Wednesday, September 30, 2009


The people at Shakesville occasionally say good things, but for the most part they're pretty dumb. Is my experience, anyway. So I'm not surprised by their approach to the whole Polanski thing, but I am infuriated by it, as is my duty as a person on the internet.

First, there's Melissa McEwan's repeated posting of the names of celebrities who have become "disappoinments" to her by signing the "Free Polanski" petition. No mention of the fact that she doesn't actually know these people (they're celebrities, not acquaintances), so having a preconceived notion of their feelings about these issues is a bit silly. No mention either of the fact that there is no relationship between, say, Harrison Ford's feelings on Roman Polanski and Harrison Ford's usefulness as an actor (when it's a director or a writer I could see there being more of a link, fine, but PETA were still idiots for protesting Chicken Run because the creators of it eat chicken, if you get what I'm saying*). No mention that if all of these people that she once respected feel this way, perhaps there might be a least a little room for argument? I'm not necessarily saying that Polanski is innocent, or that he deserves to be freed (any more, I should specify, than any other imprisoned person, all of whom deserve to be freed, but that's too much to be getting into right now). All I'm saying is that if a whole bunch of people you respect are suddenly behaving in a way that you find objectionable, you could at least consider that you could be wrong. Not saying you have to come to the final conclusion that you're wrong. Just consider it.

And now, far more objectionable: co-blogger Deeky's post titled "Taking Her Side".
Aside from Kevin Smith (who tweeted this out yesterday) and Greg Grunberg (who posted this) I've not seen any other celebrities siding with Samantha Gailey, Roman Polanski's victim.

The silence is, as they say, deafening.
Leave aside for the moment that Kevin Smith's "Do the crime, do the time" is a reflexive, thoughtless repetition of someone else's reflexive, thoughtless repetition of a horrible, horrible cliché that reinforces the disgustingly punitive aspects of our culture. Leave aside the fact that Greg Grunberg seems to be posting in utter ignorance of the details of the case (Polanski pled guilty because the judge agreed to a lenient plea bargain, and fled because the judge changed his mind after Polanski made his plea--which, incidentally, is not illegal but sure as hell should be).

What's disgusting about Deeky's post is that people are not taking Ms. Gailey's side by denouncing Polanski. What she wants, as she has said repeatedly, is for everyone to drop it so she can move on. By talking about it, endlessly, the Shakesville bloggers are emphatically not taking her side. Regardless of their reasons for thinking they're in the right (some of which are convincing, some of which are not), they are not on her side. Claiming that people like themselves and Smith and Grunberg are is extremely presumptuous, and denies Ms. Gailey's right as a human being to choose for herself how to feel.

I find it extremely ironic that a bunch of self-righteous ninnies are denying Ms. Gailey her humanity in their overeager attempts to denounce someone else for denying her her humanity. Obviously there is a huge difference in degree in not respecting her wishes and (allegedly**) drugging and raping her, but both actions are efforts to strip her of her human agency in order to achieve what you want. There's also the fact that the bloggers (myself included, unfortunately) are doing it now, whereas Roman Polanski, if he did it, did it thirty years ago. He and she are different people now than they were then, and the people they are now are not in a relationship of victimizer and victim. But the people who are refusing to just fucking drop it like she wants are, in their presumably*** smaller way, victimizing her now.

The silence is, as they say, what she fucking asked for, you arrogant asshole.

Oh, and incidentally? It's possible to be a feminist and not automatically think that Polanski should be locked away forever (especially if like me you think no one should be locked away). It's also possible to be a feminist and like directors you don't. Or to find worth in works that have elements of misogyny. If it upsets you that I say that as a man (and therefore someone not directly impacted by misogyny), I'll add that I feel the same way about works that are homophobic or antisemitic. The world is a complicated place that includes bad things mixed in with good things. The ability to recognize the good things in spite of the bad does not necessarily make someone your enemy.

*Among other reasons that PETA are idiots.
**Not in legal terms, perhaps, but in human moral terms, the accusations have by no means been proven.
***Of course I have no idea if Ms. Gailey would agree with my assessment.

UPDATE: While I was writing this, the following exchange took place in comments. Commenter clauclauclaudia said "The difficult thing about speaking up to support the victim, is that the victim has publicly said [that she feels] victimized all over again every time the case gets lots of media focus. How do you support her by saying *anything*, given her feelings on the subject?" To which Melissa McEwan, the owner of the blog but not the writer of the post, responded,
Just a point: It does say "her" and not "Samantha."

Given the sex of most rape victims, and the fact that this case is indeed about justice and about rape narratives generally, like the ever-popular "he said-she said" and so forth, maybe it's relevant that it's "her" side.

Just sayin'.
Which is such a steaming load of bull. For one thing, if that was Deeky's intent, he should have said "women's" instead of "her", considering that the specific case he was referring to was about one specific person, so naturally "her" would seem to refer to, well, her. For another thing, he explicitly says "I've not seen any other celebrities siding with Samantha Gailey." So unless McEwan is trying to say that Samantha Gailey is some kind of new collective noun indicating every woman on Earth, she's full of shit. For clarity's sake, when I say "she's full of shit," the word she refers specifically to McEwan, not all women.

UPDATE II: I guess I should mention that I'm using the name "Gailey" partly because it's the one Shakesville used and partly as an attempt to be as respectful to her as I can be while, you know, disrespecting her wishes and continuing to talk about it. She uses a different name now, possibly (I don't know for sure if this is actually why, but my impression is that it is) to help disassociate herself from all this, and by not using it I am, I hope, at least not harming that effort. I just don't want to come off as disrespecting her in another way by using a name she has abandoned. I think and hope my reasons for doing so are sound.

Pitchfork: Deliberately hilarious?

I'm pretty sure it would be absolutely impossible to parody the writing style of the nincompoops who write for Pitchfork. Their writing could not be more ridiculous. I haven't decided if I'm going to write anything about their list of the best albums of the decade (links at the bottom of that page) or not, but my god has it made me laugh more than just about anything else I can think of, ever. If I do write something about it, it might have to be whole long essays about individual paragraphs, and may be very time-consuming. But hey, what else do I have to do? We'll see.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Party in the USA

Every once in a while I try to make an effort to listen to the radio, though recently these efforts have always been short-lived. Take this weekend, for example. I turned on the radio on six different occasions (actually seven, but that last one I'm going to discuss separately), and each time turned it back off within a few seconds. One of these six times there was an ad playing and I didn't have the patience to listen all the way through. The other five times I turned it off because the same song was playing, each and every time, and that song was "Party in the USA" by Miley Cyrus.

Now, I don't need to get into why that's ridiculous and also why that song is overwhelmingly terrible, right? Like, laughably inept and just startlingly bad. OK.

So then a few minutes ago I turned on the radio for the seventh time, and what should be on? Well, the end of some other song, but I didn't even hear enough of it to identify it (if I even knew it, which is unlikely these days) before "Party in the USA" came on. And I decided to listen to it all the way through.

And you know what? It's so bad that I actually find it weirdly appealing. I'm not usually much of a one for the "so bad it's good" thing--if I like something, I tend to think it's good, and whether it's good intentionally or not is irrelevant--or for the "guilty pleasure" thing, either. But I think I may just feel that way about "Party in the USA".

I do think it's interesting that in the late 90's and early 00's teen music was electro dance-pop--"Genie in a Bottle" and "Baby One More Time" and "Bye Bye Bye" and all of that. And then after that there was a big thing with guitary "singer-songwriters" coming in and everyone was saying they were gonna destroy dance-pop (I remember Avril Lavigne on the cover of Rolling Stone with the headline "The Britney-Killer"). And now all of those people have moved on to adult pop (in the adult versions of their teen styles, too, with predictable results as far as quality, i.e., the dance-pop people are still good and the singer-songwriters are still terrible--when the best thing your genre has going for it, by far, is Pink, your genre has troubles). And what's teen pop now? It is a completely un-self-conscious combination of the two. "Party in the USA" is exactly halfway between Britney Spears and Avril Lavigne, at least stylistically (as far as quality goes it's far closer to Avril). In a way it reminds me of the way elements of punk and disco fused to form new wave, with the difference (among others, including the cultural use of the forms) that punk and disco happened concurrently, where these two forms of teen pop were almost entirely discrete.

Come on, Switzerland

1978 was thirty-one years ago. Polanski's alleged victim wants the charges dropped. The case is damn muddy at best. And my god, Switzerland, I thought you were supposed to be a neutral country? Like, OK, I don't know the specifics of your laws about that stuff, but surely arresting Polanski and considering shipping him off to the US so that a mishandled weak case the plaintiff doesn't want pursued can be continued three decades later violates the spirit of neutrality?

Friday, September 25, 2009

Joss Whedon, I love you...

...but your taste in music is abysmal.

Now I wish I was sick

Via Avedon Carol, who suggests expanding the idea from just H1N1 to include any illness, a scathingly good idea on how to lobby for health care reform.

Time fucking sucks

I'm really really poor right now. As in, I have about $50 to my name and currently no income. This is temporary, because I do have a job lined up, but it doesn't start until the middle of October, so I have a dicey few weeks of figuring out how to pay bills and buy food ahead of me. So I'm trying to sell some things to make enough money to tide me over. The other important thing to know is that I finally got rid of my essentially non-functional car last week (sold it for a measly $100, most of which is gone already--thanks a bunch, necessities), so I have to get to the DMV in Pawtucket (an awkward bus jaunt away) to turn in the plates. If I do it before the end of the month I can get a $30 refund on my only half-used two year registration. You can imagine how important that $30 is right now, so yes, I will do it before the end of the month.

So, selling things. The last episode of Battlestar Galactica was shitty enough that I pretty much don't ever want to watch the show ever again, and the season sets go for a decent amount of money on Amazon, so up they went. Someone bought Season 3 last night, so I have to mail it today (otherwise I have to wait until Monday, which is a delay in getting paid, and right now any delay is unacceptable).

The only post office in reasonable walking distance of my house is about ten or fifteen minutes away. It's on a college campus, so it has odd hours. I knew that it closed for forty-five minutes around lunchtime, and was thinking I remembered it being 12:15 to 1:00. I got kind of a slow start this morning (oops), so I was gonna leave my house at 11:00, mail the DVDs, pick up the 11:30ish bus from the college to downtown, and then connect to the Pawtucket bus to get to the DMV by around 12:30, plenty of time to take care of things by the time they close at 3:15.

But nope! As I was getting my things together to leave I thought to double-check the hours at the post office, and ha ha ha! It's closed from 11:15 to 12. I discover this at five past eleven, just exactly the right time for it to be too late. I'm a fucking idiot. So now I have to wait until 12 to mail the thing. But if I do that, because of the complications of coordinating two bus schedules and the intermittence of service to Pawtucket, it'll mean I can't get to the DMV until really uncomfortably close to the time they close, i.e. close enough that if there's a delay on the bus I'll get there too late and will have wasted $4.50 round trip ($1.75 to get downtown, $0.50 to transfer, and then the same fares to get back), which I can't risk doing. Which means I'll have to go Monday. God frickin' dammit.

I also wanted to change my address while I was there (my license still has my address from two moves ago, don't tell anyone), but there's a $6.50 fee to do that, which means I have to choose between spending money I can't really afford to be spending right now, and wasting an entire additional day of my life to do it later. Thanks, DMV!

I say all this as a demonstration of how, when you're poor, everything is harder, more time-consuming, and more expensive than when you're not. I don't say this to whine about my situation--I have a hell of a lot more resources than most actually poor people. I have an amazing roommate/best friend who is more financially stable than me at the moment and is willing to help out with the rent for next month until I can pay it back. I have fairly stable (though struggling) parents I could fall back on if all else failed. I have the knowledge that it'll be over soon, when that job starts. But right now I'm poor. And as a result tasks that would take a less-poor person a few hours fill up entire days. Small amounts of money ($4.50 bus fares, $6.50 DMV fees) become insurmountable obstacles. I can't even imagine how difficult this situation would be if I was currently working poor--I'd probably have to take whole days off of work, most likely unpaid (and possibly putting my continued employment in jeopardy), to get to the DMV (open Monday through Friday, 8:30-3:15) at all.

And this is just one unusual task--consider routine things like getting to the grocery store (easy for me because it's in OK walking distance and because the aforementioned roommate-friend has a car and goes once a week, so I can tag along) or doing laundry (I have machines in the house, thank god). All of these things take up enormous chunks of time, and time is extremely valuable. During that time you could be working (in which case that time is a direct expense) or if not, you could be taking a few precious moments to fucking relax. Instead, it's just more hours of time whose use is not dictated by you. More hours of slavery.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

In case anyone who doesn't know this happens to breeze through here

People like Keith Olbermann and Jon Stewart and Rachel Maddow might be entertaining (Stewart way more than Olbermann and Maddow, in my view), and they might even be smart (same), but they only talk about what their bosses allow them to talk about. If you're going to them to find out what political outrages to get upset about, you're using them wrong.

If Jon Stewart and Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow and all the rest of them are talking about an issue, it's one that Those in Charge don't care about.

What you should be upset about, and trying to push into the wider discourse, are the things they aren't talking about. Because those are the things that Those in Charge don't want you to think about.

(The same would go for people like Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck, but unfortunately the things they crap out every day are actively, immediately harmful, rather than passively, long-term harmful like the line their "left" counterparts spew, and must be actively, immediately countered. Which is of course also part of The Plan.)

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Two interesting things about 2001

There's obviously a lot more to talk about, but two quick things.

1. We see four Russians. All of them are scientists, three of them--the majority--women. We see a hell of a lot more Americans and British. Of them, the only women are secretaries, flight attendants, and two women who I guess are scientists (sitting at the table at the Clavius debriefing) who have no speaking parts or names. I don't think this was unconscious on Kubrick's part.

2. I really like the way that for at least the first half of the movie, many really startlingly exceptional, wondrous things (the discovery of an alien artifact, artificial intelligence) are rendered everyday and banal by being surrounded by small talk, while things that would actually be banal for the characters (eating in space, moving from one part of a commercial spacecraft to another, throwing away garbage, docking with a space station) are filled with more sci-fi sensawunda than you can easily deal with.

Friday, September 18, 2009


So the idea of redistribution of wealth, even in such a ludicrously gentle way as taxing the rich slightly more than the poor to provide social services, is unacceptable.

But banks can take huge swathes of money from people who don't have any (overdraft fees!), while simultaneously giving huge swathes of money to people who have a lot already (interest!), and that's OK.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Trying to get a sense of 2009

Aside from some TV shows (the brilliant Dollhouse in particular) and a teensy handful of movies (the disappointing Harry Potter, the amazing Inglourious Basterds, the unbearable Star Trek), I've been pretty disconnected from culture this year. Particularly where music is concerned. About a month ago I listened to about two thirds of American Top 40 and didn't recognize a single song on the countdown (I also kind of hated all of them). Until recently I had only heard about four albums that came out this year.

I'm trying to remedy that. I scanned through a bunch of recent Tiny Mix Tapes reviews, and looked through the entire top 1000 albums of the year according to Rate Your Music ratings and found what sounded interesting that was findable. So far, this is what I've got, broken down into categories. Some things I've heard won't be included because I listened to them and felt no need to keep them, and have since forgotten them, but this is the bulk of it.

Albums I've listened to that I'm on the fence about keeping
Antony and the Johnsons, The Crying Light
Bat for Lashes, Two Suns
Richard Youngs, Beyond the Valley of Ultrahits

Albums I've listened to and found just kind of OK
Jarvis Cocker, Further Complications
Hildur Guðnadóttir, Without Sinking

Albums that probably need to grow on me
Mos Def, The Ecstatic
Mount Eerie, Wind's Poem
Jim O'Rourke, The Visitor

Albums that are really good
Mulatu Astatke & the Heliocentrics, Inspiration Information
Cluster, Qua
Fever Ray, Fever Ray
John Zorn, Alhambra Love Songs

Albums that blew me away and really excited me
James Blackshaw, The Glass Bead Game
Hecker, Acid in the Style of David Tudor

Albums I have in my possession but haven't yet listened to
Animal Collective, Merriweather Post Pavilion
Olafur Arnalds, Found Songs
William Basinski, 92982
Sir Richard Bishop, The Freak of Araby
Ciara, Fantasy Ride
Graham Coxon, The Spinning Top
Dälek, Gutter Tactics
Ekkehard Ehlers and Paul Wirkus, Ballads
Faust, C'esté
Lee Fields & the Expressions, My World
Gregor Samsa, Over Air
John Hassell, Last Night the Moon Came Dropping Its Clothes in the Street
Tim Hecker, An Imaginary Country
Giuseppe Ielasi, Aix
Klotzsch & Krey, Through All These Years of Trying to Belong
Long Distance Calling, Avoid the Light
Alva Noto, Xerrox vol. 2
Iggy Pop, Préliminaires
Raekwon, Only Built 4 Cuban Linx... Pt II
Super Furry Animals, Dark Days Light Years
Jimi Tenor & Kabu Kabu, 4th Dimension
Throbbing Gristle, Third Mind Movements
Uochi Toki, Libro audio
Caetano Veloso, Zii e Zie: Transambas

Upcoming albums, will get as soon as released
Ghostface Killah, Ghostdini: The Wizard of Poetry in Emerald City
Yoko Ono/Plastic Ono Band, Between My Head and the Sky
Shakira, She Wolf

On the off-chance that anyone reads this, am I missing anything important that you know of?

Monday, September 14, 2009

Acid in the Style of David Tudor

I don't remember ever being so profoundly affected by music, on a physiological level, as I just was by my first listen to Hecker's new (well, several months old, but newest as of now) album, Acid in the Style of David Tudor. You can feel this music. If I read someone saying you almost feel like you can see it I would write them off as either a) Pitchfork-level retarded or b) synaesthetic to the point of not sharing my understanding of the world, but I'm tempted to say it anyway, because I really feel like I almost can. Editions Mego, who released the album, recommend playing the album loud on speakers, and avoiding headphones. Good idea. I haven't tried it on headphones (though I think I may, at very low volume, to see what that's like), but it seems risky. This stuff seems like it could easily damage your ears, not necessarily by virtue of being loud but by attacking them. Aside from that, listening on stereo speakers rather than headphones allows the music to physically fill the space you're listening in, and no matter how large that space, it will fill it. Listen loud, feel your furniture and your body shake.

There are intellectual things that could be discussed about the album (mostly things related to how entirely accurate the album's title is), but I'm not going to. On a purely visceral level this shit is amazing. It altered my involuntary physical functions. It at times scared the shit out of me, and at others made me laugh hysterically, and at times almost (almost) made me cry for the beauty. If I sound faggy, I'm sorry. If I'm talking a way I don't usually, it's because I felt this in a way I usually don't. If this strikes you as my usual hyperbole, well, don't listen to me, listen to fucking Hecker.

Even the silence when it's over feels like a goddamn revelation, and again, I'm sorry I'm talking like this. I don't know what else to say.

Split into three parts because of free fileden's limitations. I don't pull any of that linked .rar files nonsense or any password shit so there shouldn't be any difficulties.

Part One
Part Two
Part Three

Removing the thinnest of veils

me: God, it really pisses me off how non-male and non-white, and unapologetic about both, Yoko Ono is.
She should at least have the decency to be uncreative.
Chris: her only lyrics should be "please" and "thank you white men for letting me play"
me: "Even though I sang in Carnegie Hall when John Lennon was still throwing rocks at priests in Germany, I only latched on to him to mask my utter musical illegitimacy. Good thing he's a moronic sap who fell for it!"

Sunday, September 13, 2009

I really don't give a shit about gay marriage

Or at least not as much of a shit as I seem to be supposed to. Equal rights and all, sure, but I can't help feeling that the fact that people get all incensed on one side or another of the issue (which, of course, like all issues, has more than the two sides allowed to be discussed in the mass culture), but not about the systematic incarceration of American human beings, particularly American Black human beings, or the enormous wage gap between workers and their owners, or the mass murder of foreigners for profit, or whatever, is just extremely misplaced passion and helpful to the ruling class. Not to mention that gay marriage is not the be-all and end-all (or however that's supposed to go, typographically) of gay rights, the way many people seem to think it is. Same thing goes for abortion.

Anyway, I'll read anything that criticizes Governor Carcieri, so I read this article about him speaking at an anti-gay organization in Massachusetts. No surprise from Carcieri, really. I tend to think of him as being a comic book super villain, evil for no other reason than that he enjoys it. His wife's the same way; after her husband fired all of the state's translators, she called Asian kids who were upset at their parents' now extremely limited access to already minimal state services "terrorists". For writing a letter. Um, anyway, that's beside the point. I just like to bring it up.

So I'm reading this article, standard, standard, blah blah, fags, and then I come across this passage:
A Brown University poll from May showed that 60 percent of registered voters would support a law allowing gay couples to marry, but obstacles remain for those pushing the idea: The state is heavily Catholic, and same-sex marriage is opposed by both Carcieri and Democratic legislative leaders.
Now, come on, what? Yes, that second listed obstacle is real. Our elected officials in Rhode Island are largely opposed to gay marriage, including the leadership on "both" "sides". But the second one? How can you go directly from saying that 60% of the voters are in favor to saying that the heavily Catholic population is an obstacle? Obviously that Catholicism isn't stopping a large majority from being in favor. Christ. I mean, hell, you might as well say "Spain is heavily Catholic, so there's an obstacle to legalizing gay marriage".

This is exactly the same kind of reasoning that gets support for single-payer health care or withdrawing troops from Afghanistan being branded as "far left" rather than "blandly centrist". I understand why it happens, but my god, it's so obvious.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Discussion question

"David Bowie was kind of the Radiohead of the 1970s, only more prolific and even better."

Is the statement true or false? Why? To what extent?


Today's my last day guest posting at Daily Premise. If you missed me, I was there all week, so take a look.

It was lots of fun. Thanks, Daily Premise, for inviting me!

Friday, September 11, 2009


I just finished my first completed solo song in quite a while. I haven't stopped working on music, but I've been focusing more on making things that could be backing tracks for music I make with Chris than on my solo project (the things I "release" under the name Brain and Brain). So here it is.

Brain and Brain - Katra

A little bit about my process. I started with, of all things, the instrumental break from Leonard Nimoy's version of "Abraham, Martin & John", which had some rhythms and timbres that struck me as potentially interesting. I separated it into the left and right channels, which made one be primarily the horns and lead guitar, and the other primarily the rhythm section, though they weren't entirely separated so there was some bleed. Then I duplicated the rhythm track...well, I experimented a lot, but it ended up being twenty-four times, and staggered them so a new one started on every beat, and then set them to alternate between the left and right channels to create a kind of pulsing effect. I looped these tracks and then mixed them down into three tracks, each with eight of the original track layered over itself.

Then I made the other track mono, so it'd be centered in both speakers, and looped it a bunch of times and messed around with slicing it up and reversing it (most of it as you hear it is backwards, but some of it is forwards, too). I got it to a point where I liked it, but felt something was missing, so I consulted the Oblique Strategies, which told me to "remember those quiet evenings at home". So I quieted it down for a bit at the end by extending one of the rhythm tracks, so that at the end most of it dies out except for one (i.e., the original rhythm layered only eight times, rather than twenty-four). This little change gave the whole thing whatever extra it was that I needed, so thank you, Brian Eno and Peter Schmidt, once again.

The very end still seemed pretty sudden to me, and I liked the way the very last drum beat sounded, so I made it repeat a few times and fade out. Somewhat cheesy, but I like it. And there you have it. Oh, and then I named it Katra, after the Vulcan word for the soul (as a literal thing that truly exists; the mental essence of a person). Seemed appropriate both for the sound and for the source of the sample.

Here's the original song I sampled. Leonard Nimoy's an inept performer, but very charming (it helps that I love him as an actor and a person), and I pretty much love everything he's recorded. The part I took was from 1:12 to 1:30, which actually features no Leonard at all. Sometime, maybe, I'll sample his voice, but not today.

Leonard Nimoy - Abraham, Martin and John
Bonus, because it's charming: Leonard Nimoy - Put a Little Love in Your Heart

Thursday, September 10, 2009



Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Agatha Christie, with spoilers if you care

I'm re-reading And Then There Were None (also known as Ten Little Indians and probably several other things) right now, for some reason, which is the first time I've read Agatha Christie since I was probably like twelve*. As I read it, remembering who the murderer is but not much else (and I probably didn't pick up on much else when I originally read it), it occurs to me that while Christie is a decent enough writer, and individual books of hers are entertaining enough, her real brilliance doesn't become apparent until you've read a wide selection of her works. Because she's relentlessly experimental with the mystery format, and that's, to me, really cool.

And Then There Were None, for those unfamiliar with it, is kind of the ultimate locked room mystery, but in real time: ten people are called to an isolated island on various pretexts, whereupon it is revealed that the person who summoned them believes them all to be guilty of a murder they're getting away with, and has taken it upon him or herself to punish them for it. One by one they are murdered, and they quickly realize that there can be no one hiding on the island, so the murderer must be one of them.

The cool thing is (in part) that it's obvious all along who the murderer must be. One of the characters is a judge, which kind of gives it away seeing as the murderer has to have access to a lot of judicial information on the various people and also, you know, sees himself as a judge. He is always made to seem unpleasant and inhuman(e), described as a reptile, and right from the start a bunch of the characters suspect him. He's also the only one who consistently has comfortable opportunity to do the murders.

But then (and here's the rest of the cool part) Christie kills him off about two thirds of the way through the book. You've spent all this time thinking, well, surely, he's the only possible culprit, but then he's dead and the murders keep happening! Of course, he has faked his death (I think--either that or he's set mechanisms in place that will kill everyone else off, I haven't gotten there yet and I can't quite remember), but that possibility just doesn't occur to you.

And a bunch of her other books fuck with mystery structure in similar ways. There's the one where the narrator did it, which is a brilliant idea, made more brilliant by the fact that the book also supports the interpretation that he may be lying to protect the real murderer. There's the one where the police detective called to investigate a murder at a house--who, that is, did not show up at the house so far as we know until after the murder was committed, and who does not at first seem to have any connection with the victim--turns out to be the murderer. There's the one where almost literally everyone is the murderer, even though there's only one murder. If I remember right there's also one where the real murderer is psychically inducing others to do the killing for him, but I think she was kind of senile when she wrote that one. Regardless, there are a bunch more along those lines, and that kind of experimentalism, especially coming in such genteel, classicist packaging, is very interesting to me.

In general I'm not that interested in mysteries as a genre, largely because most of those I've read (and I'm sure this will sound to a mystery fan the way someone saying science fiction is all busty broads being kidnapped by bug-eyed monsters would sound to me) seem more interested in quirks of setting than in the actual significance of gathering clues, solving things, and the process of investigation, which is what would be more interesting to me (and why I love Sherlock Holmes). And more interesting than that would be an investigation into the (I guess) metaphysical or philosophical implications of these things. Christie's experiments are a starting point for this, a gateway allowing it to be more fully explored in works by people like Jo Walton (the trilogy starting with Farthing), Michael Chabon (The Yiddish Policemen's Union), and Paul Auster (The New York Trilogy), among others, in all their extremely different ways.

By the way, if a real mystery fan comes across this and disagrees with my take on the genre, please, let me know. If my thinking the authors I mentioned were doing something new and exciting strikes you the way Phillip Roth saying "I had no literary models for reimagining the historical past" (idiot) strikes me, I'd love to know it, because I'd love there to be more works like this out there for me to investigate.

*Except I just realized I'm lying, because I read The Murder of Roger Ackroyd about four years ago after reading a critical essay about it, because I never had read it when I was in my Agatha Christie phase.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

False dichotomy

Technorati just sent me an email (I must have signed up with them at some point and forgotten about it) about a blogging survey they were conducting, and I was bored, so I took it. By and large what you'd expect: how often do you blog, what do you blog about, brands, brands, brands, products, selling things, brands, products, a little bit of politics, etc. As usual I didn't know how to answer questions on a scale of "strongly disagree" to "strongly agree" because the questions were orthogonal to my concerns, and so on.

Then towards the end it asked about personal things, and it did that thing that always pisses me off where it asked for gender and supplied only the options "male" and "female." Not only were there no other specific options, but there was no "other," and not even a "do not wish to reply." If you wanted to finish the survey, you had to define yourself as male or female.

This is retarded whenever it's done, because, duhh, not everyone defines themselves as one or the other (I'm bland enough that I do, but not everyone is so boring/lucky), and it's particularly upsetting on a survey about blogging, because a) alternative culture, b) lots of tranny blogging out there, c) ENTER THE MODERN WORLD, people. It's OK not to be rigidly male or female.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Daiwy Pwemise

Doing guest posts. I'm hilarious.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Imbecile joke I was just unable to keep myself from making to myself

"Thomas Dinger's Für Mich is actually für mich, because it came out the year I was born."

Come on, me. Quit it.

The Main Attraction

Yesterday, masochist that I apparently continue to be, I was looking at Pitchfork's list of the "best" videos of the decade. Like the song list, some good stuff that just accentuates how terrible everything else is (I do have to thank them, sincerely, for introducing me to Boards of Canada's video (at #39, second on the page) for "Dayvan Cowboy", which I had missed until now and which is stunningly beautiful and actually brought me to tears. But then I think the enormity of the whole affair is summed up pretty nicely by the fact that Weezer's carnival of douchery "Pork and Beans" is actually, no exaggeration, number three. Ten years of videos and that's the third best. They also say "sometimes videos are just badass and nothing more" about The Dead Weather's laughable "Treat Me Like Your Mother" video. Yes, sometimes videos are just badass and nothing more, but not this one; I'll give you "bad" or "ass" but not both.

Anyway. Good song, mediocre video that I came across was The Avalanches' "Since I Left You". Beautiful song, puts the more recent efforts of Mr. Crap himself, Girl Talk, absolutely to shame. Oh, you mean you can rearrange and recontextualize samples of other songs to make music, rather than just to show off? Girl Talk is astonished. I hadn't by any means forgotten it, but it had been kind of a while since I listened to it, so it was pleasant to come across it again.

Then this morning at like 7 AM for some reason I decided to put on Tony Mottola's Warm, Wild and Wonderful, which is one of the calmer records Command ever released, an album of easy-listening pop covers that stands out among the millions of other such albums for being one of the very most pleasant and inventive. I've had it for years and possibly listened to it all the way through once before--I love easy listening albums from the 60s, but rarely think to put them on. Anyway, what should I find starting side two but a cover of "By the Time I Get to Phoneix", the Glenn Campbell/Johnny Rivers snoozer, which begins with what is definitely one of the major sounds in "Since I Left You"!

I spent some time trying to figure out which of the thousands of previously inexplicable (more understandable to me now that I've noticed how pleasant that intro is) interpretations of the song they sampled, just out of curiosity, but had no luck; everywhere just said Jimmy Webb wrote it or that it was a hit for Campbell but no one specified who performed the specific version sampled. Then I got distracted looking into the other samples in the song, and found that the vocals come from a song called "Everyday" by The Main Attraction. I had heard already that the original song says "since I met you" rather than "since I left you" and that the combination of the pitch shifting and the power of suggestion is what makes it sound otherwise on the Avalanches song, but I had never actually heard the song before. Very pleasant, very pleasant indeed. Sunny late sixties pop, vaguely psych and soul influenced but very much not either of them. Nothing hugely special, but nice enough that I could see listening to it frequently. Excellent, unusual vocal performance, as we already know from all the "aayaah" bits in "Since I Left You". So then I looked into the album it comes from, And Now The Main Attraction, and what's right after "Everyday" in the running order? A cover of "By the Time I Get to Phoenix". Huh!

Here's the whole album for you if you're interested: side a and side b (split into two because of Fileden's 50 MB upload limit for free users, and I'm poor). I'm pretty sure this isn't the version of "By the Time..." used in "Since I Left You", and I still haven't figured out which one is. Interesting curiosity that they sampled one song and then a different version of the song next to it on the same LP. Must be where they got the idea, or something. The album as a whole, again, nothing special, but remarkably pleasant.

And no, I don't know why I exclusively write blovels (BLOG NOVELS!) these days.