MP3s Removed

Because of bandwidth I cannot afford, I have had to remove all MP3 files. If you’re looking for the Star & Buc Wild file (or any of the other MP3s generated), you’ll have to go elsewhere.

This site itself may have to disappear for several months. Thank you, India Times.

Ain’t No Room for Culture in the New I-Rack

The United States is now rivaling those who burned the Great Library of Alexandria as cultural destroyers. Having deliberately built a base upon Babylon, a new report from the British Museum notes:

  • damage to the dragons decorating the Ishtar Gate, one of the world’s most famous monuments, from attempts to prise out the relief-moulded bricks
  • broken bricks inscribed with the name of Nebuchadnezzar lying in spoil heaps
  • the original brick surface of the great processional route through the gate crushed by military vehicles
  • fuel seeping from tanks into archaeological layers
  • acres of the site levelled, covered with imported gravel – which Dr Curtis said would be impossible to remove without causing further damage – and sprayed with chemicals which are also seeping into the unexcavated buried deposits
  • thousands of tonnes of archaeological material used to fill sandbags and mesh crates, and equally damaging, when that practice stopped, thousands more tonnes of material imported from outside the site, contaminating the site for archaeologists forever.

Dr. John Curtis, the writer of the report, noted that his charges “should not be seen as exhaustive, but is indicative of the types of damage caused.”

In Defense of Conversational Adverbs

Apparently, some folks are taking offense to using “actually” in conversation. Actually, there’s something very nice about using adverbs in regular conversation. Realistically, it beats the tongue-tied swagger or the awkward pauses because, actually, the brain gets an extra second as the beads of sweat form hideous spoors on your forehead while hot lights, cameras and an audience are upon you and you hope to hell that you’re coming across as articulately as the perfectionist producers demand (yes, even on CSPAN!). Actually, it’s not quite like that at all. But having been on camera, it’s close. Inadvertently, in print, adverbs stick out long sore thumbs but, actually, adverbs announce a moment of discovery, a sense that one is discovering a point or a thesis in the process of response and, actually, if someone has a problem with this, well then we suspect that they may not have many ideas to contribute to the world, save complaints over very minute things. Actually.

You Should Be Dancing

Gwenda has a highly accurate account of dance lessons, complete with clumsy bald guys, sad middle aged couples and tittering dwarfs. I want to assure everyone that ballroom dance lessons are really like this, particularly the ones that involve neophytes getting to a dance hall two hours before everyone else to pick up a few moves from an instructor barking over an inaudible PA system (or, even worse, with one of those damn headsets).

[8/11/05 UPDATE: Nearly eighteen months after I made a New Year’s resolution to thoroughly learn ballroom dancing, I have failed to follow up. At least from a long-term perspective. Much of this has to do with a promise I made to a now ex-girlfriend that I would take ballroom dance lessons with her. Sadly, the relationship ended before such a plan could come to fruition. Instead, what generally happens these days is that I attend some random lesson in a genteel club out of the blue (often with whomever I am dating), attempt to learn the intricate moves (taught as if one is supposed to learn these things by osmosis rather than cogent instructions), and stumble accordingly as partners are exchanged. But I’m great on a dance floor with idiotic Caucasians! Perhaps because I am more ambitious. I’m probably thinking of dancing right now because I have a date tonight and I’m thinking of intimacy, because it’s been a while (not too long but I’m impatient) since I went dancing and smelled a woman’s nice perfume and held her in my arms, and because I figure nobody will possibly sift through the archives to read these personal ramblings. That’s the great irony ab0ut categorizing everything. You think it’s for your users, but really you become personally connected to it and you start writing these longass afterwords as if you’re compiling some book — when, in fact, very few people care about these obscure peregrinations.]

Product Placement in Fiction

I’m not completely against describing products and cultural minutiae in fiction, but I have a distinct problem with the way Tricia Sullivan does it in Maul. This fascinating novel, an interesting cross between hard science fiction, riot grrls gone wild and cyberpunk which has yet to pick up a U.S. publisher, deals with a two-strand narrative. In the distant future, a Y-virus has wiped out nearly every male on the planet, leaving male clones (taken from existing tissue) to carry out a simulated program that involves teenage girls battling in a mall. Sullivan’s novel is stacked to the nines with ideas. In fact, as if channeling Kathy Acker’s ghost, it opens daringly with a girl masturbating with a gun and somehow manages to elude heavy-handedness. It’s truly the work of a writer to watch.

However, Sullivan’s too obsessed with girls wearing Red Hot Chilli Peppers T-shirts or handing over a Snapple. Okay, Tricia, we get the consumerist angle. It’s clear enough by the title. But why would Sullivan choose bands like the Red Hot Chilli Peppers who have long lost their lustre in the present among the teenage crowd. Why not take a speculative fiction environment and create brand new companies? Isn’t that a good deal more fun?

But even more infuriating is how these pop cultural asides get in the way of Sullivan’s fascinating effort to explore feminism. The product concentration detracts from the intellectual expose and dates the book almost instantly. Which is interesting because it was published in 2003.

Conversely, Richard Yates’ fiction (which I’ve finally begun reading after Lizzie threatened to have several Young Republicans remove one of my testicles) hasn’t dated at all. Even a story like “A Glutton for Punishment,” which deals with a 1960s-1970s corporate environment (and should date), still packs an emotional punch, while achieving a startling purity. I suspect that it’s because Yates avoids product placement and uses sparse terminology (“cubicle” is mentioned once) to describe his environments. He is more concerned with what a character is feeling, the look on another person’s place, the heat of a room, etc.

I used to believe that this so-called literary product placement was of value in fiction. The immediate example that came to mind was an image from a Stephen King novel that I can’t immediately recall: something along the lines of a Skippy peanut butter jar filled with coins. The image’s startling presence, however, has more to do with the effort to remove all the peanut butter from a jar and use it as a piggy bank.

The problem with using brands as shorthand for character attributes is that, when we’re considering the perseverance of fiction, today’s telltale brand could be tomorrow’s failure. (Who can’t chuckle at the Pam Am flight seen in 2001, which immediately undermines its future?) I’m inclined to believe that unless fiction involves a specific time and place, on the whole, brands really don’t belong in literature.

FCC Responds to Star Complaint

Econ Junkie has posted the response he received from the FCC. As I have tried to point out, unless Star & Buc Wild are sexually explicit (see 182 U.S. Code Section 1461), the First Amendment permits them to broadcast whatever they want, provided they fall within broadcast requirements. Your efforts are best directed towards the radio station, Clear Channel, and the advertisers. The advertisers may consider withdrawing their commercials if they are informed of the content they are supporting. Particularly if you write thoughtful (not abusive or inflammatory, but thoughtful!) and well-reasoned letters demonstrating that they essentially support a pair of DJs who insensitively play plane crash sounds and abuse call center employees for laughs. Now it’s just up to someone in New York to start listening to 105.1 FM beginning on January 17 and begin compiling a list of advertisers.

Love for Three Miévilles

For those who are as devoted to China Miéville ‘s Bas-Lag books as I am, there’s a lively debate on The Iron Council over at Crooked Timber. One thing I didn’t realize was how close Miéville (along with Louise Welsh) was to being named one of the Granta 20.

In fact, Miéville himself has even popped in. He has some very interesting things to say about Tolkien, why he dwells upon the bleak, his struggles to present nuanced sociopolitics, and his indebtedness to page-turning storytelling.

Roundup

  • Nadine Gordimer is shepherding a short story collection, Telling Tales. The book’s proceeds will go to fighting AIDS. Some of the heavyweights involved: Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Gunter Grass, Salman Rushdie, John Updike, Margaret Atwood and Woody Allen.
  • Because the hardback wasn’t turgid enough, the paperback release of Bill Clinton’s My Life will be published in two paperback formats: one that describes his presidential achievements and the other describing the linguistical disadvantages of referring to people as “that woman.”
  • A rare set of George Washington letters is being auctioned. The letters show that Washington consulted with Thomas Jefferson on capitalizing certain nouns. But because Washington was a hopeless speller, he was more interested in a cookie recipe for Martha that Jefferson had devised at Monticello.
  • Upton Sinclair is heading for a comeback. Historian Lauren Coodley has edited a book showing that Sinclair was far more than a muckraker. He published 100 books, he was a health nut, and, contrary to popular belief, not once did he step foot in a jungle.
  • And Jim Warren, the man behind fantastic back cover ads for skulls and Famous Monsters of Filmland, gets a thorough profile.

It’s Good to Know the Experts Are Pooling Their Resources Together for the Hard Issues

Press Telegram: “The online ‘Onion’ once reported that Brad Pitt was bored with Jennifer Aniston’s naked body, a claim that virtually every male of any age and almost any species recognized to be insane or an underhanded insult directed at Pitt. The notion now has been debunked by Peter Castro, executive editor of People magazine the publication that broke the story of the Pitt-Anistan separation.”

The Dirty Art of Author Publicity Photos, Part 1: Jennifer Haigh

jenniferhaigh.jpgPHOTO DESCRIPTION: Ms. Haigh doesn’t smile. She wears an austere “we mean business” look on the safe side of the nihilism fence, provenance enough for the Barnes & Noble crowd. She wears a black dress that reveals a bit of leg. The bench has been positioned so that we don’t really see it. In fact, factoring in the cleavage pushed forward into an expanse of black, the overall effect appears to be an author ready to mount the table. And then there are the positions of her hands. Her right fingers fold over to draw our eye to her leg. Curiously, her knee has been cut off.

WHAT WE THINK THE BOOK MIGHT BE ABOUT (based on the photo): A dark and tawdry tale with potential erotic riffs, but without the benefit of a knock-knock joke.

WHAT THE BOOK IS ACTUALLY ABOUT:Baker Towers tells the rich, enveloping story of one Polish-Italian family in the small Pennsylvania coal-mining town of Bakerton – where the sardonically named “towers” of the title are two huge heaps of sulfurous waste from the mines. When it comes to employment, Baker Brothers, the mine-owning company that dates back to the 1880’s, is the only game in town.” (Janet Maslin)

Star & Buc Wild Suspended

It’s a small achivement that doesn’t mean as much in light of the move to New York. But it’s an achievement nonetheless. The outcry has resulted in Star & Buc Wild being suspended for a day. Thanks in part to your efforts, Power 99 FM received more email and phone calls in the entire station’s history.

But this is only the beginning of the fight. Since the two DJs have been repeatedly hateful and since the one day suspension amounts to a consolation prize (Star & Buc Wild were moving out of Philly anyway), the DJs will quite possibly settle into the new routine at 105.1 FM in New York. If there are any able listeners in New York willing to keep track of advertisers, now would be the time to mobilize for a future campaign. Because in light of their history of abusive radio, these two will try again.

[UPDATE: Again, because the racism and the hatred in the comments are too prevalent, and I have neither the time nor the inclination to moderate, I have closed the thread. I have tried to remove some of the more racist messages and have banned the IP addresses of those who would use this site to preach hatred. Some of you folks should be ashamed of yourselves.]

Shuffle is Apple Lingo for “Flash Drive”

Using stunning new technology available on nearly every MP3 freeware program and flash drive, Steve Jobs has announced a very silly product called the iPod Shuffle, which (get this) actually plays your songs at random. And I’ve got a bridge to sell you in Brooklyn that you will never cross the same way because your feet will always hit different parts of the surface.

That shuffling you hear is the sound of Steve Jobs cashing in the chips of Mac zealots. I guess Mac users have never heard of MuVos and Zen Micros on the PC side, which, for a few dollars more, offer as much as 60 Gigs of music within the MP3 format.

Wake me up when there’s a real revolution.

No Reading Statistic Left Behind

South Florida Sun-Sentinel: “Gov. Jeb Bush wants to increase spending on reading by $43 million this year and make reading money a permanent part of Florida’s public school budget.”

Hey, Jeb, give $43 million to me and I’ll give you all the reading you need. And then some.

I don’t know what bothers me more: the notion that $43 million given to “reading” without a specific spending plan sounds more like the cocaine tab hidden within blockbuster movie budgets under the heading “accessories” or the idea that money would somehow translate into a new generation of enthused readers through a osmosis involving dinero.

But then these are the kind of silly impressions one forms when an article fails to point at the specifics, which can be found here. And if you read the fine print, it isn’t about the reading at all, but the scores. No wonder some kids aren’t so crazy about books.

I Hear Voices Too

Sarah’s put up a thoughtful post regarding hearing voices when she reads. I can relate to this because, although my own inner ear parses text differently, I sympathize with the notion of those voices inside the book that tell me to do things.

Whole chapters of Ian McEwan, Alex Garland and David Peace have encouraged me to wash my hands more. Because when I’m reading a farrago of brisk one-to-two word sentences (“Fuck,” “Noon,” “My arse.”), I feel as if I’m channeling the spirit of Howard Hughes. If I’m, say, reading part of the Red Riding Quartet, chances are you’ll find me in the restroom, washing all of those evil smelly life-destroying molecules that CLUTTER one’s existence and otherwise INTERFERE with the precious bodily fluids have you ever seen a Russian drink anything other than vodka? that do me end and PREVENT me from living greatness, must keep the people happy and prevent the germs from spreading UP UP & AWAY flowing through my veins and arteries like some infernal beast, parasites that can only be seen under a microscope…

But I digress.

Conversely, when I am reading a paragraph-long sentence (a la badly translated Dostoevsky or W.G. Sebald), I suddenly find myself talking too much during a conversation. These austere paragraph-slingers wish me to expatiate and I must honor their wishes, for I too have something dreadfully important to say, so important that it must be framed within the context of a sentence with endless verbs, commas and wends that convey the Sense of Importance. Never mind that the people who listen are trapped there, wishing to be polite, hoping that the blathering fool who is recycling some heavy-handed Marxian metaphor will stop.

So, yeah, the short answer is that I hear voices too. And while I come from a family that is very musical, it takes me about an hour or two to sight-read a sheet of music. Largely because I have been too indolent to learn how to do it in real time (to use the technological parlance of our time) and because all I know how to play on my guitar are pentatonic scales and chords. O such a wasted existence! If only I had shown more initiative! If only I had known that more practice with an instrument would result in vaguely edible fruit!

But at least there’s karaoke to offer such a dubious surrogate. And at least there are the voices which assure me that reading is good and keep the deviant at bay so I can function in America’s troubling capitalistic system.

RIP Mr. Monitor

Our monitor is at death’s door, we won’t be able to replace it for a few days, and we’re overwhelmed by the stunning response regarding the Star & Buc Wild post. Factor in the other things we’re doing, and this has resulted in an uphill battle in email responses and regular bloggin. But for now, here are some highlights from the literary world:

  • As noted widely elsewhere (and kept under wraps with great glee here), many congratulations to Laila.
  • Birnbaum interviews T.C. Boyle. It starts off with the question, “Do people call you Tom?” We have to confess that we’ve been asked that question a few times ourselves, albeit in entirely different circumstances.
  • On the Star & Buc Wild front, thanks to the efforts of Devalina Guha-Roy, WUSL-FM‘s reaction has made the Philly Inquirer. There have been more than 130 e-mails and phone calls. Of course, the problem isn’t the broadcast or Star’s antics, but the “insensitive” employee who posted the clip online. Clearly, WUSL hasn’t gone nearly far enough to ensuring that “racially inflammatory” programming on this level won’t occur again. What’s particularly interesting is that Star & Buc Wild’s move to WWPR has elicited more publicity. It seems that in the wake of Star’s disgraceful banter, his publicist decided to issue a press release.
  • John Intini suggests that this generation has become too “resourceful” and suggests that readers of Arts & Letters Daily, McSweeney’s and bloggers in general are as bad as Trivial Pursuit junkies. We think he’s onto something, but we’re wondering what’s wrong with having a capacious storehold upstairs? Granted, when such brainpower is reduced to remembering Usher lyrics, it’s a considerable problem. But we can think of far worse things to remember and recite than, say, a passage from a Jonathan Lethem novel.
  • Lip Service is a UK-based theatrical and radio group who transmogrify literary classics. They sound like a lot of fun.
  • Is Patrick White Australia’s most unreadable novelist?

Deborah Solomon: Under Pressure

Is Deborah Solomon trying to confess to us that she’s a closet meth addict? From today’s interview with Christine Gregoire:

As a veteran politician who has served as state attorney general for more than a decade, did you find it difficult to sit out the seven weeks during which the voting machines pegged you a loser?

It was very, very difficult.

Did you take up smoking?

Me, take up smoking? No. It’s not an option. I was the lead negotiator in the tobacco-company settlement that brought in $242 billion, the largest settlement in the history of the world.

Did you turn to sleeping pills?

I finally resorted to once in a while taking some Sominex. But at the end, the Sominex didn’t work.

So what did you do to ease your anxiety in the wee hours of the night?

I did all of my shopping for Christmas online at very odd hours.

Yes, heaven forbid that things like non-drug related activities like sex, exercise or shopping can be used to relieve considerable tension. Particularly since almost every gubernatorial candidate is, in the Deborah Solomon universe, a pill-popping, chain-smoking freakazoid ready to walk the plank right before through a career-making four-year term. That’s the way politics works. Right, kids?

Talk in a Time of War

With escamotage that seems outside Tanenhaus’s grasp, Sunday’s Washington Post features a retrospective on David Halberstam’s The Best and the Brightest — pointing out that the book is not only a masterful study of foreign policy but elucidating a few potential comparisons between Iraq and Vietnam. Warren Bass and David Halberstam will discuss The Best and the Brightest online on Thursday, January 27 at 3:00 p.m.

Indecent Proposal 2: No Dollar Left Behind

indecentproposal.jpgDirector Adrian Lyne announced that he would be directing a followup to his 1993 film, Indecent Proposal. Robert Redford and Demi Moore have agreed to reappear. Set ten years later, Redford will reappear as the millionaire — this time, having moved to Pennsylvania Avenue. Moore’s character has divorced Woody Harrelson, changed her name to Armstrong Williams, and become a journalist.

REDFORD: There are some rumors on the Internets that ten years ago, I offered you $1,000,000 to sleep with me.

MOORE: Well, you did.

REDFORD: Christ, Karl did all he can to cover up that missing year. I thought he brushed this one up.

MOORE: You weren’t particularly good in bed either.

REDFORD: Ssshh! Lower your voice! Do you want Laura to hear? I keep sending the twins in there with more books so’s I can meet with you.

MOORE: Frankly, I don’t care.

REDFORD: What will it take to shut you up? I mean, this kind of thing worked for Ted Kennedy.

MOORE: Well, how about this? Give me $250,000 and a syndicated column.

REDFORD: But what do I get in exchange?

MOORE: I’ll promote the No Child Left Behind Act.

REDFORD: $250,000?

MOORE: And it has to be tax dollars. I figure the way you’re throwing money around, nobody will notice.

REDFORD:

MOORE: You’ll just have to learn to live without it. You’ve got lackeys for that.

REDFORD: Alright. Take this slip down to John Snow. Ask him to file it under petty cash.

The Drunk

“I can’t breathe, motherfucker! I can’t breathe!”

The drunk had only his voice left, but he was determined to fight. A neighbor and I called from the window. We begged the police not to harm the man, to give him oxygen, and the fuzz knew they were being watched. So they didn’t beat him. The drunk had only blurred stamina and a voice that alerted every adjacent domicile that there was a skirmish in the premises. His limbs were pinned down by seven of San Francisco’s finest in the alley adjacent to my apartment. I had to wonder just what the hell it was he did exactly. Had he spurned chase? Had he assaulted an officer? Was he simply belligerent? There was a savage determination in the man’s voice to beat the odds. It took seven police officers to hold him down. Seven.

The liquor had fueled him. It had told him that he was immortal, whatever his problems, whatever his affliction. It had worked the same way that PCP might in another: the abject faith that he was above the law, that he would win in the end, that vengeance of an altogether irrational sort would be his. But the addiction, apparently, was too much for him to operate in society. Tonight, anyway.

Of the seven cops, one was a woman. The drunk, singular in his rebellion, had bitten her hand while they pinioned his limbs down. He called her a dyke. he egged them on. Aside from a feral “fucker” from the lady (an understandable impulse from anyone who had blood drawn from their hand), the SFPD did their job containing him without beating the man down. This was no Fajitagate. They only wanted to get him into the wagon. And the wagon arrived, backing into the alley and colliding into a few trash cans. There was a mesh grille behind the double doors, and I wondered if anyone else was there.

The drunk had been in the Marines at one point. He had been stationed on Treasure Island. So he said. You meet a lot of homeless people in this city, many of them claiming some military stint, some pledge unfulfilled. And he was determined to “fuck your fascist shit up,” thank you very much.

Me? I felt like one of Kitty Genovese’s watchers. Who the hell was I to cast judgment? But if the police clubbed this guy to death, I was determined to run into the alley and stop the violence. Fortunately, they didn’t.

But I sympathized with him. I wondered if he had been left behind at some point. I wondered about his military experience. I wondered what had caused him to become so blotto and so enraged. Had he been abandoned? Had he served in the Gulf War? Or was his life a grand lie?

One police officer for every limb. They threw him into the van and laughed a bit afterward. But I pondered the man’s fate. What would our current local services do to help him? What would our social programs do to reach him? Would he be released to the streets, only to unleash violence again? Or would he somehow find himself? Was this a drunk left to drink himself to death? Another high-maintenance person abandoned to the fateful gods of the streets?

Coffee-Deprived Roundup

Whitbread Winners

The Whitbreads go to:

Novel Award: Andrea Levy, Small Island (She also won the Orange Prize.)
First Novel Award: Susan Fletcher, Eve Green
Biography: John Guy, My Heart is My Own: The Life of Mary Queen of the Scots
Poetry: Michael Symmons Roberts, Corpus
Children’s Book: Geraldine McCaughrean, Not the End of the World