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Saturday, August 09, 2003
Jenny Davidson's Heredity: publisher's pageA refreshingly taut, deadpan take on the old intertwining-narrative, hands-across-the-centuries thing, Jenny Davidson's Heredity reads like the novel of which A.S. Byatt's Possession was the baggy and sentimental first draft. It's also as dark as your hat: sex-and-death with a side-order of extra death. A masterful and outrageously readable first novel.
Richard Hell on the new anthology of Lester Bangs' workLester was large and he was interested in doing what was right -- which sometimes entailed willfully offending those whose values he opposed -- not merely being right in his taste and musical standards. He wanted to learn. What's appealing about him is the same thing that he valued in the music he wrote about: the life in it -- engagement with and responsiveness to the world. To put a positive spin on the spew-and-rant factor, he didn't care about beauty except as flow. He wanted everything included. He was confrontational but it came from goodwill, from his belief that feelings -- sensitivity to what's going on -- are what matter and that if you're going to really notice things, really perceive, there's going to be a lot of sadness and horror and filth as well, so to some extent they're a necessary part of beauty. Basically, Lester always wanted people to care more.If you haven't read Psychotic Reactions and Carburetor Dung or Jim Derogatis' fine bio Let It Blurt, you should.
Friday, August 08, 2003
How much does studied indolence cost ya these days, anyway?
Key-logging software used to steal info from surfers at 13 New York Kinko's
The New Republic review of Debra Hamel's Trying Neaira: A Courtesan's Life on Trial in Ancient Athens is an interesting discussion of the Classical Greek Age's cultural attitudes about women -- and Hamel's book looks like an excellent introduction to 4th century Greece, with special attention to how women were viewedHamel's treatment of this complicated story is outstanding not only for its comprehensive (yet remarkably concise) presentation of the social and historical context of fourth-century Athens, but also, perhaps supremely, for its tact. By presenting sex and the ancient Greek sex trade forthrightly, she puts to shame the ponderous cuteness and leering euphemism that writing about Neaira's case has aroused in many classicists over the centuries. She brings out both the sordid exploitation of Neaira's circumstances and the genuine strength of the bond that linked this former prostitute with Stephanos and his family, piecing together a plausible account from what is often minimal evidence, managing to explore her human characters without idealizing them, and judiciously staying just shy of a historical novel. Her description of court procedure, and the differences that separate ancient Athenian standards for legal procedure and basic justice from our own ideas of democracy and the rule of law, show how much has changed in the definition of these powerful words over the millennia. It is easier, after reading her account, to see how the full imperfection of the Athenian political and legal system could have driven Plato to such savage fury against "the school of Hellas" that he established an academy of his own and gave up a literary form, tragedy, sponsored by the Athenian state, for a new dramatic genre of his own, the philosophical dialogue, in which he would insist on the pursuit of pure good and pure justice.
Sandra Newman's The Only Good Thing Anyone Has Ever Done: reviewNewman is extremely adept at complex characterizations, and particularly excels at showing, in her narrator Chrysalis, a brain on the verge of breakdown: "Two particular women laughed in shrill spikes of sound that made me think of spear flowers." As in any great novel, the characters here grow richer, and more mysterious, as more is revealed about them. This is a witty, imaginative debut from a young novelist with dazzling intellectual resources.
Nervous about saving your data in case of Armageddon? Save it on the moon
Zoe Heller's What Was She Thinking?: Notes on a Scandal: review
Thursday, August 07, 2003
City Lights at 50Fifty years after co-founding City Lights as the first paperback bookstore in the country, only to revolutionize poetry in 1956 by publishing Allen Ginsberg's "Howl," Ferlinghetti remains a leading light in San Francisco's cultural community. He is still organizing and giving readings, still painting and holding art exhibits, still publishing his work and still putting in time in the cramped offices of the City Lights press, on the bookstore's second floor. That leaves precious little time for reminiscences about the days when the Beats ruled the literary world.
First aid myths--CHOKING Don't slap someone who is choking on the back. You could force the offending object farther down the windpipe. As long as a person is coughing (or talking), he or she is still breathing, and coughing forcefully is usually the best way to dislodge a piece of food. Use abdominal thrusts, also known as the Heimlich maneuver, only if the choking victim stops breathing.
KeepMedia is a subscription service with archives of magazines and newpapers you can view for $4.95/month [Undernews]
Wednesday, August 06, 2003
A Full Moon take some of the fun out of the upcoming Perseid meteor shower, but it's worth a look anyway, since it's the best time of year to be outside for a major shower
In 2001, 2 Norwegians completed the longest unsupported trek across Antarctica (2360 miles) after enduring polar winter at a summer base on the coast of Queen Maud LandOver the long winter, they studied the effects of UVB radiation on the immune system, they were the subjects in a psychology study with Martian implications, and they tested a new system for processing shit at Antarctic bases. After eleven months, after a dark winter on a frigid coast at the end of the world, two of these deranged mutations then skied across the continent, claiming the longest (3800km) unsupported trek in Antarctic history. Not only did Eirik Sønneland and Rolf Bae seem to snag their prize with a shrug, but they did so after an Antarctic winter, an unnerving event that alone drives the typical American to New Zealand gasping for sushi and whores. The goals for their Trans-Antarctic trek were to set a world record, remain friends, and stay alive. They achieved their goals quietly and modestly, so their expedition was largely ignored by all but Norwegian media.Their book, which details ridiculous bureaucratic obstacles as well as their more obvious challenges, is yet to be published in English.
Article in Scientific American confirms parallel universes as "a direct implication of cosmological observations" [philipkdick.com]The parallel universes of your alter egos constitute the Level I multiverse. It is the least controversial type. We all accept the existence of things that we cannot see but could see if we moved to a different vantage point or merely waited, like people watching for ships to come over the horizon. Objects beyond the cosmic horizon have a similar status. The observable universe grows by a light-year every year as light from farther away has time to reach us. An infinity lies out there, waiting to be seen. You will probably die long before your alter egos come into view, but in principle, and if cosmic expansion cooperates, your descendants could observe them through a sufficiently powerful telescope.I love these guys.
Tuesday, August 05, 2003
Father knows best
Monday, August 04, 2003
The new "fit 30 people in a phone booth"
Necessary evolution or invitation to corporate model takeover?
Problems of re-doing email protocols to stem spam
Massive lawsuit threatened against Spanish file-sharers, probably bluff
Universities may add fee or absorb cost of opening "legal" file-sharing networks to students
Good piece on the suppression of the movie Buffalo Soldiers after 9/11 because it portrays a dark, mercenary view of the military [Chicago Tribune username: ridgewood password: callow]It was the best of timing, it was the worst of timing.
Sunday, August 03, 2003
The Slimp3 is one of the new family of devices which can send PC music to your stereo
Theresa Maggio's The Stone Boudoir: Travels through the Hidden Village of Sicily: reviewTo the list of attractive-but-not-easily-accessible, might be added the industry-choked but splendidly Baroque Catania, the mystical Norman subtleties of Monreale, villages nearly prehistoric, where some of the population still inhabit bronze-age caves, the antique charm of Syracuse, or the splendor that was classical Greece at Selinunte.Also check out Longitude, a site listing travel maps and books which seems to have its shit together.