Thursday, September 25, 2008

Deeply, deeply hilarious. Right?

There's funny, there's funny, and then there's this:

Watch CBS Videos Online

... once I've picked myself up off the floor, I'm off to build a bunker and stock up on food and water.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Dedicated to all human beings

Because the Nude remix competition was so much fun, those clever boys at Camp Radiohead are doing the same with Reckoner, a song that at least has the virtue of being in 4/4.

They've posted versions with James Holden and Diplo; both are merely OK — a sure spur to someone out there to do better.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Obama & the Conquest of Denver

Michael Chabon on the Democratic Convention:

When Obama concluded his speech, we looked at each other, and then at him, and all stood up, wild with applause. (God knows what kind of madness was going on down there among the California delegation.) We had come to the end of volume two of the great adventure. Now it was time to go save the world. Game on.

David Foster Wallace

David Foster Wallace is dead. I can’t say I ever read any of his fiction, which is certainly my loss; I’ve been conditioned against it by, one, a highly critical essay on Wallace’s mimetic style by, I think, James Woods (Wallace being the ne plus ultra of writers you’d expect Woods to hate: hyper-modern, super-dense, with no feeling for beautiful prose for its own sake) and, two, the sheer door-stopping weight of the things: Infinite Jest looks like it would do serious damage to one’s phalanges should it ever be dropped on them.

But the non-fiction, the reportage and literary critiques, are spell-binding; hyper acute and super-smart, Wallace’s (supposed) weaknesses become his strengths: giving each idea as long as it needs, and exploring all its branches; the dazzling research; the illumination of the metaphors; the obscure terminology (which all turn out, on interrogation of the dictionary, to be precisely the right words); and, of course, the subject matter: the wonder of Roger Federer; the plight of the lobster; John McCain; David Lynch; and so on.

But I wanted to quote from his essay on Borges. It’s from a review of Edwin Williamson’s Borges: A Life. It’s a small masterpiece of concision:

The truth, briefly stated, is that Borges is arguably the great bridge between modernism and post-modernism in world literature. He is modernist in that his fiction shows a first-rate human mind stripped of all foundations in religious or ideological certainty -- a mind turned thus wholly in on itself. His stories are inbent and hermetic, with the oblique terror of a game whose rules are unknown and its stakes everything.

And the mind of those stories is nearly always a mind that lives in and through books. This is because Borges the writer is, fundamentally, a reader. The dense, obscure allusiveness of his fiction is not a tic, or even really a style; and it is no accident that his best stories are often fake essays, or reviews of fictitious books, or have texts at their plots' centers, or have as protagonists Homer or Dante or Averroes. Whether for seminal artistic reasons or neurotic personal ones or both, Borges collapses reader and writer into a new kind of aesthetic agent, one who makes stories out of stories, one for whom reading is essentially -- consciously -- a creative act. This is not, however, because Borges is a metafictionist or a cleverly disguised critic. It is because he knows that there's finally no difference -- that murderer and victim, detective and fugitive, performer and audience are the same. Obviously, this has postmodern implications (hence the pontine claim above), but Borges's is really a mystical insight, and a profound one. It's also frightening, since the line between monism and solipsism is thin and porous, more to do with spirit than with mind per se. And, as an artistic program, this kind of collapse/transcendence of individual identity is also paradoxical, requiring a grotesque self-obsession combined with an almost total effacement of self and personality. Tics and obsessions aside, what makes a Borges story Borgesian is the odd, ineluctable sense you get that no one and everyone did it.

A brilliant summation of Borges' appeal; and a passing definition of modernism that's as good as anything I've ever read. I've included some further online examples:

"Host" The Atlantic Monthly, April, 2005
"Consider The Lobster" Gourmet, August, 2004
"The Weasel, Twelve Monkeys, And The Shrub: Seven Days In The Life Of The Late, Great John McCain" Rolling Stone, April 13, 2000*
"David Lynch Keeps His Head" Premiere, September, 1996

"Laughing With Kafka" Harper's, July, 1998
"Tense Present: Democracy, Usage And The War Over Usage" Harper's, April, 2001
"John Updike, Champion Literary Phallocrat, Drops One; Is This Finally The End For Magnificent Narcissists?" New York Observer, October 13, 1997
"Tennis, Trigonometry, Tornadoes: A Midwestern Boyhood" Harper's, December, 1991

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Creamy not foamy

How to make the perfect flat white:

Conjoined, talons engaged

In our mounting excitement for the new TV on the Radio album, thrillingly titled Dear Science, we thought now might be an opportune moment to post the video to what we think is their best song to date, "Province", which of course features the inestimable Sir David Bowie on trademark warbly backing vox:

I'll write more on the album when I finally get a copy...

The dream again nobody understands

It’s a blue day in the country, the birds are singing in the dreams; it’s thunderously good to be alive. It helps that I’m sipping a Pimms at the B-man’s country house. It's a lovely pad, airy and bright, a perfect venue for the summer barbecue that’s in full swing. Much wine does flow. B flits from guest to guest, the proverbial life and soul. I retire to the other end of the immaculate lawn, exhausted as always by the prospect of socialising. Someone’s had the same idea: standing at the back of the garden is a tall melancholy fellow. He’s holding a glass of white wine and looking out at the countryside beyond with an expression of dreamy lugubriousness. He's wearing an insouciantly rumpled suit and a check shirt. I know this man: it’s Elbow’s lead singer Guy Garvey, a lovely man by any measure, indeed one of the Greatest Living Englishmen. My next sentence leaps from my mouth unbidden.

"Hey Guy. Love the new album!"

He looks at me. His eyes narrow. I’ve said the wrong thing.

"How have you heard it?"

Oh dear: It's not out yet. In fact, it’s not out for some time. So, the way I have heard it is this: I have downloaded it. Illegally. He knows this. I die inside, quite exploded by my own petard. This garden party has turned awfully chilly.


Ok, so I should confess immediately that the above was a dream I had a few years back. Vivid as you like, but happily a dream nonetheless. Talk about the anxiety of the long-distance downloader.

One of the best songs from Elbow’s second album A Cast of Thousands is “Not A Job”, the chorus of which turns on a dream that remains, in this case tantalizingly unexplained:

The dream again nobody understands
Walking through the long grass on your hands
It's not a job to do today
Sleep it off

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

There'll be twisted karaoke at the Aniseed Lounge

Hooray! I said to all the haters and naysayers that Elbow would win the Nationwide Mercury Prize for the astonishing The Seldom Seen Kid — and they only bloomin' well did! I was genuinely nervous that the judges were going to stuff it all up again and give the statuette to Plant and Krauss or Adele or even Walker-lite peddlers The Last Shadow Puppets. Couldn't have happened to a nicer bunch of fellows. They all looked genuinely thrilled, bless 'em.

More on the subject of Bury's finest presently, but meantime, here's the splendid new video for "The Bones of You":

Monday, September 08, 2008

Lost in Showbiz

If you count yourself amongst the numberless hordes for whom such esoterica as the contents of my blog roll hold an almost limitless fascination, you'll have noticed that there are a couple of additions to my list of noteworthies. Marina Hyde I discovered while eating baked potatoes at the offices of Orange. Forgive the specificity, but I won't readily forget, in a heroic attempt to stifle a laugh, snorting bits of tuna and cheese out of my own nostrils. Her column Lost in Showbiz is a thing of wonder, and not just because of its apocalyptic humour — the more trivial and soul-crushing her subject matter, the more elevated the prose becomes. Actually, and without permission, let me quote Clive James:

Marina Hyde is an Oxford graduate who now writes the kind of journalism that would have given her tutor a heart attack. She started her London career as a secretary on the Sun's show-business desk, and even after her transfer to the Guardian, where she currently writes three columns a week, she retained her detailed interest in the trivia of the celebrity culture. Her writings on politics show her seriousness and her writings on sport show her adventurous range, but her column "Lost in Showbiz", in my opinion, shows her at her most original. Very few writers who know that much about the fundamentally worthless are capable of being funny about it. She digs down fearlessly through the strata of the negligible and finds the underlying ephemerality. What makes this fantastic voyage worthwhile is her gift for conveying a moral view through the precision of her rhythmic prose, which depends on a complete control of syntax. ("Suffering almost unimaginably for his art comes Sir Ben Kingsley...") She has the knack, highly schooled in her case, of bringing everything in and making it fit the form: bric-a-brac castles. Admiring students should not imagine that they can do the same just by lightening up. It takes a feeling for the serious to treat what doesn't matter as if it mattered. The first seven links on the right lead to a string of pieces written in late 2005, when "Lost in Showbiz" found its unique and enviable tone. Further links to more recent pieces have since been added in response to sobbing cries of “More Marina!” from desperate fans.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Raymond Chandler

Raymond Chandler writes to his publisher:

Would you convey my compliments to the purist who reads your proofs and tell him or her that I write in a sort of broken-down patois which is something like the way a Swiss waiter talks, and that when I split an infinitive, God damn it, I split it so it'll stay split, and when I interrupt the velvety smoothness of my more or less literate syntax with a few sudden words of bar-room vernacular, that is done with the eyes wide open and the mind relaxed but attentive... I think your proof-reader is kindly attempting to steady me on my feet, but much as I appreciate the solicitude, I am really able to steer a fairly clear course, provided I get both sidewalks and the street in between.