Archive for April, 2010
In 1950s America–or any other time and place–it’s tough to imagine anything scarier or more warping than watching your dad slowly turning into a sadistic maniac before your very young eyes, and even worse if he decides to make you his personal project, and burn all the laziness out of you as if you’re no longer just a kid but training to be a Navy SEAL coupled with a Harvard fast tracker (an epidemic reflected in today’s “helicopter parenting”). This month we can begin to really immerse ourselves in that scariness, as Nicholas Ray’s BIGGER THAN LIFE (1956) finally hits DVD in the lush Criterion edition his fans have been praying for… shall we celebrate? No?! Not yet. First we must write this essay– a hundred times on the blackboard, until it’s perfect–and our crazy dad shall hover over us in the sky, terrifying and confusing the hell out of us whilst we try to concentrate. In short, while BIGGER THAN LIFE is a masterpiece, it is at times excruciatingly painful to watch. Art, entertainment and genuine fear and tragedy rarely all filter down into a deceptively “normal American family film” with such quiet desperation.
Article about Alcoholics Anonymous co-founder William Griffith Wilson and the influence a belladonna fueled halucination may have had on the founding of the organisation.
I’ve had the film the colour of pomegranates lying around tempting me to watch it for months now. Reading this just makes me want to watch it more.
Laden with the poet’s suffering and biblical and folkloric symbolism, there is an epic, earnest solemnity to The Colour of Pomegranates; and while such gravity and careful construction could lead to austerity and artificiality, there is also a consuming warmth and sensuality. His effervescent and corporeal sensibility mirrors Pasolini and Fellini more closely than his other mentor, Tarkovsky. The extraordinarily striking actress Sofiko Chiaureli plays the part of both poet and muse, exploring male and female sexuality (Paradjanov was himself bisexual and first imprisoned for a homosexual act with a KGB officer) and the film is joyously abundant with melodic folk music and heightened sounds: the crinkling of books’ pages; the squelch of pomegranate seeds; the dripping of wool dye onto metallic plates; the urgent chirping of bird song. There is almost no dialogue in the film; instead these sounds, intertitles displaying lines from Sayat Nova’s poems and the occasional voice-over convey the message.
Christian terrorism has returned to America with a vengeance.
I’m so lazy with my blogging at the moment. I can barely muster a copy and paste!
I can’t say the thought ever occurred to me, but apparently enough people think it’s a good idea to get high, film themselves and post the results to YouTube that psychologists at San Diego State University were able to use the crowd-created video archive to do one of the first studies of the drug’s behavioral impacts.
Why study how people act when they’re high on Salvia? Despite carrying a lot of the same cultural trappings as pot, Salvia is actually pretty unique, from a chemical standpoint. In fact, that was part of why it was legal in so much of the U.S. for so long—the chemical structure wasn’t close enough to any already-outlawed drugs to be automatically covered as an analog under the same bans. Not surprisingly, Salvia’s effects on the human brain are also very different, and science doesn’t know much about those effects, says Mind Hacks’ Vaughan Bell.
Pharmacologically, it is fascinating as it seems to have its major effect on kappa opioid receptors. These are not the same opioid receptors that drugs like heroin and morphine work on, so the effects are very different, but it is a completely different mechanism to virtually all other hallucinogenic drugs (only ibogaine is known to have a similar effect on the brain).
Stories from the ancient world are infused with the fantastic, from Ovid’s Metamorphoses to Beowulf, The Iliad and The Odyssey. Myth, legend, folk and fairytales have fired our imaginations for thousands of years. We have used the fantastic to take mundane reality and transform it, sometimes for escapist pleasure, and sometimes to find meaning in a world that can often seem brutal and purposeless.
But the commodification of fantasy does not mean it must all appeal to the lowest common denominator, any more than the presence of Starbucks on every street corner means you can’t find a decent cup elsewhere. As the recent announcement of the David Gemmell Legend award, and the less-than-positive response it engendered shows, contemporary fantasy is seeking to do more than just entertain the masses. While the Gemmell award highlights fantasy novels at their most commercial and generic, and has been accused of doing little more than rewarding publishers for their marketing strategy, contemporary fantasy is becoming more experimental, diverse and exciting.
With the growing profile of distinctive writers such as Neil Gaiman and China Miéville, and the “smuggling” of fantasy into literary fiction by (among others) Haruki Murakami and David Mitchell, the fantastic is making a comeback in mainstream literature. Acclaimed cult writers such as Graham Joyce, Jeffrey Ford, Margo Lanagan, Martin Millar, Kelly Link, Jeff VanderMeer and many others are taking fantasy in more personalised and distinctive directions. And at the grassroots, short fiction magazines like Weird Tales, Electric Velocipede, Clarkesworld and Fantasy are giving a platform to an emerging generation of writers who are serious about fantasy.
Masturbation has always been literary. “Traffic with thyself”, as Shakespeare tuttingly referred to it, is the only sex that takes place purely in the imagination – fictional characters are its livelihood. Better still, there are no rules, all bets are off, and you can get away with whatever you like. But despite being truly democratic – if not downright anarchic – in its availability, masturbation is the one form of sex that writers have yet to truly get to grips with.
Perhaps this is because we’re still hungover from the time when self-love was seen as the cause of everything from insanity to infirmity to an early death. According to one prominent historian, we have yet to resolve our anxiety over this activity, which represents not a social engagement with another, but a retreat into the unbounded world of our imaginations. We still feel deep ambivalence about such unpoliced pleasure, even while most of us are paid-up subscribers. The horror of masturbation – which has no rules and can’t be brought to heel by society – has been handed down to us largely intact. Ninety years after Ulysses was banned for not-very-subtly describing Bloom’s “long Roman candle” joyously exploding in the air, the act of onanism retains a power to shock that no other kind of sex in literature can.
Just incase you can’t read that: “First they go bankrupt, then they set themselves on Fire. Iceland. Insurance job?”
(( via ))
via The Rumpus:
“If we are true to ourselves as dramatists, we will cheat and lie and pile one fraud upon the next, given that with every scene, we make fictional characters say and do things that were never said and done. And yet, if we are respectful of the historical reality of post-Katrina New Orleans, there are facts that must be referenced accurately as well. Some things, you just don’t make up.”
David Simon, creator of The Wire and Treme, discusses the use of fiction in search of truth.
(via The Book Bench)
Hand gestures are awesome. Hand gestures are universal. Mental Floss tells the stories behind 5 of them.
Victor Huang was filming underwater at Wahine Memorial near Wellington, New Zealand when something really strange happened.
while trying to get video of a wild octopus, it suddenly dashed towards me and rips my shiny new camera from out of my hands, then swims off, all while the camera is recording! he swam away very quickly like a naughty shoplifter. after a 5 minute chase, I placed my speargun underneath him and he quickly and curiously grabbed hold of the gun as well, giving me enough time to reach in and grab the camera from out of his mouth. I didn’t feel threatened at all during the whole ordeal. he seemed to be fixated on the shiny metallic blue digital camera. the only confusing behavior was how he dashed off with it like a thief haha. cheeky octopus.
I received a query from a gentleman in Canada who compared himself to Alan Hollinghurst and Edmund White (two authors whom I love, incidentally). Unfortunately, the query was vague about anything else to do with the book and did not attach any pages for me to read, so it was clear he hadn’t followed submission guidelines. Thus, he received my standard form rejection:
Thank you for your query. I’m afraid that your book isn’t right for me at this time and I’m going to pass. Please keep in mind, however, that the publishing business is a subjective one and this is only one agent’s opinion. There may very well be another agent out there for whom your work would be a better fit.
Due to the sheer volume of queries I receive on a daily basis, I regret that I am unable to give you a personalized reply or offer any additional feedback on your query.
All the best,
In response to my polite form rejection letter – and you have to admit, this is a polite form rejection, right? – I received the following diatribe. I haven’t redacted the author’s name, because I think that other agents might want to know just what they’d be dealing with if they chose to represent this writer:
Thank you for making it clear, through your response to my query, that you are unquipped (sic) to represent fiction writers who are working at the very highest level today.
Best of luck with your list of minor writers, third-rate writers, irrelevant writers, non-writers.
You lose, silly woman.
No, Mr. Roscoe.
You lose because you’ve proven that you are incapable of behaving as a professional writer. So congratulations, Mr. Roscoe. You just got the fifteen minutes of fame you’ve been so desperately seeking. I do hope that you’re happy with it. I know I am.
UPDATE! Another note from Mr. Roscoe!…
Remember the lawsuit filed by the family of 15-year-old Blake Robbins against the school district that spied on him at home via webcam? The latest news comes from a motion filed by the Robbins family claiming that the school took more than 400 photos of Blake in his room—some while sleeping and others while he was “partially undressed.”
According to the motion filed Thursday, the Robbins family said that it was only aware of a handful of images being captured at the time the lawsuit was filed back in February. Now, thanks to the court order asking the district to preserve evidence on all school-issued computers, the family has discovered more than 400 photos of Blake alone, not to mention the “thousands” more taken of other students in their homes. In addition to these photos of students doing private things in their rooms, the school district also allegedly took screenshots of IM conversations they were having with friends.
Even worse, the IT staff responsible for implementing and monitoring the student laptops seemingly viewed the whole thing as entertainment. The motion cites e-mails sent between staffers—one says the pictures were “like a little [Lower Merion School District] soap opera. Carol Cafiero, one of the administrators responsible for the program responded “I know. I love it!” Cafiero is one of two staffers who have been placed on administrative leave.
The school district has always argued that it only turned on the webcams in the event that a laptop appeared to be lost or stolen, but the Robbins argue that there were numerous cases in which the school spied on students despite knowing exactly who had the laptops—sometimes, students absentmindedly forgot to return their computers on time or failed to pay the $55 insurance fee in a timely manner. The latter was the case for Blake; the school says it initially spied on him because he failed to pay the fee, though there appears to be no explanation as to why the IT staff watched him for at least two full weeks before he ended up getting disciplined for “improper behavior” at home.
Understandably, the court has issued an order barring any of the 400+ photographs or screenshots from being made available to anyone but the lawyers.
Even if you think the school district is within its rights to install monitoring software on school laptops, the IT staff appear to have gotten the whole district into a hairy situation by turning laptop security into their own real-life high school “soap opera.”
Time traveler or proto-beatnik? What, you think a whole counter culture just sprang up in the 50s cuz Jack Kerouac released ‘on the road’? Yeeesh.
The above photo was taken in 1940. Some people say the hipster-looking fellow with the sunglasses on the right side of the photo is a time traveler because his hair, shades, clothing, and camera didn’t exist at the time. But Forgetomori does a fine job of busting this rumor, complete with photos. Curses!
The outfit could also be found 70 years ago. Being used as we are to our contemporary fashion, we look at the man and assume he’s wearing a stamped T-shirt, something that would be indeed out of place (or time). But if you look carefully, you can see that he’s actually wearing (or could as well be wearing) a sweatshirt. And sweatshirts with bordered emblems were not uncommon in the 1940s – in fact you can find those in other photos from the same exhibit.