shaken & stirred

welcome to my martini glass


unabashed squealing

We will be moving into the house with the room with the pressed tin ceiling the week before October 1, barring alien invasion or other unforeseen difficulties.

And, no, even we aren't that hat-trick impulsive that we can buy a house in a week (and wait till you hear the whole story); we're leasing for three years with an option to purchase at the end of said time period and yay! The terms are extremely favorable. After writing the check, we went by and crept around the backyard and peered in the windows. OUR windows.

Happy sigh.

A normal blogging day tomorrow, I predict and then a period of silence roughly corresponding with the holiday weekend.


NASCAR snark?

Twenty-eight-year old writer Marty Smith has become a cult figure in the NASCAR scene, and he's apparently using the power of snark:

'There's a huge misconception that is a NASCAR property. They ask me how I can be so hard on NASCAR when they're paying the bills. Well, they aren't paying the bills.'

While some NASCAR media reports read like press releases with the focus on positive spin, Smith prefers to hit hard on many subjects. He has gained a loyal following this season for his controversial views on the new and popular Speed Channel talk show PitBull.

'The response to PitBull has been awesome -- from everyone in the garage but NASCAR. I think NASCAR hates us,' said Smith, who serves as a weekly panelist.

'We're just saying what's really going on. It's no different than what we write every day, this show just happens to be on television so more people see it.'

Next possible Dale Peck career?

worm "Debaser," Pixies

namecheck Channell "Girl!" Barbour


monday morning surprise

In the interest of doing interesting things only at other blogs this week (by way of saying, don't expect a whole lot of substance here till after Labor Day) I've put up a Monday morning surprise over at Return of the Reluctant for Ed. Wilton Barnhardt is as hilarious as ever, sharing some great theater stories. Go read that.

I'll try to scratch up a more substantial post here later.


i could tell you but i'd have to kill you dept.

Apparently, all professions have tricks. The Morning News rounds up these little wonders, for professions as diverse as lawyer and balloon-twister. This is my favorite piece in forever. Someone should do a book of these. For instance:


When working in the field, stick a strip of duct tape to your pants. You can take it off while working to quickly remove large masses of ticks, biting ants, and thorns.

If you know the length of each of your fingers as well as your handbreadth in centimeters, you can measure the leaves of most plants without having to pull the ruler out of your backpack.

And when doing botanical work in South America, steer clear of the monkeys: They will throw sticks at you with surprising accuracy.

And who knew that Australian butchers have a secret language?

(Via Jim Hanas guest blogging at Moorish Girl.)

worm "Into the White," Pixies

namecheck Gavin "HP" Grant


tune in tokyo

Screw the Olympics. Mr. Barzak is taking on the Japanese where it really matters: karaoke.

Tonight, though, we went karokeing again and I beat this shit out of Takayoshi with my Divinyls I Touch Myself and TLC Unpretty, as well as Cyndi Lauper's Girls Just Want to Have Fun, so we are back Japan 1, Barzak 1. And will stay there till the next karaoke event passes. I feel like I'm in the Olympics here, so cheer and believe that the USA can surpass the Japanese in Karaoke. I will soak it all in and test Takayoshi in our next event. I am holding my Four Non Blondes card to spring on him as a surprise. Little does he know the power of deep base Amerikan gaijin. Journey and The Cars be damned. I will pull out Love Shack when it's needed.

Whew. They had an early lead.

I believe in you, CB.

Related: I would totally become an obsessive fan of Olympic-level karaoke. Someone start a petition.

worm "Love Shack," The B-52's

namecheck Chris "Talk to the Hand" Barzak



I'm only linking to or stealing links from Jeff today. Fitting, since everything has sucked more vividly now that it has a REASON to do so, aka Mercury Retrograde, or, in its most obnoxious form here at casa Bond/Rowe, The Inoperable Air Conditioner. Anyway, Jeff put up an mp3, which you can also find a link for here, of the Pixies doing "Ain't That Pretty At All" recorded for a Warren Zevon tribute album. Oh, and proving that the Pixies may well still be the hottest rock band alive.

I've got it on repeat.

And I don't usually even bother with the mp3's. I don't understand them.

We've decided not to drive ourselves crazy pursuing this house at the moment, but to slowww down and um, buy a different house at a more sane pace. This will be almost as good for my sanity as the fucking landlord finally fixing the fucking air conditioning.

I do not possess a tropical brain.

this explains everything

And makes me a little afraid to go outside, but since the f-ing a/c is on the blink again (I'd type fritz, but -- okay, this will all make sense in a minute but I can't believe the z is working now; five minutes ago, it wouldn't work at all (see comments on the post I'm about to link to).

Honorary SBC member Jeff at Syntax of Things has discovered that mercury is in retrograde -- and is kind enough to tell us what that means.

George is having a really bad day -- no a/c, demolition of building very loud across street. Which key will stop working next? Or major appliance? Tune in for the next shitty thing to be caused by a planet and shit we can't believe anybody really believes in.

Have a nice day. Wear gloves.


of course...

We fell in love with the house. It's quite cool, but I'm not describing it unless this goes any further.

We shall see.

(The front room has a pressed tin ceiling painted a really lovely dark green.)

Crazy, but you never know. Anyone who actually knows about buying a house should feel free to email me as I don't know what the hell I'm doing and am relying on the internet for guidance -- and the wireless still isn't working, people! It's like the stone age in here.

Hopefully, a few more substantial posts in the morning.

Now: Night.

worm "Wave of Mutilation," Pixies

namecheck The Southern Blog Cabal (Blocabal? SouBloCab?)

letter from the editor

Stacey Richter's one of my favorite short story writers. In fact, I may do a little Stacey Richter linkapalooza later on. But searching to make sure I hadn't missed anything by her lately, I found a piece of ephemera from a website that published the "Open Letters Weekly," defunct since 2001. (They do have archives featuring letters by Rick Moody, Jonathan Lethem, and Sarah Vowell, to name a few.)

Here's the set up for Stacey Richter's Open Letter From the Editor:

San Francisco, California
September 22, 2000

Dear Readers,

Today's letter is by Stacey Richter, who lives in Tucson, Arizona. Emily White, Stacey's editor, says that she first thought of asking Stacey to send us an open letter "because of a story she wrote, which appeared in her short-story collection My Date With Satan (just out in paperback). The story was called 'Rats Eat Cats,' and its narrator is a young woman who aspires to be a cat lady. The story takes the form of a letter written to a grant committee. It's a charming story in the midst of an intensely charming book. By 'charming' I mean the kind of book that casts a spell."

Emily tracked Stacey down and asked her to write us something about current events in Tucson. Today's letter is what Stacey sent. When Emily forwarded it to me, she included this caveat: "Stacey said she loved reading the site, but started to feel like everyone was so nice, or likable, she wanted to come off as mean, or unlikable."

I'm not certain that Stacey succeeded in becoming unlikable. I find that I still like her. Her letter must have bathed me with her alpha scent, or something.

You be the judge. Here's what Richter sent for their site:

Tucson, Arizona
September 22, 2000

Dear Emily,

I went to my first funeral today. Aunt Beatrice (who is not really my aunt) kicked the bucket, some kind of cancer. She is what? My cousin? My dad's cousin? I went because my dad drove down from Phoenix and he said it would be "fun." It was kind of fun, in a Goth way. There were long velvet drapes, a mahogany casket, flies dying against the windows in the funeral parlor, etc. No one seemed particularly sad that Beatrice was dead. She was old, and it was a long illness. Rumor holds she wasn't pleasant. I only met her once. I don't remember a lot about the visit except that she was wearing a house dress, and her phone had giant numbers on the keypad, as though it were designed for someone with impaired vision, and I remember thinking: yes, but doesn't everyone know which numbers are where anyway? And that, my friend, was my sum impression of Beatrice.

Later, my dad and I went over to Beatrice's house to visit with his cousins, Leo and Rose, old people in town for the event from Ohio. Leo showed me a photo of the two of them after the war wherein Rose, the doughy cafeteria lady sitting across from me, appeared as an astonishingly beautiful young woman, in the manner of Gene Tierny. "A knock-out," said Leo. They were cleaning out Beatrice's things and offered me some assorted junk. Nothing valuable. I got a very old bottle of cheap wine with a greasy label and a marriage manual from the fifties called "How To Please Your Mate." It features an intriguing set of overlays that may be used to demonstrate an array of positions. I also found this quote: "I have often said to my husband, 'Even when I will lie at rest in my casket and you will come close to me, hard with desire, I will rise up for one last beautiful moment of bliss with you, my love, before I'm buried for good.'"

In contrast to this vision of sexual rapture after death, Beatrice's send-off was boring and without reward. I scooted to the bathroom with my purse at one point, hoping some of her drugs would still be in the medicine cabinet. I'm sure she had a painful death. Maybe there'd be some methadone, or a big bottle of Percocet. Alas, no such luck, just a ten-year-old bottle of Tylenol #3, which I appropriated, and a few sleeping pills. I suspect the really good drugs are in her bedside table, or in the trash already. I eyed the overflowing trash can as we drove away, thinking: if I were really depraved I'd come back later and dig through that.

When I got home, Carolyn and Amos, my houseguests, were standing in the kitchen heating up tortillas. They gave the last one to me. Amos apologized, gravely explaining that they'd thrown the butter away because they'd discovered mold on it. Amos and Carolyn are both vaguely reminiscent of the Artful Dodger, dressed in rags and waify. At times they seem a bit too innocent for this world, as though they don't know how to react to things in a considered or resourceful way. For example, there was no mold on my butter. There were breadcrumbs on my butter; I like to rub the stick directly on the toast rather than getting out a knife.

We didn't have any more food in the house so we went to Safeway, where Carolyn stole a package of De La Rosa Mexican candies. She sidled up to me in frozen foods and began to shove a few directly into my pocket before I stopped her. I seems that this is her method: unwrap and squirrel the goods. She's been shoplifting the entire visit and it bothers me. I mean, is it worth the risk for an 89-cent package of candy? I asked her why she persisted in her ways and she replied "for sport." Amos let her put a few in his pocket, apparently, because the next thing I knew the two of them were being marched away by a managerial type while Carolyn cried: "But I didn't leave the store! I didn't leave the store!" as she was hauled off by a guy in a Safeway polo shirt.

I stood by the ice cream section for a minute. What could I do? Post bail? Then some sort of protective feeling kicked in for my friends, those poor little bunnies, so out of step, so suspicious of my butter but so oblivious to grocery store personnel. I marched myself right up the stairs to the office in order to save them. I was, by the way, wearing my funeral outfit: dark skirt, pantyhose, little handbag; and though I am in no way any more reputable than they are, I managed to look like a "lady," whereas my friends looked like degenerates. The manager had them cornered. He was dialing the phone. His name tag said "Dave." Everything subsequent to this unfolded like a bad one-act play:

"Let them go," I said. "They are good kids. They won’t do it again."

"Do you know how much revenue we lose to shoplifters a year?" asked Dave. "Do you?" (Then he mentioned an absurd figure, i.e. 2 billion dollars.)

"They’ll pay for it. They won’t do it again. I can vouch for them," I said. "They’re good kids."

"We’re talking about real losses here. Real big losses."

"I can vouch for them," I repeated. "They don’t even live here. They won’t come back."

Dave lowered his head. I sensed that he was simultaneously attracted to me and intimidated by me. I must have been bathing him with my alpha scent. "Okay," he said, "but I don’t ever want to see them in here again."

We clomped back down the stairs into the store. I thought it was odd that Dave never asked who I was, or what I had to do with this. Something about my bearing and pantyhose must have convinced him that I meant business.

When we got outside to the parking lot, Carolyn was really mad at me for saving them. She said maybe they would have been fine without me, and she'll never know now how she would have handled it on her own. At first I thought that was ridiculous, but then I kind of saw her point. She and Amos are not little bunnies. They are petty criminals. I said I was sorry. I promised that the next time she was pinched for shoplifting I wouldn't do anything about it. Then we went home and ate ice cream.

Hugs and Kisses,


worm "The Ghost of Stephen Foster," Squirrel Nut Zippers

namecheck John "Tiara" Kessel

mcgrath strikes again redux

I'm going to try this again, but it'll be way less clever than the first try. So, just mentally up the clever factor on each sentence by five percent, okay?

Charles McGrath has this tendency to take on a genuinely interesting issue, toss out a few fairly obvious observations about it, and then he either just doesn't poke and prod and explore the subject any further or he refuses to do adequate research on said issue in order to actually justify said observations (depending on whether this phenomenon is a product of intellectual or actual laziness). The graphic novel piece fits this mold, as did his Bush and Kerry the Bicyclists little thing. Today, his subject is the short story, tackled via a review of the Ben Marcus-edited The Anchor Book of New American Short Stories.

He starts out with the core assertion that:

The story has to a large extent been severed from its traditional roots - from popular, large-circulation magazines, that is - and it has been transplanted into the greenhouses of the academy.

He goes on to talk about MFAs and raises an interesting point about how wannabe novelists are being trained as short story writers (two very different things). But then he prances on with his critiques -- which feel more unimpressed than they actually seem to be -- of the stories in the Marcus anthology, and yet still somehow uses this as a jumping off point to look at all of short storydom. He even acknowledges that the borders of the short story are too broad for this before he really gets into looking at the stories in the anthology:

There is some truth to this, but it's also true that freed from the dictates of the marketplace, short stories these days are often less formulaic, less imitative than they used to be. There's no preferred style or mode anymore - even The New Yorker no longer publishes "the New Yorker short story" - and there are now dozens of different camps of short-fiction writing, all happily coexisting. Many of them are on display in "The Anchor Book of New American Short Stories," an anthology edited by Ben Marcus, who teaches in the graduate writing program at Columbia.

And yet, I never really felt as if the rest of the piece believed this paragraph. Are there really different camps? Because it doesn't feel like it from inside the piece. Instead, McGrath really does seem to have decided that most of the kinds of current short storytelling that are important are showcased in this anthology. He says so in the paragraph above. But I can't ever quite tell what he thinks about this -- good thing, bad thing? The piece is confusing because he doesn't really have the courage to go all the way out on the limb he pointed to at the beginning. He hints at the negatives of what he sees here, but isn't willing to commit exploring that any further. From the squibs on the individual stories we end up here:

These and similar stories are so energetic, so filled with invention, that they seem almost hyperactive; they also seem to assume a reader whose taste and interests have been formed by television and by the movies as much as by literature. Yet in their gimmickiness and occasional luridness, their jokiness, their quickness of pace, their way of developing a single clever idea, there's something old-fashioned about them too - a trace of the pulp magazines, say, or of some of H. G. Wells's tales.

For most of the last century, short-story writers in English - or the great ones anyway; writers like Hemingway, O'Hara, Salinger, Cheever - were busy dismantling the Victorian machinery of the story, dispensing with surprise endings, for example, and eventually with beginnings too, and even with plot itself, to create a kind of story that was deeper, quieter, moodier: the kind of story that on the evidence of this anthology, many of these "new" writers don't quite trust anymore. Or rather they seem not to trust that we - or the editors who publish the collections and assemble the anthologies - any longer have the patience or the attention span for them. You could argue that it's the readers who are in need of rehab, but these writers appear instead to have checked the short story itself into the clinic for a face peel, forced oxygen, and some steroid injections. The patient would probably be happier outside the sickroom, but the cure succeeds at least to the extent that there are stories here that won't let themselves be put down.

He reveals a lot with his extremely short list of Great Short Story Writers (interesting that there are no women on it, even if it is short) and a seemingly narrow definition of what the ultimate short story is. Also, why the quiet disapproval of "pulp magazines" and H.G. Wells' stories*? Was the genre story not a staple of the high circulation, popular magazine during the golden age mentioned in the story's lead? I'd also guess that the genre fiction magazines still have a higher circulation than most other magazines aimed at short fiction readers. (If I'm wrong on that, someone please let me know.) It seems that McGrath has chosen to ignore this bastion of great short story writing though. Surely if he'd read some of the work being published in genre right now, this piece would have a different slant on that score. (And it wouldn't have pretended to canvas the field of short story writing, if such a thing exists.) But he's also wrong -- at least as he presents his arguments here -- about what's going on with the mainstream short story, and he has less of an excuse for that massive blindspot.

Writers should -- and are -- writing all different types of stories. Stories with plots and without, with Victorian devices and poetic ones. Experimental and traditional. And all the rest.

Which is just as it should be.

There is so much quality short fiction out there right now, being written right this second, that it's impossible to even think about reading it all. Just yesterday, I read Kelly Link's "The Faery Handbag" and Holly Black's "The Night Market" in Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling's new anthology The Faery Reel. Both are excellent stories, and both make something new from something old. And that's finally what I want from short fiction (and, really, from all fiction): new eyes.

* Maybe these are too close to Stephen King, since the fact he had a best-selling short story collection (or three) is dismissed out of hand at the beginning of the piece.

worm "I Wanna Be Your Dog," Uncle Tupelo version

namecheck Justine "Publisher's Lunch" Larbalestier

houston won't take my calls

Shaken & Stirred is still experiencing technical difficulties. Hopefully, this will end when we get home from work and everything is magically working again.

In the meantime, I made a big post about Charles McGrath's reductive tendencies in response to his piece on the Ben Marcus-edited short story anthology that just came out. It was eaten.


sorry, but someone alert houston

The computer was very testy today. And well, it wasn't he computer's fault. It was something from space. Or between space.

Anyway, no posting, intermittent email (which would explain why I haven't answered you if I haven't).

A day full of stuff, but in which I didn't leave the house until after 5. A day I am too tired to summarize, even if I weren't sure blogger was going to eat this post.

Amuse yourself with all the people on the right who I'm sure updated today, several times, even if feedreader was intermitting as well. I did get some work done on the book. And chill like chardonnay.

And have an M Ward on the stereo kind of afternoon.

And listen to the landlord talk to the satellite guy (did you know "tv comes from space"? me neither) in a conversation that ultimately only sucked up 30 minutes of my life for no reason.

Oh, and we looked at a house that we probably won't buy, but might. We see the inside tomorrow night.

Night now.


an excellent notice

The New Pages Book Review looks at Richard Butner's chapbook, Horses Blow Up Dog City and Other Stories, and says you need it (which you do). How about this?

Butner gives the conventions of reality a hard twist to create his own far more entertaining netherworlds, filled with intellectual porn stars and world-famous puppeteers. But in the face of even the most absurd scenario, Butner’s writing remains cool and understated; he treats the bizarre as if it were commonplace, eventually convincing the reader that nothing is too far from the real. Indeed, many of the stories’ most bizarre moments are simply exaggerations of the inanities of our world, thrust into the forefront of the plot as a sort of social criticism.

Or this?

Small Beer Press presents just five of Butner’s stories here in a limited edition chapbook. The slim paperback is convenient for readers on the go, and indeed Horses Blow Up Dog City is literature for a world that refuses to slow down: Butner picks up the absurdities of high-speed America and throws them back in its face, reveling in the wild, wonderful mess he creates.

Buy it here.

Also, an apologetic belated Happy Birthday to Mr. Butner! I knew I was forgetting something! Must write down birth dates!

Leo the Portuguese upstairs neighbor is really, really, REALLY singing "Desperado" right now. Must've been a rough day for him.

worm "Desperado," Johnny Cash version

namecheck Richard "Never Wait" Butner

screeching to a monday halt

Busy, busy, busy, so yes, the Monday tradition, the numbered list.

1. Vicious hangovers are definitely not improved by the crashing, bashing sounds of the demolition of the building across the street, beginning promptly at 8 a.m. and subsiding every few minutes in a way that makes you think maybe, maybe you'll be able to go back to sleep, but no! Bam! Crash! Smash! It's like a fucking Batman comic out there. George doesn't like it either.

2. Before Sunset exceeded my expectations, which were pretty high to begin with. Beautiful little movie with an electrifying final 10 minutes and a perfect ending. Go see.

3. 13 Going on 30 is way better than you think. It's a teen movie for adults. Very much fun for a braindead Saturday night. The '80s stuff is spot on and how can you not love a movie with a "Thriller" dance sequence? (The Glove Monster was different then; we can still enjoy "Thriller.")

4. The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror Seventeenth Edition is out and fabulous. I knew Kelly and Gavin would do a fantastic job, but no, really, they did a fucking fantastic job. (I'm cursing a lot today for some reason.) The introduction is packed full of great stuff and I already had to reserve about ten books at the library. Can't wait to start reading the stories I missed last year. And Kij Johnson's "At the Mouth of the River of Bees," which kicks off the antho, is one of the most gut-wrenching, fantastic explorations of the love of our pets and how much it hurts when they die that I've ever, ever, ever encountered. A beautiful story that left me sobbing but grateful to have read it.

Also picked up the undoubtedly excellent The Faery Reel: Tales from the Twilight Realm anthology, which I couldn't resist. New stories by Kelly Link, Holly Black, Greg Frost (actually, that was what pushed me over the edge; I heard him read the first half of his story "Tengu Mountain" a couple of years ago and can't wait to read the end -- finally!), Gregory Maguire, Delia Sherman, etc, et al. It looks fucking fantastic. (Like a sailor, I tell you!)

5. And hmmm... that's it, except for hoping our switch from our evil, bad cable company to shiny Dish Network goes smoothly tomorrow, despite the fact our landlord is involved.

Hope your Monday was less headachey than mine.

worm "I Don't Like Mondays," Boomtown Rats

namecheck Sunshine "State Department?!" Ison


new meaning of kafka-esque

From today's Reliable Source column in the WP:

An occasional verbatim press release

'Headlines have been plagued with celebrity trials this summer -- Michael Jackson, Martha Stewart, Cameron Diaz and Courtney Love, to name just a few. With pleas of 'not guilty' before the courtroom, their appeals are reminiscent of Joseph K. in Franz Kafka's 'The Trial.' Above the law, breaking the law, whatever the law, it's clear that establishing one's innocence is the celebrity trend of the summer. . . . Montblanc's verdict is in: The Limited Edition Franz Kafka fountain pen is the ultimate accessory for summer trials. Dressed in bordeaux transparent resin, The Kafka writing instrument transitions from square to round. Available in fountain pen ($725) and ballpoint pen ($395) at Montblanc boutiques nationwide, including Washington DC Boutique.'"


which fuzzy animal are you?

You are Bucky Katt!  Aloof.. bizarre...sarcastic... volatile... You are a CAT, after all.
You are Bucky Katt! Aloof.. bizarre...sarcastic...
volatile... You are a CAT, after all. You would
sell Satchel or kill Rob to have the chance to
eat a delicious Monkey. You don't believe in
Canada and you would prefer to drop a big rock
on France. You claw first and nap later. Tuna
is your main food of choice.

Which Get Fuzzy Character Are You?
brought to you by Quizilla

Note: I actually do believe in Canada and don't want to drop a rock on France, so even more than usual I doubt these results!

(Via sumi via gnaw.)

this week's book world

Is really pretty excellent. There's a review of Cloud Atlas and question and answer session with author David Mitchell, a review of Justin Cronin's The Summer Guest by one Lizzie Skurnick, and Michael Dirda on China Mieville's Iron Council.

girls without guitars

David Segal discusses the lack of "guitar heroines" and why it may be so. Seems to me that the rock bands around these parts are always improved by a girl with an instrument. But Christopher and I have had this same conversation. And Segal offers a balanced look, discarding the easy, trite and wrong options why (Chick can't rawk!) there are fewer girls with axes in the pantheon and, frankly, I admire his guts for taking this topic on.

One thing is obvious: Women basically sat out, or were sidelined during, the first 20 years of the development of the rock guitar. There is a limit, naturally, to the number of different sounds and styles that can be wrung from any instrument, and by the time women like Raitt arrived on the scene in the early '70s, many of those sounds and styles had been staked out. More than 60 percent of the names on the Rolling Stone list earned their reputation well before Woodstock happened. It's as though there was a gold rush and the women started panning after all the good lodes were claimed. Some guitarists -- like Johnny Ramone, the guy who popularized the head-bang strum of punk guitar for the Ramones -- are great not because they did something difficult but because they did something first.

But this just reframes the question. Why didn't more women push toward the frontier of the guitar back when the frontier had plenty of acres in it? And why have so few been pushing since? For answers, I called a bunch of female guitar players -- including Joan Jett -- and a few sociologists, and asked them to cough up some theories. Here's what they said.

worm "Case of You," Joni Mitchell

namecheck Ted "Barbecued Stingray" Chiang


letters to the editor # 5

(And THIS is the last of the day.)

File under Freaks for Jesus. This one's long, but beautiful. From The Barbados Advocate:

How can they sing the Lord’s song in a strange environment?

Web Posted - Fri Aug 20 2004

Some persons for and others against is more or less the natural outcome of the discussions surrounding the participation of Christians, The Experience Tent, in the recently held Pic-O-De-Crop finals at the National Stadium.

It first has to be stated that the occasion of the Pic-O-De-Crop where calypsonians compete with one another and vie for a reward started out as a secular event and continued in this vein for many years.

This is the first year that Christians have ventured into this competitive, swinging, uptempo song burst.

When one reflects on the involvement of Christians in this activity one should acknowledge that there are and always have been a few religious denominations which seemingly, according to their interpretation of the Holy Bible, never had any objection to their members partying and enjoying themselves at certain secular events while still remaining partakers of Holy Commu-nion, and yet not being labelled unChristian.

The profiles provided by the Press of members of the Experience Tent suggest that they are worshippers in churches known for their evangelical and fundamentalist zeal. These churches would therefore embrace teachings of the Apostle Paul as found in 2 Corinthians chapter 5, verse 17 which reads: “When anyone is joined to Christ, he is a new being; the old is gone, the new has come.” (The Good News Bible)

They would also hold to the manner in which Christians should conduct themselves as found in the epistles from the Book of Romans to Jude together with any other relevant texts of the Bible.

At Luke chapter 16, verse 13 Jesus speaks thus: “No servant can serve two masters; either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.” (The Revised King James Bible)

If persons who asked questions or raised objection to the Experience Tent being involved in the Pic-O-De-Crop and related activities have been led to their conclusions based upon relevant scriptural passages, then they cannot be regarded as being out of place or being on slippery ground since they have taken their stand on the “It is written” principle as Jesus Christ Himself did when He responded to Satan during the temptation by him in the wilderness.

In support of the Experience Tent some persons have commented that Jesus Himself was found among persons of ill-repute and questionable places (not that they explained His purpose for being where He was).

Others said that David danced before the King until his clothes dropped off. Still others have remarked that this is another way of spreading the gospel outside the conventional four walls of the church and that the spirit of God has turned up in the finals of the Pic-O-De-Crop and His purpose and destiny is being shown in this respect. The church has come of age, it was declared.

We imagined that members of the Experience Tent have not lost their first love for the belief that Jesus Christ can transform lives and can cause believers to speak to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs making melody in their hearts to the Lord, then the wonder is: how were they able to sing the Lord’s songs in the strange and new environment of the Pic-O-De-Crop?

Phyllis O. Murrell

worm "Plastic Jesus," Mojo Nixon

namecheck Clint "Preacher's Son" Hadden

letters to the editor # 4

(And probably the last for the day...)

This one goes in the Self Promotion category. From the Metro News of Canada:

Signature selling is a service
Re: Autograph sellers "ruin" hobby (July 5), Stephen Selby’s letter to the editor:

I am one of the people credited for ruining the hobby of autograph collecting in Mr. Selby’s letter.

With all due respect to Mr. Selby, it is not people like me ruining the hobby, but rather the people that are sitting at home forging the signatures and selling them to an uneducated public who are destroying this hobby.

I am simply providing an honest service for those people who wish to own an authentic signature of their favourite personality and do not have the means nor the time to do it themselves.

Think of me as a middle-man.

For example, the Rolling Stones do not, through any sanctioned, officially licensed channels, offer any signed product for sale. As a result of this – whether they or Mr. Selby want to acknowledge it or not –there is a great demand for their autographs. I am simply there to fill this niche in the market.

Aside from the very few people in this business who acquire authentic autographs at the same level as I do, the bulk of the autographs sold in this market are fake.

I provide a service and at the same time try to educate as many consumers as possible about the state of this business so they will not get taken by purchasing a forgery. I would like to think of myself as one of the few good guys, trying to source out new customers who can appreciate authenticity and understand that it comes with a price tag.

Brad Byrne, Toronto

It's just someone's name on a piece of paper, people. I say destroy this hobby!

worm "I Don't Blame You," Cat Power

namecheck Richard "Out of Town" Butner

letters to the editor # 3

Perhaps Fridays will be letters to the editor days.

This one goes in the Die Bleeding Heart Liberals category. From the Juneau Empire:

Get over the Arctic Tern

Lighten up all ye whiners and perhaps learn something from your sad and silly "loss."

I prefer to accentuate the positive in the premature demise of that derelict eyesore. The saboteurs appear to possess a bit more artistic appreciation than those bureaucrats and divers who chose to defile the view from a public recreation beach.

There are plenty of appropriate safe summer anchorages in the area. Thanks for investing a little thought into your next "voyage" plan and get over it.

Karl Schoeppe


worm "Crank," Catherine Wheel

namecheck Robin "Interstate" Vitucci

letters to the editor # 2

And another one, in the Shared Sentiment category. From the Honolulu Advertiser:

Drivers must respect people in crosswalks

I'm complaining once again about drivers in Honolulu. I don't appreciate it when drivers are trying to make a turn when I'm already in the crosswalk. It is very possible that they could hit me.

I learned from my driver's education teacher that when pedestrians are in the crosswalk, you have to let them get completely out of the way before making a turn. I believe that is the law, but when I'm crossing the street in Honolulu, that doesn't seem to be the case.

I think drivers are nicer in areas outside of Honolulu, like Pearl City. At least I see some aloha there, but I hardly see any aloha with drivers in Honolulu. I really don't know why or what's the difference, but I wish there were more aloha from drivers in Honolulu.

I read a letter recently in your newspaper, someone else complaining that being a pedestrian in Honolulu is not safe. I totally agree with that person. I'm from the Big Island, and I see a big difference with drivers there and here on O'ahu. I'm requesting again for drivers to have aloha for pedestrians in crosswalks.

Christina Kusaka
Pearl City

I love any letter which begins "Once again," implying a Jane Smileyesque level of commitment on the part of the letter writer.

worm "Limbo," Throwing Muses

namecheck David "Absinthe Dreams" Moles

letters to the editor #1

I love letters to the editor, in all their many venues -- the magazine, the small newspaper, the big daily newspaper, etc. et. al. We even used to have a saying around my college paper's newsroom that went: "If you want to respect the people you write for, don't read the letters to the editor." I read them anyway. So, it occurs to me that the intarweb makes these easily accessible and so Shaken & Stirred is going to more frequently point them out. Today's favorite letter to the editor is actually not of the variety our newsroom slogan was poking at (the Local Nutjob), but of the Respectful Correction subgenre. From American Scientist:

To the Editors:

In "The Imperiled Giants of the Mekong" (May–June), Zeb S. Hogan and his coauthors state that according to The Guinness Book of World Records the Mekong giant catfish is the world's largest freshwater fish. In the early 1970s I spent a month fishing on an island on the Volga River some 60 kilometers upstream from Astrakhan, and I clearly remember a report about a beluga fish caught earlier that summer that was some 4 meters long and weighed 1,500 kilograms. Clearly, these numbers dwarf those you give for the Mekong giant catfish (up to 3 meters and 300 kilograms).

An Internet search indicates that beluga can reach 5 meters in length, 2,072 kilograms in weight and 118 years in age. Another member of the sturgeon family, called kaluga, can reach 5.6 meters in length, 1,000 kilograms in weight and 118 years in age. On the other hand, giant catfish can reach only 3 meters in length and 350 kilograms in weight.

I am not saying that the beluga is the largest freshwater fish in the world, but it is definitely larger than the Mekong giant catfish. I would appreciate feedback from the authors regarding this question.

Dmitri E. Kourennyi
Case Western Reserve University

Dr. Hogan replies:

I appreciate the opportunity to answer this frequently asked question. Surprisingly, it is not 100 percent clear which species of freshwater fish is the largest. This uncertainty arises in part from our lack of detailed knowledge of the diversity of freshwater fish. (Many poorly studied fish live in exceptionally large, deep or remotely located water bodies.) We also need a clear definition of just what is a large freshwater fish. For our purposes, we defined "largest freshwater fish" as the largest fish in terms of biomass that spends its entire life cycle in fresh water and for which there are reliable records. The largest fish found in fresh water are indeed the sturgeons, but they obtain a majority of their growth in marine and estuarine environments, migrating into fresh water mainly to spawn. Even the hold that the Mekong giant catfish has on the largest–freshwater–fish title is tenuous, because weights of large fish are prone to exaggeration and error. Here are some other contenders for the title, with alleged top weights: the Mekong giant carp (300 kilograms), the Mekong giant stingray (500 kilograms), the arapaima and goliath catfishes of the Amazon (300 kilograms), the Gnooch of South Asia (300 kilograms) and the Wels catfish of Europe (once 5 meters and 300 kilograms, now smaller). Almost all of these species are now rare, so it is difficult to determine their maximum size. I am currently trying to determine which species is in fact the biggest, and I suspect the giant catfish will still come out as one of the top three! Interestingly, in terms of biomass and length, the largest freshwater fish may be the giant stingray of the Mekong, which may attain a weight of over 500 kilograms and measure more than 5 meters from snout to tip of tail.

Note to Christopher: You'll want to read the italicized portion of this one because it's about giant catfish!

worm "Jessica Simpson," Adam Green

namecheck Christopher "Singing Catfish" Rowe


the company he keeps

Michaelangelo drinks absinthe, with an ex-goth and dashing style and writes about it for Seattle Weekly (where he is usually the music editor). It's the "Drug Issue":

As Hiram pours a spoonful of the François Guy brand into a shot glass, I dip a pinky in and bring it to my mouth. Instantly, my tongue and upper lip feel as if smoke is seeping through them. Some ice water and sugar enter the shot glass; after a slow stir, I take my first drink. Not bad—the aniseed that flavors the absinthe gives it a taste akin to a stern licorice, but not very bitter at all, as I’d anticipated. And though it’s clearly alcoholic, there’s less of a pure rotgut kick than I’d expected, given absinthe’s reputation as the most demonic of all alcoholic beverages—a reputation that led to the stuff being banned in the United States in 1912, three years before France declared it illegal.

Don't worry -- Hiram is a pseudonym.

oh, and number ten.

10. Congratulations to Miss Sarah Kathleen McLaren on existing. You're going to make a great dad, Chris.

worm "Happy Birthday," Concrete Blonde

namecheck Trish "It Was All You" McLaren

many links, less content

It's time for the return of the numbered listarama.

1. Ron at Beatrice enrages yet another hilariously unbalanced author, Paul Maher. He reviewed Maher's Kerouac: The Definitive Biography for PW, wrote that post about it and Maher found this post and showed himself in the comments. Worse, the guy doesn't know when to stop and persisted in the comments to Ron's follow-up post. My favorite quote from the exchange (sic): "Sorry to exrpess myself, I won't bother you anymore." This would all seem to prove my theory that reading too much of the Beats rots your brain.

2. Bon voyage, Mr. Barzak! I'm sure many fun stories will be forthcoming from Japan.

3. Max finds her star in Hollywood and questions Ted Danson's claim to one.

4. Matthew Cheney at The Mumpsimus recommends you buy Richard Butner's chapbook Horses Blow Up Dog City and Other Stories and we second that emotion. It's available from Small Beer Press for a measly five bucks at that link. You will not be sorry. You will be happy. You will be a better person. You will be more attractive and have better sex. Just buy it. You'll see.

5. The Walkmen. The Rake points to Paul Winner's scratching about them over at the Maisonneuve blog (the latest issue of M-euve is really, really fine by the way and I highly recommend snagging it). Winner says many things, mostly making an argument that punk still exists and The Walkmen are punk. The new punk. That still exists.

Aside from the brute strength of the basic drum-bass-guitar unit, The Walkmen build songs from old pianos, sleigh bells, two-tone feedback, and a lead singer with an instinctive grasp of contrasts. Leithauser is phenomenal, live or on record; he swaggers like Sinatra’s stepson, screams like Fugazi. Barrick is short as a jockey and plays louder and more aggressively than anyone since Keith Moon. The band provides a wall of sound equal to the declarative spirit of a band like The Pogues, though the music is entirely different and often (despite the sudden and rather epic-sounding moments that pop up everywhere on both records) strangely, ineffably new. Nothing’s new, I know, but there is no other word that feels correct. It’s not the production values that sound so much like Steve Albini’s. It’s not comparisons to Big Bands of the Late Eighties in their Early Careers. It’s not Leithauer’s on-key screaming. It’s the mixing of elements into what feels like a re-direction away from what you were just listening to. Three seconds into The Pixies’ “Where Is My Mind,” Frank Black famously says Stop, a hand to your face. It is both the alchemy of punk and its truest, most plausible definition.

I don't know about all that, as I tend to enjoy music rather than analyze it (I leave that to Michaelangelo). I missed the Saturn commercial with The Walkmen song in it, because I block out commercials, only watching them when Christopher makes me. I first encountered the band on Channel 26 of Sirius Satellite Radio and fell in love almost immediately. The song was "The Rat," and every time I heard it, I wanted to hear it again. I haven't had such a strong reaction to a song by someone I wasn't already a fan of since forever. Then, "The Rat" turned up on The Believer music CD, and I played it over and over and over. One night after a little party we threw, I played it twenty times, dancing around embarrassingly drunk. And I STILL like it. So, whatever category or label their music falls into, I think The Walkmen are hot.

6. Speaking of hot, TEV is on a roll today, pointing to this piece by Tibor Fischer on judging the Booker (and echoing my own feelings about Fischer's later books; The Thought Gang is underrated and wonderful). Also, he comes up with a great new slogan to promote poetry: "Read a poem. Get laid."

7. The new issue of Bust arrived in the P.O. Box yesterday, featuring pieces on Eddie Izzard, PJ Harvey, and the troubled history of Sassy magazine and why it went poof! Def. pick up.

8. Sarah Weinman reviews Greek mysteries (by which I mean, mysteries set in Greece) for January Magazine. (Via TEV.)

9. Busch must be so pissed.

There is no number 10, so things will just have to hang, off kilter, for the remains of the day.

worm "The Rat," The Walkmen

namecheck Carrie "Kangaroo Rat Creature Goddess" Frye


allez tyler

Tyler Hamilton won the men's cycling time trial in the Olympics today, and nearly made us cry with his dedication of the event to Tugboat, his golden retriever who died during the Tour de France.

The NYT leads with injuries and Tugboat, perhaps Hamilton's key definers save courage and being a nice guy:

Tyler Hamilton had bruises splotched all over his back, painful souvenirs of a Tour de France gone terribly wrong.

Hamilton also had a red dog tag affixed to the inside of his helmet today, the memory of his golden retriever.

Hamilton had to pull out of cycling's most prestigious race in the 13th stage after a horrific crash. His golden retriever, Tugboat, a constant companion, also died during the Tour.

Hamilton erased his personal agony today, becoming the first American cyclist to win a gold medal in a road race.

'This gold medal is everything,' said Hamilton, who covered the 29.8 mile course in 57 minutes 31.74 seconds. 'I don't feel any hurt from last month now. Winning a gold medal for the United States of America is the best feeling in the world."

And he deserves it. This, later in the story:

Tugboat had died of cancer during the Tour. His wife, Haven, rushed the dog from their house in Spain to Hamilton on the Tour stop so he could say good-bye. Before Hamilton left for Greece, Haven put a note into her husband's luggage to inspire him.

"My dog Tugboat," Hamilton said, repeating Haven's note, "he gave me wings today."

I will pretend there are not tears in my eyes now. And go pet George -- or um, give him his meds in snausages. (Healthy, happy George -- thankfully.)

if on a winter's night a lover...

Italo Calvino's widow is in court trying to prevent further publication of letters he exchanged with a married lover. From the Guardian:

The sex life of Italy's most respected 20th-century novelist was heading for the courts yesterday after his widow instructed lawyers in Rome to seek an injunction banning the publication of further extracts from his passionate correspondence with a married lover.

The row centres on a series of letters written by Italo Calvino in the 1950s to the actress Elsa de' Giorgi. Extracts serialised this month in the newspaper Corriere della Sera testify to a torrid love affair between the writer and the star of, among other films, Pier Paolo Pasolini's Salo or the 120 Days of Sodom.

Calvino's widow, "Chichita", called their publication a crime. She told a newspaper interviewer: "If I think of what Italo was like, so reserved and modest. I just hope they don't get daily papers in the afterlife."

And the plot's even thicker:

In one letter, written before their affair was consummated, the retiring Calvino told De' Giorgi: "I desire you so much that the first time I take you in my arms I think I'll tear you to pieces, rip off your clothes, roll on top of you, do anything to give vent to this infinite desire to kiss you, hold you, possess you."

The publication of their correspondence has raised issues of copyright as well as propriety, and sparked a new mystery over the disappearance and death of the man whom Calvino cuckolded.

I must admit devouring this story, but feeling very intrusive while doing so.

worm "Temper, Temper," Tuscadero

namecheck Mind Blank. Try Again Later.

what would we do without corporate america?

The Dairy Queen "Moolatte" is apparently making some waves over the name's unfortunate similarity to mulatto. Slate rounds up some thoughts, including unbelievably funny excerpts from the Houston Press's own interview with a DQ PR flack.

You can't make this kind of stuff up:

Q. And then one more here...Sambo's Extra Dark Triple Chocolate Shake. How's that grab you?

A. Actually, Dairy Queen doesn't make shakes. They make Blizzards.

Q. OK -- Sambo's Extra Dark Triple Chocolate Blizzard.

A. [Writing it down] What would that be?

Q. I would say you would find the blackest cone you could find and fill it with chocolate ice cream. And go from there.

A. All right. Interesting.

All right. Interesting.

remembering a great old broad*

*That's a term of great endearment.

R.W. Apple Jr. recalls Julia Child and his own relationship with her in today's NYT. She sounds fascinating and fiery and altogether wonderful. It makes me regret that I know so little about her, and really nothing about her work in the culinary arts.

The piece starts off with a fascinating little fact:

We had met briefly before, and I had, of course, read her books and watched her on television, but for some reason I chose to break the conversational ice by asking her about her service in Ceylon during World War II in the Office of Strategic Services, the predecessor of the Central Intelligence Agency. How in the world did I know about that? she asked in that wonderful warble of hers. "I'm very interested in that part of the world," I answered, "spent some time in Asia myself and I noticed your name in Barbara Tuchman's book `Stilwell and the American Experience in China.'"

And then goes on to touch on her politics (liberal and outspoken) and skill at raising money for various causes, both political and gastronomical. But it's this paragraph that makes me wish I'd gotten to have a cocktail hour with her:

We talked politics, we ate well, and we laughed a lot. I remember dinner with a small group late one night at Les Nomades in Chicago, then a private dining club. She asked for a martini, downed the small, perfectly formed cocktail and asked brightly for another. A jolly time was had by all. I remember lunch one Saturday in Providence, at a less than distinguished restaurant, with the chef Thomas Keller, Ann Bramson of Artisan Books and my wife, Betsey. Slightly dismayed by the menu's more elaborate offerings, we ordered a modest white wine, shoals of oysters on the half shell and, to the best of my fading memory, fried clams. Mrs. Child pronounced it "the perfect meal."

Yes, yes, I'm a sucker for great old broads that throw them back. I plan on being one.

(Thanks to Russ, by way of Christopher!)

worm "Black Metallic," Catherine Wheel

namecheck Russ "Spy Eye" Walker

check yr shirt at the door

The WP's Reliable Source reports on a professor's experience with wearing the wrong T-shirts to Bush and Kerry events:

The experiment: A college professor wears a Kerry-Edwards shirt to a rally for President Bush, then a Bush for President shirt to a John Kerry rally.

Result: Bush people make the subject remove his shirt, then give him the boot. The Kerry people don't make a peep.

John Prather, a mild-mannered math prof at Ohio University's Eastern Campus, says he carried out this one-man study a couple of weeks ago, attending both rallies in one day. "It really was to satisfy my own curiosity," Prather, 38, told us. "It's been my opinion that George Bush has stifled dissent . . . I think John Kerry doesn't. In neither event was I a threat to anyone." Yet, he says, at the Bush rally, "I was tailed the whole time."

worm "Fuzzy Wuzzy," Luna

namecheck the Secret Service people who kicked me out of a Bush Sr. rally when I was in high school

go read this

Jeff at Syntax of Things responds to the Simic essay with some recollections of his own South.

I'm never sure what it takes to make the Southerner in me come out. Like my chocolate allergy, it's dependent upon my daily metabolism, my body's ability to process what it takes in. Some days, I hear the South ridiculed and I laugh along, even take part. You know the jokes: backwoods, slow, cousin lovers who till the soil by day and burn crosses at night. We (Southerners) have few teeth and no education, hate everything and everybody not like us, and can only read one book: the King James Bible. Then there are those times when I hear or read the ridicule and my reaction is completely different. I take out my peach basket, stand on it, and proclaim that the South ain't that.

Jeff talks openly about race and racism where he grew up. Recently, our newspaper here in town made some waves by running a giant front page correction that read as follows:

CLARIFICATION: It has come to the editor's attention that the Herald-Leader neglected to cover the civil rights movement. We regret the omission.

They've followed this up with a great group of story packages trying to rectify what they did wrong. Some (yes, you Jack Schafer at Slate) have called this smug and the editor self-congratulatory (hey, it was her first week; she was patting her new staff on the back). That doesn't make it any less important. Photos and stories of our local civil rights movement that would literally have been lost forever are being saved by the newspaper now. It is making people more aware of the racial issues that still exist here, and I'm talking about the kind of subtle, impossible to notice if you don't know the history kind. (Such as the fact that an entryway park into downtown built years and years ago was designed--or had the practical effect of doing so--to obscure the view of a prominent African-American neighborhood and the recent approval to demolish a mansion built by freed slaves downtown.) And just because these are things still being openly grappled with in the South and are easy to point to here doesn't mean there aren't still issues much like this elsewhere (Outside the South).

Anyway, more caffeine. See what Jeff has to say.


complicated disappointments

Well, it sounds like Charles Simic has fallen into the great trap of trying to make something that is very complex so simple he's not even talking about the same thing anymore. The thing being "the South," which is itself a disingenuous--possibly even imaginary--term. What disappoints me most is that Simic is doing the writing, the falling hard for the shadow of a bombshell which turns out to be a tree. He's written some of my favorite poetry. And so I will read it before I react, but that entails a trip to the library. It won't be the first time a writer whose work I adore has falsified my home (Chris Offutt's name may come up later), if it reads as simple as it sounds like it does.

Meanwhile, you should read Maud's post I linked to up there and Clay Risen's wonderful response at The Morning News.

Here's something I love about the South, something I actually pointed out to Christopher over dinner (yes, in front of the TV, what of it?) with those very words. Our local news decided to spotlight one of the men's Olympic gymnasts whose grandparents live around here. Without any hint of judgement from the reporter, we hear the guy's papaw (the ID tag used in the story) tell the story of how just after being diagnosed with terminal cancer the grandma had a dream of the grandson winning a medal, though she couldn't see what color. None of them are surprised that he's in the Olympics. They aren't surprised because she saw it already--and the visions of the dead are sacred. The reporter actually worked the "dream vision" into the close of the story.

I love that my local news has room for "prophesy," as my own granny would call it. And I'm sorry if yours doesn't.

worm still "Won't Be Home," Old 97's

namecheck Sonya "Homeric" Taaffe

unproduced in their entirety

The WGA has put a bunch of unproduced teleplay and TV pilots from its magazine Written By's Summer 2004 issue up online. Writers include Charlie Kaufman and Amy Holden Jones.

Reading unproduced scripts is sad, but fun. And I'm sure these are fine reading in their own right.

worm "Won't Be Home," Old 97's

namecheck Max "Queen Bunny" Adams

sassy bicyclists r us

You've probably encountered the pic somewhere online by now, but of course, Judith Arndt expressed her displeasure with German cycling officials as she crossed the finish line in the women's road race. An account from the WP's little daily squib sheet:

Germany's Judith Arndt is about to cross the finish line and win a silver medal in the road cycling race. This should be a happy moment, yes? A lifetime of hard work culminates in one shining moment, yes? Instead, Arndt turns and flips the bird to German cycling officials. Arndt was upset that her pal Petra Rossner was left off the Olympic team. She was fined $162 by the International Cycling Union but will be allowed to race in Wednesday's time trial.

Apparently, Rossner is actually Arndt's girlfriend. Which makes the whole thing sweet, in my opinion.

Of course, Aussie Sara Carrigan won that race (yay!), which brings us to this squib about Australians from the Independent, offered without comment:

The whinging Aussies are in town. The reigning individual Olympic champion went out in the first round of the archery competition yesterday and he immediately blamed the weather, saying the wind was the worst he had encountered in five Olympics. "You've got the head wind here coming straight down the stadium and there's not much you can do to hide from it," he complained. And the Australian's name? Simon Fairweather.

Also, check out Sarah's new all Olympics, all the time blog.

worm "I Don't Blame You," Cat Power

namecheck Really, really, I'm going to do email tonight. Swear.


things that are also good dept.

Can't believe I forgot to mention what is truly the best news of last week -- Sony snapped up rights to The Jane Austen Book Club.

Sony Pictures Entertainment has optioned feature film rights to Karen Joy Fowler's best-selling novel The Jane Austen Book Club, reports Variety.

The book centers around five women and a man who live in California and meet periodically to discuss Austen novels. Using Austen as the springboard, the book delves into the life of each club member.

Published by the Putnam imprint Madian Wood (sic), the novel has been on the best-seller lists for 13 weeks and has been selling briskly in foreign territories.

So they didn't quite get the imprint right. Still: yay!

things that are good dept.

The cinetrix has returned, and not only that, she's posted a short essay about why Three Kings is the "first hip-hop war movie."

Still haven't gotten to the mountain of email I need to answer. Hope to tomorrow.

more apologia

Those paltry posts below will be it for me today. I'm afraid I'll be incommunicado until tomorrow.

In the meantime, Maud Newton, The Elegant Variation, Sarah Weinman and The Mumpsimus all have lots of good stuff worth checking out. Not to mention all the other lovely so-and-so's down and to the right.

Also, watching the USA men's basketball team, petulant and classless as they were, get beat, beat, beat DOWN by Puerto Rico, having the best game/time of their lives, was great. And go Australia's women, kicking ass in the road race! And hey, Phelps is purty. Yes, the Olympics are addictive. And apparently, it is impossible for a layperson to watch synchronized diving (!?) and know whether a dive is good or not -- we have no idea whether the dive is "four years ago" (honest to god quote) or not.

worm "Army of Me," Bjork (remix)

namecheck whatever chicken little offered the anonymous "you people" advice re: tin foil hats

i heart police logs

This article looks at Kevin Hoover's new The Police Log: True Crime & More from Arcata, California, by Kevin L. Hoover. He renders the police log in verse (examples are given). How'd he wind up doing this?

Arcata first hooked Hoover in 1986, when he read an item in National Lampoon's True Facts column. Among the selections from small-town police blotters was this, from the Arcata Union newspaper:

'Tiffany's ice cream parlor alerted police to a person defacing the statue of William McKinley on the Arcata Plaza. Police apprehended a suspect and released him with a warning not to stick cheese in McKinley's ears and nose anymore.'

A small-town square? President McKinley with a cheese-filled nose? Hoover rushed north and, after that visit, fled his going-nowhere job in San Francisco. By 1993, he was working at the Arcata Union, where he was asked -- call it serendipity -- to write the 'cop log.'

Praise from Chronicle columnist Herb Caen inspired Hoover's boss to grant him even more poetic license. When that paper folded, Hoover launched his own.

'I started the Arcata Eye so I could stay here and celebrate the town's seamy underbelly and other psychic microclimes,' Hoover says. In the process, he kept writing the cop log.

Here, we have a weekly called Snitch that strives to write the police log in a way that captures its heartbreak and stupidity.

worm "Mass Destruction," Faithless

namecheck Scott "Ares" Westerfeld

'pooh pipped by baloo' -- is that legal?

Apparently it is in Britain, where a vote has taken place on the best-loved animal tales:

The Jungle Book has been voted Britain’s best-loved animal tale. The 19th-century Rudyard Kipling classic was voted overall favourite in the nationwide survey – although Kenneth Grahame’s The Wind In The Willows was top among the over-50s.

The Jungle Book, a collection of stories about a feral child called Mowgli and a host of talking animals such as Baloo the bear, was written in 1894. It was turned into a Disney cartoon in the 1960s – as was AA Milne’s Winnie-the-Pooh, which came second in the poll, organised by Country Living magazine. Richard Adams’s tearjerking Watership Down came third.

Anna Sewell’s Black Beauty was fourth, while The Wind In The Willows was fifth overall, despite getting the majority of the older vote.

My own personal favorite since childhood, Beatrix Potter's The Tale of Peter Rabbit was in ninth. (For the obvious, simpatico reasons.) Which was still one place higher than Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, something I find shocking. Apparently, I am easily shocked before I finish my tea.

worm "Ring of Fire," June Carter Cash

namecheck Justine "Buenos" Larbalestier

doing it for themselves

Regular NPR commentator Patt Morrison writes about Lynne Cheney's Sisters and finds the contents shocking -- especially the feminism:

I found myself thinking that, in some ways, Lynne Cheney's 19th century Wyoming sounds like a better place for women than George W. Bush's dream for 21st century America.

In Lynne Cheney's Wyoming, the heroine debates with the governor and drops an opera house chandelier on a man trying to kill her.

In Lynne Cheney's Wyoming, a woman might even tell a tormentor to 'shove it,' and earn a frontier 'you go, girl' for saying so.

worm "Strange Angels," Kristin Hersh

namecheck everyone I owe email; I'm going to write you -- soon.


abc m

I've always been a fan of the sideways material of great poets -- Charles Simic's or Yevgeny Yevtushenko's ephemera or biographies -- and it's no different with Czeslaw Milosz, RIP. (I'm a fan of their main material first, I might say, just so not to be misinterpreted -- we've been drinking wine outside the Indian place on the corner, and accepting free amazing food and reading to each other from Chine Mieville and Susanna Clarke; these are friends of misinterpretation.)

As Ed has noted, Sam has many links to the relevant places. I offer you a piece of the last entry of his Milosz's ABC's, my unlikely favorite of his work:


Disappearance, of people and objects. Because we live in time, we are subject to the law that nothing lasts forever, everything passes. People disappear, as do animals, trees, landscapes, and as everyone knows who lives long enough, the memory of those who were once alive disappears, too. Only a very few people preserve their memory -- their closest kinfolk, friends -- but even in their consciousness the faces, gestures, words gradually fade away, to vanish forever when there is no longer anyone to bear witness.

Faith in a life beyond the grave, common to all mankind, draws a line between the two worlds. Communication between them is difficult. Orpheus must agree to certain conditions before he is permitted to descend into Hades in search of Eurydice. Aeneas gains access thanks to certain charms. Those who dwell in Hell, Purgatory, and Paradise in Dante do not leave their posthumous dwelling places to inform the living about what has happened to them. In order to learn of their fate, the poet must visit the land of the dead, guided by Virgil, a spirit, since he died long ago on earth, and then by Beatrice, who dwells in the heavens.


nothing new to see here...

today. But I superfriended on the Olympics opening cermonies last night at Ed's, and he's got a great post on Six Feet Under and the torturing of characters you should check out too.

See you tomorrow. Or Monday.

Have a good weekend.



A Texas publication I've never heard of, but which obviously has impeccable taste, profiles the divine Howard Waldrop. The piece begins thus:

Howard Waldrop has destroyed New York City twice, saved the dodo from extinction, engineered post-apocalyptic tractors pulls, and reinvented human history to an extent that makes most parallel universes look as common as a corner convenience store.

He's also, by his own admission, killed almost a dozen magazines and small publishers. He loves to pull apart pop culture like taffy, twist it into Gordian knots, and then tie it all together in some insanely improbable way that makes his readers laugh, shake their heads, or sob-sometimes all at once.

And only maybe a hundred or so people in Austin know about him.

Who is Howard Waldrop? He's Austin's-and the world's-most under-appreciated science fiction (SF) writer. If you're one of those people who likes your humor layered like a casserole, you just might fall in love with Waldrop's unique stories because they're always about something, quirky and bizarre though they may be. Think The Simpsons, as opposed to Seinfeld, and you've got the idea.

The piece is excellent, long and revealing -- probably because it's written by Tam Thompson, a member of Turkey City. It also includes links to some Waldrop stories that are online. And seriously, if your life is Waldropless, this is a great way to spend your Friday the 13th.

I can't remember where I spotted this, but there's a good possibility it was at Instant Fanzine.

welcome to my lucky day

Triskaidekaphobes, beware.

The rest of you, happy Friday the 13th. See, I figured when I was about 16, that I had such bad luck the rest of the time, that anything that was supposed to be unlucky would work in reverse for me. Plus, what's not to love about a day on which the weakest and craziest among us voluntarily stay home?

I once did a huge feature page for my college paper, interviewing sorority girls who lived on the 13th floor (they were definitely unlucky, and by unlucky I mean stupid)of a campus dorm and someone's superstitious grandmother. In fact, I did a story much like the one on National Geographic online about the root of the phobia:

"It's been estimated that [U.S] $800 or $900 million is lost in business on this day because people will not fly or do business they would normally do," said Donald Dossey, founder of the Stress Management Center and Phobia Institute in Asheville, North Carolina.

Among other services, Dossey's organization counsels clients on how to overcome fear of Friday the 13th, a phobia that he estimates afflicts 17 to 21 million people in the United States.

You must investigate this, CAAF.

I always thought that Saturday the 14th would become unlucky, following this movie. But it wasn't so.

I think I'm going to wear my Bitch socks today.

meaning of life thrillers & other things

Bookselling This Week has an excellent short interview with Sean Stewart, king of the search opera:

BTW: Perfect Circle is dedicated to your family. And family -- both living and dead -- serves to drive much of the plot. Is the novel something of an homage to your clan?

SS: Absolutely. Growing up spending the summers in Texas, and the rest of the year in Canada, left me with a kind of insider/outsider perspective on Texas, I think. And if, sometimes, that outsider's eye acknowledges that parts of Texas, or even my family, can look pretty strange to the rest of the world -- I'm thinking for instance of the Commandos For Christ, a travelling troupe of military evangelists who break cinder blocks with their heads for the greater glory of Jesus -- I hope I have also communicated some of the genuine love and affection I feel for the kin that took such good care of me every summer as I was growing up.... But if you are really asking, which of these characters are really taken from your family members? the answer is a) all; b) none; and c) I'm not telling.

That bit in the book about the grandparents all being on e-mail to exchange family gossip is true, and, like my Daddy said, I may be dumb, but I ain't stupid....

I particularly like the parts about how writers evolve.


why do you think Nicolle left him?

It may seem like I'm linking to Jeff lots lately, and I am, but only because he's hilarious.

Tom Cruise is short. He's a scientologist.

Go read the whole entry quoting the Rolling Stone piece.

Also, Tom Cruise wears lifts. I read it in a magazine my grandmother buys at the grocery store.

worm "Darling Nikki," Prince

namecheck Katherine "Elf" Yeakel

look out east coast.

According to today's Guardian it's only a matter of time before a mega-tsunami hits.

Bill McGuire, the director of the Benfield Grieg Hazard Research Centre at University College London, said a huge chunk of rock, roughly the size of the Isle of Man, was on the brink of breaking off the volcanic island of La Palma in the Canaries.

When - Professor McGuire says it is not a matter of if - the rock plunges into the ocean it will trigger giant waves called mega-tsunamis.

Travelling at speeds of up to 560mph, the huge walls of water will tear across the ocean and hit islands and continents, leaving a trail of destruction.

Mega-tsunami waves are much longer than the ones we are used to.

'When one of these comes in, it keeps on coming for 10 to 15 minutes,' Prof McGuire said.
'It's like a huge wall of water that just keeps coming.'

Apparently, the effect will be pretty damn big:

Between nine and 12 hours after the island collapses, waves between 20 and 50 metres high will have crossed 4,000 miles of ocean to crash into the Caribbean islands and the eastern seaboard of the US and Canada.

Poor Canada.

There's an accompanying article on types of Freaking Huge Natural Disasters.

(Thanks, Kelly!)

In unrelated news, I revised 32 manuscript pages today, finally breaking into the last of the book. Only 76 more to go, and I feel fine. And I have the three chapters in the middle to turn in to the workshop tonight. Yay, rah.

worm "Feed the Tree," Belly

namecheck Mark "California Is Loving This, Right?" Sarvas

memo to Alison Rowat

You are an idiot.

According to excited tourism officials, the planet's biggest sci-fi bash will bring 6000 visitors and £4m to the city. What the mad fools fail to appreciate is the risk involved in rolling out the red carpet to people who are, to a man – and they are all men – wired directly to Mars. Now, some would have us believe that an obsession with flying saucers and 50ft women in bikinis is all good, clean fun. A bit of a laugh. Better than being a football hooligan. True – but only up to a point, Lord Darth Vader. Having an interest in sci-fi is akin to dabbling in drugs. The soft stuff is fine now and then. Let no man be banned from spending his hard-earned cash on the latest edition of Which? Spaceship magazine if he so wishes.

Please let me know when you've covered her house in tin foil.

(Via Toby Buckell.)

laureated poetry

Nebraska's Ted Kooser has been named the new Poet Laureate of the U.S.:

America's new poet laureate is Ted Kooser, a retired vice president of Lincoln Benefit Life insurance company in Nebraska, Librarian of Congress James H. Billington will announce today.

The businessman-turned-bard writes straightforward verse about stars and cows and office secretaries and everything in between. He has published 10 books, including the collections 'Delights & Shadows' (2004) and 'Winter Morning Walks: One Hundred Postcards to Jim Harrison,' which won the 2001 Nebraska Book Award for Poetry.

Are the cows and the secretaries in the same poems? Cause that could be cool. Straightforward verse, however, would suggest not.

Paging Mr. DeNiro? Thoughts?

nellie lives

The NYT looks at Zak Penn's new movie Incident at Loch Ness. There's some confusion over whether it's a docudrama, a documentary or a mockumentary. Or maybe even just a movie.

And then there is "Incident at Loch Ness," the directorial debut of Zak Penn, a stocky young Hollywood screenwriter whose credits include "Antz" and "X-Men 2." "Loch Ness" revolves around the legendary monster said to lurk near Inverness in the Scottish Highlands.

"Are there people here confused about what they saw?" he asked an audience in June at the Seattle International Film Festival after unveiling the film, which later shared the festival's New American Cinema prize. Quite a few hands shot up.

The Internet is already buzzing about the movie, which is making the rounds of film festivals and will have an early Los Angeles premiere on Aug. 10 at the American Cinematheque at the Egyptian Theater. 'Is this a film about a documentary or a documentary about a film?' asks KRr at, 'Or a documentary about a documentary about a film?'

AlienBoy responds, 'I'm 99 percent sure it's a mockumentary starring Werner Herzog as himself trying to shoot a film about the Loch Ness monster, and everything goes horribly and hilariously wrong. Heard it was pretty damn funny.'

On the, Greg Atkins, who is identified as a fired prop man from a Herzog documentary called 'Enigma at Loch Ness,' writes that Mr. Penn is trying to put over a hoax on Mr. Herzog. (This site is a promotional vehicle for the film.)

'I do get e-mails from people who want to defend me against Zak Penn and do battle shoulder to shoulder,' Mr. Herzog said during a recent telephone interview between trips to Guyana and Alaska from his base here. 'This is an interesting exercise in truth interacting with facts.'

Count me in, regardless (though the article does clear up said confusion). One of the things next to Mr. Hitchcock's collections on our childhood bookshelves was a complete set of popular monster books aimed at children with pseudo-scientific data and almost lifelike drawings of Nellie the Loch Ness Monster, Bigfoot, etc.

"They've gone."

The Guardian looks at the adaptation of Daphne du Maurier's short story "The Birds" by Alfred Hitchcock. Notable change that impacts everything else is that the story is set in England, while Bodega Bay, California, forms the setting for the movie.

du Maurier is underappreciated in my book, both in terms of her short fiction and her novels. "The Birds" was one of the first stories I ever read that scared me, really scared me -- which wasn't all that hard, granted, I was very susceptible at an early age to anything vaguely horrific and didn't really like sleeping when it was dark. (I read instead.) (After my parents noticed this, they even took away my Alfred Hitchcock Presents Ghost Stories for Young People record.) (Yes, a real record; the needle and muddiness of sound made it that much spookier.)

Somewhere my parents or my older brother had also picked up Alfred Hitchcock's Spellbinders in Suspense anthology, which has a fabulous cover. Had anyone else completely forgotten what a brand Hitch was? Thinking back, it turns out he was very influential in shaping my early reading tastes.

I think I'll pull that collection down off the shelf this weekend and take a look at it. Is there really a $2,000 difference in a copy that's signed and one that isn't? Or should some booksellers be ashamed?


'whiskey tango ghosts'

Pamela Murray Winters in the WP takes on Tanya Donnelly's new record (which I've no doubt is brilliant) by picking strangely inept comparisons. (And no, I haven't heard the record yet, but... huh?)

Move over, Norah Jones and Alicia Keys: Tanya Donelly, indie royalty for a couple of decades, is upping the adult-vocal ante. While her confidently rendered yet delicately beautiful collection of songs is too friendly to kick the younger songstresses to the curb, it shows the benefits of experience over youth.

Okay. Note: Tanya Donnella can kick Norah Jones and/or Alicia Keyes' asses without getting out of bed in the morning.

Period. And if you dig the new Tanya album, I suggest picking up ex-Throwing Muse Kristin Hersh's "Murder, Misery and Then Goodnight." (Or any of either of their albums, actually.)

strong "I Never Will Marry," Kristin Hersh

namecheck Karen "ZCT AC" Fowler

what's Tina Fey?

Like all such quizzes, this one is a guaranteed ... way to kill time. I doubt its veracity, but in the case you have time needing killing. (Image not displayed because it was HUGE.)

Category I - The Hub

You're a 'people person'. Networking runs in your
blood. Consequently, you can move through most
social circles with ease.

What Type of Social Entity are You?
brought to you by Quizilla

(Via Peacock Harpy.)

really: awwwwww.

I missed this when it originally ran -- the NYT wedding profile of Robert Siegel (formerly of The Onion and People's Most Eligible Bachelors (?!)) and Jen Cohn (smart, funny hotty who's done a million things and impersonations apparently):

It was this go-for-broke liveliness that attracted Mr. Siegel to her one night at a theater benefit in Times Square. Ms. Cohn turned up in a shoulder-baring T-shirt, tight jeans and red platform slides.

''A 'Sex and the City' kind of girl,'' came to mind, said Mr. Siegel, now 32 and a writer of ''The Onion Movie,'' which is to be released in December. ''I normally attract smart, funny girls -- but most smart, funny girls don't tend to be beautiful.''

Mr. Siegel admitted: ''I underestimated her. Most women who come in that type of package, you can't talk Edward Albee or Harold Pinter.'' Not only did Ms. Cohn know her Shakespeare, but she could match Mr. Siegel's penchant for joyous lunacy.

The second time they went out, he invited her on a tourist date. She arrived wearing a T-shirt and leggings with thick and rumpled socks. She had strapped on a fanny pack backward, and her hair was teased and sprayed stiff. ''I was vile,'' she said.

He, too, dressed horribly, in a pair of too-small khakis belted high on his waist. Having assumed the personas of map-and-camera-toting tourists, they visited the Statue of Liberty, the Empire State Building and the World Trade Center.

''That was the date that sealed the deal,'' Ms. Cohn, also 32, said. ''We can be so hideous together, and have fun.'' She knew then that she wanted to marry him.

(Via The Truth About Celia.)

Normal, and hopefully better, freestyle returns tomorrow, as crisis has passed and la vida loca has returned.

I was in a cheesy smalltown cafe today, and when I say cheesy, I mean it is a required add-on to all menu items (most of which are in the under 2 dollar range), with my mother and the TV was playing a soap opera. After a few minutes, the waitress flipped it over to a channel where John Kerry was speaking (these are not his people). "Oh, that's just another soap opera," said one portly lady to another. To which her portlier friend replied, "Sometimes I like the other ones better."


worm "Bam Thwok," Pixies

namecheck Jeffrey "Ice Cream" Ford

no, the other kind of zombies.

People of Chernobyl, prepare your zombie contingency plans. The first ever Hollywood film is shooting there, and it sounds like a winner.

Some 40 documentaries have been shot within the vast controlled zone that rings Chernobyl and the nearby town of Pripyat.

Now, for the first time, a Hollywood feature film -- the zombie movie 'Return of the Living Dead 4: Necropolis' -- has gained access to the infamous site.

Ukrainian-born producer Anatoly Fradis is proud -- despite the obstacles and the cost. 'Up to a couple of days before we began shooting, it was touch-and-go whether they would let us in, and I had to pay more than I had budgeted to secure the permission,' Fradis says, standing inside Chernobyl's first checkpoint inside the zone.

He's anxious to get started on two days of shooting on-location with director Ellory Elkayem and special effects zombie expert John Vulich of Optic Nerve Studios.

For a zombie movie, there's an odd lack of gore-covered extras with vacant stares. A 1960s open-top, Russian-made Chaika limousine serves as a rock-steady rolling camera bed for 11 scheduled shots here.

Of course, you have to see 1, 2 and 3 or you'll be completely lost.

TV execs screwing over writers? Surely not.

The WGA is now waging war on the reality show front, taking up the Destiny's Child cry that Jim Munroe sings so well -- "Pay My Bills!"

Pssst! Hollywood writers and their union have a little secret they want to share: Some of the reality shows that are dominating the prime-time airwaves are -- spoiler alert! -- not really real.

Meaning, the writers say, the shows are written. They have scripts, called "paper cuts" in the trade. Jokes are penned for hosts, banter for judges. Plot points and narrative arcs are developed. In some cases, lines are fed directly to contestants. (The writers do not claim that the voting is rigged.)

Not by accident, the scribes say, the reality stories have a beginning and middle and end, shaped by writers who are called not writers but "story editors" or "segment producers," who use the expression "frankenbites" (after Dr. Frankenstein's monster) to describe the art of switching around contestant sound bites recorded at different times and patched together to create what appears to be a seamless narrative.

The banter is scripted?! I feel so betrayed.

Actually, I'll never forget the first time I watched the credits of "The Real World." I think it was at the fifth person credited as writer or story editor that I just figured they didn't care if we knew it was faked up.


we went back and forth all night on the ferry

I'm afraid Chez Bond/Rowe has been busy and upheaved this week and that's led to a lackluster quality here, that if you're nice you'll pretend to have noticed. It is my hope all these things will be sorted out by tomorrow evening and life will continue as normal.

I made a little dare progress today -- 23 pages rewritten -- and had a fine torta from a tiny taqueria for dinner and convinced Christopher to watch Before Sunrise with me in anticipation of the sequel, which comes to town this weekend. Despite its Ethan Hawke-itude, he had to admit it wasn't bad. Possibly expect thoughts on watching it, or on Carrie's discussion about what of the personal becomes public with writers (maybe even touching on Stephen Elliott's Maisonneuve essay), or on how smart birds are.

Only time will tell.

Meanwhile, visit the folks on the right. They smart. And pretty too.

undoubtedly remaindered

I'm late to the Philip Larkin birthday bash, and no doubt this has already been everywhere but an unpublished poem has been discovered that scholarly types say is of import to Larkin's early career.

The discovery of an unpublished poem by Philip Larkin has shed new light on the celebrated writer’s early career, experts said today.

And Yet, one of a number of his works set to be published for the first time, later this year was found in a manuscript book in the vaults of Hull University.

The Coventry-born poet wrote it as a “companion piece” to the famous 12-line elegy about his father’s death: An April Sunday Brings the Snow.

Actually, my favorite part about that piece is the hed The Scotsman put on it -- "Unpublished Larkin Poem 'Written in Grotty Bedsit'."

Ah, grotty bedsit. I barely knew thee.

(UPDATE: This is apparently one of many unpublished poems. Via Maud.)