The Half-Blind Roundup

This Week in Literalism

CNN: “Today’s college students are more narcissistic and self-centered than their predecessors, according to a comprehensive new study by five psychologists who worry that the trend could be harmful to personal relationships and American society.”

Well, let’s examine this, shall we? I’m not sure if self-centered college kids are especially damaging to American society. After all, the minute they leave college, unless they’re sitting on a savings account, they’ll have to get jobs and the student loan collectors will be on their asses in about nine months demanding payment. Faced with these financial realities, egos have a tendency to plummet.

And here’s Professor Jean Twenge describing the culprit: “Current technology fuels the increase in narcissism. By its very name, MySpace encourages attention-seeking, as does YouTube.”

You know, by its very name, the United States of America proves to be a harmonious nation, devoid of racism, sexism, and classism. By its very name, American Idol encourages the worship of flags and apple pie among the populace. By its very name, an evaluation called the Narcissistic Personality Inventory permits a garden variety warehouse stocker to dissect personalities from the more noxious members of American society, stacking them with the overpriced doodads and baubles happily sold in a Target Greatland outlet. By her very name, Professor Jean Twenge makes my DNA (or my pants) feel inexplicable pangs of bullshit.

The “Wow, Where Did All These Deadlines Come From? Cool!” Roundup

Not I

It was somewhere in the middle of the broadcast: a muted melange of cultural snippets that I apparently didn’t pay attention to, but that partisan puppets and closet conformists salivated over. I didn’t know. I was probably pouring scotch.

Now it’s spread across the YouTube. And I won’t mention it. Because I have a twitchy baseline phone that takes shitty pictures and does more or less what it sets out to do. Even when it cuts out. Even when it fails. What kind of spoilsports are we to declare more when only fifteen years ago we had a curly cord that attached into a wall or, if lucky and prosperous, a cordless? If you think I’m dropping half a gee for a whiz kid’s toy, you’ve got to be fucking kidding me. If you think I’m going to buy into this because some kid in an editing room mashed up clips from popular films of people saying hello while the suits were burning bills left and right laughing their asses off because they had told you the same thing before, telling you to think different, you’ve really got ME laughing, pal. Boy, my boister’s dripping down the halls because the hell of it is that if I were about seven years younger, I’d probably fall for this shit.

I’m disappointed in geeks sometimes. Are there no cynics among the bunch? Do they casually accept everything without contemplating that baubles are often confused for advancement? Besides, this is a corporation we’re talking about here, not a gaggle of philanthropists. Ol’ Steve-O’s doing quite well because you swipe your credit cards without understanding what you’re doing. Hell, how many of these contraptions have been pre-ordered because these guys played into your uncanny love of the first person singular?

It’s not that I’m anti-fruit. (By now, you know who I’m talking about. So there’s no need for sobriquets.) The costermongers, on occasion, put out good wares. But I’m against this smelly buy now think less fervor, which has not only polluted the airwaves but taken up precious real estate on this alternative media thing we’ve got going here. Think different? A con man’s first point of order is to get you to believe the opposite.

Look, all I’m asking here is a healthy dose of skepticism. They’ve got some geeks drooling at the bell. Woof woof. It’s a shame, because many of these geeks are a lot smarter.

Roundup

  • Inside the NYTBR: “Before McGrath, there was Rebecca Sinclair—she didn’t even last seven years, and told Gewen at the end of her term: ‘I took this job because of my love of books, but all I’m doing everyday is dealing with crap.’ Tanenhaus, apparently, is now going through the same thing. ‘He has a pretty thick skin,’ Gewen said, ‘but I would anticipate that after five or six years, he too will have been worn down by it all.’” Well, this explains a lot of things. I don’t see how you can produce an engaging weekly book review section if cannot maintain even a remote passion for books. I certainly wouldn’t be maintaining Return of the Reluctant if I felt, in any way, that my passion had waned in any way. And I would ask my readers to Sure, I’ve read a lot of crap too. But I’ve also read a lot of books that have greatly moved me. And it is these gems that keep me going. (Cases in point: I strenuously direct your attention to Ellen Klages’ excellent short story collection, Portable Childhoods, due from Tachyon Press in April. Sure, there’s some obvious filler in there, but “Basement Magic” and “Time Gypsy” in book form is long overdue. And I’m very glad that my LBC duties have permitted me to read the excellent title story for Alan DeNiro’s Skinny Dipping in the Lake of the Dead.)
  • Annalee Newitz points to a new vampire soap opera (on Lifetime TV!) that subverts gender roles. The tough detective is a woman. The sensitive romance novelist, who also happens to be a 450 year old vampire, is a man. We need more of this.
  • Philip Roth has won the PEN/Faulkner Award for Everyman.
  • So all the complaints about “scrotum” have brought Susan Patron’s book into the top 40 at Amazon. If I ever write a children’s book, I’ll be sure to include the word “buttock” on the first page.
  • Daniel Green examines the circuitous publishing route of John Sheppard’s Small Town Punk.
  • Gwenda unearths a fascinating WaPo article which observes that psychiatrists and literary scholars are at a loss to locate literary works involving repressed memory before the 19th century.
  • Jessica Stockton on New York ComicCon.
  • In defense of Bill Bryson. (via Rarely Likable)
  • I hope I never have to go to Phoenix. (via Henry Kisor)
  • RI PJürg Federspiel.
  • If it’s any consolation, Mr. Goldberg, they stole my Un-Ethicist idea too.

Titanic 2?

Time: “In a new documentary, Producer Cameron and his director, Simcha Jacobovici, make the starting claim that Jesus wasn’t resurrected –the cornerstone of Christian faith– and that his burial cave was discovered near Jerusalem. And, get this, Jesus sired a son with Mary Magdelene…film-makers Cameron and Jacobovici claim to have amassed evidence through DNA tests, archeological [sic] evidence and Biblical studies, that the 10 coffins belong to Jesus and his family.”

Journalistic Oppression in Russia

Guardian: “Despite the fact that Politkovskaya was articulate, attractive and accomplished, she was barred from appearing on television, which is the only way the vast majority of Russians get news. To the degree that a living woman could be airbrushed out of post-Soviet history, she had been. ‘People call the newspaper,’ she wrote, ‘and send letters with one and the same question: “Why are you writing about this? Why are you scaring us? Why do we need to know this?”‘ She provided an answer as much for herself as for any reader: ‘I’m sure this has to be done, for one simple reason: as contemporaries of this war, we will be held responsible for it. The classic Soviet excuse of not being there and not taking part in anything personally won’t work. So I want you to know the truth. Then you’ll be free of cynicism.’”

Occupied

Nothing here until Monday. This weekend, I’m busy shepherding the Oscar 2007 blog (with concomitant canape preparation), conducting two more podcast interviews (and that’s just this weekend; there’s two more next week), and trying to make freelancing deadlines. (Which has meant no new podcasts for a while, I know. But I hope to atone for this soon. I’m juggling as fast and as skillfully as I can.)

LATBR in Danger of Being Marginalized?

LA Observed reports that drastic change is in store for the Los Angeles Times Book Review. Top brass is planning to take the stand-alone Sunday Book Review section and fold it in with a new opinion section that will appear in Saturday papers. Even more preposterous, the plan is to print this new section so that the reader will have to flip the section 180 degrees around to read each side of the foldout: with one section devoted to books and the other section devoted to op-ed pieces.

This is a great disservice. (Full disclosure: I have contributed reviews to the LATBR.) I am unsure if this move is intended to generate more Saturday subscribers or an effort to cut down on production costs, but, given that the L.A. Times Festival of Books is one of the newspaper’s most vigorously attended community events, it seems a terribly wrong-headed move to treat readership as if it is sloppy seconds.

Roundup

What You Didn’t Know is That the Bloggies Are As Worthless as Bloated Ceremonies Hosted by Ellen DeGeneres

Max on the Bloggies: “The omission of ‘literary bloggers’ from this long list of nominees naturally seemed glaring to me, having had a front row seat for the last four or so years as an amorphous and very loosely affiliated movement of bloggers has greatly expanded the realm of literary discourse in the U.S. and elsewhere. And though there has sometimes been an unhealthy ‘us against them’ mentality between bloggers and professional critics, in many ways this friction has melted away as critics have become bloggers themselves and as a number of talented bloggers have begun to invade the book pages, providing a pool of talent and a new voice to book review sections that were shrinking and stultified.”

Roundup

JetBlue’s “Customer Bill of Rights” is Chump Change

JetBlue CEO David Neeleman is very sorry indeed about the recent inconveniences. And to show you how much he cares, he’s offered a personal video message and a “Customer Bill of Rights”. Never mind that he’s also collecting your personal information.

But let’s give this guy the benefit of the doubt and take a look at this so-called “Bill of Rights.” Neeleman values your time so much that he’s willing to pay you about as much as an assistant manager at Taco Bell: a little more than $10 an hour for any flight delay. You’ll get a $25 voucher if your flight is delayed 1-2 hours. You’ll get a $50 voucher if your flight is delayed for 2-4 hours. And if your flight gets delayed 4-6 hours, you’ll be entitled to a voucher for a one-way airfare.

Of course, the delay must be subject to a “Controllable Irregularity.” What the hell is a “Controllable Irregularity?” Conveniently, JetBlue offers no definition. It isn’t in its Bill of Rights, nor in its Contract of Carriage. It could be anything really. A snowstorm. A slight change of the lights. A gremlin tearing out one of the engines. A passenger resembling William Shatner.

Meanwhile, the customer is stuck for hours on the tarmac with nothing but blue chips and soda for dinner.

But let’s say that the customer’s flight is delayed and the customer can’t find hotel accommodations, as the many people who were recently stranded discovered to their horror. (Consider the case of Marcia Makley, who was given a voucher for a hotel that had no vacancy and spent $175 on a cab ride. She was also unable to retrieve her luggage.) Well, there’s nothing in JetBlue’s “Customer’s Bill of Rights” that informs the customer that she’ll get a room for the night, nor is there anything about securing the luggage. Meanwhile, if we examine American Airlines’ current conditions of carriage, we find this:

If the delay or cancellation was caused by events within our control and we do not get you to your final destination on the expected arrival day, we will provide reasonable overnight accommodations, subject to availability.

Of course, American gives itself an out clause with “subject to availability,” but it’s an infinitely better promise than JetBlue.

And here’s a section from United’s Contract of Carriage. Not only does the contract contain a clearer definition for an “irregularity,” but we have these remedies for a flight exceeding two hours:

(A) UA will transport the passenger without stopover on its next flight on which space is available in the same class of service as the passenger’s original outbound flight at no additional cost to the passenger.

(B) If UA is unable to provide onward transportation acceptable to the passenger, UA, with concurrence of the passenger, will arrange for the transportation of another carrier or combination of carriers with whom UA has agreements for such transportation. The passenger will be transported without stopover on its (their) next flight(s), in the same class of service as the passenger’s original outbound flight at no additional cost to the passenger.

(C) If space is only available and used on a UA flight(s) of a lower class of service acceptable to the passenger, UA will provide a refund of the difference in fares pursuant to Rule 260 (refunds — involuntary).

(D) If UA is unable to arrange alternate air transportation acceptable to the passenger, UA shall refund the flight coupon(s) for the unflown portion(s) in accordance with Rule 260 (refunds — involuntary).

So with United, after two hours of delay, there’s no pussy-footing around. You’ll get on the next flight and, if not on United, then on another carrier. By contrast, JetBlue gives you a mere $25.

In other words, JetBlue is trying to repackage customer service that is inferior to its competition and pass it off as philanthropic. (And, by the way, there’s nothing in JetBlue’s current Contract of Carriage that specifies anything for delays.)

Broadway’s Racial Divide

New York Times: “Urban theater — or what has been called over the years inspirational theater, black Broadway, gospel theater and the chitlin circuit — has been thriving for decades, selling out some of the biggest theaters across the country and grossing millions of dollars a year….The word in the industry is that urban theater is about to go mainstream.”

So let me get this straight. Theater that has proven consistently popular among audiences and that has consistently sold out theaters is not considered mainstream? Simply because of the race of its cast and theatergoers? I have to ask: What does African American-based theater have to do in order to be recognized as “mainstream?” Or perhaps the answer is more ingenuous: Great Jumping Jehosophat! Black people attend the theater too!

In fact, the Times, reporting on New Brunswick theatrical developments (including an all-black version of David Mamet’s American Buffalo), published more or less the same article nearly twenty years ago. Great Jumping Jehosophat! Black people attend the theater too!

A few weeks ago, I attended a revival of Follies, now playing in New York City Center. And one of the things that troubled me about the Follies show was that not one of the theatergoers was African-American. Every single person was white. The only black people in the room were the ushers directing septuagenarians to their seats. And it had me wondering whether I was living in 1957 or 2007.

Granted, one does not attend a Stephen Sondheim revival to find black people. But just as Hollywood continues to remain baffled that black people see movies, Broadway (or, more specifically, the New York Times) does not seem to understand that black people do indeed attend theater and that, heaven forfend, there may be something to this so-called “urban theater” after all! Yes, darling, this “urban theater” is something we simply muuuuuuuust bring up at the next neighborhood association meeting! But we muuuuuuuust see Follies first!

Why this ridiculous categorization of “urban theater?” I certainly don’t call Zora Neale Hurston an “urban writer,” Tupac Shakur an “urban rapper,” Paul Laurence Dunbar an “urban poet” or Scott Joplin an “urban pianist” (although at the 1893 World’s Fair, Joplin was banned from performing ragtime inside the Midway, presumably because he was considered too “urban”). I admire an artist great not because she is “urban” or because she has a darker skin color, but because she produces great art.

Roundup

Burn Your Pooh Books! Burn Them Now!

“I like that too,” said Christopher Robin, “but what I like doing best is Nothing.”

“How do you do Nothing?” asked Pooh, after he had wondered for a long time.

“Well, it’s when people call out at you just as you’re going of to do it, What are you going to do, Christopher Robin, and you say, Oh nothing, and then you go and do it.”

“Oh, I see,” said Pooh.

“This is the sort of thing that we’re doing right now.”…

This excerpt is from Chapter X of A.A. Milne’s The House at Pooh Corner and, if you ask me, this is utterly disgusting agitprop, designed to infect legions of children with the powers of sexual self-awareness. Should we as a nation be responsible for leading today’s youth astray? I ask all of you as dutiful Christians to consider the 800-pound gorilla you have introduced into the room in your casual acceptance of seemingly innocuous prose.

A.A. Milne’s innuendo is more disgusting than Susan Patron’s filthy contributions to literature (also uncovered by Julie Bosman). If A.A. Milne were still alive, I would be the first to demand his immediate induction into the Megan’s Law database. I would be the first to expose him for his mendacious nuances — his clear affinity for deviance by suggesting “doing,” as if life were a veritable all-you-can-eat buffet without parental safeguards. I would not be surprised in the slightest if NAMBLA has not used Milne’s nascent pederasty for despicable intentions. (And when we consider that the above description occurs between a bear and a boy, perhaps the sexual implications here are worse!)

Much ado about nothing? Concerned parents might want to contemplate the following:

What does Christopher Robin “like” exactly? It is this lack of clarity that leaves much to the imagination. Patron, as horrid a Communist children book’s author as they come, may have stopped at a literal scrotum, but Milne is a far greater blackguard in his penetration into ambiguous territory. As a middle-aged PTA member still struggling to find a female who will assist him in populating this great American nation with decent 4-H Club-attending centrists, I can tell you with some authority that “doing Nothing” is a euphemism for what some call “choking the chicken” and what I call masturbation, a sin against God and all that Jesus Christ stands for! Urban Dictionary may have no decisive entry on this matter. But when I tell you that “doing Nothing” is street speak for something else, you must believe me. You didn’t listen to me when the slackers had babies and became grups. But perhaps you’ll listen to me now that this liberal claptrap has been propagated for many years among the last five generations of children!

If Christopher Robin and Pooh are “doing Nothing,” then why do they insist that they are doing something later? Why does Christopher Robin need a bear to justify his filthy masturbation habits? Christopher Robin’s throbbing penis (and his scrotum!) may not be explicitly referenced. But there can be no other reading.

And for this, I call upon you to remove the Winnie the Pooh books from your bookshelves, to put this filthy content into your paper shredders and then photograph these remnants and send your pictures to David Goldenberg at Gelf Magazine and Julie Bosman at the New York Times! If you do not want to shred your Winnie the Pooh books, then I ask you, in the name of all the ethical forces of America, to photograph a scrotum and send your photos to Mr. Goldenberg and Ms. Bosman, so they might better understand the Great Scrotum Threat that perils our children.

I have known David Goldenberg and Julie Bosman for many years and, while they have both avoided my requests for consensual copulation, I can attest that they are both individuals well-deserving of your shredded books and your JPEGs of scrotums.

Our great conquest against the evils committed upon children’s literature must begin in earnest today. So I urge you to send Goldenberg and Bosman your scrotum pics before you go to sleep, just after you finish masturbating, and just before you get those scrotum-based goosebumps while standing in the freezing cold.

And if my requests seem comparatively crude, please remember. This is not about you. This is not about me. This is all about the children.

God bless America!

Meme Time

From Anne (and, goodness, Anne, you haven’t read Hitchhiker’s?):

Look at the list of books below. Bold the ones you’ve read, italicize the ones you want to read, cross out the ones you won’t touch with a 10 foot pole, put a cross (+) in front of the ones on your book shelf, and asterisk (*) the ones you’ve never heard of.

(Now I should note that my italicized choices involve those books that strike my fancy at the current instance — in other words, books that could have me dropping everything with enough internal persuasion.)

1. The Da Vinci Code (Dan Brown)
2. +Pride and Prejudice (Jane Austen)
3. +To Kill A Mockingbird (Harper Lee)
4. +Gone With The Wind (Margaret Mitchell)
5. The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King (Tolkien)
6. The Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring (Tolkien)
7. The Lord of the Rings: Two Towers (Tolkien)
8. Anne of Green Gables (L.M. Montgomery)
9. Outlander (Diana Gabaldon)
10. A Fine Balance (Rohinton Mistry)
11. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (Rowling)
12. Angels and Demons (Dan Brown)
13. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (Rowling)
14. A Prayer for Owen Meany (John Irving)
15. Memoirs of a Geisha (Arthur Golden)
16. +Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (Rowling)
17. Fall on Your Knees(Ann-Marie MacDonald)
18. +The Stand (Stephen King)
19. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban(Rowling)
20. +Jane Eyre (Charlotte Bronte)
21. The Hobbit (Tolkien)
22. +The Catcher in the Rye (J.D. Salinger)
23. Little Women (Louisa May Alcott)
24. +The Lovely Bones (Alice Sebold)
25. +Life of Pi (Yann Martel)
26. +The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (Douglas Adams)
27. +Wuthering Heights (Emily Bronte)
28. The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe (C. S. Lewis)
29. East of Eden (John Steinbeck)
30. Tuesdays with Morrie(Mitch Albom)
31. Dune (Frank Herbert)
32. The Notebook (Nicholas Sparks)
33. +Atlas Shrugged (Ayn Rand)
34. +1984 (Orwell)
35. +The Mists of Avalon (Marion Zimmer Bradley)
36. The Pillars of the Earth (Ken Follett)
37. *The Power of One (Bryce Courtenay)
38. I Know This Much is True(Wally Lamb)
39. +The Red Tent (Anita Diamant) (Why I haven’t rid myself of this lackluster book is a mystery.)
40. The Alchemist (Paulo Coelho)
41. The Clan of the Cave Bear (Jean M. Auel)
42. The Kite Runner (Khaled Hosseini)
43. Confessions of a Shopaholic (Sophie Kinsella)
44. The Five People You Meet In Heaven (Mitch Albom)
45. +Bible
46. +Anna Karenina (Tolstoy)
47. +The Count of Monte Cristo (Alexandre Dumas)
48. +Angela’s Ashes (Frank McCourt)
49. +The Grapes of Wrath (John Steinbeck)
50. She’s Come Undone (Wally Lamb)
51. The Poisonwood Bible (Barbara Kingsolver)
52. +A Tale of Two Cities (Dickens)
53. Ender’s Game (Orson Scott Card)
54. +Great Expectations (Dickens) (This, along with Bleak House, is a Dickens volumes I have been deliberately saving for a time in which I will need it.)
55. +The Great Gatsby (Fitzgerald)
56. *The Stone Angel (Margaret Laurence)
57. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (Rowling)
58. The Thorn Birds (Colleen McCullough)
59. +The Handmaid’s Tale (Margaret Atwood)
60. +The Time Traveller’s Wife (Audrew Niffenegger)
61. +Crime and Punishment (Fyodor Dostoyevsky)
62. The Fountainhead (Ayn Rand)
63. +War and Peace (Tolstoy) (Again, I’m saving this for a special time, presumably one involving a motel room and bloody sheets.)
64. Interview With The Vampire (Anne Rice)
65. Fifth Business (Robertson Davis)
66. One Hundred Years Of Solitude (Gabriel Garcia Marquez)
67. The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants (Ann Brashares) (Thief!)
68. +Catch-22 (Joseph Heller)
69. +Les Miserables (Hugo)
70. The Little Prince (Antoine de Saint-Exupery)
71. Bridget Jones’ Diary (Fielding)
72. Love in the Time of Cholera (Marquez)
73. +Shogun (James Clavell)
74. The English Patient (Michael Ondaatje)
75. The Secret Garden (Frances Hodgson Burnett)
76. *The Summer Tree (Guy Gavriel Kay)
77. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (Betty Smith)
78. +The World According To Garp (John Irving)
79. The Diviners (Margaret Laurence)
80. Charlotte’s Web (E.B. White)
81. *Not Wanted On The Voyage (Timothy Findley)
82. +Of Mice And Men (Steinbeck)
83. +Rebecca (Daphne DuMaurier)
84. Wizard’s First Rule (Terry Goodkind)
85. +Emma (Jane Austen)
86. Watership Down(Richard Adams)
87. +Brave New World (Aldous Huxley)
88. +The Stone Diaries (Carol Shields)
89. +Blindness (Jose Saramago)
90. Kane and Abel (Jeffrey Archer)
91. In The Skin Of A Lion (Ondaatje)
92. Lord of the Flies (Golding)
93. The Good Earth(Pearl S. Buck)
94. The Secret Life of Bees (Sue Monk Kidd)
95. The Bourne Identity (Robert Ludlum)
96. The Outsiders (S.E. Hinton)
97. White Oleander (Janet Fitch)
98. *A Woman of Substance (Barbara Taylor Bradford)
99. The Celestine Prophecy (James Redfield)
100. +Ulysses (James Joyce)

Hipster Provenance?

Downsyn: “Anyway, I am sure you are much cooler than I am so you will love this book so don’t pay any attention to this review and go out and buy the book and be fascinated by stories of warehouses and starting magazines and excrement coming out of backed up toilets and meeting Bill Clinton and wanting to kill people because they don’t treat you and your brother like the horrible tragic victims of the worst thing that has ever happened to anyone because God knows that no one has ever lost their parents before and that no one has suffered as much tragedy as you and your family so writing a memoir and whining for 400 pages makes perfect sense and this reviewer is just a big jerk who doesn’t get it.”

I would like to reiterate to my readers that I am by no means cool or hip, nor plan to be in the immediate future.

Exhibit A: Yesterday, I drummed on my steering wheel while blasting Metallica’s “Master of Puppets.” If a balding man drumming along to a twenty-one year old thrash track mostly forgotten by people under the age of thirty isn’t the antithesis of cool, I don’t know what is. But there’s no guilt at all, and certainly nothing to prove, in banging on a makeshift and wholly unsuitable stand-in for Lars Ulrich’s drum kit.

Nardwuar: The Great Vancouver Interviewer

I’ve been having some difficulties with the portable locker now holding my brain. You see, I checked it in on Friday, with the hopes of reclaiming it on Tuesday — it being a three-day weekend and all. But the locker is now busted and I’m now thinking at half-mast while trying to raise hell at the incompetents who promised me a “smart and secure locker room.”

nardwuar.jpgSo if you have time to kill as my brain crawls across locker, I direct you to the Vancouver-based Nardwuar the Human Serviette and his interviews with assorted notables. Nardwuar is possessed of an infectious and delightfully strange enthusiasm that frequently has him referring to his guests by first and last name, and asking them bizarre questions. Consider this hilarious interview with Ron Jeremy, whereby Nardwuar insists that Mr. Jeremy smells fine and is perturbed at the various sullies (“hedgehog” and the like) directed his way. Or his interview with Franz Ferdinand, whereby Nardwuar asks, “What did you think, Alex, of your bandmate having to have some flesh taken out? Was that how hard it was in the early days of Franz Ferdinand?” Even Harlan Ellison was puzzled by Nardwuar’s boisterous malapropisms, attempting to play the humor game with Nardwuar, only to see his own lackluster jokes taken seriously by Nardwuar. What can one say when Ron Jeremy gets Nardwuar and Ellison does not?

Thankfully, Nardwuar continues his efforts on Vancouver radio. The man even talked with James Brown in 1999 and asked him what he thought of sweat, getting the following answer: “I think sweat is something that is a very emotional thing in regards to where you put it at. You might put it in different places! Sweat expresses emotion, either way, whether it is hard work, or… uh…, I wish I could get out of here, I’m tired.”

Strange wine often spills the truth.

What If They Threw a Zombie Mob and Nobody Came?

This man speaks the truth.

On Saturday at noon, my girl Friday and I went to Justin Herman Plaza to investigate an alleged zombie flashmob.

The zombie “mob” was composed of three people dressed up as zombies (one of them, with impressive laziness, had merely applied a piece of duct tape to his blazer; presumably, he was the “ironic” zombie) and at least thirty photographers looking to photograph various zombie types stumbling around the Ferry Building. It was not to be.

In other words, when it comes to zombies, San Francisco is an observing, rather than a participating town.

I suppose I too could have dressed up as a zombie, but my attendance here was exploratory. How hard-core was my local zombie contingent? In lieu of actual participation, I wore my Night of the Living Dead t-shirt, in part because I figured this sartorial choice would send a not-so-subtle clue to any others who required my assistance.

As it turned, the zombie mob people (were there any organizers?) preferred a kind of flagrant yet secretive silence.

“Dude,” said one random fellow to me, looking around suspiciously, “your shirt totally gives you away.”

I never remarked upon the fact that this fellow had an obtrusive and expensive-looking camera hanging around his neck and that he was standing next to four other twentysomethings with obtrusive and expensive-looking cameras around their necks. Whereas I was merely one guy wearing a movie t-shirt.

I asked several people who had vague authority where the zombies were. I was informed that “people were still waking up” (it was 12:00 PM) and that “more would show, don’t worry.”

While the devoted photographer contingency waited around for additional zombies to show up, many of them trying to conceal their sadness by studying various settings on their incredibly expensive gear, this never happened.

“Let’s go get some brewskis,” said a kid who was clearly under 21 and well aware of the zombie mob. I watched this kid and his peers run away at a stunning velocity, hoping that their mass-sprinting for affordable and illegally imbibed alcohol would make up for the zombie shortfall.

My girl Friday and I decided to call it quits at around 12:30 PM. If zombies could not be counted upon to be reasonably punctilious, what was the point of hanging around?

And You Folks Were Complaining About Vollmann A Few Weeks Ago

The London Times: “Hall really wants to be the new David Mitchell, a writer who can give an unforgettable voice to, say, a floating quantum thought particle, but has neither his searing intelligence nor his ability. We are left with only stratospheric pretentious-ness, where the writer’s barely assimilated reading and capacity to invent empty tricks stalk the pages like ghosts….Nevertheless, this is an important cultural marker – of the triumph of the PR machine over that poor, passé little thing called writing.”

Ouch.