Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Last Vulgar thoughts

It seems likely* that Lethem's upcoming novel is a tip of the hat to that song on the Vulgar Boatmen's second album. And I always assumed that the group's first album, 1990's You and Your Sister, got its title from the song by ex–Big Star member Chris Bell. (The VB album also has a very good song by the same name, though not a cover of the Bell song.)

Bell was recording a solo album when he died in a car crash in 1978; it was released as I Am the Cosmos by Rykodisc in 1992, around the time I started listening to the Vulgar Boatmen. Whether this reflects Bell's final vision for his first album (six years in the making) can't be known—my feeling is that it's a shadow of his ideal version. The title track and "You and Your Sister" are seared in my memory—gorgeous, stately, the voice making hairpin turns in the ether—but the rest of the album has faded. (There are 15 tracks, but the last three are alternate takes of the two aforementioned tunes, which Amazon tells me shared either side of a single, the one solo release in Bell's lifetime.)

(Much more detail at this site called "Wikipedia.")

I like the idea of the Vulgar Boatmen titling their first album after a song by an artist who was barely there. (The VB album precedes the release of the Bell album by two years, so they must have been fans of the single—released, Amazon tells me, by dB'er Chris Stamey's Car label, the name grimly ironic given Bell's death.) Hopefully the Lethem book will create an uptick in interest in the Vulgar Boatmen...I'd like to end today's sermon with this quote from Charles Portis's Gringos:
Frank didn’t write anything, or at least he didn’t publish anything… The Olmecs didn’t like to show their art around either. They buried it twenty-five feet deep in the earth and came back with spades to check up on it every ten years or so, to make sure it was still there, unviolated. Then they covered it up again.

*But—maybe I'm completely off base! Check out what the Driftwood Singers have posted—a Roky Erikson tune also entitled "You Don't Love Me Yet," from 1985, which might actually be closer to the time period of the new Lethem book. (Curious iPod-as-memory fact/coincidence: In the early ’90s, I liked the band Poi Dog Pondering; the only PDP songs that have survived in iPodded form are the covers of "Love Vigilantes" and...Roky Erikson's "I Had to Tell You," which came up on the shuffle yesterday. And the only currently iPodded VB song I have is "You Don't Love Me Yet." This all connects somehow, yes?)

UPDATE: Breaking news — Dizzyhead Benno reports that the book's epigraphs are quotes from both the VB song and the RE song. Brilliant!

UPDATE (2/23): From Rob Sheffield's memoir Love Is a Mix Tape—check out the first song on the first mix (via Very Short List):

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Far out and gone — 'Howard Hampton reigns supreme'

I caught Dennis Hopper's delirious The Last Movie last year at Anthology; Dizzies Team Member Matt was in attendance as well, and over at Termite Art he lists as his "most surreal moment" at the recent installment of the Sundance Festival

Briefly speaking to Dennis Hopper about The Last Movie before our interview. When I told him I'd just seen the film a few months ago at Anthology and that I absolutely loved it his response was more perfect than I could have ever imagined: "Really?" he said. "Far out."

* * *

Over at Time Out, David Fear gives Howard Hampton's Born in Flames a wonderful rave:

Beyond the consensual pop-culture landscape, there is a parallel universe where Marilyn Monroe, Elvis and John Ford have been replaced by Hong Kong superstarlet Brigitte Lin, Cleveland protopunk David Thomas and genre saboteur Seijun Suzuki. Here, outsider pundit Howard Hampton reigns supreme. [...]This much-needed book reads like a collection of notes from the author’s own private underground. Like many surveyors who prefer Pop Art’s pomo outer limits, the writer has a gift for connecting the sociocultural dots between seemingly unrelated material: Natural Born Killers as the evil-twin Id to Forrest Gump’s ego; the kinship of Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and Buffy the Vampire Slayer; the commodification of ’60s youth culture via Viva Las Vegas.[...]

[...] Reading Born Into Flames’ alternate history of the late 20th century’s zeitgeist isn’t just exhilarating but illuminating. Describing an anthology of fellow netherworld traveler Lester Bang’s articles, Hampton praises a “book that could make a person want to become a critic, or remind one why he became a critic in the first place.” I know what you mean, sir. I’m holding just such a volume in my hands.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Graf generator

The new New-York Ghost is out! Click through to the site for your free subscription.


That was fast!

Remember that song I was going on about the other day—or rather yesterday? Now you can give it a listen over at Driftwood Singers. You won't be sorry! (A tip of the hat to 'Dizzyhead Lefty.')

She has to stay
I get to leave
I guess that's what friends are for...

Just now it's dark
Radio's off
There's a pillow in the back of the car...

* * *

A quick Google search unearths this ancient appreciation by Charles Taylor in Salon...and it looks like Christgau's also given their platters the thumbs up...

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Also love how: The title's only sung at the end. (That's pretty radical!)

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UPDATE: Here's more on the Vulgar Boatmen!

Monday, January 29, 2007

The Raincoats

Dizzyhead Christine has the scoop on this year's Idiotarod, a bizarre, two-borough shopping-cart race featuring absurdly conceived mush-squads:
A team called Fishstick Breakfast went a step further in their preparation for sacking other teams—and being hit. Their shopping cart resembled a fishing boat and was stocked with grease-filled balloons, small raw squid and a slingshot so large it required two people to operate. Team members were dressed in yellow raincoats to allow any foul food they might be assaulted with to slide off.

Other teams were more innocuous, such as one comprised of five girls dressed as unicorns, who justified their choice by explaining: "Unicorns are unique and magical creatures!"

Team Cosby wore dark-hued multicolored sweaters, à la The Cosby Show. Their schtick included chanting "Hey hey hey, its Fat Albert!” and flinging Jello at passing carts.

Dumb and Dumber

Janine maintained that the source of Flaubert's scruples was to be found in the relentless spread of stupidity which he had observed everywhere, and which he believed had already invaded his own head. It was (so supposedly once he said) as if one was sinking into sand. —W.G. Sebald, The Rings of Saturn

"Idiocracy" is not a dumbed-down comedy but a comedy about dumbing down — an important difference. Its future is a richly imagined dystopia of butt-headedness. The population is so mentally deficient it has lost the capacity for basic self-sufficiency. Garbage mountains loom everywhere. Crops are dying. Water has been replaced by a fluorescent-hued sports drink. ("It's what plants crave," the ad slogan promises.) —Dennis Lim, "'Idiocracy' Deserves a New Life" (Los Angeles Times)

'Japan Minister Rapped on Women' — Notes on Lethem

This BBC headline conjured visions of a soberly dressed statesman 'busting out' rhymes and delighting the pop-mad J-teen masses. Plus I could combine it with yesterday's post to do a Rapp/rapping "connections"!

Alas, the story turns out to be not so exciting: Japan's health minister called women "birth-giving machines," and was rebuked by the PM.

* * *

Dizzyhead Pete directs us to Jonathan Lethem's website, where the novelist has kicked off his "Promiscuous Materials Project"—offering filmmakers and dramatists the opportunity to adapt one of his stories for the grand sum of $1. (Check out JL's interesting patchwork piece in the recent Harper's for some clues into the thinking behind this move.)

Even more exciting to me—Lethem's upcoming novel is entitled You Don't Love Me Yet, after the Vulgar Boatmen song. It might be overkill to call it my favorite song from 1991-92, but it's definitely one that's stayed with me—partly, no doubt, because the chiming riff is very simple to play on guitar! If I were mp3-savvy I'd put a link here to a YouSendIt account. Maybe someone at Beautiful Regalia or Driftwood Singers will someday...

For now, here's a glance at the album cover:

UPDATE: Visit the Driftwood Singers for a limited-time-only listen!

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Sunday, January 28, 2007

Killer Rapp

My review of Adam Rapp's The Year of Endless Sorrows is out in the new Bookforum—my first piece for them. (Alas—it's unavailable online!)

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Saturday, January 27, 2007

Smoke gets in your eyes—and food gets in your beer!

The soundtrack of coincidence: The last two movies I saw both featured the song "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes." One was from 2006 (Three Times). The other was from 1935—what was it?

* * *
In the New York Observer, Sloane Crosley hearts Kicking and Screaming: "This is a film which taught me how to return beer if there’s food in it."

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Should have mentioned, in the apostrophic post from earlier this week, a man who has an apostrophe in his very name—Dizzyhead Pete L'Official, of Brazilian book-vending-machine photo fame!

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Last year, Dizzyhead Paul tracked down a song I'd had in my head: "Linda Linda" by Paranmaum, the short-lived girl group in the Japanese film Linda Linda Linda. How? He describes his technique in this Slate piece. He also weighs in on some of the tracks he's uncovered:
Japan's bands are by turns bracingly experimental and jubilantly retro, a land where our own greatest music returns with an alienated majesty. How else can one describe the King Brothers' "100%," a song that could make the Black Crowes eat Humble Pie? Or Syrup16g's Elvis Costello-esque "I Hate Music"? Or "Johnny Depp" by Triceratops, an amp-crunching reanimation of Physical Graffiti-era Zep? And you'd swear that the Pillows' "Degeneration" was a hidden track on Matthew Sweet's Altered Beast.

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Friday, January 26, 2007

Room to dream

AVC: What can cinema do to an idea?

DL: Cinema is a medium that can translate ideas. But wood can translate ideas, too. You have wood and then you get a chair. Some ideas are for different things.


AVC: What about how [DV] looks?

DL: I like the way it looks. It's more like 1930s 35mm, in that there's not so much information. There's something about not seeing everything perfectly. There's more room to dream. It comes gently into a kind of impression, which can be very beautiful.

—From an interview with David Lynch in The Onion

Bonus track: Some notes on (and video of!) Lynch's recent B&N appearance, in which he discussed Transcendental Meditation, can be found over at the Driftwood site.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Relatively strange

This morning, in a waiting room, I started Raffi Khatchadourian's long, vivid piece in The New Yorker, "Azzam the American," about Adam Gadahn, a 28-year-old Californian who is now "one of Osama bin Laden’s senior operatives."

It's an epic piece, and I barely made it to the part where he converts to Islam, before my wait was over. There's a lot of material about his earlier obsession with death metal, and some interesting background about his father, Philip Pearlman, the son of a prosperous Jewish physician and his Protestant wife," who would later change his last name to "Phil Gadahn."

One day, while walking near the ocean, Pearlman had a religious epiphany. As Adam described it in an essay he wrote after his conversion to Islam, “My father was raised agnostic or atheist, but he became a believer in One God when he picked up a Bible left on the beach.” As Pearlman opened the Bible and began to read it, he became aware of a divine presence. The experience affected him deeply, and he alluded to it in his music. Some of his religious ideas were evident in an album he made in 1975 called “Relatively Clean Rivers.” Pearlman’s lyrics evoke a world that has strayed from divine truth into Babylon-like confusion. He describes a “vast Orwellian wilderness” and the “journey we all must take” within it to achieve “relative perfection in our own special tiny corner of the universe”—a journey not unlike his own.

* * *

A few hours later, I visited the "FM Shades" site (dedicated to resurrecting old lost vinyl—they made that rare VU recording available a couple of weeks ago), and came across information about an album called The Electronic Hole:

Extremely obscure 2nd Radish label album, 150 copies originally issued in 1970. "Raw, noisy, droning and completely mesmerizing album recorded by Phil Pearlman between the first Beat of the Earth album and Relatively Clean Rivers....

I just noticed: In a strange coincidence, that FM Shades post was put up on September 11 of last year.

The Beavis Frond

And the signifieds butt heads with the signifiers,
and we all fall down slack-jawed to marvel at words!

—Joanna Newsom, 'This Side of the Blue'

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Three Times Two

Chronologically speaking, [Three Times] forms a graph of the increasing unpredictability of life on Earth: from the courtesan locked in her gilded cage, via the pool hall hostess who is free to travel but always ends up in a similar place, to the rock singer who seems to be afloat in a sea of total freedom (brilliantly expressed on the singer’s web site: “No past, no future, just a hungry present”). —Dag Sødtholt, "The Complexity of Minimalism: Hou Hsiao-Hsien's Three Times" (in Senses of Cinema)

In the movies amnesia is bizarre, and thrilling. The star is usually a former assassin or government agent whose future depends on retrieving the bloody, jigsaw fragments that restore identity and explain the past.

Yet in the real world, people with amnesia live in a mental universe at least as strange as fiction: new research suggests that they are marooned in the present, as helpless at imagining future experiences as they are at retrieving old ones.
—Benedict Carey, "Amnesiacs May Be Cut Off From Past and Future Alike" (in NYT)

Untitled Mike Judge Comedy

Dizzyhead Dennis on Idiocracy (L.A. Times):

STUDIOS abandon and manhandle movies all the time, operating under the assumption that some films will benefit most from a cut-and-run release: a kind of cost-effective euthanasia for terminal cases. But 20th Century Fox's treatment of Mike Judge's "Idiocracy" was no mere dump job — it had the whiff of outright sabotage.

But that counted for nothing when "Idiocracy" opened Labor Day weekend, without the benefit of press screenings or a marketing campaign, in a mere six cities nationwide....The film took in a dismal $450,000—not surprising given the total absence of ads and trailers and that many reviewers bought into the received wisdom that unscreened movies are duds and panned it accordingly...The disregard was so pervasive that some bloggers have speculated that Fox actively set out to bury "Idiocracy." On Moviefone, the film was mysteriously listed as "Untitled Mike Judge Comedy."...

"Idiocracy" argues that it's in the interest of the rich and powerful to perpetuate the stupidity, or at least the unquestioning obedience, of the public. Despite the film's obvious misanthropy, there are traces of the class consciousness that fueled "Office Space," an ode to cubicle drones that was essentially "Bartleby the Scrivener" for the age of late capitalism.

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Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Cougar hunters

Dizzyhead Jdawg sends this amazing commentary on the aforementioned Mellencamp situation—

Ghost — Hua — Driftwood — Wallace Stevens

A new New-York Ghost has entered the world, featuring the wisdom of Sarah Manguso, a poem by Aimee Kelley, and the first appearance of the "Yes-man." Subscribe to the "outstanding" downloadable publication—it's free and totally worth it.

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Tuesday music news: Am being knocked out on a regular basis by Hua's Palace (which has undergone two name changes in the past week—now it's called "La Gran Fuga"!) and The Driftwood Singers Present...Margin watchers: Old pal David S.'s "Inner Ear Detour" WFMU archives are to your left!...Am still bothered by the The The thing (see below)...also always wondered, was The The a reference to this bit in Wallace Stevens's "The Man on the Dump"?..."Where was it one first heard of the truth? The the."...Quick, name a song with a lyric from WS's "The Emperor of Ice Cream"...Hint: The group appears in a recent Dizzies post...

That was the day

In yesterday's Times, John Mellencamp agonizes about the use of one of his new songs in a Chevy commercial.

“I’m not saying it’s right. I’m not suggesting it for anybody else. This is just what I did this time to reinvent myself and stay in business. Sometimes I get sad about it really. I still don’t think that people should sell their songs for advertising.”

The day before, I was startled by a familiar accordion-like refrain issuing from my TV—a melody I attempt, every now and again, to play on my $10 toy accordion—from a favorite song of yore...what was it? And...what was this commercial for? It was The The's "This Is the Day"—in an ad for M&M's. A favorite song—ruined! Alas, if only Matt Johnson had agonized a bit more—or at least given over the rights to something I actually like, e.g., The Swiffer...

(Favorite joke on this subject: An old Zippy the Pinhead in which Griffy imagines Dylan's "You Gotta Serve Somebody" being used in a Kentucky Fried Chicken ad.)

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Monday, January 22, 2007

Oh Yeh!

Reading a correction to a reminiscence (about some sort of cheap-jumpsuit art project) over at Light Reading, I was vouchsafed this glimpse of my friend Jane, from the days before I knew her:
The only other people I definitely remember donning the suits were Thomas Lauderdale, Arik Grier and Victor Ortiz de Montellano. Our best friend at the time, Jane Yeh, refused to wear a white suit as she was dedicated to a personal fashion philosophy that involved only wearing bright colors.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Apostrophe Day

I. Interesting piece in the Times today (mysteriously appearing under the "Modern Love" banner) by Suzanne Paola, whose 8 1/2-year-old son, Jin (a Korean adoptee), insists on going by the name "Penguin S'Ice."
The "S" stands for...I don't know. But the apostrophe is equally vague but definite.
This reminds me of the author Breece D'J Pancake—though I suppose his surname really was "Pancake." Samantha Hunt explained it all in a 2005 Believer piece:
The strangely enjambed initials are not his birthright but rather a typographical galley error made on “Trilobites” (1977), his first published story, by the Atlantic Monthly. Pancake liked the oddity of D’J and its nod to a skewed aristocratic membership. He adopted D’J as his own. He’s an invention, his own best character.
Best use of the word "apostrophe" in a song lyric?
D world destruction
O ver and overture
N do I need
apostrophe T
need this torture?
—They Might Be Giants, "Don't Let's Start"

Saturday, January 20, 2007

One type of ambiguity

Two headlines this week caught me unawares:

Turkey Expresses Shock at Slaying of Journalist
International Herald Tribune

Rice Speaks Softly in Egypt
New York Times

Friday, January 19, 2007

Opposite day — The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test

From Dizzyhead Hua:

"I spend so much time in the world that's spinning all the time, that to be
in the No-Spin Zone actually gives me vertigo." —Stephen Colbert (on O'Reilly last night)

* * *

In more Kool-Aid news, Dizzyhead Ed supplies us with this image:

(Only 125 proofs of purchases?)

And Brent has dug up a jaw-droppingly psychedelic Kool-Aid TV ad (followed by a surf-rock ad).

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Curiosities from all over

Dizzyhead Brent supplies this image of one of the iconic anthropomorphic food/beverage figures. (And vertiginous—dig the pitcher that the pitcher is holding!) Particularly nice is the visualization of "The Thirsties" as grimacing, vine-tongued dwarfish starbursts.

The cover is incontrovertible proof that people were thirsty back in the Revolutionary Era.

UPDATE: Brent sends these brain-scrambling old Kool-Aid commercials. (See video player in next post.)

* * *

"Take what you want!": Dizzyhead Rachel K. directs our attention to this fantastic English/safety lesson from Japan.

* * *

We're a bit late on this—but Dizzyhead David sent our colleagues over at the Ghost this truly bizarre Wikipedia entry on Tió de Nadal, the Catalonian version of the Yule log. It also sounds like the slightly evil version of the Yule log:

Beginning with the Feast of the Immaculate Conception (December 8), one gives the tió a little bit to "eat" every night and usually covers him with a little blanket so that he will not be cold at night.

On Christmas day or, depending on the particular household, on Christmas eve, one puts the tió partly into the fireplace and orders it to "shit" (the fire part of this tradition is no longer as widespread as it once was, since many modern homes do not have a fireplace). To make him "shit", one beats him with sticks, while singing various songs of Tió de Nadal.

* * *

Close Light Reading: Dizzyhead Jenny D notes a truly appealing phrase that appeared in the Times recently—"bread carrier"—and notes where the stress falls.

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Want to use the same chair Glenn Gould did?

Whoever has admired Glenn Gould and whoever has understood him and known him deeply through his books and CDs, may have the romantic propensity to buy the chair … to make him relive, to be able to dream, to be able to get even nearer to the legend, to be able to reconstruct, maybe for the first time, maybe forever, the personage of this extraordinary artist with the use of something that is tangible.

* * *

At Restricted View, Dizzyhead Mollie goes to a taping of Good Morning America (featuring the kids'-pop group the Wiggles) and lives to tell the tale:

I surprised myself by knowing all of the songs they played, including "Can You Point Your Fingers and Do the Twist?" (can I!), which is right up there with "And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going" on my list of favorite song titles.

* * *

And Dizzyhead Jen has brought my attention to the music of Gabriel Kahane, who has put his appealing classical/pop stylings in the service of Craigslist ads! (Click "Music," then check out the four-part "Craigslistlieder.")

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Speaking of music: This Sunday at KGB, Joshua Cohen reads from his terrifically designed new novel, Cadenza for the Schneidermann Violin Concerto.

I am the clay

Are Jews and Koreans the same? Sometimes I think so, though maybe not for the reasons artist David Choe (Jewcy's art director) lists...Still, better this than the eyebrow-raising description of Korean novelist Lee Mun-yeol's (a/k/a Yi Munyol's) latest novel:
In the epilogue [...] Shin wanders to regions of conflict around the world, including Iraq and Rwanda, in the hope of finding and bringing back homo executans, because unlike earlier expectations, he feels that the anti-Christ forces did not lose ground on the Korean Peninsula. Here, Lee makes rather crude political accusations against former President Kim Dae-jung and the governing Uri Party members as well as North Korean leader Kim Jong-il, albeit in a roundabout way of naming figures in the "Jewish War.’’

Poem of the day!

His name can be
rearranged to spell out Asian Moron

—from Matthew Rohrer's "Sonnet," at failbetter

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Just a memory

Man's memories are uncertain and the past that was differs little from the past that was not.
—Cormac McCarthy, Blood Meridian

[...]Just remember that the things you put into your head are there forever, he said. You might want to think about that.
You forget some things, don't you?
Yes. You forget what you want to remember and you remember what you want to forget.
—Cormac McCarthy, The Road


Via Angry Asian Man: L.A. Kings goaltender Yutaka Fukufuji recently became the NHL's first Japanese player. (He started the third period versus St. Louis, stopping five shots and allowing the game winner.)

Or was he the first? The Dizzies takes you back in time...It's 1974...The Buffalo Sabres draft Taro Tsujimoto, of the Tokyo Katanas...GMs across the league wonder what sort of player he is...

Oh come now, you remember—don't you?

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

I want to read this novel...

A great novel is the intimation of a metaphysical event you can never know, no matter how long you live, no matter how many people you love: the experience of the world through a consciousness other than your own. And I don't care if that consciousness chooses to spend its time in drawing rooms or in internet networks; I don't care if it uses a corner of a Dorito as its hero, or the charming eldest daughter of a bourgeois family; I don't care if it refuses to use the letter e or crosses five continents and two thousand pages. —Zadie Smith, "Fail Better" (Guardian Review, 1/13/07)

A corner of a Dorito!

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Bicoastal Blitz!

Tonight at 7 p.m. in New York, it's the inaugural meeting of the Athanasius Kircher Society—check out the link to the society's site in the left margin.

And if you're in the Bay Area:

Join us as the San Francisco Film Society's 360 Film Club presents Wholphin.

The night will include a selection of the latest Wholphin films with introductions by the directors themselves. An instructional demonstration of the proper use of a "pooter" (human appendage for transformation into an anteater) by myrmecologist, Brian Fisher. A show-and-tell session with marine biologist, Steven Haddock, and special guest, the manta ray. A select screening of never-before-seen films from the Wholphin archive. Free beer, and more! Tickets are $5.

If you'd like to attend, please RSVP to reserve a ticket by emailing by noon on 1/16 with WHOLPHIN in the subject and your name and affiliation in the body.

SF360 FILM/CLUB is a social screening series that takes movies out of the theater and puts them inside the club. It's a new kind of movie-going experience.

Tuesday, January 16, 7pm
444 Jesse St. (between Mission and Market)
San Francisco, CA
$5, Free Beer

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Which reminds me—isn't it time to subscribe to The Believer?

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New New-York Ghost available soon.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Armed forces

...if a piece of Iron be fastened in the side of a bowl or bason of water, a Loadstone swimming freely in a Boat of Cork, will presently make unto it. So if a Steel or Knife untouched, be offered toward the Needle that is touched, the Needle nimbly moveth toward it, and conformeth unto union with the Steel that moveth not. Again, If a Loadstone be finely filed, the Atoms or dust thereof will adhere unto Iron that was never touched, even as the powder of Iron doth also unto the Loadstone. And lastly, if in two Skiffs of Cork, a Loadstone and Steel be placed within the Orb of their activities, the one doth not move, the other standing still, but both hoise sail and steer unto each other. So that if the Loadstone attract, the Steel hath also its attraction; for in this action the Alliency is reciprocal, which joyntly felt, they mutually approach and run into each other's arms. —Sir Thomas Browne, Pseudodoxia Epidemica

My arms miss you, my hands miss you
The stars sing, I've got their song in my head...
—The Long Winters, "Ultimatum"

Sunday, January 14, 2007

The Empire never ended

Have you seen these ads for Silk soymilk, featuring anthropomorphized cows? Click on the "Family" screen and...well, not enjoy. Be vaguely disturbed?

Inland Empire fans might be reminded of the "Rabbits" sitcom that various characters watch in that film...

The first appearance of the show in IE occurs fairly early—to me it felt like the first sign that we'd slipped down the rabbit-hole, à la Alice.

Inland Empire—surely the best title of 2006, evoking both the "royal road to the unsconscious" and mysterious California—rendered everything afterward slightly dreamlike, much like Mulholland Drive (or is it "Dr"—"Dream"—as Hua recently suggested?) did. Shortly after watching it, I finished reading Philip K. Dick's Ubik, a book I'd been meaning to read since I was 14 or 15. The copy in the library back then looked like this:

Reading it post-IE, I imagined a dream (in both senses) pairing: Lynch directing Ubik. (PKD wrote a screenplay in '74; it was published in '85.) What most impressed me about the Lynch was the horrifying Möbius strip structure, the narrative never simply repeating but getting further degraded at each turn, an absolute corruption of borders—viewer/viewed, TV/theater, video/film, actor/character—so that at the end there's no escape. (Well, there is—in that ecstatic musical number at the end, which I didn't care for, but which perhaps serves as a psychic Band-Aid, a toe-tapper to send you out of the theater not feeling totally depressed/psychotic...sort of the way, per Greil Marcus, "(What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding" is a necessary release at the end of Armed Forces...)

There's a similar corruption going on in Ubik, a confusion between life and death, between competing versions of reality. Most freakishly, the very nature of time itself gets contaminated, messed up, maybe forever. At one point, various products, vehicles, etc. age dramatically, going back to their precursors—a car would get more and more antique, an elevator would eventually vanish, lethally (since it reached and surpassed the point in history when elevators were invented). The world is slowing down, at the same time the plot is accelerating—we're being pulled in two directions at once, and it's a dizzying sensation. This is where the horror of the book hits most viscerally, I think, as Joe Chip finds himself on a mission made all the more futile as his resources rot away by the minute. Inland Empire, shot on DV, nevertheless has a too-bright, or too-dark, or washed-out, even ancient feel—and it's this quality of the new infected by the old that suggests a perfect Lynch-PKD project.

(I know it'll never happen.)

Is After Hours a retelling of The Wicker Man?

Saturday, January 13, 2007

The Art of reading

Since 1968, Art Garfunkel has kept a list of all the books he's read (a project I once started, two computers ago, and abandoned—started for myself, that is—not for Art!). In general, it looks like he finishes about three books a month, a healthy clip.

His most recent list is from last January. It includes many novels (Lawrence, Stegner, Trollope, Wharton, Zola...), histories (of Europe, Japan, India), The Education of Henry Adams and Speak, Memory, and much more. Maybe he'll be updating soon...?

(Via Zoilus.)


Over at Burncopy, Dizzyhead Ed (not me!) picks this humble site as one of the top ten links of 2006!

* * *

Deeply moving message found over at Hua's Palace:


Hi Hua,
How are you?
Any news?
British poll selects Queens over Beatles as the
greatest British's band!
Best Wishes!

* * *
At FM Shades, you can download the entire Velvet Underground & Nico acetate (the one that was picked up for six bits at an auction a couple years ago and recently sold for $25K). Different takes and/or different mixes. A crackly treat!

(Via Paper Thin Walls)

Friday, January 12, 2007

Slab rat

In a perfect world, every former intern of mine would have a blog. Dizzyhead Martin's latest post on Today Your Hair Is Very Nice is entitled "The Slabs of Clinton Hill." Here's some etymology:

‘Slab’ is a slang term applied to any full-sized luxury General Motors automobile predating 1980 —primarily Buicks, Oldsmobiles, and Cadillacs. It is an acronym that stands for “Slow Low And Bangin’”.

Then comes a really wonderful digression, the end of which has something Portisian to it:

Slab is one of those really splendid kind of acronyms where the word formed by the collection of letters also very much achieves its own unique descriptive quality of the object in question. I am short on examples, now that I think about it. The San Francisco-based Theater Group, ACT (American Conservatory Theater) qualifies. The semi-esoteric baseball pitching statistic, WHIP (Walks and Hits per Inning Pitched) might qualify. I want to say Wu Tang’s ‘Cream’ (Cash Rules Everything Around Me), but I know that isn’t right. Laser (Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation) is probably something different entirely because the ‘Zherr’ sound of its second syllable is onomatopoeiatic. But so is the word ‘whip’ in its derivation, probably. But Slab is better than all of these. Maybe tied with Laser.

Pure Mulkeen!

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Over at S/FJ, Luc Sante has a charming anecdote about a James Brown concert he attended:

"Yes, it's an unused ticket. October 1974. My date elected to go see Fairport Convention instead. But I went! [...] I remember thinking, "Damn! The guy can still move! And he's so old!" He was 41, I guess. [...]"

Also: Dizzyhead Douglas on WNYC's Soundcheck, talking about James Brown and Live at the Apollo.

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WORD ON THE STREET: Dizzyhead Arlo saw Ron Sexsmith perform a few songs at a Buffalo record store, to a sparse crowd.....Arlo managed to snap a pic of RS chatting with a fan—none other than local hero Ani DiFranco! Am negotiating to see if I'll be allowed to post the picture........Dizzyhead Jorge has some insight into the Gabriel García Márquez/Mario Vargas Llosa spat.......stay tuned.....It's rumored that a Dizzyhead was recently a talking head on a nationally broadcast entertainment show......Dizzyhead Jenny D has a great post about William Boyd, hailing his new novel Restless and an earlier book, Brazzaville Beach—this is good news, as we regard Any Human Heart as one of our favorite novels of the last five years, and have not read more WB for fear that his other books will be not as good....Whenever we accidentally hit "Party Mix" on iTunes we get a dialogue box with a long explanation....We still don't understand it....Topic for future discussion, the crazy clothes descriptions in PKD's Ubik......also we came across the interesting fact that Dick received early encouragement from editor/reviewer extraordinaire Anthony Boucher, who also was a champion of......Keeler!.......Strange dream last night involving mammoths and large dachshunds the size of trucks.....

Thursday, January 11, 2007

So I broke into the Palace...

Dizzyhead Hua—nay, Dizzies Team Member Hua—maintains the elegant, at times cryptic blog known as the "Palace of Electricity," with images, quotations, and (more often than not) an mp3 or three. Lately there's been a secret theme to the songs he's put there—it's fun to try to guess the secret connections. (Since Hua's blog doesn't take comments, feel free to use this Dizzies site to post your guesses.)


Heidi — Mollie — Visualization

I was going to post this yesterday—Heidi is interviewed by Robert Birnbaum. (Via the other Ed.)

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In other developments, intern of yore Mollie Wilson now blogs! Her site is called Restricted View, dwelling mostly on matters theatrical. (Sample lede: "Quick, what’s your favorite Restoration comedy? I’ll wait while you decide.") But she also writes about Law & Order, the show she loved so much she once gave it up for Lent! Highly recommended.

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And via Equanimity, check out this Periodic Table of Visualization, which reminds me of Michael Gerber and Jonathan Schwarz's Periodic Table of Rejected Elements (originally in The Atlantic, reproduced here).

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Wednesday, January 10, 2007

2 x 3

Loved this piece in today's Times, "Acclaim in China for Secret Love in Plum Blossom Land":

"Secret Love in Peach Blossom Land" is actually two plays that at first have seemingly little in common other than the artful, often hilarious conceit binding them together - a mistake that has led a theater to schedule simultaneous dress rehearsals for both shows.

The first play, "Secret Love" is a serious drama that opens in 1948 Shanghai as two young lovers, Jiang Binliu and Yun Zhifan (played by Huang Lei and Yuan Quan), bid each other a temporary farewell in a misty moonlit park. Images of war still torment Jiang [...] Fast-forward four decades and Jiang Binliu is an old man lying terminally ill in a Taipei hospital room, [...] still brooding over the past, desperate to see Yun Zhifan, from whom he was separated after fleeing the Communist takeover of China in 1949, before he dies.

The second play, "Peach Blossom Land," is a farcical interpretation of a well-known fourth-century story about a lost fisherman who stumbles into a utopian land filled with blossoming peach trees where all people live in harmony because they have no historical memory.[...]

Forced to share the same stage, the directors and casts of "Secret Love" and "Peach Blossom Land" argue over who needs the rehearsal space more, critique each other's performances, remove each other's props, and ultimately divide the stage in half and perform at the same time. Through these shared [...] the two plays slowly, almost magically, merge as their performers complete each other's lines and common themes emerge. But, by play's end when Jiang Binliu finally finds Yun Zhifan, who has been living in Taipei all along, the laughter gives way to sobs and the audience is left to contemplate the burdens of memory, history, longing and love - and the power of theater itself.

It reminded me of Out 1: Noli Me Tangere, the Jacques Rivette opus that Dizzyhead Dennis wrote about last year. From that piece:

Among other things, "Out 1" concerns the parallel efforts of two theater companies to put on Aeschylus plays ("Prometheus Bound" and "Seven Against Thebes"). Two oddball loners (Jean-Pierre Léaud and Juliet Berto) 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, a subplot that Mr. Rivette borrowed from the Balzac suite of novellas "History of the Thirteen."

And now I'm half-remembering a British play of 10 years ago (more? less?)—actually a joint production involving two plays taking place simultaneously at two different theaters, with actors/characters from one crossing the alley/street to appear in the theater of the other. Does this ring a bell with anyone? (At first I thought it might be a Michael Frayn play, but it doesn't look like that's the case.) It debuted in London; I think it came to New York—I'm not sure...

Stair master

Adrian Kinloch has a stunning shot of the New-York Ghost's new office—get the whole story by subscribing! (Visit the site—it's free.)

In a bit of uncanniness, Aimee Kelley's weekly poem conjures "stairs to a house beside stairs to a house//beside stairs to no house."

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Tuesday, January 09, 2007

'Believer' in London — Tempest in 'Scotsman' — new 'Ghost' sighted!

Dizzyhead Drew sends this photo from London (the Tate Modern gift shop)...

...and we've received a letter from The Scotsman, regarding the mysterious lifting of Rachel's piece (from an obscure publication called the New York Times); more on that later. (For the record, the Scotsman piece is still up, without any acknowledgment of the original Aviv article.)

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In less huffy news, there's a new New-York Ghost available—the first of the year! If you don't subscribe, you can do so at the site. It's absolutely free and moderately uplifting.

Brazilian racks

Dizzyhead Pete mentioned the book machines of São Paulo. Now he supplies photos!

Meanwhile, still no word from The Scotsman on its lifted article. As Dizzyhead Paul points out, two commenters have mentioned the plagiarism, but the rest of the add-my-two-centsers can't be distracted...

The Scottish rip-off seems to be getting a lot of attention from U.S. readers, perhaps because the Drudge Report linked to it yesterday (also apparently unaware of the piece's provenance).

Monday, January 08, 2007

Naked hunch

What's up with U.K. papers and plagiarism? Dizzyheads are familiar with the Guardian's Stuart Jeffries's still unexplained wholesale borrowing from Dennis Lim; now The Scotsman's Craig Howie appears to have lifted Rachel Aviv's piece from yesterday's Times.

I'd do a point-by-point comparison...except that he's basically cut-and-pasted the entire piece (save for the first graf and a couple of rewordings).

Here's Howie's "Birthday Suit Parties All the Rage for Ivy-League Students."

And here's Aviv's "Black Tie Optional."

Howie has the chutzpah to use entire quotes from the Aviv piece. E.g.:

Aviv: “It’s one of those things people feel they need to do before they graduate,” says Megan Crandell, a senior who estimates that she has been to a half-dozen naked parties during her time at Yale. “The dynamic is completely different from a clothed party. People are so conscious of how they’re coming across that conversations end up being more sophisticated. You can’t talk about how hot that chick was the other night.”

Howie: Megan Crandell, a final-year Yale student who has attended six naked parties, said: "The dynamic is completely different from a clothed party. People are so conscious of how they're coming across that conversations end up being more sophisticated. You can't talk about how hot that chick was the other night."

What gives? (Notice how "senior" becomes "final-year," and "half-dozen" becomes "six.")

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Absence makes the art grow yonder

From an overview of the works of John Crowley by James Hynes (in the Boston Review), via Maud:

Given the gloriously odd ambition of these novels, it’s no wonder that the books come across as well-crafted but impenetrable to anyone who tries to read them for the usual literary reasons–plot, character, suspense–and why they are next to impossible to review as independent volumes.

From the subhed to a Guardian review:

A plot-less, character-less novel shouldn't work, but in Doris Lessing's expert hands, The Cleft most certainly does

Both sound appealing to me...

Quite Frankly

Favorite thing in the Times today might be "For Gravitas or Levity, Try a Robert Frank Book":

Robert Frank, a reporter who covers private wealth for The Wall Street Journal, and Robert H. Frank, an economist and professor at Cornell University...have both written books dealing with the culture of wealth in the United States. Mr. Frank’s “Richistan: A Journey Through the American Wealth Boom and the Lives of the New Rich,” will be published by Random House’s Crown imprint in June, while Professor Frank’s “Falling Behind: How Rising Inequality Harms the Middle Class,” will be published by the University of California Press in July.


The writers...rely on small distinctions to separate their public identities. “I use my middle initial, so this helps,” said Professor Frank, who has some experience sharing his name. (His literary agent also represents the photographer named, yes, Robert Frank.)

The journalist Mr. Frank, whose longtime byline is “Robert Frank” and whose middle initial is L., had considered using that initial with “Richistan” (early copies of the book’s jacket have it). But he has now decided to publish the book without the initial, he said Friday. Both men also said that their books, while superficially related, were very different in tone and purpose. Mr. Frank described “Richistan” as a “colorful and fun” collection of stories about the lives and lifestyles of wealthy Americans.

I like how in this last bit it's not entirely clear which Mr. Frank is talking about Richistan, though one imagines its Robert L. Frank. (Also, the other Robert Frank is dubbed "Professor Frank," throughout.)

An initial layer of confusion: Upon first glance at all this frankness and richness, I thought the piece was going to have something to do with Frank Rich...

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Sunday, January 07, 2007

Ruthless — HoMu sapient — Snarkwatch 2.0

From Dizzyhead Thomas:

January 7
Ruth Cleveland

1904. Ruth Cleveland, daughter of President Grover Cleveland, dies on this day at age thirteen of diphtheria, four years before her father. They lie near one another in Princeton Cemetery in New Jersey. Born between her father's two terms, she had been adored by the public, and a candy bar was even named for her: Baby Ruth. —James and Kay Salter's Life is Meals

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The Times jumps on the HoMu BKLYN story—alas, without a mention of Samantha Topol's in-depth piece in the Believer's current visual issue.

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UPDATE: This just in via Dizzyhead Brent, an LYT-caliber review (that word should be in quotes) of Pynchon's Against the Day, in the Boston Dig. (Link fixed!) It has to be read to be believed:

To call reading this book a waste of time is almost an insult to activities like picking your toes and staring at the wall.

Everything else aside, it’s the Chums of Chance—boy adventurers who travel the world by hot air balloon—who serve as the absolute nadir of the book, and perhaps all books everywhere, ever written, in history.

I'm beginning to think it's a parody?

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Books in Brazil — Education Life extravaganza

Dizzyhead Pete is reporting to us from Brazil (he didn't know it, but he is) and is marveling at the book-selling vending machines. He directs us to this article:
Titles include translations of Sherlock Holmes, works by Brazilian best-seller Paulo Coelho and even a dictionary of mathematics—surprisingly, one of the most popular among Sao Paulo Metro passengers.

Other best-sellers include practical vegetarian recipes and the consumer defence code.

Mr Buononetto has spent two-and-a-half years working on his idea of offering "food for the mind" rather than food for the body...

He believed that the books—all sold at the same price of about $1.50—will appeal to people who do not normally buy books, and make reading more accessible.

"The other fascinating thing," Pete tells us, "is that one can find Kant and Nietzsche in newsstands, right next, quite frankly. Makes for new and interesting publishing decisions, to say the least."

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And! Today's NYT Education Life has great pieces by Dizzyheads/EdSupp alums Rachel and Christine, about covert naked parties on campus and classes that also exist in "Second Life," respectively.

Friday, January 05, 2007

"Moths Drink the Tears of Sleeping Birds"

This arrives via newly minted Dizzyhead Ben:

The Madagascan moths were observed on the necks of sleeping magpie robins and Newtonia birds, with the tip of their proboscises inserted under the bird’s eyelid, drinking avidly....—New Scientist

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Poll position — Tracking a subway story — Berryman holds steady

At Salon, Andrew O'Hehir previews 11 new films, and praises Dizzies tastemaking idol Dennis Lim—while slagging those responsible for the disappearance of the PTSNBN's film poll.

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Life imitates art: The other day, construction worker Wesley Autrey (who is black) saved the life of film student Cameron Hollopeter (who is white). Hollopeter had fallen onto the subway tracks, and Autrey leaped down and immobilized him while a train passed above them. Cormac McCarthy fans/theater buffs might be reminded of the setup to the recent play The Sunset Limited.

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Berryman is Finn, but so is Stosuy: At the Poetry Foundation site, the amazing, occasionally bearded Brandon Stosuy mashes up the Dream Songs bard and the Hold Steady.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Return to normalcy

"Why can't you write about normal people, the way other authors do...Instead, when your books open, there is this misfit holding down some miserable low job, and he takes drugs and his girlfriend is in a mental institution but he still loves her."
—Philip K. Dick, Radio Free Albemuth

Fox news

The building housing Micawber Books in Princeton has been bought by the university, which "promised to bring in Labyrinth Books" (of NYC and New Haven fame). (I think I bought two books at Micawber, years ago—something by Ishiguro, probably An Artist of the Floating World, and a hardcover edition of Nabokov's Ada, before I realized hardcover Adas were everywhere.)

Interesting detail:

Mr. Fox began as a bookseller in the ’70s at the Strand Book Store in Manhattan, and moved to Princeton to open Micawber, then a store devoted entirely to secondhand books from his own personal library. His father, Joe Fox, was an editor at Random House, nurturing the careers of John Irving and Truman Capote.[...]

In her 1998 film, “You’ve Got Mail,” Nora Ephron used the name of his father, who, as it happens, was also a former boyfriend of hers. Joe Fox was the name she gave the character played by Tom Hanks, a chain bookstore owner who swiftly puts Meg Ryan and her tiny shop around the corner out of business.

Of course, in the Micawber story, Logan Fox is in the Meg Ryan role, the person who champions the mom-and-pop store and derides the corporate behemoth.

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Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Jenny D on Sebald — D. Lim talks to the media

A historic occasion: The Light Reader reads...The Rings of Saturn!

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And here's Jen Snow's pic of Dennis at the recent BAM event for the PTSNBN Film Guide:

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Three times

1. From Dennis Overbye's piece in today's Science Times:
How comforted or depressed this makes you might depend on what you mean by free will. The traditional definition is called “libertarian” or “deep” free will. It holds that humans are free moral agents whose actions are not predetermined. This school of thought says in effect that the whole chain of cause and effect in the history of the universe stops dead in its tracks as you ponder the dessert menu.
2. From Born Under Saturn:

Rosa's self-satisfaction was embarrassing and irritating, for he boasted that he had surpassed Michelangelo, and Passeri quickly changed the subject.

3. And...The New-York Ghost takes a break!

Monday, January 01, 2007

A wet dog

The weather was of the little-drops-of-water-here-and-there sort, a sort of damp, night weather. The light from the street lamps was dribbling down in pools on to the pavements....

There was very little room; the coats on the pegs were shedding their humidity. The place smelled of dog, of wet dog, of a wet dog who had been smoking a pipe.

—Raymond Queneau, The Last Days

Back to Basics — The Inland Emperor's Children

Dizzyhead Paul alerts us to this in-depth Oregonian piece on John Epley, anti-dizziness doc.

Sample passage:

Cathy Epley went out on a limb. With scant knowledge of running a company, she worked 10 months without pay, writing grant proposals and a business plan. She named the business Vesticon, and she and her father held monthly "board meetings" at American Dream Pizza, across Glisan Street from the elder Epley's office.

(There's a bit about the Epley maneuver in this old Times article, too.)

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Some thoughts on Inland Empire to come soon—probably as part of the Dizzies' 2006 film-roundup (we won't call it a poll!), which might be held in conjunction with The New-York Ghost. Till then—read Dizzyhead Devin's incisive take, over at Pop With a Shotgun.

Sample passage:
And like a giant block of granite, the film is impermeable, unliftable, and will crack your skull if you bang your brain against it long enough. It would be spiteful to deny its unearthliness, and mere genius worship to deny its dreadfulness.

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