Wassup Rockers


Category Archive

The following is a list of all entries from the books category.

Some Words and Images.

Went to see Gary Shteyngart read for his new novel, Super Sad True Love Story at Greenlight Bookstore. This involved me getting on the A and going express three stations past the stop I needed in order to reach the store, and barely making it on time, so that it was so mo’fucking crowded (Gary’s a rock star, don’tcha know!) that I basically didn’t even look for a spot to sit and listen. I just walked around the store instead, which was great because it was my first time at the store and I’d been curious about it. Really enjoyed the space, it’s very welcoming and bright.

In regard to the reading: I don’t know why, but I felt a bit iffy about the story at first, because it involved not only Koreans, but Korean Stuyvesant alumni, which I know a thing or two about. Okay, I went to Bronx Science, and I silently wept to myself wishing some really funny writer dude would share a few kind words about Bronx Science. Except the culture at Stuy and Bronx Science is basically the same, so it’s not that big a deal. Plus, my brother went to Stuy!

(He saw the second plane crash.)

Anyway, Shteyngart did win me over with his humor. Except not enough for me to buy a copy, though I’d like to point out it’s because I can’t afford it. I’m currently #246 on the queue to receive a copy from the library. Shouldn’t take me too long. I think for The Yiddish Policemen’s Union I was in the 500s when I first joined the line, so I’m not too bothered about my place on this line.

On my way home I listened to a recent interview of him with Leonard Lopate and, combined with the reading tonight, the more I’m convinced that Super Sad True Love Story is like a bastard Russian Jewish cousin of The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. It’s not just that both authors are immigrants. Ethnicity plays a huge role in the books, and there’s a strong speculative aspect to them, though the approach is different: Shteyngart’s novel is set in the future, whereas Díaz’s Oscar is a huge fucking nerd in love with sci-fi/fantasy. Also, there are significant female voices, and when Lopate asks Shteyngart about it, he says the same thing I heart Díaz say at readings: he tried it because he’d never really done it before. What with the recent Kakutani stamp of approval, could the Pulitzer be next?!?!

Hopefully I’ll get a copy soon and find out for you. Then again, you might as well find out for yourself if my theory flies.

I haven’t had much time on Racialicious lately and was pointed to this post that came out a week or so ago. I saw the title and for some reason the first title that came to mind was Kiffe Kiffe Tomorrow (Kiffe kiffe demain), except as I read I learned they were focusing on a rising American trend, whereas Kiffe is about French Muslim girl. The book the post mentions actually sounds really cool because it fills in these complexities and diversity that exist within the Muslim communities in America. I only wish they’d given even more examples of this trend. Kiffe is not, by the way, an urban book. It’s set in the French suburbs. I must clarify, however, that the French suburban life is actually equivalent to inner-city American life. It’s where the lower-class ethnic minorities find themselves stuck… I’m not explaining this right, but if you want to get an example of what life in the French suburbs is like, I most definitely recommend La haine Anyway, I haven’t read Kiffe but I figure if it was good enough to be translated, maybe it’s worth checking out and should provide an interesting counterpoint to this rising trend of urban Muslim fiction.

Been watching some good TV. Obviously Mad Men has started again, but plenty a column inch has been devoted to the damn show and what else could I say? It’s brilliant, it’s brilliant, etc!

I do want to endorse Louie, Louis C.K.’s show. He’s been around a long time and he’s already got a built-in audience. If you aren’t his fan, please do check it out! It’s only half an hour a week and it’s this weird combo of great, funny, sometimes foul standup, bookending two sketch pieces. Except all the sketch pieces feature stories about C.K., or more specifically, a fictionalized version of C.K., and they’re goofy and uproarious and silly and yet sometimes they’re poignant and often incredibly intelligent. It’s low-budget and yet they do so much in the span of, what, 23 minutes? Its rhythm is so different to most of (all?) the stuff on TV right now.

It’s actually thrilling to watch.

The other show I’ve been enjoying is Huge, which is just a really well-written teen drama that happens to be set in a summer camp for overweight kids, which means that it features a lot of fat actors. And they’re great! I love the characters: as in real life there’s no clear antagonists and everyone has flaws as well as redeeming qualities, and unlike a lot of kids’ shows, the adults are as wonderfully rendered as the kids. Yes, Skins, I’m talking about you. It’s not cynical, and yet, it isn’t sappy either.

I’ve been keeping up with a couple of British panel shows. First is Mock the Week. As I’ve mentioned previously I have a soft spot for Frankie Boyle, and I’ve had a hard time with the show since he left it. I get particularly annoyed when someone lame is seated to Hugh Dennis’s right; it leads me to grumble that the guest is not worth sitting in “Frankie’s seat.” His absence has led to a lack of balance among the three team leaders. It would be cool if we could just get another regular, and not one who will mimic Frankie’s role as a fucking rabblerouser but will have a good rapport with the rest of the group. In fact, I’d argue that Russell Howard has try to fill Frankie’s shoes, but it’s hard to take him seriously. And this is coming from someone who likes Russell Howard.

The show itself has gotten such a reputation amongst comedians, notably Jo Brand and Rhod Gilbert, that it seems like a lot have given up on being on it because they think it’s too much work and stress with no guarantee they’ll get a favorable edit. And then there are those, like Mark Watson, who haven’t been invited back even though they’ve been good and likeable guests, if not always at the top of their game. Mind you, there might be plenty of guests who want to be on it and get good exposure, but their schedules may not leave openings for TV appearances. That really limits the number of guests who show up and not all of them are very good at jumping in on a show where the regulars have such a set dynamic amongst one another. Either way, if it doesn’t get consistently good during the rest of the season, I’m gonna jump ship.

It’s just as well because there are better panel shows out there. Such as Would I Lie To You?, which just started up its fourth season. They tend to get decent guests, not necessarily comedians. It’s pretty breezy and light-hearted, not least because the team leaders are great. It’s great for Americans, too, since it’s not about keeping track of British current events and more about personal stories.


Catch Up.

First off I just want to say that Gustavo Cerati had a stroke recently and I was pretty freaked out about it, but it seems like the prognosis is cautiously optimistic.  I thought he might die and I was very worried for his family, but hopefully he’ll recover bit by bit without any problem. ¡Fuerza Gustavo, te queremos mucho!

—–
On Thursday I spent a shitload of cash on trinkets to make me marginally happier about my existence. I originally intended to go buy some albums—Jamie Lidell, Jónsi, Janelle Monáe, others whose names don’t start with J—but I happily improvised my day out and found some other great stuff instead.

On Wednesday I went to Housing Works to check out the Black Keys pop-up store they set up in the bookstore.  I got there around 5 but they’d already closed up because the band was gonna play that evening.  So I returned the next day and I bought myself a copy of Brothers.  It’s actually my first Black Keys album!  I didn’t know which of the older ones to choose.  In theory I’ve always liked them, but it’s always been from a respectful distance.  The main reason I bought something from the pop-up store is that a percent of the proceeds went to Housing Works.  It’s also the reason why I was willing to part with my cash money even though the record was “expensive.”  It was almost $30 and that was… a lot for me, way more than I usually pay for vinyl.  Pretty much worth the money though–it’s a double LP plus came with a CD version as well.  Well played, Nonesuch Recs.

The first single, “Tighten Up,” has two videos and they’re both hilarious.  There’s a teaser vid with a puppet (YEAHHH!!!), and an official one with kids at a playground.  The official one is pretty heteronormative and even sexist (depending on how you read it) so I gotta roll my eyes at it a little, but it’s still incredibly funny.  My favorite part is when Dan Auerbach throws that kid on the ground when he sees the pretty lady.  It cuts away from that moment so fast that it’s easy to miss, but when I saw I could not fucking stop laughing.  Belly laughs, too.  So fucking incredible.  The best part is, I actually prefer the teaser video!  I’m totally a puppet sympathizer so for me, a soulful croonin’ dinosaur puppet = heaven.

Some other vids I’ve seen recently: Robyn’s “Dancing On My Own,” which is an all right song but wasn’t that interesting visually except for one of the cute outfits in it, and MIA‘s “Born Free,” which in the past month or so has caused plenty of verbiage committed to its existence.

But how come no one told me that the director of “Born Free,” Romain Gavras, also directed that one Justice’s “Stress”?  Love how “Stress” has not been banned by YouTube the way “Born Free” has been.  Hm…  It seemed like a lot of the commentary was on how this video fits into MIA’s oeuvre and for me that’s slightly more difficult to consider than when I think of how “Born Free” and “Stress” complement each other.  The two videos are pretty frightening visions of authority and disobedience and violence and power—and these visions are particularly male and adolescent.  Oof.  Seriously gnarly.

Much lighter in tone is the vid for “Por la ventana,” the new track by Gepe which you can see below.  It’s pretty simple and it’s not conceptually innovative, but the execution is committed and effective, and everyone seems to be having fun.  Very colorful, too.  Clearly demonstrating that I’m a lightweight for preferring this over Romain Gavras’s stuff, but I’m not bothered.  Gepe’s song is off the hook!  I can’t wait for his new album, Audiovisión, to come out.  I’ve been really keen on the direction his music has taken in the past year or so.

Shit I got seriously sidetracked…  Anyway, after I stopped by Housing Works, I found myself at East Village Books.  I stayed for like an hour, mainly because they were playing this Carter Family album.  I hummed along to most of it while I browsed.  I got a copy of Eunoia!  Really clean condition, too.  I’m very happy about it.  I walked out as the Carters wailed away on “Will You Miss Me When I’m Gone?”

I also swung by Forbidden Planet, got me Brief Lives (that’s volume 7 of Sandman) and Optic Nerve #8, which means I have own every issue of ON now.  I still need one more Sandman though.  I’m working on it.

In other news, I finally got In the Loop and Breaking Bad season 2 from the library.  I was very excited about the former as I recently read the script for it and I just loved it.  So it was nutty watching it and seeing how different it was from what I’d imagined, from the sets to the setup of shots to the line delivery.  I am surprised that the In the Loop DVD is seriously lacking in features.  Mainly, there’s no commentary track at all; I seriously would have loved to hear about the story, the production and how it fits in with The Thick of It, etc.  Oh well.  The movie’s still pretty awesome, really funny.

Breaking Bad… well, I got it last month, only got through the first 10 eps, so I queued myself up all over again (I know!) and now that I got the DVD I can finished the damn season.  And believe me, it seriously makes you go “DAMN!”  Very stressed out from it, but in a good way.  Trying to decide whether to catch up online before the end of season 3.  It’s gonna take forever for the DVD to come out.  I guess I better decide soon since the finale’s only a few episodes away, but I don’t know how much BB I can take without my head exploding from the tension.

I’ve also been checking out Justified, which is quite breezy in comparison.  I’m very charmed by Timothy Oliphant (read: he’s hot) and by all the twangy twanginess coming out of everyone’s dialogue.  I don’t know that I’d call it superb, but I like it enough to stick with it.  It’s not lacking in poignancy either, which makes it so much easier to like.

A few weeks ago I got the Spaced DVD from the library, too.  I didn’t get through all the commentaries before it was due, which sucks, but in some of them Simon Pegg mentioned he used to do stand up.  I had to look it up, and thank god some kind soul (his mom??  LMAO) uploaded this:

Fucking adorable.  The routine isn’t bad, actually, it’s just that the material is fairly traditional.  Good stage presence though, and I loved how the last bit ended—the crowd response is so awful I totally cracked up.

Something else that’s totally been cracking me up: Parks and Recreation.  I caught up to the final episodes of the season and they were fucking pitch perfect.  I enjoyed this season tremendously and obviously it’s because the writing has been off the hook and the ensemble totally delivers on it!  Paul Schneider and Rashida Jones were a bit misused but for the most part the characters grew and I found plenty to love about them.  Except Jerry.  Jerry sucks.  ;)

The really amazing thing is that even though it’s incredibly funny, to the point where I’m guffawing and gasping for air, I find myself really moved by some of the developments.  It’s weird.  I don’t want to let myself get taken in by a fucking sitcom and yet the show is so good at what it does that, when the grumptastic 20-year-old April failed to get into a bar and her potential date with the ever-goofy Andy came to a premature end, I got a bit teary-eyed.  Just writing about it doesn’t even begin to describe why I got emotional—the expressions on their faces killed me…  And these are supporting players!  But they still bring it.  Shit, I’d tell y’all to watch the fucking show but HEY because of its weak ratings it’s become a mid-season replacement, so it might be a while before we see all these lovely people on TV again.  Sigh.  Hope y’all buy the DVD when it comes out!

…Can’t believe I wrote all this nonsense when I should be studying for a final. Shit.


More Funnies.

Well, I visited Midtown Comics for the first time because at MoCCA fest they were handing out 25% off coupons that were only valid through this weekend.  I bought the last volume of Y: The Last Man, the first volume of DMZ which looks like it’s going to make me anxious as fuck, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, and Batman: Year 100 which was kind of a consolation prize for not being able to get Paul Pope’s 100% in paperback just yet (and also because Batman is awesome, obvs).  I got a free issue of Spider-Man, “Grim Hunt: The Kraven Saga.”  I’m not sure why, but I’m not complaining.

The only purchase I’d really planned for was the Y: The Last Man.  I was really looking to get the aforementioned Paul Pope and some Sandman but hilariously and inconveniently they didn’t have the volumes I’m still missing.  Sheesh.  Doesn’t matter, I’m still really excited and happy about my purchase.  Yay trade paperbacks!

I remembered that it was Record Store Day so I decided to swing by Other Music.  There was a queue to just get inside!  I scoffed at the line and went on my merry way.

I’m not sure what the point of this post is.  Trying to define my pathetic life’s worth through knick knacks or summat.


MoCCA Fest 2010.

I haven’t had a chance to talk about this year’s MoCCA festival. I wanted to attend both days but I only got a chance to go on Sunday. Before I swung by the fest I had to go pick up a DVD from the library–Breaking Bad season 2. I’m on ep 4 currently and I think I’m going to puke from the tension. The show is amazing.

It was expensive, but overall I feel like the operation ran a lot more smoothly than last year, which was the first time MoCCA happened at the Armory. Unlike last year, it wasn’t incredibly hot. For some reason it felt a lot more family-friendly, and on top of that the Scandinavian presence was stronger than ever.  I guess people are really responding well.

I actually went to the Scandinavian panel. I don’t know that I got as much out of it as last year but it was still fun and I liked getting a perspective primarily from people who are more involved with the publishing industry. The panelists were: Espen Holtestaul from Norway, Fredrik Strömberg from Sweden (substituting for fellow Swede Johannes Klennell, apparently too shy to sit in on the conversation), Ville Hänninen from Finland, Mats Jonsson who is also from Sweden, and Henrik Rehr from Denmark. Sheesh, I wish I could link to more official websites, sorry.  Clearly I’m too much of a dum dum to figure out what they are.  Anyway, it was moderated by Shannon O’Leary who although cheery could have been more incisive on the question front. There also wasn’t a lot of Q&A time, although after one weird and random alien conspiracy question from some feller I thought maybe it was for the better no to have a lot of audience input this time around.

I enjoyed myself a lot and I’m really happy I spent a good amount of money on independent artists, though of course I shelled out some money to the bigger publishers too.

Adrian Tomine was nowhere in sight this time around, but I was very happy I got to meet Dorothy Gambrell. She signed the book I bought from her, and so she drew this really miserable picture of Girl that made me very giddy. Plus the company with whom she does merch (Topatoco) was giving out discount coupons so yay!

So here are the comics I picked up:

Second Thoughts by Niklas Asker
– Issue 1 of The Unwritten, which was given out free!
The Numbers of the Beasts by Shawn Cheng
– The second Cat and Girl book
Lihan Himo (“Lust for Meat”) by Olli Hietala
The Ragbox by Dave Kender – I’m assuming it was the author or one of the artists who graciously sold me the copy for $5 instead of $7
Danica Novgorodoff‘s adaptation of “Refresh, Refresh” by Benjamin Percy
– The first set of L’age dur by Max de Radiguès
Bookhunter by Jason Shiga
– Issues five to seven of Optic Nerve, since they had a special offer. Now I only have #8 left to buy.
Ayaje’s Wives and Monsters & Condiments by Matt Wiegle


Avión al Sur.

I went on a short trip to Lima, Perú. Got some cool stuff:

El rey siempre está por encima del pueblo by Daniel Alarcón.
Salon de belleza and Damas chinas by Mario Bellatin (bound in one volume).
Don Quijote, the Ediciones Cátedra version that has books I and II in separate volumes.
Paradiso by José Lizama Lima.
Un lugar llamado Oreja de Perro by Iván Thays.
Vida de Don Quijote y Sancho by Miguel de Unamuno.

I also bought my brother a copy of El diario de el Chavo del Ocho, by Roberto Gómez Bolaños. We used to have a copy when I was a kid, but when we moved to the US I took it to school one day to show my classmates and by the end of the day the book had fucking disappeared! Goddamnit. I still feel bad about it. I’m sure you find it quite sad that I’ve been feeling guilty about this for 14 years, especially since it wasn’t my fault that some dickwad decided to steal it.

I failed to buy plenty of stuff. First, I wanted to get the current Etiqueta Negra. I finally saw a copy at the airport on my way home, but I didn’t even stop to look at it because I thought I was running out of time. I also wanted some Ortega y Gasset, Dorfman and Mattelart, some Luisa Valenzuela… I also saw a copy of Apuntes Autistas and I wish I’d grabbed that as well. Bah!

I also bought some CDs:

Jessico by Babasónicos.
Solo ellos… by Los Destellos (they have a song called “Elizabeth”!).
Hu Hu Hu by Natalia Lafourcade.
El ritmo de Los Shain’s by Los Shain’s. Never heard of them but I wanted to know more about Peruvian music, plus they looked totally right on on the cover, haha.
Reptilectric by Zoé.

Anyway, I had a lot of fun and I’d love to return!


“Don’t Ever Tell Anybody Anything…”

“What really knocks me out is a book that, when you’re all done reading it, you wish the author that wrote it was a terrific friend of yours and you could call him up on the phone whenever you felt like it.”

You took the words out of my mouth, Jerome.

I’m speechless.


Fresh Stuff.

(1) Oh, god! Guilty as charged. Seriously, I just sent an email to someone just this week. Obviously I’d like an answer but I’m not gonna slit my wrists if I don’t.

(2) I watched some videos with Daniel Alarcón being interviewed–or rather, being entrevistado–and I totally felt ashamed that my speaking Spanish is not as good as his. (You can watch a really good one ici.) No seriously, his accent is like nonexistent. Damn. But then I watched una entrevista with Junot Díaz and I felt much better. Junot speaks Spanish the way I speak Korean–it’s just sad. Haha. Though in my defense, I’m barely coherent in English as well.

(3) I’ve been pretty synth-happy with my music. Lotta Lisa Lisa avec Cult Jam, and Tears for Fears.

Dude, I can’t wait to get my library science degree.

(4) Tried to go see the Tim Burton exhibit at MoMa. It was mostly a bust. Although I expected crowds I didn’t imagine the massiveness of the multitudes. Deserved, obviously. I got to see some stuff, but for the most part I was too hot and too short to be bothered. In the lower levels, where the movie theaters are located, there was more Burton stuff, posters and also some blow-ups of Polaroids he’s taken. Very beautiful and creepy. Much less crowded, too, thank the lord. Also less crowded: the Gabriel Orozco and Bauhaus exhibits. I loved them!

(5) Last week I saw A Single Man, and it was beautiful. Wonderfully acted, poignant and sweet story, and this incredible and subtle use of color that was done very effectively. Some of the music was by Shigeru Umebayashi, always a plus. Really curious to read the novel now, as well as After Many a Summer Dies the Swan. Except I already have such a long queue of books to read for this new year. Sigh.


Book(list)keeping.

I was thinking about the stuff I read this year, and I only came up with the following underwhelming list, in no specific order:

(1) El llano en llamas by Juan Rulfo.
(2) Cuentos de amor de locura y de muerte by Horacio Quiroga.
(3) Pinocchio by Carlo Collodi.
(4) The Chosen by Chaim Potok.
(5) The Promise also by Chaim Potok.
(6) The Proof by Agota Kristof.
(7) The Third Lie again by Agota Kristof.
(8) A shitload of Fables by Bill Willingham.
(9) Also a shitload of Y: The Last Man, by Brian K. Vaughan, but I haven’t finished the series yet.
(10) Alan’s War by Emmanuel Guibert.
(11) The Dirty Girls Social Club by Alisa Rodríguez-Valdés, definitely the worst book I read all year.
(12) The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie.
(13) And Both Were Young by Madeleine L’Engle.
(14) The 33 1/3 on Nas’s Illmatic by Matthew Gasteier
(15) The 33 1/3 on Wire’s Pink Flag by Wilson Neate
(16) The 33 1/3 on Celine Dion’s Let Talk About Love by Carl Wilson
(17) About a dozen One Story issues, I still have a few to catch up on.  My favorite one was “Frost Mountain Picnic Massacre” by Seth Fried.
(18) I can’t remember anymore, but I’m pretty sure I read some more comics, like Gipi, whose artwork I really love. I read a shitload of magazine articles. I also tried reading more poetry, and hardly anything stuck, which makes me sad. Maybe I’ll have better luck next year. Finally, I’m currently on Mala onda by Alberto Fuguet, which I thought was gonna be lame, but it’s been really enjoyable and as it’s progressed it’s gotten increasingly juicy (or, actually, increasingly jew-cy…).

I already have a brief list of things to read for the next year. I hope my “to be read” mission goes better in 2010. I’m such an undisciplined reader. My mom bought me a copy of Janice Y. K. Lee’s The Piano Teacher, and my brother got me a copy of Brave Story by Miyuki Miyabe for Christmas. When I saw the cover for Brave Story I thought it was a comic, and I was also excited by how weird it was. (So much for not judging books by their cover, heh…) It made me feel a little better about having bought The Squirrel Machine for him, which I thought he’d find too freaky. But maybe he’ll like it. I hope he does.

Also on my list is Joy in the Morning by Betty Smith. Yes, that Betty Smith. You wouldn’t believe how shocked I was to realize she’d written more than A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. I have such a huge pile of unread books, though, I really need to curb my spending on books because they accumulate and I don’t get enough of a chance to read them. For the next year I’m gonna lay off war-related books. The Agota Kristof stories did a serious number on me; I read that shit in the Spring and I’m only just recovering. That’s why I read so much light stuff after that. I’d like to go more humorous next year.

I’d like to begin this new decade with a smile.


One Last Trip.

Last night I decided to go shopping at the Virgin since it’s closing. This means I missed So You Think You Can Dance, so I spent the last few hours tracking down the performances (many props to Rickey!) and although there were a couple of clunkers, I’m really excited about this group of dancers. I’d give you a breakdown of my favorite dancers but at this point I feel like my judgment is clouded by all the handsome dudes. Seriously, the whole group of dancers is stunning. By the way, there’s a reason why I had to go hunting for the performance clips: Fox doesn’t put them on the show’s site. Travesty! You’d think that Fox would be kind enough to post the stupid show on their site, but apparently they can’t be bothered. Good move, you morons!

Anyway, the Virgin had hit the 70% off mark last night, and shockingly enough they’d moved enough units to have the lower level closed off! I don’t think I’ll go back again before Sunday, which is its final day. So here is a list of the things I bought in my final trip to the Virgin at Union Square:

Crash, JG Ballard
– The Jim DeRogatis bio of the Flaming Lips
Doubt, John Patrick Shanley
A History of Violence, David Cronenberg
A Scanner Darkly, Richard Linklater
– That Arctic Monkeys DVD with that video for the one song of theirs I really dig and that features Stephen Graham
Primitive Love, Miami Sound Machine
– A Talk Talk Best Of
– A Stray Cats Best Of
Lotofire, Ely Guerra
Los de atrás vienen conmigo, Calle 13
Te quiero…, Los Temerarios
Citizen Boris, Golem
Vôo de coração, Ritchie

I need to explain my purchases. First, they’re pretty much down to shit now! There really isn’t a lot of great stuff so I do feel very happy and lucky to have gotten what I got. Seriously, even all the Spanish language Pop/Rock section is pretty much depleted. Second, the fact that everything is 70% off meant that I was willing to take more of a chance. The last three items listed, well, I’ve never listened to any of their stuff, but I thought I’d be adventurous. I’m especially curious about that Ritchie guy, who looks pretty goofy on the album cover–muito 80s, LOL. It’s too bad that I have a tendency to go for flashy and tacky, but I just couldn’t say no!!

Actually, there were definitely some items to which I said no, for various reasons. Sigh. They included a busted copy of an Illya Kuryaki and the Valderramas album, as well as a Gram Parsons bio and Queens Reigns Supreme. Also, there was a Green Day bio I was eyeing… Yes, yes, my taste in music books is even odder than my regular taste in music. Now shut up about it.

I do feel ambivalent about this specific store closing, because as far as megastores went, its stock wasn’t so bad. Obviously it’s because the crowd around Union Square skews younger and more “indie,” so there was always a relatively decent vinyl section and stuff. (The Tower at Lincoln Center, in comparison, tended to have a more extensive classical/Broadway section.) I hope that a store like this closing means that the smaller, more specialized stores get to survive, whether it’s Other Music or, I dunno, Turntable Lab. Brick-and-mortar music and video stores are becoming a rare breed, that’s for sure, and you know something? It is really fucking inconvenient. Especially because the Virgin was the #1 choice for me to meet up with my friends when we hung out.

I leave you with a few highlights of my experience at the Union Square Virgin. I bought my Langley Schools record there, as well as the Young Liars EP. I got to see Franz Ferdinand throw a really nice in-store performance back when their first album came out. And perhaps the highlight of the highlights is this: I was in the store on August 14, 2003, when all the fucking lights in the city went out. Actually, I can easily say that it was one of the Top 3 worst days in my life, so it’s a shitty memory, but it’s a vivid one regardless. Stupidly enough, I didn’t steal anything from the store when the blackout happened. Haha. Damn my integrity.

Hm, I guess I kinda will miss the store. But I’m not surprised that they’re closing, c’est tout.

Speaking of music stores: Next Thursday, June 18, Insound is having a Warehouse Sale for the first time. So if you’re in NYC, you should definitely definitely check it out. I’m sure the deals won’t be massive, but imagine the shipping charges you’ll avoid! The details here. I’m not sure if I can go yet, but I’m gonna try. I highly recommend it! Although they push a lot of new stuff on their site, they still have plenty of back stock that is worth sifting through. I should know, because I used to pack everyone’s orders there. :D


MoCCA Fest 2009.

[Edit: My friend from work wrote a li’l something on MoCCA too. Clickety click here. Also, I was lurking around a day or two ago looking at other people’s posts, and someone mentioned how annoying it was that there didn’t seem to be any trash cans in the fucking armory. I agree! I kept looking around for a place to dump my trash, and eveeeeentually I found a receptacle.]

Went to the MoCCA fest, which was moved from the Puck building to the Armory between 25th and 26th Streets. The space was striking, absolutely massive–everyone fit under one space, instead of having to split the exhibitors into several large rooms. On one level it was easier to have everyone under one roof, but on another level it also felt a little less personal. I don’t know what could be done about it; the fest had long outgrown its former space, and the move was necessary. The one thing that actually sucked was how humid it got, people were just sweating left and right.

It was just overwhelming to have so many exhibitors and fans in there. Even though there was a floor plan, it was easier for me to just get a feel for the space, so I literally walked up and down every aisle to see who was there and what they had to offer. Then, once I finished doing that, I just returned to the tables that really caught my eye, which was mostly the international artists.

It remained crowded almost all day, so I didn’t get a good glimpse at certain tables. As it happens every year, I saw Adrian Tomine, and his buddy Seth was there, too. I didn’t get anything signed by him, but seeing Adrian was comforting, like, “There’s a familiar face!” Haha. Jason showed up and signed shit, as well as Tom Gauld and I think Kurt Wolfgang too, among many many others. Everyone was so friendly and eager to engage in sweet conversation while enticing us common folk into buying their creative output and in my head I was like, “AHHHHH TOO MUCH I CAN’T HANDLE IT!” but mostly I just smiled politely, said hello, glanced at some of the comics here and there, and just moved on.

Listen, I was on a budget, okay? I really wanted a copy of Joann Sfar’s Piano, but by the point I saw it, I was down to less than $30… And the book was going for $40. There were some other really cool from L’Association and this Belgian publisher named Bries. Bought a couple of titles from the latter.

I was hoping (it was a wild and futile hope, really) that maybe they might have Papa est un peu fatigué but they didn’t. I bought another Ville Ranta comic instead. Bought some other comics from the Scandinavian contingent. I got a mini-comic signed by one of the artists, and I thought he was just gonna give me his John Hancock but he was nice enough to draw me a little something. So I just want to declare this artist, Simon Bukhave, as totally awesome for taking the time and effort to do so.

There was also a Romanian table. I shit you not. Like, of all the random places… They were featuring a series called Hardcomics and I bought a couple, including one that wasn’t even translated. But that’s okay, because I really love the artwork.

The one panel I attended was called “Scandinavian Comics 101,” and the panelists included: Åsa Ekström (Sweden), Mattias Elftrop (Sweden), Johanna Rojola (Finland), Thomas Thorhauge (Denmark), Ib Kjeldsmark (Denmark), Erik Falk (Norway), and one more artist whose name I didn’t catch (also from Norway). If you know his name, or if I misspelled anyone’s name, please let me know! The panel was moderated by Steffen P. Maarup, who is Danish. As soon as I saw how many artists were participating in the panel, I realized we weren’t going to get too far into some deep dialogue from the artists of the various countries they represented. The allotted time was just too brief to get very far… However, the panelists were all very charming and made some great points. For example, I had no idea that so many of them were deeply influenced by French and Belgian comics as opposed to American ones. There was a curious audience member who posed a really interesting question about race and whether the POC in the Scandinavian countries were active at all in the comics scene. The panelists didn’t have much of an answer other than that POC are not really visible. Honestly, there was plenty said during the short time and I’m sure someone who took more copious notes will hit every bullet point discussed… but unfortunately that someone isn’t me. Sorry!

Dude! I do wanna give props to MoCCA for putting out refreshments at the panels!! I feel like my admission money mostly went to good use. Hehe. I had fun, and I got some really cool comics that I’m probably never ever gonna see again, so… it was worth it. Hope all the international artists are able to come next year, too!


In Case You Were Curious, Which You Most Likely Were Not.

(1) I decided recently that Roy Orbison is fucking brilliant.  I find his voice quite strange.

(2) A couple of weeks ago I went to the Virgin on Times Square and found out they were closing.  Got some cool shit.  My biggest find was a fucking Man Recordings 12″ that features Deize Tigrona.  I chortled to myself at the fact that no one had bothered to buy it and I was giddy that I had the pleasure to do so.  I was so excited, in fact, that I kinda didn’t want to listen to it, because I was so fucking sure I’d be disappointed.  But I listened anyway.  And let me tell you something–now, I know you’re going to laugh, but I wish you wouldn’t–after listening to it, I was thrilled, but I also couldn’t figure out if I’d listened to it at the right speed.  I know it makes me sound like a moron, but I’m telling you, both sides of the single are so fucking weird, so many miles away from what I recognize as funk, that I am still kinda disoriented about it.  At the same time, this disorientation makes me feel even more excited about the 12″.  The A-side in particular is off the hook.  Hee!  I think it’s gonna be one of those songs, like “Ni Fu Ni Fa,” that I’m gonna listen to years from now and still think that it’s ahead of its time.  Seriously.

(3) I also bought a copy of Scratch half price, and thank the lord cos that shit was mad expensive originally.  I started watching it today, and I couldn’t finish it cos my parents told me to stop hogging the teevee.  I’m telling you, though, it’s really fun and just watching the footage of all those DJs slouched over their turntables is so beautiful.  Okay, the sounds, I don’t care much about the result of the sounds, but fundamentally, I find it really inspiring, because you know that for them to create the music that they do, they need to go crate-diggin’ for the most beautiful sounds to their ears, and they need to learn every element in a song intimately, and I’m awed by the dedication and discipline and pure love of music they show in doing that.  I know that I don’t hear music the way they hear music, and I’m fascinated by it.  I also think it’s amazing how they take a pre-existing work and they really reinterpret it, not unlike a singer covering someone else’s song.

(4) I bought a collection of poetry by Jose Garcia Villa (v. v. hard to abstain from adding accents in his name since I’m so used to it, but he’s filipino and I’m not sure if they use them over there).  I’m only telling you this because it’s National Poetry Month and I’m enjoying the book a lot.  I didn’t know of his existence until recently, when the AAWW had an event about him.  Like Tseng Kwong Chi later on, it appears that Villa was one of those cool kids hanging out downtown who has become nothing more than a footnote in pop culture history, even though both Villa and Tseng were serious artists with significant contributions to the scene.

Anyway, reading the book and enjoying really makes me wonder why I don’t read more poetry.  The dumb and easy answer is that I don’t get it, and I find a lot of other people telling me they don’t get poetry either.  I really feel like we’re not taught poetry very well.  The whole population can’t be averse to poetry–we must have been taught that somehow it’s lesser than other writing forms.  And that fucking annoys me!  In one sense I understand that times change and that different writing forms fall out of vogue.  For example, I’d say–without any scientific proof or naught, but still–we’re transitioning out of the era of the novel and more into some weird sort of non-fiction/memoir era (and I think blogs are helping this!), but it still bothers me that poetry is ignored because I think there’s still a lot that could be said and done with poetry.  Poetry came before the novel and I feel that the less literate people are in poetry, that means that works from hundreds and hundreds of years ago will become lost…  Seguro que yo sueno histérica, y yo sé que lo poesía no morirá por completo, pero me molesta que hay tanta tradición, tanta cultura y arte que la gente no aprecia y lo toman todo por idioteces solo porque alguien (some higher up) decidió que la poesía ya no importa tanto como otros géneros, y así es que las generaciones más jóvenes no aprenden el valor que tienen los poemas…  Bah!  Me duele la cabeza.  And so I make my exit.


Pinocchio.

Pinocchio by Carlo Collodi
Translated by Geoffrey Brock

I’m writing this a couple of months after I read the book. I needed the distance to think carefully about my comments regarding the book, because immediately after I finished it, all I could feel was disappointment.

No, I didn’t care much for Pinocchio as a character, and that ultimately extended to me not liking the story since the entire narrative is about him and all the mistakes he makes along the way. He’s rendered as an unsympathetic figure, someone who openly disobeys others. It would be one thing if he stood as a contrast to abusive authority figures, I would have a kinder view if Pinocchio’s mischief had served to reveal the failures and hypocrisy of society; however, most of the errors are really rooted in his own carelessness and they just made the wooden boy look bad instead of commenting on something outside of the boy. I would have found this more compelling since I don’t have a clear sense of what Italy was like at the time Pinocchio was written.

So time after time, we see Pinocchio make a bad choice, and just when you think that Pinocchio would learn, he gets sidetracked again, thanks to all sorts of distractions. It’s frustrating! The worst part is when Pinocchio is reunited with the Fairy, and she manages to make an honest puppet out of him for a while. He has a stable home that she keeps in order, and he excels in school. But he gets into one fight with a classmate and everything comes tumbling down… didn’t Pinocchio understand how good he had it going?? Hadn’t he learned from his many previous mistakes? It’s hard to feel pity for him. Not only that, it complicates the ending, because we’re led to believe everything ends happily ever after. We close the book with a warm fuzzy feeling, until we think, “Well, there were previous instances when everything seemed okay, and look how bad things turned out…” All I could think was that the story ends, but I don’t trust that Pinocchio truly learned a lesson.

Then again, maybe there was no lesson to learn. I think Collodi didn’t mean this story to be the morality tale that it’s come to represent. In my life, I’ve primarily identified two images with Pinocchio: first, conscience in the form of the cricket, and the second, the nose that grows with every lie that is told. Both of these images take a different form in the story from what we generally think of them, and they have less of a moralistic quality on the page.

I found it comforting that Collodi seemed aware of Pinocchio’s faults and wasn’t enamored with his protagonist. Collodi also gives the audience a hard time, withholding information until the last second, or maybe just making up stuff whenever he needs to come up with an excuse, leaving the readers to try and hold on while the ride shifts in unexpected directions.

Collodi shows a great sense of humor. One of the recurring elements in his story telling was that every few chapters, Pinocchio would meet someone from his past, and he’d recount every stupid thing that had happened to the boy in those few chapters. I’m sure it was just a necessity from serialization, sort of how TV shows say, “Previously on…,” but it tickled me to see what Pinocchio included and conveniently forgot whenever he recounted his side of the story. There’s so much plot that you read Pinocchio recounting everything and you’re like, “Geez, I’d totally forgotten this happened…!”

I don’t think I would have appreciated this story as much as I did if I hadn’t read the critical essay by Rebecca West that followed the story. (I own the NYRB edition.) For example, it illuminates a lot about the Blue-Haired Fairy, who is not entirely benevolent. I thought she’d be passive and that she would forgive and forget every one of Pinocchio’s infractions, but it wasn’t that way at all. Pinocchio’s relationship to the Blue-Haired Fairy is fascinating and the critical commentary goes at length about it, with good reason. She’s the only female character in this story and the role she plays is very complicated. At the end, I feel like Pinocchio is great to read for scholarly purposes, but it’s not exactly a fun book to read.

So after all this talk of the story, why haven’t I mentioned the Disney version of Pinocchio? Because I don’t remember it. Instead, I approached the book with a more general sense of how Pinocchio is viewed in society today, though I am assuming that this perspective is mostly defined by the Disney version anyway. In that sense, I was definitely surprised by how my expectations did not match what I was reading at all.


PEN World Voices 2009.

¿Qué onda? Un virus atacó mi computadora… Pero bueno, todavía estoy viva.

I’d been waiting for today for a while. The PEN American Center announced the full lineup for their PEN World Voices Festival. (You can see all the info ici.) And I’m outraged by how many of the events are not free! Hehe, actually, most of the stuff is free and the ticketed events are fairly cheap. So go check out all the good stuff.

Also, Andrés Neuman (Bogotá 39) won the latest Premio Alfaguara. Man, he’s cashing in big time. I’m so curious to read his novels, what the hell does una estadounidense have to do to get her hands on some cool new lit??


On the Watchmen Movie, Mucho Text Avec Spoilers.

A lot of times I know that a movie will be a waste of time, but I still get curious about the usually convoluted plotlines so I go online and spoil myself the movie. It tends to happen with a lot of horror movies, but not always. I had already spoiled myself Watchmen, but it didn’t quell my curiosity because I read about all the changes from the book and I wondered how the fuck everything was gonna pan out, so I was (a) dying for the movie to leak, or (b) waiting for 10 days to pass so I could use a movie voucher to watch it for like $2.

I caved. I went to watch it last night. Paid the full ticket price and everything.

There’s some things I should mention. First of all, I didn’t have a phone on me yesterday, which was awkward because I use my phone as my watch, as most of my friends do. I was fucking blanking out and unsure about whether I’d just left it home, or if I’d dropped it on the street. I was wearing a coat with shallow pockets, y’see. So every few hours I had to get change and look for a payphone to call my own phone, hoping my mom would pick up and thereby confirm that the phone was at home. The whole thing was an exercise in hilarity. First off, it’s ridiculous trying to find a payphone these days, even if I found myself in a tourist-heavy area. (And I do mean the tourists are heavy! HAHAHA okay never mind very rude of me I know…) Second off, my mom is pretty much deaf in one ear, so she really can’t hear my phone vibrate… most of the time she can’t hear her own phone, even though her has a very loud ringtone. Third off, I couldn’t call anyone else because the only phone number I have committed to heart is my own fucking number. I hung out all by my lonesome which suited me fine, but I felt very disconnected to the world.

I was full of win yesterday, really.

It was the afternoon and I didn’t know what to do with myself so I decided to queue up for the West Side Story ticket lottery. Since I didn’t have a watch on me, I just stood in the cold for like a good hour and a half until I found out that I didn’t win. Fuck man, I bet this revival isn’t even all that and it was mad cold yesterday, but there were a shitload of people dying to get a fucking ticket. My god.

Anyway, I peaced out of there but the cold and the hunger was getting to me so I just went into a Sbarro and paid $2.29 for a 20 oz. bottle of water… Jesus fuck. Whatever, I had a fun time people-watching the tourists surrounding me. I wondered if they saw me as a tourist, too. But I peaced out as soon as I warmed up and I walked up to the Lincoln Center area to see if the indie theater had anything good showing at a godly hour. Never mind that I wasn’t even sure what time it was. I wasn’t too interested in the movies showing at that moment, so I walked over to the big chain theater near the Barnes & Noble and bought a ticket to Watchmen.

Okay, I admit it. I was curious about the plot changes, but I have a crush on Patrick Wilson, too. He was one of the highlights of the Angels in America movie for me (and believe me, I wasn’t that enthusiastic about the movie as a whole). I was really puzzled by the fact that he was playing Nite Owl. Nothing on Patrick Wilson’s acting, I think he’s a wonderful actor, but I mean, Patrick Wilson is fiiiiine. And Dan Dreiberg, his character, is totally lame. And has a paunch. So I wanted to see how the hell they worked that out. I was really interested to see Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Jackie Earle Haley, too.

I found out a few days ago that the opening box office for Watchmen was only like, $50 million, so I wasn’t sure how many people would show up for a weeknight screening of the movie. The closer it got to the screening time, though, it filled up pretty nicely. There were a shitload of open seats though; I had a whole row to myself, there was a couple sitting directly behind me, and on the row in front there was a black dude, but he was farther away to one side. You wouldn’t believe my surprise when the lights went out and after a good number of trailers, some dude sits next to me. Or rather, I was sitting in the third seat into the row, on the second seat was my purse, and he sat on the seat closest to the aisle. Well I noticed he had a bag on him so I moved my purse to the seat on my other side. Instead of putting his bag between us, he sat next to me and put his bag on the seat closest to the aisle. See where I’m going with this? I mean from then on I knew there was something odd, right? Like there’s at least a hundred empty seats and you’re like, he just happened to see the seat next to me was empty?

The movie started and everything was okay the first fifteen minutes, but then I realize he was moving a lot. So I peeked over and noticed he actually had his penis out and was masturbating right next to me. There was nothing sexy happening on the screen, obviously, just a sick guy. I didn’t know what to do, because a part of me just wanted to tell him to put it in his pants and just watch the fucking movie. I even considered ignoring him but I realized that I couldn’t concentrate on the movie just knowing that this guy was wanking himself right next to me. In the span of like, four or five minutes, I debated with my course of action and decided that bringing attention to his behavior could bring any number of mostly sucky responses, so I just decided to up and leave. I felt bad about getting in the way of the couple behind me.

Since I was already out of the theater I decided to maybe place a call to my phone. Then I thought, “What the fuck, I paid $12.50 for this shit and I’m gonna watch this motherfucking movie to the end!” Besides, I was kinda worried the dude had followed me out so I thought it was better to be in a room full of people. The row behind the couple whose view I blocked was completely empty, so I sat there. And I hoped the dude wouldn’t show up and give me trouble.

Well wouldn’t you believe it, I noticed that the very row in which I sat was totally empty, too. The motherfucker left after I did.

Anyway, after that I just watched the movie in relative peace, though on occasion I’d drift away and worry that the guy would show up again or something. I mean, maybe if the movie had been more absorbing, I would have forgotten completely about the pervert, but there you go. Watchmen was pretty sweet in pieces, but as a whole, it didn’t gel.

I’m sorry it took me so long to get to talking about the movie. There’s really nothing to say that hasn’t been said already. Yeah, the sex scene was awful. Everyone was laughing and it was probably the biggest laugh in the movie. Listen, I don’t want to hear “Hallelujah” used in a movie or TV show unless it involves Alan Dale dying on-screen of a heart attack, mmmkay? I’m sick of it being used as “emotional shorthand” in the cheapest way possible. Besides, when I read the comic and got to the scene, I thought something like Depeche Mode would play in the background. Sigh.

The changes they made to the characters were really annoying, and sometimes they were fundamental changes. It’s like most of the plot revolving around them stays the same, but there’s so many things about the characters that aren’t fleshed out that would have explained why they did this or that. For example, there’s no real explanation to the complexity in the relationship between Mama Silk Spectre and Baby Silk Spectre, which is such an interesting take on feminism and sexism in superhero culture. And we never see Baby Silk Spectre having this back-and-forth between hating her superhero past and loving it. Instead, she acts as the person who is really way excited about getting back in costume and drags Dan back into his.

Another deep change was that they made no mention of Rorschach’s discomfort with women. We don’t even see the whole thing about why his mask moves and shit. They made Rorschach a lot more sympathetic, and more… I don’t know what word to use, more functional? I imagined Rorschach was in a world of his own, but even in the way he spoke, he seemed like he could still fit into regular society.

And Ozymandias’s plan just seemed like the kind of thing that a regular evil mastermind would come up with, whereas when I read the comic, I was riveted by the level of ridiculousness his plan involved… For all the slow-mo used in the movie, I feel like they didn’t linger on the important stuff, relying more on telling us the important bits instead of showing us and letting us reflect on what was happening on screen. There were so many subtle things missing that I was able to fill in from having read the comic, but I couldn’t imagine how a complete stranger to the movie would fill in those blanks. For example, I wish we’d seen more of Rorschach’s shrink and how he is affected by Rorschach. Part of me wants to watch the extended version of the movie and see how much it improves (or worsens). I also hated that they all seemed to have superhuman strength. Come on, these people have been in retirement! They’re not getting any younger! At least they could have explained that they were secretly still keeping strong, or something.

Worst of all, I never fully felt like there was anything at stake. Or rather, I could see some of what was at stake, but I didn’t feel the depth of how cataclysmic the stakes were. This movie’s failures made me realize how much I loved The Dark Knight.

Yeah, Malin Akerman was mostly wooden. To be frank, for any shortcomings involving the acting, I’m gonna place squarely on Zack Snyder. Not that I’ve seen any of his other movies, but it really felt like he didn’t place acting at the top of his priority list at all, it was like he cared more about replicating the look and feel of the comic a lot more. I don’t know if it was because he thought, “No one’s gonna care, this is an action movie! The fanboys don’t care about beautiful acting, they want to see Rorschach’s capture sequence to be portrayed exactly as it is on the page!” (The sequence involving his capture was, indeed, awesome to watch.) I don’t even know how much prep work they did on the actual performances. But on the screen, it very much felt like it was more about what the actors brought to the table and that Snyder gave them minimal notes on how to maximize the emotion. It’s like he just threw everyone in front of the camera and was like, “Okay, ready? Bring it, y’all!” without talking about the motivations of the characters and blah blah blah. And if a performance was subpar, I can see him going, “That’s okay, you tried, we’ll work on it in post-production!” Am I being unfair to Zack Snyder? Well, if he has beef he can write to me about it. Well, to be nice, I think he would make a really wonderful music video director. He’s got a strong visual sensibility.

Some random shit I did like: the liberal use of fake blood. Whoever gets to press the button that makes the blood squirt out like that must have the funnest job ever. Loved the McLaughlin Group bit in the beginning–I thought it was spot-on. I also enjoyed the opening credits where we see the history of the first generation of superheroes. Mama Silk Spectre’s costume was really cute, even if her boots weren’t appropriate for crime-busting. My favorite moment involving Rorschach was when he’s like, “I’m not locked up with you, you’re locked up with me!” It was a very satisfying moment and I thought Haley’s line-reading was perfect. The movie made me appreciate the Comedian’s complexity more, actually! In addition, there were two funny moments in the jail break out that stand out. First, Baby Silk Spectre unnecessarily kicks some guard’s ass, and Nite Owl’s reaction was priceless. Really nicely done, especially because, even though he was wearing his mask, he conveyed his opinion beautifully. Second, I loved Rorschach’s whole “Need to use the men’s room” bit, especially with the door swinging. I think those were my two favorite moments in the movie. I also thought that 80s NYC was rendered nicely. And I thought they tried to leave a lot of in-jokes for the fans, which I appreciated.

There was one moment in the movie that genuinely surprised me. Just the choice of direction was unexpected. It’s Rorschach’s final scene, and he takes off the mask, and he’s crying. I didn’t remember him crying in the comic, but I looked it up and he totally is. Now, when I saw it in the comic book, I thought he was crying out of anger, frustration, disappointment that his former teammates were willing to settle. But in the movie he seems to be crying in resignation and in fear of death, too. That choice kinda does make sense, now that I think about it, but it makes Rorschach’s exit so much less badass than I originally conceived it in my mind.

I’m sorry this post is such a mess. I said so much but nothing really coheres… I guess some Zack Snyder rubbed off on me. Zing!

EDIT: Oh crud, I forgot to mention, I was totally pumped for some of the trailers they showed before the movie. In particular, I almost died of excitement when they showed the Wolverine trailer, not because of Hugh Jackman, but because I had no idea that Gambit was gonna be in the movie! Holy shit, I do not care how bad that movie is, I can’t wait to see Gambit in action!! I used to have such a crush on him (er, the cartoon version of him) when I was like, 8. Siiigh.


Marjane Satrapi + Chris Ware @ NYU Skirball Center (Festival of New French Writing).

Earlier tonight I went to see Marjane Satrapi and Chris Ware in conversation, with Françoise Mouly as moderator. Even though I wasn’t feeling 100%, this was an event I needed to attend because… well, how often do you see a lineup like that? It was fucking free, too. So I HAD to go. I didn’t take notes but here are some of my impressions:

I’d seen video footage of Marjane Satrapi before doing interviews and stuff, so I had a clear sense of what she’d be like. Thanks to my coworker, I had the pleasure of seeing Comic Book Confidential a little while back, so I knew what Françoise Mouly would be like, too. (In one word: HOT.) When it came to Chris Ware, however, I didn’t even know what he looked like, what his voice sounded like, so imagine how surprised I was when he walked onto the stage. No really… one some level he looks like a walking, talking version of one of his drawings, which weirded me out. Even the kinda bummed out attitude was so familiar. And yet, as the discussion went on, he uncovered all these interesting layers that made me appreciate him so much more as a complex individual. His self-deprecation was almost off-putting (his wife must be one patient woman) but it was still genuine enough for people to be able to laugh in sympathy. And hey, for such a mopey cartoonist, he had great comic timing.

I think for the most part I gained a lot of wisdom from Satrapi, but it may just be that her French-accented English just made her sound really deep. What’s cool is that even though Satrapi and Ware have such wildly different styles in their artwork and their creative process, most of the hour-long conversation was dedicated to noting how much they had in common. So one of the really cool things that Satrapi talked about was the relation of the audience and the medium of her work. For example, a reader is very active when reading a comic because they are allowed to imagine what is going on between the panels, but working on the film version of Persepolis, it was difficult to have to fill in those missing points between the panels because a film goer is a lot more passive when experiencing a movie.

Another point Satrapi made was that drawings are closer (more intimate?) to human nature than, say, photographs, because a photograph reproduces reality whereas a drawing reflects the way an individual views the world. Well this reminded me of that Bible passage, “God made man in his own image,” which makes me think of how artists are trying to create the world through their own eyes. There is some quality of wanting to take control and be a little bit God-like when you are an artist, of creating a world and having a say in how things turn out… Do I make any sense right now?

I think it was at this point that Chris Ware chimed in, speaking of his daughter. He spoke of how his four-year-old daughter has been scribbling or doodling ever since she could hold a pencil, but ever since she’s started (pre?)school, she’s been coming home with these pictures of, for example, things that could be recognized as faces. What he meant is that she learned that certain abstractions, certain shapes or whatever, can be combined to form something recognizable. So that a circle can be a head and two dots can be eyes and there can be a line for the nose and a line for the mouth. And this isn’t something that was innate, but that it was something she learned. Yeah, I was thinking about McCloud’s Understanding Comics when Ware talked about this. But I mean, what really struck me was realizing that we learned that certain symbols are universal, so that everyone sees “<3” and says, “That’s the shape of a heart,” or maybe a triangle resting on top of a square symbolizes “house,” and that this is something learned.

We were able to see Ware’s gradual artistic process, from the blank page until the final product, and you could kind of feel the audience going, “Holy crap.” Cos even in its raw, blue-pencil form, you could see how detailed everything was. Even Mouly and Satrapi were looking at the images and whispering to each other, “Incroyable!”

The other amazing thing was we all got to watch a short animation that Chris Ware did of this… I don’t know, I guess it was a feature on This American Life. The story he animated was so hilarious, and not just because the story was so great, but because the artwork complimented the storytelling so brilliantly. It makes me wish he only did animation. It was pretty wonderful to see his familiar figures in motion.

Man, I haven’t laughed this hard since… er, well, since last night’s 30 Rock. But really, I felt so happy to be there and to witness this event, not least because we got to see this short animation. Earlier today, as I got ready to go out to this discussion, it kind of hit me how lucky I am to live in New York where there’s always all this cool, oftentimes free shit happening. Sometimes I wish I lived somewhere cheaper, but shit like this makes me feel so privileged to live in this city.

I liked hearing about the different methods Satrapi used in her different comics, too, but it was really cool to just hear about her childhood, too, about how she had limited exposure to comics as a child, and then finally learning how much potential the medium offered her to express herself. I wish Ware had shared more about his childhood, too, though he was so sure that the audience didn’t care to hear anything about it. He did mention, though, how annoyed he was

As the conversation wound down, Mouly mentioned that Ware and Satrapi had published their first books at a relatively young age, at 31 and 30 respectively. After the event was over my friend and I were walking down the street, and we both expressed some sort of relief that we still have time to accomplish something. I mean, frankly I find it kinda hard to even see myself alive at age 30 (is that a weird thing to say?), but this event gave me a bit of hope. It made it slightly easier to see a future ahead of me, one where I could actually contribute something of substance to the world, whatever that may be.

Hm… I forgot to mention a lot of stuff about their conversation, so hopefully some other bloggers will fill in. They’ll probably be a lot more eloquent, too. Ultimately, I was left with a deeply positive impression of Mouly, Satrapi and Ware, and it was really cute to see Satrapi and Ware, in particular, praising each other’s work.

Before I sign off, I have some name-dropping to do. First, as I’d hoped, Art Spiegelman was totally there, sitting in the audience. I was just thrilled to be in the same fucking room as Spiegelman. Second, when I walked outside Skirball, I almost bumped into this person taking a picture of his (her?) friend with… Paul Auster! Can you believe it! Paul Auster was at the event too! I mean, unless he just happened to be walking past the Skirball Center at the very moment the discussion was over and everyone was spilling out onto the street. But I doubt it, especially knowing that his work has been graphic novel-fied, I’m pretty sure he attended the discussion too. Fucking cool. Once again, I love living in New York.


Some Notes.

Part I

I just read this post on Moleskine Literario (¿otra vez? ¡pos sí!) about Julio Cortázar’s former spouse selling the rights to three unpublished stories. Iván wrote,

Está claro que Cortázar no decidió publicarlos en su momento por considerarlos equívocos, pero no importa, nadie espera demasiado de esos textos, lo interesante es el legado. Eso sí, el libro será de ultra lujo: solo 100 ejemplares a 260 euros cada uno.

That is, “It’s clear that Cortázar decided not to publish the stories at the time because they weren’t right, but that doesn’t matter, no one expects much from those texts, what matters is the legacy. That said, the book will be an ultra luxury: only 100 copies at 260 euros each.” (My emphases. Also: not a literal translation.)

What really annoys the fuck out of me is that it seems ridiculous to charge 260 euros to get your hands on three unpublished stories. Honestly. This woman couldn’t donate (or even sell!) the works to a museum or a library? Turning the stories into a commodity, a very expensive commodity at that, pisses me off so bad. My dearest hope is that the people who get their hands on this ARE establishments such as museums or libraries that will allow the masses to have some sort of access to them for free, rather than having the copies go to private individuals who, for all we know might use the stories to wipe their asses with them (o lo que sea). Argh. 260 euros! And none of it going to the fucking author, cos he’s dead. So why is it so fucking expensive? Supposedly, it’s just how much it’ll cost to bind the stories in a beautiful volume, and that the publisher won’t be making a profit. Pffft. Okay, even if that’s true, for the consumer, it becomes much more of a “haha, I got one and you don’t” situation. I don’t see why Cortázar’s former wife couldn’t just make it available to a wider mass of people so that we could get a better sense of his writing process and the like.

“What matters is the legacy,” right. But why should Cortázar’s legacy touch only a select few who can afford it? I hope at least one of the people lucky enough to buy the stories just scans the fucking thing and leaks it onto the internets.

Musical Interlude A

“Soch na kya,” from Ghayal, which is a reinterpretation of “Llorando se fue,” better known as the song that inspired “Lambada.” Further proof that this song is bangin’ in pretty much every language and arrangement. Just recently I noticed that “Llorando se fue” actually has Japanese lyrics, which I noted from the use of the words “anata” and “watashi.” Yay for rudimentary Japanese language skills. Anyway, as soon as I realized that I thought, “Geez, I never knew were Peruvian.” It’s just that whenever I think of big Japanese populations in Latin America I think of Peru and Brazil. Heh. But Los Kjarkas are actually Bolivian. Regardless of where they’re from, I’m curious as to why they sing in Japanese in the first place. ¡Qué misterio!

Part II

Words Without Borders updated! Its theme for February is “The Graphic World,” and there’s some sweet translations of comics available. It’s also worth checking out their archives for older translations of comics. For example, there’s an excerpt in English of Fuguet’s “Road Story.” Good shit!

Musical Interlude B

I never made a list of favorite albums of 2008, and I’m so glad because I only listened to Utada Hikaru’s Heart Station recently and I’m loving it. I’m kinda dreading her forthcoming English language album, mostly cos I listened to her newest single and it’s dreadfully boring. But Heart Station is undeniably awesome.

Part III

How do the Kindle fiends do it? How can anyone stare at a screen and just read for extended periods of time? I had a hard enough time wanting to read Colson Whitehead’s “Wow, Fiction Works!” I mean, I opened the page and it loaded in like, five seconds, and then I… proceeded to not read it. Jesus. For like hours and hours I was like, “Oh, let’s put it off for a bit until I’ve finished watching this stupid youtube vid of [insert your favorite pointless youtube time-waster of choice here].” Finally I understood that I wasn’t going to read this essay unless I printed it. Because if I printed it, I wouldn’t be distracted by other open browser pages, not to mention it felt good to have something tangible to read. And it didn’t hurt my eyes to read it! In fact, I was pretty giddy about it. Whitehead is so gleeful in his delivery that it’s infectious.


Happy Belated Birthday…

… To Edgar Allan Poe.

It’s not like I’ve been online that much, so I didn’t even know about Poe’s 200th birthday until I read about it on Moleskine Literario. Not that I read Poe on a regular basis, but I have a particular soft spot for Poe for several reasons.

(1) He was, for a brief period, a Bronxite. And sure, we’re not talking about post-Robert Moses-shitting-on-our-borough-and-leaving-us-to-clean-up-his-mess The Bronx, but this was in the mid-19th century when the Bronx was just woods and farmland. So he was a trensetter (early adopter?) who made the Bronx home before others dared to. Being in such an isolated place (compared to downtown Manhattan) must have been good inspiration for his writing.

(2) He was a master of short fiction, and he was one of the first notable short fiction writers. As someone whose favorite genre of literature is short fiction, I am in awe of Poe’s work. Think of it! Without him as a forefather of the short story, people like Borges wouldn’t exist.

When I was younger and heard he believed a story should have a “single effect,” I got it. To this day, it informs the way I read short fiction and the way I try to write it.

(3) One of the first stories by Ray Bradbury I read was “Usher II,” and at that point I hadn’t read “The Fall of the House of Usher,” but I was still captivated by all the references I did get. My favorite was the reference to “The Masque of the Red Death,” mostly because I thought it would be brilliant to have a house big enough to have seven rooms that were all painted a different color. But of course, the more important thing is that I was led onto the rest of The Martian Chronicles, which I still think is some of the best shit I’ve read in my life.

(4) Hey, remember when The Simpsons used to be awesomesauce? Nevermore!

You can find a lot of his works at the Project Gutenberg site (click here), etc. Hurray for works that are too old to be copyrighted!


Back to Class.

A couple of years ago I took this fun class at school called “Writing New York.” The professors teach it every Spring and, unlike back when I took the class, now they have a blog for it too, so if you’re feeling geeky and want to learn more about NYC by reading awesome books and watching awesome movies, you can actually follow along and join in the discussion here. That specific post I’m linking to has a syllabus and everything. A lot of the reading for the first half of the semester includes a lot of non-copyrighted stuff, so you could probably just look it up on the internets and read it for free.

It’s weird, I recently watched Gangs of New York for the first time, and I was shocked by how much information I’d retained from this Writing New York class. I mean, I was a pretty lousy student, but having taken this class made it so much easier for me to watch the movie and understand it in context. Wish the movie had resonated a little more though, LOL. Definitely not Scorsese’s finest, even though I loved his little cameo.

Anyway, you don’t even have to be interested specifically in NYC to enjoy the texts. In the end, I feel like I learned so much about cities and urban life as a whole.


Cien Por Ciento.

Sometimes I like to think that I can learn a lot about an author just from the content of their work. It’s a stupid thought. Just because an author writes in the voice of a murderer, for example, it doesn’t mean that the author is a murderer. Er, unless it’s some sordid non-fiction tell-all. But you catch my drift. I remember in school we’d read poetry, and people would always confuse the voice of the speaker with that of the author. I mean, William Carlos Williams may have eaten the damn plums for real, but we can also argue that maybe not, and that he just imagined the poem into being. Right?

Yet I can’t help but think that certain statements are so telling. I guess no one can really help it.

I just finished Paul Pope’s 100%, and I was really moved because it seems to me like he really loves art. Both in 100% and Heavy Liquid, we encounter situations where art and commerce collide. Reading Pope’s comics, it felt like he truly believes in it. Maybe he’s a crass sellout bastard in real life, what do I know. But at least from these pages, I got the sense that to him, art is something sacred.

I think I liked 100% better than Heavy Liquid, mostly because it focused on a wider variety of characters. I don’t read a lot of sci-fi shit but Paul Pope is really good at just sucking you into this futuristic setting. I loved that the story is set in NYC (most of Heavy Liquid was set there, too), because the future he imagines seems so much more plausible in this city that is constantly shifting shapes, old and new structures clashing and creating an unlikely but beautiful landscape. His artwork is so lovely. The specificity of all the things that make the future what it is–the technological advances as much as the things that are revealed to have remained the same–is intriguing and it really makes me wonder what is going on in Paul Pope’s mind.

Reaching the end of his comics, I felt a pang of sadness, mostly because I didn’t want the stories to end. It really sucks, I don’t want to give the comics back to the owner.


More Random Goodies.

(1) Some comics I finished reading include The Bottomless Belly Button, Crickets #1 and #2, Eightball #22 (Ice Haven), Heavy Liquid, Nocturnal Conspiracies, and a while back, Watchmen. So even though I haven’t gotten started on my reading challenges I’ve been on a pretty sweet comics streak, not to mention I totally got a copy of McSweeney’s #13 for 64 cents. Yup yup! Okay, so the McSweeney’s book is totally missing a few pages (WTF) but most of it is pretty intact and as great as when I first read it. My supplier says he will get me more comics which I’m really excited about.

(2) Alberto Fuguet upgraded his blog(s)! Now they’re just one blog located at his official website (click here). Filled with a bout of bravery–or maybe it’s just stupidity–he’s decided to allow comments!

(3) Speaking of other blogs, The Complete Review did a little survey of the past 100 reviews they’ve done in order to answer “How international are we?” Sometimes I grumble to myself that they “never” review the shit I’d like to know more about, but seeing stuff like this survey makes me appreciate the site so much more. If only other sites were as conscientious about giving well-rounded coverage to all sorts of lit in all sorts of languages from all sorts of places.

Another thing, in Three Percent, Chad Post wrote recently about doing a radio interview in which people submitted questions through mofuckin’ Twitter. !!! I’m telling you, until the moment I read about this, I really had no sense of Twitter being useful. I understood that it could be interesting, but I didn’t see how useful it could be. Except now that I see what its capabilities are, I wish EVERY fucking Q&A session ever would require the average civilian to Twitter in their question… if only because whenever I go to a Q&A, or hear one on the radio or whatever, the questioner just tends to meander while setting up their question for like three solid minutes and then finally asks a really dumb or shallow question that can either be answered in one word, or is way too fucking complicated for the recipient to answer it concisely. Ugh. Where has this 140 character limit been all my life!

The radio interview that Chad did was kinda “meh,” mostly because the host of the show didn’t seem very up on the concept of literature in translation. It made for awkward interview exchanges.

(4) Um, you can read Eunoia on the internets for free. Amazing! Incroyable!

(5) Okay, confession time. I have a shitload of records that have been left unopened for years (it’s a long story), and I finally finally listened to some of them, including the first album by The Evens. I have a love/hate thing for Ian MacKaye, so it was a pleasant surprise that I really liked it. Dude, I’m on their Wikipedia page and it says that Ian and his fellow Evens lady friend Amy totally procreated. Now, y’all know Wikipedia don’t lie, so it must be true. Can you believe it? There’s a mini-Ian ready to wreak havoc on the world! Haha, I kid. I’m really happy for them, actually.

(6) The latest issue of Bomb magazine is titled the “Americas Issue,” even though it mostly focuses on the Southern Cone. It’s kind of annoying because I’m so sure there must be some great artistic scenes in every country in Latin America that we just don’t know about. (In their defense, they did include a reprint of an interview with Guillermo Cabrera Infante.) I’m not complaining too much, though, because they included a feature on Nicanor Parra as well as an interview with Babasónicos, which continues online here.

[Edit 1/14: Haha, I didn’t realize that the Americas Issue is an annual issue focusing on different areas of the Americas. So that’s why this particular issue focuses on Buenos Aires, Montevideo and Santiago. My bad!]

(7)

I watch this video, and I see how big Karen Carpenter’s smile is, and I watch how skilled she is playing the drums, and it bums me the fuck out. I listened to my Carpenters CD recently and I hated that the vocals are so far up in the mix. I wished I could hear the arrangements better, especially when they included parts where she’s drumming. What I really like in this video is that you can tell she studied drumming, the way she plays is more akin to a jazz drummer than, say, some kid in a punk band just functioning as a timekeeper.

By the way, if you haven’t seen Todd Haynes’s Karen Carpenter biopic (?), Superstar, starring a handful of Barbie dolls, you should just watch it on Google video here. And for this, I thank god that the internets exists. It’s actually a really good movie, I learned a lot about anorexia and I also learned that the Carpenter siblings weren’t such big squares in their private lives.

(8) Dude! I started rewatching Mad Men and it’s most excellent. Especially after having devoured the two seasons and knowing what’s gonna happen, it’s cool to go back and see certain hints that were dropped along the way that were very revealing about the characters. I’m also stunned by how fresh the writing feels, even though I’ve heard all the lines already. Can’t get enough of Pete and Peggy.

(9) My guitar is dead. Broken. I hadn’t picked it up in a while so I don’t know what happened, exactly. But I’m still fucking sad because it’s irreparable.


NIMBY.

I forgot to mention that recently I went to see Danny Hoch‘s new play, Taking Over. Danny basically tackles the issue of gentrification in New York by portraying a series of diverse characters. I think the show is worth seeing, but it didn’t live up to my expectations. Before I went to see the play, I read all these articles about it, all of which followed the angle of “Danny Hoch makes upper-class New Yorkers uncomfortable for ruining NYC.” So I got like, really really excited about it, right? Cos I thought he was just gonna tear the audience a new one, you know? I thought he was gonna be really… mean. One of his characters shout out to the audience, at one point, “GET THE FUCK OUT!” which is something that I’ve literally said to at least one person I know.

Needless to say, he wasn’t as vicious as I expected. He was really good at humanizing all the characters, so that even the annoying gentrifiers had some good points about the development of the neighborhood. I thought that, in terms of meanness, this was gonna be like a walkin’, talkin’ version of “We Use Words like Mackadocious,” which is one of the most unforgiving essays I’ve ever read in my life. Though I should clarify that “Mackadocious” is not about gentrification, it’s about… wiggers. And it’s hilarious. You can learn a bit more about it here, if you’re not familiar with it already. Just track down Bomb the Suburbs, I love it that book to pieces.

But back to Taking Over. Even though it didn’t satisfy my schadenfreude craving (I can’t believe I know how to spell that word correctly) by having Danny yell at the rest of the audience in a variety of accents, I did enjoy the play a lot. Oddly enough, my favorite character was the former NYU student selling her DIY wares on the street. The manner of speech was so exaggerated, like every statement was drawn out and said in the sweetest way. It was overdone and yet, it felt just right. It was spooky because I could actually think of at least one girl of whom I was reminded as I watched this segment of the play. And although the girl Danny portrays is supposed to be one of the ~*EVIL GENTRIFIERS*~, she was so sincere you couldn’t hate on her for her ignorance. At least, you couldn’t hate on her too much.

The show ends on December 14, so if you have even an inkling to see the play, you totally should! If anything, it will send your mind reeling on the issue of urban development and class differences.

Also, who the fuck knew that Danny could speak Spanish like a fucking native! Well, I dunno if a real Dominican would be like, “Yeah, he sounds bona fide,” but to me it sounded spotless. God damn!

EDIT: Just got an email telling me the play has been extended to December 21.


In Which Your Heroine Se Topa With Her Favorite Pulitzer Prize-Winning Author.

Have I mentioned that post-graduation, I’ve been working at a bookstore? I don’t remember if I have. But yeah. I’ve been selling books.

Around noon, this kid came up to me at the registers and asked me if I could look up a book for him. He wanted Song of the Water Saints. I was like, “Oh yeah, by Nelly Rosario,” and he expressed surprise that I knew. I think he asked me if I’d read it. I told him no, but that I’d met Nelly Rosario once so I was aware of her existence and the existence of this book. Then I told him to go upstairs where our literature section is. So he went upstairs.

There was a lull at the registers and there were a lot of people working today, so I decided to go munch on my lunch even though it was ealier than my usual lunch hour. (Our lunch hours are 45-minute hours, by the way.) So I go upstairs to get my stuff and I see the following: (1) the kid who asked me for Song of the Water Saints, and (2) JUNOT DIAZ BROWSING BOOKS AS IF HE WAS SOME SORT OF AVERAGE CIVILIAN. Okay, I’m not sure why I capitalized that entire sentence. Anyway, I saw him and you wouldn’t believe the huge knot that I got in my stomach. Like, I really really wanted to talk to him but I really really didn’t wanna bother him.

Well I kinda tried to play it cool by talking to the kid about Song of the Water Saints. Apparently a shitload of people went looking for it cos it was temporarily lost in some literary black hole that exists in our store, but they finally found it, and so he saw me and thanked me for the help, and asked me how I’d met Nelly. I told him that I took a class with one of her friends, Angie Cruz. He recognized her name, telling me, “I just bought Soledad,” and I went off on how much I fucking loved Soledad and how I wanted to just move to Washington Heights and hang out with all the cool Dominican kids. Honestly, this was five years ago and I had no idea that the gentrification was already going on full force. So of course as I go on my little monologue, I have Junot right in my line of vision so the whole situation was a little literary Quisqueya-fest, you know? The kid and I finally exchanged goodbyes and he went on his way.

So for like 20 minutes after this, I’m pacing around trying to decide whether to bother Junot, and all I know is that I cannot fucking eat my lunch or I’m just gonna hurl from the nerves. Which is fucking bizarre, I never ever expected I’d get that sort of reaction out of just seeing an author I really dig. Embarrassing, to be honest. But there I was, just bugging out.

Finally, I was like, WTF, let’s just go for it. Because if I didn’t bother him, I’d hate myself forever. Also, I’d already been meaning to email him about something he said (I really felt that he would answer), so I was like, “Why the fuck am I gonna email him if he’s right there and he can just give me an answer.” So I walked up to him and asked if I could bother him for a sec and he says sure, so I tell him, “Oh so I went to see you recently–” and it kinda hits him that he’s been recognized so he’s like, “Oh, nice to meet you, I’m Junot,” which is kinda silly because it was clear to both of us his name was Junot so why did he feel the need to say it? Some sort of courtesy? But I followed his lead and I was like, “I’m Elizabeth, nice to meet you,” and I stretched out my hand and remembered my hands were still a little wet from having just washed them (since I’d been about to lunch), and of course I was mentally kicking myself for not having dried them completely.

Anyway, so I launched into my question which was this: I went to see Junot at this event that was actually held in Spanish, and he’d mentioned that he’d been reading a lot of Colombian books, which piqued my interest because I’ve been all about Colombian books, too. I asked him who he’d recommended because I hadn’t quite caught all the names he mentioned. I told him I’ve already read Vallejo and Franco, who else should I read. So he tells me Efraín Medina Reyes. I asked him what kind of stuff Medina wrote and Junot’s telling me that it’s all this crazy shit and that he’s the sort of mofo to put a naked picture of himself on the cover of his books which sounds like the sort of classy shit I’d be into.

Well you can’t imagine the regret I’ve been feeling from asking him cos I’ve been on Google for hours now just trying to figure out how to get my hands on a copy of this dude’s books. All I’ve figured out is that Medina Reyes is supposed to be some kind of punkass dickwad (I say this with much respect, good sire) in the literary scene. Also, apparently his name is Efraim, not Efraín. Qué sé yo.

Honestly, he warned me it would be hard for me to find, and I was like, “You think I could find it at the library?” And of course, he could only answer with a maybe. Sigh. Even when I can find a website that sells the books, I’m always hesitant because I’m not sure how reputable the site is, and then I’m also bummed that I can’t just check out the books and feel them in my hands and just see what they’re like before I send my dinero to these people. No 30 second samples? Pffft.

Anyway, I asked Junot if he had read any Andrés Caicedo, since Caicedo was Colombian too, and he had no idea who I was talking about, so I told him how I’d been reading ¡Que viva la música! and he actually started to like make note of it. Shit, if he finds it and hates Caicedo, he’ll remember me as that girl who gave him a shitty book recommendation. So let’s hope he forgets about me completely. So yeah, I was so busy talking to him about this stuff I didn’t even see what sort of shit he bought from our store.

I hope I didn’t scare Junot away from returning to our store. The owner of the store would be pretty mad if he heard that I scared away a customer…


If You’re Looking For a Good Read…

These bloggers decided that December will be National Buy a Book by a Black Author and Give it to Somebody Not Black Month. I know it doesn’t roll right off the tongue, but it’s a really cool idea! Since I’m not black I’m planning on buying myself a little something. Hurray! Make sure to read the comments section for some great reading suggestions.

Maybe I’ll finally get that Nikki Giovanni collection I’ve been itching for.


On Books and On Time.

I’ve been absent from here.  I’m sure you don’t care.  But I do want to spend a few minutes writing about this absence.

When I graduated from school a few months ago, one of things that excited me most was the prospect of finally being able to read whatever the fuck I pleased for whatever fucking reason I wanted.  No more assigned reading?  Hurrah!

So here I’ve been, these past few months, and I have all this time in my hands, but I’m not sure how to divide it properly.  Most of my time is spent at work, or asleep, or eating a meal, and then finally there’s some sort of leisure time.  It’s bad enough I haven’t been keeping in contact with people, but then there’s the constant “Should I be reading or should I be writing?” issue.  It’s the kind of reading too.  I have all this fiction on my shelves waiting to be read, and then there’s all these blogs that matter a lot to me and have so much of substance to say that must be read NOW because in the blog world timeliness is next to godliness, right?

And then in terms of writing I have to decide whether I want to blog, or write in my real journal, or if I want to work on little poems and cuentos and such–all of this writing is basically worthless but somehow fulfilling.

On top of that I’m such a fiend with pop culture that I have a fierce desire to keep up with television and such not just because I love it but because it’s a great way to connect with people.

Anyway, my priorities have been as such: work, food, sleep, reading, and writing.

Work is going great, I spend most of my money on food, I sleep as fitfully as I have done for most of my life.  I’ve been reading some awesome shit.  Like at McNally Jackson, I magically found (multiple!) copies of Etiqueta Negra which blew my mind.  Y’know, that magazine that Daniel Alarcón is affiliated with.  I spent ten sweet dollars on it, which was a shitload of money but I still hope that my purchase will signal to them that people are interested in those sorts of magazines.

I finally got these Sandman volumes from the library that I’d been awaiting for a couple of months.  I finished The Doll’s House and it was almost as exciting as the first time I read it.  Neil Gaiman is untouchable.  He was around last night at some event for his new book, which I’d had a chance to go.

The other great thing I’ve been reading tonight is this blog called Three Percent, which focuses on literature in translation.  I’ve spent a few hours checking out their older posts and I just want to weep with excitement because sometimes you feel so alone…  After graduation I’ve been gravitating more and more towards authors who don’t publish in English, so this sort of blog (that leads to even more blogs!!) is heavenly, just because I can see that my interest isn’t unique and because it means there’s a chance to participate in continuing dialogues about literature around the world.

Speaking of translations, I noticed that Oscar Wao has finally been translated into Spanish.  I was curious as to how they would pull that off, so I glanced at a copy and I was like, “OH.  MY.  GOD.”  You know what they did?  There is an extra set of footnotes.  If you’ve read the novel, you know that Díaz uses extensive footnotes, except the novel in general makes so many references to all sorts of shit (not just sci-fi namecheckin’) that the Spanish translators had to add their own footnotes to give context.  Yikes!  That must be a bitch to read!  I can’t even understand how they handled the whole Spanglish issue.

Sigh…  The suckiest thing for me right now is knowing that certain books exist and not being able to buy them because having them shipped from far away is just too expensive.  (Oh, hello Ville Ranta… I hope to own Papa est un peu fatigué someday…)  This is the sort of shit that makes me regret that I went to a private university.  What with the shitty economy, I fear I’ll never pay off my loans.  What about the public library, you say?  They don’t even carry Andrés Caicedo!  How am I supposed to learn what Fuguet is fucking fussing about if I can’t get a copy of Caicedo’s works?  Bah!


Ian MacKaye + Thurston Moore @ St. Francis College (Brooklyn Book Festival 2008).

Today was the Brooklyn Book Festival and one of the more unexpected panel offerings was a Q & A with Thurston Moore and Ian MacKaye.  I’ve already seen Ian speak before and I’ve already seen Sonic Youth live, but I wasn’t gonna pass up this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.  So I queued up as early as I could to make sure I would get a ticket for this.

Johnny Temple, who used to rock out but now publishes books at Akashic, introduced the two and sat back as people interrogated Ian and Thurston.  Before he gave up the mic, he did state that not a single author at the festival was getting paid to be there, which was amazing to hear, because they had some incredible “gets” (Walter Mosley spoke at the venue right before the Ian & Thurston panel, I saw him exiting the place).  I think only five or six people got a chance to ask questions, mostly because the two dudes had a lot to say.  The introduction by Johnny was really great because he gave out a warning that all panelists should give out at Q & A sessions: don’t ask stupid questions.  Johnny Temple reminded us that Thurston and Ian have been interviewed a gazillion times, so if we had any basic questions we should just Google the information.  I was pleasantly surprised by the level of questioning from the crowd, which mostly consisted of younger (college age?) people.  I just wanna give props to all the people who got a chance to ask questions because they were great.  Even though we were at a book festival, they understandably asked a lot about music and business, like about the “pay what you want” model à la Radiohead, or how bands these days are quick to align themselves with corporate brands that have nothing to do with music in the first place.

Even before anyone asked any questions, Ian just had to rant about how we shouldn’t use Google as a verb and speak of personal music-listening devices instead of iPods and to stop talking about YouTube and refer to them as video streaming websites.  He was crazy serious and he absolutely had a point that we shouldn’t use brand names so mindlessly but I couldn’t stop laughing because before the panel started, my friends and I jokingly bet that Ian would talk more (moore??) than Thurston.

But Thurston got his say, too, such as when he declared his fetishistic love for LP records, and how he and Steve Shelley have had plenty of arguments whether to “sell out” their music for products that are totally unrelated to music.

Above all, I thought Thurston and Ian were hilarious as a pair, in a comedy duo kind of sense. Just picture them.  There’s this one really tall dude with floppy hair and another kinda short dude with hardly any hair. Ian definitely played the straight man, carefully considering the questions posed and giving long answers with lots of anecdotes, while Thurston mostly sat back and looked cool, offering occasional witty comments.

As Ian is wont to do, he told stories about when he was younger and he did so very eloquently.  He spoke of the shock of hearing a mix tape for the first time, how it had never occurred to him that an(y) individual could choose which songs to put into a tape and even draw a little cover for it.  The weird thing is that this story veered into how the person who showed him this mixed tape was some druggy European dude who was a friend of a friend (or something) and how Ian had met said druggy European dude on a ride to see the Ramones in New Haven in 1979.

“What year did you say it was?” Thurston asked him.
“1979.”
“Dude, I was there!”

Those are not direct quotes.  There was this whole exchange with Thurston asking whether Ian did coke with the druggy European dude and Ian bursting out with a resounding HELL NO.  Thurston said he didn’t remember Ian at the Ramones show, but that he sure remembered Ian’s druggy European friend, haha.  I’m not sure if Thurston was just pulling Ian’s leg about being at that Ramones show.  This suspicion was exacerbated by the fact that, nearing the end of the hour-long discussion, when they seemed to forget about the Q & A and just started throwing out respectfully bromantic comments at each other, Thurston spoke about one of the first times (the first time?) he met Ian.  Sonic Youth were playing at the 100 Club in London and Ian was just chillin’ in the audience and then Thurston approached him and was all like, “Yo wassup” and they started talking and how all of a sudden Nick Cave made an entrance and Ian* was “three sheets to the wind” and started bugging out about Nick Cave being in da house and la la la (here Thurston began a priceless impersonation of Nick Cave, except I was laughing too hard to be paying close attention)–which prompted Ian to reply with “That is such a lie!!”  And then Ian started talking about how it wasn’t the first time that Thurston had lied about Ian, except by that point I had completely lost it with the unexpected Nick Cave cameo in Thurston’s anecdote.  When I left the auditorium I was still howling with absolute joy.

To be hyperbolic about the whole shebang: this was one of the most rewarding hours I’ve spent in my life, if only because it was bitchin’ humid outside and it was so delightful to spend it with Ian MacKaye and Thurston Moore in an air-conditioned auditorium with pretty sweet acoustics that allowed everyone to ask questions clearly without a mic.

I’m sure some of those present will read this and say “This is a completely inaccurate breakdown of the event” and I agree.  I didn’t take notes on purpose because I imagined it would be one of those wonderful experiences that I’ll allow to become tainted in my memory with the passage of time.

The rest of the festival, minus the insufferable weather, was fun, too.  Somehow I ended up subscribing to The Dirty Goat, a lit mag that features a lot of non-American authors both in their original language and in translation.  At least… I hope they send me the issues.  I paid good money for the subscription, haha.

EDIT: The One Story posse was at the festival, too, and they just posted a story that various passersby wrote collectively.  It’s kinda sorta hilarious.  I really wanted to get a subscription to One Story but I had to resist their allure because I was short on dinero.  I’d ask my parents to buy me a subscription, but I’m planning to ask them for new bookshelves as a combination birthday/Christmas present this year, and that’s already asking for too much.

* ANOTHER EDIT: Ah shit, my token 90s friend told me that Thurston was referring to Nick Cave as “three sheets to the wind,” which makes a lot more sense.