Thursday, April 29, 2010
Pardon the dust
For almost nine years I have created this blog on blogger.com and used blogger's FTP publishing capability to host it at earthlink.net. But as of the end of April 2010, Google is ending the FTP publishing option. (I have enjoyed their services for free for all those years, so no complaints from me.)
For the time being I will be storing this blog at Google's servers, and ideally nothing will be different, at least for the archives. I do hope nothing goes wrong.
Labels: blogger, blogging
Wednesday, April 21, 2010
The danger of American proto-fascism
Noam Chomsky on the times:
[The situation in the U.S. today] "is very similar to late Weimar Germany," Chomsky told me when I called him at his office in Cambridge, Mass. "The parallels are striking. There was also tremendous disillusionment with the parliamentary system. The most striking fact about Weimar was not that the Nazis managed to destroy the Social Democrats and the Communists but that the traditional parties, the Conservative and Liberal parties, were hated and disappeared. It left a vacuum [in] which the Nazis very cleverly and intelligently managed to take over.
"The United States is extremely lucky that no honest, charismatic figure has arisen. Every charismatic figure is such an obvious crook that he destroys himself, like McCarthy or Nixon or the evangelist preachers. If somebody comes along who is charismatic and honest this country is in real trouble because of the frustration, disillusionment, the justified anger and the absence of any coherent response. What are people supposed to think if someone says 'I have got an answer, we have an enemy'? There it was the Jews. Here it will be the illegal immigrants and the blacks. We will be told that white males are a persecuted minority. We will be told we have to defend ourselves and the honor of the nation. Military force will be exalted. People will be beaten up. This could become an overwhelming force. And if it happens it will be more dangerous than Germany. The United States is the world power. Germany was powerful but had more powerful antagonists. I don't think all this is very far away."
Chomsky should know, the interviewer points out in his introduction, as he has spent his entire life thinking about politics from an iconoclastic perspective. And I think he's right about how the main difference is the lack of a galvanizing figure, a leader (like that envisioned by "Coach" Daubenmire in his plea for the Tea Party to line up behind him). Not that there aren't plenty of people like Daubenmire and Kenneth Hutcherson and Newt Gingrich. But as Chomsky points out, each is too obviously venal and unstable to attract much of a following.
At least I hope that's true when it comes to Gingrich.
technorati: THIS, THAT, TOTHER
Labels: fanatics, Newt Gingrich, religious right, Republicans, zeitgeist
Tuesday, April 20, 2010
'A fabric of tawdry, mass-produced dreams'
Six years later, his other masterpiece, The Day of the Locust, met with critical misapprehension and reader indifference. The American public and even the Popular Front-fixated intelligentsia were in no mood to be told that the common man was a sullen and disappointed entity ripe for violence and proto-fascism, and American culture a fabric of tawdry, mass-produced dreams.
How like today! That's why I'm working on a novel with some of the same themes, though nothing to do with Hollywood.
(That reference to the "Popular Front" stopped me, and I had to look it up on Wikipedia. It's still ambiguous as to what the writer is referring to, but I'd guess it was either or both "the alliance of political parties in France aimed at resisting Fascism" and Stalin's "policy of forming broad alliances with almost any political party willing to oppose the Fascists.")
technorati: Hollywood, Nathanael West, Day of the Locust
Labels: 1939, American dream, books, Hollywood, writers
Monday, April 19, 2010
Bishop on comedy
A genuine comic is a guy who's told by the audience he's funny, the other kind is the guy who tells the audience he's funny.
-- Joey Bishop, from a syndicated column
published in the Jul. 17, 1960 Tuscaloosa News
What's great about that line is that he managed the contrast while ending each part of the sentence with the same words -- "the audience he's funny." The repetition is part of the comic timing. It wouldn't be nearly so cogent if he had said something like: "There are two kinds of comedians, one tells the audience how funny he is, the other waits for the audience to tell him he's funny." Or rearrange it any way you want it to, it's never as good. Also, it starts with the point of the maxim: "A genuine comic is..." I don't know if Joey Bishop himself actually wrote the column, but it's a well-written line.
Read my novel Make Nice, which is about a fictionalized Joey Bishop and his relationship with Sinatra, Hollywood, and the entertainment industry of 1960.
Labels: comedy, Joey Bishop
Saturday, April 10, 2010
Traffic school purgatory
Doing online traffic school today after getting nabbed six months ago on the S-curve on the Bay Bridge.
Here's my favorite graphic of the course. So far.
Best. Baseball-related. Short. Subject. EVAR
Holy Jesus. Make sure you're sitting down and aren't drinking anything, because you will snork like a motherfucker.
Time magazine on this short
Snopes.com confirms story
Dock Ellis' career stats
Animator James Blagden's website
Labels: baseball, films
Friday, April 09, 2010
'Radical Christian' wants to balance 'radical Marxist'
I've been following a certain Christianist nut, apparently a high school football coach who says he "walked away from public education in 2000" but last year "started a varsity football program at a local Christian High School" in Ohio. I know this because of his inimitable rant "They Don't Even Look Like Men," which he posted halfway through the season, in which he criticized his own players for their lack of aggressive attitude:
Our football team is driving me nuts. They are great young men, obedient and mannerly, the kind of kid you could trust with your daughter. But as my own high school football coach often said they need a little "piss and vinegar." They take the "turn the other cheek" attitude with them onto the field. Our Christian-culture has taught them that being "gracious in defeat" is Christ-like. I tell them being "gracious in victory" is more fun.I quote this dick at length just to give you an idea where he's coming from. In addition to being a monomaniac on the subject of "Christian testosterone" (whatever that is, he elaborates by saying "Jesus was studly"), he also considers himself a political commentator, and in fact, he is running for Congress this year in the Ohio 18th. (Even his website is "coachdaveforcongress.com".)
Maybe it is just me. I want them to be MEN. Our Christian-culture teaches them to be doormats. ... Someone, somewhere, determined that trading the old man for the new man meant losing your backbone. Heck, you can't even pass gas at a "men's fellowship" without being looked at as if you had just pee-peed on the Decalogue. Pastors are the worst. Any whiff of "Christian testosterone" sends them to their Joyce Meyer collection of sermons in an attempt to "soften" your rough edges.
Well, not for me. My new birth made me more manly, more courageous, and more willing to live life on the edge. I like guys with rough edges.
And yesterday he wrote something that really clarified for me the thinking of the Tea Partiers, birthers, Oath Keepers and other whack jobs. Daubenmire writes:
We have a radical Marxist in the White House. We need a radical Christian in "The People's House." There it is -- simplicity itself. Because this man (and, no doubt, the many thousands of his ilk) believes that the President is a "radical Marxist," they seek to balance his supposed pernicious influence by being radical conservatives. Whatever their belief is based on -- probably just the endless repetitions of this phrase by right-wing radio and TV commentators -- it justifies their own radicalism. It's a perfect, self-reinforcing system.
Daubenmire goes on to offer himself as a party leader -- the Tea Party, that is, not understanding that the Tea Party is not an actual political party. "I want to lead a movement," he says, saying his comrades need "someone who will grab a flag and run up the hill... 'Come on boys; let's go take our country back.' I'll build a team, lead a charge, and build their courage."
Then, toward the bottom of the essay, in his impatience to get the show on the road, he urges (emphasis mine):
Make a pick, take a stand, and put all of that energy behind one candidate. This is war. Stop worrying about hurt feelings. Pick a horse and let the internet do its job.Let the internet do its job! What a strange thing to say.
But we needn't treat this fellow Daubenmire as being off the scale, just because he is clearly a whack job. Today Newt Gingrich, who threatens to run for President every four years and probably will this time around, said that Obama is "the most radical President in American history" who runs "a machine... a secular, socialist machine."
Gingrich, of course, is just jealous. He wishes he were at the controls of such a machine, not Obama; he would do things just as radical, if not more, but call his actions Main Street American values. Because anyone who doesn't agree with right-wingers, even the most radical ones, even the ones like Daubenmire who admit they are radical, is of course "radical."
Here's the thing. At least Daubenmire believes what he says; clearly, he is a true believer who jaws with a supporter if asked to take off his "cross hat." Gingrich is nothing more than a cynical, well-connected politician trying to make a comeback; he'll say anything. He's like Bush with brains; he doesn't need a Cheney, he only needs Addingtons and Yoos. So he mouths the right-wing verbiage of the season: no more "family values," now we're fomenting against "socialism" and "radicals."
And no, I wouldn't prefer Gingrich to Daubenmire, nor "Coach" to Newt. Both are abhorrent.
technorati: Obama,Gingrich, Tea Party
Labels: closet cases, cults, nuts, Obama, Republicans, Tea Party
Thursday, April 08, 2010
The brand that is Glenn
From a Forbes profile of Glenn Beck, emphasis mine:
With a deadpan, Beck insists that he is not political: "I could give a flying crap about the political process." Making money, on the other hand, is to be taken very seriously, and controversy is its own coinage. "We're an entertainment company," Beck says. He has managed to monetize virtually everything that comes out of his mouth.
Labels: Fox News, Glenn Beck, signs of the apocalypse
Tuesday, April 06, 2010
A friend performs
A great friend (and ex) of mine, Catherine Debon, is performing a solo piece in this show later this month:
Torn between two lovers
For a while, she made use of an office at The New Yorker. Through the window, she could see the flashing sign of the Time-Life Building; she told her new friend Shirley Hazzard, "When it says 'Time,' I write. When it says 'Life,' I want to go out."
-- from a profile of novelist Muriel Stark
in the April 5, 2010 New Yorker
Labels: New York, New Yorker, writers
Tuesday, March 30, 2010
Maybe we're reading
This post on a business website asks, Why does conservative media crush liberal media in terms of viewership?
All they do is pose the question, they don't really try answering it. But here are some suggestions:
♦ Liberals read more than they watch TV.
♦ Liberals spend more time exercising than conservatives do.
♦ Liberals garden and cook more than conservatives do.
♦ Old people do less reading, exercising and gardening than younger people, and tend to park themselves in front of the TV, and they tend to be more conservative.
♦ Younger people, who tend to be more liberal, are less likely to identify with the late-middle-aged personalities on conservative TV.
I mean, what self-respecting thirty-year old would park himself in front of Bill O'Reilly night after night? For fuck's sake!
Labels: media, Republicans, television
Monday, March 29, 2010
Today's fake: Italian journo fabricated interviews with famous writers
Via Galleycat: An Italian journalist called Tommaso Debenedetti may have fabricated interviews with Philip Roth and John Grisham. The fake interviews were published in Italian newspapers.
technorati: fakes, fraud, writers
Labels: Beat writers, fakes, journalism
Saturday, March 27, 2010
An obscure annotation to 'The Savage Detectives'
I was dipping into The Savage Detectives today and re-read the long account of Mary Watson, one of the few pieces in the long middle section of the book (a section which consists entirely of first-person speeches, supposed interviews conducted by an unknown interlocutor) narrated by an English speaker. This section, labeled "Mary Watson, Sutherland Place, London, May 1978," is one of the longest "interviews" in the book, almost twenty pages long in the American trade paperback edition. It recounts a series of incidents centering around an unnamed night watchman of a campground in the south of Spain near Barcelona, a man whom narrator Watson becomes involved during a period of several weeks when she and a companion link up with a group of motley vagabonds, spending part of the time picking grapes in the south of France.
In the last paragraph of the piece narrated by Watson, she describes her return to Oxford, where she is studying, and says "A little while later I moved to 25 Cowley Road, Oxford..." Why so specific, I wondered. What is at that address? I looked it up on Google Maps. I don't know what was there in 1996 or so when Bolaño wrote the book, but now there is a Spanish/Moroccan tapas restaurant called Kazbar. From Google Street View, I can see that there is a residence above part of this restaurant, but the door is marked 27a.
So I wonder why Bolaño named the address of that restaurant. Is it significant that it serves Spanish food? Could Bolaño have made the acquaintance of the owner at some time, could he perhaps once have visited Oxford and had an enjoyable meal there, or at whatever restaurant, if it was different, that occupied the space at some point whenever it was that Bolaño visited? Did Bolaño ever even visit Oxford?
It would be nice if someone in Oxford were to do me the favor of going and asking the owner of the place. For all I know there's a photograph of him on the wall; equally possible, the owner may never have heard of Roberto Bolaño, may not even be Spanish or Moroccan. Like everything else in the book that tempts the reader to ask what part is true or why the author chose a particular detail, this will remain a mystery, as the honorable author is of course dead.
Later: A little more searching turned up the facts that the Kazbar is owned by a man named Clinton Pugh, who is said to own several Oxford restaurants, and that (according to the restaurant's own website) the establishment was "designed and developed in 2001" by Mr. Pugh. What was there before that, who knows.
Still later: Upon further consideration, I've decided that the most likely explanation has nothing to do with the coincidentally Spanish restaurant. It seems most likely that there was a house at 25 Cowley Road, one just like the house next door with the door marked 27a, and that at one point Bolaño knew someone who lived there, perhaps a writer with whom he corresponded, perhaps a poet friend who was in Oxford on a year's visiting lectureship or something.
I'll leave the rest of it to Bolaño scholars. Obviously not, as I added something else below.
It also occurred to me that it would be great if there were a Bolaño wiki where fans could annotate Bolaño's longer works.
Even later: While continuing to surf around, I was reminded that the author Javier Marías, whose trilogy Your Face Tomorrow I am reading and which was recommended by Bolaño at various times, suggesting that Marías was a friend and correspondent of the Chilean, lived for some time in Oxford and set some of his novels there. So perhaps Marías was the one who lived at 25 Cowley Road.
technorati: Bolaño, Oxford, The Savage Detectives
Labels: Bolaño, Google, Marías, Oxford
Tuesday, March 23, 2010
'Between infatuation and love'
Q. Who are some writers that influence and inspire you?
Here I draw a line between infatuation and love. There are authors I am attracted to, whose books I read and enter into a kind of love correspondence with them, but only in few cases such infatuation transforms into love. I read and re-read such authors repeatedly, see them in my dreams; they seem to be my relatives. I even feel embarrassed naming the authors of the former kind: a love made publicly known rarely lasts long, as Andreas Capellanus would have it. The authors of the latter kind I name proudly: Pushkin, Nabokov, Brodsky, Tolstoy, Mark Twain. There is also a third category of attachment that one carries within like a wound that never heals. For me, two names stand for that: Anna Frank and Maria Shkapskaya. At times I feel my predicament is to write what the two have left unwritten.
Hey, look, it's my new book! Click this:
How They Scored
I Saw You, Ed. by Julia Wertz
Best Sex Writing 2006 (contributor)
Lesbian Camp Girls
Too Beautiful and Other Stories
How I Adore You
Liz Henry, Ed.
Wiscon Chronicles vol. 3
Where I Stay
Take This Bread
A Radical Conversion
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