It is very likely that nearly every one has been very nearly certain that something that is interesting is interesting them...

26 December — Friday (in San Diego)

§ Finding Nemo | Dir. Andrew Stanton and Lee Unkrich, 2003 | VHS 100min | IMDb link

25 December — Thursday (in San Diego)

§ Manhattan | Dir. Woody Allen, 1979 | VHS 96min | IMDb link

16 December — Tuesday

§ To Catch a Thief | Dir. Alfred Hitchcock, 1955 | VHS 106min | IMDb link

Cary Grant (as John Robie) to Grace Kelly (as Frances Stevens): "You know, I have about the same interest in jewelry that I have in politics, horse racing, modern poetry, or women who need weird excitement—none."

First Half of December

§ Scattered impressions

FILM | I took in an afternoon screening of Fellini's 8 1/2, which I hadn't seen for years. Because I have an irrational devotion to the image Marcello Mastroianni cut in this period, I hardly resented the many long lamely conceived passages Fellini permitted himself. Of current releases, Love, Actually couldn't keep up with its plot lines and mostly failed to be likable or memorable, though it obviously was straining for the former rather desperately, while Something's Gotta Give had some marvelous comedic moments, the bulk of them involving Nicholson's working of his wreck of a physique. READING | A bracingly mean stretch of Flaubert's letters, followed by several days of reading in Woolf's letters and diaries between 1915-1920. BLOGS | Hotel Point, S/FJ, and the infrequently updated Harlequin Knights kept me interested in this phase of generalized blog fatigue. MUSIC | The Emerson String Quartet's three-disk set of Beethoven's late quartets, which I won't degrade with an adjective. Also, a Norah Jones sampler compiled for me by a student and Odetta's Christmas spirituals.

1 December — Monday

§ Jean Frémon | Island of the Dead | Trans. Cole Swensen | Kobenhavn & Los Angeles: Green Integer, 2003 | 281pp | $12.95

A book that winks at the necessity of plot—its unnamed narrator has at the outset lost a love to a rival, and he'll happens upon another love in due course—while reserving its true energy, its mania one is tempted to call it, for the non-narrative compilation of facts drawn from various discourses (genetics, zoology, subterranean poetry lore pertaining to John Barton Wolgamot....). This is a book in "bits," where bodies of knowledge are spoken—with no noticeable desire to "naturalize" the performances—by characters who swerve into the narrator's ken as chance and the contingent logic of "collections" (museums, encyclopedias, friendships, gardens) insist. "In the face of the infinity of the world, we're all more or less idiots. A few islands of aptitude here and there. Getting carried away by detail. The part for the whole. The plague of generalized ideas! It's the taste for the concrete, the taste for the form that makes the naturalist. We must grasp the world in its actual forms, resisting conclusions, expanding our collections, multiplying our examples. Each morning, take up the portrait again as if it were a stranger's. The portrait of the world" (239).

24 November — Monday

§ Henry James | The Ambassadors | 1903 | Garden City: Doubleday Anchor, 1958

Begun in late summer and taken up thereafter as time and the mindfulness required of one by Jamesian syntax presented itself. I was quizzing myself as to whether I liked or understood the book well into its second half, but at some point the quibbles ceased and something like "suspense" took over. "Did he live in a false world, a world that had grown simply to suit him, and was his present slight irritation—in the face, now, of Jim's silence in particular—but the alarm of the vain thing menaced by the touch of the real? Was this contribution of the real possibly the mission of the Pococks?—had they come to make the work of observation, as he had practiced observation, crack and crumble, and to reduce Chad to the plain terms in which honest minds could deal with him? Had they come in short to be sane where Strether was destined to feel that he himself had only been silly? He glanced at such a contingency, but it failed to hold him long...." (276).

21 November — Friday

§ Wild Strawberries (Smultronstället) | Dir. Ingmar Bergman, 1957 | 91min | Screened in the Devil's Eye Film Series, curated by Justin Andrews at UMaine | IMDb link

15 November — Saturday

§ The Italian Job | Dir. Peter Collinson, 1969 | DVD 99min | IMDb link

14 November — Friday

§ The Gleaners and I | Dir. Agnes Varda, 2000 | Screened in the Devil's Eye Film Series, curated by Justin Andrews at UMaine | DVD 82min | IMDb link | stills

10 November — Monday (en route from Tucson to Boston)

§ Laura Kipnis | "The Domestic Gulag" | Excerpt from Against Love: A Polemic | Harper's | October 2003 | 15-18

The price at which "love is obtained": "You can't analyze the cinematography in a movie that they were emotional about.... You can't say the wrong thing, even in situations where there's no right thing to say. You can't use the 'wrong tone of voice,' and you can't deny the wrong-tone-of-voice accusation when it's made. You can't repeat yourself, you can't be overly dramatic.... You can't begin a sentence 'You always.' You can't begin a sentence 'I never.' You can't be simplistic, even when things are simple. You're not permitted to employ the Socratic method in an argument." As the last example demonstrates, lots of things Kipnis associates with the prisonhouse of coupledom in this pretty funny prelude to her book are forbidden to all non-obnoxious people, including single ones.

7 November — Friday

§ Headed to Tucson and the conversation of the kind folks at POG.

29 October — Wednesday

§ Suzanne Goldenberg | "Up to 15,000 people killed in invasion, claims thinktank" | Gaurdian | 29 October 2003 | link

§ Poetry Blogs — some updates since Sunday

Harlequin Knights on Van Sant's Elephant. • Overlap on a performance of John Cage's "Music for Carillon" and the weekend's reading by Corinna Copp & Nick Piombino. • Permalinkless Hotel Point on Bob Perelman's essay "Polemic Greeting to the Inhabitants of Utopia." • William Watkins alternates between ecstasy and Agamben. • Lime Tree's blog of the week, Mikarrhea, involuntarily contemplates civil war. • Sorter exits, Ululations takes a (mystique regenerating?) break. • SDPG on the genesis of Tao Drops, I Change. • Gila Monster is listening to OutKast too. • CorpsePoetics on kari edwards's iduna. • Never Neutral unveils the first installment of an essay on mourning and storytelling. • Tympan on the bleary-eyed camaraderie of the academic job searchers. • And Philly Sound checks out what poets are reading.

26 October — Sunday

§ Poetry Blogs — from the Third Factory links page

Allodox catches a Parliamentarian acting Rothschildian (as in Douglas). • A long post laying out arguments against the death penalty on Bemsha Swing. • Bloggedy Blog Blog shares the results of a work satisfaction survey. • Brutal Kittens wander lonely as clouds. • Cahiers de Corey defers to Marx and Silliman on questions of poetry & empire. • CorpsePoetics salivates over kari edwards's new work. • Elsewhere is riveted by (to?) Marjane Satrapi's graphic memoir Persepolis—and the prescient F train crowd concurs. • Equanimity's magic lantern: "I remember being angry that I wasn't in the pictures from before I was born." • Fait Accompli points to a blog I've not seen before, Crag Hill's poetry scorecard, where the question of how to create new readers of poetry is being examined: "Build the next generation of readers one reader at a time through your own individual work, yes, but also through your own social interactions with younger, unaligned readers." • One of the last acts before Free Space Comix drifted beyond signal range: the Denis Roche bootleg. • Gila Monster nominates Sean Penn's hair for an Oscar (it wins my vote: see below). • Harlequin Knights looks up from In Writing to see LA in flames. • Heathens in Heat, dormant since 3 September 2003, remains in my mind as the definitive blog of the "early phase": whereas others stumbled into the blog format as into a darkened room to which their eyes took a minute to adjust, Hess had the air of someone who'd been waiting impatiently for just this light to strike him. That he maxed out what is, in fact, a pretty restricted form doesn't surprise me: that he found so much to do with it before hitting that point, still does. • Shades of gray and the poetics of cheese at HG. • Hotel Point contemplates Trevor Joyce and Pynchon (the permalinks are 404: look for Friday, 24 Oct). • Human Verb gets ready to read Toscano. • The Ingredient cites Kant on the peculiar fate of human reason. • Laurable helps Pinsky celebrate his sixty-third birthday and points to Geoff Nunberg's NPR take on the term "fascist." • "They redirect free-floating negativity at me who sometime did me scan": Wyatt at Lime Tree. • Mexperimental tracks truths back to "mere Applied Syntax." • The 2003 Monkey Awards are announced. • Mosses from an Old Manse is on hiatus while Peter Culley makes an east coast reading tour. • Never Neutral celebrates its six month anniversary with a Barthesian meditation on rereading. • Freshly returned to NYC from Maine, Overlap wards off a half-hearted mugging attempt—with his keyboard stand: "this use of a musical instrument is in the tradition of the Japanese Shakuhachi flute, which doubles as a weapon if you're in a pinch." • Pantaloons pens one for Alan Davies. • Polis is Eyes is revived by three good poetry readings, including one by George Stanley—due to read here with Kevin Davies on Thursday. • Spurred on in part by the Bloggedy work survey, Porthole Redux serves notice. • Possum Pouch attends the Austin reading of James Koller and Stefan Hyner. • At Random Items, an account of how the Monkey awards are playing in Germany. • Heat wave in SF, firestorm in OC, but in Orono the firsts snow fell on Wednesday (a fair amount but it didn't stick): Reading & Writing has similar conditions. • Nearly as good as updates: excuses for not updating, as at Ruminate ("composing a vast ode to my vasectomy"). • SPDG takes up a cry recently heard also on Fait Accompli: "Vive La Perruque." • The Skeptic rolls up his sleeves to read Fictions from the Self by Michael Burkard. • A Sorter tarries (cost of the war at time of site visit: about $82b). • Silliman responds to Bill Lavender's response to Silliman's reading of Another South. • Squish at a small press fair. • Tex Files logs birthday greetings while listening to Continuous Peasant and reading Merrill and Bachelard. • Thisbe's last post remains the Dylan number of 3 August. • Tympan counsels the bloggers to bring their academically-hatched format back home. • Ululation's "The Abuse of Mercury" post has the blogvertisements in quite a state: to the left, "Flatulence/Gas Deodorizer"; to the right, "Free Rectal Bleeding Info." • Venepoetics continues with the case against Chavez. • The Well-Nourished Moon on impossible goals and hybrid emotions. • And ? informs me of the existence of a comic book arm to OuLiPo: OuBaPo.

25 October — Saturday

§ Marcel Proust | Swann's Way. | Trans. Lydia Davis | New York: Viking, 2003 | 468pp | $27.95 | see earlier mention below

Within a few pages it is clear that Davis inhabits the Proustian syntax with total confidence and from that point forward the book unfolds its familiar scenes as though for the first time, every sentence an intricate duet played through by two minds—Proust's, Davis's—upon which nothing is lost. I'm only a hundred pages in, but already I find it hard not to wish (with no disrespect to the other translators intended) that Davis had been—convinced? permitted? forced by the Supreme Court?—to bring the whole of the Search into English herself. As it stands, the translation is a staggering act of generosity and intelligence, a rejoining of two ways that—like the Guermantes way and the one by Swann's—looked to be mutually exclusive: the way by Beckett, through Davis, rejoins the way by Proust (and Joyce).

24 October — Friday

§ Mystic River | Dir. Clint Eastwood, 2003 | 137min | IMDb link

As advertised, good acting: especially from Tim Robbins. Blistered gobs of peeling paint everywhere. Penn's thick hair (dyed black with white streaks at the side) and clenched, overly articulated face. Laura Linney's Annabeth Markum: her contempt for weakness, her stomach-turning eroticization of patriarchal violence. The Savage Brothers, Val and Nick: the body type and sense of style one sees everyday between Boston and Providence. Eli Wallach, in his late eighties, relishing his (uncredited) role as a liquor store owner. A boot to the face late in the film that speaks to the constraint Eastwood has shown up to that point. Ed O'Keefe's sexually abusive priest: little more than a face leering from the front seat, but it sticks. A moment where the music underscores a scene just the way the Law & Order t.v. franchise does: a slip, not an allusion. As Kent Jones noticed: the parallel editing almost quaint. Jenny O'Hara, also uncredited, as the mother of the Romeo figure (Brendan Harris, played by Tom Guiry): the audience lurches between a gasp and a laugh as she fills a doorframe, fierce and vast in her housecoat and hair and willingness to disavow any feeling for her son. Leaving the theater, a young woman to her date, a bit disappointed: "It was a thinking movie...." Jonathan Rosenbaum's review for the Chicago Reader gets what's disgusting about the film better than anything else I've read. His conclusion: "Is this tragic inevitability or misogyny? Or is it maybe some of both, with redemptive love and the equivalent of operatic arias thrown in as validation? Whatever it is, it's the American way, and Eastwood has been elected its official commentator. Maybe he's telling us we're wrong even when we're right, but he's made it too easy to read that message in reverse." By contrast, see Kent Jones's more or less canonizing response annotated below.

21 October — Tuesday

§ Bernadette Mayer | "Journal Entry in Orono, Maine" | late March 2001 | link to 1.4mb Quicktime file

20 October — Monday

§ Slam | Dir. Marc Levin, 1998 | DVD 100min | IMDb link

This past spring in Madison I heard Adelaide Morris give an interesting talk about the scene in this film where Saul Williams, about to be jumped by fellow prisoners, lets loose his "amethyst rock" rap and stuns his stalkers into letting him leave the scene unharmed and unaligned (the Bonz Malone character rubs his chin and mumbles: "I forgot what the fuck I was thinking"). I can't disagree with the reviewer at Salon who writes of this scene: "It's a nice thought, but if victims could 'word' their way out of trouble, Federico Garca Lorca would not have been shot, nor Euripides exiled, and the disarmingly articulate Joan of Arc might have eluded her public barbecuing at the stake." But neither would I dismiss the wish articulated here: namely, that words can astonish even to the point of breaking the spell of (spill of) violence. • More from Salon: "The majority of the characters in the jail scenes are real-life inmates, and they often upstage the actors. Williams has the gentle face and ascetic physique of a street poet, but he has a narrow emotional range: He vaults from spaced-out confusion to wild gesticulations of wrath and wisdom, with nary a nuance in between. His formal enunciation also sounds alien next to the patois of his ghetto and jail constituency. Particularly compelling is prison-gang leader Hopha (Malone) who squints, slurs, snarls and struts across the celluloid with singular attitude. Sohn, who plays the creative writing teacher with a sordid, mysterious past, also reaches a depth in her jail scenes that she never attains on the 'outside.' In her farewell speech to her poetry students, she conveys a complex stew of grief, love, hope, rage and generosity."

19 October — Sunday

§ Lost Highway | Dir. David Lynch, 1997 | DVD 135min | IMDb link

Jonathan Rosenbaum, writing in the Chicago Reader when the film was first released: "Properly speaking, this isn't a movie with characters but with figures, each of them as overblown as a plastic inner tube. (The huge close-ups of eyes and lips that periodically blip through the narrative only add to the overall sense of abstraction.) .... The thrill of this kind of enigmatic rhyming structure, combined with Lynch's masterful and often powerful fusions of sound and image, is that it makes all sorts of splashy expressionistic effects possible — moments of "pure" filmmaking in which the ideological trappings of noir become subverted by the heady mixtures (such as the literal and figurative grafting of the Mystery Man onto the body of Arquette). The limitation is that, even if the thematic preoccupations at times appear to float and circulate independent of the inner tubes, their assumptions remain mired in the adolescent mind-set ('dirty' sex and corrupted male innocence) that informs virtually all of Lynch's features." From Janet Maslin's review: "When Fred, a musician, goes out to play at a jazz club, Renee says she will stay home and read. No heroine of Mr. Lynch's has ever looked ready to curl up with a good book."

18 October — Saturday

§ Bowling for Columbine | Dir. Michael Moore, 2002 | DVD 120min | IMDb link

§ In the air — André Benjamin / OutKast | The Love Below | Arista 2003 | 20 tracks 78min

Dorian Lynskey, writing for the Gaurdian: "Hopping boundaries like Prince in his prime, Benjamin alights upon absurd innuendo ("Lend me some sugar! I am your neighbour!"), Norah Jones, a drum'n'bass version of Rodgers and Hammerstein's 'My Favourite Things' and a song called 'Dracula's Wedding,' which really is about Nosferatu's nuptials." • Pitchfork's Brent DiCrescenzo argues the minority position that Big Boi's Speakboxx is the better of the two discs: "As it turns out, [Benjamin's] Prince-mimicking fusion looks a lot better on paper than it sounds in your ears. On too many songs, Andre repeats space-playboy choruses over repetitious, unfinished digifunk. As the brief orchestrated outro to 'Pink and Blue' suggests, each track feels like it's missing something—strings, guitars, harmonies, organic instruments, and, oh right, Big Boi. Andre does have his moment, though: 'Hey Ya' glitters and towers like the silver Westin hotel over an 80s Atlanta skyline, blending Flaming Lips-like synth-bass and ebullient acoustic guitar with the rebellious joy of 'Little Red Corvette'—and like all classic songs, it introduces new vernacular with a genius that transcends product placement. Even feeders will shout 'Polaroid!' while miming spanking at this fall's Not-Dog cookouts."

17 October — Friday

§ Kent Jones | "The Eastwood Variations" | Film Comment | September / October 2003 | 44-51

"Since the late Eighties, Eastwood has offered the same contrast to the audience, again and again, in myriad variations: this is the way you think things are, the way you're told they are, and this is the way things really are. Which is, of course, what the narratives of Bird, Madison County, Unforgiven, A Perfect World (great title), and Mystic River—Eastwood's crowning achievements—are all about. I think his detractors hold it against him, because they think it all boils down to slam-bang melodrama, every move culled from the most surefire formulae in the action-movie handbook (parallel editing, boldfaced contrasts, sensationalist injections of realism). And they're not exactly wrong. But Eastwood is harnessing these devices to think, and to help us think, through questions of violence, vengeance, adulthood, and social conditioning—amazing that this alleged arch-conservative has made movie after movie devoted to the idea that criminals are just ordinary people who've gotten bad breaks.... His older films are admirably restrained, often refreshingly bitter, with a nice, adult gravitation toward solitude, best exemplified by William Holden's genuinely misanthropic bachelor in Breezy (73)—in those days, Eastwood himself was still a little too callow to pull off the loner effect as perfectly as Holden: he had to wait for his skin to weather and his eyes to crinkle into slits" (51).

§ Scenes from The Independence of Eddie Rose | Play by William S. Yellow Robe, Jr. | Performed by the Penobscot Players at the University of Maine

§ Charles Bernstein | "PENNsound Manifesto" | link (with thanks to Laurable for the pointer)

06 October — Monday

§ Kodwo Eshun | "Cross Platform: Sound in Other Media" | The Wire 235 | September 2003 | print edition only

Among the music blogs mentioned in Eshun's one-page rundown of the scene are: minima moralia, S/FJ, New York London Paris Munich, FreakyTrigger, skykicking, The Church of Me, The Pill Box, k-punk, tHAT wAS a nAUGHTY bIT oF cRAP, and Heronbone. Of the latter, Eshun enthuses: "Equally at home with the oeuvre of Dizzee Rascal and Fernando Pessoa, Heronbone is deeply original. Music magazines cannot prepare you for the sheer surprise of a blog that locates itself between WG Sebald, Wiley from Roll Deep and Iain Sinclair. From word to phrase, clause to lyric, sentence to paragraph, Heronbone is sheer greatness: a vivid justification of the blog at its best and brightest." That someone can write "best and brightest" without apparent irony is worrisome, and the hyperbolic tone creates expectations that I at least don't expect to see fulfilled by a blog, but I'm curious to visit this and other recommended sites over the next few days. For one thing, I like seeing other people wearing the prefab blog formats that I associate with particular poetry bloggers: it's as though blogspot-era Lime Tree "is" The Pill Box for a moment and the little worlds temporarily dilate.

04 October — Saturday

§ Bookforum 10.3 | Fall 2003 | Print edition | Link to table of contents here

At a first pass: "A Day in the Life" of Pier Paolo Pasolini, just before he made Accattone: "On the road we talked and talked. Finally, we could discuss freely, without arguing, more clearly and innocently than in all the literary reviews we had been asked to write in the recent months, with the joyfulness of helping each other to understand" (16). • Heather Caldwell reviews Jerome Rothenberg's edition of María Sabina's mushroom chants: "In a sense the mushrooms offered her a way into language: Her words literally healed the sick, consoled the sad, and inspired the aimless. As she herself attests, 'I cure with Language. Nothing else'" (46). • Saul Anton lets Lydia Davis talk about her Proust translation: "It seems to me that Proust's idea of the sentence is that it is one extended thought, with or without ramifications, a web or net thrown over an idea; of course, that's not a very good metaphor because the web or net itself is the idea. He felt the sentence must not be broken, interrupted.... He felt that his work was 'concise,' and I agree with him. One can have extended works of literature that are economical and short works that are verbose" (36). • Erik Davis briefly reviews Zizek's book on "the perverse core of Christianity," The Puppet and the Dwarf. • And Michael Silverstein manages to say nearly nothing about the new edition of The Chicago Manual of Style.

03 October — Friday

§ Lost in Translation | Dir. Sofia Coppola, 2003 | 102min | IMDb link

From Liam Lacey's review in The Globe and Mail: "Arguably, Lost in Translation is the American answer to Wong Kar-wai's masterpiece, In the Mood for Love, though less about history, more about infatuation. Lost in Translation is already earning swoony critical responses. Once again, we have the teasing possibilities between a man and a woman, both attached to other people yet intensely drawn to each other. Both are unwilling to do wrong and, in the end, each movie gains mystique from a secret that is whispered, to which the audience is not privy.... If it were clear that Coppola was showing the heartless side of mutual infatuation, this might be a deeper film, not just a study of attraction in isolation. The dizzy high of an improbable romantic connection is perfectly captured; the sour notes seem to have seeped in unawares." • Note how terrifically lumpy Scarlett Johansson is allowed to be in the still below: so unlike the überhip still with the pink wig. • Read Allodox's take back on 16 September.


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June 1-15, 2003June 16-30, 2003

July 1-15, 2003July 16-31, 2003

August 2003September 2003

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