Thursday, August 30, 2007

That's what they say about the summer...

The Dizzies is closing up shop for a bit—but for now there's a brand new tune up at the Psychic Envelopes MySpace page, to help see the summer out. It features a new vocalist...

Enjoy...even while you weep!


The Omen, Part 557

Also wanted to point out this totally insane piece in the sports section today, "For Yankees, Squirrel's Visit May Be Omen (A Bad One)":

But more significant, perhaps, was the pesky and distracting squirrel that scampered up and down the right-field foul pole during the game and that, according to Norse mythology, just might have foretold that the Yankees will not prevail over the Red Sox this season.

Believe it or not, the squirrel’s actions closely resembled those of Ratatosk, or “gnawing tooth,” a squirrel in Norse mythology that climbed up and down a tree that represented the world. Snorri Sturluson, an Icelandic scholar and poet, recorded the story in his 13th-century work “Prose Edda.”

It goes on! The reporter talks to a Yale professor of Old Norse and Old English (who's also a Yankees fan)...and then:

Are the Red Sox destined to beat the Yankees in the American League Championship Series, as they did in 2004? Is that what the squirrel was trying to tell everybody? Who knows? Right Field Ratatosk was not available for interviews last evening.

* * *

I have to stop posting for a while. (Can you tell that this week I started drinking coffee again?!) Next week, the Dizzies will be renamed "My thoughts on picking up the newspaper this morning."


The compleat completist

Yesterday during the umpteenth installment of FormulaWatch™, I praised A.O. Scott's very funny spin on "This movie is for [actor's name] completists." Alas, I got so excited that I didn't finish the review, which ends:

But the movie seems to exist mainly so that some critic might say: If you see just one table tennis martial arts parody this year, make it “Balls of Fury.” I’m afraid I can’t go that far.

That is something to avoid, the "If you see just one [hodgepodge genre] movie this year..." setup. I say all these things only because I know I've done them. I am just trying to weed them out of my system.

Anyway, on the plus side, I do want to point out (as I have in the past) Scott's very consistent whistleblowing—pretty rare for a mainstream critic—on vaguely racist b.s.: "There’s borderline-offensive ethnic humor (Asians talk funny! They eat strange food and speak a different language!)..."


The Omen, Part 500

Maybe I'm having Dizzies amnesia, but this is total nomen-omenitude:

Benjamin Millepied—New York City Ballet Dancer

and now also

Amy Winehouse—of "Rehab" fame (and rehab fame)...

* * *

This just in: A new Dizzies contest is coming soon!

I've just seen a banner ad

Sean Lennon: World's most interesting face?

* * *

And—I was looking for something else to post here—Dizzyhead Devin's Boston Globe piece on Beatles covers—and wound up at Vertiblog, a U2 site. The flashing banner contains some interesting trivia:

U2 was in Buffalo the night Lennon was shot
U2 will be in Buffalo again on December 9, 2005
The 25th anniversary of Lennon's murder...

(Well, the date's off by a bit, but you get the idea.)

Then you can print out this little graphic/posterette to wave at the concert.

And get into a time-travel machine, as it looks like the blog hasn't been updated in a while...Still, an interesting bit of trivia for Buffalo/Beatles/U2 enthusiasts.

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Wednesday, August 29, 2007

The eternal question

"Where do my reading duties begin?"


Another phrase I try not to use—though this is more a danger when writing film reviews than book reviews—is "[NAME TK] completists," as in "Hector Elizondo completists will enjoy Princess Diaries 2."

This device is to be avoided in negative reviews; it's too much of a fallback joke. (I have less of a problem—indeed, no problem?!—when it's used earnestly, e.g., "Dylan completists need to download his new satellite radio show" or whatever...I just made that one up.)

I only bring this up because A.O. Scott does the completist maneuver today, in his review of Balls of Fury. But—!—he smartly adds a kicker, which made me laugh:

“Balls of Fury” is raunchier and somewhat more imaginative than “Hot Rod,” and it will be must viewing for Christopher Walken completists who have mislaid their special collector’s edition DVD of “The Country Bears.”

So I guess my rule is: Don't do it...unless you can make it funny!

Breathing lessons

Going diving? Why not use the Ouroboros Rebreather?

Ouroboros concepts
The Ouroboros is a closed circuit, mixed gas, electronic control rebreather. Capable of being used with a range of diluents from air, through Trimix to Heliox. All electronic features can be overridden by using the manual functions of the unit.

The unit comprises a central computer with a head-up display (HUD), a Primary display (for control and monitoring) and a rear facing display (for Buddy/instructor use). There is also an independent passive display, not connected to the main electronics which has it’s own power source and displays each of the 3 oxygen cell readings. Loss of any or all electronic displays will not stop the unit maintaining a ‘life support’ PO2 level.

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Tab Stop Set

BoingBoing features Head Keelerite Richard's amazing Classic Typewriter Page.



Saw this in a bookstore window last week:

And now the Idiosyncratic Sarah has a review at TONY:

[E]ven though he employs enough point-of-view shifts to give an unintended meaning to his book’s title, the effect works, raising the question: Who is conning, and who is being conned?

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Tuesday, August 28, 2007

The Apollo Stars

Too busy to investigate now, but this post over at X-Ray Visions bears further reading...and listening?!

Amazing L. Ron Hubbard Scientology funky jazz ensemble from '74, all over the place with a great garage "playing over our heads" feel. The fact that this band was assembled to gather recruits with free "rock concerts" round the world makes it even better.

(Via FM Shades.)

Flood brothers

Today, the “Peace Dam” — begun in 1987, abandoned halfway through as a misguided cold war scheme, then revived and completed in 2005 — stands here, a 410-foot-high, 1,970-foot-wide rock and concrete hulk. There is no reservoir; the dam’s only function is to contain a possible deluge, by accident or design, from the Imnam Dam in the North, 22 miles up the northern tributary of the Han River. —NYT


The Bottomless Pit

Great web project by Bill Poundstone. Go Start.


Monday, August 27, 2007

Animal corrective

1. Four tiny orphaned hedgehogs are snuggling up to the bristles of a cleaning brush - because they think it's their mother. —Daily Mail
(Via Jane.)

2. On CNN: Dog nurses kitten (in Buffalo!)
(Via Lady BIB/Gawker.)

Dizzies Newsfeeds™ for Monday, August 27—where did August go?!

1. Joseph Weisberg has an op-ed piece in today's NYT, on "The C.I.A.'s Open Secrets," which includes one word that's blacked out (x'd out online):

Because so many things at the C.I.A. are classified, only a small percentage of them are actually secrets. Take agency cover arrangements. I cannot write about them in this article in any detail. If I point out that agency officers are often under cover as XXXXXXXXXX, the C.I.A. will make me take it out before publishing this article. (Before I submitted this article to the C.I.A.’s publications review board, I blacked it out myself to save the reviewers the trouble.)

It's a stylistic curtain raiser for his new novel, An Ordinary Spy, which is on my READ ME stack; I highly recommend his first novel, 10th Grade, to anyone looking for a quick under-the-wire summer read!

2. Over at Weekend Stubble: Could there be a more boring title than 75 Exciting Vegetables for Your Garden? Why yes...

Yet I would say that the adjective "exciting" actually makes that title quite...unusual, if not exciting.

The Boston Globe has a rundown of some novels, under the headline "Novel Titles That Hold Sway." The reviewer avoided Marina Lewycka's A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian because she found "its title so arch...smacking somehow of the earnest playfulness that surrounds The Believer."

What's wrong with "earnest playfulness"? (They don't call me E.P. for nothin'.)(Wha?)

Anyway: My favorite titles this year include these, along with Aoibheann Sweeney's Among Other Things, I've Taken Up Smoking. Basically, it has to be a sentence. (For more titular fun, see the chart in September's earnestly playful Believer...out soon!)

3. On a related note, the headline for Helen DeWitt's outraged post on Coetzee and The Seven Samurai made me laugh: ¡¡¡¡¡¡¡¡¿¿¿¿¿¿¿¿¿¿Qué???????????!!!!!!!

4. Finally: Turn your pants into a life jacket! (Learn how at Crude Futures.)


Sunday, August 26, 2007


"30 Seconds With Andy Roddick," NYT:
THREE DINNER GUESTS Muhammad Ali, my mom, and I don’t know.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

"This courtroom skit is really played out"

The IMC—a/k/a the "Instigator MC," the rap alter ego of Team Knucklehead, creator of the "'New-York Ghost' Theme"—whew!—has another ludicrously risqué, mildly NSFW number up at his MySpace page: "Great Gosh Almighty."

Update: He's on a roll—another sample-licious IMC rap has gone up: "It's a Beautiful Day." The production is really amazing on this one. "Keeping my sh-t together forever like Rick Astley."


Everything you say now sounds like it was 'Ghostwritten'

In the FT, David Mitchell says: “David Mitchell. Doesn’t Know His Way Around Japanese Cuisine. Shocker.”


Friday, August 24, 2007

"Practical engagement and literary flair"

Siobhan Dowd, R.I.P.


Give 'em enough string

"London Calling"—the string version.

I don't know—good...or slightly corny? Maybe it would go well with the limericks?

(Via Very Short List)



"In the grand scheme of things, what gets written in dry-erase marker on the door of my Esprit dressing room is not important." —Restricted View



"In that illusion, people hide one hand in their lap and look at a rubber hand set on a table in front of them. As a researcher strokes the real hand and the rubber hand simultaneously with a stick, people have the vivid sense that the rubber hand is their own. When the rubber hand is whacked with a hammer, they wince and sometimes cry out." —NYT

Thursday, August 23, 2007


New Ghost is out...


Let's get digital

DL on DL.

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Enormous changes

Grace Paley, R.I.P.


Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Alien art — JR/ML — Dear Diary

"This must be the longest verse anybody's ever written!"

Click to watch Team Dizzies Member Matt's fascinating interview with R. Kelly, on the genesis of Trapped in the Closet, a piece of musical/visual "alien" art.

"I definitely can't call it a song anymore—it's too long!"

* * *

Jumping off the previous post on Jonathan Richman (and Lefty's note): What are the best Jonathan Richman/Modern Lovers albums? My list looks something like this:

1. Rockin' and Romance
2. The Modern Lovers
3. Jonathan Sings
4. Modern Lovers 'Live' ("My Little Kookenhaken"!)
5. Modern Lovers 88

After being very immersed in Richmania, I stopped keeping up c. I, Jonathan (1992!). Are there good latter-day JR/ML albums I should know about?

* * *

Dear Diary:
The other day I listened to Marshall Crenshaw's first album and that same day, at the grocery store, I heard...a rebroadcast of an old Casey Kasem show (why would they be playing such a thing?) and right after "Eye of the Tiger" came "Someday, Some Way." [Insert boinggg sound.]

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Tuesday, August 21, 2007

In the words of the Bard

...with a cold in his nose: To borough and to borough and to borough!

Dizzyhead Soo sends this photo of an outer-boroughs Ouroboros, or what might be called an ouroboric chain (in the manner of Kekulé?):


Dizzies Newsfeeds™ for Tuesday, August 21

1. "It’s not too much of a stretch to say that I live in Portland because Powell’s Books is here." (James Tata at Maud Newton)

2. Libraries at the beach. (Via Dizzyhead Thomas)

3. Meaty profile on Jonathan Coe, who has a new novel coming out: In terms of wider literary inspirations...The Rain Before It Falls owes a considerable amount to two rather surprising writers. One is BS Johnson, a modernist novelist of the 1960s and 1970s, who was the subject of Coe’s biography Like a Fiery Elephant, and whose tortured credo that “telling stories is telling lies” haunted Coe during the writing of the new book (he admits, in fact, that his novels have been getting darker ever since the Johnson biography). The other, happier influence is Rosamond Lehmann, whom Coe first read in his mid-twenties, and whom he considers one of the 20th century’s key writers. —Times Online
(Via Dizzyhead Gautam)

4. Jenny D on writing:

I draft the whole thing (we’re talking about novels here) from start to finish, writing in longhand in little notebooks. Then I type up the draft, including a first edit. Then I edit the hard copy, type in revisions, repeat ad nauseam. This latest novel probably underwent at least 10 revision cycles, each one of which potentially involved two or three or four close copy-edits. At some point (usually more than once), I read the whole thing out loud to myself, to make sure the sentences sound right and that I can stand by them.

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Monday, August 20, 2007

Makes you wanna feel, makes you wanna try...

Makes you want the Pixies to have recorded an entire album of Jesus and Mary Chain covers!

(Thanks to Dizzyhead Brent.)

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Post #1,000!


1. Bouncing off yesterday's post—I recently had the pleasure of reading some of John Sladek's science fiction parodies (of Hugo Gernsback, PKD, and J.G. Ballard). Hilarious! His PKD parody is entitled "Solar Shoe-Salesman," and features (in its few pages) all manner of Dickian inventions/tics, such as books within books ("Androgynoid, written under the pseudonym 'H.K. (Kid) Cliplip'") and a book constructed using sayings derived from Mah Jongg ("The wise king avoids fried foods")—The Man in the High Castle famously grew out of throws of the I Ching.

2. Arlo recently played Kan-Jam. The Wiki entry includes this term:
Jankowski: A Jankowski is any action or article that the player uses for good luck, such as always flipping the disc before throwing it.

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Sunday, August 19, 2007

Correction in two parts — 10 novels in 14 months

1. Thomas Bernhard (from Harper's, via Weekend Stubble):

Well, people say a lot of things in fifty years of life. If a reporter is sitting in a restaurant somewhere and hears you say the beef's no good, then he'll always claim you're someone who doesn't like beef, for the rest of your life.

2. Levi on PKD:

Dick asks shed our usual blithe acceptance and instead confront those those inexplicable moments on their own terms. Might these hiccups in reality that we accept as internal events, products of our own brains, instead be actual disjunctions, even signs or warnings? Might they be indications that all is not well? What if the reality we see right now isn't the reality that was there mere moments ago?...What if our memories are not our own? Then, the ominous question that inevitably follows: who might be manipulating our perceptions, and to what end?

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Fitness initiative!!

When the heroine of “Funny Ha Ha” (2002), the film that kicked off the mumblecore wave, writes out a to-do list, the items include “Learn to play chess?” and “Fitness initiative!!”
—The Limster, "A Generation Finds Its Mumble," NYT

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Saturday, August 18, 2007

There once was a singer named Strummer

1. London Calling—in limericks! (Via Zoilus.)

2. Luc Sante on Kerouac (NYTBR): "Writing is not usually thought of as excessively physical, which is why some writers feel the need to compensate by racing bulls or whatever, but feeding that 120-foot roll through the typewriter seems like a feat of strength."

(I love that "or whatever.")

Someone should review Sante's new collection alongside his translation of Novels in Three Lines.

3. Watch for the Limster on mumblecore in tomorrow's NYT!

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She understood European things

1. Dizzyhead Kosiya sends us to this treasury of Vulgarity—the Vulgar Boatmen, recorded live at a bunch of different shows. And proving that anything mentioned on The Dizzies inevitably intersects with anything else mentioned here, the VB cover Jonathan Richman's "She Cracked."

2. From Dizzyhead Sarah, this beautiful "Gallery of Book Trade Labels." (Idea for new contest?)

3. More on Bill Fox, including a couple of mp3s. (Joe Hagan wrote about him in this year's Believer music issue.)

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Stet! — On genius — Our favorite symbol

1. A genius of literature!

2. In "Black Magic" (review of Esther Leslie's Synthetic World, TLS, 8/3/07):

At about the same time a young German chemist, August Kekulé von Stradonits, had an epiphanic moment on a London bus that led him to intuit the combinatorial power of carbon. This discovery, abetted by another "vision," would assist in just a few short years the German production, first, of synthetic colours, then of therapeutic drugs, and later of war materials...

What was the vision? From Wikipedia:

He said that he had discovered the ring shape of the benzene molecule after having a reverie or day-dream of a snake seizing its own tail (this is a common symbol in many ancient cultures known as the Ouroboros). This vision, he said, came to him after years of studying the nature of carbon-carbon bonds.

3. Random cryptic Portland picture:

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Friday, August 17, 2007

The tie-ins

1. Another Ouroboric movie (courtesy, which started off this whole meme): Bratz.

Read on:
On the face of it, I’m not sure this would be enough to qualify as a true ouroboros, since the source material hasn’t changed — the movie tie-in dolls haven’t been redesigned to resemble the actresses who were cast to play the dolls. But in this case the ouroboric twist is that the movie tie-in products aren’t based on anything within the movie itself, i.e. the characters or the storyline, but rather on the movie’s very existence. If I understand this correctly, the tie-in products ask us to make a conceptual leap of sorts and imagine that the Bratz movie has been released within the world of the Bratz dolls, and that thus the Bratz dolls’ characters are themselves now movie stars. So the tie-ins are a movie star makeover, a movie star mansion, a movie star car, movie star red-carpet outfits, and a “movie making” set.

2. Another Ouroboric tidbit courtesy my archives:


Perfect circle

An inspired pairing for this review: Howard Hampton's Born in Flames and Luc Sante's Kill All Your Darlings (need to get this one!)

Covering essentially the same time period, both collections represent their writers' contributions to every major independent publication from the [PTSNBN] and Bookforum to The New York Review of Books and The Believer.

[...]I would be remiss if I didn't remark on the titles of these two collections: Born in Flames and Kill All Your Darlings create a perfect circle� Birth in one, death (murder) in the other. What does this suggest about pop culture and history and their constant cycles of creation and destruction? Why this preoccupation with being born or slaying something to get to the truth?

L.A. City Beat

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Thursday, August 16, 2007

That Summer Feeling

"Turns out I bought a lot of bad records this summer—why on earth I bought that Dr. Hook album I'll never know—but it didn't matter..."
—Lefty, Driftwood Singers Present

Click through for three classic Jonathan Richman tunes...Lefty says Jonathan Sings! and Jonathan Richman and the Modern Lovers are the two must-have JR albums. I'd concur with the first, and sub Rockin' and Romance for the second! (And I'm assuming The Modern Lovers is a given.)

I'm too lazy to take out the camera, so here's the Photo Booth version:

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Like this song a lot — Trapped With Matt Singer — The Warwick in the High Castle — It takes a pillage

1. Vote for Gretta and her group Twin Thousands! (Give yourself a treat and listen to "Like You a Lot"—angelic Gretta vocals!)

2. Dizzies Team Member and IFC star Matt Singer introduces another episode of Trapped in the Closet—with R. Kelly himself!

3. Lede of the day:

The pop singer Dionne Warwick and the paranoid, drug-fueled science-fiction writer Philip K. Dick are not often mentioned in the same sentence or even the same chapter.

4. Cheekiest ending:

A replica of a Viking ship believed to have been built in 1042 sailed triumphantly into Dublin after retracing the 1,000-mile path of the fleets of Norsemen who invaded Ireland more than a millennium ago. Over six weeks, the 100-foot ship, which carried some decidedly un-Viking-like equipment — global positioning systems, radar, radio, satellite weather forecasts and life jackets — crossed the waters of northern Europe from Scandinavia, around Scotland and into the Irish Sea. Spectators cheered and the 65 sailors on board blew the horns as the ship drew into the harbor in Dublin, the site of a ninth-century Viking settlement. This time around, there was no pillaging. (AP)

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Dizzies Newsfeeds™ for Thursday, August 16

1. Via Weekend Stubble, a fun project by Keith Phipps over at the Onion's AV Club, in which he reads through a box of old paperbacks.

2. New Ghost later today...

3. Via Slate/Magnum, an eye-opening portfolio of photos of Korea in commemoration of 8/15/1945, marking the end of Japan's colonization of the peninsula.

4. Dizzyhead Benno on Resurrecting the Champ at L Magazine. I like the perverse praising of Hartnett's "averageness of intelligence and talent."

5. Levi has the lowdown on two of the three amazing Lawrence Block books (Grifter's Game and The Girl With the Long Green Heart) brought out by Hard Case Crime. Side note: I've Been Reading is one of the best written literary blogs out there, and I don't say this just because his tastes match mine (Block, Borges, Powell) in a lot of cases.

6. In Portland, I went to Powell's (and went to Powell's...and went to Powell's). Among the books bought: This one!

8. Dizzyhead Jen sends this ouroboros by Ryan McGinness:

9. And I will mysteriously add my own (c. 1996):

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Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Dizzies Press Release for 826 NYC film festival

From Jen Snow:

Each morning this summer, when I walk in to work, I've had to confront a green screen and a millipede. The kids in 826NYC's summer filmmakers workshop weren't even half as intimidated I was. Cameras and lights and special effects screens and a very big and very gross insect — all in a day's work for them. I sat at my computer and was throughly impressed with their work, and with the work of the students in our various video-based workshops over the last two years.

I'd like to invite you to join me at ERASERS FOR BREAKFAST: The 826NYC Film Festival, an evening of student work that we will present at BAM Rose Cinemas Wednesday night. It's free. And it's such an honor to be able to screen this work at BAM.

You'll see the world premiers of THE MILLIPEDE and SUPER HAS-BEENS; documentary shorts A TYPE OF STEREO, SUPERIOR BUS 31, and AN INTRO TO YU GI OH; HELP ME!, a claymation loosely based on the Pied Piper; EVERYTHING SONG, a music video for a song written, directed, sung by, and starring students; last summer's hits DOOMSDAY IN THE USA and DEATH IS CALLING; and an animated short about the escape plot of a french fry and a chicken nugget in ADVENTURES OF BUDDY AND FRY.

Tickets are free and don't have to be reserved in advance, but if you want to make sure there's a seat, write or call me ( or 718.499.9884) and I'll leave your name at the box office.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Park it!

Light posting again for a while, alas. I leave you to ponder this:

'Avatar in Medieval Suffolk Sweetshop'
(Photo: Adrian Kinloch)

and this!:

There are some substantial rarities in this new four-disc, five-feature box. “Behind That Curtain,” directed by Irving Cumming in 1929, was the first appearance of Charlie Chan in a Fox film, though he is quite low in the cast of what is essentially a W. Somerset Maugham-like melodrama of romantic intrigue in the tropics. This Chan appears only in a couple of scenes, and is played by one of the few Asian actors to be given the role, the mysterious E. L. Park. (This is his only known credit.)
—Dave Kehr, NYT


Monday, August 13, 2007

Dizzies Newsfeeds™ for Monday, August 13

1. Wish I could be there tonight: Dizzyhead Ben reads from his novel, The Suitors (freshly out in paper), at Mo Pitkin's (34 Ave. A, between 2nd and 3rd). Festivities begin at 7—he's reading with the wonderfully named Angela Pneuman.

2. The paintings of e.e. cummings (via Poetry Foundation) will be on SUNY Brockport.

3. Ouroboros spotting at a Wild Oats in Portland:

4. Der Limster on The Invasion and its precursors.

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That explains it!

"It turns out that everything I said when I first met you was a lie."
—subtitle, unidentified Korean soap opera

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Operation candor

Jackie Chan on Rush Hour 3:

When Chan appeared on the Late Show last week, Letterman asked him if he enjoyed making the Rush Hour movies. With disarming candor, Chan responded. "Not really," he said in his accented English. "Because until now, I tried to get in [the] American market. I tried to learn everything American. I tried to learn from Chris Tucker. I just cannot bring [the box office dollars] in... On the set, I just follow whatever they tell me to do. They tell me fight, I fight. They tell me speak dialogue, [I] speak dialogue. And when I speak the dialogue, everyone [is] laughing, and I don't know what's going on. And then, I don't know why audience[s] like it."


Know your rights

Just back!

Portland = nice town!

Here's a small item sent from Jane: “The rhythms of baseball fit the rhythms of needle arts,” Barbara Paley, marketing specialist for the National NeedleArts Association, said yesterday.

Title of the year? I Have the Right to Destroy Myself, by Kim Young-ha. (Stiff competition: I Shall Destroy All the Civilized Planets!)

(Photo: S. Bolis)

Saturday, August 11, 2007

The Wind-Up World Chronicle

My latest Astral Weeks column is online—a look at Jay Lake's clockwork creation Mindspring.

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Friday, August 10, 2007

Pass the mic

Dizzyhead Dennis interviews William Gibson over at Salon. It's the second DL/WG interview (the first was a snippet at the PTSNBN) and it's terrific. An appetizer:

You recently did a reading in the virtual world of Second Life, where you are a kind of patron saint. I got shut out—I didn't realize capacity would be an issue—but I caught up with it afterward on YouTube. Did the event turn out as you'd expected?

Apparently there's always finite space in Second Life. I was actually in a room at the Centre for Digital Media in Vancouver with a live audience so I wasn't paying much attention to the Second Life aspect, which is probably a good thing in terms of my performance. I had a laptop open so I could see it as if I was watching from within Second Life. What I saw I found a bit distracting—people levitating and sitting on top of the microphone.

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Dizzies Newsfeeds™ for Friday, August 10

Your guide to the latest from Jessica Winter.

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Thursday, August 09, 2007

More soon—

New Ghost out...
Also: Your guide to Sloane Crosley.

Hilarious riff.

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Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Double play, or, The Complete Guide to Andy Selsberg Coverage

Now the other piece by Citizen Truth gets some play, over at the WSJ's The Informed Reader blog:

Works such as “The Yuppie Handbook” (1984), “The Official Slacker Handbook” (1994) and “The Hipster Handbook” (2002) derive their laughs from people’s discomfort with the existence of a class system in the U.S., journalist Andy Selsberg writes in arts-and-culture magazine The Believer.

(Yesterday, we noted that the NYT blog had picked up on the new issue of The Believer, which includes this piece; Paper Cuts also raved about the latest Oxford particular, a piece by Andy on eating like a man.)

* * *

Over at Restricted View:

Seen on the street yesterday: a snake! Seriously! I did not move to New York City to nearly step on a snake! Especially while wearing sandals! But there it was! A smallish, presumably harmless snake, but nevertheless a snake, slithering across my path! On Broadway! I am still freaking out!

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The real vertigo

We hit a point somewhere in the mid-18 century where we started doing what we think of technology today and it started changing things for us, changing society. Since World War II it's going literally exponential and what we are experiencing now is the real vertigo of that—we have no idea at all now where we are going. —William Gibson

(Via Jenny D)


Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Portland, Part 2

Walking around yesterday I saw a copy of Wilamette Week, the free weekly here in town—with Dizzyhead Douglas peering from the cover!

Just noticed that Small Beer's Gavin Grant is blogging at Bookslut! (And—just saw this—he links to my Gibson review!)

Am going to go outside now! It's remarkably overcast here in Portland!

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Light posting this week from me, though I've received notarized assurances that your other Team Dizzies members will be filling in...I'm in Portland—I just saw someone cruise by on a skateboard! (I don't know if that's particularly Portland-y, but it looked that way from here/as it happened.) Ooh, guy just rode by on a bike, wearing a helmet—looked like he was going to work.

There are numerous trees and it is incredibly overcast, but I like it!

For now: Nice notice from Dwight Garner at the NYT's Paper Cuts blog, re the latest issue of The Believer ("stuffed with things I know I'm going to want to—have to—read"). Yowza!

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Sunday, August 05, 2007

The Pattern Recognitions

Via a comment on Light Reading: Someone going by "Patternboy" is posting chapter summaries of the new William Gibson novel (which I reviewed in today's L.A. Times).

He also provides links to this UK-based Spook Country site...and a website for the fictitious Node magazine.

Here's Gibson's Second Life avatar, answering questions.

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Been there, Donne that—

"...a game of literary stepping stones..."

* * *

Lovely four-legged essay by Jennie Erdal (via Jenny D):
In February the GP injected me with cortisone – to no effect. “Frozen shoulder,” he said, making it sound like something imported to the supermarket from New Zealand.


Rage in a cage — Lucid writing — "That's very Singerian!"

Ask the photograph. It says science. It says spoon. It says you will not remember how black the sky was over the parking lot when you held her wrist as if it were sand. You can't "capture" a moment. All that light. A cage.

—From Sampson Starkweather's "The Photograph," in Octopus Magazine

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An interview with the great Christian Bök (via Harriet):

Crystallography (my first book of poetry) attempts to put into practice some of my theoretical suppositions about 'pataphysics. Inspired by the etymology of the word "crystallography," such a work represents an act of "lucid writing," which uses the lexicon of geological science to misread the poetics of rhetorical figures.

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Team Dizzies member Matt has posted the second half of his interview with David Wain, Paul Rudd, and Ken Marino. HILARIOUS!

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Saturday, August 04, 2007

Dizzies Newsfeeds™ for Saturday, August 4

1. Via Jane:

“There’s a huge market for it with very little advertising,” Ms. Herald said. “Customers are great and spread it by word of mouth.”

What is she talking about? Would you believe—accessories made of duct tape?

2. An interesting post on OgreCave, regarding criticism of role-playing games, that mentions Heidi's inaugural Believer essay.

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Friday, August 03, 2007

Just say Node

Speaking of Gibson, my review of his latest novel, Spook Country, is up at the L.A. Times. (It's not one of my columns, just a stand-alone piece.)

(Thanks to Bowen for the scan.)

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Reading machines

Dizzyhead Ed, my mirror-Saybrugian, sends us poetry-in-motion news of another sort:

Haiku writing game to be released in Japan

In 1689, Japanese poet Basho Matsuo embarked on a 150-day walking journey from Tokyo through the northern regions of Japan. His experiences were recorded in Oku no Hosomichi (The Narrow Road to the Deep North) and is sprinkled with haiku poetry. The work is one of the most famous pieces of classical Japanese literature, required reading for young students throughout the country.

In 2006 a publishing company released a new edition of the classic that allowed readers to trace Matsuo's words in a slow, deliberate pace. The book was a huge hit, and now game developer Success has announced a DS version to be released later this month. Enpitsu de Oku no Hosomichi DS features a full musical score, watercolor-style illustrations, and readings by actor Nakamura Toru. Players hold the system sideways and trace kanji on the touch screen.

It may seem like an elaborate set-up to push an eBook, but given the success of the print version, Enpitsu will end up another runaway hit. Just don't expect an English version. Ever. [via Insert Credit]
This reminds me of the original version of William Gibson's Agrippa: A Book of the Dead, which I remember reading about way back in 1993—and now I can find it on the Web!:

The deluxe edition of "Agrippa" comes in a 16-by-21 1/2-inch metal mesh case sheathed in Kevlar, the polymer that bulletproof vests are made of. Sheltered inside the case is a book of 93 rag-paper pages bound in singed and stained linen that appears to have survived a fire. The last 60 pages have been fused together to form a block; cut into the block is a four-inch square niche that holds a computer disk; encrypted on this disk is the text of "Agrippa (A Book of the Dead)," a short story by Mr. Gibson. The encryption process entails a computer "virus" programmed by a team of anonymous hackers. Because of the virus, the story cannot be viewed normally on a computer screen or printed out at will. The first time the disk is inserted in a computer, the words of the story begin scrolling up the screen at a preset speed as if the computer and not the reader were scanning the text. This first "reading" is also the last. As the sentences scroll by, the virus is silently corrupting all the data on the disk. When the last word vanishes from the screen, the disk is no longer usable.

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Speaking of Gibson, this is something I'm keeping in mind as I enter my dotage:

I suspect I have spent just about exactly as much time actually writing as the average person my age has spent watching television, and that, as much as anything, may be the real secret here.


New Believer is out!

For a taste, check out Dizzyhead Andy's piece online, "The Official Guide to Official Handbooks." Other fun stuff: Elizabeth Gold on '70s pop feminist fiction (Erica Jong, et al.), Dizzyhead Robert on Fletcher Hanks, that Hornby/David Simon (The Wire) interview I mentioned before, and much more...oh yes, the naming article! And something on Boris Vian! It's a great issue!

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"You think it's not scary to be depressed?!"


Dizzies Newsfeeds™ for Friday, August 3

Imitations—or homages?—old

The painting, entitled Head of a Man, has been owned by the National Gallery of Victoria in Melbourne since 1940 and had been valued at around £10.5m.

But after a series of tests, experts in Amsterdam concluded it was most likely to have been painted by a contemporary.

The artwork depicts a curly-haired, bearded man against a brown background.

In a statement released on Friday, gallery director Gerard Vaughan said the piece had been accepted as a Van Gogh for more than 10 years before the gallery bought it. —BBC News

...and new:

A video installation by the Singaporean artist Lynn Lu has been withdrawn from the Singapore Art Show after Ms. Lu conceded its close resemblance to the work of an American artist, Jason Mortara. After the installation was mentioned in an article published in The International Herald Tribune on July 20 (and in The New York Times on July 25) Mr. Mortara wrote to the National Arts Council in Singapore to declare that Ms. Lu’s work, identified by the title “X,” above, was “a substantively direct copy of a copyrighted piece” that he created in 2002 and called “Memories Revisited.” In it he used ink to write memories from his life on pieces of toilet paper before burning them over a candle. In “X” Ms. Lu wrote the names of former friends, colleagues and lovers on toilet paper using apple juice so that the names would appear briefly when exposed to the heat of the candle. —NYT

Thank you to all who came out to my reading on Wednesday—it was nice to see you!


Think: Dave Davies

Via Erasing: A very amusing site that includes myriad conceptual-joke pages, including this: musicians whose first name is mostly contained in their last name.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Briefly noted

Levi on The House That George Built: "An anecdotal, gossipy history of American popular song told through mini-biographies of the best songwriters, it's what I could imagine Aubrey's Brief Lives being had Aubrey grown up listening to the Hit Parade and watching Broadway shows."

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Bourne free

Quote of the day—of the year?—from Dizzyhead Thomas:

"Did you think 'And it will take me anywhere' seemed too hackneyed? I am obsessed to accelerate and simplify every phrase I set down."

—Marianne Moore, in a letter to Elizabeth Bishop

These days I am obsessed not only with filtering out cliché ("filtering out cliché"—that's not bad, not cliché!) but also splitting apart any too-cosy adverb-verb or adverb-adjective combos. Where does it end? What is the point?

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Dizzyhead Benno's reviewing films over at L Magazine—check out his take on The Bourne Ultimatum. This line cracked me up: "Not to get all André Bazin on [director Paul Grengrass's] ass, but since when is editing a film to within an inch of its life considered the summit of mimesis?"

(Which reminds me, the headline for this fascinating piece on the Robert Ludlum thriller-writing franchise should have been "Bourne Again"!)

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Molls asks: "What global not-for-profit will I find petty fault with tomorrow? Come back and see!"

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UPDATE: Dizzyhead Alex on "Poetry in Motion."

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Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Knock it off

Somehow I never tire of these articles about counterfeit Chinese Harry Potter books.

These include “Harry Potter and the Half-Blooded Relative Prince,” a creation whose name in Chinese closely resembles the title of the genuine sixth book by Ms. Rowling, as well as pure inventions that include “Harry Potter and the Hiking Dragon,” “Harry Potter and the Chinese Empire,” “Harry Potter and the Young Heroes,” “Harry Potter and Leopard-Walk-Up-to-Dragon,” and “Harry Potter and the Big Funnel.”

Some borrow little more than the names of Ms. Rowling’s characters, lifting plots from other well-known authors, like J. R. R. Tolkien, or placing the famously British protagonist in plots lifted from well-known kung-fu epics and introducing new characters from Chinese literary classics like “Journey to the West.”

This reminds me of the way Darger had his Vivian Girls meet characters from The Wizard of Oz and other books. I'm also reminded of this bit in Dizzyhead Douglas's excellent Reading Comics, re the early success of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles:

Within months, comics stores' shelves were flooded with knockoffs and parodies and parodies of knockoffs—Adolescent Radioactive Black-Belt Hamsters, Aristocratic Xtraterrestrial Time-Traveling Thieves, Pre-Teen Dirty-Gene Kung-Fu Kangaroos (I swear I'm not making this up)...

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In other news: Woah, the reading tonight has been written up at this cool blog called!

And—New York mag likes the New-York Ghost, calling it "a wonder of both style and substance"!

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Reading — reviewing — powering up

Just a reminder that I'll be reading tonight at Tompkins Square Park (no relation), with Lore Segal and Lynne Tillman. More info here and here. It's for BOMB again.

I'm planning to read another bit of The Dizzies, but the day's still young—maybe I'll read something else?

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My review of Taylor Antrim's debut novel, The Headmaster Ritual, is up today at Salon.

Speaking of reviews, "The Crisis in American Book Reviewing," a panel at this year's BEA, featured Believer Heidi. You can listen to it here.

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From audio to video—Dizzyhead Brent sends us "Scenes From an Idiot's Marriage":

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Gotta go address Powerful Goodness now—see you tonight?!

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