Wednesday, February 27, 2008


Jeff passed this great comic site to me -- Garfield minus Garfield -- It's absolutely one of the funniest comics I've seen in years.

Monday, February 25, 2008


Missed Wayne Horvitz at the Lucia Douglas Gallery/Jazz Project show yesterday. He's working with opera forms now, including a new show based on the late James Welch's Heartsong of Charging Elk. For 4 voices and 10 Chamber Instruments with Libretto by Rinde Eckert. Saturday, May 31st, 2008, Workshop performance
Chapel Performance Space at The Good Shepherd Center, Seattle

CU there.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

More Collins

Death of a Writer deserves a far more detailed critique than I am willing to provide here, and it's already gotten plenty of rave reviews, so I'll save it that. This is probably a major book, or a failed attempt at one, but it is certainly a savage book - a scathing attack on the writer in academia, academia at large, & the publishing business. Collins must be dragging some baggage here,
In a nutshell this is the story of two writers, one, Pendleton, who has failed to achieve the fame he feels he deserved and became a prof (those who can, do; those who can't, teach) at a small, private midwestern college, and another writer Horowitz, who has achieved fame for all the wrong reasons (pseudo-intellectualism and coffee table books). The story focuses on a novel, Scream, written by Pendleton then hidden and never released. Found by a graduate assistant, Adi, Scream details with chilling accuracy the murder of a thirteen-year old girl, who is discovered dismembered and dead in a cornfield. Ryder, a cold-case cop, and totally scarred character (divorced, abusive, bad second marriage, kids he doesn't love) who loves running around in a long black coat becomes obsessed with solving the case. In addition to Pendleton, there are many other suspects: Vietnam vet photographer, the gothic farmer who owns the cornfield, a small town cop, and of course, Amber's "boyfriend," and Pendleton. There are more affairs and sexual liaisons than Peyton Place.
The novel Scream positions the murder as a violent cry for the existence of God -- if God exists He would surely stop the murder of this innocent. Never mind that He has failed at this game for thousands of years.

Collin's novel has frequent references to Nietzsche and Raskolnikov for philispohical and religious fuel, and Stephen King for supernatural and gothic fuel. Insane Calvinism and bad weather is prevalent.

Ryder pursues an array of suspects. The National Book Award board argues whether Scream is really fiction (if Pendleton simply detailed his own murder of the girl it would be ...autobiography) and thus worthy of an award for fiction. Clues are everywhere. Some, like the difference between microfilm and fiche are the victim of very bad editing. Darkness prevails. No one is saved in this self-manufactured mid-west hell (I'm glad I got out). The complexity and endless circling repetition of the novel reminds me of some dis-harmonic insistent post-metal symphony. It's a hell alright, but it's a living. Meanwhile, Collins will go on, treading between the suicide and death of productivity of the university teat, and the temptation of coffee table books, maybe one on murdered children?

Monday, February 11, 2008

A Tale of Two Books

Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami is a lovely elegiac novel set in Japan during the civil unrest of the late '60s. This novel , his third I believe, catapulted Murakami into the international spotlight. It, along with South of the Border, East of the Sun, are relatively traditional narrative love stories, although they are not without Murakami's subtle surreal touches. The protagonist, Toru Watanabe, a college student who is searching for life's meager answers, is thrown into a relationship with his best friend's girlfriend, Naoko, after Kizuki, the friend, commits suicide. The novel details Naoko's slow decline into madness, and how this and other forces, including the incredibly wacky Midori, alter Toru's path. Particularly moving is the innocence (but hardly naiveté) of the characters, and Murakami's affection for them and their situations is omnisciently evident. This is a gem of a novel and I recommend it without qualification. Of course I recommend most of Murakami's novels without qualification.

A total contrast to Norwegian Wood in tone is Lost Souls by Michael Collins. Collins, although Irish, has an incredible sensitivity for midwestern gothic. Although this novel also involves coming-of-age students, it is thoroughly dark and twisted, full of drunkenness, despair, suicide, murder, adultery, madness, poverty, a hung dog with a slashed throat, and did I mention despair? Oh, and lots of deserted buildings. Of course it's set in Indiana, so that explains a lot. Collins writes sharply and intelligently, and not without touches of very dark humor. But this is brutal stuff. The actual plot of this mystery was irritatingly complex, compounded by the fact that Lawrence, the protagonist, tells the story from a distorted first person, missing clues, ommiting details, and entering into conspiracies with the town's mayor and police chief. Lawrence, a divorced cop (sorry, didn't mention divorce) finds a three year old girl dead in a leaf pile on Halloween night. Brutal as this is, it turns out the girl was actually run over twice by two different vehicles. Here I have to say "come on." The town's star quarterback, Kyle Johnson, on the eve of a historic run for the quarterfinals, is implicated. And the story spins out of control from there. Joanne Wilkinson in her Booklist review states the novel "is a comment on how the American way of life has failed to deliver on its promise." Or maybe he just picked the wrong town.
Collins is local, writes well enough, and I've heard enough praise, that I'm giving him another try, Death of a Writer. I'll have the Vodka handy for this one.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Cell Phone Novels

Five out of ten of Japan's most popular novels last year were composed and initially read on cell phones. I can barely finish novels on a word processor.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Dr. Bronner

Reading about this exhibit at MASSMoCa made me smell the showers I took in college. That steamy peppermint smell. If I were in the neighborhood I'd get right over.

Cooking by Numbers

While the yet-to-be-though-already-fought election is still months away, and we have memorized the names of all the pundits, even the obscure ones, and have our heads filled with cooked and predigested numbers, we have to turn to other occupations once in awhile than absorbing TV. Absorbing the web of course, and its range of wonderful fetishes. Cooking by Numbers is just such a fetish. Based on the college fridge and pantry, the offerings aren't opulent or risque, but they are "what it is." Simply click on key ingredients in the house, press the magic Go button, and be whisked into a world of recipes you can create without going to the store. Pineapple curry pizza anyone?

Monday, February 4, 2008


I stumbled upon stumbleupon the other night and am still stumbling. This website allows you to put in search parameters/profiles and then feeds you random websites in these areas. Before you groan "another one of those" check it out. It's giving me a mixture of really strange and interesting sites. (thanks to jordan)

Google Reader is an interesting addition to the rss feed world. It allows for maximum customization and organization. It incorporates visual feed as well as text. Still fiddling around with it.

Rhapsody is a music service similar to ITunes yet not. It has a huge catalog of music including some pretty bizarre stuff (fugs, praxis, albert ayler) and allows free listening of 25 tracks a month, with some pretty reasonable rates to cover it all, as well as devices. De vice is nice.

Pandora. Pandora is old school by now but I love this service. It's essentially a free (although they have fee-based plans and devices too - don't you wish you did?) service and has been a boon for many indie artists. Choose a station based on a particular artist, and they match up similar artists based on an algorithm that actually uses some elements of theory, as well as astrological data. Very cool product. I often run it for hours. Try the Paul Bley station, or Mathew Shipp.