Stripped naked

I usually spend July writing something that's intellectually pressing to me, but this year it has been an anomalous month of syllabus design.

Most of the classes I teach fall together pretty easily (making a syllabus for a course on Pope and Swift, or on the eighteenth-century novel, is really very straightforward). This class caused me to examine all of my underlying presuppositions about literary criticism, what an English major should know, literary canons, etc. etc.! I would have perhaps felt the crisis more intensely if I hadn't already experienced it once before.

Often I think of syllabus-making as a form of enjoyable precrastination (I am not a precrastinator, my inbox has tens of thousands of emails that I never clean out and I leave lots of things to the last minute so that I can focus on the things that are really important to me, a syllabus is one of those things that can often properly be done shortly before classes start rather than taking up valuable summer mental real estate).

In this case, though, it was some of the most substantive and demanding intellectual work I've done for a while, and it was important to get it drafted now so that the seminar leaders I'll be working with have some idea of how they will supplement and shape the course with their own contributions.

It is really an impossible task: I have left a huge amount out, and there are all sorts of things I'm not doing at all (most notably, I think, I'm pretty much excluding almost all of cultural studies and all of the more political end of literary studies). That said, I am extremely excited about teaching it.

I am now just hoping that there will be a work-study student in the English department who will help me xerox and scan these book chapters!

Anyway, here it is, provisionally:

Books (available at Book Culture):

Austen, Emma (Oxford World’s Classics)
Beckett, Endgame (Grove)
Brown, Clotel (Bedford/St. Martin’s)
Dickinson, The Poems of Emily Dickinson (Belknap)
Jackson, Dickinson’s Misery: A Theory of Lyric Reading (Princeton)
Milton, Paradise Lost (Hackett)
Wilde, The Importance of Being Earnest and Other Plays (Oxford World’s Classics)
Wordsworth and Coleridge, Lyrical Ballads: 1798 and 1802 (Oxford World’s Classics)

Readings marked # are available on the Courseworks site.

9/2 Introduction

Criticism as taxonomy: ways of looking and describing; intensive vs. extensive reading
Literature and criticism pairings: Georges Perec/David Bellos, Christopher Smart/Geoffrey Hartman
Non-academic literary criticism: Geoff Dyer, Elif Batuman, Alan Hollinghurst, Andre Aciman

Readings for first seminar meeting:

#Donne, “The Canonization,” “The Ecstasy”
#Cleanth Brooks, from The Well Wrought Urn: Studies in the Structure of Poetry (1947; San Diego, New York and London: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1975), 3-21

9/9 Milton, books 1-4 of Paradise Lost

#Stanley Fish, from Surprised by Sin: The Reader in Paradise Lost, 2nd ed. (1967; Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1997), 22-37
#Christopher Ricks, from Milton’s Grand Style (Oxford: Clarendon, 1963), 118-138
#Sandra M. Gilbert and Susan Gubar, from “Milton’s Bogey: Patriarchal Poetry and Women Readers,” The Madwoman in the Attic: The Woman Writer and the Nineteenth-Century Literary Imagination (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1979), 187-207

9/16 Wordsworth and Coleridge, Lyrical Ballads (selections TBA)

#Geoffrey H. Hartman, Wordsworth’s Poetry, 1787-1814 (1964; Cambridge, MA and London: Harvard University Press, 1987), 141-162
#Paul De Man, “Time and History in Wordsworth,” Diacritics 17:4 (1987): 4-17

Short assignment #1 due in seminar

9/23 Dickinson, poems and Virginia Jackson, Dickinson’s Misery (selections for both TBA)

9/30 #Herbert, “Easter-wings” (2 versions)

# Random Cloud, “FIAT fLUX,” in Crisis in Editing: Texts of the English Renaissance, ed. Randall McLeod (New York: AMS Press, 1994), 61-172
#W. K. Wimsatt, Jr. and Monroe C. Beardsley, “The Intentional Fallacy,” in The Verbal Icon: Studies in the Meaning of Poetry (1954; New York: The Noonday Press, 1958), 3-18
#Roland Barthes, “The Death of the Author,” in Image Music Text, trans. Stephen Heath (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux/The Noonday Press, 1977), 152-154

Short assignment #2 due in seminar

10/7 #William Sherman, “Dirty Books? Attitudes Toward Readers’ Marks,” from Used Books: Marking Readers in Renaissance England (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2008), 153-178
#H. J. Jackson, “‘Marginal Frivolities’: readers’ notes as evidence for the history of reading,” in Owners, Annotators and the Signs of Reading, ed. Robin Myers, Michael Harris and Giles Mandelbrote (New Castle, DE and London: Oak Knoll Press and the British Library, 2005) 137-151
#Andrew Stauffer, “Hemans by the Book,” European Romantic Review 22:3 (2001): 373-380
#Nicholson Baker, “Discards,” The New Yorker (April 4, 1994): 64-86

Oct. 8 – Book Traces event, Butler Library

Seminars meet this week or next week, pending scheduling, at Butler Rare Books and Manuscripts

10/14 Sterne, Tristram Shandy, books I-II (5-137), V.xvi-xix (336-41), VI.xxxvi-xl (420-27)

#Victor Shklovsky, “The Novel as Parody,” in Theory of Prose, trans. Benjamin Sher (1990; Normal, IL: Dalkey Archive Press, 1998), 147-170
#Wayne C. Booth, The Rhetoric of Fiction (1961), 2nd ed. (Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press,1983), 221-240
#Peter Brooks, from Reading for the Plot: Design and Intention in Narrative (1984; Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1992), TK
#Arthur Conan Doyle, “The Musgrove Ritual”

10/21 Austen, Emma (vol. 1 at a minimum)

#James Wood, “Narrating,” from How Fiction Works (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2008), 3-38
#Frances Ferguson, “Jane Austen, Emma and the Impact of Form,” MLQ 61:1 (2000): 157-80

Short assignment #3 due in seminar

10/28 William Wells Brown, Clotel

#Ann duCille, “Where in the World is William Wells Brown? Thomas Jefferson, Sally Hemings, and the DNA of African-American Literary History,” American Literary History 12:3 (2000): 443-462
#Jonathan Senchyne, “Bottles of Ink and Reams of Paper: Clotel, Racialization, and the Material Culture of Print,” in Early African American Print Culture, ed. Lara Langer Cohen and Jordan Alexander Stein (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2012), 140-158
#Saidiya Hartman, “Venus in Two Acts,” Small Axe 26 (2008): 1-14

Short assignment #4 due in seminar

11/4 Election holiday – no class

11/11 #Melville, Billy Budd

#Barbara Johnson, “Melville’s Fist: The Execution of Billy Budd,” Studies in Romanticism 18:4 (1979): 567-599

11/18 Wilde, The Importance of Being Earnest

#Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, “Tales of the Avunculate: Queer Tutelage in The Importance of Being Earnest,” in Tendencies (Durham: Duke University Press, 1993), 52-72

Final paper proposal (topic, projected argument, selected evidence, annotated bibliography) due to seminar leader Friday, Nov. 21

11/25 Beckett, Endgame

#Theodor W. Adorno and Michael T. Jones, “Understanding Endgame,” New German Critique 26 (1982), 119-150

12/2 #Franco Moretti, “Trees,” in Graphs, Maps, Trees: Abstract Models for a Literary History (London and New York: Verso, 2005), 67-92
#Matthew Kirschenbaum, “The Remaking of Reading”
#Natalia Cecire, “Ways of Not Reading Gertrude Stein,” ELH (forthcoming)

Draft of final paper (8-10pp.) due to seminar leader Friday, Dec. 5; final paper due to seminar leader at a date of his or her specification.



Rank 2 versus rank 3

One interesting feature of the heuristics of Garton, Park, Poonen, Wood, Voight, discussed here previously: they predict there are fewer elliptic curves of rank 3 than there are of rank 2.  Is this what we believe?  On one hand, you might believe that having three independent points should be “harder” than having only two.  But there’s the parity issue.  All right-thinking people believe that there are equally many rank 0 and rank 1 elliptic curves, because 100% of curves with even parity have rank 0, and 100% of curves with odd parity have rank 1.  If a curve has even parity, all that has to happen to force it to have rank 2 is to have a non-torsion point.  And if a curve has odd parity, all that has to happen to force it to have rank 3 is to have one more non-torsion point you don’t know about it.  So in that sense, it seems “equally hard” to have rank 2 or rank 3, given that parity should be even half the time and odd half the time.

So my intuition about this question is very weak.  What’s yours?  Should rank 3 be less common than rank 2?  The same?  More common?



One day this summer, I took my son to a playground, and was deeply bummed out to see so many parents on their phones instead of playing with their kids. On the walk home, I roughed up some wireframes in my mind of some vaporware I’m pretty proud of: Cloakroom. Cloakroom is a mobile app that creates a private, localized network, using either Bluetooth or wireless, that locks phones for a set amount of time. Once created, every phone in the ‘cloakroom’ is locked, until the group as a whole decides to unlock the session, and each user ‘checks out’ (or unless the phones are powered off and on again, as a safety measure). I created this idea and page as a kind of joke, but it was gotten quite a bit of attention, which has surprised me. Head on over to the page to sign up, if you’d like to be notified if it’s ever made.


July 28, 2014

July 28, 2014

As a little boy, maybe 8 or 9 years old, I went to the Pasadena Museum for an opening for a Frenchman by the name of Marcel Duchamp. Once I got there, I had an instant “like” for the exhibition, because one, I feel this is art that was totally kid friendly.   For instance, a bicycle wheel on a stool.  What child couldn’t relate to that!  Also I have a faint memory of a snow shovel that was placed on the wall, and I thought that was pretty neat as well.  It was the first art exhibition I’ve been to, where I felt the mystery was being preserved, yet totally inviting.  Someone, I believe it was Walter Hopps introduced me to Duchamp.  I remember him being tall, but of course keep in mind that any kid thinks of a grown-up as being tall.  What impressed me is when Walter announced my name, Duchamp slightly bent his waist in a formal manner and shook my little hand.  I got the impression that he came to me, and approached me as not as an equal for God’s sake, but worthy enough to reach out for my hand.

The opening was a lot of fun and it felt special.  There was something in that room that just got the people there jazzed and excited.  Every Los Angeles artist was at the opening, and it was sort of like if the King and Queen of somewhere came to town, and it was a private engagement for that royalty couple.  In the small world that I lived in, it was obvious that this Frenchman was someone important.  Probably my favorite artist as a kid at that time was Salvador Dali. Due to mostly his appearance and his painting skills.  It wasn’t till I became a teenager or late teen and realized that Dali was the Kiss (as in the band) of art.  I out grew that artist but never lost my appreciation of Marcel Duchamp.  Speaking of (or writing)Dali, there was this amusing tale I read from John Cage, when he was hanging out with Duchamp in the late 50s, and Duchamp requested that both of them should visit Dali, who was staying somewhere  in New York City.  Cage couldn’t imagine why Duchamp would want to visit Dali, to be honest, I think he felt that Dali was below him and Duchamp. Which is most likely the case, but Duchamp actually liked Dali.  Not sure about loving his art, but he liked him as a character or person.  Cage went with him, and Dali did most of the talking, and Duchamp basically sat there and just smiled at him.  Cage didn’t really get it.  I think a lot of people didn’t get Duchamp because they really didn’t understand his zen like attention to accept almost anything.

When I began to write poetry, my main influence was Tristan Tzara, because to me he was the craziest writing poet on the planet.  But when I got older, I began to appreciate the poetry of John Ashbery.  What impressed about his work, as a young poet, is the absence of ego in his poetry.  It didn’t seem to be about him, but something else, but of course, it is really about the poet.  I often pretend that I’m not an egoist, by practicing a look on my face that says “I’m listening to you with all my senses.” In actuality, I am not really listening, but thinking about my writing or a picture of a pretty girl a friend sent to me via e-mail.   What I love about poetry is that there is a platform and one needs to work within its borders.  With that restriction, I feel more alive and free.  I imagine this is exactly what it is like to participate in S&M practices, where you either control someone or accept the fact that you are being controlled. I can understand that relationship fully.  Ashbery strikes me as a poet who is very open to the world, and takes it all in, but of course he edits the images he comes upon, and therefore his poetry.  One thing that stays in my mind is a quote from Ashbery (from an interview in The Paris Review) “I write with experiences in mind, but I don't write about them, I write out of them.” Also I am very much in tuned to his ear and eyes.  I don’t find Ashbery obscure, but in fact, he’s just more aware than others.  Another quote by him that stays with me, and I feel it could have been from Duchamp as well: “It's rather hard to be a good artist and also be able to explain intelligently what your art is about. In fact, the worse your art is, the easier it is to talk about, at least I would like to think so.”  

Someone made a sweet little figurine of that mysterious…

Someone made a sweet little figurine of that mysterious StreetView creature. (via @curetencho @gohsuket) (via Twitter / GammaCounter: Someone made a sweet little …)

(Half-cat, who was actually made in Photoshop and posted on internet message boards, was believed to be a Street View glitch)




“‘Whoa if true’ has become a big joke for me,” says Business Insider politics reporter Brett…”

““‘Whoa if true’ has become a big joke for me,” says Business Insider politics reporter Brett LoGiurato, “but the circumstances surrounding its origin say a lot about our online discourse and reporting in the age of Twitter. There’s a rapid desire to express shock, outrage, or both at a particular piece of news.””

- A brief history of ‘Whoa, if true’

forgottencool: You think Michael Jackson “invented” this…


You think Michael Jackson “invented” this shit?
This is Bill Bailey in 1955!


“So, what’s the trade-off here? In general, we are safer (automation makes airline flying safer, in…”

“So, what’s the trade-off here? In general, we are safer (automation makes airline flying safer, in general) except in the long-tail: pilots are losing both tacit knowledge of flying and some of its mechanics. But in general, we, as humans, have less and less understanding of our machines—we are compartmentalized, looking at a tiny corner of a very complex system beyond our individual comprehension. Increasing numbers of our systems—from finance to electricity to cybersecurity to medical systems, are going in this direction. We are losing control and understanding which seems fine—until it’s not. We will certainly, and unfortunately, find out what this really means because sooner or later, one of these systems will fail in a way we don’t understand.”

- Failing the Third Machine Age: When Robots Come for Grandma — The Message — Medium

jozefsquare: wonderfulambiguity: Milan Grygar, Acoustic…



Milan Grygar, Acoustic Drawing, 1986

"Eventually I met Cage the year he died in Bratislava. We were preparing a joint exhibition in Prague but before it was finished he passed away. It was actually supposed to be a concert: Cage and Grygar" | MIlan Grygar’s interesting interview on art, music and on giving advices | great share, many thanks..


The Fugitives (12)

fugitives thumbChapter XII: The Explosion

“We’ve seen some less-radical attempts to destroy technology in the real world in recent months,…”

“We’ve seen some less-radical attempts to destroy technology in the real world in recent months, mainly in the form of attacks on people wearing Glass or flying drones, or the drone on its own (by hockey fans who reportedly and incorrectly thought it belonged to the LAPD). As in the movie, the destroyers haven’t been identified or punished, with one exception: Andrea Mears, 23, was charged with third degree assault for attacking a teen boy, Austin Haughwout, 17, flying a drone on a Connecticut beach. She got probation this week, as noted by comprehensive drone chronicler Greg McNeal. It’s easy to call these people Luddites, after the British workers who set about destroying machines — and in some cases killing the people who owned them — in the late 1700s and early 1800s in a futile attempt to turn back the tide of mechanization. It led Britain to pass a law making machine-wrecking punishable by death. But the new machine destroyers’ motivations are different. The original Luddites were worried machines would take their jobs; the Neo-Luddites fear machines will steal their privacy.”

- The Violent Opt-out: The Neo-Luddites Attacking Drones And Google Glass - Forbes

Closing tabs

Mark Cocker reviews Helen Macdonald's new book H is for Hawk at the Guardian. An interesting review - at first I felt very keen to read the book, then Cocker proceeded in a manner that was at once gentle and persuasively negative (might be I should read one of his books instead?):
There is a highly polished brilliance to her writing and the short staccato declamatory sentence, sometimes of just a single word, is almost a signature of her style. Yet the syntax carries a persistent subliminal message of stress and anxiety and when we are presented with her repeated, if unsparingly honest, declarations of grief – I lost count of the number of times she breaks down or bursts into tears in the book – it is as if we already know it before she tells us. The total effect is a seeming excess of strong emotion.

Yet elsewhere she deploys the same stylistic elements to immense effect. One good example is her evocation of her hawk's own psychology. More than any other writer I know, including her beloved White, Macdonald is able to summon the mental world of a bird of prey. There is one classic moment when she meets the young Mabel for the first time. She conjures the shock of the encounter and simultaneously manages to get inside the head of the bird. "My heart jumps sideways," she recalls, "She is a conjuring trick. A reptile. A fallen angel. A griffon from the pages of an illuminated bestiary. Something bright and distant, like gold falling through water."
NB the writer who I think of as the world's worst offender in the matter of staccato declamatory sentences: Kathy Reichs!

Am now panicking about how much I need to do around the edges of other commitments before leaving for Cayman very early Wednesday morning. It is slightly daunting, though this is always the case and I am sure it will all sort itself out in the meantime....

Two really good British crime novels that I had to read on old-fashioned paper: it is frustrating for the avid North American reader of British police procedurals that so many of the very best ones are not instantly transmitted on the other side of the Atlantic! Harry Bingham, The Strange Death of Fiona Griffiths (this is superb, possibly the best yet in this series - I ordered it from the Book Depository as there wasn't a copy in the BorrowDirect system); and Stav Sherez, Eleven Days, which will be out here in October but which I really just couldn't wait for! Fortunately the Harvard library had a copy, and BD got it here for me pretty quickly. This one's very good too - more consistent in pacing and integration of material than the first in the series, I think, with really winsome voice and characters. I want more....

A book that didn't entirely satisfy me, though it is quite good: Ruth Eastham's Arrowhead, which I enjoyed but which didn't live up to the advance billing in the review I read (I am too lazy to find it and link to it) in which she is likened to Alan Garner. I thought it actually had more in common with Susan Cooper's Dark is Rising sequence - there are a couple moments that are almost too close to be conscious allusions.

(I remember reading Alan Garner for the first time - my third-grade teacher had an amazing collection of otherwise unavailable British children's books, available for borrowing if you filled out a library card - the library had taken over the top floor of her house! - and I was astonished by the extent to which The Weirdstone of Brisingamen and The Owl Service were THE MOST PERFECT BOOKS EVER!)

Anthony Neil Smith's Yellow Medicine (this guy is writing really great smart funny super-violent noir).

Daryl Gregory's Afterparty (very good - a bit too reminiscent of a whole crop of other like-minded books, definitely written within a pretty narrow set of genre constraints, but the narrator's voice and the story and execution are excellent - I thoroughly enjoyed it).

I couldn't run this morning due to minor twinges that begged to be respected, but I did make it to a real swim practice for the first time in who knows how long. Now so pleasantly fatigued that I am thinking about going to bed, well, NOW!

beyoncifymyboyfriend: canada’s wonderland with…


canada’s wonderland with B

breakups suck. you know what makes them easier? reimagining your happiest times together with none other than Queen B.”


I took up the task of redesigning’s care interactive space, which is how the legions of worldwide geocachers interact with the items in the field. I presented Groundspeak with three different options, but not before I realized a few things.

Firstly, I decided to design these all as not only mobile-capable, but mobile first.  I can image that mobile devices are these days far more useful to the adventurous geocacher than when the site first debuted. I designed for a tablet-like experience, as that gives a good related experience to a desktop view. For me, this means more popovers and expandable data, instead of having everything out in the open in lists.

Secondly, I realized that the entire experience is really about the meeting of the user and the object. The user searches for the object, finds the object, records the object, and leaves the object. Everything else is just dressing. I tried to let this guide my design choices.




“Amazon promises no single points of failure. Instead, you get a single cloud of failure, the promise…”

“Amazon promises no single points of failure. Instead, you get a single cloud of failure, the promise that when the system comes crashing down, at least you won’t be alone.”

- The Internet With A Human Face - Beyond Tellerrand 2014 Conference Talk (via pukomuko)

“They found that when one chills liquid helium below the lambda point—2.17 K—the boiling liquid…”

“They found that when one chills liquid helium below the lambda point—2.17 K—the boiling liquid falls suddenly, eerily still, and it takes on bizarre properties. The individual helium atoms blur into one another and become a single “superatom”, also known as a partial Bose-Einstein Condensation. This is a demonstration of Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle, which states that the more precisely the momentum of a particle is determined, the less precisely its position can be known. Since particles below the lambda point have almost no movement, their momentums are almost entirely “known,” therefore by necessity their positions become so inexact that they begin to overlap one another. In this situation atoms stop behaving like discrete things and become ambiguous smears of quantum probabilities.”

- Absolute Zero is 0K • Damn Interesting (via pukomuko)


For some reason I was thinking about pieces of culture that have departed from the world but which somehow didn’t “stick” well enough to persist even in the sphere of nostalgia.  Like when people think about the early 1990s, the years when I was in college, they might well say “oh yeah, grunge” or “oh yeah, wearing used gas station T-shirts with a name stitched on” or “oh yeah, Twin Peaks” or “oh yeah, OK Soda” or whatever.

But no one says “oh yeah, Fido Dido.”  So here I am doing it.

It is inherently hard to try to list things you’ve forgotten about.  My list right now consists of

  • Fido Dido
  • Saying “bite me”
  • Smartfood
  • Devil sticks (from Jason Starr)

That’s it.  What have you got?


July 27, 2014

July 27, 2014

I write.  I publish.  I don’t do anything else.  I make a separate identity, in which I have a paying job.  I work at a bookstore, where I talk about books, but never talk about my writing.  In conjunction with my work at the store, I also publish, but that, like my writing, never brings in any money in.   Two or three times, I have been asked to participate in an awards ceremony in the hopes that I would win such an award.  I refuse to do so. On the grounds that I write, and I refuse to participate in the games where one is competing against another writer.  In essence, it is putting a group of people (writers) in a cage and seeing which one will win out in the end.   That, as a writer, I find disgusting.   The only prize I would accept is the Nobel.  For the sole reason it is the most ludicrous prize, that it is almost meaningless.  To quote the eminent (ha) Alfred Nobel "in the field of literature the most outstanding work in an ideal direction.” The key word for me here is “ideal.” My whole life is spent to avoid the “ideal” To satisfy one’s conception of what is perfect, is simply absurd.

The problem with Dash Snow is that he didn’t have a day job.  I’ve been studying him and his work for a writing project, and his sad death conveys an artist who chooses to participate in the art game, by pretending not to be part of it.  The freedom he had was one within the borders that were set up by others.  Like me, Kafka, Julien Grecq, we can fuck with the structure by actually not participating in the game.  Even being questioned for the media is taking part where one is exploited, and where in fact, your writing and work should speak for you.  What is there to know about me, except what I write.

As a publisher, I focus on writers who denounced the powers-to-be in their specific culture.  To re-define yourself is the right of an artist, and the path I follow is one of my own making.  I’m always suspicious of reading articles on an artist that talks more about his life, than his art.   This is not always the artist’s fault, but the painful results of dealing in a world that pretends to be interested in you or one’s work.  Our (or my) culture has replaced all reality and meaning with symbols and signs.  We live in a world of mass-reproducible copies of items, turning them into commodities.  In other words, a product to consume.  Whatever it’s war, a toy, a piece of music or art - it becomes meaningless.  To engage in such a world is clearly pointless.

One of my favorite pieces of art (and I use that word for all the disciplines of its practices) is “Café Müller” by Pina Bausch in which the dancers crash into the furniture on the stage.  The dancers are told to close their eyes, which cause a sense of tension in the audience.   Or at least for me, because I imagine it is the same when one writes on a blank paper, and you let the spirit enter you.  It’s the only moment where I feel that I’m not part of a machinery that’s single purpose is to sell you to an audience or readers.  To consume is surely a paradise of sorts, but to roll the dice, and see if you come up, is surely the dynamic of being successful.  But that type of outcome is consistently being ‘framed’ in a fashion by the media and our culture.  If I can wipe out what is out there and start from the beginning, I feel I can just do what I do best.  Which is to write, publish and to dream.

terraced: Didcot Demolition, 27/07/2014


Didcot Demolition, 27/07/2014


kiameku: Tonico Lemos Auad Quatro Ventos 2008 graphite pigeons…


Tonico Lemos Auad
Quatro Ventos
graphite pigeons and burned bread in 20 parts




icancauseaconstellation: Santa Monica Pier, Santa Monica, CA,…


Santa Monica Pier, Santa Monica, CA, 1988 — Roger Minick


icancauseaconstellation: Robert Mangold, Imperfect Circle #2,…


Robert Mangold, Imperfect Circle #2, 1973.


Jesse Marsh

t__1_481_coversmc6050His violent Tarzan comics were as cool and still as a bas relief.

Cool song, bro

I was in Barriques and “Bra,” by Cymande came on, and I was like, cool song, cool of Barriques to be playing this song that I’m cool for knowing about, maybe I should go say something to show everyone that I already know this cool song, and then I thought, why do I know about this song anyway? and I remembered that it was because sometime last year it was playing in Barriques and I was like, what is this song, it’s cool? and I Shazammed it.

So I guess what I’m saying is, I’m probably going to the right coffee shop.  Also, this song is cool.  I’m sort of fascinated by the long instrumental break that starts around 2:50.  It doesn’t seem like very much is happening; why is it so captivating?  I think my confusion on this point has something to do with my lack of understanding of drums.


TamTam Books: “The Death Instinct” by Jacques Mesrine

The Death Instinct

Published by TamTam Books
By Jacques Mesrine. Introduction by Robert Greene. Translation by Robert Greene, Catherine Texier.

France's Public Enemy Number One from the late 1960s to the end of the 1970s--when he was killed by police in a sensational traffic shootout--Jacques Mesrine (1936–1979) is the best-known criminal in French history. Mesrine was notorious both for his violent exploits and for the media attention he attracted, and he remains very much a public media figure in France and Europe. In 2008 there were two feature-length films based on his life, one of them starring Vincent Cassel in the lead role. Mesrine wrote The Death Instinctwhile serving time in the high-security prison La Santé; the manuscript was smuggled out of the prison and was later published by Guy Debord's publisher Gérard Lebovici (who briefly adopted Mesrine's daughter, Sabrina, before being assassinated, a few years after Mesrine). The Death Instinct deals with the early years of Mesrine's criminal life, including a horrifically graphic description of a murder he committed early on in his career and a highly detailed account of the workings of the French criminal underworld--making this book perhaps one of the most intriguing and detailed anthropological studies of a criminal culture ever written.


PAPERBACK, 6.75 X 9 IN. / 325 PGS.
PUB DATE 11/30/2014
CATALOG: FALL 2014 P. 77   
ISBN 9780966234688 TRADE
LIST PRICE: $16.95 CDN $16.95

TamTam Books: Lun*na Menoh’s “A Ring Around The Collar”

Lun*na Menoh: A Ring Around The Collar

Published by TamTam Books
Introduction by Leslie Dick.

For 14 years, Los Angeles–based artist, fashion designer and musician Lun*na Menoh has been exploring the many unexpected possibilities of the dirty shirt collar, producing paintings, sculptures, music, DVDs, performance art and fashion shows inspired by this lowly, ubiquitous aspect of clothing. The collar is a fashion boundary--the dividing line between what is hidden by clothing and the body that emerges from the cloth--and the stains commonly found there often confound sartorial panache, a fact which Menoh takes as the mischievous starting point for her work. Lun*na Menoh: A Ring Around the Collardocuments the paintings included in this series, as well as Menoh’s performance art and fashion shows. Included with this book is a flexi-disc with two songs by the artist’s band, Les Sewing Sisters, and an introduction by acclaimed author Leslie Dick.


PUB DATE 11/30/2014
CATALOG: FALL 2014 P. 138   
ISBN 9780985272418 TRADE
LIST PRICE: $59.95 CDN $59.95

July 26, 2014

July 26, 2016

Ever since I was a child, I was drawn into the nighttime world, which the Blake Edwards’ show “Peter Gunn” expressed my need for shadows and cool jazz.    As a teenager, I imagine my life as Gunn, where I had a beautiful mid-century apartment, with a gorgeous fuckable girlfriend who seems to visit him in the middle of the night.  Gunn seems to be only active in the night, where he frequents a jazz nightclub called “Mothers” in a city that is not defined, but it appears to be a dock town.  The surroundings strike me as being unnatural, even fake-like, which made me love the TV series even more.  Throughout my life I tried to find a jazz club like “Mothers, ” but realized that’s impossible, because here, the imagination rules, and I follow the rules of dream logic than the waking man’s reality.

I love the idea of a contained environment, for instance the Korova Milk Bar, where one goes to get loaded on milk laced with drugs, where one can drink the milk with knives in it.  It will sharpen you up.  I went there to take mescaline, and as I sat on a couch that resembled a woman’s ass-cheeks and back, I let my mind wander into a shapeless world, and just waiting for my ego to break down. That, will never happen. Nevertheless I left Korova and went to the Owl Drug store on Beverly and La Cienega to look at the displays of shampoo, hair creams, combs, and all sorts of beauty products.  I couldn’t believe my eyes, and I felt I was really seeing these objects in a new ‘enlightened’ light.  “If the doors of perception were cleansed everything would appear to man as it is, infinite.  For man has closed himself up.  Till he sees all things through narrow chinks of his cavern.” The essence of moving among the buildings in the night, clearly I was looking for happiness, but one knows that “happiness would lose its meaning if it were not balanced by sadness.”

Around 3:30 in the morning I arrived at my home, which over time, I tried to design it as Peter Gunn’s apartment, but I neither have the money or the shopping skill to make this work.  Yet, my attempt to reproduce what I saw on television, it became a new interior.  Not even influenced by, but more of a tribute that only I can see.  I put on the song “Sonny” on the turntable which was written and performed by Bobby Hebb, but I much prefer the Manfred Mann instrumental version.  Hebb wrote it as a reaction to the John F. Kennedy assassination but also to his brother who was killed a few days after the Kennedy death.  He was inspired to write something that was ‘light’ and uplifting when his world (and others) went to hell.  I admire the beauty of someone changing their perception of the world, because if there is going to be a real change, one needs to start with themselves.   Or, we flow with the crowd, but that I don’t recommend whatsoever.


retrogasm: Pretty Polly


Pretty Polly


Radium Age: Context (1)

camel thumb1930s Olympic skater — cool headgear

The Lost Prince (30)

lost-princeThe Game is at an End

Eidolon, eiderdown

Via Dave Lull, Wayne Koestenbaum's Trance Notebook #14:
in a station wagon

parked on Union

I puzzled over “eidólons”

and rejected it

as if “Eire” or “dreidel”

or “eiderdown”

were buried

in that awkward


“read Caleb Williams—a strange book—”

Julie Park on Jane Porter's pocket diary.

Beach best practices

Bring lots of books, but remember that you’ll also want to watch beach TV. Reliable channels include Waves, Clouds, Dogs, and Children. Sometimes you can get Horses or Storms; occasionally Sparklers.


Someone’s going to be Beach-Fire-Building Alpha. If that’s not you, assist them by gathering kindling, carrying foodstuffs to be carbonized, and not complaining when smoke drifts your way. If you’re the Beach-Fire-Building Alpha, rule benevolently, and gracefully accept all praise of your skills.


Consider not taking sunset photos because geez, aren’t there enough of them in the world already?




Feel grateful.



How do you share your New York Times?

My op/ed about math teaching and Little League coaching is the most emailed article in the New York Times today.  Very cool!

But here’s something interesting; it’s only the 14th most viewed article, the 6th most tweeted, and the 6th most shared on Facebook.  On the other hand, this article about child refugees from Honduras is

#14 most emailed

#1 most viewed

#1 most shared on Facebook

#1 most tweeted

while Paul Krugman’s column about California is

#4 most emailed

#3 most viewed

#4 most shared on Facebook

#7 most tweeted.

Why are some articles, like mine, much more emailed than tweeted, while others, like the one about refugees, much more tweeted than emailed, and others still, like Krugman’s, come out about even?  Is it always the case that views track tweets, not emails?  Not necessarily; an article about the commercial success and legal woes of conservative poo-stirrer Dinesh D’Souza is #3 most viewed, but only #13 in tweets (and #9 in emails.)  Today’s Gaza story has lots of tweets and views but not so many emails, like the Honduras piece, so maybe this is a pattern for international news?  Presumably people inside newspapers actually study stuff like this; is any of that research public?  Now I’m curious.




July 25, 2014

July 25, 2014

Throughout my early career as an illustrator for various companies like Colgate, Fisk Tires, and numerous publications, I resolved to quit doing commercial work, and devote the rest of my time doing paintings.   I would hire young women who I have met through various social circles to be my models.  Occasionally I would use myself as a model, because I have been informed that I’m quite beautiful in my own fashion.  Nevertheless I have used various models on a regular basis for some years now.    In my work, I have a definite idea of the perfect landscape, and the coloring of that world is extremely important to me.  For my paintings, I would build landscape models on a large table, and use different lighting effects to capture the right combination of the mountains, the lake, and if there are any actual structures, I would also make an exact replica of that building.  Mostly my work is neoclassical, and the nude bodies that are in my work (including yours truly) are usually androgynous, but placed in these fantastical settings. 

Susan Lewin worked for me not only as a model, but also as my assistant. There is the cliché about the artist and his model, and I have to say in this case, it is perfectly true.  For about five years, I painted her in various positions of her, but mostly when she’s in the nude.  When I used myself as a nude model, I have her photographed me so I can distance myself so I can be added to the painting.   The distance between us became less and less, as I demanded her attention as her employer.  For years now, I would pay her in cash on a weekly basis, usually on Fridays, by placing the money on the side table by the entrance of my studio.  There is not anything else on this table except for the money.  Over time, this table has become almost an erotic object between me and her.  Even when I have other models here, I paid them differently, usually by check.  A check is very non-personal, but cash has an intimate effect, and when she leaves for the day, and picks it up before she exits, it gives me an erotic jolt. 

I have determined that I have to redefine our relationship where I’m basically the leader, and she’s the follower.   What I would do is bring up the idea that the outside world of my studio is a hostile environment, and what I do here is paint beautiful landscapes, and therefore not only are we making our own paradise here, but also supplying the outside world a place of imagination where they can escape to.  The thing is, I want to be able to focus on my work, but I want her to do the same, on my work of course.  There is still a nagging fear that she will leave me for another occupation or a need to share her life with someone else.  I never ask her what she does when she is not working with me, nor do I know about her relationships with other people. For the eight-hours per day that she is with me, she is mine and that is all I care about.  Over time, I realized that my idealized world is not only in the imagination, but is actually based on our relationship.  What looks decorative in my paintings is actually the way I want the world to be, and therefore, I rarely participate in the outside world.  There is a moment, usually before she leaves, that we look at the work that was done that day, and with only the music by Johnny Hodges in the background, I almost want to tell her that I love her, but that can never compare or compete with a finished work of art. 




juergent: Portrait of Paris, Audrey Marney for US Vogue April…


Portrait of Paris, Audrey Marney for US Vogue April 1998, shot by Steven Meisel


Josephine Tey

Josephine_TeyThere is no such thing as "a Josephine Tey."

Fourth World (5)

Knockout HiLobrowIn which we come full-circle to Kirby's source.

“Facebook profile information that is publicly visible by…

"Facebook profile information that is publicly visible by default, for the first five years of the service" via What Is Public? — The Message — Medium

Programmers and engineers who create software with controls for privacy have moved in recent years to an on/off model where content is either viewable to the entire world or only to a list of people whom a user identifies as “friends”. Obviously, reducing public status to a binary consideration is convenient for a medium where everything must ultimately be represented in binary code. But we can’t let society’s norms be defined by which features are least expensive for storing on a database server in the cloud.

(via Twitter / jimfenton: Internet password notebooks…

(via Twitter / jimfenton: Internet password notebooks …)

Password journals


wrdsmthinla: shine bright #DoingTimeInHollywood…


shine bright


Hollywood Walk of Fame


nbchannibal: Tiny Hannibal has packed his bags and is ready to…


Tiny Hannibal has packed his bags and is ready to #EatTheCon!

Want to win one of these little guys? Tiny Hannibal will be holding tiny signs (like the one above) around San Diego with portions of a code phrase. He’ll share one piece of that three-part code each day (Thursday - Saturday).

On Saturday, when he releases the final piece of the code, the first FOUR people to get to the Funko Booth at Comic-Con and tell them the full code will get their bloody paws on one of the new Hannibal Funko dolls that won’t even be released until November! There may or may not be consolation prizes for a few more people that aren’t quite as quick to the booth. 

HINT: There are.

For those of you at home, don’t fret! Once you see tiny Hannibal share the final piece of the code on Saturday, tweet us @nbchannibal with the full code AND the #EatTheCon hashtag to be entered for a chance to win an SDCC exclusive Hannibal dolls of your very own.


July 24, 2014

July 24, 2014

Hopefully by the end of December 31, 2014, I will write myself out.  By January 1, 2015, I’ll be empty.   The question is can I fill this emptiness with something?   Or better yet, just stay empty?  Being empty can’t be that bad right?  On my first trip to Japan, I found this fantastic book by Junichirō Tanizaki called “In Praise of Shadows” which is about Japanese aesthetic in how one looks at food, architecture and even a woman in a house of prostitution.  The underlining theme of the book is change, and also the influence of the West on Japanese traditional aesthetic.  Here I’m not talking about the tea ceremony, but more about the lighting of the rooms, and how food looks in such a lighting.  Tanizaki writes about the luring beauty of a woman in darkness or by candle light. The reader gets the impression that one is losing an aesthetic over time. Which I consider to be very much true even here in the West.  One thing I noticed in Tokyo and other places is that people have a tendency to eat in bright lights now. It is like darkness is not permitted in a modern home or restaurant.  Personally I like to eat with a woman almost In darkness. I like the lighting at dusk and just seeing the traces of my dinner companion and food… just barely.

The world is ugly.  It is not surprising that I’m attracted to characters like Sherlock Holmes, who lives in a world of their making, but often goes into the brighter world due to financial reasons, or perhaps a curiosity in seeing just how bad things are.  If I can live in Holmes flat on Baker Street, that would be the perfect environment for me.  I imagine his apartment is on the dark side, with very little lighting, maybe just a tiny area to use for reading.  Not surprising, my house is dark in the nighttime, because I don’t have reading lamps or even lighting to see one room to the other.  In the daytime, it is quite bright, but I let the night take over the house’s lighting system, where the brightness turns into darkness.  I rarely read in the evening owing to the natural cycle of the sun going down, and the moon arising.

To embrace oneself in a womb of darkness, and not using one’s sight, but to depend on sounds that echo through room to room, is quite a nice aesthetic, where I occasionally play a recording by Mick Karn, whose fretless bass playing conveys a sense of one slipping into the blackness that is clearly my soul.   Over time, I realize that my writing is in a manner, the ability to edit out things in my life, then adding more that just becomes inventory after awhile.  Is it enough, just to focus on the blankness of an empty page, and perhaps leaving that space vacant.  To disappear between the shadows, and noticing the various shades of blackness or darkness that one confronts on a regular basis, is not depressing, but more of an enlightenment.

Zelda Fitzgerald has always been fascinating to me, because she seems to be not a noun, but a verb.  I think of her as pure light, that is avoiding the darkness.  If she stands still, then the darkness takes over.  The 8-hour ballet lessons, her manic need for attention, but in a sense, she had a genius for living.  The natural instinct which is always at war with the logic, is a human trait to admire.  Often I feel my back is to the wall, but due to my natural ability to see the many shades of blackness that is in front of me, I move.  And I move fairly well.

pettry: A little painting between work while watching Batman…


A little painting between work while watching Batman from Netflix. :D


Notes on Gone Girl

It reminds me of Martin Amis’s The Information, in that it is a really well-made thing, but one which I think probably shouldn’t have been made, and which I’m probably sorry I read, because it’s sick in its heart.

Everything else I can say is a spoiler so I’ll put it below a tab.

1.  I think the right way to read the book is that, by the end, nothing has changed for the two protagonists.  Their relationship at the end of the book — in which the man is a hateful worm, and the woman a murderer, and they are bound together by hatred, fear, and common lies — is meant to be the same relationship they had in their courtship.  Just with everything a little more out in the open.  Indeed I think this is what Flynn suggests marriage just, naturally, is.  That people, in general, are sick brutes who need to hurt each other in order to gain satisfaction and who can only be kept superficially in line by the threat of being hurt or killed themselves.  I don’t actually think this is true and so I don’t like novels which, by virtue of being well-made, make a compelling case that it’s true.

2.  Money is important here.  The structure of the story is that the couple starts rich.  Then for most of the book they’re not rich.  Then at the end they’re rich again, which is what enables them to go back to their normal life.  Gone Girl suggests that what being rich means is that people pay attention to you, people believe what you say, and also that you might need to leave some broken or dead people behind in order to maintain your position.  So Desi Collings is cognate to the Blue Book Boys.

3.  The book is lazy in placing a lot of weight on “the psycho woman who claims to have been raped but is making it up.”   The problem with misogynistic stereotypes in novels is not just that misogynistic sterotypes are bad — and they are, they are really bad — but that they’re a fundamentally cheap way of constructing characters.  They are easy to believe in because we are weak people, driven by heuristics, who believe stereotypes without thinking too hard about them.

The book would have been better if it had let Nick beat up his girlfriend.  In other words, if the world of the novel contains women who lie about getting beaten up by men, it ought to contain men who beat women up.  And this would be truer to the moral world of the novel, where a woman falsely accusing a man of abuse is both lying and not lying, because all men abuse somebody, whether or not the accuser and the victim happen to be the same person.

And I think it would have helped prohibit the reading — which I can see from online sources is not rare — that Nick is the hero of the story, who readers are supposed to root for.  No!  Gross!  Nick is a sick brute, Amy is a sick brute, all four of their parents are sick brutes, with the possible exception of Nick’s mother, who’s kind of a cipher.

4.  It was a bad idea to name a character “Go.”  Confusing in dialogue.

5.  In connection with the upcoming movie, you can buy T-shirts labeled “Team Nick” or “Team Amy.”  That is messed up and wrong.



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