just as he has for more than 40 years.

—Liesl Schillinger, The New York Times Book Review

(In truth—excellent review!)

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

The Connections #979: Shell-By Date

Dizzyhead Paul Collins has a great piece up at Slate called "Dead Plagiarists Society." Here's a bit of that typical Collins flair:
For any plagiarist living in an age of search engines, waving a loaded book in front of reviewers has become the literary equivalent of suicide by cop.
And there's much more—I especially like the mention of alchemy toward the end, and the idea of long-buried, obscure writers getting a second life (if not on Second Life) thanks to new literary-detective technologies like Google.

Speaking of long-buried: The piece mentions that Tristram Shandy's "diatribe against plagiarism...was itself plagiarized" from Burton's Anatomy (shamelessly...or was this a clever bit of commentary in itself?), and notes, "It's long been known that Poe plagiarized his first book, a hack project titled The Conchologist's First Book, and that Herman Melville swiped many technical passages of Moby Dick whole from maritime authors like Henry Cheever."


This I didn't know!

On page 313 of Strong Opinions, Nabokov cites with approval Salinger's A Perfect Day for Bananafish:
"'Stopping only to sink a foot in a soggy, collapsed castle . . . ' This is a great story, too famous and too fragile to be measured here by a casual conchometrist."
Eh? This fleeting assessment has long gnawed at me, especially conchometrist, which doesn't pop up in the OED; surely VN meant conchologist, someone who studies shells and shellfish. Does -metrist mean we should pay attention to the meter of the line in question? (How would it "scan"? Does --´--´-´--´--´´- make any sense?)

Or perhaps he wants us to think of a poem...a poem by—well, subtract the m: Poe.

Given that Lolita (especially the first half) is saturated with Poe references (particularly Poe's "Annabel Lee"), doesn't VN's enigmatic comment now underline a link between the Salinger story and his own troubling novel? Thanks to Paul's piece, has this long-buried connection (Salinger-Poe-Nabokov) finally been unearthed?

Finally: Here is the relevant part in "my" piece, "Humbert: An Introduction" (in the Paper That Shall Not Be Named, via Parkus Grammaticus). The paranoid Mercy Pang (not to be confused with this Mercy Pang, who I think is a niece) writes (in reference to the Salinger quote):
The castle looms in significance once the image of young Humbert and Annabel comes flickering into view: They pawed each other desperately on that distant beach, where "sometimes a chance rampart built by younger children" granted them "sufficient concealment to graze each other's lips." Is this too-blatant similarity one of the reasons Nabokov seems at a loss for words?
Her ludicrous charge of plagiarism suddenly seems in keeping with Paul's theme, no?

5. Light posting for a while—happy Thanksgiving—and there's a new New-York Ghost if you want it!

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

What in the Whirl

The Washington Post's Magazine Reader reads Scott Eden's excellent Believer piece.

Dizzies quiz

In the fizzy comment section of last Tuesday's post, Dizzyheads responded to my heartstring-tugging praise of Dalkey Archive Press. The enigmatic S., discussing the work of David Markson, wrote:

Love S's P. Love also the B of DM. Have read everything EXCEPT W's M. (Why?)

"S's P" stands for Springer's Progress. "W's M" equals Wittgenstein's Mistress. "B" likely refers to Reader's Block.

What other writers give their books such syntactically uniform titles? (One author immediately comes to mind—but I'm interested to hear what you come up with.)

Monday, November 20, 2006

The uses of enchantment

1. Maud Newton, apropos of her reading of the new Scarlett Thomas novel, revisits an earlier post, asking, "What's the last book that made you skip work, or stay up half the night, or forget yourself at stoplights?" (It's a luxurious feeling—recently this has happened to me with The Emperor's Children and The Uses of Enchantment.) Amitava Kumar asks an even more specific question: Which books have made you miss your subway stop? (For me, the most memorable such title was William Boyd's Any Human Heart—I wrote about the experience for the Paper That Shall Remain Nameless.)

2. Run, Jenny, run!

3. What they're saying about The New-York Ghost:

"Highly regarded." —Jane Dark's Sugarhigh!

"Magnificent...wonderful." —Toni Schlesinger, author of Five Flights Up

The new issue is out tomorrow—isn't it time you subscribed? (A: Perhaps.)

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Lede of the year?

Dizzyheads are invited to send in their nominations, but for now, check out this intro to a piece on the New York Dolls and Scissor Sisters:

You needn't be queer to get off on queerness, any more than you need be a vegetarian to eat a carrot. —Devin McKinney, "Gimme That Old Time Androgyny," City Pages

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Blueberry thrill

Light posting for a while — instead read The New York Times for:

Dizzyhead Dennis* on . . . the filming of Wong Kar-wai's My Blueberry Nights! (I think Dennis should be a character in a WKW movie.)

. . . and . . .

Meghan O'Rourke is down with Up Is Up, But So Is Down, the book edited by Dizzyhead Brandon! I mean, she's "up" on it! I mean: She digs it!

Bonus audio clip: Joshua Clover's "Their Ambiguity"—remixed!

*Incidentally, this is not Dennis Lim.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Because it is the beginning of hope—but only the beginning

Cat pics + quotes from Nadja = genius!

THOUGHT: New O.J. Simpson book = the inverse of James Frey. A book of truth masquerading as fiction vs. a book of fiction masquerading as memoir.

Separated at birth: Natalie Maines, lead singer of the Dixie Chicks, and Busy Phillips (blond actress from Freaks and Geeks, Dawson's, and now ER?)

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Right now I can't speak Korean

Via Angry Asian Man: This MadTV sketch skillfully skewers Korean soaps:

Added joke: after meeting the heroine, his spoken Korean doesn't match up with the subtitles at all. He says:

"Right now I can't speak Korean."
"Right now, my stomach is too full."
"I'm sorry."

Mmm...project: A secret history of native-language nonsense. I distinctly remember the long final sequence of Kentucky Fried Movie ("Fistful of Yen"), in which the Asian warlord (?) issues directives to his troops—except he's simply naming various Korean foods!

Jennifer 3

Some vintage Jenny D:

[L]ast night I steeped myself in a muscle-softening bath of Epsom Salts and had reflections on Smollett. —"A Very Long Post About Running and the Eighteenth Century," Light Reading

* * *

And check out Dizzyhead Jen's great photos from the National Book Awards ceremony.

* * *

And see the first item of my previous post!

Cloud atlas

1. Check out A Non-Breaking Space, Jen Bervin's free online book. (The title comes from HTML code, " .") Bervin's NETS was a perfect little/big thing, in which she took various Shakespeare sonnets and scrubbed away most of the lines, leaving just a few words here and there, for new meanings, new resonances.

2. Good Julavits interview in the Boston Phoenix—weird headline, though!

3. How I Named Certain of My Albums: Robyn Hitchcock meets...Raymond Roussel? I was a Robyn H. enthusiast in the late ’80s/early ’90s, though I haven't kept up with his output. For murky reasons, I looked him up on Wikipedia recently, and some of the album titles struck me as possible results of the Rousselian procedure in which you take a sentence, alter a word or two (while keeping the sound essentially the same), and thereby create a near homophone with a completely different meaning.

Groovy Decay (1982)
Groovy Decoy (1985)
Gravy Deco
Moss Elixir
Mossy Liquor

4. Fans discuss dapper TCM host Robert Osborne's age/looks. (Thanks to Dizzyhead Brent.)

5. Fans of Dizzies team member Izzy (I just love typing her name) should check out some of the fruits of her labor: Jewcy has launched.

6. Speaking of Robyn Hitchcock (#3, above)—I'm pretty sure I started listening to him (circa Fegmania!) because R.E.M.'s Peter Buck would always give him props in interviews. This leads me to mention a thought-provoking (at least to me!) article by Dan Kois in Slate on "R.E.M. vs. U2." Kois asks which was the greatest rock band of the ’80s—an excellent question, and one I thought about constantly during the ’80s! I generally thought R.E.M. was the winner—but maybe it's time for a clearer-eyed look, now that I listen to neither with any regularity.

Let's put the albums head to head. We'll start with two gimmes—an R.E.M. EP, a U2 live album, each of them key components to the respective group's appeal, but which do not find a counterpart in the opposing group. (I just wrote the most pellucid sentence in the history of the English language.) So:

Chronic Town (EP) vs. ______ = Chronic Town (by default)
_______ vs. Under a Blood Red Sky = UABRS (by default)

And now, album by album...R.E.M. vs. U2!:

1. Murmur vs. Boy = Murmur (by a hair—I think Boy is the strongest of the early U2 LPs)
2. Reckoning vs. October = Reckoning (by a big margin—recently I learned that the lyrics for October had gone missing, and so Bono had to make them up pretty quickly, in the studio, which definitely explains this largely disappointing set of songs (worst song candidate: "I Threw a Brick Through a Window"—if I were editing that song title, I'd write, in red pen: "Stet rep of 'threw/through' sound"?); Reckoning's greatness has been acknowledged in Pavement's "Unseen Power of the Picket Fence"—and yes, per Malkmus, "'Time After Time' was my least favorite song" as well!)
3. Fables of the Reconstruction vs. War = War (though both are "pas mal"—solid)
4. Lifes Rich Pageant vs. The Unforgettable Fire = TUF (a close one; I listened to both intensely back in the day, scrutinizing the lyrics...I embraced LRP more upon its release, probably, than I did TUF...but I think the more interesting production starts to give U2 the edge here—and gives "The Edge" the edge over Buck.)
5. Document vs. The Joshua Tree = The Joshua Tree (by a comfortable margin)
6. Green vs. Rattle and Hum = NO WINNER (I didn't like Green, and Rattle and Hum was rather oppressive)
7. Out of Time vs. Achtung Baby = Achtung Baby (OoT was strong, and very pretty at times, but had too many bad ideas—"Radio Song," "Shiny Happy People"—whereas AB is...the best U2 album since Boy? Since ever?)
8. Automatic for the People vs. Zooropa = I have no idea (both have good titles)
9. Monster vs. Pop = I have no idea
10. New Adventures in Hi-Fi vs. All That You Can't Leave Behind = I have no idea (though R.E.M. has the better title)
11. Up vs. How to Dismantle an Atom Bomb = HtDaAB (I haven't heard Up, but the U2 album has "Vertigo"—unofficial Dizzies theme song)
12. Reveal vs. _______ = R.E.M. (by default; I haven't heard it)
13. Around the Sun vs. ______ = R.E.M. (by default; ditto)

The final tally: R.E.M., 5 — U2, 6 = U2 wins!

[Bono's acceptance speech TK]

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Two events and a non-event

1. Tonight—a reading for Brandon Stosuy's Up Is Up, But So Is Down, featuring Lynne Tillman, Bruce Benderson, and others:

2. Tomorrow—a panel discussion at Housing Works on David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest, which celebrates its 10th anniversary. Speakers include Time critic (and Codex novelist) Lev Grossman and John Krasinski—who plays the tall, amiable guy from the American Office, and who is adapting DFW's Brief Interviews for film.

3. A few days ago, reading Harry Mathews (The Case of the Persevering Maltese), I mused (I do a lot of musing of late) that Dalkey Archive—publisher of Mathews and multitudes more—is a national treasure. I'd been mildly excited by their impending move to Rochester, New York (vaguely envisioning some sort of Western New York, Rochester-Buffalo cultural/literary renaissance). And then today, via several blogs, I see that it is not to be. Apparently a key grant fell through, making the move to the "East Coast" too costly. Alas! Whither Dalkey? (They will lose their current home, Illinois State University, at the end of the year.)

Favorite Dalkey books of The Dizzies include the Mathews oeuvre, Nigel Dennis's Cards of Identity, Stanley Crawford's Some Instructions to My Wife..., Felipe Alfau's Locos, Ben Marcus's The Age of Wire and String, Flann O'Brien's The Third Policemen. Then there is the longer list of Dalkey titles that exert their strange power over me despite the fact that I haven't finished them (William Gass's The Tunnel) or even really started them (Louis Paul Boon's Chapel Road)...just the fact that they exist is quite inspiring.

Tuesday meld

1. A new New-York Ghost? It must be Tuesday! Make sure to visit Ghost central and subscribe. It's free—and best of all, it's full of bizarre factual errors!

2. The best Ten Words yet?

3. Tonight at 6 p.m. at the New York Public Library: "Critically Speaking," in which three literary magazine editors introduce three new writers. (We got news of a very convoluted recent reading, in which one person introduced two people who introduced one person who introduced five people who introduced five writers—pant, pant!—but this seems less of a labyrinth!) The writers include ad man–turned–excellent novelist James P. Othmer, poet Paul Killebrew, and the Believer's own Meehan Crist.

4. Dizzyhead Jenny has a terrific review of The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing in the Times—great title, fascinating-sounding book:

The novel is set in the 1760s, in Boston, where Octavian and his mother — a West African princess named Cassiopeia — live in the quarters of the Novanglian College of Lucidity, a near double for Swift’s preposterous Academy of Lagado in “Gulliver’s Travels” (1726). The college is a breeding ground for the kinds of pseudoscientific theory about differences between whites and blacks that make for queasy reading. Yet mother and son are treated well. Dressed in silks and expensive white wigs farmed from the heads of Prague pensioners, Octavian and his mother perform duets — Octavian plays the violin, his mother the harpsichord — and exchange syllogisms over dinner.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Repeat performances

For a distressingly long period of time—a period that has only recently come to an end—I found myself recapitulating in dreams what had transpired during waking hours. The level of detail was unnervingly high, even though entire chunks were often omitted. I had only a vague, uneasy notion, during these repeat performances, that I had already lived through what was about to transpire. I would be surprised. It was only in the morning that I realized what had happened. My double life became transparent, and when it was apparent that these recapitulations were happening on a regular, nearly nightly basis, I was alarmed enough to have myself committed to a pleasant asylum with pretty nurses. The doctors assured me that my condition, while unusual, was innocuous and did not warrant medical attention. With a sigh I collected my belongings and returned home—knowing I would do so again later that evening.

Twin Ligaments: A Daydream, November 13, 1998

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Shop talk: Twenty Lines a Day

Among the ancient papers disinterred from my former office is a legal pad from 1998, of which only 16 pages were used. The cardboard binding at the top reads, in faint pen, "T.L.A.D."

Twenty Lines a Day! Here was my attempt to follow the writing exercise set by the great Harry Mathews in his book of the same name—hewing to Stendahl's decree: "Twenty lines a day, genius or no."

The first page of my pad is blank save for three sets of those four-lines-plus-slash bundles that prisoners use to keep track of the passage of time. So: I finished fifteen days of twenty lines a day, skipping just a couple days (made up for by doubling-up on other days). Though Mathews doesn't insist on any continuity of narrative, I was trying to create a single story, albeit starting from a slightly/radically different perspective each day. These little jumps in voice would give the thing vigor.

(I don't know why I stopped after fifteen—I wish I'd at least gone to twenty days.)

Now it's 2006. Once I realized what I had—whimsical stabs at a narrative, written by a writer I barely recognized—I decided to type them into the computer, one entry per day. I didn't read the entries, so that each day would be like discovering a brand-new text. I have only vague memories of most of these amusing scribblings. In some cases I applied Oulipian treatments, most notably, the "n+7" method, in which you replace words with whatever comes seven places from it in the dictionary. (Thus I call the whole thing "Twig Lineaments, a Daydream.")

I bring this up because today, as I was typing in another entry, I hit the phrase "this mild November day." I looked at the date on the corner of the sheet—November 12, 1998! This chronometric coincidence seemed too juicy to go unremarked, and so I'm pasting the entry, more "no" than genius, but so what? My eight-years-younger self demands recognition. ("Edmond Boisgilbert" is a very old writer whom the narrator has lately become obsessed with; it was the novelistic pen-name of Ignatius Donnelly, author of Atlantis, but in my little narrative he is another writer entirely, still alive and living in Italy.)

Was Edmond Boisgilbert ever, as he claimed, a Surrealist? I can find no record, in their [sic] or his archives, proving any association. Maybe he just wanted to be one. They [sic] were notoriously exclusionary and fickle. It is unlikely that he was admitted into their circle, then purged—and every mention of him eliminated. I am just stating the way it appears to me on this mild November day. I confess I am unusually tired as I write this. The medication is kicking in. My life in this room consists of eating, writing, starving, eating, sleeping. [...] Since establishing myself here—with my unfinished Atlantis manuscript, my collection of Boisgilbertiana, and my confusing notes—I have gained weight, lost weight, remained roughly the same; I have developed a new style of handwriting (which I refer to in my diaries as my ‘genius script’); and I have alienated myself from virtually all my friends. Q. drops a line now and again, which is good of her. She lives in Molucca with her husband, her daughters, and a quantity of birds resembling geese—which are not, in fact, geese. I never write back.

Ivy beleaguered

From Dizzyhead Paul's Weekend Stubble, a charming F. Scott Fitzgerald epistle about some good-natured Princeton roughhousing:

Tonight is the cannon rush so if you never hear from me again you’ll know I died a freshman. (gentle pathos.) The “horsing” (or hazing) is going on now. Its very foolish. Freshies have to carry their cap in their mouths and by the way our uniforms are some class (not)...

(As Paul points out: Great pre–Wayne's World use of "not"!)

The incident brought to mind this tidbit about James Fenimore Cooper, who was expelled from Yale under mysterious circumstances:

[Biographer] Lounsbury could conclude only that "a frolic in which he was engaged during his third year was attended by consequences more serious than disfavor." Cooper family tradition is that he was expelled for an explosion set off in a friend's room by "the clever use of a keyhole." Other biographes recount a prank in which a young man trained a donkey to sit in a professor's chair. Sstill another rumor proposed that Cooper had set off a bomb in chapel. Interestingly, Cooper's brother had been expelled from Princeton in 1802 for allegedly taking part in burning down Nassau Hall. —Judith Ann Schiff, Yale Alumni Magazine (Nov/Dec 2006)

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Saturday, November 11, 2006

The Sodom and Gomorrah Show

1. Dizzyhead Brandon sends us a link to a video for the Thermals' "Pillar of Salt." GREAT!

2. I can't believe I just successfully embedded a video!

3. Reminder: Tonight at 11:11 p.m., it'll be 11:11 (and :11 seconds, if you've got a timepiece that precise) on 11/11! Yeah! Check out MUG for more...

4. Borat fans: The Dizzies' own Matt Singer talks to him on IFC. Check out how impressed the notorious film star is with Matt's trademark Tintin 'do!

Friday, November 10, 2006


1. Our sleepy step-sibs over at Ought reproduce some anagram dialogue from The O.C.

2. It's not too late to get The New-York Ghost!

3. "I could walk you through the park
If you're feeling blue...

...or whatever."

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Skin game

Once you appear on The Dizzies — anything can happen!

We recently linked to this site featuring appalling album art. Our source, Dizzyhead Stubes, tells us that, as seen on last night's Colbert Report, "John Hall, who appears in the middle of this scantily clad group, "is now Representative-Elect John Hall from New York's 19th District."

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Pet Shop Boys on the tube — Taiwan — prions

This is from a press release, forwarded by Dizzyhead Dennis:

The Pet Shop Boys will be on Dancing With the Stars tonight (8 p.m. EST) and on Friday on Late Late Night with Craig Ferguson. (The new album, Fundamental, is very strong.)

* * *

Dizzyhead Hua has a terrific piece up at Slate about Taiwanese politics. Sound dull? Think again!
In parliament, Lee Ao, an eccentric shades-wearing legislator, crashed the committee deciding the [arms] bill's fate, donned a gas mask—and a V for Vendetta mask atop that—and tear-gassed the committee members. As members coughed their way out of the chamber, Lee pledged to maintain his opposition to the costly bill.

And over at Newsday, Dizzyhead Jenny makes this D.T. Max book (the one that got me thinking about EYES) sound well worth picking up.

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Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Say What?

Interesting things in the Times:

1. Here's a strong review (by M.K.) of the new Eggers book, What Is the What: The Autobiography of Valentino Achak Deng.

2. Virginia Heffernan has a smart take on the past virtues of Gilmore Girls and its current mediocrity. (A few weeks ago, I tuned in, wasn't digging it, and then realized, I don't have to watch this! Nobody is forcing me!)
Casual viewers have typically complained about the show’s stylized dialogue, poseur diction and references seemingly inspired by Bartlett’s and Roget’s. Well, for them, it should all go down easier now. The new show is run by David Rosenthal, a television writer who was famous chiefly for a 2001 morbidly obsessive play about Heidi Klum that Bruce Weber in The New York Times called “not only offensive but also incompetent.” On his “Gilmore Girls,” people lead and follow: one person talks, and the other sighs, frowns or chuckles. The sound mix is especially thick with that chuckling that signals what’s funny. I keep thinking that if Rory and Lorelai, those unsentimental brainiacs, could see this show, they’d hate it.
And this strikes me as a perfect read on the purpose of the trademark rapid-fire dialogue:

Indeed, that was the charm of the old show: women, fundamentally women without men, were compelled to talk as fast as they could to keep their loneliness at bay. The virtue of Ms. Sherman-Palladino’s shticky style was that it created characters who were new to television. In their purest incarnations, Lorelai and Rory shared the witty woman’s challenge: to architect a wall of words so high and so thick that no silence, no stares, no intimations of mortality or even love could penetrate it.

All TV criticism should be this good!

3. And finally...James Taylor? Yes! His Rube Goldbergian drum machine—take a look!

He says: "It’s a revolving drum with big fins attached to the outside that activate and actually play the drums for four bars. It scared the hell out of me the first time we used it, but it works great."

If this has whetted your appetite for primitive (and perfectly useless) precision instruments, read Charlie Suisman's delightful mini-essay and link roundup at Manhattan User's Guide.

* * *

The Guardian's podcast: A talk with William Boyd, talking mostly about Any Human Heart, one of my favorite novels of the past x years.

Monday, November 06, 2006


Spooked by ambiguous images? If you're not getting the full picture, you need to get The New-York Ghost, the raffish newsweekly you print out at work. Subscribing is easy and free—just visit the site (see linkon margin of this page) for instructions.

This week's issue features an exposé on some curious creatures right in our own backyard. We've said too much already! Subscribe!


Oscar Stephen Keeler?

Have you seen the Academy Award-grabbing film Crash? I thoroughly enjoyed it—the verb is perhaps inappropriate, given that the movie was widely praised for its piercing look at race relations. I found this aspect of it sententious and frequently absurd. But as an example of Harry Stephen Keeler's webwork method of storytelling, Crash is brilliant and completely watchable. Several different plot threads (an accident, a carjacking, etc.) are introduced right up front, with no apparent linkages, but gradually it turns out that these early incidents will have repercussions later on, when a character from strand A intersects with one from strand B, and so forth. By the end, the web becomes very tightly woven indeed, and you can trace every single character by just a few degrees of separation. Perhaps Paul Haggis and company would consider filming an update of, say, The Box From Japan?

In a recent Times review of Babel, A.O. Scott wrote:

The splintered, jigsaw-puzzle structure...will be familiar to viewers who have seen ''Amores Perros'' or ''21 Grams,'' the other two features Mr. Arriaga and Mr. González Iñárritu have made together. Indeed, this movie belongs to an increasingly common, as yet unnamed genre—''Crash'' is perhaps the most prominent recent example—in which drama is created by the juxtaposition of distinct stories, rather than by the progress of a single narrative arc.
May I suggest "webwork" as a name?

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Sunday, November 05, 2006

Books Do Furnish a Boom

Via Weekend Stubble: "An Oklahoma City candidate for state superintendent is examining the ability of textbooks at stopping bullets":

Crozier believes students could use the reading material while running away from an attacker. "The reason we are doing this experiment is because there was a kid in Fort Gibson who was shot in the back but the bullet did not penetrate his textbook."

Dizzies trivia: Which debut novel features a scene in which textbooks are hurled onto a lawn to detonate land mines?

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Saturday, November 04, 2006

The Exquisite

More infernal EP reviewery: The latest issue of Modern Painters (with the Anselm Kiefer painting on the cover) has my piece about Exquisite Corpse: Surrealism and the Black Dahlia Murder, a fascinating and unsettling new book by Mark Nelson and Sarah Hudson Bayliss that teases out the dark links between Man Ray, Marcel Duchamp, and George Hodel, one of the prime suspects in that famous case. The article also looks at Black Dahlia Avenger (a book by Hodel's son, Steve), Harry Stephen Keeler's webwork, and more . . .

When I have time, I'm going to do a "Connections" (right here at Dizzies Central!) between this material and all the recent eyeball stuff. (As the headline suggests, Laird Hunt's new novel fits into this web . . . )

Speaking of the Dahlia case, there's a great/wild interview with James Ellroy in the Sunday Times magazine (tomorrow).

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Friday, November 03, 2006

Final vinyl

Via Dizzyhead Stubes, a cache of awful album art. (The danger of browsing through these is that you start to wonder what they sound like...)

Thursday, November 02, 2006

William Styron, 1925–2006

Without being willing quite fully to admit it, I had begun to detest my charade of a job. I was not an editor, but a writer—a writer with the same ardor and the soaring wings of the Melville or the Flaubert or the Tolstoy or the Fitzgerald who had the power to rip my heart out and keep a part of it and who each night, separately and together, were summoning me to their incomparable vocation. William Styron, Sophie's Choice

[Written in my commonplace book, Spring 1993]

Formosa Def

Dizzyhead Hua has a nifty piece in the Los Angeles Times about Jay-Z global ambitions—and who fans in Taiwan really wanted to see.

(Q: How do you translate "hip-hop" into Chinese?)

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Wednesday, November 01, 2006

All Hallows' Roundup

1. The November Believer is out! Another action-packed issue, featuring Paul Collins on true crime, Scott Eden on the Evening Whirl (pictured), an interview with Irvine Welsh, Victoria Nelson (The Secret Life of Puppets) on the new Brothers Quay film, and more Time to subscribe, perhaps?! Maybe pick up this copy at the newsstand, and put your sub. order in for the big Dec./Jan. visual issue. Just a thought!

2. Vertiginous EP fiction (and artwork) at The Fanzine!

3. Monster-mashed EP reviewery at the Los Angeles Times!

4. Hot new New-York Ghost! Discover what one blogger lists among the 19 "Things That Keep Me Going These Days."

5. The amazing Lisa Robertson's journal at the Poetry Foundation site. (It went up in June but I'm reading it now.) LR is the mastermind behind the Office of Soft Architecture.

6. The current "Journal" is by William Logan. Sample: "I hate hate speech, I hate hate speech so much I hate myself for hating it. I hate the haters of hate speech just as I hate the haters of haters of hate speech. I hate hate speech so much I even hate the words “hate speech,” and if I hate hate hate hate speech long enough, hate it with the hatingest kind of hatred, probably hate speech will go away. I’m sure of it."

7. The Yale Herald on hipsters. Pointcounterpoint!

Choice quotes:

"[...] I’m [...] uninterested in hipsterdom, and I say that not to offend but rather to lend a voice to those among us who have never heard of Believer magazine, and don’t particularly care."

"Hipsterisms [...] could disappear from dialogue the instant they appear in The Village Voice."

"I wear the dreaded skinny jeans, I carry Moleskines, and I’m deeply fond of certain bands you may or may not have heard of. I don’t, however, wear thick black glasses or read The Believer[...]"

8. Great photos from Taiwan up at Hua's Palace. And Pop With a Face at the Shotgun Window has a great roundup of haunted songs.

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