Tuesday August 31, 2004
This HTML-inspired protest sign is extremely happy-making. But how would you do that in CSS?
The AP’s headline for its coverage of the opening night of the RNC is “Republicans Salute Bush As Wartime Leader.” No kidding? It reminds me of that classic definition of chutzpah — murdering your parents and then begging for leniency because you’re an orphan.
I have to admit that the high level of blog chat about the Booker Prize leaves me bored, bored, bored. Maybe I should care, but I do not. Maybe I lack the requisite Anglophilia, or maybe it’s just because I have not read — and may not ever read — any of the books on the longlist. But creating a Booker scandal just for fun? That’s something I can get behind.
Monday August 30, 2004
The neocons are busy revising the French out of everything. A new book even tries to elbow them out of the Enlightenment. Adam Smith better than Diderot? Read The Wealth of Nations, then read Rameau’s Nephew. Repeat as necessary.
(via Arts & Letters Daily.)
Friday August 27, 2004
I’m guest blogging at MoorishGirl today. Come on over.
Thursday August 26, 2004
Author George Saunders — who previously presented an absurdist yet sensible exit strategy for Iraq — returns to Slate to outline the program of the People Reluctant to Kill for an Abstraction (PRKA), whose members have been displaying their quiet power by not killing, maiming or torturing anyone. But who are the PRKA? Saunders explains.
Who are we? A word about our membership.
Since the world began, we have gone about our work quietly, resisting the urge to generalize, valuing the individual over the group, the actual over the conceptual, the inherent sweetness of the present moment over the theoretically peaceful future to be obtained via murder. Many of us have trouble sleeping and lie awake at night, worrying about something catastrophic befalling someone we love. We rise in the morning with no plans to convert anyone via beating, humiliation, or invasion. To tell the truth, we are tired. We work. We would just like some peace and quiet. When wrong, we think about it awhile, then apologize. We stand under awnings during urban thunderstorms, moved to thoughtfulness by the troubled, umbrella-tinged faces rushing by. In moments of crisis, we pat one another awkwardly on the back, mumbling shy truisms. Rushing to an appointment, remembering a friend who has passed away, our eyes well with tears and we think: Well, my God, he could be a pain, but still I’m lucky to have known him.
Wednesday August 25, 2004
Pleasure Boat Captains for Truth challenge W.’s record as a boozy, coke-sniffing joy boy.
(via New Yorkish.)
I love DFL (i.e. “Dead Fucking Last”) — a blog dedicated to tracking last places finishes at the Olympics — for so many reasons. There’s its obsessiveness, its philosophy and, of course, its exclusive ranking of last place finishes by country. (China is, um, winning?) It’s a good corrective to all the kvetching about unstuck landings that follow triple somersaults with one and a half twists. I’m lucky if I stick the landing getting out of bed in the morning. As blogger Jonathan Crowe says of his gallery of so-called losers: “Most of us couldn’t even come close to doing what they just did.”
(via New Yorkish.)
Sunday August 22, 2004
Edvard Munch’s painting “The Scream” has been stolen from Oslo’s Munch Museum for the second time in ten years — this time in an incredible daylight stick up. That should be easy to sell. In the meantime, Norwegian authorities ought to conduct a sweep of freshman dorm rooms. That’s where I’d hide it.
(via Yahoo News!)
Friday August 20, 2004
At age 81, Kurt Vonnegut claims to have only two allies left: librarians and In These Times. In the latter, the author reflects on “this humiliating, shameful blood-soaked year” in which Americans present themselves “to the rest of the world as proud, grinning, jut-jawed, pitiless war lovers.”
BTW, more than half of Americans still believe Iraq had WMD. A third believe there were close ties between Saddam and al-Qaida. 15 percent think Iraq was directly involved in 9/11, despite the 9/11 Commission’s report to the contrary. I wonder why.
Wednesday was my 35th birthday. While I usually avoid retrospection of any kind, I realized — as I was hunting down a copy of the new GQ to see how an item I’d written turned out — that it’s been exactly ten years since I first got paid for writing something. My first record review appeared in The Memphis Flyer on my 25th birthday. It was a CD by Kiwi-core band Bailter Space. I couldn’t conjure up an aural image of what it sounded like if I tried. It was less than 200 words and I got paid 10 dollars — plus I got to keep the CD, which I lost, sold or gave away long ago. Later that night, I got kicked out of Memphis’ semi-famous Antenna Club and had an unopened beer can (justly) thrown into my nose, from point blank range, by the owner.
This year’s celebration was much more, well, civilized. We went to see the Three Terrors show at the Angel Orensanz church on the Lower East Side. T3T is of course Stephin Merritt and 69 Love Songs guest vocalists LD Beghtol (who wrote about art in Memphis when I was writing about music) and Dudley Klute, singing cover tunes — this time all about New York. The set list was fantastic — ranging from Nico’s “Chelsea Girls” to a 19th Century fallen Bowery girl ballad; from a Kurt Weil-inspired rendition of “Jenny From the Block” to a cover of “Walk on the Wild Side” in which the “colored girls” beeped like Laurie Anderson on “Oh, Superman.”
Maybe it’s just the burned out music critic in me, but I like how Merritt, the Terrors and their allies have gotten back to a pre-rock understanding of what popular music is. Artist and repetoire used to be two different things after all, and one reason is that there are far fewer competent songwriters around than there are competent interpreters — and there really aren’t many of those. Rock has painted itself into a corner with a demand for “authenticity” that requires unremarkable performers to condense their unremarkable lives into unremarkable songs and then act as if their lives and their songs were “true” or “real” in some important way. I think of the condescension with which Laurence Olivier reportedly treated Dustin Hoffman’s method-inspired preparations for Marathon Man. “Why don’t you just try acting,” Sir Laurence supposedly mused.
“Keeping it real,” however, seems to be an American requirement. James Dean isn’t an icon because he was adept at acting like a troubled youth, but because he was a troubled youth. Same with Marilyn Monroe. Can you imagine how little sway William S. Burroughs would have over the popular imagination if he hadn’t actually been a junky?
But the requirement that art, and especially music, be true to life (not “Life,” but an individual life) and vice versa secretly denies what art is — a craft, a trick, a cathartic illusion. The Terrors brought that home by breathing new life into both the familiar and the forgotten — uncovering the Life (with a capital “L”) in all of it. And, when it was over, I left under my own power, without even being asked.
Thursday August 19, 2004
I wrote a blurb about the hotly anticipated Motorola MPX for the September issue of GQ, which is now on newstands. For those of you not familar with the forthcoming phone/PDA combo, it’s very unique in that it has a double-hinge. It opens lengthwise for use as a phone and horizontally as a full Windows Pocket PC. And yes, my gadget-loving brethren, I did get to fiddle with an engineering sample. I was not, however, allowed to auction it off on eBay. Let’s just say that — having seen it up close — I still want one.
Friday August 13, 2004
Well, Alien vs. Predator opens today and I’m really, you know, well … yeah. My hope is that — following Freddy vs. Jason and the massive floppage that will be AVP — Hollywood will nevertheless fully embrace this new “versus” formula for creating new and exciting stink bombs, thus bringing about the End of Entertainment. Some suggestions:
(LOHANBOOBIES is a servicemark of Radosh.net.)
Thursday August 12, 2004
And I thought adapting Naked Lunch was a feat. Two Australians with useless graduate degrees — not unlike my own* — have made a three-hour film based on Martin Heidegger’s reading of Holderlin. Dread to follow.
*A PET THEORY: When all the grad students of the early nineties — during the last recession, before the Internet boom, when even MBAs weren’t getting jobs and a teaching assistantship seemed like a sweet, sweet deal — are dispersed back into the world and have reached the age — about 60 — when firing off crotchety letters to the local papers becomes a full-time obsession, the letters pages of small town gazettes and shoppers will suddenly be packed with references to Walter Benjamin, Jacques Lacan and the all important Aufhebung. No one will have any idea what we’re talking about.
(via Arts & Letters Daily.)
Friday August 06, 2004
I have been a very bad blogger lately. Bad blogger! Please accept these two items as reparation: