Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Uh, no. Uh, no. Uh, yes.

My brother and I talked about our favorite artists' television clips. Above is my favorite, and below is his.

The Dali clip is the only commercial Salvador Dali ever made, for Lanvin Chocolate. Never ceases to cheer me up.

Below is one of many Andy Warhol interviews in which Warhol only answers yes or no to every question the interviewer asks. My brother specifically remembered one where Warhol offered to talk in a robot voice and proceeded to do so for the rest of the interview. This clip, though, is short and satisfying.

It's bedtime

Pictured above is our kitten, Molly Bloom (yes, she's named for Ulysses).

Two links to tuck you in: Science Fiction is increasingly literary, according to The New Yorker (thanks, Ted). Let's watch Battlestar Galactica without guilt, shall we?

Secondly, this guy calls a pay phone in the middle of a desert every single day (thanks, Evan). Read the conversations he's had! Why do people do things like this? Oh, so they have something worthwhile to write about on the internet.

Since I have few such things, I shall bid you good night.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Project Paradise

Perhaps it's all the drugs I've been taking for my virus (which we can now officially call "bronchitis," thanks to another visit to the doctor), but I'm beginning to imagine the possibilities of reality television for literary material. Maybe the hour every few weeks I spend catching up on Project Runway is the only time I allow myself to be purely ridiculous, but combining that with an evening of John Milton is really spicing up my reading experience.

As Heidi Klum reached the pivotal moment in the most recent episode - when she looks the two worst designers in the eye and says, "Your execution was poor," or "This was not unexpected" - I had to take pause.

In Milton, if the situation were presented in an equally dramatic manner - with quick cuts and chaotic music - God would come down and look the devils in the eye.

"As you know, in Heaven, one day you're in, and the next day: you're out." And he reviews the challenge (holiness) and carefully repeat each product that has been advertised excessively during commercial breaks.

He lists the minor sinners first. "Moloch. Belial. Mammon. Beezelbub." Each would step forward as he heard his name. "Your scores have qualified you for the next round. You may leave the runway."

Relieved, they walk off camera. Moloch squeezes his hands into fists. Belial yawns. Mammon hugs himself and jumps up and down. Beezelbub says something sassy to the cameraman offstage.

The music grows. God shows up in close-up. Commercial break.

God is back. He repeats the challenge. "You three had the lowest scores," he says, more to the viewers who just joined them during the commercial break than to the three sinners before him. Those three stand squirming before him. Finally, he makes eye contact.

"Sin," he says. "You had relations with Satan and your own son." And then - "Death. You raped your mother, filling her womb with rampant hell-hounds." And finally - "Satan. You sacrificed yourself for the other devils, and went forward to look in the world, to find men to support your efforts. You demonstrated vision and skill. But ultimately, you were not a successful group leader. You know why, Satan? Because you were proud."

The music grows discordant and loud.


Satan does not look away. He looks right in God's eyes.

"You're out."

Sin and Death do not look at him. They are pleased to remain onstage. But the camera dismisses them.

God kisses Satan on the cheek. "Auf Wiedersehen."

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Use Care With Car-Machines

I am down with a virus or something that has caused me to lose my voice and kept me up coughing all night. However, I have finally obtained prescription cough syrup (with specific instructions to "use care with car-machines," which is a mistaken but delightful use of a hyphen).

David Baker, the poetry editor of The Kenyon Review, recommends that everyone write down one image a day: if I followed this as I ought, today's would be something like this. As I crawled from bed to the kitchen to rinse a water glass, I could hear the boys in the apartment next door tuning their electric guitars. The sound was low, ascending and descending, and the speakers were slightly static. I rinsed the glass under very hot water, then turned the water off and paused. The glass was still warm in my hands. I spun it back and forth as the guitar played something like a whalesong. As close to lovely as one may come after twenty-three hours of vague unconsciousness.

Also, I've discovered that this RJD2 video features a man named Bill Shannon who was born with a degenerative hip disease, who really rides a skateboard like this on his crutches! Thought I ought to share.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Seeing the light after Blue Monday

Above is a photo I took of the tennis courts by my house. The light is striking against the snow. I'm trying to focus on the positive.

Here's a list of things I think are great:

1) "The Duck" by Luis Alberto Urrea, released now into the public domain (via The Syntax of Things). Not only does he do a good job of incorporating an animal sound into a poem, there are a few lines that are especially killer. My favorite, perhaps, is, "You have to remind the body it exists."

2) There are eighteen types of zoo creatures featured in animal crackers.

3) Clever but puerile humor. The "streaker" gets me every time.

It is miserable outside. A friend has just e-mailed me her playlist for an imaginary beach party on her roof in NYC. Perhaps the thing we lack most in January is not sunlight, but beach music.

Monday, January 21, 2008

When There's Nothing Left To Burn

At the end of a day that's supposed to be the most depressing day of the year (via The Kenyon Review blog), here's a video that makes winter look poetic and apt:

Friday, January 18, 2008


Since it's Friday, let's celebrate with a little bit of Pynchon. My favorite internet link of all time, perhaps, is Zak Smith's collection of illustrations for every page of Gravity's Rainbow. They can consume hours of your life - each image is more striking than the last.

In the same vein, here's an article from Higher Ed about Pynchon graffiti, specifically of the muted trumpet in The Crying of Lot 49.

One of the highlights of my college career was discovering the original copy of "Entropy" in the library archives. It is complete with his agent's note on the front - keep in mind he was only 19 when this was submitted - and there are pencil markings changing names and small words throughout the frail, typewritten pages.

On an equally entertaining but slightly less related note, a group called Improv Everywhere did a reading in 2004 with a man who looked like Chekov in a Barnes and Noble in New York City. I've been following this group (virtually) for years, but there are always new missions to read. Chekov is old news, but what a fun experiment!

Speaking of fun things, the man who invented fun died today.

Have a great weekend!

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Posting About Death Because It's There

Sir Edmund Hillary, the first man to reach the peak of Mount Everest, died of a heart attack at 88. Check out that face. Don't you love him instantly?

New Zealand's prime minister described him as a "colossus".

"The legendary mountaineer, adventurer, and philanthropist is the best-known New Zealander ever to have lived," Ms Clark said in a statement.

"But most of all he was a quintessential Kiwi.

"He was ours - from his craggy appearance to laconic style, to his directness and honesty. All New Zealanders will deeply mourn his passing."

The article goes on to state that Ang Rita Sherpa, a sixty-year-old man from a community in Nepal who adored Hillary, prayed for Hillary's reincarnation. I can't imagine what he'll come back as, but I'm terribly excited to find out. I hope he is reborn with equally intense eyebrows.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Getting Under Their Skin

Pictured above is my very own right arm, bearing the unofficial symbol of the Kenyon Review writing programs.

I'm always up for more reports of authors' tattoos. I'm proud to hear Dorothy Parker had a star on her elbow. Great article, TheElegantVariation (and thanks, Sergei, for the link!).

Livejournal, in its infinite wisdom, has a community for literary tattoos. Glad to hear others feel so devoted to words, they want them literally under their skin.

My favorites are: the definition of bibliophile, Margaret Atwood's "You Fit Into Me," and simply the word "to." My favorites are usually the ones you can change for seasons or quotations you can alter. I dress my tattoo up for Halloween and Christmas. I have plans for Easter. Hurray for ink!

Sunday, January 6, 2008



It's a new year, and I'm not resolving anything. I have plenty of goals, and this is my year to act upon them; I don't need guilty for not going to the gym or forgetting to file my receipts to take hold of me while I ought to be finding a job or a livable apartment.

I've been thinking of a new idea for a reality TV show: it's like The Hills, but not in California, and not with rich girls. How about a show where twenty-somethings struggle to pay their bills, find jobs and health insurance? Oh, wait. Nobody wants to watch that brand of reality.

I'm thrilled to finally apply for jobs. I love my work; as long as I can continue in this field, it will be a fulfilling career. And our minimum wage is the lowest in the country - it's all up from here, I hope.

Have you made resolutions? Does anyone actually keep them? I think it's nice to practice bettering oneself, but do we usually make it through December? Resolutions are implicitly difficult to keep and easy to dismiss. Perhaps my resolution will be to forgive myself for little things, like arriving on time instead of ten minutes early or taking up someone's offer to stay on their couch rather than feeling too frightened to invade. Forgiveness is a slippery creature.

But back to that reality show: it's like Rent, but in real time, and no one's dying of AIDS. There's got to be a market for it. Young audiences would love it! Though I guess the people who would empathize wouldn't be able to afford cable. There would definitely be hookups and breakups, arguments with family, maybe someone could move onto the street... yeah, it'd be tricky to film. But I'd definitely be into it.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Hit Me With Your Best, Schott

In case I haven't mentioned this, my pet project this year is trivia. Thus this man holds a great deal of my attention. Ben Schott knows an enormous amount of information: lowbrow, highbrow, or something in between. He says he doesn't remember it all, but he certainly records it.

I like this quotation from his latest interview with BoingBoing:

I tend to write it quite selfishly. I don't think you can write for a particular audience. I tend to look at any news story and say, Well, what do I need to know? Who are these people? Has this happened before? What's increasingly interesting about modern media is its filters: if you actually look at websites, technology from TiVo to iPods to blogs, it's all about filter. What we mean when we say we like a blog or we like a website is that we like somebody's filter. And we have several filters for different things. Of course our friends are filters. Word of mouth is the ultimate filter. So what I try to do is act as a personal filter. When I say personal, I don't mean political or partisan, I mean, What's the Schott's Almanac take on this? It's almost a sort of character.

Of course, through my own filter, I don't mean to make him out to be trivial. Especially after reading this interview with the Herald Tribune:

Schott does not consider this, or any other of his oddball facts, to be trivia. "I hate trivia," he said, "and I've never been interested in trivia books. Trivia is competitive; it's 'I know this and you don't.'

"I think what I'm doing is more inclusive. It's more about sharing information. So it's not so much about, say, who won the Super Bowl in such and such a year as what's engraved on the Super Bowl trophy. Trivia books are written by people who are obsessed, and I wouldn't want to read any of them."