Hotsy Totsy members: Juliet Clark - Ray Davis - Anselm Dovetonsils - Christina La Sala
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The Hotsy Totsy Club

2000-04-18. . . Cholly Kokonino reporting


I have a drinking opportunity.

. . . 2000-04-20

Sofia Tonight the Coppola clan strengthens both their position as the Kennedies of Kalifornia Kulture and the local tradition of "You Go, Daddy's Girl!" post-feminism when little Sofia's gala-ly opens the shmooze-happy SF Int'l (Intel? Internal? Intellectual? as if!) Film Festival. Early blurbs from the critics of Premiere, Vogue, and Flair indicate that she's sticking to the paternal formula of very expensive mediocrity; fittingly, the most sycophantic account to date comes from the festival schedule itself, which swoons over

"the baffling, hidden reality of teenage girls.... Her most astounding feat, however, is going beyond the expected genre conventions, to discover and courageously reveal a romantic, at times mythic power." gorgeous blonde teenagers. Yeah, that's breaking new Hollywood ground.... Hell-LO! You can't "courageously reveal" a myth. You can, however, mindlessly repeat one.

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Napa Valley travellers who need a break from beautiful scenery and no-nonsense boozing will want to visit the Coppola Winery, a self-aggrandizing museum and museum store which really packs in that Hard Rock Cafe crowd.

Here, the model some uncle glued together from toothpicks demonstrates (according to the museum tag) the genetic basis of Coppola's remarkable manual dexterity. Look, there's Sofia's vanity license plate, still attached to the "too dorky to drive" car her father bought her! Savvy shoppers know it's the only place you can find Tucker: The Man and His Dream T-shirts for sale. But it gets kind of frustrating seeing Francis's selection of the best extra virgin olive oil and Francis's selection of the best pencil and best yellow legal pad (I'm not kidding!) and Francis's selection of the best kitchen apron and never getting to the consumer guidance I'd really appreciate: Francis's selection of the best nose hair trimmer.

. . . 2000-04-21

Our motto

Certainly not a journal; not in the sense of diary, and not in the sense of magazine -- not so much editing the Web as muttering at it under our breath.

So NQPAOFU is right; correspondence is closer -- but letters tend to call-and-respond into ever thinner echoes unless frequently larded by topics from outside the letters themselves. For me, a still closer analogy is conversation, with its fragmenting veerings of immediate impulse, its easy changes of tone and subject, its relaxed or fraught (but inevitable) drops into silence, its emphasis on voice.... Most of what I've written began in speech, including my longest short stories and the projected novels I'll never finish (because I run out of talk before the novels run out of pages?). The weblog form presents fewer exceptions to that rule than ever, supporting variations on the reedy tenor from bitchy to maudlin to bumptious to ponderous to bubbleheaded to just plain reading out loud....

But of course a conversation made public and permanent is not quite a conversation any more, except in the sense of The Infinite Conversation: a conversation which leaves politely open the possibility that the person conversed with hasn't heard you or doesn't care to or doesn't even exist yet. (Here's where another meaning of correspondence comes in handy: a coincidence of distant experiences....)

By far the most addictive writing medium I've ever used was a piece of CRT-based software called DECnotes (or was it VAXnotes? I'm pretty sure it wasn't WINnotes, anyway). It was fast and centralized and accessible world-wide; it made it easy to create and track digressions and new discussions; a standard customizable text editor was built in. It painlessly combined aspects of essay, email, discussion, role playing, mob violence, annotated revision-tracking scholarship, and improv troupes: a Collected Letters and Comedy Hour.

I keep hoping that I'll find something similar again, even if only by having someone hire me to program something similar. In the meantime, I've cycled through not quite as addictive approximations of various sorts. The Hotsy Totsy Club is a closer stab than the others, but still lacks some visceral sense of contact that I miss, a sense of immediate rewards and immediate dangers, the pleasantly ambiguous challenge-and-collaboration of dancing or flirting....

. . . 2000-04-22

If You Eat Hamburgers You Don't Deserve to Buy My Vegetables

From the Tech Law Journal (via

The Librarian of Congress, James Billington, stated that the Library will not digitize books. "So far, the Internet seems to be largely amplifying the worst features of television's preoccupation with sex and violence, semi-literate chatter, shortened attention spans, and near-total subservience to commercial marketing," said Billington.

"You don't want to be one of those mindless futurists," said Billington, "who sit in front of a lonely screen."

"It is isolating. It is a lonely thing." In contrast, "libraries are places, a community thing."

I could be missing some important bureaucratic thingy that prevented Billington from saying "We're funded for books and we don't have the money to do anything but books," but to take him at face value: Doesn't refusing to digitize otherwise unavailable books contribute to making the Internet more commercial and television-like rather than protesting those trends? And, as much as libraries have meant to me, I wouldn't describe them (and the Library of Congress in particular) as more sociable than a networked computer.

Rest assured or uneasy that we here at the Hotsy Totsy Club will continue to point to digitized books and, when Ray buys a scanner and loses his job, may even be digitizing some of our own....

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1995 flashback:

Dave Gobel, the company's president and CEO, envisions the Web changing into a social environment. "Today, the Web is a lonely place," he said....
I just don't get why all these old rich guys are so worried about me being lonely. Are they, like, coming on to me or something?

. . . 2000-04-23

100 Super Movies au maximum: Actress

Hsiao-yu tugged at me Director Stanley Kwan's film is a masterpiece, maybe the most intelligently self-aware historical melodrama ever made.

The Hong Kong producers' version, going under the title Centre Stage, thirty minutes shorter and completely restructured, is a Star-Is-Born-and-Then-Dies biopic with pretty cinematography and great acting.

Among the producers' cuts is the central scene of the movie:

After the protagonist's suicide, everyone is standing around her corpse, crying (or not). That's where Centre Stage ends.
Actress draws that shot out, and then interrupts it with Stanley Kwan's voice calling for a retake because he saw Maggie Cheung's chest move.
The scene is then played again, this time with the viewer aware of how much physical strain the perfectly still Cheung must be undergoing beneath and past the moving camera.
"Cut!", and Cheung comes surging up from her deathbed taking great racking gulps of air....

It's an extraordinarily moving collapse of film-as-documentation and film-as-artifice and film-as-immortality -- star as slain and resurrected sacrifice, perpetually reproducing the same....

Auntie Li, why don't you cry? A few prints of Actress have played a lot of film festivals over the years without ever finding a distributor. Despite Kwan's having produced the best entry in BFI's "Century of Cinema" series (going against the likes of Martin Scorsese and Jean-Luc Godard), his early ghost story Rouge remains pretty much the only work available to American audiences.

At this point Actress bids well to become the first great lost film of the 1990s.

. . . 2000-04-24

"Life is distracting and uncertain,"

She said, and went to draw the curtain.

Continuing our series of interesting Campus Connections, we note that those kings of casual chic Edward Gorey and Frank O'Hara roomed together during their sophomore and junior years at Harvard.

"He had friends in the Music Department who actually accused me of having corrupted Frank, like in some turn-of-the-century novel." -- Edward Gorey
Leaving aside their overlapping interests in scandal, ballet, pictures-with-text, French poetry, comfortable shoes, and things to do on a rainy Sunday, Gorey was perhaps the only artist whose ouevre might conceivably have incorporated without noticeable strain a portrayal of accidental death by dune buggy on Fire Island....

. . . 2000-04-25

Seeing eye to eye: tips for the new practitioner

  1. The limited compressibility of noses and foreheads makes it impossible to proceed either from the traditional "missionary" kissing position or from the "69" you might be inclined to try instead.
  2. Thus an "arm-wrestling" or "side-saddle" posture is required and only two of the total of four eyes can be paired at any one time: right to right or left to left. (Which, by the bye, is why the expression uses the singular.)
  3. The eye not participating can be either open or shut, but should avoid blinking since that might precipitate blinking in the active eye.
  4. Do not wear contact lenses or a condition like braces-lock may occur. Of course, if either partner is suffering from pink-eye or another communicable illness, spectacles should be donned; in many large urban areas they can be obtained without a prescription.
  5. When the lashes first touch, there will be a natural flinching or pulling back, and again at the moment of actual contact. Don't panic -- even the most confident of us often have to endure a couple of false starts! Retry calmly, breathing regularly, with hands on each other's shoulders to steady your movements.

. . . 2000-04-26

In New York in the 1980s you could always tell it was safe to talk to someone about music if you saw FM antenna wire tacked up all over their apartment, 'cause that meant they were trying to drag in from Upsala College, East Orange, New Jersey, the reluctant signal of WFMU, the radio station so hip that its program guide was a zine -- a pretty good one, too, especially when it came to graphics, what with Kaz DJ-ing there and bringing his fellow RAW artists along for the ride.

In 2000, Upsala is upsadaisied, there are no oranges in Jersey, Your Old Pal Irwin is calling himself just plain Irwin with a last name of some sort attached, and I'm dragging the signal across a much longer wire. But at least the signal is better!

Le WFMUbus
The moving element in the WFMU Floaty Pen fundraiser prize: "Just another quiet day in Paris, and a legendary punk rocker is walking down the street minding his own business when... "

. . . 2000-04-27

Angina dentata

The heart is the only predator that attacks by standing still.

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Even aside from the New York Times reporter's hopeless muddle over the word "virus," I have mixed feelings about this story. On the one hand, The Sims is proving to big business monkeys that the CD-plus-downloadable-behavior-changes software model I've been pushing (with no luck) for six years actually does work. On the other hand, I'm not programming The Sims.

"Like almost everything in the game, the guinea pig's function as a disease vector was carefully simulated, Mr. Wright said. For example, the guinea pig only spreads the disease if a Sims player neglects to clean its cage, and only if a player reaches into the cage to pet the software animal and is bitten will he get sick. Someone who has gotten sick sneezes and coughs and will infect other human characters in the game who come within several 'tiles' distance."

. . . 2000-04-29

One of the troubles with the self-help industry is that it assumes too few dimensions to an infinitely dimensioned society -- which is exactly what sustains it as an industry. In this "Emotional IQ" test (via Alamut), for example, all kinds insight, all kinds happiness, and all kinds politesse are mushed together into one score. (Of course, the score is based solely on self-perceptions of dubious validity, which is another trouble with the self-help industry.)

According to a study I read in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, depressed people tend to have fewer delusions than non-depressed people, they tend to make less distinction between themselves and others, and they tend to be more accurate in determining consensus in a group.

That's not to say that depressed people are better human beings -- experience strongly suggests otherwise. But it is to say that labels like "emotional intelligence" or "mental health" tempt us to bundle together traits that are, at best, not mutually reinforcing.

. . . 2000-04-30

In (guarded) praise of irony

A couple months back, a reviewer of that Dave Eggers book wrote something about how she'd never seen such emotional material treated ironically.

That's very sad (sad ha-ha, not sad strange), because the only possible excuse for irony is emotion, and too much of it. "The world is a comedy to those who think; a tragedy to those who feel"; and irony's all that's been left to the softhearted analytical human being since Socrates at the latest. That's why stupid irony is exactly the same thing as unfeeling irony.

:) I regretfully admit that there's plenty of stupid irony around these days, probably because irony is the easiest thing to fake, its "Oh, I didn't really mean that" an easy refuge for the cowardly fool.

But beware, brother, beware: to don a suit of armor when you're just planning to wash dishes or go shopping is to invite great expense. If not injury. If not both (e.g., "Seinfeld"). Use only as a last resort; believe me, you'll get to the last resort soon enough.

I also admit that at first (or at disgusted and exhausted) glance, irony seems utterly antithetical to art ("art" being best described as "No, I meant to do that").

The trick is to stand firmly behind your transparently hollow words and (except of course when evading legal action) cheerfully admit to fully believing each and every empty idiocy you've recorded.

If you can call that a trick.

For those who have been made self-conscious of hubris in the mere act of expression, irony is pert near unavoidable. Thus, most of the women writers on my shelves are masters of the form in all its moods, from Behn and Austen through Bowles and Barnes to Russ and Fowler, criminy, Brontë & Brontë & Brontë & Olive Moore & Patricia Highsmith & Flannery O'Connor & Edith Wharton, it gets kind of creepy, doesn't it? Thus also the tactic's popularity with such resigned-to-failure types as Stendhal and Flaubert, Romantic rapscallions like Byron and Pushkin, and most sane twenty-somethings.

Here, for example, we actually witness the most beautiful of Nature's tender miracles, the birth of an ironist:

"It is wonderful -- stupendous to consider, how a man who in his own mind is cool, witty, unaffected and high-toned, will disgust and mortify himself by every word he utters or act he does, when he steps out of his skin defenses." -- Henry Adams, age 25
So don't let anyone tell you that irony isn't hip anymore. It's as hip as it ever was.

... an' anotha thing ...... then again ...

Copyright to contributed work and quoted correspondence remains with the original authors.
All other material: Copyright 2000 Ray Davis.