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Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Grand Theft Auto: Armageddon

Left Behind: The Video Game.
This game immerses children in present-day New York City -- 500 square blocks, stretching from Wall Street to Chinatown, Greenwich Village, the United Nations headquarters, and Harlem. The game rewards children for how effectively they role play the killing of those who resist becoming a born again Christian. The game also offers players the opportunity to switch sides and fight for the army of the AntiChrist, releasing cloven-hoofed demons who feast on conservative Christians and their panicked proselytes (who taste a lot like Christian).

Is this paramilitary mission simulator for children anything other than prejudice and bigotry using religion as an organizing tool to get people in a violent frame of mind? The dialogue includes people saying, "Praise the Lord," as they blow infidels away.
I eagerly await the howls of protest from our wise and judicious congresspersons.
People Are Still Unhappy about that New York Times 'Best American Fiction of the Last 25 Years' List
For instance, Geoffrey Schmidt, who writes:
Intellectuals, particularly intellectuals in the field of literature, are quick to point to their open-mindedness. James Joyce, ee cummings, Ralph Ellison, even Faulkner, all celebrate their success because the Literati was willing to herald their unique qualities, and praise them as "revolutionary." Yet apparently, over the past quarter century none of the gains and evolution of American literature has stuck. While lists like this heap accolades on the stylistics of Updike, the philosophical undertones of DeLillo, and the colloquial, humorous style of Roth (all groundbreaking authors in their own day) they are secretly fearful of what might happen if classicists began to recognize the familiar work of minority writers like Sherman Alexie. They are equally tepid of acknowledging the groundbreaking work of young writers like David Foster Wallace. And, perhaps, the people who created these lists are most afraid to mention or give credit to out-of-the box authors like Phillip K. Dick, Frank Miller, Norman Mailer, or Michael Chabon (even though the last two were winners of the Pulitzer Prize, which seems to have been the template from which each of these author's brushes were stroked.) A cynic might argue this is because, just as minority authors have been represented by Morrison, revolutionary authors have been represented in one, singular work: A Confederacy of Dunces, which, not surprisingly, was a Pulitzer Prize winner, as well.
(This list. Via Bookslut.)
Out of College, Money Spent -- See No Future, Pay No Rent -- All the Money's Gone, Nowhere to Go
AlterNet's Laura Barcella interviews Tamara Draut, author of Strapped: Why America's 20- and 30-Somethings Can't Get Ahead. (via Bookslut)
LB: What's shifted politically to keep people of this generation down?

TD: Over the last three decades, the triumph of conservative ideology has resulted in a major shift away from shared responsibility toward personal responsibility. States slashed their support of higher education, leading to steep tuition hikes.

At the federal level, financial aid shifted from being a grant-based system to a loan-based system. Guaranteed pensions got replaced with individual retirement plans. After Ronald Reagan's firing of striking airline workers, businesses ramped up their anti-union efforts, and states passed legislation making it more difficult for workers to unionize. The minimum wage lost its purchasing power. …

Over the last three decades, we've witnessed a steady retrenchment from investing in the common good. We've failed to shore up the public structures that provide individuals with the opportunities to get ahead. As I write in the book, in this era of hyper-individualism, our national spirit has shifted from "We're all in this together" to "Hey, look out, I'm about to step on you."
New York, 2016
Where is New York going to fit another million people?
‘Harassment Is Not Allowed in Namibia'
Celebrity colonialism: How the government of Namibia made their nation a no-paparazzi zone just because Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie asked them to. Via Arts & Letters Daily. Metafilter discusses.
Writers' Zen
There is only one great adventure and that is inwards towards the self.
-Henry Miller

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

June is Superman Month on Dial B for Blog
Ooh baby. Today's entry is a bunch of Superman covers by artist Nick Cardy.
'I Wrote Thirteen of These Stories While Still Inebriated, and Six Sober'
I won’t say which is which, for I don’t want some do-gooder coming up to me later and saying, “The sober ones were so much better.” Likewise I don’t want someone to tell me I should still drink a fifth of bourbon daily.
The South's greatest living writer, George Singleton, talks to Largeheartedboy about his new collection, Drowning in Gruel, and specifically about which songs go with which stories.

I had no idea that Singleton had a new collection coming out. This is really going to put a crimp in my resolution to not buy any new books until May 17, 2007. (via Bookslut)
Although I gave a semi-lukewarm review to In Persuasion Nation, I'm happy to report that A Bee Stung Me, So I Killed All the Fish (the free Saunders chapbook-sized nonfiction collection you receive when you join the George Saunders Army) is a quite enjoyable read.

Luckily for America, it's available for free online, in both on-screen and in-pocket varieties.

In other Saunders news, Michele's Boyfriend has been diligently keeping track of Saunders audio and print interviews. Here's one. Here's another.
Notorious terrorist-lover and pinko commie traitor Noam Chomsky explains why it's all over for America. Click the [+/-] to read the money quote.
The persistence of the strong line of continuity to the present again reveals that the United States is very much like other powerful states. It pursues the strategic and economic interests of dominant sectors of the domestic population, to the accompaniment of rhetorical flourishes about its dedication to the highest values. That is practically a historical universal, and the reason why sensible people pay scant attention to declarations of noble intent by leaders, or accolades by their followers.

One commonly hears that carping critics complain about what is wrong, but do not present solutions. There is an accurate translation for that charge: "They present solutions, but I don't like them." In addition to the proposals that should be familiar about dealing with the crises that reach to the level of survival, a few simple suggestions for the United States have already been mentioned: 1) accept the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court and the World Court; 2) sign and carry forward the Kyoto protocols; 3) let the UN take the lead in international crises; 4) rely on diplomatic and economic measures rather than military ones in confronting terror; 5) keep to the traditional interpretation of the UN Charter; 6) give up the Security Council veto and have "a decent respect for the opinion of mankind," as the Declaration of Independence advises, even if power centres disagree; 7) cut back sharply on military spending and sharply increase social spending. For people who believe in democracy, these are very conservative suggestions: they appear to be the opinions of the majority of the US population, in most cases the overwhelming majority. They are in radical opposition to public policy. To be sure, we cannot be very confident about the state of public opinion on such matters because of another feature of the democratic deficit: the topics scarcely enter into public discussion and the basic facts are little known. In a highly atomised society, the public is therefore largely deprived of the opportunity to form considered opinions.

Another conservative suggestion is that facts, logic, and elementary moral principles should matter. Those who take the trouble to adhere to that suggestion will soon be led to abandon a good part of familiar doctrine, though it is surely much easier to repeat self-serving mantras. Such simple truths carry us some distance toward developing more specific and detailed answers. More important, they open the way to implement them, opportun- ities that are readily within our grasp if we can free ourselves from the shackles of doctrine and imposed illusion.

Drawn! has some good links today to artists working in the proletariat (read: Soviet realist) style of art.

World Cup Football
A huge group blog devoted to every aspect of the World Cup. (via Kottke)
Waste your time on the original Frogger in Flash.
Renaissance Superheroes
The latest Worth 1000 photoshop contest is worth taking a look at. I think Superman Descending Staircase takes top honors (despite not really fitting with the category), though Wolverine vs. Hulk, The Birth of Supergirl, Batman Descending a Staircase, and SuperDavid are also pretty good. I sort of want a print of Nighthawks.

(via Boing Boing)
The DC Top 52
The Great Curve has the D.C. Comics top fifty-two, to compliment the Marvel list earlier in the month. Batman beats Superman? Nonsense. And where's Ra's al Ghul? Where's Supergirl? Where's Brainiac?
Monday, May 29, 2006

Robert Newman's 'History of Oil'
British comedian Robert Newman's scathing, 45-minute routine on the history of oil as the history of the world. Really good. (via MeFi)
'Geneticist Claims to Have Found "God Gene"'
Now we can get started working on a cure.
Are We Doomed?
The Guardian says probably while The New York Review of Books says definitely.
'The Myth of Superman'
Neil Gaiman and Adam Rogers try to explain the appeal of Superman in Wired:
Of course, baby Clark has a special destiny. He’s literally empowered to be our salvation, endowed with all the basics – flight, strength, invulnerability – plus the wildcard powers of super hearing, heat vision, x-ray vision, and supercold breath. He used to be even more incredible; before a radical overhaul in the mid-’80s, he could move planets and run faster than the speed of light. His cape was infinitely elastic and never tore. He had super-hypnotism. In the 1978 movie, he turned back time. He’s not a superhero; he’s a demigod.

What’s important, though, is how Superman uses these powers. Compared to most A-list comic characters, he has almost no memorable villains. Think of Batman, locked in eternal combat with nocturnal freaks like the Joker – or Spider-Man, battling megalomaniacal weirdos like Dr. Octopus. For Superman, there’s pretty much only bitter, bald Lex Luthor, forever being reinvented by writers and artists in an effort to make him a worthy foe. Superman’s true enemies are disasters like earthquakes and hurricanes, jet planes tumbling from the sky, enormous meteors that would crush cities. Superman stands between humanity and a capricious universe.
There's also an interview with Bryan Singer about the making of the new movie.

(via Neilalien, who retorts:
That Superman is actually an interesting character- that's the myth! As Neilalien sees it: An unbeatable god never in any danger, with a nonsensical mishmash of super-everything-powers, whose main problem is that he's supposedly an alone alien immigrant outsider on a planet where he looks like the people there and fits in perfectly. Quel dommage!
He's just jealous.)
Saturday, May 27, 2006

If It's Paper
If you're wondering why I'm not posting this weekend, my one-year wedding anniversary might have something to do with it. See you Monday.
Things Wrong with X-Men: The Last Stand
Watch out: there are subtle and not-so-subtle spoilers below.

It should be said to start that X-Men: The Last Stand is not nearly the trainwreck the Internet has been predicting since Bryan Singer left the project to do Superman Returns. It's almost certainly not as good as the movie we would have gotten had he been allowed to do his planned X-Men 3, but it isn't a disaster on the order of The Incredible Hulk or Batman: I Will Make You Cold either.

Nevertheless, the movie has a number of crucial flaws.

(1) It is not respectful of the source material. When you take on something like the X-Men, you should leave the mythology relatively intact. This movie does not. It devastates it, and decimates the cast -- including, in the case of one major character, purely out of spite for the actor doing some minor work on Superman Returns.

(2) If you're going to make a show of overturning the status quo, don't build in reset buttons. The close of this movie builds in two major outs, not counting the obvious Phoenix-can-do-anything-she-wants reset. Although it appears X-Men 4 would be a very different movie than X-Men 3, five minutes of exposition at the start of the film could restore the status quo of this movie entirely. That's not a good thing.

I have a lot more to say about this, but it would spoil (among other things) the best shot of the movie (the very last instant before the credits) -- so I'll just leave it at that. Though some might say that telling you which shot is the best is spoiling the shot, and those people are probably right.

(3) The climactic battle stinks. The X-Men bring six people to their final battle with Magneto, two of whom are made out of metal and a third whose only power is to walk through walls. Meanwhile, in this movie Magneto demonstrates the ability to lift a bridge filled with cars through the air without breaking a sweat, and he has the effectively omnipotent Phoenix in his corner, as well as a mutant army. The idea of this fight lasting more than thirty seconds is completely insulting to the viewer; I amused myself during the scene by counting just how many metallic objects surround the X-Men as they successfully defeat Magento.

(4) Every characters is a one-dimensional cipher. Call me old-fashioned, but screenwriters should have at least a passing interest in why their characters make the completely arbitrary decisions they do. The Last Stand's characters are inconsistent from scene to scene, and occasionally within the same scene.

(5) Hell is other people. This isn't Brett Ratner's fault, exactly, but it bears mentioning. We saw this movie in a theater packed full of the absolute stupidest people on the planet. Their favorite line in the movie, the one that got the hugest whoop and cry and OH-SNAPs, not to mention actual applause?

"I'm the Juggernaut, bitch."

For real.

We even heard people quoting it in the lobby after the movie.

Yes, I've seen this now. It's still stupid. In fact it's stupider than ever.
Friday, May 26, 2006

Lazy Friday Afternoon Zen
The best things in life are nearest. Breath in your nostrils, light in your eyes, flowers at your feet, duties at your hand, the path of right just before you.
-Robert Louis Stevenson

Jack Bauer Kill Count
How many people has Jack Bauer killed on 24? At last we have a firm count.
Music for Solo Performer
Reader Brian sent in this followup to Alan Lucier's "I Am Sitting in a Room": "Music for Solo Performer" by the same composer, which is generated entirely by electrodes detecting the alpha waves in his brain. Here's an MP3. And here's a Google Video of someone else performing "Music for Solo Performer." Wild stuff.
A Scam Called M.F.A.
Joseph Bednarik does the math.
In a statistical mood, I once estimated how many "good poems" were being produced by recent graduates of MFA programs. Keeping all estimates conservative, I figured there had to be at least 450 poets graduating nationwide each year. If each MFA graduate wrote just one good poem a year for ten years, at the end of a decade we would have 24,750 good poems—not to mention 4,500 degree-bearing poets, each of whom was required to write a book-length manuscript in order to graduate. New poems, poets, and manuscripts are added to the inventory every year.
Forbidden Comics
The proprietor of Dial B for Blog shares tidbits from his bootleg copy of Elseworlds 80-Page Giant, destroyed by D.C. before sale for being "inappropriate."
Thursday, May 25, 2006

Another BCR Editor Who May or May Not Ever Blog
What with the recent mass exodus from North Carolina, Backwards City needs more help keeping the hamster wheels turning. Meet Jennifer W., poet, copy editor, slushpile slayer. With her addition gender equity is no longer just a distant dream but nearly within our grasp. She will also be teaching us how to stand without slouching.
Dokaka the Human Beat Box Covers "Smells Like Teen Spirit"
Via the ukulele-Nirvana MeFi thread comes a human-beat-box cover of "Smells Like Teen Spirit."
This Week in the Decline of Western Civilization
An all-ukulele cover of "Smells Like Teen Spirit."
52 Pickup
Week 3 of 52 (official site, Wikipedia) has already been dissected at the 52 Pickup blog, Douglas Wolk's answer to The Annotated Watchmen. Wolk, of course, is the guy who wrote that great megacrossover article at Salon a few weeks back.
I Am Sitting in a Room
I am sitting in a room, different from the one you are in now. I am recording the sound of my speaking voice, and I am going to play it back into the room until the resonant frequencies of the room reinforce themselves so that any semblance of my speech (with perhaps the exception of rhythm) is destroyed. (via Linkfilter)
Wednesday, May 24, 2006

How Do We Know That We’re Watching a Great Player?
Intuition, statistics, and athletic excellence at The New Yorker.
Suppose that we wanted to measure something in the real world, like the relative skill of New York City’s heart surgeons. One obvious way would be to compare the mortality rates of the patients on whom they operate—except that substandard care isn’t necessarily fatal, so a more accurate measure might be how quickly patients get better or how few complications they have after surgery. But recovery time is a function as well of how a patient is treated in the intensive-care unit, which reflects the capabilities not just of the doctor but of the nurses in the I.C.U. So now we have to adjust for nurse quality in our assessment of surgeon quality. We’d also better adjust for how sick the patients were in the first place, and since well-regarded surgeons often treat the most difficult cases, the best surgeons might well have the poorest patient recovery rates. In order to measure something you thought was fairly straightforward, you really have to take into account a series of things that aren’t so straightforward.

Basketball presents many of the same kinds of problems. The fact that Allen Iverson has been one of the league’s most prolific scorers over the past decade, for instance, could mean that he is a brilliant player. It could mean that he’s selfish and takes shots rather than passing the ball to his teammates. It could mean that he plays for a team that races up and down the court and plays so quickly that he has the opportunity to take many more shots than he would on a team that plays more deliberately. Or he might be the equivalent of an average surgeon with a first-rate I.C.U.: maybe his success reflects the fact that everyone else on his team excels at getting rebounds and forcing the other team to turn over the ball. Nor does the number of points that Iverson scores tell us anything about his tendency to do other things that contribute to winning and losing games; it doesn’t tell us how often he makes a mistake and loses the ball to the other team, or commits a foul, or blocks a shot, or rebounds the ball. Figuring whether one basketball player is better than another is a challenge similar to figuring out whether one heart surgeon is better than another: you have to find a way to interpret someone’s individual statistics in the context of the team that they’re on and the task that they are performing.
Ceci n'est pas une homage
Flickr images tagged Magritte. (also via Kottke)
Infinite Zoom

An infinitely zoomable photomosaic. Quite a bit of fun, actually. (via Kottke)
The Mysteries of Stonefridge

At Flickr. Here's more. And more. This site, from a recent visitor, describes Stonefridge as a "monument to consumerism & the hubris of man," built from "approximately 200 discarded refrigerators and cosmologically oriented on Los Alamos National Laboratory, home of the Manhattan Project." (via Cynical-C)
Great Moments in University Syllabi
I ran into someone on campus today who's using Watchmen in her criminology course this summer. I can totally see that. We didn't get to talk much, but I did point her to The Annotated Watchmen.
Is It True Germans Have No Sense of Humor?
Comedian Stewart Lee investigates in The Guardian. He argues their syntax is the culprit:
The geographical accident of Germany has denied Germans the fun we have with language, and it seemed to me that their sense of humour was built on blunt, seemingly serious statements, which became funny simply because of their context. I looked back over the time I had spent in Hannover and suddenly found situations that had seemed inexplicable, even offensive at the time, hilarious in retrospect. On my first night in Hannover I had gone out drinking with some young German actors. "You will notice there are no old buildings in Hannover," one of them said. "That is because you bombed them all." At the time I found this shocking and embarrassing. Now it seems like the funniest thing you could possibly say to a nervous English visitor.
As a speaker (Sprechenperson) of German (Deutsch) for almost one week (fast eine Woche), I hereby declare this article sehr gut.
Tuesday, May 23, 2006

An Elegant but Impoverished Aristocrat Married to a Nouveau Riche Spouse
Literary fiction.
Utopian Endings for Reality Shows
At McSweeney's.
American Idol

The finalists approach the panel and hand them a note, which reads: "Fame is meaningless. It is the quest of those who do not know the transitory nature of worldly success. We believe it is only by raising all voices equally that we can reach enlightenment." They sit on the stage in the lotus position and intone "Om" in unison. Paula is the first judge to join in, but soon the rest do, too. Not long after, a steady "Om" rises from the studio audience as well. This spreads into households across the country. Then the world. Humanity finally discovers that there is no reality, just a mental construction shaped by the senses. The planet's population abandons ego and lives in peace.
Lad Lit
The Chroncile takes on "lad lit":
Here, then, is a summary of guy-lit novels:

I may be 30, but I act 15. I am adrift in New York. I'm too clever by half for my own good. I live on puns and snide, sarcastic asides. I don't look too deeply into myself or anyone else — everyone else is boring or a phony anyway. I may be a New Yorker, but I am not in therapy. I have a boring job, for which I am overeducated and underqualified, but I lack the ambition to commit to a serious career. (Usually I have family money.) I hang out with my equally disconnected friends in many of the city's bars. I drink a lot, take recreational drugs, don't care about much except being clever. I recently broke up with my girlfriend, and while I am eager to have sex, which I do often given the zillions of available women in New York, the sex is not especially fulfilling, and emotions rarely enter the picture. I am deeply shallow. And I know it.

Oh, and then something happens. I go on a journey, get inside the media machinery, sort-of fall for a new girl. Or 9/11 happens, but that doesn't really affect me much either. And though I might now mouth some bland platitudes about change, anyone can see that I'm still the same guy I was before. Only different. But not really.
Who Wants to Live Forever?
Gravity Lens today points to immortality in fiction and fact.
The Poor Will Always Be With Us
Scottish scientists have discovered a "poverty gene" which causes people from deprived areas to age rapidly, pass on health problems to the next generation and might even explain negative attitudes to employment.
Another amazing new Flash game from EyeMaze, the people who brought you Grow and Hatch. This one seems to have a time travel theme, though I'll admit I'm a little perplexed by it. JayIsGames has your much-needed walkthrough.
Monday, May 22, 2006

Al Gore Is My President
A brief interview with Al Gore on his global warming documentary, An Inconvenient Truth.
Up in the Sky! Look!
Bibi's Box has links to a ton of old Superman cartoons from the 1940s on Google Video. Here's the first one. Great stuff. (via)
Oh! Nnnnnnnn! Nnn! Nnn! Nnn! Nnn! Nnn! Nnn! Nnn!: Vox
That's an actual line of dialogue from the book, by the way.

Vox (which, as you'll recall, is the 17th sexiest book ever written, according to Playboy) is essentially a 150-page phone-sex session. Unless you're a Nicholson Baker fan, you can probably safely skip this one; last week J.T. memorably called it "about the most pitiful excuse for a book I'd read since learning to read." There's not much in the way of plot or characterization here, and very little even tying one scene in the book to a different scene. The entire book is a somewhat masturbatory rumination on the nature of desire, and that's about all there is.

Still, since I am something of a Nicholson Baker fan, I read the whole thing, if only in a What am I reading? kind of way.
Little Nemo in Slumberland
Jeet Heer has an interesting piece in VQR all about Little Nemo. (via Gravity Lens)
Straight Butta
Athletics and Kantian aesthetics. Via A&L Daily.
Sunday, May 21, 2006

Tonight's Sopraneys
Is it just me or was that the dullest Sopranos episode of all time?
Time's Arrow
This Metafilter thread on watching movies backwards (possibly inspired, and certainly presaged, by the war movie Billy Pilgrim watches backwards in Slaughterhouse-Five) made reference to Time's Arrow by Martin Amis. Since it happened to be sitting in my book queue, I bumped it to the front and read it this afternoon.

I'm hard-pressed to think of a better backwards novel. Most backwards-told novels suffer from the Merlin problem, which is this: individual scenes are narrated in the usual direction, and just the order of scenes is reversed. Not so in Time's Arrow. Here the entire book is told backwards from start to finish. Dialogue is in reverse order, relationships start out with shouting and crying and end with coy flirtation, food flies out of your mouth and onto the plate, etc, etc, etc.

The point-of-view character is a new and innocent soul that is stuffed into the body of Dr. Tod T. Friendly at his moment of death and forced to watch impotently as Tod's life races by in reverse order.

I won't give away anything else about the plot; I'll just say that the backwards narration isn't arbitrary. The book is this way for a reason. To find out why you'll have to read it.

The other Amis book I read, Einstein's Monsters, was also excellent. Why isn't Amis a bigger deal on this side of the Pond?
Unrealised Moscow
Architectural masterpieces the Soviets never got around to building, 1930s to 1950s.

Via Cynical-C, which also links to some sweet Donald Duck propaganda.
“I Cthulhu”
or, What’s A Tentacle-Faced Thing Like Me Doing In A Sunken City Like This (Latitude 47 ° 9’ S, Longitude 126 ° 43’ W)? Neil Gaiman takes on Lovecraft, via Monitor Duty.
Saturday, May 20, 2006

Insultingly Stupid Movie Physics
Movie reviews from a scientific perspective. Consider, for instance, The Day After Tomorrow, which we watched tonight, and which is awful, by the way. (via SF Signal)
The other book I read this weekend was Coraline, a children's book Jennifer W. loaned me after we somehow got talking about Neil Gaiman and Tori Amos. It's pretty trippy. Now there's going to be a movie, and They Might Be Giants is doing some of the soundtrack. Sounds neat.
In Persuasion Nation
When I last saw Casey and PClem we somehow got on the subject of George Saunders. Casey said that Saunders had in some sense (and I'm paraphrasing here) disappointed her, that she had grown tired of him, that he hadn't grown as an artist in a way that was pleasing to her. While still loving George Saunders, I can see what she means: turning the pages of In Persuasion Nation I find the same basic anti-consumerist theme expressed in very similar ways in nearly every story. This is not to say that In Persuasion Nation is not a very good book, because it is -- simply that like other people I'm growing anxious for Saunders to take his work in a different direction from time to time.

With that single reservation aside, In Persuasion Nation is excellent -- though again it's probably most excellent for people who haven't been keeping up religiously with Saunders's work, as I have. Two of the three best stories, "CommComm" and "Brad Carrigan, American", I'd seen when they were in The New Yorker and Harper's -- and in fact I'd previously see a majority of the stories in this volume before, which in fairness probably contributes significantly to my feeling that Saunders is starting to repeat himself.

I'm trying to write a positive review of this book, not a negative review, if you can believe it. All I'm saying is that In Persuasion Nation didn't carry the same euphoric sensation as the first George Saunders story I ever read -- and how could it, really?

Maybe I need a nap.

Maybe I should just quit while I'm ahead and point you to the third of the three best stories in the book, which I hadn't seen before, "93990". It's the fourth of the "institutional monologues"; just scroll down.
Friday, May 19, 2006

Hot Monkey Love
Human, Chimp Ancestors May Have Mated, DNA Suggests.
You Are What You Eat
Trailer for Fast Food Nation, based on the book.
Thursday, May 18, 2006

Literature, Myth, Video Games
How have myth and seminal writers of horror, science fiction, and fantasy shaped today's videogame landscape? IGN taps the literary roots of the industry for answers. Via Bookslut.
The 25 Sexiest Novels Ever Written
At, so be wary, those of you with jobs. I have Vox and The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle in my reading queue -- sounds like I'm in for some intense, Judy-Blume-style eroticism. Ooh baby. (via Kottke)
10 Things I Hate About Commandments
Yet another parody trailer -- but this one's really pretty good. (via Jeremy W.)
Everything You've Heard about Veronica Mars Is True
As far as I can tell, it really is very good. Now, in fairness, we've only watched the first four episodes of season one, but we're really enjoying things so far -- and despite the fact that the show is two years old, I'm 98% unspoiled and intend to stay that way.

More good news: It's just been renewed for a third season on the new CW network.
Backwards City #3 Reviewed at New Pages which the reviewer comes as close as she possibly can to telling us to grow up while still giving us a favorable review. We'll take it.
May I Use the 'Du' Form with You People?
One of the most interesting points of discussion in my first German language class yesterday was learning about Bruderschaft trinken, the custom in Germany in which two friends split a bottle of wine to celebrate their decision to abandon the formal 'Sie' form and use the informal 'du' form when addressing each other. It's a whole society of Larry Davids.
Links & Chains
* Novelist Thinks People Shrug 10 Times More Than They Actually Do. Amen. This drives me nuts. I see it all the time, and not just in beginning writers, either. (via Bookslut)

* Che Guevara image gallery. Chris at Cynical-C has already linked to the best one.

* Comic Book Bondage Cover of the Day. With massive archive. (via MeFi)

* Gravity Lens points to some great vintage sci-fi architecture and retro-futurism.

* And, at Salon at least, everybody loves Spinoza.
Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Blogiversary X Shabazz: Post of the Year
Meme of the year, really. If nothing else, 2006 was the year of the remixed trailer, and it all began here: Shining.

That's it for this blogiversary, and possibly for the entire concept of blogiversary itself. One way or another, see you in '07.
Blogiversary IX: The Restaurant at the End of the Blogiversary
How to Feel Miserable as an Artist
Alan Moore Is a Genius and Other Obvious Facts of the Comics Universe: Supreme
Some Moral Dilemmas
Warning Forver
Yippe Cay Yah! One Who Fornicates With One's Mother!
America, Kneel Before Zinn
Game Six, 1986
Fall Down Six Times
All Right, Then, I'll Go to Hell
What Happens When Everything You Ever Knew Was Gone and You Must Live Life All Over Again in an Unfamiliar Town and in the Future?
Holy Thursday, Batman!
This Is For All the Lonely People
Here It Is, the Episode of Sesame Street That Ruined My Life
In One of the Other Universes, I Went to Columbia for My MFA, and Here's What Happened
Super Mario: Live!
The Show (with Zefrank)
LEGO Venice
Dial H for Hitler

Which brings us, at long last, to...
Everybody's Talking about Colbert
Theme Time Radio Hour (with Bob Dylan)
A Brief History of the Clenched Fist
Crisis on Infinite Blogs!
Thirteen Writing Prompts
The Tunguska Event
You Are What You Eat
Show us how these characters process memory, language, abstractions and the urban landscape through stream of consciousness, don't just tell us
Remember When We Were Going to Colonize Space?
A Brief History of Dance
Language, Numbers, Time, and Mind
Michael Chabon on LEGOs
How Fred Flintstone Got Home, Got Wild, and Got a Stone Age Life

A Few Years Back All the Animals Went Away
A Message from the President of the United States
You're an Angst-Ridden Superhero, Charlie Brown
'This Is So Fucking American, Man: Either Make Something Your God and Cosmos and Then Worship It, or Else Kill It'
Blogiversary VII: I Had No Idea This Would Take So Long
The Worst Bleeping Movie of All Time
Brokeback to the Future
The Problem of Susan
Fantastic Folk Monsters of Japan
Atlas of the Multiverse
The Sun Ra Arkestra and Al Kooper's Blues Project Play 'Batman'
The Buddha Project
That's a Terrible Thing for a Monkey to Say
Reasons Why You Don't Exist
Volkswagen Bus Ads
Everything You Ever Wanted to Know about Green Lantern
Rereading Curious George
When Lexy Met Clarky
Cliffs and Cartoons
The Gay Cowboy Movie
Unknown White MaleSo Long, Mr. Furley
Toy Story 2: Requiem for a Dream
Unseen. Unforgotten.
At Long Last, Excerpts from Backwards City #3
Evil Will Always Be Lurking at the Edge of the Village. On the Other Hand, It Will Never Invade
Penn & Teller's Smoke and Mirros

Dungeons-and-Dragons-Themed Web Comics Are For Players
I Am 8-Bit Returns
The Future
The Love Song of J. Alfred Fratboy
Die Hipsters Die! or, On the Experimental Origins of the Flash Mob
How to Write Good
Jaimeeblogging Returns!: The Secret Asian Jersey Kinky Ha-Ha (and Humor in Poetry)
Justice (Part 1)
Your Tax Dollars at Work
I Only Read It for the Articles
A Blogge
Large Buttocks Are Pleasing to Me, Nor Am I Able to Lie Concerning This Matter
Don't Shoot the Puppy
Intellectually Pretentious Video Games
Fancy Pants Adventures: The Game
The Only Interesting Garfield Cartoon, Ever
'The Job of the American Film Critic is Complicated by the Fact that Virtually All Americans Regard Themselves as Astute Judges of Movies'
'The Left May Be Dead, Joe, but Fear and Hatred of the Left Will Never Die. It's an American Passion.'
What Michael Chabon Learned in Workshop
Blogiversary VII: Death to Blogiversary!
Best American Essays 2005
Is Childhood Boredom Still Possible?
Ancient Japanese Comics
Inspired by Imagery from American Ephemera
Chuck Norris Doesn't Read Books
Finnegan's Wiki
Is There Anybody Who Doesn't Play with the Free Parking House Rule?
'Believing that someday Jews will stop being Jews and become Christians is still a form of hoping that someday there will be no more Jews'
A Rich Man Will Put His Anti-Corporate Propaganda on Google Video for Free
Against Diamonds
The Essentials
'If You Find This World Bad, You Should See Some of the Others'
Ware and the Frauds
The First and Most Obvious Question Is, How Does an Upper-Middle-Class White Kid from Wellesley, Mass., Become an International Drug Smuggler?
Battlestar Galactica
It's the Only High Energy Power Bar Good Enough for Jack Bauer
Iraqi Invasion: A Text Misadventure
'Bruce Springsteen Songs, If the Title More Accurately Reflected the Subject Matter'
Ephemera Now
Kearl's Guide to Sociological Thanatology
Holy Nostalgia, Batman!
The Fifty Most Loathsome People of 2005
A Comics Panel with Seth and Chris Ware
Writer as Demiurge: Animal Man
Aslan Died for My Sins
Weird Vintage Ads with Demonic-Looking Children
Chewbacca's Blog
Blogiversary VI: Blogvember! Blogcember! New Blog's Eve!
Halfway through the year we added two new great bloggers to the site, Casey and J.T. Casey got busy after her first couple posts and never posted again (but we still love her). J.T. is still rocking, hard, to this day.

The Adventures of Dr. McNinja
Everyone Dies!
Happy Anniversary
On the Implausibility of the Death Star's Trash Compactor
Little Pink Houses for You and Me
700 Hoboes
This Message Is a Warning about Danger
The Last Great Newspaper Strip
The Birth of RockStatic
Happy Birthday, Wanda Jane
Our Brains Don't Work
Excerpts from the Never-Aired 1973 Scooby Doo episode with guest star Hunter S. Thompson
If You Can't Market That Kind of Show and Get Better Ratings, Maybe the Problem Lies with Marketing
The Books Famous People Loved in College
The Most Excellent and Lamentable Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
Lethem on Calvino!
This I Believe (Penn Jillette Edition)
Wax Off
Superman V: The Whole Sordid Saga

Dylan on Chabon
Seu Jorge, The Life Aquatic Studio Sessions
Simulacra and Science Fiction
As Long As There Are Movies There Will Be Bunnies Reenacting Them
They Call Him the Flash
Photographing LEGOland
'I Don't Believe in Beatles' and Imagine There's No Heaven
Everyone (Rightly?) Hates MFAs
Just How Christian Is Narnia?
The Seven Levels of Artist
I Heard the News Today, Oh Boy
The Definitive Act of 20th-Century Fast-Food-Themed Poetry
'Clearly I'm Out of My Mind'
King Kong, or Why Peter Jackson Is God
Kneel Before Zod!
Everyone Hates Barbie
He Came to Save Us
What the Hell Would He Be Asleep Tonight For?
What About Yo La?
The Falling Sand Game
The Squid and the Whale
Blogiversary V: Blogtoberfest!
Burn the Land and Boil the Sea: Serenity
Ukraine's Backwards City: Images of Chernobyl
Chew Electric Death, Snarling Cur!
Bruce Springsteen Storytellers
Your Childhood Called
If I Spoke English, I'd Say...
Focault's Asylum
Musicians Who Blog
ad Franzenem
The Smurf to End All Smurfs
Crisis Counseling
Ruin Your Life: Draw Cartoons! And Doom Yourself to Decades of Isolation, Solipsism, and Utter Social Disregard
Even White Boys Got to Shout
Believe It or Not, There Are Some Downsides to Shock Therapy
Interviewing Jonathan Lethem
Be a Police Sketch Artist
22 Panels That Always Work
The Skeptic's Annotated Bible
Man of Tomorrow
One Star Reviews of All My Favorite Novels
Goonies Never Say Die
Wha be tha blake prevy lawe that bene wantoun too alle tha teres?
Red Six, Standing By, in Heaven
Good Smell Perplexes New Yorkers
Bill Waterson Commencement Address at Kenyon College
This Is What History Looks Like
Disturbing Literary Deaths
How Will the Universe End?
Blogiversary IV: A Hard Blog's A-Gonna Fall
Okay, after this one I'm really going to start being more selective.

'There Is No Reason Good Can't Triumph over Evil, If Only Angels Will Get Organized along the Lines of the Mafia'
Mimes Are People Too
English As She Is Spoke
Babies Look Out for Their Own
Written Sometime between 1861 and 1937
Daily Show Speaks Truth to Power
'Neuropsychiatric Examination Disclosed Auditory Hallucinations, Ideas of Reference and Suicide, and a Rambling, Grandiose, Philosophical Manner': Jack Kerouac's Military Discharge Papers
Dictionaraoke Killed the Radio Star
Guide to Japanese Castles
'Viruses of the Mind'
When I Was Young It Seemed That Life Was So Wonderful
Zen Koans
Letters to Wendy's LIVE! at Salon
Le Foto di Sir Alfred Hitchcock
Artistic Interpretations of Literary Figures
'Visionary Leader Dazzles Nation with Decisive Greatness!': The Brief and Frightening Reign of Phil
Classic Literature, as Represented by That Picture of Calvin Peeing on Stuff
Hooters: A Fun Place to Work
Daily Dose of Donald Barthelme
The Man Who Shouted 'Judas!' at Bob Dylan
My Evil Twin
Buz-Baz City Review
Literary Cage Match Winner? Ben Marcus.
Oh, I Think of Myself More as a Song and Dance Man, Y'Know.
So You Want to Draw Cartoons for The New Yorker
Blogiversary III: August Is the Second-Bloggiest Month
In which I realize how unselective I'm being and try to reign it in a little bit. But they're all good posts, damnit.

The World Socialist Web Site Review Everything
James Randi's Encyclopedia of Claims, Frauds, and Hoaxes of the Occult and Supernatural
Whoa. Seriously?
Conan O'Brien vs. Bear
Interviewing Gerry Canavan
The Secret Ingredient Is Neil
The American Museum of Beat Art
Hachi Machi
Found Photos
When I Was Young It Seemed That Life Was So Wonderful
Jonathan Lethem's Globe Compartment
Banky vs. the West Bank
Nothing But Robots
Superman vs. the KKK
Strip Generator
Jack Kerouac, "Belief & Technique For Modern Prose: List of Essentials"
The Legend of Zelda: The Lampshade of No Real Significance
WWII-era Japapense Propaganda Booklet
Thirty-Nine Questions for Charlie Daniels upon Hearing "The Devil Went Down to Georgia" for the First Time in Twenty-Five Years.
The Museum of Modern Robocop Art
By Thor: Religions of Comic Book Characters
Art from the Atomic Bomb Test
'How It Looks on the Receiving End'
If It's Octopi
The Jack Kirby Museum
The Fortress of Solitude
Being an Account of the Life and Death of the Emperor Heliogabolous
The Illustrated Catalog of ACME Products
Blogiversary II: July Is the Bloggiest Month
Which is why it gets a celeblogtory post all its own.

Gerry and Jaimee's Honeymoon Pictures
Being Dr. Strangelove
125 Questions
You Knit What?
Rating the Superhunks: Handicapping the Great 20th Century Novels
Franz Kafka: Blogger
Neil Gaiman at the Nebula Awards
Gallery of the Absurd
Historical Fencing Manuals
Your Inside Is Out and Your Outside Is In
Codex Seraphinianus, Hallucinatory Encyclopedia
The Swearasaurus
If It's Apes!
The Comic Characters Database
Chocolypse Now
It's That Time Again: BCR #2 Coming Down the Chute
This Is Incredibly Satisfying
If WWII Had Been a Real-Time Strategy Game
More on DFW and Oblivion
The Beatles and Philosophy
A Collection of Unusual Neurological States
All These People Are Dead Now
Great Moments in University Syllabi
Chuck Cunningham Syndrome
If They Were Superheroes
While My Ukulele Gently Weeps
Smoking Manners
Harry Potter and the You-Know-What
You'll Get Paid After We Get Back
Family Guy Takes On Take On Me
Knowing Is Half the Battle
American Realist Prints and Drawings, 1912-1948
'The Christian Paradox'
George Saunders!
The Rules of Picross
Zelda Links Abound
How Newspapers Are Made
What Every Game Developer Needs to Know about Story
Gained in Translation
Don't Call It A Blogiversary - I
Here at Backwards City I like to celeblog the blogiversary with a bloglection of "greatest blogs" from the last blog-year. As before, I'll be throwing up links from the last twelve months all day long, with no regard to anything besides what I remember as being sort of cool.

The first two months of our second year of operation brought my getting married and winging off to Europe for my honeymoon, leading to dangerously high levels of Neil Farbman. We still haven't gotten the stains out of the couch.

Also, there were also a hell of a lot of Star Wars posts last May. I'm awfully sorry about that.

The Trouble with Prequels (or, The Emperor Has No Clothes): Review of Star Wars Episode III
Chris Ware: God Lands on the Moon, 2005
Fictional Curse Words
Movie Reviews and More from Andrew Rilstone, Gentleman
Endor Holocaust
George Lucas in Love
Gone Marryin'
The Wooster Collective: A Wicked Cool Blog of Street Art
Kiss Me, Son of God: Bibleman
You Can Live on Gelato


Illustrated Gravity's Rainbow
The Sistine Chapel Blew My Mind, Then Gave Me A Headache
Old Sci-Fi Covers
Rough Draft of Back to the Future Script
French Keyboards Are the Suck
Venice and It's Sandró, About Biennale
I Never Knew What Everybody Meant by Endless, Hopeless, Bleak Despair
Expecting Long Lines, We Found the Place Deserted
What I Read on My Summer Vacation
This Isn't Just a Mall, It's Paradise
Howard Zinn on American Exceptionalism
Operation Clambake
Toothpaste for Dinner
Harlan McCraney, Presidential Speechwriter
DFW's Commencement Speech at Kenyon College
Top 40 Most Important Literary Works in the World
Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Blogiversary Zen
The Zen genius sleeps in every one of us and demands an awakening.
-D. T. Suzuki

The Marvel Top Fifty
An informal Internet poll yields a list of the top fifty Marvel characters. Two of the top three are villains, and the other is Spider-Man, which seems about right. (via NeilAlien)
Yo La Tengo Is Not Afraid of You and Will Beat Your Ass
JJerm at RockStatic has a link to one of the new songs on the upcoming Yo La Tengo album. Go listen.
It's Not My Blogiversary, It's Not Today
It's tomorrow. Which is when you should check back for the Backwards City Second Blogiversary Extravabloganza. In the meantime, why not persue the celebratory posts from our first blogiversary:

Happy Blogiversary I
Blogiversary II: Son of Blogiversary
Blogiversary III: Return of the Son of Blogiversary
Blogiversary IV: Blogiversary Resurrection
Blogiversary V: The Inevitable Anticlimax
Blogiversary's End: There's Nothing I Can Do

See you tomorrow, when we enter our terrible, terrible twos.
My Brain Hurts
Today I began the daunting process of attempting to fill my brain back up with all the philosophy and critical theory I've forgotten since graduating college. Luckily, I remember more than I feared I did; unluckily, I still have a lot to (re)learn. Step 1 was Jonathan Culler's excellent Literary Theory: A Very Short Introduction, which serves admirably as a quickie introduction or reintroduction to literary theory, depending on your needs. Step 2: Reread my personal favorite undergraduate newspaper column, a parody exegesis of my friend Eric's column, both columns prompted by our firm belief that nobody reads the student newspaper the weekend before spring break. Step 3: ??? Step 4: Knowledge.
Why Charlie Kaufman Is Supposedly One of the Best Writers of His Generation
Za? What? Even after Adaptation? So says David Ulin at Kaufman's okay, and Being John Malkovich is a thing of genius, but the truth is Wes Anderson runs circles around him and makes it look easy. (Via Bookslut.)
90% Hateful
John Updike reviews the new novel by Michel Houellebecq, The Possibility of an Island.
'We're Just Beginning to Sort of Peel Back the First Layers of the Onion'
Salon has a must-read interview with Matthew Aid, author of a three-volume history of the NSA. (via georgia10, Daily Kos's best front-page poster)
AID: We should be terrified that Congress has not been doing its job and because all of the checks and balances put in place to prevent this have been deliberately obviated. In order to get this done, the NSA and White House went around all of the checks and balances. I'm convinced that 20 years from now we, as historians, will be looking back at this as one of the darkest eras in American history. And we're just beginning to sort of peel back the first layers of the onion. We're hoping against hope that it's not as bad as I suspect it will be, but reality sets in every time a new article is published and the first thing the Bush administration tries to do is quash the story. It's like the lawsuit brought by EFF [Electronic Frontier Foundation] against AT&T -- the government's first reaction was to try to quash the lawsuit. That ought to be a warning sign that they're on to something.
Meet Dan Clowes
Here's a fantastic fourteen-minute profile of Daniel Clowes (Ghost World, Art School Confidential) from a recent BBC documentary, The Secret of Drawing. Direct link to video. Via Drawn!
Why Does It Take Wes Anderson So Long to Make a Movie?
Slate considers the question.
And Now, Some Art
The surrealism of Vladmir Kush. The one on the left is titled "Measure of Greatness." (via RaShOmoN)
Monday, May 15, 2006

'It’s Hard to Think of a Single Thing That Doesn’t Express Young Male Desire More Eloquently Than Teen Sex Comedies'
"'They Want Us To Look': Through the Lens of the Teen Sex Comedies of the Early 1980s." Another fine essay from The Believer.
It's the Little Things
How typography dictates what time it is on 24.
'This Is So Fucking American, Man: Either Make Something Your God and Cosmos and Then Worship It, or Else Kill It'
Via MetaFilter, this heady interview with David Foster Wallace takes on TV, postmodernism, philosophy, and the end of culture, among other things.
LM: Are you saying that writers of your generation have an obligation not only to depict our condition but also to provide the solutions to these things?

DFW: I don't think I'm talking about conventionally political or social action-type solutions. That's not what fiction's about. Fiction's about what it is to be a fucking human being. If you operate, which most of us do, from the premise that there are things about the contemporary U.S. that make it distinctively hard to be a real human being, then maybe half of fiction's job is to dramatize what it is that makes it tough. The other half is to dramatize the fact that we still "are" human beings, now. Or can be. This isn't that it's fiction's duty to edify or teach, or to make us good little Christians or Republicans; I'm not trying to line up behind Tolstoy or Gardner. I just think that fiction that isn't exploring what it means to be human today isn't art. We've all got this "literary" fiction that simply monotones that we're all becoming less and less human, that presents characters without souls or love, characters who really are exhaustively describable in terms of what brands of stuff they wear, and we all buy the books and go like "Golly, what a mordantly effective commentary on contemporary materialism!" But we already "know" U.S. culture is materialistic. This diagnosis can be done in about two lines. It doesn't engage anybody. What's engaging and artistically real is, taking it as axiomatic that the present is grotesquely materialistic, how is it that we as human beings still have the capacity for joy, charity, genuine connections, for stuff that doesn't have a price? And can these capacities be made to thrive? And if so, how, and if not why not?
Nabokov: Plagiarist or Cryptomnesiac?
In 1916, an 18 page short story titled Lolita about an older man obsessed with a young girl, was published in a German short story collection. The author was Heinz Von Litchberg. In 1958, Vladimir Nabokov's 300-page novel Lolita, also about an older man obsessed with a young girl, was published in the United States. Was Nabokov a plagiarist, or as New York Observer columnist Ron Rosenbaum posed in a recent column, did Nabokov suffer from cryptomnesia? (via Kottke)
When It Smells Like It, Feels Like It, and Looks Like It, You Call It What It Is
ABC News reports that its reporters' calls are being tracked by the federal government "in an effort to root out confidential sources." Super. (Via everyone. Here's the MeFi thread.)
You're an Angst-Ridden Superhero, Charlie Brown
Good grief, there's a ton of great Marvel-ized Peanuts drawings here. The Avengers one is probably the best, or else the X-Men.

There are a few other varieties in the mix too, like Batman and Robin and Star Wars. Pretty great.

(via Neilalien, the Dr. Strange fan site, not Neil Farbman, that blockhead)
Marriage: A Conspiracy against Women?
That's what Kristin Armstrong, ex-wife of Lance Armstrong -- and isn't the fact that everybody feels it necessary to identify her in that way exactly her point? -- has to say. (via Broadsheet, via Pandagon)
Oy Vey
Steve Almond is quitting his job as a adjunct at Boston College over their Condoleezza Rice commencement speech -- because, like everything else in the world, the Condoleezza Rice commencement speech is really all about Steve Almond. (via Bookslut)
It's Carrboro
In lighter news, Carrboro, North Carolina, has been named the lamest place on Earth.
Every state must have its enemies. Great powers must have especially monstrous foes. Above all, these foes must arise from within, for national pride does not admit that a great nation can be defeated by any outside force. That is why, though its origins are elsewhere, the stab in the back has become the sustaining myth of modern American nationalism. Since the end of World War II it has been the device by which the American right wing has both revitalized itself and repeatedly disavowed responsibility for its own worst blunders. Indeed, the right has distilled its tale of betrayal into a formula: Advocate some momentarily popular but reckless policy. Deny culpability when that policy is exposed as disastrous. Blame the disaster on internal enemies who hate America. Repeat, always making sure to increase the number of internal enemies.
The cover story in this month's Harper's is "Stabbed in the Back! The Past and Future of a Right-Wing Myth." It's one of those silver-bullet, can't-miss essays that succinctly explains, from McCarthy to the Dixie Chicks, just how it is we got to be in the predicament we're in. It's very good. When they put it online, as I'm sure they eventually will -- it took them over a month to put up March's controversial AIDS-denialism piece, blogged here -- I'll try and remember to link to it. In the meantime, you know where your local newsstand is.

Dolchstosslegende is German for stab-in-the-back legend. This post self-Godwinizes. I'm not sweating it.

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