Monday, August 31, 2009

Addendum to Who post

"I know that she's no peasant," sang the Beatles in their worst lyric.

Yesterday's post about Tom Phillips's heretofore unknown by moi contribution to two familiar albums reminded me of a terrible Who lyric! From the chorus of "Face Dances (Part 2)":

Face dance tonight
Fate chances moonlight

World's laziest blogger

I liked this piece but I'm too tired to say anything about it.


Foenetic speling

From Paul Collins's article "Buzzkill" in the September 2008 Believer:

“I have a packet that I’ll be giving to presidential candidates when they come through Iowa for the campaign,” she says before handing me a plain blue folder:


Inside are hand-annotated photocopies and an Ed Rondthaler on Spelling Reform DVD. Rondthaler, at 101 years old, is the last living link to spelling reform’s Edwardian heyday. The DVD consists of the centenarian’s vaudeville routine on spelling, followed by Rondthaler accosting an expressionless young woman in a library to explain his reforms. Rondthaler whips out a list of hundreds of nonphonetic letter combinations and begins reading them, all of them, to his unfortunate hostage. I imagine some sleepless McCain aide watching this on a laptop in Cedar Rapids, staring out his Travelodge window and wondering, When did my life go so horribly wrong?

Read more about Edward Rondthaler in his NYT obit:

Mr. Rondthaler first became known more than 70 years ago for his seminal work in photographic typesetting. In the mid-1930s, he and a colleague, Harold Horman, perfected a phototypesetting device that helped streamline the traditional art of setting type. Known as the Rutherford photo-lettering machine, it was one of the first such devices in wide commercial use.

Armed with their new machine, the two men founded Photo-Lettering Inc., a highly respected New York typographic house whose clients included many of the country’s best-known magazines and advertising agencies.

But over time, Mr. Rondthaler came to feel his beloved letters were traducing him with their unruly behavior on the printed page. So he took up the standard for spelling reform. For decades afterward, he championed SoundSpel, a simplified English spelling system he had refined from an earlier model.

“Foenetic speling wil maek reeding and rieting neerly automatic for evrybody,” Mr. Rondthaler wrote in SoundSpel, in a passage quoted by The New York Times in a 1977 profile.

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Sunday, August 30, 2009

The Eno–Humument connection

I had no idea that the cover image for Brian Eno's Another Green World was taken from a painting by A Humument creator Tom Phillips. Yet another reason to check Bill Poundstone's Ann Coulter: A Human Document!

AC:AHD also points out that Phillips's artwork is featured on The Who's Face Dances album—the WEB tells me that my memory is not quite correct in thinking that the band was touring behind this album when the infamous stampede in Cincinnati occurred (that was 1979, the album was 1981)...

Time to listen to Another Green World! And then "You Better You Bet"!

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Friday, August 28, 2009

"Étant Donnés"

Today's Times piece on the Duchamp exhibit in Philadelphia brought to mind an interesting theory behind the creation of Étant Donnés, which I read in Mark Nelson and Sarah Hudson Bayliss's book Exquisite Corpse: Surrealism and the Black Dahlia Murder.

This is from my review (a version of which appeared in Modern Painters, November 2006; I'll post a link to the whole piece soon):

The book notes that Freud interpreted the labyrinth, designed by Dedalus to imprison the minotaur, as the unconscious. If the Black Dahlia was deliberately configured to evoke that creature, based on its iteration in Surrealist works and thought, where can we find the return of the repressed? Nelson and Hayliss think that Marcel Duchamp, via Man Ray, might have been interested in the murder, and even suggest that William Copley could have acted as a courier, delivering graphic crime-scene photos from Man Ray in L.A. to M.D. in New York. No record of such a transaction exists, and it seems shaky at best to think that these artists knew that Man Ray’s friend Hodel was the murderer, and yet maintained their silence.

But it’s not unreasonable to think that they had suspicions. Exquisite Corpse’s audacious conclusion looks at Duchamp’s posthumously assembled final work, Étant donnés (1966). The splayed nude form, posed in brush, bears an uncanny resemblance to the Dahlia. Concealed behind a heavy door, viewed through a peephole, obscured by a portion of brick wall—these elements are almost a parody of repression—she holds aloft a gas lamp. Suddenly, in the context of this book, that illumination burns with new and terrifying meaning.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Disambiguations™ for August 27, 2009

I. My student Rebecca has a new column at The Faster Times on...vampires! There is actually an interesting backstory that I hope she will write about in a future column...Don't worry, I am putting on the pressure!

II. My student Elijah alerts me to a Donald E. Westlake science fiction story, "The Risk Profession."

III. I love the "Blog" of "Unnecessary" Quotation Marks—excitingly, my Beatlesque submission has been accepted for publication!

IV. S. Kirk Walsh's piece at Slate's XX site, a review of Dan Chaon's latest book, mentions ye olde Personal Days, along with works by David Foster Wallace and Zadie Smith.

V. Adrian Tomine on Sixteen Candles et al. (via various FB posts)—it's primo Tomin-o!

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Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Disambiguations™ for August 26, 2009

Just a bit more on the Invisible Library and the I.L. exhibit at Poets & Writers and on the American Short Fiction blog...

From an old Light Reading post:

Amy Hempel was not born in 1851. The last name of the novelist who edits The Believer is Julavits rather than Julawitz. Balzac’s first name is Honoré, not Henri.

Paul Krugman:

In my column last Monday, I made a joke about the Swiss that fell flat with some readers. Also, the Swiss don’t wear lederhosen.

More Jing Wei—yaks!

Sweeney on The Sin of Harold Diddlebock.

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Monday, August 24, 2009

Imponderables™: Tennis version

What if the Bryan twins each played with two rackets?

(More on the latter here.)


Sunday, August 23, 2009

Turtle diary

Pyne was referred to Jereb, who has worked on an assortment of animals over the years, including numerous turtles and tortoises whose shells are sometimes repaired with fiberglass, acrylic, Bondo, epoxies and other inorganic substances.

His approach to Lucky's problem was inspired in part by a tortoise about whom he'd read that had a front leg replaced by a halved billiard ball glued to its front shell. —The Press Democrat

(From Jane)


Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Nerdo-American culture * The office before the internet

Catching up:

Two recent things at the L.A. Times, on two very impressive (and entertaining—dare I say beach-readable?) books:

I. My Astral Weeks review of Victor LaValle's Big Machine:

"Did every story about black folks have to be such a downer?" Ricky Rice wonders in exasperation, a few seconds into a speech by the Dean, whom he and the other Unlikely Scholars report to. His own story, of course, will prove the exception to the rule: Beginning in the toilet, his experience somehow avoids a typical rags-to-riches (or needle-to-rehab) structure and gives us something haunting and fresh, its freakout tempos (there's no way I'm telling you my favorite one) modeled on horror stories and other glorious pop culture detritus -- the way parts of "Mumbo Jumbo" read like creature-feature pastiche.

II. My profile of Lev Grossman, author of The Magicians (which among its many considerable virtues has provided some new titles for the Invisible Library).

Grossman floats free of genre demarcations, and it's fascinating to piece together his road map of influences. As a Yale grad student, he got excited about Russian Byronism -- the Byron craze in Russia, "which resulted in a lot of amazing literature, almost all of which was better than actual Byron." He calls the instance in "The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao" when Junot Díaz unwinkingly compares the dictator of the Dominican Republic to Middle-earth's Sauron "a great moment for nerdo-American culture."

* * *

Is this me?

(illustration by Mike Force)

A little memoir of mine is up at the L Magazine, headlining their office issue.

For a long time I read at work. My work itself involved reading: I was a copy editor at The Village Voice. But some days, vast lulls separated the articles, and my fellow copy editors and I would burrow into books at our desks. Michael read Ivy Compton-Burnett. Bruce had his Robert Musil. Jane gave me two of her DeLillos; I gave her Jonathan Coe. If you finished your novel, you could go to the long row of file cabinets near the mailboxes, where editors would discard their unwanted review copies, old issues of Paranoia and The Nation.

UPDATE: Mike Force's Flickr stream contains the UNEXPURGATED version of the above illo, entitled "Ed Park at the Village Voice in the 1990s."

Why did you spend the ’90s cowering...?

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Sunday, August 16, 2009

Let's just say you love me

No—not the title of a Gossip Girl book...but a line from Miracle Legion's "All for the Best." Thom Yorke covers it on a tribute album (listen at Stereogum) and it's amazing.

(What if TY only did covers? Like this one.)

(Thanks to Arlo.)

EP blog-bot signing off....

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Friday, August 07, 2009

Mountains of Moralia

This is Ed Park's bot, blogging for him while he's away. At the Significant Objects project, he invests this curious bovine vessel with maximum meaning. (If you like what you see/ on it!)

Here's the first graf:

If you came of age in the ’70s and ’80s, you probably have some sense of what the fantasy game Dungeons & Dragons was like. Players became characters — dwarf or knight or wizard — and wandered labyrinths looking for treasure, battling monsters along the way. Dice were rolled, charts consulted. Even if you never played, you probably knew someone who had, a brother of a friend or a nose-breathing cousin who himself resembled a minotaur.
* * *

UPDATE (8/15): At the last minute, $62 was bid!


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