Thursday, May 31, 2007

Too far gone

I e-mailed Dizzyhead Euge about Sissy Spacek's 1969 response record to the nude cover of John and Yoko's Two Virgins, and he dug up the actual song! (She recorded a whole album, under the name Rainbo.)

A classic? You decide!

* * *

And speaking of Yoko—sounds like she's going to the dogs...or rather, eating them!

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Meal plan

"I really am fond of sandwiches, I rather think they are the perfect form of food!" —Jenny D (channeling Daisy Ashford?!)

“There is a service called FedEx that is similar to ours — but they don’t deliver lunch,” said one dabbawalla, Dhondu Kondaji Chowdhury. —NYT

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

The Dizzies' Guide To the Cannes Red Carpet

If you are planning to attend a red carpet premiere at the Cannes Film Festival (and first off, if you are planning, you're too late; the festival's over ya boob!) you are going to want to follow their rigorous clothing guidelines. Well, sorta.

These are black tie affairs. You gotta bring your tuxedo. Now, I have no problem with a big glamorous event installing a dress code. Sounds good, says I, keep the riff raff out. I was well prepared — I'm in Cannes covering the festival for IFC and I bought a tux for the occasion.

I was told by people in the know that a nice black tie was okay, no bowtie needed. So that's what I brought: a black tie, a literalization of their hippity-pippity rules. Nope, no dice. Gotta have a bowtie! And they'll make you buy one from some lady on the red carpet at $15 euros a pop. An ugly white one at that -- not even a black one, hence making the phrase "black tie" even more annoying.

But the rules are not completely hard and fast. They also stopped my producer for wearing Vans sneakers instead of black shoes. He ran back to our apartment, and came back. Before I knew it, we were through the security checkpoint. Only then did I look down at his feet:

Yet another remarkable use of gaffer tape.

So basically, if you're a nobody (i.e. me) you better conform, or hide your gaffe(r tape)s well. But of course covering the festival, and its red carpets, we saw a lot of people wearing all sorts of crap. Christopher Doyle showed up to the same premiere looking like he the new Dr. Who. But I guess if you're a world famous cinematopgrapher they're lenient. I call bullshit on that!!

Inside out

M. John Harrison picks Dizzies fave Scott Bradfield's The Secret Life of Houses as one of his top ten books linking "the inside to the outside, the scientific to the personal, the individual to the universal."

Also available now: The "shocking conclusion" to Hua's Eddie Gong saga.

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The Believer Music Issue... almost out! Here's a sneak preview of a great track on the compilation CD that comes with the mag: It's Sufjan Stevens shedding the mini-orchestra and rocking out. Aggressively refreshing!

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Weapons of Mass Distraction

From an unearthed Guy Maddin interview:

Lately, there have been new weapons in my daydreams. I think in terms of harpoons. Whenever the fire of creation sears my brow, I find fierce manifestos carved, just for me, in scrimshaw upon the jawbone handles of these great whaling javelins.

International Rooms


Tuesday, May 29, 2007

His Dark materials

New York magazine asked some folks for their favorite "overlooked" book of the past 20 years...I picked...this.

Extra value (?!) for Dizzyheads: The unedited version! (Though I like the way they boiled it down...)

In brief chapters, with the most scrupulously intense sentences—pitch perfect, pitch dark—this side of Renata Adler, _______ conjures a hugely sad New York novel that feels at once state of the art and stunningly ancient. (It ends on September 8, 2001.) His epigrammatic wit, always right below the surface, makes the darkness bearable—don't we all know someone who could be described like this?: "If you ask Edie how she is, you don't have to say another word for at least an hour."


"Three Junes"!

From the office of Dizzyhead ED—

Dear shareholders:

Over the upcoming BEA weekend, I'll be appearing (?!?) twice—

If you're wandering the convention floor on Saturday morning, swing by this panel featuring A Public Space's Brigid Hughes, Granta's Matt Weiland, and me.

If you're stumbling about the East Village on Sunday evening, ready to check out the remainder table at St. Mark's, save your $ and come to KGB (!!!!), where I'll be reading from my novel in progress (!?!), The Dizzies—in celebration of———the 100th (!) issue of BOMB magazine (!!!!!)————

It would be fun to see you...

And now—the details!

BEA Panel: "The Leap to Debut: The Widening Transition Gap From Short Form Periodicals to First Fiction"
Saturday, June 2, 11:30 a.m.–12:30 p.m., Javits 1E04
Moderated by Edward (!?) Nawotka

Reading: "BOMB Magazine 100th Issue Celebration"
Sunday, June 3, 7 p.m.–9 p.m., KGB, 85 East 4th St.
With Rivka Galchen and Jill Bialosky

* * *

But wait—there's more.

A third date has just been added!

(The truth is it took me so long to compose the above message that I just heard I'll be reading again!)

I'll be joining Stephanie Anderson, Rebecca Wolff, Ishmael Beah, and Sampson Starkweather on Wednesday, June 13, from 6 to 10 p.m. at Wollman Hall (New School), 66 W 12th St. It's a pub party for the latest issue of LIT, which contains a story of mine (part of the unpublished epic Dementia Americana).

Take care,

Punctuation provided by Punk28on S2diozzz
Beverages provided by Jamba Juice Omnimedia Ltd.

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Monday, May 28, 2007

Based on the Rimbaud poem

Walking and talking

Three recent overheard cell-phone conversations:

1. It rang right in the middle of class. [Sarcastically] It was fantastic.
When my phone rings, it doesn't just ring. It plays "I Hear the Rain Down in Africa," by Toto. And it was on full volume.

2. John's brother Patrick is a commentator. He's really cute, too.

3. I just had to get out of there. I could be sitting on the sidewalk, staring up at the f--king trees, listening to the birds. Anything would be better than that.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Gong show—Type slowly—Museum pieces

What happened to Eddie Gong? Find out here.

* * *

Slate asks writers about their favorite fonts. Most seem to like Courier (which I pretty much never use—too ugly!). (Via Jenny D)

Andrew Vachss says:

I write everything in Courier 12, because I write for publication, not pleasure.

Hmm. We like Luc Sante's take on Courier New better:

I . . . like the fact that in Courier each letter is accorded the exact same amount of space, which I think is only fair to the i and the l.

Speaking of Sante—his mysterious exhibit, The Museum of Crime and The Museum of God, is worth checking out.

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Saturday, May 26, 2007

Press release for TINY SMOOSHY SUNDAY ON FIRE which acclaimed "tween" rock bands unite for all-ages afternoon show to benefit 826NYC.

Featuring performances by:

Hosted by:

Sunday, June 3rd, 2p.m.
Southpaw (125 5th Ave., Brooklyn, NY)
Tickets: $25 adults /$10 ages 16 and under
Tickets are available at Ticketweb.

* * *

Also: On Friday, June 1st at Webster Hall: THE ROCK BOTTOM REMAINDERS, a band made up of literary celebrities Stephen King, Scott Turow, Dave Barry, Amy Tan, Mitch Albom, Scott Turow, Ridley Pearson, Greg Iles, Matt Groening, James McBride, Roy Blount Jr., Kathi Goldmark, Frank McCourt, and Andy Borowitz, that call themselves “the literary world’s answer to the Rolling Stones” will play their 15th anniversary concert. This show, called the “Still Younger Than Keith Tour,” features the return of Stephen King to the band.

(826NYC is one of three literacy charities that the RBRs are supporting with this event.)

* * *

Another exciting press release is coming soon...

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Friday, May 25, 2007

Obsess completely

More baseball weirdness from Jane:

Attention to detail to the Nth degree, finding comfort in neatness, straight lines, symmetry and routine or "being anal" is pervasive in the game. From Blue Jays shortstop John McDonald repeatedly straightening the remaining cards in a deck during clubhouse game of hearts to the visiting clubhouse attendant at Chase Field refilling a cooler when only one bottle had been removed so as to restore symmetry -- anal-retentive behavior is everywhere.

Magazines and newspapers resting atop a counter in the same Chase clubhouse are not merely resting, they are arranged. The top two inches of five copies of the Arizona Republic are displayed. USA Today and other periodicals lie next to them as if glued in place. God forbid someone open one and disturb the symmetry -- and the people responsible for it.


Sentence of the day

"Sometimes I get so excited with my work, I miss my lunch break," Georg says. "Once I even forgot to go home..."BBC News

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Lost and found

People are blowing up frames from last night's amazing Lost finale—it reminds me of that Twin Peaks pilot, where they keep blowing up the picture to discern the photographer's reflection in the subject's eye.

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Asian Americanists, listen up

Hua had a good day in the archives—from a 1955 article by one Eddie Gong:

Picture, if you can, a young man who is carefree and sentimental, who loves to talk to all kinds of people; a guy who has an average frame of about 5 feet 10 and who weighs 160 pounds...

The title? "I Want to Marry an American Girl." (Cue Tom Petty.) The coverline: "Must I Marry a Chinese Girl?"

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You need this

...if you are a gajillionaire Ashbery fan—Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror, in an extremely limited artist's edition...that is circular.

Here's where to order.

(Cue: "Shapes in My Room")

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Ed Park fragte im Pittsburgh Tribune: „Wie viele Verzögerungen und Umleitungen kann man in einem Film unterbringen?“

* * *

From 2003: “I would be happy and I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see Johnny get an Oscar nod for this role,” [PTSNBN] movie critic Ed Park tells Star. “Although Oscar doesn’t usually reward comic-adventure roles, I think it is a winning performance.”


Hot fuzzy

This could be from a DeLillo book, eh?

When Traci Ludwig, the owner, with her husband, Michael, of an 1884 house in Mamaroneck, called in the mold people a few years ago, she was only mildly hysterical.

“We had white and fuzzy mold, we had brown mottled mold, we had black mold,” she said. “It was a scientific study of mold." —NYT


Sentence of the day

"I come from up North and I can always recognize anyone by their feet."
—Julian Maclaren-Ross, "Edward: A Detective Story"


Any cheese not on a pizza

Not sure what the original source is, but my friend Jane sent this amusing tidbit:
Speaking of Michael Kay, Daily News Yankee beat writer
Mark Feinsand blogged about an interesting encounter with
Kay in the Mariners press dining room:

As I enjoyed a bowl of clam chowder, Michael mentioned that
he had never had soup in his entire life (he thinks the
slurping sound associated with it is grotesque). I found
this amazing. He then told me he had never had any fish or
seafood of any type, either.

As the conversation went on, he informed me of several
other things he has NEVER tasted in his life: bananas,
condiments of any type (though he lost a bet on his radio
show and had to eat a packet of ketchup, which made him
sick), jelly, any cheese not on a pizza, veal, coffee …

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Sentence of the day

"She dressed as a nun to arrest two people shaking down a real nun." —NYT

Get back

Via Dizzyhead Euge, a casual two-hour show (dating from 2003) about the "lost" Beatles tapes, from NPR's online "All Songs Considered."

And via Dizzies Team Member Hua's blog, here's the Jesus and Mary Chain on Letterman, performing "Far Gone and Out":

Things to savor:

1. Dave introducing them as "Kids!"
2. The house-band bassist, bouncing jovially, in a red jacket and white pants
3. Lyric: "And I'm television sick and I'm television crazy"
4. Singer Jim Reid not only turning his back on the audience, but squatting


Tuesday, May 22, 2007


Via the Athanasius Kircher Society: 'My Stroke Left Me With Foreign Accent'

"This Falling Man"

Levi Stahl's blog, I've Been Reading Lately, has an appealingly bookish post about a recent trip to New York in which he didn't and did see John Crowley...

* * *

A new New-York Ghost is winging its way to subscribers—are you one of them?

* * *

Some thoughts on writing and editing, by Samuel Delany (via Jenny D):
In a very real way, one writes a story to find out what happens in it. Before it is written it sits in the mind like a piece of overheard gossip or a bit of intriguing tattle. The story process is like taking up such a piece of gossip, hunting down the people actually involved, questioning them, finding out what really occurred, and visiting pertinent locations. As with gossip, you can’t be too surprised if important things turn up that were left out of the first-heard version entirely; or if points initially made much of turn out to have been distorted, or simply not to have happened at all.

* * *

John Crace gives the latest DeLillo novel the "digested read" treatment over at The Guardian—pretty funny stuff:

He didn't know why he had walked back to her apartment after visiting the hospital.

"Was it for Justin?" Lianne had asked.

"That's the question."

"The boy is out in the yard searching the skies for Bill Lawton."

"He means Bin Laden."

"God could appear in the sky tomorrow."

"Whose God?"

* * *

Great song—with many solid fashion ideas!

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Monday, May 21, 2007

"Of Memory and Distance" — Hou are you?

The third installment of "The Poem as Comic Strip" is up at the Poetry Foundation site. Jeffrey Brown (Clumsy, AEIOU, et al.) does something amazing with a piece by (the already amazing) Russell Edson.

(For more on Edson, read Dizzyhead Sarah's excellent Believer piece, "Why the Reader of Good Prose Poems Is Never Sad.")

* * *

In Cannes news, the Limster weighs in on new films from Assayas and Hou.

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From Dizzyhead Euge—here's Marvin Gaye singing...the National Anthem!

And here's someone ukeing up M.G....

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Sunday, May 20, 2007

The Origin of the Schnozzes

In the Times (via Jenny D), very appealing bits of Charles Darwin's letters:

I have lately been corresponding with Lyell, who, I think, adopts your idea of the stream of variation having been led or designed. I have asked him (& he says he will herafter reflect & answer me) whether he believes that the shape of my nose was designed. If he does, I have nothing more to say.

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Take me to your Integratron

The Times "T" magazine has a particularly nifty piece by Dizzyhead Ben on Joshua Tree. Some highlights:

The suburbs are encroaching — one long band creeps along Interstate 10 from the Pacific to Palm Springs, sending tendrils of tract housing north and south.

George Van Tassel, an aviation engineer, landed in the desert in 1947 at a place called Giant Rock in Landers, a sandbox of a town a few miles northwest of Joshua Tree. Six years later, a spacecraft arrived from Venus, according to Van Tassel, and took him aboard. The Venusians taught him how to make a machine that would extend the lifespan of living cells. He spent the rest of his days building it — an extraordinary domed structure that he called the Integratron. Van Tassel died in 1978.

This is not the bright desert of optimism, renewal, mythic self-invention. It’s the desert of cracked laughter, plans gone awry, the whimsy of eternity — all the old American pains abandoned to the sand.

And via Lacunae and the beautifully designed Electricity and Fruit: Awesome Tapes From Africa, which materializes at just the right time for me.* Ebullient and mysterious! (Check out this tape in particular.)

Also via E&F, this amazing artifact, featuring Telly Monster: "It sounds like the Muppets covering a Belle & Sebastian B-side. About shapes."

*I want to find out more about Ethiopian music—suggestions welcome!

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Saturday, May 19, 2007


Over at the L.A. Times, my latest Astral Weeks column looks at British SF writer Adam Roberts's novel Gradisil.

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Any Which Way You Cannes

Here at Dennis Lim headquarters, we're pleased to link to his first dispatch from Cannes, in which he reports on WKW's My Blueberry Nights and Control, Anton Corbijn's Joy Division movie.

Our headline reminds us of a caption in the Buffalo News decades ago, upon the occasion of a Sabres' loss (3-1 to...the Capitals?). The lone Buffalo goal-scorer was Don Luce; the caption read: "Every which way but Luce." Not bad! (Note to self: Include in memoirs.)

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Looking glass

The Harry Potter creator and Desperate Housewives star are beginning to look alike...

Researching this important item, I discovered that Andrea Bowen (the Teri Hatcher character's daughter) once "played the role of Zooey Glass in the ABC primetime series, That Was Then."

You can just name a character "Zooey Glass"?

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Friday, May 18, 2007

Slapping the radio

Via WFMU's Beware of the Blog, this is John Cage performing his piece "Water Walk" on a 1960 TV show, I've Got a Secret. (Note hilarious union imbroglio at around 4m.)


Thursday, May 17, 2007

Oh Henry!

I enjoyed Benjamin Markovits's TLS review of the first two volumes of Henry James's letters, though these two sentences confused me—

One sign of a great letter-writer may be that the chief interest of the letters does not lie in the way they expose their author. On these terms, the young James was far from a great correspondent.

(I must have read this five times...!)

Here's a terrific passage from one of the letters:

Wherever we go we carry with us this heavy burden of our personal consciousness + wherever we stop we open it out over our heads like a great baleful cotton ombrella, to obstruct the prospect + obscure the light.

I love how "baleful" leads to "cotton" (as in a bale of cotton)—and that old spelling of "umbrella"; I guess it must come from "shadow," which I'd never quite thought about...

* * *

Remember the Seinfeld where Elaine's braless friend is the heir to the Oh Henry! candybar fortune? They must have chose that brand deliberately, eh? (I mean—given the O. Henry–like twists that often occur on Seinfeld.)

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Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Film issue

Am I the only one who didn't care for Children of Men? The long take at the end was pretty impressive, or was it simply impressive because I kept thinking, "It must be hard to do a long take like that, how do you choreograph everything?" etc.

Anyway, via Very Short List, here is Daily Film Dose's look at the long take. My favorite: "Russian Ark—The Whole Damn Movie."

And via The Morning News: Kristan Horton shoots scenes from Dr. Strangelove using household items.

* * *

Ron Rosenbaum's written about the surreal in-flight catalogue Sky Mall, and suddenly the world of airborne literature seems ripe for analysis. The editor's note in the new American Way magazine gives you the sense that Sherri Gulczynski Burns figures, Nobody is going to read this, and if so—so what?

Do you have things on your to-do list that, no matter how important they are, take a backseat to everything else? Or is it just me? As I’ve mentioned before, writing this column is something I put off until the very last minute every single issue. I don’t know why. I think that only extensive (or intensive?) therapy would help me figure that out. This time, I even channeled the ghosts of all the users that IT people (read Wes) have “deleted” over the years, and I persuaded their spirits to infect my computer so that this file (and only this file) would not open. Sadly, the said IT person was able to fix it. So here I am.

As it makes me feel better to have an excuse, this time I’m chalking my procrastination up to it being the end of winter.

Hockey and basketball seasons have just come to a close, so it’s time to turn our attention to America’s favorite pastime. (And believe it or not, that favorite pastime is not happy hour!)

(It goes on...!)

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Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Attention Dennis Lim fans: "Moving Image Source" press release


New York, May 11, 2007—Rochelle Slovin, director of the Museum of the Moving Image, today announced the creation of a major new film website, Moving Image Source. The site, made possible with support from the Hazen Polsky Foundation, will launch this fall at “Moving Image Source will be an important contribution to the fields of film history and film research,” Ms. Slovin said. “It will take a contemporary view of film history by offering fresh perspectives on current retrospective programs. It will also serve the growing interest in film studies by providing a gateway to a wide array of research resources.” The site will be supervised by Dennis Lim, the Museum’s editorial director, who recently joined the Museum after working for eight years as the film editor at The Village Voice.

Moving Image Source will consist of two components: a publication and a research directory. The publication will contain original writing on film and film history, including in-depth coverage of retrospective programs at museums, media arts organizations, and film festivals around the world. Leading critics and scholars will contribute new essays and articles. A master calendar will provide an overview of key revivals and programs at major venues. For each highlighted series, the site will offer suggestions for further viewing and reading.

The site’s research directory will feature an annotated and regularly maintained database of online and offline resources, ranging from scholarly and popular journals to film-related libraries and archives. It will also offer information, geared to students and scholars of all levels, on how to use research tools and serve as a meeting place for discussion on topics relating to film history and film studies.

“I look forward to working on Moving Image Source,” Mr. Lim said. “This site grows out of a belief that the health of film culture depends on a serious engagement with film history. Thanks to restored prints, new DVDs, and the vitality of retrospective programming at film institutions around the world, important old movies are now more accessible than ever. At the same time, coverage of revivals and historical surveys continues to dwindle at traditional media outlets. This is an ideal time for a publication and resource of this nature, and the Internet, which has enabled the emergence of a global cinephile community, is the ideal forum for it.”

Moving Image Source was made possible with a gift from the Hazen Polsky Foundation in memory of Joseph Hazen. One of Hollywood’s unsung executives, Hazen worked closely with Hal Wallis at Warner Bros. in the 1930s. Their independent company Wallis-Hazen Productions made 64 movies in just 26 years and nurtured the careers of Elvis Presley, Jerry Lewis, Dean Martin, Burt Lancaster, Barbara Stanwyck, and Shirley MacLaine, among others. “We are grateful for the generous and visionary support of the Hazen Polsky Foundation,” said Ms. Slovin. “The Foundation understands both the importance of film history and the role that the Internet has as a forum for discussion and research. The first site of its kind, Moving Image Source will serve an international audience of cinephiles, scholars, students, and journalists.”

Museum of the Moving Image ( is dedicated to advancing the public understanding and appreciation of the art, history, technique, and technology of film, television, and digital media. It does so by collecting, preserving, and providing access to the nation’s largest permanent collection of moving image artifacts; screening significant films and other moving-image works; presenting exhibitions of artifacts, artworks, and interactive experiences; and offering educational and interpretive programs to students, teachers, and the general public. A major expansion and renovation, scheduled for completion in 2009, will add new film theaters, galleries, and an education center.

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Ghostwriting — Sweeney agonistes

A new New-York Ghost dances onto the stage...this one features a piece by Ben Greenman, humorist of the modern age, whose latest book is entitled A Circle Is a Balloon and Compass Both. (True? False? Discuss.)

* * *

Sweeney left an enigmatic blank entry (see directly below) following the Sabres' loss of game 3 in their series with Ottawa.

That blank speaks volumes.

Still, Sweeney and Arlo should weigh in on what's plaguing the Sabres!

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Monday, May 14, 2007

Today Your Q-Tip Is

Dizzyhead Martin shares a hilariously foul photo taken from his window—I won't copy it here, so you can experience it once you visit his blog. You will laugh out loud!


The next "Crippled Detectives"?

From Light Reading:

When I was little, I was always reading and writing, but from when I was about ten or so I was writing a massive novel called "The Purple Cow" which involved an apartment complex in Vermont built by a man who won a lot of money in the lottery & invited all his extended family to move in with him, they all become preoccupied with writing books and a large part of the story involved tallying up how many books they wrote of what kind in a sort of massive extended-family literary competition (privileging quantity rather than quality)! And I worked on it every day, especially during the summer, and it was always alluded to (very seriously, though not in a real-world sense) by me and everyone else as my bestseller. As in: "Where's Jenny?" "Oh, she's in her room working on her bestseller."

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Sunday, May 13, 2007

The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle (II)

Over at Moistworks, Ben Greenman offers five birdsongs, as it were, and an elegant little essay linking some of them.


Sage brush—twice a day!

In today's Times: "But what few people know is that before Grey became a writer of the purple sage, he worked as a dentist in Manhattan."


Saturday, May 12, 2007

The Joie of Guy, or To the Lighthouse

"I would love to be a poet, but it’s not in me, so I’m this other thing, whatever that is." —Guy Maddin

On the spur of the moment I caught Guy Maddin's epic Brand Upon the Brain! last night, as narrated by Joie Lee. It was great! She did an amazing job! Maddin uses as many exclamation points as Keeler!

I would write down some choice quotes but I had only two-thirds of one side of one sheet of paper and a small dull golf pencil = I can't read anything!

It's set on an island where "Guy Maddin"'s very strange parents run a mom-and-pop a lighthouse...and their charges have mysterious marks on the backs of their heads...and the harp-playing Wendy Hale, part of a brother-sister detective team, is investigating...all of this done with hysterical (often three exclamation points) title cards...and live sound effects: a heap of unspooled cassette tape simulated the wind through long grass, egg cartons and celery were put to creative use, the doors were done with a door...

Poetry nuts will want to hear John Ashbery's narration tomorrow at 7, though something tells me tickets will be scarce. (Last night's later show, with Crispin Glover, was sold out.) Next best thing is to read "Plenty of Sublimated Rin Tin Tin," the Jdawg's excellent interview with Guy about Ashbery, over at the Poetry Foundation site.

If we're talking Ashbery, I found the texture of much of the Brand! text sort of Nest of Ninnies/Girls on the Run–ish. And if we're talking other things, there's a dollop of Feuillade (one of the detectives always "goes formal!" when s/he's doing undercover work) and a bit of eXistenZ (weird orifice stuff). But first and foremost it's...Guy Maddin!

(For further reading/links, here's an earlier Maddining post.)

UPDATE: From the PTSNBN...back in the glory days of D. Lim's's GM's "production diary" from The Saddest Music in the World:

For years, I've been meaning to put into practice my Anatomy of Melancholy approach to directing. And now I finally get to! Having already copied out on index cards various descriptions of depression gleaned from Burton's ancient tomes, as well as some 40 synonyms for sadness culled from a thesaurus, I now start each day by dealing out all 52 cards, face down, on the breakfast table full of actors who are to work that day. Each performer has a different, sometimes fuzzy idea of a word's meaning—for instance, lugubrious or throboxyc, which is sadder? Actors love restrictions, and why not restrict them in the only fair way possible: with a lottery windfall of commands drawn randomly from a reference book?

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Friday, May 11, 2007

Richard Powers and "The Moving Finger"

Quick post—last night at the Morgan Library, Richard Powers debuted his "talk-piece" The Moving Finger, with some help from the great critic John Leonard (who later interviewed him onstage). Powers nailed the sense of discovery, drift, and paranoia that the blogosphere engenders. He beautifully and lucidly evoked the competing drives for anonymity and fame, the Borgesian flavor of the blogging experience, the nuances of Technorati and YouTube and bookmarking. (There's a funny part at the beginning where he talks about searching for information about Hummel figurines, and emerging from the swamp of browsing six hours later.)

Powers read in the voice of a Powers-like character who chances upon a mysterious science-oriented, literature-drenched blog (significantly, an early post is about mirror neurons), written by an obscure professor in Montana (effectively played by Leonard). The Moving Finger is the best thing I've read (well, heard) to date on the nature of blogs—a playful, brilliant nightmare.

Leonard and Powers had never met before last night, and their mutual admiration for each other was palpable, indeed moving. The interview was as thought-provoking and inspiring as the prepared piece. (I was also thrilled when Leonard brought up the recent Powers interview from The Believer.) Touching on the subject of criticism versus evaluation (characterized by the "star" method of bite-sized reviewery), Powers made the point that a good piece of criticism makes you feel like there's another person in the room. You are not the same person at the end of the piece as you were at the beginning, he said. The same could be said about this event at the Morgan: I left the auditorium a different person than I was when I entered.

(Thanks to Galleycat for the link!)

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Thursday, May 10, 2007


New York breaks down the DeLillo oeuvre into Classic, Recommended, For Fans Only, and Avoid. I love pieces like this—well, maybe just this one, since it's a rare case in which I've actually read every title. (I don't think any of DD's books need to be "avoided," though some are definitely not going to make you a DD fan if you read 'em first.)

Here's DD from best to worst (ranked in order per category), according to the mag:

White Noise
Pafko at the Wall
The Names
Great Jones Street
Mao II
Ratner's Star
Running Dog
End Zone
Game Six
The Body Artist
Three Plays

The top four choices are solid, though I weirdly am not a Libra fan—I'd put that together with Mao II and probably place it on the lower half of my list. (Both should be read and are "important," but not my favorites.) Well...OK, I guess I should just do my own list:

The Names — WOW — mysterious and sharp and disquieting and it has an amazing ending (which I've compared—at least in my head!—to that of Days of Being Wild)

(!?!!)(blasphemy?! And yet my friend Jane said this was her favorite, and it's easily the DD title I dip into most frequently for sheer fun)

(some days this could be #1...but then it's depressing to think, "His first book was the best, it's all been downhill since..."; very good, Godardy, jam-packed with observation and killer similes and wit)

Ratner's Star
(weirdly love this one; along with Amazons, a showcase for his comic gift, which to me is as impressive than his serious vein, which gets him the acclaim—I don't think I'd read him if he weren't one of the best comic writers of the last 30 years. Also, this is science-fiction—more SF should be like this!)

White Noise
(what can one say?!)


"Pafko at the Wall" (I'd request the original Harper's version, though—not the one in Underworld nor the one reprinted as a separate volume; the latter two versions, I believe, contain a different opening line—a minor point. A tour de force!)

Running Dog
(after reading this for the first time, I thought it was the best; haven't revisited, though)

Great Jones Street
(this would be in the first bracket, so much great stuff here, probably the best rock-and-roll novel I've read...but there's one section that doesn't work for me and that I can't explain away...not a very long section...not a dealbreaker...)

Underworld (enjoyed reading; was very excited when it came out, as there'd been a DD drought since Mao II, and the Harper's "Pafko" set abnormally high expectations; slight sum- not-greater-than-parts feel by the end; still, could easily be in the higher bracket)

End Zone
(haven't really looked at this in a while, so might belong in upper ranks; did dig it quite a bit upon first read, very enjoyable)

Mao II/Libra/Players (would be higher; ending too freaky for me to think about)

I don't know that Game Six (screenplay) and Three Plays should even be in the running; I enjoyed the film, and saw a production of Valparaiso that was excellent, and read the other two plays, The Day Room (fun to read) and Love-Lies-Bleeding (maybe not fun, indeed a little bit static, but you could see how it might work well on stage).

Alas...I agree that the more recent novels Cosmopolis and The Body Artist haven't been so strong, overall (though they have interesting elements), and perhaps they don't bode well for the new Falling Man—but of course I'm going to read it anyway...

(Via Confessions)


Press Release! For "The Toni Schlesinger Show"

[Toni is of course the author of Five Flights Up, a collection of her Shelter columns that I used to edit at the PTSNBN; she currently writes a column called Interiors for The New York Observer. More about her here.]

Toni Schlesinger interviews famous puppets in the manner of Charlie
Rose—one on one, no holds barred—from the last ten years of
Arts-at-St. Ann's. Guests include a noir frog, a Spanish Harlem
grandmother who doesn't wear underwear, a Greek solder (the War in
Iraq will be discussed), a miniature butler who prefers prostitutes, a
Kurt Weill sort of cat, and a witch from the forest which will be the
most frightening interview of all. Interviews open full evenings of
theater and avant-garde puppetry. [...]

More info:

Interview schedule for The Toni Schlesinger Show:

Wednesday, May 30, 8pm – Interview with Brian Selznick's Kevin, chubby
little boy in the forest, and the Wild Queen, terrifying! She has a
green face. Pastoralism is discussed.

Thursday, May 31, 8pm – Interview with Anna Kiraly's noir frog from
"Slow Ascent." Toni goes in the pond with him so to speak. Joemca

Friday, June 1, 8pm – A steamy discussion with Cathead from Eric
Novak, Elyas Kahn, Sarah Provost's "Charcoal Boy". Cathead smokes and
drinks, so does Toni.

Saturday June 2, 8pm – A fiery debate ensues as Ricardo Muniz's
Abuelita, the grandmother from "El Bidin" (who doesn't wear
underwear), and Toni discuss gentrification in Spanish Harlem and they
yell at each other.

Sunday June 3, 3pm – Absurdist but memorable conversation with the
petit Pitterpat performed by Keith McDermott from Toni Schlesinger's
"The Biggest Play in the World." Pitterpat has learned to play golf.

Sunday June 3, 8pm – Tom Lee's Hoplite, the Greek Warrior who is so
ancient, he never speaks --- silent but fascinating. The war in Iraq
will be discussed.


Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Hump day auctions

Via MUG:

You have one day left to bid on someone's imaginary friend!

(Make sure to check out the bidders' questions.)

UPDATE: Alas, eBay has taken the posting down!

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"In those days, Keeler was like a classical author whose writings were lost and known only through commentaries."

That's the great William Poundstone (see links margin) reminiscing about his early, short-lived Harry Stephen Keeler Appreciation Society (circa 1990), in the latest issue of the Keeler News. (Bill's own excellent Keeler page is here.)

When I was first getting into Keeler, I discovered (thanks to a letter in the KN) the Mercantile Library on 47th Street (too bad DeLillo's Cosmopolis protag didn't stop in!), which had around 20 Keeler titles—a gold mine. Those Keelers accounted for a good chunk of my reading back then. I remember certain days when I'd furiously try to finish one on the bus to the library (where it was due or overdue) before work, sometimes planting myself in the reading room once I got there to finish up the last few pages, and transcribing huge chunks, since who knew when I'd get my hands on these next? It felt very much like I would someday only have my own notes to remind me of the glories of Keelerdom. Somewhere in my files exists a transcription of the final scene in X. Jones—Of Scotland Yard...

* * *

The Poundstone quote reminds me: The BBC site recently ran a piece about the Archimedes Palimpsest, a 13th-century prayer book that was created using the scrubbed paper from an older text. Using technology, traces of two earlier books have been discovered in these pages (in 1906 and in 2002); now a third—a commentary on Aristotle—has been discovered.

Dr Noel, curator of manuscripts at the US-based Walters Art Museum and a co-author of a forthcoming book on the Archimedes Palimpsest, said: "It's a rather brutal process, but it means you can reuse parchment if you are short of it.

"You take books off shelves, you scrub off the text, you cut them up and you make a new book."

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Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Brain food

Our own Tea-maker and Buffalo sports commentator Emmet has a terrific interview with Dizzies favorite Guy Maddin up at IFC News:

How did you start working with Isabella Rossellini?

I met her once in Central Park, actually—and I'm not a very forward person, especially with celebrities. But, we're both dog lovers, as it turns out, and just as she was coming towards me, she stopped to pet a Labrador Retriever, and started a conversation with its owner. And I thought, that Lab's cute enough, I'll use that as an excuse, so I started petting it too. I looked down, and she was basically ignoring me, but she had allowed the dog to hold her hand in its mouth, and I thought, aw, I'll put my hand in the dog's mouth too. And pretty soon both of our hands were in this big drooling dog tongue, in intertwinement. Very slippery. Before we knew it, the dog and its owner were gone, and we were left with our hands hanging in the air, dog spit dripping off. By that time I had worked up the confidence to tell her I knew her ex-husband a bit, or that I didn't really know him, but that he bought one of my films for his archives, "Tales from the Gimli Hospital," and that I was a filmmaker making a film, and that I had a part screaming to be played by her, an amputee beer baroness.

(For more on Maddin, read The D-Lim-inator's nifty feature on Brand Upon the Brain! in the Times.)

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The Distractions

One thing that distracted me at last night's Arcade Fire show: I finally noticed the resemblance of the Neon Bible emblem

to that of vanity publisher Author House:

(I also laughed at the thought of this comparison.)

* * *

Is "Maybe It's Maybelline" the "Is It Live or Is It Memorex?" of our time?

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Monday, May 07, 2007

Hot Printer

"You can imagine printing a toothbrush, a fork, a shoe."

Also: "The whole reason it's important to have zines in the library is because a lot of the things zines are about are things that are not in the library."

* * *

Incisive Sabres commentary TK today by Arlo and Sweeney...right?!

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Sunday, May 06, 2007

The birds in your garden

Pulp fiction: Jarvis Cocker talks to artist and author Harland Miller, about HM's paintings inspired by old paperbacks.
Jarvis Cocker: So. You've got Penguin books, Pelican and Puffin, and then these lesser-known series, like Falcon and this Ptarmigan book, which I bought second-hand ages ago now, on How to Master the Game of Bridge - something I thought I'd learn to do when Pulp was on tour, so I could play it on the bus, while away the time between towns, gigs. I never did, and I guess I never will now, so you can have it if you want.

Harland Miller: Really? Thanks, that's great. You know, all the time I've spent trawling second-hand bookshops, I've never seen one of these Ptarmigans before.

JC: They're obviously fairly rare, quite like ptarmigans themselves, who hang out in Scottish mountains, according to Bill Oddie. But why would you choose ptarmigans? Do you know why they chose a penguin for Penguin books?

(Via Weekend Stubble)

* * *

Charles McGrath looks at Philip K. Dick's entry into the Library of America. (In the print edition yesterday, the novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? was mysteriously shortened to Do Androids Dream? throughout.)

* * *


Do electric toothbrushes really work better than regular ones?

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Saturday, May 05, 2007


Brandon on Elliott Smith: "Say yes and mean no, but still, say yes."

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I'm a sucker for dialogue on the first page of a novel.

From Julian Maclaren-Ross's Bitten by the Tarantula:
When Armstrong suggested this trip I accepted at once. The idea of staying a month in the mountains appealed to me tremendously. No worries. Nothing complicated. The simple life. That suited me fine.
"Where shall we stay?" I asked him.
Armstrong said, "There's a choice of two hotels. The Royal is the best."
"You've been there before, then?"
"Last year. It was very restful."
"That's just what I need, a good rest."
"You never have anything else."
"Nonsense. My life is a turmoil. I often think of entering a monastery."
"Or a convent," Armstrong said. "Have you never thought about that?"
"A convent would be too complicated."
"Yvonne was brought up in a convent wasn't she?"
"I believe she was."
"How is that progressing?"
"She's away in Geneva."
Which was another reason for leaving.

From Christopher Isherwood's Prater Violet:

"Mr. Isherwood?"
"Mr. Christopher Isherwood?"
"That's me."
"You know, we've been trying to contact you ever since yesterday afternoon." The voice at the end of the wire was a bit reproachful.
"I was out."
"You were out?"
"Oh...I see..." (A pause, to consider this. Then, suddenly suspicious.) "That's funny, though...Your number was always engaged. All the time."
"Who are you?" I asked, my tone getting an edge on it.
"Imperial Bulldog."
"I beg your pardon?"
[It keeps going in this vein for a while, very funny...]

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Friday, May 04, 2007

Not enough people are named Edna these days

No time to blog! Except to say Julian Maclaren-Ross is my new favorite writer. Well, maybe he's tied with Dizzyhead Mollie, whose most recent post at Restricted View considers a pungent edition of Show Boat:
I can't attest to the handsomeness of the new edition firsthand, but it has to be better than the edition on my shelf. When I was researching that piece, I worked from a beat-up Fawcett paperback printed in 1971 or shortly thereafter. It had tiny print, a musty smell, and a torn front cover -- which unfortunately did not do much to obscure the cover illustration, a hideous, borderline-psychedelic collage of playing cards, women in large hats, riverboats and other plot elements. A Google search has turned up nothing, but when I get my hands on a digital camera I will have to show you what it looks like, because trust me, this cover puts the "mar" in "mass-market paperback." (Did you like that? Should I have gone with "ass" instead? I was torn.)

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Thursday, May 03, 2007

Indiana, Indiana

Was Richard Ford making an oblique dig at Edmund White?

This magic moment

Zoilus reports on EMP [LINK FIXED]:

Joshua Clover gave one of the conference's best presentations, "1989: Bob Dylan Didn't Have This to Sing About," part of a book in progress. I can't convey all its multimedia umph, but its main point was to weigh the actual year 1989 (the year that included Tiananmen Square and the "fall" of the Berlin Wall) against the signified cultural 1989, or 1989 versus "1989". Using the example of La Marseillese, he said that "it's no easy matter to date a song" (adding, "as every Pazz & Jop voter knows"), which is like "the difficulty of dating history itself." When the French Revolution happened in 1789, La Marseillese didn't exist; it was composed in 1792. "It cannot belong to 1789 but it belongs entirely to '1789.' " The result of these slippages is that "our sense of process disappears," and we lose our awareness of historical contingency, when memory is consolidated in images and symbols and songs....

(For further reading about 1989, see Dizzyhead Hua's terrific "Three Songs From the End of History, " in the Believer's 2005 music issue.)

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Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Murphy's law

Nobody reads the theater section like Restricted View:

[W]hat this article doesn't discuss is the role the Times played in the whole mess. Ben Brantley, never one to review an entire production when he can write a lopsided appreciation of its star, reviewed Wonderful Town as though [Donna] Murphy's performance were the only reason to buy a ticket. It was a very valid reason, certainly; he wasn't wrong about that. But he hardly noticed that the show has two leads -- perhaps the Encores! concert was billed as a star vehicle for Murphy, but in reality the role of Eileen is just a smidge less central than that of Ruth, and Jennifer Westfeldt more than held her own. Brantley had little to say about her contribution (though he noted that she made a "charming" debut); the vast majority of his review was dedicated to worshipping at the feet of Donna. I admit, I was slightly less in love with Murphy's comedic stylings than Brantley was -- I was irritated by the way she delivered all of her dialogue out of one side of her mouth, in a style so mannered and "jokey" it made Roz Russell look like Olivia de Havilland.

2. Added to Queue: The Karate Killer (1973), which I think will give me deeper insight into the East Asian political situation:

Japanese forces have moved into Korea, threatening the neighboring nation of China. Patriotic to the core and eager to contribute to the cause that freedom fighters have espoused, young Chin pledges her life to aid the resistance efforts. Her commitment takes her deep into enemy territory, where she ventures bravely under the guise of a prostitute who will serve the Japanese army in this martial-arts actioner.

3. New activity over at the Psychic Envelopes site.

4. Very funny McSwy's piece online about choosing your password.

5. In the Times, Motoko Rich has a thorough look at newspaper book review sections and literary blogs, though it also feels like an endless conversation at this point. (Still, I enjoyed the "Wait, I know her...and him...and her!" sensation: she talks to the editor of my novel, my L.A. Times editor, and some frequent Dizzies linkees.) Also: Richard Ford slags Terre Haute!

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Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Two new things

1. New Believer is out! Rick Moody on The Rings of Saturn (=best book ever), Michael Miller on Lydia Davis, Dizzyhead Khong interviewing a toy inventor, a piece on the mysterious Codex Seraphinianus...

2. New (?!) New-York Ghost is out—or is it new? Is it even the Ghost? Oulipians need to read this. Subscribe here.

3. I'm happy to report that the Poetry Foundation site has won a "Webby."

4. Hope to have some good news here later*. For now...via one of my students, the second of three Van Morrison perfs ("Cold Wind in August") described by Lester Bangs in "Astral Weeks."

(For "Cyprus Avenue," go here.) And via Dizzyhead Drew's blog, here's Van the Man crooning and saxing his way through "Warm Love."

*UPDATE: Alas, The Believer didn't pick up an "Ellie" today—we were nominated in the Design and Single-Issue categories. But happily, McSweeney's won in the Fiction category (which reminds me, I just read the Wells Tower story in #23, highly recommended—the great Deb Olin Unferth also has a piece in there)...

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