Friday, September 30, 2011

Friday shorties

I.(Via F.S. Andrew B. Eisenman)

II. From a great annotated interview of HK director Tsui Hark, by Grady Hendrix, in Film Comment:

So besides the midnight previews, what else accounts for this extremely fast editing technique you use? I mean, your movies really do scream along.
We are very nervous people. That’s why our movies go faster than other movies. I think we were a little bit faster than normal people in those days because we felt like we had to tell a longer story in a shorter time.

(Via R. Emmet Sweeney)

III. At Tor, Saladin's Sundrarium looks at the RPG art of David A. Trampier (aka DAT, "Tramp"), whose illustrations include "arguably the most iconic piece of art in all of RPGdom." A great list (for those who remember his work), with a completely unexpected postscript. A must read!

(Via Grognardia, naturally)

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Thursday, September 29, 2011

Dudely lulls

The literary critic, theorist and Shakespeare scholar Stephen Greenblatt’s new book, “The Swerve: How the World Became Modern,” is partly about an obsessive book collector, and it begins, appropriately enough, with a book purchase of the author’s own.

In the mid-1960s, when he was a student at Yale and searching for summer reading, Mr. Greenblatt came upon a prose translation of Lucretius’ 2,000-year-old poem “On the Nature of Things” (“De Rerum Natura”). He plucked it from a Yale Co-op bargain bin for 10 cents, partly because he liked its sexy cover, a pair of disembodied legs floating above the Earth in an apparent act of “celestial coition.” —Dwight Garner, NYT


There were other goodies in yesterday's art section. Ben Ratliff's review of the Foo Fighters show had a line that made me laugh: "Mr. Grohl and his tastes may be the only carbon-based link between the Boredoms and Tom Petty, whose 'Breakdown' the Foo Fighters played during a dudely lull." Dudely lull!

And Dave Itzkoff's piece on Dylan's Asia paintings, some of which appear to be based on famous photos, mentioned the Confessions of a Yakuza controversy...which reminded me of this lyric:

I dreamed I saw St. Augustine alive as you or me
Then in the year I turned 16, a man who came to recruit laborers for the Ashio copper mines asked me if I cared to work there.

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Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Weird sisters

"How I loathe that kind of novel which is about a lot of sisters. It is usually called They Were Seven, or Three-Not Out, and one spends one's entire time trying to sort them all out, muttering, 'Was it Isobel who drank, or Gertie? And which was it who ran away with the gigolo, Amy or Pauline? And which of their separated husbands was Lionel, Isobel's or Amy's?'" —Rachel Ferguson, The Brontës Went to Woolworths

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Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Enter Sandman

"Sandman may not be the strangest game ever published in the annals of the hobby, but it's probably the strangest game I ever purchased. As you might guess based on the ad's description of Sandman as a "game of dramatic entertainment," Sandman presented itself as something different from the average roleplaying game. Each player took on the role of an amnesiac traveler in a surreal world with which they weren't familiar, so there was no need for character generation or world information, which theoretically made it suitable for complete novices. The idea was that the players would learn about the game's weird setting and their characters through play over the course of many adventures, four of which were included in the initial Map of Halaal boxed set...

"Had the game line continued, there'd have been several more boxed sets, each of which provided more clues about the nature of the characters, the setting, and the titular Sandman, a mysterious being who seems to know who the characters are and may or may not be responsible for their presence in the game's bizarre world. Discovering the identity of the Sandman was also the goal of a contest offering a $10,000 prize to the winner. So far as I know, no one ever won the prize, but that might have more to do with the fact that Pacesetter went out of business sometime in 1986 or thereabouts." —Grognardia (where else?)

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Saturday, September 24, 2011


Greater New York is in some ways like a house. Manhattan is the living room, with the TV and the stereo and the good furniture, where guests are entertained. Brooklyn and Queens are the bedrooms where the family sleeps, and the Bronx is the attic, full of inflammable crap that nobody has any use for. Staten Island is the backyard, and Long Island is the detached garage, so filled up with paint cans, workbenches, and motorboat that you can’t get the car in it anymore. Hudson County over in New Jersey is the basement, with the furnace and the freezer and the stacks of old newspapers, and the Jersey swamps are the toilet. Westchester is the den with paneling and a fake kerosene lamp, and Connecticut is the guest room, with starched curtains and landscape prints. The kitchen is way up in Albany, which means the food is always cold by the time it gets to the table, and the formal dining room was torn down by William Zeckendorf and friends back in the early fifties. —Donald Westlake, Dancing Aztecs (quoted by Sarah Weinman)


The morning sun picks out an apartment house, a cigar store, streams through the dusty windows of a loft. The racket swells with the light. These shoes are killing me, she said, taking the cover off the typewriter. Main Central is up to forty-six. Did you read about the earthquake?

Looms, shears, jackhammers, trolley cars, voices, add to the din. And in the quieter streets the hawker with the pushcart moves slowly by. Badabadabada O Gee! Hawkers of vegetables, plants, fruit. Badabadabada
O Gee!

In half a million rooming-house rooms the call penetrates ill-fitting windows. The boy who came to be a writer is waked in his mid-town room and dresses for his shift on the elevator. In Chelsea the girl who came to be an actress launders her stockings. The boy who was going to Wall Street sprawls on his bed, wincing as each cry cuts into his dream of the smell of fresh hay and warm milk. A deep blast rises, drowning the sound of hawkers, children, automobiles. The Conte di Savoia steams up the river; wine from Capri, olive oil from Spain, figs and dates from North Africa.

Shouting screaming kids fill the streets, playing baseball, football, hopscotch, jump-rope, dodging swift-moving trucks and taxis. Down Fifth Avenue marches a May Day parade sixty thousand strong. Solidarity forever, solidarity forever, the portentous tramp, tramp of regimented feet; slogans called, banners flying. Up lower Broadway an open car moves slowly through the yelling throng and on its pulled-back hood, laughing, waving into the snowstorm that flutters thickly downward from high-up windows, sits a returned aviator, explorer, movie actor, champion chess player, the first man to walk the length of Manhattan backwards. —from John Cheever's introduction to the 1939 New York City Guide (quoted by Jason Boog)

Yet [New York] was much more than a glittering modern city for Lovecraft. It was that in the early months of his stay, but it soon came to be seen as a darker, older, and far more protean city—at least on his many walks in the dead of night. As he threaded his way through a maze of tenuous and delicate mental impressions, in the night shadows and dawn glimmerings of New York City he found a new dream-city that could function simultaneously as an inspirational fever-dream, as a text, as an antiquarian reliquary, as a sort of psychic comforter to aid him in his battle against the mundane and horrifyingly noisy reality of daylight hours. —David Haden, Walking With Cthulhu: H.P. Lovecraft as Psychogeographer (New York: 1924–26)

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Monday, September 19, 2011

Winning streak

"When the Tigers' 12-game winning streak ended on Thursday, there was actually an air of relief in their clubhouse. That's because manager Jim Leyland and batting coach Lloyd McClendon were finally able to change their underwear. Superstition has always been a big part of baseball, but Leyland and McClendon may have taken it a little too far when they elected not to change their underwear as long as the Tigers kept on winning." (Source unknown)

(Via Jane)


Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The Diary of Parkus Grammaticus, Sept. 14, 2011

I. Last night I had the honor of presenting the Ambassador Book Award for American Studies to Rebecca Skloot, for her book The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. Skloot was sunable to attend, but it was a fun and interesting evening. Alan Brinkley won the nonfiction award for The Publisher, his biography of Henry Luce; Christian Wiman picked up the poetry prize for Every Riven Thing; Janet Malcolm received a lifetime achievement award; and—arriving at the last possible minute!—Deborah Eisenberg collected the Amby (we don't actually call them that) for fiction, for her Collected Stories. Tony Judt's widow, Jennifer Homans, gave an incredibly moving speech in accepting the posthumous award (for a "book of special distinction") given to The Memory Chalet.

English-Speaking Union 2011 Ambassador Book Award winners with committee members:

(l to r) Adam Kirsch, Ambassador Book Awards Committee Chair; Jennifer Homans accepting on behalf of Tony Judt, for The Memory Chalet(The Penguin Press); Molly Stern of Crown Publishing accepting on behalf of Rebecca Skloot for The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks (Crown); Alan Brinkley for The Publisher: Henry Luce and His American Century (Alfred A. Knopf); Deborah Eisenberg for Collected Stories of Deborah Eisenberg (Picador); Committee member Benjamin Taylor; Lifetime Achievement Award winner Janet Malcolm; Committee members Ed Park and Maureen Howard.

II. Afterward I skedaddled downtown to KGB, where I managed to slip into a very crowded room—what a turnout! Thanks to Karolina and Max for running this baby, and to (F.S.) Rebecca Taylor, Justin Taylor (no relation), and Rozalia Jovanovic for reading. Sadly I missed most of Rebecca's reading, but the end was tantalizing: footage from one of the no-budget horror flicks that she starred in (as recounted in her Believer piece, "Virginia Mountain Scream Queen"). (Anyone shoot video of RT?) Justin read a wonderful little memoir about (among other things) once being Tao Lin's roommate. And Rozi read her music issue feature on the band Salem, to a smoke machine and a series of enigmatic/spooky/funny slides. So great to see so many people having fun.

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Monday, September 12, 2011

Crying Birds™ for September 12, 2011

Albert Pujols had no comment about a derogatory tweet the Brewers' Nyjer Morgan posted after being ejected from a game against the Cardinals, but manager Tony La Russa did.

Morgan, whose handle is @TheRealTPlush, referred to Pujols as Alberta and criticized Pujols for running to the mound and making sure Morgan's confrontation with Cardinals starter Chris Carpenter didn't escalate in the ninth inning of a shutout over Milwaukee on Wednesday night.

"Alberta couldn't see Plush if she had her gloves on!!!" Morgan tweeted, and added, "Wat was she thinking running afta Plush!!! She never been n tha ring!!!"

Earlier he referred to the Cardinals as crying birds.

La Russa said that Morgan was a good player but that he needed to "get a clue." La Russa added, "I'm aware of him. The less you talk about him, the better off you are." --AP

(Via Jane)

2. Over at The Literarian, the Mercantile Center for Fiction's magazine, I pick a few SF-ish titles that I like. (Oddly, when I was first asked to come up with a list, all I knew for sure was that I wanted to mention Joe Haldeman's The Forever War...which I forgot about until it was too late!)

3. Fans of interviews in The Believer will want to check out the latest issue of Jeff Lemire's Animal Man...done as a Believer interview!

(Via Douglas)

4. Tomorrow! A Believer event at KGB, featuring Justin Taylor, Rozalia Jovanovic, and f.s. Rebecca Taylor!

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Friday, September 09, 2011

Lyrics matter

More great comments on Hey Dullblog—on favorite unreleased tracks, Seinfeld and nothingness, and the theory that "Yesterday" and "The Night Before" are thematically identical—from Devin, Nancy, Glavin (Garvin? Gavin? Garmin? Glaven), and Mr. Levi Stahl. A smattering:

Devin: "Seinfeld": it was fatuous and lazy for commentators to use that phrase "show about nothing" as if it spoke the whole truth. But I think it was legitimately used by some to encapsulate the show's peculiar and innovative charm -- that unlike "The Brady Bunch," say (which like all children of the '70s I LOVE), episodes didn't require a moral or even a resolution. The "something" we'd all been spoonfed (by shows like "The Brady Bunch," which did I mention I LOVE) was the real nothing: bourgeois values and stale homily. (LOVE.) Whereas "Seinfeld"'s "nothing" was really "something"--the vigor, absurdity, and random magic of ordinary life, heightened and tweaked to perfection.

Glaven: As for "Yes It Is" ... Formally, it's a lot like "This Boy", in that the chord progression of e verses is exactly the same as TB, just transposed from the key of D to E; also, the rhythm guitar strumming pattern is exactly the same. This suggests that it may have started out as a rewrite of TB, but I agree with you that it is far superior to the earlier song, and, taken all-in-all, is a far different and far richer song. And Ithink the only way one could conclude otherwise, could see it as a mere knockoff of TB, is by ignoring the far superior lyrics. Lyrics matter. Sometimes I think people forget that.

Nancy: My favorite unreleased Beatles track is Lennon's "Child of Nature." I read somewhere that it was left off the White album because it was too close in subject to "Mother Nature's Son," but I think these two songs would have made a great double A-side.

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Believer event next Tuesday at KGB!

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Wednesday, September 07, 2011

The White Album and other hot messes

Over at Hey Dullblog, the Beatles blog for today's modern listener, Mike asks readers for their favorite unreleased Beatles song. This turned into a skewering of the White Album:

That's my biggest issue with White, how it's totally fashionable and false, just like most Beatle's solo output, and not like what came before. Both it and Let It Be seem like the triumph of each band member's persona over their authentic selves; they are their final refusal to change, when change was what The Beatles did best. Lennon's "honest" and politically aware (in a rockstar way) and intentionally grimy. McCartney's that much more eager to please (which is why his music hall thing gets out of control). Harrison's either wafting away on a cloud or acidly angry. Starr is a good ol' boy who just happened to be born in the North of England...I don't like the White Album anymore than I like The Beatles' cartoon, for the same reasons.

There follows a spirited back and forth with the almighty Dev, who decrees:

It's all a matter of what you hear. If you hear something and love it, you'll find ways to give personal context to the importance it has to you. If you don't like it, you'll find those reasons. What you hear as "the Beatles' final refusal to change" I hear as drama--four individuals joined under the skin, that skin withering and wearing, their unity telepathic even as their verbal communication breaks down, fighting within the skin to work together and push the group to new lands: and all of that without, I believe, any conscious intent. White, in the best Beatle tradition, doesn't intend, it IS. Whereas "Abbey Road" for all its magnificent passages is an acquiescence, an abrogation of conflict for bliss, consequently lacking (overall) in drama and even a little inhuman.

White Album is the first principle and the last. It is Moby-Dick. And you thought you were fed up with the praise before!

("Everyone Knew Her As") Nancy steps in, to smooth some feathers:

There's something spooky about the White Album's tendency to engender intense, often negative feelings, both at the time and now. Much as I love parts of it, I can rarely listen to more than a couple of songs from it at a time.

Devin, I agree with you about the way John's comments ("backing band") color the way we hear this album. Certainly there was plenty of tension and bad feeling, but listen to a song like "Dear Prudence" -- what amazing collaboration, especially between Lennon's melody and McCartney's sublime bassline. The evidence of collaboration and enjoyment in many songs makes the overall effect of the album all the sadder.

A lot of food for thought. Great stuff!

And—sorry, Mike—I fall into the pro-White Album camp...I was utterly thrilled when I listened to it for the first time (long before I read any rock crit); if memory serves, a local radio station played an old "classic" album in its entirety every Friday night, beginning at 11. I taped The Beatles off the radio in its entirety, marveling at whole continents of stuff I'd not heard before. Still thrills me. Still have the tape, for that matter!

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Friday, September 02, 2011

Catchin' up — New Believer! — Free e-Stark — &c.

I haven't been blogging—I was in Taiwan and couldn't figure how to work Blogger. Did you miss me? [Tumbleweed.]

Now—to business!

I. The September Believer is out. On the site, you can read a Gregory Kornbluh's wonderful piece on master palindromist Barry Duncan, as well as Ross Simonini's (about whom, more later) interview with Jason Schwartzman. But you need to get the whole print issue in your hands. It's great. THERE IS A CONVERSATION BETWEEN DON DELILLO AND BRET EASTON ELLIS. (One of the many things I learned: DD excised 15 pages from a paperback reprint of Americana. I wonder which 15? I wonder why?)

Marc Katz has a mouth-watering essay on Huysmans' Against Nature (which has been lingering on my bookshelf for approximately 9 million years, and which I really now must read!), Nate Pedersen looks at the origins of the "butler did it" mystery trope, Meaghan Winter gets wiggy with Orthodox Jewish hairpieces...There's the usual Marcus/Pendarvis/Handler/Hornby columny goodness, filthy comics, reviews, and more...Verdict: Great issue!

II. The one book I read while away was Lawrence Douglas's upcoming novel The Vices, which is excellent—just my cup of tea. I was a huge fan of his debut novel, The Catastrophist (and profiled him for the PTSNBN, in one of my last articles there); this one shares some of the themes but seems to me even more successful—exhilarating, even.

Try the first page and see if you can stop. It's about a stalled novelist's friendship with the Bernhardesque Oliver Vice, and the prose is pure pleasure: elegant, comic, wise. There are subtle pleasures, too, that I'm not sure I can do justice to. For example, a brief passage in the first half of the book gently triggered a memory of a scene in Nabokov's The Real Life of Sebastian Knight...and many many pages later, the narrator and his friend talk about that very novel, in such a way that the book itself becomes suggestively and satisfyingly unmoored.

I will have quotes for you soon.

III. Levi alerted me to two free e-books by Donald E. Westlake—God Save the Mark (which I reviewed for the PTSNBN; it's perfect light reading) and (as Richard Stark) The Score.

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Analyze this

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