Wednesday, December 30, 2009
Hope the holidays have treated you well so far. If you're one of those who find all this happily and merrily stuff rather annoying, though, then, well, just wait a bit longer and then it will be the New Year and your happy cynicism can be directed at people's silly resolutions. That's always fun.
Speaking of which, here were some of mine.
Of the ones I didn't forget about entirely, I'm happy to say I accomplished a fair amount, including number 4: Fail spectacularly at something. That one was fun, if a bit tragic.
In other news, there's a story up at Fiction Weekly called "Jellyfish and Dragon Tattoos." It's rollicking and funny and includes lines like, "Such mystery," and "Fuck off, pilgrim." I tweeted about it already. So, in order to add value here, I've decided to search the author's name, Faith Gardner, on the internet.
It turns out that besides writing about giant crabs from outer space, she sometimes sings by herself and also with other people.
The other people are a band called, Hooray for Everything.
What's funny is that was my exact thought at the end of "Jellyfish and Dragon Tattoos."
Happy everything, readers.
Friday, December 25, 2009
So. Here goes. In no particular order except that this is the order that they occurred to me.
1) Radiohead - In Rainbows
2) Wilco - Yankee Hotel Foxtrot
3) Animal Collective - Merriweather Post Pavilion
4) Damien Rice - O
5) Bon Iver - For Emma, Forever Ago
6) Regina Spektor - Erm. Wow. The name just escaped me.
7) And now I'm derailed. Wait for the momentum to return. Okay. Go.
8) Arcade Fire - Funeral
9) Shins - Chutes Too Narrow
10) Cat Power - You Are Free
11) Andrew Bird - Noble Beast
12) Begin to Hope. That was the Regina Spektor album. Silly me.
13) Erm. Rilo Kiley - More Adventurous
14) Maybe I should go check some best of lists to see what I've forgotten to remember.
15) Pausing. Waiting. Okay. Go.
16) Sufjan Stevens - Illinoise
17) Nickel Creek - Why Should the Fire Die
18) Hrm. Checking Paste for inspira-memory.
19) Cheating, really. But, oh well.
20) Ah yes. The Flaming Lips - Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots
21) Is that 20 albums? Probably not.
22) The Decemberists - Her Majesty
23) The White Stripes - Elephant
And that's enough for now. However many that actually is.
Happy Christmas, readers.
Saturday, December 19, 2009
At the moment, I'm ensconced in the corner of a monkey watching John Green eat pizza.
This has inspired me to list the top five music discoveries I discovered this past decade which I was fairly late to the party on.
1) Neutral Milk Hotel. In the Aeroplane Over the Sea is the kind of song I would want played at my funeral if I have to die, which seems to be the case from all available evidence.
2) Radiohead. Yes. It's true. I didn't listen to Radiohead until this decade.
3) The Beatles. Yes. This is worse. They were popular a while back. I heard their songs. Did not really listen until recently. They're quite good, actually.
4) Weezer. The Green Album saved my life. Not literally, of course. Completely unliteral thing. Mostly it just made me happy.
5) Elliot Smith. XO, among other things.
There. Okay. That was in no particular order that I know. Now I'm going to drive away from this monkey and get food.
Here's a quote before I go, though.
"There's nothing left to do but be awesome."
Think about it.
Saturday, December 12, 2009
If ever you wondered what is in my mind when writing these things, look here. Read the bit in quotes. That pretty much says everything you need to know.
Other things you could know, though, include:
Last night, at the Goon Presents Burlesque, there was magic, mermaids, and the Nashville Rollergirls. I was most surprised by the Rollergirls. They dressed in corsets and stockings and rolled out between bits to collect whatever was left behind on stage: namely beds, radios, and, erm, clothes. Their skating about added a nice bit of wheeled whimsy to everything.
Also whimsical was the hula-hooping of Sadie Twist. She's a member of Music City Burlesque which had several members performing.
All the girls were quite lovely, as was the crowd, who hooted and hollered in the most innocent manner you can imagine a crowd hooting and hollering at lovely girls dancing about and dropping things of societal importance.
Here's a picture of some of those girls done by La Photographie Nashville (who also did the one of Sadie to your left up there).
And here's a girl on roller skates with R2d2 (taken at the final 2009 bout):
Friday, December 11, 2009
Wednesday, December 9, 2009
Having recently (as in this morning), finished Jonathan Safran Foer's, Eating Animals, I know find myself in the difficult position of caring about something and knowing that caring about something isn't enough. And so now things must be changed, actions taken, and so forth. Such is the power of stories.
A question, though, of a somewhat silly/serious nature. What about plants? They are alive, presumably, at the very least, a part of life, and we grow them and geneticize them and breed them and cut then down with loud, not particularly kindly looking, machines. Presumably, possibly, sometime in the future, we'll learn there's such a thing as plant consciousness. In fact, some people already have.
However it works, life feeds on life in order to stay alive.
The thing with plants, of course, is that, for most people, there's no belief, or comprehension, that plants feel pain the way that animals (such as us) experience pain. And so that means they get to die. Muahaha.
As I said, silly.
In other news, the Interstitial Folk had their Second Life Virtual World Salon last night. I was there, for a while, until my computer compunked. It was a polygonal affair, full of people' s names hovering over them so it was hard to see (probably there's a way to turn this off). Also, occasionally, the sound went wonky. But it was cool and quite different, if very much like any other reading in that authors read and people listened and, in the end, everyone danced. That last part might have been different. But it shouldn't be. There should always be dancing.
Today, a discussion of what Interstitialness, among other movements and manifesos within and without genres are all about. They talked a bit about it at the Salon. No conclusions were reached except that Interstitialness is not just about words, or stories, or any one particular genre, so much as it is about giving otherwise homeless artists a place that feels like home.
That and that there should be interstital t-shirts which read, "Loose Souls Doing Weird Things."
Or as Geoffrey Long puts it in today's discussion:
“A critic might look at an object we call teal and he’d sniff that it’s perfectly fine to classify it as blue. That’s his right, and it’s not our responsibility to stand on tables and rant that no, gawddamn it, it’s not blue it’s teal, but to show other people that it’s okay to be teal, if you like teal things more than blue things to come hang out with us, and if you’re interested in making teal things here is a list of resources for making teal things and a host of opportunities to share teal things with other fans of teal things – and in so doing, hopefully make new fans of teal things who might previously have only thought blue things were possible.”
That sounds about right.
Happy Tuesday, readers. Do something loose and weird. Think about your food. Wear more teal. You get the idea.
Sunday, December 6, 2009
Mostly because it is quiet, then loud, and then quiet again.
It's really all I need in a song.
See, for example...
Which doesn't really follow the rule but that's music for you. Breaking rules.
p.s. Mr. Blue Sky was in a Dr. Who episode once. This is what that looked like.
Friday, December 4, 2009
This morning, as was tweeted, I began reading Eating Animals, the supposedly Jungle-esque foray of Jonathan Safran Foer into the gruesome world of killing and eating things. Now I'm full of serious thoughts about things.
Thanksfully, there's Twilight. I have yet to read it, but I don't need to in order to know that I'm very happy it exists. Mainly because of things like these.
Thing one is a boy named Alex attempting, with occasionally hilarious failure, to read Twilight on camera. Note the Buffy poster in the background. [via @maureenjohnson]
Thing two is John Green sort of reviewing New Moon
Wednesday, December 2, 2009
Rick Moody's writing a short story with twitter. Some people complain about it. Most of the complaints seem to be that it either a) clogged up their twitter feed, or b) kept getting interrupted by other tweets. My response: Organize your twitter, people. Dedicate a column to Moody's story. The future's not that confusing.
This follows on many, many other twitter story type things. Recently, for example, BBC AudioBooks America had the brilliant idea to let Neil Gaiman begin a story on twitter and then have people tweet the rest.
The resulting story was to be made available as an audio story.
As it happens, "Hearts, Keys, and Puppetry" by Neil Gaiman and the Twitterverse, went up today. Katherine Kellgren provides the vocals.
There are several chapters. I've listened to the first. A lot of reflections talking to people. Reality shimmering. A day everything went wrong. You know the type.
Also, Clarion has opened for applications. Go look at the professors. Feel awe.
Physicist Michio Kaku, author of Physics of the Impossible: A Scientific Exploration Into the World of Phasers, Force Fields, Teleportation, and Time Travel, has a new show premiering on the Science Channel called, Sci-Fi Science: Physics of the Impossible. It's described as "both fanciful and serious." Of note, Michio Kaku built a particle accelerator for his high school science fair. We should probably listen to him.
ComicsMix wonders if i09 is inappropriately editing comments from sci-fi writers and editors. If this were a news blog we would need to look into this (such as, who is this ComicsMix people?), but as it is, we present it without comment. Except for this that was just written wherein we wondered who ComicsMix was.
i09's guide to December Sci-Fi Awesomeness. So far as I know, no controversy, real or imagined, surrounds this. Unless they left off James Cameron's Avatar, but they didn't. Crisis averted.
PC Mag lists 7 reasons why e-book reader things make a good holiday gift. Computer World lists 7 reasons they aren't.
Neil Gaiman ponders the future of audio books at NPR. He has a lovely voice. Hopefully there's a future for that. Presumably Ereaders, in the future, will be able to read to us, so chances are good that grandfathers will be out of a job. Alas.
The Interstitial Arts Foundation is holding a virtual world salon for Interfictions 2. It will be hosted by Jackson Street Books in Second Life. Such a real and imaginary location seems appropriate for discussing art that doesn't quite fit, don't you think? I thought you did.
Until the future, readers.
Monday, November 30, 2009
I had some thoughts recently about things related to stories and genres. I thought I'd write them down. Whether or not they're worth reading, or believing in, of course, is entirely up to you.
The Secret History of Science Fiction, an anthology edited by John Kessel and James Patrick Kelly, appeared back in October. It showcases work from 1971 to the present from genre-ific writers (such as Gene Wolfe and Ursula K. LeGuin), slippery writers (such as Michael Chabon and Jonathan Lethem), and mainstream writers (such as Stephen Millhauser or T.C. Boyle).
The anthology's inspiration came from a thought-experiment proposed by Jonathan Lethem. In his 1998 essay for The Village Voice, "Close Encounters: The Squandered Promise of Science Fiction", Lethem pondered what would've happened if Thomas Pynchon's Gravity's Rainbow had won the Nebula Award in 1974, for which it was nominated, instead of Arthur C. Clarke's Rendezvous with Rama.
Lethem thought that moment was "a hidden tombstone marking the death of the hope that science fiction was about to merge with the mainstream". It was the sort of essay bound to cause controversy, and also the sort of essay--full of an overzealously disappointed hope for acceptance by serious minded people--that seems to mark certain writers of speculative fiction (of which, I count myself, of course*).
The titular secret of The Secret History of Science Fiction is that, in fact, the wall between science fiction and mainstream writing has secretly been crumbling over the past thirty odd years in much the way that walls often do when very determined (or very ignorant, possibly blind, people) keep punching people-sized holes in them.
It is a thesis backed up, they say, by the science fiction tropes appearing in mainstream literature and the mainstream, erm, I mean literary**, ambition of those writers who are less secretly associated with science fiction, like Gene Wolfe.
Paul Witcover, reviewing the anthology in Locus, though, respectfully disagrees. He found that, in contrast to this idea of a merger, that science fiction (or speculative fiction if that's your cup of terminology as it is Mr. Witcover's***) and mainstream writing have not merged. This is what he says:
"I became convinced that Kelly & Kessel are wrong in a centrally important way, and that there really are substantial differences between genre speculative fiction of literary ambition and what is written outside the genre, even if it contains speculative elements. And I think these stories prove it: that is the secret history of The Secret History."
The main difference, for Mr. Witcover is that science fiction writers, such as Karen Joy Fowler or J.G. Ballard, accept their worlds, their novum, their time travelling historians, as real, whereas for someone like Don Delillo, writing about men on a space station above earth, the tropes of science fiction are treated not so much as real, as they are treated as symbols or play-things.
Here's how Mr. Witcover puts it:
"Speculative fiction writers are apt to treat the subjects of their speculations as if they were real, no matter how outlandish and unlikely; thus, speculative fiction of the highest quality often has a unique reality**** to it. It employs the tools of mimetic fiction to ground and particularize its flights of fancy, whether they be technological or magical. It takes them literally. It concretizes metaphors."
"...when mainstream writers venture into speculative fiction, it's all too often either a day at the playground, during which they feel free to cast aside the mimetic conventions they normally hold to in regard to plot, character, setting, etc., or a trip to the Olde Curiosity Shoppe, where they can pick and choose among exotic settings, objects, atmospheres, etc., to use as symbols and such in their own stories, which remain highly mimetic in a traditional sense."*****
Mr. Witcover, though, does not claim that all stories, in either mainstream or science fiction, follow these rules. People making generalizations generally claim things like this. It protects them from any exceptions you might bring up because they already told you there would be exceptions and so please be quiet already with your exceptions.
My thoughts in reading his review fell, more or less, with some few exceptions, of course, into two categories which I shall arbitrarily label This Is Seriously Quite Silly and This Is Seriously Quite Serious.
Here's a sample of thoughts from This Is Seriously Quite Silly.
Who exactly wants science fiction to merge with the mainstream? Why do they want this? What is this mainstream anyway? What is science fiction? Why does Mr. Witcover begin calling it speculative fiction? Is there unspeculative fiction? If my name is Ian McEwan and I speculate about a terrorist attack and I believe in that terrorist attack and don't treat it as a symbol does that make me a speculative fiction writer?
If a reader, on other hand, doesn't believe Ray Bradbury really believed there was a day it rained forever, does this make the reader, the writer, or the story, a member of the mainstream?
Who determines, in fact, whether something a writer writes is satirical, symbolic, or wholly believed in by the writer at the time of writing?
Are we to believe that no self-identified, or outsiderly associated, science fiction writers ever write their stories in the mode of satire? That they never have a message about the present which they aren't afraid to symbolicize in their stories?
Is, perhaps, Mr. Witcover--more than delineating a difference between mainstream and science fiction--delineating a difference between stories in general (those that believe in themselves and those that don't)?
Isn't this need to have science fiction, fantasy, etc., accepted by the mainstream, all just a left-over longing for acceptance by some authority/father/flying spaghetti monster which would presumably validate our lonely existence? Didn't we outgrow that yet?
What does it mean to have literary ambition? How do you know a story, science fiction or otherwise, has it? Is there a level of seriousness one must aspire to?
If a story doesn't believe in itself, how sad is this?
Who wants to spend their time thinking of questions like these?******
In This Is Seriously Quite Serious, I had serious thoughts about the serious subjects of identity, self-imposed ghettoization, and the conflicting need to both define oneself in opposition to, and seek acceptance from, any outside entity. It was very much like the previous category except that I tried to answer the questions. It was much less fun, and so, I will not bore you with the details.
1) Labels are dumb. They should not affect how you read. You should read Mary Shelley's Frankenstein and Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice the same way--namely as if both stories are reports from a real place in which monsters exist and love confuses people. This shouldn't be all that hard since monsters do exist and love is quite confusing.
2) Labels are smart. They help us talk about things without resorting to excessively long hyphenated words or calling everything thing 1 and thing 2 and so forth. In discussing Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy one could call it an absurdist and satirical science fictional romp in which many fantastic things happen. This would take too long, though, and be impossible to fit on a shelf label. Better to try out different, individual, labels on it and see what happens. For example, one could call it Science Fiction and be yelled at by fans of Asimov who believe that science fiction should not have talking mice unless they are robot mice who cannot kill you because of three rules that Asimov made up. One could also, of course, call Hitchhiker's a fantasy, but then you'd run into the trouble of fantasy people proclaiming that Brownian Motion sounds very scientific and everyone knows that talking mice were done first, and best, in Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIHM. But that's children's literature, though, and everyone knows that you can't take that seriously.
3) Mainstream fiction is, more or less, a genre unto itself. Saying science fiction should one day be accepted as mainstream literature is very much like saying that one day, maybe, if we hope and work hard enough, romance literature will finally, and truly, be seen as the work of fantasy that it really is.
Besides, in a hundred years, science fiction will be regular fiction fiction anyway because everyone will carry infinite libraries in their pocket. Oh, wait...
4) It's much simpler not to care what other people think and go on about the business of creation.
5) The Secret History of Science Fiction is full of good stories. Go read them. Believe in them however you see fit.
6) My brain is tired now.
7) Here are other people talking about these things. Charles Tan on The Secret History. Candy Tan (writing of the joy of the romance ghetto). Michael Chabon
8) ttfn, readers.
9) Don't forget the footnotes.
*In the sense that I believe everything is real and true and imaginary and want to one day accept awards from places. It's a condition, I imagine, many people suffer from, whether they consider themselves speculative writers or not.
**This confusion of mainstream and literary confuses me as well, readers. One imagines, though, that most people would rather confess to an ambition for literariness than mainstreaminess.
***This terminological disease of shifting terminology is called Insecuritas Identificas. It's a disease most often experienced by indecisive scientists, minority populations, and hyper-intelligent shades of blue who feel they might be teal or maybe, in certain lights, aquamarine.
****Oh, dear. Now we've gone and brought reality into things. Heaven help us.
*****Presumably, this classifies Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy as a piece of mainstream fiction because Douglas Adams appears to be having fun. At the very least, I guess, it gets classified as genre literature without literary ambition and that just sounds sad when you say it like that because it implies that literary ambition is more about realism, and, well, seriousness, than it is about ray guns or miscarriages. Absurdist literature has always been discriminated against, though. One day maybe it will be accepted as mainstream and then we can all be happy and very confused about how to be absurd.
Sunday, November 29, 2009
It's Saturday. Thanksgiving 2009 has gone the way of all Thanksgivings before it, which is to say, back in time to the land of was. This particular Thanksgiving for me and the many magnelephant members of my family involved several similar things to years past, and a few different ones.
Similar things included eating lots of turkey and sweet potatoes and seeing people we seem to see mostly at the end of each year and not so much at other parts. It's always seemed inefficient to me that Thanksgiving and Christmas occur within one month of each other. But no one asked me, and they probably didn't ask you either, so it's nice we're together on this.
Different things included me, as well as my sister and her boyfriend, both cooking Thanksgiving dinners. They occurred on different days and included different things. Mine occurred on Thanksgiving night. Seeing as how there was turkey before (lunch at a great uncle's), and after (at my sister's the next day which we'll get to momentarily), it seemed best to provide a different sort of Thanksgiving dinner. As such, this is what we ate:
Mushrooms stuffed with a mixture of cream cheese, yogurt, parsley, garlic, and a smidgen of chipotle pepper.
Ratatouille with green peppers, leeks, zuccini, and tomatoes
Twice baked potatoes. For my sister and I, this meant sweet potatoes stuffed with a puree of chipotle, honey, tomatoes, garlic, and other things I've forgotten. For others, this meant unsweet potatoes with parmesan and butter and garlic and cayenne, if that was there thing.
Roasted red pepper and herbed goat cheese lasagna.
It was all very lovely and if my sister gives me the pictures I will go back in time (I'm sensing a theme) and post pictures in the appropriate places.
We did not have dessert because of the aformentioned lunch at a great uncle's in which there was the aformentioned turkey and sweet potatoes and people we don't see all that much.
On the next day, which was yesterday, we had another dinner at my sister's house. This was different because it was a house in which we never had Thanksgiving before. Here are things we ate there:
Sweet Potato Casserole with lovely not quite burnt mashmellows which we kept calling mushrooms because we are silly and have trouble with 'm' words.
Green Bean Casserole with mushrooms that weren't marshmellows and a surprising amount of walnuts. Surprising, of course, because there was any amount at all. It worked.
Grilled Potatoes with things I don't remember but they tasted like grilled potatoes and that was good.
Grilled Turkey which tasted like oak and smoke and I will stop before anything else rhymes.
Neil Gaiman's Bestseller Pecan Pie, which caused some people to curse aloud in wonder.
And this was all very lovely, too, especially the turkey, the sweet potatoes, and the Neil Gaiman Pecan Pie.
I've since heard some parts of this pie were eaten for breakfast.
Pictures of this event may also be posted sometime in the future, although they will look, through the magic of the internet, as though they had been here all along. But we'll know better, readers, won't we?
There were other different things that happened in that they weren't there, but we'll not mention them because we had a place set in case they decided to show up without telling anyone. People do that sometimes, however impossible it may, or may not, seem.
That said, it's time to go buy more food because we ate everything we had, apparently.
Until the future, readers.
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
Under the Dome
Scribner, November 2009
1088 pages (of which the reviewer has read 30)
First, my thoughts:
What? Why? That woodchuck just got split in two and you're describing its bits wriggling and now you're choking women while airplanes explode in mid-air and body parts rain from the sky! Calm down, sir. Calm down. You've got 1000 pages to kill and maim things and explore your conflicting needs for 1950s family values and flaming torsos.
My review of those thoughts: They exhibit a tendency towards excitability which seems to lead to the thinker repeating the word 'and' a lot. He should be careful with that.
As mentioned previously, we are nearing the end of the year, and the decade, and possibly life as we know it, and so people are busy making lists just in case.
At The Onion A.V. Club, they've a list of the 25 Best Comics of the Decade. The, erm, cover image? first image?, is of Blankets by Craig Thompson, and so I trust their list will be good because I also like that book.
Otherwheres, NPR has a list of the decade's 50 most important recordings. Presumably, by recordings, they mean musical recordings and not everything ever recorded during the last ten years, in which case, of course, one must not forget, erm, it would be good here if I could think of some funny, non-musical recording, but it isn't happening. Oh, well.
Largehearted Boy, as he does every year, is compiling an extensive list of best of music and book lists. His heart is just that big.
In personal news of me, I've realized that possibly the novel I'm writing for NaNoWriMo is really only missing one thing. Namely, a plot, otherwise known as a story. I've decided this isn't a good thing for a story to be missing and so we'll see what I can do about that. If I fix it, maybe one day you'll see how I do it.
Happy Tuesday, readers.
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
Recently I said I might begin reviewing things on occasion. I began with Zombie Vampire Robots from Space!
Later, I may take a look at such classics as Octaman or Futureworld.
Today, though, I take a look at a book called Vacation. It was written by Deb Olin Unferth. Here is how I saw it.
Deb Olin Unferth
What a strange, wonderful, and sad book this is. Inside it one finds all sorts of people looking for a way out of all sorts of places. A woman out of her marriage. A man out of his heartbreak. A boy out of his window. A daughter out of her loneliness.
It begins with a girl on a train. One of the better ways to begin, really. This girl’s going somewhere, but we don’t know where. The girl’s name is Claire. As she relates to us her story of having a dead mother, of becoming poor, of learning that her father wasn't her father, she keeps coming back to her mother's favorite sentence, "You won't even feel it." That was what her mother said all the time. It doesn’t seem all that right, though. Claire feels things. She feels sorry for the man beside her, for example, a man with a dented head who reminds her of her father that wasn't.
The man with the dented head gets off the train before Claire. She feels sad to see him go.
The man's name is Myers. He's searching for a man named Gray. He takes a taxi. Later, we will learn that he’s searching for Gray because his wife had been in the habit of following Gray and Myers had been in the habit of following his wife and now that his wife is gone, Myers wants to understand what all that following was about. He knocks on Gray's door. No one's home. Myers waits. He hopes. Eventually, he goes looking somewhere else.
As the story follows Myers along to elsewhere, it collects, and floats, among several characters’ points of view. We continue to spend time with Claire and Myers, but also with Gray himself, as well as Myers' wife, an exiled Nicaraguan man returning home, Claire's father, a volunteer nurse, a kind-hearted mother, and, for one sublime moment, a sexy bikini girl on a boat in a hurricane as she watches Myers do something impossible.
All of the characters here are following something, whether it’s a father, a dream, or a bird.
This is Deb Olin Unferth’s first novel. She published a previous collection of short stories called, Minor Robberies. That collection, and this novel, were both published by McSweeney’s, which, as a publisher, tends to fancy stories that possess much whimsy and sparse description. And that is what we find in Ms. Unferth’s first novel. She crafts a thoroughly believable world in which people untrain dolphins and boys jump out of windows and at least one impossible thing happens. She leaves the great majority of that world to the reader’s imagination.
Scattered about the book are letters written between Myers and his estranged wife, and between Myers and Gray. There's something always a bit desperate about a letter. Someone talking about themselves and waiting, hoping, that someone responds.
Myers composes one letter while in Nicaragua, under a building which fell on him during an earthquake.
The letter he dreams says this:
My dearest wife,
Today I saw collections of documents, works of art, phenomena described by books. I walked through fields. I went to a town filled with more tourists than citizens--tourists sitting in seats, tourists rising to occasions, large tourists, small tourists, tourists frozen in an arabesque on the stairs.
As I am alive, I am your husband.
Vacations are, as a rule, an escape from everyday life. They are taken by families and businesspeople in the hopes of shaking things up a bit. Recharging the batteries as it were. However far you wander, though, to far-off lands, or nearby amusement parks, there is always the comforting notion—if a bit sad and necessary, perhaps—that at the end of your journey there is the return home.
The trip back to the way things were before.
Here, though, Ms. Unferth sets her characters leaping, jumping, falling, and flying after things, but there’s little chance of anyone making it home again.
There is no more before for these characters. There is only what’s in front of them. What leads them on.
Some of them realize this and are brave enough to jump without anyone to show them the way.
Others do not.
In either case, they are all waiting and hoping to feel something before all’s said and done. They all live, as they can, in the new lives they've fallen into. They swim with dolphins. They set dolphins free. They follow men around for no particular reason. None of it really makes any kind of sense. But it is what happened. And it is wonderful and sad. You'll feel something by the time you’re through, readers. I promise.
Other things of interest. An interview with Deb Olin Unferth at Bookslut.
A short story by Ms. Unferth, "Things That Went Wrong Thus Far," what you can read for free.
Until next time, readers.
Saturday, November 21, 2009
Today a movie comes out which chronicles the bestial woes of a fanged and furry love triangle. That sentence ended in a strange, naughty place. Sometimes sentences do that. It's nobody's fault.
In any case, other newsy things are happening today besides that.
Here are a three.
There's a new literary history of America called, A New Literary History of America. It's edited by Greil Marcus and Werner Sollors. Phyllis Wheatley, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Tarzan, among others, make an appearance in the volume's some 1000 pages. Co-editor Greil Marcus said they understood from the beginning that it would be about the "different ways in which America has explained itself to itself." Nice to know literary critics share mine, and Stephen Colbert's view, that America is, if nothing else, a remarkable practitioner of rationalization.
A bird sabotaged the Large Hadron Collider recently by dropping a baguette on a nearby power station. Presumably this was an attempt by some future super-intelligent bird species to travel back in time and save the world. Only time will tell.
Also, Ray Bradbury has written a Christmas musical.
Here is a clip from another movie not at all about any sort of fanged, or furry, triangles. It's about working boys, social justice, and cool hats. Happy weekend, readers.
Friday, November 20, 2009
I have decided to review things on this blog. Mostly, books. Occasionally music. Possibly movies. Maybe you, if you are a book or a music or a movie. I'm going to begin by reviewing this picture sent to me by a faraway friend.
Here are zombie vampire robots from space. They are kidnapping a red-head in a blue dress that seems not to be trying all that hard to get away. She appears to be waving goodbye. Perhaps she harbors a secret love for the rusty undead. But let's not discuss feminism.
Let's discuss, instead, the font of the picture's text which recalls the font used in monster trailers from Universal Studios. These trailers had the habit of proclaiming things as, Shocking! and Terrifying!. Here is an example.
This font is appropriate, then, for a picture depicting zombie vampire robots, who are, one presumes, both shocking (being robots) and terrifying (being zombie vampires).
Of note, they are not denoted as aliens, so we must assume that they, at one time, lived on our planet and were, at some later point, expelled, and then at some later, now-ish point, have since returned seeking bloody vengeance. Note, in fact, the very small print in which "From Space!" is printed. One wonders if, perhaps, the artist isn't trying to communicate humanity's buried shame over the treatment of these poor, defenseless monsters.
This narrative recalls, of course, many things worthy of recall. Firstly, there are the Cylons of Battlestar Galactica, fellow robot exiles, who returned and killed all the humans except the ones on a ship they somehow overlooked. The Cylons themselves, of course, recall the progenitor of this genre as laid out in the forgotten chapter of Genesis in which the exiled Adam and Eve return to exact bloody revenge on their maker. What good's a flaming sword against a .357 Magnum? Not much, as it turns out. Death Proof owes a huge debt to this story.
In conclusion, this picture recalls many great past works of science fiction and fantasy. Also, Charles Bronson.
Also, it is very silly and very awesome.
I give it 3 1/2 Zombie Vampire Robots from Space!.
It loses a half star for not in some way incorporating 'Nazis,' which, as we all know, with their funny helmets and holocausts, are inexplicably essential for true evil silliness.
Maybe next time.
Some of the reviews may be more serious than this. Anything is possible.
Thursday, November 19, 2009
The whole ___ and the ___ title format works much better if one of the blanks contains the phrase 'end of the world,' but sometimes you have to be willing to experiment.
Unless, you know, your experiment is a musical cop show called Cop Rock, which I first heard about on a commentary for one Buffy episode or another. Possible the musical one. It might have made that much sense.
At LitDrift, they have up a transcript of an iChat in which Alex and Julie discuss the wrongs and rights and maybes of musicals, cop shows, and Hugh Jackman's calves. I had no idea Hugh Jackman's calves were so calfly, or that you could post chat transcripts as articles. But both, it turns out, are good things. There is video evidence of Cop Rock's particular brand of unbrilliance, as well.
Also at LitDrift, it turns out that PW's list of Top 10 books for this year included no books by women. It also includes no books by robots, but robots, as of the present, have always had trouble organizing internet campaigns and so there has been less attention paid to their continued absence. In the future, though, there will probably be a controversy.
Also, here's Neil Gaiman's old NaNoWriMo encouragment, posted two years ago today.
And here's new encouragment.
Keep believing, readers.
And be nice to your robots, if you have any. One day they'll be people, too, and will probably make their own misguided musical robot shows that will still be sources of inexplicable joy years after their cancellation.
Ah, the future.
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
The funeral for the world will be in New Orleans. You didn't know?
In other news, Kurt Vonnegut is still dead. And this is still sad. He wrote a lot about the end of the world and it always made me laugh. A friend pointed out to me that Steve Almond's essay, "Everything Was Beautiful And Nothing Hurt," is online at The Rumpus. It's 60 pages long but it's worth it, according to my friend, who also pointed me to Elvis Perkins and that worked out.
And now I'm going to buy vegetables.
And then see Elvis Perkins at The Mercy Lounge where previously I saw The Walkmen and very nearly went deaf but didn't.
Happy folk rock, readers.
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
It's very nearly the end of the year, and of the decade. A lot of people are making lists of things. I thought I might make lists, too, so as to not to feel left out or miss the momentousness of an arbitrary block of time passing.
Possible lists pondered included:
1) Things other people taught me to love.
2) Stories about mice and/or rats. Possibly two overlapping lists--a Venn diagram might be called for.
3) Movies in which there are surprising penguins (Fight Club, for example).
4) Random lines written while nanowrimoing. Something like, "The crow's name was Benson."
And so forth.
And I may do this, because I do love lists.
But, this past yesterday, I saw a film called Between the Folds. The Nashville Library showed it as part of the Independent Lens community series. It was about origami. It was also about art and science, creativity versus technique, odd passions, deep love, and having fun.
It was narrated by a very somber voiced lady and included very serious piano music. That didn't take away from the joy, though.
Here are origami pictures to make your mouth open and go "Ohhh."
After the movie, there was a Q&A with a mathematician, painter, physicist, and paper folder. People asked about fractals, fibonaccis, and pop-up books. I asked about whether as scientists and artists they felt like they were discovering or creating their science or art. It was a mean question that I was proud of. The mathematician said it would take all night to answer, but they did what they could in five minutes or so.
A dark haired girl with very stylish glasses made a comment after this, about my question. She began by looking at the panel and ended by looking at me and talking about scientists playing a game with light, deciding it was a point or a wave as their whims and situations demanded. "Do you see?" she said. "Yes," I nodded.
I think the lesson here is that paper is cool and we should not forget about it as we advance into the future decades.
If you're in Nashville tonight, and attending the Regina Spektor concert, I'll be in the balcony, left section, mid-way up. Wave in my general direction. I probably won't see you but it'll be a nice gesture.
Happy Monday, readers.
Saturday, November 14, 2009
It's Friday the Thirteenth.
Here's something truly terrifying to wear on your feet.
Here's what it's based on.
My sister once traumatized a small child with this scene. He got better.
Happy Horrors, readers.
Thursday, November 12, 2009
Reading What It Is got me into writing in a notebook. It's also what woke me up during a time of my life in which I needed waking. There's a whole thing in there about how to save a kingdom turned to stone. It proved helpful.
Nanowrimo has a pep talk from Lynda Barry today. It is about writing by hand and the invisible thing that is the thing we're chasing.
Go read, feel pepped.
If you need more pep, read Junot Diaz, here, talking about failing for five years, then failing less for another two years, and then sort of being okay.
Happy Wednesday, readers.
p.s. Dollhouse is cancelled. I had, for the longest time, been slightly wary of it, as though it were a dog I loved very much but it was looking at me funny like maybe something large had hit it and now it thought it was a raccoon.
Which is to say, all of Joss Whedon's shows, have been driven by one thing. The mission. Buffy had her demons. Angel had the champion thing. Nothing that we do matters. The only thing that matters is what we do.
Mal was simpler and more complicated. He wanted freedom.
For that longest time, mentioned earlier, I did not understand the Dollhouse mission. I could not find my Whedon. He was there, hidden in very small, beautiful, sad things, like the exchange of doll and tech:
Did I fall asleep?
For a little while.
He was there in the obviousness of women being controlled. He was there in the very basic Whedon idea that good and evil are beside the point. In the end, it's about power.
But I didn't understand the mission.
And then, very recently, I did.
Some people aren't ready to wake up, the man said.
Something bad is coming, said the girl. And I want everyone to survive it.
More subtle than demons, simpler even, than freedom. Simply, and only, to wake people up so they don't fall asleep. Not again. Not ever. Not even for a little while.
And now it's cancelled. And it's not surprising. And it wasn't Whedon's best, but I was ready, readers. I was ready to wake up again.
Alas. Alas. Alas.
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
Being November 10th, we are a third of the way through the month. It's unclear how many thirds of the way I am through this possible novel possibly being written for #nanowrimo. It would help if I knew exactly what the story was or how long it was and if I wrote on a computer. Writing in a notebook began as a way to avoid RSI, and has become, for me, a lovely way to be still and focus and doodle in the margins, but it does not lend itself to word counts.
Other things happening today include Neil Gaiman being born in another universe where it is today but 49 years ago...otherwise known as the past if you believe in that sort of thing.
Also, my computer has begun acting wonky and will not let me click on things. This doesn't happen with a notebook.
Saturday, November 7, 2009
See, that's different. I didn't say, Hello, readers.
Another different thing I did today was walk around the neighborhood in a women's jacket from Old Navy and a spiffy hat. People said I looked like a movie star. I'll trust them to be right.
Yesterday, Andrew Wyeth's granddaughter held court at Cheekwood Botanical Gardens and Museum of Art. This was a very ritzy place in a ritzy area called Belle Meade. There was a woman manning a gate who directed visitors where to go. Where we went was the Visitor Center.
They had a large room full of chairs which were full of people. The granddaughter, Victoria, stood at the front. Behind her were projected her grandfather's work.
Her grandfather was in love with light and belt buckles and everything. She said he loved SUVs. When he became older, in his eighties or so, he drove out in the woods, cranked the heat, and sat in the trunk, painting trees (you never met a man who could fall so in love with a tree). Another thing is he loved painting the same people over and over.
This was the true test. Looking at the same face again and again and again and finding something to be excited about. To love.
"Why do you paint people from the back," she asked her grandfather.
"Imagination," he said.
"Why did you paint that woman in the fool's cap naked?" she said.
"That's how I dreamed her," he said.
Victoria loved her grandfather very much. His death left a hole in her heart. She is still excited. She does impressions of him. She re-enacts whole conversations. She inherited his love of things. If she's coming to a town near you, check her out.
Tomorrow, I think, I may go see Doris Kearns Goodwin receive the Nashville Public Library Literary Award. Presumably, she will not be showing pictures of naked moondancing, but one can hope.
Happy Friday, readers.
Friday, November 6, 2009
It's Guy Fawkes day. So, if you haven't almost not quite blown up something lately, get to it.
This morning, I managed not to blow up anyone with meteors. It's still unclear if it's a novel, though. But it has people and not-people talking and riding subways and we'll see.
There's a new story up at the Interstitial Annex. "Quiz" by Eilis O'Neal. It ponders things about stepmothers, frogs, and promises. These are ponders worth pondering if ever a ponder bothered to ponder, wouldn't you say?
Over in England, there's a graphic novel called Salem Brownstone that Alan Moore is excited about. If he was excited about shoe polish it would be worth a read and so we should probably pay attention.
A co-founder of Comic-Con, Sheldon Dorf, passed away this week. Technically this isn't a positive thing to get excited about, but it seemed worth a mention.
Kelly Link and Gavin Grant won a World Fantasy Award for Small Beer Press. Several other people and books won awards, too.
There's a new comic book based on a concept album that is getting made into a movie. It's all due to A Life of Science and their being a very ambitious band.
A collection of Steve Ditko's more macabre early comics has been collected. Fantagraphics is offering a free pdf preview.
Happy Failed, but Immortal, Revolutions, readers.
Wednesday, November 4, 2009
It's November, and I've gone and done something rather rash again, in that I've decided to participate in NaNoWriMo even though I'm already at least two days late and so already hopelessly behind. Alas.
In other, unsurprising, news:
Michael Chabon loves the new Dr. Who. This get a mention in Charlie Jane Anders' review of Manhood for Amateurs.
I liked this bit from the Loser's Club essay.
"Every work of art is one half of a secret handshake, a challenge that seeks the password, a heliograph flashed from a tower window, an act of hopeless optimism in the service of bottomless longing. Every great record or novel or comic book convenes the first meeting of a fan club whose membership stands forever at one but which maintains chapters in every city — in every cranium — in the world. Art, like fandom, asserts the possibility of fellowship in a world built entirely from the materials of solitude. The novelist, the cartoonist, the songwriter, knows that the gesture is doomed from the beginning but makes it anyway, flashes his or her bit of mirror, not on the chance that the signal will be seen or understood but as if such a chance existed."
That I like something Michael Chabon wrote also qualifies as unsurprising news.
In more surprising news, if ever you thought, hey, didn't Michael Chabon one time have a website wherein he archived all his essays? You would be thinking correctly. It went away a long time ago, though.
Luckily, the past isn't dead--it isn't even past.*
There is a website called the Wayback Machine. It archives the web. Something you wrote is probably there. Many things that Michael Chabon wrote are.
Time, like so many things, is bigger on the inside.
Enjoy your time travels, readers.
*This may come as a surprise, but William Faulkner was quite the zombie fighter in his day. His preferred weapon? A 2x4.
Saturday, October 31, 2009
It's Halloween eve. Very soon there will be multitudes of miniature monsters, ghosts, devils, spongebobs, and, erm, whatever else the kids are into these days, running about various streets, demanding candy lest their be dire consequences. This tradition dates back, of course, to prehistorical Irish times, when leprechauns dressed up like other, scarier, even more imaginary creatures, in order to dupe poor farmers and laborers into handing over shiny things. Leprechauns love shiny things, you know. They're like small birds. I don't know why they ate Jennifer Aniston.
In other news, Aimee Bender wrote a story about a significant object which may or may not be a lighter containing an ancient seahorse, possibly from Irish times. Apparently there's a whole project surrounding this story, wherein writers make up stories for random objects. Shelley Jackson wrote about a crumg sweeper. Read what Maud says about it here.
Also, Anthony Hopkins is Odin.
Nanowrimo gears up November 1st. Try not to binge too much on candy the night before.
Peter Berg leaves Dune. Neill Blomkamp, he of Distract 9 fame, is mentioned as a replacement.
Little Brother makes me want to want to be a hacker again.
Stay free, readers.
Happy All Hallow's Eve Eve.
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
Today used to be Tuesday which, as we all know, was named after the Old English god, Tiw, who was really just the Norse god of war and law, Tyr, who had the habit of sometimes wearing a monacle and pretending to be British.
It also happens to have been the day a story of mine went online at the Interstitial Arts website, here.
The Interstitial folk asked everyone to write an essay about their story, interstitialness in general, or what have you. And so I did. It ended up not being very much about the story, exactly, so much as about monsters and porn. This was surprising. You can read it up there where here is.
I tried at first to actually write about the story and why I wrote it and it never quite worked. It felt indulgent. It's occured to me, though, that for someone who writes a blog and occasionally argues with themselves, indulgence obviously doesn't bother me overly much. I think, more likely, I was just writing it wrong.
One morning, a couple of weeks ago, while in the middle of trying to write something else, something made me try again. Probably the fact that the something else I was writing wasn't quite working. Every scene kept ending with my characters being killed by meteors. That didn't seem right.
So I wrote about a story I already wrote, instead. And then I wondered what to do with what I wrote. Then I remembered I had a blog. Here is what I wrote that morning.
This story was written, for the most part, in the early morning hours after a concert featuring Jenny Lewis and Connor Oberst. The show took place at what was then a fairly recently opened venue in Oxford, Mississippi called The Lyric. It was the kind of place with chandeliers and diamond-patterned wallpaper in the foyer. It was the kind of place that had a foyer.
I got there early, stood in line, made a few new friends who had traveled to every show so far, and then we went inside, through the foyer, under the chandeliers, and we stood together at the stage, waiting for something to happen.
Eventually, something did. Something usually does.
Ms. Lewis came out wearing a fedora and a flower-print dress. She sang songs of love and bitterness and was, in turn, mysterious, goofy, sarcastic, sexy, and adorable. At one point, she touched my hand. Mr. Oberst appeared next with his Mystic Valley Band and sang songs of grief and purpose. He did not wear a fedora or flower-print dress. Nor did he touch my hand. He did wear a tuxedo, though, and he did sing as if his life, maybe all of our lives, depended on it. He's an excitable fellow.
It was a good show. It’s possible that some things came from this.
It’s also true that, at the time, I was enjoying a hopeful sort of broken heart and listening to a lot of Lou Reed's Transformer. I suppose it’s possible some bits of the story came from this, too.
You never know with these things.
Stories, like love, are a kind of magic, even to the writers and lovers. Especially to them, maybe, because some part of them, like the magician, knows that everything around them is an illusion, a carefully orchestrated system of smoke and mirrors and forevers designed to conceal the truth—that the woman is still in one piece, that the flying man is held up by wires, and that love, however true it seems, sometimes lasts for only a month, a year, or a day.
Audiences, readers, and the friends of lovers, know all this, too, of course. But they still watch. They still read. They still hope.
Maybe because being in on the act is part of the fun for both audience and magician. Knowing and believing anyway is its own kind of magic.
But maybe also because, on some level, everyone realizes that the greatest and scariest thing about magic, love, and stories, is that sometimes they’re true. Some women really do get torn in two and made whole again by the same man. Some men really do learn how to fly. And some days, some loves, really do last forever.
Don’t let anyone ever tell you different.
Unless they’re wearing a monocle. Those folks usually know what they’re talking about.
I feel, at this point, a little like those people who do commentaries and, at the end, congratulate those that listened to the whole thing for being interested and geeky and cool. So, congratulations. Way to be cool.
Happy yesterday, readers.
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
This weekend I discovered a previously undiscovered cable channel that Comcast offers as part of whatever package it is that I have. It's a station called "This." This name "This," strikes me as a name like The Who, or The Guess Who, as being designed to cause confusion and Abbott and Costello routines. Regardless of its indeterminate pronoun name, though, it plays many magnelephant movies such as David Lean's Brief Encounter. Everything should be as black and white and full of trains as that film.
In other news, I made a sweet potato pie using a variation of this gluten free crust. It was, as the subject suggests, magnelephant.
Sometimes you need to use the name of your blog in your posts, otherwise it gets sad.
Neil Gaiman's graveyard party count reaches 33 locations.
Some people claim to have spotted magnelephants in Sweden. They also claim magnelephants are magnetic elephants, something previously claimed by this blog without any knowledge of any other people existing with similar claims. These people design mugs.
People wonder if the end of the world is the new vampire.
Jonathan Lethem talks to Salon about madness, obsession, and genius. His novel is not about mad scientists, which is too bad, as they seem to be on my mind of late and sometimes I'd like to believe I have the power to bend the world to my will. Sometimes that goes horribly wrong, though, so maybe not.
Tomorrow a story I wrote, "Some Things About Love, Magic, and Hair," will go online at the Interstitial Arts Foundation Annex. If you haven't read the other stories you should go do that.
Happy Monday, readers.
Sunday, October 25, 2009
And now having created this post so that I could use word kangover appropriately in a sentence, my job here is done.
Good work, me.
It was nothing really.
Too true. Real work involves pretending to go to Mars. Or defending your home from zombies using zombie-zapping plants. You should do something worthwhile like that.
You're right. I've wasted my life.
No, not at all. You've only wasted the last ten minutes or so you spent searching for that picture and imagining this imaginary argument between imaginary yous.
You know I'm right. I'm you.
Yes, you are. I guess we know what we're talking about.
Should we move on then?
Saturday, October 24, 2009
I'm in a dick sort of mood. Which is not the sentence I meant to write exactly, but it is true that I just finished reading Jonathan Lethem's Gun, With Occasional Music and have started his later, more award-winning novel, Motherless Brooklyn. The first featured a sometime-in-the-future setting and evolved animals, like Joey Castle, a tough guy kangaroo with a wicked left kick and a surprising hesitance to shoot our hero. One of my favorite bits of the book was how it was a musical. The radio news broadcast in tubas and trumpets. Later, certain guns pulled from waistcoats triggered ominous violins.
Motherless has less kangaroos so far, but might be more satisfying. We'll see.
In other New York news, BB over at Facebook directed me, and everyone else who reads his wall posts, to Ephemeral New York, a blog of the city's history and, well, ephemera. Ephemera, by the way, is a friend of this blog. I use it in sentences all the time. For example, I might say, "I found the movie's ephemera, quite ephemeral."
On the blog, there are two stories of literary interest. One, is about Jack London's days of hobo-ing in City Hall Park.
The other is a story about the greatest con artist of 19th century New York. His name was Hungry Joe Lewis and one day he ran into Oscar Wilde. Who won? Were there witticisms? Go read. Find out.
Happy Friday. Don't forget Dollhouse.
Friday, October 23, 2009
Holly Black wrote a book about faeries. It's fun.
In other news, here's a list.
1) An open letter to Joss Whedon asking why not continue being awesome in places that aren't named Fox who sometimes decide not to air your show during November sweeps? It makes some good points, considering the success of Dr. Horrible and The Guild in going the non-network route. Joss responds on Whedonesque. He's slightly less silly than usual. Hope he's okay.
2) A map of bookstores throwing Graveyard Book parties. The best one gets a visit from Neil himself.
3) Asterix, that lovable comic about Gauls and Romans and the French superiority/inferiority complex, is celebrating it's 50th anniversary. Bleeding Cool has a picture of the Portuguese version of the special issue being put out to commemorate the event. Here's an English cover if that's your thing.
4) French villages fight over who was the inspiration for an important village in Asterix. In place of actually fighting, though, the article says mostly villages do a lot of "claiming."
5) A collection of classic comics put together by Art Spiegelman and Francoise Mouly. Most of the work collected comes from the funny books of the 40s and 50s. No word on whether any villages in France are fighting over this.
6) Thor at the bus stop.
Thursday, October 22, 2009
As has been pointed out, the future is here. It may already be the past.
Barnes and Noble unveiled today their e-reader the Nook. It retails for $259, the same price as Amazon's Kindle. The Wall Street Journal has a write-up about it. Among it's nifty features include, unlike the Kindle, the ability "lend" your e-books to other Nookers. This lending is limited to 14 days, and only one person may read the e-book at a time, but still, fairly nifty and similar to how inkies are lent. No word on whether after fourteen days the lent book reverts to the owner or remains the property of your friend.
Also, Barnes and Noble plans to have specialness happen on your Nook when you wander into their store. Presumably, things like coupons, recommendations, and hopefully a scan-in app so that you can scan the bar code of books you'd like to buy or sample chapters.
In other e-book news, many things.
Thing 1) An e-book price war between Amazon, Wal-Mart, and Target.
Thing 2) The Times wonders whether people are reading more because of e-books.
Thing 3) Stephen Marche coins the term "transbook" as a more poetic term for e-readers. He gets a little Borgesian in his dreams of "a book that contains all books."
Thing 4) At the Rumpus, a small publisher writes about their reluctance to embrace digitial literature. He's not sure the future is all that now-ish just yet.
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
This weekend, besides seeing the wild and run-filled wonder of Where the Wild Things Are, I caught a screening of Copyright Criminals. It's a film about music and sampling and the failure of copyright law to not be dumb.
You can read about the film here.
It was shown at the Nashville public library as part of the Independent Lens series. Afterwards, a panel discussed the film and took questions. The panel consisted of copyright lawyer, Lynn Morrow, the filmmaker Ben Franzen, and DJ Super Pimp Daddy. The panel was so arranged so that Ben sat between Lynn and Pimp Daddy. It happened that in the discussion this seemed particularly apt.
Fun fact: It's cheaper and easier to cover a song, than to sample it.
Good places to go and read about the issues include Lawrence Lessig's blog, Creative Commons, the Electronic Frontier Foundation.
Go here to see if Copyright Criminals is coming to a city near you. Of course, you can also wait until January when it will come to your house. But really, getting out is good for you. There are people and sometimes free coffee and cookies.
Oh, and also, Joss Whedon is directing one of the back 9 episodes of Glee. Guess I should watch that.