Archive for December, 2008
softskull: RT @marquearts Teaching my clients that the best sales marketing is about giving not receiving…
- I resolve to get a GYN exam--and if I don't like my gyno, I'll find a new one.
- I resolve to stick to a "no glove, no love" policy, and stock up on the condoms myself.
- I resolve to love my labia, no matter what they look like.
- I resolve to wean myself from Brazilian waxes, and save some money while I'm at it.
- I resolve to ask my gyno about the HPV vaccine, since it's only covered by insurance till I'm 26 years old.
- I resolve to visit Gynotalk to keep learning how to stay sexually healthy.
And if he is a foodie, will it make a difference in actual US food policy?
Kim Severson recently wrote about Obama as the first foodie president at NY Times. Food advocate and guru Michael Pollan wrote an open letter to the pres-elect, also in NY Times calling for Obama to put food policy near or at the top of his agenda. LA native Eddie Gehman Kohan even started a blog devoted to Obama and Food Policy called Obama Food A-Rama. But will he actually make a difference–it’s hard to say.
I have dreams (and who doesn’t) of a better, more abundant food system than we currently have. By now, we all know the drill: more local options, less chemicals in our food, outlawing the worst aspects of factory farming so that the process is more humane to animals, workers and consumers, etc. But as we unravel the myriad of issues associated with our very complex food system and look for more elegant solutions, it seems restructuring the food system is more complex than just choosing organic or conventional produce at Whole Foods. And I can’t but wonder if Gourmet editor Ruth Reichel, Michael Pollan, even the patron saint of eating locally Alice Waters would really be willing to do what is necessary to change the food system.
I can’t wait to see what happens in the coming year…
Do you have a big hardcover book — preferably an impressive one — that you could stand to see sacrificed to the cause of interior decoration? Then you have what it takes to create “invisible floating bookshelves,” a Lifehacker pick for one of the best DIY (do-it-yourself) projects of 2008 …
This is a picture of me and my good friend Sharyn at my Mom’s house over holidaytimes. I just got back from a week away which is pretty much the longest I’ve been anywhere in the past few years except Australia. I’m not really an introvert as people who know me pretty much know. I get energized by hanging out with people, I like to talk, I have a lot of friends and acquaintances. That said, I also live alone and have a lot of routines and subroutines that involve long periods of silence, stillness or solitude. Everyone’s routines get disrupted when they travel, see family and/or get outside their little home oasis and mine are not an exception.
I was happy to see my sister and her (about to be sold, omg) house. I liked getting to spend sort of lazy hang-out and walk around time with my Mom and the house I grew up in. I enjoyed spending some holidaytime with my boyfriend and his family and their full house of people who have known each other forever. I got to bring my friend Sharyn into the wilds of Boxboro and introduce her to my family and friends and spend more than a day with her for the first time in our decade+ long friendship. I had a cat or dog on hand at all times. I nearly poisoned myself with amazing food and lack of exercise. I stayed up late and slept in like I was a teenager.
Yesterday I drove home after driving in to Boston to drop Sharyn off at the train. I got lost and wound up meandering all over hellandgone to figure out how to get no 93 (yes I KNOW it’s right there, no I couldn’t find it). At some point I figured it out and started pointing the car approximately northwards, but the whole bumbadabumbada no-particular-place-to-go meandering around was something that is part of my daily life up here and was no part of my if-this-is-Sunday-this-must-be-brunch last week of time.
I haven’t spoken to another person since I said “thanks” to the lady who sold me a cookie on my way home last night. The phone hasn’t rung, as it usually doesn’t. I’ve got dinner plans but a wide open calendar today with one To Do item “get stuff out of car.” I think I’m up to it.
In advance of the American Historical Association meeting this weekend, in New York, Tenured Radical offers some advice for graduate students on the job-interview circuit. Some of the advice is decidedly non-radical, even prosaic. (What to wear? “Business attire is the general answer to this question; leave your fancy jeans and sexy miniskirts at home.”) Other bits of advice seem — well, let’s just say Tenured Radical (aka Wesleyan’s Claire Potter) seems more attuned to certain varieties of sensory offense than your typical professor might be …
It’s taken me awhile to realize that Sam Bottoms died earlier this month. What’s been odd is that he’s been on my mind since November. Vag Davis shared an outre anecdote about the actor on November 10th. Then, on December 15th, I attended a screening o “Che,” which was produced by his wife, Laura Bickford. She spoke at the screening, along with star Benicio Del Toro, showing admirable restraint when an anti-Castro man of Cuban heritage questioned the filmmakers decisions to show a mainly positive portrait of Che Guevera. Sam died the following day. Was he in the hospital that day while she did her PR duties? How odd. My sympathy to her and her family for her loss.
You can read the naughty Vag Davis memory after the jump but beware, it is homographic.
I did enjoy that he was constantly trying to seduce me, but i instinctively knew that if i gave in he would soon grow tired of me. One time after a night out dancing at Studio One we came back to his apartment in the poor section of Beverly Hills north of the Academy of Arts and Sciences Building interrupting an orgy in progress. In the bedroom were 12 naked men all interlocked. His black lover was in the kitchen getting that giant penis of his slurped on by Sam Bottoms, the youngest of the acting Bottoms brothers. Sam was a co-star in Apocalypse Now. I had a crush on Sam�s older brothers Joseph and Timothy. I even acted in a scene with Timothy Bottoms on the ABC TV show Gideon�s Crossing in 2000, and said how i adored him in the 1973 film Love and Pain & the Whole Damn Thing where he played Maggie Smith�s college age lover.
Empires may crumble and innocent lives may turn to dust, but books are forever. Literature is one of mankind’s noblest pursuits . . . yet more and more citizens would rather turn on their TV than open a book. America, what is happening to us. Anyway, 2008 was another great year for books.
Here’s my list of the TOP TEN BOOKS OF 2008:
2. Space Novels
3. Old-Time British Mystery
6. Coffee Table
9. For Dummies
10. Bibles, misc. religious
Slate’s press critic coined that phrase to describe journalists’ infatuation with all things Apple. Now a writer at that same online magazine falls into the Apple-worshiping trap. Here’s Farhad Manjoo, in Slate:
At the moment, the laptop market is dominated by two kinds of machines: a bunch of cheap netbooks that don’t do much, and a bunch of expensive Apple notebooks that do a lot and do it very well. (Seven of the top 25 best-selling laptops on Amazon are MacBooks.)
Well, not really. Netbooks are huge, yes. But Apple dominates the bestseller list mainly because the market for Windows notebooks is fragmented across dozens of different manufacturers. This is a pretty obvious point. Far more consumers are buying the $800 Windows laptops that Manjoo scoffs at later in the piece than are buying the $1000-plus Macbooks. (The MacBooks you see on TV, by the way, the nice aluminum ones, are actually $1,300-plus.) …
Okay, one more post about a sale before I sort out just who got the WORST and BEST Xmas presents … Marge is closing her Born Too Late Vintage store (don’t worry, Born Too Late Vintage Patterns is still going strong) and so you should hurry over and make some offers. (Especially if you have a thing for hats, she has a ton of wonderful hats!)
I really love this rayon/cotton paisley shirtdress, B36, only $25 (or make Marge an offer)!
Advice from three of our guy friends. This week they answer the question, Is there such a thing as too much cleavage?
Straight Married Guy (Ben): I suppose if I thought about it, I could come up with some mythical creature that has so much cleavage that reading colorful books about its horrible adventures scarred me when I was a kid. Or maybe, there's some far-away land populated only by women who all wear push-up bras and Oscar gowns, and if I lived there my entire life, then maybe on the day before I died, I would walk down the street and finally, for once, not be psyched by every single breast, every single millimeter of exposed flesh, every single hinted-at curve and every single erect nipple and think, "You know, enough is enough." But actually, no. No. There's no such thing as too much cleavage.
Gay Committed Guy (Mark): I think it's absolutely up to the woman who's cleaving. If she's comfortable showing a lot, why not--although it might be worth taking the venue and audience into account (some workplaces still have dress codes, right?). Last year I was at a funeral where the deceased's daughter wore a very low-cut dress. I thought it was a weirdly empowering gesture, but not everyone was amused.
Straight Single Guy (Colin): Is there such a thing as too much chocolate? Too much Shakespeare? Too much fine wine? Men are all connoisseurs of cleavage. To us it's one of the greatest pleasures of life and it should be treated as such. There can only be too much when it's done in a tacky or tasteless way. But on second thought, we always like a greasy burger or a weak beer so don't be afraid to bare some side boob, under boob or even rock a Lil' Kim pasty if the occasion calls for it.
Our "guys" are a rotating group of contributors, some of whom wish to remain anonymous and some of whom like the attention. This week's Straight Single Guy is our former uber-intern, Colin Adamo, and our Straight Married Guy is Ben, a writer and artist living in Los Angeles--check out his new website, AdultParlorGames.com. Our committed gay guy, Mark, is a writer and teacher in NYC who asked us to file him under "shy."
Ladies and gentlemen, by some miracle, Howard the Duck has made it onto Hulu. The film has never been released on DVD, although I understand it is being released on March 10, 2009. Nevertheless, having been withheld from the public eye for so long, I do not know how long the film’s availability on Hulu will last. If you have not seen this cinematic monstrosity, which is possibly much worse than The Spirit or Battlefield Earth, see it now before George Lucas’s ego pulls it down. One does not come across a film this bad too often, and its awfulness is truly a marvel to behold.
Last week, news of all sorts of fraud and Ponzi schemes came to light Madoff’s bogus fund has wrecked lives and finances on a global scale and hot shot lawyer, , sold fraudulent promissory notes to finance his ambitions for a bicoastal law firm.
When there’s trouble, you can bet that a ton of memorabilia will be on the market to help defray costs.
- Fabulous Harvey Kurtzman collection – Boing Boing posted about Joey Anuff’s acquisition of original art from the Harvey Kurtzman Estate. Happily, the Estate digitized the art work before the sale. As always, copyrights remain with the creator’s heirs. Here’s an interesting nugget dropped by Joey, “Todd Hignite, currently becoming better known as new hotshot Consignment Director of Illustrations and Comic Art at Heritage Auctions.” Now that’s a great job!
2. On 12/11/08, a bankruptcy trustee auctioned pop culture memorabilia collection amassed by last year’s swindler du jour: L.A. money manager, Dana Giachetto.
What’s really fascinating is the the trustee’s offer to sell Giachetto’s royalty rights in his upcoming bio with Emily White, You Will Make Money in Your Sleep: The Story of Dana Giacchetto, Financial Adviser to the Stars, as well as his life story rights. Robert L Geltzer’s the Trustee in the matter and G.E.M Associates is the auctioneer. Geltzer’s attorney is Robert Wolf of Squire Sanders in NY.
Curious, I wonder if the trustee has 100% of the royalty rights. The minimum bid for the life story rights is $100,000…I’ve always been fascinated by the bankruptcy sales of intellectual property. There’s whole world of buyers and sellers that I’d like to discover. Anyone have knowledge of how it works and who are the players? What’s the Los Angeles equivalent of G.E.M Associates amongst the local bankruptcy trustees…
3. Historians of Los Angeles Alert–the family of a Bank of Italy official in the ’20s is selling his business items on EBAY right now. Oh, how I wish the LA Public Library weren’t broke. There’s an 1839-1917 Title Report on a lot downtown Los Angeles up for auction right now. Bank of Italy eventually became the Bank of America so this is a rare and valuable find.
This podcast interview I did with David Battino of O’Reilly about a year and a half ago predates this blog, but it’s a great explanation of what this project and site are about, so I figured I’d blog it within the “bio” category on Soupgreens.com. Click through to read David’s notes, or, if you’re reading this in the context of soupgreens.com, hit the play button to get straight to listening.
With the year quickly coming to a close, here’s tirado/thrown’s list of albums/songs/tracks that made their way into regular listening rotation over the last year. While most of the titles below were released in 2008, your dear author/editor cannot pretend to scoop up new records and love them as quickly as a number of people picking up records and writing about them. At times, he wishes he were so adventurous. Be that as it may, the list follows:
- Crystal Castles, Self-Titled, Last Gang Records: A record of 8-bit-inspired madness teetering at the point where self-control and its loss become difficult to distinguish. It is music to the tune of neurons alternately seizing up and firing at various intensities, making shards and blobs of circuitry-toned noise for your pleasure.
- Anavan, Self-Titled, GSL: Manic, tight, post-punk. Danceable and disciplined, this record will mercilessly cut you right down the middle.
- TV on the Radio, Dear Science, Interscope: As close to a perfect album as you can get. Just. Go. Listen.
- El Guincho, Alegranza, Young Turks/XL Recordings: Dense, infectious, rhythmic loops of joy.
- Las Malas Amistades, Jardin Interior, Psychopath Records: The record (and band) I’ve been waiting for to offer Latin America’s response to Sebadoh’s Smash Your Head on the Punk Rock. Not quite new, but it was a 2008 discovery here at tirado/thrown.
- Nobody, Presents Blank Blue: Western Water Music, Vol. 3, Ubiquity Records: Lush, slow burning, deep grooves from L.A. Oftentimes Nobody’s psychedelic arrangements move the music along like fog moving at the boundary between air and water, smoother and cooler than an iced bong hit.
- Chico Sonido, Various Mixes, available at www.chicosonido.com: Outstanding mixes of vintage Latino tracks that just teem with soul. He’s an outstanding selector, and part 2 of a set he recorded for dublab in 2006 is proof. Finding records under pyramids indeed.
- Various Artists, The Roots of Chicha, Barbes Records: Irresistible late 60’s cumbia drenched in reverb-laced guitars. Inspired by the wave of psychedelic cumbia rocking South America (esp. Zizek) as of late, I somehow managed to come across this ancestral document.
- School of Seven Bells, Alpinisms, Ghostly Records: Most of what I read about them invokes the term shoegaze or dreampop, which I find a pretty lazy analogy. Said genres don’t carry a groove or run vocals the way SVIIB’s Alpinisms does deftly mixing the sonic landscapes of Spiritualized and rhythms of late 80s freestyle to entirely original results: earnest, serious, groove-laden, and striving for a level of feeling in songwriting that treads perilous musical territory and comes away glowing.
- Miles Benjamin Anthony Robinson, Daytrotter Sessions, Available here. There’s a fragility and vulnerability in Robinson’s voice and songwriting that is just arresting. The four songs featured on the Daytrotter sessions are rather magnificent in themselves as well-performed pieces of rock.
- Baltimoroder/Die Young, Cat/Back Around, Dopamine Records: A slick but downright grimy track coming from Boston’s finest DJ, Baltimoroder. It’s much like something you’ll hear him spinning during peak dancing time at one of the many nights he’s a part of.
A few more records from this year were in the running, but in the name of a measure of integrity, they’re excluded them from the list since said author/editor hasn’t listened to them. They are worth mentioning as records that are eagerly awaiting listening:
- Flying Lotus, Los Angeles, Reset, 1983, Warp Records/Plug Research
- Abe Vigoda, Skeleton, Post-Present Medium
- Miles Benjamin Anthony Robinson, Self-Titled, Say Hey Records
I’ll leave with a little piece of pre-holiday cheer that came my way from tirado/thrown favorite Caro at Sound Taste. It’s Gael Garcia Bernal getting his norteño on in with a rendition of, well, you’ll recognize it, by you know who, as part of an upcoming film, Rudo y Cursi. Judging from the trailer, the song gets its work in. Were I Bun E. Carlos, I would be impressed.
[Image: Professor Igor Panarin’s six-fold vision of a disintegrated United States; I love how it will precisely follow today’s existing state lines – and that Kentucky will join the European Union].
In what sounds to be very obviously an act of wishful projection, a former KGB intelligence analyst turned public intellectual named Igor Panarin has explained to the Wall Street Journal that the United States only has about 18 months left to live. In the summer of 2010, it will “disintegrate” into six politically separate realms – and, conveniently for a thinker who clearly leans to the right, the borders of these realms will coincide with a new racial segregation. The fantasy of living amidst people who don’t look like you will come to an end.
Best of all, from Panarin’s perspective, Alaska – Sarah Palin included, looking out with alarm from her office window – will “revert” to Russian control.
Quoting at length:
- [Prof. Panarin] predicts that economic, financial and demographic trends will provoke a political and social crisis in the U.S. When the going gets tough, he says, wealthier states will withhold funds from the federal government and effectively secede from the union. Social unrest up to and including a civil war will follow. The U.S. will then split along ethnic lines, and foreign powers will move in.
California will form the nucleus of what he calls “The Californian Republic,” and will be part of China or under Chinese influence. Texas will be the heart of “The Texas Republic,” a cluster of states that will go to Mexico or fall under Mexican influence. Washington, D.C., and New York will be part of an “Atlantic America” that may join the European Union. Canada will grab a group of Northern states Prof. Panarin calls “The Central North American Republic.” Hawaii, he suggests, will be a protectorate of Japan or China, and Alaska will be subsumed into Russia.
“People like him have forecast similar cataclysms before, he says, and been right,” the Wall Street Journal continues. Panarin then “cites French political scientist Emmanuel Todd. Mr. Todd is famous for having rightly forecast the demise of the Soviet Union – 15 years beforehand. ‘When he forecast the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1976, people laughed at him,’ says Prof. Panarin.”
In some ways, I’m reminded of Paul Auster’s newest novel, Man in the Dark, in which a civil war has set multiple regions of the United States against one another and against the so-called Federal Army. Or, for that matter, there’s also Rupert Thomson’s Divided Kingdom in which the UK has been split up along emotional lines.
But surely an ex-CIA operative, now milking the lecture circuit for all its worth, could also propose a realistic scenario in which the entire Russian east has been sold off, say, to a combination of Euro-American agribusiness firms and the Chinese government, who them embark upon an elaborate, generations-long act of industrial deforestation? Leaving Moscow a kind of irrelevant, feudal city full of Bulgari and handguns, its governmentally terrorized tower blocks populated almost entirely by unemployed and half-drunk retro-Stalinists?
I don’t mean to imply that I think the end of the United States is somehow politically unimaginable, but that, in a still-bipolar, post-Cold War international imagination, surely either side could convincingly outline the other’s demise?
(Via Alexis Madrigal. Earlier on BLDGBLOG: North America vs. the A-241/BIS Device and The Lonely Planet Guide to Micronations: An Interview with Simon Sellars).
Archinect has posted its 20 Predictions for ’09.
They’re all worth reading, but here are a few highlights:
Bryan Boyer hopes there will be more time for drawing: “Less building and more drawing,” he writes; “more time for drawing.” Architects must pursue their ideas across a more diverse array of media:
- It doesn’t matter how this new media is produced – with a video camera, computer, pencil, or a giant ball of fire – they will eschew the recent trend towards glowy photorealism in favor of idiosyncratic authorship… If we can find new ways to manifest architectural ideas that are both accessible to the public and meaningful to a discussion amongst experts this economic slump will have been a fantastic investment in the future of architecture.
In case you missed it, earlier this year Boyer brilliantly redesigned the U.S. Capitol, including a new look for federal currency.
[Image: A new $50 bill, by Bryan Boyer].
Javier Arbona points out that, as whole cities and states go bankrupt, falling short with both tax dollars and government funding, “there is a raging battle between cities and their home states over funds for everything from schools to redevelopment as states try to plug budget gaps. This will lead to a reorganization of power between cities and states.” He suggests that cities might even “dissolve” themselves into larger regional entities – simultaneously expanding to include more residents, more land, and more resources. “Lest we forget,” he adds, “New York annexed the five boroughs only a few years after the panic of 1893, a utopian proposition like no other.”
Enrique Ramirez steps out of the authorial role to resurrect the Depression-era spatial prophecies of Norman Bel Geddes, in what I suppose could be called an act of found theory:
- What we are really doing is starting from the bottom, with our minds clear of the traditional styles and conventions of the past, and, starting from a purely utilitarian basis, trying to create a type of architectural beauty which reflects the spirit of the age and which will not soon be outdated.
“Every roof will be a garden,” Bel Geddes wrote back in 1931. So what domestic transformations might Bel Geddes still be calling for today, on the cusp of 2009?
[Image: The “house of the future” by Norman Bel Geddes].
Meanwhile, Marcus Trimble predicts – quite accurately, I would think – that “websites collating and publishing the press releases of designers and architects will continue to thrive.” I might even say that certain design blogs will simply fire their editorial staff altogether and publish RSS feeds direct from the offices of designers, architects, and Middle East tourism boards, collecting ad revenue along the way.
Why think at all when you can just re-post images of towers built by virtual slave labor in Dubai? Perhaps you could publish an official RSS feed for the UAE government on your design blog and be done with it.
Jeffrey Inaba – whom BLDGBLOG interviewed a few years ago – predicts “a domino effect of operational failures that will to lead systematic breakdowns of infrastructure and services in [the] urban center.”
Unperturbed, he points us to Barack Obama’s Urban Prosperity plan. Inaba writes (emphases added):
- Though it is packaged as a recovery plan it is really a new cities plan. In its most immediate sense it seeks to improve the depressed economy through urban development: to prop up markets by creating jobs to build infrastructure, transportation systems, public facilities like libraries and schools and to implement clean building technologies. But the plan is more ambitious and far reaching. It does more than try to improve cities as a means to an end, it aims to transform what cities are. Instead of calling for maintenance repairs and incremental upgrading, it looks to make a new kind of living environment where cities operate efficiently at a regional (rather than municipal) scale with advanced forms of collective transportation and sustainable infrastructure systems. The declaration of such a plan in itself expands the horizon of possibilities for what we as architects can design, and more importantly, it offers a historically unique opportunity for a developed nation to have a second chance to make a smart form of city. Hopefully, it won’t come down to an additional series catastrophic of events to realize such a plan. But it probably will.
There are also predictions from Kazys Varnelis – whom BLDGBLOG also once interviewed – but I want to deal with those in a separate post later this week.
Meanwhile, don’t miss predictions by, in no particular order, Dan Hill, Quilian Riano, Michiel van Raaij, Emily Kemper and her superpowered TCHeroes, Fred Scharmen, Nick Sowers, Orhan Ayyüce, Donna Sink, Markus Miessen, Nam Henderson, Mimi Zeiger, Evan Geisler, Benjamin Ball, and Barry Lehrman.
Here are a few interesting side notes. The above video clip wasn’t the only embarrassing flub that Sylvia Browne made on The Montel Williams Show. She managed to get ITV2 in trouble when Browne informed two parents that their missing son, Shawn Hornbeck, was dead. He turned up alive later. A court found that The Montel Williams Show had violated Rule 2.1 of the Broadcasting Code, which pertains to protecting UK viewers from “offensive material.” The show was temporarily pulled from ITV2.
In addition, the Guardian’s Jon Ronson has a lengthy profile on Ms. Browne. (Did you know, for example, that Ms. Browne pleaded no contest to charges of investment fraud and grand theft in 1992?)
About that fabricated (and now canceled) Holocaust memoir, by Herman Rosenblat, which David Mehegan writes about at Off the Shelf Lesson: sometimes professors know what they are talking about.
Deborah Lipstadt called it a year ago. Here’s Lipstadt, a professor of Modern Jewish and Holocaust Studies at Emory, writing on December 7, 2007: “There is a Holocaust story making the rounds on the Internet which is clearly not true.” At this point, she seems to think it’s just a bit of Internet flotsam: “If you get this email do NOT send it on to other people. Delete it.”
Here’s how she describes the central element of the “love story,” which she finds preposterous on its face …
Very rarely are other people's dreams interesting...except when they're about sex. This week dream analyst Lauri Loewenberg tackles this gauzy one:
I keep having this dream of myself with a gentleman standing in front of a window. It's evening with a slight breeze that gently moves the sheer curtains, there is very soft music playing, we're facing each other and in one dream it looks like we are just looking into each others' eyes, no words. Then once we are slow dancing. The most recent dream we are still at the window, he has his hands on my face softly rubbing his thumb at the corner of my lips.
Who's the dude? And what's he doing with his finger in her face? Find out after the jump:
Lauri Loewenberg: Wow. Someone has gotten in touch with her inner Jackie Collins! As romantic and fantasy-like as these dreams are, they are actually commenting on a shift that is going on in your personality. The gentleman in this dream is standing in for your own male qualities: assertiveness, decisiveness and the ability to bring home the bacon. (Our dreams have this cool way of showing us the different parts of our PERSONality in the form of a PERSON.) The romantic feeling to this dream shows us that you are beginning to become attracted to your male side. Have you asserted yourself recently, gotten a promotion, anything along those lines that you are proud of yourself for? The music and the dancing means your assertive male qualities are moving in harmony with your feminine nurturing qualities. This all takes place in front of a window because others may be seeing this change in you as well. It is also significant that his thumb is caressing the corner of your lips. Thumbs are all about approval or disapproval and the mouth is all about your ability to communicate. It seems that your inner mind approves of something you have recently said. Good job sister! Too many of us gals are afraid to use our male, assertive qualities because we don't want to be labeled as difficult or the B word! I say, if someone calls you that, you're doing a damn good job!
Submit your own sex dream for analysis to firstname.lastname@example.org. Anonymity guaranteed!
A few days ago, Ballardian posted a long, well-timed, and very interesting interview with Nic Clear, from London’s Bartlett School of Architecture. I’ve long been a fan of Clear’s work with his students; I wrote a short article about him for Dwell last spring (see image, below), and Clear organized last month’s Science Fiction and Architecture panel in London.
[Image: A short article about Nic Clear from the March 2008 issue of Dwell].
Huge sections of the interview, in which they discuss the value of extra-architectural ideas in helping to shape the “near future” of spatial design, are worth quoting in full; but I’ll stick to a few specific moments here, and you can then go read the rest.
What I like about Clear, though, is that he’s 100% comfortable with – and seemingly relentless about pursuing – architecture not as a system of codified ornament or as a closed universe of citational conformity open only to grad students, but as a resource for ideas of every kind, whether or not they apply to your own local building codes or will ever lead to an act of construction.
Want to write a novel? A screenplay? An essay about landscape and climate change? Want to direct a music video? Start a blog? Architecture offers fuel – and amazing visuals – for all of these things.
The field becomes almost infinitely more exciting when you realize that architectural projects, by definition, entail the reimagination of how humans might inhabit the earth – how they organize themselves spatially and give shape to their everyday lives. Architecture is, within mere instants of discussing any idea or project, real or imagined, something with anthropological, economic, legal, libidinal, seismic, and even planetary implications.
In fact, if architecture can be viewed as the material alteration of the earth’s surface, then it is not a stretch to say that architecture has astronomical consequences: it can alter the very shape of a planet.
Little wonder, then, if we do decide to go in this direction, that there appears to be a growing cross-over of interests between architecture and science fiction – as in, for instance, the work produced by Nic Clear’s Unit 15.
In any case, it shouldn’t be surprising that Ballardian would then focus specifically on the architectural value of J.G. Ballard.
When asked whether Ballard is a growing influence on today’s practitioners, Clear answers:
- I’m not sure how many architects are being influenced by Ballard in their work, especially within ‘commercial’ architecture – maybe the forthcoming recession will make architects aware of the Ballardian possibilities of architecture. Within academia and architectural criticism, if such a thing still exists, there is a general disdain for ‘popular’ fiction – writing on, and about, architecture is still very elitist – and I have met quite a bit of resistance when discussing Ballard as a serious subject. However, I think that there is a desire to face up to a future that deals with a system in crisis, which Ballard articulates so brilliantly. I was recently reading Mike Davis’s breathtaking collection of essays, Dead Cities, and was constantly thinking ‘this is so Ballardian.’ Also, writers like Frederic Jameson and Jean Baudrillard, who have been influenced by Ballard, are still incredibly important and influential. Obviously Ballard’s early identification of global environmental issues also makes him incredibly pertinent to many people. However Ballard does not give easy, or even any answers and this puts off many people. Given the current economic and environmental conditions, he seems more prescient than ever, not simply because of the situations he describes, but because he offers a mindset for dealing with these issues.
Asked to define “Ballardian space,” if such a thing exists, Clear says: “If you take Jameson’s postmodern hyperspace, remove the post-structuralist jargon, add some dark humour and set it on the periphery of any declining western industrialised city – especially London – then you are pretty close [to Ballardian space].”
Finally – because you can simply read the interview itself in full – Clear sums it all up: “We have to stop thinking about architecture simply in terms of building buildings – that’s why I am so interested in looking at other models and disciplines to draw inspiration from.”
Hi Dr. Kate,
I am a 27-year-old female who, up until recently (maybe over the past year or so), never had a yeast infection. Now, it seems as if I get one at least once every two or three months! It may sound silly, but I have recently gained weight and even though I am very clean (I bathe daily but do not douche or use scented feminine products), I still seem to contract these pesky infections and I think my weight gain may have something to do with it. I am just about at my wit's end, and as I do not have health insurance, I do not have the means to run to the doc every time I get one. Fortunately, I do work for a medical call center and a nurse is often willing to call in an Rx for Fluconazole for me since I am a former patient of the practice she works for. I am also afraid of building up a resistance to the medication. Please help!
Thanks so much,
Sick of Scratching
I don't think your weight gain has anything to do with it: unless you've developed diabetes, yeast doesn't seem to be too strongly tied to weight. And yeast DEFINITELY doesn't mean you're not clean.
The first thing to figure out is, are your symptoms truly indicating a yeast infection? Yes, cottage-cheese-like discharge and vulvar itching is often a yeast infection--but not always. I would consider going to Planned Parenthood the next time you have symptoms, to get a diagnosis for sure--they charge on a sliding scale, so the cost shouldn't be prohibitive.
The next thing to tackle is whether your yeast is sensitive to Diflucan. Yeast is quite clever, and can develop resistance to ANY medication. So the Diflucan that you're taking may not be treating the infection, and instead of a recurrence, what you have is yeast that never really goes away. The only way to know this for sure is to see the gyno after being treated, to make sure the yeast is gone--not convenient, I know, but the only way to really know.
If you truly ARE getting recurrent, not resistant, yeast infections--and yeast can be very hard to get rid of--one option is to go on prophylaxis for a while. The easiest thing for this is to take a Diflucan tablet weekly, for three months, in the hope of beating the yeast back down. You can use a weekly application of Monistat in the same way.
Best of luck,
The following is a real actual photo from backstage at the artbash show:
I can’t explain this except in the sense that it demonstrates that there is indeed a grand plan for the universe.
In 1903, the Hoo Hoo bandsmen were playing as the Trib Band, a group sponsored by the Lufkin Weekly Tribune, a forerunner of The Lufkin Daily News.
When Johnny Bonner of Houston, a hometown boy who made a fortune in lumber and oil, paid a visit to Lufkin, he was so enamored by the band that he asked them to accompany him to a Milwaukee convention of the International Concatenated Order of the Hoo Hoo, a fun-loving lumberman’s fraternity that had been established in 1892 at Gurdon, Ark.
The band was such a hit in Milwaukee in September of 1903 that the fraternity named the band its official band. After that, everywhere the band went, it was known as ‘The Famous Hoo Hoo Band.”
For the next 12 to 15 years, the band played at Hoo Hoo conventions, Elks Club gatherings and other events all over North America.
In 1904, the band was the only Texas band allowed to play concerts on the midway of the World’s Fair in St. Louis.
In 1904, a newspaperman said “the young men played without pay and were delighted to do it.”
Lufkin employers supported the band by providing jobs for the young men. It became commonplace knowledge that musicians had preference over other young men seeking jobs at local companies.
W.C. Trout of Lufkin Foundry and Machine Company (now Lufkin Industries Inc.) and Joseph Kurth at Angelina County Lumber Company not only carried musicians on their payrolls, but allowed them to take off from work to travel and perform with the band.
The band members who appeared at the Milwaukee convention were brothers Tom, Norris and Will Humason, cigar maker Otto Lang, telegraph operator V.G. Blake, upholsterer Charles Cheneval, oilman Charles L. Bonner, contractor Conrad Rausch, electrician Harry Barnard, lumber checker W.E. West, bottler A.J. Glenn, clerks W.E. and C.D. Stegall, tinner Sam Kerr, painter George Schmidt, and city marshal C.M. (Kit) McConnico.
In Buffalo, New York, Johnny Bonner — who started the band down its road to fame — was named “Junior Hoo Hoo of the Supreme Nine,” a title equal to a traditional second vice-president.
And in a few years, Bonner ascended to Hoo Hoo’s presidency, known as “The Grand Snark of the Universe.”
At home, bandsmen became the nucleus for Lufkin’s first fire department with C.N. Humason as fire chief and Sam Kerr as secretary-treasurer.
The band also established a rehearsal hall on Cotton Square and inspired Lufkin businessmen to invest in the construction of the Lufkin Opera House, where some of the finest plays and music events in Texas were held before the building burned in the 1920s.
Dr. J.P. Hunter, an early bandsman and dentist, built a “picture show” on Cotton Square. And, when World War I exploded in 1917, Kit McConnico raised one of Texas’ largest companies of soldiers, but died of a fatal illness before he could go to France with his men. Today, a Lufkin park bears his name.
As its members grew older and school bands began to replace town bands, the Hoo Hoo Band began to dissipate.
Stop the Massacre in Gaza
Boycott Israel Now!
The Gaza Strip is under attack!!!!
Indiscriminate bombing by Israel and prolonged siege of the Gaza Strip supported by the United States and your tax dollars has led to:
277 Palestinians brutally murdered by the Israeli Occupation Forces
Over 600 Palestinians wounded by the Israeli Occupation Forces
No medical care in the Gaza Strip for the wounded
No food supplies
Israel has threatened to continue to escalate its attacks against the Gaza Strip and acts of genocide against the Palestinian people.
What are you going to do?
STAND UP FIGHT BACK!!!!
Join Adalah-NY on Monday December 29th to demand an end of US support for Israeli crimes against humanity:
Leafleting – 5:00 PM – 6:00 PM at two locations
The south end of Union Square, near the corner of 14th St and 5th Ave
The triangular park at 6th Av. & 32nd Street.
Funeral Procession – 6:30 PM meeting at the triangular park at 6th Av. & 32nd Street. Look for the Palestinian Flag. March to Bryant Park.
Download our flyer here.
Please print and distribute widely as organizations and individuals. If you would like a version of the flyer with your group’s name on it, please e-mail email@example.com. Members of Adalah-NY will be participating in Sunday’s demonstration and will have extra copies of the flyer.
Learn more about Gaza and the BDS Movement:
Free Gaza Movement: http://www.freegaza.org/
Electronic Intifada: http://electronicintifada.net/
Al Jazeera English: http://english.aljazeera.net/
Global BDS Movement: http://www.bdsmovement.net/
Please also note that several other actions are scheduled:
Sunday, December 28 at 2:00 pm
Meet 50th St. & 5th Ave then march to the Israeli Consulate at 800 2nd Ave btw 42nd & 43rd Sts.
Questions: (212) 633-6646. Called by: Al-Awda NY: Palestine Right to Return Coalition, Arab Muslim American Federation, International Action Center, Brooklyn for Peace, USPCN-NY and the General Union of Palestinian Students
Organizations have called for a National Day of Action: on Tuesday December 30th. There will be actions throughout the United States.
In New York
Demonstration at 5:00 pm
Israeli Consulate: 800 2nd Ave (b/w 42nd and 43rd Sts)
Contact: 212-694-8720, nyc@answercoalition .org
Visit us on line at www.adalahny.org
As we watch the Gaza bloodshed with horror, appalled at how the crisis
is spiraling further out of control, one thing is clear — this violence
will only lead to further civilian suffering and an escalation of the
There must be another way. Over 280 are dead and hundreds more injured
— rockets are striking Ashdod deep inside Israel for the very first
time, and the sides are mobilising for invasion. A global response has
begun, but it’ll take more than words — the immediate violence won’t
end, nor will wider peace be secured, without firm action from the
Today, we’re launching an emergency campaign which will be delivered to
the UN Security Council and key world powers, urging them to act to
ensure an immediate ceasefire, address the growing humanitarian crisis,
and take steps to build real and lasting peace.1 Follow this link now to
sign the emergency petition and send it to everyone you know:
After eight or more years of ineffective US and global diplomacy — and
now Gaza’s bloodiest day in recent memory — we must issue a global
outcry demanding that world leaders do more than make statements if
they’re to bring peace to this region. The UN, the European Union, the
Arab League and the USA should now act together to ensure a ceasefire –
which includes an end to rocket attacks into Israel and opening the
checkpoints for fuel, food, medicine and other humanitarian aid
With a new US President taking office in less than a month, a real
opportunity exists to breathe new life into peace efforts. These latest
hostilities require not only an immediate ceasefire but a commitment
from Obama and other world leaders that resolution of the
Israeli-Palestinian conflict is at the very top of their agendas. As the
whole world is impacted by this ongoing conflict – we should demand
In 2006 we mobilised for a ceasefire in Lebanon. For years we’ve worked
to encourage a just and lasting peace, taking out billboards and ads
across Israel and Palestine. Now as we head into 2009, we need to come
together again to demand a peaceful and lasting resolution, instead of a
further escalation of violence. Follow this link to put your name
forward for peace:
All sides to the conflict will continue to act as they have in the past
if they believe that the world will stand by and allow them to do so.
2009 is a year that things can be different. As we face this crisis, and
the possibilities of a new year, it’s time for us to demand a ceasefire
and work together to finally put an end to this cycle of violence.
With hope and determination,
Brett, Ricken, Alice, Ben, Pascal, Paul, Graziela, Paula, Luis, Iain and
the whole Avaaz team
With the publication of Susan Sontag’s diaries, it becomes even harder to maintain the hoary traditionalist argument that a writer’s sexuality is irrelevant to the work: For Sontag, her discovery of her bisexuality, of her talent, and her potential for celebrity were all clearly interwoven.
Sontag’s adventurousness in all arenas seems so obvious, so early on — from May 1949: “I know what I want to do with my life, all of this being so simple, but so difficult for me in the past to know. I want to sleep with many people — I want to live and hate to die — I will not teach, or get a master’s after I get my B.A.” — that her marriage to Philip Rieff, the significantly older cultural critic whom she met at the University of Chicago, seems a bafflement. The seven-year marriage, not a happy one, produced the writer and critic David Rieff, who edited his mother’s journals.
But in an unusually knowledgeable and penetrating review in the Chronicle of Higher Education, Daniel Horowitz, who teaches American studies at Smith, points out that David Rieff made some chronological errors in the page proofs (the version that most reviewers read) that made the marriage to Philip Rieff seem even more abrupt — tragically abrupt — than it may have been …
Jen at MOMSPatterns is running a quick sale — 30% off any ONE order valid now until midnight, December 30, 2008 EST using coupon code ‘secretsale’. AND Jen is happy to announce that she’s now accepting most major credit cards (Visa, Mastercard, Discover & American Express) for everyone’s convenience!
I can’t get over the ruffled collar on this dress. So gorgeous and elegant. Too bad the lady on the left is merely waiting for the beatings to recommence and that the lady on the right is one eye-roll away from anticipating, forty years ahead of schedule, the attitude of every teenager on every 1990s sitcom. (Although I would totally watch a sitcom where everyone dressed like this, gloves included …)
I’ll try to announce the “winners” of the Bad/Good Christmas Present Contest tomorrow, so get your entries in. Although, frankly, one entry I got via email is so wonderfully horrible that it would take severed body parts to compete with it. Anyone get one of those this year?
There are some strange souls who loosen “France” from their lips, suspecting that there may be more to this country’s name than a word uttered in less than a second (presuming that you are not a soul who drawls out this word languorously, like the pleasant smoke emitted from a cheroot). Just as there remain a few vitiated greenhorns who cling stubbornly to the concept of freedom fries, some folks inherently distrust this name, perhaps because they are distressed by the country’s geographical proximity. Surely, a country separated by England through the thin aquatic sliver of the English Channel — indeed, one that maintains a rather prodigious cultural budget — would have more than one syllable. Or perhaps more than one identity. France is much larger than one syllable when we begin to think about it. And yet we must confine it into this established lingua franca.
Of course, “your theories” on this important subject, if we could ascribe such importance to a silly question, may be altogether different from mine. And that’s perfectly fine. But when one considers the syllable count of a name or a phrase, one realizes that a subject like this often passes for prodigious conversation in an academic environment. Theory, as we all know, is a risky intoxicant. And there are some who remain so determined to see things that are not necessarily there, because the promise remains vaguely plausible. Like that halo drifting above a church from a certain morning light suggesting metaphorical divinity, but that is really just a lovely visual image caused by natural intuitive elements. The pragmatic mind dismisses such a concern as “a steaming load of bullshit,” and it is remains the pragmatist’s right to hold onto this position.
But let us take these dabblings to their naturally absurdist level. When one looks at France’s one syllable, the amateur will certainly never state (if it could indeed talk directly to the country), “You have too much,” to France. In having one syllable, France clings to the most rudimentary requirements in language and time, and therefore presents itself to the mind as a country with a connotative perfect circle. Let us merely assign language a syllabic measure. For the latter (and possibly more important) element, let us consider the old idea of time being nature’s way of keeping everything from happening at once — a quip attributed to Woody Allen, John Archibald Wheeler, and numerous other personages. (Indeed, who knows for sure where it came from?) In considering France’s syllabic count and the meaning of this syllabic count in relation to loftier matters, can we not define “time” as a natural medium that gnaws upon our existence? Perhaps it is a form of control that helpfully prevents us from wandering down unfruitful avenues.
Let us also take into account the fact that time is measured by a clock, an instrument composed of two hands. If time is one of those natural mediums which controls us, can we then declare time, by way of the clock’s elements, to keep us “on your hands” or otherwise enslaved to these basic language questions unfolding beyond comprehension in the present?
In this way (and many others), we are enslaved by theoretical constructs pertaining to really fun ideas. Small wonder then that so many with creative and intellectual promise can be seen from nine to five walking forlornly down Madison Avenue.
Happy Holidays everybody! We'll be posting here until Wednesday, but come the new year you can find us at EMandLO.com -- be sure to bookmark it!
aries (Mar. 21st-Apr. 20th)
Oh, this really cracks us up. The stars have a teeny-tiny recommendation for you this week: "Look for someone who can dazzle your mind and challenge your every thought." Yeah, like it's really that easy. No big deal, right? Geez, and all this time we've been chasing dullards with no sex appeal. How come no one told us we should chase the catch of the day? Well, Aries, before you get all cocky like us, stop and think for a second: When was the last time you really went after someone you wanted bad, someone you thought you couldn't get? Are you settling to avoid rejection? Do we sound like your shrink yet? Have you called your mother lately? Your New Year's resolution: Shoot for the moon and maybe you'll end up shagging a little star. And call your mother.
taurus (Apr. 21st-May 20th)
When we look at your week, Taurus, one phrase comes to mind: "Charming the pants off." 'Tis the season for you to be getting boo-tay! And it's not just 'cause everyone's too drunk to care who they get lucky with, we swear. You're sparkling like your jacket is lined with Christmas lights, and everyone's going to be lining up to sit on your knee and whisper what they really want for the holidays in your ear. Turns out Santa didn't put out this year--but on New Year's Eve, you can make up for that. Your New Year's resolution: Let it all flow--the booze, the compliments, the sweet talking. Just let it flow. And carry condoms everywhere.
gemini (May 21st-June 21st)
To paraphrase a line from one of Lo's favorite movies, The Four Seasons: "Your thoughts are like gumballs that just drop down from your brain onto your tongue." To put it less delicately, you've got diarrhea of the mouth when it comes your romantic emotions. Your New Year's resolution: Remove feet from your diet completely. However, you can put a sock in it. Socks are okay.
cancer (June 22nd-July 22nd)
The stars say that "You'll be in the groove and making a move this week." Hey, the stars are a poet and they don't even know it! Your New Year's resolution: Make sure you've got a fabulous party to attend and aren't wasting all that grooviness on dancing with yourself. Oh, oh, oh, dancing with yourself.
leo (July 23rd-Aug. 22nd)
You'll be very popular this week--we're talking Jonah Brothers popular, J. Lo popular, even Chia Pet popular. You just have to get out and mingle. That means going to every New Year's party you were invited to, as well as the one you wish you were invited to. Your New Year's resolution: Party like it's 1999!
virgo (Aug. 23rd-Sept. 22nd)
This week, you'll have more energy than a brand new puppy waiting for his walk. And you know how some people are dog people and others would rather piss on a fire hydrant in public than show a canine a little love? Well, the same goes for you: Your crotch-sniffing, drippy tongue act will be a little much for all the wrong people. But there's one special person out there who's going to just love it, and it's gonna be just like that spaghetti scene in The Lady and the Tramp. Ain't puppy love grand? Your New Year's resolution: If you sense a kindred spirit in the room, go straight for the crotch. And stay off the furniture.
libra (Sept. 23rd-Oct. 23rd)
You are wise to question your motives this week when it comes to love: Self-deception is likely. Whoever you are interested in will probably give you a false impression. Love triangles may cause problemos. Your New Year's resolution: Give up geometry. You were never good at math.
scorpio (Oct. 24th-Nov. 22nd)
In Pedro Almodóvar's Talk to Her (his perviest, most disturbing--yet somehow sweet--film), a man is asked, "Are you single?" and he responds, "Yes, I'm alone." Which is kind of how you've been feeling lately: "One is the loneliest number," and all that claptrap that seems so much more depressing when you don't have a date for New Year's Eve. But maybe your attitude isn't helping. You're not alone, you're number one! Your New Year's resolution: When you meet a hottie, focus on flirting, not gut-spilling. Save the woe-is-me for the second date.
sagittarius (Nov. 23rd-Dec. 21st)
Your daisy-petal-picking technique for making important romantic decisions is getting old fast. Your wishy-washy behavior will turn the person you've been hanging out with running in the other direction. Your New Year's resolution: Grow a spine.
capricorn (Dec. 22nd-Jan. 20th)
Don't be so argumentative all the time. It's the holidays--everyone's too stuffed with turkey and eggnog to give a shit about your debate-of-the-week right now. Can't you just drop all the "issues" for a few days and think about getting laid like the rest of us? Your New Year's resolution: Have another glass of wine and stay a while. Have you ever danced on a bar-top? Now is as good a time as any.
aquarius (Jan. 21st-Feb. 18th)
You know those conversations, four gin-and-tonics into the evening, where the words are slightly slurred but the sentiment is completely sincere? When you tell your friend, "I thought you hated me when we first met!" and she replies "I did!" (Truth serum, dude.) Well, you'll be bonding with people like this all week, except you won't need the Dutch courage. It might result in a brand-new friendship, it might result in a lurve connection, and then again, it might result in a punch in the face. But a black eye lasts only a week whereas true wuv is forever (or at least until New Year's Eve)--so isn't it worth the risk? Your New Year's resolution: Just burn the patchouli incense and tell it like it is, man.
pisces (Feb. 19th-Mar. 20th)
We see someone in your past. Our crystal ball is a little on the hazy side (or maybe that's just our hangovers), but it looks like this someone could be an ex. It's definitely someone you're still a little hung up on. Oh wait...the crystal ball is kind of clearing up a little...man, this someone is hot! It's time you resolved your feelings for this someone once and for all. Best-case scenario will be like one of those Meg Ryan vehicles where you finally figure out you were right for each all along, you just needed time, maturity, and a romantic encounter on top of the Empire State Building. Worst-case scenario will be realizing that life isn't like a Meg Ryan vehicle and you still haven't found your one-and-only. And someone in the middle there is the chance that you'll get to have great ex sex. Your New Year's resolution: Look up that one-who-got-away on Facebook.
[Image: London’s newly renovated Garden Museum, photographed by David Grandorge].
Last month I had the pleasure of meeting Christopher Woodward, director of London’s newly revamped Garden Museum and author of In Ruins: A Journey Through History, Art, and Literature.
Woodward took me and my wife on an after-hours tour of the museum’s beautifully renovated space; housed in a 14th-century church just steps from the Thames, the museum has been energetically rebranded by Woodward and internally reorganized by Dow Jones Architects.
While a longer interview with Woodward – about ruins, jungles, guerilla gardens, and English landscape painting, among many other topics – is hopefully forthcoming here on BLDGBLOG, I’ve written up his evening tour of the Garden Museum’s new space over at Dwell.
So check it out!
Playlist from The Acousmatic Theater Hour with Jason G and Karinne on WFMU, from Dec 28, 2008
softskull: rt @JulieWilson Are you an indie bookstore? I’d like to offer you a free ad on Seen Reading. DM me and I’ll send the specs. No catch!
softskull: @AnnKingman @ronhogan that piece was ridicolous. Yr question more interesting though. I think backlist’s a question of institutional memory
31 Down Radio Theater’s work in progress. Find info about their echo location installation at Wave Farm at www.free103point9.org.
Best Catwoman of all time, among other things. Sigh.
Goodloe Byron, who is not to be confused with the late Congressman, is a kind and excitable gentleman who permitted me to use a corner of his table to hawk Bat Segundo CDs at last year’s Independent and Small Press Book Fair. He is the author of The Abstract, a self-published book that he has released without a dollar value into the world. (He informs me that he is sitting on numerous copies of his book in his barn.) But he is also a big fan of Knut Hamsun and, as it turns out, Jose Saramago. What follows is an essay in which Mr. Byron has presented his thoughts on the latter.
The Portuguese writer Jose Saramago describes humanity with the same alien fascination with which the Belgian naturalist Maurice Maeterlinck used to describe insects. This foreign view of civilization is entirely appropriate, as Saramago looks less like a man than a Methuselahan turtle, peering around with a goggly apparatus strapped to his temple.
In Saramago’s view, the world is not balancing on a precarious pin, but is pinned to the floor by violence and power. Suddenly, the impossible becomes possible: Blindness comes to replace selective attention with something that no longer selects anything; private regret transforms into public lucidity in Seeing. In The Cave, the Vegas/Wal-Mart/Condominium/uber-complex called The Center, a simulacra of Plato’s Cave, is built atop a buried allegorical site which realizes the simile as a literal state of being. But in these novels, society also accommodates the intruding impossibility: the blind are quarantined in dark cells; lucidity is diffused by propaganda, and the cave is turned into a spectacle itself. Since Blindness, Saramago’s seemingly impossible inspirations have become finely attuned Chestertonian paradoxes, and these situations, in turn, break the smooth surface of reality, exposing the tender and often stupid mess underneath. He’s studying the human being by injecting our world with an unstable but vivid isotope.
Saramago’s latest experiment has finally arrived in the United States. Death with Interruptions is about a country where people stop dying. This is not a book of wishful thinking. Death is such a pivotal structural entity in our world that any attempt to carry out our experience without it would transform it into an absurd character; insurance companies introduce a “working” death at the age of eighty four, funeral directors petition to transfer the commodities of mourning to pets and parakeets. These may seem satirical, but these exigencies are as real as the subsidies creating grain surpluses which are subsequently burned. Counterbalancing this bureaucratic response is a terrible self-honesty that would necessarily follow; our sympathy for the elderly and the infirm is not empathy. It is only because the predator of death is out somewhere ready to strike that we can rally ourselves and attempt to stave it off. Saramago pictures this dilemma as if these marked souls will linger here forever. They are not in danger; we cannot save them. Suddenly these regular tasks define a new unromantic role: the custodian of the all but dead. Knowing that their condition can only get so much worse, I personally suspect it would be tempting to place the person in a storage locker and go to Atlantic City, but maybe this admission will jeopardize my babysitting career.
Not many of us are violent or wish death on others, but we all know that a steady stream of blood turns the mill. The mill is not turning here, but the poor are saddled with the financial burden of the permanently dying. With compassion for the ethical havoc that this would wreak on us, Saramago indicates the brutal solution at which we would certainly arrive; if no one had to die, these people would be required to die.
But thankfully, death returns! She is classically personified, coming to us with skull, scythe, and all, a contrast to the modern view of death as a biological process. Now the story happens again, localized to a single character: an unsung cellist whom death is unable to kill. Suddenly, the story focuses and takes on the tone of an old school romance, and interestingly shares some traits with romantic obsession narratives such as Marc Behm’s Eye of the Beholder. It is a Da Capo al Fine move, repeating the central premise of the book but altering environmental physics from the purely positive world of his later phase, into the classical fables that characterized his first. Though something along this lines was hinted at in Seeing, to my mind, this is a transition radical enough to be considered entirely new for Saramago, and it presents us with the skeleton key to the book. This time, Death is amazed by her own impotence in the face of the human being, who remains ignorant of her, a nice reversal of the working order. This goes to the core of what Saramago’s all about, recalling the distinction between the human will (the mortal, individual spirit that dies with or before us) and soul (the eternal part of man removed from its human excess) that he explored in Baltasar and Blimunda. Instead of judging humanity by what is naturally effective (a la Deng Xiaoping), Saramago is suggesting that we should judge nature by what is morally affective (which, for Saramago, is grassroots Marxism).
Lastly if I may please note: English speakers are very lucky that Saramago’s phase shift, with the arguable exception of Blindness, has been so well-amplified in the opposed translation styles of Giovanni Pontiero and Margret Jull Costa. Obviously this distinction is a bit twisted, as this good fortune has come with the expense of Mr. Pontiero’s untimely demise. Whereas Mr. Pontiero’s style appears to radiate with a formal erudition, in the service of the most exact representation possible, Ms. Costa’s weapon of choice appears to be her imagination, in which she welds with her efforts to preserve the overall style and impression of the book. This is further evidenced by her chameleonic translations of Eca de Quieroz. As a person who can only read one language, I acknowledge being a bit of a straw man on this topic. That she would be trying to single-handedly import a neglected culture into English would be commendable as a doomed enterprise, and that she appears to be succeeding at it (and perhaps this is an area where appearing to succeed is all success really is) is awesome.
Saramago doesn’t show any sign that he will rest on his laurels, nor would anyone familiar with his work expect that he would be the sort of person to consider such a thing to be a worthwhile activity. Not long ago he completed his newest book The Elephants Journey, so now Saramagoons such as myself will have something to wait for.
In honor of all the venal creeps from David Yassky (”Term Limits Whore Us”) on down (not that you can get much lower) making crybaby noises about the reopening of the Brooklyn House of Detention, I’m delighted to rerun the WWIB interview with a man who knows something about street justice, journalist and author C.J. Sullivan. QUESTION: what’s the matter with all the “new” downtown Brooklyn types, or did they not notice they live in the civic seat of Kings County? And there have been how many prison escapes in Brooklyn since the old Raymond Street Jail (hear ‘em all say “the what?”) closed? While I sit back and wait to hear the answer, dig on my man— my tall man— my strong man— my virtuous man, C.J., the pure product of Cardinal Spellman who’d never dream of using his old Roy White bat to play fungo with an army of terracotta David Yasskys… But I sure would. If only the ponderous Christine Quinn’s political career were as dead as Awakened Qin! —Caz Dolowicz
It’s a question that will face nearly every reporter if they hang around this racket long enough: how do you write about a Legend? Especially when you go back like we do— way back, to the basketball & handball courts, the pizza parlors & lechoneras, the ominous stairwells & bachata blasting nights of the our native land. Meet Christopher J. Sullivan, pure Bronx Irish out of Kingsbridge; meet Ernie Koy, Jr., a Filipino octaroon originally from Hoe Avenue but filing this from the Morrisania Branch of the New York Public Library. People often ask why the Bronx doesn’t have its own library system, like the Brooklyn & the Queens do? The Sullivan knows but he ain’t saying; the Koy knows also but there’s three people waiting to get on this terminal, so I better speed things up. Librarians in the Bronx ain’t playin’, damn.
Most of us on the other side of the Broadway, the 145th Street, the 3rd Avenue & the Willis Avenue bridges too had seen it since the late 1970s: white boy has style. It wasn’t until the 1990s however, when Sullivan began to write for New York Press, that the rest of the city figured it out. While much credit goes to Sullivan’s editor, John Strausbaugh, for recognizing the still somewhat raw talent, it was C.J.’s own hustle & diligence that made “Bronx Stroll” among the most important newspaper columns of its era.
While Sullivan’s politics were always somewhat ambiguous— like Walter Matthau in Charley Varrick, C.J. could be rightfully be called the Last of the Independents— the simple fact that he was hitting the Bronx hard & writing about both its glory & its darkness was a radical act. Check the magazines, check the newspapers, check the blogs: Tom Robbins of the Village Voice, Gary Axelbank of BronxTalk & a few others excepted, yeah, the great fake “liberal” media of New York City is falling all over itself to report from Tha’ Boogie Down, so who could possibly care if Sullivan is— ooooh, ‘politically correct’? Your mom loves him, my mom & mami as well: that’s what matters in the streets; the rest is pure jealousy.
Although his association with New York Press sputtered to an end a couple years ago, Sullivan today is more active than ever. He’s contributed stories to the Brooklyn Noir series; compiled the boggling 1001 Greatest Things Ever Said About New York collection; wrote the epic Bronx-essay for New York Calling & is a widely admired part-time crime reporter for the New York Post. (Sullivan’s day job is at Kings County Supreme Court.) Most recently, Sullivan is the author of Wild Tales From The Police Blotter, a brilliant, often funny, sometimes poignant survey of all the things criminals get caught doing & occasionally get away with too. A few knuckleheads have complained Wild Tales is “episodic” but that seems to me way more like an accurate observation than a criticism. If they mean to say Wild Tales stands with the finest episodes of The Honeymooners, F-Troop, Kojak & The Rockford Files as examples of irreducible American Genius, then alright.
Seated on a bench in St Mary’s Park in Mott Haven one late summer afternoon, Brian Berger & C.J. Sullivan, sweating profusely, spoke of many things. Paul Newman was still alive & they goofed on Fort Apache anyway. — Ernie Koy, Jr.
Brian Berger: Before we walk over to the schoolyard on Brook Ave & I take you in handball, let’s talk about Kingsbridge, where Young Sullivan, son of two generations of firefighters, first got his Irish up, as they say.
C.J. Sullivan: My grandmother came to New York in 1908 when she was 24, as did her husband did around the same time so that side of the family kept the Irish spirit alive in the family. (more…)
Is being an author financially “safe”? Does being an author carry risks that other fields do not? I suppose what I’m asking is, “What is the life of an author like”?
In reverse order, again:
What is the life of an author like? This is almost an impossible question to answer, because every author (and every person) is different. But here are a few things I’ve noticed that either happened or became much more pronounced after I’d been published:
- It’s a lot harder to take in stories without taking them apart. With any kind of narrative, anywhere I encounter it, I’m nearly always double-tracking: getting to know characters and following the plot, but simultaneously thinking about structure, stakes, how quickly the conflicts are established, the rhythm of the prose. It is far rarer for me to simply fall into a story. This isn’t a phenomenon exclusive to writing — I think similar things happen whenever you acquire sufficient knowledge/passion about a subject. When I was serious about theater, I’d double-track at every performance I attended: lighting, set, and costume design occupied as much of my attention as the actors. (Actually, this still happens sometimes.)
- You develop an awareness of your audience. (Hi, folks!) This is simultaneously wonderful and terrifying. Wonderful because hey! People are reading your stuff! And sometimes they completely adore it! And tell you! Terrifying because as soon as you have an audience, you also have a set of expectations. Was your first book about unicorns? If your next book is about zombies, you will hear about it from the disappointed unicorn partisans.
- Caveat: This process may be different for folks who got an audience before being published traditionally. Fanfic writers, webcomics folks, zinesters, bloggers, vloggers, others, what do you say?
- Your ideas about what “success” means keep changing. Before I was published, being published was my sole goal: the fence to jump, the rock to scale, the Hellespont to swim. Once I was on the other side, though, I saw nothing but more fences, more rocks, more mythologically significant bodies of water to cross. I’m not saying you’ll never be satisfied (or maybe I am?), simply that the goalposts are always moving.
Does being an author carry risks that other fields do not? Yes. Obviously, unless you’re doing, say, reporting in a war zone, the physical risks to life and limb are minor. This is not mining, or heavy machinery operation, or farm work, or firefighting, or combat. But there are other kinds of risks. Friends, family members, and lovers will see themselves in your work. They may be flattered, but they may also be deeply hurt. Either way, you may not have had them consciously in mind at all when you created those characters or situations. Also, as a writer, you spend a lot of time in your own head, which is not always a pleasant locale.
Seriously, no. Financial security is extremely unlikely as an outcome of a writing career. Lots of authors have day jobs, partners who support them, and/or a lot of debt. Especially in The Current Economy ™. But if you’re serious about writing, the bleak financial prospects won’t make a difference.
As always, I welcome additional thoughts and questions!
Denise at Blue Gardenia is having her yearly sale … here are the details:
Another shameless plug. Forgive me. Please. But the mortgage must be paid. The pups must have their treats. And His Bertness has a fondness for Haagen Dazs. Oh, the list, it is endless. Truly.
So. Take your seats. The curtain’s rising. The drums are rolling. Etc.
I announce, without further ado, The Blue Gardenia‘s once-a-year sale. And it’s a doozy. Really. Purchase any three items — patterns, jewelry, mix and match — and get 33 percent off. Yup. 33 percent. Is that fabulous or what? You can buy ten, twenty, thirty items, forty even, and you’ll get 33 percent off the total price. And your purchase will come lovingly shipped, as always. The patterns carefully stored in archival wrap with backing boards, the jewelry in classy boxes. And you don’t have to stand in line with the riff raff. No pushing. No shoving. No smelly armpits or aching, swollen feet.
Early next week I’ll choose the winners of the best/worst present ever contest … so there’s still time to look at your haul from Thursday and say “What were they thinking?”
There are various consequence to being around academics so much, even when not at MLA. Here is one of them: regular exposure to commentary on journalism in which the vigor of perfect self-assurance is never dampened by a complete lack of knowledge.
That is a topic for another day. (People in lit seem particularly bad about it. I have theories.)
Right now, instead of just bracing for the onslaught, I can celebrate. The urbane and peripatetic Richard Byrne — editor, playwright, alchemist — has just published “Ranter and Corantos: Renaissance Journalism” in The Nation.
Besides recommending this piece, I want to add a small reference of tangential interest.