Both sides of a damp note found in North Oakland.
Bente Hogh, David Irving's girlfriend, speaks. Will she wait for him? "He would," she said, "have to show a great change in attitude."
And did you know that Irving has a twin brother? Well, now you do. (I didn't.) In most sets of twins, there is a nice one and a mean one, and it is not too surprising to learn who is who in this set
At least Judy Blume's classic wasn't updated to reflect the brand consciousness that has taken hold. With names like "Tampax Ultra Glide" and "Always With Wings" you can imagine the increased horror the next generation would have...Again, I am reaching way back into my creaky memory banks (if banks can be said to creak when you reach into them) and I seem to recall a product from that book called "Little Softies." (Good band name, that.) No idea if that was a real product, or made-up...
UPDATE: The Bookish Girl and her circle of knitters and readers are not amused...
UPDATE II: our Angie (of Dark Blogules) recently tried to leave a comment to this item and was stymied by the spam filter, which denied the comment on the basis of "questionable content." After some trial and error, I discovered the offending character-string: it was the word "archive," which occurred in the link to the "Molly Grows Up" clip. I'm putting it here because until I locate the Blacklisted "archive" entry, even I can't post this word in the comments.
UPDATE III: Eureka. I have found it. Now anyone who wants to use the word "archive" or "archive.org" in a comment can do it without getting filtered. Seriously, knock yourselves out.
Comments left on archived posts are rarely, if ever, read, so when there's a good one, and I notice it, I'll always try to point it out.
About a year ago, I posted a "found" letter from this collection of materials. (The letter tells the story of a group of young people from Berkeley, traveling through the southwest in a hearse, c. 1966.)
One way or another, Daisy googled her way to the post and had this to say:
i dont really now what this website is about but love hippies because i have studied them in depth for both my art an textiles course work an i maybe a stupid 14 year old but i shall tell u 1 thing an thats that i want to be a hippie an its not fair that u were all able to be hippies an i wasnt lova ya bye XXI think there's a possibility that Daisy is pulling my leg; then again, there's a possibility that she isn't.
Riverhead has dropped James Frey.
I have to say, I'm actually a little surprised. He had a two book contract with them, and I imagine the advance was substantial. What happens then? I think he probably has to give at least some of it back. My knowledge of how this works is fuzzier than it should be, mostly based (this knowledge of mine) on the Chevy Chase movie where he fails to turn in his book The Big Heist and eventually a weird little guy in a suit comes to visit him to ask for the money back. He turns in his wife's children's book about a squirrel instead, pretending that he has written it. Hijinks ensue, obviously. Come to think of it, there's perhaps more than a superficial similarity there.
But unless Frey's wife has a children's book about a squirrel lying around, I suppose I'd advise him not to answer the door if a weird little guy in a suit shows up at his Manhattan pleasure palace.
Word on the street is they're canceling the movie deal for A Million Little Pieces as well. It would still make a terrific film, much like Shattered Glass, except it's a comedy starring Will Ferrell. Come on, he'd make a great Frey, wouldn't he? If we can't get Chevy, I mean.
The ad campaign for the Asia Argento film of The Heart is Deceitful Above All Things by "JT LeRoy" makes the best of things:
Quite possibly everything you ever wanted to know about Soviet underwear.
Beth found this song on the bus in the Gilman St. area. Transcribed as found, underlining set as italics.
Twist of Faith
When I first felt the Holy Ghost
I try to stand tuFF Lord, [first word scratched out] could not lie,
twist oF Faith. was Heavn
Destiny Brought me closer to
you and I-need to know,the
Twist oF Faith, Got me sprung From
arisedarived, spred the word
About my Savior.
He's gonna give you His one, undivided
Attention For you sacraFiced yeah.
Deep A sleep,the Holy Ghost
said Id be used to
Now that Im Blessed how will
the story go.
Lift my Hands Praise the Lord and
Let the Spirit take controll
The Great Vowel Shift originally described (I believe) by Otto Jespersen illustrated by this chart happened around 1400.
Now, according to Professor William Labov and others, there's a similar "Northern City Shift" occurring in American phonology.
There's something kind of funny about this clip, where Professor Labov is interviewed by Robert Siegel on the topic of strange-sounding accents and pronunciation. If you've done much listening to NPR, you'll know that Siegel is one of those people who appears to have an accent all his own, which he shares with no other individual or regional group. He is the sole living example of it, the product, perhaps, of an extremely Tiny (Yet Dramatic) Vowel Shift that only seems to have affected a single individual. (Jesse Jackson is another one of those accent-unto-themselves people. There are probably others, though I can't think of any right now.)
As for the Siegelian accent, how to describe it? It's a little bit Dick Cavett, a little bit Kermit, with maybe just the barest hint of Latke Gravis around the edges. The vowels give the word "closed" a new meaning. He says the word "news" in Siegelian several times a day, but there's something especially cool about it here, where he uses it as an example against which to judge other, less otherworldly ways of pronouncing that sound. Terrific.
(via Maud Newton.)
Did you know that Are You There God? It's Me Margaret has been "updated" to reflect more modern "menstrual technology?" (That is, they took out the "sanitary belt"; now Margaret uses "disposable adhesive pads.") I can't quite bring myself to believe it, but assuming it's true: how weird is that? It's not like it's a minor part of the book: it's kind of a defining feature, at least as I remember it.
Remember the scene where Margaret secretly tries on the new belt and pad, decides she likes it, and considers wearing it to bed, only to decide against it in case there's a fire? If I remember right, she says "they might discover my secret!" How do you "update" an iconic, genre-defining passage like that? It's like taking the whale out of Moby Dick or something.
Do they do a lot of this sort of thing, silently "updating" novels? Are there any other changes of that kind? I can't imagine anyone thinking that this is a good idea. It seems decidedly "un-literary" anyway. Maybe they do this sort of thing all the time, and I'm blissfully unaware. Maybe Holden Caulfield is a Sum 41 fan and roller blades down Madison Avenue in the later editions of The Catcher in the Rye. You never know, I guess.
(via Annie at Maud's place.)
Here's an intriguing look at Arizona politics on the state level. They're considering legislation that would "allow" college students to opt out of course reading that they consider "personally offensive or pornographic."
University and community college students are "youngsters."
There's a senator named Thayer Verschoor, who doesn't much like Rick Moody's The Ice Storm ("there's no defense of this book," he said. "I can't believe anyone would come up there and try to defend that kind of material.")
There's also a Senator Jake Flake, R-Snowflake.
Verschoor said the legislation will require work to narrow its scope before it goes to the full Senate. But he was not optimistic that professors and instructors are willing to let students opt out of anything "because of the whole academic freedom thing."
Sen. Jake Flake, R-Snowflake, agreed that students should be exposed to ideas they may find offensive. In his own case Flake, a rancher, said his college courses included ideas from environmentalists and others who he believes are wrong.
The person to who I sent this article, for who I have the greatest respect, and after who I may end up naming my first child (that is, if I ever have one, and if said child happens to be female, that's what I may name she) responded: "him tolls for thou!" It took I around five minutes or so to realize what her was getting at.
The redoubtable Leon Wieseltier takes on contemporary Scientism, Brightness, biological reductionism, "evo-psychobabble," and Daniel Dennett's new book:
"Breaking the Spell" is a work of considerable historical interest, because it is a merry anthology of contemporary superstitions.
The orthodoxies of evolutionary psychology are all here, its tiresome way of roaming widely but never leaving its house, its legendary curiosity that somehow always discovers the same thing. The excited materialism of American society — I refer not to the American creed of shopping, according to which a person's qualities may be known by a person's brands, but more ominously to the adoption by American culture of biological, economic and technological ways of describing the purposes of human existence — abounds in Dennett's usefully uninhibited pages. And Dennett's book is also a document of the intellectual havoc of our infamous polarization, with its widespread and deeply damaging assumption that the most extreme statement of an idea is its most genuine statement. Dennett lives in a world in which you must believe in the grossest biologism or in the grossest theism, in a purely naturalistic understanding of religion or in intelligent design, in the omniscience of a white man with a long beard in 19th-century England or in the omniscience of a white man with a long beard in the sky.
Ron over at Blog of the Hurricane wrestles with love, guilt, faith, repentance, remorse, James 2:24, sackcloth and ashes.
I'm constantly confused by the difference between the English and American quite. They're almost opposite. Americans seem to use quite to mean very, exceptionally, extremely. "Your tie is quite nice." If an Englishman said that, it would mean your tie is so-so. If someone says, "I saw the show last night. It was quite good," I think, Oh, what the hell did we do wrong? I have to remind myself.
And reliably on-topic commenter Josh turns up this BBC article by Harold Evans, correctly noting that its author "pulls the same routine as you [meaning Dr. Frank] from the other side using similar stereotyping":
I can only think that the nascent English taste for reticence and understatement flowered in years of adversity - stiff upper lip and all that - while expansive America has always been in search of superlatives to express its boundless optimism whatever the facts may suggest.
So "quite" was expunged as a qualifier and got co-opted to mean very, and very, you understand, is the least approbation you can give and has to be tacked on to the chorus of terrific, splendid, awesome, supercalifragilisticexpialidocious by which everyday achievements are greeted.
In England quite means “completely, wholly, entirely, altogether, to the utmost extent, nothing short of, in the fullest sense, positively, absolutely”; in America it is conditional, and means only nearly, approximately, substantially, as in “he sings quite well.”Evans and Josh conclude from this that Americans used to use "quite" in its ironic (contemporary British) sense, but that this has changed since 1921. But how to account for the fact that Mencken apparently also thought that the Brits of 1921 used it in the contemporary American sense?
We're still dealing with being separated by a common language here, even in trying to explain the ins and outs of the separation. Of course "quite" has a number of different shades of meaning in each linguistic-cultural context; moreover, different meanings can certainly exist side by side within the same context. And I wouldn't be at all surprised if the American usage of "quite" has itself shifted slightly since 1921. Yet maybe this is merely my own linguistic parochialism at work here, but I admit I'm skeptical about Mencken's apparent implication that the primary literal, OED sense of "quite" did not exist in the American English of 1921. There are two different senses of the word "quite" being discussed here, one of which he identifies as more characteristically British (i.e., ironically, the contemporary "American" sense) than the other. But they're in the same ballpark: one means "extremely"; the other is more like "substantially" or "sufficiently." But the meaning of "quite" in its contemporary British sense as "not quite" doesn't appear to be known to Mencken.
But Evans doesn't realize (and this is what I love about the passage in his essay) that Mencken isn't in fact talking about the sense of "quite" that he is interested in. (Hence his belief that Americans have "co-opted" an original ironic meaning by making it literal.) As Hugh Laurie says, when a Brit says your tie is "quite nice," he means it's "only so-so"; and he may well mean it's "bloody awful." This sense does not exist in contemporary American usage of the word. And it's not, I believe, what Mencken is getting at by saying that the American "quite" can mean "nearly, approximately, substantially." (There's something fishy in that "nearly," though, I admit; maybe there's a hint of irony after all, somewhere in American usage, though if so it's nowhere near as widespread as it is in Britain.) At any rate, Mencken himself uses "quite" in the sense of "sufficiently" all over the place in his book: for example, "the man's meaning was quite clear." Mencken doesn't necessarily mean that the man's meaning was "supercalifragilisticexpialidociously" clear. But neither does he mean that the man's meaning was "not clear" or "not very clear." That's the usage Evans is intending to address, and it's not the one being discussed by Mencken in that passage.
British English speakers always tend to assume that differences in American usage of English are the result of secondary developments on the American side, modifications or perversions of an original British sense. But as Henry Cabot Lodge demonstrated to the skeptical Brits of his day to devastating effect in his 1896 essay "Shakespeare's Americanisms" it can work the other way, too. Many of the linguistic habits derided, even today, despite the work of HCL, by Brits as "Americanisms" turn out, on close inspection, to be Elizabethan in origin ("Fall" instead of "Autumn," "had gotten" where a Brit would say "had got," "I guess" for "I suppose," etc.)
Some divergences, like "quite," are much more recent. But there is no question that the American usage of "quite" is the "original" one, the ironic usage a mere "Britishism." Look it up: the British meaning does not even appear to have made it into that esteemed chronicle of quaint Americanisms known as the Oxford English Dictionary.
The ironic, colloquial contemporary British sense that Hugh Laurie is referring to appears to have emerged at least post-1921, as Mencken seems unaware of it. (And Brits realize this on some level: as the British commenters on the Suicide Girls thread indicate, "quite"-meaning-"extremely" is thought of as "posh," a relic of a Bertie Wooster-y Edwardian world more to be pitied than censured.) I would love to know, specifically, what happened to "quite" in Britain after 1921. Because the Brits really wreak holy havoc on the Queen's English from time to time, don't you know?
It will take awhile, but bear with me: eventually this post will explain how I came to record two songs for Lane Smith's terrific new picture book, the Beatles-y, Founding Father-y John, Paul, George, and Ben.
Herewith, the post:
Sometimes I have nightmares worth describing. Sometimes they will even verge on the Lovecraftian. But most often my dreams are embarrassingly mundane. I tend not to discuss them, because relating them in public would only reveal, or rather, would only remove all doubt from the general suspicion, that I am a shallow sort of person with not a whole lot going on upstairs.
I'll show you what I mean.
Dreamscape: I am out of staples, and no matter how hard I look, none of the staples in my store of office supplies will fit in my stapler; they are either too small or too big, never just right; I search everywhere and purchase them by the armful, but nothing ever fits. I make a face like that oft-stolen painting called "The Scream."
Dreamscape: I am baking a cake, and I can't read the part of the recipe where it specifies the ounces or tablespoons of this or that ingredient. The more I look at it, the fuzzier it becomes. I guess, and the resulting cake tastes terrible. The dinner party is ruined. I make a face like that oft-stolen painting called "The Scream."
Dreamscape: I am walking down the street and my shoelaces keep coming undone. No matter how tightly I re-tie them, they keep coming untied. I make a face like that oft-stolen painting called "Dude with Perpetually Untied Shoelaces." *Shudder*.
That's my usual sort of nightmare. The hell of it is (and I say that because it's not colloquial to say "the hells of them are") that the difference between these nightmares and actual real life is so difficult to spot that there might as well be no difference. Life is hell, it is true, but hell can be, and usually is at least in my case, quite lame.
I only bring this up because just the other night I had one of these non-Lovecraftian, irritatingly normal nightmares. I was at a bar party, and for some reason I stood up on the bar and started singing "Who Threw the Overalls in Mrs. Murphy's Chowder?" As one does. (If you're not Irish, or if you have not grown up in an Irish Catholic parish, you may not know this song; but if you are or have, chances are you know it. There's a recording of it here. And here are some annoyingly bowdlerized lyrics: changing "it's an Irish trick" to "it's a rotten trick," and changing "I can lick the mick that threw" to "I can lick the drip that threw" not only screws up the rhyme, but attempts to cleanse, ethnically, the Irishness out of it. Which is wrong. As a society, we should be sending the message: Dogs and Irish, Apply! Or so I claim, according to my beliefs...)
Anyhow, in this dream, my rendition of "Who Threw the Overalls in Mrs. Murphy's Chowder?" brought down the house. They worshipped my rendition of "Who Threw The Overalls in Mrs. Murphy's Chowder?" They rode me around on their shoulders. The bought me gallons of free drinks. They made me an honorary Irishman. Robust, red-headed, arrestingly-freckled women winked at me and made suggestive gestures. Ah, it was a kind of heaven, this "Mrs. Murphy's Chowder" nightmare.
In my dream, someone made a recording of this performance of "Who Threw the Overalls in Mrs. Murphy's Chowder?" and it was pressed into a single and played on the radio. My rendition of "Who Threw The Overalls in Mrs. Murphy's Chowder?" was a huge hit. I became famous and wealthy. The video was on Total Request Live. I was able to afford a beach house in Malibu, a stately pile in Cambridge, a Brooklyn brownstone, a San Francisco flat, a yacht, a Maserati, a wife, and four exotic mistresses. Even though I had written many swell, intense, amusing and occasionally even powerful original songs, all anyone wanted to hear from me was "Who Threw the Overalls in Mrs. Murphy's Chowder?" I was the "Who Threw the Overalls in Mrs. Murphy's Chowder?" guy. But my sudden rise to fame and wealth was brought up short just as quickly.
See, I guess I managed to leave the impression, without ever saying it directly, that I had written "Who Threw the Overalls in Mrs. Murphy's Chowder?" I guess there's a little James Frey in all of us, even my dream self. But of course, soon enough some troublemaker discovered that "Who Threw the Overalls in Mrs. Murphy's Chowder?" was written not by me, but rather by George L. Giefer, c. 1898.
So I had to give back the beach house, the stately pile, the brownstone, the flat, the yacht, the Maserati, and most of the mistresses. The suggestive gestures of winking, robust, red-headed, arrestingly-freckled women were but a distant and painful memory. I was reduced to inquiring whether or not the "change" of passers-by happened to be "spare." And such is how you might find me today. The dream, in other words, is over.
The "meaning" of this dream isn't hard to decipher. I recently recorded a version of "Yankee Doodle Dandy" (with alternate lyrics written by someone I don't know) to be used by Disney as promotional material for the forthcoming book John, Paul, George, and Ben, by the talented artist and author and all-around great guy Lane Smith. It's for what they call in the book business a "sizzle," which is a kind of book commercial. This one is to be shown on those TV screens at Disney stores throughout the country, as a trailer on Disney DVDs, and Lord only knows what else. The original plan called for a voice-over artist to sing the lyrics to a traditional fife-and-drum backing track, but Lane recruited me because he thought it might be fun to hear my distinctive, rather muppet-y voice accosting all the Disney store shoppers and DVD watchers. So I gave it a shot, and played it straight as a sort of punk rock folk song, accompanying myself with my old acoustic guitar instead of a fife and drum.
In the meantime, though, I was writing my own "John, Paul, George, and Ben" song, which I flattered myself to think was as good or better than the "Yankee Doodle" one. I even recorded it, just in case, and it came out pretty good. In the end, though, "The Mouse" (as those in the loop refer to the Disney Empire) decided to go with "Yankee Doodle" rather than my own "John, Paul, George, and Ben," and maybe that's for the best. Yet it will probably be the biggest audience ever to hear a song sung by my distinctive, rather muppet-y voice. My biggest and closest brush with fame to date. It may be what I am remembered for, if I am remembered for anything. "Yankee Doodle." Not "Population: Us" or something. Of course, I'm happy to help out. "Yankee Doodle", like "Who Threw the Overalls in Mrs. Murphy's Chowder?", is a fine song.
But if I've learned anything from the "Who Threw the Overalls in Mrs. Murphy's Chowder?" debacle, it's to be straight with everyone from the beginning, so here I go: I did not write "Yankee Doodle Dandy."
Well, I daresay this isn't the first time one of my tunes has wound up on a Valentine's Day mix/playlist, but it may well be the first time that such a list has wound up in the Village Voice.
It's #7, the alternate version of "Sackcloth and Ashes" from the Women Who Love Them re-issue comp. And from the description, I learn that I have a "beached-Ramone popcore bleat." Sounds about right to me.
Anyhow, here's to Tom and Bridget. And many happy returns.
As I've mentioned before once or twice, the word "quite" has a different meaning in British English than it does in American English. In American English, the word "quite" means "quite," whereas in British English the meaning is more like "not quite," or "not really," or "sort of, but not very," "or hardly at all, really." Quoting myself:
The sentence "you're quite beautiful" [in British English] actually means "no, you're not quite what I'd go so far as to call 'beautiful,' though nice try and all that." This, as you might imagine, can lead to some dicey misunderstandings between a man and a woman if the (American) man hasn't learned the secret. (Let's just say I wouldn't recommend trying it: you'll have to trust me on this one.)
What appears to have happened is that the word "quite" has been used ironically for so long and so consistently that its literal meaning has been "quite" forgotten. Very few English people seem to be aware of the literal meaning of this word. I even once had an argument on the matter with a British professor of English, who had to be forcibly shown the OED entry (which is quite unequivocal) before he would concede the point.
The word quite means quite in American English? I don't understand.
The English English meaning is fairly [clear] i.e., "that film was quite good but I've seen better."
"quite beautiful" really isn't that flattering, because let's face it... if I were told "you're alright, you're quite beautiful" it's very understated... and not complimentary at all.Some American commenters explained that "quite" (to Americans as well as to the OED) means "extremely" or "very" (in other words, "quite") but I don't think the Brits "quite" believed them, any more than that English professor (who happened to be my father-in-law) did.
Man, I know it's in poor taste, and possibly dangerous if people "of faith" know where you live, yadda yadda yadda, but there's just no way this genie can be put back in the bottle, and many of these sitcom parodies (from Fark readers) featuring
Lord Voldemort You Know Who are high-larious. (For me it's a tie between "I Dream of Jihad," the "Are You Being Served" one, and the Adam West one alluded to in the title.)
(via Andrew Sullivan.)
Larry notes that many Western news outlets have begun referring to "the Prophet Mohammed" instead of plain old "Mohammed" in their reports.
One thing is certain: it's not due to a heightened sensitivity toward all the world's religions. Otherwise, we'd be seeing similar references to "the Son of God Jesus Christ" or "the Creator Brahma."A ways back Andrew Sullivan linked to the BBC informational "Religion and Ethics" page on Islam, noting that the deference shown by including the abbreviation "pbuh" (for "peace be upon him") after each mention of the name Mohammed is an odd move for the usually scrupulously secular BBC. (The deference is undeniable, and it's certainly over-the-top, but to be fair the Christianity page, to which Sullivan compares it, does contain statements like "this history of Christianity is focussed on the life, death and resurrection of one person, Jesus Christ, the son of God." And writing of beliefs as though they are true is a common and entirely defensible rhetorical or narrative method when discussing belief - anyone who has ever read much Religious Studies will recognize it. Including "it is thought by believers that" every time a matter of belief is alluded to can be cumbersome and ungainly. Including "pbuh" after each mention of the name Mohammed does go far beyond rhetorical convenience, though.)
At any rate, I'm not sure it's only deference, or fear of being bombed, stabbed, or otherwise murdered that that's at play here, though that may be a factor: it's also a kind of trendy multicultural pretension. (Remember in National Lampoon's European Vacation, where Clark Griswald hands the family matching berets so they will "fit in" in Paris? Same sort of thing.) Anyway, the page has since been "cleaned up," though weirdly, it still includes a few pbuhs. The original pbuh-rich cached version is here. For the full effect of the absurdity of this pretentious rhetoric, you have only to imagine a BBC accented voice reciting this text on a news broadcast; for instance, try the accent of David Frost (who may be doing it in real life by and by - who knows?)
I know Jews who render the word "God" as "G-d," and of course I respect their tradition and their reasons for doing so, as I respect the traditions of the faithful Muslims who use "pbuh." I don't share the tradition, and it would be crazy (and condescending and pretentious) for me to adopt it myself, but it's part of history and culture and civilization: the world is a rich, weird and fascinating place, as they say, I wouldn't vote for trying to make it less rich, less fascinating, or less weird even if I thought it possible. It would certainly be a whole different kind of strange, though, if the New York Times started printing "G-d," or inserting "praise be to the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of Man, Lamb of God and Savior of the World" in parentheses every time there was a mention of the historical Jesus. Of course, they'd never do that, and I guess that's kind of the point.
(I know I've set myself up for a full-blown Arya University attack here, and I almost decided it wasn't worth posting on this subject at all for that reason; but then I cracked myself up doing the David Frost accent thing and I found I was powerless to resist sharing it with the world, for good or ill. It's a weakness of mine, I know...)
This is great news. I was quite impressed with Downfall, and I'm sure the movie will be interesting. But mainly, I'm hoping the film may spur enough interest to bring about a reprinting of the English translation of Aust's Der Baader Meinhof Komplex, which is long out of print and extremely scarce. (I once saw one on eBay for over $300, which was far too rich for my blood; it's one of few major RAF books I haven't been able to track down.)
A WELSH flagmaker last night issued an urgent safety warning to Muslims who are buying up his Danish flags to torch in cartoon protests.
Orders for the Danish national red and white flag began flooding in to Swansea-based business Mr Flag as soon as the Prophet Muhammad caricatures featured in a Danish newspaper were reprinted in Europe.
"We have experienced a rise in orders for the Danish colours," owner Robin Ashburner confirmed.
But he warned, "It has to be pointed out though that a number of modern flags are now made largely of polyester and when they burn they melt. That means if they are whirled around by a protester, his or her fellow protesters could be splashed by flying pieces of burning material. If it got into the eye it could do serious damage so we are about to issue a warning to this effect on our website.
My friend Beth Lisick (author of, most recently, the excellent and hilarious book Everybody into the Pool, about which I gushed here) was kind enough to mention King Dork in this poll of "what local authors are reading" in the San Francisco Examiner. Sweet.
Similarly, in a sense, the Secret Garden Bookshop in Seattle, which came on my googly radar because someone on their staff staff-picked King Dork, has now become my favorite bookshop of all time. I mean, it is beyond question pretty much the best bookshop of all time by my own admittedly narcissistic standard for judging the overall worth of such a shop, since nearly half the staff has now blurbed it (here, here, here, and of course here) and they even put it on their front page. If you want to win a guy's esteem and devotion, that's certainly one way to do it. I don't know if there are any other ways, in fact.
Moving right along: it is now possible to comment on Amazon Connect blog posts. Only one person has commented on mine so far (which makes you wonder if anyone is even reading the damn thing, but that's something you always wonder.) The comment was a question, and it's a common one: am I going on a book tour for King Dork?
The answer is, well, I'm not sure how much of a book tour I'll be able to afford. "First authors" don't have much pull with publishers, and as even established professional bigshots will tell you, you're pretty much on your own when it comes to promoting your book except under exceptional circumstances. "Resources" are scarce. Particularly chez moi. You'd be shocked at how little there is in the way of resources around here. (I'm going to stop typing about this now before I start weeping or something...)
I'm looking into some local events (including, I hope, an MTX show in advance of the street date, where people will be able to get the book before it's in stores.) I may be able to swing a couple of trips to the hinterland, maybe to my aforementioned favorite bookshop in Seattle, maybe to New York. We're still trying to come up with a plan and of course I'll let you know if we ever manage to come up with one. (I'm also hoping to do an MTX tour later on that will likely include some booky things as well, but that's a whole nother subject.)
In the meantime, it occurs to me that there just might be other cool, funky bookstores which wouldn't kick me out if I tried to go there and hawk my book. Just for the sake of argument, on the outside chance that I could figure out a way to get there without hastening overmuch the financial ruin for which I am, admittedly, destined anyway, I'd like some suggestions, if you've got any. Know any good places in your area? Leave them in the comments and I will read them through the tears, and pass them on to "my people" through the tears, too.
I was checking out my referral log (which lists the urls whence visitors to this blog have come, if "whence" is the word I want.) Among them are links from the King Dork Amazon page, which have occurred because I have linked to myself on my Amazon Connect blog.
Here's the weird part. The amazon link looks like this:
http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0385732910/ref=ase_artandlies-20/104-9059175-1471165?n=283155&tagActionCode=artandlies-20Art and lies? Is that some html term of art, or is it intended as a characterization of the contents of my book? And if it is the latter, how do they know? And what does "ase_" signify?
Perhaps it's a coder's subtle commentary on the state of literature in this day and age, in view of that whole Frey thing, in which case I say "it's hardly fair" and "bravo" in the same breath.
Oliver Kamm can't catch a break from the FrontPage Magazine yahoos, who accuse him of being a "typical Fabian Society International Socialist," of being soft on Sontag, and, most humorously, of singing the praises of Noam Chomsky!
Then there's this, from Kamm:
I try to convince my interviewer, Jamie Glazov, that while he declares he has never before heard of "a longstanding tradition on the American and European Left of militant anti-totalitarianism", the state of his own political education isn't the final arbiter of whether this tradition in fact exists.
It was through her link the the Mr. T Experience allmusic.com page that I migrated to the allmusic page for Dr. Frank. It was there I learned that John Cafferty and the Beaver Brown Band is a "similar artist."
I did not know that!
A couple of quotes from Stephen King's piece on James Frey in Entertainment Weekly:
At the beginning of the show, the best-selling memoirist was the deer-in-the-headlights Frey first glimpsed in the Larry King softball interview earlier in the month; call him L'il Jim Dorito. By the end, Frey had been reduced to a sullen, downcast nonentity, sitting silently with his chin tucked into the open collar of his shirt as his intellectual betters — and financial inferiors, how weird is that — sat around debating the eternal question what is truth. It's beauty, stupid, I can hear John Keats saying, over there in the corner by his Grecian urn, and there ain't none here. True. This ritual scourging may have been necessary, but it had all the charm of squeezing a pimple on your neck.
Go to one of those church-basement meetings where they drink coffee and talk about the Twelve Steps and you can hear similar stories on any night, and that's why the founders of this group emphasized complete honesty — not just in ''420 of 432 pages,'' as James Frey claimed during his Larry King interview, but in all of it: what happened, what changed, what it's like now. Yeah, stewbums and stoners lie about the big stuff, like how much and how often, but they also lie about the small things. Mostly just to stay in practice. Ask an active alcoholic what time it is, and 9 times out of 10 he'll lie to you. And if his girlfriend killed herself by slashing her wrists (always assuming there was a girlfriend), he may say she hung herself, instead. Why? Basically, to stay in training.(via Book Glutton.)
NURSES want patients who are intent on harming themselves to be provided with clean blades so that they can cut themselves more safely...
This could include giving the “self-harm” patients sterile blades and clean packets of bandages or ensuring that they keep their own blades clean. Nurses would also give patients advice about which parts of the body it is safer to cut.
sparkly drags herself up the steps and into the cabin. though it isn't her time, she feels this to be a rough and just a hormonal day and is weary. She picks up the coral and smiles, silently thanking blu with her expression, as she doesn't want to interupt the peace of the spinning wheel...I don't profess to have the foggiest clue what they're talking about or what's going on at the virtual Menstrual Hut at the Michigan Womyn's Music Festival Discussion Forum, but the fymynyne dream wyrld of Sparkly Giraffe, Blu Voice Girl, Monarch Grrl, Dragonfly, Not the Mouse and others makes for bizarre and inexplicably fascinating reading.
she looks around at the beauty unfolding before her, and the strength of all present. the kitty-mascot rubs on her legs and she feels comforted in a deeply peaceful way that only womyn can truly feel and understand. She picks up the kitty and finds a space in the corner to snuggle in...taking a moment to ponder the new roundness to the kitty's tummy, her attention is taken by the smell of the lavendar in the afgan she's wrapped in. She settles with the kitty for a short nap, and will be on her way soon...
Oliver Kamm writes amusingly in the Times about the responses from a handful of celebrated authors asked by Britain's Royal Society of Literature to name their top ten recommended books for children.
It is true that there's something funny about Andrew Motion's inclusion of Ulysses and The Waste Land on his list. Though speaking from experience I'd have to say he's right: the most painless way to enjoyment and understanding of Ulysses as a teen or "young adult" or old adult is certainly to approach it as an ironic, half-crazed commentary on The Odyssey (which of course it is.) And the Odyssey is great fun at any age. Still, you need to work up to that sort of thing. It can be done. But I doubt it is done very often.
Of course, you need to define "children" when you think about this question. I've been thinking about it a bit myself lately for obvious reasons. The reason for the crazy array of subdivisions and terms in "children's publishing" (young readers, young adult, older teens, etc.) is that we're not sure as a culture what an "adult" is exactly, and increasingly things slip through the cracks in the category structure. But people have always crossed that line flagrantly. Do you stop reading such books when you reach adulthood, whenever or whatever that is? For me, and for many, the answer to that is no, of course not. A good book is a good book. You return to, and commend to others, the ones that are great, regardless of the "market" they were slated for.
My book is in the tradition (and I believe it's quite a grand one - I've loved it practically all my life) of the Young Adult Novel. It is a YA novel. I've noticed a tendency to shy away, or equivocate, about this "label" on the part of authors; hey, man don't put your labels on me! I understand why. It's because every time you tell someone you've written a young adult novel, they say something like "oh how precious! Do you plan to write a real novel someday?" You can tell them it is a real novel, and they will give you that indulgent "sure it is" look. You get the same thing with punk rock, or rather, I do. ("Oh, pop punk. That's neat. Must be moving along now, I've got more serious matters to attend to..." "Don't you want to check out my lyrics or something?" "Yes, I'm sure they're very nice...") But I think it's important to stand up for it, not shy away. That's what it is, and there's nothing wrong with it.
The parallel between the YA novel and rock and roll goes deeper than the mere fact that people make annoying comments when they find out you're of a certain age and involved with either of them. Rock and roll music is teenage music if it is anything, yet it doesn't have a strict expiration date. People of all ages write rock and roll songs, and people of all ages like them. The themes of teen angst, frustration, confusion, heartbroken-ness, as well as the joy of being in love or horny or simply being alive and moving around (as well as the torture of being in love or horny or simply being alive and moving around, let's be honest) never, or so it seems, "wear out." Then there's also this cool thing that happens where every rock and roll song that is written exists on its own, but is at the same time a celebration of and commentary on all the rock and roll songs that have gone before it. Sometimes this can be very specific, deliberate, ironic ("Come Back Jonee" refers to "Johnny B. Goode," "Flower Punk" to "Hey Joe," etc.) Sometimes it's fuzzier and more abstruse, sometimes it's simply a matter of restating a sincere, powerful sentiment. That's what "in the tradition of" ultimately means. We keep listening to, and re-writing and re-writing, "Can't Explain," and it's always worth doing, because no matter how old you get, it's still hard to explain stuff. Trust me on that one.
It's the same with YA novels. There is a great tradition of novels that explore the experience of teenage-hood. Books "in the tradition" of the YA novel do that referential-commentary thing as well, and in much the same way. Mine, like many, very literally and directly does it with The Catcher in the Rye and other "classics" of teenage lit; but it also does it in less direct ways. I mean you see traces of The Chocolate War in a great many YA books, even when they're not literally referring to it. At any rate, such books resonate because they discuss something real and powerful (and frequently hilarious) that everyone has gone through in some form, and that everyone will likely continue to go through. People who claim they have "outgrown" such novels (or music) can't really have understood them very well in the first place, as far as I can see.
This paradox was brought home to me vividly when we were trying to get blurbs for King Dork. One of the people we approached was Chuck Klosterman. Now this is a man who has built a literary career on being a commentator on and "appreciator" of rock and roll music. Yet his reaction to being asked to blurb a YA novel was along the lines of "YA? Why did they send this to me? Be serious..." There's something distinctly odd about loving "teen music," but rejecting "teen books" as unworthy of serious attention. As I've said before, if you applied this standard to music, you'd have to stop listening to "Can't Explain" or "You Really Got Me" as soon as you reach drinking age. But you don't because they're great; and because someone is always gonna really get you and you still won't be able to explain it.
To return to the article, though, the funniest part to me was the bit about the authors who, in the tradition of (as the saying goes) people in gifted students programs everywhere, responded to the question by disputing the premise of the assignment instead of doing it. "Read the world" instead of books, says one. "It is the most mysterious book of all." I bet she got all A's for that kind of thing in school. Of course, I disagree that people should not read books. What an insane thing for an author to suggest! But I'm with her on the mysterious part. Quite.
This ACLU ad is great, in that it depicts our inevitable future, which is not. No more double meat for you!
(via Stephen Pollard.)
Ben has more taste and shame than me, apparently, because he had the decency to be embarrassed, but man Brokeback to the Future had me literally howling and shaking with laughter. Now I'm finished watching it, and I'm still shaking. (Though not actually still howling, thank God.) This could be a problem...
I was in San Diego earlier this week and I had lunch with my agent and Michael Cart, who is a kind of big shot in the YA world and has a genuine, truly affecting passion for these books. There is really not one book in the extended YA universe he has not read, or so it seems. (Even mine: he was about halfway through it when we met, and he said some sweet things about it, which was nice.) Nice guy.
Anyway, he was the chairman of the Printz award committee this year and part of that job involves calling the winners to tell them the good news. He said he reached John Green, the author of the winning book (Looking for Alaska) on his cell phone when John and his fiancée were on their way to start their wedding registry. John's dad captured the whole thing on his cell phone camera. I don't know, it just seems kind of charming, you know?
So I'm sitting here trying to write my second novel (man, that's hard), and I've had a few drinks and I'm looking for distractions and I start reading my blog's comments, just to see, as one does. Maybe someone has finally recognized my genius after all these years. Maybe someone will have given me a little digital pat on the back: you're all right, dude, you're all right, so brilliant, yet so free of pretensions, and man are you ever funny! I love it when that happens. Maybe someone will have attacked one of my posts in such a way that it's easy to respond with a brief witticism that easily displays my subtlety of wit, yet manages to get across the idea that I don't actually care all that much either way. Hey, it happens.
Anyway, in the process I realize that frequent commenter Josh has commented on my quote from John Weidner's post on the vagaries of the religion vs. science game show, and I go to the comments box and start typing, more or less automatically. I press "post" and think, is that wise, after all? Who knows if what I have typed is defensible beyond a reasonable doubt? It sure hasn't been vetted by the version of me that hasn't had a few drinks and isn't looking for distractions from trying to write his second novel, that's for sure. Thank God it's only in the comments, which very few will ever bother to read. But then I think: that is a cowardly attitude. Why write it if you don't want anyone to read it? So I decide I'll post it as an item.
None of this would ever have happened if I hadn't been trying to write my second novel and if I hadn't had a couple of drinks. But wishing won't make it not so, so here is the unedited text. I have to say, I am in basic agreement with myself on it, unless it turns out that I am totally wrong. In which case, I plead diminished capacity and will ridicule myself unsparingly when next I am sober. If, I mean.
Josh, I agree with every point you make. I can't speak for Weidner, but I doubt he's saying that science is bad, or that its claims to allow us to know things are false, or that there's no such thing as natural material beauty. Who would say that?
I think what he's getting at, and I see what he's saying, is that the radical materialists in this sort of (generally idle and unproductive) discussion tend to give short shrift to some pretty important human experiences, to the degree that the picture of man that arises from reading the arguments, even when they are persuasive on this or that point, looks a little... inhuman. If surrender to the irrational is inherently bad, then curing it would involve eliminating a hell of a lot more than just "religion"; our lives as human beings would be totally unrecognizable. That's what happens when you mistake an analogy or a thought experiment for an actual description of reality: reality recedes.
He's also right, I think, that "secular rationalism" is not an exact synonym for science, even as that word is sloppily used these days; it's not even the same kind of term, really. And just speaking for myself here, I don't think "secular rationalism" is by any means a bad thing, though when it seeks dogmatically to replace Everything it does end up as a poor and kind of sad substitute for philosophy, like many ideologies. (Is it an ideology? - an interesting question that I'm not going to take a position on. Not necessarily, but some people seem to employ it as one.) When you take it one step further even than that, and enshrine the scientific method as the sole, exclusive means for judging the validity of any thought or sentiment about anything, including ethics, including metaphysics, including spirituality, even including abstractions that are experienced and perceived through intelligence and theory rather than only observation, even including culture itself and its endless undifferentiated array of complex interleaving layers of the products of the whole of human experience (with optional arbitrary exceptions for stuff you happen to like, e.g. art, brotherly, sisterly, fatherly, and erotic love, justice, etc.) and decide that all other ways of viewing, experiencing, engaging, and describing reality are worthless and, indeed, pernicious, I think you do have something like a full-blown ideology on your hands. At this level of alienation from reality as it is experienced socially (at least), this quasi-ideology is still, narrowly, "rational;" yet its picture of Everything is, from the perspective of this human anyway, strangely incomplete and not a little bizarre. Unreal, in fact.
The objection to this description is that it is a straw man, that no one really thinks this way, that it's a caricature. I agree that it is. So why do people speak this way in places like the Butterflies and Wheels comments box? I do not know. But for some, including some very smart and learned people, this quasi-ideology is so intoxicating that they can easily stumble into the most obvious failures of logic and common sense without even realizing it, e.g. the righteous, surprisingly tenacious skepticism about Norm's simple point that something that can be correctly analyzed as having good and bad qualities has good as well as bad qualities. Wait, really? Even if the thing with good and bad qualities is predominantly bad? Even if I have convincing reasons for disliking it very much? Yes, dear, even then.
That's why I find much of the yammering of sanctimonious atheists (how sad and yet wonderful that this term is even intelligible!) not only unpersuasive personally, but far more irritating than their atheism (which I don't mind and to which they have every right and for which they indeed have much empirical ground); or their often sententious claims to infallible rationalism (which can be amusing enough to redeem it, thank God, if I may quaintly, in the manner of my forefathers, so invoke the teapot in the sky); or even their "arbitrary dealing" (to use Norm's phrase) when trying to belittle willy nilly this or that aspect of something of which they disapprove. These matters (the nature of reality, the existence of God, the meaning of faith, all of it) are worthy of debate and for skeptical examination, of course. But that's not what has been happening over at the Ophelian echo chamber. What is going on is, I think, more akin to politics than philosophy. As Wes has pointed out, it is much like the situation I've written about before, where communities of believers lull themselves into the complacent, implicit assumption, never seriously questioned except perhaps as a stunt to create the appearance of evenhandedness, that their tastes and prejudices alone are valid and that those who oppose them must be blind, brainwashed, or evil. E.g., Berkeley, "liberals" vs. "repug-licans," real vs. evil, free spirits vs. sheep, saved vs. damned. Do they really believe that? Maybe not, but Lord do they ever talk as if they do.
It has to do with culture, it has to do with class and politics, with the joy and thrill of the sense of belonging to an elect and often allegedly beleaguered minority, with the excitement of creating the kind of stir a teenager can cause by standing up at Thanksgiving dinner and announcing his intention to become a Communist (as I once did, believe it or not) or a priest or a punk or a Republican, or what have you. It also has to do, or it usually does, with sincere aspirations on some level to be a participant in a movement for a better world, to right the wrongs of the past, etc. But what it doesn't seem to have much to do with, as I see it, is anything "real" (if I may use the term) in this case actual science. It's more like it is science's publicist. I think the claim to have cornered the market on the truth is a hypocritical and self-defeating strategy. It implicitly belies the laudable liberal rhetoric at every turn, though admittedly it does no real harm. (And I'll add the obvious observation that most people can appreciate and benefit from the virtues of science in this sense without feeling they must attempt to destroy every other sort of belief system or mode of understanding. Those who feel like this are a small, and very weird, group.)
Anyway, in a social milieu where taking pot shots at a belief system or a given social or political culture and ridiculing those who belong to it or espouse its values are rewarded with hugs and cookies every single time without exception and without much regard to content, people will do it for its own sake for the sheer pleasure of it. We have all done it. It's fun to do. It's also not an edifying spectacle, nor is it anything to be proud of. It is suspect when anyone does it, but of course particularly ironic when it is being done by people who ostentatiously array themselves in the pomp and circumstance of Secular Rationalism.
After a long break, my long-time ally, fellow curmudgeon, partner-in-misanthropy, smart cookie, and all around good egg Tristin Laughter has revived her blog, with a post that charts the route you must navigate if you wish to buy CS Lewis's A Grief Observed at the Union Square Barnes and Noble:
After looking all around for the Lewis essay, I finally broke down and asked the customer service desk people where it was. They directed me to "Christianity" on the 4th Floor. "That's sort of weird" I thought, but, whatever. Then I got there. Between Islam and Astrology was this GHETTO little shelf called Christianity. They didn't have AGO or any of his other jillion books and essays. What the ? I wondered. Then I saw a sub-sub Ghetto section behind it called "Christian Inspiration" and bingo, there, right under a book titled "He-motions; Even Strong Men Struggle were the collected essays and novels of this great, great mind of the twentieth century. Certainly they also have a Narnia display in the kids' section; but they also had all the Narnia books here, along with the Screwtape Letters and 2 dozen other titles. I know that Jack felt inadequate in life compared to Tolkien; could he even imagine the indignity of his legacy living among the Left Behind series, right under He-Motions?I chronicled a similar quest (deperately seeking PG Wodehouse in Borders) here. It took some doing, but I finally found him, languishing in the terrifyingly remote Games and Humor Section, lodged between a book by Al Franken about how fat people tend to have duplicitous natures and a quite plentiful supply of Mad Libs. I mean to say, eh, what?
This may well be the funniest thing I've read all week: some folks are worried that the usual suspects (i.e. people who live outside of Manhattan and San Francisco) are suspiciously silent about their hatred and fear of the film Brokeback Mountain. No protests. No boycotts. No bombings. What's going on here? While the naive observer might conclude that the cast of Hee Haw, their brother Darrell and their other brother Darrell don't really mind all that much, others can't help but wonder what they're up to out there.
"I have to say, it seems like it's a coordinated, political strategy from the religious right," says film activist Ellen Huang.
Be very afraid...
(via Damian Penny.)
Well, before I get any more letters advancing the theory that my views on life, the universe, and everything are as they are because I have engaged in intimate relations with one Pat Robertson, I think I'll remain more or less silent on the Big Questions for a bit here. For the record, let me state that I do not in fact find Mr. Robertson attractive in that, or in any other, way. Not that there's anything wrong with that.
I do, it is true, believe in God. More than not. What's more, apart from this shocking moral failing, I am just plain interested in God and stuff like that. And though it might sound kind of weird, I expect that even if I were entirely (rather than only partially) unencumbered with that particular moral failing, I'd still be interested, maybe even more so. But, and I know this will also sound weird to some ears, it does not bother me at all to learn that there are those whose moral inferiority and interest are less than mine. Everyone should go around having a good time, and if that involves a bit of dour preaching against the morally inferior, well that's just swell. As long as you don't kill anyone or anything.
However, it is surely a strange state of affairs (and one that I imagine would rather surprise HG Wells or Bertrand Russell, were they to be transported to the contemporary blogosphere) to notice, from afar, a group of people going around scolding everybody for being morally inferior, some of whom appear to be carrying little digital "repent" signs, only to realize that they turn out, on closer inspection, to be the atheists! O! Middle-class morality! Well, these things evolve, or so I'm told.
The world is full of surprises, which is just one of the few things I love about it.
Also, here's some food for thought from John Weidner of Random Jottings:
If science prolongs lives, that's a plus. But if the secular-rationalism that is often considered (somewhat mistakenly, I think) as "science" renders those lives less worth living, less sweet, less beautiful, that's excluded from the argument...
And it usually doesn't get mentioned in this sort of discussion, but science itself is a faith. It rests on the assumption that the natural world it studies is "real." Is not a dream or an illusion. But science cannot ever prove that this is so.