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February 18, 2005

D without G, How Will I Go On?

My heart is bleeding right now. This has to be the blackest day since Tom Ford left Gucci....how will I go on...aaahhh the pain, the pain.

February 16, 2005

Everyone's a critic

You've been wondering how much of Homeland Security's energy is spent on art criticism, haven't you?

Fake passports created as part of an Austrian artist's exhibit have been confiscated by U.S. government authorities, Ohio museum officials said Tuesday.

You can get a State of Sabotage passport online for 35 dollars here.

February 14, 2005

Spreading the VD Love

Well today is the day where, traditionally, we spread the love of VD!

Ok, did you know that St. Valentine’s day is no longer a official Catholic Holiday? And hasn’t been since 1969 (Damn Vatican II)? Did you know that the Catholic church doesn’t even really know who or what St. Valentine was? Did you know that St. Valentine’s Day is actually based on a Roman festival, Lupercalia, where men drew women’s names out of a hat and got to shack up with the chick for the rest of the year! But I guess some Pope did not like that idea, so he changed it around to meet the Church’s needs…go figure!

Read More….

January 20, 2005

December 17, 2004

Smart digi-Brit style mag

Into The Storm is hard to describe, but really good--part fashion mag, part cultural criticism... check it out.

December 16, 2004

the search for the PERFECT Baby Jesus!

In the divine spirit of the ensuing holiday I decided to do a great search for the PERFECT baby Jesus for our manger. I didn’t want one too white, as we all know…. I certainly didn’t want to have one made of popsicle sticks as I thought it didn’t capture the true meaning that I was looking for this year! I looked for a Jesus Chew Toy, but found none (note to self: untapped market). I did find the Jesus Pacifier, but I thought that it was too ‘In Your Face” and not in the holiday color scheme.

But then, across me screen, the perfect Jesus for the Manger…now I just need to find an appropriate cradle….thinking….thinking…..but wait i found it, the real REAL one!

December 15, 2004

Wondertoonel

This bizarre collection of work is a must see. I've been looking at this guy's stuff on the Web for a while, and now, it's right in your backyard. Plus, you, underpaid artist cheapskate types, it's at the Frye and the Frye is FREE.

Go. Look. Wonder.

How the Grinch was Crucified

Well, we are getting closer and closer to the ever loving holiday of the Christ King’s Birthday, Glory Be! Pretty packages, and I mean PRETTY, are everywhere! Tiny Tots are working there fingers to bloody nubs so that we can have extra nice things under our tree. And I’ll be damned if the ozone didn’t spring another hole with the small depletion of forest that is now hanging on the front of my house!

But nothing brings a tear to my eye more than my favorite game of Dress Up Jesus, the Christ Mass version!! Nothing like a littler diversion from the office holiday party, have fun! Who’ Who’ Who’!

December 03, 2004

Zoom Quilt

Poeple have been talking about Flash as a new medium for artistic expression, but I've never seen anything that's truly new before. Now I have: The ZoomQuilt.

There's a lot of detail here, be sure to pause on your travels. I think it looks more interesting going out than going in for some reason.

October 14, 2004

Deconstructing W

Today's NYTimes Op-Ed page features a reflection of Jacques Derrida's philosophy that begins by discussing the wide scope of it's influence and unfolds as a brilliant indictment of the current administration without ever actually naming names.

He defines Derrida's deconstruction ("The guiding insight of deconstruction is that every structure - be it literary, psychological, social, economic, political or religious - that organizes our experience is constituted and maintained through acts of exclusion. In the process of creating something, something else inevitably gets left out.") and immediately segues into its history of misuse at the hands of those who have not "responsibly understood" it and used it to create divisions between groups and people. He discusses Derrida's black and white thinking is inherently flawed. "There can be no ethical action without critical reflection."

Without ever mentioning Bush's name, Taylor does a fantastic job of consciously criticizing the administration and its absolute, blind certainty in its righteousness.

Mr. Derrida reminded us that religion does not always give clear meaning, purpose and certainty by providing secure foundations. To the contrary, the great religious traditions are profoundly disturbing because they all call certainty and security into question. Belief not tempered by doubt poses a mortal danger.

If there is anyone today who poses such a mortal danger, it's the leader of the free world, the man who constantly reminds us that there are only two sides in this world--with us or against us. The man who constantly reminds us that you're either on the side of evil or the side of good. The man who so often tries to convince us that a sign of a leader is never changing one's mind. That certainty is strength. Good ol' Jacques might have counseled him otherwise.

[Derrida] also taught us that the alternative to blind belief is not simply unbelief but a different kind of belief - one that embraces uncertainty and enables us to respect others whom we do not understand. In a complex world, wisdom is knowing what we don't know so that we can keep the future open.


July 01, 2004

Something Going Right: Arts in Seattle/Tacoma

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer has today an article on the great number of arts entities per capita in the Seattle-Tacoma region. Per capita, we're first!

One interviewee suggests that the fact that we have a greater number of bookstores per capita than other regions is part of the reason for the art, and someone else cites the critical mass of people doing art in this area. I would add the rain as a contributing factor.

June 11, 2004

Soothing the Savage Beasts

I'm no critic when it comes to classical music; I just don't have any education in that area. But my ear isn't dead, I can tell what sounds good, and I'm here to tell you, the American String Project sounds pretty damn good. Last night I heard a little Schubert, which took me right back to the streets of Vienna. There was also some brooding and intense Shostakovich, which made me wonder what, exactly, makes music sound so Soviet. The odd droning of the cellos? The minor tones? Anyway, for about two hours, I didn't think about the state of the nation.

In the latest Harry Potter movie, Professor Lupin tells Harry to eat chocolate when confronted with the evil dementors. They're everywhere these days and if I responded with chocolate to every one, well, let's just say I'm already way over-carbed. Music seems to serve the same purpose. And tonight and Sunday, there's Mozart on the program. I'm not sure I could sit through the Shostakovich again, but I am thinking of going back for the Mozart. There were still a ton of tickets available at the hall.

June 03, 2004

The Greatest Generation

I’ve been reading Tom Brokaw’s The Greatest Generation. I picked it up at the library a few weeks ago; some subversive librarian must have put it out on the 'interesting reads' table in anticipation of Memorial Day. I checked it out expecting a a history of WWII, but the book is more a collection of profiles of the people who fought in that war. It’s about their lives and how they served both on and off the battlefield. It's about who they were before the war and who they became after the war ended.

I’m only about a short ways in to the book, but I can’t help but be touched by the modesty and patriotism of the people Brokaw writes about. And I can’t help but draw comparisons between these unassuming Americans and the men running our country today.

I watched Donald Rumsfeld address the graduating class of West Point and I wondered how he got the nerve to stand up in front of them. I watched the President dedicate the new WWII memorial and I wondered the same thing. Today, as the President heads out to Europe to engage in coalition building and mark the anniversary of D-Day I wonder how he’ll hold his head up as he stands on the beach at Normandy. And I wonder how the soldiers of the past, present, and future will vote.

Colin Powell. Bob Dole. John McCain. These are Republicans who (in my mind) get to address the troops. Regardless of how you feel about their politics, they are men who know what it means to be a soldier.

Anyway, it's a few years old and there are many other fine reads, but The Greatest Generation is worth leaving on the coffee table for a while. Especially during these war memorial days.

May 07, 2004

Yes, Please!

Now, THIS is some smartypants hijinks. Don't miss the WTO section.

April 15, 2004

Grey illusion

Here's an amazing optical illusion. The squares marked A and B on this checkerboard are the same shade of grey:

checker-shadow.jpg

Don't believe me? Check out the rest of the article see if it's true.

I didn't believe it myself, so I snipped out the squares to compare them outside of the context of the checkerboard. Check out these details (zoomed 2x):

checkerA.gif and checkerB.gif

Pretty neat, huh?

April 08, 2004

Literary Metacrique

Jay, first off, I think Metacritic would be an awesome new category for this site. We could have a lot of fun specifically criticizing critiques. I'm going to start here, with my critique of a critique of Jean Francois Revel' book Anti-Americanism which was published last week in the Asia Times.

The book abut which the criticism is offered is a refutation of the legitimacy of what is, according to the critic, a global religion of America hating. And, apparently, according to both critic and criticized author, more a wrong-headed global cult than anything else. A complex and psychologically perverted spectator sport, if you will, a la The Running Man, I suppose, in which the participants try to absolve themselves of their insecurities about the failings of their own societies by imposing those despicable traits on a socially acceptable devil and then revelling in all the ways we Americans continually prove our own unworthiness.

I'm unconvinced. First of all, both the book author (a Frenchman) and critic (an American expat) seem to make the assertion early on that the biggest flaw these anti-Americans make in their logic is that of assuming the view of America the world develops from exposure to the media (which focuses on the actions of our government) is representative of the character of the individual citizens. The refutation then goes on to describe not how we Americans, as individuals with free will and freedom of speech, are as complex and diverse a lot as any other group of human beings sandwiched between two oceans, but rather how the American government's actions, which have inspired so much recent anti-American sentiment, are entirely justifiable.

There seems to be much begging of questions (and I mean that in the true sense of the expression, of using as evidence to back up an assertion, statements that in themselves require some serious backing up) in this review, and one suspects in the book as well, since the author of the critique seems to have been converted to Revel's own cult of anti-anti-Americanism with a born-again fervor that leads him, more than three quarters of the way through the review, to admit that there are some flaws in the book, including writing issues and factual errors, that he doesn't really want to bring up because other than those things, he's so enraptured.

For example:

Examples of this psychopathology are almost endless, but the Iraq crisis has certainly provided a profusion of new cases. For example, during the 12 years after 1991, the anti-American press was filled with self-righteous hand-wringing over what was billed as the terrible suffering of the Iraqi people under UN sanctions. But when the administration of President George W Bush abandoned the sanctions policy (a policy that, incidentally, had been considered the cautious, moderate course of action when it was originally adopted) in favor of a policy of regime change by military force - which was obviously the only realistic way to end the sanctions - did these dyspeptic howler monkeys praise the United States for trying to alleviate Iraqis' suffering? No, of course not - instead, without batting an eyelash, they simply began criticizing the United States for the "terrible civilian casualties" caused by bombing.

This type of logic is applied several times throughout the review. The Americans created a bad situation, and everyone hated them for it. So the Americans did something to change the situation, and now everyone hates them for it. Therefore, Americans can't win. That another way of looking at the situation would be to say that the Americans took a bad situation and created an infinitely worse one, however, is not explored or refuted. The assertion that we had no way of getting rid of the sanctions without bombing Iraq to kingdom come is at worst Bush Administration--shoveled horsehockey (with apologies to Sherman Potter), and at best, one point of view that might merit examination but is a far cry from qualifying as a foregone conclusion.

A little later in the review he asserts that "referring to anti-war banners that proclaimed 'No to terrorism. No to war", Revel scoffs that this "is about as intelligent as 'No to illness. No to medicine'." Uhm, well perhaps, if you take as a conclusion that war is the most effective means to bring about the end of terrorism. On the other hand, it seems that any truly meaningful examination of the anti-war faction's point of view (in my understanding of scholarly discussion, a prerequisite to refuting an opposing perspective) would bring up the questions of whether war is more effective at ending terrorism or at breeding more of it. Again, questions being begged like a dropped porterhouse in a dog run.

The review goes on to criticize the anti-Americanites for criticizing Americans for being unpleasant in ways that they themselves are. He gives as examples Mexico criticizing the 2000 election, Arab writers critizing the current administration's abrogations of press freedom, and others who he can easily point a parallel finger right back at. That these things might be true isn't addressed, nor apparently is it a concern. People who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones, so just shut up already.

It's a weird review. The book purports to be about the wrong-headedness of global anti-Americanism, but the review seems to be largely using it as evidence in an apology for the Bush Administration's bad mishandling of, well, everything, since it took office. So much so, that I'm almost inclined to read the book to find out if Revel really supports the critics pro-Bush credo or has been badly represented in this review.

Regardless, all of this global anti-American sentiment covered here makes me think it might not such a bad idea to claim Canadian background next time I travel outside our borders.

January 21, 2004

Touching the Void

I heard a fantastic interview with Joe Simpson on NPR yesterday. Joe Simpson is the author of Touching the Void, one of the most amazing books about survival ever written. Joe and his mountaineering partner Simon were climbing in the Andes when disaster struck. I don't want to give away the details -- it's a truly amazing story -- but Joe was left for dead before crawling out of the mountain alone.

Listening to Joe on the radio gave me a real sense of his character. Touching the Void was the first book he'd ever written, but you can see how his sense of majesty, and of humility, is part of his character that comes through in the book. He doesn't think of himself as a hero for having survived, and he's quite candid in discussing how the experience has changed him.

Touching the Void has now been made into a film, and Joe talks about making it in the interview, and how certain scenes were too painful for him to watch after blocking certain events in his mind. I can't wait to see it. It's playing at the Egyptian in Seattle from Friday.

January 09, 2004

TARGET KILLED THE CRAFT STAR

Much like “video killed the radio star”, Target has killed the American Craft Artist. Now don’t get me wrong, I shop at Target like any other self respecting homosexual. I also have absolutely no problem with huge corporations that snuff out the little “mom and pop’ companies, this, I believe, is the American Way. It is also the Huge Corporations that have allowed me to continue the artist dream…the dream that Target is now sucking out the life. You see, I create hand-painted stemware and I have done so through the generosity of Bill Gates, via my partner working there (HEHEHE). But now you can get similar glasses in Target, T.J. Maxx and even Nordstrom that is all produced over seas, has no artistry and a price for which I cannot compete. It is those little hands in countries like China that are producing me right out of business. And it is also the fact that we all love to shop in store like these that, yes even myself, have shopped me out of business. Why would you want to pay an artist for their work when you can get it, or a facsimile there of, at a major discount store for a fraction of the price?
So after 10 years of self-employment (and the fact that I am pushing 40) I now face entering back into the 9 to 5 work force so that I can afford to buy the things that I can no longer afford to produce! Anyone looking to hire an ex-fashion designer, ex-bartender, ex-muralist, and ex-craftsperson/artist…..I’m looking…..maybe I can go get a job at Target!

September 25, 2003

Meet Banksy

So my good friend Kevin turned me on to Banksy, a London-based... street artist? Media Jammer? Freelance provocateur? Meme-terrorist? Whatever, check out his stuff... site navigation consists mainly of clicking on the images that come up. My favorite image is this one (or maybe this one), but the "camp" entry (click on the word camp) makes you fear you're going be horribly offended--only to be brought almost to tears by a completely unexpected narrative that serves as Banksy's manifesto.

The bottom line: the best, most provocative art/commercial imagery is happening on the street. Banksy calls is "brandalism" and that's exactly where we are headed.

September 23, 2003

5th Graders on Radiohead

The East Bay Express has a great column that starts with the spot-on observation "It is no longer possible to have an original opinion on Radiohead." So he had a class of fifth graders listen to a bunch of Radiohead songs and draw their impressions. These kids did not like Radiohead, but their drawings are pretty amazing. Check it: Radiohead Rorschach, An innocent fifth grader's picture is worth a thousand-word critical analysis, By Rob Harvilla.

September 04, 2003

Postrel on Buffy

Before anybody gets steamed that I am linking to Reason, I should say I am not a libertarian. But some of them, I like. Virginia Postrel is one. She wrote a great book a few years back called The Future and its Enemies, which posited that the old Liberal/Conservative dichotomy didn't make sense any more; she agrued that the new division was between "Dynamists" who embrace the chaos and messiness of change in a free market and "Stasists" who fear change and promote inertia and seek to enforce a highly selective nostalgia to combat it. Being a dynamist doesn't mean that the government should never make a rule, just that maybe it could let the market try to figure things out first. She uses this basic argument to defend gay marriage. If it is a healthy, viable model for life, it will thrive; if it's not, the market will decide and it will die out. She also uses some great examples about donut shops and West African hair braiders in LA.

Anyway, she has a great piece in Reason this month about "why Buffy kicked ass." It's one of the best pieces of pop-culture critique I've read in a while. Sample:


Buffy assumes and enacts the consensus moral understanding of contemporary American culture, the moral understanding that the wise men ignored or forgot. This understanding depends on no particular religious tradition. It’s informed not by revelation but by experience. It is inclusive and humane, without denying distinctions or the tough facts of life. There are lots of jokes in Buffy -- humor itself is a moral imperative -- but no psychobabble and no excuses.

Postrel's new book just came out, and I can't wait to read it. It's called "The Substance of Style: How the Rise of Aesthetic Value Is Remaking Commerce, Culture, and Consciousness" so you pretty much know it's right down my alley.

August 29, 2003

UK's Guardian coming to US?

What a breath of fresh air this would be were it true! The respected PR Opinions blog has reported on media scuttlebutt that the Guardian's amazing Iraq war coverage may lead to a U.S. edition. Which would be great. David's birthday present from me this year was a subscription to the weekly international edition, which turned out to be an amazing window on UK and European sentiment about, well, everything. The gap between their reporting and US coverage was huge. The US could so use a daily with its politic slant undisguised-- there are times when it's just painful to watch the wild contortions of the US media as they try to appear "objective.

August 23, 2003

spam poetry

I've been noticing lately that an awful lot of the spam I get consists not of enticements to enlarge body parts that my combination of chromosomes excludes me from possessing, but random strings of words, as if someone just copied the results of the magnetic words combinations on their fridge after a particularly wild party. And I'v begun reading these strings of random words, because, apparently, I have nothing better to do with my time. Sometimes they are quite interesting combinations, too. So I've decided to copy them and make them my own, in poetry format, not unlike Marcel Duchamp and his urinal. The rules will be thus:

  • The title will always be the subject line in the spam mail

  • I can break lines whereever I please to create associated words strings

  • I cannot change, remove, or add words

  • I cannot add punctuation or capitalization that doesn't already exist

  • I will give partial author credit to the sender of the spam

  • I am eligible for poet laureate status as a result, because this is art

So without further ado, my first spam poem:

"Pomposity" by Paulette McKay and Lilia Adell

plunge
satiable
brayed

second adler testing
secede adherence
bovine excretions horrify postmaster polemics
screeching political exothermic
boeotian teeth courageously hurtle housewares countrywide

mellowness
activator bogota hoydenish
hovering accusingly
potentially

$RANDO MIZE

meringue counterfeiter scoreboard
adaptability branched ibis hyacinth admirations

ak millimeter
posterity creeks creating etymology bramble

hungry
hospital branded hungering
postwar postoffice hose
metamorphic howdy bolting
idealized excelsior teet
crater bombings

$RANDOM IZE

plunderers
identifier
alhambra adjudication
advisor
idiom scored criminal
meson
additivity tenseness
counsellor
boomtown thawing bowl

aaa excreting

hyphenate theorem
imaginatively
playwrights

July 25, 2003

Genetic Poetry

eyes closed illumines men loved
for jest from quiet neotype
with give fire followers firm
home helmet kind infinite son
sits so still defines so
to be throne revoking of you burning
the occupied front in scene

Any guesses as to who wrote this? No-one: it was computer generated by a clever little application called Darwinian Poetry.

Unlike the Postmodernism Generator, it's not generated randomly: candidate poems are selected by a large pool of viewers: popular poems remain in the "gene pool" and unpopular ones die off. Poems in the gene pool "mate" by transferring words between each other to produce new candidates.

It's a real nice example of directed selection, and shows how order can come from disorder when there's a competing force driving selection. (The initial gene pool was just strings of words randomly selected from classic texts.) It's more akin to the way humans took wolves and then bred them into the huge variety of dogs we have now: not all of them are practical (c'mon -- what use is a Chihuaha for chrissakes?) but all are appealing to a large enough segment of the selecting population -- us -- for them to survive.

There's one major difference with biological directed selection though: two successful poems that mate are highly unlikely to breed a successful child, so I'm surprised the poems have developed as fast as they have. I guess there are biological analogues though: most fish and most insects have thousands of offspring, but only a tiny few survive to enter the gene pool.

July 22, 2003

There's a Hole In My Pocket of Resistance

I often think of silly or absurd phrases that I'd like to use for titles, but rarely the text that might follow. Like this one, which came to mind again due to the recent probable death of Uday & Qusai Hussein. Perhaps, though, I'll start posting these little bits, since I seem to rarely get around to doing anything longer.

May 09, 2003

Airplanes as Art

There's a nice article in Salon today. It's the latest installment of my favourite Salon column, in fact: Ask the Pilot. I was sad when this column moved into Salon's premium section. Hey, I like Salon, but I don't actually want to pay for it. But the new daypass feature means everyone can read it, as long as you're willing to sit though a 30-second commercial for the Mazda 6. And you know, as much as I hate popups and the like, this type of advertising doesn't bother me for some reason. And, I can read my email while the ad plays. It's a win-win: bravo, Salon!

But I digress. Ask the Pilot is a wonderful column, written with wit and insight by an ex-Pilot. Now, for some reason I don't quite understand I have a deep-seated (and, many would say, macabre (see my book on airline crash black box transcripts for example) interest in the airline industry) so I just love the little anecdotes that Patrick comes up with. See his story about an encounter with an exploding loo at 30,000 feet for a good chuckle.

This article is about the aesthetics of the various airline liveries, rather than the usual technical or process-oriented fare. A nice comparison of the domestic carrier's paintjobs, and a rather scathing assessment of Landor's work (were you involved in any of these, Jay?). I was disappointed Qantas didn't get a mention (they've stuck with the flying kangaroo logo as long as I've been alive and almost certainly longer), and I quite liked the old British Airways "World Image" look, although I can see the point about it being more like a wallpaper catalogue. But an interesting article nonetheless, well worth a read.

April 23, 2003

Snobs Unite!

Yeah, I suppose it's the Yalie in me coming out--that is, the inherent Yalie, the one who knew she was going to be an Eli from about 3rd grade on--but I really like this article from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Some things really are better than others, and if believing that it's just a sin to waste perfectly good calories on say, pasteurized brie or Hershey's chocolate instead of Valrhona, makes me an elitist, then I suppose I'll wear the Scarlet E.

April 14, 2003

So proud of my Pulitzer pal

My freshman year resident advisor from Yale has just won a Pulitzer for her study of genocide, A Problem from Hell: America and the Age of Genocide. Marti called last week to tell me the news and The Judy tipped me off about this great USA Todayinterview. As you can see from the picture, she is as brilliant as she is gorgeous.

For those of you well-versed in my Yale misadventures, this is the very same RA who (with the help of smelly suitemate Ben) half-dragged me to undergraduate health after my very first weekend at Yale erupted into something dangerously close to alcohol poisoning. (This is a longer story that probably merits its own post, as it was not altogether my fault and, in retrospect, a pretty hilarious affair.)

But anyway, I'm so proud. I have been meaning to buy this book--I mean, 384 pp. on genocide will make you want to drink Hull Clean, no doubt--and now I'm gonna.

January 03, 2003

That's Peeps.com to you, good sir

A British blogger named Phil Gyford has launched a weblog serialization of Pepys' Diary. If you are not familiar with Pepys, you're missing out on some serious London intrigue circa 1660-- not to mention a work that bears eloquent witness to the birth of modern subjectivity during the Enlightenment. It is amazing how fluidly content from a few centuries ago works as a weblog. It's enough to make you wonder which of us bloggers will be revealed as indispensible to future generations-- assuming any of our evanescent digital musings survive.

Credit to Slashdot for the write-up and BBCNews for the full backstory.

December 17, 2002

Analysis of A.I.'s ending

Speilberg's A.I. is one of my favourite films, but it got a bad rap for its apparently hokey ending. I've always felt it was a great film (and with one of the most innovative viral marketing campaigns ever, to boot). In particular, I always liked the ending, but I was never sure why. I recently stumbled upon this analysis of the ending of A.I. which provides a great interpretation which fits perfectly into the Kubrickean themes of the film. Now I'll have to go and watch it again.

December 06, 2002

"Obsessing About Obsession"

Spike Jonze's new film Adaptation is getting an awful lot of attention, including this breathless review by the NYT's A.O. Scott. It goes beyond standard pomo self-referentiality to a world where author, subject, and fictional selves seem hopelessly jumbled.

This all sounds interesting, but it is hardly new territory. Few writers have explored this territory more expertly than my personal literary goddess, Joan Didion. She figures, to vertiginous effect, as a character in her 1984 novel Democracy. As I wrote in my 1995 senior essay,

Mary McCarthy reportedly spent many unsettled hours with Who's Who trying in vain to discover whom Didion was really discussing. Responses like McCarthy's were common. The American Spectator printed a scathing review, including this statement on Didion's postmodern presence:
Democracy is, by the author's admission, a failure. It got written when Didion detoured from the novel she intended to write about Inez's family in Hawaii.... This is fair enough, but why an author who was in the past written with ethical brilliance about cutting one's losses and burying one's dead chooses to advertise her failure in this awful old-hat nouveau way is mysterious and sad. Didion even decorates the failure with her own supposed presence in her character's lives.... There's a sort of desperation to the device, and as this unholy marriage of author's biography and the characters' non-lives proceeds, the reader winces, and, finally, wearies.

A central narrative refrain of Democracy is "This is a hard book to write." It is, however, an easy novel to read, as Didion's gorgeous prose, brilliant eye for detail, and elegant plotting move the reader through a book that operates as both family drama and political thriller. She covers this ground again in 1997's The Last Thing He Wanted, and appears as both narrator and friend of the protagonist. The effect is less shocking, because by the time of the novel's late '80s setting, this kind of boundary-crossing had become commonplace.

So a technique that was once groundbreaking in its mere conception can now dazzle only in scale and scope. Jonze's easy postmodern mindbending (in Being John Malkovitch and now, apparently, in Adaptation) is satisfying not because it is new but because it is (among a certain audience) expected. French literary theorist Jean-Francois Lyotard (whose theories comport amazingly with Didion's literary practice) put it this way:

If the painter and novelist do not want to be, in their turn, apologists for what exists (and minor ones at that), they must... question the rules of the art of painting and narration as learned and received from their predecessors.... An unprecedented split occurs in both painting and literature. Those who refuse to examine the rules of art will make careers in mass conformism, using "correct rules" to bring the endemic desire for reality into communication with objects and situations capable of satisfying it. Pornography is the use of photographs and film to this end. It becomes a general model for those pictoral and narrative arts that have not risen to the challenge of the mass media.
As for artists and writers who agree to question the rules of the plastic and narrative arts... they are destined to lack credibility in the eyes of devoted adherents of reality and identity, to find themselves without a guaranteed audience.

So in 1984, Didion was attacked for her active authorial presence in novel. By 2002, Jonze is lauded for making a movie about a screenwriter who can't get himself out of his screenplay. I'm interested in seeing the movie, and I'm completely open to the prospect of enjoying it as much as I enjoyed Being John Malkovitch. But I won't confuse his popularization for true pioneering, and I will wonder if his chief success is not as a pomo pornographer for the masses.

November 30, 2002

true state of education

so, i'm in arizona. for thanksgiving with the folks and all. and what happens at every holiday gathering? right, family games. so, it's trivial pursuit with the parents and their friends. for as much complaining as i hear from them that the "younger generation" has their head up their ass (okay, i'll conceed that to be partially true) you think they'd be better at the game. more life equals more experiences which should equal more answers right? well, this part of the "younger generation" has served them a nice big fat slice of shut the fuck up pie. winning answers scored by me are; abby hoffman, stephen hawking's "a brief history in time", dr.who, mars (as in what was the last planet that nasa has landed on), and hell, even maxim magazine. my friends, the pop culture revolution has begun. wicked.

November 26, 2002

Introduction to Australian Heritage

You may not be aware of this, but I am an Australian. In the spirit of international cultural outreach, I offer the reader this introduction to Australian heritage. This classic text is required reading in all Australian primary (elementary) schools. Read this and be the conversational vedette at your next cocktail party with all you need to know about Australian historical figures, events, and cultural locations.

November 22, 2002

Lorem Ipsum

OK, so I lied. Our first four test contributors are having a busy week, so I am going to start shoveling content up to get things going. This one comes courtesy of memepool, my second-favorite blog.

What more appropriate space-filler than info about "Lorem Ipsum," that most famous of "greek" (not Greek) text strings? And it has its very own web site, Lorem Ipsum - All the facts - Lipsum generator.


The full Latin text, from Cicero's "de Finibus Bonorum et Malorum" (The Extremes of Good and Evil), reads thus: "Neque porro quisquam est qui dolorem ipsum quia dolor sit amet, consectetur, adipisci velit..."

I know some people (naming no names here) who would take issue with this statement, which renders in English as "There is no one who loves pain itself, who seeks after it and wants to have it, simply because it is pain...."

Leaving aside Cicero's ignorance of the booming Roman S/M scene, his commentary is as usual quite sage-- it's an argument against asceticism and anti-pleasure moralism. The Republic could use a little more of that now, to counter the Bennetts and Borks afoot in the Forum.

Next time you need to fill space, just specify exactly how much of Cicero you need (in paragraphs, words, or bytes) and Lipsum will create a custom remix for you.

I may even post a few chunks here...