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 (1995)
Moss Elixir (1996)
Mossy Liquor (1996)
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]