Monday, April 30, 2007

Wasp's nest

Over at Termite Art, Team Dizzies switch-hitter R. Emmet Sweeney has the quote of the day:

"The Buffalo Sabres play like a wasp's nest hit with a stick."
—Guy Maddin

As you get psyched for GM's Brand Upon the Brain!, read the rest of the post for the Maddin angle you won't read anywhere else!

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Sunday, April 29, 2007

Recycled Sunday

Recently I found myself adding comments to a post at Crude Futures, "If You Were to Open a Place Like Barcade, What Would You Name It?"

Here were my submissions:

Ms. Six-Pac Man

(Not clever enough: Bar Wars; Beer-and-Burgertime)

* * *

Dizzyheads, any suggestions?


Saturday, April 28, 2007

Dr vs. Doctor

Dizzyhead Pete writes:

Your post on The ("Tha" for urban audiences?) Dizzies today -- specifically your wondering why you were thinking about being marooned on desert islands -- made me think of a current obsession of mine: watching TV shows featuring survivalists who purposefully maroon themselves on desert islands, glaciers, jungles, rafts in the middle of the ocean, and sometimes swamps. One show in particular that I recommend -- mostly for its charming, awesomely named host/survivalist, Bear Grylls -- is called Man vs. Wild. The other, which I caught a bit of last night, is less adversarial in its title, going simply with, The Survivalist. What seems like just a hokey idea fit for a bathroom book -- like one of those "1001 ways to survive _______" books -- actually becomes pretty fascinating when you can see actual worry on the host's face about whether he's going to find food, be able to build a shelter/fire before it rains/the temperature drops too low, etc. Plus there's the whole MacGyver attraction to watching some clever survivalist show you all the neat tricks you can use if you happen to find yourself, say, in the middle of the desert with a Swiss army knife and a prayer.

Both shows are on the Discovery Channel (I think), which also makes me think someone there is obsessed with the same idea, necessitating 2 shown on the same thing on the same network.

* * *

Over at Slate, tha Jdawg weighs in on Twin Peaks, season 2...which reminds me: You know how some people say that the Lynch film isn't "Mulholland Drive" but Mulholland "Dr"? (The poster et al. doesn't actually spell out "Drive.")

The other day I had a revelation: What if it's actually Mulholland DOCTOR?!

* * *

The NY Ukulele Festival is kind of expensive?! Anyway, the instrument is the devil's handiwork, as far as we are concerned.

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Friday, April 27, 2007

Labyrinths, bakeries, and more

1. William Gibson on Borges's Labyrinths (via Ed of the Ranting)—definitely my pick if I could only take one Borges book to a desert island.

Speaking of which, I figured out what I would say if I were allowed only one book, period, to take to a desert island. I would ask for a ukelele (or guitar) chord book, if I were also able to take a uke or guitar as well.

(Wait—why am I thinking I'm about to be marooned on a desert island?)

2. Dizzyhead Mollie's on a roll over at Restricted View: How one publisher mangled Middlemarch.

3. UPDATE: Time to check out the latest issue of Cinema Scope, featuring B. Kite on Rivette, Jessica Winter on Idiocracy . . . (Alas, these pieces aren't available online.)

* * *

4. Brit in Brooklyn was on the scene yesterday after the collapse of Ward Bakery. (Visit the site for more photos.)

* * *

5. Congrats to Dizzyhead Sarah—recipient of the 2007–8 Rome Prize!

6. Have you seen The Norman Rockwell Code?

7. Tomorrow there's a Believer Nighttime Event at the New School. It's part of the PEN World Voices—participants include Miranda July, Uzodinma Iweala, and John Hodgman. (Eric Bogosian is MCing.)

8. Any Humbert Wolfe fans out there?

9. This article about ravens is great!

Their skills when it comes to tricking and cheating, for example, have not been thoroughly explored. Ravens are cunning enough to set up mock hiding places in order to distract their thievish fellows from their real food stores. They're generally very inventive when it comes to tricking those who would snatch away their food. But how much truth is there to reports according to which ravens play dead next to carcasses in order to simulate a case of food poisoning?
(Via Arts & Letters Daily)

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Thursday, April 26, 2007

Barr none!

Last week, something possessed me and I wrote a piece I've contemplated for a couple years now: a look at how Harry Stephen Keeler's The Riddle of the Traveling Skull (1934) intersects with poetry, particularly the magazine Poetry...and the uncanny way the character of John Barr anticipates (ha!) the current president of the Poetry Foundation, John Barr.

Here—is the piece!

(Many thanks to the Keeler Society's Richard Polt and Skull refurbisher extraordinaire Paul Collins.)


Wednesday, April 25, 2007

"Loud reading annoys your neighbors"

I'm not supposed to be blogging today—but I've already posted two thingies this a.m., so here's a third, and then there will be radio silence on this end for a while. (Ha!)

Over at Restricted View, Dizzyhead Mollie has a great post about silent-movie title cards:

One of the cards said..."Please be patient while the operator changes a reel." I paired it with another request: "Please read the titles to yourself—loud reading annoys your neighbors." A simple request, but totally revealing, no? It communicates something concrete about the everyday experience of going to the movies in the pre-talkies era, a detail that isn't part of the official film-history account and is therefore not part of anybody's mental image of what moviegoing was like in its early years, even though it seems totally obvious now that I think about it. Of course people read the titles out loud!


X is for . . .

I've been reading about Gliese 581 C, the smallest exoplanet yet discovered, a "Goldilocks" planet that's not too far, not too close, to its star, a red dwarf in the constellation Libra. Gliese 581C is 20.5 light years away and five times as massive as Earth.

“On the treasure map of the universe, one would be tempted to mark this planet with an X," said one scientist.

That seems very optimistic, but perhaps he is thinking "X for exoplanet." Or...of his own name?

"Xavier Delfosse!"


From the cell-phone-photo archives:

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Hanging on the telephone

"Now it may be," he typed, "that every other recorded instant of gold made by fire—there are hundreds of them, almost all seeming to be variant on a few themes, like old comedy plots—maybe every one is false, the product of mendacity or wishful thinking or the accumulating errors of multiple transmission, history's game of Telephone that always pushes anecdotes to clarity, wonder, or exemplum. Maybe this is the one and only real one we know about, the one that slipped through the baffle of advancing Time that falsified all the others, to reach us like Job's servant out of the wreckage of the former world: I only am escaped alone to tell thee." —John Crowley, Daemonomania

Rich dreams now which he was loathe to wake from. Things no longer known in the world. The cold drove him forth to mend the fire. Memory of her crossing the lawn toward the house in the early morning in a thin rose gown that clung to her breasts. He thought each memory recalled must do some violence to its origins. As in a party game. Say the word and pass it on. So be sparing. What you alter in the remembering has yet a reality, known or not. —Cormac McCarthy, The Road

* * *

From a recent game of Telephone:

When Mrs. Frederick C. Little's second son arrived, everybody noticed that he was not much bigger than a mouse.

(First line of E.B. White's Stuart Little)

After 14 permutations:

When the steward sees this person arrive, they all get very quiet.

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T-t-t-tongue gets t-t-t-tied...

From the ridiculous to the sublime: Here's Van Morrison singing "Cyprus Avenue," September 23, 1970, at the Fillmore East.

It's a legendary performance, one of the three TV appearances that Lester Bangs writes about in his essay "Astral Weeks" (freely available here, albeit with typos; it's the first piece in the Psychotic Reactions collection). Watch him stutter—utterly transfixing!

I pretty much figured I'd never see it—then one of my students mentioned that it was on YouTube, and...

[Insert long appreciation of YouTube here.]


Monday, April 23, 2007

Termites and Spiders

Excited about Spider-Man 3?

Over at Termite Art, Matt Singer has unearthed this monstrosity, guaranteed to cure your arachnophilia:

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NYSL — "No!"

Via MUG, a nice write-up of the New York Society Library, where I go every couple of weeks.

The aforementioned stacks indulges the temptation to judge a book by its cover—or more commonly, by its title alone. Sometimes this practice pays off. The passage below comes from one of the current books on the proverbial nightstant—Walter Karig's Zotz! (1947):

I have, as I said, attempted to put this history in the form of a novel, So, except for Dr. Jones, the Rev. Dr. Alfred Claverhouse, Mrs. Angela Brant, Miss Virginia Finster and, of course, myself, all the characters in this book are fictitious, bearing synthetic names such as belong to no persons known to me. It it possible that out of affection, I have endorsed some of those characters with the amiable qualities of persons who have blessed me with their friendship. But if anyone should say: "I wonder if he meant that to be I" (for all my friends are grammatical even when excited) or "I wonder if he meant that to be Johnny Walker (or Charley Tompkins, Dick Williams, Boris Shishkin, the very Rev. Dean "Zab" Zabriskie, Admiral Frank Farley, USCG, Captain Atherton Macondray, USN, Colonel "Gally" Galliford, USMC, the Rev. Drs. Mollegan, Brown-Serman or Kein, or any of their womenfolk)," why, the answer is "No!" That is, I don't think so.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Astral Weeks and more

1. My new science fiction column, Astral Weeks, debuts at the Los Angeles Times website today. This installment looks at books by British writer Brian W. Aldiss and Nick Mamatas.

2. Tragic SF note: One of the victims of the VT shootings was the son of Michael Bishop, author of The Secret Ascension, or Philip K. Dick Is Dead, Alas.

3. Notes for a list: Songs that mention other songs—

Lying on the floor just playing my guitar
Trying to find the chords to "Just the Way You Are"
—Fountains of Wayne, "Peace and Love"

And I heard another one will come back to me.

4. Best bank music: The other day, at a Citibank on 86th, the Decemberist's "O Valencia" was followed by Aztec Camera's "Oblivious." This was somehow exciting. Then on a TV commercial for—some sort of vehicle?—I heard a line from a Jam song ("What you see* is what you get"). This was somehow depressing. (Apple should have used it in the early days of Mac!)

5. Over at the NYT's Education Life, Dizzyhead Christine has a short bit about the things people throw in the air at graduation. Ouch!

(Photo taken at Eslite Bookstore, Taipei, Taiwan)

*UPDATE: As Arlo points out, it's "what you give is what you get," from "Start!" (Sorry, Apple!)

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Friday, April 20, 2007

Oldboy and influence

At Slate, Grady Hendrix does a good job analyzing Oldboy vis-à-vis Cho. Earlier, Stephen Hunter in The Washington Post dismantles the thematic links between the Park Chanwook movie and the VT massacre, though he detects some resonances with John Woo's The Killer. (For The Dizzies original review of Oldboy, go here.)

(Link via the Jdawg.)

UPDATE: A sentence in Wikipedia says that detectives suspect Cho did watch Oldboy repeatedly before the killings; the link is to a Sky News article.

And: Rereading my review (see above), I noticed this quote: “If I knew it was fifteen years, it would have been easier to endure.” Daesu has been imprisoned, for no reason he can imagine, in a hotel room for a decade and a half. Cho came to America in 1992—that is, 15 years ago.

UPDATE (4/23): In the Times, A.O. Scott sticks it to Hunter.

Could you be the one? — Shocking connections

Via Moistworks—Hüsker Dü on The Tonight Show, performing two (!) songs (in a Warehouse–era setting) and chatting with host Joan Rivers.

Love that mustache!

* * *

Yesterday a Dizzyhead wondered (and I wondered, too): How long before some "transgressive" theater troupe performs Cho's plays? Five years? Ten?

Try less than a week. (And for t.t.t., read "shock jocks.")

* * *

Speaking of shock jockery: Pre-VT, I had been thinking about New Jersey governor Corzine's accident—how he had been en route to a meeting between the Rutgers team and Imus. Had Imus not said what he had (the inflammatory remarks), Corzine wouldn't have had to speed along to this meeting, etc., etc.—from a cause-and-effect p.o.v., one can blame Imus, indeed the whole shock jock phenomenon/tendency/climate, for Corzine's serious injuries...

Now filling in for Corzine is Richard J. Codey, who had previously subbed as NJ governor post-McGreevey. He had a throwdown with another shock jock, who had berated Codey's wife for speaking about her postpartum depression.

File under: Eternal battle between New Jersey governors and shock jocks

Thursday, April 19, 2007


This piece in the Guardian is confusingly argued:
Bloggers reading [Cho's] plays have been quick to comment that they are "obviously evidence of someone really disturbed". But in truth, the plays are no more violent than Shakespeare's. In fact, despite their banality, Shakespeare is arguably a key influence, as is shown in the following Hamlet-to-Claudius exchange between 13-year-old John and his new stepfather[...]
The writer says we shouldn't blame literary influences for the massacre, then trots in Shakespeare, as if people have been objecting to Shakespeare in the wake of the killings. (Earlier he writes, "[I]t is alarming to think that majoring in English might have contributed to Cho's problems or even inspired him to become a mass murderer.")

Don't worry: The Bard is safe. No one's going to protest the next staging of Hamlet. (But as Cathy notes, that Oldboy remake is probably going to get the kibosh.)

(Via the More Prolific Ed)

Communication breakdown

Sometimes a broader context doesn't help things at all:
[T]he Cho coverage has focused fresh attention on the enormous cultural obstacles awaiting Korean migrants trying to assimilate into American society. Hwang Seung Yeon, a sociologist at Seoul's Kyunghee Univerisity, says Korean parents make enormous sacrifices to send their children to good schools. Working long hours, there is seldom time for them to communicate with their children—especially because of the language barrier between parents with little English and children who know minimal Korean. Parents want to follow the old ways; their children opt for the new. "In the families of Korean Americans, there is typically little communication," says Hwang. "Even when there is communication, it is often one sided or hostile." As a result, Hwang adds, many young Korean Americans are "lonely and lost because they are caught between two different cultures." —Newsweek
"Lonely and lost" doesn't lead to murder. Cho was a sick person, and his actions were his own—not "typical" of anything relating to his background.

The implication is that there's something inherent in the Korean immigrant experience that leads to a dysfunctional family life. If so, how would Hwang explain the gunman's apparently well-adjusted elder sister?

(Newsweek link via Dizzyhead Jdawg)

American psycho, or last name first

For about an hour last night, the Times site had as its central image the Virginia Tech killer, inset with a close-up from Park Chanwook's Oldboy. Both men wield hammers, though the images aren't direct echoes; was this news, or guesswork? Should it have had the Times imprimatur? Homegirl Cathy weighs in on this troubling juxtaposition at her blog. She also says some important things about the Korean guilt factor.

As some time passes, the tag "South Korean student" is getting used less—I have obvious problems with such an identification—but why are we still hearing about him last name first, Asian style?

Wednesday, April 18, 2007


1. From the New Yorker's archives, here's Updike on Vonnegut's Slapstick.

2. And from an e-mail last week, here's Chrita Marri on the passing of one of his favorite authors:
I had an idea. I had what seemed initially to be an odd reaction to the Vonnegut thing, which upon further inspection I've decided was closer to appropriate than I'd thought. It's a hard thing to quantify—Vonnegut was my first "favorite writer", and to some degree because of that always will be—but if I had to give it a name, it'd be something like "thank God that's over." Which of course, isn't exactly right, in terms of identification, but it's as close as I think I can get

Here's the thing: there's obviously an element of defeatism, maybe even nihilism, throughout the work, which was leavened by the desert dryness of the humor. So I think that people tend to regard his stuff as something short of truly hopeless, because if taken literally—which I don't think it's necessarily misguided to do--it's just completely soul-crushing. And given that he himself was so present in his work, often literally (literarally?) as a character, you get a portrait of a man that's just been... I dunno, broken. Honestly, I'm hard-pressed to think of any artist who seemed to give as clear a sense of autobiography in his own not-actually-autobiographical work. In other words, I don't feel facetious saying that I felt that I knew Vonnegut, to a much greater extent than anyone else I've never met.

(I remember what might not be there, a passage from one of the nonfiction books, maybe Wampeters, Foma and Granfalloons, where he talked about the prodigiousness of his smoking as being a more cowardly form of suicide. Of course, I was fifteen when I first read that and naturally overromanticized the ethical contranianism of a matter-of-fact view of suicide. So it took me a while to realize that he probably wasn't kidding, except maybe himself.)

So here's what I've come to. Is it wrong to think that maybe his death might've been a relief, similar to (but not to the same extent as) we regard the death of those long suffering from a terminal illness? Frankly, if I were younger when he'd died, closer to having read all that for the first time, I might suggest something appropriate in the idea, the unintentially smug cleverness of death as, quite literally, rest punctuated with a "so it goes." It's not right to think that there's something ironic about a man so relentlessly disappointed in life living so long, counterintuitive to try to balance this with the patina of legitimate hopefulness that he used strictly as a breath freshener ("Maybe life is worth living, the finality of his long life a sly winking contradiction of his work"). His death came just as most of us—though not him!—would want it, at the end of a long accomplished life. It's too clever to think of this as an extention of literary irony, too ignorant to just ignore it. So what do we make of the man who lived too much of a life that he quickly realized he never wanted in the first place?


Fear and deceit

I've written and deleted a couple of posts regarding the Virginia Tech tragedy. Angry Asian Man has some notes on the possibility/fear of a backlash against Asian Americans—and arggh, even the name of that exemplary site takes on unwanted resonance today. I'll leave it at that for now.

* * *

On a lighter note—how's that for a transition?—last week, Team Dizzies member Chrita Marri sent me an anecdote from his life as a teacher:

The other day, before school had actively begun, I was talking to an eighth-grader named Paulamarie (one word, no waiting). I forget the immediate context, I but I used the word "deceitful," which stymied her.

"Mister"—which is what she and most of her peers called all male teachers, so I didn't take the lack of specificity personally—"what's deceitful?" It wasn't so much a question as a statement of her immediate ignorance.

I wasn't sure what was going on, whether she was toying with me, which would have been within character; or just being cognitively unambitious, unwilling to dig through the effluvia of her brain to unearth the meaning; or if she honestly had never heard, or registered, the word. I decided to proceed with the third possibilty, erring on the side of something.

"Paula, it's when you're full of deceit."

She was further frustrated, as if I was the one with a severe misunderstanding.
"Yeah, but what's deceit?"

It was early, and I was bored with and saddened by the conversation, so I decided to go for it: "Paula, it's where you put de butt."

Monday, April 16, 2007

Phrase of the day — The A's have it — More Vonnegut

I liked the Times's description of yesterday's massive storm as "a globular nebula." I also liked this self-referential bit—

Many shops and restaurants that normally would have been open yesterday were shuttered, but without jobs or schools to attend, many people spent the day indoors with the Sunday papers, relaxing with music to go with the silken lash of rain hissing at the windows, dripping on a lazy afternoon.

—and the fact that a baker's dozen's worth of writers put together the piece (including Dizzies favorite Kareem Fahim).

"Globular nebula" exerts a hold on me because of the repetition of "bula," I suppose—somehow this makes it seem rather globlike and nebulous all at once.

I haven't been keeping up with American Idol this season, but I did see that Sanjaya Malakar survived the last round. Singing/personality aside, perhaps the secret to his staying power lies in his name—univocalic in "a," as the Oulipians would say. (And aside from the "nj" in the first name, each vowel is separated from its neighbor by a single consonant.)

Finally, another side of the late great Vonnegut, from the Phil Nugent Experience:

His words were carefully chosen but angry, and he rounded them off with a promise that shood he ever encounter Jerry [Geraldo Rivera, his ex–son-in-law] again on the street, "I'll spit in his face."

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Sunday, April 15, 2007

Another joke from my standup routine

Have you heard of that new group—the Jesus and Mary Chapin Carpenter?

Thank you, you've been a great audience, good night!


The uses of neglect

Dizzyhead Thomas tips us off to a great site: The Neglected Books Page, "where forgotten books are remembered."

Ever read The Cubical City? No Pockets for a Shroud? 1923's Capitol Hill? Me neither...this suggests another Dizzyhead comment-fest: Favorite truly obscure novels—

* * *

Over at the L.A. Times, a revamped Book Review is announced. I'm happy to report that I'll be contributing a monthly column on science fiction—tips and recommendations are welcome! (My column will be in rotation with three others—Sarah Weinman kicks things off this week with Dark Passages.)

Also at the LAT, book review editor David Ulin has a fond Vonnegut appreciation, and Jonathan Safran Foer is an early favorite for lede of the week honors: "Petr Ginz's parents met at an Esperanto conference."

* * *

I thought you said you weren't going to post for a while!

* * *

Dizzyhead Dennis talks to everyone's favorite shaggy Lacanian over at the New York Times:

In one sequence that redefines bathroom humor, Mr. Zizek connects the shower drain in “Psycho” with the backed-up toilet in “The Conversation” and compares the experience of looking up at a blank screen before a movie to that of staring into a toilet bowl. (Toilets are something of a Zizek fixation. One of his most notorious arguments traces geopolitical differences to variations in toilet design.)

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Friday, April 13, 2007

Freaky Friday

1. Well, it's not that freaky, indeed perhaps not freaky at all. And now that I've trotted out this stunning headline, I can't re-use it here at The Dizzies for when something truly freaky happens.

2. National Poetry Month madness continues here at The Dizzies. From "God Went Rollerblading," by Cynthia Rylant (thanks to Dizzyhead Regina):

He loved it.
He wasn't very good at it.
He fell twenty times.
But God always
bounces back.

(For more on God, visit the Saturnhead archives.)

3. Citizen Truth is like poetry, I think:


Where do they grow these chicks?
Is he their dad-figure or what?
(We were there for the shift change.)
(It seems fun here.)
(We cheer for what we recognize.)
(I'm part phlegmish.)

4. I thought of a joke the other day, but perhaps it's already been done? Check it out:

"Apple just announced a new iPod geared toward colorful sports figures of yesteryear. It's called the 'Icky Shuffle.'"

I might have to jazz up the wording a little. Shortly after coming up with this joke, I had a three-minute fantasy in which I became a standup comedian, despite my intense aversion to standup comedy. But then I couldn't think of any more jokes.

5. Don Imus! I've never listened to his show, but the recent fiasco dredged this up from the memory banks: Years ago, I was sifting through the book-reject pile (at a magazine where I was interning) and picked up Imus's novel, God's Other Son. I had no idea who Imus was. I opened the book, and on the very first page, possibly the first sentence or two, there was a gratuitous dig at African American women, something along the lines of: I (the other son of God) am a white male, and people who think that God could have, say, a black woman as a child are just plain PC-nuts.

That's my memory of it; I could be off on the details—I've tried to "look inside" the book at Amazon (this passes for research here at The Dizzies). In any case, there was something so instantly depressing and distasteful (Imus going out of his way to make such a bizarre insult, right off the bat) that I shut the book, and forevermore grumbled internally at any mention of his name.

Amazing—to so completely turn a reader off before the end of the first page! To completely turn off a reader for life!

6. Dizzyhead Hua's Palace has a beguiling Korean rocker up today...more dope on the band, San Ul Lim, here.

7. Dizzyhead Drew now blogs at The Ballad of the Cagener...

8. And finally: Dizzyhead Chrita, proprietor of the now defunct Crisis/Boring Change, will join Team Dizzies as soon as we get all the contract work vetted. He will focus on comic books and amusing anecdotes from his life.

(By the way—I'm loving the sub-200-page-novel reading suggestions—keep ’em coming! I am going to make myself scarce, or at least scarce-ish, for a while—Team Dizzies, start posting!)

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Thursday, April 12, 2007

Wining, Reading, Grading

From Tony Hoagland's "When Dean Young Talks About Wine," in What Narcissism Means to Me:

He says, Great first chapter but no plot.
He says, Long runway, short flight.
He says, This one never had a secret.
He says, You can't wear stripes like that.

This suggets a good writing exercise: Elaborate descriptions for wine.

* * *

Dan Rhodes's Guardian list of his favorite books under 200 pages has been much linked to. (Dizzyheads, any candidates?) Off the top of my head, The Mezzanine would be high on my list, something by Richard Brautigan, and of course something by Vonnegut (Cat's Cradle, probably). Bernhard's The Loser is 183 pages. I'm also, randomly, a fan of Isherwood's Prater Violet...and Muriel Spark's The Girls of Slender Means must be sub-200. . . .

* * *

Here is the Guardian obit for Vonnegut—the Times one is more interesting, I think. His official website is here, and today its splash page features an opened bird cage.

Wikipedia mentions Vonnegut's self-assessment of his books (in Palm Sunday); it reminded me of Nabokov's annotated copy of a collection of short stories, in which most things received C's or lower, except Salinger's "Bananafish" (A+) and...something by VN himself, if I'm not mistaken.

Here's Vonnegut's list:
Player Piano: B
The Sirens of Titan
: A
Mother Night: A
Cat's Cradle: A-plus
God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater: A
Slaughterhouse-Five: A-plus
Welcome to the Monkey House: B-minus
Happy Birthday, Wanda June: D
Breakfast of Champions: C
Slapstick: D
Jailbird: A
Palm Sunday: C
This seems pretty clear-eyed—though I remember seeing this before reading Breakfast of Champions, then thinking BoC must be pretty mediocre...then reading BoC and being pleasantly surprised—the result of lowered expectations? Anyway, what a nice chunk, from Sirens to S-5. Enough for any writer, no?

UPDATE: Excellent set of online Vonnegut resources, compiled by the Mirror Ed.

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Wednesday, April 11, 2007

So it goes

I was writing just now, avoiding the uke, occasionally bursting out into song for no reason. I sang, "I read the news today..." as I clicked over to the Times. And saw that Kurt Vonnegut had passed away. And I stopped singing.


Abstraction like an oil slick

In This Skin is a series of songs that will explore our ongoing relationship to notions of fate and mortality. Accompanying the aural elements will be still and video images of stagings and performance piecesthat when viewed as a whole will—because of my choice of forms—have the appearance of a melodramatic narrative but, upon closer inspection, will reveal abstraction spreading like an oil slick....

A grant will allow me to build upon my previous practice, such as 2001's Irresistible, and develop a new language of material skills with which to delineate loss and love.

—From "Jessica Simpson's Grant Application," by Brian Joseph Davis, in Portable Altamont (Coach House, 2005)

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Tuesday, April 10, 2007

From 'Jeeves and the Feudal Spirit'

I don't know if you happen to be familiar with a poem called 'The Charge of the Light Brigade' by the bird Tennyson whom Jeeves had mentioned when speaking of the fellow whose strength was as the strength of ten...the thing goes, as you probably know,
Tum tiddle umpty-pum
Tum tiddle umpty-pum
Tum tiddle umpty-pum
and this brought you to the snapperoo or pay-off which was 'someone had blundered.'


Million Squirrels Show

Important National Poetry Month news: Cathy "No Relation" Park Hong's Dance Dance Revolution is being published soon—it's the winner of the Barnard Women's Poetry Prize—and she'll be doing a number of readings, including one next Tuesday at Barnard. She'll also be appearing on Mr. Equanimity's Million Poems Show and in an up-and-coming borough called Brooklyn. Check her blog for the full schedule.

* * *

CPH raves about Ed Roberson, which reminds me that the PTSRNLS published a poem of his, a bit of which runs:

Deadheading the spent flames
to encourage a re-bloom

only makes the ashes see light again
as darkness,
feeling their way across a floor of faces

until every one is theirs.

* * *

I was happy to wake from a dream in which I was chasing a squirrel out of the house, a sequence that seemed to last forever. That's not poetry. That's for National Dream Month.

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Monday, April 09, 2007

See also...

This is a good exercise for National Poetry Month—make your own dictionary. Here's the entry for "Movie" from Marisol Limon Martinez's After You, Dearest Language , published by Ugly Duckling Presse. (All-caps words have their own entries, elsewhere in the book):

I watch a movie on TELEVISION with my FAMILY. The television is in the CORNER of the ROOM. I cannot really see what's happening. Michael is walking a BABY ALLIGATOR. My MOTHER asks Veronica if they should tell me about it. My FATHER can see the television but not the images. I am taking care of three KITTENS. As soon as Julien and I walk in the DOOR one of the kitten pees all over the Oxford English DICTIONARY. A MATTRESS is on the floor. At least we have some place to sleep. [...]

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Sunday, April 08, 2007


The obscure local daily that I read has a story today about aquariums, pegged to the death of the whale shark (Ralph) at Atlanta's Georgia Aquarium. It mentions Ginger Strand's Believer piece. Here's a taste:

In an essay published in The Believer in 2005 before the Georgia Aquarium opened, Ginger Strand catalogs the relationship between aquariums and ruined ecosystems: the Monterey Bay Aquarium in California is on the old Cannery Row, made obsolete by the depletion of sardine stocks; the Alaska SeaLife Center in Seward was paid for largely by the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Settlement Fund; in the Ocean Voyager exhibit in Atlanta, there are scant and inconsistent facts about whale sharks — they reach 45, 60 or 65 feet depending on which sign is consulted — but copious details on how they were airlifted from Taiwan (“via UPS!”).

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an illustration from dreams of yore.

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Also in the Times—Dizzyhead Dennis on Twin Peaks. How about this lede, eh? The kid can write!

LIKE the homecoming queen who was its resident ghost, “Twin Peaks” died young and left a ravaged but still beautiful corpse. Both demises are now inextricably linked: When David Lynch’s hit series revealed who killed Laura Palmer in the fall of 1990, it also committed a kind of symbolic suicide.

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Lemmy got around a bit

There's a delightful Times piece today on the origins of eggs Benedict.

His jovial sincerity — his letters simultaneously begged for their help and apologized for boring them — overcame their initial skepticism, to the extent that they stopped referring to him as “Crazy Cousin Jack.” His letters kept coming, written on stationery engraved with the words “The family that gave the world eggs Benedict.”


Friday, April 06, 2007

You Don't Love Me—Yet Again

Courtesy Dizzyhead Kosiya, here's a mindboggling video—the Dead's Bob Weir with Bongwater and the Fabulous Pussywillows (who are they?) doing Roky Erikson's "You Don't Love Me Yet." Enjoy!

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Letter by letter

Today's poem: Joshua Clover's "Antwerp Rainy All Churches Still Haunted," from The Totality for Kids (U. California).

Lots of good lines here—each line ends with a period. It's like a good-line contest!

Three to mull over:

"Being constructed letter by letter like a labyrinth."

"Like she had seen into each pocket of you and found no money there."

"Words on the yellow streetcars riding their one empirical sentence."

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I dreamed about this book last night, or rather this morning.

I had opened it and J.C. had written a poem about another poet.

The poem only used the letters present in her name.

The Oulipians call this a "beautiful in-law"

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Over at the FSG National Poetry Month blog, maintained by Ami Greko, we learn the provenance of the cover photo for Frederick Seidel's Ooga-Booga: It's one of four clicked at the photo booth at Lakeside Lounge.

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Thursday, April 05, 2007

Me and You and No One We Know

Miranda July has a great website for her upcoming story collection, No One Belongs Here More Than You—you will not look at your kitchen appliance surfaces in the same way!

(Via Dizzyhead Regina.)


"Can You Feel It?"

Remember in Spinal Tap, when David St. Hubbins muses that the first song he wrote (with Nigel) only had about six words? I feel that way about this Apples in Stereo song (which doesn't mean I don't like it)...

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"Poor Pickings"

Today's poem is by "Abigail Sprigge."
A burglar entered by mistake
A poetess's room one day.
And finding there was nothing else
To steal, he stole away.

Here's what the critics are saying:

"And if you ask me—well—it's a damned good poem. Because it's got but four lines, and they're damned short! And it's further a good one, because it isn't all gooey with flowers, and springtime, and love, and what—the—"
—Clay Calthorpe

(To learn more—read this!)

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Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Profondo Rosso

I love how Toni Schlesinger's NYO column just...dissolves:

What “big man topples” is to news, red is to fashion—most famously Diana Vreeland’s Park Avenue apartment, which she told Billy Baldwin to furnish like “a garden in hell,” and now the red walls and doors and “convenience stairs,” as spokeswoman Abbe Serphos put it, of the Renzo Piano’s new headquarters for The New York Times, which look as though they are painted with cheerful tomatoes. “We refer to it as ‘sunset red,’” Ms. Serphos said, in what one hopes is not some sort of subconscious prophecy about the newspaper industry.
The red will never be quite still or all there in one way, like the events of the days: The light will change, the light affecting the color will change the color, one’s mood will change, the moods of all The New York Times reporters will change ….

In any case, thinking about red in spring is upsetting. Red is theatrical, artificial, an opera costume, the blood of medieval illuminated manuscripts, love, love later on when it is no longer love but something more dangerous, not the hopeful colors of spring flowers, lilacs in Paris or violets on a 1950’s hat with green leaves and perfect green grapes.


Whan that Aprille

National Poetry Month continues here at The Dizzies. Today's poem is "Dream Job," from Matthew Zapruder's The Pajamaist (Copper Canyon).

The poet reads about an experiment in which scientists carefully nab migrating birds and inject them with "double-/labeled water ampules."
and it occurs
to me in my snow globe

surrounded with rain
on Water Street by the sea,
it's possible all this
capturing daily
was for some other purpose.

Very nice...snow, rain, water, sea. (The shoores are certainly sooteing today in New York, eh?) And I dig the end, which took me by surprise.

Go, Jerry. Soon you will be
in Canada where
Neil Young was born.

Then I remembered the title, and remembered this—another dream job.

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Tuesday, April 03, 2007

(I ain't afraid of no) 'Ghost'!

Check out the New-York Ghost site for information on how to receive the snappy new single from Knucklehead, "Theme From The New-York Ghost"!

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Dean Young — Yesterday? — Harry Mathews interview

Today's poem is Dean Young's "Static City," from Embryoyo (published by Believer Books). Here's a bit: "Imagine a frog/in your mouth, struggling./Now imagine you're that frog."

(Just saw and am checking out a pretty funny conversation between Young and Tony Hoagland at the PoFo site: Memory is "the bad breath of time?")

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What about yesterday's poem? My students came up with some great Oulipian poems, but I'll save them for another day. I just want to assure you that I have been reading at least one poem a day during this most National of Poetry months.

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Dizzyhead Jessica alerted me to an interview with Harry Mathews (in my pantheon, up there with Nabokov, Powell, and Portis) in the new Paris Review. (I've had HM on the brain, thanks to my recent Oulipo/Roussel musings—The Conversions is an especially Rousselian concoction; see Dizzyhead Laird's note.) I debated whether to buy it or not, thinking it might just cover the same old (albeit fascinating) ground—aaaaaand...I wound up saying YES to shelling out $12 and had to stop myself from reading the whole thing last night. I'm going to try to make it last at least another day.

Some choice quotes:

"I couldn't hammer a nail until I was seventeen. I spent all my time in dreamland, listening to obscure music and reading Henry James."

"We reached Plymouth in a parody of English weather—fog, rain, darkness."

On Ashbery and Schuyler's delightful collaborative novel, A Nest of Ninnies: "Auden had once said that it's impossible to describe meals in contemporary fiction. So there is an endless number of meals in the book."

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Best idea: Buy the PR with a $20 bill, and instead of tipping the cashier $8—as is your wont—use this "mad money" to purchase the new Believer!

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Monday, April 02, 2007

Def Leopard

Via Dizzyhead Paul—this website translates a few passages from Harry Potter and Leopard Walk Up to Dragon. (What's that? Read this.) Look what happens in chapter 2:

There was a hobbit, who didn't even know how to return home. He lived in a hole in the ground, and didn't know where he came from or where he was going to. He even didn't know why he had become a hobbit. This was Hogwartz School of Witchcraft and Wizardry 5th year apprentice Harry Potter.

Harry lived in a hole in the ground. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat...

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The Interview, Part II

O: Is there anything you'd like to tell your new readers?
C: Just remember that the things you put into your head are there forever. You might want to think about that.

(Thanks to Dizzies Team Member Hua. For Part I, go here.)


Sunday, April 01, 2007

Watch out—the complacencies of the peignoir are behind you!

The Velvet Underground's "Sunday Morning" vs. Wallace Stevens's "Sunday Morning"—who would win???

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It's National Poetry Month. I was going to write that I would read one book of poetry each day in April, but...let's just say I promise to read one poem a day. Today's poem: "Kill Poem," the lead track on Frederick Seidel's Ooga-Booga. My grade: A+. An excellent poem, with a late-inning burst of self-referentiality ("Its title is Kill Poem...") that's like something off of a Destroyer album.

Check out FSG's National Poetry Month site, and of course the stuff brewing over at the PoFo (where I blog when I get a chance—some of it overlaps with Dizzies stuff, but not much)..and Jordan Davis's Equanimity...and Joshua Clover...and Cathy Park Hong...

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McCloud 9 — Mots sans frontiéres

The new Believer is out, and—I love it. Brothers Scott and James Browning visit the North and South Pole, respectively—each with their mom (but not each other). You need to see this in print—the top half of each page consists of Scott's journey, the bottom half is taken up by James's.

Meanwhile, Jonathan Taylor visits the house of the great "I hate Austria" Austrian writer Thomas Bernhard, and learns (among other things) that the author was a Prince fan—a wonderful piece, often echoing TB's style, that can be enjoyed even if you're not yet a Bernhardian.

And there's much more: Dizzyhead Paul on allonymic lit—books falsely published under an author's name...Conversations with Namesake director Mira Nair and with Omnivore's Dilemma writer Michael Pollan...Online you can read Hillary Chute's great interview with Understanding Comics author/artist Scott McCloud (Hillary's also co-edited the Winter 2006 number of Modern Fiction Studies, devoted to Graphic Narrative—a must for brainiac graphic novel aficionados.)

This is no April Fool's!

Time to subscribe? Definitely. I can't believe how cheap it is!

(Believer illustration by Tony Millionaire.)

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The new anthology Words Without Borders looks terrific—writers I've heard of (Jonathan Safran Foer, Edwidge Danticat, Javier Marías, et al.) introducing writers I haven't heard of: Italy's Giorgio Manganelli, Korea's Jo Kyung Ran, Norway's Johan Harstad. Perfect eclectic subway reading. (Thanks to Dizzyhead Gautam, who worked on the book.)

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Coffee break

The L.A. Times reports on Nguyen vs. Nguyen: Janet Nguyen wins an O.C. Board of Supervisors seat by just three votes over Trung Nguyen (no relation).

"Trung Nguyen" is also the name of a mind-expanding brand of coffee, a favorite of Dizzyhead Darren.

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