Tuesday, January 31, 2006

My idea of fun

I don't know why, but I thought it might be fun to mistype "gmail" and see what "gnail" produced.

And it was fun, sort of.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Give the people what they want

Initial Descent
One of the sillier factoids gleaned from Freygate: The Million Little Pieces author has a tattoo that reads: FTBSITTTD, short for "F--- this bull s---, it's time to throw down."

Doesn't that seem a bit...long-winded? (And shouldn't "bulls---" be one word?)

I'm reminded of the infamous MIICRNYCOAGNWMA, as seen in this book.

Graphic Designs
Good news, Dizzyheads: I've found the Saturnhead trove! But I'm still not sure how to use the scanner. Patience!

Archive Fever

I've been opening folders on my computer that I haven't opened in decades. Here's an amusing listing I wrote in 2002!

‘Borges: The Time Machine/La Máquina del Tiempo’
Inside the Grolier Club, infinity goes up on trial: Borges or a dream of Borges. The exhibit (imported from his native Buenos Aires) tracks his droll, occasionally terrifying genius, from youthful verse and a promotional yogurt pamphlet, to learned pieces for what was essentially Argentina’s Ladies’ Home Journal, to a diagram for his classic whodunit “Death and the Compass” and translations of Whitman and Woolf. Even his earliest scribbling suggests the offhand omniscience to come; at age seven he writes, “Now I will tell you something about some other gods."

Bonus: A selection of notes from the aforementioned exhibit
Imaginary friends of JLB and sister: “Quilos” and “The Windmill”
“When they finally bored us, we told our mother that they had died.”

Evaristo Carriego, poet and friend of JGB; novel: Misas Herejes (The Heretical Masses)

“Life and death have been absent in my life. From that indigence comes my industrious love for these trifles.” —1932

“The gods” written in English, age 7 (1906)
“Now I will tell you something about Diana”
“Now I will tell you something about Mercurio”
“Now I will tell you something about some other gods”

“This I consider the real Quixote.” (Paris: Garnier, 1889) red w/gold lettering

1914 Switz/Europe
1918 Spain; avant-garde; age 21, The Red Psalms (destroyed on eve of departure); returns to Arg. 1924.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

West Coast coda

Random notes I jotted down on a bookmark
All babies have Brooklyn accents.

The Dissociated Press

The New World Odor

"A crew member will let you know when masks are no longer needed."

Those pens they used to have, you could use one of four colors.

* * *

Rivers and Tides, the documentary about environmental artist Andy Goldsworthy, would make sense on a double bill with Herzog's Grizzly Man—portraits of people connecting with the natural world (or trying/dying to). But the transitory quality of Goldsworthy's work also suggests a different Herzog pairing—Wheel of Time, in which Buddhist monks painstakingly craft huge mandalas which are whisked back into nothingness upon completion.

An interesting article on Russell Hoban in The Independent. (Thanks to Dizzyhead Darren.)

West Coast confidential

Proposed new, easy-to-read format for The Dizzies:

Snacks Aplenty
Good eatin': Vietnamese sandwiches, In-n-Out Burger, Tri-Village (honey-glazed pork folded into soft Chinese bread and sided with lotus seeds and fermented rice), Shik Do Rak (barbecue meat wrapped in sheets of "duk"), Señor Fish (shrimp and scallop burrito), fruit
Randomly hilarious: The OC Weekly has a section of one-sentence restaurant reviews.

The literary life
Reflection on James Frey: The hoax itself is the work of art.
Preliminary judgment on Susannah Clarke's Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell: Amazing!
Books bought at the excellent Book Baron (Anaheim):
1. A Man to Conjure With, Jonathan Baumbach
2. A Father's Words, Richard Stern
3. Europe, or Up & Down With Schreiber and Baggish, Richard Stern
4. The Ginger Cure, William Granson Rose
(That top-hatted image up top is the Book Baron logo.)
Final reflection on Frey: The hoax wants to be discovered.

Thumbs up: Brokeback Mountain
Thumbs down: The Constant Gardener, now available on DVD


New pet peeve: Songs with L.A.-specific lyrics (Sheryl Crow having fun on "Santa Monica Boulevard"; Missing Persons explaining that "nobody walks in L.A."; Pavement referencing the "Hills of Beverly"; Tom Petty namechecking "Ventura Boulevard"; etc.)

I'm Just Sayin'
New literary pet peeve: Obligatory harshing on McSweeney's, even when you really like what they're doing.

E.g., The Elegant Variation recommends The Believer Book of Writers Talking to Writers, but needs to preface it thus:

No, your eyes aren't deceiving you and yes, we are recommending a Believer product.

The Baltimore City Paper likes the Collins Library's Keeler reissues—despite previous reservations:

Every once in a while even the insufferable do something right. Witness McSweeney’s—that maddening repository of sincerely sarcastic in-jokes and the lemmings who care to understand them—reissuing Harry Stephen Keeler’s 1934 The Riddle of the Traveling Skull.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Right read Fred

I like misreadings. This morning I jumped when I thought I saw our Viennese friend (in a Guardian article) kvetching from beyond the grave at our wired world:

Fraud nags at Google's grand strategy
Technology: The threat of click fraud may change the way the search giant does business, reports Charles Miller.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Ice Haven

I thought I had a bunch of Voice film poll comments that weren't published—but I've only found one in my scrap heap. I brushed it up a little and offer it unto you.

The floating-world heroine of Café Lumière, newly preggers, matches a dream she's been having with a story in a Maurice Sendak book: a goblin has replaced a baby sister with a double made of ice. A changeling theme gives another amazin' Asian, Tropical Malady, its second-half mystery, as Tong, one of the grinning lovers in Part One, disappears—subsumed by or reverting to a tiger spirit. His first-half occupation? Cutting ice.

* * *

Speaking of ice—has anyone gone skating in Bryant Park?

(Who am I talking to?)

Monday, January 16, 2006

Everybody's Got Something to Hide...

...except for Dizzyhead Ben, whose epic piece on King Kong is now available for your reading pleasure.

Also out there: The Voice's Education Supplement, featuring pieces on Wikipedia, rating your professor, and much more.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Larry from the Block

Last night, I toggled between Conan and Craig Ferguson for a bit; Tom Selleck was on the latter, talking about some new film project in which he plays (surprise!) a private eye. Ferguson asked Selleck if he read mystery novels (he said he didn't/didn't have time), then told him he should play Lawrence Block's Matthew Scudder character.

I've enjoyed a number of Scudder books—my favorite is When the Sacred Ginmill Closes. I'm not a frequent viewer of Ferguson, but I like that he's a fan of Block's stuff, to the extent that he even had LB on as a guest last year.

Aspiring Blockheads might give WTSGC a shot, or Grifter's Game (a clean-lined, unstoppable LB novel from the '60s, published by noir-recidivist imprint Hard Case Crime). He has other characters he returns to—hitman Keller, international man of mystery Tanner. I'm more a fan of his Bernie Rhodenbarr (The Burglar Who...) novels—not so much as mysteries (the solutions are convoluted to the point of parody), but as agreeable light reading. (Oh—and the one "Chip Harrison" novel I read was a lot of fun—but this seems to be a character LB has abandoned.)

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Head is happy (heart's insane)

I think Dizzyhead Brent is trying to tell me something—he keeps sending along these images of celestio-cephalic comic-book characters. Where do they come from? It reminds me to start up this project, now that I finally have a scanner. I'll try to figure out how to use it this weekend.

In my ongoing project to expand/alter my "top 10 films of '05" list, I went to see Michael Haneke's Caché last night—highly recommended. Eerie, subtle, scary—I did, in fact, scream, "Oh my God!" at one point. I need to see it again, to pore over the last scene. Mike Atkinson's Voice review suggests something definite and sinister is transpiring, whereas David Ng's interview with MH, also in the Voice, makes it sound like the director wants people to read things into it. (What a year for strong last scenes—Funny Ha Ha, The Squid and the Whale. Caché's penultimate scene reminded me very much of the last scene in The Passenger—did anyone else get that feeling?)

As we slowly left the theater, someone in my row asked what I thought had happened; he had spoken to the person behind us, who had a very definite reading of it; another guy added his two cents. I can't think of the last time a film was so strangely exciting that it provoked spontaneous postmortem banter. (Though as I left the White Countess screening, I talked to a young film writer—an NYU student?—at the elevator, about how supremely boring it was.)

Here's the last bit of David's piece:

Haneke's obsessions converge in Caché's final scene, a chilling long take that's the most enigmatic conclusion in recent movie memory. "Using a fixed shot means there's one less form of manipulation�the manipulation of time," Haneke says. "I've always wanted to create the freedom one has when reading a book, where one has all the possibilities because you create all the images in your head." Resolutely cryptic, he refuses to decode the scene's meaning: "About half the viewers see something and the other half don't, and it works both ways." He adds, invoking his protagonist's own mental journey, "We always fill the screen with our own experiences. Ultimately, what we see comes from inside us."

Stray thoughts:

Maybe, then, I shouldn't see it again—the first reading is the most important.

A certain plot point has a vague resemblance to one in Match Point, but Caché is far superior.

Also watch for the froggy-voiced actress from Haneke's The Piano Teacher, playing the lead character's mother.

I preferred this to A History of Violence.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Comet as you are

I don't really know what this is—Dizzyhead Brent sent it my way. Thoughts?

Postscript: How do you spell yowza? The pack of hilarious film interns at the Voice now have their own blog!

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

High five

1. Weather.com described today's precipitation and general bluster as a "Wintry Mix."

2. After watching a disappointing How I Met Your Mother last night, I may have to retract my statement of intrigue from two days ago.

3. Crude Futures has a couple lengthy, somehow poignant bed-and-breakfast diary entries.

4. Anyone read Lewis Lapham's With the Beatles?

5. Chris Tamarri reviews Seth's Wimbledon Green over at Crisis/Boring Change.

Monday, January 02, 2006

Headlines are my weakness

1. Tony Takitani: At first I thought this short movie could be retitled Tony Take-a-nap-i, as I fell asleep twice. But I recovered fully, and recommend this concise adaptation of a Murakami story, as calm as a high-end car commercial and stubbornly sad. (S. said: "It looks like a West Elm catalog.") After watching this and the Setagaya/Complicité's staged version of some tales from The Elephant Vanishes, I wonder if Murakami is one of those rare writers who might be better served by adaptations of his work. (These are the only two that I know of.)

1.1 Tony's wife buys so many clothes that they convert one of their rooms into a wardrobe; another good Voice film poll comment would have compared this space to that in (naturally) The Lion, The Witch... and perhaps the futuristic, sliding-box closet in Oldboy.

2. Dizzyhead Jen leads us to this amusing bit of ersatz hip-hop, by one of the Chronic-wha?-clers, in the surprise-ending mode of Eminem's "Stan."

3. At a New Year's Eve party, I noticed my friend Art had two copies of Pam Houston's Cowboys Are My Weakness. I quipped that that would have been the perfect headline for an article about Brokeback Mountain, but there was some discussion about whether people would get the reference. Lo and behold—Larry David's op-ed in yesterday's Times was thusly headlined! And a trawl through the litblogosphere also turned up this, at Old Hag.

4. Ricky Gervais fans—check out his podcast at The Guardian!

Sunday, January 01, 2006

"The commercial was better"

Happy new year, Dizzyheads!

Hopefully you're still wearing those stylish "2006" specs, the ones where the zeroes are the eyeholes. (What will we do when we finish with the Oughts?)

Some culture highlights from 2005—

Books: discovering and/or devouring the oeuvres of Richard Stern, Rachel Ingalls, B.S. Johnson, Sue Townsend; Love Creeps (Amanda Filipacchi); John Cotrona's indie Lost Positives; finally liking (or "getting"?) Bret Easton Ellis (Lunar Park) and Chuck Klosterman (Killing Yourself to Live); numerous books bought that of course I haven't read; rediscovering Labyrinth Books; Sarah Manguso's story in that McSweeney's that looks like a bundle of mail; Ben Marcus's Franzen essay; those civilized litblogs Light Reading and Weekend Stubble; Seth's Wimbledon Green; Jane Yeh's Marabou.

Art: Odilon Redon at MoMA; Duncan Hannah at James Graham; Marcel Dzama at David Zwirner; Shirin Neshat at the New School Believer event; Cory Arcangel at PaceWildenstein (also committing "Friendster suicide" at the Believer's P.S. 1 event); anonymous paintings of monkeys in tuxedos at some painting store on the Upper East Side.

Music: Sufjan Stevens show at the Thalia (walking past Symphony Space on Broadway one Friday, saw that he was playing two shows, was able to standby for a ticket—just wonderful, one of the best shows I've seen, and it also made up for the problematic Paul McCartney show I'd seen earlier in the week with my buddy Euge); albums by Devandra Banhart, The Hold Steady, Clap Your Hands etc., New Pornographers, Hot Hot Heat, babyshambles, Fiona Apple, Franz Ferdinand, Death Cab, Beck, Wolf Parade; What Made Milwaukee Famous; mixes people made me; links to great weird videos; "Love Is for Lovers" by the dB's and "Why Can't I Touch It" by the Buzzcocks; that "Lazy Sunday"/Narnia thing; the new Enya—just kidding.

Movies: We've already gone over this, but let me plug The Century of the Self.

TV: Watching series that I'd missed—Freaks and Geeks and Undeclared. An intriguing/hilarious 15 minutes of How I Met Your Mother.

Dance: Uhh...Astaire & Rogers Collection—Volume 1.

Dreams: This one was transcribed on May 18.

In my dream we are in Italy. There is a building designed to look like it is falling that I keep thinking is falling. You can only see it from certain angles.

A young man walks by with a dog, explaining that his "best day" occurred when he was walking the same dog while a teenager. He had met a "cosmopolitan" older woman—who suddenly takes over the narrative...

...explaining how she went to rummage sales and bought "big sticker" items "for a song" for her apartment, later giving these items to her "loverboy." She turned out to be quite plain-loooking, with frizzed hair and sunglasses. The guy is still in love with her or maybe has disappeared.

I then buy a videogame but it turns out to be a whole game system. I'm worried whether I can (a) bring it back legally to the States and (b) use it once I am stateside, due to the difference in electrical current.

On TV is a commercvial for—an SUV? sneakers?—in which a pale reedy fellow mouths along badly to Chumbawamba while his carpool driver navigates increasingly dangerous street scenarios, causing the lip-syncher to break into a blood-curdling scream at intervals. They vault over a cliff...only to be rescued by some strange, surprising bit of geology (known as an "air tunnel"). But finally the vehicle crashes, a weird end to a commercial...

...except that it segues into a made-for-TV movie, starring two ex-SNL members. I don't think I continue watching, thinking, "The commercial was better."

A man with hockey gear, on a bus, gives his dog a piggyback ride. Everyone comments on how good the dog is and how it thinks it's "flying."

We're in a hospital that snubs us.

A Filipino family's house? The maid—or mom—works where the stereo is—the people in the basement (her boss/husband, in particular) have been complaining. Outside the window, on the rainslick grass, we see a cat, a squirrel, and some third animal, all quite close to each other.

Someone keeps saying she almost got an apartment in the falling building. Outside we can see the domed tops of the city.

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