Archive for March, 2009
For some time I’ve thought about running away this autumn to Berlin to complete the book. As it turns out, enough people have acted on this fantasy to merit a NYT Styles piece (”ultracheap nooks for the aspiring authors who need room only for a laptop.”) Time for Plan B.
Jellies were once the pinnacle of sophistication.
(As a child, I made jellies in the shape of rabbits as an edible school project for our medieval feast - but though we had, at home, both a very good though now no longer fully functional large orange plastic jelly mold [it was benevolently tested last Xmas as part of small-child-oriented holiday preparations, but the jelly that emerged was not zoologically recognizable] and also smaller metal rabbit molds that perhaps worked better as cake tins, I believe that I used cookie cutters to solve the problem of how to scale up and make enough rabbits for everybody in the class to have their own.)
And here is the jellymongers website. Victorian breakfast looks to be a thing of considerable deliciousness (do I spy decorative anchovies?). Also, for the discerning, bespoke jelly moulds (pictured above). I wouldn't mind having one of these for a party.
I always have a trickle of advance reading copies coming into my apartment, many of which seem to have been sent to me on no rationally comprehensible grounds, but late last week I got one which I seized upon with delight: Lev Grossman's forthcoming novel The Magicians.
It is perhaps too dark to be the perfect escapist reading, but I thought it was very good indeed. For comic relief, I will also observe that I recently bought another book about magic partly because the Amazon reviewers' back-and-forth made me laugh...
A quick reminder that we are livestreaming Postopolis! LA – which began only 20 minutes ago with Régine Debatty introducing Fritz Haeg, who is now on stage – via the Storefront website. Also, we will be reporting the whole thing on Twitter – follow @postopolis for more.
It was at least a year ago that Paul and Colleen told me I ought to read The True Meaning of Smekday. It took me a while, but guys, you were right. So I’m late to the party, but because some of y’all may be as well, I’ll tell you the book’s basic premise. Gratuity “Tip” Tucci, 12, has an assignment:
Write an essay titled THE TRUE MEANING OF SMEKDAY. What is the Smekday holiday? How has it changed in the year since the aliens left? You may use your own personal experiences from the alien invasion to make your points. Feel free to draw pictures or include photographs.
This is Gratuity:
This is a Boov, running:
The Boov have invaded Earth and renamed it Smekland. That’s pretty much all you need to know. But I’ll tell you more.
1. There are comics inside the book. Drawn by an alien. Named J.Lo.
2. One of the things that will nearly always sell me on a book is the quality of its throwaway lines; asides that don’t directly advance the plot, but add to characterization and/or the overall invented world. Smekday’s got them in abundance. Some non-spoilery examples:
“…there was less than I’d expected in the rainy-day fund that Mom had kept in the bottom of an underwear drawer in a panty hose egg labeled ‘DEAD SPIDERS.’ As if I hadn’t always known it was there. As if I wouldn’t want to look at dead spiders.”
“…Lite Choconilla Froot Bites, which broke my usual rule against eating anything that was misspelled.”
“The Boov are having seven magnificent genders.”
3. Another essential: avoiding the Giant Didactic Hammer that is so sadly common in books for kids & teens. Rex does this beautifully. He is the opposite of heavy-handed, but among the laughs and adventure, you’ll also find insights about cross-cultural misunderstandings, imperialism, and the dangers of making decisions based solely on your assumptions about how things work.
4. Still not convinced? Here, watch a Human Learning Video:
Here’s the schedule for this month.
At 10PM most Wednesdays in April I’ll play Taix in Madame Pamita’s band. I almost always get there early to eat and then hang out to chat after the set. That’s 4/1, 4/8, 4/22, and 4/29. (But not 4/15).
On Thursday April 9 I’ll play a solo set at the Hyperion Tavern. Dunno the time yet, most likely around 10PM. I’ll do the new electric guitar stuff that I’ve been working out in the Cinema Bar gigs over the past couple months. Hyperion Tavern is a great room for relaxing and cooling out to low key music. There’s no obvious place to eat right by the bar, because Casita del Campo across the street is really wretched, but there are some spots up Hyperion Ave toward Glendale.
On Friday April 10 and Friday April 24 I’ll play an early set at Cinema Bar in Culver City for the after-work drinkers. TGIF, a couple Coronas, killer tacos at Tito’s next door, and some vintage americana music.
On Monday April 27 I’ll play from 7:45 to 8:45 at the Talking Stick coffeehouse in Venice Beach. It’s on Lincoln a couple blocks south of Air Conditioned lounge. Real nice room where it’s easy both to talk to people or to pull into your own head and do some laptopping.
Lots of shows, which is good because playing more gets me into a nice flow and the music comes out well. Also: always always always feel free to ping me about drinks or food on gig nights. It’s all about the socializing.
The Sundance Channel has just launched a spiffy new blog called SUNfiltered. It’s got posts from various writers (e.g. Andrew Hearst and our new BFF Bobbie Redford) on culture, film, green issues, design, music, and love — “naked love“, to be exact. Yours truly will be contributing to the saucier side of things (natch), so stay tuned for our regular Naked Love posts which will start here and end over there.
Our first post is on who has it worse when it comes to casual sex: guys or gals?:
For as long as women have talked about sex over cocktails, they have complained about the double-standard of casual boot-knocking: The more he does it, the more his buddies high-five him; the more she does it, the more her “friends” whisper behind her back about what a slut she is.
This new(ish) best-of album by the eclectic guitarist keeps growing on me. It’s Vol. 1 of a series, subtitled “Folk Sunes,” and so focuses on Frisell’s excursions into Americana, borrowed as well as created from scratch.
David Brooks on Obama re-envisioning and -invasioning Afghanistan:
After the trauma in Iraq, it would have been easy for the U.S. to withdraw into exhaustion and realism. Instead, President Obama is doubling down on the very principles that some dismiss as neocon fantasy: the idea that this nation has the capacity to use military and civilian power to promote democracy, nurture civil society and rebuild failed states.
Foreign policy experts can promote one doctrine or another, but this energetic and ambitious response — amid economic crisis and war weariness — says something profound about America’s DNA.
What does that even mean? Seriously, what? Are we gonna sequence our national genome in the autoclave of hot Afghan conflict with an electron microscope sticking out of our X chromosomes? What?
From Megan McArdle:
The thing that really bothers me about Hitler was the genocide
Sometimes I wonder how any of us ever learned about love and romance. Or how we learned, at the very least, to adjust our expectations to conform to reality. I started thinking about this after I inadvertently got Olivia Newton John’s song “Hopelessly Devoted to You” stuck in my head. As I was singing the song out loud while puttering about the house, I realized that it’s gooey sentiment — not to mention its unflappable loyalty in the face of rejection — was how my 8-year-old self imagined love to be.
Watch a clip from the movie Grease. Alas, if only our loves appeared to us in ponds.
As much as movies, books and television shape our youthful definitions and notions of love, it’s music — with its lyrics ripe for memorization and repetition, and often written for and about the beloved — that becomes our guide and our adoptive ode. We insert ourselves into a song’s narrative — which, of course, we can do with film. But with a song, it’s neatly packaged inside of a scant few minutes; the story is brief, fleeting and, best of all, instantly gratifying because of its quick conclusion. For our young, impressionable hearts, a love song is just a metronome that keeps the time until a new beat comes along.
Below is part one of a treacherous journey toward a vague understanding of love.
First up for me was Huey Lewis & The News. The band’s albums Sports and Fore were pretty much the soundtrack to my elementary-school years. Lewis was something of a Jersey dreamboat (totally not an oxymoron, in case you were wondering), and after he serenaded me for years, he ultimately broke my heart when my Walkman, containing a Huey Lewis tape, was stolen from our family car at Stanley Park in Vancouver, B.C. Also, my baby blanket was stolen. If you are wondering why I had a Walkman and a baby blanket in the same tote bag, let’s just say that I was very complicated. It’s only occurring to me right this second that perhaps my parents staged this theft in order to rid me of my threadbare patch of comfort. Dad?
Anyhow, here is Lewis’ “Stuck With You,” a song which let me know that true love involves being stuck, but also being sort of happy about it. After all, it’s such a pain to have to change your address.
Up next were songs that alluded not just to love, but to making love. It doesn’t get more romantic than these lyrics, courtesy of Air Supply:
Every time I see you all the rays of the sun
are streaming through the waves in your hair;
and every star in the sky is taking aim
at your eyes like a spotlight,
The beating of my heart is a drum, and it’s lost
and it’s looking for a rhythm like you.
(Somewhere at an All Songs Considered desk, Robin Hilton is crying and asking Bob Boilen to hold him. Bob won’t.)
The words “making love” still make me cringe, and I blame this Air Supply song.
George Michael’s “I Want Your Sex” erased every lesson taught to me in health class. This, by a man later arrested for having sex in a public bathroom — twice! In lieu of Michael’s true sexual preference, I like to imagine a different meaning for the line, “I can’t take much more, girl, I’m losing control.” What at first sounded like a man brimming with desire was really just a guy saying, “I’m over it, at least with women.”
But let’s end with something truly romantic: New Kids on the Block’s “I’ll Be Loving You Forever.” In middle school, I went to the Puyallip Fair and flung myself at Jordan and Jonathan Knight. Why? One, because I had a better chance of still scoring in case one of them rejected me; and two, because the concept of forever means nothing to a 13-year-old. Therefore, it sounded like a pretty cool time.
Feel free to share your early journeys into the forays of love and romance courtesy of song.
Advice from three of our guy friends. This week a straight woman asks, “How can I can convince two hetero dudes to have a threeway with me?”
Straight Single Guy (Max): Barring the possibility that you could trick these “hetero” dudes into your lair (using beer, snacks or Ahnold movies) I’d say that your best bet is to try and wiggle your way into the arms of two friends or, even better, the bromance. Face it: a lot of guys go by the super homophobic rule of “as long as the balls don’t touch,” so you’re much better off finding two guys that are as comfortable with one another’s body as they are with their joint egos. After that, your best policy is honesty. You can’t be coy about getting two guys at the same time, so I’d say be up front: “If you boys want me, you’re going to have to share. I’ll be in that room. Come find me?” Oh, and please end any threeway with a lot of high fives. They’re free, and you deserve it.
Straight Married Guy (Ben): What you really need to do is figure out if the MMF threeway is a “Yes,” a “No,” or a “Maybe” for these guys. Yes? No problem — go for it. No? it’s never going to happen – stop wasting your time. Maybe? Well, then it’s negotiable. And, while it’s easiest just to come out and ask, you can also test the waters by sharing “a sexy dream you had,” or confessing a fantasy after a few drinks. If you want to get fancy, use a Yes, No, Maybe list and cover a ton of ground all at once. And when you get your answer, you’ll know how to proceed. The “Maybes” are the ones that need convincing and what that really means is setting some ground rules. Maybe it’s no guy/guy touching. Maybe it’s lots of touching but no kissing. Maybe it’s only one cock visible at a time. Whatever. If it’s a “Maybe” for your guy, the question becomes, “What do you need to make this threesome happen?” And that is a question that can be answered.
Gay Committed Guy (Mark):
1. Get them drunk.
2. If that doesn’t work, you’re on your own. And when you find out, let me know.
Our “wise 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 Married Guy is Ben, a writer and artist living in Los Angeles who runs AdultParlorGames.com. Our Committed Gay Guy, Mark, is a writer and teacher in NYC and our Single Straight Guy, Max, is a recent college grad in New England — both asked us to file them under “shy.” To ask the guys your own question, click here.
MAJOR BREAKING HOLLYWOOD GOSSIP … MUST CREDIT MNFTIU.CC, THE HOTTEST BLOG …
Just off the ol’ Blackberry with a major Hollywood insider who confirms the latest rumor buzzing around Hollywood:
Funnyman BILLY CRYSTAL will play foreign-policy sage WILLIAM KRISTOL in a one-man show. Rehearsals begin next month in Bristol, UK.
Show, tentatively titled “Clear As Kristol,” will follow Bill Kristol’s amazing career and inspirational personal story. Show is designed to capitalize on the buzz surrounding Kristol’s latest venture, a think thank called “Foreign Policy Initiative” that should definitely be taken seriously by everyone who cares about the future of our country … the think tank’s logo — a lopsided globe that looks like some kid made it in Adobe Illustrator in about 2.5 seconds — will inform the set design of the show, i.e. the set will be crooked and slanted and the audience will have to nail their chairs to the floor before each performance so they don’t all slide down into the lowest corner of the theatre and create a panicked mass of writhing humanity …
As to the tone of the show, one excited insider sez, “Think Mr. Saturday Night meets Project For A New American Century, this will redefine ‘off the hook,’ I can’t wait for this show, both Billy (Crystal) and Willy (Kristol) are national treasures, did you see when Billy got to train with the Yankees, that was the highpoint of Western civilization.”
Sounds good, maybe I’ll book a ticket to Bristol and write a review for the blog?
The Anti-Nomenclature Of Invisible Victory: Smiting The Demon With No Name (No, This Is Not About Rush Lyrics)
The phrase “war on terror,” for seven years a signature expression of the Bush administration, has been shelved, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton acknowledged Monday.
Have we surrendered already? Think about it: How can we win the war if it doesn’t have a name? Think on that long and hard. All the best things have names:
1. BEST MOVIE: “Basket Case” (that’s the name of the movie)
2. BEST FOOD: “Nachos” (that’s the name of the food)
3. BEST TEAM: “UNC, The Tar Heels” (that’s the name of the team)
4. BEST RADIO: “Sony Radio” (that’s the name of the radio)
All those things are the best; all those things have names. Cogito Ergo Sum.
Now try this …
1. BEST WAR WE MUST WIN: “—–” (no name!!!)
2. “Ho-hum, I guess we’ll just get killed by the enemy.”
I rest my case.
WAR ON TERROR FOR LIFE!!!
I’ve posted more than once in the past about writer/director Jacob Zimmer’s laboratory-theatre troupe Small Wooden Shoe and their series Dedicated to the Revolutions. In the past three years, they’ve done a set of seven shows about various “revolutions,” most scientific (Copernican, Darwinian), some socio-technical (Industrial, Information), all derived from an unfinished school assignment from Zimmer’s childhood. Tonight at Buddies in Bad Times theatre, they begin a two-week run of the final show in the series, which attempts to synthesize all seven previous performances into one, “demonstrating the difficulty of demonstrating the effects of progress on our lives.”
It’s an effort to think through paradigm shifts and how they affect our lives, an attempt to make the ghost of C.P. Snow just a little happier, and also a shot at having some serious-minded but light-hearted fun. Fans of Trampoline Hall, show-and-tell, Bad Bands and other hybrid performance events should feel at home. People who know a lot about science might possibly find themselves a bit impatient – as might some people who don’t, but maybe not, I haven’t seen the show yet.
James Webb, the pro-military, culturally conservative Democratic U.S. Senator from Virginia, introduced a bill last week that could lead to sweeping reforms of the American prison system — a system that holds a quarter of the world’s prisoners, Webb never fails to point out, although the United States accounts for only 5 percent of world population.
The big news is that he’s not going down in flames politically — yet — though promoting prison reform has traditionally amounted to an open invitation to be attacked as soft on crime …
Clubbed Thumb commissions, develops, and produces funny, strange, and provocative new plays. Since its founding in 1996, the company has earned four OBIES and presented plays in every form of development, including over 70 full productions. Clubbed Thumb is an incubator for emerging artists and their work, staging plays to critical acclaim while supporting an ever-growing creative community.
Ladies and gentlemen, I got so involved in my laptop fundraiser I neglected to bring you the HOTTEST HOLLYWOOD GOSSIP from BEYOND THE VALLEY OF THE FABULOUS.
Here’s what the little birds have been whispering in my ear this morning:
Andrew Dice “The Dice Man” Clay has been tapped to star in “Eternal Stammering of the Button-Down Mind,” the long-delayed BOB NEWHART BIOPIC … this counterintuitive bit of casting was an abandoned brainchild left on the doorstep of director WES CRAVEN … Craven has also requested a script re-write, replacing all of Bob Newhart’s classic comedy routines with Dice Clay’s routines … according to Craven, “this film will show audiences a side of Newhart they’ve never seen before — a side that never existed until now” … should be interesting … a biopic “mash-up,” I like this trend …
Our circle of hermenautic friends has conjured up a dozen more highbrow (or at least classic) novels with lowbrow cover art. Here’s a selection — thanks, Luc, for the first two.
Ha! Thanks, Jonathan.
HILOBROW COVER GALLERY: Orwell’s 1984 | Huxley’s Brave New World | Chesterton’s The Man Who Was Thursday* | Sartre’s Les Mains Sales | Murger’s Scènes de la vie de bohème | Zola’s Pot-Bouille | West’s Miss Lonelyhearts | Faulkner’s Sanctuary | Bowles’s Let It Come Down | Himes’s If He Hollers Let Him Go | (Not) Kierkegaard’s Fear and Trembling | Céline’s Death on the Installment Plan | McCarthy’s The Company She Keeps | Pynchon’s The Crying of Lot 49 | DeLillo’s Running Dog | Hardy’s Far from the Madding Crowd | Remarque’s All Quiet on the Western Front | Butler’s The Way of All Flesh | Koestler’s Darkness at Noon | Huxley’s Time Must Have a Stop
* actually, the cover image depicts a scene from a different story in the same issue of Famous Fantastic Mysteries.
I don’t think it’s any kind of secret that I’ve been considering hanging up playwriting lately. I’m probably not going to actually do so (hell, I’ve got three outstanding commissions); I’m more likely to spend a couple of years mixing it up with non-theater projects like the radio show than I am to leave for good. The fact is, I never set out to exclusively write plays anyway.
I’ve spilled enough virtual ink about what I think is wrong with the theater infrastructure, and the fact is, I’ve been pretty lucky. The source of my frustration has mostly come from the nagging worry that maybe it’s me who’s wrong, and that the system is not in fact ill. Maybe people really do want light entertainment as they digest their dinners, TV shows on stage with a little more melodramatic weight and some mainstream-liberal political content, maybe a few B- or C-list stars. Maybe there’s nothing at all wrong with this.
My issue with this as a writer, however, is twofold: first, I actually enjoy most TV more than what passes for a lot of mainstream Anglophone theater these days, so if I’m going to attempt selling out, I’d rather it be to MTV than MTC; and second, this model doesn’t seem to appeal to anyone outside of theater circles. It’s unacceptable to say among educated people that one doesn’t read or see movies, or that one hates contemporary art or music, but we all hear all the time from people that they don’t like or never see theater. And I’ve started to think, maybe they’re right, too; maybe the future is museum pieces, this or that starlet playing Getrude or Hedda, or light entertainment, cf. Tommy Smith’s argument that we’re returning to the 19th Century, where theater is popular enough, but no one knows or cares who wrote a play and nothing’s built to last. Seen in this light, I’m no longer an artist of any stripe, but a craftsperson with a marketable skill, and as such, I’d like to be able to buy a nice house.
Seen in this light, I’ve been walking around lately asking, in a practical and genuine and not-at-all-theoretical way, what is theater? Is live performance (beyond music and comedy) serving any kind of purpose?
Welp, every so often a piece of theater (the word “play” tastes bad in my mouth) reminds me of what, exactly, I got into this for, and I’ve been lucky enough to see two of them, both still running: Nature Theater of Oklahoma’s Rambo Solo at Soho Rep and David Levine’s Venice Saved at PS122.
In the former case, writing about anything Nature Theater does presents the “dancing-about-architecture” problem; it exists only as performance, while simultaneously asking what performance is. By now, most readers of this blog should know the basic setup: Zachary Oberzan recounts the story of the novel First Blood in a space made up to look like his basement or something, while behind him play three simultaneous video projections of him acting the monologue out in his apartment on three separate occasions. This is, as has been reported, an amazing technical feat, but it’s also something more than that. Frankly, I usually think that video in downtown theater is bullshit, an excuse to get a residency or a European tour, but in this instance it actually means something, raising questions about what it means to rehearse and perform things, what the difference is between what’s “natural” and what’s “performed.” Like everything else they do, it’s worth seeing and itself articulates the vitality and necessity of performance far better than this or any blog could do.
In the latter show, the discussion actually is the performative event. David Levine, Gordon Dahlquist, and an excellent cast have taken a mostly forgotten Simone Weil play, and used a combination of rehearsed, adapted, and deconstructed scenes to mount a modular hybrid of panel discussion and play to ask: what is political theater? Does it matter at all? Levine (mostly known as the guy who had a method actor work for months on an potato farm with no subsequent play attached) does a brilliant job of combining more-or-less traditional directing methods with conceptual art, and creates a sort of mini-democracy, as imperfect and unpredictable as the real thing, a piece of political art that is what it does. One of my favorite things about the piece (which I might see again) is that it takes the truism that a play is only as good as its audience and makes it literal: the show literally requires the audience to make it into a what it’s going to be. No one has to participate, but if you want it to be a good night out, then it requires commitment and engagement in a literal sense. In addition to a fun night, the piece is also a remarkable technical achievement: every time the conversation goes in a certain direction, Levine can pull out a scene — sometimes unfinished, sometimes adapted by Dahlquist (at one point we saw three variations on a single scene) that then spin the discussion off into a new direction.
Anyway, if you need a shot in the arm, go see both of these. Highly recommended.
The OGs took a spin on Esotouric’s Pasadena Confidential Crime Bus Tour and spent some quality time with Crimebo the Crime Clown, who whipped up a balloon hat for PopPop and answered the spring-loaded question “What do you think of grandparents?”
I almost forgot to tell you that Lisa at Your Pattern Shop is having a big sale! Which ends TODAY, the 31st of March! I myself tend to shop sales their last day, because 1) I am disorganized and 2) I am disorganized. (I also have a large number of expired “FREE SHIPPING” coupons from Lands’ End on hand at any one time. See #s 1 and 2 for an explanation.)
I kind of love this pattern here (which is ON SALE!!). Mostly for the yellow dress. I like to think that they are playing “Simon Says” and the woman in the yellow dress just realized that “Touch your cheek!” was NOT preceded by “Simon says …” (The woman in blue’s hat gave her just that extra second of mental processing time, which is why her hand is only halfway up.)
Anyway: the DETAILS of the SALE: all items are marked down 10%, plus use the dressaday code for an additional 10% off and free shipping with the purchase of 3 or more patterns! That’s pretty good. Simon says check it out!
Have you even heard of the P.S. Spot? Well, just beneath a woman’s perineum (that short bridge of tissue between the vaginal opening and the anus) is a tightly packed tangle of blood vessels known as the perineal sponge (hence, the P.S.). Like other erectile tissue, this mass fills with blood upon arousal and can be sensitive to massage and pressure via the perineum, via the lower back wall of the vagina (opposite the G-spot), or via the anus. And just because you may have never known it had an actual name, doesn’t mean you haven’t been loving it for years. We’re looking for stories from women (and the guys who love them) who actively or accidentally have enjoyed this spot, who don’t like it at all, or who think it’s just one more unnecessary party trick to try in bed. Write us with your thoughts on the P.S. Spot here (pick “general site feedback”) — or friend us on Facebook and send it to us in a private message there. Anonymity honored. Bonus points if you’re from the UK!
I have always considered M. de Malesherbes to be a man of inviolable integrity. Nothing that has happened to me has ever made me doubt for a moment his probity; but, as weak as he is honourable, he sometimes harms the people in whom he takes an interest through his very desire to protect them. Not only did he have more than one hundred pages cut from the Paris edition [of Julie]; but he made a cut that could even be described as an act of disloyalty in the copy of the good edition that he sent to Mme de Pompadour. Somewhere in this work there is a remark to the effect that the wife of a coal-merchant is more deserving of respect than the mistress of a prince. This sentence suggested itself to me in the heat of composition without, I swear it, any allusion being intended. On rereading the work, I realized that the connection would nevertheless be made. Faithful, nevertheless, to my own very imprudent maxim of never suppressing anything out of fear that connections might be made, provided my conscience is my witness that I was not aware of them while writing, I was reluctant to remove this sentence, but contented myself with substituting the word prince for the word king, which is what I had originally written. This modification did not go far enough for M. de Malesherbes: he removed the whole sentence, which is missing from the new page he had printed specially and stuck as neatly as possible into Mme de Pompadour's copy. She was not deceived by this vanishing act. There was no shortage of charitable souls eager to inform her of it.
Community Bookstore— 143 7th Ave, Park Slope— 7 pm— Can You Dig It?
Just a final reminder that novelist L.J. Davis and his recent introducer, long-time friend Jonathan Lethem, will be together this evening— like Bo Diddley and Jerome, like B.B. King and Bobby “Blue” Bland, like Morris Day and Jerome… One thing, however: I don’t think the J in L.J. stand for Jerome! The L, I know, is for Lawrence but since his first book, Whence All But He Had Fled (1968) through his final published novel, Walking Small (1974), the author was always L.J. A Meaningful Life, published in 1971, was the third of Davis’ New York tetralogy and its reappearance is cause for celebration and reconsideration of the received myths of recent Brooklyn history alike. The skeptical can read both part of the novel and Jonathan’s introduction in full at NYRB Classics. I don’t want to give away too much but enthusiasm but try this: go for Jonathan and you might just come away talking about L.J., who I’ll briefly claim to be the greatest non-native Brooklyn writer of the late 1960s and early 1970s, the perfect dark comic complement to Gilbert Sorrentino’s Steelwork (1970) and Wallace Markfield Teitelbaum’s Window (1971), even Jonathan’s beloved— and heavily Hubert Selby Jr. influenced— Ralph Bakshi film, Heavy Traffic (1973). I won’t front because I know it’s true: L.J. Davis is the man! — Kenny Wisdom
The Old South Brooklyn Historical Society had passed out of existence and its building on Dean Street was occupied by a Puerto Rican trucking company. What had become of Darius Collingwood’s watch and Brazilian journal was anyone’s guess but Lowell had come into possession of what he was reliably assured was one of the few surviving copies of The Autobiography of a Scoundrel. He found it in a bookstore on Nevins Street, and it cost him $12.89. It smelled powerfully of mouse shit, and its pages were the color and consistency of stale Finnish flat bread. Mechanically it wasn’t an easy book to read. In some cases, whole pages disintegrated as Lowell scanned them, as though the weight of his gaze was too much for them to bear. The book told Lowell little that was new as far as mere facts were concerned; indeed, in some cases Darius Collingwood covered up facts that Lowell already knew about. It was interesting for other reasons. For one thing, it revealed that Darius Collingwood was no titan of literature, whatever else he might have been; the best you could say for the book was that it was vigorously written. For another thing, it was mistitled. Darius Collingwood revealed himself on its pages as no mere scoundrel. He was one of the most perfect pricks who ever lived. — from A Meaningful Life
Brother! L.J.! Davis! (Jonathan’s shirt is awesome too.)
Check out this fantastic silver and black brocade dress (currently up on eBay), which is being auctioned to benefit Writercon, the wonderful conference for fanfic writers and enthusiasts.
I’m only showing you the close-up picture because you *have* to click on the image and check it out for yourself. It’s hand made from vintage fabric! It has a watermelon-colored lining and matching petticoat! It’s princess-lined! It’s also B39/W32, with a 19 inch skirt — putting the voom in va-va-voom! (And, when I wrote this, it was going for $24.99!)
Proceeds from this auction are going to benefit the scholarship fund for Writercon, which helps folks who couldn’t otherwise afford to attend, attend. (I’ve never been to Writercon myself, but I’ve heard fantastic things about it — in my book, anything that encourages writing of any kind is totally a good cause.)
So, now that we’ve established that this dress is great, and Writercon is great, we have time to get to the important question: Would Xander Harris like this dress? Discuss.
MDeAbaitua: Celebrating announcement of Lewes’ inclusion in South Downs National Park http://bit.ly/1A7Y7
MDeAbaitua: Celebrating announcement of Lewes’ inclusion in South Downs National Park http://bit.ly/1A7Y7
We feel just awful that we can’t answer every single advice question we get, but we figure that any answer is better than no answer at all. Which is why, once a week, we’ll let you guys decide how to advise a reader. Make your call by filling out the poll after the jump:
Dear Em & Lo,
My boyfriend and I have been dating for close to five months now, and we care about one another deeply. In the very beginning, I told him that I was not comfortable giving oral sex. He replied that it was fine, and he respects my decision. Our sex life is great! And for the past month or so I’ve been thinking about finally going downtown on him. My problem is that I’m concerned that if I am uncomfortable, I do not want him to be disappointed or expect me to do it all the time. Should I just go ahead and go it, or should I discuss this with him first?
– Uptown Girl
Can’t see the poll? Click here to take it.
* And, according to Colin Robinson, could books not be that far off either? Watch the embedded video above for more. It's one of the best discussions on the topic I've seen lately. Which itself says something about the flattening future of media -- GritTV is less than a year old.
rauter25 has added a photo to the pool:
Max Brand – Gunman’s Gold, Hodder & Stoughton, 1954
rauter25 has added a photo to the pool:
E. P. Wendelmuth – Das gefährliche Leben – Erdball Roman 198
German pulp of the early 1950s
Postopolis! LA kicks off in less than 24 hours, and there are loads of updates.
First, the schedule:
Tuesday, March 31
5:00pm: Fritz Haeg, Artist and Writer
5:40: Patrick Keller, Architect and Principal, Fabric
6:20pm: Yo-Ichiro Hakomori, Architect and Principal, wHY Architecture
7:20: Dwayne Oyler, Architect and Principal, Oyler Wu Collaborative
8:00: Michael Dear, Professor of Geography, USC
8:40: Jeffrey Inaba, Architect and Principal, Inaba Projects
9:40: Postopolis! LA Welcome Remarks, Joseph Grima (Storefront for Art and Architecture) and Bettina Korek (ForYourArt)
10:00: Geoff Manaugh (BLDGBLOG), David Basulto (Plataforma Arquitectura/Arch Daily), and Bryan Finoki (Subtopia)
10:20: Jace Clayton (mudd up!), Dan Hill (City of Sound), and Régine Debatty (we make money not art)
Wednesday, April 1
5:00pm: Mary-Ann Ray, Architect, Writer, and Principal, Studio Works Architects
5:40: David Gissen, Theorist and Historian, CCA
6:20: Whitney Sander, Architect and Principal, Sander Architects
7:20: Sharon Johnston & Mark Lee, Architects and Principals, Johnston MarkLee
8:00: Robert Miles Kemp, Designer and Principal, Variate Labs
8:40: Freya Bardell & Brian Howe, Principals, Greenmeme
9:40: Ted Kane, Architect and Writer
10:20: Stephanie Smith, Founder, Ecoshack
Thursday, April 2
5:00pm: Austin Kelly, Principal, XTEN Architecture
5:40: Orhan Ayyüce, Architect, Blogger, and Senior Editor, Archinect
6:20: Ava Bromberg, Just Space(s)
7:20: Ben Cerveny, Principal, AFK Lab
8:00: Steve Roden, Musician and Artist
8:40: Gary Dauphin, Writer and Critic
9:40: Benjamin Ball & Gaston Nogues, Architects and Founding Partners, Ball-Nogues Studio
10:20: Mike the Poet, Poet and Writer
Friday, April 3
5:00pm: Michael Downing, Deputy Chief of Counter Terrorism, LAPD
5:40: Bryan Boyer, Organizer, Helsinki Design Lab 2010
6:20: Ari Kletzky, Founder, Islands of LA
7:20: Eric Rodenbeck, Founder, Stamen Design
8:00: Matthew Coolidge, Director, Center for Land Use Interpretation
8:40: Christopher Hawthorne, Architecture Critic, Los Angeles Times
9:40: David Burns, Austin Young, and Matias Viegener, Founders, fallen fruit
10:20: Ken Ehrlich, Artist and Writer
Saturday, April 4
4:20pm: Benjamin Bratton, Architect and Theorist
5:00: Christian Moeller, Artist
5:40: Interactive Arts Panel: Sean Dockray, Dan Goods, Daniel Rehn, and Jay Yan
6:20: Media Panel: Matt Chaban (Architect's Newspaper), Dakota Smith (Curbed LA), Alissa Walker, Greg J. Smith, and Christina Ulke (Journal of Aesthetics and Protest)
7:00: Photography Panel: Catherine Ledner, Misha Gravenor, Dave Lauridsen, Tom Fowlks, and Gregg Segal
8:00: Archinect School Blogger Panel: Moderated by Paul Petrunia, Founder, Archinect
8:40: Magazines Panel: Sam Grawe, Editor-in-Chief, Dwell, and Zach Frechette, Editor-in-Chief GOOD
9:20: Closing Party
Second, some slight changes:
The venue, as many of you will already know, is the Standard Hotel in downtown Los Angeles – but after 9:00pm each night, we will begin moving down from the roof deck to a conference room on the 2nd floor. To get there, just go up the escalator in the lobby... and it's right there. Note that that is only after 9pm.
On Friday and Saturday, meanwhile, after 7pm, the Standard will begin charging $20 admission to their roof deck – leading to the unfortunate need to recommend that if you are coming on Friday or Saturday, then either show up before 7pm to avoid the $20 charge or after 9pm, to join us for free on the second floor (up the escalator on the right).
There isn't a single part of me that thinks these restrictions improve the event, but, at the end of the day, they don't affect the quality of the speakers or what we expect from a second Postopolis! – so, despite these slight complications, I hope you'll still make it out to see what's going on.
Finally, consider bringing a picnic blanket for the rooftop events, simply as something to sit on – and bring a coat! Or someone to hug. It could definitely get a bit chilly up there.
For those of you not in Los Angeles, or simply hoping to watch things from home, a live web feed of the proceedings will also be available through the Storefront website and ForYourArt. And we've now got a public Flickr pool through which we can all share images of the event.
Reminders and such like will be coming up as things proceed! Hope to see many of you soon.
I don't think people always believe me when I say I'm doing something with eyeballs and tentacles, so here's a spy-shot of the piece, leaked on the internets for you (taken by Mary in tentacle central AZ):
For the record the formal aspects of this piece are being handled completely by Mary and Pete. I don't mind this a bit - they are beautiful (the tentacles AND Mary and Pete) and I can' t wait to have it all working together.
Because some of you care about the tech guts and I've told you about the project, some changes... I initially wanted to use Rabbit 5600 micros because they have wifi. The idea was to set up an adhoc 802.11 network and have these guys spit out OSC. Rabbits are difficult to use though, mostly because they're not seriously interested in the hobbyist market - Everything needs to be ordered (slow), is surface mount, and if you want the socket to plug stuff into you have to have a board custom made, or buy an entire devkit just for the motherboard. I understand why, and if I were them I would probably do the same, but not enough time to deal with them for this project.
Besides, who wants to learn yet ANOTHER dialect of code. Why do you people all insist on proprietary languages? You don't even do them well - every micro controller language and IDE I've ever seen is a piece of crap. Hint: The purpose of high level languages is not to add syntactic sugar, it's to buffer the programmer from needing to work with assembly level code OR CONCEPTS. It's abstraction! Amazing stuff...
Done whining: enter the glorious Ford Escort of Microcontrollers: The Arduino. No I don't like their IDE either, but it turns out that a software package called JunXion supports OSC and the Arduino as input. Not so easy.. the JunXion support for OSC is functional but odd. A few emails back and forth with the guys there (who, for the record, are very nice and responsive) and I figured out how to get it to output the OSC I wanted. That's when I hooked up the Arduino and crashed. Immediately. Load*CRASH*, not so much as a core dump. I think JunXion is an awesome piece of software and seems well developed in some areas, but if you want to use it with the Arduino and want to alter the Arduino code you may want to wait a bit. OSC veterans will also think it strange, but usable (Hint: output values are auto-scaled to midi range, but the display doesn't indicate this. Modify the scaler in the prefs menu to ensure you send out what you think you're sending).
Because there are lots of tentacles, I needed far more than the 6 analog inputs the arduino offers. I got the idea to use CD4051s from this project. They work great. You get a bit of resistance (.5ohm) across the multiplexers, but since it's more or less constant and since I only really care about gross values (not measuring the growth of cells here), it works great. Downside = lots of soldering, here's the bottom of the board not quite half finished:
And thus back to JunXion... this necessitated some tricks in the Arduino code to make it think it has 64 analog inputs. Nothing too fancy, but enough to cause serious stability problems. Feeling a bit crunched for time, I opted to just roll my own.
I hate Java, mostly because whenever I hit a wall and plug stuff into google I end up with one of two answers from the message boards: 1. That's impossible, you're stupid. 2. Oh it's easy. The first step out of 2000 is to sacrifice a dead cow with purple spots on the exact ground where Babbage once trod. Take the resulting elixir and copy and paste these four hundred lines of code into your main class, then download this library my brother in law wrote, email him for the FTP password to the sourcecode or look it up on my bittorrent based gopher server, connect this lib to version 3.44 of the co-frangulator. This will compile if you're running version 4.29929324.bb3 of the dev environment, but probably not with 4.29929324.bc3 using.... yeah you get the point.
Slamming my head repeatedly against a brick wall produced this:
Incidentally in my travels I did find an amazing little OSX utility called "Jar Bundler" if you happen to be working on Mac and care about distributing your aps. This utility (free with Xcode) packages up your jar, all the libraries, sticks an icon on the thing AND converts your menu to mac-style menus. It's pretty awesome. Alleviates the need for ten line instruction sheets about sacrificing cows to get your ap to run.
So now we have 64 analog inputs that connect to a computer via USB and send OSC signals out into the aether.
We needed a whole bunch of "tentacle squishing" sensors. There's lots of not-great ways to do this, but looking at this instructable reminded me of a trick I learned from one of my students in class (thanks David Stokes!). Namely that you can use ESD foam as a kind of variable resistor. This works best when you make a metal fabric/foam/fabric sandwich, so I needed to track down some metal fabric. Unfortunately the only way to get this stuff is to order it from companies that sell vitamin supplements and advertise things on their hold music like "ask your representative how you can become alkalized!" The main problem here is that these companies tend not to actually *stock* the stuff, which means a couple of weeks lead time. I did, however, find a company that sells rolls of metallic tape, and they DO stock it. Overnight shipping is expensive, but if you dig deep enough it's really true you can order anything on the internet. Even tentacle sensor bits.
I’m at Computers in Libraries and it’s a whirlwind of good folks, good information and some terrible rooms (and a few good ones). Wireless is working decently, so I’ll be around on Twitter and the chatmachine. Say hi if you see me. My talks, the one I gave today and the one I’m giving tomorrow, are available at this URL.
I linked Friday to a scathing review of Denis Dutton’s book “The Art Instinct: Beauty, Pleasure, and Human Evolution” that appeared in the Financial Times. Dutton contacted me over the weekend to point out that he sent a letter to the FT, published Saturday, complaining that the review “seriously misrepresents both my argument and my idea of a canon.”
Linking doesn’t imply endorsement, as Dutton, the editor of Arts & Letters Daily knows; nor is it for me to get between a reviewer and an angry author. But one line that I quoted from the review does deserve correction:
Dutton’s own list of great works across the arts, recommended in contrast [to modernist and postmodernist conceptual art], is hilariously middle-brow: Luke Fildes’ sentimental 1891 portrayal of a dying child, “The Doctor”; Disney’s Fantasia; the children’s novel Charlotte’s Web.
Dutton does not, in fact, claim that these are great works — as I confirmed by reading a (non-final) copy of the book. He offers “The Doctor,” for example, as an example of pure kitsch — the antithesis of great art — and describes Fantasia as “corny” but worthy of praise for introducing children to Beethoven. “Charlotte’s Web” is described as a children’s book that adults may still find “enchanting.”
Dutton’s canon of great works of art, and great artists, is indeed quite traditionalist: Beethoven and Brahms qualify while Schoenberg and Berg do not. But the roster does not resemble the one that the FT reviewer, Jackie Wullschlager, presented.