Friday, September 30, 2011

Arguments from Authority

The Cut (Spero Lucas) (George Pelecanos)
- Highlight on Page 48 | Loc. 691-97 | Added on Friday, September 30, 2011, 07:51 AM
“What are they reading in your class, The Scarlet Letter, somethin like that?”
“We’re finishing up an Elmore Leonard,” said Leo.
“Which one?”
Unknown Man #89.”
“Good one.”
“Hell, yeah.”

The Cut (Spero Lucas) (George Pelecanos)
- Highlight on Page 75 | Loc. 1109-15 | Added on Friday, September 30, 2011, 07:49 AM
Lucas took her into Busboys and Poets, the bookstore and café that was bustling with activity, all sorts of faces and types, the D.C. most folks had wanted for a long time. He bought her a couple of novels: Lean on Pete and The Death of Sweet Mister.
“Is there a reason you picked these out?” said Constance as they stood before the register.
“You mean, am I sending you a message.”
“Yeah, like when a guy makes a mix tape for a girl.”
“Good clean writing, is all. I thought you’d like them.”

UPDATE: "After a brief period of floundering between forms, Pelecanos returns here to the P.I. procedural a stronger, more interesting novelist, not just in terms of his prose and his characters, but in terms of his reach and ambition. Unlike literary authors such as Michael Chabon and Colson Whitehead, who make calculated bombing runs at the fortress of genre from on high, Pelecanos is slowly blasting his way out, not abandoning the kinds of stories and characters that have served him so well, but deepening them, getting inside them in new ways. The result isn’t capital L literature – we’re not talking Tolstoy here – but it makes for a very satisfying read."


Thursday, September 29, 2011

"Boardwalk Empire" Season Two Review

Vampire chic.


Welcome to the new millenium

Just received the following e-mail from the new gatekeepers to the world of "books":

We're writing about your past Kindle purchase of Reamde: A Novel by Neal Stephenson. The version you received had Missing Content that have been corrected.

An updated version of Reamde: A Novel (ASIN:B004XVN0WW) is now available. It's important to note that when we send you the updated version, you will no longer be able to view any highlights, bookmarks, and notes made in your current version and your furthest reading location will be lost.

If you wish to receive the updated version, please reply to this email with the word "Yes" in the first line of your response. Within 2 hours of receiving the e-mail any device that has the title currently downloaded will be updated automatically if the wireless is on.


Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Right wing film critic explains "Drive" to you

An unfavorable review from John Podhoretz in the completely uninfluential cultural pages of The Weekly Standard, which has the following amusing thought:

....there is something unearthly about Los Angeles after the sun sets. Michael Mann has made two “L.A. at night” movies, Heat and Collateral. Robert Altman, a notorious stoner, also made two—one in the 1970s called The Long Goodbye and one in the 1990s called Short Cuts. The last movie made by Hal Ashby, the great 1970s director who apparently was never actually unstoned, was 8 Million Ways to Die—a genuine piece of junk art about an alcoholic detective investigating the murder of a hooker that was released in 1986. Drive consciously evokes it—as it does similar movies released around the same time like Into the Night, To Live and Die in L.A., Against All Odds, Tequila Sunrise, and 52 Pick-Up.

....This may help explain why Drive isn’t making much money. Who wants to see a feature-length and lovingly detailed tribute to a mini-genre—’80s L.A. noir—that flopped with audiences the first time? Well, to tell you the truth, I do. I adored those movies when they came out, because they were propulsive and fun—and I was in my mid-20s, and even when I found a movie indefensible I could still enjoy it. That’s usually not true any longer, and Drive is indefensible, but I could hear my 25-year-old self whispering in my ear, “Don’t be a spoilsport.” So I’m not.


Feeling like Warren Buffett here...

My response to this news is "Tax me more!", even though Amazon is pretty much the only place where I shop -- and books are as important to me as food...

Not that I think that the wasteful and stupid California government needs more money. But the structural unfairness of making the crotchety guy at Book 'Em in South Pasadena collect an extra 10% on each purchase when Amazon wouldn't: unacceptable.


California legislators and Amazon officials agreed to a deal in Sacramento earlier this month over the issue of sales-tax collection from online retailers. The lawmakers said they would delay the enactment of a new law, which would require Internet stores with retail-related offices California to collect sales tax, until September 2012. In exchange, Amazon agreed to stop pursuing a ballot measure to repeal that law and to lobby Congress to pass federal Internet sales-tax legislation.

The California law would go into effect on September 2012 if Congress doesn't enact federal legislation by then. If Congress does pass a law, then the California legislation would go into effect in January 2013.
"In either case, we are going to start collecting," Mr. Bezos said in an interview.


Monday, September 26, 2011

Here's what I need

Although I can't somehow keep from hoping that Alex from "Clockwork Orange" shows up to mess about a bit. Too pristine.


Sunday, September 25, 2011

The Bohemian Girl

Although I didn't find the startling image below on the Caustic Cover Critic blog, I felt I should tip my hat in that direction, because we're linked to each other, and this is a more significant connection than "Friending," IMHO. A few of Caustic's commenters in 2009 used this photo as a jumping off point for a "writers you'd least like to see naked" thread. (God, where to begin?) So I feel bound to say, and not in the spirit merely of being gallant, that I like this picture quite a bit. That if I'd run into her back in the day (though a 30-year time shift would have been needed to bring us into congruence) I might have been dazzled.

Perhaps some of those who professed dismay at the sight were influenced by their knowledge of how grimly the novelist in question actually aged, as a lifelong chain-smoker with osteoperosis? But why not turn it around? This sense or that of her physical appearance, this way or that, all equally notional, at this point in time. Why not allow your mental image of this brilliant writer to be infused with the knowledge that this is what she looked like when she was 20?


On the stack....

Not surprisingly, the new novel by Neal Stephenson, weighing in at over a thousand pages, is great fun and more narratively blessed than Anathem. Set in the culture of mmorpgs. Assumes that you have deep geek-fu as well as a love of elaborately plotted thrillers. I would love to hear from connoisseurs of mmorpgs whether he gets it right.


Thursday, September 22, 2011


Meanwhile, the original TV versions of the Swedish adaptations come to Blu-Ray.



Karen Dalton

Patti Smith

Lucinda Williams

PJ Harvey

The Breeders

Neko Case

Amanda Palmer


Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Hugh Laurie playlist

Came up recently in the context of AFP, as another noted composer and performer of satirical songs. Contributes an "On my iPod" list to

Key quote:

Adrian Duke is in a similar mold to [Jon] Cleary, but he has a looser, friendlier style. "Live in New Orleans" is a blast. His singing is great but completely unintelligible, which is fine with me. It relieves me of the duty to listen to lyrics, which I do only because I know I should. Lyrics are better as musical sounds than bearers of meaning. Meaning is for novelists.


Reach for a Lucky instead of a sweet

Why are we so fat? The biggest factor in the increase in obesity is the decrease in smoking. Light up! I believe it even if it's not true. It should be true.

Cool quote:

Smokers are less likely to be obese. And the declining use of cigarettes across the country -- due to both tightening pocketbooks and new laws (thanks, Mayor Bloomberg) -- accounts for a bigger increase in the obesity rate in the U.S. than any other factor, according to paper authors Charles L. Baum and Shin-Yi Chou, who have both written with some frequency on the economics of obesity.


French actress. Not irritating.

Audrey Fleurot, key "personage" on the engrossing French crime series "Engrenages." The title has been translated "Spiral" but more literally means "gears" or "cogs," a mechanism you could get caught up in. Resulting, presumably, in engrenagisment.


Less irritating French disc jockys

A program from France Musique for all of us: The Worlds of Pedro Almodovar

Extracts from soundtracks and other related stuff.

There are companion shows if you poke around, including the irresistibly geeky "Blake Edwards and Henry Mancini: An Ideal Couple". (Click "archives") French people might be jerks, but they sure have the right attitude about movies...



Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo.

A meaningful sentence. I aspire to such concision. Paraphrase in the comments.


Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Don't know what to make of this

I'm sure you know of the McGurk Effect


Monday, September 19, 2011

Tintin crossover

I'd read it. More covers here:


Sunday, September 18, 2011

Last AFP post until at least next year

Works for me.

UPDATE: For those to whom definitions matter more than what they're hearing, here's Pitchfork's formulation: "As the premier alt-goth Weimar cabaret rock duo, the Dresden Dolls have a lot working in their favor-- foremost a virtual lock on the alt-goth Weimar cabaret rock duo market."


Strike Back 5

Jorah Mormont and Mr. Eko are guest bad guys.


"Because you're still breathing."

Click to enlarge.


Armond White's new gig

A question that's been on many fearful minds since his former employer, "New York Press," went the way of all alternative weeklies has been answered: Bracing movie critic Armond White is now the editor of CityArts, a publication of the Press's parent company, Manhattan Media. He's still doing the Lord's work as a film reviewer, too, and he's in good form.

So many better movies echo throughout the wannabe thriller Drive—including bad movies, like the entire Michael Mann catalog—that the resonance nearly drowns out the film’s brazen imitation of one particularly good movie: Walter Hill’s 1978 The Driver.

That Ryan O’Neal film now becomes a Ryan Gosling vehicle—an immediate decline. Gosling plays a loner stuntman who does underworld transport for Jewish mobsters on Hollywood’s fringe. His jaded view of life is part of his alienated cool, warmed over by a single mother waitress (cry-baby Carey Mulligan) awaiting the arrival of her ex-con Latino boyfriend. Director Nicolas Winding Refn shows no sense of how classes and ethnicities mix in L.A. He prefers evoking the sleek, unreal, existential cool of film noir loners.

But Refn’s cinephilia is specious and imprecise, while Hill’s revisionist modernism uncannily updated the aesthetic and spiritual essence of both American and European noir (Anthony Mann as well as Jean-Pierre Melville) into an original, idiosyncratic vision. Hill’s The Driver wasn’t a thriller it was thrilling, featuring the best on-screen car chases to this day. Refn, infected by Mann, produces fake toughness, fake sentimentality and fake style.


Friday, September 16, 2011

Sort of an ultimate statement...

...on pop culture and art and etc, from a noted authority figure.

Expect Tulk to begin song-blogging shortly.

UPDATE: I've now actually listened to a certain amount of the music she's making under her own name. Seemed like it might be a good idea. Responding to it more straightforwardly than expected. Her other and/or earlier work may differ, but the songs on the "Who Killed Amanda Palmer" album, ar least, don't seem to have much to do with Tom Lehrer, that Merritt character, "Kurz Weil" or the Great American Songbook. Communication is quite direct, not especially distanced or self conscious. Echoes of an operatic/declamatory strain of pop music that could be said to include (letting the pedants know I'm speaking loosely) Bowie, Waits, early Springsteen and possibly even Meat Loaf. Meat Loaf! Virtuoso extended metaphors help to grease the skids for surprisingly raw emotional expression. No pinkies raised when you're pounding the keyboard this hard.

This, on the other hand, is fairly amazingly Lehrer-esque.


Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Bangmei slide show

The offspring's new hood. Reassuringly less like a logging camp than I imagined.


Tuesday, September 13, 2011

"The Grandmasters:" Wong Kar-wei kung fu

Cool write-up on Cinerati. His kung fu is the best.


French snobs? Lovers of kitsch?

Not for the faint of heart. France Musique, the public classical music station, recently rebroadcast its "Nuit du Kitsch": a six hour festival of music of dubious taste. You can listen here, just scroll down past the program listings for each part and click where indicated.

Ranges from Mahler to Tchaikovski to James Horner and Emerson, Lake, and Palmer (and of course, Dick van Dyke singing "Step in Time".)

Stylish, and yet full of insider knowledge.....


Problematic "Torchwood" finale review



Monday, September 12, 2011

From the Radiohead covers album...

Amanda Palmer - "No Surprises" Animated Music Video from Amanda Palmer on Vimeo.



Clive still likes visual storytelling...

...unlike some people we could mention.

Grinding on towards its horrific conclusion, my week with the box found several preliminary opportunities to remind me that it is a house of horrors. Or, to be less dismissive: a bad mood is something it does well. Spiral (BBC Four) was back on the air with all the same atrocities that you have already seen once but somehow can’t help watching again. Finally it doesn’t matter much what Laure has to say, even in French. What matters is what she makes her face say while the camera travels.

The same applies to The Killing (also BBC Four), back for a repeated run with the load of anguish it carried on its first run now only increased by a dreadful familiarity. Lund, dare I say it, is not meant to be the dish that Laure is, but somehow we fear for her even more in the dark corridors. In the case of either serial, the way the camera behaves is a crucial study. Shooting and editing add up to a language in itself.
More here.


Sunday, September 11, 2011

"Strike Back" 4: Her Aim is True

The quotation from Walter Hill in this review, which I dimly recalled and Googled, was eventually found in an article that of course didn't credit the source. It was only then that it hit me that the source was an interview I conducted for the good old Har-Ex back in the mid-1980s. Time does fly.

Read on.




Friday, September 9, 2011

Big B joins Great G


WB’s ‘Great Gatsby’ Adds Indian Icon Amitabh Bachchan.

Bollywood legend Amitabh Bachchan is making his Hollywood debut in Warner Bros’ new adaptation of The Great Gatsby. He’ll play Meyer Wolfsheim, a Jewish man described as a gambler in F Scott Fitzgerald’s classic novel. The $126M film, starring Leonardo DiCaprio and directed by Baz Luhrmann, has begun shooting in Australia. Bachchan, 68, has acted in more than 180 Indian films over a 40-year period. He remains Indian’s most popular actor and recently returned as the celebrity host of the Indian version of Who Wants to Be A Millionaire.


Thursday, September 8, 2011

The Neil & Amanda Show

Nobody we know goes to live theatrical events anymore, but in this case there are appealing alternatives for shut-ins.


Fantasy, amplitude, and Sir Walter Scott

A--m Ro----s outdoes himself in a review of a book called "Rivers of London", which sounds right up one's street ("It’s an expert midrash upon a venerable body of magic-intersects-reality fictions that re-imagine London: Dickens, Carter, Gaiman, Mièville, Harry Potter, Susan Clarke et al.), but that's not the point.

The follwing quote is the point, and I love it... (And I especially love it when I consider that David -- until recently the arch-foe of discursiveness -- is the only person I know (I think) who actually reads Scott for pleasure.)

Rivers of London shares one quality with fantasy that we do not find in noir. I’m going to call this quality amplitude..... The point is not in the content; it is in the tone—the voice of the novel. It is a voice that sets its face against terseness and reticence in favour of a generous discursive expansiveness..... Amplitude is precisely what many readers of Fantasy go to their chosen genre for in the first place.

The trick to understanding the prodigious success of Scott in the 19th-century is the realisation that he was popular not despite being so prosy, but because of it. You don’t read Scott’s prose for its sharpness, for its quotable zingers or apothegmic wisdom. Opening the covers of a Waverley novel and starting to read is, or ought to be, like sinking into a warm bath. It is the very amplitude of Scott’s art that explains its success.

My point, I suppose, is that although Scott himself has fallen from favour, the taste for amplitude in our verbal art hasn’t.


Tuesday, September 6, 2011

PJ: Best of Britain

Let England Shake (remember that?) for the win! The Barclaycard Mercury Music Prize, which is a very big deal in the UK.

Cool facts:

"Thank you for the recognition of my work!" she says, before mentioning how it's nice to be here in person considering she ended up watching the Pentagon burn from her hotel window last time she won the prize (as discussed previously, she won it on September 11, 2001).


Sunday, September 4, 2011


The earth's vagina and a smash-bang marathon.

IndieWIRE omitted the key image. Can't imagine why.


Life and Fate

One of the most forbidding of the big books lurking on my shelves -- I know that there will be a time and a place for it, but somehow I end up with Joe Abercrombie instead. I'm afraid that it can't really be as good as its fans say it is.

This might prove just the thing: An eight hour adaptation for Radio 4 starring Kenneth Branagh, David Tennant, and Greta Scacchi, to be available as a podcast, starting on the 18th.

If I can't read it, at least I can listen to it while I go to work.......


Saturday, September 3, 2011

Still Smarter


Thursday, September 1, 2011

Fish, barrel, gun

The new movie from Madonna: a sympathetic look at the life of the nazi-sympathizing, adulterous, Royal-family-destroying parasite, Wallis Simpson. A rare one-star review in the Guardian. Can I please meet the people who invested in this hopeless project? I want their money...

Whatever the crimes committed by Wallis Simpson – marrying a king, sparking a constitutional crisis, fraternising with Nazis – it's doubtful that she deserves the treatment meted out to her in W.E., Madonna's jaw-dropping take on "the 20th-century's greatest royal love story". The woman is defiled, humiliated, made to look like a joke. The fact that W.E. comes couched in the guise of a fawning, servile snow-job only makes the punishment feel all the more cruel.

Or could it be that Madonna is in deadly earnest here? If so, her film is more risible than we had any right to expect; a primped and simpering folly, the turkey that dreamed it was a peacock.