Monday, March 31, 2008

Table-talk of Parkus Grammaticus for March 31, 2008

1. Tomorrow: Dzyd Dennis in conversation with Wong Kar-wai (!!??) at the Apple Store in Soho!

2. Vocabulary builder: "Rubber tires like these will never touch regolith, the abrasive dust and rock that covers the moon."
—"Not a Mercury or Saturn, but It Goes Way off the Road," NYT, 3/30/2008

3. For the 26 files: Dzyd Kosiya sends us Stereolab's "Olv 26." (Dzyd Hannah has some other examples.)

4. In other music news, Driftwood Singers mentions the Psychic Envelopes song "Raleigh"—download your copy today!

5. On Harriet, Ada Limón hails Jennifer L. Knox's Drunk By Noon, which I highly recommend!
(Also: The Canarium cheekily offers reviews of individual poems from its own pages.)

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Saturday, March 29, 2008

Heerlijke dekken, eh?

The Dizzies—now in Dutch!


Note for further research

But Walter L. Wagner and Luis Sancho contend that scientists at the European Center for Nuclear Research, or CERN, have played down the chances that the collider could produce, among other horrors, a tiny black hole, which, they say, could eat the Earth. —NYT

Friday, March 28, 2008

Table-talk of Parkus Grammaticus for March 28

In his Brainiac column*, Josh Glenn picks up the thread of the title commonplace "secret history," which I wrote about in the introduction of my review of Ekaterina Sedia's The Secret History of Moscow. He looks at the "secret" titles of today, as well as some from yesteryear:
During the 18th century, French and English writers cranked out dozens of tracts and treatises with boffo titles like "The Secret History of the Court and Reign of Charles the Second, by a member of his privy council"; "The Secret History of the White Staff, Being An Account of Affairs Under the Conduct of some Late Minister, And of what might probably have happen'd if Her Majesty had not Died"; and even "The Secret History of the Calves-Head Club, Complt. or, the Republican Unmask'd. Wherein is fully shewn, the Religion of the Calves-Head Heroes, in their Anniversary Thanksgiving-Songs on the Thirtieth of January, by them called Anthems; for the Years 1693, 1694, 1695, 1696, 1697, 1698, 1699, &c. With reflections thereupon. Now published to demonstrate the restless, implacable Spirit of a certain Party still among us, who are never to be satisfied 'till the present Establishment in Church and State is subverted."

My original intro began: "After 'American,' the most overused but irresistible prefix for titles might be 'The Secret History of.'"

Which reminded me of...something I'd written. Hadn't I "riffed" on "American _____" before? Yes! In this PTSNBN review of a movie called American Chai!
"With this magic title of Paris, a play or review or book is always assured of success," noted Théophile Gautier of 19th-century entertainments. Today, with the simple adjective American, even the least inspired movie can cloak itself in way-we-live-now significance.
So "Paris" used to be the "American" of its time....(The T.G. quote is from The Arcades Project.)

I haven't been registering all my "26" finds—but here's one: The blog for Yale's Beinecke Library.

Idea for best book title: The Secret History of 26.

What about that movie Chapter 27?! Why 27????

VI. There goes Oulipian Simon:

Much of this album is 12-tone pop. Mr. Simon assigned himself to put every note of the chromatic scale into the melodies, and did it so suavely that the stunt goes unnoticed. –Jon Pareles, NYT

*Column titles are written with initial caps, no quotation marks!

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Thursday, March 27, 2008

Table-talk of Parkus Grammaticus for March 27, 2008


Scott’s device had a barrel-shaped horn attached to a stylus, which etched sound waves onto sheets of paper blackened by smoke from an oil lamp. The recordings were not intended for listening; the idea of audio playback had not been conceived. Rather, Scott sought to create a paper record of human speech that could later be deciphered. —Jody Rosen, "Researchers Play Tune Recorded Before Edison," NYT

Is the "Join or Die" snake an Ouroboros gone awry?

The link also has this interesting fact: "The undulations of the snake’s body broadly suggest the curves of the North American east coast."

(Thanks to Dzyd* Jen)
(*=new abbrev for 'Dizzyhead')

I try not to use the blog as a place to complain about stuff, thinking that nobody wants to read that. But I kind of like reading Mollie's complaints!

Back to matters lit’ry: Spotting Philip Roth puts Selfdivider in mind of Stendhal (and Sebald, and...). (His mention of the Korean film Untold Scandal gives me an excuse to link to my brief review for it in the PTSNBN.)

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Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Better quote

[B]ooks function as a kind of external hard drive for my mind--my brain isn't big enough to do all the things it wants or needs to do without help. —Pinakothek


Unreal estate

I lived in New York City in that bygone era when as soon as you got a $20 raise you'd move to a slightly bigger apartment. —Pinakothek


Haiku ambulance

On the sideline of his dental practice in Seoul, Rhee has published thousands of haiku, minimalist 17-syllable poems, in Japan.

"No sooner do Koreans eat sushi or buy Japanese chocolate for their kids than they bad-mouth the Japanese," Rhee said. "Both Koreans and Japanese are too narrow-minded when it comes to dealing with their neighbors. How are we going to catch up and compete with Japan without studying Japan?"

Rhee is a regular at the Seoul Haiku Club, where since 1993 about 20 Koreans and Japanese living in Seoul have met twice a month, to read and write haiku.

—Choe Sang-Hun, "Japanese Poetry Endures in South Korea," IHT


Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Table-talk of Parkus Grammaticus for March 25, 2008

I. Two quotes—

Ultimately I was removed from Buffalo, but the stages of my breakdown have a montage-like quality to them, and by now they’re mixed up with what I have dreamed.
—Charles Baxter, The Soul Thief

Anthony Powell wouldn't do, while Michael Moorcock became a friend....
—Karl Miller, "Duty and the Drink," review of J.G. Ballard's Miracles of Life, TLS

II. Lots of action on the Personal Days blog! I deliberately chose the most antiseptic-looking Blogger template, but what does it mean that I find it very warm now? (Thanks to Dizzyhead Jen for co-blogging there with me.)

III. Janet Maslin on Jodi Picoult:
What if a bad man murdered a nice woman’s husband? What if he killed her daughter too? What if she had another daughter? What if 11 years later, as the date for the bad man’s execution approached, the second daughter needed a new heart?

What if the bad man wanted to make amends with an organ transplant? What if he wanted to give his bad heart to the innocent child? As Ms. Picoult puts it, in the bold, high-concept idiom of movie ads: “Would you want your dreams to come true if it meant granting your enemy’s dying wish?”

Let’s put it another way: If you were that mother, would it take you 447 pages to make up your mind?

I kind of wish the whole piece was composed of questions—didn't Lester Bangs have a piece in which every sentence ended in an exclamation point? (Via Light Reading)

IV. I love this Paul Collins piece on How to Do Nothing With Nobody All Alone By Yourself, in the latest Tin House:
A step-by-step guide to grinding oyster shells against the front stoop for no damn reason, to turning buttons and string into buzzsaws that won't cut anything, and to making paper boomerangs that don't come back, Nothing is about what you do when you're nine years old and have neither money nor anyone paying much attention to you, and where your one guiding principle is that you avoid grown-ups and don't ask for help....

V. And finally—it wouldn't be a "Table-Talk" without your daily Ouroboros. This one's from Dizzyhead Khong, who helpfully IDs the critter as an "armadillo lizard"; according to this site, "They bite on their tail and roll themselves into a ball when threatened."

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Monday, March 24, 2008

Table-talk of Parkus Grammaticus for March 24, 2008

I. Dizzyhead Alex and other youngbloods have started a rather dazzling new online journal called Triple Canopy. (Not the least of its charms is the delightful navigation device.) Wayne Koestenbaum, Sheila Heti, and Diane Williams are among the marquee names. I don't quite know what the title means. The introduction is nicely inscrutable. I look forward to clicking the "+" sign repeatedly!

II. I finished a book! A book I didn't have to review! The Soul Thief! Charles Baxter! (Fans of the radio show Bookworm should read this book.) I appreciated the Buffalo setting—and, arggg, he beat me to it: his characters visit a vertiginous work of visual art from my past, Lucas Samaras's Mirrored Room at the Albright-Knox art gallery. Check it out:

I still want to use it in my novel, The Dizzies. Is that OK? (Thanks to Dizzyhead Gautam for sending it my way.)

III. Dizzyhead Christine adds to the Ouroboric archive with her delightful egg:

IV. Will the weird tragedy of jumping ray help retire the phrase "jumping the shark"?

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Saturday, March 22, 2008

Table-talk of Parkus Grammaticus for March 22-23, 2008

I. Hey Dullblog's Devin appears on the Upper West Side on Tuesday, March 25, to talk about the Beatles in 1968; in the meantime, read his take on the great (?) Beatles movie project that never was.
II. On Style; for Moderns meditates on Elton John's sartorial choices:

The background looks like a stock background on offer at your local overmodernized, ruined-a-good-thing photo booth. It's like Hi Mom! Here's me and my fake visit to Yellowstone! Except it's not me in 1997. It's Elton Freaking John in 1974, hairy chested in some pre-JNCO jeans, with less (head) hair than his contemporary self, and holding his hands as awkwardly as hands have ever been held.

III. A friend has unearthed a blog post (I am not quite clear what the blog is called!) devoted to the iconography of Idiocracy. Here's one for tax season:

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Friday, March 21, 2008

The magic 'Moscow'

Astral Weekenders! My latest column, on Ekaterina Sedia's The Secret History of Moscow, is up at the L.A. Times site!

Here is the secret history of my review of The Secret History of Moscow—a Dizzies exclusive:

28 comfortable mask
57 delusional
48 magpies
80 british David 83 seed BOTANY
86 toad (cf starfish)
88-9 rat army
113 egg 114 Zemun: Celestial COW
126-7 privilege
165 soup-related 168 memory
195 The morning is wiser than the night; 215 The bullet is stupid and the bayonet is wise
196 SIRIN 204 Galina thought it strange that mythological creatures were capable of discussing their own origins
211 “The world used to make sense…he started to doubt that historians on the surface ever got the real meaning of anything.”
215 a brook gurgled in its gentle idiot tongue
MEMORY: Just out of reach: 216 underlying memory forever lost—wax mold of a death mask
225 uniformity of memory 222 Sergey & Yakov’s “mass-manufactured Soviet childhood” SHATTERED KALEIDOSCOPE
221 some unseen lining of the known world
224 you can’t get here under better circumstances
224(9): SLUGGISH SCHIZOPHRENIA 226 skeletons shipwreck
228 You can’t live in 2 worlds Palimpsest of a path
229 CROWN: European — “was there any significance”
230 It was all about escape “suspended between worlds”
Changeless coin
Rats as warmth 234[?]
235 Nike more of a gesture
245 a bear made of rats 246 licking the door of the barn — stories…forgotten…flooded
248 Likyo & Zlyden
like a Russian monster manual
Yakov & Galina, Fyodor & Oksana
254 like an oil slick: pigeon
261 lullaby — unfamiliar longing — charm/spell/curse
269 Sirin’s spell FEBRILE

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Big house of leaves

This is an amazing Flickr stream: Notes, illustrations, and the like left in books at a state prison.


At 3:AM...

I contribute, once again, my top 5 songs! Or rather the songs I was listening to a week and a half ago. Am shamelessly plugging the Psychic Envelopes. Am eager to read 3:AM London, New York, Paris (which has an excerpt of The Dizzies).

None of these descriptions sound like anything that happens in my story!

A pseudo-religious epiphany in South London. The Simpsons in New York. Men are stabbed on the Boulevard de Sébastopol. A transmogrification in Hackney. William cruises around the East Village in a 1972 Mercedes 220. Voluptuous neo-Post Structuralists decipher the works of Beigbeder. Wasted sons of politicians and minor royalty agonise over Ibiza while in South Kensington. Infidelity and invitations to Le Carre adaptations on Tottenham Court Road. The hookers of Les Halles. Buying ketamin from Colombians in Vauxhall at 4am. A couple lose themselves in Epping Forest. Avian adventures on the Essex Road. Un soir, un train on the Central Line. Men's magazines and those transvestite nightclub leaflets in Harlem. A literary tour of Bloomsbury becomes a diplomatic incident. A callow youth is ignored by an Indian girl for his lack of knowledge of Dave Eggers. A jazz player's existential moment in Soho. Civil disobedience is called for in NYC. Small talk in bikinis on Paris plage. A taxi driver ignores Tameny on Lexington Avenue. The literary establishment of New York is brought to its knees. A film club in Islington leads to death. A man plays Shoot the Freak on Coney Island.

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Puppet theater of war

A wrenching story by Choe Sang-Hun in the Int'l Herald-Tribune about a grave for North Korean South Korea. Grist for a great novel, I think.

It has some lighter moments:

Still, in recent years, as a thaw has set in between North and South, the dead here have received better treatment. South Korean soldiers greet new arrivals with a modest ceremony and keep the weeds trimmed back. The name has been changed from Cemetery for North Korean Puppet and Chinese Communist Soldiers to the more neutral Cemetery for North Korean and Chinese Soldiers, though many still refer to it as the "enemy cemetery."


Thursday, March 20, 2008

Hair today

How to get rid of pet hair...or you can do this! (Via Jenny D.)

Facts of the end of winter

At the Poetry Foundation, the one and only Paul La Farge takes a look at two Frenchies from yesteryear, Félix Fénéon (Novels in Three Lines) and Victor Segalen (Stèles). A taste:

One might suspect that Fénéon was a fictional character, if only his biography did not contain so many improbable contradictions. A Frenchman born in Turin, Italy, he placed first in a civil service exam and went to work for the War Department, where he delighted so much in writing reports that, when he had completed his own, he would write those of his colleagues. At the same time, Fénéon was a committed anarchist. He took over the Anarchist Review when its editor went into hiding, and he was a friend to Émile Henry, who threw a bomb into the aptly named Café Terminus near the Gare Saint-Lazare, killing 20 strangers. Fénéon himself was suspected of bombing a different café, and was arrested when the police found mercury and detonators in his office at the War Department. (He claimed his father had found them in the street.)

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Clarkewatch! There's my LAT appreciation, and (taking a similar his-books-are-sciencey-but-religious approach) Edward Rothstein's in the NYT (with a nice mention of "Rescue Party," possibly the first Clarke story I read, in the anthology Great Tales of Action and Adventure!); LAT's Nick Owchar blogs about Clarke (focusing on "The Star") on Jacket Copy, as does David Ulin, who looks at Clarke's EGOgrams (kind of like his Walter Keyhole....or New-York Ghost?!)

Also in the NYT today: A great review of Dizzyhead Bill's Gaming the Vote, which I/you/we need to read ASAP!

William Poundstone’s “Gaming the Vote” arrives amid unusually high reader interest in equitable voting. And Mr. Poundstone is a clear, entertaining explicator of election science. He easily bridges the gaps between theoretical and popular thinking, between passionate political debate and cool mathematical certainty. These dichotomies can be drastic. If politics is a realm in which emotions run high, he notes, mathematics is “one of the few fields where it doesn’t matter what other people think.”

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Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Science and magic

I have a brief essay on the late Arthur C. Clarke in tomorrow's L.A. Times. Tomorrow in print—today online!

A couple of side notes:

1) Clarke uses the Keelerian word "web-work" at one point. But I failed to write down the page number and now I'll never find it!

2) Part II of Childhood's End, entitled "The Golden Age," must have influenced Chris Reynolds's comics?! (Here's my crazy "Connections" post from way back when.) In The Dial, the Earth has been taken over by alien overlords...and there's a story called "The Golden Age"...



Dizzyhead Mike sends us this poetically charged Ouroboros:

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Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Table-talk of Parkus Grammaticus for March 18, 2008

I. Gratuitous Cavemen slam of the day:

The past few months have offered little reason to maintain a contrarian’s faith in network comedy. I was just about to bring up “Cavemen,” but I can hear you doing it first. —NYT

II. My controversial rebuttal:

Cavemen > The Wire

III. Sloane Crosley is charming! And she mentions me in every interview!

IV. New-York Ghost is charming! The new issue features Paul Collins's latest etymological spelunkery.

V. Light Reading is charming! This is a charming parenthetical:

Hmmm, I have not really read Flaubert or Maupassant since I was a teenager (I was a very serious teenager, though!)


Monday, March 17, 2008

The Memory Palace of David A. Paterson

An initial draft of Mr. Paterson’s speech was prepared by aides, his advisers said, and he spent significant time editing, memorizing, and practicing the final speech. —NYT


Paper late

Scranton native Mollie has cheerfully blogged about the fact that The Office is set in her hometown...

I just learned, on the straight-faced Dunder Mifflin site, that the company has a branch in Buffalo.


You can't spell margarine without anagram...

What do you call these?

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Very good, Yojimbo!

Saki Knafo, a/k/a the greatest journalist in the world, has a nice piece today on contemporary Gotham butlerdom. It includes a bit of demented play-acted dialogue:

MR. ROBINSON: Oh, God! Oh, who is this?
MR. CHARTER: It’s the butler, sir.
MR. ROBINSON: Oh, Edward, is that you?
MR. CHARTER: Yes, it is, sir.
MR. ROBINSON: Oh, thank you! Oh, God! You’ve rescued me from the most hideous of nightmares, Edward.

There is also this alarming quote: “Ironically,” Mr. Negron said, “a lot of people don’t realize that samurais originally developed from butlers. The word means someone who served. The lords were rich people, and the samurais would do everything, including protection.”


Friday, March 14, 2008

The first review of PERSONAL DAYS... out! (Note: It takes a while to load.)


Table-talk for March 14, 2008

The Other Ed organized a bloggers' roundtable on Nicholson Baker's latest book, Human Smoke, which ran on his site this week. Lots of interesting dialogue (and a small contribution from this Ed)...and today, Baker himself concludes the discussion!

On Hey Dullblog—which is anything but dull!—Euge finally answers the trivia question that's had Beatlemaniacs stumped for weeks. You remember:

Over the decades, each of the Beatles worked on a musical collaboration that included a member of Black Sabbath (there have been 29). Name at least one such project for each of the four Beatles. Hint: Don't fear the snot running down the reaper's nose.


Click here for the answers.


As soon as we touched down, guy on plane was on his cellphone or rather his Blackberryish device, saying EVERYTHING THREE TIMES: "Brilliant. Brilliant, brilliant." "See you, buddy...See you soon, buddy....see you, buddy." "Great. Great. Great."

DVDs brought on trip: Rules of the Game, The Power of Nightmares (disc 2), Gilmore Girls Season Four Disc Four.
DVDs watched on trip: Gilmore Girls Season Four Disc Four (first two episodes)

Up at the Poetry Foundation, Dizzyhead Rachel looks at Grace Paley's poetry career:
Paley often spoke of her own indolence (“I laze. I mean really hang out”) and was rarely able to write pieces longer than five or six pages. She blamed it on her temperament: she was fairly happy.

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Thursday, March 13, 2008

Backlash to the Gygax Backlash!

The other day, Ta-Nehisi wrote, "I can't wait for Ed Park to get a hold of this one."


He linked to Slate's "D&D is bad!" article—won't someone do this for The Wire?—which made me grumble...but I'll let a Dizzyhead (who chooses to remain anonymous) debate each of the piece's points:

Utterly and completely wrong-headed and misinformed.

1. It's easy to say that Gygax's game isn't designed well and that more recent designers did a better job. Gygax was first, and that brings its own challenges, like self-publishing from your basement with no editors.

2. It does not at all "play like a video game". Perhaps newer versions are more slick and styley, but the Gygax version played like a pulp novel.

3. Author's point about 'experience points' is wrong on the facts. The lion's share of experience points are awarded through finding treasure, not killing things.

4. Yes, it's true that the game portrayed monsters as unredeemable non-persons and good and evil as absolutes. That's how fantasy adventure works. Conan the Barbarian and Gandalf the Gray did not spend their time working out their relationship issues in lofts in Manhattan (or Minas Tirith), they killed things and took their stuff. If killing orcs is morally repugnant to you, then play a sci-fi game where you kill robots, but the metaphor is the same. Fantasy role-play was never intended as an arena in which moral conundra are explored.

5. Massacre and rage are not the point of a fantasy adventure (though greed definitely is). The point is solving a certain type of puzzle that's presented as a story in which you are a character, and the plot usually involves the use of force to surmount obstacles.

6. Steve Jackson is indeed a genius, and I've played GURPS, and it was fun in its own way. But SJ would never have been able to conceive of GURPS if D&D had not come first. And that is the legacy of Gygax, that he invented an entirely new genre of human activity.

In short, this guy is taking the "world" of D&D to be Gary Gygax's legacy when it's really the entire idea of a role-playing game that belongs to him. Orcs and dragons and swords and spells are not what Gygax created, he borrowed all that from elsewhere. What he created was a way for a group of friends to spend an afternoon talking and laughing and eating and drinking and rolling dice and solving math problems and acting and telling stories together, rather than say, playing pinochle. The type of stories that are told are really beside the point, just as the brand of playing cards is beside the point of a card game.

Also, when the author compares him to "more Michael Bay than Ingmar Bergman": I'd say that his sensibility is much more like Kurosawa or Peckinpah.

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Chicago notebook

Inner Drive
destination of bus

Try Our Fantastic
Leprechaun Latte
—somewhat primitively green-magic-markered sign on door at Starbucks

Besides travelogue and memoir, criticism could become like a detective story.
—Carl Wilson, Let's Talk About Love: A Journey to the End of Taste

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Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Double-jointed review: Origins

There was a piece by [Trapnel] in Fission contrasting Rilke with Mayakovsky, two long reviews dovetailed together into a fresh article. —Anthony Powell, Books Do Furnish a Room

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Monday, March 10, 2008

Dizzyhead challenge—Gygax edition

Name all the monsters on the cover!

Bonus/update: More D&D links, from our friends at Poor Richard.

UPDATE #2: Nice reminiscence by Jason Fry in the Wall Street Journal, with a note on vocabulary:

Those old Gygax rulebooks now strike me as purple prose, but they were a revelation to a 13-year-old who liked words. My mom regarded my D&D years with grumpy helplessness, but I remember her admitting that OK, Mr. Gygax's vocabulary was impressive. (Geek Admission #5: The word she noted was "diverticulum," from "The Vault of the Drow." Which was dungeon module D3. I can't remember if it's my day to pick the kid up from school, but I remember these things.)

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Dizzies Music Supplement—Remembered Lettermanic Appearances

Elvis Costello, circa Spike. (He looks like Team Dizzies member Matt Singer!)

Bash and Pop! I saw this while living in Korea. Electriying?!

Silence, cunning...Exile Cinema!

The Atkinson-edited Exile Cinema is out! Mike's blog has more details. Order here! Hampton, Clover, Kite! Winter, Halter, Park! Sinagra! Maddin! Toles! Oh and Lim! And more....Klawans?! Yes, I think so...

Speaking of the Limster—time to read his NYT piece on Manoel de Oliveira:
The cultural critic Edward Said, in his writings on “late style,” identified two versions of “artistic lateness.” One produces crowning glories, models of “harmony and resolution” in which a lifetime of knowledge and mastery are serenely evident. The other is an altogether more restless sensibility, the province of artists who go anything but gently into that good night, turning out works of “intransigence, difficulty and unresolved contradiction.”

Mr. Oliveira, force of nature that he is, represents both kinds of lateness, often in a single film. In this, as in so many other respects, he is his own special case. What are we to make of an artist who hit his stride in his 70s, and for whom “late style” is in effect the primary style?

* * *

Bored at work? Check out the action on the Personal Days blog!

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Sunday, March 09, 2008

Name of the Year

It's March, so that means it's time to fill out your bracket for the Name of the Year. There are a lot of compelling matchups this year - and voting is almost over for the first round, so be sure to head over and exercise your democratic right. It's a loaded ballot, with favorites Destiny Frankenstein, Fabio Assalone, and Reprobatus Bibbs having strong showings so far (although Clarence Clapsaddle is giving Assalone a good fight).

I spent hours debating the battle between Metallica Tomoro and Johnny Moustache, eventually tipping in favor of facial hair. My upset special is Gasoline Hunter over heavily favored ElRazor Sharp. But my overall favorite must be Alpacino Beauchamp, who was so named after his mother watched John Travolta repeat Al Pacino's name over and over during a scene in Saturday Night Fever. It's that kind of powerful anecdote that gives the Name of the Year tourney it's everlasting appeal.


Saving throws

Some more Gygax tributes—the webcomic XKCD:

(Via Jenny)

And in the Times, Adam Rogers makes some interesting points about D&D conquering the world—

Facebook and other social networks ask people to create a character — one based on the user, sure, but still a distinct entity. Your character then builds relationships by connecting to other characters. Like Dungeons & Dragons, this is not a competitive game. There’s no way to win. You just play.

(Wait, didn't I "win" Facebook?!!)

Plus it has this eye-grabbing flow chart:

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Saturday, March 08, 2008

Carver country

Brian Dettmer's elegant book abuse:

(Via Dizzyhead Sam)


Friday, March 07, 2008

The view from Xagyg's Tower

One last Gygax remembrance, in Coilhouse. This one's from Wayne Chambliss, who joined Paul La Farge's quest (as detailed in The Believer) to roll dice with the master. It's the perfect companion piece/postscript, complete with footnotes...and pictures!

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"Unique Chicken Goes in Reverse"

In my end-of-the-year roundup at the L.A. Times, I mentioned Andy Duncan's delightful story (in the anthology Eclipse One). It's temporarily available as a free download at the publisher's site.

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Talking Spanish

Along with Nabokov's, I'd buy a book of Luc Sante interviews:

When I lived on St. John’s Place I ran out of coffee on a Sunday morning, so I went to the corner bodega and asked–in English–for a bag of El Pico. The clerk looked at me blankly, then disappeared into the back. He returned with a large jar, from which he proceeded to extract an enormous half-sour pickle.

Luc Sante: Walloon for the Hell of It, Who Walk in Brooklyn


Ouroboros: VHS

Here is the Spaceballs sequence that Scott mentioned in the comments to yesterday's Ouroboros musings. Very enjoyable!

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Thursday, March 06, 2008


One more Gygax post! I loved this comment on SLOG:

Gygax taught a whole generation to gratuitously add the Latin abbreviations et al, ie and eg to everything they write, including shopping lists and their own signatures.


One Ouroboros and maybe two more

I. From Dizzyhead Dan—a classic!:

—Tintin in the Congo

I.5 Joke: If you don't turn down the volume on that audiobook version of the new Hergé biography, you might get TINTIN-nus.

II. Is the movie Once a sort of Ouroboros? After the recording session, the producer takes the band for a ride so that they can listen to the CD in the car...a CD that would (in the world of the movie) be more or less identical with the Once soundtrack (in the world of the world).

II.5 Joke: When Glenn Hansard's group covers "Oblivious," they are known as the RODDY FRAMES.

III. I finally found my copy of Adam Thirlwell's delightful book-length study of literary style The Delightful States, which I had begun around the time of the BIRTH OF DUNCAN and then was under a stack of books by the couch, OF COURSE THAT'S WHERE IT WAS, anyway it was nice to stumble upon it, and I finished the chapter I was in the middle of.

Ummmm————oh yes, Ouroboros. So all of a sudden, on p. 302, he writes: "Just as when reading Cervantes, Flaubert, or many other novelists in The Delighted States..." Referring to your own book by its title before it is over! Love it! Dizzyhead challenge: Other books where this happens?

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Wednesday, March 05, 2008


Dizzyhead Douglas not only named the Merritt-soundalike track...but directed me to this S.M. interview in a recent TONY, wherein he names another soundalike...a song from the last Strokes album. ("Ask Me Anything"?)

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Weird dice

Ta-Nehisi on Gygax:

It's hard to explain to people today—hell it was hard then--what it meant to create an entire world inside your head with only some paper, weird dice, and rule-books. But, oh man, that world was so real to me....

Also: This BBC News story features a tiny pic of the ultra-rare first version of D&D, which came in three small books. (Way back when, Cousin Andy managed to track down the similarly formatted supplements to this version—but we never found the original version itself...These supplements predated the Basic D&D set that we were using, which led to intriguing compatibility issues...)

FINALLY: Dizzyhead Regina sends us this oddly moving tribute.

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Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Table-talk: Gygax edition

I. Friend Art sends us this blast from the past—he has a cameo in one of John Hodgman's "Little Gray Book" lectures...this one dealing with Dungeons & Dragons.

II. Cousin Andy sends us this remembrance from Salon.


Gary Gygax, RIP

As much as any "writer" of "books," Gary Gygax shaped my literary tastes (and developed my vocabulary!). About an hour ago, I learned (on the phone) that he passed away...and then my friend Kon sent me this obit:

MILWAUKEE, Wisconsin (AP) -- Gary Gygax, who co-created the fantasy game Dungeons & Dragons and helped start the role-playing phenomenon, died Tuesday morning at his home in Lake Geneva. He was 69.

He had been suffering from health problems for several years, including an abdominal aneurysm, said his wife, Gail Gygax.

Gygax and Dave Arneson developed Dungeons & Dragons in 1974 using medieval characters and mythical creatures. The game known for its oddly shaped dice became a hit, particularly among teenage boys, and eventually was turned into video games, books and movies.

Gygax always enjoyed hearing from the game's legion of devoted fans, many of whom would stop by the family's home in Lake Geneva, about 55 miles southwest of Milwaukee, his wife said. Despite his declining health, he hosted weekly games of Dungeons & Dragons as recently as January, she said.

"It really meant a lot to him to hear from people from over the years about how he helped them become a doctor, a lawyer, a policeman, what he gave them," Gygax said. "He really enjoyed that."

Dungeons & Dragons players create fictional characters and carry out their adventures with the help of complicated rules. The quintessential geek pastime, it spawned a wealth of copycat games and later inspired a whole genre of computer games that's still growing in popularity.

Funeral arrangements are pending. Besides his wife, Gygax is survived by six children.

And then Dizzyhead/Dadistan blogger James e-mailed: "Roll up another one!" (A reference to the process by which one creates characters in D& rolling three six-sided dice for various attributes....I feel like I'm writing a Wikipedia entry....)

And then I thought I'd better post Paul La Farge's lovely Believer piece, in which he journeys to Wisconsin and plays D&D with its creator!
He went to school half a block from his childhood house in Lake Geneva, but he was rarely to be found there. “It was just dull and stupid,” he says, “and you know, I had so many other things I wanted to do. I had a day full of active going out with my friends, playing chess, hanging around, trying to pick up girls, usually without any success whatsoever. What? Sit home? Do school work? Unthinkable.”

UPDATE: Before hearing about Gygax's passing, I was having lunch with my ex-PTSNBN colleague, Ta-Nehisi, whose memoir The Beautiful Struggle is coming out soon. We talked about (among other things)...D&D! (D&D runs through his book, even.)

UPDATE #2: Here's the Times obit (well, also from AP, but longer)—

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New Believer is out—the film issue!

The Believer's first film issue has landed on my doorstep—nice! Chuck Klosterman on road movies (with a line that made me laugh out loud)...The yin and yang of filmcrit, D. Cairns and B. Kite (which one's which?), on assorted ’30s character actors—illustrated by Seth (!)...a very nice Atkinsonian reverie...DMcK on Vertigo/Fonda, JMcB on Zizek...Señor Sweeney on Opera Jawa (which does not have to do with Star Wars!)...Helen DeWitt?! And more!


Merritt's a mention

Dizzyhead John e-mailed me about a song that our friend Wayne had sent to him. He (John) listened and thought, "Ah, this must be from the new Magnetic Fields album..." It was only after he put the song in iTunes—and Gracenote provided the name of the artist—that he realized how off he was.

Repeating the cycle, I assumed that the song was by MF, too...and it wasn't until a couple days later that I, too, did a double-take...


Hint: The singer is very well known. The album came out last year and has a one-word title.


Monday, March 03, 2008

Table-talk of Parkus Grammaticus for March 3

I. Parkian fiction and nonfiction:

A) Another bit of the novel The Dizzies has cropped up in a new anthology, 3:AM London, New York, Paris. It's called "The Alchemists"! First line: "But first a little bit about me." (Other bits have appeared here, here, and here.)

B) Speaking of anthologies out in March, the Atkinson-edited Exile Cinema (with my pre-Host Bong Joon-ho piece) comes out this week....yes?

II. New Cinema Scope has part 2—or shall we say "Track 1b"?!—of B. Kite's Rivette epic! Also: Edward Crouse on The Darjeeling Limited, Tony Rayns's eye-opening piece on a Korean movie so alarming-sounding that I've repressed the title, Dizzyhead Jason on Guy Maddin's My Winnipeg, Dizzyhead Jessica on Lady Chatterley...I am no longer qualified to write for this excellent magazine!

III. Ten Words has a new writer—Mr. Levi Stahl! (Who is even more of a Powellite than I am—he has actually read Violet Powell's memoirs!)

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Saturday, March 01, 2008

Oll korrect


Via Harry Stephen Keeler Society founder Richard Polt, a map of the places in HSK's The Amazing Web..."Frisco"! Omaha! Sydney!

II. Off to Kinderhook, OK?!


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