Hotsy Totsy members: Juliet Clark - Ray Davis - Anselm Dovetonsils - Christina La Sala
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The Hotsy Totsy Club

1999-11-14. . . Cholly Kokonino reporting

Big business monkeys: A story ripped from sixty-five-years-later's headlines, High Pressure remains the best fictional treatment of Internet startups, taking us from moronic vision statement through publicity-inflated stock prices to a happily sold-out ending in only 72 minutes of overtime.

Although mostly sticking to sober reportage, the movie does offer one innovative management idea: unlike most Silicon Valley companies, High Pressure's is careful to restrict its blowhard chief executive to strictly figurehead status, attracting favorable attention from venture capitalists and the press while not interfering with the progress of real work. Why aren't they teaching this at Stanford?

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It's nice to see that Poor Daniel Johnston is still picking up new fans. Besides many hours of singalong pleasure, Johnston has also provided the Hotsy Totsy Club with the title of one of its most popular topics.

So I reckon I'll be supportive and pick up the new album, but it won't be with particularly high hopes. Johnston is a great pop songwriter, but his songwriting peaked in 1983's Hi, How Are You? and Yip/Jump Music, with every track a gem or at least a fruity pebble. 1990 had two or three good tunes; Continued Story had only one; and Jad Fair..., Artistic Vice, and Fun had none at all.

Kind of a Brian Wilson career arc, except that Johnston never made any money and he likes to draw cartoons.

. . . 1999-11-16

When life gives you lemons, make very bad gimlets.

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Modernist Class

  1. Literature is the study of artifacts made of language. Thus, as a discipline, it asserts the primacy of primary sources.
  2. Labels like Modernism and Postmodernism obscure or obliterate primary sources.
Given the overwhelming variety of international publishing in the twentieth century,
an / era / any / time / of year -- Louis Zukofsky
any attempt to generalize about twentieth century writing -- any attempt to use chronologically-biased labels in anything but a strictly chronological way -- leads to manifest absurdity. I've seen "Gertrude Stein as Postmodernist," "James Joyce as Postmodernist," and "Lawrence Sterne as Postmodernist"; in fact, the "Postmodern" label seems to be applicable to any writer with a sense of humor.

These absurdities can only be kept unmanifest through ignorance. And these labels are primarily used in defense of an ignorance clung to through laziness, careerism, or the desire to maintain a restricted and reactionary canon.

If you see that the head of a university English department writes only about T. S. Eliot and D. H. Lawrence, you might guess that he hasn't read very widely or very carefully. (You might also guess that you wouldn't want any of your friends to become sexually involved with him.) But by switching his avowed topic to Modernism (with, of course, Eliot and Lawrence as his sole citations), our prof now pronounces on hundreds of writers.

. . . 1999-11-17

Modernist Class: Although the number of publishing venues in the twentieth century makes the meaninglessness of "Modernism" and "Postmodernism" even more blatant, the same objection could be raised against almost any treatment of almost any "literary peroid": someone has decided what the period's traits should be and then ignored anything that doesn't match those traits.

As proven by counterexample by Jerome McGann's wonderful The New Oxford Book of Romantic Period Verse, which covers a very wide range of concerns while, by arranging its selections in order of publication, bringing out the one truly essential trait of a literary period: the varying extent to which a writer responds to (builds on, argues with....) the productions of other living writers.

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Word of the Day: I was born on Hawaii but I've been incontinent ever since.

. . . 1999-11-18

Movie Comment: I didn't expect to think much about Camille Claudel after 1990. Then Charles Schulz used it as an example of his non-comics intellectual interests. And last week it snagged the angora-sweater-like attention of that Sweetheart of the Internet, metascene.

But the weird thing is -- well, maybe not that weird. For years now, the only decent original feature in the East Bay Express has been a little four or five line piece of filler called "Overheard," which reports audience comments during and after a movie.

Anyway, all I remember about Camille Claudel are two overheard comments:

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These United States

Chapt. 1 - Once upon a time at midnight a spirited American patriot, Paul Revere, mounted his horse, and rode through the streets of Lexington shouting, "Wake up, wake up and listen to the sensational recording of I Don't Want to Set the World on Fire by the 4 Ink Spots"

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I like reading Hannah Weiner because spirits dictated her poetry to her, and her spirits seem a lot more believable to me than occult blarneyers like Mrs. Yeats's or the brunchtime natterers of James Merrill. Her spirits are petty, obsessional, cranky, dull, and mean -- just like dead people should be.

It's hard to find many people who've read any Weiner, and this, by Mara Damon, is the longest essay I've found about her. Unfortunately, it spends most of its time arguing with its own navel, which seems a waste of the perfectly argumentative navel built into Weiner's work....

. . . 1999-11-20

Modernist Class
I remember reading to him a German translation from a speech by Radek in which the Russian attacked Ulysses at the Congress of Kharkov as being the work of a bourgeois writer who lacked social consciousness. "They may say what they want," said Joyce, "but the fact is that all the characters in my books belong to the lower middle classes, and even the working class; and they are all quite poor." I know he was a convinced antifascist.
-- Eugene Jolas
Underbred.... the book of a self taught working man....
-- Virginia Woolf on Ulysses
It's sleight of hand, a kind of shell game. A few flourishes of the shells labeled "Modernism" and "Postmodernism" keep us from noticing the writers who have not been shoved into them and from noticing the essential differences between the writers who have.

Class, for example.

Yeats's, Pound's, and Eliot's works were in defense of a dreamlike aristocratic status; they loathed the city, or, more specifically, the city's middle class and the city's poor.

Pound and Eliot first became interested in Joyce as a semi-articulate witness to those urban horrors, a sort of Dublin Dreiser. And they lost interest in him as the serialized episodes of Ulysses left realism behind: he was no longer a witness but a class-climbing eccentric who somehow assumed that the world owed him a living. (Biographers still seem to have trouble with that notion, but one should bear in mind that the world of the time seemed perfectly content to supply Yeats, Pound, Stein, Woolf, and so on with livings.)

By the time we get to Louis Zukofsky and Lorine Niedecker (if we ever do; they're still not part of standard academic curricula), those beastly New York Jews and bestial Midwestern immigrants who so offended Henry James are actually writing, without apology, as if they could possibly fit into some respectable (and quite imaginary, thank the lord!) society....

. . . 1999-11-28

Spinach: Eat what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law.

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The New Diversity: Some of the darkest checkers of my checkered college career were supplied by Mr. T, a math teacher with a head like a pyramid and a voice like a Korean cappucino machine (link via Obscure Store). No one would call mathematics a universal language after sitting through one of Mr. T's lectures. Only his blustering protest "But you have this in algebra!" was parsible -- and that only through repetition, since it was his answer to any request for clarification.

Although most of his students flunked most of his tests, Mr. T realized that our grade security was closely linked to his job security, and so every student passed his courses satisfactorily enough to muffle protest.

Since I was a very bad math student, I should probably feel more grateful towards Mr. T than I do. OK, then: Mr. T, all is forgiven!

. . . 1999-11-30

The Miracle of Digestion, as adapted from George Clinton:

Fried turkey is a reality.
Fried turkey is a reality.
Fried turkey is a reality.
Fried turkey is a reality.
Fried turkey is a reality.
Fried turkey is a reality....

"(That's only 35 minutes for a 10 pound bird!!)."

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Our brain-tickler today is posed by "CL of SF":

I dreamt that Jolita told me a wonderful riddle about three reasons men are like sandwiches. It was so amusing that I asked her to please tell it again so that I might commit it to memory, but she just said, "Well, you know."

It had something to do with bread and truth.

Any help from Hotsty Totsy readers would be most appreciated. The only thing I can come up with is that they're both islands. And, speaking of Manly guys, the front page story for the Manx Independent today is:
Love turned sour for widow, 77, man, 32: A charity collector left a widow more than twice his age in a pool of blood after a naked attack carried out when their bizarre relationship turned sour, a court heard....

. . . 1999-12-01

An army of lovers starts to enjoy being beaten: Extremities in the vice of libertines is no defense.

Although I guess it counts as a pretty good offense....

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The high colonic cleansing (financially speaking) of the San Francisco Bay area has resulted in almost total erasure of cultural memory. First I'm told that the earliest fancy-schmancy restaurant of Valencia Street has been replaced by a circus-themed eateria for the rich-yet-dorky called "Three Rings." Then I'm told that none of the rave reviews of this circus-themed eatery have thought of mentioning Clown Alley on Columbus. That would be like reviewing Cuisine de Chef Chien without mentioning Doggie Diner!

Not only was Clown Alley both a landmark and an institution, but it also reminded me of T. S. Eliot every time I walked by:

I think we are in clown's alley
Where the red man lost his nose....

. . . 1999-12-02

Errata: Reader J. Clark writes in all the way from Berkeley, California, to comment:
I think the new restaurant is called "3Ring" (all one word, just like 3Com -- so SF!).

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Home These United States: I spent a very special Thanksgiving in a new housing-under-development outside Phoenix, Arizona, a glassfull of suburbia dribbled over the desert so thinly it seems like it should evaporate too quick to even attract bugs.

But it turns out that's not true at all! Cockroaches and scorpions and Porta-Potty-tipping adolescents all had gathered there! In fact, it's likely to display all the spunky life-force of a candy wrapper or plastic Coke bottle.

... an' anotha thing ...... then again ...

Copyright to contributed work and quoted correspondence remains with the original authors.
All other material: Copyright 1999 Ray Davis.