Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Gellage No.49

Gellage No.53

Here's a joke I heard:
A man is caught in a traffic jam when someone taps on the car window. The driver lowers the window and asks what he wants. The other man says, "President Bush has been kidnapped and the ransom is 50 million dollars. If the ransom is not paid, the kidnappers are threatening to douse the president with gasoline and set him on fire. We are taking up a collection. Do you wish to contribute?" The man in the car asks, "On average, what are people donating?" The other man replies, "About two to three gallons."

Ha, Ha, oh. That's dark.

If you're not already a fan of Scottish writer Alasdair Gray, you should think about becoming one. His phenomenal novel Lanark, published in 1981, ranks as one of my personal favorites. I'd call it a hodgepodge of literary sci-fi, magical realism, allegory, mystery, and experimental fiction. As great as that sounds, for some reason I never hear people mention him or this great book. It's like one of those "Best Books You've Never Heard Of" type things. I was therefore surprised and more than pleased to recently come across his website, where I found storyboards for a film adaptation of the legendary Lanark:

You can go here to learn more.

Or you could click here to see the Wes Anderson American Express Commercial. And click here to read what the good people at Slate have to say about it.

You know, I keep seeing these meme things on other blogs where people list a bunch of questions and then answer them to give insight into their personhood. It makes me think of two things: 1) The James Lipton questions from Inside the Actor's Studio (which my students usually enjoy answering) and 2) the The Proust Questionnaire, which shows an interesting glimpse into Marcel's character, and displays an adroit wit quite uncommon amongst contemporary question answerers. Here's an example of his response to the same question at different ages in his life...

At age 13
Q: What is your favorite occupation?
A: Reading, dreaming, and writing verse

At age 20
Q: What is your favorite occupation?
A: Loving

Tuesday, May 30, 2006


Sacrifice of Subject Matter


all three by
Mikel Glass

With one hand in the classics and the other in the avant guard, Glass likes to explore the grey area between the two extremes.

While I was away, my good friend the_film_geek posted a terrifically inspiring true story of his personal determination here.

I read something interesting today: a small group of Brooklynites have formed an organization which raises an interesting linguistic dialogue over the use of the “N” word. These folks, calling themselves Abolish the “N” Word, are determined to erratic the usage of that infamous racial slur. They take offense at the way that black culture has come to use that word as a term of endearment, pointing to its ubiquitous usage in hip hop music. They assert that it can only be used to denigrate, demean, and put down. But what they seem to be unwilling to recognize is the power created by using the word in a different context. By taking the word away from the hateful people who used it to put them down, these hip hop artists (and others) are re-appropriating it. By overusing the word it strips the power away from it, rendering the word ineffective as a means of subordinating the Other. As it has been said, “The best defense is a strong offense.” I’m not saying people should run around saying that word, I’m merely pointing out one of the strong advantages in taking a derogatory word used by an oppressor and using it instead in your own favor, to take away the power it once held. I highly recommend visiting their site, and don’t skip the intro because it’s very provocative and crushingly compelling. Go here.

Monday, May 29, 2006

As a general rule, I’m not much for wilderness. I am decidedly an urban type. I enjoy the bustle of a big city, the sounds of gunshots and police sirens and stereos blaring and people screaming and horns honking in anger - things I dearly miss about living in Los Angeles and Las Vegas. I like being in close proximity to hospitals and convenience stores. I like traffic and crowds of people. I relish the spoils of our civilization’s technological advancements, and I usually have absolutely no desire to return to nature. Unlike most humans, I don’t find mountains or rivers or lakes to be particularly attractive - I’d rather gaze upon the constructions of mankind, the things we creatures created. Give me Gaudi or Frank Lloyd Wright over the Rocky Mountains any day. But my recent family vacation to upper Montana was a welcome relief from my life and I had a fantastically relaxing time. I can certainly understand how others find beauty and serenity in that environment. For the last ten days I’ve felt free from all my worries, and that, for someone like me, is a massive accomplishment. It was also nice to spend time with my folks, who I don’t see very often. All in all, it was superb.

Here are a few photos from the trip (more might come in the future)…

The beginnings of pinecones:

The destruction of logging:

A bear on the wall in our cabin:

Cars in a cement mountain:

Thursday, May 18, 2006


Anticipating a lack of opportunity to post, I intend to return with pictures and stories in about ten days.

In lieu of updating the blog here, I’ve put up the entire back catalogue, so in my absence you can peruse the archives easily. Get caught up. Remember when.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Some of us had been threatening our friend Colby for a long time, because of the way he had been behaving. And now he'd gone too far, so we decided to hang him.”

Thus opens one of my all-time favorite stories, Donald Barthelme’s “Some of Us Had Been Threatening Our Friend Colby.” It continues:

“Colby argued that just because he had gone too far (he did not deny that he had gone too far) did not mean that he should be subjected to hanging. Going too far, he said, was something everybody did sometimes. We didn't pay much attention to this argument. We asked him what sort of music he would like played at the hanging. He said he'd think about it but it would take him a while to decide. I pointed out that we'd have to know soon, because Howard, who is a conductor, would have to hire and rehearse the musicians and he couldn't begin until he knew what the music was going to be.”

Signature Barthelme! That straight-faced absurdity. That matter-of-factness. Splendid reading is Donald Barthelme. Splendid. And one of the first authors to heavily influence the formation of my literary taste.

When I was a teenager I got a copy of The Best American Short Stories of the Eighties, and I read it enthusiastically. It was the first time I read Carver’s "Cathedral," Joy Williams’s "Health," Tim O’Brien’s "The Things They Carried," and lots of other important ones; but more than any of them I obsessed over Barthelme’s story “The Emerald.” It showed me that I could write something completely outside “the rules” of conventional storytelling, and not only could something strange like that get published but it could even be considered the best of an entire decade. Now every time I’m tempted to listen to a naysayer in a workshop who wishes I'd be more obvious or play less with language, someone who wants me to dumb-down and get with the homogeny, I stop and remind myself that Barthelme gave me permission to do whatever kind of wacky experiment I can conjure up. He showed me that fiction doesn't need rules, and he encouraged me to prove it in my writing.

If you’re still in a listy mood, you can read his suggested booklist here. It’s rich, meaty, with lots of hearty selections to chew on.

See more on Barthelme here.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Wrapped Tightly

Caroline Hwang

My Imaginary Friend in Las Vegas turned me on to Hwang, who mixes drawing and painting and sewing to create these sweet patchwork pieces. You can see more of her work here, here, and here.

Ok, because the Cavalier of Odds asked me, I made a list of 25 American authors, and one or two of their books published in the last 25 years, which I believe could’ve/should’ve replaced many of the decisions in that NYT list. I obviously don't mean, in anyway, to imply that Toni Morrison doesn't deserve to be recognized for her contribution to literature; I respect her, and I like what she does - particularly the way she uses elements of magical realism in her work. I just wanted to address the redundancies: Roth, DeLillo, Roth, DeLillo, Roth, Roth, throw in John Updike and you've got a list of the most ubiquitous titles in the history of time. They're good, but they're played out. Besides DeLillo, they're boring, safe picks - I'm not saying the books themselves are boring, but as selections to represent "the best" of the last 25 years they're too...paint-by-numbers. Too rote. Why not select a more unique, eclectic group of novels? Why not choose things that aren’t so pervasive? Turn people on to the best, not just the widely covered. Doesn't that make more sense?

(in absolutely no order)

Octavia Butler - Parable of the Sower; Fledgling
Sandra Cisneros - The House on Mango Street
Ander Monson - Other Electricities
Donald Barthelme - Paradise; 60 Stories
Bret Easton Ellis - American Psycho; The Rules of Attraction
Jay McInerney - Bright Lights, Big City
Louise Erdrich - Love Medicine; Tracks
Samuel Delany - Stars in My Pocket Like Grains of Sand
Gilbert Sorrentino - Aberration of Starlight
Stephen Dixon - Long Made Short
Robert Coover - Gerald’s Party; The Public Burning
Kathy Acker - Blood and Guts in High School; Don Quixote
William Gibson - Neuromancer
Kelly Link - Stranger Things Happen
Richard Powers - The Gold Bug Variations
Tom Robbins - Jitterbug Perfume
Ben Marcus - The Age of Wire and String
Kurt Vonnegut - Deadeye Dick
Ursula K. Le Guin - Worlds of Exile and Illusion
John Edgar Wideman - Sent for You Yesterday
Paul Auster - The New York Trilogy
Shelley Jackson - Melancholy of Anatomy
Gary Lutz - Stories in the Worst Way
Lydia Davis - The End of the Story
John Hawkes - Adventures in the Alaskan Skin Trade

Monday, May 15, 2006

Automatism B

Robert Motherwell

magazine gave me and bright stupid confetti a little nod today. See it here. Which is especially nice because it happens to come on the anniversary of my 100th post. Hello. This blog is now one hundred cyber-pages long. I sharpen my pencil.

Could’ve gone to Omaha tonight to catch Islands playing at Sokol Underground, but I didn’t.

If you liked Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, you owe it to yourself to go back and watch Paul Verhoeven’s Total Recall. I re-watched it yesterday and plan to watch it again today. Such a cool movie. Remember, it’s based on a short story by Philip K. Dick. And it’s one of those sweet, early-90s Governor Schwarzenegger pictures circa Running Man, Predator, et al. Yes it’s campy in spots, gratuitous assuredly, but it’s also clever, engaging, and twisted.

To keep with the theme of 100...

Click here for a list of the 100 most misspelled words.

Click here for Time magazine’s list of 100 People Who Shape Our World.

Click here for The Modern Library's list of the 100 Best Novels.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

photos by Rachel Papo
from her series Serial No. 3817131

Papo was born in Columbus, Ohio but raised in Israel. Like all Israelis are expected to do, she served two years in the military, which inspired this series of photos - titled after her ID number during service: Serial No. 3817131. She returned to the U.S. to get a B.F.A. in Fine Arts from the Ohio State University, and a M.F.A. in Photography from the School of Visual Arts in NYC.

On a different note, it looks like the New York Times Book Review has officially lost its mind. Today they printed something called “What Is the Best Work of American Fiction of the Last 25 Years?” And you will not believe the list: is it so ridiculous and so unbelievable that you’ll have to click here and read for yourself because I can’t bring myself to type it. I will say that I haven't read the #1 choice, but I’m familiar with it and with the author's other work and I believe I could easily name fifty-two other novels right off the top of my head, without taking a breath, that would undoubtedly be better. I’m not saying that the list is totally bunk: there are a couple smart selections, but I must warn you that there are numerous Updike and Roth novels on the list, and that, in-and-of-itself should be an indication of its overall preposterousness. I mean, seriously, if you consider John Updike or Philip Roth “the best,” then you really need to read more.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

First, please click here to watch a super cool flash animation video for Radiohead’s old song “Creep.”

Second, check out the strange "oil paintings on chalkboards" in the series called Touchy-Feely by Toronto artist Kirsten Johnson:

Desperate (2003)

Needy (2003)

Insistent (2003)

According to the artist, “The idea for Touchy-Feely began in September of 2000 when I was convalescing after being hit by a car on my bike. Lying there, on great amounts of pain killers, not being able to move and feeling quite sorry for myself, I began to fixate on the idea of sock puppets.”

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Today I wanted to go out and shoot some photos around Lincoln, but as I got in my car to drive downtown it started raining so I had to give up just as soon as I started. Hopefully tomorrow it’ll be nice and clear. The only thing I have to share are these two self-portraits (which pretty accurately capture the amount of me that feels like me right now), taken right before the rain:

Last night I watched a five-star Japanese film called Tony Takatani, directed by Jun Ichikawa, based on a short story by Haruki Murakami. Ichikawa does a bunch of interesting things in this film: he has the characters interact with the voice over, he slides the camera from side to side to enter and exit the scenes, he uses unique camera angles, and he has Ryuichi Sakamoto doing the music, just to name a few. Plus, the story is so melancholy, about an illustrator who's desperately lonely until he finds a woman to share his life with, only she's addicted to buying designer clothes and when he asks her to cut back on her shopping it all ends up badly. I could so easily empathize with his character, the intensely debilitating sadness of being alone, the aching desire to share your life with someone. I really, really liked this movie.

You can read the Murakami story here.
You can read some of the film reviews here.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

The Engineer

Ruth Piper


This British artist got her degree in fashion design, went on to do quite well as an illustrator and designer, and then went back to school to study painting. She's part of a contemporary art movement called The New Constructivists. They argue that people use the cultural resources around them to construct meaning, resisting and undermining various forms of social control.

Monday, May 08, 2006

This is the art/fashion photography of Izima Kaoru - from a series entitled "Landscapes with a Corpse" which features photos of famous Japanese actresses playing dead while wearing couture.

See more here, here, and here.

Igawa Haruka wears Dolce & Gabbana

Tomosaka Rie wears Mio Mio

Satu Yasue wears John Galliano

Koike Eiko wears Gianni Versace

Matsuda Jun wears Marni

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Two paintings, both untitled and undated, wherein neither subject
has usable hands. Both by Brendan Monroe

Saturday, May 06, 2006

for the German magazine Form

If you're intrigued by this artist and/or you like intresting experimental art films, check out the group she's associated with called the Pleix Collective.

Now then.

Call it a lament if you like, but I must opine:

Sometimes someone from Arizona breaks your heart.

And sometimes, it’s more than one person. For me, this has been the season of heartbreak from a state that doesn’t even celebrate Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday. A state that refuses Daylight Savings. Albeit a state blessed with Technicolor landscapes and lunar topography. A state, nonetheless, with a canyon so grand a whole life could go missing in its depths.

Tonight the Phoenix Suns destroyed the LA Lakers in Game 7 of what turned out to be quite a tumultuous series. And yes, it’s sad, but strangely apropos.

Friday, May 05, 2006

How to Stop a Nosebleed

Arizona will not go away. The Lakers are in serious trouble.

I will give you one good reason why you should close this window, shut off your computer, and go directly to your local moviehouse right this instant to see Mission Impossible III:

J.J. Abrams directed it. I mean, seriously.

(more about it/him here, here, and here)

Thursday, May 04, 2006

If you like glitch and electro-experimental folktronica stuff like The Books or Boards of Canada or Fridge or Four Tet, then you'd like Tunng. But if you frown at the idea of soulful banjos and twinkling harmonicas mixed with sticky beat machines, computer generated auditory outbursts and rampant skip-samplings underneath heartfelt vocal melodies, then you should definitely steer clear.

You can click here and listen to a bit of their beautiful madness.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Illustration by Kiyoshi Kuroda

Kuroda is a hip Japanese artist who likes to incorporate plants, animals, and insects in his work.

Last night I watched Korean director Park Chan-Wook's short film Cut, which was part of a collection of Asian shock/horror films called Three...Extremes. I've yet to watch the other two films, one directed by Fruit Chan and another by good ole Takashi Miike, but Cut was super cool. It doesn't surprise me, after seeing this film, to learn that Park Chan-Wook studied Philosophy in college, not filmmaking. A few nights ago my brother and I watched Eli Roth's Hostel, which wanted so badly to be in league with the likes of Chan-Wook and Miike, but just failed miserably because it lacked the intellectual component that those auteurs command. Whether you enjoy the work of a filmmaker like Miike or are simply disgusted by him, you cannot refute his talent, creativity, and intelligence. As my brother so smartly put it, a filmmaker like Roth is just a photocopy of the most surface aspects of these types of films. So if you're tempted to snag Hostel at the video store this week, I would encourage you to leave it and take Three...Extremes instead.

On a completely unrelated note, here’s a link to ?uestlove and some band that isn’t The Roots doing a cover of Radiohead’s "Morning Bell," for your aural pleasure, thanks to C.S.P.

ps - Tonight the Lakers have a chance to make Arizona disappear.

Monday, May 01, 2006

This brilliant Mapquest-print dress is the creative handiwork of designer Elisabeth Lecourt.

Check out the article at Style Bubble.