DFW Memorialized, Homer Endorses Obama, Sarah Palin Is Never in on the Joke, and Hope for a New Zeitgeist

So let’s just say we’re too anxious around here to run a proper book review, okay? I promise to have reviews of new books up after Election Day. In the meantime–

Great, thorough, and touching essay by David Lipsky at Rolling Stone: “The Lost Years and Last Days of David Foster Wallace.” Check it out. Also, there are plenty of online accounts of the DFW memorial last week at NYU’s Skirball Center, but I thought Andy Battaglia’s eyewitness account was pretty moving.

Also–

It leaked a few weeks ago, but it was nice to see Homer Simpson endorse Obama on this year’s Treehouse of Horror episode–

(The best part of the episode was the Mad Men parody, though).

Speaking of election humor, Sarah Palin continues to be a comedy goldmine. How could she be so readily duped by a French Canadian pretending to be President Sarkozy? She’s fucking stupid, that’s how. I’m reminded of her appearance on SNL a few weeks ago–unjustifiably lauded–where she smirked along as if she were actually in on the joke, and not being simply mocked.

Speaking of ignorance and ugliness, the aughties in America have been culturally and politically awful. Beginning with the one-two punch of the 2000 election debacle and the nightmare of the 9/11 attacks, this past decade has been an embarrassing series of disastrous blunders for the United States government, coupled with a spike in civic apathy at home. The results: our stock has fallen in the rest of the world’s eyes and a large portion of Americans have found solace and even pride in ignorance and xenophobia (what else could explain the ascendancy of an ignoramus like Palin?)

And for all the great things that I’ve experienced in my personal life this past decade (marriage, fatherhood), the idea of another decade like the aughties–selfish and cruel and ignorant–seems miserable. The Bush administration–and the American people who supported them–has been working hard to usher in a New Dark Age. Yet in the past few days I’ve seen some of my cynicism fall away, as I see friends and acquaintances and complete strangers excited about the prospect of change for this country. Watching Obama in Cleveland tonight, I found myself moved and excited and hopeful, not just for Tuesday, or for a new President in January, but for a whole new spirit in this country, one that embraces progressive ideals and puts them into action.

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Beatific Badinage for Barbate Balatron

Check out our new blog, Barbate Balatron, for a diurnal dose of decalcomanic dactylology and disgeneric disjecta membra.

Love America: visit Barbate Balatron.

Caged Bedouins, Uruguayan Cannibals, Mr. Max Tundra, Absent Adventurer Anniversary, and a Few Morsels of Hurricane Lit

Attention:

1. Friends of the ‘klept have embarked on a new culinary adventure. Read all about it at brand new blog Confined Nomad. Their mission:

The goal of this journey is to find cuisines from every United Nations member state, within New York City limits, in alphabetical order. We realize that there are a few flaws to this logic, and will make every attempt to handle these wisely when we reach a questionable issue. For instance, cuisines are not defined by the UN. There are regional specialties, there are countries not internationally recognized, there are border disputes, and new countries are being formed all the time . . . This blog will serve as documentation of the adventure, in which we will do our best to describe not only the food we eat, but also things we learn about its nation of origin, culture, and the immigrant communities here in New York City. We hope this will be much more than a food blog.

The virgin entries on Afghanistan and Albania are tasty fare (sorry!) and we’re looking forward to plenty more delectable treats (yikes! sorry again!).

2. We finally saw Frank Marshall’s 1993 film Alive this weekend. Alive, based on Piers Paul Read’s book of the same name, tells the true story of the Uruguayan Air Force Flight 571 crash of October 13, 1972, in which a Uruguayan rugby team’s chartered flight crashes in the Andes. The survivors eventually resort to cannibalizing the dead to survive (let’s see what happens when Confined Nomad gets to ‘U’ on their list). Despite plenty of strange flaws, including egregious over-acting, the film is oddly great. An intense, chest-tightening narrative that offers few moments of relief, Alive is a real-life horror movie masquerading as an adventure tale. Recommended.

3. With distinguished Englishman Max Tundra’s new album Parallax Error Beheads You ready to drop any day now (glowing review forthcoming), we thought we’d bring up the greatness of his last CD, Mastered by Guy at the Exchange. Max’s MBGATE was easily one of our favorite albums of the early aughties. Weird and tuneful and splendid and frenetic, MBGATE is a neglected classic, perhaps due to its unclassifiable sound. Max programs old Amigas, plays dozens of instruments, and sings along with his sister on a strange group of songs about Michel Gondry, delivery jobs, amino acids, the break up of Don Caballero (with Storm & Stress as consolation prize), and, uh, girls. We love it and so should you. His website is awesome, by the way.

4. Today marks the one-year anniversary of gazillionaire adventurer Steve Fossett disappearing along with his single-engine Bellanca Super Decathlon airplane. We don’t think Fossett is dead, and neither, apparently, does Chris Irvine, who speculated in the Telegraph that Fossett faked his own death. We now invite our readers, again, to speculate on the whereabouts of Mr. Fossett. Check out our Steve Fossett Fan Fiction Contest blog for all the details!

5. Down here in The Florida, we continue to have hurricane concerns. And, because this blog likes to masquerade as a a literary affair, we offer a few lines from books on the subject:

In Shakespeare’s King Lear, Act 3 scene 2, we find one of the earliest usages of the word hurricane in the English language:

Blow, winds, and crack your cheeks! rage! blow!
You cataracts and hurricanoes, spout
Till you have drenched our steeples, drowned the cocks!
You sulphurous and thought-executing fires,
Vaunt-couriers to oak-cleaving thunderbolts,
Singe my white head! And thou, all-shaking thunder,
Strike flat the thick rotundity o’ the world!
Crack nature’s molds, all germens spill at once
That make ingrateful man!

Bit of a drama queen, Lear, what with all these apocalyptic fantasies. Speaking of drama queens, how about the opening lines of Walt Whitman’s “With Husky-haughty Lips, O Sea!”:

With husky-haughty lips, O sea!
Where day and night I wend thy surf-beat shore,
Imaging to my sense thy varied strange suggestions,
(I see and plainly list thy talk and conference here,)
Thy troops of white-maned racers racing to the goal,
Thy ample, smiling face, dash’d with the sparkling dimples of the sun,
Thy brooding scowl and murk–thy unloos’d hurricanes,
Thy unsubduedness, caprices, wilfulness

Fanciful stuff. For a less romanticized description, might we suggest the end of Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God, where a massive hurricane turns Lake Okeechobee into a “monstropolous beast,” a monster that floods the streets and destroys homes. Stay away, Hannah.

Hypothetical Sentiments, Bodacious Birthdays, and Friendly Links

If this was the type of blog where I wrote about my personal life, the type of blog where I bared my naked soul to the keen scrutiny of all the world (wide web), the type of blog where I tried to express the ineffable internal in so many 0s and 1s–; if this were that type of blog, I might start this post with a litany of clichés and truisms about how the birth of my daughter Zoe this Sunday, 3 June, was easily the bestest, most significant thing to ever happen to me; how the birth of my daughter made me the happiest man in the etc., how beautiful and alert and cute and adorable etc., life-changing and dramatic, etc.; I might even post a sugary photo of her like this one–

–to justify all these wild claims.

But of course, this is all hypothetical; this is not a blog about how happy I am with our new addition, or how great my wife is at being a mother, or how lovely our little Zoe is–this is a blog about books and pop culture. So maybe I should link Zoe’s birthday, 3 June, with some famous people also born on that day: these include beat poet Allen Ginsberg, exiled dancer Josephine Baker, and game show host/CIA assassin (?) Chuck Barris. Zoe wasn’t the only person to have a birthday in the Biblioklept clan this week–I switched a digit just yesterday. Famous people who were also born on 7 June include libertine painter Paul Gaugin, American poet Gwendolyn Brooks, professional drunk Dean Martin, and Florida writer Harry Crews, whose novel a Feast of Snakes, out-Bukowskis Bukowski. But by far the coolest person to be born on 7 June (sorry Mr. Martin) is Prince (I’m not going to wiki-link to Prince. If you want to know about Prince, go buy Purple Rain, or Sign ‘O’ the Times, or 1999, or Diamonds and Pearls. Also, if you know-not the glory of Prince, hang your sorry head in shame (philistine)). On my birthday, I always wonder: “What is Prince doing for his birthday? Is he having a great time? I bet he’s doing some really awesome stuff!” It makes me happy. What can I say.

I guess some of my friends knew that I’d be tuckered out from the week’s excitement, so they sent me plenty of cool links, kind of doing my blog-job for me. Check it out:

–Watch the first episode of The Flight of the Conchords when you have a spare half hour. If you don’t find this hilarious, there is probably something wrong with your soul (thanks to Damon for the link)

–Treat yourself to an awesome mix tape, courtesy of Speck. My favorite track: “The Return” by Antares (those who don’t love spaced-out psychedelic prog jamz need not apply)

–Listen to this BBC Radio 4 story on Roger Linn, inventor of the drum machine

–Watch this presentation on Photosynth. Absolutely amazing (thanks to Mike for the links)

–Watch this preview of the upcoming Persepolis movie; then check out my review of the book (thanks to Nick for the link)

Links, Lists, Liars, Laziness

So I have a number of beefs with the end of the year albums and singles lists at Pitchfork and The AV Club, which I will get to momentarily, but a few things first:

Check out the new audioplayer (“Audioklept” on the sidebar) that WordPress has kindly made accessible. I’ll try to update it regularly with awesome-to-moderately awesome tuneage. Now playing: the sweetly saturated sonic screams of Emperor X: the true indie rock.

Ricotta Park has had a makeover. The site looks great, and it looks like Nick will start posting regularly again. Check it out.

Some of the most enjoyable reading I’ve done lately comes from The New York Times Magazine Year in Ideas, via Tomorrowland. Highly recommended!

You can now easily access the marvelous adventures of Dr. Van Keudejep in one place, courtesy of Troglodyte Mignon. Very nice.

 Dr. Van Keudejap 's interrupted suicide - He lived happily ever after, thanks to the tiny troglodyte. - art by troglodyte mignon

Dr. Van Keudejap ’s interrupted suicide – He lived happily ever after, thanks to the tiny troglodyte.

On to the lists. For the past few days, Got to be  a Chocolate Jesus has been counting down the year’s best albums. I’m in accord with most of his top five, posted today:  TV on the Radio, The Fiery Furnaces, Destroyer, and Joanna Newsom, all faves of mine made the cut, as did The Mountain Goats, a  band I’ve never really listened to. If you were to swap out The Mountain Goats with Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy’s fantastic comeback LP, The Letting Go, I think that would be my top five.

So yes and well now my beefs: first up, like many of you (I’m guessing), I hate hate hate Pitchfork; nonetheless, I visit those jerks daily, as I have for the past seven or eight years. This is the site that gave a “0.0” to The Flaming Lips’ aural odyssey Zaireeka without even listening to it. My major beef with P-fork is that The Fiery Furnaces’ Bitter Tea wasn’t recognized at all; neither did their Top 100 tracks of 2006 find room for Neko Case’s “Star Witness,” which was the best song of 2006. Sure, there were plenty of places where we intersected, but on the whole, their list reaffirms my belief that, in addition to being hacks, these guys have no taste (I blame the editor–some of P-fork’s writers, like Dominique Leone and Drew Daniel have true talent).

Now, The Onion’s AV Club really let me down–generally I love these guys: they’re way less pretentious than most of the music and media blogs, and they tend to have a critical approach fashioned more in the tradition of Creem or classic Rolling Stone. However, they chose The Hold Steady’s Boys and Girls in America–a completely overrated, derivative, and ultimately boring piece of trash–as album of the year. Furthermore, The Decemberists–a band repeatedly given the undeserved descriptor “literary”–also cracked their top ten. Defenders of these loathsome bands usually say that the haters “don’t get” the “meta-cool” of The Hold Steady or the “hyperliterate” Decemberists: they’re wrong: there’s nothing to get: these bands are boring. Just because somebody calls bullshit on something you like doesn’t mean that they “don’t get” it–in the case of the aforementioned hacks, I totally “get it”: these bands lack originality and talent.

Now, on to an artist that I truly “don’t get.” The Liars’ Drum’s Not Dead topped many year end lists, and plenty of my friends loved this album. I didn’t hear what the fuss was about, although I’ll certainly give it a second shot. Maybe it’ll click (that’s how it went down with TV on the Radio). Any fans out there who “get it” and who are willing to explain it?

 

Scary Books–Part I

I love Halloween.

Some favorite scary books:

The monster’s point of view.

One of my classes is reading this version of Macbeth right now. I know–the cover sucks (the cauldron look’s like a latte), but I think it makes a fantastic introduction to Shakespeare; great for highschool students.

 We’re also watching Roman Polanski’s 1971 film version.

macbeth1.jpg

 And who can deny this old chestnut?

Fun links, methinks

Ricotta Park is stealing my gig. Fair enough, considering my gig is stealing. RP does a few mini book reviews today, including a review of The Psychic Soviet by ex-Nation of Uylsses frontman Ian Svenonious. Some consider Ulysses by James Joyce to be the best book ever written in English. Not me though! (It’s Moby Dick, hands down).

Go hit up Troglogyte Mignon to see some art (you need it kid!) Her watercolors are humorous and often affecting. A sample below (reproduced with permission of the artist).

smitten-b.jpg smitten panty lovers unite troglodyte mignon art

 

I found BibliOdyssey when looking for other “biblio” blogs. I was crushed, green to the gills with envy. This blog is fantastic! Go get some knowledge.

Shelfari is MySpace for book nerds. Go set up a shelf and meet some people. Argue about books. Posit Hemmingway as way overrated, or find that certain somebody who also trucked their way through Celine’s Journey to the End of the Night.

If you live in Jacksonville, no doubt you already travel daily to The Urban Core and Urban Jacksonville. What’s that you say? You haven’t visited yet? Go get some awareness (local, son!) Urban Jax has a great post today on artist Dan May. Urban Core was kind enough to include this blog in his write-up of Top 10 Jacksonville Blogs (the ‘klept came in lucky number 7! woo!) Urban Core was voted the best blog in Jacksonville by local indie paper Folio Weekly.

More fun links and hi-jinks next week.

Abominable Fallout by Dan May. Copyright Dan May, 2006.