Saturday, February 28, 2009

Dudes in jackets

Gary Shteyngart—words of wisdom!

Dressing Like a Novelist
"You want to dress down. Sometimes I see dudes in jackets. I think that's trying too hard. You want to look like you spent some money but look distressed, basically. Stuff that's a little not right. You want to match the unhappiness of our time. Everything I wear is somewhat ugly. Plaid is now in for writers. The male writer should probably shop at Odin in New York, on Lafayette, or Opening Ceremony. There's a wonderful jacket I just bought there that looks exactly like a garbage bag. You can't go wrong with that."


Friday, February 27, 2009

Achewood Ouroboros

Have you tried Style 46?

(From Dzyds Scott and Martin)


Thursday, February 26, 2009


I'll be jumping on the 2/3 and taking it to Times Square and then taking the 7 into Queens and then (whew!) getting on the G train to Greenpoint*, Brooklyn, and emerging there to read at the Word bookstore. Please come if you live (or linger) in that area! Reading is at 7:30. Brian Baise and Deb Olin Unferth are also reading.

Here's the Word store site; here's what some site says; and this is from something called the Brooklyn Based Tip Sheet (I think that's what it's called):

THURSDAY: Word of the Ghost
Word bookstore's ongoing Indie Press Night returns with two glittering literati: novelist Deb Olin Unferth, whose lauded debut novel, Vacation, was published by McSweeneys, and Believer founding editor Ed Park, author of Personal Days and publisher of the quirky New-York Ghost. 7:30 pm, 126 Franklin Street, Greenpoint.

* * *

Otherwise...if you're in the Morningside Heights area, go see Dzyds in conversation at Book Culture:

Join Columbia University professor Jenny Davidson for a discussion about her latest book, Breeding: A Partial History of the Eighteenth Century. She will be joined by Vassar professor Julie Park**, for a conversation about the book.

JENNY DAVIDSON is an associate professor of English and comparative literature at Columbia University. She is the author of two novels, Heredity and The Explosionist, and a critical work, Hypocrisy and the Politics of Politeness: Manners and Morals from Locke to Austen.

JULIE PARK is an assistant professor of English at Vassar College. She was an editor of Eighteenth-Century Fiction from 2003-2008. Her book, The Self and It: Novel Objects and Material Subjects in 18th-Century England, is forthcoming this year from Stanford University Press. She has published articles on the history of the novel and the dolls, automata and fetishes of eighteenth-century England in several academic journals.

*where someone is looking for a time machine
**no relation

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Wednesday, February 25, 2009


If you haven't already—and even if you don't like/care about the Beatles...

1. First read about this freshly leaked (then vanished) ur-version of "Revolution" (with assorted comments)...

2. Then go bananas over Devin's expert take (headphones included) on its authenticity...

3. Then check out the fresh comments (Mike: "Obviously EMI won't do this--it would be totally against how they've run the catalog for the last 40 years--but unless we want to consign future listeners to a take-by-take version of the Shakespeare/Bacon debate, opening the vaults and establishing the canon once and for all seems like a good idea")...

4. ...and finally (?!), read Dev's comment on the comments:

What I find more impressive, in a way, and certainly tougher to explain, is how the fakers knew about the "mama-dada" refrain. As I noted, neither Lewisohn nor anyone else mentions such an overdub being attempted or mixed in. Yet it's there on the new Take 20 RM1, and seems to dovetail with John's reference to "mommy-daddy" voices on the Yoko tape.

Now, it could be that someone took his reference and invented the "mama-dada" to retroactively "explain" John's "mommy-daddy" voices -- even being so subtle as to alter the parental designations just slightly, lest the subterfuge seem TOO perfect. But then, wouldn't the success of the ruse then depend on some sucker like me uncovering a passing reference on a dull piece of tape no one listens to, solely to work up a fanciful theory to validate the fake?

Maybe someone can cut a straighter path through these thickets than the one I'm on. But I think the kind of ouroboros trickery we're presuming would involve not just superior sound-editing skills, but the six-moves-ahead thought processes of a master chess player.

Thanks to Eric for bringing it to our attention in the first place, and to Mike for his two cents and for prodding Dev, and Devin for everything, including the use of the term "ouroboros trickery."

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Oh mighty Devin...

...what do you think of the "Revolution" kerfuffle?


Wednesday Ourobori

Angela writes: “As an Archaeologist, I wanted my first tattoo to be something related to culture. The Ouroborus is an ancient symbol of a serpent biting its tail and has been a part of a number of cultures and beliefs including (but not limited to!) Egyptian, Greek (who “borrowed” it from the Phoenicians and gave it the name “ouroborus” meaning “tail-eater”), Norse, Chinese, Aztec, Hindu, and various Native American Indian mythologies. The snake in my tattoo is a custom piece by my tattooist, but the writing is straight from the earliest-known drawing of the Ouroborus in the Chrysopoeia of Cleopatra drawn around 1600BC.
Discover's Science Tattoo Emporium

(From Dzyd Ed)

(Courtesy Jawbone/amannamedme)


Inside Art Spiegelman

(for AS's new book, out from McSwy's)
(via GJ)


Also this is something I want to read later:



Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Table-Talk of Parkus Grammaticus for February 24, 2009

I. Booking Bands: You Shall Know Our Velocity Girl...Things They Might Be Giants get the idea....Can you think of one that's not already on the list?

(From Dzyd Jen)

II. "A rather aggressive exercise in point-missing": Mike Rutherford's album based on a science-fiction oddity from 1964, Peter Currell Brown's Smallcreep's Day.

III. Odd choice of verb?

Born into an immigrant family living in public housing, Mr. Locke, 59, made it to Yale University and served as a prosecutor, state legislator and King County executive before his election as governor. —NYT

IV. Major Beatles find posted at Hey Dullblog.
(Thanks, Eric)

V. On the red carpet the other night, James Franco gave a nod to Carl Wilson's Let's Talk About Love: A Journey to the End of Taste!

VI. I'll be reading in Brooklyn this Thursday at 7:30...wait, let me copy the "upcoming readings" stuff from the PD blog!

Thurs., 2/26 Word Books, Greenpoint, Brooklyn, 7:30 p.m., with Deb Olin Unferth (Vacation) and Brian Baise

Tues., 3/3, New York Society Library, 10 a.m. (WHAT?!)—not a reading, more a panel

Thurs., 3/12 Gallatin Teachers' Reading, 6:30 p.m., Bronfman Center (7 East 10th St.), first floor

Tues., 3/31, First Proof Series at Vassar College, 5 p.m., Class of '51 Reading Room, Vassar Library, Poughkeepsie, NY. (More info here.)

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Monday, February 23, 2009


I. Dzyd Joe's Driftwood Singers blog gives us a chance to experience Earth's doom metal 'boros.

II. And the Cleveland Plain Dealer has a followup to Joe's Blvr piece on reclusive singer-songwriter Bill Fox. (Fox now works at the CPD.)

III. I always assumed that paper's name had to do with the Great Plains...but what if it means something like, "We are dealing with you plainly" (i.e., without subterfuge)?

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Sunday, February 22, 2009

"I did it!"

"I caught a rat the size of a cat!"

(From Dzyd Kaela)


Saturday, February 21, 2009

"Madeleine and Mac"

Read the latest chapter in James Browning's ongoing memoir by subscribing to the New-York Ghost. In this installment: The connection between the world's most beautiful woman with the world's ugliest man.

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Dizzies Press Release: WHFR's T.C. Boyle Festival of Live Stuff

If you're near a computer this Sunday, February 22nd, working hard, crapping around on the internet, writing a paper, pondering a scrabble move, please tune in to Washington Heights Free Radio's 2nd T. C. Boyle Festival of Live Stuff.

The first live fest in November was great. It was a day of live music, readings, comedy, and coffee-drinking, of sharing the secret labours of the extended family of WHFR with a wider audience, of making new musical and literary unions in the unveiling.

And here we are again. This 2nd fest is the first of WHFR's 5th birthday events.

Sunday, February 22, 2009 * 1–7-something p.m.
1:00 Hozan Shashwaz (electrosaz!)

1:30 Claire O'Connor ( (fiction by a Best New American Voice 2010 (live the future!))
2:00 The Paw the the Rabbit ( (a band!)
2:30 Fiction Circus ( (a fiction reading aptly described as a "circus")
3:00 Goat's Pupil / Dr. John Lee (an electronic collaboration)
3:30 Ashley Roberts (a reading: "The time you tried to show me your penis in the park")
4:00 Blurple ( (experimental folk)
4:30 Audience of Two ( (a comedy duo!)
5:00 Clutter ( (pots and pans and whirly things that make noise)
5:30 Sabaku ( (acousmatic, he says)
6:00 Sarah Dziedzic (a nonfiction reading with birds, Oklahoma)
6:30 Sabrina Chapadjiev ( (maybe with kazoo?)
7:00 T. C. Boylism w/ Shay and friends (TCB: not just the name of our festival.)

Tell your friends.
Streaming live at
Everything will eventually be archived on the WHFR site.
(PLUS: The new site will be live by Sunday!)

Next in the birthday series:
Tuesday, March 3rd: WHFR DJ night at the Ding Dong Lounge, 929 Columbus Ave. @ 106th Street

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Annals of furniture moving

My latest Astral Weeks column is up at the L.A. Times. This time around, I look at Benjamin Parzybok's debut novel, Couch.

It originally had an elaborate/crazy introduction in which I spot Parzybok's book next to mine at Barnes & Noble, but even I (apparently!) have my limits when it comes to self-promotion...Well, maybe I'll post that here at some point. (Or on the Personal Days blog?)

Missed opportunity: I should have mentioned the movie The Puffy Chair, Couch's direct predecessor in epic furniture-moving narratives!

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Friday, February 20, 2009

Famous and nameless

Sun Mu, who was trained to create posters and murals for the Communist government, is the first defector from the North to have won fame as a painter in the South by applying that same propagandistic style to biting parodies of the North Korean regime.

His renown, however, is shaded by political concerns. In addition to adopting a pseudonym, he refuses to allow his face to be photographed, afraid that the family he left behind might face reprisals for his art. South Korean news outlets often refer to him as the “faceless” or “nameless” artist from North Korea.

—Choe Sang-hun, NYT


News bites

1. Crosley-inspired headline over at Slate?

2. A very short EP story will be in the debut issue of Gigantic.

3. Guy Trebay:
This society can be very unforgiving, so I stopped drinking a long time ago,” said Kenny Kenny, his slender hourglass shape accentuated by black tights and a custom-made Mr. Pearl corset. For a touch of extravagance, he had added a fur headpiece that made him look as if he had collided with a stoat.

(From Dzyd Jane)

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Thursday, February 19, 2009

Name change 2

LOS ANGELES — The excavation for a parking garage near the La Brea tar pits here has yielded the site’s first intact mammoth skeleton as well as a trove of other bones that could double the size of the site’s already large collection of fossils from the last ice age....

The mammoth, which excavators have named Zed, is an adult male that died in its late 40s. It was found in a separate part of the garage site from the other tar-encased fossils and is complete except for a rear leg.—NYT

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Name change

"The model Edita," in NYT

(photo for NYT by Elizabeth Lippman)

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Ourobori and more

I. Miracle region:

(From Dzyd Luc)

II. The Hoberboros?

Third Generation's stated thesis is that the Man and the Revolution are a Ouroboros construct—"Capitalism invented terrorism to force the state to protect it better."

(From L.G. Thos.)

III. Weekend read: Dzyd Ed in Triple Canopy, on Jeff Krulik and Heavy Metal Parking Lot.

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PSB at the 2009 BRIT Awards:

(From Dzyd Dennis)



Who are the super-est supermen of pre-Golden Age SF? Dzyd Joshua has the rundown over at io9, complete with great cover art as usual. Best hero name/book title might go to Hugo Gernsback's 124C 41+: A Romance of the Year 2660.

That name reminded me of this Keeler concoction—probably the only character in literature with not just numbers but fractions, multiplication, and shapes in his name:

(from Richard Polt's essay "Race in Keeler")

(Hmmm, time to read Ch. 20 of Crippled Detectives!)

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Wednesday, February 18, 2009

We can write you

Philip K. Dick’s last wife has reworked the novel he was working on when he died in 1982 and is publishing the book herself....Ms. Dick said that a letter from her husband to his editor and agent revealed plans to “have a great scientist design and build a computer system and then get trapped in its virtual reality,” and added: “The computer would be so advanced that it developed humanlike intelligence and rebelled against its frivolous purpose of managing a theme park.”

From Dzyd Mike


Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Table-Talk of Parkus Grammaticus for February 17, 2009

I. Last week I taught Wodehouse's Jeeves and the Feudal Spirit, and now I see Wodehousean touches everywhere I turn....first in Cintra Wilson's column, then in Michael Lewis's great piece in the NYT Magazine, on the new basketball statistics....(I don't even like basketball! But this piece is amazing...)

I see two jokes in this paragraph. We see Wodehouse trademark #1, the unexpected simile, and #2, the unexpected exaggeration, fitted in seamlessly to complete an otherwise normal sequence.
[Kobe] Bryant is one of the great jawboners in the history of the N.B.A. A major-league baseball player once showed me a slow-motion replay of the Yankees’ third baseman Alex Rodriguez in the batter’s box. Glancing back to see where the catcher has set up is not strictly against baseball’s rules, but it violates the code. A hitter who does it is likely to find the next pitch aimed in the general direction of his eyes. A-Rod, the best hitter in baseball, mastered the art of glancing back by moving not his head, but his eyes, at just the right time. It was like watching a billionaire find some trivial and dubious deduction to take on his tax returns. Why bother? I thought, and then realized: this is the instinct that separates A-Rod from mere stars. Kobe Bryant has the same instinct. Tonight Bryant complained that Battier was grabbing his jersey, Battier was pushing when no one was looking, Battier was committing crimes against humanity.
This isn't really Wodehousean, but I like it:
Last July, as we sat in the library of the Detroit Country Day School, watching, or trying to watch, his March 2008 performance against Kobe Bryant, Battier was much happier instead talking about Obama, both of whose books he had read. (“The first was better than the second,” he said.) He said he hated watching himself play, then proved it by refusing to watch himself play. My every attempt to draw his attention to the action on the video monitor was met by some distraction.
Maybe things are less funny when I highlight them. (But then they become slightly funny again when I point this out.)

II. Gary Indiana—blogger!
(From Dzyd JMcB)

III. These poems are great.
(From Triple Canopy #2.)

Blackwater Worldwide is abandoning its tarnished brand name as it tries to shake a reputation battered by oft-criticised work in Iraq, renaming its family of two dozen businesses under the name Xe. The parent company's new name is pronounced like the letter z. —Guardian

(From Dzyd Kaela)

V. Happy birthday to my dad!

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Monday, February 16, 2009


I'll be reading this week (Wed. 2/18, 8 p.m.) at Manhattan Valley/Morningside Heights' own Ding Dong Lounge (929 Columbus, 105/106), following some current Columbia writing division students.

And I'll be reading next week (Thurs. 2/26) all the way in Greenpoint at the Word bookstore, with Deb Olin Unferth and Brian Baise.

(More info and links here. Some more appearances in March, and April, and I think early May.)

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Table-Talk for February 16, 2009

I. The curious case of the Benjamin Buttons.

II. My kind of book? Richard Milward's Ten Storey Love Song:

is written as one continuous paragraph, a device that allows Milward to slip into the heads of multiple characters, including Bobby's girlfriend Georgie, local hard man Johnnie and the pitiable figure of 40-year-old Alan Blunt. —Guardian

III. Adorableness alert! Lev Grossman (aka the best book critic in the world) and Sophie Gee's playlist:

I’m picking Lou Reed’s Goodnight Ladies for my next track. Enjoy that lite swing jazz backing band, Lev! It’s the last track on “Transformer,” Reed’s second solo album, and it makes me feel as though life is happy and excellent, and it also makes me feel — and this is indispensable in all music used as a creative accessory — as though I am a TOTALLY GREAT writer. When I listen to this song, I feel as if my prose is reminiscent of Fitzgerald’s and Hemingway’s. and as though my characters are like Daisy Buchanan and Brett Ashley. The only problem is that “Goodnight Ladies” only lasts for 4:21, so even in the time it’s taken me to write this I’ve had to listen to it three times.
IV. I like writing constrained by time. At a recent Q&A with director Hong Sang-soo, he related how he'd write each day's script in an hour, because everyone would be waiting around on the set and he didn't want them to get too annoyed. (More soon on HSS's Night and Day, an amazing film.) And here's the first half of Ange Mlinko's essay on an Elliott Smith song, written in the time it took to listen to the song (read it all at Sugar High!):

When Elizabeth Peyton paints the young men that come into her ken—both through her social circles and magazine photos—and turns them even more red-lipped and dreamy-eyed and lithe, the question critics ask (in strict denial of the obvious) is “Elizabeth, why do you paint these attractive guys?” And in response, she says something along the lines of, “Because they live a Beautiful Life that inspires me.” That sounds either very Third-Century C.E., if you’re a Neo-Platonist scholar, or very 1960s trust fund Bohemia. But I think she is talking about Autonomy, that which Beauty underwrites for itself. Money is one of the least interesting ways of guaranteeing it. Take her early portraits of Napoleon: autonomy for him meant no less than conquering Europe and crowning himself king. But as Belle and Sebastian sing, “If my family tree goes back to Napoleon / Then I will change my name to Smith.”

“Now I’m a crushed credit card registered to Smith / Not the name that you call me with,” replies Elliott Smith. Supposedly, I’m here to explain why “Waltz #2 (XO)” once occurred to me as the Greatest Song Ever, and avoid either reliance on the ineffable (e.g., it’s just a transcendent melody!) or the literary (e.g., I’m doing critical karaoke on a song about karaoke, in which Smith deftly imbeds song titles to tell the backstory for him. Clever!). So one of the reasons is how I experienced it the first time I heard it: Live, 8 months before the record came out, in a tiny packed bar with a handmade ticket for an almost secret show. And the last time I had seen him there had been only 40 people or so in the audience—he was practically an unknown. This, to me, was privilege. I was in grad school, hiding out from the world, eking out my meager stipend in the presumptuous, not to mention anachronistic, role of Poet. I was living a Beautiful Life.

IV. Not completely the same thing, but thanks to Dzyd Mike I'm listening to a whole slew of Sleng Teng songs (which clock in between two-and-a-half and four-and-a-half minutes), all pegged to the same keyboard rhythm (or as we like to say, riddim).

V. I'm also listening to CHANGESONEBOWIE a lot. Well, about once a day. Why now? Why not! (More on this later.) Idea for possible piece: Greatest hits collections are preferable to official albums. Discuss!

VI. Andy Warhol paints Debbie Harry on a Commodore Amiga. (From L.G. Thos.)

VII. And finally—at, a new story by...
John Cheever!

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Sunday, February 15, 2009

Howard O'Who's-that?

The Vancouver Courier ponders "The Curse of Canlit," looking at the work of native daughter June Skinner, who wrote as Rohan O'Grady.

"The closest parallel I can think of to June is Howard O'Hagan," says her son-in-law, chatting after the Courier's interview with June in an upstairs bedroom. "And he would not have survived at all into the Canadian canon if Michael Ondaatje had not found him and championed him."

Along the way the piece provides a glimpse at the story behind Dzyd Theo's Blvr. story about his obsession with O'Grady and Let's Kill Uncle.

Perhaps Schell-Lambert's article will be the spark needed to get Skinner's work back in print in her own country. If one of her books can affect readers the way it did him, she deserves at least a serious reappraisal.

"Apparently [Schell-Lambert] has old school friends as haunted by it as he was," says Mary. "I don't know whether to laugh or cry when I think of 25 years of 10-year-olds being exposed to that."


TRIVIA: What do Ondaatje, P.G. Wodehouse, and Raymond Chandler have in common?

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Saturday, February 14, 2009

Happy Valentine's Day, From Rick Jeanneret

For Cupcake.

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The shining

"The asterisk is placed against [that which has been] omitted, in order for what seems to be omitted may shine forth." —St. Isidore of Seville, Etymolgiae

(as quoted in Torbjörn Lundmark's Quirky Qwerty)

* * *

Trivia: What is the triple asterisk section-break indicator above (* * *) known as?


Borgnine school

Wade Mammon? Andy Secular? No, these aren't characters from the forthcoming Pynchon novel, but rather employees mentioned in an article about Tortilla Flats, "the taco joint that loves Ernest Borgnine." (NYT)

The staff is put through a rigorous Borgnine School upon hiring. “It’s in our training manual,” Mr. Mammon, the young bartender, said, acknowledging that he had no idea who the actor was when he started at Tortilla Flats a year ago.

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Eight arms to hold you

Octopus love.

Visitors to the Portobello Aquarium loved Sid the octopus but all Sid wanted was to find a mate. After several escape attempts worthy of Houdini, he finally tasted freedom yesterday, with his keepers returning him to the ocean just in time for Valentine's Day.


Matthew Crane, Portobello's senior aquarist, came in one morning to find Sid gone. Staff looked high and low. One of his tank's sliding plastic doors was ajar but it was not clear whether someone had left it open by mistake, or whether he had opened it himself. Five days later, he was found inside a drainage system that pumps sea water through the aquarium. He was trying to sidle out through a door.

A few weeks later, Sid made a second dash for freedom. Again, his door was found ajar. Located a few hours later, he made several more escape attempts, usually when his tank was being cleaned. Staff would see one tentacle emerge from the tank, then another. "We thought he must be actively seeking a mate," said Mr Crane. "So we decided it might be best to let him go back to nature."

Yesterday afternoon, Mr Crane transferred Sid to a plastic bucket and carried him to the water's edge, 300 yards away. Even during that short walk, Sid was trying to lift the lid off the bucket. Then he was ceremoniously dumped in the ocean. "We watched him swim away," said Mr Crane. "He was a good healthy colour and he looked quite happy." —The Independent

(Via Jenny D)

Friday, February 13, 2009

Brodsky beat

From Dzyd Joshua:

Probably the strangest mass-market asterisk movie is *batteries not included from 1987, in which alien machines save a New York "tenement" from destruction. But the best asteriskwork in any medium has to be ***: a novel from 1994 by forgotten Michael Brodsky....In his book *** is a cipher, a late commercial version of V: it's a product, an artwork, a mystical (Kabbalistic) force.

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Singer not the song

If you're a thorough Dzyd, you've already unearthed Dizzies T.M. Rob's comment in my previous post, the one musing about feature adaptations of non-narrative nonfiction. (That should be an Oscar category, eh?) Basically he is saying: Ed, you are too late, someone else has already written an in-depth list of six of these films!

And here's the kicker—that "someone else" is none other than Dizzies T.M. Matt Singer!

Who come to think of it has not posted here in many a moon....Are you "just not that into" us anymore, Matt? Was the Dizzies fee not high enough for you? When I said I would pay $50 for each post from a Dizzies Team Member, I thought I was being generous. I know it was kind of sneaky to pay Sweeney $100, but I didn't think the news would get out. So now — [OK, I don't know where this joke is going.]

ANYWAY, here's Matt's piece—it's a lot of fun.

Two questions

How many feature films have been based on or inspired by (and most importantly, titled after) non-character-driven nonfiction books?

I wondered about this after seeing the ads for He's Just Not That Into You.

The only other one I thought of was Woody Allen's "Everything you always wanted to know about sex *But were afraid to ask"...

Which leads to my second question—what other movies have asterisks in their titles?!

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The wurst intentions

Dieter Roth makes sausage out of books and periodicals he doesn't like. He gave his first "literaturwurst" to Daniel Spoerri.

(From Dzyd Shelley)

Also: Birds with backpacks!

(From Dzyd Jane)

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Thursday, February 12, 2009


Last week: I give Jenny D a review copy of Cintra Wilson's new novel, sniffing that I just "don't get" her style. (CW's, not JD's.)

Today: I read CW's column in the Times and suddenly GET IT.

Since I believe that the best clothing inspires fear, I’ve been excited by the idea of Thom Browne doing ladies’ haberdashery.


The shop décor is quite spiffy: lots of heavy wooden furniture, stained to a high-gloss ebony, and big black urns.


These spring-loaded ensembles were so mind-bogglingly dandy — one jacket had pink sleeves, a yellow trunk and blue pockets — that I couldn’t picture them on anyone but disbarred Southern lawyers, jockeys or Dick Van Dyke.


This was sort of like the morning (c. 1992) when I woke up, brushed my teeth, and thought: The Pet Shop Boys are amazing.

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Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Meat and Tweet

LAT: Bulgogi + taco + Twitter = I'M HUNGRY.

Crazy for you

There are some days when everyone I see is a lunatic.
—Renata Adler, Speedboat

It was amazing how often kind-looking people turned out to be crazy.
—Don DeLillo, Ratner's Star

I did a bit more wilting. It seemed to me that I was alone in a deserted smoking-room with a homicidal loony. It is a type of loony I particularly bar, and the homicidal loony I like least is one with a forty-four chest and biceps in proportion. —P.G. Wodehouse, Jeeves and the Feudal Spirit

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You'd be surprised

From "Comics Grammar and Tradition":

There is no Em or En dash in comics. It's always a double dash and it's only used when a character's speech is interrupted. The double dash and the ellipsis are often mistakenly thought to be interchangeable. That's not the case in comics, even though it's rife in comic scripts. For the record, there are only TWO dashes in a double dash. It sounds like common sense, but you'd be surprised.

(I am a heavy em-dash user, as these are easily generated on Macs by hitting apple-option-hyphen; unfortunately, one of my e-mail accounts transforms my meticulous emdashery into question markery, making it look like I am casting doubt on every other statement!)

(Via Jenny D; I also realize that I am mimicking her style.)


Wednesday Ouroboros — Williamsburg(h) edition

Now that the warm weather is upon us, there will be less call for this:

"It is easily folded into a small coil..."

(Courtesy Andrea)


Flashes of brilliance

Nabokov also showed flashes of brilliance, including one terrific stop with stacked pads on Marc Savard, who had skated around the Sharks’ defense, cut across the slot and fired a wicked shot.


Table-Talk of Parkus Grammaticus for February 11, 2009

3 February 2009
They were doing a new Star Trek series, this time without sets. Everything was shot in the hallways of the studio building. The idea was, it could be a hallway on the Enterprise, or on another planet. The cost savings were incalculable.
—William Poundstone's Dream Blog

A new Triple Canopy has been constructed. (I like how they gradually trot out the articles, rather than all at once.)

Listening to RECORDS these days. I don't have very many with me so these constitute an automatic "Desert Island" list.

Cylon detector (via Brent)

(See also James Parker's excellent piece on Battlestar Galactica in the current Atlantic....I'm not linking because this is an issue worth buying!)

The Dizzies...Your one and only source into the scandalous lives of Manhattan's elite....yesterday....SPOTTED: A Hungarian Bookstore called THE BLUE DANUBE on 83rd Street.......ALSO the Webster branch of the NYPL has a well-stocked bookstore in the basement.....It's been there for five years?!.....Newish hardcovers for $2, interesting trade paperbacks for the same..........tons of cheap-o mystery and SF............xoxo, THE DIZZIES


Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Tennis, everyone?

At The Rumpus, Dizzies T.M. Sweeney talks to director Lisandro Alonso:

Rumpus: You stayed in the same room as Juan?

Alonso: Yes, the lowest level. You sleep a lot, there’s not a lot to do. You eat a lot. It’s not about the legend of the sailor. What’s not normal is their life out of the water. The ship is their real world. They don’t care about cars, telephones, traffic lights. Who cares about Obama? Their worries are tied to the ship. It is sad and hard. Once they go onto the land, they stay for a couple days, just for a drink and see some family. But they live on the water. It’s not very easy.

Rumpus: But it’s their choice.

Alonso: Yes, but once you get into that life, and they are very well paid, it’s tough to run away. Maybe they can, but after five to ten years, they don’t know what to do, how to make money otherwise. It’s like everybody, once you know how to do something, you can’t change and say, “Now I want to be a tennis player.”

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Quote information

At the New Yorker, fragments of Ben Greenman's long-rumored Bernie Madoff musical have surfaced.

I went into finance
Like my father before me
But the ways of the business
Soon started to bore me

It wasn’t the numbers
It was the techniques
With which stocks were traded
I improved them in weeks

The dissemination
Of quote information
Using computers
Was my innovation

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About the author (revised)

I think it would be funny if you lived in Brooklyn and worked in Manhattan, and your "about the author" jacket blurb read: "So-and-so divides his time between Brooklyn and Manhattan."

Well, maybe this is just as funny:

Ed Park blah blah blah...Blah blah blah.
He divides his time between West 95th Street and West 116th Street.

[Based on a joke told to Jessica Winter.]


From the sides

Yesterday, my class discussed "All'estero," from Sebald's Vertigo. This morning (i.e., just now), without even looking, as it were—prompted by a seemingly random Google Alert, pegged to my name listed on the margin of the Sebald blog Vertigo (I wonder, has it just been added?)—I came across Will Self's thoughts on "reverse-engineering" a Sebaldian narrative, in the Guardian:

When I came to Vertigo myself, then read the interviews conducted with Sebald and collected in the volume entitled The Emergence of Memory, it was with that same sense of deliberately engineered déjà vu that I had experienced trudging the subsiding loess of the Holderness coast. Sebald speaks of his own methodology in spatial terms: "If you are travelling along the road and things come in from the sides to offer themselves, then you're going in the right direction. If nothing comes, you are barking up the wrong tree." Then again: "We're living exactly on the borderline between the natural world . . . and that other world which is generated by our brain cells. And so clearly that fault line runs through our physical and emotional makeup . . . where these tectonic plates rub against each other [are] the sources of pain."

[At The Unarchivable: My 2002 piece on Sebald and Gaddis.]

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Monday, February 09, 2009


This is just to remind myself to read it when I have time.


Not ourobori—just snakes, at AJRMS.

(NSFW, if your boss doesn't like snakes.)

Darts of pleasure

Bookdarts, anyone?

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Memo to myself

I. Sam Anderson on Updike: "He wrote steadily, with very little angst, three pages a day, five days a week." (New York)

II. Cory Doctorow with some tips on "Writing in the Age of Distraction" (Locus):

Kill your word-processor

Word, Google Office and OpenOffice all come with a bewildering array of typesetting and automation settings that you can play with forever. Forget it. All that stuff is distraction, and the last thing you want is your tool second-guessing you, "correcting" your spelling, criticizing your sentence structure, and so on. The programmers who wrote your word processor type all day long, every day, and they have the power to buy or acquire any tool they can imagine for entering text into a computer. They don't write their software with Word. They use a text-editor, like vi, Emacs, TextPad, BBEdit, Gedit, or any of a host of editors. These are some of the most venerable, reliable, powerful tools in the history of software (since they're at the core of all other software) and they have almost no distracting features — but they do have powerful search-and-replace functions. Best of all, the humble .txt file can be read by practically every application on your computer, can be pasted directly into an email, and can't transmit a virus.

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Hoof to paw

Take a good look, America...take a good look, world.

See esp. around 2:09.

(From Arlo)

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Now I push you too

Yesterday my eye snagged on the headline of an article about the Sundance-feted film Push, based on the novel by Sapphire—"Wrenching Film Poses Marketing Challenge."

Then a few pages later I saw a short review of...Push. Which I skimmed, vaguely thinking, That's odd, how is it that the movie is already out, wasn't Sundance just yesterday? But I supposed it could happen—I was still pretty tired.

I was dimly aware that the plot seemed to have little connection to what I knew of the Sapphire book. ("The story," according to the first article, "centers on an illiterate and obese African-American teenager in 1980s Harlem who is pregnant with her father’s child — for the second time — and is also abused by her mother.") I jumped to the last line of the review, which struck me as really weird: "Trust me: when those Chinese brothers scream, more than your ears will be bleeding."

Later I was eating a cookie and reading the review again and realized, This can't be the same movie:
At a time when most of our high schoolers struggle to make change without electronic help, the proliferation of movie and television characters with special abilities is more than a little utopian. In “Push,” these abilities are rooted in Nazi experiments to transform people into biological weapons, and the movie is crawling with clairvoyants, mind controllers and human bloodhounds.

(Headline for this post comes from here.)

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Friday, February 06, 2009

Diary of a nobody

A hundred examples of these dryly detailed, unintentionally revealing manuscripts came up for sale last week at Horst Auction Center in Ephrata, Pa., just north of Lancaster. A dozen bidders, mostly Amish, spent about $3,000 for all the lots, which ranged from 1850s daybooks and medicine and dessert recipes by one Christian Lantz Fisher ($130) to Sarah King’s 1930s-1990s annotations ($25) that the Horst catalog summarizes as “weather, company for supper, visiting, quilting, baking, household chores, stitching rose chair cushions, painting door stops.”

Clarence E. Spohn, the cataloguer for the Horst sale, said in a telephone interview: “We could find no precedent for any collection like this previously being auctioned. It’s not common at all for this material to surface on the market. Much of it was lost or destroyed by the families.” The consigner, Mr. Spohn added, is “an Ohio collector who is not Amish but has had a strong interest in Amish culture for decades. He’s now downsizing.” (The sale, on Jan. 30, also included 70 scholarly books with titles like “Mennonite Attire Through Four Centuries” and “Plain and Amish: An Alternative to Modern Pessimism.”)


(From Dzyd Bill)


February Believer

February Believer is out! It's all over the map. Don't get whiplash! Muriel Spark...New Zealand rock...Thornton Wilder's other writing...Travis Nichols talks to John Ashbery...Sheila Heti talks to Mary Gaitskill...Stephen Burt reviews Robyn Schiff's Revolver...Tom Bissell on videogames...MORE...The very funny Jack Pendarvis, with "The Fifty Greatest Things That Just Popped Into My Head"...Dzyd Khongster's food-centered micro-interviews...

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"Motion-picture lost and found"

Video for first Psychic Envelopes single discovered!


Thursday, February 05, 2009

Video Thursday

This seems like something from Ed Halterland:

(Via James)

Righteous tunesmithery via Andrew ("...dizziness that's in my brain"):

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Bad jobbbbbb

Our House Bunny post has been postponed. No further details are available at this time. We apologize for the inconvenience.


Herbal essence

The first wave arrived in October 2005, drawing thousands of New Yorkers onto the streets for a lively debate. Was it maple syrup? Caramel? A freshly baked pie? But as quickly as it arrived, it had vanished. Then, last month, the smell returned.

Both times, the city’s police and 311 information lines were flooded with calls. Many feared bioterrorism cloaked in an pleasant aroma.

On Thursday, the city announced that the mystery had been solved. The source of the odor was a plant in North Bergen, N.J., which processes seeds of the herb fenugreek to produce fragrances.



Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Net loss

US Puzzled by Iran's Rejection of Badminton Team

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Slow learner

I. It was only last year, I think, that I caught the pun in T Cooper's Some of the Parts. As in "sum" of the parts!

II. I probably already mentioned this but it was only upon reaching the end—I think literally the very last page—of Carl Wilson's book on Céline Dion, Let's Talk About Love: A Journey to the End of Taste, that it hit me: the subtitle was a play on namesake Céline's Journey to the End of Night!

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Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Existential doubt

But a man identifying himself as “Henry,” who called The New York Times on Tuesday in response to messages for Poster Boy sent through friends, cast some existential doubt on whether Mr. Matyjewicz was, in fact, the man the police were after.

“Henry is one of many individuals who believe in the Poster Boy ‘movement,’ ” the man wrote later on Tuesday in an e-mail message, referring to Mr. Matyjewicz in the third person. “Henry’s part is to do legal artwork while propagating the ideas behind Poster Boy. That’s why it was O.K. for him to take the fall the other night.”

He added, “Henry Matyjewicz is innocent.”

—Randy Kennedy, NYT


Watch this space

I have a startling insight into The House Bunny, which I will share with you on THURSDAY AFTERNOON.

Long setup + cryptic review = ??

Q: You don't go out to the movies like you once did.
A: That's true.
Q: How many movies last year? Five, six?
A: More like two!
Q: And this year...
A: One. Rachel Getting Married.
Q: The Anne Hathaway—
A: Yes. Slumdog Millionaire was sold out. I wasn't really sure what Rachel Getting Married was about—I don't think I knew it was a Jonathan Demme movie, even. But it was right across the street and the timing worked out.
Q: You've watched a lot of Hathaway movies.
A: [Laughs.] Oh, I don't know about that.
Q: Some of the lesser known titles in the canon.
A: Princess Diaries was really good. The sequel wasn't.
Q: You reviewed both of them.
A: Yes.
Q: And Ella Enchanted.
A: I did? Ella...hmmm. [Types.] Oh yes. I don't remember that movie very well.
Q: And the Mormon one.
A: What? Ohhhh....[Types.] Yes. Wait, here's the review, from the PTSNBN:

Though The Other Side of Heaven (Excel, opens April 12) is to Latter Day Saint proselytizing what Top Gun was to Air Force recruitment, this adaptation of John H. Groberg's memoir of his Tongan missionary years is strangely coy about its denominational allegiance. Indeed, for the first hour, Mormonism is the faith that dare not speak its name (Groberg's pa is cryptically referred to as "the only Democrat in Idaho Falls"), and the non-tithers among us must work with the evidence: the sock hop at BYU, the absence of crucifixes, the frosty reception given "Elder" John (Christopher Gorham) by the island's other Bible-thumper. Perhaps even the SLC high command found writer-director Mitch Davis's wall of kitsch hard going. Despite sole-gnawing rats and a woman of color up for a roll in the ferns, the white man's burden has rarely seemed lighter; straight-arrow John never wavers in his devotion to church and stateside squeeze (Anne Hathaway). When the mother of John's would-be seductress pleads for a "half-white baby," he shows her a picture of his beloved. Overcome with shame, the woman commences to sob.

Atmospheric disturbances

Levi listens to Wodehouse:

COOKE: Are you ever inclined to make a big jump into completely contemporary material?

WODEHOUSE: Well I'm not sure that I can manage it. This one's coming out next year, there's nothing to date it at all, it could all have happened yesterday.

COOKE: But, I mean, you're not moved by things like astronauts or urban renewal?

WODEHOUSE: [Laughing] Oh, no. No. No, I feel much happier with the sort of atmosphere I'm accustomed to.


Monday, February 02, 2009

I Am Not Steve Martin

From today's VSL:

Midway through his career as an actor and performance artist, John Haskell began cultivating his own, strange corner of the literary landscape. His first book — I Am Not Jackson Pollock (2003) — positioned him as a sly interpreter of our often-befuddling culture. His new novel, Out of My Skin, should cement that reputation.

The novel’s hero, Jack, is a writer who wants to walk away from his own, befuddled self. And so, after meeting a Steve Martin impersonator, he decides to become one, too. What he’s really trying to do is find a way to empty himself of his cares and neuroses. Instead, he feels colonized by a persona that takes over and won’t let go. It’s a quirky premise but a solid one, and Haskell exploits it to the fullest: The book is crammed with quiet surprises and quick, thought-provoking moments.

From today's NYT, an article on Steve Martin's banjo playing:

“It’s a secret world,” he said of bluegrass in an interview at his “SNL” dressing room, where his banjo sat beside him in its case like a baby in a bassinet. “It’s a big world, but it’s thin. And it doesn’t make the news, which is actually quite fantastic.”

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A journey to the end of the gastro-intestinal system

The project of translating any of his works is besmirched in advance by Céline's contempt for translators, whose attempts inspired him with a neat neologism equating tranlsator with the anus: trouducuteur.
—from Marlon Jones's introduction to Céline's Normance

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Sunday, February 01, 2009

Wild and crazy guy

New TONY feature on John Haskell, whose third book is the excellent Out of My Skin:
Distinctions between the author and his book’s narrator are intentionally blurry. Like his protagonist, Haskell recently moved from New York to Los Angeles. Like Jack, he is fascinated by the films that are discussed within the novel: North by Northwest, Detour and Sunset Blvd. “I wanted to have a sense of reality,” Haskell says of his decision to make Jack a skewed version of himself. “I wanted it to be as if it could have been this guy’s memoir—my memoir—about the time I went through this little period in my life, or in his life.”


Pfink twice

His “Rat Pfink a Boo Boo” (1966) was a psychological thriller until halfway through the shooting. Mr. Steckler then had an idea: wouldn’t it be fun if Batman and Robin popped out of a closet? So the second half of the film was a goofball superhero parody.

—from the NYT obit for Ray Dennis Steckler

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Dig this

I don’t dig being told that something like eggplants tastes good when I’m perfectly capable of telling that it doesn’t!

—"15 Is a Goofy Age," Dig, April 1960

(From Dzyd Brent)


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