I have decided to eradicate the word ‘Awesome’ from my vocabulary, because it’s lazy and annoying. If you catch me using it give me a written warning or something.
Archive for February, 2010
Over at the Nation, New Weird Wünderkind China Miéville weighs in on the new publication of J. G. Ballard’s complete short stories. The new book spans 1,200 pages of one of the most important authors of our time. What’s to resist?
The publication of any book by J.G. Ballard at this moment—let alone so colossal and career-spanning a volume as The Complete Stories, running to nearly 1,200 pages—is an occurrence that can only be about more than itself. All writers are writers of their time, of course, but Ballard, who after a fight with cancer died in April 2009, feels somehow uniquely, precisely so. This book marks the fact that we are all post-Ballard now: it’s not that we’ve gotten beyond him but rather that we remain ineluctably defined by him. Completists have pointed out that, its title notwithstanding, this volume is not a truly comprehensive collection of all Ballard’s published short fiction. Those few omissions are a disappointment. Nevertheless, they are few, and despite them the book is indispensable.
The volume’s ninety-eight stories (including two written for this edition) are printed in chronological order of publication, which illuminates Ballard’s trajectory. There is something fascinating and poignant about watching various obsessions appear, reappear or come gradually or suddenly into focus: birds, flying machines, ruins, beaches, obscure geometric designs, the often-noted empty swimming pools…
Excellent discussion on the “agency model” vs. Amazon’s Kindle programme.
I’ve been seeing a lot of confusion about the “agency model” for publishing ebooks, which is what Macmillan, Hachette, HarperCollins, and Apple are on record as preferring to Amazon and its Kindle program. Please understand that I am not speaking on behalf of Macmillan or any of its subsidiaries, and I don’t have any inside information on what exactly John Sargent had in mind this past week when he wrote his statements.
Under the agency model, online retailers will sell a publisher’s ebooks in return for 30% of the gross. It’s not tied to a specific price structure or publication schedule. Publishers will set their own prices for the titles they publish, and decide when their own editions will come out.
Awesome quote from that dissertation i linked earlier:
Being bodies that learn language/thereby becoming wordlings/humans are/the symbolmaking, symbol-using, symbol-misusing animal/inventor of the negative/separated from
our natural conditionıby instruments of our own making/goaded by the spirit of hierarchy/acquiring foreknowledge of death/and rotten with perfection.
– Kenneth Burke, The Rhetoric of Religion: Studies in Logology
Humans have had a long-running affair with foods believed to entice or enhance sexual performance, and it’s led to a host of recipes for stirring up some mojo. Some of these concoctions are based on science, some are based on folklore, and some are just based on last-ditch efforts by really desperate guys. For Valentine’s Day, here are 10 foods you never want to catch your parents eating together.
1. Jolt Juleps
Since ancient times, most great sex has taken place when both parties were awake. Maybe that’s why stimulants, from geisha tea to Red Bull, have long been held in high esteem as aphrodisiacs. According to a 1990 study in the Archives of Internal Medicine, drinking coffee increased sexual activity in 744 participating Michigan residents over the age of 60, strongly suggesting that caffeine promotes arousal. That, or the subjects confused the study with a casting call for another sequel to Cocoon.
While caffeine has not yet been directly linked to an increased sex drive, the consensus in the medical community is that anything that gets the central nervous system pumping will have a general stimulating effect on the body. This explains why the ancient herb ginseng, which is said to increase energy and memory, is considered a strong aphrodisiac. It impacts the central nervous system, gonadic tissues and the endocrine system, thus enhancing arousal. Ginseng has long been respected in China for its systemic healing properties, including the ability to aid sexual function.
2. Yohimbine Chai Latte
Before Viagra, there was yohimbine, an oil that comes from the bark of the West African Pausinystalia Yohimbe tree. For hundreds of years, African natives have dried yohimbe bark and made it into a tea, used both as a treatment for impotency and as a general aphrodisiac. Yohimbine works by blocking the blood vessel-constricting effects of adrenaline on the nerves. This promotes the flow of blood to the genitals, thereby assisting erections. Although yohimbine doesn’t have as much research (or Bob Dole) to back up its claims, the principles of operation are essentially the same as Viagra. It even has the same side effects, such as elevated heart rate, increased blood pressure and anxiety. In fact, while Viagra has become the recommended treatment for impotency, the use of yohimbine has also been approved by the FDA. Fortunately, the key component of yohimbe bark, yohimbine hydrochloride, is available by prescription in pill, capsule or liquid form.
3. Raw Oysters by the Bucketful
You only need to gaze upon Botticelli’s Birth of Venus (otherwise known as Venus on the Half Shell) to know why oysters are one of the world’s most popular aphrodisiacs. For starters, the word aphrodisiac comes from Aphrodite, the goddess of love (and Venus’ Greek counterpart). And since she’s associated with the ocean (and in some stories sprang forth out of the foam of ocean water), it stands to reason that other fruits of the sea would possess similar charms, right? Actually, it’s been theorized that oysters are considered aphrodisiacs because, evolutionarily, the origins of life began in the water. In other words, the concept is that we, like our amoeba ancestors, have a kind of subconscious desire to return to the primordial ooze to mate. (Ah, romance!) But perhaps the more likely explanation is simply that, nutritionally, oysters are high in zinc content, which is essential to testosterone production—testosterone being a key component in both male and female arousal. Now we know why Casanova liked to start his day in a hot tub with oysters served on a woman’s breasts. Not that anyone needs a reason.
Because sometimes you just need some Fucking Amusement!
via unreality where there are quite a few more of these
I used to carry Hunter S. Thompson’s address around with me in my notebook for, you know, that day when I inadvertantly found myself washed ashore in Colorado. Now he’s dead. Why are all my heroes dead?
It seems implausible that I haven’t told this story on on a blog before but I like it so much I’m gonna tell it again.
On the morning that the news broke of Hunter’s suicide I was apropriately flawed. I was at university at the time and as I made my way to that mornings lecture I told every single person i met. They would look at me nonplussed.
So i would elucidate. Fear in loathing in las vegas? Johnny Depp? He wrote the book on which it was based?
“Oh,” they would say.
I hooked up with my production group in the bar. It was where we would meet in the mornings, maybe chat over the latest project. It was also where we would hold production meetings, usually over pints of lager. This fact aparently earnt us the reputation as most bad ass production group, which was something I didn’t hear till much later. I can only explain this by the fact that there were alot of uptight, somewhat megalomaniacal, middleclass boys (the gender is important although probably something for another post) on the film & video course, probably one or more for each production group, and this meant we were the ‘cool kids’ be default.
Anyway, back to the morning in question. I’d told everyone i could get my hands on about the death of the great doctor gonzo and not really gotten much semblance of understanding out of anyone. There were a couple in my production group that got it although perhaps not in the same way.
5 minutes before the lecture was due to start my phone rang. It was my friend Sion. Sion was cool. Sion got it. Sion asked me if i wanted to come into Cardiff and get drunk with him. You know, in honour of the guy.
So i bailed on the lecture and made my way back to Cardiff. We sat in a wetherspoons and drank wild turkey (HST’s favourite tipple) all day, talking about writing & writers & of course Hunter S. Thompson.
So, this link. Snarfed from therumpus.net. It details the occassion when a sound-recordest went to see HST in order to record DVD commentary for the Fear and Loathing movie.
The following transmission is an e-mail from September 2002, which I sent back to Criterion headquarters after spending a night at Hunter S. Thompson’s cabin in Woody Creek, Colorado, recording commentary tracks for the DVD release of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Reflecting on that peculiar night now, five years after Thompson’s death, I’m struck by how gracious our host was, giving so generously of his time and mind and supplies. It was clear he was struggling physically, but what I remember most about the session is the sense of humor in the room. From the random crank calls at four in the morning to the house full of booby traps like exploding pens and toilet paper that doesn’t unroll, the man really loved to laugh, I think, and that energy was absolutely infectious. When I left in the morning, my face hurt from cracking up. Wherever you are, Hunter, a thousand thanks! Mahalo, mahalo, mahalo. —Michael Wiese
via the rumpus
Oh, the onion. How do i love thee? Let me count the ways!
video after the click.
Pierre Bourdieu’s Masculine Domination is the English translation of La Domination Masculine (1998), which was developed from an article of the same name published in 1990 in Actes de la Recherché en Sciences Sociales. It articulates Bourdieu’s theories of gender construction and his analysis of the pervasive and insidious power of masculine domination, which is, in “the way it is imposed and suffered . . . the prime example of this paradoxical submission” through which “the most intolerable conditions of existence can so often be perceived as acceptable and even natural” (1). This domination is effected, subtly, through a form of what Bourdieu calls “symbolic violence, a gentle violence, imperceptible and invisible even to its victims, exerted for the most part through the purely symbolic channels of communication and cognition (more precisely, misrecognition), recognition, or even feeling” (1-2). Despite Bourdieu’s reference to “gentle violence,” symbolic violence is the most powerful weapon in masculine domination’s arsenal, since, despite its virtual invisibility, it creates the conditions of possibility for other, more immediate and explicit forms of violence, whether economic or physical.
I would argue that symbolic violence is a key tool of oppression and control beyond any gender or race.
Along with everyone else who was involved UK wise. It was pointed out on a facebook thread that Cineworld were the first to buckle, that it is a public company with stockholders to answer to, compared to Vue and Odeon who are private. You can see my original post on this boycott here.
Odeon has struck a deal with Disney to screen Alice in Wonderland in its cinemas across the UK and Ireland.
The agreement was announced just hours before Tim Burton‘s 3D movie was due to have its world premiere at Odeon’s Leicester Square flagship, in the presence of Prince Charles.
“I always felt that we’d get a deal on the morning of the royal premiere,” said one executive close to the negotiations.
The UK’s three big cinema chains – Odeon, Vue and Cineworld – initially threatened to boycott Alice in Wonderland in protest against Disney’s plan to shorten the theatrical run by bringing forward the DVD release date.
Thanks to Tim for the link.
The possibility of strange forms of alien life seems to have just got a whole lot closer to home. Astrobiologists from Arizona State University, Florida, UC Boulder, NASA, Harvard and Australia have recently theorized about a “shadow biosphere” – a biosphere within a biosphere where alternative biochemistry may be thriving in a way that we haven’t yet thought to examine. Such “weird life” may have had, for hundreds of millions of years, their own ecologies right here in our own backyard. Indeed, like Dark Energy and neutrinos, “weird life” may be all around us even now, only in a non-obvious way. Some astrobiologists are now suggesting that “weird life” is just as likely to be found here on Earth as it is in the Martian regolith, the seas of Europa , or certainly the complex bio-hadronistry on the surface of a neutron star.
[ link ]
The ever useful Raindance, who are all about the film and film-making, have recently thrown up some insight into why too much film education can hamper you actually making a movie. I’m of the school of thought that you need a bit of knowledge, a bit of understanding, but apart from that all you really need is tenacity and a good story. Of course, i went to film school so it’s easy for me to say that. Remember though, Peter Jackson didn’t go to film school. He just rolled up his sleeves and got his hands dirty. By the time I get around to making a feature it’s going to be like learning anew by doing anyhow.
Often people will do course after course on writing (or directing, producing or any other area of filmmaking which you care to mention) and will moan about how much there is to learn and how its so hard to write a film. What these people have forgotten is that no course will tell you how to write. The only way to learn how to write is to sit down and do it. Education can give you the tools with which to learn but it can’t replace old fashioned practice. If you take classes without ever picking up a pen, or a camera, then your film will not get made no matter how many classes you take.
Elmore Leonard has written a book called ‘Ten rules for writing’. It’s like a hundred pages long but most of them are blank or filed with illustrations. The Guardian have a two part article that includes not only Leonard’s ten rules, but also additional ones from other writers. This is inspirational stuff and it’s always good to think about the mechanisms of writing every once and a while. Here are Leonard’s advice on adverbs, or maybe they’re all his rules. There are ten of them:
Using adverbs is a mortal sin
1 Never open a book with weather. If it’s only to create atmosphere, and not a character’s reaction to the weather, you don’t want to go on too long. The reader is apt to leaf ahead looking for people. There are exceptions. If you happen to be Barry Lopez, who has more ways than an Eskimo to describe ice and snow in his book Arctic Dreams, you can do all the weather reporting you want.
2 Avoid prologues: they can be annoying, especially a prologue following an introduction that comes after a foreword. But these are ordinarily found in non-fiction. A prologue in a novel is backstory, and you can drop it in anywhere you want. There is a prologue in John Steinbeck’s Sweet Thursday, but it’s OK because a character in the book makes the point of what my rules are all about. He says: “I like a lot of talk in a book and I don’t like to have nobody tell me what the guy that’s talking looks like. I want to figure out what he looks like from the way he talks.”
3 Never use a verb other than “said” to carry dialogue. The line of dialogue belongs to the character; the verb is the writer sticking his nose in. But “said” is far less intrusive than “grumbled”, “gasped”, “cautioned”, “lied”. I once noticed Mary McCarthy ending a line of dialogue with “she asseverated” and had to stop reading and go to the dictionary.
4 Never use an adverb to modify the verb “said” . . . he admonished gravely. To use an adverb this way (or almost any way) is a mortal sin. The writer is now exposing himself in earnest, using a word that distracts and can interrupt the rhythm of the exchange. I have a character in one of my books tell how she used to write historical romances “full of rape and adverbs”.
5 Keep your exclamation points under control. You are allowed no more than two or three per 100,000 words of prose. If you have the knack of playing with exclaimers the way Tom Wolfe does, you can throw them in by the handful.
6 Never use the words “suddenly” or “all hell broke loose”. This rule doesn’t require an explanation. I have noticed that writers who use “suddenly” tend to exercise less control in the application of exclamation points.
7 Use regional dialect, patois, sparingly. Once you start spelling words in dialogue phonetically and loading the page with apostrophes, you won’t be able to stop. Notice the way Annie Proulx captures the flavour of Wyoming voices in her book of short stories Close Range.
8 Avoid detailed descriptions of characters, which Steinbeck covered. In Ernest Hemingway’s “Hills Like White Elephants”, what do the “American and the girl with him” look like? “She had taken off her hat and put it on the table.” That’s the only reference to a physical description in the story.
9 Don’t go into great detail describing places and things, unless you’re Margaret Atwood and can paint scenes with language. You don’t want descriptions that bring the action, the flow of the story, to a standstill.
10 Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip. Think of what you skip reading a novel: thick paragraphs of prose you can see have too many words in them.
My most important rule is one that sums up the 10: if it sounds like writing, I rewrite it.
But there’s loads more advice from other writers including Neil Gaiman, Jeanette Winterson and Zadie Smith. I think i might print these off so i can pour over them when i’m feeling creatively congested….
via boing boing
Lately I’ve been pondering slow cinema and the long take. Such ponderings were spurned on by a Sight & Sound article. It’s not online but UK independant filmmaker David Warwick has gone to the trouble of typing up an excerpt and posting it on his blog:
The Last decade certainly saw an increasing demand among cinephiles for films that are slow, poetic, contemplative – cinema that downplays event in favour of mood, evocativeness and an intensified sense of temporality. Such films highlight the viewing experience in which, ideally, you become acutely aware of every minute, every second spent watching…
Apart from filling the gap left by philosophical-poetic auteurs such as Bergman and Tarkovsky, the current Slow Cinema might be seen as a response to a bruisingly pragmatic decade in which, post 9/11, the oppressive everyday awareness of life as overwhelmingly political, economic, and ecological would seem to preclude (in the West, at least) any spiritual dimension in art. And the spiritual is at least a potential force in most Slow Cinema…
We understandably thirst for abstraction at a time when immediacy and simultaneity – culminating in the multiple strand captioning of television news screens, or the instant feedback of Twitter – are tyrannical demands, forcing our aesthetic sensibility to seek ways of slowing itself down.
– Johnathan Romney, Sight & Sound, Volume 20 Issue 2, pages 43 and 44
( source )
What inspired the desire to write this post though was the various articles around the web celebrating examples of the long take in cinema. You can go and check them out yourself but you will find the majority of the embeded youtube videos have been taken down. The ones from American/Hollywood films anyway.
To him, film was the “art of reality.” He once wrote: “All the arts depend on the presence of man; only photography lets us delight in his absence.” What he meant was that by not interposing oneself between the camera and the subject, the filmmaker had the potential to truly capture reality. As V.F. Perkins put it: “[A] sonnet or a sonata created a world which might reflect the subjective vision of its maker; film recorded the world which existed objectively.” ( source )
Poet & filmmaker Pier Paolo Pasolini was also a fan, reflecting on it philisophically, several decades later, in a four page essay entitled ‘Observations on the long take‘. Definately worth a real if such things are of interest to you.
Those of you who have seen the movie Children of Men (and if you haven’t you really should!) will know that the long take is utilised at several points in the film in exceedingly superlative and traumatic fashion. Film International have written about its use of the long take over here.
The long take is a well-used device in so called ‘slow cinema’, a concept which rejects the hyper-kinetic fast-cut asthetic which hollywood continues to embody in increasingly more drastic ways. I could try and tell you about it but frankly I would do a shitty job. Instead, I turn to danish film magazine 16:9, in their article Towards an Aesthetic of Slow in Contemporary Cinema. Don’t worry, it’s in english. Here’s some extracts:
In defiant opposition to the quickening of pace in mainstream American cinema, a distinctive narrative form devoted to stillness and contemplation has emerged in the work of a growing number of filmmakers over the last two decades. Most widely exhibited on the festival circuit, this “cinema of slowness” (as categorised by Michel Ciment in 2003) has begun to signify a unique type of reflective art where form and temporality are never less than emphatically present, and a diminution of pace serves to displace the dominant momentum of narrative causality. The most distinctive active practitioners of such a style might be thought to comprise, in loose chronological order, Philippe Garrel, Chantal Akerman, Theo Angelopoulos, Abbas Kiarostami, Béla Tarr, Aleksandr Sokurov, Hou Hsiao-hsien, Tsai Ming-liang, Sharunas Bartas, Pedro Costa, Jia Zhang-ke, Apichatpong Weerasethakul, Lisandro Alonso, Carlos Reygadas, Gus Van Sant and Albert Serra.
The formal characteristics shared by these filmmakers are immediately identifiable, if not quite fully inclusive: the employment of (often extremely) long takes, de-centred and understated modes of storytelling, and a pronounced emphasis on quietude and the everyday. In light of the current prevalence of these stylistic tropes, it is perhaps time to consider their reciprocal employment as pertaining not to an abstract notion of “slowness” but a unique formal and structural design: an aesthetic of slow. The work of the directors listed above constitutes a cinema which compels us to retreat from a culture of speed, modify our expectations of filmic narration and physically attune to a more deliberate rhythm. Liberated from the abundance of abrupt images and visual signifiers that comprise a sizeable amount of mass-market cinema, we are free to indulge in a relaxed form of panoramic perception; during long takes we are invited to let our eyes wander within the parameters of the frame, observing details that would remain veiled or merely implied by a swifter form of narration. In terms of storytelling, the familiar hegemony of drama, consequence and psychological motivation is consistently relaxed, reaching a point at which everything (content, performance, rhythm) becomes equivalent in representation.