Statement of Intent

1. No matter what happens in the present or the future, I will not remove a name or a reference from any past blog post. If there are significant changes to past content, I will be forthright about why the content has been adjusted or removed and offer a public explanation.

2. Even when I have mixed or negative feelings towards a blogger, if I have found a link from that blogger’s site, I will properly credit them.

3. Critical comments that take to task the posts here are welcome. But if you regularly troll on these pages and wish to pollute meaningful discourse, you will be banned from commenting. I remain as benevolent a dictator as I can. A number of people who have been particularly hostile have still been permitted to comment and have not been banned. Since 2004, I have banned only four people from commenting and viewing this site. These have been truly extraordinary cases. People who visit this site around fifteen times a day and get off on leaving bile (so the logs say). I have banned these people more out of concern for their emotional health than for any particular thing they have to say about me. (I also reserve the right to close a thread, if I feel that it has gone on far enough.)

4. I will not disemvowel any comments. These are the actions of a moderator too terrified to think outside her hermetic bubble. Commenters have been especially helpful in pointing out corrections, changing my mind, and otherwise helping me to articulate better. Even when I violently disagree with a comment, I generally try to find something within it. Therefore, it behooves me to respect their right to express themselves within the parameters of this statement.

5. If I have reported a factual error, please email me and I will correct it. If you wish to change my mind by informing me of certain facts, I remain open to your thoughts. I have been known to update specific posts here when such information has been presented to me.

6. I will not publicly post your private email. I respect your right to privacy. I believe that, as a blogger, there must be a private conduit as well as a public conduit.

7. If I am interviewing you, and you tell me something that is “off the record,” as far as I’m concerned, it’s off the record. (This policy, incidentally, has resulted in a number of great stories delivered to my ears. Too bad that I can’t tell you about them.)

8. If you wish to discuss something with me or clear up something on the phone, I will do this. This has happened a few times and I have listened to the party relay his side of the story.

9. These rules are open to amendment. And if I decide to amend these rules, I will certainly do so. But if I violate any of these rules, you have every right to tear me a new asshole. Particularly if I’m silent for days about it.

The Bat Segundo Show: Fiona Maazel

Fiona Maazel appeared on The Bat Segundo Show #212. Maazel is the author of Last, Last Chance.

[LISTENING NOTE! Please note that this show contains numerous grinding noises. We have endeavored to remove as many of these as possible, and reduce the noise where possible. Alas, SOME aural residue remains.]

Condition of the Show: Considering the niceties of superplagues.

Author: Fiona Maazel

Subjects Discussed: Being under observation, the relationship between kosher chickens and superplagues, rich WASPy girls, individual vs. societal ironies, keeping the protagonist’s name somewhat secret, Mary Shelley’s The Last Man, on not reading Camus for protective purposes, Panic in the Streets, the anxiety of influence, opting for a more realistic plague narrative, using humor to cantilever a dark narrative, devising multiple historical voices, pawing around in the dark, reincarnations, Groundhog Day as the essence of reincarnation, thongs and corporeal elliptical themes, the dangers of reading too fast, perceived titular homages to Nabokov, reviewers who are “certain” about books, auctorial intentions, moving around and setting a portion of the book in Texas, wanting to be T.S. Eliot, pursuing the grit, the pervasiveness of television, revolting against cultural media, Nordic tales, developing a conscious understanding of a deity, Stanley as a barometer, and agitprop.

EXCERPT FROM SHOW:

Correspondent: If one looks at more lower brow choices, like Stephen King’s The Stand or The Andromeda Strain, or any number of superplague television series, like The Survivors and things like that, one tends to find a narrative that begins with the decimation of humanity. Yours is not that particular book. Again, going back to this question of inversions, I’m wondering if you made a particular choice. You had to have known about The Stand.

Maazel: Sure, it’s true. But I didn’t think it was an inversion. I thought it was credible actually. I did a lot of research about plague and also about the CDC and bioterrorism. And just how unlikely the scenario I proposed is. It’s extraordinarily likely. This isn’t an alternate reality kind of novel. It didn’t seem likely that someone would unleash a plague and actually wipe out all of humanity. That’s just not credible. I wanted to come up with a credible scenario. So I guess from the perspective of someone writing fiction or reading fiction, one might expect something like a terrific slate wiper to come along, as we’ve seen in so many of these movies and books. But I actually wanted something that seemed really realistic. That only 3,000 people would die and the fact that they put a stop to it. For instance, when we had this little anthrax outbreak or even bird flu, people are dying, but they’re still containing it. I was more interested in the anxiety, the terror, the foreboding of what could happen. Might this thing wipe out a hundred million Americans or a hundred million people? That was more interesting to me than watching this disease tramp across the country and actually kill off half the United States.

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Roundup

  • Based on the steady onslaught (or is that recent onset?) of dumb feature articles within the Atlantic‘s pages these days, it would seem to me that the magazine lacks even the gooiest scrap of albumin these days. Fortunately, this video clip, featuring Atlantic editor and National Review film critic Ross Douthat attempting to explain his “working sociological theory” on the superhero archetype to the whip-smart Dana Stevens, may offer some context and unintentional hilarity. Because the discussion is executed in split-screen (although, oddly enough, nobody mentions Brian De Palma), one observes Stevens’s face drooping in near disbelief as Douthat offers the most generalized response imaginable to her question. Stevens then proceeds to demolish Douthat in a few sentences. It probably isn’t a fair fight, even with Stevens being kind and subduing her intellect. But if you enjoy this kind of thing (I’m afraid I do and I would pay good money to see a hack like Edward Douglas chewed up by Stevens), you can witness the complete thirty minute smackdown.
  • Even at the rate of one show per day, there remain a good deal of Segundo shows that I need to finish summarizing. But for those who need more and who want to jump ahead of the curve, you can find more on the main Segundo site, including a recent conversation with Andre Dubus III that features a strange interruption by a hotel catering manager and a particularly egregious poem about the Olive Garden.
  • I think Junot Diaz may be the first Pulitzer Prize fiction winner to confess that he is addicted to a video game. And he’s done all this in a very thoughtful essay. Not even putative Pulitzer geek Michael Chabon, who has bitched quite a lot about snobbery, has had the effrontery to confess anything like this. So for this, I salute Diaz, who comes off as a class act, while Chabon remains a hopeless bellyacher. And this also has me contemplating why America remains so behind the curve on video games. If Martin Amis could get away with writing a book about Space Invaders, then why can’t Richard Russo or Jhumpa Lahiri come out of the closet and confess that they’re big Donkey Kong fans or that they laughed at a Judd Apatow movie? (via Sarah and Shane, the latter of whom has scared the living fucking bejesus out of me with this oversized Camus photo. Tonight’s nightmare will begin, “Mother died today. Or maybe yesterday,” and I will wake up in sweat and tears in the morning, craving cold biscuits.)
  • Even authors of crazed picaresque fiction need cheatsheets, although this chart is missing the much-needed “Wacky Sidekick.”
  • For all of their folderol of free information and civil liberties, Cory Doctorow and company have proven to be just as adept at Stalinist revisionism. Boing Boing has deleted every reference to Violet Blue in its archives. I’m stunned that anybody would do this. These are the actions of spineless fascists. And, as Rex of Fimoculous observes in the comments, he too was deleted for being remotely critical of Boing Bong. Joanne has more.
  • Nigel Beale podcasts Harlan Coben and questions some of Coben’s unapologetic commercialism.
  • A man has discovered a German bunker in his garden and is blogging the excavation process.

The Bat Segundo Show: Ed Park

Ed Park appeared on The Bat Segundo Show #211. Park is most recently the author of Personal Days. His book was reviewed today in the NYTBR by Mark Sarvas.

Condition of the Show: Plagued by brutal downsizing.

Author: Ed Park

Subjects Discussed: Literary people named Ed, writing Personal Days and using vacation days while employed at the Voice, counting words written per day, B.S. Johnson, Jonathan Coe’s Like a Fiery Elephant, Harry Stephen Keeler, staying productive as a writer, the other Ed Park novels (The Dizzies, Chinese Whispers, The Diet of Worms, Dementia Americana, et al.), Stone Reader, lost books, writing within tight stylistic constraints, the section titles, “restructuring,” references to Hollywood and the quest for narrative, figuring out “Operation JASON,” waiting for the Eureka moment, making patterns emerge, patterns within character names and working within limitations, the use of italics, writing the third part without a period, having an affinity for exclamation points, Lester Bangs’s Psychotic Reactions and Carburetor Dung, Elizabeth Crane’s “My Life is Awesome! And Great!,” the office as a microcosm for New York, William Gaddis, Harry Matthews, Cigarettes and The Journalist, the relationship between the ability to calculate vs. the loss of the first person plural, consciousness in attrition, Joshua Ferris’s Then We Came to the End, The Office, avoiding the influence of other topical art, Crease in Personal Days vs. Creed in The Office, style vs. content, specific typographical symbols, voice recognition and gobbledygook, William Gibson’s Pattern Recognition and Gaddis’s The Recognitions, office detritus, paperclips that pierce, setting limitations when veering down dark and scatological territory, and the pathological corporate impulse.

EXCERPT FROM SHOW:

Park: It’s such a pleasure to talk to someone who’s also named Ed.

Correspondent: Yes, I know. I mean, it’s a hell of a first name. There needs to be a Society of Eds set up in the five boroughs.

Park: It’s pretty rare.

Correspondent: I know. I wanted to ask you a commonplace question and then get to the nitty-gritty of this book. I know that you wrote a good chunk of this book while you were working at the Voice. But the sense I got was that you didn’t write all of it at the Voice. So I’m curious as to how much of this was written in a Voice-less setting, so to speak.

Park: Well, if you mean by “at the Voice,” while I was still employed by them, that’s true. Most of it was written before I left the Voice. I was let go at, basically, Labor Day. Right before Labor Day Weekend of ’06. But by that time, I did actually have a draft. There were many changes that I knew were necessary. I wrote it though. In terms of physical space, I could never even write my articles at the Voice. Just in the Voice office. I was hired as an editor. Basically editing, sending emails, on the phone, stuff like that. So it wasn’t really a place where, ironically enough, I could get a lot of writing done. So all the writing took place in my apartment. I was living on 89th Street. A lot of it was the same as I’d done for my previous fictional projects, where I would just try to write in the morning before coming into work. What was a little bit different about this book was that, as things got more tense at the Voice, as things really looked like they were going in a bad way, I took some vacation days, personal days, and would really treat the book as my job in a way.

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stolenearth

Russell T. Davies: The Hack Who Cried “Bad Wolf”

This season’s penultimate episode of Doctor Who, “The Stolen Earth,” was a big fuck you to the fans, giving them everything they seemed to want, or that writer Russell T. Davies seemed to think that they wanted. It featured cheeky nods to Torchwood and The Sarah Jane Adventures, the return of Davros (with a ridiculous explanation for how he escaped death), a Richard Dawkins cameo, more holes than a porous street neglected for a decade by a bankrupt city maintenance department, Rose running around Earth with a preposterously gargantuan gun (still no explanation for how she escaped her universe), and an insulting cliffhanger suggesting that we’re getting yet another “it didn’t happen” two-part finale*. Davies even manged to name check Facebook. What next for next week? The Doctor stepping out of the shower, revealing that his real Gallifreyan name is Bobby Ewing, and gallivanting off through time and space with Rose?

I think it’s quite clear that most of us have had enough of Russell T. Davies. The biggest question now is just how much Davies will screw up the show before he hands it off to Steven Moffatt. Keep in mind that we still have a Christmas special and three additional 2009 specials. And every single one of these is to be written by Russell T. Davies.

Yes, I’ll keep watching this train wreck. But between “The Stolen Earth” and this year’s disappointing season of Battlestar, the latter redeemed somewhat by a Planet of the Apes cliffhanger, I’m wondering why I bother. It’s a bit like waiting for George Bush to leave office. With Doctor Who, there’s the hope that the regime change will result in additional intelligence. With Battlestar (new episodes a good year away), it’s hoping that Ronald D. Moore will somehow figure everything out and go out with a bang. But in the meantime, one must sift through a good deal of interstitial dreck. Guess it’s time to dust off the Blake’s 7 and Red Dwarf tapes.

* — I don’t want to reveal what the cliffhanger is for those who haven’t seen it, but if it goes the way I think it will, then it will make Graham Williams’s infamous “let’s try out new bodies” scene for Romana look like Moliere.

[UPDATE: Charlie Anders offers her thought on this fantastic travesty, pointing out, "Since each finale has to top the last, I'm guessing next year would involve a magic virus that turns everyone in the universe into a Sontaran, including Rose, and then the Cybermen from 29 different universes fight with the Gelth, with exploding ribbons! Spoilers for what actually did happen ahead." Indeed. I must confess that I have a morbid curiosity as to just how much of a mess RTD is going to make for Moffatt. It's almost as if the man is determined to create a massive continuity clusterfuck that will take at least three seasons to sort out. As for the heartbeat that Donna hears, am I the only one who thinks that this is actually the Dalek heartbeat? I mean, the heartbeat in question had the same intonation and everything. Seemed like this was a foreshadowing to Donna transforming into a Dalek and her character being killed off the show. That's my prediction at any rate.]

Gossipmongering from Publishers Weekly Accepted as True Writ

This morning’s Publishers Weekly features an alarmist “report” from Rachel Deahl that is more fixated upon rumors and conjecture than actual reporting. Deahl, without citing any particular source other than an unnamed “freelance critic” and Tribune communications manager Michael Dizon, has reported that the Tribune Company is planning to slash overall page counts and that the results will go into effect sometime in September. Of course, without specific quotes from book editors, none of whom returned Deahl’s emails (hasn’t Deahl heard of the telephone?), this is about as credible as an Ain’t It Cool News half-truth about the film industry.

But don’t tell that to the National Book Critics Circle, who picked up the item this morning as if it were the gospel.

I plan to conduct some independent investigations on this in the next week. If I can determine any answers or hard information, I will report them here. I’ll leave the rumormongering to Publishers Weekly.

Roundup

  • The time has come to pity the rich. $10 million doesn’t go nearly as far as it once did in New York. And the situation appears so dire that the rich can afford nothing more than a futon and IKEA accessories for living room furniture. Perhaps the children can be entrusted to lodge the appropriate protests against these oppressive conditions. (Second link via Books, Inq.)
  • The Supreme Court’s decision on Thursday didn’t particularly surprise me. The Second Amendment will always be valued and upheld more vigorously than the Fourth Amendment. Nevertheless, one must single out Obama’s eggshell-walking remark — that the ruling “will provide much-needed guidance to local jurisdictions across the country” — and compare it against the moral outrage of his peers. It was Feingold and Dodd who led the filibuster against the FISA bill, ensuring that it would not be considered until after the July recess. Not Obama. A few days ago, Jon Stewart began mocking some of Obama’s recent duplicities, assuring his audience that it was okay to laugh. I suspect the diffidence had less to do with Stewart betraying his liberal audience, and more to do with the dawning realization that Obama prefers opportunistic audacity to illusory hope.
  • The Rake has gone ga-ga over George Saunders’s latest piece. Me? I wondered if Saunders was cribbing a bit from Andi Watson’s Love Fights.
  • Are the Pet Shop Boys closet literary geeks?
  • Rather amazingly, the Library of Congress is now attempting to restore and reassemble Jefferson’s library. More here. (via Bibiliophile Bullpen)
  • Starship Sofa has interviewed Michael Moorcock — part of the interview takes place close to the Eiffel Tower: Part One, Part Two, and Part Three. Why they needed two guys to grill Moorcock is beyond me, but there’s some interesting discussion. (via Enter the Octopus)
  • Ken Doctor examines how the recent Yahoo-Google ad partnership could provide a few problems for newspapers. You see, 40% of US dailies signed up for Yahoo’s forthcoming AMP platform. But with major execs bolting from Yahoo, Doctor believes that this could hinder AMP development. It’s an interesting speculation, one that I’m not entirely willing to buy into, but Doctor does raise some good questions.
  • Thank goodness that newspaper have kept all the chicks and just about anyone who isn’t Caucasian out of their sports sections. Some other interesting survey findings: A sports columnist is twenty times more likely to be the newspaper staffer with the smallest penis and fifty times more likely to answer a spam advertisement for a penis pump.
  • Popmatters interviews Robert Silverberg.
  • And although it’s been linked from a number of places, don’t miss Jenny Diski’s essay on South Africa.

The Bat Segundo Show: Cynthia Ozick

Cynthia Ozick appeared on The Bat Segundo Show #210. Ozick is most recently the author of Dictation.

Condition of the Show: Overtaken by a tyrannical dictator.

Author: Cynthia Ozick

Subjects Discussed: Balancing two authors, two secretaries and other stylistic repetitions that evoke typewriters in “Dictation,” purloining language from Henry James and Joseph Conrad’s letters, Henry James’s “forgotten umbrella,” “Literary Entrails,” parallels between the last two turns of the century, feeling like Queen Victoria, the language GNU within “What Happened to the Baby?” and open source GNU, crosswords in “Actors,” agonizing over every particular sentence, the slowness of sentences, auctorial fingerprints, John Updike, not wanting to be a writer of drafts, a lost manuscript by Lionel Trilling, whether postwar critics are being suitably remembered, those who mock Trilling for his moral seriousness, the origin of names, fiction as a pack of lies, being a stickler for the details vs. sustaining ambiguity, contradicting yourself in essays, when essays are unduly compared with fiction, John Barth’s “The Literature of Exhaustion,” the current literary critical environment, E.M. Forster, descriptive references to necks, on not leaving the house, not writing stories set in the present day, getting lost in one’s head, re-rereading Sense and Sensibility, how much Ozick has to think about a book before writing it, the reputation of America over the past fifty years, defining a “contemporary” novel, the dangers of writing in the present moment, clinging to brand names, books that rethink a particular epoch, religious identity in “At Fumicaro,” pretending about pretending, literary impersonation and multiple personalities, and anchoring fiction with reality.

EXCERPT FROM SHOW:

Correspondent: I wanted to ask you about “Dictation,” the title story. This was very interesting to me for a number of reasons. Because here you have two writers, Henry James and Joseph Conrad, two secretaries of Henry James and Joseph Conrad, and then on top of that, you have a number of repetitions throughout the story, as if to echo or beckon the typewriter. Like in the very beginning, when you have Henry James describing Almayer’s Folly, you kept saying, “He saw. He saw.” And there’s a number of interesting things you are doing in the syntax of the story that almost echoes the typewriter. So I wanted to ask how this particular stylistic device came about. I know you spend a lot of time on your sentences. So you had to have been at least somewhat aware of this.

Ozick: Well not so much of the repetition in consonance with the typewriter, no. I wasn’t aware of that at all. And I’m rather taken aback by hearing you say, “Have you actually seen this or heard this?” I have not. (laughs) I have not. I’m sorry to disappoint. That is not what I had in mind. What I had in mind really was the joy of the mischief when it occurred to me. And the stylistic aspect had to do more not with the sounds — if that’s what you’re getting at — but with the tones and styles of speech of these people in that era. Particularly with the formality of the young ladies, who must call each other “Miss.” To venture into a first name is really quite forward and not to be countenanced by polite society at first. And also the great pleasure of, I suppose, my parodying of James and Conrad. Though, here’s a confession, and having very much to do with style. I purloined certain phrases directly from the letters of James and Conrad. So there are sentences buried in there which are absolutely authentic. Because they’re stolen directly. Not full sentences, but phrases here and there. So that gave me a lot of joy too. Because it was a kind of imitation, mimicry, reflection of what these two amanuenses were up to in their mischievous plan.

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The Bat Segundo Show: Sloane Crosley

Sloane Crosley appeared on The Bat Segundo Show #209. She is the author of I Was Told There’d Be Cake, which was recently sold to HBO for series development.

Condition of the Show: Placing the authors and book titles under too much scrutiny.

Author: Sloane Crosley

Subjects Discussed: Marie Antoinette, caring about perception, Veganism, the personal essay as a series of impersonations and observations, on being perceived as “nice,” the text as a prism between author and reader, negotiating the balance between writer and publicist, putting on the “nice face,” assumptions of lying, Oregon Trail, being nice vs. being true, exuberance, imposing internal censorship, the harsh nature of the wedding essay, why things were cut out, David Rakoff’s Fraud, Roberto Benigni, issues that cut into identity, filtering candor, whether personal essayists “tell it like it is,” David Sedaris, defining the nature of truth, using composite characters and disguising real people, speculation and judgment, lax Judaism and free association, criticism through metaphor, the relationship between adjectives and specificity and keeping the floodgates open, inverting language, Twin Peaks, dealing with sentences in essays that contradict each other, on not being prepared to turn sixteen, the original version of the book set up at Harper, the role of Gawker in Crosley’s career, online etiquette, the elusive “they,” being beholden to the BlackBerry, and stealing wi-fi.

EXCERPT FROM SHOW:

Correspondent: In “Lay Like Broccoli,” you write, “Being a vegetarian in New York is not unlike being gay.” But I must ask you. Why care so much about how you are perceived? Because that’s essentially what this is all about.

Crosley: That specific essay or the whole book?

Correspondent: Well, that specific essay. But also the whole book. Because there’s a bit of hiding behind the essays.

Crosley: Well, is there? I think it’s more that clash between trying to grow up and trying to realize who you actually are once you become a grown-up. So I’m not actually hiding behind any specific concern I have about people’s perceptions, but more just trying to figure out who you are. It’s like you’re trying on different cells. I was telling someone the other day that my favorite part of In Cold Blood — I assure you this makes sense for an interview about a humor collection.

Correspondent: I’m sure. Go for it. Please.

Crosley: My favorite part of In Cold Blood is actually this tiny detail where he finds Nancy’s diary and he’s going through it, and obviously it becomes a huge part of the book. But he talks about the actual handwriting and the different various inks and the different colors she would use as she’s trying on different cells, as if to say, “Is this Nancy? Is this Nancy? Is this Nancy? ” Now granted, she’s what — sixteen at the time> So in an ideal world, I would have less colors of ink and different styles of handwriting to try on at twenty-nine years old. So when I say the thing about the vegetarian thing, and the vegan thing, it’s more observational than something I’m actually petrified with living with on a day-to-day basis.

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Roundup

  • Within blocks of my apartment, there is a dumpster serving as a veritable buffet for vermin. Last night, while walking home, I observed the most corpulent rat I have ever seen. It was nearly the size of a medium-sized cat with a swirling tail nearly a foot long. Its belly was so large that it could not even scamper properly. It was reduced to a slight kangaroo hop on its hind legs. Its gait reminded me of Leroy Anderson’s “Plink, Plank, Plunk.” A typical New York sight. But what amused me was the unknowing film crew that had set up a craft services table within five feet of this dumpster the next afternoon. Someone — presumably the property owner — had cleaned up this rat haven in the morning, making it look as if the trash was picked up nightly. I also know that a restaurant operates almost adjacent to this dumpster. Nice folks, but they’ve told me that they don’t have insurance. And I am understandably reluctant to eat there. This question of proximity has me pondering just how much we might be sharing our meals with the rats in this fantastic filthy city.
  • Tao Lin wants his next novel to be like a 10-piece chicken nugget meal. There are two novels I’m working on right now. It is now quite a race to see which one will cross the finish line first. If I had to offer a dining metaphor for my own work, one is like a series of hastily made peanut butter sandwiches that are wolfed down under trying circumstances in the middle of the night, with the fridge light flickering and the possibility of the gas being shut off. The other is a collection of variegated brunches that I hope will cause the diners to appreciate the food they’re enjoying and the circumstances they were prepared under.
  • Ian Rankin, what a dick. (via Bookninja)
  • It seems that Jon Krakauer has cracked over his forthcoming book, The Hero. Unhappy with the manuscript, Krakauer is holding onto it, sleeping with it, feeding in formula, waiting for the words to goo-goo back at him and comfort him in the middle of the night. I won’t let you go! We’ll be together FOREVER! I’ll protect you from those foster parents at Doubleday! You won’t end up a latch key kid, manuscript. I’ll be the bestest daddy you ever had! Let the state try and take you away! They’ll throw me in jail before I relinquish you, my darling darling manuscript!
  • It’s fascinating to see that Richard Eder’s review of Albert Camus’s most recently translated final notebook — something you’d think was a shoe-in for the Sunday section — can now only find life in the daily New York Times.
  • If Ian McEwan’s recent outburst is an effort to deflect blows from buddy Martin Amis, it’s a disastrous tactic.
  • There’s an intriguing-looking BBC1 documentary attempting to search for Murakami. But it wasn’t much of a search. Murakami showed up rather quickly and didn’t scamper away. I feel cheated and I haven’t even seen the film. Considering the promise, one hopes for a diligent search, an overturning of rocks, an unexpected insight into the man in question. Could it be that the majority of BBC1 arts producers wish to make the literary equivalent of a hunt for lost keys the stuff of dubious import?
  • The self-published author J.D. Sousa has an odd plan. If he gets his book into Blockbuster stores, enough people will buy it. By some strange magic, it will be turned into a Hollywood movie. I don’t know if Sousa is fully informed of the shift in the last few years to VOD and DVD rentals by mail. And do Hollywood producers really hang out in Blockbuster? But he is selling one or two books a day at various stores. Sousa’s march may not have the gangbusters quality of a Starbucks Book Tour, but I can certainly see a future in which authors and publishers initiate more exclusive chain store distribution methods.
  • Fritz Lanham seems convinced that Hitchen’s thesis about funny women is wrong in Texas.
  • I haven’t read Michael Ian Black’s book, but I’m almost ready to support his campaign to defeat David Sedaris. Sedaris no longer has any interesting personal experiences to mine for his essays, and he hasn’t been funny in years. What prevents me from full partisanship here is Black playing things too safe. I want devastating vivisections of Sedaris’s prose. I want pugilism. If Black wants to do this, then he needs to go whole hog. He needs to earn this. Lukewarm challenges might win points at the PTA meeting. But this is New York, dammit. And if Black must pull his punches, to evoke Axl Rose’s immortal wisdom, get in the ring motherfucker and I’ll kick your bitchy little ass.

Kanye West Balances His Checkbook

I am sick of negative people who just sit around trying 2 plot my downfall… Why???? I understand if people don’t worship me because I worship me or if people think balancing my checkbook look gay or people say I carry my 1s to much, But this Bank of America checkbook is the worst insult I’ve ever had in my life. Who make this thing? Its the 21st century! This is the most offended I’ve ever been… this is the maddest I ever will be. I thought my accountants were supposed to balance my checkbook for me! I had to open this fucking thing up and actually use a pen! I’m typing so fucking hard I might break my fucking Mac book and my boy didn’t install Quicken for me Air!!!!!!!! Call me anything you want…. bad with money, unable to live without a personal assistant, fag whatever you can think of…. BUT NEVER SAY I DIDN’T GIVE MY ALL! NEVER SAY I DIDN’T GIVE MY ALL! I SPEND HOURS TRY TO ADD SIX AND NINE! HOURS FINDING OVERDRAFT FEES! THIS SHOWS NO MATTER HOW HARD YOU TRY TO BE GOOD AT SOMETHING THERE WILL BE BANKS TO LIE ABOUT YOU AND BRING YOU DOWN! I’M FUCKING HURT BY THIS ONE. ALL I CARE ABOUT ARE BALANCING MY BOOKS. JUST SAY THIS OUT LOUD IN A ROOM FULL OF PEOPLE, “KANYE NEED CALCULATOR FOR TWO NUMBERS.” CAN ANYONE HONESTLY SAY THAT ????????? HAS ANYONE EVEN TAKEN THE TIME TO AT LEAST DO THE MATH??? B OF A SHOULD HAVE RELEASED A STATEMENT IN MY DEFENSE OR DONE THIS FOR ME BUT SINCE THEY HAVEN’T LET’S BREAK DOWN THE WALLS ON THIS WALL STREET BOILER ROOM AND LET YOU KNOW WHAT REALLY OCCURRED!!! FOR OVER A MONTH WE WENT BACK AND FORTH ON WETHER OR NOT WE COULD SET UP AN ACCOUNT AND EVEN FIT MY EGO INTO THE BANK OF AMERICA. ONE DAY THEY WOULD SAY YES… CHECKING ACCOUNT NO PROBLEM KANYE, WE’D SEND THEM OUR MONEY THEN THEY THEY’D SAY OK… THEN THEY WOULD SEND MONEY BACK AFTER CHECKING KANYE’S CREDIT, OFFERING AN ACCOUNT THAT DIDN’T COME WITH A DEBIT CARD. THE BANK OF AMERICA AND GEORGE BUSH DOESN’T CARE ABOUT BLACK PEOPLE. WE WERE OBVIOUSLY DEALING WITH FUCKING IDIOTS WHO DIDN’T REALLY HAVE THE CAPACITY TO UNDERSTAND THAT KANYE DON’T NEED CREDIT CHECK. THEY TRIED 2 GIVE ME COMMON MAN’S ACCOUNT … I HAVE A FUCKING LIGHT CASH FLOW DUMB ASS, BUT THE RESIDUALS ARE COMING IT’S NOT CALLED DROPOUT BEAR FOR NO REASON SQUID BRAINS! MY PEOPLE WORKED OUT A COMPROMISED CHECKING ACCOUNT AND I AGREED. FAST FOWARD TO ME AT AN ATM. MY PERSONAL ASSISTANT TRIED TO USE MY DEBIT CARD FOR 24 HOURS BUT THE BANK WOULDN’T ALLOW US TO WITHDRAW FUNDS. SOMETHING ABOUT A $300 DAILY WITHDRAWAL LIMIT. LIMIT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! AT THAT POINT WE NEEDED MORE BREAD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I SAY I HAVE TO GET EXTRA TWENTIES AS SOON AS POSSIBLE. I HIT THE BANK AND THE CLERK SAY I HAVE 2 WAIT IN LINE. I SAY I KANYE, BUT NO MONEY. ACCOUNT OVERDRAWN. BY WHO? WHEN I GOT 2 MY BANK STATEMENT I SAW CHARGE FOR MARGARITAS IN MY NAME. I HAD TO ADJUST MY WHOLE LIFESTYLE BECAUSE OF IT, BUY A LOAF OF WONDER BREAD AT THE BODEGA TO GET BY ON SANDWICHES FOR THE NEXT 12 HOURS. A FEW MORE HOURS IN AND STILL NO TWENTIES I CAN WITHDRAW. I ATE A FEW SLICES FROM THE LOAF BECAUSE I HUNGRY WANTED STOMACH 2 STOP GRUMBLING WHILE THERE WAS STILL SOME FOOD TO FEED IT WITH. BY THE TIME I GOT TO THE NEXT DAY, STILL NO TWENTIES TO WITHDRAW, STILL UNBALANCED CHECKBOOK AND IT BROKE MY HEART. I’M SORRY TO MY STOMACH THAT I DIDN’T HAVE THE ABILITY 2 GIVE THE SANDWICHES I WANTED TO. I’M SORRY… SOMETIMES I GO 2, 3 DAYS W/O MONEY… CAUSE I CAN’T BALANCE MY CHECKBOOK…HAVING AN EXPENSIVE STAGE MAKES DEPOSITS REAL HARD…COME ON, BANK OF AMERICA…CALL ME WHAT YOU WANT BUT NEVER SAY I DIDN’T GIVE MY ALL!!!

Segundo Status

Since there has been some emails from a few folks, let me clear up some confusion. I should point out that there are now fifteen shows in various states of completion and undress. Those that are lacking the full summary capsules — that is, those shows that were finished sometime in the last month — can be listened to at the main Segundo site. I have been cross-posting the full shows (with capsules) here at the rate of one new show per day, so as not to overwhelm with content. In addition, there are a few conversations that I have been mastering over the past week that will be finalized soon. When I get past the #220 mark (which should also be very soon), I plan to repack the torrents for those who wish to binge. This is something that requires daily organization amidst many other duties. But I am trying to catch up as quickly as I can. So bear with me.

The Bat Segundo Show: Tobias Wolff

Tobias Wolff appeared on The Bat Segundo Show #208. Wolff is most recently the author of Our Story Begins.

Condition of the Show: Speculating upon Mr. Wolff’s unknown powers.

Author: Tobias Wolff

Subjects Discussed: Writing first-person stories that don’t seem like first-person stories, the use of the word “I,” contemporary short stories and therapy sessions, fiction and narcissism, William Trevor, knowing the lay of the land, the symbols of the everyday universe, tulle fog, writing endings before the endings, Tolstoy vs. Chekhov, whether “Bullet to the Brain” had any specific literary critic in mind for its premise, dog stories, conversations in cars as the common American confessional, the open road, the consciousness of dogs, straying from realism, stories that end with an italicized line or a whisper, the precise and imprecise details within a sentence, arranging the short story order within a collection, “Best Of” vs. “Selected” stories, psychology and the skillful lack of overt specificity within “The Rich Brother,” hiding a story’s design, Flannery O’Connor, and how Wolff contends with variegated reader reactions.

EXCERPT FROM SHOW:

Correspondent: This idea of first-person narration that is somewhat removed — maybe this is more of a classical sense of the short story, in the sense that today, contemporary short stories are, as you point out, more of a gushing therapy session. Maybe that’s what we’re talking about.

Wolff: Well, I don’t know. Again, when I think, for example, of Philip Roth’s first-person narrators, they are interested in the world at least as much as they are interested in themselves and interested in other people. And that shows up in the narration. It would be a pretty boring story that was so — if I could put it this way — narcissistically defined if you didn’t get a sense of the world beyond the narrator or of other people beyond it. I would think that, unless it was deliberately taking on the pathology of narcissism, it would be a deficiency of the story. Some stories, of course — some first-person stories — rely on a very heavy colloquial. And that may be something that you’re noticing with some of the stories. Like the one I just quoted from, “Next Door,” is quite colloquial. In other stories, you get the sense that the narrator is telling the story not in the immediate moment of the story, but perhaps from a distance. Which also would give you a wider vision of the circumstances and the people involved. And also perhaps a more articulate voice. A more capacious voice. So it isn’t just a Catcher in the Rye, moment-by-moment narration, but something that would open up a little more in the way of Philip Roth or William Trevor. The way their first person stories work.

(A lengthier excerpt from the show can be found here.)

Play

Roundup

  • Dwight Garner and Sam Tanenhaus, the two spineless editors who insult the intelligence of their audience every Sunday at the New York Times Book Review, seem to think that Jay McInerney is somehow a big name. Which is a bit like believing that Robert Palmer is not only still alive, but remains a major fixture on the pop music circuit. Perhaps this strange assignment represents the duo’s dormant adolescent longing to raise spoons to noses and make up for the lost time in which they failed to live. Whatever their motivations, they have enlisted this third-rate oenophile to offer his thoughts about Andre Dubus III’s latest novel. They are under the mistaken impression that McInerney — a smug man so ass-backwards in acumen that he threw in more than two grand to support Giuliani for President — actually has penetrating insight. Alas, McInerney seems less concerned with offering a reasonable assessment, pro or con, of The Garden of Last Days and more fixated upon the novel’s concern for flesh. But any man who writes the sort of laughable sex scenes that Louis Menand rightly ridiculed (“Strange pleas, cries like those of a wounded creature, sounded within her and possibly escaped her lips.”) has no business quibbling with another novelist’s portrayal of carnality. If you’re looking for a sterling example that demonstrates why newspapers are losing readers, look no further than the wizened wizards, no doubt suffering both erectile and phantasmagorical dysfunction, behind the curtain.
  • Thankfully, the Washington Post has shown more class. They’ve sent a correspondent to visit Detroit and concluded that it’s all “gritty and romantic.” But there’s no mention of the decayed Michigan Central Station, which leads me to believe that Ms. McCarthy didn’t venture very far. So I’m not sure if Ms. McCarthy truly investigated the real Motortown, much less the seamier side of life. There is perhaps more space devoted to the Frenchmen who discovered the place, as well as its Motown origins. But as mainstream articles go, Ms. McCarthy’s piece represents a slightly unexpected philanthropic nod to Detroit realtors. Let us hope that the next journalistic excursion represents more of the truth. (via The Tomorrow Museum)
  • Like Stephen Mitchelmore, I too was astonished to see James Wood begin his Atmospheric Disturbances with a reference to Georg Büchner’s “Lenz.” But it’s the kind of unexpected association that does make Wood a critic that one cannot easily discount. Particularly when Wood has also name-checked Dostoevsky, Knut Hamsun, and Thomas Bernhard.
  • Richard Nash points to several video streams of author readings from Bookcourt, including Toby Barlow and Samantha Hunt. To my knowledge, this is the first independent bookstore that has done this. But I hope all bookstores do this, if only so that we can see just how much boilerplate material authors carry on tour.
  • J.G. Ballard’s “The Enormous Space” has been adapted by BBC4. (via Splinters)
  • Slushpile raises several important questions concerning a new Vince Neil book, but fails to consider why this has-been singer would be given more than $500,000 to “write” a book after the harrowing account known as The Dirt, which opened with the following lacrimal-sensitive sentences, “Her name was Bullwinkle. We called her that because she had a face like a moose. But Tommy, even though he could get any girl he wanted on the Sunset Strip, would not break up with her.” Yes, it’s true that Motley Crue grossed an unfathomable $39.9 million in 2005 concerts (although Neil Diamond grossed $7 million more; the capitalist world is just too cruel). But just how many of these concertgoers, who might have spent their hard-earned money on pleasurable skank weed but opted instead for another silly performance of “Dr. Feelgood,” are pining for a redux? Your faithful correspondent does not possess a Bookscan account, but he beseeches all prospective buyers to truly consider just what they might be wasting their hard-earned dollars upon.
  • Has erotica jumped the shark? I don’t believe that anal sex and ménage à trois were ever particularly shocking to me, but then I lived in San Francisco for thirteen years. Nevertheless, Ellora’s Cave publisher Raelene Gorlinsky seems to believe that these two sexual practices have become vanilla, that readers have become acclimated to these forms of titillation, and that the human body can “only do so many things.” While the hunt is now on for more crazed positions and more taboos to be punctured, I find myself more concerned with Ms. Gorlinsky’s dire pronouncements about the body’s apparent limitations. If I am averring these premonitions correctly, this means that I will never have sex again. But since this is perfectly timed with the decline of the American empire (and its Roman comparisons), there is some small solace in knowing that we’ll begin seeing more eunuchs to serve the pleasures of the upper class. (via Smart Bitches)
  • A grammarian has died. They’ll be carving tildes into his tombstone and swastikas upon his corpse’s forehead. (via Books, Inq.)
  • Splice Today interviews Gaddis expert Steven Moore.
  • And I think it’s safe to say that The Atlantic is almost certainly making us stupid. Given contributions from Nicholas Carr, Lori Gottlieb, and B.R. Myers, this is a magazine that has, in the year of our load, 2008, suggested that being sodomized is a more bearable substitute than these insipid articles. I used to be a subscriber. But no more. Scott has more on this.

America is In Trouble

With Vonnegut and now Carlin gone, the time has come for truthful lacerations. Words that crackle the delicate hides of prissy and solipsistic dispositions and galvanize the collective funny bone. Sentences that radiate the cancer now coruscating within bright neon corporate hellfire. Paragraphs that crack the knees of those fond of calcified postures and unlived lives. I cannot think of a single American satirist under the age of 50 who is willing to go to jail for his words. Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert are bought by Viacom and look like third-rate Catskills comics next to Chris Morris. Sarah Silverman plays for easily predictable shocks. Howard Stern no longer cares about pissing people off and, with his current Sybian obsession, will end up like Richard Dawson at this rate. Dave Chappelle had it, but abandoned his dais. Amy Sedaris has it, and is braver and more truthful than her brother, but she chooses not to write. Mike Judge has the balls to tell the truth, but his last film, Idiocracy, was dumped by a cowardly studio. Neal Pollack, what happened? This goes on while a cowboy plays his harp at 1600 Penn. If America cannot step up, its cultural salubrity is in serious trouble.

The Bat Segundo Show: David Hajdu

David Hajdu appeared on The Bat Segundo Show #207. Hajdu is most recently the author of The Ten-Cent Plague.

Condition of the Show: Dabbling into hidden threats.

Author: David Hajdu

Subjects Discussed: Hajdu’s approach to journalism, primary sources vs. secondary sources, categories of people to talk with when preparing a book, tracking down people who disappeared, grassroots methods of finding people, changing names, the untold story of women in comics, Irvin Kersener’s early career as an agitprop documentary filmmaker*, corroborating facts against shifting memory, telling history without a fully documented record, Billy Strayhorn’s career before Duke Ellington, remembering details based on a nugget, the ever-shifting complexities of William Gaines, whether EC Comics could have survived if it shifted to magazine format, Will Eisner on not being taken seriously, what caused the great comics scare, literate comics, the fear of kids turning on parents because of a medium, Frederic Wertham’s Seduction of the Innocents and the media’s willingness to give credence to Wertham’s anti-scientific tract, why America needs a lowbrow cultural blaming point for social ills, cultural class bias, pornography and other populist mediums as subliterary forms, comics decency legislation vs. the Hays Production Code, postwar censorship, comics being placed in a position not to challenge authority, Charles Biro’s Crime Does Not Pay vs. yellow journalism, and Bob Wood bludgeoning a woman to death.

EXCERPT FROM SHOW:

Correspondent: I’m wondering if certain artists may have changed their names because the comic book industry was considered a great calumny for many of these various artists and writers. Did you face a problem along those lines in tracking people down?

Hajdu: I did. I had trouble with people who changed their names, but not for that reason. Because most people used their real names. Most people, but not all. Some use pseudonyms. Still do in comics. But most people intended to use their real names. But women married. And women who married in that time took on their husbands’ names. And I was surprised to find when I was doing my research how many women there were in comics. I mean, dozens and dozens of women who did terrific, beautiful, important work. Marcia Snider is one. I was never able to find her. I’d been told that she’d married. And nobody I could find knew what her married name was. In the case of the great many women artists, I only had their maiden names. And I couldn’t find them. I tried social security records, but they weren’t of that much value. And I did hit a wall with women artists. And I’m sure to this day, much of their story remains untold because they’ve been impossible to find.

Correspondent: Well, what steps did you take to atone for this? Because if you’re slicing off a portion of comic book history — a very important part of comic book history that involved women — I mean, how did you make up for this?

Hajdu: Well, I sought to do justice to the story that I can tell. I don’t know what I don’t know. I did make a point to ask about those women to the people who I could find. And that’s the only recourse.

* — Despite Hajdu’s representations in this interview, Kershner remains quite alive!

Play

The Great George Carlin is Dead

No words. The man was a genius, a major inspiration for me, a cunning linguist and iconoclast, and he will be sorely missed.

There isn’t a single YouTube clip that sums the man up. So start here:

George Carlin: On Location at USC (1977): (Part One) (Part Two) (Part Three) (Part Four) (Part Five) (Part Six) (Part Seven) (Part Eight)

Carlin at Carnegie (1982): (Part One) (Part Two) (Part Three) (Part Four) (Part Five) (Part Six)

Carlin on Campus (1984): (Part One) (Part Two) (Part Three) (Part Four) (Part Five) (Part Six)

What Am I Doing in New Jersey? (1988): (Part One) (Part Two) (Part Three) (Part Four) (Part Five) (Part Six)

turnleft

The Last Days of Russell T. Davies

“Turn Left” isn’t quite as appalling as last year’s “This didn’t really happen” two-part Doctor Who finale. But it’s still filled with Russell T. Davies’s insufferable complacency. There doesn’t appear to be much of a purpose to this episode, other than for Davies to remind the Who fans just what he’s given them. It reminded me of the childish “Dimensions in Time” promotional nonsense that John Nathan-Turner was once deservedly ridiculed for, but that Who fans now accept without question. (I also don’t think it was an accident that we were given a moment in which the TARDIS was gutted by Torchwood, with numerous wires and cables affixed to the dying police box. There seemed something metaphorical here about Davies’s relationship with the show.)

Now I’ll give Davies last week’s “Midnight.” Once you got past that episode’s first ten minutes of touchy-feely nonsense (Wow! A lesbian!), Davies did spin a half-decent claustrophobic yarn, helped in part by Alice Troughton’s crisp direction and the fascinating bigotry channeled by David Troughton. But let’s face it. On the whole, Davies’s writing contributions have amounted to little more than camp, politically correct casting, and speculative fiction premises that are about as cutting-edge as a Betty Crocker recipe unleashed at an Eisenhower fundraising event.

“Turn Left” reminds us of the reprehensible fat blob babies from “Partners in Crime,” the disappearing hospital from “Smith and Jones,” and numerous other references to the last four years that suggest deep import. But it’s been Paul Cornell, Mark Gatiss, Robert Shearman, and Steven Moffatt’s scripts that have offered originality and intelligence, and have kept the show rolling. (The less said about Helen Raynor’s “give the people what they want at the expense of Who mythology” two-parters, the better.)

That insectoid on Donna’s back was about as convincing as a leftover prop from a Roger Corman cheapie. Hell, Alpha Centuari, that silly six-armed alien from the Pertwee Peladon stories, was more convincing. And you want to know why? Because at least that silly supporting character had heart. The unspeaking insect was utterly ridiculous in its purpose and its motivations. “Turn Left”‘s premise, complete with the insultingly pedestrian paradox presented in the episode’s title, was bullshit. We’re expected to believe that the Doctor wouldn’t regenerate after being smitten down by a spider queen. Never mind that the Timelord was able to regenerate after being poisoned by spectrox toxaemia. Rose Tyler appears from another universe that she was supposedly trapped in without any reasonable explanation. And it has long been clear to anyone watching the show that the Doctor is useless without his companions. So why ramrod this point into the audience’s noggins?

Next week sees the first of a two-part finale featuring Captain Jack, Daleks, three companions, and a partridge in a pear tree. It too is written by Russell T. Davies. And I fear the worst. I hope that some of the “Midnight” special comes through. But until Russell T. Davies is gone permanently, I suspect that I will be forced to drink copious amounts of bourbon to cope with Davies’s unpardonable tamperings.

Obama Begins the Sellout Phase of His Campaign

It started earlier this week when Barack Obama became the first presidential candidate to forgo public money. It continued yesterday when Barack Obama pledged support for the FISA “compromise” bill, which grants telecom companies immunity for past offenses of illegal wiretapping, and issued this appalling statement. With Senator Harry Reid flip-flopping over his “total opposition to immunity” to save Obama’s ass, it is becoming quite apparent that the Democrats are once again content to take on the instincts of frightened little animals. And it’s a pity that all this comes immediately after Dennis Kucinich’s efforts to move impeachment articles through the House Judiciary Committee. Obama’s Clintonian spin on the telecom bill represents the acts of a pusillanimous opportunist. The rest of us, pining for the integrity that led us to Obama in the first place, feel sick to our stomachs.

Meanwhile, Senator Russ Feingold, one of the few Democrats demonstrating some capacity for outrage, has called FISA “not a compromise. It is a capitulation.” One might say the same of Obama’s recent decisions.

[UPDATE: Some additional context from BLCKDGRD.]

The Bat Segundo Show: Sarah Hall

Sarah Hall appeared on The Bat Segundo Show #206. Hall is most recently the author of Daughters of the North (published in the UK as The Carhullan Army). My essay on Sarah Hall can be found at the B&N Review.

Condition of the Show: Remaining optimistic about a dystopian future.

Author: Sarah Hall

Subjects Discussed: Daughters of the North vs. The Carhullan Army, writing books that aren’t set in the present day, concern for environmental details, the comforts of familiar territory, catastrophe knocking everything to the past, the wandering impulse within British dystopian novels, Rupert Thomson, Anthony Burgess’s The Wanting Seed, the tension between town and country, literary conversations and outdoing Margaret Atwood’s sense of terror, overcoming perceptions associated with women writers, Samantha Power’s castigation, being overly scrutinized, presentation of the author, the authenticity of testimony, writing a pageturner vs. a leisurely literary novel, being more selective with sentences, writing within confining environments, switching to first person, the origins of the Nixon surname, characters with reddened faces, rural words, Brave New World, names that echo across history, the origins of Rith, schools and buildings that shut down after centuries, Ursula K. Le Guin’s “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas,” the dog box and the military training that inspired it, a microutopia within a macrodystopia, nitpicking the apathy within Daughters of the North, the possibilities of revolt and verisimilitude, manipulating the reader and gray areas, violence that occurs offstage, women and violence, bumps on heads, the beauty of corporeal flaws and dilapidated environments, how society transforms the body, To Kill a Mockingbird, Robert C. O’Brien’s Z for Zachariah, sudden relationships and getting to the naughty bits, pornography, the risks of thinking on the page, and romance.

EXCERPT FROM SHOW:

Hall: I think familiar territory is always of comfort to a writer. I find the North of England, where I’m from, fascinating. It’s a very dramatic landscape. It’s kind of a Wordsworth country. So you’ve got the Romantic sense on one hand. And then you’ve got the strange past battling with the future. I suppose Hardy did this to an extent as well. You pick a territory. And even if it’s rural, you have human beings working within that arena. So human drama is going to arise out of those interactions. And I’ve always felt, even though the settings are sometimes quite remote and underpopulated in my fiction, there’s enough going on. You can explore ideas of civilization, breakdown of civilization, human emotional dramas. All the rest of that. But I think what’s interesting with Daughters of the North is — even though we’re casting ahead maybe thirty, forty years from now — and I think British science fiction and speculative fiction does this a lot — there’s this idea of play. When catastrophe happens, everything is knocked back to the past. And so here is what you’re left with. Day of the Triffids. This strange science fiction going on. But at the same time, everybody’s going down to the pub like they always have.

Play

Why There Will Be No Roundup at the Stroke of Midnight

The roundup could have occurred. But since I have become reliant upon Bloglines for my influx of information and since I have attempted to be somewhat neat in the way I organize my many feeds through this process, this attempt at organization has resulted in my downfall. I intended to merely click the boxed plus box to expand the Books section of my feeds, but I somehow clicked the word “Books” instead, resulting in Bloglines opening every single goddam one of the hundred or so feeds that I rely upon in the framed window.

Bloglines does not have an undo function for this.

Thus, any new information I receive from the blogosphere will have to wait until time has passed.

I suppose I could mark everything as new. But I am too lazy to do this. And I would have to systematically do this for each blog.

I suppose I could switch to Google Reader. But since there is no Bloglines export, this will involve work. I am also too lazy to do this.

Thus, because of a foolish misclick and laziness on my part, there shall be no roundup at the stroke of midnight. I am sure there are interesting stories, blog posts, and other assorted information I missed.

My dog also ate my homework.

A relative is dead.

I believe I may have come down with something, but you will not hear it in my voice.

I’ve had a personal emergency. (I’ve used this excuse before and when I have arrived at work the next day, I remain silent and appear morose, maintaining a very serious expression. The idea here is to suggest by this appearance that something serious and possibly life-threatening has happened and, if co-workers pry, you can let loose a casual detail. Some perfunctory detail about a fistfight with the fuzz. Some blur about hundreds of dollars gone. As excuses to miss work go, this one is probably the best and the least subject to question.)

My dog drank from the poisoned tap water.

He tried to molest me while installing cable.

I had a severe operation at the hospital. Don’t worry. It won’t affect the health insurance rates.

There is a loud beeping in my head. (I like this excuse better than “I have a migraine,” which is strangely unconvincing even when it is true.)

They shot up the guy next door and the police are holding me for questioning.

I anticipate oversleeping by about eight hours.

Bloglines has a bullshit interface.

[UPDATE: Okay, some initial experiments have begun with Google Reader. Have managed to export from Bloglines. Thanks to the commenters!]

The Bat Segundo Show: Errol Morris

Errol Morris appeared on The Bat Segundo Show (#205). Morris is most recently the director of Standard Operating Procedure. (There is also an accompanying book written by Philip Gourevitch.)

Guest: Errol Morris

Subjects Discussed: Susan Sontag’s “Regarding the Torture of Others,” the American cycle of photographing physical abuse, finding out what we’re looking at before drawing conclusions, the differences between a still image and a moving image, reenactments, guiding the viewer’s ability to map reality, Comte de Lautréamont, misinterpreting Crimean War photographs, the milkshake toss in The Thin Blue Line, basing an illustrated montage on a line from an interview, Sabrina Harman’s thumbs-up gesture, Harman and the Cheshire cat, Paul Ekman, perceiving the bad apples, what makes Morris angry, little guys taking the blame, Morris’s fondness for pariahs, extending understanding, whether flying subjects into Cambridge creates truth, Shoah, and Werner Herzog.

EXCERPT FROM SHOW:

Correspondent: I actually want to bring up your most recent article for the New York Times, in which you delineated the difference between a single image and a moving image, in the sense that a moving image involves trying to create a map of reality. Because you’re not paying consistent attention to the actual moving image. But here you are with a film that has reenactments as well as interviews. And so I’m wondering: to what degree do you guide the viewer’s sense of mapping reality? Or is this a kind of cinematic device that is similar to, say, for example, the writings of Lautréamont in which he has this narrator who guides the reader and this is your effort to help out the viewer through the reenactments and through the juxtaposition and through the editing?

Morris: I think it’s both. I’ve never been compared to Lautréamont before. Here’s what I would say. There’s a movie. A movie is a movie. But you can also ask what is behind the movie. Was my intention to investigate the story? Was it my intention to find out new things? It’s self-serving of me to say so, but I would say yes! I mean, what’s the idea here? The idea is there is this set of photographs. They’ve been shown all around the world. Hundreds of millions of people have seen these photographs. I don’t think that’s an exaggeration. But do we really know what we’re looking at? Has anyone talked to the people who took the photographs? What actually was going on in the photographs? I’ll give you an example. One picture that Susan Sontag remarks on is the picture of Sabrina Harman with her thumbs up. Smiling. The body of an Iraqi prisoner. Al-Jamadi. A lynching? I would say yes. But who is responsible? You look at the picture and you think, Ugh! It’s the woman in the picture. The smile! The thumbs up! She’s the culprit. She’s implicated. We come to find out. Wrong! Wrong! So this is an ongoing problem that I have with how photographs are interpreted in general.

Play

In Praise of Blah Blah Blah

Despite constant MySpace page deletions, Blah Blah Blah, not to be confused with the Iggy Pop album, is the real deal. As far as I can tell, this East London trio has been kicking around for the past three years, busking by day and playing gigs by night. (The video above sees the band performing a funny song called “Christmas Caravan” as part of a 2006 acoustic set.) Blah Blah Blah has a policy of never turning down a gig, which has led to a deranged touring schedule that has included wakes, weddings, and even a septuagenarian’s birthday party. (They even busked in front of the Wireless Festival, playing next to a burger van after being kicked out for stealing a megaphone.)

And yet, amazingly, there doesn’t appear to be a Blah Blah Blah album.

There is, however, a single that was only released on vinyl — an iconoclastic rocker called “Death to the Indie Disco,” that can be listened to here (along with three other songs). This song, which recalls the sardonic quality of early Kinks lyrics, could very well be Kryptonite for the insufferable irony now plaguing contemporary pop music. For this band has offered an irresistible hook, something that one can’t help but dance to, and included lyrics like, “You look right a prat when you pose like that / I don’t want to be one of you wankers on the dance floor. (The backing vocals: “It’s just a niche parallel.”) Thus, we now have ironic irony. And with the two conditions canceling each other out, there’s no longer the need for anyone to preen like a hipster.

I can only prognosticate (or rely on dodgy YouTube videos) to determine just how good Blah Blah Blah might be live. But my initial online investigations unfurl a band that’s certainly a good deal of fun, primed to give the indie music scene a much-needed kick in the ass.

(Also, Esser has some potential.)

Borderline Irresponsible Publicists

Paul Constant: “One publicist in the Macmillan booth spots my name tag and yells at me for a negative review of a memoir by Mike Edison—the former editor in chief of High Times and publisher of Swank —called I Have Fun Everywhere I Go, that Ari Spool posted on The Stranger‘s music blog, Line Out. ‘You really hurt Mike’s feelings,’ she exclaims, and continues, ‘And I think it’s borderline irresponsible journalism for you to be running things like that.’ A couple other publicists step in and try to defuse the situation with humor—’Oh, imagine that, someone didn’t like Mike Edison, ha ha!’ Ignoring the fact that Spool’s post was fairly evenhanded, this has never happened to me before, and I’ve written reviews with the express intent of pissing off publicists. The mood of sales reps and publicists in the majors’ booths usually tends to be bored aloofness; this year, they seem aggressive, neurotic, and strung out.”

Funny that. As it so happens, this same publicist has tried to pull similar shit with me. She even unfurled one of those predictable “You don’t exist in my universe” routines last Friday night. Meanwhile, publicists who are friendly, inquire politely without pestering, return phone calls and emails promptly, exhibit a sense of humor, pay attention to the kinds of books I like, and who go out of my way to understand the website and my scheduling requirements often get their authors onto The Bat Segundo Show. Imagine that!

Incidentally, the Ari Spool review is hardly that harsh.

[UPDATE: I've spoken with the publicist in question and it appears that there was a misunderstanding on Friday. I should note that the party's atmosphere was considerably cacophonous, which could have easily created the social impression that I divined. My policy with all publicists is that, no matter where things stand, I am always open to communication. Even those who loathe what I do.]

Your Myopia’s No Good Here

The American Scholar: “But it isn’t just a matter of class. My education taught me to believe that people who didn’t go to an Ivy League or equivalent school weren’t worth talking to, regardless of their class. I was given the unmistakable message that such people were beneath me. We were ‘the best and the brightest,’ as these places love to say, and everyone else was, well, something else: less good, less bright. I learned to give that little nod of understanding, that slightly sympathetic ‘Oh,’ when people told me they went to a less prestigious college. (If I’d gone to Harvard, I would have learned to say ‘in Boston’ when I was asked where I went to school—the Cambridge version of noblesse oblige.) I never learned that there are smart people who don’t go to elite colleges, often precisely for reasons of class. I never learned that there are smart people who don’t go to college at all.”