Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Strangling Karl

Things being today
what they are, all my old things begin
to become mythy and massive—
my economist friend from Oxford,
I’ll tell the kids—or maybe
he’ll come visit and we’ll tell, in tandem,
the story of how he strangled Marx.

To have a fondness for what’s past—
like Woody Allen for Annie Hall, or me
for the Bodleian and the Firkin, mornings
on the river vomiting up beans on toast,

is a good thing if taken rarely,
like a dozen donuts bought and downed
on a Sunday-morning whim—then
it’s like when the wind brings
a sudden scent of sea
with no sea in sight.
But dwell overmuch

and it edges toward what
the old sea captains called Nostalgia
and Debility—an overripe August stink
that threatens to overwhelm
with its too muchness, a realm
of malignant growth, a pestilential
purple cabbage plant,
a garbage-fed mulberry tree
that leaves a fermenting carpet
of fly-wracked berries.

So these are my thoughts
with respect to returning
for my high school reunion.

But kept in check, forward momentum maintained,
with second sight I see a morning
years from now—though I may never
take a drink again, a cigarette
can always be snuck: we’ll recreate how,
in Berlin, we came upon a looming stone statue
of Engels, standing, and Marx, seated—and Kevin,
lover of capitalism, acolyte of Adam Smith,
managed just barely
to get his arms around the stone neck of Karl,
with a gleeful grimace on.

I’ve still got the picture.
He got that Marx sumbitch something good.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

What is lazy writing?

Main Entry: lazy writing
Function: noun
1 : the first sentence of this story from Sunday's New York Times, about the opening of the as-yet unnamed state park in Williamsburg (my neighborhood), Brooklyn.

This is why people call The Times elitist and out of touch with reality—and are sometimes correct.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Dishwashing for fun and profit

This guy ain't got nothin' on me ...

... though I still might read his book, since he is, after all, a fellow dishwasher-in-arms.

This is terrifying.

OK, so, Mayor McCheese. No big deal, right? Look more closely.

Isn't this picture sort of vaguely terrifying, like in a decadent Weimar Republic-type way? Note the mayor's accusatory glare and malevolent expression. Doesn't he seem to be staring into the depths of your soul? What about the weird shadows on his head, and the raised eyebrows? Can't you just see him yelling "Schnell! Schnell!" to some poor gypsy, or perhaps calmly torturing a suspected spy? There's something just so bad-trippy about this picture.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

I take the subway. I also eat the Subway.

On Saturday I was on the G train heading south. A man sitting with a bike across the aisle from me said, "Got a bike here for sale, real cheap."

"I don't need a bike," I said. "I ride the subway."

"You do what?"

"I ride the subway. I don't need a bike."

"You ride the subway?"

"That's right."

"You know the restaurant Subway?"

"I do."

"You ever eat at Subway?"


"So you ride the subway ..."


"And you eat at Subway."

"That's right."

"OK then," he said. "Just checking."

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Is it just me

or does this article about Prince Harry not being able to go to Iraq make the British Army sound like the Boy Scouts? Not just because of the word "troop," but also because, at the very end of the article, there's this sentence: "Jobson said he did not believe Harry would quit the army, despite being kept out of Iraq."

"Jobson said he did not believe Harry would quit the Boy Scouts, despite being kept out of the Annual Troop 23 Jamboree."

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

I have been remiss

lately, w/r/t blogging. ("W/r/t" means "with respect to"—it's a David Foster Wallace tic that I picked up about ten years ago, when I first read Infinite Jest.)

But so: a few weeks ago I wrote a review/recommendation (here's the link) of a book by Tom McCarthy called Remainder. A fine book, and it fairly crept into my system.

The reason I bring it up today is because, on Sunday, I got the keys to my new apartment and went over there. I had, of course, been there before—but what struck me on Sunday was how much the building reminded me of the building that plays a central role in Remainder: the cooking smells (though not liver, as in the book), the noise from behind doors, the little window in the bathroom looking out onto a courtyard of sorts, the wide, airy stone stairways ... it was an interesting bit of déjà vu.

It's worth posting here, from Merriam-Webster, the def. of déjà vu; I was not aware of the second def., though I love the implications:
Main Entry: dé·jà vu
Pronunciation: "dA-"zhä-'vü, -'v[ue]
Function: noun
Etymology: French, adjective, literally, already seen
1 a : the illusion of remembering scenes and events when experienced for the first time b : a feeling that one has seen or heard something before
2 : something overly or unpleasantly familiar
Kind of cool and creepy, hmm?

Thursday, May 10, 2007

It is this sort of writing

that visits me in my nightmares:

Recruitment and selection

Members of the Human Resources Department work to source, identify, and attract top creative and business talent to [company name redacted]. Our mission is twofold: to partner with business units to achieve the goals and objectives of the Company and, through this process, to sustain the Company’s premier status within the fashion industry. Our Company aims to provide every employee with a comfortable and professional experience with [company name redacted], from the first point of contact and beyond. [Company name redacted] believes that it takes people with different backgrounds and views to strengthen a well-rounded company. It takes diversity of culture, style, education, experience, and geography to add value to the Company. This ultimately results in a positive impact on the Company’s global business.

It is anti-writing; it is virulent and damaging. It drains words of their primary use—as carriers of meaning. Orwell was right:

"The whole aim of Newspeak is to narrow the range of thought...We're destroying words - scores of them, hundreds of them, every day. We're cutting the language down to the bone. In the final version of Newspeak there'll be nothing else...A word contains its opposite in itself. Take 'good', for instance. If you have a word like 'good', what need is there for a word like 'bad'? 'Ungood' will do just as well...Or, if you want a stronger version of 'good', what sense is there in having a whole string of vague useless words like 'excellent' and 'splendid' and all the rest of them? 'Plusgood' covers the meaning; or 'doubleplusgood' if you want something stronger still. In the final version of Newspeak there'll be nothing else...

In the end thoughtcrime will be literally impossible because there will be no words in which to express it. Every concept that can ever be needed will be expressed by exactly one word...Every year there will be fewer and fewer words and the range of consciousness will become a little smaller...By the year 2050 - earlier probably - all real knowledge of Oldspeak will have disappeared. The whole literature of the past will have been destroyed. Chaucer, Shakespeare, Milton, Byron - they'll exist only in Newspeak versions, not merely changed into something different, but actually changed into something contradictory of what they used to be. Even the literature of Big Brother will change. Even the slogans will change. How could you have a slogan like "freedom is slavery" when the concept of freedom has been abolished? The whole climate of thought will be different. In fact there will be no thought, as we understand it now...There'll be no reason or excuse for committing thoughtcrime ...The Revolution will be complete when the language is perfect."

Thursday, May 03, 2007


Here are some words which may no longer be used:
  1. Sunworshippers. Noun. An awful word used by hacky travel writers when trying to sound bougeouis and at a loss to come up with some new way to describe people that go to beaches.
  2. Landed. Verb. "I landed my dream job at Glamour magazine yesterday." A word used chiefly by new female initiates to the New York publishing world. Often travels in packs with Cosmopolitans and very bad music on iPods.
  3. Ginormous. Adj. See previous post.
  4. Gawker Stalker. Noun (proper). An "app" made by the blog, which plots, on a real map of Manhattan, where various celebrities have been sighted. Now you can know exactly where the person who is no different from yourself except in that they had the bad taste and hubris to pursue a dubious career in self-promotion, aka acting, buys a hammer!
And here is an amazing story from The NY Times about Kool-Aid pickles, or "Koolickles." Further proof that kids in the South are the smartest kids ever.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Go Go Arkansawyers

It's a big week for Arkansans in New York.

Today, on DailyCandy, the inimitable Little Rock native Mary Kathryn Wells' clothing line, called Smart Fitzjerrell, is featured. Check out the fun write-up here, and the clothes here.

Last night, I saw Jeff Nichols' movie Shotgun Stories as part of the Tribeca Film Festival. I can't give enough props to Jeff—the movie was moving, funny, pretty, sad, and hopeful; aka everything a great movie should be. If you live in New York and want to see it, there's one more screening, this Saturday at 2:30pm, at the AMC 72nd Street East. Go here (scroll down to the movie's title) to read a synopsis and buy tickets.

As for me, another Little Rocker in NYC—I ain't done shit. But I'm having fun.