Saturday, December 31, 2011

2011 in Words

Hello, readers.

Sometimes I read. This year was no different. Here is a list of things*.


1. Things of the Novel and Whatnot Variety Published In, or very Nearly In, 2011:

Habibi by Craig Thompson**

Bossypants by Tina Fey**

1Q84 by Haruki Murakami

Emperor of All Maladies by Siddhartha Mukherjee

Zone One by Colson Whitehead

Swamplandia by Karen Russell

The Arctic Marauder by Jacques Tardi

2. Things of the Novel and Whatnot Variety Published in the Past, in One Golden Age or Another:

Infinite Jest** by David Foster Wallace

Complete Shorter Fiction** of Oscar Wilde

40 Stories** by Donald Barthelme

A School for Fools by Sasha Sokolov

Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky

Mystery and Manners: Occasional Prose by Flannery O'Connor

Meet Me in the Moon Room by Ray Vukcevich

Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen

The Drowned Life by Jeffrey Ford

Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke

River of Gods by Ian McDonald

3. Some Selection of Things of the Longform or Longreads or What-Have-You Variety

Ray Kachel (photo by Wayne Lawrence)

"All the Angry People" by George Packer (one man, among many, at #OWS)

"Why Science Fiction Writers are Like Porn Stars" by Charlie Jane Anders

"Unspoken Truths" by Christopher Hitchens

"Pre-Occupied" by Mattathias Schwartz (on the origins of #OWS)

"Outsourcing Jobs" by Gary Sernovitz (on Steve Jobs, China, and Apple)

"Wall Street Isn't Winning -- It's Cheating" by Matt Taibbi

"The Last Movie Maestro" by John Jurgensen (a profile of John Williams)

"Stumptown Girl" by Margaret Talbot (a profile of Carrie Brownstein)

"The Han Solo Comedy Hour" by Frank DiGiacomo

"Al Goldstein: The Pornographer in Winter" by Lili Anolik

"Just Write It" by Laura Miller (on George R.R. Martin and fans)

"You Say You Want a Devolution" by Kurt Andersen (Except he's wrong. Mostly. Partly. The world of fashion, technology, and art has changed. Take the ten year old me and zap him 20 years into the future, and he would notice a difference. Trust me. He was a sharp kid. But, the article is an important one to remind you that some people's eyes go old before their time).

"The Writer as Detective" by Roger Rosenblatt

ttfn, readers. Happy reading.

*Note, that ** will be used to indicate these books may have changed my life and/or will probably be returned to, or thrust upon people, for a variety of well-intentioned reasons, as time goes on.

**See above.

Friday, December 30, 2011

2011 in Sound

Hello, readers.

In 2011, I listened to things. Here is a list to that effect.

1. Things named after themselves

Bon Iver, Bon Iver.

Cults, Cults

2. Songs more beautiful than their name would lead you to believe

3. Bands that reaffirmed their awesomness

The Whole Love begins and ends with different sorts of long, meandering, wonderful. Well done Tweedy, and company. Well done.

4. Bands who reaffirmed that they're just having a bit of fun at this point.

5. New friends

6. Best use of a suicidal squirrel

7. ttfn, readers

Wednesday, December 28, 2011


Hello, readers.

Happy Christmas. And New Year. And/or what not.*

As we reach the end of the year, you might be interested to know that several people are lamenting and debating as to whether or not our culture has become a prisoner to nostalgia or our nostalgia has blinded us to the new ways of being encultured.

See, for example, Kurt Andersen's "You Say You Want a Cultural Devolution" in Vanity Fair:
Ironically, new technology has reinforced the nostalgic cultural gaze: now that we have instant universal access to every old image and recorded sound, the future has arrived and it’s all about dreaming of the past. Our culture’s primary M.O. now consists of promiscuously and sometimes compulsively reviving and rejiggering old forms. It’s the rare “new” cultural artifact that doesn’t seem a lot like a cover version of something we’ve seen or heard before. Which means the very idea of datedness has lost the power it possessed during most of our lifetimes.
Maria Russo's response at Salon,
New technology, he [Andersen] writes, has reinforced the nostalgic cultural gaze. He’s not the first to note that nostalgia is pervasive at the moment, with virtually everything ever produced in any medium so easily accessible, so primed for re-discovering, that it’s tamping down our desire to produce and consume newness. But there’s more going on than that. Hasn’t technology also made HBO and Showtime and AMC possible? Cable television has made what we watch in 2011 dramatically different, and dramatically superior, to what we viewed 20 years ago.
and this new entry, also at Salon, "Nostalgic for Everything" by Matt Zoller Seitz
“Nostalgia is denial — denial of the painful present,” says a philosopher (Michael Sheen) in Woody Allen’s surprise hit “Midnight in Paris.” “The name for this denial is Golden Age thinking**: the erroneous notion that a different time period is better than the one [that] one’s living in. It’s a flaw in the romantic imagination of those people who find it difficult to cope with the present.”
If nostalgia is indeed a flaw, it’s one that many 2011 films and TV programs shared...
Andersen's article, while being in some ways completely wrong (mid-90s Wilco is the same as Ghost is Born Wilco? Neal Stephenson's Snow Crash is in no way dated? Erm...), remains a fascinating entry into the conversation of how current cultural production is being perceived by those above and below a certain age.

In commenting on lifestyle and fashion, Russo seems onto something in her wondering as to whether or not, with so much of the conventional mores abolished as far as fashion (no pants for women, no piercings for men) and so much of our interactions occurring in virtual space (with our iPod, iPhone, Macbook, Android thing), fashion might have necessarily paused in the sort of fast-forwarding that occurred through the 20s, 40s, 60s, and on. People can wear whatever they want now, for the most part. And so they do. Or they don't. It's no big deal.

Generally, I find myself recognizing the intense, crafted nostalgia of things, especially music and film, of current chillwave, beach garage, and certain trippy, 80s relic, synth dance tunes. But, then again, I'm not confusing Josh Ritter with Dylan (as Andersen does), or Gaga's transgender anthems with Madonna's now  (as Ms. Russo points out) almost passe (but still catchy, "Like a Prayer," anyone?) odes to a a more generalized sort of sexual freedom. Nor, am I worried that Midnight in Paris, or Super 8, or any of the other nostalgically flawed gems mentioned by Mr. Seitz, signal any kind of death of artistic evolution.

Most likely if you looked at any year's list of cinematic or televised product, you'd find plenty of nostalgia. 1981, for example and also the year of my birth, included such nostalgic endeavors as Chariots of Fire and Spielberg's Raiders of the Lost Ark.

What interests me, more than anything else--as a boy on the cusp of emerging into a displaced generation--is the loss of tangibility Mr. Seitz talks of, as marked by the end of film and records and, one day, perhaps, books.

It is not a bad or good thing. It is just a thing. And it is interesting. And if, in my old age, I gather around me a library of smelly, crackly, nostalgia, or curl in a chair-bubble with a make-believe paper copy of Michael Chabon's latest ode to the latest Golden Age***, I imagine I'll just be happy to still be kicking about.

ttfn, readers. Enjoy your burrito.

*If your holiday is not listed here, please also enjoy it. If you are not a holiday person then, as Marc Maron suggested, at the very least try to enjoy a sandwich. If you are gluten-issued, there are sandwiches for you (and me), too.

**Actually, according to Michael Chabon in The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, it would more accurately and nonce-ly be referred to as, "the usual hallmark of the aetataureate delusion."

***See above.

Friday, December 23, 2011


Art by Christian Jackson. More pictures and interview here.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

It's Only a Paper Moon

Hello, readers.

A singer in Korea, ALi, wrote a song about a young girl being raped. This young girl was named, or at least known as, Na Young. You may read about Na Young's story here.

It seems that many people criticized Ms. ALi for writing such a song. The song's lyrics are as such:

The sound of the light and wind, falling from the sky
It rides the leaves and it rides the snowstorm 
The deep sounds of the ocean from the ends of the earth
It shines on the sun, it shines on the sky
It's hard even to be alive and to breath
So she waits for the sun to set
She doesn't try to run away anymore
She stands there and waits for the moon to rise
The gray light that seeps out of a young girl's wet eyes
You threw away your youth, selling your body, selling your soul
Your pitiful life has been taken away from you
In this dizzy world, when you hope for a warm and brilliant love
Can you feel - can you feel it?
In the soiled heart, when you want a true and pure love
Can you do that - can you do that?
Looking here and there but you still can't believe in this world
Even if the world flows by so quickly, even if time leaves us
Trust your mind, trust your mind

It was unclear from the discussions and posts at allkpop or lancerlord, whether more criticism was directed at Ms. ALi for "disrespecting" the victim by bringing up painful memories, or because her lyrics ("you threw away your youth...") implied the victim was at fault.

Many commented that Ms. ALi should have asked permission.


Ms. ALi held a press conference to apologize. This wasn't enough, apparently. So, she held another press conference where she could apologize some more, disclose and discuss how she was raped at around the same time as the young girl, and then ask for forgiveness, once again, for "causing so much worry and trouble..."

You should take a moment to read what she said. It is translated, so it's hard to say, precisely, what may be getting lost.  That said, here are some quotes from allkpop:

On being raped:
In June of 2008, I was raped by a hoobae I knew from a group I was a part of. I was cruelly abused. I was hit in the face with a fist and suffered a broken cheekbone, needing four weeks of rest to recover. I was taken somewhere in a cab while unconscious, and I was raped. That hoobae, that criminal was arrested and taken to court. During the 1st round, he received a prison sentence of two years (suspended for four years) along with 200 hours of community service. However, due to the fact that there were no witnesses and evidence, he was deemed not guilty on the charges.
On how she felt:
At the time, I was going to keep it a secret for the rest of my life like my dad had said. However, the bitterness in my heart was not erased, and I believed that ‘Na Young’ (who had become a victim of rape around the same time) would share the same thoughts as me. So, I wanted to console ‘Na Young’, and I wanted to raise awareness about the crime of rape. That is why I put this song, which I had made during that time, on this album.
On what she wants from the man who raped her:
I still haven’t received a single word of apology from that person, so there is currently a civil suit going on. I believe that the best treatment for rape is to receive an apology.
An appropriately indignant commenter wrote a very long comment. You can read it on the tumblr of ancientrelic.

Here's what Kurt Cobain had to say:
What else could I write?
I don't have the right.
What else should I be?
All Apologies.
I hope Ms. ALi does not blame herself for what someone else did to her. I hope she doesn't blame herself for what a society of people is doing to her. But, it seems she does.

I wish, perhaps, she had talked to the family before naming her song what she did. But, then again, perhaps she wanted to tap into the shame and silence of a story that her country's people, for good or ill, very much would rather forget.

Many people, of course, would rather not be reminded that such things occur in their society--especially that they might be endemic, generally glossed over, and often only focused on in the most grisly of moments when said society might feel free to dip into their reservoir of han, that pool of suppressed anger and raging powerlessness, and righteously direct it at that one true, obvious horror, as in the case of Na Young, and, having done their duty, shut their ears, eyes, and hearts, ignoring the all-too-frequent and mundane horror of a woman being ignored because no one but her witnessed the "shame" done.

Alas, they must be reminded. You cannot look away. Things happen whether you believe in them or not. They continue to happen mostly because people choose to not believe in them. Or to ignore them--which amounts to the same thing. It's enough to make a girl wonder what's real.
Looking here and there but you still can't believe in this world
Even if the world flows by so quickly, even if time leaves us
Trust your mind, trust your mind