Thursday, November 30, 2006

"...angelheaded hipsters burning for the ancient heavenly connection to the starry dynamo in the machinery of night..."

Since we’ve come to the end of November, it’s my last chance to say something about the Golden Jubilee anniversary of Allen Ginsberg’s monumental poem “Howl,” published by City Lights in November exactly 50 years ago.

I read “Howl” for the first time when I was 17, exploring literature on my own for the first time. It stung me like a wasp bite. I spent countless hours scribbling in composition books trying desperately to emulate its style. I suppose, in a way, I’ve never stopped trying to emulate its style: the long breath, the odd imagery, the dizzy cacophony of language. I owe a great deal to this poem, as a formative experience it helped shape my personal aesthetic and also inspired me tremendously.

If you’ve never read “Howl,” I highly recommend clicking here now and taking the time to experience it. And then as a dessert, seek out an audio version of Ginsberg reading it. Personally, I love the brilliant Kronos Quartet recording.

Here is a NPR story about the anniversary.

Here is a video interview with Ginsberg from 1995.

Here is a link to some Ginsberg You Tube videos.

is a Believer article by the travel writer Rolf Potts about why we should also remember the anniversary of Ginsberg’s “Wichita Vortex Sutra.”

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Do you think it's dangerous
to have Busby Berkeley dreams?

- the Magnetic Fields

Although he’s no longer with us, today was legendary film director / choreographer Busby Berkeley’s birthday. Above is a shot from one of his pictures.

Next, I wanted to share with you the World Press Photo winner of the year:

"On the night before the burial, Cathey’s wife Katherine refused to leave the body, and played songs on her laptop that reminded her of her husband." -photo by Todd Heisler, USA, Rocky Mountain News/Polaris Images

Click here to see the rest of the winners.

D. says in Monday's comment section that Alex Katz is the painting equivalent of Cheever. That comparison made me smile. Here are two Katz paintings I enjoy:

Orange Hat

Portrait of a Poet: Kenneth Koch

Monday, November 27, 2006

Today, for no good reason, I've decided to showcase the work of two different artists; neither has anything to do with the other so far as I can tell, other than the fact that both are interesting to me.

The first is NYC artist Adam Grossi:

Slow Approach

Cold Pool On Hot Day

The second is Korean artist Jiha Moon:

Pinata Garden


The following is a line from a poem called "Eight Experiments in Artifice" by a poet I really like named Noah Eli Gordon, from a journal I really like called Conjunctions:

Too much symbolism anilities the sublimated form, therefore no one mentions swans anymore.

Read the whole rad poem here.

A group called the Milwaukee Paper Company is tagging the Wisconsin streets with anti-war posters. Click here to see more of their work.

I think Noam Chomsky would get a kick out of this video titled after one of his books, Pirates and Emperors, done in the fashion of School House Rock.

Speaking of Chomsky, this is a few months old but you can click here to find out why Hugo Chavez is a fan, and why he's awesome aside from the fact that he likes to publicly refer to Bush as the devil.

ps - if you have yet to watch the fascinating documentary called The Power of Nightmares, you should click here and do so immediately.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

I don’t know if I’m related to the Canadian musician Rebekah Higgs, but I like her voice. The eerie music she creates has been described as Indie/Shoegaze/Electronica.

If you’re in Los Angeles, you should check out the Magritte show at LACMA. It looks sweet. Click here to see more.

Do you know about this Scottish comedian named Mark Day? The following is one of his bits called “A Message from the President,” which deals with the tragic events of Friday the 13th:

And now to end today’s post with a nice little bookend by returning to Canada and the odd paintings of Nicholas Di Genova:

Friday, November 24, 2006

How do I know you're one of the good guys?
You dont. You'll have to take a shot.
Are you carrying the fire?
(pg. 238)

Yesterday I read Cormac McCarthy’s new novel The Road from cover to cover, and I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it. The language is as curt and sparse as the landscape the two main characters are traveling. McCarthy brilliantly gives no explanation for the seemingly post-apocalyptic world he has created, no tidy backstory for those incessant whiners who constantly seek answers, no silly flashback to when the world was still happy and cheerful. Things are the way they are because the author says they are, period. You have a choice when you begin this novel: you can take what you are given and read with relish, or you can whinge and quibble over the eternal mysteries which will never be answered.

To reiterate, there will be no answers in this novel. I guarantee it.

And so rejoice. Thank heavens for a novel of withholding! Here is a tale that does not suffer from the disease of banality because it does not concern itself with trivial things, with explanations, or simplistic psychological realism. It cuts straight to the marrow of humanity and continues to slice at those nerve endings we try so hard to cover up. It does not make sense, it is not logical; it is beautiful and beauty is beyond logic.

The love between a father and son, the fear of living in a world where we have absolutely no hope, the struggle to survive, these are some of the realms of exploration happening here. Sure there are moments of pure terror, of heart wrenching sentiment, of true ache and suffering, but more than anything there is a sincere feeling of hope, of longing to be what the son refers to as “one of the good guys” - a term that refers more to our basic human decencies than to any analogous treatment of our current, highly politicized, rhetorical usage of this concept, which is another refreshing treat afforded by this novel: it seems to be totally without shallow political mirroring. This, to my way of thinking, is a fantastic achievement: the creation of a timeless parable, not a didactic warning to contemporary America.

I leave you with two of my favorite passages...

from page 10, the father speaking to his son:

Just remember that the things you put in your head are there forever, he said. You might want to think about that.

You forget some things, don’t you?

Yes. You forget what you want to remember and you remember what you want to forget.

from page 116, the father speaking to his son

This is what the good guys do. They keep trying. They don’t give up.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

In my opinion, You, Me, and Dupree was awful. I say this not as a film-snob, but as someone who tends to truly enjoy well constructed romantic comedies, and who is willing to completely suspend judgement in most cases. Unfortunately, this script has no idea where it’s going or what its about; from point A to point Z there are a billion and one diversions, and more than that many clich├ęs riddled throughout. The characters are worse than badly written, they’re seriously laughable, and not in a playful or even ironic way, but in an embarrassing way. And honestly, I was confounded by the depiction of marriage it portrayed, not to mention the horribly reductive stereotyping of the man as an eternally emotionless frat boy, and the woman as a subservient doormat or else her husband’s property. It makes me sad to see Owen Wilson in such a lowbrow production.

I found this site called Art is Not a Crime, which showcases different graffiti artists.

Some art is beautiful, some is brutal, and some is both. In his new collection, the Columbian painter Fernando Botero shows us who and what we are: the kind of creatures capable of committing and/or condoning torture no different than the so-called evildoers we so passionately despise. Botero reminds us that we too are evildoers - like it or not, admit it or not - each and every one of us.

See more about his Abu Ghraib project here.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Alex Cima teaches in the Music Department at Fullerton College. Back in the 80s, he did the trailer music for Blade Runner and E.T. In his spare time he does these:



The kind of obfuscation going on in Cima's paintings reminds me of this linguistic phenomenon:

Aoccdrnig to a rscheearch epxerimnet at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, the oredr iwnhcih ltteers are arganerd in a wrod deosn't mttaer, the olny iprmoatnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer be in the rghit pclae. The rset can be a taotl mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit a porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe. (And all tihs tmie you thgohut slpeling was ipmorantt.)

ps - for anyone keeping score, the Lakers are at the top of their division.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

I like to ask people to recall the first movie they remember seeing at the theater, to tell the story of that initial experience because it’s always interesting to me.

My first memory of going to the cinema was to see Robert Altman’s Popeye. I was very young, with my mom and dad, and all I remember is that we were late to the drive-in, the movie had already started by the time we got to the long line of cars waiting on the street to get in, and I could see the movie on the giant screen but I couldn’t hear the sound. I’ll never forget pressing my face against the backseat window in total astonishment.

I bring this up because yesterday the mighty Robert Altman died.

Altman, the man who created the first film my eyes ever glimpsed. Altman, the man who both inspired me and irritated me simultaneously throughout film school. Altman, the man who was once asked to describe his next project and promptly responded, “If I could tell you what it’s about I wouldn’t need to make the picture.”

To me, he is extraordinarily important because he broke rules. He pushed the boundaries and invented new ways of expression. By creating the films he wanted to create in the ways he wanted to create them, he stood as an example to so many young filmmakers, writers, and artists alike: follow your obsessions, your personal delights, and your unique imagination.

God, if only more people in the world were devotees of Altman.

Goodbye, Sir. Your passion lives on with me.

[click here to view his filmography]

Monday, November 20, 2006

Last Wednesday, a Hong Kong businessman bought Andy Warhol's portrait of Chairman Mao for $17.4 million at a Christie's auction, making it the most expensive Warhol ever sold. Previously, the record was held by his "Orange Marilyn," which auctioned for $17.3 million by Sotheby's in 1998.

Michiko Kakutani disembowels the new Pynchon novel here.

Thanks to Julie at Eluvium, I bring you the Book/Cut Sculptures of British artist Su Blackwell:

Alice. A Mad Tea-Party


from The Snow Queen Series

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Here in Columbus, on any given day, but especially this past week, you might hear someone scream out “O-H” to which you are being asked to reply “I-O.” This is the Buckeye battle cry, and today it could be heard echoing throughout the city as OSU beat Michigan to win the Big Ten title.

Truth be told, I’m not much for the art of football; but I am quite proud of being a Buckeye, and I must confess that it was great fun sitting on the couch with my girlfriend, watching this much anticipated match-up, hoping that our team could hold their narrow three point lead so that the crazy fans would not become disgruntled and burn our city to the ground.

We're now one game away from being the National Champions. Go Bucks!

On the art front, I give you the work of post-Pollock drip artist Jane Callister, a British-born artist who got her MFA from the good ole University of Nevada-Las Vegas, my film school alma mater. She’s now a member of the painting faculty at UC Santa Barbara.

Wasabi Sky

Cosmic Collision

Chibbyr Skeay (Manx): Gushing Well

I leave you with more from Only Revolutions:

from Hailey's section, pg. 92:

I'm every pang. I am pain.
Every Upper East Side plaidskirted
kid running to find the edge of
her worth. And everyone wants to
conquer me because when I gain
competitions hurt.
Which I allways desert.

from Sam's section, pg. 92:

I'm every pleasure. I am pleasure.
Every Lower West Side patchjacketed
kid running to discover the worth of
his life. And everyone seeks to
please me because when I pleasure
enjoyments surge.
Which I allways deserve.

ps - Last night, Kobe Bryant became the youngest player in NBA history to reach 17,000 points - yet another reason why he's the greatest player ever.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Alas, Danielewski did not win the National Book Award yesterday. Instead, the honor went to Richard Powers's The Echo Maker. I'm dismayed, of course, but ultimately it was a coup that Only Revolutions was even nominated, and so it should still be seen as a victory for experimental fiction. (Plus, Richard Powers is super cool in his own right.)

So anyway, I give you Jen Corace, an artist who got her BFA at the Rhode Island School of Design:




Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Derrick Adams earned his BFA at the Pratt Institute and his MFA at Columbia University. He lives and works in NYC.


Attempting to Ward Off the Inevitable

Not What It Looks Like

ps - Thanks to CSP I share this super sweet link to the University of Arizona marching band playing Radiohead songs at halftime against the University of Wyoming!

Monday, November 13, 2006

Marc Forster's new film Stranger Than Fiction is a must see, if for no other reason than its imaginative premise: what if you were the main character in someone’s newest novel? Sure, there are holes which open up the possibility for ridicule by those cynics who love to hate everything, but overall, I think most intelligent viewers will be able to look past those minutely troublesome spots and see this film as a truly refreshing escape from the tired formula Hollywood so frequently produces.

Now then...

Today I give you the morbid embroidery work (Yes, embroidery. His grandmother taught him how and now he's hooked.) of Benji Whalen, an ameircan artist who received his BA in English from Columbia University and his MFA in Painting from the San Francisco Art Institute.

Scene from the Life of Death (Fatherhood)

Scene from the Life of Death (Birthday)

Scene from the Life of Death (Mourning)

And finally, more quotes from Only Revolutions:

From Hailey's section, pg. 58:

Because I'm annihilation. Napalmic
and plastic. Find me by buckets
of fingers and noses.

From Sam's section, pg. 58:

Because I'm anarchy. Axes
and raids. Find me at morgues and
bloodsplattered parades.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Writing Should Be Spectacle,
First and Foremost

My friend and fellow writer, D., voices an important response in defense of conventional storytelling in the comment section of my previous post. Although he and I disagree wholeheartedly as to the merit of such writing, I believe in nothing if not dissent, and so I take his opposing viewpoint as I always have, with much respect.

The part of his comment which I found most interesting was when he wrote: “Danielewski piles experiment on top of experiment and metafictional layer upon metafictional layer, so that perhaps its brilliance is in accumulation. Again, acrobatics; the pleasure is all buried in a kind of "Look Ma, no hands!" quality.”

Yes!!! That is precisely what I love about his work! Why? Because I believe in showing off. I believe in drawing attention to the writing itself, in tricks for the sake of tricks, in audacious and rambunctious exhibitions of imagination. I believe in spectacle. This is what I love about writing: not story, but spectacle. I want to be shocked and surprised. I want to be baffled. I do not want to be lulled into some catatonic dream; I want to be electrocuted. I want to experience something I never could have imagined possible.

Think about it in terms of basketball: I don’t want to go to a game where each team plays solid defense, runs effective plays, hits the appropriate jumpers, etc. No! I want Kobe Bryant showboating, spinning, dazzling, splitting a triple team and plunging to the hoop from the three point line and slam dunking it behind his back.

That’s what I want in fiction!

In closing, I will leave you with something that one of my greatest literary heroes, John Hawkes, once said: "I began to write fiction on the assumption that the true enemies of the novel were plot, character, setting and theme, and having once abandoned these familiar ways of thinking about fiction, totality of vision or structure was really all that remained."

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Next Wednesday, The National Book Foundation will announce the winners of the 2006 National Book Award. My hope is that they will give the fiction award to Mark Z. Danielewski’s Only Revolutions, which is one of the five finalists.

I am in love with this book and I believe you should be, too. Nothing compares to it. Nothing. Publisher's Weekly says it's "A pastiche of Joyce and Beckett, with heapings of Derrida's Glas and Thomas Pynchon's The Crying of Lot 49 thrown in for good measure." Ostensibly, it's about a pair of teenagers, Sam and Hailey, who are perpetually sixteen, who travel through time and country. It's 360 pages long, with 360 words per page, and half the story is printed one way and the other half is printed the other way, and you read 8 pages of one story and then flip the book over and read eight pages of the other story, and there are notes on the margin that chart historical events, and it’s in verse, and it’s brilliant, underline it, brilliant!

It makes me so bloody happy that I have a hard time reading it because I am constantly giggling at how ingenious it is. Really. It’s so good that I can barely contain myself, and I worry that my girlfriend might rightly be jealous of my relationship with it.

If you want to become a more enlightened human being, someone who is capable of imagining fiction beyond the tediously boring constraints of conventional storytelling, if you want to experience a true literary experiment that reconstructs the boundaries of the form, you must go right this instant to your local bookstore and buy this book!

Seriously. Help fight the monster of boredom and stupidity.

Click here to listen to Danielewski on Bookworm. Click here to visit the super cool official website for OR.

(I will be posting excerpts as I continue to swim in the prose. If you too are reading, or have recently finished, please share your favorite passages in the comments section!)

From Sam’s section, pg. 3:

I will sacrifice nothing.
For there are no countries.
Except me. And there is only
one boundary. Me

From Hailey’s section, pg. 9:

I’m too multiple to feel.

Also from Hailey's section, pg. 26:

-You cain't own
what you cain't end.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

The artist Alex Grey is from Columbus, Ohio, the wonderful town where I live. His work is super wicked.

Instead of showing multiple examples, like I normally do, I want to share my one absolute favorite of his paintings:


Monday, November 06, 2006

Entertainment mogul David Geffen recently made art history. He sold a Jackson Pollock for $140 million, which now stands as the most expensive painting ever sold. That title previously belonged to Gustav Klimt’s Adele Bloch-Bauer I, which sold for $135 million. That’s right, the most expensive painting ever sold was done by that old boy from Wyoming who didn’t even use a paintbrush! Going back to my post from a few days ago, this illustrates another gigantic difference between Pollock and Twombly. Read more about the sale here.

(Above on the left is the Pollock that was sold, entitled No. 5, 1948; on the right is Klimt's Adele Bloch-Bauer I)

Click here to find out more about NASA’s declaration: “Humanity has the power to fill outer space with life.”

Volume #6 of the mysterious literary pamphlet The Cupboard is now availible here for free.

I leave you with the wicked Chinese photographer Li Wei, who proudly doesn't use photoshop:

Dream-Like Love

I am on Ice


Freedegree over 25th story