Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Ghost to Ghost

What? Another Hallowe'en issue of The New-York Ghost? Yes! Visit the site to learn how to get a free subscription—but brace yourself: There's a totally jaw-dropping image that will have you climbing the walls. Not safe for work!

Monday, October 30, 2006

System of a clown

I was just in Chicago, that mighty "London of the West"; my itinerary and the date trigger this appropriate quote from the Keeler archives!

"You are leaving New York in 3 hours," he said quietly. "And you will in all likelihood do nothing particular in Chicago itself. Except to report to a certain man there who is high in our System—one Nasaku Sato. What you will do, Shinzo, will be done between those cities, the spirit of Jummu Tenno permitting. And what you will do will advance, more than anything known today, Japan's plans for the domination of all China. And the consequent attainment by her of a huge nucleus for man-power—as well as an adequate territorial base—for the formation in 30 or 40 years of a vast military, naval, and aeronautical machine capable by that time of upsetting the whole white tenure of land on the Western half of this rich country here. In short, Shinzo, to you has been given this day of October 30th the honor of recovering the 13th Coin of Confucius!"
—Harry Stephen Keeler, Finger, Finger! (1938)

(Alas—I did not locate the coin!)

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Give our regards to the A(d)dams mashers!

My review of Linda H. Davis's Charles Addams: A Cartoonist's Life and Amphigorey Again, the final collection of Edward Gorey stories, is in today's Los Angeles Times. This was a lot of fun to write! The print version (I'm hoping) will have some nice Addams/Gorey artwork. (The illo here is from The Object-Lesson; I pinched the image from this site.)

One hoot-worthy, rather random episode in the bio (not discussed in the piece): Addams adopted an eccentric dog named Alice, who hated children; once, he caught it snarling at a short person who was not a child . . . he was Hervé Villechaize, the Fantasy Island midget of "Ze plane, ze plane!" fame.

Stray bit of trivia: Charles Addams was related to reformer Jane Addams—they were first cousins, twice removed.

* * *

Speaking of Addams, minus one D:

Courtesy the invisible Google elf who puts little news briefs on my Gmail, this is from a story about Dilbert creator Scott Adams's odd (and terrifying-sounding) bout with "Spasmodic Dysphonia, a mysterious disease in which parts of the brain controlling speech shut down or go haywire":

One of the most peculiar aspects of SD is that victims are typically unable to have intimate conversations in their normal voice. Yet they can speak under different circumstances, such as immediately after sneezing or laughing, or in an exaggerated falsetto or baritone, or while reciting poetry, according to SD support groups.

Patients are often so anxious about their speech that they stop breathing or have heart palpitations before trying to articulate their thoughts. There is no known cure — but many victims have improved their speech by changing tenor or pitch, or doing special breathing and relaxation exercises.

The story quotes Dr. Krzysztof Izdebski, a San Francisco–based voice and speech pathophysiologist—total nomen/omening! (Our favorite Polish name is that of the protagonist of Harry Stephen Keeler's The Book With the Orange Leaves—one-handed "rapid calculator" Stefan Czeszciczki, a/k/a "Zicky.")

[UPDATE: Via BoingBoing, the link to Adams's own account of his recovery, on his blog. I must say this sounds like it would make a good memoir, given the strangeness of the affliction and the mouthlessness of his characters.]

* * *

(Today's headline is a bit convoluted—here's what I'm thinking about.)

* * *

Dizzyhead poll: Which artist do you prefer, Addams or Gorey?

Saturday, October 28, 2006

"Concerning the Work of Dark Red Paw"

Woah! A bit of my fiction has found its way to The Fanzine!

It's from a work in progress, The Dizzies—the title of which kicked off this blog. Fanzine mastermind Casey McKinney adventurously invited me to do the illustrations as well. (My new thing is china marker on shirt cardboard.)

Editorial note: "The Swamp," mentioned in the last sentence, is the name of the "vestibularium" where the narrator spends most of the novel, trying to regain his balance.

(Thanks to Dizzyheads Benno and Brandon.)

Skin game

Paul Collins was on NPR today, talking about James Curtis, the first true-crime writer, and . . . anthropodermic books! Read more in his amazing piece, "The Molecatcher's Daughter," out in the new (November) Believer (which is chock full of other great stuff—trust me!).

Hobo ken — Eats shoots and contracts — "I've got eyeballs on my fingers!"

Today at 6 and 8:30, Anthology screens Bill Daniel's short, elliptical doc Who Is Bozo Texino? (I wrote an appreciation of the film that will appear in the Believer's visual issue in December.) It's about hoboes and their distinctive boxcar graffiti—a nice real-life counterpart to the 700 hobo names in John Hodgman's The Areas of My Expertise.

* * *

Comma chameleon: Dizzyhead Jane sends us this Times story of perilous punctuation.

* * *

And Dizzyhead Devin gives us another eyeful (featuring a man who will figure in the aforementioned Believer piece):

Friday, October 27, 2006

The Connections: Ommatidium — The Eyes Have It (Part II); Time Travel

Lots of responses to the first "Eyes Have It" post—

1. Dizzyhead Jorge recalls:

When I read Angier's review of The Family That Couldn't Sleep, I was reminded of the insomnia epidemic that struck Macondo in One Hundred Years of Solitude. An after-effect of that insomnia was amnesia. To avoid forgetting the names of household objects and farm animals, Macondians had to hang signs around everything. My favorite example, which I'm paraphrasing from memory since I don't have an English-language edition handy, was a sign that said: "This is a cow [Io?]. It has to be milked every morning, to obtain milk, which is used to make coffee with milk."

2. Dizzyhead Hua tips us off to "Marc Moulin and Placebo's incredible
Franco-Belgian jazz-funk classic, Ball of Eyes":

[2.5 Any Pixies fans care to elaborate on the Trompe le monde cover?]

3. Dizzyhead Brent, re Night Shift: "I found that cover disturbing too, but i think it has more to do with the fact that the hand is the organ of touch and the eyes are the untouchable organ (at least i've always found it hard to do so, and EYE VIOLATION carries a hell of a charge, witness oedipus and CHIEN ANDALOU). also feels like it's involved with the idea of CREASES in the hand OPENING as eyes."

Very true—and this is what makes first-time contact-lens users recoil!

4. Finally, Dizzyhead Jenny writes: "Enderby's Dark Lady, the fourth vol of the Enderby sequence [...] by Anthony Burgess, features a time-travel sequence in which a future guy goes back to Elizabethan England—he thinks it's naturalistic/real, but then everything
goes awry, and one symptom is the woman he's about to have sex with (can't
remember exact details) has eyes where her nipples should be. Very

5. More later (Part III or even IV) on the eyes-as-nipples motif. For now, we take the time-travel cue and link to Wired's "Very Short Stories" feature, already heavily linked. These are a lot of fun—my favorite might be Alan Moore's

Machine. Unexpectedly I've invented a time

6. Speaking of Wired, the same issue contains a story about Pi director Darren Aronofsky's beleaguered film The Fountain. It supposedly was met with boos at one screening (for critics), and a "ten-minute standing ovation" the next night (at a screening for a regular audience).

My question is—has there ever really been a ten-minute standing ovation?

Ten minutes is an awfully long time for sustained applause, yet this seems to be the formulaic journalist phrase for hearty ovations. Imagine 1/3 of a Seinfeld episode, given over to clapping!


Thursday, October 26, 2006

Penn state

Name of Korean pop duo, seen in credits at end of movie in last night's dream:

A Skinnier Penn & a Fatter Teller

* * *

Here's what they're saying about The New-York Ghost (visit the site to subscribe):

"I don't want to give up the Ghost!"
—Jess Molar, Brooklyn

"I could not stop laughing while reading issue 5—my cube-mate thought I was having a seizure. Too many quotes had me rolling [on the carpet]..."
—U.G. Chough, Midtown

"I printed; I delighted in. Consider me spooked
through and through, in a positive way." —H.L. Kahn, New Haven

* * *

Wordless wonderland: Check out Dizzyhead Hua's portrait of Taiwan.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

The Connections: Ommatidium — The Eyes Have It (Part I)

1. This creepy illustration (by Lou Beach) appeared in the October 8 NYTBR, accompanying Natalie Angier's review of D.T. Max's The Family That Couldn't Sleep. The book "tells the story of a an Italian family that for at least 200 years has been plagued by an extremely rare hereditary disease that destroys the brain's capacity to fall asleep."

The disease is linked to kuru, scrapie, mad cow, and "Creutzfeld-Jacob disease, a rare, fatal neurological disorder of humans thatat least in some pcases is thought to be the result of eating beef from cattle infected with mad cow disease."

2. I was reminded of the old paperback cover of Stephen King's Night Shift—a partly bandaged hand bursting with eyes. (In high school, a friend was so freaked out he had his mother bury the book in their backyard. The cover was giving him nightmares!)

A simple unpacking of the image: The hands which hold the book will be powerless to shut the covers. The frightened reader's eyes will also refuse to close. Hence—open eyes on the open hand!

3. Cattle call: The original multi-eyed being was Argus, or Argus Panoptes, who was ordered by Zeus's wife, Hera, to guard a heifer (the nymph Io in disguise) from Zeus's amorous advances. (This brings us back to the mad cow element of the Max book.) No more than two of Argus's hundred eyes would ever close at the same time.

4. Zeus has Hermes take care of Argus. To kick things off, H. tells the story...of a nymph...who also changes form (into reeds)...and Argus nods off! This is a nice place to stop for the moment (that is, before Hermes kills our watchman), because then you can look at these rather horripilating images of eyeball mania and pretend someone is telling you a story of this motif and it's very repetitive and finally you too can go to sleep.

5. UPDATE: Today at the bookstore, I saw an A.R. Ammons collection on display: Ommateum. The title refers to an insect's compound eye.

Assignment #2: On Late Style

Who will write a piece comparing O, How the Wheel Becomes It! and The Finishing School, the last novels of Anthony Powell and Muriel Spark, respectively?

Tuesday, October 24, 2006


Who will provide the song-by-song, chapter-by-chapter comparison between Beck's The Information and Martin Amis's The Information?

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Publisher's Hunch

Here's what they're saying about The New-York Ghost around the blogosphere! Make sure to visit the site and sign up for your free subscription. Issue #5 "drops" sometime next week!

(Photo: The Face at the Window Studios)

"My favorite on-line reading."
Renata, a Greenpeace Member Blog

"The New-York Ghost is comment and curse, dream and document, farce and phantasma, the beautiful of a beautiful mind and the damned of our damned Gotham. It is a depressed gargoyle and a tempestuous drummer. It is the show that never ends in Plato's Cave, the ink forming human sentences upon the pulp of pines of centuries too few to count. It is the concrete and the cosmos. It is how to lounge with life, how to dance with death. It is all. It is all." —The Face at the Window
"The New-York Ghost gives me a good feeling. I want to protect it from harm."
Crude Futures

* * *

And while you're at it, why not take out a paid (but cheap—relatively speaking!) subscription to The Believer? It's only $45, about a 50% savings off the cover price.

You can also give the gift of Believing to assorted friends, relatives, and random passers-by. And then encourage them to "Pay it forward!"

* * *

Brooklynites! Find out exactly where Walt Whitman lived in your exalted borough, in Dizzyhead Rachel's piece, now up at the Poetry Foundation website.

Choice quote: "Is he the guy renting out apartments?"

* * *

Get Down: In the Times today, C.Carr's evocative piece about living on the "Lower Worst Side" gives props to Dizzyhead Brandon's Up Is Up!

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Boarding time

New Yorkers: Who should be our next governor? And will he or she continue to ignore what's happening in Western New York?

Dizzyhead Arlo sends us three photos.

This piece in Buffalo's Artvoice explains the Pataki phiz that's been gracing the plenitude of boarded-up buildings in the city:

In some of Buffalo’s East and West Side neighborhoods, children who wake up in the morning eager to get outside and enjoy the summer sun are greeted instead by rat-infested, condemned houses. PUSH Buffalo (People United for Sustainable Housing) estimates that the State of New York is responsible for 1,499 neglected and abandoned properties in the city. On July 12, PUSH opened a new front in their campaign to shame Governor George Pataki into forcing the state agency that owns these derelict properties to take responsibility for them.

The plan is to nail eight-by-five-foot pieces of plywood to the doors of as many condemned buildings as possible. The large pieces of plywood are complete with a stencil drawing of Pataki, a sentence about the problem and a phone number to his office for complaints (518-474-8390). The goal is to keep the neighborhood secure from the threats these buildings pose and draw attention to the fact that MBBA, the agency that holds the mortgages on these properties, has not taken responsibility for the problem.

Arlo writes from the Queen City:
I took another picture of the store front of Vy Vy's Gifts. I've seen it for the last three years because it's on my way to school. There's a poster of Bruce Lee in the window. This place, along with so many others on Bailey Ave., are just empty and have been that way for years. It's kinda sad. I wanted to drive down Dartmouth Ave. today to take a picture of [of birthplace of Dizzyhead Ed] but they were cutting trees and stuff so I didn't.

I like the idea of a Bruce Lee image—taped up at the last moment or simply left to be—warding off would-be encroachers, who might think twice before trying to bypass such a guardian.

Initials E.P.: A Study in Hatred

Friday, October 20, 2006

Oh no, Don Ho

1. Have you seen "Bob"? You must see "Bob"! (Via Sam Anderson's really smart piece on Slate.) Weird Al does Don't Look Back's "Subterranean Homesick Blues" as . . . a series of palindromes, complete with an Allen Ginsberg–looking guy off to the side!

In other musical mischief-maker news, "Anna Russell, Deft Parodist of Opera Culture, Dies at 94":
[H]er instructions about “How to Write Your Own Gilbert and Sullivan Opera” seemed to deflate the reputation for wit and effervescent fantasy the operettas had acquired. She provided “all the necessary ingredients” for do-it-yourselfers, offering a model prime example. She stirred together patter song and madrigal, paternal stubbornness and young love, class snobbery and babes switched at birth and led her star-crossed heroine, Pneumonia Vanderfeller, to happiness and ever-greater wealth.

2. Ages ago I wrote up a few "Best of New York" entries for The Paper Which Shall Not Be Named. They slipped my mind . . . and now they're out! But—don't visit the site. I'll just tell you what they are:

—Best New York Noir: Sara Gran's Dope
—Best Local Literary Blog: Light Reading
—Best New Literary Magazine: A Public Space
—Best Local Media Program: That show on New York One where they tell you what's in the newspaper

3. Unrelated, but this sounds interesting:

REPRESENTING ISLAM: A Talk by Tariq Ali and Eliot Weinberger
Friday, October 20th, 7pm
McNally Robinson Booksellers
52 Prince Street
(212) 274 1160

An illuminating and provocative conversation on the representation of Islam in the West at a time of demonization of the Muslim world by international leaders and much of the media.

Weinberger is terrific—especially "What I Heard About Iraq," a brilliant use of quotation. (I think we can call it a "cento.") I haven't read Ali, but I'm intrigued...

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Celestial seasonings

Tantalizing fact in Dave Kehr's recent Times DVD column on rereleased horror films:
"Mask" followed a series of now unavailable Fu Manchu films produced by Paramount, with Warner Oland (at the same time he was playing the infinitely more benign Asian stereotype Charlie Chan over at Fox) as the salivating embodiment of the Yellow Peril from Sax Rohmer’s popular novels.
The two iconic Celestials, played by the same actor!

* * *

Alas, Angry Asian Man isn't amused:
Yellowface fans, here's another cinematic treasure for you... 1932's The Mask of Fu Manchu is now available on DVD, part of Warner Brothers' "Hollywood Legends of Horror Collection." It really doesn't get much worse than this. Warner Oland in the titular role, with full yellowface makeup, playing the embodiment of the terrifying yellow peril: New DVD's: Horror From Hollywood. I'll admit, I'm sort of curious—I've actually never seen the film, or the many other entries in the series. But one look at that photo is all you really need to determine... That's racist!

I want to say, "Yes, but..."

But what?

Wasn't I practically foaming at the mouth at Sarah Silverman's non-apology for her "I hate ______" joke? (Videoclip found at Angry Asian Man.)

In 70 years, will I (still spry in my 100s!) suddenly find Silverman amusing?

Video Jukebox

1. Dizzyhead Ben Kenigsberg, now a film critic at Time Out Chicago, recently slugged it out with Hannity & Colmes over the film Death of a President. BK makes a smart point: Most of these chains banning the film would never have shown such a low-budget release anyway.

2. Lots of people—well, maybe a dozen—have come to The Dizzies after searching for "oh long johnson," one of the purported phrases to issue out of the maw of an otherwise normal housecat. This is thanks to Izzy's feline-friendly post of earlier this year. Dizzyhead Brandon sends along this dog-centric corrective, found on YouTube. The pooches don't talk, but they're still pretty amusing. Woof!

3. It's always good to get MUGged—especially on Wednesdays, when proprietor Charlie Suisman often springs a slew of hump day distractions. This delirious game (from last week's MUG) is admirably aimless, with a happy-making soundtrack pushing you along.

4. Dizzyhead Euge passes on two excellent clips from the Stones' Rock 'n' Roll Circus—here's The Who (with Keith Moon in fine form) and here's John Lennon and Keith and Clapton and Mitch Mitchell (and, um, Yoko) doing a hair-raising "Yer Blues."

* * *

Not a video: Jessa Crispin on 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die, which I remember thumbing through...I don't think it made the exodus from the office, alas, but it had a number of surprising choices that I approved of—I'm drawing a blank save for Richard Brautigan's Willard and His Bowling Trophies, a book I should re-read. (I recall thinking that it was one of his very best, and saddest.)

Dizzyheads, what are your favorite Brautigans?

[Blank stares.]

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

'Ghost' Alert!

Feeling down?

Issue #4 of The New-York Ghost ships—electronically!—later today; if you'd like to receive your free copy, visit the site and send an e-mail!

Now go out there and smile and be productive!

[UPDATE: Link fixed!]

Photo of Depressed Gargoyle by Adrian Kinloch

Monday, October 16, 2006

All You Need Is Lav

1. Royal flush: A while back, the Guardian ran a dismissive review of Devin McKinney's Magic Circles: The Beatles in Dream and History, a book I can't recommend highly enough. The huffy critic wrote:
I was convinced on several occasions that this book was a spoof. Apart from his epigraph to one section...there is the entire first chapter, the thesis of which is: 'The Beatles's music from the early period is the very sound of the toilet.' It is positively exhausting what he can do with this lavatory metaphor...Hamburg was 'a bigger, hotter, riskier toilet than they'd found back home'. Fifty pages, making sure we've got the full point.
I was reminded of Dizzyhead Devin's audacious opening chapter by yesterday's Times piece on the closing of CBGB. The print version ran a photo of the club's famous loo, empty but still horrifying, the walls disorientingly scumbled with graffiti and stickerage. On the little video embedded in the Times article, someone speaks with amused horror of the whole CB's bathroom trauma: "Maybe a certain...Karen Finley experience of dousing yourself with fluids may have started there."
If CB's, with its notorious bathroom (I think it was the thought of this bathroom that pretty much ensured I would never go there, though I used to work about ten minutes away), was the acknowledged crucible for American punk, should it be so surprising to suggest that the Beatles, too, were born in similarly über-dank conditions?

2. Park city: Dizzyhead Martin, my former intern and a valet to the stars (have him park your car next time you're at the River Café, and tip big—first, though, buy a car), has been tracking down the appearance of the valet in literature. Read some of his latest finds at his cryptically yet amiably named new blog, Today Your Hair Is Very Nice. (And indeed—Martin's hair is very nice!)[UPDATE: Link fixed!]

3. Where the Wild Things Aren't: I haven't seen Scorsese's The Departed yet (I've heard one yea and one nay so far). It wasn't until very recently that I realized it was a remake of the tense, twisty Andy/Tony HK actioner Infernal Affairs. Dizzyhead Brent sends along this link to David Bordwell's blog, discussing the differences. Apparently Scorsese asked DP Michael Ballhaus to study "hard-edged Korean noir" like Park Chanwook's Oldboy for some camera ideas. Ballhaus told American Cinematographer:
By asking me to watch those wild Asian movies, I think Marty was pushing me to try something different. I tried to do that, but after a couple of days on the shoot I realized that although the styles of those movies were great for the particular stories they were telling, we were doing an American movie with American stars. In the end, I had to pull back a bit from those wilder styles; I couldn’t go that far with this movie.
Coming soon: My thoughts on Park's Sympathy for Lady Vengeance.

Talking points

Two interviews I'm reading: Robert Kelly (at ReadySteadyBook) and Agota Kristof at Hungarian Literature Online (via the Literary Saloon). Both are writers I like based on a single book: The Scorpions and The Notebook, respectively. Some excerpts:


I write to pay back my debt. I write out of guilt, to fill the blank pages the world sets in front of me. When I say pay my debt, perhaps I should say pay my way. Giving back something, that is, transforming the energy that floods into us all from overwhelming presences of people and places, mountains and operas and sailboats and a hawk over my head.

Interviewer: Besides using a reduced language, you also leave a lot to the imagination in terms of narration. Sometimes we cannot even know where we are, when it is taking place and who is talking.
I used to write like that even in the stage plays. I do not name where it is happening and who to. I did not want to name anything.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

While You Were Out...

1. Many thanks to Matt Singer for tending the Dizzies bar while I was out doing...what was I doing? Disney—astonishingly cheesy superhero floats—the latest Clint Eastwood news...all topics beyond my ken!

Be sure to catch Singer's zingers at his usual roost, Termite Art. (Thanks also to Arlo Ogg for the Buffalo weather report and photo—also for Arlo's labors in checking up on the original Dizzies homestead, which was beset with power-failure-related woes.)

2. Something about Eliot Spitzer's urge to get out of Buffalo the night of the snowstorm, as reported in the Times, struck me as unseemly and less-than-gubernatorial, alas....

2. Two must-reads, now up at Slate: Dizzyheads Paul Collins on playing CBGB and Jessica Winter on Lynne Tillman's American Genius. The Tillman piece mentions her appearance in a book I've already raved about here, Dizzyhead Brandon Stosuy's Up Is Up, But So Is Down—which reminds me that Dizzyhead Ed Halter (I am sure all these people love being called "Dizzyheads") reviewed at the Paper That Shall Remain Nameless. I'm not going to link to stuff there anymore, if I can help it, but do want to point out this parenthetical bit:

So many of the writers in Up Is Up are past contributors to The Village Voice—as is the book's editor, music writer Brandon Stosuy—the tome could almost serve as tombstone for this paper's literary heyday.


3. Issue #4 of The New-York Ghost is coming soon—visit the site and send an e-mail to subscribe!

Friday, October 13, 2006

Dizzies weather update

Buffalo and surrounding areas have been hit with a couple feet (at least) of heavy, wet snow since yesterday afternoon. The slush storm caused countless downed trees (made even heavier by the presence of autumn leaves), which in turn brought down countless power lines. Even for those who choose to ignore the travel ban in most towns, fallen trees block many narrower roads. The NYS Thruway is even closed! Amazingly, I still have power in my little apartment, though not heat. Buffalo is considered the "city of good neighbors," which is indeed an apt description. When I found my car stuck in the parking lot at 7AM, I was greeted by a neighbor with a shovel, who heard my car's sad grunts. With his and his son's help, I managed to get out of the driveway, back into my parking spot.

Later on, I walked with some friends down Park Street (pictured) to grab some burgers. Although major roads had been plowed, the travel advisory sent most people out on foot to look around, walk their dogs, or survey the wreckage. I saw several cars damaged by large branches. The sight of strangers walking around with saws would normally serve to frighten on Friday the 13th; however, these were Buffalonians, who set out to cut the sad trees blocking the street. Everyone said hi to everyone else, but that's not unusual here, I suppose. The most surprising discovery of the day: my friend realized that the NFTA system is not completely useless. The straight-line subway that runs above ground in the theater district (which destroyed any semblance of downtown business in the ’80s) was actually running every 12 minutes; she was able to leave her cold, dark apartment and travel to my cold, bright one.

I respectfully disagree...

...and disrespectfully say that this is right stupid. From David Poland's review of Flags of our Fathers, Clint Eastwood's first of two films about the Battle of Iwo Jima:

Even though the flag raising on Iwo Jima seems like perfect Eastwood material, it is not. Not because he can't handle a war film or that it is too complex. His strength is working from simplicity and then turning it upside down and inside out. The problem is that there is no villain in the story. There is no standard from which hypocrisy can rise and, ultimately, fail under the weight of good, flawed men. The story of Iwo Jima and the flag raising - at least as Eastwood and Haggis tell it - is not that interesting and, more importantly, the life and death of soldiers was as random as the flip of a coin. In the specific of the flag raisers, three survived the island and three did not. And for all the "he was the best soldier ever" crying, it could have easily been the three who died that survived and vice versa.

There is a lot of bollocks in that review (sorry, been watching a bunch of Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares on BBC America), so it was hard to pick just one element. Did we see the same movie? This quote suggests he completely missed one of the film's central ideas, that pure random luck, good or bad, fuels all the events in a war. Poland demands a villain here in this quote, and again elsewhere in his review, suggesting we again saw two totally different films: the one I saw began and ended with two very pointed voiceovers about the nature of heroes and villains, that clearly enunciated Eastwood's thesis. That Eastwood never shows the Japanese is obviously a stylistic choice, one that works well within the film's thematic framework (particularly when we know Clint will be following the film with a companion piece showing the Japanese perspective of the battle).

My full review will come next week at The Reeler but I needed to unburden myself.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

The New York Film Festival, Briefly

Dizzies dean Ed Park has his Ten Words Project for reviewing everything in the entire world in just ten words. But for a writer of minimal talents and infinite sloth like myself, ten words is way too much. What can you say in ten words that can't be said in one? Well, okay, you can say nine other words. But, c'mon, one is enough. And in today's world there's so much competing stimulus, who has time for nine words?

Therefore, in the dual interests of culture and brevity, here are my one word reviews of the highlights from the 44th New York Film Festival:

The Go Master: Cautious.
Volver: Sassy.
Pan's Labyrinth: Ornate.
Triad Election: Cliché.
Little Children: Douchey.
The Host: Intense.
Inland Empire: Guh?

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Let us give thanks, Dizzies, for crappy super-hero crap

Found on YouTube, as pointed out by Comic Book Resources's Pipeline and Kung Fu Rodeo. This crap just blew my mind and also made me retroactively hate the thousands of comic books I've read in my life, as well as Back to the Future.

And now the answer to tonight's trivia question:

Yesterday I asked which of these four lines was not a legitimate personality trait from a contestant on MTV's NEXT. The choices:

A)Wants a guy who will let her pick her nose
B)Cruises Overeaters Anonymous for chicks
C)Hopes to play in the World Series of Darts
D)Aspires to rebuild the Egyptian pyramids

The answer:

C)Hopes to play in the World Series of Darts

That one would actually be me, not anyone from NEXT. Drew of Royal Scam fame — who is hungry for some hits, so click there — guessed correctly. Bravo.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

'Ghost' Whisper

[Just jumping in for a second to tell you that the third issue of The New-York Ghost, the weekly newsletter you print out at work, will be sent via electronic mail later today. Visit the site to learn how to get on the list. Now stay tuned for more Singerized Dizzies. —Ed]

Dizzies Interactive: Guess the phony!

At this point only two groups of people watch MTV: 13 year old girls and 25 year old boys fascinated and perversely amused by what 13 year old girls watch. MTV's programming has become so deadpan in the last couple years, that at this point it's unclear which demographic is the target and which is the happy accident. Even the producers/writers/directors making these programs seem unclear: are they recording their subjects or mocking them? Sometimes I wonder if we asked that question to two different members of the crew of one of these mad television programs if we'd get two different answers.

My Termite Art partner Rob Sweeney investigated the fascinating MTV dating show Parental Control during our week of television-related blogery, and recently I've found myself fascinated by its sister show, NEXT. Its central conceit is a mixture of Love Connection and the Old Country Buffet : one sexy single tools around Los Angeles in a van with a tourbus in tow: inside the bus are five more sexy singles, who come out to try their luck one at a time and can be dispatched at any moment with a clear announcement of the show's title. Contestants from the bus earn a dollar for every moment their date lasts. Should these lovebirds beat the odds and find they aren't entirely repulsed by each other's presence the contestant chooses: the money they've accrued or a second date, this time free of the encumbrances of cable television production.

There is a lot of very strange stuff to enjoy in NEXT but my favorite moments are the bits of personal information displayed onscreen next to each dater as they exit the NEXT bus. They're sort of a modern version of turn ons and turn offs, if they were written by the staff of Cracked Magazine. I mean most of these couldn't possibly be real -- simply because no one in their right mind would admit to any of these statements with the full knowledge that they could be placed next to their faces on national television. Examples:

-Attracted to Simba from The Lion King
-Sings 'Free Falling' on the toilet
-Is afraid of babies

Though NEXT is, for all intents and purposes, a reality show, the participants "witty" putdowns and catchphrases are obviously scripted, or at the very least coached: I filmed one episode of an MTV film criticism show called Your Movie Show a few years ago, and though everything I said on the show were my own thoughts, most were selected, structured, and massaged by the show's two writers. I suspect much of the same is at play when contestant's gleefully announce "I hope she has big boobs -- like freakishly big boobs!" but, again, MTV plays its cards so close to its MTVest who the hell knows.

Think you "get" MTV's drier-than-the-Sahara sense of humor? Here's your chance to prove it. Below are four NEXT intros. Three are real, transcribed directly from the screen. One I made up. Answer tomorrow. Good luck!

A)Wants a guy who will let her pick her nose
B)Cruises Overeaters Anonymous for chicks
C)Hopes to play in the World Series of Darts
D)Aspires to rebuild the Egyptian pyramids

Monday, October 09, 2006

Diz-Ney War

Disneyland is known as the happiest place on Earth. Team Disney, the Los Angeles building where the Walt Disney Company's executives work, may as well be known as the pettiest place on Earth.

James B. Stewart's compulsively readable DisneyWar tracks the rise and fall of one of the most famous, most successful, and, yes, most petty chief executive officers in recent corporate history, Disney's Michael Eisner. In his first decade as Disney's CEO, Eisner could do no wrong, leading the company to a period of celebrated critical and commercial success unprecedented since the glory days of Walt and Roy. Eisner would ultimately take all the credit for the success but his luck would change after the loss of two key collaborators, his right-hand man Frank Wells (who died tragically in a plane crash in the mid-1990s) and his head of the Walt Disney film and animation studio during the production and release of The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, and The Lion King, Jeffrey Katzenberg. After Katzenberg left Disney and an increasingly fractious relationship with Eisner, ultimately suing for the hundreds of millions of dollars he was due thanks to a ludicrously lucrative contract, Disney and Eisner began dropping turds like Hercules, Atlantis, and Treasure Planet. During this period, Disney had to rely on Pixar to provide the sort of unforgettable family fare that the company is known for, and Pixar vowed not to resign their distribution deal until Eisner was out. Meanwhile the one significant homegrown hit for Disney during this period, Lilo and Stitch, came from the company's Orlando animation studio. Eisner later shut it down.

The book is long and full of fascinating stories of Disney's poisoned corporate culture, but I'll just share one that, to me, perfectly sums up the way the company rewarded all the least deserving members of its executive ranks throughout the second half of the 90s. Just a few years ago, Disney's ABC was in such bad shape that Wells' eventual replacement Robert Iger, desperate to keep his standing in the company high so that he might eventually succeed Eisner as CEO, distanced himself from the network and gave his programming chiefs the power to green light pilots and select the schedule. So despite Eisner and Iger's distate for both projects, two unusual shows made it onto ABC's fall schedule: Lost and Desperate Housewives. The battle to get Lost on the air proved so acrimonious that the exec who backed the project, Lloyd Braun, essentially fought Eisner and Iger over it until he lost his job. Stewart relates a story where he visits Eisner for an interview on the day after Lost's premiere and Eisner is furious, because the show, which he disliked and tried to keep off the air is a hit (he predicts ratings will tail off for week two; we all know what happened there). Eisner was so paranoid and jealous of those working under him that he would rather be unsuccessful than successful in a way that he could not take credit for.

But, in a sense, that was the right attitude to have at Disney. Braun and the execs who fought for Lost, Desperate Housewives, and Grey's Anatomy (the #1 rated show on television this season) dared to disagree with Eisner's instincts; Eisner, who got his start at ABC and later at Paramount, considered himself a very creative executive, and trusted his own judgement and taste over nearly everything else. For going against Eisner they were fired. Eisner, too, was eventually pushed out, and when he was, who got his job? Bob Iger. Why? Because he was credited with saving ABC with big hits like Lost, Desperate Housewives, and Grey's Anatomy. Shows that, if he would have kept off the air if he could have.

Blunders like that come fast and furious in DisneyWar. I've always been a sucker for Hollywood business books since I was in high school; from Hit and Run to Easy Riders, Raging Bulls, I've read them all. DisneyWar is one of the best.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

There is nothing wrong with your blog

Do not attempt to adjust the picture. We are controlling transmission. If we wish to make it snarkier, we will bring up the volume. If we wish to make it stupider, we will do so. We can reduce the focus to a soft blur, or sharpen it to crystal clarity. We will control the horizontal. We will control the vertical. For the next week, sit quietly and we will control all that you see and hear. You are about to experience the awe and mystery which reaches from the inner mind to... THE DIZZIES!

Welcome to Matt Singer Presents The Dizzies 2K6. Enjoy a week of me! Brought to you by the people who made that crap you don't read and that stuff you don't watch.

The Dizzies...the brand of blog preferred by 4 out of 5 cardboard presidential standups!

Sorry...I'm on a lot of Nyquil right now.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

When the Kissing Had to Stop

(Unaltered clipping from yesterday's Times)

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Amusing things to watch: Holiday Inn ads (courtesy Hua) and a Fiona Apple lipsync epic (courtesy Kosiya).

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Next week's guest blogger: Termite Artist and IFC host Matt Singer!

Friday, October 06, 2006

'Up Is Up' is out — The Limdex

1. Anyone with even a glimmer of interest in the New York Downtown writing scene should take a look at Brandon Stosuy's amazing (and beautifully produced) new book, Up Is Up, But So Is Down (the title of which I once mangled), out now from NYU. What a treasure trove! This is one of those books (I predict) that you won't read straight through, but rather dip into periodically for jolts of arcane energy and inspiring madness.

Pick hits so far: Thurston Moore's evocative little memoir, a hilarious East Village Eye cover depicting the death of punk (it's so stupid-great: on a bill with various "super new wave" acts is...Wayne Newton!), and the lyrics to Richard Hell's "Blank Generation" (somehow deeply satisfying to remember how he leaves a blank for the word "Blank" its second appearance in the chorus!).

2. Here's more from the Dennis Lim archives. As I'm revisiting these pieces (some of which it was my honor to edit—though "edit" is a bit lofty; the Liminal prose is so clean you could eat a five-course meal off it), the more I believe he is, empirically speaking, one of the best writers ever to work at the Voice. (Sure, I'm biased—he was also the editor of 90% of my stories—but I'm not crazy.) This is a master class in sharp, engaging, exciting criticism. Heady stuff. There's not a sentence here without verbal snap or an intriguing line of thinking. And look at the friggin' range!

On Joan Didion
On Dennis Cooper
On Douglas Coupland
On Michael Turner (who kind of looks like Douglas Coupland crossed with Dennis Cooper, no?)
On Ian McEwan
On Matthew Derby
On Funny Ha-Ha
On United 93 (my theory is that this review made them change the ending)
[UPDATE: Link fixed.]
On Basic Instinct 2 (!)
On Rivette's Noli Me Tangere (NYT)
On The Intruder
On The Century of the Self
On Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle

On Kylie Minogue
On The Pet Shop Boys and Pulp
On The Clientele
On Morrissey
[UPDATE: Link fixed.]
On Destroyer

Intriguing chat with William Gibson

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Out on a Lim: The end of an era

And the hits keep coming: I wasn't going to mention anything for a while, but Anthony Kaufman has broken the grim news on his blog . . . I've tried to refrain from commenting directly on the deteriorating situation at the Voice, after the massive slaughter several weeks ago, but Michael Atkinson's dismissal shook and disgusted me, and now comes the firing of Dennis Lim. What is this grand scheme that the Voice's new(ish) owners have that involves getting rid of the most talented writer-editor I've ever worked with? (A: I've realized, over the course of this year, that there is no plan. They're shooting themselves in every possible foot. They hate culture and they hate New York.) Isn't this a great advertisement for the upcoming Voice film guide, which Dennis conceived of and edited?

Readers of the Voice's film coverage, which Dennis brilliantly and elegantly shaped over the last eight years (and which got rudely forced into a syndication format this year), are well acquainted with the delights of the typical Lim review/profile, and his recent film articles in the Times have been far-ranging and fascinating.

He's also written plenty of terrific book reviews for me, every time leaving me shaking my head and thinking, How does he do it? Here's a DL sampler: reviews of books by Kelly Link, William Gibson, and Mark Haddon. (I could keep linking all day, but my fingers would probably fall off.)

What might be less well known is that Dennis studied math in college, and is an agreeably lucid and entertaining writer on matters arithmetical. I offer for your reading pleasure three wonderful pieces that he wrote for me when I edited the Voice Education Supplement:

1) Dennis Lim on time travel.
2) Dennis Lim on the Riemann Hypothesis. (How can you resist the headline: "Satisfying a Zeta Jones"?)
3) Dennis Lim on Edwin Abbott's mathematical novel-cum-treatise, Flatland.

I'm not going to say anything else right now.

Lettuce and Its Precursors — "Stone" Reader

1. This appeared on the back of an ad supplement ("Spain Gourmetour"—eh?) in the Times. A truly Borgesian bottle label would feature an illustration of . . . the bottle, on which could be discerned a much smaller but otherwise faithful illustrated label, and so on. (The reflection of the veggies is a nice, vaguely Borgesian touch, I suppose.)

2. This Chinese novel, Qin Jiang, sounds interesting. Mention is made of Borges, and of the classic Chinese epic The Dream of Red Mansions (great title!), a/k/a The Story of the Stone. I made several attempts to read it (it's four or five volumes long, and I believe it was left incomplete—the Man Without Qualities of old Chinese lit?) back in the glorious ’90s, when I would go through phrases where I'd "treat" myself to a book every week—I think I wound up collecting the first three volumes (or else I, II, and IV?).

3. Unrelated, but the new Believer is out, and—oh, I know I said this last time, but it's really, really good. There's the Lipsyte/Houellebecq road trip; Rolf Potts on "The Tourist Who Influenced the Terrorists"; Anne Trubeck's fine take on writer's museums . . . and much more! I read a good deal of it yesterday—in Dunkin Donuts, then on the 1 train, then on the M4, a bus that miraculously corresponded to the peculiar route I needed to take (crosstown, then down the East Side) to my next destination. And I said a "Right on" as I read Nick Hornby's take on what I'm assuming was that odd New Republic piece which morphed into a favorable review of David Mitchell's Black Swan Green. Here's the first graf of the Hornby:

“What we need,” one of those scary critics who write for the serious magazines said recently, “is more straight talking about bad books.” Well, of course we do. It’s hard to think of anything we need more, in fact. Because then, surely, people would stop reading bad books, and writers would stop writing them, and the only books that anyone read or wrote would be the ones that the scary critics in the serious magazines liked, and the world would be a happier place, unless you happen to enjoy reading the books that the scary critics don’t like—in which case the world would be an unhappier place for you. Tough.

4. At The Royal Scam, Dizzyhead Drew is blogging up a storm! (Is it true you pronounce the name of this blog with an emphasis on the second syllable?)

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

We've got it covered

1. The other night, we spotted placards advertising two upcoming readings at the local Barnes & Noble. The titles in question prolong our books-as–jacket design theme, though with a touch less purity (white space in the Prose, the third dimension in the Setterfield).

2. Edward Gorey quote of the day: "I liked 'Cheers.' But the relationship between Shelley Long and Ted Danson just drove me right up the wall." —interview with Clifford Ross, 1994

3. Gawker points to a disturbing Craigslist posting, but the way it's introduced is itself a little...racist?
The Chinese can be relied upon for two things: food and spit. Regarding the latter, Animal magazine is looking for your spitting-Asian pictures, presumably for some sort of expose of the saliva-flecked streets of lower Manhattan.
Or is this somehow "OK" to say? (Someone call up Angry Asian Man!)

4. "My dad's name is Ed": Over at his Asian Pop column on SFGate.com, Jeff Yang draws a connection between Jet Li's Fearless (which I very much want to see) and Georgia Lee's Red Doors.

(Photo: B. Kite, Toronto)

5. And: The new New-York Ghost is officially on the stands! The stands of your mind! The digital stands! Now in convenient PDF format, it features dream dissection, pull quotes, and your weekly poem. Go to the Ghost site to sign up.

6. UPDATE: Did you know this about Anthropologie and Urban Outfitters? (Courtesy MUG.)

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Tuesday gleanings

1. We begin today with a salute to Michael Atkinson. Though best known as a film critic, M.A. is a pleasure to read on the "life literary" as well. If you haven't read it already, dig into this great piece about other people's bookmarks.

Well...I shouldn't be coy: Mike's dismissal by the Voice last week, where he's long been one of the smartest—and most entertaining—critics, is the latest Really Dumb Thing to happen there. He's one of those writers whose least article is something of an education; for a sampling of premium Atkinson, check out his fine collection, Ghosts in the Machine. (He also wrote on Blue Velvet for the BFI series.)

2. Numerous (well, two!) people have been mentioning Sam Lipsyte's piece on meeting Houellebecq, up now at the Believer site (and hopefully soon in a mailbox near you).

3. Floating around soon: Issue #2 of The New-York Ghost. Visit the spartan site, or just send an e-mail to thenyghost@gmail.com to get on the list of this free gazette, "designed to be read in a single sitting!"

4. Via Light Reading, nifty Guardian piece on Pete Doherty and poetry. (N.B., I like how his name contains the letters for "poetry.")

Monday, October 02, 2006

Books Do Furnish a Cover

"With a little effort, anything can be shown to connect with anything else: existence is infinitely cross-referenced. —Martha Cooley, The Archivist (1998)

[UPDATE: Via Gawker, this Flickr set of Penguin covers! (What a coincidence!)]

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Bin Ends

1. A random connection in something I was reading led me to open Anthony Powell's Temporary Kings at random. Isn't this great?
At the time of his death, Trapnel's oeuvre, so far as I knew, consisted of The Camel; the selection of short stories published as Bin Ends; a fair amount of additional stories, never yet collected, some dating back to his early days as a writer before the war (when he had kept himself alive by all sorts of odd employments); a miscellany of occasional pieces, criticism (some of it quite good), articles, parodies, stuff written for papers like Fission, and never brought together; finally the conte (unpublished in Trapnel's lifetime on accound of some legal battle over 'rights') Dogs Have No Uncles. A work in Trapnel's liveliest manner, almost long enough to be called a novel, its posthumous appearance with Salvidge's Introduction had done something to prevent Trapnel's reputation from slumping too severely after his death. All this did not constitute a large aggregate of work, but, togehter with what was available in other material, should make a respectable critcial biography. In any case, Trapnel's was still an unexplored period. Gwinnett added another item.

'Did you know he kept a Commonplace Book during his last years?'
2. Rather unfascinating connection, but still:

Stephen King's piece in the WaPo (courtesy Light Reading) contains this passage:

Quotes do come to mind, however. One of them is Gertrude Stein's famous bon mot concerning Oakland, Calif.: "There is no there there." Another is Otto von Bismarck's on the legislative process. "Laws are like sausages," he said. "You sleep far better the less you know how they are made."

Less than an hour after reading this, I was looking at the Sunday Times books pages, and came across this ad for something called "Hello," Lied the Agent, featuring a blurb from Ted Danson: "They say it's best not to know how laws or sausages are made. Add television shows to that list.[...]"

3. Sir Stubble directs our attention to E.V. Lucas and George Morrow's delightful, catalogue-inspired whimsy, What a Life!, now available online. A precursor to Barthelme—and Married to the Sea?

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