Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Something like Something: I Am the Memory

"I forget nothing, in a sense, and this is my tragedy."
—Isaac Bashevis Singer, the stranger in 'Powers,' 1967

"Yo no puedo olvidar nada, dicen que ése es mi problema."
—Roboerto Bolaño: Auxilio Lacouture in Los Detectives Salvajes, 1998

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Everyone's a Critic: Cold Cuts

"I love Roberto Bologna!"

-Comment by Reader on November 9, 2009 at 6:36 am, on an article by Horacio Castellanos Moya about the construction of the "Bolaño myth" in the US

Friday, August 17, 2012

Stranger with You: Fresh from the Hut

Does this happen elsewhere now, too? In Mexico City, Pizza Hut pizza comes with a little sprig of rosemary in the box, "to signify freshness," and Pizza Hut's commitment to it. The rosemary tastes more or less exactly like the cardboard box it comes in. Also included with the pizza is a tiny plastic bag containing three tomato seeds and an equally tiny booklet about how to grow your own tomatoes.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Marvelous Returns: New Writings

Here are two things that I never thought would get published: One is an interview I did with artist Charles Gute way back in 2009. Read it at The Conversant. Bonus points if you can explain to me what I was trying to say... 
 (Charles Gute - "Interview with Lawrence Weiner")
The other is a small piece (with pictures!) I wrote for the New York Moon, about the first modern mapping expedition to Jerusalem: the ever-notorious and raring-for-a-comeback "1865 Ordnance Survey of Jerusalem." The New York Moon is an online magazine published by Steven Hasty and Zack Sultan.
 ("Ecce Homo Arch" from the Ordnance Survey)

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Something Like Something: The Face of Shame Continues

Charlie Crist continues this apparently ingrained American tradition.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Antiquariana ('90s edition): John Hughes, Fiction Writer

After he stopped making movies, in 1991, the producer of classic '80s teen flicks turned out hundreds of tiny pieces of fiction. Very few were ever published, and he used a pseudonym for those that were. Follow the link below for a few examples. They feature lines like:

“Ash?” Ken said. “The rats really seem to be enjoying your rabbit confit with baked figs.”

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Antiquariana: Marshall Islands Sea Charts

The steepness of waves, their pattern of refraction, or the amount of cresting can all indicate location. Star configurations and their movement are markers that can be used with equal reliability. Species of birds that nest on land fly at a variety of distances from shore. Birds also fly at altitudes that make them visible to the human eye far more easily than a low atoll invisible over an unmarked horizon. Sea colors, sounds, water temperature, and phosphorescence change with depth, as do the type and variety of sea creatures that can be observed. Floating debris and smells travel in predictable patterns. Speed can be marked by the time a sail keeps a certain shape matched with the memory of how fast a particular canoe traveled in an equal breeze. Clouds form over land in a manner different from over the sea. This listing could go on at great length. The point is that people living “in place” have the ability to customize a worldview that allows the physical world to become alive with nuance and opportunity.
from “Eye Memory: The Inspiration of Aboriginal Mapping,” by Doug Aberley

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Antiquariana: (But not really) Robin's Hood

Happy Robin Whood coming to Lyndric falls asleep and hath a strange Dream there. Which at his awaking, he relates to his Companions, and then tells them that he is resolved forthwith to turn Hermit. Robin retires to Depe Dale, chuses the penitent Thief for his Patron, and spends the Remainder of his Time in great Penance and Devotion. He falls sick of a fever, Repairs to Kirklees to be let Blood. His mind consoled his endurable time slips away. Again he is lying in Little John's arms, it is a dream within a Barnsdale dreaming: again there is a thief in the forest, now a rival shaman in Gisborne's disguise clad from head to foot in the hide of a horse, a blood mire of a path through the maze of trees Robin alone knew by weird aiming of his aimless arrow and the dream within the dream before that when he was captured in Nottingham not saving Marian who first named him a 'Hood but kneeling as he must before the one in whose image his deere ladye was.

-from A Robin Hood Book (1996), by Alan Halsey, previously of Hay-on-Wye, Wales.

Monday, February 27, 2012

My Name Escapes Me: If I had a Tumblr would be called
"Other People's Inspiration"


"A Catalog You Can't Order From"

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Funny Things about Serious People: Dear Guitardealer

I didn’t really see him too much after that, although I sold him a couple of guitars along the way during the ’60s. That 1930s Gibson Nick Lucas Special he played in “Don’t Look Back” had belonged to my sister. It was in mint condition when I sold it to him, but it got a little wrecked. He had that guitar for a long time. Later, probably in the early ’70s, I drove up to Woodstock to sell him a really nice late-’60s Martin. He was a tough guy to do business with, though, because he didn’t have any idea what the guitars were worth.

-Marc Silber, "Long Ago, Far Away," from Encounters with Bob Dylan

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Something Like Something: Jewish people are good at music and film

I have now seen three movies with Mélanie Laurent. In all three she portrays (secretly-) Jewish women. Can Jewish actors in France only play Jewish people?

Monday, February 13, 2012

Stranger with You: Cultural Expatriation

What is the deal with "Downtown Abbey" that everyone's talking about and why does Steve Inskeep sound like he's saying "Doughton Abbey" when he mentions it?

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Something like Something: Did you know Woody Allen was once a famous comedian?

"And then I told him how there were a lot of times i couldn't bring myself to care about my friends when something bad happens to them, but he didn't understand. We talked more, and then we watched Annie Hall for awhile."
-from "Adrien Brody," by 'Marie Calloway'

"After a strange period of not fitting in with any of the cliques I’d tried to join freshman year – straitlaced nerds whose nerdiness was not the intriguing kind, sad pretty girls whose habit of eating meals together was forged around what I realized belatedly was mutual avoidance of actual eating – I was finally finding the people with whom I could take bong hits and watch Annie Hall repeatedly."
-from "Our graffiti," by Emily Gould

Woody Allen was kind of a genius at one point, but then people started calling him a genius in writing, and he thought "genius" meant "someone who makes philosophically weighty art" and so he started making lots of movies where people analyze their feelings constantly while referencing Ingmar Bergman and/or e.e. cummings.

The first quotation is from a 'short story' which is examined in a blog post in which the second quotation appears. Reading them, I get the feeling both authors indulge the Allen-esque pleasure of never having a good time and making sure no one else has a good time, either.

(P.S. Thanks to Will Redden for alerting me to the existence of this whole 'Marie Calloway' morass. Never send me anything again.)

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Antiquariana: Old Sioux

...owing to the paucity of the old Lakota vocabulary, it is often necessary to express widely varying concepts by the same word or phrase, the comprehension of the concept depending on the association of correct ideas with the expression. The phrases were conventional, but not fixed, for they could be modified by the addition, subtraction, or interjection of words. When the white people heard these phrases they assumed that they were words and wrote them as such. In translating English into Lakota, there was often no Lakota word  equivalent to the English word and in such cases a Lakota word was used to express a concept that was foreign to it. Thus, in written Lakota, the phrases became fixed as words and insusceptible to modification so that many words were given new meanings. Thus was brought about a marked transition of the language, both in structure and meaning, so that there are now both old and modern forms of speech.

J.R. Walker, The Sun Dance and Other Ceremonies of the Oglala Division of the Teton Dakota, 1917

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

On the Street: Mexican Steak

Mexican steaks tend to be flat, thin and dry. Mexicans seem averse to anything that resembles a rare filet mignon, and for a time this worried the meat eater in me. But happily I came upon a restaurant just a few blocks from my apartment where American values are clearly championed in the carnivorous department. Two large, red neon signs in the window glowingly advertise Sirlone and T-boin.

The Vampire Thing Never Dies: Sunblock

Real Panama hats come from Ecuador. When the Spanish first arrived there, the material in the natives' straw headgear appeared so fine to them, they mistook it for vampire skin.

Monday, October 10, 2011

hey duck man can i get two ducks man

Friday, September 30, 2011

Funny Things about Serious People: Declaratively Hemingway

Buying paperback editions of Hemingway is funny because inevitably the back of the book has a statement that says something to the effect of "Hemingway wrote in short, declarative sentences" (that's a direct quotation) and then on page 18 you find a sentence like He knew about that, about motor cycles—that was earliest—about motor cars, about duck-shooting, about fishing, trout salmon and big-sea, about sex in books, many books, too many books, about all court games, about dogs, not much about horses, about hanging on to his money, about most of the other things his world dealt in, and about his wife not leaving him.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Mexico City: Scenes/ Adventures in Rhythm—Folkloric Violins

Last night I went to the Ballet Folklorico for the first time. The violins were out of tune there too, just like they are everywhere else I've heard in Mexico. Throughout the two-hour performance I kept trying to decide if this was done to be "authentic," or if for some reason in Mexico any two given violins are incapable of being in tune with one another. I could not decide.

One expert offers an explanation:
"Stanford (1984)...stresses the devastating effect the inclusion of the trumpet initially had on traditional ensembles, particularly in causing the role of the violin to atrophy. According to Stanford, the violin players in the first modern mariachi groups (after the inclusion of the trumpet) subsequently viewed their instrument as less important, and began to play out of tune and with less care. In small mariachi ensembles, the violin was retained only to complete the overall visual image."