Friday, June 30, 2006

Clean, shaven

A block on 103rd Street has been dubbed Humphrey Bogart Place. When I lived on 105th and then later on 98th, I would get my hair cut on Broadway near 103rd. The barber, "Mr. Kay," had been in the same location for decades. He told me how he used to cut HB's hair, and also that of . . . Cornell Woolrich.

* * *

It's not necessary to watch this video of Sonya Thomas, the Korean-born "Black Widow" of the competitive-eating world.

Q: Has she ever met the pool-playing "Black Widow"?

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Village people

I didn't want to see The Devil Wears Prada because, coming off my recent happy stay in chick-lit land (courtesy Megan McCafferty's books), I decided to crack TDWP's spine . . . only to put it down with something like disgust. (If I were the book-hurling type, I'd've hurled.) It felt like a barrage of product placement—brand names, prices—ugh. Why not just put ads in the books? (One of the virtues of McCafferty's heroine is that she doesn't like to shop.)

But maybe I'll see the movie. This is from the entertaining Hoberman review in this week's Voice:

At once coolly indifferent and fanatically detail-obsessed, coiffed off-white hair emphasizing a hawk's hooded gaze, Streep is the scariest, most nuanced, funniest movie villainess since Tilda Swinton's nazified White Witch. To hear her dulcet exasperation—"I just don't understand"—is to experience what comic books used to call the Vault of Horror...Cinderella resigns but rather than writing a nasty kiss-and-tell, gets a real journalistic job (at The Village Voice circa 1990 per Sunday, June 18's Arts & Leisure section), bouncing into the sunset à la Mary Tyler Moore circa 1970. Miranda smiles to herself, as well she might. The Devil Wears Prada is a tour de force for Streep, who gives her character an unexpected measure of depth, and vindication for Anna Wintour—she who cannot be represented unless it's by Johnny Depp in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

* * *

Which is to say—I loved Tilda Swinton in Narnia (and Depp in Charlie), and I have a mild obsession with seeing The Village Voice in pop culture, even if it's just a shot of those red streetside boxes (as in Eyes Wide Shut's meticulously soundstaged Gotham). I also spotted Voices in the Ed Harris character's room in The Hours (high point of the movie?!).

I recall reading that the Brooke Shields character (in that Suddenly Susan sitcom) worked for the Voice, or got fired from the Voice . . .

The protag in Bright Lights, Big City has written book reviews for the Voice . . . (as did McInerney, pre-BLBC) . . .

. . . and someone tells me that an upcoming novel also features a character who writes book reviews for the Voice. (What an exciting job!)

They Might Be Giants fans might be familiar with the conversational scrap (on the "Hotel Detective" single, I think) in which a very Noo Yawk–sounding woman is expressing her perplexity over TMBG's Dial-a-Song service, which she has seen advertised in the Voice. (If I recall, she's so prolix that her interlocutor is basically reduced to saying, "Yeah, yeah," and occasionally, "Naww, naww...")

Any other examples, Dizzyheads?

UPDATE: Reading the Times piece cited in the Prada review, I see that the heroine doesn't necessarily wind up at the Voice proper (but at a Voice-like publication—not sure whether it's named or now).

Monday, June 26, 2006

Food of the year!

This is what you do. Buy a bunch of grapes that are at the peak of tastiness. Wash them. Then put them in zip-loc bags and freeze them for a day.

Then eat them! They are amazingly good.

Walk around the house saying, "These are so good."

* * *

Q: What was the inspiration?
A: The way Jamba Juice uses frozen fruit for their smoothies. Last week, we were drinking like two Jamba Juices a day, so we thought we'd economize and make our own.
Q: But—grapes aren't typically part of the menu there...
A: Yes, I realize that. But there were some grapes in the thing led to another.
Q: Last summer you were all into "Shave ice."
A: Yes. But that was then...this is now.

* * *
Still not willing to trust the Dizzies when it comes to matters culinary? I Googled "frozen grapes" and found this.

* * *
Unrelated: New candidate for best American novel of the last 25 years: Gary Indiana's Do Everything in the Dark.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Duna Duna Duna

The Dizzies caught the wonderful Linda Linda Linda (part of the New York Asian Film Festival) at the ImaginAsian theater on East 59th Street. Enormously pleasing, exhilarating, and subtle, 3L is the story of a Japanese girl band on the verge of dissolution, who rally in time for a "rock festival" at their high school (where no one appears to do a lick of schoolwork) and adopt a Korean exchange student, Son, as their new lead singer. (She's played by Bae Duna, a/k/a Duna Bae, Doo-na Bae, et al., the terrific actress from possibly my favorite Korean movie, Barking Dogs Never Bite, as well as Take Care of My Cat, Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance, etc.) They cover a batch of exhilarating songs by a pop-punk band from the ’80s/early ’90s called the Blue Hearts. Sample raw/oblique lyric: "Do you know where my right hand is?" (When Son introduces the band as "Param Maum," to the confusion of her Japanese bandmates, she's giving the Korean translation of "Blue Hearts.")

And...that's about it, plotwise. Somehow it works. There are hardly any boys on the scene—and hardly any adults. We don't know much, at the outset, about the wide-eyed Son, who's tongue-tied in her temporary homeland, but her prior (pre-band) loneliness is suggested by the determination and infectious energy she brings to her surprise rock-diva role.

(Ex–Smashing Pumpkin James Iha's score also deserves praise: spare yet momentous.)

It's adorable, in the best sense of the word. And witty. And the title song is now permanently in my head. And I like it.

(Linda Linda Linda plays once more, July 1.)

* * *

In theater news, fans of Ernst Lubitsch will enjoy the Hourglass Group's stage production of Trouble in Paradise, through July 8 at the Hudson Guild Theatre. Actors Jeremy Shamos and Nina Hellman play the thieving couple with relish and impeccable comic timing. Though some of the other bits aren't totally successful (I'm usually pretty happy with meta/framing shenanigans, but I think this play could have been done "straight"), these two are a pleasure to watch.

UPDATE: Read my theatergoing partner Alexis's review!

* * *

Update: If you find yourself on the Upper West Side, feeling a tad peckish, and see a restaurant on Columbus called Aegean—don't go inside thinking it's a reasonable, family-style restaurant serving Mediterranean fare. It is, in fact, an overpriced, mediocre establishment—with flies!

The one highlight during a recent visit was an ad on the television above the bar. It was for something called Doggy Steps. Even without the sound, it suggested the kind of get-rich-quick-scheme that Dr. Reo Symes might have drummed up in The Dog of the South.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

The satchel overflows

With a tip of the Dizzies cap to Citizen Truth, here is my current library list (after not having gone to the library in months):

What Are Verses Made Of? Vladimir Mayakovsky

The Origin of the Unconscious in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind
, Julian Jaynes

The White Mountains
, The Pool of Fire, The City of Gold and Lead, John Christopher

, Lirael, Abhorsen, Garth Nix

Archive Fever
, Jacques Derrida

Stolen Words
, Thomas Mallon

Friday, June 23, 2006

Almost Independence Day


On July 5, at 6:30 p.m., in a place with the appealingly humble name The Backyard Garden, located in Red Hook but toward Cobble Hill (or would that be Carroll Gardens?), there will be a varied and fascinating event, somewhat tied to the new Believer music issue (which I must say is deeply satisfying). Enjoy some vintage Downtown writing, insights into the Eurovision song contest, musings on music and mystery, really good short-short stories, startling original music, a possible surprise guest. Directions and more details about the terrific participants are here.

Unrelated: Read H.P. Lovecraft's "The Horror at Red Hook."

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Why I Otter

I have a strange desire to read Gordon R. Dickson's Alien Art, which I saw in a bookstore in California earlier this year—but didn't buy!

Here's the plot summary:
On the planet Arcadia, a young man and woman and a swamp otter join together to haul the otter's eleven hundred pound statue overland to meet the deadline of a prospective buyer from another planet.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006


The busted wristwatch in Black Swan Green, given to Jason Taylor by his father, brought to mind this passage from Faulkner (cut-and-pasted from some online source):

...when father gave it to me he said I give you the mausoleum of all hope and desire; it's rather excruciatingly apt that you will use it to gain the reductio absurdum of all human experience which can fit your individual needs no better then it fitted his or his father's. I give it to you not that you may remember time, but that you might forget it now and then for a moment and not spend all your breath trying to conquer it. Because no battle is ever won he said. They are not even fought. The field only reveals to man his own folly and despair, and victory is an illusion of philosophers and fools.
—William Faulkner, The Sound and the Fury

The other day I was reading John Christopher's The White Mountains, a young-adult science-fiction book from 1967:

My father's great treasure, though, was not the clock, but the Watch. This, a miniature clock with a dial less than an inch across anfd a circlet permitting it to be worn on the wrist, was kept in a locked drawer in his desk....There was no other Watch in the village, nor in any of the villages round about....The body of the Watch was of a steel much superior to anything they could forge in Alton, and the works inside were a wonder of intricacy and skill. On the front were printed "Anti-magnetique" and "Incabloc," which we supposed to have been the name of the craftsman who made it in olden times.

The clockman had visited us the week before, and I had been permitted to look on for a time while he cleaned and oiled the watch. The sight fascinated me, and after he had gone I found my thoughts running continually on this treasure.
—John Christopher, The White Mountains

* * *

I've read somewhere that Quentin Tarantino is said to have been named after the Faulkner character Quentin Compson (whose interior monologue we hear above); has anyone made the connection between the fragmented time scheme of Pulp Fiction and that of The Sound and the Fury? I recall QT saying that Salinger's Glass stories influenced the jigsaw chronology of Pulp Fiction, but I'd be curious to hear of a more direct link to Faulkner.

Even more interesting—both PF and S&F feature watches in distress, an obvious but effective symbol for their scrambled time signatures. I'm thinking about the scatalogical interlude in PF, wherein Christopher Walken's Vietnam vet character details the history of a family heirloom watch (giving it, if memory serves, to an unseen boy, a younger version of the Bruce Willis character).

* * *

Unrelated: A terrific piece from 2003 by friend Robert Ito on Jack T. Chick, whom Ito dubs "The Thomas Pynchon of the Christian comics crowd." The piece was originally written for Los Angeles magazine, then picked up by the Independent on Sunday (U.K.), and lightly translated into British-ese!

Monday, June 19, 2006

Sand in my shoes

Welcome to my virtual scrapbook!

This would have been a fun hotel to stay at—or perhaps too spooky? Those ghosts certainly look like they're having a good time.

On vacation, I read some more of Jonathan Strange, finished Muriel Spark's The Girls of Slender Means, and imbibed relevant chunks of Daniel Pinchbeck's 2012: The Return of Quetzalcoatl. I also started Scott Smith's The Ruins once I returned, but it's freaking me out and I have to put it away. I also read some of the interviews in the new Believer—Dizzyhead Brandon's interview with Stephen O'Malley is not to be missed, nor is the Greil Marcus/Don DeLillo conversation (talking about Dylan—fascinating!). Unfortunately, the rental car's radio/CD player didn't work at all, so I had to just imagine what this year's Believer CD sounded like.

* * *

I randomly stumbled on this quote: "Do not mistake the scaffolding for the building." —Freud

* * *

Bugs devoured my legs.

* * *

On TV: Alexander Payne's Election, or as it's called in Mexico, La Trampa. We watched about half an hour of the Nicholas Cage/Téa Leoni movie The Family Man, trying to figure out what was going on. Did he have amnesia or something?

* * *

Driving in Mexico is interesting. One becomes intimately familiar with speed bumps, known as topes. There are four varieties:

1. A wide, rubberized reddish ramplet–yellow platform–reddish ramplet
2. Two rows of half-buried metal bocce balls, aligned so that the wheels can't pass through the gaps
3. A raised mound of pavement, extending across the road like a big baguette
4. A thick rope

* * *

I didn't take any pictures of topes, but I took some pictures of various Mayan ruins. At Tulum, located on the coast, some red handprints were visible on one structure. This brought to mind The Blair Witch Project.

* * *

At Coba we started to climb the most impressive of the pyramids but the steps were too narrow, the structure too high. Even the non-dizzy-prone couldn't help but feel dizzy. Here's what it looked like from a very low angle:

* * *

Back in Playa del Carmen: Was I paranoid, or did the locals not like me? Alas, the evidence became all too clear:

(Someone call Georges Perec!)

* * *

I also visited the nation's capital for a day, where I spent some time with friend James, who's running for office this fall—very exciting. (More information here.) Relevant Marylandic Dizzyheads, you know what to do!

* * *

Final photograph—get ready for it . . .

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Five characters, a dog, and a car

Over at Saturnhead world HQ, a special Father's Day tribute.

Friday, June 16, 2006

The legs have it!

Apparently this is the meme that keeps on giving. Not long after writing about how the author of Opal Mehta copied passages from the work of Megan McCafferty, I noticed a curiously familiar image in a book catalog:

Wait . . . wasn't this the same photo, more or less, as the one used for McCafferty's Charmed Thirds?

The covers are identical, except that the latter has a blue-shifted pillowcase, some blueish detritus . . . and no mirror.

The Churl From Chichen Itza

Friday, June 09, 2006

Personal daze

The Dizzies is doing another one of its mysterious disappearing acts, but will return before too long. (Arlo may drop in for the occasional posting/curiosity.)

In the meantime!

Download pick: Voxtrot!

Out now: The Believer's music issue!

Keep your eye on Dizzyhead Paul's Weekend Stubble for a great post in the spirit of our buddy "Stevie B."!

Random deeply moving quote for the week: "Of the seven feelings natural to mankind, melancholy is the most intractable." —Chin P'ing Mei, translated by David Tod Roy

Question: What are the other six?

I don't like: Ann Coulter!

Antiquated parlor games over at Ought!

Light reading—literally!: The Crier, a new thin journal, debuts, with Dizzyhead Izzy's smart, spirited piece on Caitlin Flanagan.

Different Opal—fictitious?

New Saturnhead!

Over at the Voice, a great "consumer guide" style piece by John F. Szwed on Sun Ra! Check out this intro: It's as if Sun Ra planned the hopelessness of the task from the beginning. Pick the best of what might be an infinite number of recordings? Nobody has them all or knows how many exist. Find the recording dates of music made by people for whom time meant nothing, who often mixed together recordings from different years? Even the album titles are dicey, sometimes with a word or two wrong, or with the same title used on more than one recording, or with no title given at all. Sometimes there was no cover. It's all part of the Sun Ra mystique and also, incidentally, the force that drives all collecting: not just that you want to own them all, but that you'll never be sure if you have them all.

(Dig it!)

Movie Pick: Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room!

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Teen scene

Dizzyhead Brent points us to a diary kept by a highschooler in the ’70s; and author Megan McCafferty "retroblogs" on her official website, offering her old journal entries from the ’80s. (And don't forget this oddball eBay item, courtesy Dizzyhead Paul!)

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

He's so unusal

I usually don't post press releases — The Dizzies office is inundated with them, folks trying to get a piece of that hot Dizzies press — but this seemed too strange not to share. You probably don't have to read it all — just the last paragraph, about his mysterious vehicle, and the bit with "ostentatious."

Watch out for the typos — and here we go!

* * *

STEPHEN BALDWIN: From Bad Boy To Born Again in Under 300 Pages!

Stephen Baldwin to release THE UNUSAL SUSPECT: My Calling to the New Hardcore Movement of Faith with Warner Faith

New York, NY – (June 7, 2006) – Stephen Baldwin is set to release his semi-autobiography, The Unusual Suspect: My Calling to the New Hardcore Movement of Faith, September 19th with Warner Faith. Baldwin invites you to join him as he recounts the exciting journey from his humble Long Island beginnings to his escapades within the bowels of Hollywood’s bright lights and huge temptations. “Stevie B” details the dabaucherous stories that earned him his “bad boy” Baldwin party persona, and answers the questions of why and how he converted to radical Christianity and how it has affected the Dynasty of the Baldwin family.

Baldwin explains that it took everything life has shown him, from his experiences at the PLAYBOY Mansion to being on many sets and jet-setting across the world to make him realize that none of these material accomplishments compare to his faith. Baldwin explains “I feel like I have gone skydiving and I’m falling from the sky toward earth at 120 miles per hour. The wind is howling in my ears and whipping across my face. But somehow, I feel calm and at peace. I’m not afraid … My prayer is that… you will be willing to take a chance, drop your guard, and enter into an experience like the one I’m having with God!”

Baldwin has starred in over 65 films and is best known for Oscar winning THE USUAL SUSPECTS, THE FILINTSTONES IN VIVA ROCK VEGAS and BIODOME. He is actively using his stardom to take his faith and inspirational messages to the masses, as he produced and directed the extreme sports DVD brand Livin’It. After only 3 months on the market and relatively little promotion, Livin’ It has achieved Gold status and is a phenomenon in the world of amateur and pro skateboarders.

Early comments from the book have ranged from outbursts of laughter, to anger, to complete disbelief that an “insider” had the nerve to turn on the world that essentially gave him his platform and power. It carries the reader deep into the world of the Baldwin Dynasty and gives the first clear look at why this family is the ostentatious, fun and radical group that they are today.

Baldwin will take the country by storm by driving in his CUSTOMIZED GM CUBE called the “Lord’s Lounge” which boasts the cover of the book shrink wrapped around the gnarly vehicle while also creating the spectacle of the true STEVIE B experience, illustrating what it is like to be the UNUSAL SUSPSECT. Be on the look out for baby Baldwin driving the CUBE to a city near you!

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Rave on

In Salon, Douglas Wolk has a terrific write-up of Alison Bechdel's Fun Home; I'm going to come right out and say that it's my favorite book of the year so far.

The ideal way to read this might be: Don't look at any reviews (save DW's till afterward, as I did) — in fact, maybe don't even read the dustjacket. (Maybe don't even read this.) Go to the bookstore, and if the first few pages intrigue you, buy it, bring it home, and get ready to not put it down. (I was up way past one last night.)

I won't say anything else, except that it's totally brilliant, and by the end I was reminded of nothing so much as Maus. This seems hyperbolic, but I can't think of another example of autobiographical comix that's this powerful. Obviously I'm not drawing any equivalencies between the horrors of the Holocaust and what happens here; my point is that both books tell stories that can only exist in this medium—it's not just what happens, but how it's told. (And by that, I don't simply mean how it's drawn.) There's a lot of talk about considering comics as literature (whatever we can temporarily agree "literature" is) — I do a lot of such talk myself. But though I enjoy and admire a lot of comix, I sometimes worry that when it comes to long-form projects, only a few really go all the way and fulfill the medium's possibilities. (Surely I'm wrong and will think of dozens of good examples after I post this — Jimmy Corrigan! Black Hole! — so maybe let's say I'm going to limit this to explicitly autobiographical narratives. Am I missing something between Maus and Fun Home?)

More thoughts later, Dizzyheads — but really, this is not a book to miss.

* * *

Turn this off before the last chord.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Spell, Memory!

Exploring the hockey/spelling connection: Arlo points us to this tidbit in The Buffalo News:

To understand the innocence of this team, consider the scene in the visitors' dressing room of the RBC Center the morning of the biggest game in seven years. They were huddled around a television in the far corner, drawing inspiration from . . . the movie "Miracle"? . . . Carolina's highlight reel? . . . Game Six?

No. There was much to discuss and the McKee crisis to address, but they were glued to the National Spelling Bee. Paul Gaustad was clinging to every letter while cheering on a bespectacled 12-year-old, appreciating the pressure of performing on a national stage. Paul, um, do you think the loss of Jay McKee will . . . Paul?

"Yes," Gaustad shouted while pumping his fist toward the TV. "He nailed it."


* * *

Now that I think of it, the hockey/spelling connection is something of a primal one for me: When I would go to Sabres games with my father on school nights, I would bring along my vocab book to study during the intermissions—Wordly Wise, it was called.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Zeducation Supplement


Trotting north, I pass a church out of which emerge, one at a time, a series of dogs, each a different size/breed, which hilariously storm across to another building, but finding it closed, return to the church, but can't get in the door.These are some spazzy, entertaining dogs!

I'm running on this dirt trail and in my mind I hear a poem or melody, How does the child know . . . ? I have a vague sense that there's someone running behind me, so I keep the pace up.

I pass into a subway station, take the train for a few stops, emerge—get back on that dirt trail, which occasionally has a rivulet of crystalline but greenish water running down the center.

The trail goes up a hill. There's been narration in my head the whole time, morphing from the old poem to something like right-wing radio: They say they have 5 million rogue warriors . . . well, we've got 5 million road warriors.

* * *

The spelling bee on Thursday night was fascinating—I thought my interest in the—sport? recreation?—ended with the excellent Spellbound, but this was riveting: the different methods of the spellers (writing the word out with a finger on an arm), good-luck charms, the questions asked (Can I have a definition?), sometimes repeatedly . . . In the final round it was down to three girls, one of whom had been mistakenly eliminated after spelling hechscher correctly (the judges' word list was wrong) and brought back. The championship list of 25 words was brought out. The very composed hechscher finalist was eliminated (for real), and then it was down to an Edmontonian and a New Jerseyite. The girl from Edmonton (who I originally took to be Hawaiian) seemed to be cruising almost effortlessly—perhaps thanks to country-mandated French instruction? But then she tripped, unaccountably, on weltschmerz—the judge's definition was perhaps too droll, too foreboding, and drew an audience chuckle that might have distracted the contestant. She kicked it off with a v instead of a w; charmingly and appropriately, the last letter she gave was "zed."

The New Jerseyite got her next word, and was triumphant with the redolent ursprache, meaning something like (again appropriately!) a language of origin arrived at by analysis of later languages.

* * *

This is all a way to avoid talking about the injury-incurring Sabres' seventh-game loss to Carolina that same night. Arlo will bring us the post-mortem soon.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Block Party

The Sabres are known for their shot blocking and possibly lead the league for most blocked shots. Apparently, this means the players tend to stand between their goal and a slapshot traveling upwards of 90 mph in order to make their goalie's job a bit easier. Most other players try to steer clear, but for some reason, the Sabres brace themselves for these shots. (The Carolina Hurricanes are also high on the list of blocked shots).

Well, our propensity for shotblocking has inadvertently cost us another injury. Jay McKee, the most valuable defenseman on the team, did not travel to Carolina for Game 7 tonight. McKee has blocked more than 60 shots during this playoff run; one shot during the Ottawa series resulted in a cut on his shin. Today we learn about that cut for the first time, that it never healed, that McKee is out with a serious skin infection. Yet another defenseman is out for the most important game of the playoffs. There is a sort of curse on Buffalo sports teams that I never really believed in, though now it seems a little less ridiculous.

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