Thursday, March 31, 2005

Kelefa Sanneh declares Moby more than a brand: Moby is an ideology. (Is he confusing him with Momus? Easy way to tell them apart: One is bald, the other wears a pirate patch.) He calls his royal Teanyness "a pop star for a world too sophisticated to believe in pop stars - a post-pop-star, perhaps" and continues:

"The end of history will be a very sad time," the political theorist Francis Fukuyama wrote in 1989, anticipating, after a fashion, Moby's world. Mr. Fukuyama imagined a future defined by "economic calculation, the endless solving of technical problems, environmental concerns, and the satisfaction of sophisticated consumer demands." The appeal of Moby was that he would give us a way to enjoy this future; he would satisfy our "sophisticated consumer demands" through superior engineering.
Does this man need a soothing herbal tea and vegan pate to soothe his nerves? Or is this just Sanneh's longwinded way of saying that the new album sucks?

Also in the Times, Charles "Chip" McGrath interviews Ian McEwan. He says the worst part of being a literary celeb is having to answer dumb questions about favorite vegetables. (Chip, I told you not to ask him him the veggie question!)

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

The scoop on a new documentary about Morrissey’s latino fans in L.A. The Guardian says the Smithinos didn’t warm to the 42 year old Brit filmmaker until he got a pompadour...
A journey into London’s sewers with Blake Morrison also leads to a long and amazing history of waste, including great details about sewer workers, who were called gong-fermers once upon a time and who apparently had "a fixed belief that the odour of the sewers contributes in a variety of ways to their general health." Morrison seems to think we don't have enough respect for our muck (Victor Hugo called sewers "the conscience of the city" and the Romans had a goddess of sewers, Cloacina) and wades down into the tunnels himself:
There are odd niches and corridors off to both right and left, and you begin to grasp the scale of Bazalgette's labyrinth, and to see how artful he was in diverting excrement away from our homes - unlike his great-great-grandson, Peter, producer of Big Brother and other reality TV shows, who, critics allege, has poured it back in.
If you’re tired of all that Safran Foer-hating that's going around, Gabe Hudson has a sympathetic interview with him in the Voice. Also in the same issue is an interview with 24 Hour Party People star Steve Coogan about I'm Alan Partridge, a hysterical TV series about a loser talk show host described as a precursor to The Office:
"I remember the writers sometimes saying, 'Let's do this to Alan!' sort of like they were torturing an insect. And I'd get quite annoyed and say, 'I'm not going to let you do that to him.' I was basically arguing for my character's human rights!"
Even Slovenian philosophers liked to wear white suits and party with hot chicks. Case in point: the wedding of Slavoj Zizek. Don’t worry though, apparently the fiance’s parents are Lacanians. (Can Padma Lakshmi say the same?) This joyous occasion reminds me of the passage in Zizek's “Kant and Sade: The Ideal Couple” in which he lingers over a scene from an Italian movie:
At the film's end, when he is on the verge of marrying his beloved, he wants at least to violate the prohibition of premarital sex by sleeping with her the night before the wedding --however, his bride unknowingly spoils even this minimal pleasure by arranging with the priest for special permission for the two of them to sleep together the night before, so that the act is deprived of its transgressive sting. What can he do now? In the last shot of the film, we see him crawling on the narrow porch on the outside of the high-rise building, giving himself the difficult task of entering the girl's bedroom in the most dangerous way, in a desperate attempt to link sexual gratification to mortal danger…

[link via that theory-whore Gawker]

Monday, March 28, 2005

Elaine Showalter (described as "feminist cultural critic and, at present, the LA Times's Michael Jackson trial-watcher") gets a quick grilling from Boston Globe's resident smartypants Joshua Glenn on the subject of her new book about the depiction on academics in fiction. It made me remember Showalter's recent desecration of Tom Wolfe's "juvenile jaunt":
Titillated by the sexual revolution that has arrived on campus since his own student days, Wolfe totally misses the feminist revolution that has given us so many more women students, faculty members, deans, and presidents.
A roundtable from the Morning News on street art (a little belatedly) includes some interesting discussion from Swoon, the Wooster Collective and Patrick of Faile, who protests:
“Street art” is a term that helps to define everything in terms of the art in our urban landscape outside of what is otherwise known as graffiti. The term itself I have come to find very annoying over time through overuse, something like way the word “dude” can be used by someone over and over again. I feel as if the term has been used so much that it has become watered down, and in a way, so has street art itself.

Gammablablog also has a whole lot of photos of work by Swoon, one of the few major female street artists, including conversation about her methods. Glowlab has a page about Swoon's Toyshop Collective

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Literary tsunami in a teacup? Emma Garman at Media bistro sees too many similarities in the new novels by married couple Jonathan Safran Foer and Nicole Krauss.
One can only speculate as to what the couple was thinking when they made the decision—for this is no unwitting coincidence—to come out with sophomore novels obviously collaborative, so numerous are the similarities. Is it a cute postmodern joke? God knows Foer is fond of those. Or perhaps it's a romantic statement: as we are joined in matrimony so is our work?
A conversation between Michael Chabon and wife Ayelet Waldman transcribed by Beautiful Stuff sheds some light on the topic of two writers cohabiting, and how much of the same potential writing material they share.
Bookslut has a great roundup of links to “New New Journalists” who have content online like Eric Schlosser, Adrian Nicole LeBlanc, William Finnegan and Susan Orleans.
Anne Thompson on how sex doesn’t necessarily sell movies anymore, unless it’s dumb or vulgar:
Outside of the sophisticated urban art house milieu, most American moviegoers just don't want much sex in their movies. According to studio marketers, it tends to make them (especially men) uncomfortable. "If you spell sex in marketing materials, it doesn't sell," producer Peter Guber says. "If you spell fun, it sells. Sex inside a comedy candy-coats sex and allows the audience to feel comfortable. Laughter covers up insecurity. Sex sells, but not serious sex. Films can be sexy, but they can't portray the sexual intimacy most people crave. In the movies, you have to have safe sex palatable to a younger audience. The portrayal has to be violent or funny."
[link via greencine]
Katha Pollitt broadens the Why Aren’t There More Female Op-Ed columnists discussion to talk about a more general sexism in which male editors tend to mentor men who remind them of their young selves
Editors socialize with these acolytes, form friendships with them, offer them important career-making assignments (how often have you seen a "think piece" by a woman that wasn't about a "woman's issue"?), encourage them to take risks and give them more chances if they screw up. Marty Peretz at The New Republic was famous for this kind of mentorship, as was the Washington Monthly's Charles Peters. It wouldn't have occurred to me to approach the Washington Monthly when I was a freelancer — partly because my politics were further to the left, but also because it was such a notoriously masculine preserve. Everything about it suggested that I had as much chance of appearing in its pages as in Popular mechanics. I'm not saying no woman could get the odd assignment at the magazines that mostly publish men, but to make a career you need to be part of the family, you need to be the person to whom the magazine offers plum assignments and sudden opportunities, that gives you a kind of carte blanche (what's on your mind? what's on your plate? when are we going to see that piece on Outer Mongolia?), and that lets you develop as a voice and a personality.

Monday, March 21, 2005

Just noticed (thanks to Ed) that NYRB has posted Patricia Storace's review of Marjane Satrapi's Persepolis (both volumes) and John Leonard's treatise on Jonathan Lethem, which has the great headline "Welcome to New Dork" and goes way crazy on Lethem's nerdy ass:
We have been airpopped and multimediated unto inanity and pastiche. Philip K. Dick and Stan Lee get made into Hollywood movies. Alienation and sexual terror have their own sitcoms, fashion statements, and marketing niches. The middle finger and the Bronx cheer are required courses in cultural studies. Boomers have made sure that their every febrile enthusiasm since Pampers will last longer than radioactive waste, on digital cable or DVD. Gen-Xers are just as solipsistic; anything that ever mattered to them must have been profound, even, say, Debbie Harry of the pop group Blondie talking to MTV while a sirocco blows in one of her ears and out the other and neurons die like flies. BITE MY CRANK, SUPER GOAT MAN!
First it was Martin Amis reporting on misery in Columbia, now the London Times has Daniel Day-Lewis doing an in-depth article on Palestinian families in the Gaza strip. Going further down the ladder, we anticipate the next edition: Kate Moss on the African problem.
A girl named Vladimir makes delicate animated dioramas designed to be seen on one of those viewmaster toys you had as a kid. Pasting the slides and reels together by hand, she has reenacted Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities and Kafka’s lesser known parables, and a few of her own original stories, like Lucifugia Thigmotaxis about the life of a cockroach. She writes:
“Lucifugia means light-fleeing. Thigmotaxis is the need for pressure on all sides of your body in order to feel safe. Together these two words describe the essential nature of the cockroach.”
[link via the nonist]
Mediabistro has an interview with new Paris Review editor (and great journalist) Philip Gourevitch
Ricky Gervais chimes in on the American version of The Office

Friday, March 18, 2005

I haven’t seen Mike Mills' Thumbsucker yet, but from what I’ve heard, video director/skatepunk designer/coppola pal Mills is about to do the Spike Jonze crossover dance. The lovefest has already begun: see the NYT Times Style magazine profile. And then check out these slightly older interviews: And check out these slightly older interviews: Readymade’s How did you get your awesome job and an old Film Comment article.
Tom Vanderbilt writes about professional futurists. Did you know:
There is a World Future Society, an Institute for the Future, and, more recently, an Association for Professional Futurists (APF). The back pages of The Futurist magazine are filled with ads for people who offer "visioning" skills and "socio-technological forecasts." Ad agencies maintain divisions that provide "futurescaping." Periodicals such as Futures Research Quarterly and the Journal of Futures Studies cater to those who are eager to know the shape of things to come.
[link via]
A few weeks ago I linked to an article on knitting’s debatable entry into high culture. Now Metroplis has an article on the changing status of crafts in the art and design world.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

How great is this Detroit Metro Times headline: Does this make my labia look fat? It’s an article about elective surgeries that promise women a better sex life.
Joyce Carol Oates reviews a book about American fantasies of childhood in the TLS, in case you missed it, and it's pretty interesting.
Each of the seventeen chapters is a self-sustaining argument in support of Mintz’s thesis, that “a series of myths have clouded public thinking about the history of American childhood”. These are: the myth of the “happy childhood”; the myth of “home as a haven and bastion of stability in an ever-changing world”; the myth that childhood “is the same for all children, a status transcending class, ethnicity, and gender”; the myth that the United States is a “peculiarly child-friendly society, when in actuality Americans are deeply ambivalent about children”; and the most prevalent myth, “the myth of progress, and its inverse, a myth of decline”.