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

1999-12-15. . . Cholly Kokonino reporting

All identities are appropriated. Its just that some are readymades and some are fixer-upper-opportunities.

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Money talks, democracy gives up waiting for the MUNI bus: Worried that even wheeling the Willie Brown Disco Truck through the Mission and the Castro ("A vote for Willie Brown is a vote for dancing!") might not be enough to head off the Red Menace, concerned San Franciscans such as Jesse Jackson and Bill Clinton deluged the mayor's constituency with phone calls yesterday. (via Christina La Sala)

I was hoping that Ammiano would win, myself. It's important that San Francisco maintain its position as a national laughingstock, and, although Brown has done his best under the circumstances, the fact is that nowadays an openly progressive politician is even more of a curio than a pro-wrestling politician.

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Why do biographers have such a hard time reconciling the limitations they find in their subjects' lives with the importance of their subjects' works? After all, biographers are nothing but prying voyeuristic parasites who incessantly second-guess people smarter and more talented than themselves, yet their work can still be useful.

. . . 1999-12-16

Self-expression: It's clear to the most casual reader of his books that Fr. Rolfe (aka Baron Corvo) was always his own hero. But since it's also clear that he was a raving loon, his attempts at self-portraiture convey nothing of what he was actually like. Thus my delight in The Quest for Corvo: An Experiment in Biography by A. J. A. Symons, which proves again that Venice is, in so many ways, the perfect place for a sponge.

My Penguin edition changes the subtitle to "Genius or charlatan?", but that's a stupid question when you're talking about a fiction writer. Symons's is more accurate: this biography is emphatically experimental in ways that gain Cholly's full approval:

1. Primacy of primary sources

Rather than going omniscient on us, Symons makes room for quoted documents and testimony (with the first-person account of his own research as a bridge), preserving subjectivity and increasing the odds that the reader will actually learn something.

As a leeching paranoid, Rolfe/Corvo thoughtfully minimized the formal difficulties of implementing this approach, dividing his life neatly into sausage-shaped episodes wrapped around one (and usually only one) acquaintance who was first obsessively latched onto and later obsessively tied off.

2. Sympathy for the subject

Most biographers suffer from wildly inappropriate self-righteousness, and Rolfe/Corvo, who wears his faults not just on his sleeve but all over like a paisley three-piece suit, has been a particularly efficient self-righteousness vector: none of the books I've found by him have escaped a mean-spirited introduction. But Symons, bless 'im, bears in mind, through all storms of icky gossip, the gratitude befitting anyone who's been successfully intrigued by another human being.

Symons bends over backwards to interpret the life's events as Rolfe/Corvo might have, and, on top of that, as his first-person sources might have. And if his Unified Corvo Theory (all the Baron's problems stemmed from being born gay into an intolerant world) seems excruciatingly naive (I'm pretty sure Symons had plenty of gay acquaintances who didn't act like Rolfe/Corvo), at least it's helped bring other sympathetic readers into the fold.

Speaking of bending over backwards, Symons may be explicitly experimental, but that's the only way he's explicit. And I'd go so far as to call him a downright little tease when it comes to Rolfe/Corvo's final literary remains, a bundle of pornographic letters. On the Web, we can at least learn the name of the letters' recipient (Henry Scott Tuke's "most intimate friend, the pederast Charles Masson Fox") and their motive (to entice a new source of funds to Venice). But as for their contents -- and as for the Rolfian novels I've not yet found -- well, Symons may be able to conclude his book by saying that his Quest for Corvo has been satisfied, but I'm stuck with legendary-Bomp-recording-artist Professor Anonymous:
You know, it's been said many times:
Seek and ye shall find.
Well, I have sought,
And yet I'm still searching for the one.
And you know?
I guess my search has just begun....

. . . 1999-12-17

The lights are strung up, Cholly's strung out, and the Club's finally got the true holiday merchandising spirit prancin' and dancin' and donnin' and blitzin' in The Hotsy Totsy Discount Warehouse Outlet:
To the Moon
  • To our left and right, we see samples of Christina La Sala's and Steven Elliott's Cootie Catchers, published by Chronicle Books. Perfect ice-breakers for the tasteful yet shy, these cunning hand-and-eye-developers are sure to replace Dan Savage and the Magic 8-Ball as your mystic advisor of choice.

  • Arthur Lee once asked, "Pictures and words: is this communicating?" Well, if he'd been talking about the pamphlets of Juliet Clark, we'd have to reply that they're even better than communicating! And at only $5 each, including postage, they're cheaper, too! Give three copies and their grateful recipient can shelve 'em under "Comix," "Memoirs," and "Small Press Collectibles" for easy access. The perfect stocking stuffer for those with large flat stockings.

  • Ray Davis's and Christina La Sala's much bruited about film The Ichthyoid Syndrome ("THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT OF OUR TIME!") is finally available for home entertainment centers. I'll ship a copy on a videotape or Zip disk at cost -- that's only 14 dollars! (Actually, it sounds like a lot to me, too, but that really is the cost, if you include the envelope and all.) Sure to be a collector's item, since normal people don't buy five-minute-long movies!
Desert Isle

. . . 1999-12-20

Special Thinking Fellers Union Local 282 Cross-Over Event: They may not have played out much recently, but at last Saturday's top-of-their-form Bottom of the Hill show, TFUL282 still sounded like they were born and bred together. And I don't mean like me and my brother; I mean like the Jackson 5.

Except loose like a goose.

And value-oriented like a goose bought at Costco.

For only eight bucks, we got two hours of solid value-goose-laid sonic gold: gorgeous, funny, sentimental, beat-crazy 100%-meat-based clockwork.

More surprising than the quality of the band was the quality of the engineering: this was the best sounding amplified-instruments show I've ever heard. Sometimes I think jazz or string quartet when I hear the Thinking Fellers, but this show made me understand for the first time what Lou Reed was getting at when he called loud rock "symphonic": big rich deep wide clumps and flows writhing precisely around each other like some special cross-over event between the Ballets Russes and the Lair of the White Worm.

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Top This Nightmare: I dream that I'm in a bookstore and I find The Uncollected Works of Lawrence Sterne. But only Vols. VI and XXII! And they're still expensive! And there are travel ads in them!

. . . 1999-12-21

Who needs food when the menu's so delicious? Department:
"Bare lists of words are found suggestive, to an imaginative and excited mind" - Emerson
Otherwise the quotes themselves are bring-downs. But the table of contents for the online Concordance to the Collected Essays of Ralph Waldo Emerson makes the best poem Charles Bernstein never appropriated:

Adequate to Adults
Advance to Affairs
Altered to Amatory
Amphibious to Anglo-Saxons
Arbiters to Army
Army to Artery
Atmosphere to Attire
Attitude to Autobiography
B--, Aunt to Banquets
Beast, Beauty and the to Becky Stow's Swamp
Birth to Blurs
Bonny to Bosses
Boston Advertiser to Brazier
Budgets to Byzantium
Chilblain to Christ's Jesus
Class to Cloisters
Close to Coldness
Coleridge, Samuel Taylor to Combustion
Compliance to Conducts
Cones to Consciousnesses*
Consubstantiation to Contriving
Control to Copula
Copy to Countless
Court to Creature's
Cuba to Czars
Day, Commencement to Deadness
Deaf to Declaring
Degenerate to Demonstrator
Desirable to Devotions
Distemper to Doctrines
Drank to Driving
Droll to Dyspeptic
Effeminacy to Elicits
Eligible to Employs
Emporium to Enemy's
Energetic to Englishwomen
Eustachius to Everywhere
Evidence to Excessive
First to Fitting
Flowing to Forborne
* Link via Juliet Clark
Foundation to Fowls
Gladiators to Go-Carts
God, Almighty to Goitre
Gold to Good
Good (continued) to Grab
Graze to Great Desert
Habeas Corpus to Handling
Hand-Looms to Harms
Heat to Hemispheres
Hole to Hooted
Hung to Hysterical
Infantry to Inmates
Intrusion to Intelligences
Jabber to Joyfully
Joying to Juxtapositions
Law to Lax
Leather to Leg
Librarian to Life
Line to Littleton
Look to Lost
M. C. to Magnanimously
Maladies to Man
Meal to Mechi
Medal to Memphis, Egypt
Menace to Methuselah
Mince-Meat to Minded
Negotation to Nevermore
Nothing to Nymphs
Once to Opium-Shop
Opponent to Organisms
Organization to Overwork
Ovid to Oysters
Passenger to Pays
Peace to Penury
Permutation to Perspire
Poets to Polls
Pollute to Positives
Proprietary to Puberty
Public to Purlieus
Quack to Questions
Remedies to Replying
Restricted to Revolutions
Revolve to Rigging
Romes to Ruling
Rum to Rylstone Doe
Sail to Samos
Samples to Saxons
Seize to Sensations
Separable to Set-To
Shatter to Short-Sighted
Shot to Sidewise
Sinful to Skills
Sockets to Sometimes
Spirits to Squid
Squint to Stars
Steady to Stimulus
Strong to Subduing
Subject to Suetonius
Surprises to Sweeps
Taverns to Tempestuous
Templars to Testify
Testimonies to Thin
Tidal to Timely
Toledo to Tow-Head
Town to Trains
Truth to Turnips
Ubiquitous to Unexhausted
Unexpected to University, Yale
Unjust to Usages
Vat to Victory
Wave to Wealth
Wept to Whithersoever
Wit to Wolves
Woman to Woo
World Fairs to Wormy
Worn to Writings
Writs to Wyman, Jeffries
Yeoman, Middlesex to Yunani

. . . 1999-12-23

La vache qui rit Someday soon we'll all be dressed in leather
If the fates allow,
So have yourself a merry little Christmas cow.

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Movie Comment: Meet Me in St. Louis

  1. Probably the only example of Technicolor that's both classically MGM and unironically beautiful. Much more than the chintzy Americana of the script or the schematic performances, it's the impossible combination of impossibly rich and impossibly restrained color that fuels the movie's nostalgia. Vincent Minnelli's crew must've worked like mad to coordinate sets, costumes, lighting, and lab work to such an extent.

  2. I've seen Judy Garland's rendition of "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" described as an "attempt to comfort her sister." On the contrary, it's very clear that Garland's character is intent on making her sister hysterical with grief, and not at all adverse to getting a little weepy herself. It's a sadomasochistic impulse I remember as pretty common in childhood (telling horror stories that scare the teller, making emotional threats that threaten to isolate the threatener...), but it's not usually depicted with so little editorializing.

    Of course, Minnelli was in no position to criticize. While Garland's fictional character struggled on screen to induce childish hysteria and adult melancholy, he was sweating bullets on the reality of the set toward the same ends.

    Aside from artists of the sentimental, the need for this kind of boundary testing mercifully tapers off in adulthood, only springing out in romantic crises (e.g., "I don't like you -- but I love you"). Which brings me, as I'm brought so often, to thoughts of that master of mature collaborative pain, Frank Borzage... and there is something Christmasy about that ridiculous sublime last shot in Man's Castle....

. . . 1999-12-28

If I asked you what would happen to a law clerk who publicly exposed the padded expense accounts of his legal firm, you'd probably be able to come up with most of this on your own. But a news story doesn't have to be surprising to be entertaining, and news stories from Alabama continue to be our best entertainment value. (via Overlawyered)

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Support Our Sponsors: A dark alley in North Beach. The camera frames above the waist a grinning midshipman swaying against the wall.

Voiceover: "What do they really do with a drunken sailor? Find out. Join the Navy."

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Three good years in Cincinnati, Ohio:

He was born April 27, 1996, the day of the Bad Religion show....

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

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