Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Seventh Heaven

So, the story is that Sabres coach Lindy Ruff left his mobile phone charger in his hotel room in Raleigh, NC following the Sabres' loss to the Carolina Hurricanes on Sunday night. Hotel staff offered to mail it to him, yet Ruff—certain his team would win at home in Buffalo to tie the series at 3 games apiece—told them he'd pick it up on Thursday.

Indeed, Ruff's confidence in his team was well-founded. Last night, the Sabres played their best 1st period of the playoffs and overall gave an outstanding performance for their last home game in the series. The Hurricane's rookie goalie Cam Ward (a mere 22-years old) was the only reason the score didn't become more lopsided. Sabre Daniel Briere scored an overtime goal to win the game 2-1, forcing that Game 7 in NC on Thursday.

Even though the Sabres-'Canes series was supposed to showcase everything the new, speedy NHL had to offer, many 'experts' didn't think Buffalo would be able to overcome their depleted roster. It's simply unfair how many injuries this team is currently suffering. Two defensemen and one forward are out for the remainder of the playoffs (Kalinin, ankle injury; Tallinder, broken arm; Connolly, concussion), while defenseman Teppo Numminen's groin injury in Game 1 kept him out of the entire series except for 4 minutes yesterday. Although Game 7 and the Eastern conference title could go either way, the Sabres have shown they can play tough, solid games without these guys. Which means we have more than enough to battle in the Stanley Cup finals, provided we win Game 7...


The OT win last night reminded me of a Sabres playoff win either in 1994 or 1995. I was in college in Western Mass, studying for finals, unable to watch any games or follow the series against NJ very well. It must have been a similar situation to that of yesterday's Game 6-possible elimination for the Sabres, or I wouldn't have bothered to find out the score. So, as I studied, I had the radio tuned to an AM news station, hoping for a score update every 12 minutes or so. The game had been tied at 0-0 at the end of regulation, forcing a first overtime (OT=a full 20-minute period), then a second, third, then fourth OT. Buffalo and New Jersey had played essentially two full length games without anyone scoring. At around 2AM, I wanted to turn off the radio, annoyed by the weather reports, but I kept it on in hopes of a heartening game update. Finally, they announced a Buffalo victory, 1-0 in the 4th OT on a goal by Dave Hannan. Last week I found this, Rick Jeanneret's broadcast of the goal.

So Jane Dark the Con of Man

My notes from a viewing of The Da Vinci Code:

It's like an audiobook—

A trip to accentville

Paul Bettany — [sounds like] Chris Martin [Coldplay singer]

The tentative speech of a foreign actress

Film festival idea: first anglophone films of foreign actresses

* * *

Better to check out what my viewing companion thought.

Monday, May 29, 2006

The Opal Office

On the one hand, I've said all I have to say about Kaavya Viswanathan. But the article could have easily (if inelegantly) doubled in length—my notes draw connections to Tim O'Brien, Gay Talese, the "Bernadette Corporation" collective, The Book of Lost Books, the Oulipo, et al. Maybe these will find a place somewhere else. In the meantime, I'll restrict myself to one late-breaking item and two tangents writhing on the cutting-room floor.

1. This is an unexplored chapter in Kaavya studies (make sure to read the comments), from Jessica Smith's looktouchblog. (The link comes courtesy of Joshua Clover, who alerted me to Viswanathan's pre-Opal writing, and on his blog draws an interesting connection between the copying scandal and the Times magazine's "Scan This Book!" article.)

The looktouch link reproduces a poem ("Côtes du Nord") that K.V. apparently entered into a contest held by the University of Buffalo (and published in the Spring 2003 issue of Name magazine), as well as part of the correspondence between Smith and the writer (then 16).

Does this evince a genuine, burgeoning literary talent? The editors of Name seem to believe so, and I'd like to as well. (I was intrigued by one news report that said Kaavya had already written a novel based on Irish history well before the whole agent/Alloy/book deal affair.) But . . . well, here is the last stanza:

I feel everything beside me turn tender,

the rocks see me helpless frozen unsure
of this language I thought most my own.

2. From the Department of Irrelevant Coincidences comes this random additional "Indian" link (following "Scan This Book!"): Earlier this year, the Times (U.K.) reported that it had submitted retyped chapters of V.S. Naipaul's Booker-winning In a Free State (1971) to publishers, all of whom rejected it. (Stanley Middleton's Holiday, similarly retyped and submitted, got the tiniest of nibbles.)

One agent said of Naipaul's book: “We . . . thought it was quite original. In the end though I’m afraid we just weren’t quite enthusiastic enough to be able to offer to take things further.”

Re being "in a free state": As with Megan McCafferty's books (Sloppy Firsts and Second Helpings), the titles seem to burn with significance . . .

(If GH is reading this: Won't you please append a comment about the "Postcolonialism and Plagiarism" class that you took?)

3. While reading Opal Mehta a few weekends back, I was also flipping through a pile of unrelated books, and came across this bit in Thomas Pynchon charming, self-deprecating introduction to Slow Learner:

There are no longer any excuses for small stupid mistakes, and I hope this also leads to much more inhibition about stealing data on the chance that no one will catch it.

Fascinating topic, literary theft. As in the penal code, there are degrees. These range from plagiarism to only being derivative, but all are forms of wrong procedure. If, on the other hand, you believe that nothing is original and that all writers "borrow" from "sources," there still remains the [operation?] of credit lines or acknowledgment.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Ballad in Plain D

Dream (from April 26, 2006):

I was looking up guitar/ukulele chords on the internet, and came across "chords" for hip-hop songs. The instructions at the top of the page said:

Yo can blaze these daggaz in D
Except where indicated (in A)

"Daggaz," of course, being the proper term for an intense song.

Later I was looking at the East River. They were trying to make New York into the new Venice, to the extent that on each of the small islands in the river, they put up enormous white models of John Berendt's latest book, Canals of Venice. These gigantic books were propped up against old buildings.

Next I was privy to machinations at a Roosevelt Island news gazette. I was apparently reading said gazette, which kept using the obscure legal term "Ehf Chz." The latter word was pronounced "chez," for those in the know.

My notes get less clear at this point—something about hearing Park instead of Mark, and a sort of spot-quote pop quiz that a high school English teacher used to give, reading aloud a quote, then randomly selecting someone to identify where it came from.

* * *

In real news: Bong Joon-ho's The Host is getting loads of great attention at Cannes (see this Times piece). I've heard that it already has a distributor, and I can't wait to see it. Here's a short bit I wrote on Memories of Murder in the Voice; a longer consideration, on that film and Bong's stellar Barking Dogs Never Bite, was published in CinemaScope a while back. (I'd reproduce it here, but will maybe dangle it as incentive to pick up Michael Atkinson's forthcoming anthology Exile Cinema, where it appears again.)

Friday, May 26, 2006

I Turn My Camera On

Czech it out: Instructions for a paper pinhole camera called the Dirkon (via Paper Forest).

And if you missed the American Idol finale on Wednesday, make sure you watch this duet between Elliott Yamin (second runner-up) and Mary J. Blige, singing U2's "One." Electrifying! (Though Youtube can be sluggish sometimeses.) To be cynical—the duet idea promotes the new show by AI mastermind Simon Cowell. But this was easily the musical high point of the evening.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Portrait of the artist as an old bridge

Photo: Arlo Ogg

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Cecil B. DeMented

Check out this teen-flick/Bible-epic mashup: Ten Things I Hate About Commandments. I laughed at least seven times! (Via Dave Kehr.)


My article on Kaavya Viswanathan (I can now spell the name in my sleep) and Megan McCafferty is out in the new VLS, along with fascinating articles on bookselling, an unusual architect, Joyce Carol Oates, Proust, serial novels, Donald Antrim, and much more.

(Watch upcoming posts for some final Kaavya pensées.)

Monday, May 22, 2006

Musical musings

1. A poster wheatpasted on Ninth Ave. for Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young: looks like a poster for a law firm.

2. Rob Halford, hard up for cash? He should allow Trader Joe's to adapt one of his songs: "Hell-bent, hell-bent for . . . fruit leather! Only 27 cents, by the register . . . "

3. Prince should cover Pulp's "Common People."

4. Do you have your Buddha Machine yet?

5. Songs in which the singer laughs:
George Formby, "Cleaning Windows"
Bob Dylan, "Bob Dylan's 115th Dream"
The Beatles, "Maxwell's Silver Hammer"
New Order, "Every Little Counts"

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Produce, life

"I helped Rena make lunch. She said the avocados were sent all the way from the States. Of course, they'd have to be picked up and delivered in total secret fashion. You'd think they'd have rotted by then. [...]
"So this is Rena's life. She sorta just gets up in the morning and then kinda stays alive."
—Jaime Hernandez, "La Maggie La Loca," Part V (NYT Magazine, 21v06)

"I thought I would mind that Holly's always around, but it turns out it's okay. Mornings, we walk to the Casa de Fruta Fruit Stand and Bait Shop. Everything there is the size of something else: strawberries are the size of tomatoes, apples are the size of grapefruits, papayas are the size of watermelons. [...]
"Then the rest of the day happens."
—Amy Hempel, "Tonight Is a Favor to Holly," The Collected Stories of Amy Hempel

Friday, May 19, 2006

Multi Dealer

1. From the invaluable MUG:

"J. R. R. Tolkien found the words 'cellar door' especially beautiful-sounding. For Dorothy Parker, it was 'check enclosed.' For us, it's 'multi dealer,' so of course we'd like the just-published Antiquing Weekends by Gladys Montgomery (Rizzoli, $24.95), that maps out some of the best places for treasure hunting in the country and also provides advice on where to stay."

2. Which reminded me of something I wrote way back when (first two sentences only):
"Henry James deemed "summer afternoon" the most beautiful phrase in the English language; comic-book artist Adrian Tomine makes a case for Summer Blonde, conjuring an even headier collision of sense and season. The cover sports a pouty babe in tank top; that the story in question is as much about a sociopathic stalker and a ménage-à-trois artiste as the titular fair-haired girl is a buried punchline of sorts. . . . "

3. Which reminds me to mention a new project called Graphic Language, co-created by Dizzyhead Chrita. The inaugural post features his very smart interview with the very smart Douglas Wolk. It's a terrifically informative piece—not just for comics readers, but anyone who writes/thinks about criticism.

4. Which reminds me that there hasn't been a new Mr. Saturnhead in a while—I'll get on the horn ASAP! Those slackers! (Update: The situation has been remedied.)

5. Somewhat bizarre advice for fledgling fiction writers over at Moss Jervins.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Sentence of the day

The eyes that looked into the mirrored eyes, from under extremely neatly cropped brown hair minus the slightest touch of “premature” grey, even over the ears, were technically known as “hazel” but his friends scornfully called him “the green-eyed monster”—not that Bakerby Kell held an iota of jealousy within him, much less any “monsterism” of any kind!

—Harry Stephen Keeler (with Tertza Rinaldo Keeler), The Strange Journey, 1965 (unpublished); Ramble House, 2003

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Correctional facility

Dizzyhead Arlo found this in a paperback copy of The Corrections she bought at a church sale. It reads:

Enid & Alfred, elderly parents
—Denise, age 23

Gary & Caroline

Gary's anhedonia
Gary's entire life set up as a correction of his father's life
Xmas plans

* * *

There is arithmetic on the back.

Monday, May 15, 2006

In Procrastination Nation

This is great. I don't even know what it is.

Also: Surely Jonathan Franzen's The Corrections should be among the runners-up on that Times best-novel list?

Sunday, May 14, 2006

We're Talkin' Proud, or, The Believer

Rookie Jason Pominville scored shorthanded early in overtime on Friday to finish off the top-seeded Senators and send the Sabres to their first Eastern conference finals since 1999. Announcer Jeanneret's screaming response to the beautiful goal: "Now do you believe? Now do you believe? These guys are good.... scary good!" Few would have thought at the start of this season that the Sabres had a solid chance for the Cup. After beating Philly in six games and the speedy Ottawa team in five, Buffalo seems only to get stronger (and scruffier, with those superstitious beards) as the playoffs continue... And now it's on to Carolina to stop those 'Canes. (After that, the Western matchup should be no problem.)

Some truly weird statistics have surfaced during the Ottawa series, some of which make you wonder: who has the time to even think these up? Various Sabres records were broken in Game 1: shortest OT game; quickest Sabres OT goal; quickest Sabres goal after opening faceoff; most goals (both teams) in game; fastest four goals (two teams); tie for most shorthanded goals in one game. Also, for the first time in NHL history, the road team (Sabres) won a game when scoring a goal in the last minute of regulation and the first minute of OT. Second period of Game 2 was the only time in the series either team led the game by more than 1 goal. Buffalo's first goal in Game 5 (33 seconds into the 1st) was the fourth in the series less than a minute into a period. Oh, and Friday's victory was the first NHL playoff series-clinching win in Game 5 OT on a shorthanded goal. Wha? I surmise it was also the first time such a goal was scored by a player wearing #29 on his jersey.

Talkin' proud, indeed!

Friday, May 12, 2006

Twenty-Five Up

The Times asks: What is the best American work of fiction in the last 25 years?

Some personal candidates. Not sure if this is the right order.

1. Mrs. Caliban, Rachel Ingalls, 1985
(Does this not count because Ingalls has been resident in England since the ’60s? The book takes place in California.)
2. The Names, Don DeLillo, 1982
(I'm a big DeLillo fan, and if I had to pick from Underworld, Libra, and White Noise, I'd go with WN. But I think his best novel in the given time span—and perhaps his best, period—is The Names.)
3. The Age of Wire and String, Ben Marcus, 1995
4. Who Sleeps With Katz, Todd McEwen, 2003
(Does this not count because McEwen has been resident in Scotland for a long time? The book takes place in New York.)
5. Masters of Atlantis, Charles Portis, 1985

Discuss! Nicholson Baker's The Mezzanine and Donald Barthelme's Paradise might fit in somewhere, too . . .

Thursday, May 11, 2006

The Buffalo Snooze

I've always thought The Buffalo News had one of the worst websites (to be fair, the print edition isn't much better). Fresh news content is updated usually every morning (not terribly early), although on the weekends, this seems to depend on their mood. Updates never occur during the day, of course.

So, it was with little surprise yesterday morning that I noticed this bizarre caption next to a preview of Game 2. Nowhere in the article did they quote Ruff as saying "stick a fork in 'em." I quickly saved it; less than 10 minutes later, the caption was replaced by a different quote:
"I was told if I purchased these [wristbands] and wore them... that it would bring us good luck. I've worn them for two games." (Is this really the 'best' quote?) Ruff was talking about some rubber bracelets that he bought for a fundraiser at his twins' school. He was given blue and gold bands for the Sabres' original jersey colors (sorely missed by every Buffalonian I know), along with red and black bands for the current team colors. The nod to the old colors probably means more to Ruff, since he started his NHL career as a defensive forward with the Sabres (1979-1989).

The Sabres can sweep the series against Ottawa tonight in Game 4 in Buffalo.

[You may be wondering, where is Ed? Sorry, we can't help you; we've been wondering the same thing.]

Thursday, May 04, 2006

"...then it was bang, bang, bang. It was over."

The quote above was made by Philadelphia's coach Ken Hitchcock after he and his team were stunned in Game 6. The Sabres had no difficulty skating circles around the Flyers in their 7-1 victory, which clinched the series. Flyers fans fell silent early on, and many left the Wachovia Center during the third period. It was quite perfect.

And now we've moved on to Ottawa to face the Senators for the Eastern conference semi-finals. Ottawa is clearly favored in this series based on their speed and scoring ability (highest total number of regular-season goals in the NHL); most predictions say the Sens in 6 or 7 games, so it should be an exciting series regardless of outcome. Regrettably, a previously planned drive to New York prevented me from catching Game 1 last Friday, via TV or radio (or TV on the Radio). Instead, I learned the score in strange, uneven increments. One voicemail from a friend (who I haven't spoken to in half a year) and his wife from a sports bar back in Buffalo, asking where I was, stating the score as 1-0, Buffalo. Much later, a message from my mom, wondering if I arrived, adding that we had just tied the game at 6-6 thus forcing an overtime period. There was an immediate follow-up message to this, reassuring me that we just scored in OT and stating the final score as "Ottawa-6, Buffalo-7. It's just great."

The next morning, I found out how great it really was. Each team scored twice in each period; Buffalo started off with a goal in the first; Ottawa led five times during the game, only to have it tied by the Sabres. The final 1:37 of regulation resulted in three goals; after Buffalo tying the game at 18:23, the Senators scored at 18:47. The game appeared over, with a final score of 6-5 Ottawa, until Connolly scored with 10.7 sec remaining. It only took 18 seconds of OT for the Sabres to win on a goal by Chris Drury [who was the subject of a touching NYT article last week (*sniff*)]. Maybe I'll have to plan more road trips for the remainder of this series.

Certainly, this type of game is exciting for us fans. Yet if you think about it, countless mistakes must occur for both teams to score so often. Poor goaltending is something to consider (Ottawa's Emery allowed 7 out of only 23 shots; Miller let in 6 out of 33 shots against Buffalo). Sabres' coach Lindy Ruff summed it up plainly, "I don't think we played particularly well." True, but they controlled the plays that mattered most, which makes for entertaining games. I hope Game 2 in Ottawa on Monday night is just as exciting. Few would have guessed the Sabres would win the series opener on the Senators home ice; a two-game lead heading home for Games 3-4 would be unexpected and especially lovely.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Kaavyat Lector!

Dizzyheads! Am back from my busman's holiday. First I want to thank the mysterious Arlo Ogg for posting in my absence. Arlo'll be joining the Dizzies crew—posting regularly about Buffalo sports teams (including her exclusive pensées on last night's Sabres' triumph), as well as contributing photographs of turtles, signs, and public art.

* * *

Everyone and their great-aunt has been chiming in on the Kaavya Visnawathan plagiarism controversy. (The Times today has a not terribly funny op-ed on the matter, but the business section at last connects Opalgate to Raytheon CEO William H. Swanson's cribbed advice book, Swanson's Unwritten Rules of Management—I was occasionally reading the papers last week, and I believe the stories broke on the same day.)

Friend Mike Gerber has a completely hilarious post up at his site (which has lately been functioning as an ingenious tie-in to his new novel, Freshman, set on the fictional but very Yale-like Stutts University). Here's a late-breaking sample:

UPDATE (5-2-06): After the kind of media scrutiny once reserved for heads of state, natural disasters, and other things that actually matter, it has been discovered that Ms. Sulabha's book contains verbatim passages from at least 58 more books. The list, which was still growing at press time, includes "The Good Earth," "The Origin of Species," "I'm OK, You're OK," "Bleak House," and—perhaps most worrisome of all—the 1973 Chilton Guide to Small Engine Repair.

* * *
In all seriousness, I decided to reenter the blogosphere because the ongoing plagiarism debate reminded me of something that happened a couple of years ago (and which I recently mentioned to a friend). Back in 2003, my Voice colleague Dennis Lim wrote a (typically incisive and virtuousic) piece on In My Skin, a film directed by and starring Marina de Van. (I edited the piece.) Nearly a year later, The Guardian's Stuart Jeffries covered the same movie (entitled Dans Ma Peau in the U.K.), interviewing de Van.

You'd think that a feature with the director/star (of a very provocative film, no less) would have sparked some new insights from the writer. But strangely, much of the material in Jeffries' article that isn't a direct quote from de Van seems to derive from Lim's piece. (At one point, late in the game, he does cite Lim, but that doesn't stop him from lifting things wholesale and sans attribution.)

Here are a few examples. (Warning: Not for those with weak stomachs!)

LIM: [T]his fearless movie . . . illuminates Esther's pathology as an extreme response to the mind-body split. Her destructive dislocation arises from perceiving her body as an external object that she also happens to inhabit. (To adapt the Cartesian dictum: She isn't, therefore she cuts.)

JEFFRIES: "Are you sure this is your leg?" he asks, a question that stresses Esther's dislocation from a body she regards as an object she only happens to inhabit. She says she was a strangely Cartesian adolescent convinced that her self and her body were not one, but that her body had a life of its own.

LIM: De Van, who co-wrote a few of François Ozon's films and played the sinister backpacker in his See the Sea, has an arresting screen presence, to say the least—pale, flared-nostriled, and gap-toothed, at once feral and regal, she suggests a gene-splice of P.J. Harvey and Audrey Hepburn. (Indeed, Harvey's Rid of Me album is the soundtrack In My Skin deserves.)

JEFFRIES (I): [de Van speaking:] "I have had experience of acting before of course [she played a satisfyingly sinister backpacker in Francois Ozon's 1997 movie Regarder La Mer (See the Sea)], but never of acting scenes like this."

JEFFRIES (II): In the flesh, Marina De Van is as blankly feral as her character in the film. . . . De Van has been seen as both scary and regal—the genetic splicing of PJ Harvey and Audrey Hepburn, but this impeccably middle class film-maker (mother a lawyer, father a musicologist), who co-wrote two irredeemably pleasant Francois Ozon films, Under the Sand and Eight Women, is hardly regal. You can imagine her snarling along to PJ Harvey's Rid of Me in self-absorbed splendour, but hardly playing twee call girl Holly Golightly.

LIM: . . . a sequence that has Esther rushing off to a hotel room, ripping open her pant leg, biting into her lacerations, and reclining in agonized bliss as a spray of blood drenches her face.

JEFFRIES: Esther hurriedly checks into a hotel across the street, as if with a lover, and proceeds to gorge herself on her arm in a darkened corner. Blood spurts from her lacerations as she bites, spraying her agonised face.

LIM: In My Skin is all the more horrifying for being largely grounded in a placid, sterile naturalism. The one exception is a small masterpiece of surrealist fantasy that brilliantly literalizes the film's theme of corporeal estrangement—a nearly 10-minute business-dinner scene in which Esther's pompously tedious clients discuss the cosmopolitanism of various European cities while she struggles to contain a simmering anxiety attack. As she downs glass after glass of wine, her forearm takes on a life of its own, straying onto her plate repeatedly, and then becomes detached from her body. Poker-faced as ever, Esther calmly screws it back on, and under the table, punishes the delinquent limb with a steak knife.

JEFFRIES: Although most of Dans Ma Peau is filmed in a cool, naturalistic style, there is a bravura surreal scene in which she goes to a business meeting at a restaurant. As her tedious clients exchange banal thoughts on European capitals they have visited, Esther drinks glass after glass of wine and anxiously notices that her forearm has become a prosthetic limb which she cannot control. It creeps across her plate and then becomes detached from her body. Esther screws it back on and then, under the table, stabs the limb repeatedly with a steak knife.

* * *

Are Jeffries' borrowings excusable—or Kaavyatic? I think the answer's clear. Indeed, the end of the final Jeffries example reads like a coded attack on the author of the original piece. Call it a case of Phantom Lim(b) Syndrome.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

The Rainbow Connection

Perhaps this bizarre rainbow cube of metal [I searched everywhere around it for a title and artist to no avail], which rests outside the Albright-Knox Gallery, will someday house the Stanley Cup. The Buffalo Sabres, also founded by the Knox family, need a victory tonight to advance to the conference semi-finals. Let us all bow to the cube to ensure a win at the Wachovia Center in Philadelphia, home of the Broad Street Bullies.

Philly is notoriously unwelcoming. In Game 3, after Sabres' J.P. Dumont was knocked down for several minutes, the scoreboard apparently read something like "Let's show some class out there and cheer..." when he stood up. Instead, the fans raucously booed. Even worse, The Buffalo News printed this in the Sabres Notebook section on 04.29.06 after Game 3:

Scott Norwood made an appearance in the Wachovia Center before the game.

With the arena darkened before the teams took the ice, the video scoreboard read "What Buffalo is best known for . . ."

Shown next was the NFL Films slow-motion replay of Norwood's infamous wide-right kick that could have won Super Bowl XXV for the Buffalo Bills. The screen then dissolved into a cartoon character wearing a Sabres logo, hand placed firmly around his throat.

Then, to finish the thought of what Buffalo's known for, "...CHOKING!"

Such cruelty!

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