Monday, July 31, 2006

Connections Week (#1): No Hieroics, Please

So you're living your life, eating Chinese food, wondering if there are any bills to pay, watching another installment of the first season of Gilmore Girls on DVD—then all of a sudden, you're thinking of a book you haven't thought of in years.

What gives?

Let's do this in an orderly fashion . . .

Remember the high school in Heathers? It's named Westerberg, as in Paul Westerberg, because (it's said) star Winona Ryder was a huge Replacements fan.

In the GG episode I just watched, Lorelai jokes that Rory has become the new "Heather" (after mean girl Paris's friends ditch P. and appear to befriend R.).

Rory goes to Chilton Academy. As in . . . Alex Chilton?

Googling "Gilmore Girls + Alex Chilton" isn't really turning up anything . . . but creator Amy Sherman-Palladino must be a fan—Big Star's "Thirteen" was on the soundtrack to the episode just prior to the one I watched.

Paul Westerberg, of course, is himself a fan of Chilton—having written the song "Alex Chilton"! ("I never travel far/Without a little Big Star!" is pretty corny, but I think I know where he's coming from.)

So I was wondering if this was sort of a multipronged allusion—to Alex Chilton qua Alex Chilton, but also to Heathers' alluding to Westerberg who alludes to Alex Chilton.

This is just a side note to a side note, but think about it: You have They Might Be Giants singing "Hi, We're the Replacements," and the Replacements singing "Children by the millions scream for Alex Chilton." Where is Alex Chilton's cover of "They Might Be Giants"?

And now—to get back to the book I haven't thought of in years: For me the word/name "Chilton" evokes, more primally, a name in black . . . printed on the spine of a library book . . . from early high school days—"Chilton" is the name of the book's publisher.

The title of the book was Hiero's Journey (1973), written by Sterling E. Lanier—a post-apocalyptic novel (somewhat along the lines of some things I've been looking at recently, e.g., the Tripods series).

In my memory, actually, the book is The Unforsaken Hiero (1983), Lanier's sequel—but Google tells me that that book was actually published by Del Rey.

On Amazon (for a different Lanier book), someone wrote that:

Lanier is . . . known for . . . the prolific amount of novels he helped publish including the very well known "Dune" series when he worked at Chilton Publishers.

I didn't realize Dune was also/originally published by Chilton! And that Lanier had a hand in getting it published! Even if Hiero's Journey is mostly forgotten, Lanier had a huge impact on science fiction (not to mention Kyle MacLachlan's career), if he was the man responsible for helping usher Dune into the world.

Side note: With global warming, An Inconvenient Truth, et al. looming in large in people's minds (this week's supposed to be horribly hot in New York), it's time for a spiffed-up reprint of Dune, with an introduction by Al Gore. (OK, maybe not.)

Anyway—one other fact came swimming up out of the murk that is my head: I thought I had read, long ago, that Chilton was mainly a publisher of automotive books.

Could this possibly be correct? Wikipedia says: "Chilton, a minor publishing house in Philadelphia, gave Herbert a $7,500 advance, and Dune was soon a critical success."

So did a single outfit named Chilton publish both (a) books about cars and (b) seminal science fiction?

I'm not 100% sure, but I think this might in fact be correct. Googling "Chilton + Philadelphia" brings us this. Chilton (apparently a still thriving automotive-manual publisher) was headquartered in West Philadelphia until 1972 or so (after Dune, and before or just around when Hiero's Journey appeared), after which it moved to the suburb of Radnor.

I have no conclusion, just a rather tragic automotive association: A couple fan sites/message boards have mentioned the fact/rumor that Lanier was seriously injured in a car accident, and that Hiero's story will likely remain unfinished.

UPDATE: This website gives Radnor, PA, as the address for Chilton, publisher of Hiero's Journey.

At long last

New Ten Words!

Journey Around My Room

But I read in zigzags, I travel from one book to the next, and this is not without its risks. It is quite possible that here and there, certain interpretations or comparisons are stretched or simply gratuitous . . .

—Raúl Ruiz, Poetics of Cinema

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Smells Like Spirit Photography, #4: The History of Luminous Motion

Saturday, July 29, 2006

I'll keep it with mine

Spot the theme in this week's book section!

Friday, July 28, 2006

'Do you know what a hologram is, Welles?'

While digging up my old Goodspeed's catalogues earlier this week (they were in the delightful box housing the pamphlets of McSweeney's No. 4), I came across something I'd torn out of a financial-scheme promo booklet that had landed in the mail many years back. The photograph of the man holding the phone—and the dramatic pull quote—made this page a keeper.

Googling dredges up a few sources online that seem to reproduce the text from the original booklet. The Delta Deal is something that could have popped up in Charles Portis's Masters of Atlantis (or The Dog of the South, or Gringos—or even Norwood!). The names of the interlocutors in the initial, groundbreaking dialogue are ripe for parsing ("Jim Sloman" and "Welles Wilder"), as is Jim's provocative icebreaker: "Do you know what a hologram is, Welles?"

Ah—I can't resist—here's Welles's reply, followed by Jim's lucid metaphor . . . it's like reading the transcript to an infomercial . . . but somehow better. (Imagine that Midge and Dr. Symes of Dog are talking . . .*)

"Yes, a hologram is a projection in three dimensions."

"Right. Do you know how one is made?"


"A hologram is made by projecting laser light through a holographic negative—much like a photographic negative with normal lighting. However, if one looks at the holographic negative with normal lighting, it looks like mass confusion. When laser light is projected through the negative, then the three-dimensional hologram appears—the confusion is replaced by perfect order."

And here's another excerpt:

Jim replied that he could only show [the plan] to me if I came to Chicago. He insisted that it would certainly be worth a day of my time. I asked a few questions as to the nature of his trading method.

"Does it predict or follow market action?"


"Does it involve Fibonacci numbers?"


"Does it have anything to do with the works of Elliott or Gann?"


"Or Andrews or Dow or anybody else?"


"Is this a completely original discovery?"


At this point I was getting interested and the answer to my next question clinched it.

"Why do you want to show me your discovery?"

"I need a very large sum of money to begin another project."

"How will I know its value in order to make a decision?"

"Come to Chicago and I will show you. At that point you can decide whether or not you want to buy it."

*I seem to do this a lot. The very small number of books bearing the Portis byline has forced me to imagine his authorial presence in texts written by others.

The Thinking Organ

From ye olde Light Reader:
It is not without reason that some writers have called coffee "an intellectual drink." The general use made of it by men of letters, scientists, artists—in a word, by all persons whose work requires a particular activity of the thinking organ—this use has become established only after repeated observations and reliable experiments. Nothing works better, in fact, than coffee for arresting the anguish of a difficult digestion. The stimulating action of this drink, which bears equally on the sensitive and on the motor forces, far from disturbing their natural equilibrium, completes it and makes it more perfect. The sensations become at once more acute and more distinct, the ideas more active and clearer: and not only does coffee have none of the disadvantages of narcotics, of ardent spirits, or even of wine; on the contrary, it is the most effective means of opposing their pernicious effects.

("Thinking organ" puts me in mind of the character Jane from Muriel Spark's The Girls of Slender Means—she's the one who works in publishing and always demands that her housemates keep quiet, so that she can do her very important "brain work.")

* * *

Jeff Yang, founder of A. Magazine and all-around Asian-Am. mensch, archives his "Instant Yang" writings here.

* * *

MIAMI THRICE: A.O. Scott has a well-written, witty (¡Dios Mio!) appreciation of Miami Vice—but I must advise Dizzyheads not to see this movie! (John Ortiz's performance, as noted by Scott and Sweeney, is good—he definitely transcends the role and comes up with good, unexpected line readings.) But I must say that though I was trying to give the film the benefit of the doubt, especially with the visuals, it just never clicked for me (whereas Collateral's look really did make sense pretty much from the start). And Sweeney does a fine job capturing MV's standout sequence ("The sense of speed is palpable—and can there be any greater film fantasy than to be speeding to Havana with Gong Li for mojitos?") . . . but still . . . !

NABOKOVIAN NOTEBOOK: Yesterday, the Times ran a piece on an exhibit elucidating the importance of butterflies to Nabokov's development/strategies as a fiction writer (a variant of a story that appeared in other places a couple weeks back) . . . It was interesting to me, but somehow not that interesting . . . Nowadays I find myself a little less taken with the fluttering calling cards VN puts in his books (and the digs at psychology/Freud/etc.) than I was upon first reading him (when they seemed very clever). There are plenty of other pleasures to be found in the books, of course, plenty of things still to learn from VN . . . Oddly, yesterday another lepidopterological piece (!) was published in the Times—VN gets a mention . . .

UPDATE!!! Dave Kehr doesn't like Miami Vice—at last, a voice of reason!

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Man Hatin' Eye and Ear (Parental Discretion Advised)

The cover of this week's Voice (below) features the unsettling image of an ear breaking into fragments.

This depiction of the mutilation of a sensory organ instantly, mysteriously brought to mind the cover art for the Scorpions album
Blackout (top), in which bent forks applied to a poor fellow's (mental patient's?) eyes trigger a shout that shatters some sort of glass barrier.


Hanumana is the mythical ape-god of the great Hindu epic Ramayana. Commissioned by Lord Rama to build a bridge over the ocean from the tip of the Indian peninsula to Sri Lanka, Hanumana (already accursed to be unaware of his own great strength) stood on the ocean bank, vacillating in his mind about his capacity to be able to do so. When Lord Rama exhorted, "Hanumana! You are ignorant of the great power that lies within you[,]" [t]he ape-god suddenly became aware of his strength and so could accomplish the task that lay before him.
—J.S. Neki

In uke news, am having fun learning this: "I hate the big decisions/that cause endless revisions in my mind."

* * *

Dizzies music: New Scritti Politti album! Gets better and better as I listen.

I was going to link to recent Times piece, but a search turned up:
Search Paid Death Notices and Paid Memorial Notices for scritti politti

* * *

A Spaniard in the works: Interesting Times article about early African American baseball players. Frank Grant played for the Buffalo Bisons from 1886–1888. Can we expect a post by Buffalo Bisons–lid-wearing Termite Artist R. Emmet Sweeney?

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

From the archives/Dizzies forum

People magazine reports that Lance Bass (of 'N Sync) is out of the closet, which compelled us to dig up this chestnut: our review of Bass's amazing, why-does-this-exist film, On the Line.

Dizzies forum: Is this post up to Dizzies snuff, or a craven attempt to generate web traffic?

Press release of the week

Play Money: Or, How I Quit My Day Job and Made Millions Trading Virtual Loot
goes on-sale inside Second Life:
Both In-Game and Real-Life Books Available for Purchase in LindenDollars

In-game versions of Play Money designed by Second Life resident/coder/publisher Falk Bergman are available for 750L$. These copies can be signed by Dibbell at his in-Second Life interview with journalist Wagner James Au on July 27th (for details see For the Second Life resident who needs something a bit more tactile, 6250L$ buys a real-life copy of Play Money, shipped with care to the buyer’s real life address. This makes Basic Books the first mainstream publisher to accept payment in the currency of an online economy.

* * *

Basically—this means that you can have your online character buy a copy of the book, using the game's currency; for a higher price, you, the person controlling the character, can use the game's currency to buy an actual, paper-and-glue copy.

I just reviewed this book for the Voice. The first half or so is completely gripping—I was raving about parts of it to everyone I met that weekend—but then the book gets taken over by . . . blog entries. One could explore this more: How the blog voice—even that of a good bloggger—isn't something most people would care to read between hard covers.

X jones

Courtesy the Light Reader, here's a delightful post from a blog called Ben and Alice, riffing off a Poynter report on the various uses of the letter X, and quoting from Poe's whimsical bit of printer's devilishness, "X-ing a Paragrab."

For an even more mysterious take on language, go here.

* * *

My search for today's Keeler cover image led me to this intriguing site (for "Miskatonic University Press"!), where the proprietor has compiled a list of fictions containing footnotes (and fictions containing indexes). X-haustive!

* * *

Apart from X. Jones, Keeler's got another X-titled book, The Search for X-Y-Z (which I haven't read). And to continue on this alphabetical track, the sort-of-sequel to X. Jones is one of my favorite Keelers, Y. Cheung, Business Detective.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Paging Sally Kimball!

From Publisher's Lunch:

Children's: Middle grade
Donald J. Sobol's new ENCYCLOPEDIA BROWN mystery, the first in nearly five years, to coincide with the re-release of the series in paperback, to Mark McVeigh at Dutton, for publication in 2007, by Edward Necarsulmer IV at McIntosh & Otis.

Vice work if you can get it.

Termite Art has spoken.

APB: Miami Vice

I'm waiting for the rogues at Termite Art to post about Michael Mann's Miami Vice—I saw one of the TArtistes at the screening yesterday—but as a preventive measure, I want to advise Dizzyheads to give this one a wide berth. I liked Mann's Collateral, despite some plot holes; it had a terrific look and some amazing set pieces, one of which in particular I flash back to any time I find myself in a Koreatown nightclub (approximately once every three years and against my will). MV, oddly, looks pretty terrible most of the time; the dialogue is atrocious; and an immense so what? factor hanging over the proceedings. Mann wants to inflate his slim smuggling-bust story into Heat-like proportions, but it doesn't have Pacino/De Niro (or even Val Kilmer).

What it does have is . . . Gong Li.

Why the Gongster was cast is a mystery—but for the 15-20 minutes she's on screen, the film is weirdly entertaining for all the wrong reasons. As a Cuban of Chinese extraction, she's able to take Colin Farrell back to that forbidden island so they can drink mojitos, dance awkwardly, make googly eyes, and wear plush bathrobes. She is rather completely unconvincing, so that as she reels off her character's biography (mother a translator in Angola, etc.), you can visualize the script, its Courier font swimming across the screen. At one point it actually sounds like she's relating wisdom found in a fortune cookie ("Time is luck..."). Her romance with Colin Farrell is distended, completely unconvincing from the get-go. (Spoiler alert: Their ultimate parting of ways will leave not a wet eye in the house.) Her whole performance is a misfire, but of such epic proportions that it makes the more "believable" events and characters surrounding her seem drained of energy.

Another respite from the dullness: a reel during which the sound became distractingly muddy, as if only one side of the audio was working. This happened during Team Vice's raid of a white supremacist trailer/bunker. Directions whispered into headsets came out as zzhhhzz or as nothing at all. Film Project #3 would be a repurposed Miami Vice with player piano music and old-timey title cards.

UPDATE: Did Justin Theroux's comments about MV in this rollicking interview have anything to do with his absence from the screen? (I didn't even realize he was in it, though keener eyes glimpsed him in one minor scene.)

Monday, July 24, 2006

Find Arctor heart

Paolo Collins's beautifully illustrated Keeler piece was easy enough to find at Barnes & Noble—it's a good overview of Keeler's particular talent, heyday and downward career arc, and recent rediscovery. (The magazine is gorgeous, and it has a bunch of other fun articles that promise to be fun reads.) There were a couple places where I had to blur my eyes, as Paul provided a précis of Keelers I hadn't read yet (The Green Jade Hand and, oddly, The Spectacles of Mr. Cagliostro, which is on the shelf), but my gut tells me these parts were most likely up to snuff!

One Keeler book that I need to reread is The Portrait of Jirjohn Cobb (1940), a/k/a Find Actor Hart. Paul makes the hilarious comparison to Lou Reed's notorious Metal Machine Music; even Richard Polt, eminent Keelerologist and connoisseur of the outré, has called it "one of the most astoundingly unreadable novels ever written." But I've always had a soft spot for this one (which kicks off a rather mind-bending trilogy but is perfectly enjoyable on its own). The cover image perhaps gives away too much (consider the next parenthetical a spoiler), but for me the book's central dramatic sequence works as a metaphor for Keeler's writing and its rewards—viz., if one is a little patient with Keeler's "bad" art, it will give up its secret, myriad pleasures. (If you really want to know what happens, it's roughly this: Part of a millionaire's will requests that his ungrateful children look at one of his terrible paintings, by the light of a candle; the first couple of potential bequeathees storm out of the room, but the one who perseveres—call him the Cordelia of the group—is rewarded when enough wax melts off the candlestick to reveal a cylinder with further privileged information. Ingenious!)

Another invaluable component to the Collins piece is FB&C editor Scott Brown's brief interview with Sally Sylvan, a relation of Keeler's second wife, Thelma. To my knowledge, Sylvan is someone no Keelerite has known about—it's big news! There's also a Keeler checklist (online), which no doubt I'll be studying obsessively for the next 20 years.

* * *

I don't think I ever read Richard Matheson's I Am Legend, but now I must. Return of the Reluctant points to a Times (U.K.) packagette, featuring Stephen King's brief appreciation, a potent excerpt, and the intriguing info that IAL is part of Gollancz's new series of the "10 greatest science fiction books of all time," which will also include:

The Dispossessed, by Ursula le Guin; The Stars my Destination, Alfred Bester; Flowers for Algernon, Daniel Keyes; The Forever War, Joe Haldeman; Cities in Flight, James Blish; Ubik, Philip K. Dick; Lord of Light, Roger Zelazny; Gateway, Frederik Pohl; The Sirens of Titan, Kurt Vonnegut.

* * *

One gem in the diadem that is Hoberman's review of A Scanner Darkly, speaking of the Keanu Reeves character: Dick's idea of a tragic modernist paradigm, Arctor is the character who suffers most acutely the loss of identity. (His name, realistically enough, sounds like "actor" on quaaludes.)

Sunday, July 23, 2006


Weekend Stubble is back, with three scintillating posts. On the To Do list today: pick up a copy (how? where?) of Fine Books and Collections, in which Paolo Collins—the World Cup victor nation's favorite author—has a piece on . . . you guessed it . . . Harry Stephen Keeler!

He also makes a good point about antiquarian booksellers' catalogues as "brilliantly practical guides to literature, written by people who live and breathe old book," and forwards a modest proposal. I'm far from well-versed in the book-catalogue game, but years ago I picked up, for pennies, two catalogues edited by Norman L. Dodge and published by Goodspeed's book shop in Boston, one dating from 1939, the other from 1958. They're full of vivid, jaunty descriptions (as well as tantalizing reproductions)—to have a full run of these catalogues would be amazing.

"Back in 1929, the kind of year that men forget, or would like to, the bookmen who composed the Quarto Club printed a second volume of Papers, containing eight bibliographical diversions read at meetings in 1927–28 . . . "

A quote from one 1925 title on offer,S. Foster Damon's A Note on the Discovery of a New Page of Poetry in William Blake's Milton ($10!): "Time and time again he flung out feelers in conversation, to ascertain his companion's receptivity; yet to none, whether adoring disciple or open enemy, did he explain his books. Such brave reticence, such faith in the future, may yet be rewarded. The public has already veered his way. It is not one of the least miracles in the life of that man who knew nothing but miracles."

"While we are talking about the War Between the States—and about half of the book readers and collectors seem to be doing just that—here are some more colorful prints on the subject . . . "

"This is a little book about a controversy. It contains a literary matter over which knuckles have been wrapped [sic] and ink-pots flung. It concerns Mother Goose . . . "

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Mise en scène — miserable Melville — Marceau — Moptops

Two film projects:

Film #1 consists entirely of montages (drawn from various Hollywood movies) in which gawky/poor/otherwise insecure misfit gets a makeover/shopping spree. Ideally, there would be no dialogue present in the source material, just a mad swirl of conspicuous consumption, bodies entering dressing rooms and emerging in spectacular threads. (The conceit could be expanded to include montages in which people buy a lot of things, not necessarily wardrobe related.)

Sources could include: Splash, Pretty Woman, Clueless, Fat Albert, et al.

Film #2 consists entirely of montages (drawn from various Hollywood movies) in which characters laugh uproariously while enjoying a meal—expensive dinner, picnic lunch—with each other. Once again, no actualy dialogue should be audible: All we need to see are people raising glasses in a toast, throwing heads back in glee, shots of spaghetti being spooled around a fork, etc.

Sources could include: Sideways, Something's Gotta Give, et al.

Any takers?

* * *

We're a bad trip: Over at House of Mirth, James Marcus reads Melville's bummed-out Holy Land journals. Marcus reminds us that Melville's reputation was so low by the time of his death that the Times obit got his name wrong.

(The paper also bungled the obit of another American original.)

* * *

Readers of Harry Stephen Keeler's The Marceau Case and X. Jones—Of Scotland Yard! understand the importance of one disembodied line of text:

"Blimey, 'Erb! Little?" Lu Caslow's dreary eyes

Analyzing this phrase one way, you get the name "Meyer B. Li," another way, "Little Lucas."

A chance blog landing turned up this. The mystery thickens! (For more on that Marceau morsel, go here.)

* * *

Happy-making Beatles footage, from Mike Gerber.

Friday, July 21, 2006


Upstairs a British voice said, "There are forms of vertigo that do not include spinning."
—Don DeLillo, White Noise

* * *

Umberto Eco, Paul Collins fan!

* * *

UPDATE: Dizzyhead Christine sends this fascinating Times story by Adam Liptak about a California prisoner, Donny Johnson, who paints using the colors leached from M&Ms. (It reminded me a bit of the fellow who stitched amazingly detailed scenes out of sock thread while incarcerated.)

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Net loss

I was feeling semi-virtuous for eyeing but ultimately not bidding on this issue of TriQuarterly, devoted to His Nabs.

I'd tracked it for five days. The auction ended yesterday. I have enough books, I thought, as I navigated away from eBay.

But now I'm like: What was I thinking?


Wednesday, July 19, 2006

We've Had E-Nough!

Recently I corresponded with two friends (Erin and Euge) whose names both begin with "E." I wanted to alert them to Mexico's draconian ban on our mutual initial letter, and sent a photo from a recent fact-finding mission as evidence (above). (Or would that be "vidnc"?)

Chillingly, Erin instantly replied with a photo of herself next to a similarly repulsive sign (below, country unknown).

Folks, it's not hard to pick on—in fact, dismiss—that fifth symbol of our standard orthographical toolkit. Pshaw, you think. I won't miss it, not at all. But in a day or two, as syntax grows hairy, and words slip invisibly away, you will invariably ask: Why did I think I could function without it?


* * *

Baseball fans and Wodehouse connoisseurs need to take this test, over at the Overlook Press's delightful blog (amiably maintained by Mr. John Mark Boling).

* * *

Seeing that Dizzyhead Chrita had posted at length on Renée French's mysterious comic The Ticking, I decided to crack it open at last. I'm so glad—especially since the train got stuck for 15 minutes between 14th and 23rd. It's a hushed, haunting read. Each frame (there are only one or two per page) is a gentle but menacing web of pencilings. Read Chrita's Crisis for a sophisticated take (and for samples of the artwork)—this is beautiful stuff. Though the drawing styles are not at all alike, The Ticking calls to mind Chris Reynolds's eerily disorienting post-apocalyptic project The Dial.

* * *

Great Philip K. Dick letter re Mickey Spillane (now the late Mickey Spillane), via Gothamist.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Fruit of the Vining

Dizzyhead Hua and I are obsessed with An Inglorious Columbus, a strange, fascinating book from 1885 by Edward Payson Vining. (It is to Chinese-discovery-of-America theories what Donnelly's book was to Atlantis myths, at least in heft.) I've never been able to buy it—a phantom posting on abebooks many years ago—at the height of my Vining studies—listed it at $125 or so. (A $32.99 print-on-command edition that Hua tried to purchase never came through.)

The point is, Hua just discovered an auction that closed a couple weeks ago—a copy of the Vining went for $12—chump change! That's what we tip squeegeemen! Part of me is screaming.

We want to know: Who is this third Vining scholar? Do drop a comment if you see this, sir or madame!

Special "K."

Another day, another trip to Wikipedia. I never knew this about Philip K. Dick!

"Dick and Ursula K. Le Guin--perhaps his only peer in terms of academic and literary reputation among late 20th-century science fiction authors--were members of the same high school graduating class (Berkeley (Ca.) High School, 1947), yet did not know one another. Le Guin (then Ursula Kroeber) had been accelerated a grade, while Dick missed much of his senior year with the agoraphobia that would plague him as an adult. Le Guin later became one of Dick's great champions (calling him "our own home-grown Borges") and wrote The Lathe of Heaven as a conscious Dick homage; the two maintained a friendship and correspondence until Dick's death."

They also have . . . the same middle initial.

* * *

I was doing some PKD surfing after seeing Richard Linklater's excellent film of A Scanner Darkly.

Random notes:
1. ASD > The Matrix.
2. Reread Lawrence Sutin's PKD bio!
3. PKD's interesting middle name: Kindred.
4. SF writer Octavia E. Butler wrote a book entitled Kindred.
5. Essential supplementary reading (per my old comrade James Stubenrauch): Julian Jaynes's The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind. Scanner came out just one year after Bicameral; both take the brain's hemispheric makeup into fascinating speculative dimensions. Jaynes is an audacious thinker and elegant writer, and this book has haunted me over the years.

* * *
And in the Dizzies gossip pages:

"[Christie] Brinkley was previously married to Frenchman Jean-Francois Allaux, singer Billy Joel and developer Richard Taubman."
—Associated Press

I like how "Frenchman" is an occupation . . .

Monday, July 17, 2006

Permanent Wave

Two new web discoveries: Permanent Monday (link fixed!), Chris Stangl's hilarious, ongoing analysis of Garfield strips, and Slow Wave, in which Jesse Reklaw illustrates your dreams in four panels.

Make that three: The Times multimedia "Vows"!

Saturday, July 15, 2006


Everyone knows the alphabetical workout "The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog." But the typewriter journal ETCetera offers two more exacting alternatives:

"XV quick nymphs beg fjord waltz."

"Blowzy night-frumps vex'd Jack Q."

Can Dizzyheads think of others?

Friday, July 14, 2006

Colma chameleon

Weekend pick: Yet another Asian filmfest swings into view for New Yorkers, this time the Asian American International Film Festival—a blunderbuss of a name!—which theoretically chooses the best of both foreign-made titles and homegrown fare. Well . . . I reviewed an earlier installment of the AAIFF, and found much not to like, alas (and I seem to remember attending a movie there some years prior that was so bad I can't even remember the title), but this year's lineup has at least one fun, surprising film: Colma: The Musical (playing this Saturday and next Tuesday). The movie follows a trio of friends during the in-between daze post–high school, pre–who knows what, in the titular exurb of San Francisco. (The pals are all Filipino American, but there's surprisingly little ethnic identity pondering; in fact, I don't think there's any.) The scenario admittedly sounds maybe not so interesting—but the movie is absolutely packed with original songs (all by H.P. Mendoza, who also acts here), all of which are listenable and many of which are terrific: catchy, fresh, intricate. Toe tappers with smart lyrical turns! What more could you want? It's perhaps a bit long (at nearly two hours), but I like this refreshing, ambitious, and entertaining take on what might otherwise simply play as humdrum late-teen angst.

* * *

If you want a good, breezy read instead of two hours at the cinemathéque: Check out Caitlin Macy's The Fundamentals of Play. A perennial page turner!

* * *

Or just watch this crazily energized video. (Thanks to Brandon Stosuy for the link.)

* * *

More Wiki wanderings: This school sounds like something out of Garth Nix, or the original of Hogwarts!

* * *

Poet Cathy Park Hong now blogs at Invisible City, a place for "poetics, politics, and random argot from random cities." She is the author of Translating Mo'um (see my note on maum, in my Linda Linda Linda rave) and the forthcoming Dance Dance Revolution, which just won the 2006 Barnard Women's Prize. The book includes her recent forays into a crazy invented language that I totally dig—here's a sample from Action Yes.

* * *

And this Revenge of the Bookeaters event, a benefit for 826, sounds absolutely amazing. I wonder if it's too late to get tickets?!

Thursday, July 13, 2006

The cavern club

So last night I was checking out the Wikipedia entry for William Gaddis, for no particular reason (well, OK—maybe to see if anyone had linked to this).

Flash forward a few hours! There's an interesting article in today's Times about spelunking (and, tangentially, the "blind fish of Thailand"!) . . . written by one "Will Gadd."

I've never seen this byline before.

If you write out the "missing" letters that would amplify the name into "William Gaddis," you get I AM and IS—both suggesting being. Is the late author of The Recognitions and JR, an author famous for his secretive, almost undercover persona, trying to get in touch with us, via an article about places hidden from most of mankind?


Via the Light Reader, a note on an annotated First Folio (from The Guardian):

"Defacing some of the pages, but probably raising the value, are the marginal scribbles of one of its first readers. In brown ink this early Shakespeare devotee marked interesting passages with circles or wavy lines, often scrawling, like some early A-level candidate, 'joy', or 'wit', or 'time', or, most commonly of all, 'simile'."

In Pnin there is this droll aside, part of the bravura opening to chapter six:

"Again in the margins of library books earnest freshman inscribed such helpful glosses as 'Description of nature' or 'Irony'; and in a pretty edition of Mallarmé's poems an especially able scholiast had already underlined in violet ink the difficult word oiseaux and written above it 'birds.'"

(Significantly, while typing this out, I nearly wrote violent for violet.)

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

The Dizzies Gazette

RICHARD POLT, Heidegger expert, founder of the Harry Stephen Keeler Society, and Keeler News editor, sent us a copy of the other excellent specialized publication he edits—ETCetera, the Journal of the Early Typewriter Collectors' Association! (Go here to experience a free sample.) Issue 74's cover features the complicated, beautiful Duplex, with its massive, imposing keyboard. Some keys are black, some are white—it looks a little like a deadlocked game of Go. As Tony Casillo explains:

Theoretically, typists could double their typing speed by depressing keys on a keyboard consisting of four quadrants. The upper left contained capital letters, the upper right contained numbers and punctuation marks, and the two lower sections contained a double set of lower-case characters (a total of 100 keys). On a Duplex, the typist could select one key from the left side along with one from the right and depress both simultaneously . . .

Lots of fascinating dope here, full color photos, glossy paper. In short: Highly recommended!

BEACH READ: Come Closer, by Sara Gran. Unputdownable! Fans of The Horned Man should snap this up. As we like to say here: Highly recommended!

COINCIDENCE DEPT.: The latest Keeler News, one of the few publications we read cover to cover, contains a short, tantalizing item. A reader sent in a New York Times clipping about Out 1: Noli Me Tangere, the extremely rare, recently screened 750-minute film by Jacques Rivette. Part of the original article reads:

Two oddball loners . . . separately circle the groups. Characters change names and reveal secret identities. Living Theaterish rehearsals go on for ages. Connective tissue fills in, only to fall away. Mr. Léaud's character is the thickening mystery's self-appointed detective, fixated on cryptic messages about a 13-member secret society. . . . Building on his improvisational experiments of ''L'Amour Fou'' (1968), Mr. Rivette worked without a script, relying instead on a diagram that mapped the junctures at which members of his large ensemble cast would intersect.

It was pointed out that Rivette might be the ideal director to bring our beloved Harry Stephen Keeler to the screen, particularly his 750-page The Box From Japan, devoting a minute of screentime per page. (The only Rivette I've seen, Celine and Julie Go Boating, didn't strike me as particularly Keeleresque, but the description here of Out 1 and Rivette's methods certainly sounds Keeler-ready!)

Now get this! Keeler is famous for his "webwork" mysteries, in which connections and coincidences flourish—how appropriate, then, that the writer of the Rivette piece (unnamed in the KN excerpt) was none other than Friend-of-the-Dizzies Dennis Lim?

WE HEAR that a recent book party for Gideon Defoe's amusing Pirates! books, held aboard a vessel on Pier 63, promised free ham (indeed, it was dubbed a "Hamstravaganza") and drinks. Or did it merely strongly imply that that would be the case? An intrepid crew of would-be revelers made its way to the ship (yclept the Frying Pan) only to find a cash bar and . . . no ham. Oddly, Defoe himself was not present—a strange book party, indeed. Aarrr!

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Dawn patrol

An article in today's Times, "Missile Tests Divide Seoul From Tokyo," reveals how South Korea and Japan have responded differently to recent North Korean rumblings. This bit seemed straight out of Wodehouse:

On Sunday, the South Korean president’s office issued a statement saying that overreacting to the tests would only heighten tensions on the Korean peninsula. “There is no reason to fuss over this from the break of dawn like Japan,” it read.

On Monday, Japanese officials called South Korea’s comments regrettable and said Tokyo was not “creating a big fuss.”

This just in: Check out Hillary Chute's excellent piece on Alison Bechdel's Fun Home.

Monday, July 10, 2006


I haven't read Nabokov's Pnin since college days; what a delightful book! About ninety percent of the story and tactics had been erased from my memory, so it was like reading a new, undiscovered Nabokov. So much magic packed into less than 150 pages!

One doesn't think of Nabokov as a New Yorker, but he did live in the city briefly, as this passage points out:

"He and I turned out to be, as he quipped, vos'midesyatniki (men of the Eighties), that is, we both happened to have lodgings for the night in the West Eighties . . . "

Possible project: I will track down VN's old address and snap a photo of it—and post that photo here!

* * *

I've written a short review of a fun novel, James P. Othmer's The Futurist.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Scope Trial

Hats off to Mark Peranson and his magazine Cinema Scope, which gets a nice write-up in today's Times (segueing off a tidbit about the Yi Yi Criterion disc DVD—what a wonderful movie, no?!):

"Yi Yi" is that rare subtitled masterwork bridging (semi-) popular enthusiasm with cinephile fervor, a movie for both the New Yorker set and subscribers to CINEMA SCOPE. Edited by Mark Peranson with contributions by an international roster of writers, this bimonthly
Canadian magazine advocates for a passionate, political and purist engagement with the movies. The cover of Issue 27 displays a T-shirt reading "Vote for Pedro," not in reference to the cult of "Napoleon Dynamite," but to the Portuguese cineaste Pedro Costa, whose "Colossal Youth" was much abused at the recent Cannes Film Festival but vigorously championed in the magazine's pages. This Cannes-heavy edition also goes to bat for Richard Kelly's reviled "Southland Tales," and spills happy ink on the latest by Richard Linklater among much else. A generous sample is available at, but you'll definitely want to nab a hard copy to read what Rob Nelson has to say about "Marie Antoinette."

Doesn't that sound terrific? Though I haven't contributed in a while, Cinema Scope is one of the few venues I write (wrote??) for with any regularity, thanks in part to the hectoring abilities of the delightful Peranson. Why not pick up a copy today?

* * *

Also in the Times, Dennis Lim's followup to his Believer piece on Malaysian filmmaker Amir Muhammad. Muhammad's The Last Communist has run afoul of that country's fickle, Kafkaesque censorship board. Here's an eye-opening bit:

Earlier bans have earned the censorship board here a reputation for being both draconian and capricious. "Schindler's List" was deemed Zionist propaganda. "Zoolander," in which Will Ferrell's character tries to assassinate the Malaysian prime minister, was thought unsuitable for obvious reasons. "Daredevil" was blacklisted because its superhero sounded, well, satanic.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

The reptile house

Very funny piece up at McSweeney's: "Godzilla's Journal," by Sean Hewlett.

Sample entry:

June 16—Feelings of depression kicking in. On top of the weight gai
n, I noticed today that I bear a strong resemblance to Cookie Monster. Must do something to get out of this funk.

* * *

And following up on assorted Velvets musings, the Light Reader has scanned and sent me the lyrics to the most amazing Lou Reed song, "The Original Wrapper," off of his 1986 album Mistrial. In interviews at the time, Reed had taken to heart the idea that his occasionally talky style of singing was an early influence on hip hop. He probably should have let the matter rest, as couplets like "Yippies, Hippies, and upwardly mobile Yuppies/Don't treat me like I'm some damn lackey" don't exactly help his case.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Train *not* in Vain

The good people over at Pop With a Shotgun have posted re the Believer's 2006 music issue CD—still available at stores, still required listening!—and it's a great introduction to the music.

The standout is undoubtedly Calexico's "Throwing Daggers," an impromptu rehearsal number recorded on live two-track in Tucson. Dominated end to end by a damp, slapping drum part, it starts so low you can't hear it, with lyrics so obscure-mundane you don't listen. Still it goes on, grows from a mumbled crap-scrap to a substantial piece of something, and then, stunningly, transformingly, at the very moment of the song's natural, inherent climax, comes the freight train that, according to the annotation, runs by the recording venue: Calexico knew it was coming, but not at that moment. The train whistles in, whines up, wails, shrieks, roars fearsomely past. Things go quiet again, damp slap and mumble, the thing fades. Pause. Whew.

The low-fi atmospherics, the loose, casual feel of many of the songs here open the door to such happy aural coincidences. "[E]ach reflects, in real time, the circumstance of its creation," CD compilers Matt Derby and Brandon Stosuy write in their intro. Think of the stray sounds on countless Guided by Voices songs, or the ones rising like landmarks on your favorite concert bootleg. A specific example comes to mind: The cars audible on the Goo Goo Dolls' "Two Days in February," each little rush of wind accenting—authenticating?—the stylish breakup lyrics.

To my knowledge, no recording was made of the Believer event this past Wednesday—alas! It would have been wonderful to capture (for next year's CD?) Gretta Cohn's transcendent solo piece for electric cello (and last-inning xylophone)—the notes cresting above the occasional traffic on Van Brunt and Hamilton, or interlocking with the birdsong that they seemed to elicit. The effect was at once serene and riveting, meshing not just with the ambient noise but the lovely garden setting and the history of the day itself (which had begun with absurdly violent thunderstorms). The event was on the verge of being canceled about a dozen times; a measure into Gretta's music, and I knew we had made the right decision.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

The knee plays

Dizzyhead Chrita has a nice post about the Velvet Underground and The Velvet Underground.

At the Believer event yesterday (good to see folks come out! glad the weather held!), I mistakenly introduced the title of Brandon Stosuy's upcoming anthology as Down Is Down, But So Is Up. (The real title: Up is Up, But So Is Down.) We had discussed the inspiration for the title earlier in the day — he'd mentioned Richard Fariña's novel, Been Down So Long It Looks Like Up To Me. I was reminded me of that line in the Velvets' "Pale Blue Eyes": "Down for you is up."

Which called to mind the entire verse:

Skip a life completely
Stuff it in a cup
She says my knee is like us in time
It lies but can't stand up
Down for you is up

Then I wondered—"my knee"? All these years, I've thought he was singing "my knee," but suddenly this seemed way too gnomic. Surely the word is "money"?

But I don't understand that, either—how does money "lie"? As in, it tells falsehoods? Well, I suppose so . . .

Maybe I prefer the overly anatomical image of the singer spacily looking at his patella while prostrate, then bending his leg a little and observing that, though the knee can lie down along the same plane as the rest of the body, it can never really stand up on its own.

Name that Prince song

An occasional contest in which we give u the lyric, and u give us the title:

Let me play it for u one time, oh oh

(Editor's note: "Shucks"?)

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Sally Fourth

1. Isn't it time for a little Tintinology?

2. Or for a visit to Summer of Soda, wherein friend Mike Gerber and wife Kate review a different unique soft drink every day?

3. Reminder! Believer event tomorrow in Red Hook! Featured guests: Gretta Cohn, Sarah Manguso, Devin McKinney, Brandon Stosuy, Deb Olin Unferth, and Elisabeth Vincentelli!

4. New Saturnhead: the magic of Cathy.

Monday, July 03, 2006


It was one of those parties which are so boring that boredom itself soon becomes the main topic of conversation. One moves from group to group and hears the same sentence a dozen times. "It's like an Antonioni movie." But the faces were not quite as interesting.

—Don DeLillo, Americana (1971)

* * *

Isn't it time you bought a copy of Harry Stephen Keeler's The Riddle of the Traveling Skull, either for yourself or a loved one? The Collins Library edition is only $11.70 at Amazon!

Curiously, 78% of the viewers of ROTS's Amazon page wound up purchasing that other 20th-century classic—Ulysses!

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