July 2007

Well, now that I’ve published my booklist I assume no one thinks I’m a total idiot. That leaves me room to post this video by Morrissey, a live bit of him performing “I’ve Changed My Plea to Guilty,” which is quite marvelous. He reminds me a bit of the King below (that’s Elvis, not Michael Jackson), in the not-too subtly exaggerated hair and a few of the gestures.

But here’s a trivia question (which I don’t know the answer to): can anyone think of another pop song that uses the word “dissuade”?

Anyway, here’s a bit of “the King” for comparison.

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I’ve read a lot of really good (and some so-so) books this summer, and have half-read almost as many. Here they are, as recommendations, or for no particular reason, in no particular order. (“Summer” for me this year means May until now, with a dash of April while the semester was winding down.) I hope to do some reviews, probably of the gaming ones, after I set up shop in the new house.

Piero Heliczer, A Purchase in the White Botanica (poetry)
Virginia Woolf, Orlando (novel)
Rick Moody, Purple America (novel)
McKenzie Wark, Gamer Theory (theory)
Chris Crawford, Chris Crawford on Game Design (theory)
John Nathan, Mishima: A Biography (biography)
George Battaille, My Mother/Madame Edwarda/The Dead Man (novellas)
Jill Magi, Threads (poetry)
Jeremy Reed, Scott Walker: Another Tear Falls (music)
Johny Rogan, Morrissey and Marr: The Severed Alliance (music)
Claude Levi-Strauss, Tristes Tropiques (memoire/anthropology)
Kester Rattebury et al., Architecture Today (art)
Philadelphia Architecture: A Guide to the City (art)
Isabelle Eberhardt, The Oblivion Seekers (stories)
Jessica Smith, Organic Future Cellar (poetry)
Yukio Mishima, Madame Sade (play)
Alexander R. Galloway, Gaming: Essays on Algorithmic Culture (theory)
Lewis Williams, Scott Walker: The Rhymes of Goodbye (music)
Raymond Radiguet, Count D’Orgel (novel)
Octave Mirbeau, Torture Garden (novel)
ActionScript 3.0 Animation (programming)
Ryan Daley, Armored Elevator (poetry)
Erika Fishcer, Aimee et Jaguar (biography)
Marilyn Hacker, Love, Death and the Changing of the Seasons (poetry)
Joshua Clover, The Totality for Kids (poetry)
Andre Breton, Mad Love (prose)
Stephen Dunn, Riffs & Reciprocities (prose poems)
Roger Callois, Man, Play and Games (theory)
Johan Huizinga, Homo Ludens (theory)
Marjorie Welish, The Annotated “Here” and Selected Poems (poetry)
Ford Madox Ford, The Good Soldier (novel)

I have a pretty bad tendency of putting books down and finishing them some months later. These are books I’m at least a third of the way through:

Christian Hawkey, The Book & Funnels (poetry)
John Clare, “I Am” The Selected Poetry (poetry)
Samuel Greenberg, Poems (poetry)
Rodney Koeneke, Musee Mechanique (poems)
Stephane Mallarme, Divigations (prose)
Gertrude Stein, Fernhurst, Q.E.D. and other early writings (novellas)
Lorine Neidecker, Collected Works (poetry)
Flash MX Game Design Demystified (programming)
AI for Game Developers (programming)
Ian Bogast, Unit Operations (theory)
Nick Montfort, Twisty Little Passages (criticism)
Peter Handke, Kaspar and Other Plays (plays)
Erik Ehn, The Saint Plays (plays)
Pierre Guyotat, Eden Eden Eden (novel)
Geoffrey Eugenides, Middlesex (novel)
Tony Hoagland, Donkey Gospel (poetry)
Rogert Shattuck, Forbidden Knowledge (criticism)
Ronald Hayman, Theatre and Ant-Theatre (criticism)

Most importantly, though — even if it doesn’t count as reading, it is research, of sorts — is that I finished Shadow of the Colossus. Big deal? Well, I haven’t really played a video game in, oh, probably decades, certainly not with those new-fangled controllers, and this is an amazing one and took quite a long time (at least by my TV-weary standards).

If you don’t play video games, or don’t have a PS2, borrow one or go to a friend’s house and play this one, you won’t regret it. Not to sound like a snob, but it’s the first mainstream video game I’ve played that really convinced me of the cultural import of video games, for reasons I won’t describe now (and that don’t have only to do with the visual appeal). But I haven’t played a lot lately except for a bunch of experimental on-line things.


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Here’s Leon Botstein, the president of the college I went to, Bard, from which I graduated in 1992 (when he still had hair), on the Colbert Report. It’s pretty funny… maybe not as funny as Bruce Andrews on the O’Reilly Factor, but not bad.Ah, now here’s a PS… I found the video of Andrews and O’Reilly on Youtube. Seemed that, back when it happend, it was quite difficult to link to. Thanks, Web 2.0. Now if O’Reilly only started by busting Bruce about his hair…

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I’m not sure which of these two is better, the original film of wild solo by Branca in a NYC loft in 1978 or the algorithmic re-edit of the footage circa 2007 with Max/MSP (Jitter). I wanted to learn Jitter just so I could do work like this — check out my Flash Polaroids for algorithmic editing of photographs — but never got very far with it. I also didn’t like the reduced image quality, but it’s perfect for Branca imagery — bad compression of mediocre super-8 equals good clean fun — and the sound is great.

Analog versus digital — a goon with a tie, guitar and amp attacking music as we know it versus a geek with a laptop and software playing techno primitive, but in the same avant-garde tradition created by aforementioned goon. Analog has never looked or sounded better since digital music and video entered the scene, but I think it’s all becoming one big mix now, the one feeding off the other, and original of an original of a copy. Well, I’m black and white with envy.

Reminds me of the fact Guy Maddin, for all of his simplicity in terms of the machines he uses — one of his favorite special effects tricks when shooting is rubbing Vaseline on the lens — is a way ahead of the curve in terms of editing. Check out “Sissy Boy Slap Party” if you can find it on DVD (don’t watch the YouTube version, the magic is lost at that frame rate), or “The Heart of the World.”

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Here are videos from each of the stages of Scott Walker’s career — enough to get you started in any cocktail conversation — from his early days as teen idol with the Walker Brothers to his early solo career (notable for his covers of Jacques Brel tunes but also his wonderfully orchestral original material), then on to the darker solo material which is really indescribable. He hasn’t performed live for several decades, but did do a few television appearances, which is the fourth vid here. The final one is from “The Drift,” his release from 2006 — a beautiful video in itself.

Walker (his real name is Noel Scott Engel) has become my big music obsession over the past year, and I highly recommend nearly everything he’s done, even the early pop stuff, since his baritone is so distinctive for being at once affectless (he trained himself to erase any vibrato from his singing) and yet rich and fluid. He was a big influence on David Bowie (who covered the Walker Brothers’ “Nite Flights”) and Bryan Ferry when he decided go all new Romantic on our ass (don’t blame Walker for that).

Walker, notable for being a recluse and walking away (puns!) from fame and money in the sixties, is now putting out one album every, oh, ten years or so, partly because he couldn’t get a contract, which is too bad but it seems like he’ll be recording more with all of the attention he’s been getting — a couple of recent books about his life and music, a feature length documentary called 30 Century Man, and now mention on Free Space Comix: the blog! If you don’t believe me when I say he’s genuinely strange and brilliant, watch “Rosary” first!

(BTW, for all you trivia buffs, the background singer on “Track 3” — which doesn’t seem to be loading properly, but maybe will straighten out later — is Billy Ocean!)

“The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine Anymore”


“Track 3” (preceded by “The Sun” live recording and an interview)



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Here’s a short review I wrote some time ago on commission of Ron Silliman’s The Age of Huts (compleat) which I’ve just rediscovered on my hard drive and thought to share.


Ron Silliman
The Age of Huts (compleat)
University of California Press
New California Poetry 21

This beautifully designed new volume collects for the first time the four components of The Age of Huts, including one of the prose poems he is best known for, Ketjak (previously published as a standalone volume in 1978) and the entirety of the original 1986 Roof edition of The Age of Huts, which contained “Sunset Debris,” “The Chinese Notebook,” and “2197”—both books now have firm places in the Language Poetry canon. Silliman, coiner of the term “the New Sentence”—a theory of poetry that promotes parataxis as the distinctive postmodern form—and author of a critical volume with that title, has taken on new guises since the publication of the publication of these early works, especially as the author of the volumes-long “life work” The Alphabet and as inveterate blogger and taunter of mainstream poets he has designated the “School of Quietude.” Regardless of the value one grants his recent critical writings on poetry, The Age of Huts (compleat) shows a dynamic artist who is questioning of nearly all of the assumptions of English-language poetry to that time, picking away at questions of form and content as it has been traditionally understood since the Romantics, but also figuring himself on the cusp of more recent poetic theory centered around the Beats, Projectivists, and other “New American” poets of the fifties and sixties (not to mention conceptual art and linguistics). That he manages to dramatize the excitement of this very new way of thinking in an accessible way is a feat: no elitist head-in-the-clouds grandstanding here, Silliman tells both of a life and a mind in charismatic, direct sentences. “The Chinese Notebook” takes its primary structure from Wittgenstein’s Philosophical Investigations—ludic numbered paragraphs that ask questions about language and form while playfully operating through them—while “Sunset Debris” is an assault of questions, a serial autobiography that figures Silliman as the eternal over-stimulated child that can’t stop pestering a parent for simple illumination. “Sunset Debris” is strangely punctuated by questions concerning sex, often very blunt and rather mechanical—not that he underestimates the shock value of these inclusions; in fact, he figures them as central to his thesis: “Isn’t it that certain forms of language, for example of erotic content, focus perception away from the words and the syntagmemic chain, a world suppressed in reference to another?” “Ketjak,” inspired, he states, by his understanding of non-Western music structure and the music of Minimalists such as Steve Reich, shows a baroque side of the poet’s writing that has not been apparent for years—his joy in syntax, as each successive paragraph builds on the sentence structure of the previous, morphing and perverting it, lets him toy with sentences of nearly Jamesian complexity, and one wonders why he didn’t take this basic method further. The Age of Huts (compleat), one of the few must-have works of poetry of the late-Seventies for even the casual reader, will no doubt become a staple of university courses of the near future, joining Sleeping With the Dictionary and My Life as works of the American avant-garde that operate both on a deeply humanistic level but also as inviting works that illustrate key aspects of postmodern theory and praxis.

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