Archive for January, 2010


“Syndromes of a new century”


Well, hey. Here we are in a new day. It has been so here in the uk for an hour and 53 minutes, probably more by the time this is posted, and i think to myself “Geez Adam” (cuz that is my name. As much as i wish i’d been christened Either/Or/Bored. Can you imagine that on a birth certificate? How cool would that be?) “it’s been a while since you’ve posted anything filmy.” So, i shuffle over to the sight & sound website and lo-and-behold if they don’t have an article from their feburary issue all up online. It’s good, it has depth, it is interesting. so here it is. in part. you got to click the click for the rest. I read this in the magazine itself, because a subscription to it was one i desperately wanted for a christmas present.

One aspect of the phrase “a camel is a horse designed by committee” is that no one knows who said it first (apparently it was either Vogue magazine, Sir Alec Issigonis or philosophy professor Lester Hunt – I like to think they came up with it together). When it comes, however, to the list of 30 films of the 21st century published here, I can name the guilty parties.

Having recently polled the critical world for the most impressive films of 2009, the S&S editorial team decided, as far as the past decade was concerned, to tether our own camel to the masthead. Kieron Corless, James Bell, Isabel Stevens, Nick Bradshaw and myself met, having each first selected our own ‘top 20’. Yet the debate we had led to a list that we feel reflects the cultural significance of the films better than our own subjective tastes; it took 30 titles to satisfy us that we’d touched on the important themes of the decade.

The list’s conception was, in any case, supplementary to our desire to publish a collection of articles about those themes, and to pick out the decade’s six most influential directors. Overleaf you’ll find Shane Danielsen’s overview of the significant national cinemas of the past ten years – particularly those of Romania, Argentina, Korea and Mexico. Further on, Mark Cousins revels in the new, addictive ways of consuming films that developed over the decade; Michael Atkinson is sceptical about the potential deterioration of American cinema; Hannah McGill charts the decline of the movie star; Jonathan Romney considers the peculiar aesthetic dominance of ‘Slow Cinema’; and Nick Roddick argues for the noughties as the decade of the digital revolution. What I want to do here is to show how those trends are reflected in the 30 films and six key directors we have chosen.

Certain restrictions were put on the list. First, you won’t find any television drama series – The Sopranos, The Wire and the like. It’s a partisan gesture on our part, because we think that 2010 may be the last significant moment at which one can still argue for the complete distinction of the feature film. Second, a half-dozen of the most important directors have each been allotted only one representative film. So Jia Zhangke’s Platform also represents Unknown Pleasures and Still Life, Michael Haneke’s Hidden counts for Code Unknown et al, Claire Denis’ 35 Shots of Rum for White Material, The Son for the Dardennes’ equally excellent The Child, Talk to Her for the whole golden run of Almodóvar’s noughties films, and Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s Tropical Malady stands also for Syndromes and a Century (2006).

BFI | Sight & Sound | Syndromes of a new century.
Read the list of Sight & Sounds 30 key films of the decade


A friend of mine alerted me to this story via email a few days ago and I’ve been meaning to blog it ever since.

After a parent complained about an elementary school student stumbling across “oral sex” in a classroom dictionary, Menifee Union School District officials decided to pull Merriam Webster’s 10th edition from all school shelves earlier this week.

School officials will review the dictionary to decide if it should be permanently banned because of the “sexually graphic” entry, said district spokeswoman Betti Cadmus. The dictionaries were initially purchased a few years ago for fourth- and fifth-grade classrooms districtwide, according to a memo to the superintendent.

“It’s just not age appropriate,” said Cadmus, adding that this is the first time a book has been removed from classrooms throughout the district.

I mean, really? What’s next, banning the bible? There’s discussions of anal sex and prostitution in there! Won’t somebody please think of the children?!?

Menifee school officials remove dictionary over term ‘oral sex’ | Menifee | PE.com | Southern California News | News for Inland Southern California.


The blog, Only a Game, is one of great depth and intrigue. I’ve posted stuff from there before and now I bring you something from over there that shall not be for the lightheaded or faint of heart, something to sink ones teeth into, something of philisophical import. An introduction Kant’s conception of aesthetics.

*snip*

When we have an aesthetic response to, say, a work of art, is that experience wholly subjective, or can there be an objective element in aesthetics? This question is the focus of the first part of Immanuel Kant’s Critique of Judgement, first published in 1790, in which he explores the aesthetical judgement in terms of his labyrinthine system of transcendental idealism.

Dealing with Kant’s approach to any given topic requires either that one learns his near-incomprehensible framework of terms, or that one translates those terms into more readily understandable language. Since my goal here is to elucidate Kant’s meaning, I have chosen the latter approach – in the full knowledge that by moving away from Kantian terminology I open myself up to radical disputes about my conclusions. Nonetheless, since my hope is to present Kant’s ideas for an audience who are not necessarily philosophers, the only viable choice is a simplification of Kant’s system.

Vital to Kant’s intellectual project in his critiques is the concept of synthetic a priori judgements, a phrase that enjoys the usual impenetrability associated with Kant’s work as a philosopher. The thrust of his ideas in this regard are easier to understand than the phrase itself is to explicate: how can we know anything? David Hume, in his classic 1739 polemic A Treatise of Human Nature, had delivered a scathing blow to various assumptions that had previously gone unchallenged, claiming that even basic principles such as causality were suspect and could not be derived from sense experience alone – that we experience one event regularly following another does not actually allow us to conclude that the earlier event caused the later event. Consider that on most TV channels we witness advertisements proceeding the programme we are about to watch – but we would be gravely in error to assume that advertisements caused TV programs. Confluence need not imply causality.

If you have the urge to digest the whole thing go, read! It comes in three parts and the third one isn’t writ yet. As soon as it is up, or as soon as I notice that it’s up, I’ll link it. Unfortunately, I do not have time to read it as I must hurry verily to my novel-in-progress and take a bite out of it. I shall read it later though.

Of course, some of you will need no introduction to Kant, such well read and studious creatures that you are. I am enviable of your position!

Only a Game: Kant on Aesthetics 1: Introduction.
Kant on asethetics part 2: The Beautiful

mad measuring tape skillz


I had to post this video. I simply HAD TO. Not to post it would be to deny a part of myself, the part of my that takes overwhelming joy in such things, the exuberance and sheer skill displayed, the mischievousness of it all. Enjoy! In fact, I challenge you to NOT enjoy this video!

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Hot on the heels of the story in Publisher’s Weekly that “publishers could be losing out on as much $3 billion to online book piracy” comes a sudden realization of a much larger threat to the viability of the book industry. Apparently, over 2 billion books were “loaned” last year by a cabal of organizations found in nearly every American city and town. Using the same advanced projective mathematics used in the study cited by Publishers Weekly, Go To Hellman has computed that publishers could be losing sales opportunities totaling over $100 Billion per year, losses which extend back to at least the year 2000. These lost sales dwarf the online piracy reported yesterday, and indeed, even the global book publishing business itself.

From what we’ve been able to piece together, the book “lending” takes place in “libraries”. On entering one of these dens, patrons may view a dazzling array of books, periodicals, even CDs and DVDs, all available to anyone willing to disclose valuable personal information in exchange for a “card”. But there is an ominous silence pervading these ersatz sanctuaries, enforced by the stern demeanor of staff and the glares of other patrons. Although there’s no admission charge and it doesn’t cost anything to borrow a book, there’s always the threat of an onerous overdue bill for the hapless borrower who forgets to continue the cycle of not paying for copyrighted material.

To get to the bottom of this story, Go To Hellman has dispatched its Senior Piracy Analyst (me) to Boston, where a mass meeting of alleged book traffickers is to take place. Over 10,000 are expected at the “ALA Midwinter” event. Even at the Amtrak station in New York City this morning, at the very the heart of the US publishing industry, book trafficking culture was evident, with many travelers brazenly displaying the totebags used to transport printed contraband.

As soon as I got off the train, I was surrounded by even more of this crowd. Calling themselves “Librarians”, they talk about promoting literacy, education, culture and economic development, which are, of course, code words for the use and dispersal of intellectual property. They readily admit to their activities, and rationalize them because they’re perfectly legal in the US, at least for now.

Go to the full article of more of this scathing satirical scribbling!

Go To Hellman: Offline Book “Lending” Costs U.S. Publishers Nearly $1 Trillion.

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music makes the world keep turning


Been a while since there’s been any music up in this bitch. I’ve been meaning to write this semi-longish post all around the subject but obvious it ain’t writ so it ain’t here. I hope the video above, again cribbed from Dangerous Minds, will go some way towards redressing the balance. Life without music is like a bowling ball without a liquid centre, or something.

*snippity*snip*

Caribou announced the release in April of their new album “Swim” today and released the above lead-off tune “Odessa” into the world. Main Caribou Dan Snaith is an absolute sonic master, dealing mainly in muted and worn textures. This song is somehow both awkward and hypnotic simultaneously, a subtle grower with lots of interesting little bits coming and going amid the repeated hooks galore.

To borrow palance from a certain point in UK youth culture: Choon!

note: If you know where that bowling ball line is from drop me a comment and I’ll give you a shout out of your choosing for your supreme awesomeness!


this post and been republished in updated form, with comments from Phil’s widow Tessa Dick, here. Go there now!

all pointed by dem fine Dangerous Minds crew a piece filled anecdotal on the mighty PKD, of suicide attempts and vancouver, disneyland and orange country.

In the years after his suicide attempt, Dick went on to publish “A Scanner Darkly,” “VALIS” and other novels since collected by the Library of America. (Dick is the only science fiction writer to be so honored.) He was able to see a reel from “Blade Runner,” the now-iconic adaptation of his 1968 novel “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?,” although he died before the film opened in 1982.

These days, Dick is widely considered the science-fiction novelist who most accurately foresaw our contemporary world. Several new film versions of his books are in the works, including “Radio Free Albemuth,” due out this year and set in Southern California, “Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said” and “Ubik.” His early novels are being reissued, most recently the Los Angeles and Ojai-set “Puttering About in a Small Land,” which Tor put out last month.

And yet, Dick’s time in Orange County, where he lived out his last decade, has been largely overlooked. That evening in 1976 captures the paradox of the era — an incongruous one for a Berkeley bohemian. It was in Orange County that Dick was at his most stable marriage-wise and in regard to drugs. It was also there that he experienced some of the most disruptive and intense experiences of a disruptive and intense life.

Philip K. Dick: A ‘plastic’ paradox.
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apologises to DM for the total headline tealeafery. Still waiting for the espresso machine to heat up and I can barely string a sentence together right now.

Famous Literary Drunks & Addicts


A photogallery of famous literary drunks & addicts. Below, Ernest Hemmingway, who I have never actually read (the shame!) but I just had to stick him here for you to see because of the awesomely distrubing description under the photo.

Ernest Hemingway (1899 - 1961): Booze

Ernest Hemingway (1899 – 1961): Booze

Notorious for making fun of his fellow writers who sought relief from their own alcoholism (when Fitzgerald admitted that alcohol had bested him, Hemingway urged him to toss his “balls into the sea — if you have any balls left”), Papa himself was an increasingly messy drunk. George Plimpton once famously observed that by the end, Hemingway’s ruined liver protruded from his belly “like a long fat leech.”

Famous Literary Drunks & Addicts – Photo Gallery, 27 Pictures – LIFE.

James Patterson Inc.


A look into the publishing powerhouse that is best-seller James Patterson.  I’ve never read any James Patterson and maybe I never will but this article presents an interesting look at his ‘production’ and promotion methods from which many an aspiring and established author could crib useful tips.

*snip*

A number of former Little, Brown employees who attended these sorts of meetings with Patterson in the 1990s and early 2000s described him to me as low-key but intimidating, more cutthroat adman than retiring writer — a kind of real-life Don Draper. Unsatisfied with publishing’s informal approach to marketing meetings, Patterson had expected corporate-style presentations, complete with comprehensive market-share data and sales trends. “A lot of authors are just grateful to be published,” Holly Parmelee, Patterson’s publicist from 1992 to 2002, told me several weeks earlier. “Not Jim. His attitude was that we were in business together, and he wanted us both to succeed, but it was not going to be fun and games.”

James Patterson Inc. – NYTimes.com.

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Fuck. After watching this i don’t know what to say. I’m totally on board though. Don’t copy that floppy!

Were the 90s really that cheesy? I musta tuned it out….

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random thought


shooting yourself in the foot is alot more painful than shooting yourself in the face. Chances are you aren’t going to be feeling much of anything for too much longer if you shoot yourself in the face.


Tied in knots. Blog suffering. My most profuse of apologies.

But I’m untangling myself just long enough to bring you some choice audio. Brought to light by Jason Louv over at Dangerous Minds:

The Naropa University Archive Project is preserving and providing access to over 5000 hours of recordings made at Naropa University in Boulder, Colorado. The library was developed under the auspices of the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics (the university’s Department of Writing and Poetics) founded in 1974 by poets Anne Waldman and Allen Ginsberg. It contains readings, lectures, performances, seminars, panels and workshops conducted at Naropa by many of the leading figures of the U.S.literary avant-garde.

The collection represents several generations of artists who have contributed to aesthetic and cultural change in the postmodern era. The Naropa University Archive Project seeks to enhance appreciation and understanding of post-World War II American literature and its role in social change, cultural criticism, and the literary arts through widespread dissemination of the actual voices of the poets and writers of this period. Current interest in Oriental religions, environmentalism, political activism, ethnic studies, and women’s consciousness is directly indebted to the work of these New American Poets, writers and musicians.

Funding for this project was provided by the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, Save America’s Treasures, the GRAMMY Foundation, the Internet Archive, the Collaborative Digitization Program, and private donors. If this collection is important to you please help us preserve it with your donations.

There are mad metric tons of stuff to be found here. Interesting stuff. Stuff worthy of your time, if you have the time.  I’ve barely scratched the surface of what is up in this archive. If your at all interested in writing, Burroughs, Kerouac, Ginsberg and the whole beat thing then this is a motherlode of psychotextural awesome right here. I’ve just spent over an hour listening to one recording, Burroughs talking at a Jack Kerouac conference. He starts off talking about Kerouac and writing in general and ends with a Q&A session that spreads over into the second part. You can barely hear the questions but the answers are always interesting. Here’s a rough contents list of the first part cribbed from a comment on the Internet Archive page.

1:00: A writer writes
5:00: K sets up WSB with a Trust Fund? No Burroughs millions?
8:00: Writing marks a man- any writing is totally revealing (if you know how to read).
13:00: What is a writer actually doing? Making the reader aware of what they know and doesn’t know he knows.
20:00: First version=best? Worked for K, not WSB
28:00: Comparison of Gatsby and OTR
31:00: Alcoholism and the writer (writing in a state of stress)
31:30: Do you use a word processor?
32:20: Seeing in images as opposed to words. How do you conjure up these images?
32:45: What the hell was THAT question? Love is a mixture between sex and liking.
32:30: Why didn’t you publish XXXXX?
34:00: Why are we seeing more of you lately?
34:30: Joyce/K influence?
35:00: K wsb influence direction?
35:40: Writer needs time?
37:00: Cutup process?

Anyway, have at it!

Part one:

part two:

Homepage of the archive

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If you find anything amazingly awesome in the archive i’d love to hear about it!


The biographical details printed on the back flap of his sprawling, ambitious new novel, Chronic City, merely hint at the scope and genre-bending nature of Jonathan Lethem‘s fiction. Since publishing Gun, With Occasional Music – a fusion of Philip K Dick, Raymond Chandler and Alice in Wonderland – in 1994, Lethem has flirted with science fiction, noir, fantasy, literary fiction, memoir, and Shakespearean pastiche to formulate a body of work that – on the face of it – is so eclectic in style and approach that each novel seemingly could be the work of a different writer.

The publication of his breakout novel – 1999’s Motherless Brooklyn – perfectly encapsulates his diverse and scattergun approach to fiction. An inventive, evocative crime drama centring on a language=obsessed Tourette’s sufferer, it managed to win the Macallan Gold Dagger but also a National Book Critics’ Circle award – an impressive and unusual achievement, especially considering the novel that preceded it: Girl in Landscape, an odd reworking of The Searchers (with apparently inadvertent nods to A Passage to India) set in space.

When asked at last week’s reading at the London Review Bookshop about the wildly different nature of his work, and whether this was a help or a hindrance to his work, Lethem was wholly positive about his polyglot sensibilities. There was no peril, he said, in moving from one genre, geographic location or style of writing; in fact there could be no other way to write his books. Alluding to his 2007 essay “The Ecstasy of Influence“, Lethem suggested that his novels were as much born out of his reading as of his experiences – something backed up by 1997’s As She Climbed Across the Table, which is in many ways a literary billet-doux to Don DeLillo. It wasn’t so much that Lethem wanted to be the man who never wrote the same book twice; it was just that he was incapable of doing so.

Creatively speaking, his argument was both logical and sure-footed: after all, no one would deny writers the absolute right to choose the subject and style of their work. But such diversity is not perhaps the best way to endear yourself to a readership, or to receive a consistent critical reception. A writer’s novel may be their own, but once published it becomes the preserve of the reader – and readers tend to want to trust that their authors will deliver the kind of book expected of them.

Toby Lichtig took John Irving to task earlier this week for his endless recycling of themes and preoccupations, but for many readers this is not necessarily such a bad thing. Yes it sometimes seems hackneyed, but the appeal of the familiar cannot be overlooked. If an author’s work is all over the place in terms of style, it’s often easy not to bother keeping up with them. With so many demands on readers’ time, and such a wealth of choice, an author who deviates wildly from their established milieu is simply adding layers of doubt for readers – which is what makes publishers nervous.

In an industry obsessed with creating brands – whether in genre or literary fiction – constantly confounding your publishers and readers can leave authors struggling to attract either. It’s debatable whether Lethem would have had the same kind of five-book support for his genre-bending fictions – even with all his awards – in the current climate, but I’m sure that there would be some grumbling from the sales department eager to sell in another fantasy-crime novel featuring a returning character.

The problem is, as Lethem highlighted, that one can only write the books you feel compelled to write. And while for the vast majority these are thematically, geographically, stylistically or generically linked to each other, for the few – the brilliant, yet perpetually overlooked Chris Paling and the incredible but under-championed Nicholson Baker for example – such similarities are much harder to tease out. Finding a readership is a long struggle, keeping one an even more titanic battle – even without adding your own obstacles along the way.

Jonathan Lethem may contend that there are no perils in an eclectic approach to fiction, but the mixed critical and commercial response to You Don’t Love Me Yet, the follow up to Fortress of Solitude, shows that readers don’t always thank you for pulling their comfort blanket away from them. Artists are duty bound to create the work that they imagine; unfortunately, however, readers are not compelled to read them.

What writers risk in not repeating themselves | Books | guardian.co.uk.

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Internet News

The real reason Google wants out of China

It’s not about human rights, says Oxblood Ruffin

Friday at 15:00 GMT | Tell us what you think [ 9 comments ]

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When you’re being chased out of town it can be face-saving to grab a flag and say that you’re leading a parade.

Google’s conversion from acquiescent nose-holder to aggrieved human rights defender hasn’t been equalled since Saint Paul found Jesus on the road to Damascus.

I almost got weepy when I read the news about Google, then I put down my crack pipe.

“In mid-December, we detected a highly sophisticated and targeted attack on our corporate infrastructure originating from China that resulted in the theft of intellectual property from Google,” stated paragraph one of Google’s bombshell posting.

There were also mentions of email hacking and censorship. A clever – if not risible – bait and switch to reposition the story. Forget that Google was haxored and its IP stolen.

Actually, forget that Chinese privateers have been aggressively targeting Western technology firms. When your network security sucks and your brand is taking a beating, it’s time to talk about human rights.

The real reason Google wants out of China | News | TechRadar UK.
<google vs. china vs. google – boingboing >


Crunchy. Synthetic. Sonic Obnoxion Machine Records.


“When I woke up this morning after watching Avatar for the first time yesterday, the world seemed … gray. It was like my whole life, everything I’ve done and worked for, lost its meaning,” Hill wrote on the forum. “It just seems so … meaningless. I still don’t really see any reason to keep … doing things at all. I live in a dying world.”

You really gotta read the whole article. Could this be anymore cyberpunk? It’s all over people, it’s all over.

Audiences experience ‘Avatar’ blues – CNN.com.

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