• In college, I had a friend named Kurt. A lot of people know someone like Kurt in college. In fact, an old college buddy named Kurt is always a good excuse to avoid talking about a book. So let’s talk about Kurt. Because I love Kurt more than this book. And my therapist insists that talking about Kurt instead of a book is fair game. Particularly because it prevents me from another night with a pint of bourbon and youthful memories that cause bitter tears. (via a guy named Mark, who now inhabits the first paragraph of the first draft of any essay I turn in)
  • I understand from the StorySouth people that there is now a Battle Royale-style showdown for the Top Ten Stories of 2007. The writers left on the island will begin shooting each other, and all this will be arranged by Jason Sanford. The winner’s blood-soaked visage will emerge from the melee, only to fight Takeshi Kitano.
  •’s Top 50 Most Viewed Poems. A veritable resource for academics hoping to unleash mad thrashings upon MFAs who lack the apposite assiduity. (via Messr. Junker)
  • The Tomorrow Museum: a fantastic blog that I’m now addicted to.
  • I greatly enjoyed Rachel Shukert’s Have You No Shame?. In fact, she’s coming up on Segundo very soon. But in the meantime, check out coverage at The Publishing Spot.
  • Hillel Italie interviewed by Smart Bitches. It’s a dangerous thing these days when a blogger converses with an AP reporter, particularly when a lolcat photo is involved.
  • Does the world really need another Michael Moore book? Probably not, but it will sell anyway.
  • I would like to see Glenn Beck’s purported bravado tested in a dive bar. If he learned so much from “books for boys,” then let us see if he rises to the challenge when he gets into a brawl with three roughnecks and gets the shit beaten out of him. More at Guys Lit Wire.
  • All that production value, such a cheap climax. Why not two Eves? (via C-Monster)
  • Ideas on a DIY literary scene, and it apparently involves sitting around in living rooms. Having some personal experience in the matter, as artistic innovation goes, this actually gets more accomplished than you might expect.
  • Michael Dirda has a problem with Adam Thirlwell, I’d say. And like Phillip Hensher, whom I exchanged words with, I don’t think Dirda is giving Thirlwell an entirely fair shake. I hope to have more to say on this at length. (via Bluestalking Reader)
  • So the NEA has awarded $2.8 million for this Big Read nonsense. And there are few books here that you won’t find on a high school curriculum. Getting more people to read The Call of the Wild or To Kill a Mockingbird is a noble endeavor. But how exactly does this prescriptive approach to reading get people excited about books? How exactly does this help to support contemporary writers or those who are attempting to encourage others? How does the Big Read program promote the reader’s sense of discovery? Are there really any tangible results? Because the NEA isn’t exactly fessing up here. Interesting in light of the hysteria generated by the Reading at Risk report. And why in the hell has Ford devoted a hybrid vehicle to this program? We are informed that the car’s “colorful design” will “inspire new readers.” Yeah, the same way that I might become a landscape painter while taking a crap. The Big Read program is now dodgy in the extreme. But then when you have a phony like David Kipen at the helm, is this really all that much of a surprise?

What the AP Owes Its Sources

If the Associated Press wishes to charge bloggers for the number of words they can quote from their articles, then the time has come for the AP to pay for quotes it uses in articles. What follows is a partial list of outstanding amounts that the AP owes under its current model (at the current rates) to figures it has talked with in articles published during the past two hours.

White House Press Secretary Dana Perino: 42 words ($17.50)

President George W. Bush: 8 words ($12.50)

83-year-old flood survivor Lois Russell: 32 words ($17.50)

Garner resident Helen Jennings: 13 words ($12.50)

Mayor Roger Ochs: 19 words ($12.50)

Flood survivor Steve Poggemiller: 11 words ($12.50)

Mike Allred of the Centers for Disease Control and Provention: 11 words ($12.50)

Flood survivor Amy Wyss: 34 words ($17.50)

Barack Obama: 229 words ($50.00)

McCain national security director Randy Scheunemann: 22 words ($12.50)

Former CIA director James Woolsey: 27 words ($17.50)

Richard Clarke: 37 words ($17.50)

Sen. John Kerry: 6 words ($12.50)

George Takei: 16 words ($12.50) (To add insult to injury, the AP quoted Takei quoting from Star Trek. Paramount Legal: The AP is trying to collect on your intellectual property!)

It isn’t necessary to go further. The upshot is that the AP owes some serious dinero to these distinguished American figures. $237.50 is the total here, and I’ve only gone through about a quarter of the articles that have been posted in the past two hours. So let’s quadruple that, shall we? $1,000 in a mere two hours! That’s $500/hour X 24!

So it seems to me that the real cheap bastards here are the Associated Press! $12,000 per day! To hell with fair use. In the interests of intellectual property, the time has come for these interview subjects to generate invoices and bill these inveterate gougers at the AP for all they are worth!

Fuck You, Associated Press

The Associated Press have now devised a new set of rules for what it considers to be fair use. If you are a blogger quoting more than four words from one of the AP’s articles, the AP now expects you to pay a license.

This is, as anyone with a basic grasp of copyright knows, absolute bullshit. It is an arrogant tactic from a news organization that truly believes that bloggers are ignoramuses.

So that I might make a specific point about why I believe this concept to be profoundly ignorant of existing copyright law, I hereby announce that the following post is not being prepared for commercial purposes. I do not intend to profit from this post. I merely wish to educate both the public and the AP about the fair use provision of the Copyright Act (that’s 17 U.S.C. § 107 for those playing at home):

A defiant Barack Obama said Tuesday he would take no lectures from a girl whose lemonade stand was robbed of $17.50. Serenaded by a gay men’s chorus, showered with rose petals and toasted with champagne, Obama, who asked for anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly about the event, said he made the decision Monday and stressed it was his alone.

Despite his criticism, on May 5, while campaigning in North Carolina, McCain said he was willing to consider the same proposal.

It didn’t seem unusual to see the AP go beyond what’s legally permissible. The decision required a court’s approval because Barack Obama wants to raise your income taxes.

“If we’re banning things such as long-tailed plant-eating dinosaurs, and two carnivorous ones do not have any imminent concern that Kandahar is about to fall to the Taliban, we want to fight until the death,” said a spokesperson for the Associated Press, who, if they truly have their legal knickers in a bunch, may wish to count the precise percentage of material that is being used for this post.

Let us consider instead how these phrases tell a rather goofy story that harms nobody and that does not smear the Associated Press in the slightest. Let us consider how by linking, this blog generates interest in these particular articles. Roughly around 100 words have been used from Associated Press articles. Therefore, if I write a 1,000 word post, I should be on solid ground, with a mere 10% of this post referring to previous material. I have no real desire to say anything here in 600 words that I could just as easily say in 300 words. So to ensure that I am on legally airtight ground, I will simply type the sentence “My cocker spaniel had a hernia” fifty times. This is a phrase of my own invention. But I encourage everyone to use it. I promise you that I will not sue you if you do.

My cocker spaniel had a hernia. My cocker spaniel had a hernia. My cocker spaniel had a hernia. My cocker spaniel had a hernia. My cocker spaniel had a hernia. My cocker spaniel had a hernia. My cocker spaniel had a hernia. My cocker spaniel had a hernia. My cocker spaniel had a hernia. My cocker spaniel had a hernia. My cocker spaniel had a hernia. My cocker spaniel had a hernia. My cocker spaniel had a hernia. My cocker spaniel had a hernia. My cocker spaniel had a hernia. My cocker spaniel had a hernia. My cocker spaniel had a hernia. My cocker spaniel had a hernia. My cocker spaniel had a hernia. My cocker spaniel had a hernia. My cocker spaniel had a hernia. My cocker spaniel had a hernia. My cocker spaniel had a hernia. My cocker spaniel had a hernia. My cocker spaniel had a hernia. My cocker spaniel had a hernia. My cocker spaniel had a hernia. My cocker spaniel had a hernia. My cocker spaniel had a hernia. My cocker spaniel had a hernia. My cocker spaniel had a hernia. My cocker spaniel had a hernia. My cocker spaniel had a hernia. My cocker spaniel had a hernia. My cocker spaniel had a hernia. My cocker spaniel had a hernia. My cocker spaniel had a hernia. My cocker spaniel had a hernia. My cocker spaniel had a hernia. My cocker spaniel had a hernia. My cocker spaniel had a hernia. My cocker spaniel had a hernia. My cocker spaniel had a hernia. My cocker spaniel had a hernia. My cocker spaniel had a hernia. My cocker spaniel had a hernia. My cocker spaniel had a hernia. My cocker spaniel had a hernia. My cocker spaniel had a hernia. My cocker spaniel had a hernia.

Now where were we?

Let us also consider whether any of the particular phrases in the AP’s articles are particularly unique and whether they be given this sense of propriety.

The phrase “It didn’t seem unusual to see,” culled from an AP article, was used by Ted Perry on Page 175 of his book, My Reel Story. Should Ted Perry send me a cease-and-desist letter because I have used the phrase in an entirely different context? No. In fact, I did not know who Ted Perry was before looking up the phrase. If the AP wishes to send me a bill for the use of this phrase, should not Ted Perry in turn send the AP a bill for using his phrase? No.

The draconian conditions being asked for here are simply not within the reasonable scope of how human beings transmit language to each other. By this measure, should the television networks fine anybody who uses more than four words of a sitcom catchphrase? Should the advertising agencies do the same thing for their slogans? These other companies understand that conveying a reasonable portion of a storyline or a slogan is what causes the information to be transmitted.

Under these oppressive and undemocratic circumstances, it is important to point out that “fuck you” and “Associated Press” go together like a tasty peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

Sandkings Indeed

A free trial creature creator from Spore has been released. The creatures here are too cutesy to be considered for practical battle concerns. There is a paucity of dangerous teeth and minatory claws. Is a ruthless and self-serving alien creature who will have some life form for lunch too much to ask from Maxis? Is there no possibility here of a dangerous ecosystem?

I suppose we’ll have to wait for the final game in September before these evil possibilities — a la George R. R. Martin’s “Sandkings” — make their presence known. (That’s the thing about games from Maxis. They tend to turn very nice people into savage sadists.) Nevertheless, this free trial is dangerous. I have created a creature with about twelve limbs and a very large head. I have tried to sully its Disneyification, but to no avail. I am now leaving the house so that I can actually get some work done. But if you’re interested in this, i09 has nabbed Austin Grossman to reveal his thoughts on all this.

What’s Happening?

Christopher Orr: “The snatches of televised commentary we see at the end of the film declare that this murderous act of nature was a warning; everyone seems to assume the obvious lesson to take is that we’d better treat nature nicer lest it decide to start wiping us out again. Allow me to suggest, contrarily, that if millions of Americans were killed by some tree-originated pathogen that could be released again at any time, the immediate result would not be a renewed enthusiasm for peaceful coexistence, but rather a program of deforestation so aggressive it’d make the Brazilian lumber industry look like tree huggers. If anyone were to take this film as seriously as it would like to be taken (and it’s hard to imagine anyone will), the clear imperative wouldn’t be to buy a Prius, but to chop down the red oak in the back yard. Because something like this could really happen. Really.”

RIP Stan Winston, Algis Budrys & Iris Owens

Stan Winston died yesterday. It is possible that the lackluster Aliens vs. Predator franchise would not be around had not Winston set down the conceptual flagstones in previous films. Nor would the Terminator and Jurassic Park franchises be what they are without Winston’s T-800 exoskeleton or the dinosaurs. Sometimes, Winston’s work entered derivative territory (see The Monster Squad and Pumpkinhead). But there was often a playful streak in his designs. He worked very well with Tim Burton, devising the mechanics of Edward Scissorhands and the decrepit corpulence of Batman Returns‘s Penguin. And I’ll certainly miss his continuing contributions to cinema.

* * *

The only American newspaper to include an obituary of Algis Budrys’s recent death is The Chicago Tribune. The other newspapers remain silent, including those that employed Budrys as a science fiction critic. But there have been many reactions online:

* * *

Finally, Richard Grayson sends word that Iris Owens has passed on, offering this remembrance. A guestbook is available here.

Hulk Smash. Critic Write.

Guardian: “Idea is. Dr Bruce Banner – on run. Keep anger under control. Banner hope not turn into Hulk. Banner live …. in Brazilian slum. Work in factory. Total babe there fancy Banner. Banner quite fancy babe. But Banner not make move. Babe in film to keep guys interested. Until Banner’s girlfriend Liv Tyler come into action later. Tyler not mind Hulk thing. Hulk remind her of dad. Steven Tyler. Possibly. Much location work. Overhead shots. Of slums. City of God vibe intended. But this rubbish. Like everything else.”

Sarah Hall

My lengthy essay on Sarah Hall appears in today’s B&N Review. If you haven’t yet read Hall’s Daughters of the North (known as The Carhullan Army in the UK), you’re missing out on a fantastic dystopian novel that won the 2007 James Tiptree, Jr. Award. For more Sarah Hall, you can also listen to this nearly 70 minute conversation at The Bat Segundo Show.

[UPDATE: Jason Boog also talked with Hall last November.]


  • Bryan Appleyard uses the occasion of Tim Russert’s passing to note the distinctions between American and British journalism. While it’s certainly true that many American television personalities are polite, the class that Appleyard describes frequently borders on sycophantism. If we can’t have someone like Dick Cavett return to the airwaves, I’d frankly rather see Jeremy Paxman in Charlie Rose’s slot. At least we have Bill Moyers. For now. But where are the Russerts in training on American television? Keith Olbermann channels Murrow. Jon Stewart plays to the crowd. Where are those who are interested in simply asking the best questions?
  • Laura Miller has returned to the NYTBR after a mysterious two year absence. (She also had a piece appear in May.) The time has come to conjure conspiracies. Did Miller and Tanenhaus clash? And has Miller’s reappearance occurred because Dwight Garner is essentially running the ship now? Your theories and crazed conjectures are welcome in the comments.
  • Seth Greenland contemplates the current state of author promotion. Also at the L.A. Times: discussion of Denis Johnson’s Playboy serial.
  • Enter the Octopus: just discovered it and it’s a crazed depository worth your time.
  • There will be no jokes within this roundup. It is not that matters have turned particularly serious, or that I have turned permanently or temporarily humorless. There will indeed be jocularity in the future. But I have a feeling that part of my current predicament, roundup-wise, has to do with a little experiment I’m conducting. I have been gradually watching the Woody Allen films that I have not seen, attempting to become a completist. This is not because I am a hard-core fan. I am simply attempting to determine where Woody Allen stopped being interesting as a filmmaker, or whether I have been judging his films based on the groupthink assumption that his latter films all suck. Certainly I’ve avoided about ten of the films that he’s made in the past two decades. I was burned badly by Curse of the Jade Scorpion when I paid to see it in the theater. And I stopped seeing his movies on opening weekend. I’ve seen pretty much everything up through Crimes and Misdemeanors and, after this, there are cavities. Which I’ve been trying to fill in. So far, I have seen portions of Alice and Another Woman, films I had not seen before. They are okay. But I cannot find myself particularly inspired to finish watching either of these films. Neither of them contain that visceral spark that is there, more or less, through Crimes and Misdemeanors, resurfacing for the brilliant Husbands and Wives, the cheery Everybody Says I Love You, and the underrated Deconstructing Harry. But back to Alice and Another Woman: While there is a certain technical polish to both films (I particularly like Alice‘s glossy photography and bourgeoisie production details), there is simply nothing in these films that particularly moves me. The magical premise of Alice is cute but it feels desperate. And uncomfortably close to Curse of the Jade Scorpion. Another Woman is another attempt at Interiors, which is brilliant, but it relies very heavily (so far, at least) on Gena Rowlands’s acting at the expense of entirely plausible psychology. Perhaps it is Mia Farrow that bugs me. She reminds me of one of my mother’s old friends, who was selfish, unkind, and very unconcerned with other people. Probably why my mother and she got along. I feel this way about the Brenda Vaccaro character from Supergirl, who also reminds me of one of my mother’s friends. These friends even resemble Mia Farrow and Brenda Vaccaro. Is it possible then that I am letting these close physical resemblances and characterizations get in the way of appreciating these films? And why does it take a particular period in Woody Allen’s career to get me thinking about this? Because these films are unfunny, do they have a way of making other people unfunny? Are these films on some modest level diminishing my instincts? Or is it simply just a little late? Well, what the hell, I’ll hit “Publish” for this post very soon. You may not realize this but there is a brief moment in which I contemplate hitting “Publish” for a blog post, only to arrive at some other passing fancy, which creates additional information, which creates additional comments, etcetera.
  • Incidentally, the Woody Allen and “Publish” sections of the last bullet item avoid an altogether different question of empathy that I won’t share before the public.

Edward Douglas, Hopeless Hack and Amental Film “Journalist” — Part Two

Last week, Reluctant Habits initiated a weekly series on New York hack “journalist” Edward Douglas, a creative typist employed by and an intellectual coprophiliac quite happy to scarf down the moist cloacal deposits offered by film publicists. Unfortunately, in the last seven days, Mr. Douglas’s work has not improved much. We see traces of anti-intellectualism and a failure to comprehend basic nouns, along with other unpardonable sins.


Edward Douglas offers this stunningly idiotic sentence:

Director M. Night Shyamalan often gets a bad rap, not because of his movies, whether you like all, some or none of them, but because people claim him to be an arrogant egomaniac.

Not only do we get another typical instance of Mr. Douglas mangling his clauses, but we get the redundancy “arrogant egomaniac.” Is Mr. Douglas then suggesting then that Mr. Shyamalan is a humble egomaniac? Or is he simply clueless with nouns? One thing’s for sure. Mr. Douglas has no problem wrapping his well-oiled orifice in Mr. Shyamalan’s presence. While boasting about his “10-minute lightning round interview” (such insight!), Mr. Douglas writes, “You have to admit that he doesn’t make movies haphazardly though, always spending a good amount of time thinking about every aspect of the story and characters and how they might be perceived by the public at large.”

There are many filmmakers, of course, who spend a good deal of time thinking about movies. Consider the time that Michael Cimino expended to think about every detail in Heaven’s Gate, right down to the period underwear. And we all know how that film is currently regarded. But it does not logically follow that, because a filmmaker has used up time and energy, he has put out a quality film.

Mr. Douglas’s paralogia can also be witnessed in such dunce questions as “With all the paranoia in the air, can this movie still be seen as escapism?” (presumably, Mr. Douglas has a limited definition of the escapist blockbuster) and “This is a very short movie compared to your other movies, but it’s only 90 minutes and I was curious about that.” In clinging to such boilerplate, Mr. Douglas remains as graceful as a two-year-old who requires a life preserver in a wading pool.

Mr. Douglas also suggests that Scientific American “grilled” Mr. Shyamalan in asking about science. I must presume that Mr. Douglas is referring to the innocuous question, “Do you see part of this movie being a statement about science and technology being all you need in the world?” If this question did indeed come from Scientific American, it does not grill in the slightest. It is a question founded on legitimate inquiry. Perhaps by “grilled,” Mr. Douglas is referring to a vaguely intellectual area he will never inhabit. But rather than asking more specific questions about The Happening‘s relationship with science (Scientific American‘s George Musser had the decency and the smarts to ask him aboutthe great Guy Maddin. But don’t let Mr. Maddin’s importance fool you into thinking that Mr. Douglas offered anything approximating interesting inquiry. Early in the conversation, Mr. Maddin offers an intriguing answer about Michael Burns okaying a rough outline for My Winnipeg. And rather than asking Mr. Maddin about just how loose he can get with Burns and the level of rejection he receives as a maverick filmmaker, Mr. Douglas asks instead, “Did you still do any kind of research at all?” (Incidentally, Mr. Burns was recently fired, which leaves one to wonder about Maddin’s remaining allies at the Documentary Channel and the freedom he still has a filmmaker. But, of course, Mr. Douglas is too gutless a questioner to follow up.) He doesn’t even ask about the relationship between writing with wholesale invention and relying upon preexisting fact, which would seem an important component to a film dealing with urban legends in some form.

When one interviews someone like Guy Maddin, the interview practically writes itself. But there are too many times in which Mr. Douglas cannot parse the conversational trajectory in front of him. Mr. Douglas’s interview is a fine example for anyone wondering how not to conduct an interview.

The Brooklyn Book Festival: Hopelessly Manhattanized?

I don’t wish to sound ungrateful for the gratis plastic cup of wine that I enjoyed on Friday night, but the Brooklyn Book Festival launch party was more than a tad pedantic. The crowd of elitist insiders, bored organizers, and exhausted publicists — all hoping that cheese and crackers would serve as a surrogate dinner, all speedily adopting that predictable industry pretense of snubs and meaningless status, all more than a little uncomfortable with Brooklyn President Marty Markowitz’s call for a moment of silence for the late Tim Russert — gathered together in a manner that was more evocative of Manhattan rather than Brooklyn. Circular buttons of various Brooklyn neighborhoods were available with elliptical offerings of nuts on various tables. But my old neighborhood, Prospect Lefferts Gardens, wasn’t represented among this mostly Caucasian representative provincialism. I suspect that this jittery atmosphere, combined with a recent bout of deadline-induced cabin fever, caused me to be excessively ebullient. And thus I apologize to my blogging peers and friends if I affrighted or unnerved them in the process.

Nevertheless, the truth of the matter was that one could not be one’s natural literary self at this shindig. And nobody had the heart or the decency to suggest congregating elsewhere. We were obliged to stay for some reason, believing that the name Brooklyn would magically translate into streetcred.

But who were the big authors announced? Jonathan Franzen — a man who openly joked that he had only spent three nights of his life in Brooklyn, remarking that they were not happy. Joan Didion — who has almost certainly done more for Manhattan than Brooklyn. Dorothy Allison — who will certainly be more accepted in Brooklyn than in Manhattan, assuming that the Brooklyn Book Festival has not become as hopelessly Manhattanized as I fear.

Oh Come On, Russell T. Davies

I have been watching an episode of Doctor Who called “The Unicorn and the Wasp” that is set around Agatha Christie’s disappearance. The giant wasp flying around, in clear defiance of the laws of gravity, is bad enough. But I cannot for the life of me accept an episode that includes the following story holes:

1. Despite the fact that Agatha Christie disappeared for eleven days in December 1926, everything outside is inexplicably sunny. And the formal wear is inexplicably summery. No snow or winter winds, eh?

2. Donna, the companion played by Catherine Tate, brings up Miss Marple, who Christie introduced in December 1927 (“The Tuesday Night Club,” Issue 350 of The Royal Magazine), the year after her disappearance. This is a neat effort on Roberts’s part to suggest Christie being influenced by Donna. The problem is that Christie got the name from a railway station she was stranded in. Noticing the sign, the name stuck.

3. Donna also references “talking pictures” and Agatha Christie is baffled by such a concept. Actually, talking pictures were already showing as shorts. Before The Jazz Singer appeared in 1927, Al Jolson spoke in the 1926 Vitaphone short, “A Plantation Act.” And cinema with sound wasn’t entirely a crazed concept.

4. In front of an entire kitchen staff, the Doctor performs a wild pantomine and, using his Gallifrey biology, manages to escape cyanide poisoning. Everybody, including Christie (who was a nurse), accepts this preternatural discovery without a second thought. The next cut has everybody seated at dinner.

5. Where is Agatha Christie’s daughter? As I understand it, she went upstairs to kiss her shortly before disappearing.

I’m about 25 minutes into this, and I’ve now almost totally lost interest in the story. I can suspend disbelief up to a point. But when the writers clearly think so little of audience intelligence, when they cannot perform even the most rudimentary research on a major figure who, quite frankly, I’m hardly an expert on (all of the above, with the exception of the story reference, was lifted from my noggin) — a British icon, no less — one wonders whether there was even anyone trying for accuracy on this. And then one is reminded that Russell T. Davies remains the producer. The handoff to Steven Moffatt cannot happen fast enough.

UPDATE: Okay, maybe I’m just being too damn picky, but surely the art director on Doctor Who could have spent more time getting the title font kerning right, as well as making sure the artist’s signature was there the woman’s skirt. The drop shadows are off too.

A still from the episode:

The dust jacket from the 1926 edition of The Murder of Roger Ackroyd:

And here’s a closer shot. The woman is arched over too much. And I’m wondering if the actor is holding the book in that way because the art director messed up something on the lower left-hand corner.

And here’s Agatha Christie returning after her disappearance to the Harrogate Hydropathic Hotel, with a hilarious modern-looking sign and an exterior that looks nothing like the place (now called the Old Swan Hotel).


  • I am finding that June is making everybody crazy. In some cases, it’s the gas prices and the dawning reality that a vacation involves feeding over a few more twenties into the gas tank. In other cases, it’s the heat or some unanticipated weather. In still more cases, it’s prices rising in general. I am wondering if this is what is likewise causing Hillary supporters to freak out about Obama a week after the latter secured the Democratic election. I am wondering if people are reacting like this because they realize that, in some sense, the world will not change no matter what we do. This is not to suggest that we can’t at least enjoy the grand slide into anarchy. Or that we can’t position ourselves to be somewhere in the future where we can then strike unpredictably for the greater good. Even if nobody sees this coming.
  • If you missed the news, Rawi Hage won the IMPAC Award. And Nigel Beale has a podcast interview with the man.
  • Superheroes Who Can’t Have Sex.
  • Phone sex operators revealed. This fascinating gallery reminds me of the scene in Short Cuts when Jennifer Jason Leigh is changing a diaper while talking dirty into the phone. (via C-Monster)
  • I am offended by the apology. (via Deblog)
  • And the latest on the Sam Zell/Tribune front: Scott C. Smith has stepped down. The memo: “Sam, Randy and I agree it’s time for new leadership to lead the next wave of market driven change in our business.”
  • Nam Le on Minnesota Public Radio. Max and Wasserman too.
  • Rick Kleffel talks with Karen Joy Fowler.
  • Derik on the latest John Porcellino.
  • Auto-Tune is a menace. Exhibit A: Billy Joel.
  • Rowan Wilson interviews Simon Reynolds.

Keith Gessen

What to do about Keith Gessen? I have, aside from a few satirical posts referencing ancillary parties, remained silent about the man. There were a few desperate propositions from others to interview him for The Bat Segundo Show: one from an n+1 intern and one from a publicist. Lots of flattery directed my way. But I politely declined. I felt that interviewing Gessen, who seems to prize himself above all else, would position me within that undistinguished maw of gossip, and I have tried to avoid these atavistic incisors whenever possible.

This afternoon, I stumbled onto a post at Young Manhattanite and left a comment, suggesting that Keith Gessen, however loathsome his actions, was not a guy to get in a tizzy over. That he was someone who would eventually go away. Then I left the apartment, walked around, and got lost for several hours in a very interesting book about fish. All this was before I was aware of this Gawker post or Keith Gessen’s troubling Tumblr blog, which I first thought was satirical, but now realize is a staggering cry for help. And I now know that my instincts were sound all along.

Keith Gessen is a very troubled man going through a very public breakup. But he’s also a man who desperately wants to matter. And in wanting to matter, he now occupies a Donnean islet, obsessing over what others write about him on the Internet, reproducing the emails, basking in them like a masochist. Whatever your feelings about Gessen, this is a sad and terrible and unhealthy impulse. And I want to urge Gessen to leave his apartment, walk around, and get lost for several hours in a very interesting book about fish. Or at the very least not give a shit. I can’t imagine what Paul Slovak’s thinking right now. That is, if Slovak’s thinking about one of his authors past the six-week publicity window.

I’m Gessen’s age. And there was a time in my mid-twenties when I felt similar to the way Gessen now feels. Many young men go through this. It’s not unusual.

But there comes a time in a man’s life, roughly around the age of thirty, in which he must make an important decision about how he accepts himself, remaining as humble as possible so that he can embrace others and enjoy the wonders and follies of life. If he does not, his next few years will be very difficult for him.

I suspect Gessen has not had that moment. And it is for this reason that I urge all parties to not comment upon or regard the man. This is something that Keith Gessen has to do on his own. Blogging won’t help you and it won’t help him.

Bad Publicity Ideas, #425

Publishers Weekly: “As entrées were being enjoyed, a McCain supporter and an Obama supporter, having exhausted their verbal arguments, lunged at each other with fists flying. Eventually the kitchen staff came to the rescue and separated the two men, but not before some blood was shed and the well-heeled guests were shaken up. After a cooling down period, the rambunctious guests returned to the table (with revised seat assignments) and ate dessert.”

That a publicist actually thought that such a dumb could be carried off with a modicum of civility is truly hilarious. Then again, here I am mentioning this. So perhaps there’s a more interesting question: Will the bourgeoisie of Litchfield, Connecticut embarrass themselves and allow themselves to be used as marketing guinea pigs again? (via Jacket Copy)

Why George Lucas Should Be Punched in the Face

Get it while you can before Lucasfilm shuts the site down: Frank Darabont’s 2003 draft (PDF) of Indiana Jones and the City of the Gods. I’ve read the first 50 pages (when I should be doing other things) and it appears that David Koepp and George Lucas dumbed Darabont’s draft down big time, diluting many of Darabont’s ideas for the final cinematic product. Henry Jones is in the draft. Marion has dialogue that matches her Raiders incarnation, complete with many Casablanca homages, and she’s married! Indy gets drunk and sings. Indy mutters “Damn kids” when he sees the hot rodders and kicks ass in a car chase.

Yeah, there’s still the bullshit about the four waterfalls and the lead fridge. But if we had to deal with Lucas’s contrived story, Darabont’s version is the Indy 4 film that should have been made. Spielberg and Ford both loved it. It was Lucas who got his talentless knickers in a bunch over the idea of presenting “his” hero as even remotely flawed. (via Vulture)

Mark Ames Shuts Down eXile

Russia has become a deadly place for journalists of all stripes. In 2006, journalist Anna Politkovskaya was mysteriously killed after criticizing the war in Chechnya. Thankfully, Mark Ames remains alive. But his fortunes have taken a turn for the worse because of these conditions. After writing about Russian government officials conducting an unplanned audit of his iconoclastic expatriate newspaper, Mark Ames has been forced to shut down The eXile.

The Real Enemy Mine vs. The Reel Enemy Mine

My review of The Reel Stuff, an anthology of horror and speculative tales turned into Hollywood films edited by Brian Thomsen and Martin H. Greenberg, appears in today’s Los Angeles Times. In addition to the reading (in most cases, rereading) I had to do for the review, I watched many films: hence, the crazed kudos for Candyman posted at some ungodly hour not long ago.

Johnny Mnemonic had the consolation of some unintentionally hilarious moments and Screamers was a hoot, complete with a distinguished Canadian actor licking a knife and scowling, “It’s never sharp enough.”

But the worst film of the bunch was Enemy Mine. I hadn’t seen the film in almost two decades, but time had not been kind. Its failure, however, had less to do with its sweeping production value (even with the visible matte lines) and more to do with its almost total bastardization of Barry Longyear’s Hugo and Award-winning novella. Aside from changing the book’s ending to include a literal mine (did they really think the audiences were that dumb?), screenwriter Edward Khmara and director Wolfgang Petersen placed less emphasis on Davidge’s unexpected role as surrogate father, introduced over-the-top meteor showers, and otherwise muted the novella’s themes of war and camaraderie. There is even a terrible moment in which Pepsi product placement gets Dennis Quaid excited.

Longyear’s novella was collected in a handsome book put out by White Wolf called The Enemy Papers, which also featured two other stories, “The Last Enemy” and “The Tomorrow Testament,” set in the same universe. But this went out of print. Thankfully, the book is also available through Back in Print. Longyear also has a website and an interesting history.


  • Best headline of the week: Incest dungeon teen wants to see ocean. Sunday afternoon picnics and long walks in the park are swell too.
  • Amardeep Singh offers a report of Salman Rushdie at the New York Google audiences. Mr. Rushdie, who has refused interview requests for The Bat Segundo Show for his last two novels (no fault of the publicists here, I should note, but it’s safe to say that Mr. Rushdie will not be asked a third time; there are easily ten million more things that I would rather do than massage an author’s fragile ego), nevertheless believes in the Internet, which he used for his research. But he apparently doesn’t believe in the Internet enough to sign on for the Google Books project, which “could destroy the publishing industry.” Of course, he’s happy to sign on for Google Books if the authors are fairly compensated for their work. So the upshot is this: if the Internet (or anything for that matter) serves Mr. Rushdie’s purpose, well then it’s all fine and dandy for Mr. Rushdie! For in Mr. Rushdie’s head, it’s all about Mr. Rushdie all the time! (And has Rushdie ever spared a thought for Hitoshi Igarashi, who was knifed to death for translating The Satanic Verses? Or the British taxpayers who paid his £10 million tax bill to provide security for him?) Is there a single brain cell in Mr. Rushdie’s noggin devoted to another person in the universe? Is his talent worth enduring his solipsism? I think not. There are cutthroat lawyers I know with more empathy.
  • And speaking of the positive relationship between online access and book sales, what do we have here? (via Booksquare)
  • Edward Albee at 80: still full of piss and vinegar. (via Books, Inq.)
  • What the hell is going on at the Observer? It appears the paper has been filling up its pages with Livejournal entries written by cynical singles. What next? The print equivalent of live-blogging the season finale for some major television show? I’ve complained long and loud about the vapid articles within the New York Times Sunday Styles section, but the Observer now makes the Gray Lady look like a depository for Kenneth Tynan-style sophistication.
  • Jeff observes that the Atlantic is also going downhill.
  • Borges and Chesterton! A link to many other links, which will get you very pleasantly lost indeed.
  • Here’s a 6,500 word essay that can best be summarized as follows: Goddam you, Giller Awards! (via Quill & Quire)
  • Jamelah Earle offers an empirical reading survey, complete with hand-drawn graphs.
  • Catherine Breillat + Jules-Amedee Barbey d’Aurevilly + Asia Argento. This could either be a really brilliant or a really terrible combination. And apparently, it was a troubled production.
  • As Orthofer points out, the IMPAC winner will be announced sometime today.
  • Benjamin Lytal on a BS Johnson reissue.
  • Finally, last but not least, Maud Newton’s award-winning Narrative essay is now up, and it’s a brave and unflinching essay that may be one of the best short pieces I’ve read this year.

Segundo Torrents

I’ve learned that a number of people have been trying to download the Bat Segundo torrent packs without success. My apologies for this. The original Segundo torrents bit the dust on an old hard drive partition that has, rather magically, been resuscitated. In an effort to offer a quick fix, I have attempted to reseed the existing files, but I have been informed that this process will take 28 days and 6 hours to effect. Because of this, I’ll be setting up repackaged torrent packs for all the shows in the next few weeks, apprising you all of the updated links, while also providing a few additional torrent packs that should get both torrent packs and existing shows caught up to Show #220. Bear with me. There’s a lot I’m juggling right now.


  • Like, oh my God! What the hell is going on? Chuck Palahniuk is writing books and I like totally can’t understand him! I mean, like, why is this Palahniuk guy writing about porn? Don’t you like automatically get VD if you have sex with more than one person at a time? Is there a position other than missionary? In Evanston, you get arrested if you even think of downloading porn. Or so my good mama told me. And she was always right! But thankfully I can take my decency to the NYTBR, a respectable publication terrified of printing the word “bulls__t.” God bless America! (via Syntax of Things)
  • John Updike lectures: what’s so American about American art? But the real curious thing about this speech is whether Updike dared to read out his footnotes in front of a crowd.
  • Publishers are often demanding their top-sellers to pump out a book a year, and the article has a quote from hack novelist Robert B. Parker that is truer than he realizes. (via Sarah)
  • There are some days in which you want to kick a spoiled fanboy in the teeth for his unwillingness to try out anything that even remotely strays from the beloved canon. And then there are other days when you just laugh your ass off over how petty they are.
  • The International Society for Humor Studies is the place where those who have not laughed in over a decade arrive when their services as human beings are no longer required. The rest of us go to an IHOP and cry when the blueberry syrup runs out. (via Bryan Appleyard)
  • Michael McClure on why we still need the spirit of the sixties. (via Booksurfer)
  • Amazon UK and Hachette Livre UK are duking it out over who gets the greater spoils. Amazon’s response? “As a company we do not comment on our relationships with publishers.” As concerned citizens, we do not comment on our relationships with avaricious asshats. (via Booksquare)
  • Colleen Mondor has quite rightfully taken an advertising blog tour concept to task. I had similar thoughts in 2005 when Kevin Smokler did something similar with his Virtual Book Tours. (Smokler, it should be pointed out, has abandoned this idea for this sounder idea that benefits everybody.)
  • The Internet is killing off porn theaters in Bogotá.
  • And if you need an audio alternative to yet another dismal and soporific installment of the Slate Audio Book Club — where you can hear Troy Patterson, who sounds as if he’s smoked a good deal of skank weed, flex his purported but nonexistent acumen with a CliffsNotes summary of Anna Karenina (I managed to get to the 4:22 mark before Alt-F4ing) (and fuck me, this is a longass sentence with too many asides) — this CBC podcast has Canadians getting into a tizzy (one getting a stomach ache!) over Nicholson Baker’s Human Smoke.