Monthly Archives: April 2012

Higher plane

Instead of jumping right into the week, let’s contemplate something amazing.

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Two countries divided by a common language

Apropos of this, study up on this, and then if you’re feeling strong, get a handle on this:

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Double consciousness, with cheese

In which W.E.B. Du Bois (channeled by Pia Glenn) gears up to order a Big Mac:

Christian TV hostess Cookie Carter gets a tour of pop culture with Wendy Williams, Nicki Minaj and “Ra-hanna.”

Her fearless deadpan gets extreme on this one:

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Friday finds

My homies find the perfect way to tell Anders Breivik to go fuck himself.

A new translation of Theodor Fontane, with great pictures of Stirling Castle.

The list of the covers of the e-books of the knockoffs of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.

Saul Bass was a genius. What, you don’t believe me? How about some more examples?

Ward-heeling with incense.” Genius. Just genius.

Racing stats? Racing stats?

Douglas Trumbull, the visual effects pioneer behind Blade Runner and 2001: A Space Odyssey, talks about the cinema of the future. What will it be like to watch The Hobbit in its higher-resolution version?

I left my hardanger in San Francisco.

Tales from a radio obsessive.

Mining the sky — a few links, a few thoughts.

Want a free Monster? Of course you do. And here it is.

“I defy any writer to move to Paris and not be posing like Hemingway in a café within the first few months. I had that kind of Lost Generation love when I first moved to Paris. Actually, I wrote about this in an essay for the Huffington Post years ago, about the way that hanging out in cafés and pretending to be a writer like Hemingway actually did make me a writer. I wouldn’t necessarily have self-identified as a writer before I studied abroad in Paris. I was more of a reader than a writer. But I guess if you pretend to do something for a while, you realize that, oh, wow, that was just a way to do get to something that I guess I secretly wanted to do.”

That is one deserted highway.

Having fun with a feeb.

Don’t steal art.

Is watching this video really worth three minutes of your life? Once you know, it will be too late.

“Eric Danville, author of The Complete Linda Lovelace, and a technical adviser on the Amanda Seyfried film, once asked Lovelace: ‘Why did you join up with feminists trying to ban porn instead of feminists trying to fight domestic abuse?’ Lovelace’s response? ‘The people fighting domestic abuse never approached me. Catherine [MacKinnon] was the first person to really approach me’ says much about how she led her life. Dance with the one that brought you.”

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Back to something for something

The freebie Kindle edition of We All Fall Down is no more. The promotion generated a pretty impressive rush of downloads. I hope those of you who scored a copy will enjoy the novel. I also hope that if you liked the story, you will post a nice reader review on the book’s Amazon page.

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Everybody loves Raymond (and Dashiell)

Heavenly hard-boiled reading now available at the Library of America’s “Story of the Week” feature: a 1923 piece by Dashiell Hammett that marked a turning point in the development of his style; and “I’ll Be Waiting,” Raymond Chandler’s finest short story. It’s relatively brief, loaded with atmosphere, and has a honey of a twist ending, but I love it most for this opening paragraph:

At one o’clock in the morning, Carl, the night porter, turned down the last of three table lamps in the main lobby of the Windermere Hotel. The blue carpet darkened a shade or two and the walls drew back into remoteness. The chairs filled with shadowy loungers. In the corners were memories like cobwebs.

Great beginnings are a hallmark of noir novels. When I read the opening of Red Harvest, Dashiell Hammett’s first novel, I immediately wanted to read everything else the man had put to paper:

I first heard Personville called Poisonville by a red-haired mucker named Hickey Dewey in the Big Ship in Butte. He also called his shirt a shoit. I didn’t think anything of what he had done to the city’s name. Later I heard men who could manage their r’s give it the same pronunciation. I still didn’t see anything in it but the meaningless sort of humor that used to make richardsnary the thieves’ word for dictionary. A few years later I went to Personville and learned better.

Using one of the phones in the station, I called the Herald, asked for Donald Willsson, and told him I had arrived.

“Will you come out to my house at ten this evening?” He had a pleasantly crisp voice. “It’s 2101 Mountain Boulevard. Take a Broadway car, get off at Laurel Avenue, and walk two blocks west.”

I promised to do that. Then I rode up to the Great Western Hotel, dumped my bags, and went out to look at the city.

The city wasn’t pretty. Most of its builders had gone in for gaudiness. Maybe they had been successful at first. Since then the smelters whose brick stacks stuck up tall against a gloomy mountain to the south had yellow-smoked everything into uniform dinginess. The result was an ugly city of forty thousand people, set in an ugly notch between two ugly mountains that had been all dirtied up by mining. Spread over this was a grimy sky that looked as if it had come out of the smelters’ stacks.

The first policeman I saw needed a shave. The second had a couple of buttons off his shabby uniform. The third stood in the center of the city’s main intersection–Broadway and Union Street–directing traffic, with a cigar in one corner of his mouth. After that I stopped checking them up.

Red Harvest was published in 1029, the same year John Steinbeck made his considerably less promising debut with Cup of Gold, and Ernest Hemingway published his second novel, A Farewell to Arms. Hammett’s book was a downmarket detective story, but it had a lot more interesting and revealing things to say about its time than Hemingway’s opus.    

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The place to be

Tonight, that is. Philip Larkin’s poems, read by a roster that includes Zadie Smith, Paul Simon, and other notables, with live performances of some of Larkin’s favorite jazz. If I were anywhere near Manhattan tonight, I’d be there.

Larkin’s most famous poem is probably “Annus Mirabilis,” with these opening lines:

Sexual intercourse began

In nineteen sixty-three

(which was rather late for me) –

Between the end of the Chatterley ban

And the Beatles’ first LP.

I’ve written just enough poetry to know I should never write any more, but back in my bright college days I came up with what I thought was a nice Larkin semi-parody:

Sexual intercourse began

In nineteen seventy-three

(and was all theoretical for me)

With Pam Grier in Coffy

And the cover of Carly Simon’s third LP.

Coffy being my first blaxploitation movie, and No Secrets being second only to Playing Possum in the gallery of Carly Simon Hotcha Album Covers, at least to male music fans of a certain age. (I know the album came out late in 1972, but what can I say, 1973 was the year the photo jumped out at me from the racks of Sam Goody.) And if you’ve seen Pam Grier, no further explanation is necessary.

I wonder which poem Paul Simon will read? The cover of Still Crazy After All These Years included some lines from Ted Hughes, whose influence on Simon’s songwriting remains invisible to me. But Philip Larkin? It’s all over the place in Simon’s catalogue. Can’t believe I didn’t realize it before now.  

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Linkin’ linkin’ I’ve been thinkin’

A list of 12 German words that have no English equivalents, though they really should.

No, you can’t write a paper on Edgar Allan Poe.

The perils of working with a small press.

Relationship advice from H.P. Lovecraft.

50 Shades of Grey: The dirtiest parts. Not really all that dirty, but whaddya want from a book that originated as Twilight fan fiction?

Innumerable documents recording atrocities committed by British officials during the final days of empire were secretly destroyed in order to keep them out of the hands of post-colonial governments.

These songbirds make the Shaggs sound like the Supremes.

Gandalf’s beard has deeper roots than you might realize.

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E-freading

“E-freading” as in, “Read a free e-book.” The free Kindle edition of my first novel We All Fall Down is up right now, just waiting to snuggle into your handheld device or properly app’d laptop. I’m keeping it gratis until early next week, so if you’ve been holding off on reading a crime novel that’s been praised by the New York Post and the Star-Ledger, here’s your shot. You want to hear what other writers said about it? J.D. Rhoades called the novel “fast-moving and twisty,” and Kristy Kiernan called it a “hugely promising debut.” Shucks, I’d want to read the book myself, if I hadn’t already written it. Here’s your link. Have fun.

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