Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Electric Whale's Hiccups Smell of Cheese

See end of post for image link and make your own!

I'm busy orchestrating deaths by flowchart. Thus distracted, how many gobbets of gathered miscellania can I thoughtlessly offload? Let's count:

1) In the ongoing march of the retreads, there will be new Doctor Who television series. Well, a lot of people love the new Battlestar Galactica. I just hope this one's as funny.

2) In case you missed the original announcement in 2004, scientists have ranked the world's most odoriffic cheeses. I recently had a Camembert that tasted luscious, but made the fridge smell like rotting meat.

3) A backpack can generate electricity.

4) Topsy, a Coney Island elephant, was electrocuted in 1903 as a demonstration for Edison.

5) Australian couple finds 32-pound lump of whale excretion worth 300 grand.

6) This lethal cure for hiccups is no spoonful of sugar, but you will hold your breath forever.

7) Jeremy Clarkson calls "beverage" the worst word in the language. Perhaps it's based on transcontinental abusage patterns, but I'd nominate "utilize".

8) In an insult to yard artists everywhere, are monumental bronze sculptures being stolen and melted for scrap?

Ah, eight lame items plus interactive fun with signage courtesy of Bummer Girls
Till tomorrow, ya'lls. I've done what I could.

Monday, January 30, 2006

The Old Gray Gran, She Ain't What She Used To Be

I remember one Granny who should've been real, not only superb at rustlin' vittles, but quick with a shotgun and to get your back in a brawl. Those were the days.

Dr. Helen's getting a lot of action on this topic of too-busy boomer grandparents as reported at MSN.

In the article, they brag about their health, which is a good thing because it's unlikely that their tykes once-removed will feel the bonds deeply enough to care for them in enfeeblement. They brag about the financial support they can provide, although we know that children require personal attention more than gadgets to grow up happy. They brag about how young they are, another might see it as immature. The author says she's redone a playroom in her house for her granddaughters, with the condition it's to be used with extensively scheduled and coordinated lead time that makes consideration for the demands of her investment property in Oregon.

This paragraph was lovely: So listen up, Fisher-Price. For your next early-learning game the image of the grandmother should show her writing checks. We give money to the parents for rent and down payments on apartments, and we chip in on "extras" like after-school tuition, saxophones, and private schools. (Heck, I bought Ryan so much stuff Morgan said she didn't need a shower.) We also have more energy and better health. Today's time with Grandma is no longer baking cookies; it's more likely to be a Stones concert, the Planetarium, a camping trip, or waiting for her at the finish line of the MORE marathon.

Now do you understand? It'll be okay for the kiddies to wait on Racing Granny (who we wouldn't dare call that, of course), but not vice versa. Instead, the children can participate in the tedious spectacle of being accessories to selfish people minimizing their insufficiency through expenditure. Giving money doesn't mean much when you have more than enough. It's nice, but it'll never mean as much as something a little rarer- like your time and genuine interest. If a grandparent has a skill or vocation, it's wonderful to share. But if it's dragging the kids along on your latest diversion off inner discovery (aren't you bored with your little self by now?), spare me the self-blown heraldry. It's perfectly understandable that some have finished their own parenting years to discover they have very little enthusiasm left for the drippy and demanding new beings who bear their names, DNA, or lineage. But don't pretend it's particularly loving grandparenting, or assume the rest of us will buy that falderol about writing checks and setting good examples as anything but a shallow defense.

My grandmother still lies about her age, made us call her by her first name, and never came to visit me being the superior personage whom yearning pilgrims must travel to attend. She did sometimes share her considerable financial largesse, but at her whim, not our need. So, I learned not to rely upon it, and therefore, not to value it much either. I never left her presence without receiving some gift, a fact I'm sure she remembers more keenly than other ones, but it would be whatever we happened to see that she could force me to take. If we didn't go out, she'd try to give me items from her house based on anything I'd commented upon. A relatively polite child, eager to be liked certainly, when I complimented anything not too precious, I'd go home with it, even bottles of shampoo. Never the art. It was awkward for me, and didn't feel like generosity, because it was never planned beforehand with any special consideration for my likes.

All this was from a time when it wasn't called liberated, merely the natural tendency of a socially conscious, materially savvy, but colder, less accomodating personality. While she taught me nothing about love, respect, or familial closeness- except as I was astonishingly expected to portray them toward her and try to do for my own purposes- my grandmother did give me an education in etiquette. To me, she most reflects excellent taste, intelligence, and refinement, but I might say the same of the Met.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Chinese Astrology Needs a Raven

Image from Earthsong Tiles

Hearing people's dreams is boring, less boring than watching vacation videos, but still...
Having said that, instead of wishing you a happy Chinese New Year, I will now tell you of my last night's last dream, but only the bit that matters:

Inside a large house whose floor was inexplicably scattered with leaves and twigs, I was horrified to discover myself walking over the severed wings and halves of dead ravens. They were cleanly split into mirror images as if they'd been made from molds like chocolate rabbits. I began screaming, even knowing it was useless and silly, and only screamed louder after finding a gray dove snacking on one of the impeccable cadavers.

After I awoke and checked my e-mail, Reference.com which has just enhanced its On This Day feature, informed me that Edgar Allen Poe's poem, The Raven, was first published in the New York Evening Mirror on this day in 1845. Ooooooohhh.

The whole entry was interesting, but I found it most fascinating that Poe identified guilt not as specific regret but as perverseness, the desire for self-destruction. Follow the link above for the text and MP3 of the poem after a great overview, interpretation, publication history, and list of who's been inspired from The Alan Parsons Project to The Simpsons, also includingTerry Pratchett's Quoth, my favorite raven, who's only in it for the eyeballs.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Delights for Friday

Every day, I search for something to delight.

Today, Drawn! pointed me toward Noah Z. Jones' Almost Naked Animals, and I was thus satisfied.

Octopus Likes: Rainbows, ghost stories, Sunday mornings.
Octopus Turn offs: Gun control, the ballet, condiments

Check out the whole gang of skivvy-wearing creatures.

Also check my latest review at Fantasy Bookspot. Look under reviewer-Henway, author-Ed Hoornaert, or title- The Trial of Tompa Lee.

I'm also excited to annouce that I'll be starting soon to fill up the empty review cupboards at Mystery Bookspot as well as adding Fashion Week blogging to my usual online mess. Have a great weekend! I'm overextending!

Thursday, January 26, 2006

What Would Tolstoy Think?

Image site here.

You probably don't care, but the title's my warning that this will be another litcentric post.

First, I must say if you care about such things, the Publisher's Lunch Deluxe online daily newsletter is almost worth the price of subscription to Publisher's Marketplace, itself a trove of business and trend info for the wheedling aspirant. However, because you likely do not subscribe, but I wish to rant about highlighted subjects, here are some hot links they served up today.

1) This is a great listing of booksellers who blog, along with other fine litblogs which included Chekhov's Mistress, one of the online homes of the intimidatingly productive Bud Parr, the progenitor of the MetaxuCafe metablog to which I contribute such humble offerings as I may. Congrats on the great mention, Bud, and may it drive up Metaxu membership. And don't you forget, non-Bud readers, participating in MetaxuCafe discussion forums makes you sexier.

2) Oprah's changed her mind about the importance of truth, or at least her stand when it comes to James Frey. I understand that on today's TV show she gave him a good "grilling" and vented onto him her own heretofore unexpressed feelings of being "duped." I wish it didn't sound so hypocritical and reactive to me; I wish supporting truth in labeling had been a quick, automatic decision; and I wish that Oprah, as she so often does, wasn't claiming this latest decision sprang from her evolving, changeable "feelings," as I suspect that's the briary path that led to this fever swamp in the first place.

3) As people start remembering memoir "issues" that they previously ignored, another scrivener celebre' is being called into question. Navahoax, a long, but worthwhile article in the L.A. Weekly is about the writer calling himself Nasdijj (a non-existent Navajo word) who's written several wrenching "true stories" based on his life as a damaged child of an alcoholic, broken home and incest who grew up to nurture multiple, fatally ill children. This combination surely strikes every chord of horror and tragedy, but is this person really a former S/M leatherman, gay erotica writer with less Indian blood than I have? Sherman Alexie, a well-known Indian activist and writer of an unusual mystery novel that I liked, joins Indian scholars and other tribal members who've been saying for years that Nasdijj appropriated his identity and makes numerous mistakes in portrayal. Bonus in this article is another swipe at the heinous Ward Churchill who has taken the same fraudulent stand for his scholarship that Nasdijj appears to have done in his memoirs.

“For some reason people lose their sense of discernment when it comes to Indians,” says activist and Indian Country Today columnist Suzan Shown-Harjo...“If I go to Italy and say, ‘I think the world of you people. I speak a little Italian, I love spaghetti, so I’m going to be voting in your next election. Give me preference as an Italian citizen as opposed to non-citizens. Give me a job. Give me grant money. And maybe I’m going to carry on your diplomatic relations with other nations,’ people would lock me up. But that’s what happens. The people that step into our world don’t do so in a respectful way. They rush right in and say ‘I’m your leader, I’m the articulator of your culture.’”

4) I happen to think there's honor in writing fiction, in unapologetically crafting a story that serves an artistic or entertaining purpose or both, and that the skills of mimicry that great authors evince are worthy of praise not concealment, not more shameful than having a truly fu**ed-up life. Tolstoy's own experiences in living were just the starting points for his fiction.

My articles of faith are these, and they're both examplified beautifully byLeo Tolstoy's short story, The Death of Ivan Ilyich. (Don't let the 12 chapters dissuade you. They're extremely short. )

- First, the constant pile-on of more and worse horrors isn't necessary for stories to be gripping. In fact, it diminishes the inherent power of reality and leads to jaded, fatigued readers. Even a prosaic, boring life can be made compelling and rich by a great fiction writer.

- Second, writing this tale, Tolstoy was neither deathly ill nor deceased (obviously), yet his account of Ivan Ilyich's death is one of the most poignant and even realistic I can imagine. If a writer must experience a thing in order to be allowed to write about it, what are the gifts of observation, empathy, and imagination worth?

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Stunts Pop Babylonian Fish Cadavers

A Stunt Man from William Trotter's gallery.

Sorry for yesterday's neglect. I've been working on distilling a book review which still isn't finished, and I have an appointment out of doors. That's right, I'm leaving the apartment and its appurtenances to go out amongst the civilized folk, or at least New Yorkers.

So, in lieu of anything good, here's the normal goulash:

1) Fish may unlock the secrets of human skin color, which I find fitting since I'm the hue of a flounder's belly.

2) I only ever heard the Indian was good luck, but The Sneeze has figured out how many kids are on the Tootsie Pop wrappers. The world may now know.

3) Did a noted coroner barter the cadavers under his purview for private lab space?

4) Half laughs, half woe, Mr. Babylon is back with a great one where he dares the halls of Shi**y High and his neighbor's porn collection to teach his ESL miscreants about To Kill a Mockingbird.

5) Mark Yost of the WSJ makes the point that at least the coordinators of movie stunt men deserve Oscars. Right on! Unlike the "brave choices" actors congratulate each other for making, cunning stunts require real courage, not to mention other assets currently optional for most movie stars like training and skill.

Monday, January 23, 2006

What To Bring To Hell?

This does not represent a hound of hell, but is a Persian Great Dane with a black coat. While undeniably handsome and functional, it is not what I meant when I told Google "black great coat". Read on.

I understand the essence of what Shangri Law was getting at with the question for the 3rd Carnival of the Couture: what are the critical items you'd need should you find yourself stranded at a lifelong party on La Isla Superfantástica? However, the thought of a lifelong party on a tropical island gave me such a headache that I couldn't raise myself from the settee to post until now.

Half of my joy in parties is the post-mortem on the ride home, or during the search for pre-dawn infusions of theraputic grease. It is here, in the comparing of notes and anecdotes that the ultimate value and ranking of the party is judged and confirmed. In the scenario above, where there is no chance to withdraw for idle defamation and speculation, no way to ditch the too-chemically-altered and too-boring without daring shark-infested seas, this blogger perceives a horror more akin to Dante's Inferno than paradise.

But that, of course, was not the point of Las Dulcinea, Retrosessuale, and Zapatotista. It is my defective, trifling nature to be so distracted by such considerations. Onto the fashion question. Being of an epidermal extraction antagonistic to sunshine and a personal temperament inclined to swelter without any external assistance, medical-grade sunscreen, sunglasses, and a shady place to drowse between dawn and sunset would be crucial. However, even these aren't necessarily elements of Fashion, merely Survival. And which two agendas could be in greater opposition?

With that in mind, I give you what seems like a contrarian choice for this locale, but is in fact the ultimate item of partygoing fabulousness: the black greatcoat.

It must have enough sweep to carve dramatic entrances and exits with the inky eloquence of a master calligrapher's brushstroke. Such capacity will also allow for inner concealment of better-grade liquor, long-barrel weaponry, pooch packs, or whatever else you wish. The fit of the collar and shoulders must be perfect, balanced from front to back by tailoring or ornamentation, thereby distributing the weight of even heavy material such that it prevents the ugliness of slippage and also fatigue to the wearer. The material and workmanship must, of course, be of impeccable quality and in harmony with the style. This is eternity after all, and precociousness will pall before beauty.

Whether the black sable of a Czarina, the matte clericalism of Neo's Matrix frock, the boiled woolen cloak of druid, or a leather trench evocative of the Weimar Republic, each choice is a uniform, an armor, a calling card of style and personality. A black greatcoat also has terrific sex appeal, its opening is an invitation to intimacy, and the garments beneath it are either enhanced or made optional by contrast and mood.

As for functionality, you can roll it up to use as a lumbar pillow, cozy under it during chilly evenings or visits to the wine cellar, lay upon it on a sandy beach, cower under it in the shadows to find much-needed solitude, and even use it to smother, bind, or gag annoying fellow travelers. With a good shaking and airing, none of this will impair the excellent line and fit of a top-quality garment. Furthermore, such substantial materials resist damage by and protect wearers from assaults with cheese spreaders and shards of crystal, and the deep color camoflages the stains of spilled blood and thrown liquor that must inevitably result from such contempt-inducing familarity.

Surely, there has never been such a miracle of fashion and function, so universal and yet so expressive as the black greatcoat. If I am doomed to an inescapable eternity with the kind of people who think an endless, tropical party sounds like a wonderful idea, let this item alone be my everpresent companion.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Today, I Cry Like Frey

Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar, and I have a high threshold for idiosyncrasy. But in this case, perhaps the image really was a distress call.

If you read AMLP and felt bamboozled by someone whose accounts you trusted, I know how you feel. Someone who I felt was doing a great job in an needful area of the media turned out to be a shill. Via Cathy's World, I learned about this man (whose bizarre picture I post as part of his punishment, though he was apparently proud of it), Michael Fumento, formerly one of my favorite health and science reporters and debunkers of junk science.

No more. It seems he was taking money from Monsanto to write articles with favorable positioning for Big Pharma. My views come chiefly from my work inside the beast and the many people I knew and still know in the industry. His corruption does not change my opinions on the broad subjects of drug research and approval, but it does change my opinion of him and the slimebags at, or on behalf of, Monsanto who hired him.

I've cited Fumento's articles in 5 posts ranging from the topics of silicone breast implants and teflon coating for cookware to the drug Tysabri for MS and the avian flu panic. I found his writing clear and his points persuasive, but I must now consider all of it so much crapola. His article links from Townhall, the site of some of the pieces I used, no longer work, and that's appropriate. I will put updates to all my applicable posts about this discredited creep. Sure, I could poke through every article and substantiate every fact to see if it truthfully leads to his expressed viewpoint, but why should I do the reportage to salvage a reputation that he doesn't care enough to protect in the first place?

Lying is foremost manipulation, an attempt to control what people think and do by controlling the information they're given. This is in essential opposition to individual freedom of thought and action, and so, cannot be tolerated by me to any degree in people claiming to have candid opinions based on facts. If Fumento sold his integrity for 60k, I sure hope whatever grave personal emergency (like a new car) created this devil's bargain is long past, because he isn't going to be working as much anymore, and all of the fruits of his career are rightly suspect.

I can't assume that having deceived in one way that he wouldn't ever deceive in another. Breaching ethics is serious, premeditated, and repulsive, a sign of a deteriorating inner self as well as the professional. In situations like this, where I'm now discarding everything he's written, it's not a case that I'm unhappily throwing the baby out with the bathwater. How many deep cracks does a drinking glass have before you decide not to trust it anymore? Just one, and it no longer holds water.

You stink, Fumento. However sweet your words, they were the utterances of a prostitute.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

They Hide in Plain Sight: Canadians!

Do you want the freedom to wear fabulous apparel while lunching at Cipriani during Fashion Week, or do you want this?

The Canuck strategy isn't a secret, America just won't believe. Read this entry from Crazy Rants of Samantha Burns. Oh yes- geese poop in California- funny stuff. Just a big joke from the Great White North, eh? But the blight's already here in NYC.

Samantha claims she warned US about the Canadian invasion. Oh, I remember it differently, my tocque-wearing pal.

The forces of the Canadian spearhead still walk among us, hidden except for their kooky pronunciation of "about" and "sorry", the latter heard more plentifully due to their fanatic courtesies. Decades ago, it was Rush and even Triumph. Do you have any idea how many songs I know by heart?! They programmed me! I should have guessed so much earlier, since I don't know how else to explain Peart's lyrics.

After we wised up to the musical infiltration, they started with the comedy. SCTV? Calculated subversion. John Candy's threat was neutralized in a tragic contretemps that degraded all involved, but don't even get me started on Mike Myers and his "dual citizenship." We laugh and laugh while he acclimates us to to the corrupt, tartan-scented voices of our captors. Soon we'll be on our knees begging for rations of water and shortbread.

Who else is icing her way beneath the radar? Catherine O'Hara.
Tremendous television career and over 50 movies! That makes us safe? I call it saturated. Here are key excerpts I've rearranged from her bigraphical trivia on imdb:

Became a U.S. citizen.
Owns a cottage... in Muskoka, Ontario. (What do you need that for, Yankee? Debriefing?)
Catherine O'Hara has an almost religious cult following around the world.

I don't make it up. I just report.

And they're targeting our children. Look at Tuesday's menu for Memorial school if you want to see an entry to curdle your blood. French toast and maple syrup? It's not even lunch food! It's an indoctrination of innocent children by our enemies.

But we're not alone. The Canadians are even attacking their brethren under monarchy. Because English don't eat solid food, they're having to sneak the maple syrup into their beer. Read Kamini Dickie's comments about insinuating such perversions into a dessert pairing with our beloved apple pie ! I want to puke and weep at the same time.

Please, for the love of cuisine more complex than mere doughnutry, wake up, America!

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

I Cannot Knit Trenchant Moderne with Killer Fraud

This succulent photo by the Melancholy Rhino is aptly titled Hockney.

Once again, things won't knit together, but here they all are. Surely something will delight.

1) Cathy Seipp's post on this house by Richard Neutra (who harmonized his creations with their landscape as a devotee of Frank Lloyd Wright) reminded me of Your Daily Art's Hockney painting which then reminded me again why people should revile stylistically substandard and coarsened architecture like this monster, actually in England but aesthetic cousin to a nasty, stained stucco pile I inhabited in California in the 70s and which, I regret to report, is still there, inflicting its common nastiness on the foothills in Pasadena. It takes a long sentence to juxtapose such ecstasies and pathos.

2) Another egregious eminent domain case. Will this ruling stop the slide?

3) If you can stand more on Frey, I was edified to read that neither WaPo's Cohen nor NYT's Kakutani echo Oprah's take on emotional truth. And, the trenchant New York Observer has more, including the surprise of Nan Talese, Frey's publisher, upon learning he was claiming that AMLP's mushy truthiness was well-known to her. In an aside:

(In any case, she said that the book would never have worked as a novel, in part because the author himself is the only real character in it.) HA!

I also applaud all the bright lights in this article, notable writers themselves, who condemn the lies as does critic Daniel Mendelsohn:

“It’s not so much that this guy lied and invented stuff—I mean, this has been going on forever,” Mr. Mendelsohn said. “But the way that people are receiving it, the curious lack of a really outraged response on the part of readers and a lot of other people …. I think the inability to call a spade a spade and just say flat out that this guy lied to his public in order to give himself a more dramatic story is in some sense a reflection of the overall debasement of criticism in the culture at large.”

Too True. Now having used the fabulous word trenchant, I realize I need to use "incipient" more often, too. But it doesn't apply here. Drat.

4) Via Tim Worstall: Can you be sued for breach of contract when it's a Contract to Kill? It seems like some clever prosecutor would be able to find another basis upon which to nail this haddock's buttock than leaving his mentally ill target unwhacked.

5) Via apostropher: It may be disturbing, but how else are incipient (High Five!) doctors supposed to acquire this skill?

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Momentum Killer: Artsy Pig Corpses and Cannibals

Chartreuse is an herbal elixir made by French monks. I had no idea it was also the preferred tipple of the undead. I just like it because it's pig-colored.

And now, as is my wont, I will kill the momentum of the last day or two by crafting one of my usual posts, crammed with scattered items related only barely by their fascination for my macabre storm drain of a mind.

1) Darwinian aesthetics try to explain why humans developed the arts and our common sensitivities to them.

2) Taiwanese researchers breed glowing pigs in charming shades of yellow-green.

3) The Donner family, for which the infamous party has been named and defamed, were likely not the part of the group that went cannibal. Unlike this German freak who has been "disturbingly" found sane while claiming his willing victim tried to eat himself first.

4) Dead Body Guy has a simple wish: to play a corpse on TV or in film. These several vignettes show just how excellently deceased he can appear.

Monday, January 16, 2006

What To Call Manolo's Deluge?

This is Michaelangelo's Deluge from the Sistine Chapel. I'm exerting myself to see how classy I can be when in such exalted company. That's why I'm only noting in very small print that this picture on Pet-Pet, another entry from the C of C below, was not immediately recognizable as a doggie, but rather appeared to me as some sort of extra-perky, crocheted ostomy bag.

Though I've tried, I've never been acknowledged by the Blogfather with an Instalanche. (Notice, I've offered no blue linkage , that's my editorial nuance of disdainful indifference.) Feh!

But why discuss what is not when What IS is so superfantastic?!

Today, I am delighted that so many of the readers of the celebrated bon vivant Manolo are here to read this post which your humble host contributed to the Carnival of Couture, since I, too, am the entity of the Renaissance-modeled ecumenism.

What shall we call this divine deluge of the fabulous unto our mean estate?

A scorching release of elemental energy like Manobyl?
Has he given me a Manolovation?
Is it a case of Manoverflow?

Probably not. I'm going to nap on it and upgrade as possible, but suggestions are welcome.

UPDATE: Meanwhile, in another case of bloggy synergy, check out Crazy Rants of Samantha Burns (and honor with your heart and mouse her doff of the tocque to Republic of T) to witness the Hoff being Hooked On a Feeling. The po-mo/weatherman feeling of performing in front of blue screen, I'll wager. There is much here of the man comfortable with his celebrity, but now that he and his wife of 16 years are divorcing, I hope he doesn't get too much browtoxing or a tacky sports car...wait, how can one tell if the Hoff's having a mid-life crisis?

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Steaming Piles of It

Sometimes the first image is the best. (See Google roulette and guess which word.)

You've heard that joke where a guy has to pick out his place in hell, and he finds a room with people standing hip deep in stinking offal, but they're smoking and laughing and having cocktails, so it seems tolerable? And then, of course, as soon as he's picked his room for eternity, the devil says "Break's over! Go back to your headstands!"

What if some of those people kept smiling even as their heads went under? They're ready for Frey. Sigh.

There is a schism that has evolved, or maybe it's just becoming more evident, between those who salute James Frey's artistry and "emotional truths" about addiction and recovery, and those who think lying about your life, then lying about your lying while pandering to the distressed and addicted with false and misleading tales of personal recovery and potential isn't a nice thing to do. Not a virtue to be rewarded with a pat on the head for the precocious boy. From Frey's own lips on Larry King Live, usually the most cashmere-cuddly of all possible interrogative forums, we know that Frey and his agents knew the difference, because they tried selling the novel as a novel, and got multiple rejections before changing it into that irresistable entity, the isn't-true-life-more-amazing-than-fiction story.

Patti Davis, Reagan's daughter, has written a blubbering Newsweek article where she hopes we'll all give Frey a break, because she knows what he's going through although her experience is actually rather different. I felt the same way when the 9/11 families held yet another gathering and press conference to sidecar on West Virginia's mining tragedy. Gross. And self-absorbed. And gross.

If you're wondering, Frey deserves this exemption from accountability because he's got carpal tunnel, no wait, he hears voices, no wait, because no, because yea, because- as Jake Blues pleads with the murderous fiancee he abandoned at the altar:

"No I didn't. Honest... I ran out of gas. I, I had a flat tire. I didn't have enough money for cab fare. My tux didn't come back from the cleaners. An old friend came in from out of town. Someone stole my car. There was an earthquake. A terrible flood. Locusts. IT WASN'T MY FAULT, I SWEAR TO GOD."

She believed him. Again.

The real reason Patti Davis cites is the power of Frey's descriptions of addiction which she believes requires personal experience to recount. Of course, there are no other good writers out there, the world is experiencing writer scarcity. We must cherish any deceitful crap we can get, because THERE AREN'T ANY OTHER GOOD WRITERS WHO DEAL WITH ADDICTION IN THEIR WRITING, except half the folks with MFAs and a lot of people writing noir. Of course, nowhere is it mentioned that Frey may have "borrowed" the vividness of these experiences from dead junkie Eddie Little's novel, whose survivors will get none of the royalties or celebrity the living Frey and his family enjoy, just the pain of suffering a beloved's disintegration.

As John Dolan writes in Exile (link above): Compare outcomes: Little paid for his knowledge of junkie-dom and died a junkie's death; Frey stole Little's scars, tears and knowledge, skipped the weird stuff and sold you a cut-and-paste tale of tears ending with redemption, a hymn with a lot of curse words to cut the treacly taste. That's a classic H-wood trick, you know: when a screenwriter doesn't know the streety world he's trying to write, he just puts in a "fuck" every three words. It's cheap spraypaint local color, and the suckers don't mind as long as they get that fake happy ending, that Kenny Rogers redemption, at the end.

University Diaries, who draws the comparison between truly persecuted writers in the foreign world and a wealthy man caught in his own publicity trap, has put it aptly and critiqued Patti Davis' writerly critique to boot. Apparently MoDo, who's in the payhole where I can't see her, also votes for truth. I'm not sure our agreement on this topic is a first, but if it is, what better thing to agree upon?

For me, part of reclaiming a culture of independent thinkers and lives means that offense and hurt feelings don't trump reason and law and civility. Calling Frey's lies an "emotional truth" is part of the fashionable, '70s era cultural subterfuge that pretends we're just all too Shrodinger's-cat iffy about the difference between facts and fakery, and we definitely can't call people on their B.S., because it might make widdle tears weak out of their wittle, wying eyes. There are things in this crazy world that are subject to interpretation and perspective. Jail time ain't one.

So while on Big Brother, elected official George Galloway purrs in Rula Lenska's lap and licks her hands like the good kitty he's pretending to be (seriously- check the video at the Daily Ablution), I feel perfectly fine saying that the things some people will do to become rich and famous are so degraded and unscrupulous, I'd cross the street to avoid sharing even NYC's urine-bedaubed and sh**-stained pavements with them. Not because I'm better than they are, but consorting with such trash can only make what's bad in me worse.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Life's a Trial, Time's Been A-Wastin'

This is totally unrelated, but sometimes I like playing Google Images roulette. This was the first one I got with "appearances."

And I'm the one a-wastin' it. I got myself caught up in one of those useless online discussions- not at the fabulously fruitful and always satisfying MetaxuCafe forums (ahem, sorry)- but one of those back-and-forths no one can finally resolve because we're all too equally insignificant to prove whether one has a better grasp of publishing's current realities than another.

All time that I could've AND SHOULD'VE spent revising my chapter for my writing group next week. Besides that, I try to save my unsupported ranting and opining for you. Why here's some now!

Marion Barry used cocaine, and a convicted rapist-murderer actually did the nightmarish deed to his sister-in-law despite claims of innocence that only ended with his snuffing. Flabbergasted? I'm all for using thorough, ethical investigation and bias toward innocence to give people every possible chance before taking their freedom or more seriously, their lives. But, much of the time, the people who circumstantially seem like dirtbags are really dirtbags.

Not to equate the circumstances of Oscar Wilde's "crimes" with Barry's historic abuse of position and the public trust or Roger Coleman's horrifically violent acts, but it was the perspicacious Wilde who wrote in The Picture of Dorian Grey, a work used against him when he was accused of "gross indecency" (read homosexuality) and who falsely, but understandably, denied it over three trials- "It is only the shallow who don't judge by appearances."

There are times, however, I believe in letting a verifiable dirtbag off the legal hook. Like when Professor Deborah Lipstadt, who actively pursues and debunks Holocaust deniers, says that pathetic David Irving should be let go, despite Austria's sensitivity toward such liars based on its unique and terrible history with the Third Reich. Irving's opinions, which have apparently softened as he approaches trial in one of the few countries with stringent law applying to such, are heinous, but I generally don't believe in prosecuting people for their spoken absurdities until material damage can be quantified or it can be proven that it's incited unlawful actions. Demonstrate the idiots are idiotic in a factual, public way, and let the fools go home to suffer the humiliation.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Sometimes the Stars Align and the Book Stinks

What does an offended mime have to do with brand strategy? You'll have to ask David J. Lorenzo.

Earlier today, I wrote a post (and a nifty poll, so go vote) about not finishing books I start reading and how many I tackle at a time for the MetaxuCafe discussion forums, home page here.

Then idly surfing later, I discovered more synchonistic blogging today on the very same subject.

Grumpy Old Bookman just abandoned the huge sellers The Historian and Fleshmarket Close.

Books Are My Only Friends seems to be channeling Morrissey, and has put aside 275 tomes that didn't make the cut.

This led me to further investigation and a two-week old post from MamasInk who names names about the ones she couldn't stomach finishing.

I've just started documenting the books I've read this year as well as ones I want to read someday. I'm now also inspired by these other posts to make a list of the ones I've disdained and why, so I don't get snookered by my faulty memory into having to face them again. Ugh.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Two Lessons: When is Pink Not the New Cute?

Most of what anyone needs to know about cuteness versus beauty and classic versus trend can be gleaned from Funny Face.

UPDATE: Many thanks to the inimitable Manolo for the inclusion of this post in the second Carnival of the Couture with the theme of Fashion Dont's. Mine: Don't follow the herd when it doesn't suit your personality or position. Don't skip efforts toward cuteness, for they be marvelously effective. Read on, if you would.

If yesterday was about the contemptible, today is about the cute. The nature and purpose of cuteness, especially in choices of personal appearance.

The NYT had a recent article on the scientific basis of perceived cuteness that leads us to gush over baby penguins and pandas alike. Sidenote: Crafty China is apparently trying to use the universal panda AAAaaawwww as a cover for their creeping covetousness of Taiwan.

But, as Natalie Angier writes: Cuteness is distinct from beauty, researchers say, emphasizing rounded over sculptured, soft over refined, clumsy over quick. Beauty attracts admiration and demands a pedestal; cuteness attracts affection and demands a lap. Beauty is rare and brutal, despoiled by a single pimple. Cuteness is commonplace and generous, content on occasion to cosegregate with homeliness.

I believe that in dress and grooming for women, "cuteness" connotes a related, but not identical idea. Which is to say, cute refers to something approachable. Even girls preferring reduced quantities of clothing may call a sequin-bedecked thong "cute", and certainly it creates a perception of easy approachability, non? Severe, rigid, unyielding styles, unleavened by sparkle or enlivened by color or pattern, may be icily elegant or even beautiful, but not cute. This is why, depending on your job and aims, looking cute- NOT juvenile- can be an important tool in the workplace.

Cuteness, as I'm using the word for choices in beauty and wardrobe, has a friendly, welcoming quality that defuses gripers and hotheads and paves the way for fruitful exchanges. Your employment may force you to cooperate with busloads of contradictory, even annoying, other humans. The charm of cuteness in your arsenal can make that easier. But mind you, cuteness is only metaphorical armor. You defeat the aim of being cute if you're studded with encumbrances like a briar bush or clanking like cowbells. Cuteness is simplicity, a veil-like armor. Fashion as an industry creates trends and sensations, many of which don't qualify as cute or welcoming in the least. These are for the temporary, effervescent appreciation of aesthetes and gawkers, these are not to live in.

The inimitable Kay Thompson, who also notably created little Eloise of the Plaza Hotel, was a song-and-dance dervish, most beloved to me in her role as Maggie Prescott, the editor-in-chief of Quality magazine in Funny Face. In the movie, Quality rivals Harper's Bazaar as an arbiter of taste and design. Our first sight of Maggie Prescott is costumed as a tailored force of nature with edges like scimitars. This is because she is an order-giver, heedless of whether anyone is actually her employee. People in positions of ultimate power and responsibility often have uncompromising styles, you'll notice. Maggie Prescott juggernauts right into the timeless number Think Pink where she alone decides the color pink will be the Next Big Thing and dictates to her flocking staff every pink incarnation.

The next time Maggie enters the offices, her giddy assistants and the decor are pinkriffically swathed, though she sports an identical suit in crisp black and white that she wears in other neutrally colored versions during the film. When a workman asks her why she isn't wearing pink, she answers memorably, "I wouldn't be caught dead."

Lesson One: Those of self-determination and discrimination don't slavishly conform to trends, they pick and choose. Trendiness and cuteness are not synonomous.

Audrey Hepburn, as aspiring beatnik and philosophical bookstore clerk Jo Stockton, is first seen in black turtleneck and tights with a loose, tweedy brown jumper like an oversized burlap bag. Her hair is loose, not the usual updo that echoes her upturned features. They let her aspect here be dragged downward by the unrelieved darkness of her clothing, the weight of an ill-fitting gunny sack, and her floppy, drab hair. Cuteness is a comforting quality to onlookers, not emoted except as the object of comedy in one's own discomfort. Of course later, when Jo Stockton decides to becomes a model to get a trip to Paris, her hair comes right up to the most flattering height and Givenchy eventually costumes her in the most ethereally glamorous, Renaissance Madonnaesque, floating blue sack of a cloak you've ever seen.

The purest examples of cuteness in Funny Face are also reinforced by lyrics. The softest look for Maggie Prescott is here: cigarette pants with a gathered, wraparound white blouse she wears during preparations for the big fashion show. Simultaneously, Jo Stockton has lightened up in a bright white, oversized shirt with her tight black legs. The two further soften their edges and spark up the palette by gathering blue tablecloths with gold fringe to serve as proletarian aprons and kerchiefs while Maggie teaches Jo the art of the press conference in the song On How to Be Lovely. The lyrics are telling.

On how to be lovely(On how to be lovely)
You got to be happy (You got to be happy)
When you can feel light and gay
Then you'll be lovely as a holiday.
On how to be charming (On how to be charming)
You got to be merry (You got to be merry)
If only to weave a spell
And you'll be lovely
As a carousel too...
Lesson Two. Cuteness is approachability and warmth, but also playfulness and cheer. And no bunny prints or glitter gloss are necessary to provide it.

For more on the specifics of achieving trendless good dressing in the workplace (which may always be seasoned with fashion-conscious accessories), read this article by the fabulous BelleNoelle at Ladypens. Also, note that the BelleNoelle online boutique is having a shelf-clearing, $5 extravaganza of a post-holiday sale on accessories both vivaciously trendy and classic, proving again that cute is in the exercise of personal taste, not the credit limit.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Labeling Myself a Professional Liar No More

Image from Eliot K. Daughtry's Pinocchio, with this eerily apt caption: Ah truth, it's overrated if you need to clear the way in front of you. Apparently.

I've often jokingly referred to fiction writers as professional liars, but that appellation only fits if we're selling the shinola as truth. What's bothering me lately is the distortion of truth followed by the offhanded defense of these compromised facts as entertainment and disavowal of creative imagination.

There's a lot of online talk about it: Whether it's the biographical massaging and historical inaccuracies as dramatic improvements in Neverland, Steven Spielberg's Munich, or Good Night and Good Luck, how much is too much? Is it appropriate to willingly mishape a narrative about real people and events into a chronological and factual falsehood?

Many argue that movies and television must simplify complexity into clear dramatic moments even if they never existed. But can't a better, more careful writer meet the challenge of finding the dramatic moment within the truth without adding the car chase, extra children, or perverting the time-space continuum? Next, it's proposed that to make a point by ignoring opposing information is the art of debate and expected in any work with an obvious viewpoint. But I still don't like that everyone seems so complacent about it, as if there weren't any difference in a marriage to a wife 25 years younger and one 8 years older. As if calling something a "reality" show while hiding the writers behind credits that sever them from their contributions and disguise the carefulness with which such reality is orchestrated is fair play. It isn't. When people make up outrageous stories to get onto daytime talk shows, stories never corroborated and instead enhanced by show staff, we're supposed to assume that people know it couldn't possibly be real. Do they? Or is everyone more shamelessly letting their dirty laundry and muffin tops waggle in the breeze, since even truly skanky solipsists gain moral position in comparison to these fictionally-enhanced worst cases?

It's not just movies and TV consciously lying though, and not just for dramatic affect. There are rafts of plagiarized work in academia. Reportage has its share of notably bad actors like Jayson Blair, Judith Miller who operated without editorial backup, and Stephen Glass who was later rewarded by a published novel to rationalize his perfidy.

And what about the South Korean cloning king who lied about his data and results, selling irrational hopes for healing to the desperately ill while sticking a finger in the eye of people who've been asking for the FDA to relax its focus on litigation to speed potential cures to the very sick?

Well, here are two more disgusting new wrinkles in the realm of fiction. Lying fiction an oxymoron? Not at all. You'll see.

Publisher's Marketplace just announced a new two-book deal, including a first novel, for James Frey who hit bestseller lists and Oprah's Book Club with his memoir A Million Little Pieces. Only it isn't a memoir. The Smoking Gun effectively asserts that AMLP IS Frey's first novel, because it turns out he's lied like crazy to make his true life more harrowing and saleable.

And 3-book fiction wonder JT Leroy, who undoubtedly gained traction as a social critic with his history of homelessness and addiction and child prostitution, not to mention his AIDS, turns out to be (in public appearances) the sister of the one of the San Francisco couple who claimed to have lovingly "rescued" the lad. Unresolved is who wrote the books, but JTL is gender-confused vaporware designed by wannabees and star-effers.

I wish I were more confident that this kind of embarassment would reduce the importance to agents and publishers of the bio as ultimate wedge to selling fiction. It shouldn't matter who you are as much as what and how it's been told, but then I've never forgiven lousy writing just because it's supposedly a true story, even a compelling one. Iyanla Vanzant, I'm talking to you.

I'm going to do something radical. If I want to make a point or a scene, I'll fabricate the scenario within a world you can understand without documentation or defamation. Why malform the truth of places and people when I can unapologetically create whatever circumstances I require? I'm going to tell stories, not mislabeled tall tales. I'm not going to pretend it's all real to make it gasp-worthy or approachable. If I can't write it so people are interested and can relate, that's my fault, one that can only be compounded, not cured by mounting deceit.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Forgotten Until Just Now

See Addams Foundation for stuff to support cartooning programs for kids.

A few days ago, we lost the uniformly considered velvet-voiced Lou Rawls and the brush-lipped Michael Vale.

Yesterday, in 1610, Galileo Galilei sighted four of Jupiter's moons and called them Io, Europa, Ganymede, and Callisto. That darned guy. I'm going to cut a BLT sandwich into quarters and name each segment after a moon. Perhaps I can do better applying the names to my hands and feet or even my nipples of which I also have four.

Yesterday in 1912 was also the birthday of cartoonist Charles Addams, the creator of the Addams Family. In his h2g2 entry, it reads:

"...But it's the truly unsettling images that really stick in the mind: a fakir doing the Indian rope trick so he can hang himself; the children stoking up the roaring fire in the hearth in preparation for the arrival of Santa Claus; the sight of abandoned unicorns watching Noah's Ark disappear into the distance; Bo Peep finding a ransom note for her missing sheep; and the recurring themes of cannibalism and spousal murder."

Here's to that wacked out, imaginative artist who collected wives, implements of torture, and fast cars.

Now, having caught up on older news, I may look forward with lightness of spirit.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Scaredy-Cat's Bragging Wins Hand from Soprano

See item 3 for who's forgotten the moral of this story.

I'm already planning for next week, so today's about offloading the collected flotsam.

1) I forgot to mention- since I'm awful at the celebrity-spotting much less groveling- but this Sopranos actor was on our flight back from Vegas. I learned, via his bio, that he was once entertainment director at the Riviera, so he must really know how to squeeze the premium juice out of a Vegas stay. It looked like he was with his wife and at least a couple of kids, and although I didn't approach, many others did, and he appeared pleasant and good-natured toward his fans and family, certainly a necessity in his previous job in hospitality. In these days of less than wholesome stories from that show's ensemble, I thought I'd let you know.

2) Will a housecat save your life, or simply chart the days until your downfall?

3) Urbanity's aflame with the rudeness and self-absorption of modern, affluent, cosmopolitan parents. Now, we want them to put a sock in the hyperbragging, too.

4) If you want to make things happen with a wave of your hand, forget Magic School, get a chip implant.

5) You can be scared to death. Cecil says. So Nyaa.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Different Soup, Same Stardust

At the moment, Blogger seems to be choking on photos, and the EarlyVegas.com site is too stingy with sharing their low-res views of the grand old dame, so the sign I wanted to put right here comes from Joe Bob Briggs' encyclopedic Vegas Guy report archives- Dec. 31, 2000.

UPDATE: As you can see, bulldog cussedness finally won.

As you may know, I recently returned from the modern DisneyGomorrah, and I have another close friend leaving for LV soon, so I'm attuned to related items.

1) If you go, Don't leave your five and nine year-old children home alone in a neighboring state so you can gamble. Do go see the Stardust with its famous sign and RatPacky splendor which includes its classic headliners, because the first casino I stayed in will be demolished after this year to construct another uberresort. And among the other spectacles of sight and sound, Do all 10 of these cool free things while you're there.

2) Related to yesterday's post on Ana Marie Cox's new novel, Publisher's Marketplace just announced that blogger Wonkette has also signed a six-figure deal for a non-fiction book due out in 2008 by the same subimprint of Penguin, Riverhead, who published her fiction debut. This should be more up her alley and will probably be a better book. Now, I am depressed and envious.

3) The fine folk at elgintyrell.com -upon seeing my soup post and understanding my love for steaming liquid food is only equalled by my passionate consumer advocacy- forwarded me to cogent commentary on the nefarious design of the new Progresso microwaveable soup bowls. To wit, they stink. Read for yourself, and then ponder whether consuming soup ought to need 9 FAQs and further referrals for more questions about the bowl. Is this simply a new technology like VCR clocks we innately struggle to learn, or is a microwavable "bowl" that requires diagrams to open and which is unsafe to sip from directly just too Dilberty a product?

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Bummers and Bad Reviews Beat Being Dead Knight

My Greek's as lousy as my Inuit, but I think this
image is from a Maltese travel site.

I was still a little groggy yesterday from the holidays, so I didn't post- sorry. I'm up and at 'em today, and ready to denude the shedding branches of ornaments and cart this evergreen kindling out of here.

So, in blurbage:

1) Bummer first, but I still care about it in 2006. Dr. Roy Spencer's TCS article details how the perception of future hypothetical risk vis-a-vis global warming persuades people not to address the tangible, lethal risks of today's poverty (you guessed it- especially in Africa). How I hope the worm is turning.

2) The popular blogger Wonkette, one of the many who turned online hit counts into book deals, has published her first novel. It isn't rocking the NYT's Janet Maslin's core. Maslin typically reviews "popular" fiction, where my quotemarks denote the Manhattan's eye-view that popular equals crappy. When Sex in the City's fictional author Carrie Bradshaw had her book of sexcapades fictionally reviewed by fine fiction reviewer Michiko Kakutani, I smelled decaying fillets in Copenhagen. Kakutani would shred most commercial fiction as unreadable, but the teleplay would still rather fake that the higher brow liked it than use the appropriate reviewer's name, Janet Maslin, whose duties correlate with the biggest sellers. Michiko adored it! And it's selling millions! That's how you know it's just a TV show.

Back to Wonkette, I'm not sure Cox's true love is writing fiction anyway. I write this blog as a quasi-journal of my outrages or the things that tickle me, but as I've said before, it's a totally different animal from my fiction. In fact, it provides a relief from my fiction. My Voice here (using the capital letter and subtly implying air quotes to denote brainy literary concept) isn't remotely the same as my storytelling, and I don't believe they use the same talent. At least, it doesn't feel to me like I'm working the same muscles. Some journalists and advertising people make wonderful novelists, but I don't assume it. Ever.

3) How cool is it that tonight's Mystery Writers of America meeting boasts keynote speakers, Dr. Michael Baden and his wife and co-author, attorney Linda Kenney? I'm really looking forward to an entertaining evening. Not sure who Baden is? One word: Autopsy.

4) Since the trend for the last few decades has been to bestow the Orders of the British Empire on musicians and actors who would previously have been performing beggars, perhaps jesters if extremely fortunate, today, the noble codpiece of the knight guards dessicated cojones incapable of valiant defense save for a rousing game of charades. But finally, there is one whose vital juices haven't turned to dust. One with broad enough shoulders to wear the armor and carry our fates. One with the holy strength to raise his mighty blade against the dragons should they come back for more of what we gave 'em last time: Sir Tom Jones.

Monday, January 02, 2006

Same Soup, Different Bowl

Neon Sign here.

I had to laugh when Arnold, who I'll admit has been a less than amazing governator, told his Austrian hometown to cease use of his name to promote themselves after they felt called to a sports-stadium-name-revoking condemnation of his decision not to pardon convicted murderer and gang founder Tookie Williams. This, the town of Graz said, was because the EU doesn't recognize the death penalty. Of course, in Pakistan and other places where such behavior is vigilantly ignored by the UN and EU alike, institutionally approved death is freely dealt without trial, appeal, or chance for clemency as a religious excuse to kill girls from toddlerhood for their inevitable womanly sins.

While I'm not encouraged by the wide number of places it's still accepted to physically assault and murder people for being gay or female, some report the number of honor killings are dropping. We'll see it if that stat is true.

But on the good news front, here are ten scary stories from 2005 that turned out to be more media splash than statistical substance. You're not really surprised, are you?

Meanwhile, Reed Johnson, of the LAT chronicles the desperate swings in the nature of the MSM as people keep customizing their media choices. One quote: "I'm afraid that that sort of tailoring one's universes to one's tastes creates a sort of self-imposed ghetto of tastes," says Albert Borgmann, a philosophy professor at the University of Montana who has written extensively about technology's social effects. "It can put you in touch with lots of people, but they're all your kind of people."

Don't you believe it. People get bored and people explore, just like they're doing with their new media choices. Disappointment that I won't accept someone else's agenda as the last word and that I'm interested mostly in unpreachy reports from the field doesn't mean I'm ghettoized. I feel like I have a better handle on a variety of perspectives than ever before and more ability to ferret the facts behind sensationalized, skewed, simplistic headlines. Any media organ that feeds me trustworthy and in-depth information about current topics of interest can win my readership/viewership and loyalty. I wish they'd try.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

New Year's Launch Pad

Image of NASA's Mars Odyssey.

Sure, I have newsy things to post about: London's transit union joined ours in poling holiday riders , there's a strange fake theft of an 18th century violin worth 175k, and the Plame/Wilson five year-old progeny's statement that "My daddy's famous, my mommy's a secret spy" shows just how self-aggrandizing and loose-lipped that couple must be to allow such dreck into tiny ears with big mouths.

Still, I'll admit I don't care about any of it as much as my own pompous circumstances.

I am the forums moderator at the new MetaxuCafe.com, a grand and sweeping litblog by and about talented authors which highlights the hot topics online. See left side for link to forums, and feel warmly invited to post.

I will also be scrivening on matters bookish as an Associate Reviewer (you may genuflect) at FantasyBookspot.com. While looking for things to read, I found the site with its raft of opinions and interviews. My first review for them is of an oft-ignored classic, Titus Groan, by Mervin Peake. I'm not sure how their permalinks work, I'm still very green, but if you click on Reviews by reviewer (Henway), title, or author, you'll find it for sure. GO READ IT!

This is only the beginning of my master plan. New artwork will be here or on another bizarre group site I'm hoping to start with two compadres. I'm working on more and different formats of fiction, some I hope to post here in installments that you can read or ignore at your pleasure. I've got submissions from novel-length to tiny awaiting rejection, I mean publication, but I pledge not to neglect the whimsical scratching of itches I do here.

And here's to your 2006. May it bring expansion of your soul and not of your waist.