Archive for February, 2008

Animal Crackers

February 26, 2008

The brilliance of the Internet knows no limits. Truly astounding this technological marvel we’ve created. The latest? The Encyclopedia of Life, on-line (I mean, you wouldn’t want to ruin habitats by actually printing it…). A proposed storehouse of information — largely obscure, inert, and even a chilling ode to the death of nature. The topper? So many people visited the site today it purportedly crashed. The CBC wrote a story about it.

An idealistic publicity stunt. In the world we actually live in it’s kind of crazy. Like animal crackers…

The Departed

February 25, 2008

Not about last year’s BP (body count has been pretty high the last couple of years — a case of art imitating life?), but about a day in the life of a research trip to Paris, four years ago today. From the nostalgic travelogue archive:

25 February, 2004, Paris, France

Got a late start. Banlieu train was delayed in Domont, so we didn’t leave until around 2 PM. Took metro line #2 from Gare du Nord to Pére Lachaise cemetery — started to drizzle a little when we arrived. A true meteorological melange. Sun, sun showers and full-on rain. Wandered aimlessly for a while, finally happening upon a map. An amazing history…Oscar Wilde (whose grave is an interesting Art Deco sculpture covered with people’s “kisses”), the Mur des Fédérés (where the Communards were executed…) — lots of old communists buried in the area (also monuments dedicated to the dead of Buchenwald, Auschwitz, etc…). Tried to find Auguste Blanqui’s grave, which was only marginally successful…

Happened upon the sepulcher of Allan Kardec, the great French Spiritualist, a little savage “grotto” covered in fresh cut flowers. Amazing. Inscription read: “Tout effet a une cause. Tout effet intelligente a une cause intelligente. La puissance de la cause est en raison de la gradeur de l’effet.”

At that point, the whole place took on a rather mystical cast, the result of strange effects of the light. A little wizened old French lady stood beside the grave. Suddenly my partner, A, came back from wandering away and said a black cat had crossed her path. When I turned my attention back to the grave, the old lady had disappeared…

As we headed toward Jim Morrison’s tomb we were waylaid by a civil servant who told us to leave, as the cemetery was “closed”. Prevented from our rock & roll experience by bureaucracy and technocracy. Somewhat ironic.

Now sitting and having a raspberry beer in the Café Leffe, looking across the Seine at Notre-Dame. Wonderful.

Indeed. Quite wonder-ful.

On My Desk, Vol.5

February 24, 2008

It’s been a while since the last installment. While tonight’s Oscars suggest movies rather than books as a topic, I’ve only seen two of the Best Picture nominees (and one of them was No Country For Old Men, which reminded me of Brokeback Mountain but more crazy and less gay), so I’m not going there. Instead I’m writing about some books lying around. Without further ado, then:

Pierre Bourdieu, The Field of Cultural Production: Essays on Art and Literature (New York: Columbia University Press, 1993).

Tough to encapsulate. Bourdieu seeks to add refinements to Marxist-inspired cultural theory by exploring the complex “space” of cultural production. “Field” — in the sense of the French word “champ” — is the word he prefers. I like milieu, but that has various layered meanings as well. There is a deep sense of history in Bourdieu’s work. He’s also innately sociological, and makes really neat charts.

The Official Scrabble Players Dictionary, Third Edition (Springfield, MA: Merriam-Webster, 1996).

Yeah, well…I’ve already admitted to my addiction.

John Hope Franklin and August Meier, eds., Black Leaders of The Twentieth Century (Champaign, IL: University of Illinois Press, 1982).

This is a collection of terse and well-written biographies of major American black leaders. The range runs from W.E.B. Du Bois to Martin Luther King, Jr., with the likes of Marcus Garvey stirred into the mix. A book used in a U.S. history course I helped teach a few years ago. Seems as if it’s becoming obsolete. Partly due to the likes of Wikipedia. This is dated print material — not only is there no Obama in this book, there’s not even a Jesse Jackson! 1982, remember…

Philip K. Dick, The Philip K. Dick Reader (New York: Citadel Press, 1997).

A collection of short stories from this master of American sci-fi. There are a number that have inspired films, from “We Can Remember It For You Wholesale” (Total Recall) to “The Golden Man” (Next). Some of the best stories here are the unknown ones — especially Dick’s earlier works, exemplars of the “paranoid style” of American sci-fi (and politics). One in particular — “The Hanging Stranger” — is quite haunting. The early days of UFO cosmology are patent in this stuff, preparatory to Dick’s full move into the realm of dark delusion and subsequent search for light. Bringing me naturally to the final book…

John Strauber and Sheldon Rampton, Toxic Sludge Is Good for You! Lies, Damn Lies and the Public Relations Industry (Monroe, ME: Common Courage Press, 1995).

An examination and condemnation of the public relations industry and its effect on the modern media universe. Perhaps dated, but still pointed and polemical. There’s some good stuff on the history of the PR business in here, with discussions of figures like Edward Bernays. Reads like a study for the screenplay of Michael Clayton. This, curiously, is the other Best Picture nominee I’ve seen to date. A fascinating book that essentially ends up being about politics and propaganda.

Which, somehow, just makes me want to shout out “hurray for Hollywood!”

Depression is Good For You!

February 22, 2008

Who knew? Interesting article in the Los Angeles Times about what Keats called “turning an Intelligence into a Soul” — i.e. melancholia. By this assessment life lived on the very romantic cusp of things (as in you could fall off a cliff at any time…) is healthy. Guess this makes me in tip-top shape…

By way of Arts & Letters Daily.

A Light Dusting…

February 17, 2008

Seems about all that we have on offer these days. A jumbled, joyous, gesticulating spasm of random stuff is le menu du jour. My apologies to the rational and the reasoned, but this post is liable to quickly become unmanagable. So here it goes…

– I welcome a new denizen to the blogroll, enreal, recently self- described as hopelessly “sarcastically” romantic. I jive.

– Sci-fi writer Rudy Rucker has just finished the first draft of his new novel Hylozoic. Love the title…

– There are a wealth of interesting podcasts over at Occult of Personality. Download one and play it on your iPod (or other variously branded mp3 player breeding a deep sense of inferiority in you…). Better than books on tape.

– If you haven’t checked out the Raincoaster I urge a little sampling of her weird-coast collage of star (and star-shaped) baiting, haute net culture and other associated strangeness.

– Not sure about the whole U.S. spy satellite situation — maybe there is a “safety” issue involved with it coming down unpredictably, but shooting it out of the sky seems heavy handed. And why is the space shuttle conveniently in orbit at the same time? The Russians don’t think it’s kosher

No matter, in a few days it will be nothing but a light dusting.

Behold!…The Man-Child

February 8, 2008

Or “Child-Man” as this interesting article in the City Journal puts it. By way of Arts & Letters Daily.

“Barserie”

February 8, 2008

barserie.jpg

A typo? The actual word is brasserie — brewery. Cheeky bar owners, most likely trying to circumnavigate the 101 bugaboo. Not unlike me, since I’ve clearly overstated the case. In my defense, I’ll say that the first word under the title in my header is “lies”…

You were warned.

Done…

February 7, 2008

With most things in life, including this blog. The Necromancer is on hiatus. Indefinitely.


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