Thursday, April 27, 2006


I'm sure everyone else is tired of this as well, but I'm fuckin tired of all these news personalities grilling writers accused of plagiarism. I'm sure all of them actually did plagiarize, but Christ. This is not the technology age, it's the age of righteous indignation. Precisely what experience with writing does Katie Couric have that she can bitch at this sophomore from Harvard about the stuff she plagiarized? Big fuckin deal. If someone plagiarizes, it doesn't mean they're bad people - I love how Couric asked "How would your parents feel about this?" - it means they're just not up to the task of writing. That's all. That probably stings them more than all this shit about "how dare you?!" This is why I like Keith Olbermann, the man name-drops every book he's read, and he won my heart with an anecdote about Yossarian, just to show he's not fucking around. It's so self-absorbed but so necessary for the Countdown experience. God bless the man. Anyway, the real issue is the racket of the publishing world. It's just as full of whores and starfuckers as the film business, it's just that none of them are famous. A 19 year-old kid gets a 500,000 dollar deal to write a fuckin work of fiction? Please. That's the real travesty. Yes I'm bitter. Who wouldn't be? Fuck you for thinking I SHOULDN'T be bitter about such a thing. Because here's the deal - I could be just as mediocre as this girl from Harvard - but I'm getting what I deserve in not being published. Alas, the world is not a fair place. And I'm not mediocre. I'm actually quite good. So I have even more reason to be bitter. What was this post about again?

Monday, April 24, 2006

Mike Wilbon, You're On Notice

Never call the Cardinals "whining little babies," especially when you're a Cubs fan. When you blame all of your teams failure on a fucking goat, you are the official whining little bitch of pro baseball.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

In Which Sufjan Stevens Makes An Album About Missouri

I heard some guy has this thing going on with this friends where they make up tracklists for the other 48 states that Sufjan Stevens has yet to make albums for. So, I thought of a few for Missouri:


An Interlude for Dred Scott (who was mistreated, but is remembered fondly)

The Mark McGwire Expressway, or Boulevard of Broken Dreams

Hannibal! Show Us Your Cabins

Repose for Harry S. Truman, Who Dropped the Bomb

Missouri, Forgotten River

A Word Regarding the Recent Unpleasantness In Jefferson City (Agriculture Lobby! Lend Me Your Ears!)

God, why is Kansas City in Missouri?

World Series, 1982

The Death of Tennessee Williams' Sister

The Transubstantiation (Kate Chopin Appears To Me On a Warm Evening)

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Sports Illustrated

I couldn't pinpoint why I thought Rick Reilly was a douche bag until this "Riffs Reilly" thing came out on, wherein he pokes fun at painfully obvious targets. Ooh! Paris Hilton is a whore, I hope that doesn't get back to her! Every once in a while, I'll read a special report in Sports Illustrated that will blow me away with its rhetorical style and depth of thought, but too often they instill their reports with melodrama. There was a profile on the Diener family last year that began with some bullshit like, "The Optimist saw it happening this way." Did 'The Optimist" see Travis Diener wearing a fucking white tophat whenever he went out on the weekends at Marquette? Then there's cutesy word-play riddled bits by Steve Rushin. We get it. Pedro can throw a no-no. I still love Dr. Z because he's funny and hates cliche, and is so unimpressed with everything. I used to like Peter King a lot more, until he started throwing in his two cents about cultural issues, like "there is no place in cable for filth like 'Nip/Tuck.'" I never thought someone would actually approach the level of tool that the guy in "Best In Show" exhibits when he says, "Now I'm more of a double-chai latte kind of guy," but PK easily beats it with his insipid "Coffeenerdness" section in Monday Morning QB. And, House is indeed not the best drama in TV. Deadwood beats it, easily.

Thursday, April 13, 2006


I heard that the New York Dolls got back together at the urging of Morrissey, of all people, and are going on a tour. Actually, they apparently got back together a couple years ago, but that's neither here nor there. Anyway, this is a band that influenced the Ramones, and now Paris Hilton wears Ramones t-shirts. I have no point to make there. Anyway, here are some bands that I've enjoyed listening to lately:

Tapes N' Tapes - they're kind of like the Shins without at all evoking the Beatles. Speaking of the Beatles, my friend played a song from Yellow Submarine this past weekend that sounded like something the Beta Band would have made, and would have been revolutionary for having made it. So, perhaps the Beatles were the greatest ever.

Islands - they used to be the Unicorns, who were poppy, proficient, and hilarious. I still remember the line "Somewhere in the asshole of my eye/ there's a muscle which relaxes when you cry." Anyway, they dropped their guitarist and reformed as Islands. I really like their new CD, which is not as much a departure from the Unicorns as the Th' Corn Gangg rap remix was. I really liked the song "Don't Call Me Whitney, Bobby."

The Paper Cranes - they only have an EP out, which I bought after hearing some of their songs on Myspace. Seriously, for as much as people rag on myspace, it's a reasonably good resource for checking out Indy bands. They're a little raw, and the lead singer's voice isn't so distuingishable from any other fledgling indy singer's, but if their LP is as strong as this EP, I'll look forward to hearing it.

I'm still blown away by the Jens Lekman EP collection, and I've heard from people whose opinions I respect that he's just not all he's cracked up to be, but his melodies and lyrics are simple and still powerful. I dig that. I think this comes through on "A Man Walks Into A Bar," which delves into adolescent friendship, and it's nostalgiac without being schmaltzy. Maybe I'm a sap for seeing something in "I know/ why Mona Lisa Smiled/ Da Vinci/ Must have been a really funny guy/ and laughter/ is the only way into my heart." Maybe it's more in the way Lekman delivers his lines, but his music is vulnerable and funny at times without being gimmicky. Any guy with low self esteem and an ever lower paying job would like the song "Pocketful of Money," about going out on the weekend and worshipping a woman at the bar and blowing all of a month's wages on her, though she is not pretty.

Neko Case - her voice blows me away. That's pretty much it. I fell in love with it after hearing her on Mass Romantic, the first New Pornographers album. Plus, she just came out in Pitchfork to blast the top 40. Not that it's not an easy target - maybe it was seeing Wayne Coyne walk in a giant plastic bubble to get on stage with Jimmy Fallon at some MTV awards thing that poisoned my heart towards Indy crossovers - but it's just nice to hear that from time to time. Now that I've heard A.C. Newman, Dan Bejar, and Neko Case on their own projects (and Newman and Bejar's latest albums are both excellent), it makes me appreciate the Pornographers even more.

I get the new Morrissey Cd tomorrow. I hope. Fuckin insound. No one can deliver "I would give you my heart/ that's if I had a heart" like Moz. In fact, nobody should. Kind of like how only Joyce could have written something like Ulysses. Anyone else would look foolish.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Xenophobic Statement of the Week

And now for the Xenophobic Statement of the Week, a long running - perhaps the most popular - feature of this blog:

I'm done defending the Nation of Islam. I've been thinking about it, and how I used to think "Oh, they're misunderstood, they deserve to worship their religion, blah blah blah..."

But then I remembered, I think all organized religion is stupid. It's just an excuse for a small number of men to bully and proselytize non-sensical jeremiads that lower the standard of living for all of the adherents of the said religion. For example: People opposed to vaccinating teenage girls for HPV because it somehow "promotes" loose behavior. But I'm not going to go on about it, because everybody knows about this kind of bullshit, or, if they still belong to a religion, they effectively promote this bullshit.

So, back to my Xenophobic statement: The rampant misogyny must have been okay with me, since it never fucking struck me how ridiculous the Muslims are about women - and you can say all religions exist on a continuum, that the Muslims are where the Catholics were around the time of the Inquisition, organizationally - but when it comes to rioting over cartoons, they've gone too far. I include all Muslims because I'm irrational and biased, but also because I didn't hear anyone from their side saying "This is ridiculous" - all anyone said was, "This is what happens when people are repressed, blah blah blah"... But this ISN'T what happens when people are repressed. What happens is a Muslim kid gets shot because he looks like a Muslim kid, and Muslim kids have been blamed for all the crime in the countr, and so was guilty of nothing but being who he was in an oppressive environment - THEN you riot and burn down places like KFC. You don't do it over a cartoon. Islam's over a thousand years old, and still has no ground rules for rioting. They do have a list for what women can and cannot wear though. Some people just have screwed up priorities.

And I'll throw in my anti-Christian statement of the week, the second most popular long-running feature of this blog: People in west county want to build a gigantic cross visible from the highway because, apparently, they want people to know that instead of paying for things like education, they waste money on giant crosses that are visible from the highway. God, I hate Christians.

The Oprah of Bloggers?

I was informed that the blurb on the previous entry was sponsored by the 'Oprah of Bloggers.' So I have some questions to be cleared on this: Does he have a bald, mustachioed douche bag who calls himself 'Doctor' come on from time to time and diagnose people with specific problems, even though he is not a doctor, and is in fact, a douche bag? Does he bitch and throw a tantrum when he hears rumors that Jon Franzen is embarrassed to be part of his book club? Does he silently weep when he lets Steadman have his way with him?

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Why The Fuck Do I See 'King Dork' Everywhere I Go?

It's only really appeared on Gawker and Stereogum and a few independent sites, but it seems like there's an artificial 'underground' surge of interest in this book. Everywhere I've seen this young adult book promoted, it has the same blurb: Frank Portman (Dr. Frank of the Mr. T Experience) has written a book called King Dork that's an indictment on the Catcher In The Rye generation(s) and involves "at least half a dozen mysteries, plus dead people, naked people, fake people, teen sex, weird sex, drugs, ESP, Satanism, books, blood, bubblegum, guitars, monks, faith, love, witchcraft, the Bible, girls, a war, a secret code, a head injury, the Crusades, some crimes, mispronunciation skills, a mystery woman, a devil head, a blow job, and rock and roll."

First off, what, precisely, are the Catcher In The Rye generation(s)? Seems to me like another arbitrary nickname of an era(s) used to bolster one's own argument. And anyone who brags about the amount of debauchery that appears in their work has almost certainly spent more time authenticating disgusting/bizarre sex acts than actually writing their story. The tone of the interview with the author is - like most interviews with authors - nauseatingly self-impressed. There's such a close identification with Salinger's work, it makes you wonder how much originality this guy has. Maybe the book is pretty good - there has been a lot of good (albeit relatively anonymous ) buzz about it - but then, JT Leroy had her work read and championed by Lou Reed, and it turned out to be fabricated bullshit. It's a clever PR campaign though, going to the sites popular with hipsters.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Flash Fiction Is For Pussies

If you're from outside the literary community... which I guess I am... god damn it... you've probably never really heard of flash fiction. This is an article by Jason Gurley about it. He says, in part, this:

"Though the form is by definition extremely short, it is not a medium that tolerates fragmented storytelling. The challenge of flash fiction is to tell a complete story in which every word is absolutely essential, to peel away the frills and lace until you're left with nothing but the hard, clean-scraped core of a story."

The tone of this essay, though Gurley is indeed a flash fiction writer, is neither condemning nor enthusiastic. Some of the criticism against flash fiction is that it's bullshit masquerading as an art form. Well, that's my criticism of it. There's this: forcing artificial constraints like word or page length to a story is, like genre-writing, inherently limiting and counter-intuitive to a writer whose interest is writing the best story possible, not the shortest.

Gurley also says this:

"Do not make the mistake of assuming that such bare-bones writing is less than elegant or beautiful. Sometimes beauty, or even inspiration, can be found in the simplest of things."

I think everyone says this when defending Hemingway. Except that his work is deceptively complex. This: "It's not the light through my window that arrests me. It's the scene outside. Strong midwinter sun, dazzling on the clean snow, making vivid shadows for the naked trees. I take my time, drinking in all of the details. I want to make sure I can remember what this looked like" is not deceptively complex.

One thing I've heard from flash fiction writers is that it is so liberating. Know what else is liberating? Writing stream-of-conscious style like James Joyce. Know what you find out after you write it? You are not James Joyce, and you suck at stream-of-conscious writing. I think the structure and philosophy behind flash fiction is insecure - almost defensive. It says, who are you to force constraints on me? But then it goes ahead and forces extreme constraints on itself. Frankly, I think it shows a lack of dedication. Every story should be scraped down to its essential elements. All writers are told that anything extraneous is self-indulgent. Anyone who uses an extended short story to show off the adjectives they are capable of writing will not find him or herself published soon.

Gurley talks about length, actually. He talks about his process: "The easiest way to write flash fiction, in my experience, is to let it all hang out. Throw yourself into your writing and crank out a beautiful story, regardless of the length. Then, take a good, long look at it."

I'm sorry, but if I wrote a story I'm proud of, and it's say, ten pages long, and some self-impressed colleague says "Now get it down to one page," I would say "Fuck you." Maybe that's being too harsh. Gurley is actually much more magnanimous than other flash fiction writers I've heard. And I think flash fiction can be a helpful exercise. But that's all it should be, an exercise. Because what strikes me about flash fiction is that you're trying to insert the most BIG IDEAS possible. Well, a big idea is only as strong as its conveyor, and its means of conveyance. And many flash fiction writers talk with disdain about longer fiction, like it's self-indulgent or somehow flabby, that their output is more impressive because it takes up less space. Maybe the real problem is that flash fiction writers place so many rules on writing. "Bury the preamble in the opening" or "Start in the middle of the action" or "Focus on one powerful image" or "Make the reader guess until the end" or "Use allusive references" or "Use a twist". All of these come courtesy of G.W. Thomas, who "has appeared in over 100 different books and magazines. His micro story "Nano-Hunk" won the Zine Guild Award for Best SF Micro Fiction 2000." Gurley sounds much more magnanimous than Thomas. The only problem I really have with Gurley is that the way he defines flash fiction is as a genre. When you consign yourself to a genre, you are adhering to rules that, in my opinion, go counter to what a writer should be trying to accomplish. There's the blending of genre, which Michael Chabon does with great and sometimes hilarious success, but Gurley seems to be describing a straight-up genre. The way Thomas describes flash fiction puts in my mind the image of a hack. Especially with such things as "focus on one powerful image" or "use a twist." Ugh. Rules are artifices. It's fun to make up rules like "for this one story, you can't go inside the head of more than one character," or something like that, but these are arbitrary, and if you ultimately feel limited by them, you don't subscribe to them. To adhere to the rules of genre, however, without questioning the rules of that genre (like, in film, the way "The Big Lebowski" flouts the rules of Film Noir), that is the idiom of the hack. Anyway, when you find yourself in the position of being told how to write, you risk dictating a story. If you read the Paris Review Compendium of its interviews with writers, you find there are no rules, and there is no real philosophy aside from write as effectively as you can. It might be okay for a writer to try out flash fiction, but to write only flash fiction, that's hack-y.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

I'm So Proud Of Our Adult Literacy Programs

There was a letter today in the Post-Dispatch about how it was irrational to explain everything with science, that Albert Einstein would have told us as much (remember, says the writer, in his day, he was met with scoffs and disbelief towards his Theory of Relativity... and if I recall, his proof DID come out of the book of Leviticus), and that Intelligent Design is the way towards a greater understanding of... well I'm not real clear on this point. Meanwhile, someone wrote a very nasty letter condemning the Mizzou basketball program for not buying Bob Huggins. I believe it was originally written as an interpretive poem in the shape of a dildo.