|. . . 2013-11-09|
It is little wonder, then, that people tend to move from a belief in determinism to a belief in fatalism and to an attitude of resignation, for they may be conflating determinism with predictability. The right response is to distinguish more clearly between determinism and predictability.- "From Determinism to Resignation; and How to Stop It" by Richard Holton,
Decomposing the Will, ed. Andy Clark, Julian Kiverstein & Tillman Vierkant. Oxford, 2013.
Well, hey. At that time I lacked easy access to the relevant citations, and so assumed I'd veered into an established fire-access road off the layperson highway. Instead, my cri de W. may have been as original as all these stupid obvious jokes I don't find in a websearch. (However much that is.)
Aside from the usual (and far from trivial!) pleasure of being proven disposable, I enjoyed Holton's assurance that the catastrophe of complete predictability isn't imminent. (Other catastrophes, sure, but not complete predictability.) As the NSA recently re-established, in a social universe, no matter how much you know as an individual — even if you're a CEO, or a Big Ten-Inch Data Czar, or indeed The very Girl herself — someone will make it their business to surprise you. Omniscience may or may not be compatible with consciousness but it surely isn't compatible with company.
Re the kleenex man, I'm glad his dog still believes in him.
Two, or more, omniscients knowing their difference(s) as really the only interesting stuff around
Doesn't that relate more to creation ex nihilo than to omniscience?
|. . . 2013-11-23|
Carol Reed had a knack for depicting horny Nice-by-their-own-assessment Guys whose lust is neither reciprocated nor refuted by its target, and his signature suspense anticipates a crisis of extortion and humiliation. Ralph Bellamy without his angelic harmlessness; Guy Kibbee without the safe distance of the gargoyle; Joan Blondell with the powerlessness of Joan Blondell. That's the startle of the real in Reed's quota quickie; that's Reed's highest-stakes modification to Graham Greene's condescending entertainment: the unreassuring observation of incompatible fantasies at close quarters.
Leo G. Carroll, on the other hand...
Yes, it's a pity that Carroll couldn't join Charles Ruggles and Edward Everett Horton for Trouble in Paradise's survey of male territoriality.
|. . . 2013-11-30|
"The cat is in the box and the box is indeterminate."
thinking outside the cat?
Traffic cop Hotzmeister: "Mr Totzinger, did you know that you have a dead cat in your trunk?" Totzinger: "Well I do now."
|. . . 2013-12-01|
An appeal to an artwork's realism, its roots in reality, is an appeal not to its accuracy at registering facts but to the depth of its claim upon us. The claim is not, 'this is the real world', but rather, 'this is your world'.- Josh Kortbein, josh blog
Career tip: flatter your readers by telling them they're "made of stories".
Some days I wake up sick to death of language.
As for fiction.
99.999999% of the "conversation" is rhetoric so bad you don't know whether to choke or laugh.
You look around in despair for some state that doesn't include the use of language.
"Made of stories." Bland, meaningless crap.
Noncommunicative actions, impossible to to turn into language & thus not subject to constant mild but slimy abuse. Where are they?
- M. John Harrison, Twitter
“Oh, I’ve said, ‘You can't describe it. You'd have to be there.’ But that’s my first wife telling her mother-in-law about the time we went to Persia. And that isn’t what I mean.”
Kid smiled back and wished he hadn’t.
It isn’t his moon I distrust so much, he thought, as it is that first wife in Persia.
- Samuel R. Delany, Dhalgren
That last can do double duty as our review of Gravity (2013).
|. . . 2013-12-02|
The lineaments of Gratified Desire are very round.
Oh 'Gratified' not 'Garfield.' Took me a moment.
Un-gratified desire, however, has got that razor-sharp crease
|. . . 2013-12-05|
So I checked email a couple of hours ago and saw that rare event, an important message from GOOGLE PLUS:
Google+ Auto Awesome
2 Auto Awesome photos were added
So I clicked the link and sure enough, the picture I took on the week of my father's death was now covered by animated snowflakes.
|. . . 2013-12-24|
On this holiday season, I'm grateful that I don't have to figure out what to give an army of tiny killer robots.
miniature cans of wd-40
Next holiday season, I'll be grateful that I know what to give an army of tiny killer robots.
|. . . 2013-12-30|
I draw most of my reading from a decades-old compost pile of decontextualized recommendations. But shuffle play establishes its own narratives, and somehow Eddie Campbell's lifework was followed with a series of forgotten books by great wasters.
First came Saturnine by Rayner Heppenstall, precious documentation of bad behavior in England's finest hour. Then The Crust on Its Uppers by Derek Raymond (all flash and no trousers), La Fanfarlo by Charles Baudelaire (sad stuff), An Anecdoted Topography of Chance by Daniel Spoerri (a less plot-driven Robbe-Grillet), and Minutes of the Last Meeting by Gene Fowler, purportedly a mean-spirited biography of a grotesque old fart once justly loathed by Whitman and Debussy, but more sincerely a shelf of humble-brags honoring the author's parasitism during John Barrymore's and W. C. Fields's terminal declines.
(That last formed a twofer posthumous-character-assassination setlist of its own with Nollekens & his Times by John Thomas "Antiquity" Smith, projected as friendly tribute but executed as vengeance for Nollekens's will.)
Then The Bohemians by Anne-Gédéon Lafitte, Marquis de Pelleport, a 1790 proto-novel formally closer to Thomas Nashe than to Ann Radcliffe. And now The Monkey Puzzle by Veronica Hull — a female waster at last!— and, in a way, probably that very way, my favorite of the lot.
* * *
What with The Golden Notebook and The Bell Jar and so on, and between Piper Laurie and Julie Harris and Liza Minnelli and so on, the post-Home-Front pre-feminist era seems like a bloody golden age of feminine breakdowns, bottoming out alongside the post-feminist pre-suffragette era of Alice James and Clover Hooper Adams.
Hull's "Catherine" hits familiar marks, even including an old-school try at governessing: a questing young woman isolated in an aggressively male academic environment (here, the philosophy department of University College London); emotional collapse followed by traumatic institutionalization; substance abuse; joyless sleeping around; unplanned pregnancy; unsupportive marriage; fag-haggery; and a first experience of political demonstrations, teaching her the first lessons taught by all political demonstrations in every time and place:
‘But what I don’t understand,’ said Catherine, rubbing her head and feeling a bit better for the whisky, the crisis extravagance was still on, ‘is why. Why they charged us. What were we doing?’
‘Existing dear,’ said John, ‘if there are too many people existing in the same place at the same time they have to be removed. On a big scale it’s done by war. On a small scale by the police.’ [...]
‘I find it so extraordinary, when all one’s doing is trying to stop war, and people spit at you.’
What distinguishes The Monkey Puzzle from title onwards is its classically waster attitude, as if the whole mess is redeemed by providing so many told-on-oneself bar stories and flaring bar rants. It's the Paula Prentiss of young-woman-goes-insane novels.
* * *
Veronica Hull's recoverable literary career consists of a few months in 1958, during which she provided four (unsigned) reviews for the TLS:
The publishers have spared no pains to produce a book that is easy on the eye and has every appearance of scholarship. The writing is often good. But it is as if an intelligent, expert artist were commissioned to paint the portrait of an eminent but stupid general. Unable, for fear of hurting his sitter's feelings, to reproduce the complete vacuity of expression, the artist has instead concentrated on other aspects. The portrait that emerges is a curious one. The man has no face; but on his ample chest is a row of medals depicted, down to the last tedious detail, with the utmost care and accuracy.
This association ended around the time Hull's own book was blasted by (unsigned) Peter Myers in a group review:
Mrs. Hull, however, has succeeded only in being cynical in a juvenile way; she is inclined to rely too much on the merely crude (the dust-jacket delicately describes it as 'outrageous') to create an effect, and the reader, having been suitably shocked, as intended, in the first thirty pages or so, will find the repetition wearisome as he works his way towards the end. The story is told jerkily, in one sudden gush of effusiveness, and this style does not make the heroine's chaotic happenings any easier to follow. Characters are unpleasant and unsympathetic (doubtless they are meant to be) while the occasional flashes of mature wit do little to relieve these loosely packed trivia of an unattractive adolescence.
Mr. Richard Charles, in his enchanting novel, A Pride of Relations, has succeeded in full measure. He writes with real humour of three Great-Aunts, Betty, Frances and Jessica, of Grandfather Quincey Charles, and especially of Great-Uncle Justly....
Others provided kinder blurbs: Time and Tide with "the most promising first novel from a new English writer that I have read since the night I stayed up reading Iris Murdoch's Under the Net," Angus Wilson with "remarkably amusing, frightening, and intelligent," and young V. S. Naipaul with "shrewd, barbed, lit up with delicious perceptions" (albeit including reservations about her punctuation).
The book was not reprinted, however, nor published overseas, and its title lived on only among analytic philosophers. With the "rightly confident" blinkeredness so characteristic of the breed, Lord Quinton even declared her "a pseudonym."
It always puzzled Catherine that they should be able to indulge in this mysterious study of the meta without any reference to the science in question. She supposed she would understand one day, in the meantime the whole business seemed unimportant.
The final word I've found on her (or her editor-bookseller husband Tristram) was dropped in a boast by the aforementioned trouserless fellow.
UPDATE, December 28 2015: Last year I was completely at a loss as to how to find the novel's current rightsholder. Almost exactly one year later, Richard Hull, Veronica Hull's son, sent a very kind email mentioning his hope to find a house who will finally give The Monkey Puzzle the second (and longer-lived) edition it deserves. Go to, publishers!
|. . . 2013-12-31|
Nov. 4, 2013 may represent a high-nonpotable-water mark for Adam Gopnik. In the New Yorker of that date, he finished a long essay about his, his mom's, and his girlfriend's total awesomeness like so:
Women, I thought, remember everything. Bread forgives us all.
Cf. B. Kliban:
And thirty pages later, in a piece on JFK's assassination, Gopnik demonstrated the exact limits of male memory:
“Know why you couldn’t figure this one, Keyes?” the guilty Walter Neff (Fred MacMurray) tells his virtuous insurance colleague Barton Keyes (Edward G. Robinson) at the end of the great “Double Indemnity,” in a taunting confession. “I’ll tell ya. Because the guy you were looking for was too close. Right across the desk from ya.” Keyes’s beautiful, enigmatic rejoinder is: “Closer than that, Walter.” He means that the cop and the killer share more than they knew before the crime, that temptations that lead to murder are available to us all; the lure of transgression makes us closer than we think.
From the screenplay:
Closer than that, Walter.
The eyes of the two men meet in a moment of silence.
I love you too.
|. . . 2014-01-02|
Weinstein thought he had a lock on this one, but nothing beats the one-stick-of-dynamite-against-the-Hoover-Dam accuracy of Brad Pitt's tail-end turn in 12 Years a Slave. His bizarrely indulged, buff, and merrily twinkling speechifyin' retroactively consigned Chiwetel Ejiofor's performance and the relatively uncompromised aspects of the script to middlebrow trimmings around another exercise in torture porn. And with Paul Giamatti right there for the asking!
|. . . 2014-01-21|
Millar's muse wanted to horrify us with suburban life c. 1960. Millar's job wanted a suspense plot with a revelatory twist. Their relationship ended in divorce.
A well-constructed comedy with sparks of recorded life — in the 1940s it would've been just another picture; in 2013 it's a fucking miracle. Period points for a leading actress who actually looks like a '70s leading actress.
I could accept Joaquin Phoenix as a Thorne Smith hero, an all-rich all-white Urbanland as Spike Jonze's social experience, and porn ELIZA as contemporary Hollywood's sincerest conception of soulfulness. But when a content-shoveler's work-for-hire was pitched and published as his own writing under his own name without legal intervention, disbelief dropped to the floor. And disbelief landed mad.
|. . . 2014-01-22|
"War, in other words, destroys pretense." - some preening asshole in 2002
For all my life I've been called pretentious, and for all my life I've proudly accepted the charge. It seems to me a just label and a worthy calling. It has at any rate called me to all that's seemed worthy.
The opposite of pretension isn't sincerity. The opposite — and the end — of pretension is silence. First comes pretension, then tension, then sleep.
whether it's the intention of your intension or the other way round, it's pretty intense
|. . . 2014-02-03|
Like everyone else I liked Mudhoney and acknowledged the one hit of the one-hit crybaby. But my favorite grunge band was Ed's Redeeming Qualities. When I first heard them in '89, Ed's consisted of four songwriters and one musician:
Together they seemed happier than they expected to be apart; they sounded like a 1989 unheated-apartment version of boiled cabbage at the Hungry Hash House. Or, OK, then, they sounded like "garage-folk, with an emphasis on storytelling and black comedy and poignancy." They taped a couple of cassettes and released an EP, curated and hosted a fine vaudeville series, made mistakes on the radio, and then Dom Leone got sick.
Characteristically the opening number of Ed's next release, a final cassette of the original line-up, promised "So many things that can kill you dead; if you don't have cancer there's a hole in your head." Someone like They Might Be Giants could easily have recorded a tribute to the periodic table of elements; Ed's made it personal.
Carrie, Dan, and Neno moved to San Francisco, kept playing Dom's songs, and kept sticking Dom's scrawls on the merchandise. Their first CD was gratingly bare, but their second seemed more at home in the trio format. Third was best, recorded live, with all-musician no-songwriter Jonah Winter to put sonic love handles on the old favorites.
For now, though, and with the aid of these fine digitizations, I'm reaching back to 1989. From the "Ed's Day" EP, Carrie Bradley explains how the patriarchy maintains power in one solidly idiomatic pun. From a tape made the year before, Dom Leone explains how the patriarchy maintains power in one completely moronic consultation.
Part 2 of this exciting serial!
|. . . 2014-02-04|
WHERE IS RHYME?
by Anselm Dovetonsils
Reading Voices: Literature and the Phonotext
by Garrett Stewart, p. 98)
Rhymes are not read. Where do we read?
Rhyme makes the answer very clear.
It is not found upon the page
but founded through the inner ear.
In a word, a double one:
Where do we read? What do you mean "we"?
Rhyme makes the answer very clear.
Less cleanly, I got your contracted auto-echoism of the transegmental drift hangin, rover drover.
We are impressed and grateful!
Intimations from Sylvia Plath at the Grocery Store
"'The word,' according to Lacan, 'is not a sign but a node of signific- Pages 115 to 341 are not shown in this preview. Frail the white rose please take your change
|. . . 2014-03-10|
Coated and hooded by pecking birds, struggling to shut himself into a phone booth for a few minutes of relative security. A flock descends.
Outside an old woman in rags goes along the bank of other phones, slamming the coin returns open, each one empty, but the hope...Plus maybe if he takes off this drip-dry suit underneath there might be a cape, and tights, and the memory of flight.
Within the sanctuary, unseen, unseeing, unheard, a fashion model slumps to the metal pebbled floor.
down the copper driveway a car with no one at the wheel enters the street, Gough, backward, makes a perfect turn and accelerates quietly, up there one eye cocked like a raven, tilt, the other one, tilt, he sees it, with his outstretched arms in the classic pose, the same red boots as always, the wind in the laundry sound of his cape flapping,
later the newscorp feeds will show the bee-line marked punctilious from Columbus and Grant to the warehouse in China Basin, the drone-Prius now running the lights on Folsom as, whang splinter crash, through the skykight down and swoop, votive lights flickering, a santeria chair with an early 18 c. piano shawl of shantung silk on its back, antique fringe on the crazy-painted rungs moving like synaesthetic visuals of a cheering rugby crowd, his perfect left arm under her perfect shoulders, and up through the hole he made coming in, the empty Prius turns off 4th onto Mission Rock, they're away before it purrs up and starts riveting the bay door with hollow point 16's and a gas cannon that detonates next to the altar, blowing candles all the way into the drywall,
bird's eye shot of Durant from 500 ft and some kind of swarm release, a cloud of sentient robot bugs, armed and as blind to cause as any soldier, rising up out of the hardiest trees in the East Bay, too late! too late!, they're edging the speed of sound, close up on her perfect face, she's too good looking for this shot, even knocked-out and slack-jaw drooling, pan out, out and back, p.o.v. Tamalpais, the dot of them arcing toward the Sierras, Sacramento down there muttering rutabaga wank to itself,
as they ascend canyon and ridge toward 49, Nevada City, Snyder's hat waving in exact temp with their syncopated breath and pulse, settling easy as a bag full of mouse diapers, down to the cabin he built up the Yuba from Downieville, and peace, domestic, unspoken mainly, love that holds itself close, together as can be for a week or two, both of them quiet, accepting, willing, she can cook! he's good with little things like lamps and firewood,
for now it's more than enough, it's redemption, temporarily eternal, these freaks each in their own iteration, someday maybe sure, some world out there yet unseen, not his not hers, where they'd just be two more unjungled creatures, making the day's account amid the steady quiet grace of an alien elect
tempo breath skylight/ edit your pleasure
Beat that, NYRB.
they're upside down!
Well, yeah; it's a weblog. But I've re-chronned.
Beat that, NYRB, 8 to the bar?
I'll even pay the first round.
|. . . 2014-03-22|
by Anselm Dovetonsils
CAROLINE CAROLINE CAROLINE NO!
The newest Hotsy Totsy Club member continues:
SERIES PANOPTHALMACON: CAROLIÑA YES/NO/MAYBE Item 1: Days gone by, decades, four and a pocketful of months, a coin purse of months, smiling blindly. Apples, so trees, rows, bees, firewood stacked around Jack the Landlord's weekend shack, one day sneaking quick peeking, I saw a transciever-thing under the bunk, little curtain pulled back and I'd moved too quick from the big house, the unexpeced jump, hey Jack you got a like a radio station in this funkedy-funk lil cabin eh? Him bein a semi-famous DJ of AM yore so first impress related to Sh shh Okay yeah yeah. Okay. Talk and quiet in there Parsifal Yeah later holding Anna close for loves in the kitchen hey sub-audial and whisper in her ear, Jack's got some kinda wire runnin, in here I think, she's breath intake hold nodding just a bit and embraces tighter me a little closer, so now, me, what, do, so before I lived there I was up in the burb'd leftovers St. Rose, Saint Rose, teeny dwelling small doors and a window that held light of birdsong, college boy I run off it by a buncha Nam vets, 12 miles to the set-up in the orchards, running, run, quick, keep going hurry, run by abandoned trees abandoned fruit small bitter rose-cousins so having moves that went close to the thing in there, machines of perception, power of illusory norm, and chumped into complicit passive and fight it but make that fighting count for more than image son
Item 2: Go along with it, their arrogance will make them blind to us moving, quick, run, still, running, hold, and there you go, the holy damn house is wired, the whole house, even the secret room above the kitchen, second story railroad, and among much else the best piece of ass as piece of ass I ever was in participatory receipt, the light through 19th c. glass in the front bedroom, white clouds of sheet and earth skin love not the love combining souls but animal pure higher than shit sex with a beautiful look-alike, they made movies of us in there not knowing the cameras and the tape reels, the walls having neurons, on summer's wave and young, back in good grace with the vets, or tolerance because magic and connection, we started making movies at the lake and around as the Cochonists moved like a stain across the jumped-up country, kids coughed up tear gas residue all round, there was a drawly lil Texan hanging at the edge of the vet circle and I busted him on the sidewalk just hey man you're like a snitch or something right panic backfill stutter clamp eyes lock please and no please not a snitch I'm a re-porter, calls himself Don but his name's really Dan he tells me, Donny Dan, and weird my Dad met my mom as Dan but his name was really Don, but it's all noise then by now, Wheeler gets taken down by the swine-church Inquisit, those black light-eating suits in the background, untainted by anything like real contact, Wheeler's a commune out the coast a ways, all homemade homes homestyle babies and grains, no cars past this sign they the Cochons hated it and everything about it everything even anything like it especially, have to say this guys, because I, me, loved them, what they were as we danced in each other's arms, what they could promise to become, if they had been left alone, arrested the nominal owner Wheeler and ran the no-cars spirit-fence down, then lawyers feds sheriffs orders news scumsuckers brainwash text p.r. Judge Waffle Allrise
Item 3: day it went down news coming on the undervine Wheeler's done, another pig-victory, they hate us, I stole the gold-fringed Am.flag silky fine from its stanchion in Courtroom B where it happened, plus the eagle finial gold shiny bronze, newspaper said "Someone with a misplaced sense of allegiance..." took it home, then time, traded it for a lesser version from Jon the Queer, then time, movie days for school term-papers and hey, what it would look like that, what, flag, slo-mo shotgun blast, Antonioni against the redwood sky, super 8, Honeywell Elmo Bob gave me, Jesus, and Rather, yeah I know but true it's my life of a piece, he was undercover doing a vet return story, not yet a Cronkite, not even a Brinkley, and he's out there in the sideyard with me and that camera me and some ex-grunts as filming gets under way, and I get it set up pinned and stretched Old Glory got a shooter twenty paces north, and right as it's right then he comes running at it, the gun no I can't let you it's the flag it's what I believe my country my heart I can't let it go and he like puts himself in the line of fire and shit okay okay shit okay you can block this and see it happen in the real, promise, or you can let me draw the poison out into the virtual where I can no no you can't no, okay okay no, fuck here we go, okay no, alright, no
|. . . before . . .||. . . after . . .|
Copyright to contributed work and quoted correspondence remains with the original authors.
Public domain work remains in the public domain.
All other material: Copyright 2013 Ray Davis.