. . . Errata

. . .

Errata: It! The Terror from Beyond Space is a misnomer. It should instead be Martian! The Terror from Mars.

. . .

Errata: It must be time for another Patricia Highsmith adaptation.... Casualty estimates for last month's Paddington train wreck were doubled thanks to passengers who hoped they'd be presumed dead and ran off to pursue a new identity, and to spouses of non-passengers who hoped that they could get good solid death certificates without benefit of corpse:

"We came across some very complicated relationships, and people not always being helpful," Deputy Police Superintendent Andy Trotter said.

. . .

Errata: Reader J. Clark writes in all the way from Berkeley, California, to comment:

I think the new restaurant is called "3Ring" (all one word, just like 3Com -- so SF!).

. . .

Lovely clock Errata: In our fifth year, we often repeated a riddle regarding a little moron who threw his clock out the window. Our answer, although explaining what the little moron expected to see, continued to leave open the question of just why a little moron would wish to see such a thing. We therefore did not completely fulfill our implied promise of clarifying the little moron's motive, leading to possible frustration on the part of our listeners.

It has since come to our attention that a better answer would perhaps have been, "Because he heard that time flies when you're having fun."

We regret any inconvenience this may have caused.

. . .

A Long Happy Life in Literature,
as Told by a Slip of Paper Tucked into My Copy of
Lewis Warsh's Information from the Surface of Venus


. . .


As a certified holder of a Bachelor of Mathematics certificate, I can confidently assert that rationality exists only as a way to juggle all the words one feels compelled to throw into the air. But even that certificate is no guarantee of success, and the Outsider Art go-round left a hatchet, a raw egg, and a beach ball on my face.

Most of the muddle was caused by my smudging across questions of production (what do we notice? what attitude do we take? what markets do we approach?) and questions of consumption (how do we notice? how do we understand? how do we enjoy?) as if all of 'em were one big really dumb question.

Thus, Doug Asherman points out that I claim that the worst thing is the formation and mutual support of a mediocre group, when the really REALLY worst thing is when the mediocre group manages to convince larger groups to take it even more seriously than it takes itself.

Regarding "insularity," David Chess suggests

that there is no "mainland" at all, except in the sense of a particularly large (or visible, or well-funded, or populous) island.
(In fact when we're talking The New York Review of Books it's not even that large an island; it's just that the islanders think it's centrally located.... Minifesto: I'm not sure that a decentered self is necessary for ethical living, but I'm pretty sure that a decentered self-image is.)

And giving David Auerbach the last long word:

With all respect, I want to reframe your insider/outsider argument, because I'm not eager to see another generation of writers inspired by Colin Wilson's The Outsider willing themselves into solipsistic states of media attention and minor celebrity. I'd like to displace the insider/outsider dichotomy into the realm of 'material'. There's a quote from John Crowley's review of Lanark that I'm thinking of:
It is more like the great homemade books, the all-encompassing works that have always been constructed not of mainstream materials but of the author's own peculiar mud and straw: Pilgrim's Progress, say, or Branch Cabell's Jurgen.
I'm willing to admit that the considerations of the intellectual market matter only once you've rejected the satisfactoriness of Borges' "Secret Miracle" [....] But at that point the question of whether the creation of something was approached from the insider or outsider standpoint is more one of idiom than anything else. Or to put it another way, you can't be Kaspar Hauser and Ian Curtis at the same time. (And for a different take, I just read the conclusion of Kim Deitch's latest serial in Zero Zero, which "solves" the problem under discussion by inverting both Heinlein's "Unpleasant Profession of Jonathan Hoag" and Charles Fort -- rather than "We are property," it is "We are entertainment.")

But the outsider brand, in its two forms--

--From without--

The Jack Spicer bit is priceless, but all those "Crazy Buddhist art. Crazy Hindu art. Crazy Medieval German art." fall more under the rubric of exotica rather than "outsiderism," I'd say. What the two have in common is a desire to attach the label of foreignness to the work. I think this is less a narrative conceit (as you say) than an impulse on behalf of both the producers & consumers to mythologize & escape. And it's going on contemporaneously too: what Richard Ford & David Foster Wallace have in common is a mythologizing of everyday materials, albeit in very different form. It's not very good mythologizing (Richard Yates did it best, and most honestly, in my view), but it's still an updated variant on what Mailer, Updike, Oates, and the rest of those geezers have been earning accolades for for years. The dominant short story paradigm in most of the anthologies these days seems to be (1) the "I'm so real" Carver-derived approach of Tilghman, Offutt, and many others whose names I've forgotten, or (2) the creepy, sub-supernatural angstploitation of Lorrie Moore, Ann Beattie, David Gates, and I suppose Russell Banks. Both are variants on the same impulse to impose a private "outsider" view on ordinary materials through sheer will -- because that's the only thing that can make it worthwhile. It's a lousy approach. I think the consequent turn to the exotic stems from the same cause -- when people get fed up with the fakery of the above, they turn to the irreducibly foreign.

And then there's people like our friend Jandek who apparently achieve some level of commodification by being fetishized by collectors, and the ensuing debate over whether he and others are the "real [foreign] thing" or not. It's very important to the consumers that they are -- what could he possibly have to say if he were just like you and me?

Granted, I think America (north and south) is more prone to mythology than the Europeans or Asians (hence our great legacy of comic books & comic strips!), but the current crop of writers is too civilized to do it honestly. So while they're too self-conscious to apply the label to themselves even as they incorporate it into their fiction, those who feel it...

--From within--

still don't use it as a primary marker in their work, though they may try. I look at Bruno Schulz's work and compare it to Beckett's, and while I see them trying for similar effects, I think Beckett is more successful. This despite Schulz's Kafka-like isolation and Beckett's (relative) integration into the various scenes around him. I'm tempted to see the issue, then, as irrelevant to the quality of the work being produced -- though it may just be that Beckett was just such a prima facie genius to everyone around him that he could have been totally maladjusted and still fit in.

Thomas Bernhard, on the other hand, is a writer who I think really hurt his work by being so socially involved in Austrian theater and politics, but I don't think that it was socialization per se that damages his books so much as an innate desire to throw obscene epithets at other people. With or without the opportunity to hurl them from a respected position in Austrian letters, I think his work would've suffered the same.

. . .

Slicing the mail bag   Errata

Tom Glynn brings our earlier erratum to an even higher gloss:

"Whoa guys! Thomas Bernhard is at one and the same time our most comic and our most depressing writer. I should say was, since as you know he is dead. Who cares about his political involvement? Look at his writing. Is there anything funnier than Old Masters or more depressing than Yes? And has anyone pointed out the connection between Kierkegaard and Bernhard?"

+ + +

Speaking of hot literary disputes, I ain't George Steiner and I ain't George Steiner's son, but I can be George Steiner till George Steiner comes: James Wood's attack is vicious and exhaustive enough that most of us can probably wrest at least a couple nicks out of it....

"Steiner is like someone who, seeing a blind man in the street, says: 'I would rather be deaf than blind.'"

. . .

Progress Report

These are unsettled times, and there's nothing more unsettling than the question of Hotsy Totsy's new brand identity.

So far, our visitors' suggestions for a new logo include:
  • a guy fishing for compliments
  • Angry Housewife
  • dead horse propped up behind a checkerboard
  • something to do with el dorado?
Thank you!
And among the suggestions for a new title:
  • Iron Cuticle of Samizdat
  • Quack-a-Doodle Do
  • My Mother the Card
  • Hokey Pokey Club
Wow! Right on! Thank you again! Keep 'em coming!
El Dorado   Long-time Berkeleyist Juliet Clark issues these gentle errata:
Did you notice that the address for the "Towne Dandies" is in Saint Helena? That's not even in the East Bay! These guys are tourists. They have no right to be hanging out on our street.

Also by the way, I actually don't think Club Mallard is a good idea; tho it too has a lovely sign, it has been thoroughly colonized by the scooter set. I suggest the Mel-O-Dee Lounge instead.

. . .


. . .


An anonymous reader queries, regarding yesterday's entry:

Shouldn't that be 'Différance Strokes'?
Yes, it should. We regret any inconvenience.
"Derrida works many other things in his essay, things which it would be more important to study in a philosophy class than in an English class...."

. . .

...and with Hotsy Totsy's first ever MSNBC link (albeit trailed by errata).

. . .


Regarding yesterday's entry, a reader writes:

I'd say that Les amants du Pont-Neuf Faux was more a disaster on the order of Supertrain!
We regret any inconvenience.

. . .

Eris go bragh

Ian Collins writes us from the Isle of Saints & Sages:

I've been looking at your site.

Your criticisms of LA Confidential & Pulp Fiction, although ever so slightly valid are, IMHO, harsh and petty. You ignore the fact that both films have some of the best dialogue of any in the nineties. I like both Chinatown and LA C. But someone like you twenty years ago could just as easily criticised Chinatown for ripping off the film-noirs of the forties.

We regret any damage we've done to the careers of the makers of Pulp Fiction and LA Confidential, and herewith publicly give them permission to call us a punk Java programmer any old time they want.

. . .


Regarding our imaginary adventure, Aaron Mandel worries us:

I think the implication of the "A in B" title scheme is not just that everything turns out okay, but that A, the sympathetic star of some extended series of episodes, comes out of B essentially unchanged. At least, that's why I found CNN's slogan unnerving: it's reversed.

And, less whimsically, it implies gently that the anthrax came from outside America, while I'm starting to hear serious mumbles to the effect that the perpetrators may have been domestic terrorists.

While, regarding our Worst Episode Ever, Lawrence L. White reassures us:

Locating predictability as the turning point is, dare I say it, Wittgenstein-like: if you can't move the rock, find a different spot for the lever. One consideration: note that the legal problem is only interested in things after the fact. Examples from law seem tainted with a particular pathology, akin to the pathology of taxation-phobic voters preferring to spend more on punishing folks than on the less expensive & more effective (crime-prevention wise) technique of educating them.

I liked the entry because I have what Wittgenstein characterized as the philosophical illness. & I felt bad to think I might have infected you. I am, in part from the Wittgenstein treatment, mostly free of such vexations. Meaning I wouldn't think to try to think about those things again. Which is another reason I find Uschanov fascinating. In his case the medicine stokes the disease.

Yes, muddling legal responsiblity with determinism seems unnecessary (except, as I indicated, in the case of an omniscent omnipotent judge). Already the central ethical problem of punitive justice is that past events can't be undone. Why make matters even more difficult for our dear caretakers by asking whether future events can be?

To retreat to ordinary English usage: Could an individual change something that's already happened? No, that doesn't seem meaningful. Could she change something that hasn't happened yet? Certainly not -- if it doesn't exist, it can't be changed. Can she be part of something happening? Certainly she can, and the only way around that is to radically redefine what "she" refers to. That's where "free will" comes in, but (unlike schools) courts can have nothing to say about the present tense (except "I object!" or such like)....

As for personal regret, the "philosophical illness" holds even less terror than anthrax. No, what really bothered me about my post was first, that it seemed misshapen as argumentative prose, and second, more damningly, that it seemed redundant: that I'd added nothing to what was already available, even if we restrict ourselves to the Web.

Referring to the Bill of Artifactual Values kept in my wallet at all times:

  1. Best is to make potentially inaccessible work accessible: to publish & to lend. (Thus the obsession with the DMCA and so forth.)

  2. Next best is to publicize relatively unknown work & ideas or actually produce (heavens!) new work & ideas.

  3. Next best after that is to show new aspects of relatively available work & ideas -- to add to their audience or to their interest or at least to what might be considered their "understanding."

  4. But utterly indefensible -- vacuous in itself and friend to future vacuity -- is to throw more of the same thing into a pool of existing same thing. Art is perfectly justifiable in the age of mechanical reproduction; cover bands less so. (Therefrom springs my antagonism towards group products ranging from "academic canons" and "postmodernism" and "doctoral programs" to "news media" and "pundits" and "awards shows.")
It's a strictly additive morality based on a loosely Kantian metaphysics: anti-consensus, aestheticizing, disputatious (albeit and alongsides welcoming correction and contradiction), potentially anti-groove, perhaps dangerously-near-solipsist. But mine own. And by its light I sinned where neither Lawrence L. White, T. P. Uschanov, nor Ludwig Wittgenstein had.

. . .


If a critic performs any useful function, it must be to spell things out, and I fear I may've been negligent yesterday in not explaining just how it can be pleasant and reassuring to contemplate mass death on the stumbling heels of love's failure, hate's failure, reason's failure, and passion's failure.

It's reassuring because it means that considerations of success and failure don't have to enter into our decisions to privilege love or hate or reason or passion. Since we're equally likely to lose or to lose regardless, we can decide to decide on some basis other than winning and losing. Whereas most stories seem to want to get us all in a muddle on that point, which after a while either makes us a little confused or a little suspicious of stories, which either way is a tiresome strain.

And it's pleasant (in the much quoted words of Homer Simpson) because I don't know them.

. . .

Is there one who understands me?

Thanks to Aaron for becoming the second person to notice that I'm Cordelia.

The first person was Christina La Sala, who tried to get me to watch Buffy back in 1997 by playing up that Thalia Menninger angle. But in those early days I was very shallow and thought the show was simply not presentable. I only really became part of the gang in the third season -- which is still my favorite, although the most recent one might've supplanted it in my affection if they hadn't transplanted the ridiculous Magic-Is-My-Anti-Drug plotline from some hell-dimension version of Buffy onto the shoulders of the Real Life show -- and only very recently and while losing all my viewers have I started getting migraines and pregnant and mature and stuff.

Also, I Am Most Like Bubbles.

+ + +

Errata: One who should know assures us that, despite our evident admiration for Cordelia, we are not in fact ourselves Cordelia.

We are instead 50% Anya, 20% Willow, 15% Imperfectly-Supressed-Bad-Willow-Confronting-Giles, and 15% Xander-Driving-the-Dream-Van-with-Willow-and-Tara-in-Back.

We regret any inconvenience.

. . .


Reader Paul K. comments:

Also, it's "Arizonan" not "Arizonian." When will they learn?

. . .

Pierce the bag  
Resent, reopened

My latest Coppola tantrum touched a nation's open heart, without washing first. Anita:

I liked CQ at SIFF -- it's not the same as Sofia Coppola acting.
Yeah, by my own critical principles, my dislike is unprincipled, which is probably why it bothers me enough to write about. What's offensive is the way the world works with them; their work merely attempts (and can afford to achieve) professionalism. The Coppola daughter's acting stands out because it depends on herself; her movie fits in because it depends on hiring other people.

The Great Anonymous grunts:

Huh. viz. Z Herbert, 'What Mr Cogito Thinks About Hell'
And salivates:
Good White Bread
And adds:
Eh, I think I left a hyphen out of there
Joe Foster concurs:
re: CQ/coppolas you're fucking right. "underground" my ass. When there are so many things happening and some of value, things happening for nothing, no gain, no fame, no "qualifications" or "sanction" so to speak, then I say that the appropriation of the (natural if flawed) romanticisation of said things by peops w/sanction$connect as 'underground' or 'rebellious' is pretty much like a mountain dew commercial. Meat dew? "No time to eat? Drink your meat! - Do the Dew!" oh it's extreme, it's in MY face, at least.
From a slightly related 3.7.02 scoop of Foster's Melting Object:

I forgot to mention that I played with the Quixotic Trio just before leaving PDX. Also present were Control R Workshop, who now seem like old friends. Unfortunately Control R's drummer had quit to join a rock band. We all did mixed duos and trios all night, cappng the evening with short sets by each group. My duet with Frank (lastname?) the drummer of the QT was a blast. He's an interesting player who will benefit from touring more and meeting more players. The crabby, petulant JP Jenkins was not there, claiming "if there's not going to be an audience, what's the point of playing?" (an unbelievably bankrupt sentiment, if you ask me, and unbecoming a player of his caliber and commitment level - not to mention the fact that we *did* have a GREAT audience that night!).

And from a fairly unrelated (unlike, say, Roman Coppola) email from David Auerbach:

I went to a local improv show this weekend and saw 2/3 of the 12-strong crowd leave after the first set, and I believe I was the only person left who didn't know the performer. It left me with the question of why it's cool to listen to music no one else likes, but not to play music no one else likes.

+ + +


Juliet Clark corrects my latest attempt at tech cred:

Actually, I wouldn't call "predictable results on a laser printer" a reason; it just happens to be the most common excuse I've heard. In reality the insistence on huge bitmaps as "archival" files probably has more to do with the reason why certain academics are still trying to deconstruct Madonna: because they heard a decade or more ago that it was the thing to do, and haven't been listening since.
Certainly, it's hard to believe that all ugly digital archives have laser printers as their principal audience, and certainly, any really cool academic will be trying to deconstruct Buffy instead.

But a rewarding exchange with pierre-martin's infinitely patient Olaf Simons has taught me a bit (I don't often make jokes!) more tolerance. Simons scans for paper publication, and therefore has a big old bitpile of bitmaps available. Once they're made, he generously attempts to repurpose them for the web -- but paper, in his case, is paramount. And, unfortunately, even though shrinking a 600dpi bitmapped image to computer monitor size will look better in grayscale, it'll never look quite as good as shrinking an originally grayscale image would.

I also didn't account for pierre-marteau's use of another mostly-academic technique: by setting image tags to widths such as "50%," the site relies on the web browser to dynamically resize graphics to different resolutions and window sizes. So, in fact, the bitmapped pierre-martin image I linked to is -- if saved to a local file and then viewed at its original size -- much better looking than I thought it was.

One benefit of this technique is that it saves on labor. Another is that the web pages will print out nicely on a laser printer. There are some problems, though:

Given enough time (an unlikely scenario, as I'm all too aware), here's what seems ideal:
  1. Original scans should never be done as bitmaps. With color or grayscale, it's much easier to figure out what's interesting source material and what are stains or dust or scanning errors, making it easier to eliminate such distractions before reducing the image size. (Noise isn't exactly discarded by compression; instead, noise coarsens the end results.) Also, grayscale better preserves curves and true relations between edges.

  2. Graphics intended as webpage illustrations should be color or grayscale and statically sized. It often happens that I want to provide an extremely detailed look at a graphic as its own semi-independent artifact, and also want to include something more reasonably sized (both in dimensions and in download filesize) in a page's layout. In such circumstances, I usually hand-craft two different graphics files for the two different contexts. The smaller layout-fitting illustration usually takes much more work -- depending on the source material, I may shrink the entire graphic to a thumbnail or I may have to blow up a detail instead. I then link from the embedded graphic to the standalone one.

  3. If one wants to support laser-printing "viewers" as well, use the old commercial-site trick of a "Print View" link that, instead of eliminating ads and page breaks, swaps in 300dpi or 600dpi bitmap graphics.
Juliet tells me that she's seen some academic archives that managed all these suggestions. I look forward to it myself.

+ + +

Olaf Simons blows the whiftle:
One little thing caught my eye when I looked at your headline-gif. It ſays "Ray Daviſ, Editor and Publiſher" - and the ſ in Daviſ and Publiſher is the ſame long ſ. I might be a bit touchy with this, yet I was careful to give all quotes in my book with the correct eſſes - whether long or regular. (I manipulated my old download HP-ſoftfonts to produce the authentic long ſ wherever needed even with my old dos-word...). Now there are ſtrict rules when to uſe which. At the end of a word it is the regular one (alſo, curiouſly, in "ask"). The ſtricteſt rule is that even compounds like busſtop obſerve the regular ſmall s at the end of the integrated word - it would then be bus with regular s and ſtop with long ſ - yet many Engliſh printers loſt that feeling. If a word ends with two eſſes - like sickneſs you will always have firſt the long ſ and then the regular one. The printer can draw both together and produce the ß - which might be loſt in this e-mail (we Germans ſtill have that little thing).

One often ſees the overcompenſation of people uſing the long ſ as a regular ſmall s at all places to get this feeling of the old text - yet no old text will ever offer a long ſ at the end of a word - hence Davis ſhould end with a regular s.


Get Production on the phone!

Age of Revolution or no Age of Revolution, heads are going to roll!

. . .


My sincere thanks go to the anonymous reader who pointed out the typo in our recent tribute to the Art Gallery of Ontario:

I don't why some. I don't have the had-known that AINE held The Damned Thing
One might almost believe the message came from the King himself!

. . .


Speaking of chain-yanking and savvy use of narrative conventions, I've been seriously outclassed by responses at UFO Breakfast and Wealth Bondage. Although not strictly Bellona Times business, perhaps it's also time to publicly acknowledge the extremely informative messages my blunders have occasionally elicited from Alex Golub. It's a great medium if you don't weaken.

. . .


A smart bomb comments:

You are false data.
And some spammer comments:
OK, poindexter, I checked your site out.
Even for a dot-mil scam it's pathetic.

And what the hell is an "asymmetric threat"?
Is that some kind of anti-Symmetric remark?

Love the slides, though....

Planned Accomplishments: TBD

. . .


A reader asked that I:

get down to it bobbers
And this I did not do.

Another requested:

the body of an american
But Dos Passos or MacGowan, I knew not which, and so I merely sat and mulled my whiskey straight.

And another would very much like please some:

tahitian vanilla.....
But who placed this order I do not know, although I suspect Clarence King.

Yet another informs me:

I spoke to a member of the loyal Naderite opposition in Boulder, and she told me after Allard's win she's focusing on her wedding plans, which involve avoiding all traditions of the "wedding-industrial complex."
And I could have suggested she register at Cut Loose and yet the draw came tardily upon my hand.

Josh Lukin testifies:

I thought of your entry on memorable and moving last lines the other day as I read "The Bus Driver Who Wanted to Be God and Other Stories" by Etgar Keret, who Justine Larbalestier thinks is the Kelly Link of Tel Aviv: "I tried to imagine my mother's uterus in the middle of a green, dew-covered field, floating in an ocean full of dolphins and tuna." "Or else, if the broad in the square wouldn't have had a boyfrined in the army and she'd given Tiran her phone number and we'd called Rabin Shalom, then he would have been run over anyway, but at least nobody would have got clobbered." A whole book chock full of heartbreaking final lines.
Still, several days hence I have not read Etgar Keret's prose collection nor even his comic book.

And when a final reader tells me of one who

was trying to remember the name of, and came up with "The Cruising Politician."
I can only wonder at the undeserved bounty of my days and on my head.

. . .


Reader Robert writes:

I run a group called 'PawPets West', we make music videos lip-syncing animal puppets to pop music. These are shown on an internet TV show (The Funday Show) that is fully RIAA etc. licenced. If you are interested, here are some excerpts of our music videos.

I have a couple of comments on the lyrics at 'When life gives you scraps, make collage'.

The 'uauchghh!' sound is not phlegm-hawking but the term 'wack' pronounced with the severe gutteral Mersey dialect. 'wack' is a form of address, about equivalent to 'mate', or 'guy' in USA. See 'A dictionary of slang'.

At the end 'wacker' is a more direct form, perhaps translatable as 'YOU!'

Also in line

When my loost's run out, that twister's Dawn(4) away and run out on me

Dawn might be 'gawn' i.e. 'gone' with Mersy modification of G to D sound. 'Gawn' is the normal slang pronounciation of 'gone'.

Spends my dough but more to resist him

In plain english -

Spent my dough, could not resist him

I have to re-tune my ears to follow this stuff after 30 years of listening to North American!

We thank Robert for the information and regret any inconvenience.

. . .

Addenda & Errata

Joshua Corey is a fellow traveller on one of our favorite trains of thought.

+ + +

The owner of The Poet's Poet's tape's tape proves sympatico:

Hey, man, tho; I will check out that Zukofsky tape (uncompromising) & see if I can't make a few mp3s out of it for yer
+ + +

Someone suggests:

joseph and his techno coloured dream coat
Why? I don't know. Maybe it was a message meant just for you, my reader.

. . .


Natalie Schulhofer sends us an update from that other Times:

A report in the At the Movies column of Weekend on Friday about the death of
the Hong Kong actor Leslie Cheung, who played a police academy graduate in
John Woo's film "A Better Tomorrow," misidentified the actor who played
his older brother. That actor was Ti Lung, not Chow Yun Fat.

Which should serve nicely as icebreaker in the big hangoverless cocktail party in the sky when Cheung meets Joe LeSueur:

FIRST CHAPTER: Digressions on Some Poems by Frank O'Hara, By KINKY FRIEDMAN

Speaking of whom, in still another Times, Mary Ann Gwinn & Michael Upchurch tell us about "the books most likely to provoke, intrigue and inspire [but pointedly not 'inform'] us this season":

"The Art of Burning Bridges: A Life of John O'Hara" by Geoffrey Wolff (Knopf). The novelist-memoirist ("Providence," "The Duke of Deception") examines the life and career of novelist John O'Hara ("Appointment in Samara," "Butterfield 8"), the 1940s-'50s writer whose star is back on the rise. This biography follows the April publication of a memoir by O'Hara's lover: "Digressions on Some Poems by Frank O'Hara" by Joe LeSueur (Farrar, Straus & Giroux).

. . .

Ressentimental Journey

When the Happy Tutor and Turbulent Velvet and Jeff of Visible Darkness convene, we should choose our words (or rhetorical figures) carefully, if only because it suddenly sounds like we're living in an Alan Moore comic book, where words (and clichés) actually count for something. (The Happy Tutor's costume we know; TV I picture masked as V as in Vendetta; JoVD, a bit blurrier, as a John Constantine / Swamp Thing morph who blends the sartorial approaches of Chow Yun-Fat's two Jeffs. Actually, I guess that would just leave him looking like Alan Moore.)

There's an immediate appeal to the ethic that satire should only be directed upwards. The difficulty is in determining just what direction that might be. When Peter Parker or Clark Kent quip at the expense of villainy, is that bullying? Or does it only become so once they're suited up?

With increased power comes thinning skin. It takes less to insult a king than to insult a peasant; traditionally, a child or wife can infuriate a parent or husband simply by assuming equal status as a human being. Should I be noticed insulting the king, the proper king has me whipped or hung: I have wounded his sensibilities.

In the United States (every man a king), such injury usually releases itself in an aggrieved whine, the bully's whine: "I never get what I really want" (that is, everything).

When anyone (no matter how powerless) takes offense at some asshole's thoughtless words and actions, it gets called "fascism." When anyone (no matter how podunked) disagrees with someone who controls continent-spanning broadcasting, it gets called "censorship." When anyone (no matter how politely) fucks or worships in an unfamiliar fashion, it gets called an "attack." And so it shouldn't have so surprised me that the French have received the rhetoric historically due a war's aggressor merely for declining to join the war we initiated.

William Bennett cannot sleep easy so long as a single reader enjoys unprescribed work; Pat Robertson's soul will not be free until all on earth agree with him and have donated their savings accordingly; Wall Street Journal editorialists writhe under a tax yoke unjustly shifted from the shoulders of lucky duckies. Despite the protection of their god, their wealth, their state, and their family, they still feel victimized. And when they crush the peasant, the villain, the upstart, they do so in self-righteous self-defense.

The process is hardly confined to talk radio. Here in liberalville, few will admit to security or to influence, and fully-tenured mistresses of the postmodern are as scrambling and resentful as the merest billionaire.

So in this game of loser-takes-all, who wins the right to satirize? The last great period of Hollywood comedy taught us that cheats (Bill Murray, Eddie Murphy) and the crassest wealthy (Rodney Dangerfield) are lovably put-upon underdogs fighting against the repressive forces of hard-working sincerity (the EPA, snobs, and literati), and I know which camp I'm assigned to.

Rightly so. I, singularly, find myself with no kicks to make. American, white, male, hetero, clever: I know exactly what further privileges I've gained thanks to those enviable starting points, having counted them one by one as they released into my convulsive grasp, and I'm very pleased with each.

That being the case, who's left for me to mock? Snoop Dogg? Because otherwise, by their own sincere admission, everyone else is worse off than I am.

And so I try to mock only those who I can't imagine weeping over my attacks. Given my hot temper, sometimes I guess wrong, and then I'm very sorry. Or sometimes I attack myself, and (being a critic, and thus myopic and trembly) scatter my shot. Still, that's my rule of nose-thumbing: harmlessness.

This would make me an ineffectual satirist. But I'm no satirist. The blind gesturing obscenely at the blind, the deaf whispering insults behind a broad hand -- is that satire? Dixit insipiens, at most.

Why take the risk of mocking at all?

Well, see, me, I like being criticized. And although I don't like hurting people's feelings, I also don't want to be ignored. A tawdry impulse, but, like most tawdriness, heir to its own peculiar glamour. A dream drives me, as it drives so many, a dream best described by that no-hit-wonder of unpopular music, Professor Anonymous, in his big non-hit "Got To Let It Out":

So let me tell you that it feels great
To really believe that it is my fate
To make people happy just by being alive
To make people happy just by being alive

But people are hostile shit-throwing little monkeys, and if we want to make 'em happy, we must accept the consequences.

+ + +

The Happy Tutor had in fact already pegged me as no satirist, and my little essay would have benefited by careful study of this chart.

We regret any inconvenience.

. . .


Dr. Justine Larbalestier takes us to task:

Uninteresting thinkers can be pretty meglomaniacal crap teachers too. Though I know I'm doing a non telendus est (or however the fuck you spell that one).

. . .

Hanging with Scissors Errata

Golly! The congratulatory telegrams have been splashing in till we're pert near overcome by the sour reek of human kindness!

For example, here a well-wisher writes:

Bless you, my child.

Another raves:

I thought Missouri was in the south?
America's heartland is ambiguously situated between America's breadbasket and America's dark underbelly. (That ain't anatomy, but ain't that America?) Our heritage may be slavery and hillbillies, and Ashcroft our gift to the future, but summer tornadoes and winter blizzards make plain to even the casual vistor why central Missouri's greatest growth industries were railroads and railroad stations.

Under the headline "time enough," michael griffin forwards show-biz news that stays news:

forever bingo
A film by Ron Howard, with James Cromwell as The Farmer.

The nameless kid with one Converse sneaker has come clean [in-joke] as Chris Sullivan:

That's me Mr. Calkins! I didn't mean to truncate! That little window, I got lost in.

Okay: I wonder if you might visit my INJUN (InterNet Journal Underway Now) {I have approval from Zig Jackson to use this term}

In fact, I had already visited it with pleasure several times the week before receiving this message. It's a small, small world. (As measured by poet blogrolls, anyway.)

Along those lines, lineman for the county nick popadiuk pledges:

thank you for making kit smarts jubalate agno available.....i will include an excerpt in my "Lunatick's Anthology" which of course will never be published because it would alter the foundation of western literature and culture forever......
And Karl Rackwitz remarks:
I've read your comments about the movie "Something Wild". They are as interesting as the whole site, but I want to note that I love Sidney Lumet's films and wouldn't call them snorefests. I know I shouldn't read too much into this remark of yours, which was probably meant to be only half-serious. But Lumet is, despite his failures, one of the great American directors of the last fifty years. (I've written a little biography, if you're interested.)
I was interested in Karl's essay, and Karl's essay in turn has made me interested in Running on Empty. Which just goes to show that anything is possible. You know what I mean?

I mean if only the whole world could be like two guys exchanging polite email in English about Sidney Lumet, then there would be no more war.

At least until they stopped.

. . .

Errata, cont.

But why should they stop?

. . .


During my time away, a tolerant reader reassured me:

don't worry if you're not good enough
Good thing, too, since another had just taken me to task:
cosmopolitan shozmopolitan seems to me like you just got answers from Americans. Who cares?
I somehow missed the news that we'd annexed Australia, Spain, England, and ancient Athens, which just goes to show how busy I've been. All I can say is if they get statehood first, Puerto Rico should be pissed.

. . .


Speaking of credits, I neglected a footnote the other day.

A few years back, a friend's publisher sent her a fantasy novel to blurb on account of its high literary value and true-life emotion reminded him of my friend's own work.

This turned out not much of a compliment: its literary value was stasis and its true-life emotion was self-pity.* The fantasy component consisted of the first-person narrator moping alone at his kitchen table or the local bar when he might've been fucking a mermaid. After a couple hundred pages of this, he drowned himself.

Besides hypnotic pacing, the other thing the book had going for it was the author's knack for solecisms. My friend still treasures "The rain fell inextricably" and "She had a tinkering laugh."

As for me, at least once a week since then I've thought of the scene in which the narrator closes in for a clinch and finds the mermaid to be "almost spirtuously redolent."

"What do you think that means?" I asked.

"She reeked of gin."

* My own fiction can be similarly described, which is one reason I stopped writing fiction.

. . .


It's not funny.

+ + +

Read the post mortems, listen to the interviews, and you'll find no mention of what a governor might actually do for a living. According to our more reputable news sources, the California recall issues were those of "character" rather than work, of "coldness" and "groping" rather than conspiracy and sabotage; a political campaign is a wrestling match or star search or "Big Brother" poll, not a job interview.

Subvert democracy when it goes against you, then ensure it doesn't do so again; open Q&A, debates, and policy disclosures are for losers. Following on last year's election, we can declare such precepts thoroughly vindicated: California's provided as pure a test case as imaginable. Missile defense research should be so lucky.

If 2001 wasn't enough to teach voters that elections have consequences, I doubt I'll live to see the lesson learned.

. . .


Regarding the earlier group review, a reader comments:

i don't get it. why?
Future art historians will surely describe our era as the Golden Age of masturbation portraits.

Yay us.

. . .


Corrected Nick Lowe quote:

Well, it was good fun except old Van is such a miserable old fucker.... I just think he needs a good clip around the ears, that's what I think he needs, actually. Stop taking himself so bloody seriously. Coz it ain't that hard to get up in front of a crowd of people that really groove on you, and sing a couple of tunes, which comes naturally -- he sings like a bloody bird -- so it's not that hard for him to do it. If it is causing that much pain, why doesn't he go and bolt fucking wheels on Fords? It's just, it's just so... rude, y'know.
We regret any inconvenience this may have caused.

This was from the same issue of CREEM that ran "the world's shortest (no pun intended) Bob Dylan interview":

DYLAN (on stage): This next number is a song I once did with The Band. You remember The Band, don't you? It was on an album called Planet Waves. It sold twelve copies.
CREEM (Jeffrey Morgan, sitting in the front row): Why?
DYLAN: Get this guy out of here.
Looking again at this crap, I can't help but be impressed by an incidental benefit of hip-hop's ascendency: articulate interview subjects.

. . .


Having had occasion to review my "bit of blog about Badiou," Adam Tobin rightly takes me to task:

While I have you on the line, I'd also like to say that (contrary to your claim that they are evil) soap operas are not single-POV heroic narratives, although such are often used as materials: Chris is pleased to learn that his private eye has already dug up some juicy dirt on his kid brother. Meanwhile, Livvie makes it clear to Jack how much she wants him to make love to her. A flustered Lucy asks Kevin how he can possibly think of leaving Port Charles now that he knows he has a daughter. Eve steps out of her bath to find Ian staring at her. When Harris returns to claim his "prize", Eve covers by assuring a worried Ian that she's only going out to explain the next medical procedure to their captor. Kevin is forced to bodily remove Lucy from the lighthouse but she stubbornly refuses to let go of his arm. Chris interrupts a moment of passion between Jack and Livvie.
Honestly, I meant to refer only to the particular use made in a particular time and place of a particular convention of pseudo-realistic narrative: the division between protagonists (in the longest running soap operas of that time, the wise, good-hearted, mostly passive observers; in sports, the home team; in lives of the poets, the poets) and antagonists (the amoral, weak-willed, and active villains; the visitors; the girlfriends).

But given the treatment usually doled out to gendered genres, I should have been more careful. For all I know, such soap operas aren't even made anymore, and even when they were, their toxicity wouldn't have compared with The 700 Club or "The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber". To makers and viewers of soap operas, I apologize.

Badiou, on the other hand, can go peddle his papers.

. . .


Reader Renfrew Q. Hobblewort comments:

Sir: I'll have you know Maria Shriver is 48, thus no fresh blossom in the manure garden of political life.
We deeply regret any inconvenience.

. . .


The Terror of Yakutsk, pf, reports from the front:

Hi. I dreamed I was in a mock trench war last night, and we threw clumps of dirt at one another, instead of grenades. I hit Bryusov, Victor Serge, and whatshisname, the 19th century anarchist B something several times. You were standing among them in a violet, velvet dinner jacket and a red cravat about your neck. I threw dirt balls at you as well. I believe languagehat may also have been mixed up in all this. I think I agree with you more than Haspel, but I'm impressed how he sticks to his guns.
We accept pf's dirt balls with gratitude and humility.

Jessie Ferguson caps a dead mule:

the only thing i have to say is that i realized most of what i liked about lyn hejinian's poetry was that it was a bit like good conversations i've had in the past, although not much like good poetry, exactly.
I realized even at the time of posting that I should have made a place for poetic diction in my little critical fable, but I was too lazy.

Reader Coyu points out that I'm also too dumb:

Marshall McLuhan, southern? Last time I checked, MM was a known Canadian. I mean, *really* Canadian. We're talking Northrop Frye, Robertson Davies levels of Canadian-ness.
Hoo boy, that was pretty dumb, all right. Thank you, Coyu.

One would expect the next reader to be pointing out that I'm ugly and my mother dresses me funny, but I guess pf already took care of that. Instead, Renfrew Q. Hobblewort sends "with great alacrity" this "Pictorial Evidence of Grave Misdeeds":


I draw your attention(s) to the following illustrations which I believe may be useful in future issues of the Bellona Times.

(1) A 19th-Century Medical Illustration used as evidence in the architecture of the present administration's policy on stem cells, steroid use by high-schoolers, life support systems research for missions to mars, etc.

(2) A snippet from the papers of former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill used by the President's speech writers in explaining his reasons to give up strong drink at the tender age of 40.

Your kind attention to these matters, or ignorance, will be graciously studied by the organs of this institution.

Ignorance it is! My treat!

. . .


Welcome back to the only web journal where errata outnumber entries! As you can see by this illustration of my earliest exercise in community building, it comes natural.

Donald O'Connor! thou should'st be living at this hour. Yes, Francis walks again, and it's all my fault for tying everything up in red ribbon. Next in line to unknot the bow with a single tug is Jake Wilson, The Hardest Working Co-Editor in Online Film Journals:

As a sucker for general aesthetics I've been following your recent series with interest, but while people are jumping in I thought I might as well say a word in defence of William Empson, who wrote sympathetically about Ulysses on several occasions, and as far as "stultifying conservatism" goes was no Eliot, or Winters for that matter.

Also, for the sake of argument, or argufication, I don't know if I agree that "a poem was once just another way to deliver a message." This bypasses the difficulties of separating message and medium - Sam Goldwyn said you could send a message by calling Western Union, but a declaration of love made that way might miss its mark. In any case the idea of poem-as-artifact rather than propaganda is at least as old as the lyric. It doesn't seem to me that Donne's "arguments", which are fanciful in the extreme, are meant to be taken any more literally than Frank O'Hara's; his rhetoric seduces better than it reasons, and typically the extravagant nonsense of the reasoning (e.g. in "The Sun Rising") is part of the seductive charm. That isn't "thinking" in the sense that Kant is a thinker, but viewing abstract system-building as the only legitimate mode of thought is like believing in I.Q. tests; wisdom takes many forms, and it's obtuse to maintain that the only people we learn it from are philosophers.

Empson, by the way, said somewhere that he didn't think poems were made of words, but rather "from the sort of joke you find in hymns". I'm not sure what he meant, but I still think he could have been right.

It was a mistake to drag twentieth-century poetry wars in as a mere argument capper a very pretty thought, but, you know, (sotto voce) not very B-R-I-G-H-T, poor thing.

Also I shouldn't talk any more trash about Empson till I'm ready to do it to his face.

PF managed to find time on the way to his appointment with doom to decode my Sister Noon non-review:

But you'll admit Flaubert did a hell of a job with Saint Julian and Saint Antoine.
I will admit it! Good lord, PF, how did you know?

I'll also admit that I tried to fit both into the piece, but decided it was already too lumpy and squirmy to hold any more digressions. (The digression would've been that neither are recognizably part of the historical fiction genre, "Julian" being fairy tale and Antoine being my favorite single New Wave SF Postmodernist Screenplay [ideally realized by Raul Ruiz, Harry Dean Stanton, and a 94-million-dollar budget].)

Finally, an anonymous reader summed affairs up nicely with the single comment:

its all very well its just not very good

I could live with that as an epitaph.

. . .


Regarding "No Single Reason in the World," jessie ferguson writes:
right. evolution as a social narrative is already evolution bastardized, because it's pretty much all statistics, and there is *nothing* comforting about statistics except for cold-blooded skeptics like me. the teleological mistake is defining means in terms of the wrong ends, as an aggravation of defining means & ends at all: for no given point in, say, human history can you cut a cross-section through it and say that *anyone* was adapted to do this, whatever "this" is at the population level. people, however, like to cut cross-sections through history, often with more aesthetic aims in mind. the ideas both of "adaptation" and "whatever it is you're adapted to" are emergent phenomena, which is a much healthier trendy phrase -- we did not evolve to fight wars or make love or what have you; those are things we do along the way, from randomness to randomness.

but people don't like randomness? god knows why. it's so fantastic.

but: what are you talking about?

Another reader seems similarly puzzled:

Water has a design. Things that use water may get in trouble if they behave as if it doesn't. It has a design because that's the way it is here in universe-land. Attaching anthro-valent purpose to the design is no different than attaching any other purpose, or _ key item _ no-purpose-at-all-in-the-sense-of-no-design. Rules are rules. It doesn't matter who made them. It matters how they're enforced.

The point is that rules of physics call on a different enforcement agency than rules of thumb. "That's the way it is" may mean "Better than random results have been found in this test population of two dozen middle-class American college students," which is a far cry from "That's the way it always is and always will be"— which, however, is not so far from "That's the way it must be," which in turn marches very closely to "Thou shalt." Teleology without supporting evidence handwaves us into that latter parade.

If you're one of the majority of patients for whom the newest chemotherapy isn't at all useful (despite a statistically positive effect), that doesn't make you an evolutionary anomoly, even though it might modify your role as an active gene carrier. People who exhibit behavior other than what's been announced as significant results remain fully significant. Those results (almost by definition) reflect something more transient than species such as recent chemotherapy patents, or wide-spread syndication of "Everybody Loves Raymond." "Rules are rules," but premature acquiescence will leave you unnecessarily stuck with that chemotherapy and that TV show, looking for romance in New Brunswick, New Jersey.

We regret any inconvenience.


Nag, nag, nag. Any readers who've suffered through these fulminations deserve the treat of a more positive interpretation of evolutionary biology, and one has just been served up by the always delectable inanis et vacua. Enjoy and deploy.

. . .


As for the words that have miscarried in the printing (which I believe are not many, though some there be in all writings), I doubt not but they may be rectified easily in the reading by any reasonable capacity that will but cast over again their eyes, where they apprehend the defect to be, applying it to the sense of the rest, which in my opinion is a better way for direction than to set down the errors in the latter end of the book, since few people will take the pains to compare both places together, being rather willing to let the faults die to their memory than to busy themselves with trouble in another's concernment, especially having enough already in the story for their leisure or recreation. This being all I have to say, I bid you farewell.
- "To the Reader" from The Princess Cloria by Percy Herbert, 1661


heyman I was you need to understandpipe and reading and what the hell's this I keep these parts of my life separate ok I was at tofu hat slurping mp3's down the pipe and there's yer scribbling hand get TV back on topic OK , yer gonna get all ubiquitous an everything then do it

Speaking of TV, during my recent AWOL I got my first ever in ten years of web publishing!— poison-keyboard message:

you're a thoughtless geek and your mindless comments on verlaine and television lack insight or truth. plus you are gay.

The fella's a more astute textual critic than sexual therapist, I'm afraid.

. . .


An anonymous reader identifies himself or herself:

The song 'Now We Are Pirates' is attributed incorrectly to the band, 'Lobotomy.' The song is actually one written and performed by the band '1% Goat.' I should know, I wrote the song and was also a founding member of 'Lobotomy.'

We apologize for the mistake and regret any inconvenience.


Blame it on the A.C. One man's Messiah is another man's suzerain. Sure sure. But notice how it's only because the voice has conviction in its tone you regret and apologize. Assuming you didn't fact-check him. An optimistic moment, one we're all the better for living through.

I hope you don't think worse of me for this, but I did in fact check, and found that I had misread my original source.

. . .

O Felix Error!

(Written for The Valve)
In whom the dear errata column
Is the best page in all the volume!
Thomas Moore

Establishing the "real meaning" is one goal of the critic's game, but no one achieves a perfect final score, even when they live in the author's time and know the author intimately. (Sociologists estimate that I misunderstand approximately 82% of what I write myself.) Although Blake wasn't referring to the Industrial Revolution, the "dark Satanic mills" we read inevitably reek of coal.

Since it's unavoidable, we might as well celebrate the preservative and generative aspects of literary misinterpretation. Misreading Virgil as a Christian prophet benefitted both Virgil's work and Dante's.

But how about misattribution? What benefits do we gain from that?

Forgery's not nearly as lucrative for English majors as for art students, and so I can only think of one.

Much as Microsoft or Sony won't be content till all content is licensed from Microsoft or Sony, a canon drowns competition through sheer shelf-filling reproduction. Misattribution to a canonical author can carry a work into otherwise inaccessible environments. How likely is it that we'd have good copies of the Song of Solomon or the Revelation of St. John if they hadn't wandered into exactly the wrong place at exactly the wrong time?

In English, Bardolatry promotes misreadings of the Bard and ignorance of everyone else. But, at the cost of their authors' names, some lucky parasites have hitched onto the Swan's belly. I got my first access to the helpfully anonymous "Tom O'Bedlam's Song" that way.

Appropriately, those Bardolators who worship misattribution itself perform the greatest public service. "After God, the Earl of Oxford has created most" looneys distributed copies of George Gascoigne's collection long before the first widely available scholarly edition. Ronald B. McKerrow pretty much established contemporary editorial scruples with his wonderful Works of Thomas Nashe, but it was last in print in 1958, and, on the web, only the Collected DeVere takes up the slack.


Josh Lukin points out the "felicitous misattribution of the 'St. Anthony Divertimento'":
. . . and could Brahms' "Variations on a Theme by Haydn" have even come into being as "Variations on a Theme by Ignatz Pleyel"?

Thanks, Josh that's an interesting case: a popular melody known only because of Brahms, who knew it only because somebody stuck Haydn's name at the top of the page.

Other recent re-attributions from Haydn involve Haydn's sticking his own name at the top a more ambiguous case than I had in mind. Presumably Haydn saw himself not as a plagiarist but as a guarantor of Genuine Haydn Quality, much as the senior tenured professor subsumes the work of underlings and spouses. In the art world, of course, few successful careers have been single-person operations, much to the confusion of our more naive age.

The literary equivalent has an even more dubious reputation: the factories of "Dumas" or "Nancy Drew" novels, and, on a more intimate scale, the ghostwriters. The late career of "Ellery Queen" is an amiguous case: since the named author is a fictional character, the only thing that makes Sturgeon's, Davidson's, and Vance's volumes more "ghostwritten" is the relative openness of the secret.

And then there's Klaatu....

. . .

Errata Diaeta

A reader puts words or something like them in our mouth:

nobody likes me, everbody hates me just because i eat worms

Speaking of unwisely tossed off asides in rants about straitened access to higher education, Peli Grietzer writes, regarding my Animal House tribute:

I stumbled, in an old post, upon a peripheral declaration I found very interesting and provoking - "... as Wes Anderson decided to drop the pretense that less-than-wealthy characters held any interest for him." - and felt an urge to comment, as old as it was. I'm not quite sure if it was meant as an accusation or merely an observation, and consequently not sure if I'm attempting to practice apologetics or am just riffing, but as I see Anderson has no interest whatsoever in the wealthy - He is purely interested the extravagantly rich, and that's a fundamental distinction: It's no longer an issue of an aristocratic choice of social-economic milieu, obfuscated as natural and commonsensical, but of writing about the stuff of legend.

In his work there's a romantic, imaginary artifice of aristocracy that has more to do with Oberon's court or the minor Olympic Gods than with the modern upper class. (Though with Paris Hilton and everything I might not have a good grasp on how surreal the upper-class truly is, but still.)

His interest seem to be in characters utterly removed from life's usual concerns not in a manner mimetic or reflective of any social phenomenon, but in a glorified, accented and fantastical way, either because they went so far up the social ladder they are utterly unaware of its struggles (the Tennenbaum kids), and thus even when broke and working as elevator-boys they do not feel any hardship (Royal Tennenbaum), or because they have no intention to struggle up the social ladder, but have a pretty easy time getting by with nearly no money (Dignen from Bottle Rocket), or because they're still kids and have no obligations or constraints (Rushmore), or because they live on a submarine and go hunting sharks (Life Aquatic). But the key feature here is that all those life-styles a presented in an equally magnified, unrealistic manner, not as defaults but as extravagant imaginations- a kind of an idealized projection of fundamental emotional and existential (god I wish there was a better word for this) concerns into a plane without necessities or concrete outside limitations where only choice and emotional constraints are factors (thought it's only about 70% true about Bottle Rocket).

Anderson isn't producing a biased, snobbish vision of social reality- he isn't producing a vision of social reality at all. I like to think of Wes Anderson as kind of the ultimate Fuck You to Jameson (not the whisky).


Paul Kerschen writes:

I was talking yesterday to our mutual friend J.F., and she was explaining how in the stories she used to write at age eleven the main characters were generally princesses, because they were the only ones who had the right resources -- if you want to write a scene at the ocean involving whales or something, the princess can just up and go to the ocean. Given how Anderson's films are either about childhood or weird overgrown children, I always figured that was his idea also. I quite like the later films, but don't find anything in them as affecting as the scenes in Rushmore where Max, who can't always rely on Bill Murray's millions, actually has to work to protect his fantasy and ends up lying about his poor barber dad, etc. There's a binocular vision there, while later on, in order to preserve the integrity of the fantastic, Anderson elects to close one eye.

The original context of my remark probably made clear that it sprang from an idiosyncratic case of class resentment or maybe class petulance. I enjoyed the fantasy of a non-wealthy character being painfully but harmlessly ridiculous; it was nice to get that break. Clearly, though, a large American audience doesn't require such eccentricity. And The Life Aquatic's dud tragedy clearly indicates that Anderson should continue to stay far away from consequences.

I like your way of putting it. It's fun to picture Royal Tenenbaum or Steve Zissou pulling out a spy glass, making like Popeye, and scanning the backdropped horizon....

. . .


A reader writes, referring to something or other I wrote or quoted at the end of 2001:

never a outbreak
never a outbreak
never a break
never a break

And Peli Grietzer points out, regarding portions of My Funny Valentine:

Wow, that's, like, pretty fucking harsh. Really, really pretty fucking harsh. Really pretty damn ha-- ok, that can go on for a while. Do you really stand behind it? Cause really, is pretty fucking harsh.

I should have made clearer that my prettiest fucking harsh words related more to poetry blurbs and reviews than the poetry itself.

In a follow-up message, Peli pointed out an odd disconnect that's occurred in the last few decades between T. S. Eliot's new disapproval from the hoity toity and his continued popularity among adventuresome proles.

To which I had to admit that my own reaction against Eliot (like the negative reactions of his contemporaries) had depended on prior massive approval from (and assumption of) authority. But when Christopher Hitchens pisses on him for personality flaws...? Staggering. (And I don't just mean Hitchens.)

I officially recant. Eliot's OK. Peli says in Israel his "elder statesman figure" is just seen as an "irrelevant appendix, like David Bowie after '81." And hey, I'm no Bowie fan, but I was bopping to "Young Americans" and "Rebel Rebel" just the other day.

We deeply regret any inconvenience.


Many thanks to Morris Jackson for pointing out that my fingers went astray after typing "hoi".

Chris Hitchens certainly shows a certain Ezra Pound-like devotion to his chosen Duce these days, eh? -- RQH

. . .

Mystery Macintosh, My Darling

(Also at that other world)

"The M'Intosh Murder Mystery" by John Gordon,
Journal of Modern Literature 29.1 (2005) 1

All right-thinking people agree that The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism's most unconscionable omission was James Thurber's "The Macbeth Murder Mystery", and so I'm certain John Gordon is a right-thinking person.

Except in this case.

[For the non-Joyceans in our audience, here's the story so far.

Aside from its status as early science fiction, Ulysses represents advanced evolution of the detective story, with each incident a visible and meaningful clue. Having played so fairly, Joyce could dispense with the handwaving detective hero, and instead left handwaving in the laps of the readers. And a jolly time we've had of it, too!

As early Joyceans gained confidence in their ability to tie every detail to every other detail, the few remaining danglies gained weightiness. (Weightiness to a Joycean, mind you; the centrality such nits assume in the secondary sources can sadly mislead a first-time reader of Ulysses. "When do we get to the word known by all men?")

Some of these puzzles, I think, weren't originally meant as puzzles. The (scanty) evidence suggests that "U.P. Up." delivered a clear message to nineteenth-century English and Irish urbanites but happened to escape documentation, becoming a hapax legomenon of popular culture. Numeric errata seem best explained as Homer nodding. Or shrugging. Come on, you ask Homer "How many fingers am I holding up?" what's he gonna do?

The Man in the Macintosh, however, emphatically riddled from his first appearance:

"Now who is that lankylooking galoot over there in the macintosh? Now who is he I'd like to know? Now, I'd give a trifle to know who he is."

A lot of scholars have tried to earn that trifle over the years, and Gordon deserves an "A" for assurance:]

"I have lived with [the proposed solution] for a while and have come to think of it as a solid and upstanding reading which improves on acquaintance. I believe in it. It can come to dinner; it can date my daughter."

Gordon proposes that M'Intosh is the ghost of Bloom's father, who committed suicide after the death of his young wife. And (so confident is he) this proposed solution is used only as a tee-off from which to approach another, less often asked, riddle: What killed Bloom's mother? (So's not to steal Gordon's thunderclap, I'll just say Joyce may have anticipated the misogynous hard-boiled dick.)

But I do not think his proposal makes a solid and upstanding tee-off. I do not believe in it; I do not want it to date my daughter. (I am, however, prepared to buy it a drink some time.) Because the character who inspects M'Intosh most closely is Leopold Bloom.

Now I admit it's a wise son that knows his father's ghost. But even a flibbertigibbet like Hamlet was able to recognize Hamlet Senior's form straight off. And clear-sighted Bloom doesn't note a family resemblance? In a graveyard?

No, I'm afraid all the lovely circumstantial evidence Gordon's gathered just shows how irreconcilable the lyric and the narrative finally are, even in Ulysses. Poetically, his argument's airtight. Prosaically, it won't fly.

(And who do I think M'Intosh is? Well, since I ask, personally I think he's the fox burying his grandmother under a hollybush.)

1 I also recommend from this issue "Remembering Race", where Sergio Rizzo documents the dependents of that Red Wheelbarrow, and "Repulsive Modernism: Djuna Barnes' The Book of Repulsive Women" by Melissa Jane Hardie, who so neatly associates revision and repression that I think Freud should take over my dishwashing duties.


A bhikku writes:

Tell you what. Rudolph Virag? Lankylooking? Galoot? Doesn't sound like the Bloom physique, does it? No, Gordon's looking for a counterpart to Stephen's Hamlet thoughts, isn't he.

Apparently JJ used to ask cocky Ulysses readers who they thought the fellow was anyway, go on then.

. . .


Hotsy: "So the first thing at the top of the first page is this really weird blurb from John Leonard: 'Miss Hazzard writes as well as Stendhal.' What could that even mean?"

Totsy: "Is a comma missing after 'writes'?"


Josh Lukin illustrates:

My favorite missing comma. I knew Dr. Cosby would offer a simplistic solution to social problems; I didn't expect it to be so, er, Reichian.

. . .

Twenty Years of Hot One-on-One Action cum grano salis

The first photograph showed a naked ameba, fat and replete with food vacuoles, splashing lazily and formlessly at the bottom of a metal tank in the completely relaxed state that precedes reproducing.

The second was like the first, except that a trickle of salt water had begun down one side of the tank and a few pseudopods had lifted toward it inquiringly. To leave nothing to the imagination, a sketch of the sodium chloride molecule had been superimposed on the upper right corner of the photograph.

In the third picture, the Gtetan was ecstatically awash in the saline solution, its body distended to maximum, dozens of pseudopods thrust out, throbbing. Most of the chromatin had become concentrated in chromosomes about the equator of the nucleus. To an ameba, this was easily the most exciting photograph in the collection.

- from "Party of the Two Parts" by William Tenn (AKA Philip Klass)

* * *

Gosh, I like the Internet: Mr. Waggish surveys the past twenty years from a different vantage point (and incidentally alerts us to two new translations of the Musil work I reread most often). Jessie Ferguson shares lovingly bitter gleanings from a twenty-year gaze into Ingeborg Bachmann's Malina. Two Dutch translators present a convincingly anti-scholarly argument for a revised Finnegans Wake (which was published eight years later, very affordably, by Oxford). My favorite institutionally-funded "blogs" (nasty jargon for "weblogs," which one would have thought nasty-jargon enough as is) compare swallows and strangles among Ibsen translators. At the Public Domain Review, Jé Wilson relates the long history of French male delight in female decapitation and skull-hammering. Justin E. H. Smith considers the beaver. The Neurocritic triggers a bloom of cognitive sparks. Matt Cheney knocks around one of those west/burst years. Michael Peverett hits the road and British rails with Paul Simon and Terrance Hayes. ("America" is one of the three Paul Simon songs I like, but it always embarrasses me too. Puerility well-conveyed remains puerile. [PULL IN YOUR HEAD - WE'RE COMING TO A MISE EN ABYME])

* * *

Big business monkeys: Hoping to get lucrative stock options from a computer science degree is like hoping to get rich parents from an M.B.A.

* * *

A Valediction of his carbon footprint

Since thou and I sigh one another’s breath,
Whoe’er sighs most is cruellest, and hastes the other’s death.

* * *

Our Motto: If you build it, they will route the highway around it.

* * *

In production: Leopold & Loeb: The Birth of Modernist Epic from the Classicism of Amateurs

* * *

She's only a bird in a feathered cage.

* * *

Theme from The Vanishing

He was a grave digger
One way passage, oh
It took me so long
To find out
But I found out

(The best story in the anthology which published my first story was a "don't believe in Beatles" affair. I guess that's not very interesting but at least the story was.)

* * *



Your link to "I buried Paul" on on your "Bobbettes" page of 2003/04/28 must be changed to the official site for Paul and Jane Bowles as the site is NOT accurate and does not have the endorsement of the official site, which also serves as the official Jane Bowles site. The site is but one of numerous domains bought up by an English couple who never even wanted to meet Bowles during the 20 years they have visited Morocco. No one who knew the Bowleses personally, nor any other authoritative site, links to

Thank you for changing this to, which was established by the literary and musical heirs of the estate of Paul Bowles.

Best wishes,
administrator and webmaster for

We regret any inconvenience.

* * *

Ba-lue Mun-deii Ur-rah-tah: Reggie Hall says Perry Mason sold shoelaces. But that's not so. He sold Sweetheart Soap.

* * *

I've at least ensured that my wasted life was no great loss. If 'tweren't done, 'tweren't best done cheaply.

* * *

Critics rave

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"Pleasure is no fun."


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