P is for...
and Psychic Envelopes!
Oscar — my apologies to the Other Ed, whose Oscar blog I failed to contribute to on Sunday, as I attempted to climb out of the endless jetlaggery...(actually, I did manage one post: “The lofty beauty and the freckled schoolboy are distractingly reminiscent of Galadriel and Frodo in The Lord of the Rings, and almost as asexual.” —Caroline McGinn, review of Notes on a Scandal, TLS, 2/16/07)
SO QUIET ON THE CANINE FRONT (a Dogville short) is like all the bad dreams you thought you'd forgotten. WWI enacted by dogs! They attached piano wires to the hapless mutts to help them fight erect, and smeared peanut butter on their gums to make them ‘emote.’
1. Kingsley Amis:
—Get your hair cut...Get your hair cut.
This suggestion was being offered to the television set, more particularly to the actress Linda Hamilton every time she appeared on screen. We were watching a tape of The Terminator (again). An old science-fiction hand, Kingsley was a great fan of The Terminator, and seven years later he would make no secret of his admiration for Terminator 2 ('a flawless masterpiece'), which I took him to at the Odeon, Marble Arch.
—Martin Amis, Experience
Call me Ishmael, Charlie. Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth, as happens so often in this crazy business… and believe me, I say that with no undue grandiosity or pomposity, but with the true humility that comes from the wonderful, wonderful thing that I receive back from you lovely people, sincerely, the thing I call a vibe of love.
But dig, sometimes a cat grows grim about the mouth. The applause and the warmth, that’s a beautiful dream, it’s rocket ships and moonbeams, and I’m not putting it down. I’m not one of those cats who can’t wait to get offstage. This is where I live, kids. I thrive in that environment of give-and-take that we call performing for you generous people who have sacrificed from your daily routine to partake of our humble pageantry. But in this world that we call human, it happens that a cat of a certain frame of mind grows grim about the mouth. You’ve done it. Dig, your old lady’s done it. Baby, watch out when that special lady grows grim about the mouth. That’s a schlep to Tiffany’s and chateaubriand for two. Believe me, I know whereof I speak. And don’t skip the shrimp cocktail either, daddy.
So it’s a universal thing is what I’m saying. It happens to everybody, even those of us lucky enough to do this thing that we do, up here with the lights and the mishegaas and all the wild, wild foolery that you so kindly indulge us to present for your pleasure.
So when that time that my dear friend Peter Lawford calls “simply beastly,” when that real blue moment comes for yours truly, I account it high time to take to the sea as soon as I can. I know some of the fellas can relate. But sometimes when you go so far from home, you’re looking for something that’s right here all along, you dig? In the old breadbasket, where it counts. You get out to sea and you think, Uh-oh. This cat with the nutty tattooed face is giving me the eye like I’m the fabulous Britt Ekland. That, baby, that’s what I like to call time to turn the boat around.
Deafened with caffeine, I was just a hot robot, a ticking grid of jet-lag, time-jump, and hangover. —Martin Amis, Money
...this amazing fruit:
'What do you do, Martin?"* * *
'I'm a writer, Moby.'
'But that's really interesting,' she said sternly. 'You're a writer? What do you write?'
'Uh. Fiction. Stuff like that.'
'John roar mainstream?' she seemed to say.
'I mean are they mainstream novels and stories or thrillers or sci-fi or something like that?'
—Martin Amis, Money
Everyone actually died in the earthquake and Berkeley is heaven.
I wanted the future stuff to include Seth's old quirky blonde girlfriend playing her part as Ari's assistant on Entourage.
I found it exhilarating because never again will I invest so much energy in a show that falls so far so fast.
...time for random movie notes:
If I were an astronaut I would want Tang, drinking what's essentially glorified sugar-water would seem wholly justifiable under the circumstances (when I was little I had a friend who had Tang at her house, it was the height of culinary excitement as far as I can remember, did we not when we were children in the 1970s actually want to eat Tang from the jar with a spoon?).
A woman in the office where I am working this week asked another person, "Is today some holiday where people get the thing on their foreheads?" Next year I think I'll carry around some informational literature.
I. Chinese Whispers
Is it the 2006 Stanley Cup playoffs? No, it's about 1.5 months from the end of the regular NHL season. Looking at the Buffalo Sabres' depleted roster though, it's difficult to tell. There are a total of six major injuries (no simple groin pulls) plaguing the team at this crucial time of the season:
I want to start a new movement, now.
From the 19th century on, more and more segments of our society — farmers, factory workers, doctors, professors — have been urged to speed things up in order to produce more eggs or automobiles, or to heal or educate more people. Charles Dickens gave expression to the pathos of life under such a regime in his novel Hard Times; so did Charlie Chaplin in Modern Times, a work of cinematic art that gets to the heart of what ails society. The Monty Python crew made fun of this imperative in its "All-England Summarize Proust Competition" for the best synopsis of Proust's seven-volume Remembrance of Things Past in 15 seconds. The fun poked at attempts to speed-read the classics was as painful as Chaplin's effort to survive industrialization. And it's no joke: Imagine radiologists forced to read 13 mammograms per hour, without interrupting their reading to speak to the women whose scans they are analyzing. I know of at least one such case.
Is it any surprise that there is now a reading crisis worldwide that affects people at all levels, from preschool to graduate school, the affluent and the poor alike? Don't assume you are immune, people of higher education. Is it reassuring or frightening to learn that problems that afflict one group actually afflict other groups considered to be as different as night and day? Maybe such a realization is both consoling and discommoding in equal measure. In any case, the reading crisis that is upon us is widespread.
There were some big-boned people in the audience at the screening I attended, and also some nerds with glasses (one, anyway), and none of them seemed too offended by Rasputia or her husband. Mr. Wong (also Mr. Murphy), the Chinese man whose restaurant doubles as an orphanage, may not go over so well, though there is some evidence to suggest that ethnic dialect humor is creeping back into respectability under the sign of “irony.” “You ugry brack baby!” Mr. Wong exclaims when he finds the infant Norbit in his driveway.Will any other major critic bring this up? I doubt it.
Again, when I tell you that you must read Jack Butler’s Jujitsu for Christ, and when I point out that the Rake ain’t lying when he says “everyone should go out and buy a copy of Jack Butler’s Jujitsu for Christ,” this is a bona-fide hot reading tip for you — nay, an entreaty! [...] Butler’s work is criminally neglected by the cool kids. (I’m looking at you too, Good Man Park!)
"A Case of Boredom," Ghita Schwarz's excellent essay in the new Believer, is featured on the Wisconsin Public Radio show To the Best of Our Knowledge. Hear Ghita read from her piece, and learn what scientists are saying about boredom—it's not boring at all!
I knew I was in trouble as soon as I read the "Director's Note." Directors and academics are always claiming to have found The Best Approach to interpreting and/or performing Shakespeare, but it takes a special kind of pomposity to claim, as director Ike Schambelan does in his notes for the Theater by the Blind production of A Midsummer Night's Dream, that "this is a deeply revolutionary production, so entertaining and clear that you never want to see another Shakespeare that doesn't let him speak in his own form, his own voice."
Leaving the theatre two hours later, the boyfriend said to me, "He was right about one thing—I never want to see another production of Shakespeare."
In later life many of Herriman's newspaper colleagues were under the impression that Herriman's ancestry was Greek, and Herriman did nothing to dissuade them of this notion. According to close friends of Herriman, he wore a hat at all times in order to hide his "kinky" hair. He was also listed on his death certificate as "caucasian".This biographical info comes from Jeet Heer's introduction to the 1935–1936 volume in Fantagraphics' invaluable Krazy & Ignatz reprint series.
Depending on the resources of the local papers, [certain strips] could appear in four colors or two or in black and white. Therefore the color scheme itself couldn't be central to the story.
The many years doing black and white also left their mark. Black and white are never default choices for Herriman: he always uses them with intent. This can most clearly be seen in the famous page of November 5th, 1939 [page 56] when black ink spills down the page like a raging torrent. This page reminds us that for the artist black is not a lack of color but rather a force in its own right.
The use of color reinvigorated Herriman as an artist, giving him new challenges and opening the way for his best work.
Our favorite Light Reader directs us to a Phil Nugent post about two topical films, The Situation and Screamers. Since Jenny's post also mentions my recent PKD-related postings, I assumed that Screamers was the low-budget (or low-budget-looking) film adaptation of Second Variety, which I actually saw in the theater (one of those situations where you and a friend can't quite agree on what to watch, and so...).
I went to see Screamers partly just because I was so curious about what it was really like after reading the reviews, which tended to be favorable but also tended to describe it as "the System of a Down genocide documentary."I started having some doubts. Had the film (in which, if I remember correctly, robots on a bleak planet have attained the capacity to build themselves) touched on more contemporary hot-button issues than I'd imagined? I knew I was barking up the wrong movie when I read:
It opens with an interview with the journalist Samantha Powers...(My one other memory of the film: An android—or human?—with a blue tear tattooed underneath an eye. That's how low-budget it was: This very small tattoo will make him really menacing—you can apply it with a Bic!)
Ray Tintori's Death to the Tinman—a terrific short film from this year's Sundance slate—can be seen here.
Dizzyhead Ed (not me) writes:
I liked your PKD piece — have you ever read Bruce Sterling’s story “Dori Bangs”? It’s great and has a similar premise — a what-if story about Lester Bangs meeting a comic book artist Dori Seda, both of them avoiding their real-life young deaths, and growing old together. If I remember correctly, Bangs in later life writes about computer culture and coins the term “chipster” to describe geek chic. And then at the end, after Lester dies, Dori has a vision of the baby they never had together...a kind of what-if-what-if.
Update: Literary dizziness in the aforementioned L.A. Times. My PKD piece is in this latest installment, which I just discovered also has a piece by (LATBR editor) David Ulin on (Dizzyhead!) Howard Hampton's Born in Flames (considered along with the latest by Joan Acocella)...and BiF is a book that contains several pieces I edited...OK, I need to sit down.
With "Born in Flames," Hampton moves from "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" to Thomas Pynchon, from the Clash to Plastic People of the Universe to Tiananmen Square. In one essay, he compares the proto-punk band the Mekons with "Postmodernism, or, the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism," Fredric Jameson's "ornate, pitiless mausoleum of a book." [...] When, in an essay on Los Angeles music, Hampton cites the fictional Lola Heatherton, "the greatest of [Catherine O'Hara's] SCTV characters, the second-tier alcoholic-pillhead singer-dancer-actress par excellence," to illuminate the kitschy power of singer-songwriter Dory Previn, we get a vivid glimpse of the critic's mind at play. This is writing that exposes an imagination's workings, overlapping, a floating stew of reference points that encompasses high culture, mass culture and everything in between.
My review of Voices From the Street, an early mainstream novel by Philip K. Dick, is now up at the L.A. Times site.
He said that the idea for a novel came to him in one intuitive flash, but he couldn’t tell me what the idea was “in under 60,000 words. The words come out of my hands, not my brain. I write with my hands. I type 160 words a minute, the rate of a really good legal secretary, and I’m very accurate.” One day he told me he typed sixty original manuscript pages without an error. He continued to tell me about this feat many times.
(Photo from the official Philip K. Dick site)
Labels: Philip K. Dick
A tip of the Dizzies hat to A.O. Scott for keeping it real (from his review of Because I Said So, the new Diane Keaton movie):
The dialogue yields few memorable jokes, and so the filmmakers fall back on trivial sight gags and bits of physical comedy....A gaggle of masseuses chatter in subtitles, proving that when all else fails, Asian women can be used as cheap comic stereotypes. (See also the chest waxer in “The 40-Year-Old Virgin” and the restaurant owner in “Freaky Friday,” among many other examples.)
I thought this Times Real Estate piece would be interesting, based on this perfect lede:
Ernie Shavers vs. Ernie Hemingway—who would win???
Norman Mailer vs. Norman Bates—who would win???
Betty vs. Veronica—who would win???
Jacques Cousteau vs. Jacques Strap—who would win???
William Shatner vs. Gil Gerard—who would win???
World War I vs. World War II—who would win???
Ironsides vs. Columbo—who would win???
Columbo (the private detective) vs. Colombo (Sri Lanka)—who would win???
Julius Erving vs. Irving Goodman—who would win???
Dialectical Hegemony vs. Axiological Heterogeneity—who would win???
Sugar Ray Leonard vs. Leonard Nimoy—who would win???
Ginger vs. Marianne—who would win???
Arnold Schwarzenegger vs. Zimbabwe—who would win???
Alfredo Evangelista vs. Linda Evangelista—who would win???
Gurkhas vs. Gherkins—who would win???
Those who are concerned with who would win
Those who are not concerned with who would win—who would win???
I am a man of letters:* * *
A, B, D, G, O, & P.
[...]Please excuse this mess of books—
Or take a look: I'm reading THE POEMS OF DO PO;
BAD POD, a sci-fi novel about
bean travel; and GO BOA GO!, an
inspirational tale about a snake.
I am Yeast, a great poet
I live in Ireland
Some say I am the greatest
My poetry makes bread grow
All over Ireland and the world
In glens and valleys, bread rising
In huts, clover paths, and fire wood
There will always be critics
Who deny Yeast
But you can see
The effect of my poetry
Through the potato fields
And the swell of the Liffey.
The amber coins and foaming black ale
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Labels: James Joyce