Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Origin story

This interview with noted author and accordionist Daniel Handler is well worth reading all the way through, but I thought I'd highlight this part.

Wired: Speaking of politics, the name Lemony Snicket actually came out of politics, in a way. Can you tell us about that?

Handler: [laughs] I don’t know if that counts as coming out of politics, but I was researching my first novel for adults, which is called The Basic Eight, which is about a girl in high school who kills a boy in high school, and part of it is about the media uproar that follows, and I was interested in cultural commentary, and I began to contact groups that like to appear on TV and state their opinion on things they don’t know about. A lot of those groups are conservative, and I was on the phone with a conservative organization and I wanted their materials sent to me, but I had a sudden thought that I shouldn’t be on their mailing list permanently, and so the woman on the phone asked me my name and I just said the first thing that came into my head, which was “Lemony Snicket,” which was not a name that I’d ever heard before or ever thought of before.

And I thought to myself — during the pause that followed on the phone — I thought, “That was a really terrible name to say. Out of all the fake names you could have given, that’s the least believable one.” And then she just said, “Is that spelled how it sounds?” And I said, “Yes,” and I said, “Read that back to me,” because I had no idea how it sounded like it was spelled. And that was the first time that the name Lemony Snicket existed, and I began to use it for various pseudonymous, prankish things.

I was in my early 20s, and a friend of mine made me some Lemony Snicket business cards for my birthday, and I used to give them out at bars, and I used to write long, rambling letters to the editors of newspapers and sign them “Lemony Snicket.” And so then years later when I started writing for children, it occurred to me that it would be fun to write them and publish them under the name of the narrator rather than the name of the author. And then I had this name lying around gathering dust. So I guess it had its roots in politics, slightly. I don’t know if making fun of right-wingers when you’re in your early 20s really can count as a political movement. [laughs]

The instinct to not get tons of junk mail from angry conservatives is a good one, perhaps part of a larger survival instinct. I never had any idea that it could give rise to something like Lemony Snicket, though.

EDITED so that the paragraphs don't all smoosh together.

A Halloween Carroll

If most people were asked to name a poem apt for this holiday it would probably be something by Poe. "The Raven", most likely. So would I, but these kids do make something moody out of "Jabberwocky."

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Wet life

Sandy was a bad time to be in the Mid-Atlantic region, obviously. In New England? Not so horrible. High wind in spots, scattered rain, but the heaviest rains came the day after the big storm, when the winds had died down. As with Iris last year, I taped up windows on the off chance of something trying to knock them in. My other precaution was not putting up a "whew" blog post while it could still be a jinx. Through all this, I pretty much finished up my pest control project. And now, time to chill.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Enjoy the show

It's been a while since I put any poetry up here, so what better time?  This is from a 2011 collection by Tracy K. Smith called Life on Mars.  Yeah, Bowie will be happy that he has black female fans beyond his wife and daughter.  Beyond that, though, she's just really good.  Like most contemporary poets, she's not beholden to rhyme and meter.  She stands out in her willingness to use them, though, and in her recognition of poetry as a sound medium you can play with.  And she is playful.

Anyway, without further ado.

The Universe: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
The first track still almost swings.  High hat and snare, even
A few bars of sax the stratosphere will singe out soon enough.

Synthesized strings.  Then something like cellophane
Breaking in as if snagged to a shoe.  Crinkle and drag.  White noise,

Black noise.  What must be voices bob up, then drop, like metal shavings
In molasses.  So much for us.  So much for the flags we bored

Into planets dry as chalk, for the tin cans we filled with fire
And rode like cowboys into all we tried to tame.  Listen:

The dark we've only ever imagined now audible, thrumming,
Marbled with static like gristly meat.  A chorus of engines churns.

Silence taunts: a dare.  Everything that disappears
Disappears as if returning somewhere.

Friday, October 26, 2012

What have we here? It's the Friday Random Ten!

There's nothing like going home to find the air in your small apartment thick with house flies. I'm left wondering which one of God's little creatures will declare war on me next. Toads? Well, at least this is an impetus to bitch the landlord out about not having screen windows.

In better news, I had a chance to put one of these lists together today. For your reading pleasure.

1. Patsy Cline - Strange
2. Soul Coughing - Janine
3. Sonic Youth - Unmade Bed
4. Lou Rawls - Bring It On Home
5. Kat Edmonson - Hopelessly Blue
6, Brian Eno & David Byrne - The River
7. Neko Case - Magpie to the Morning
8. Joni Mitchell - Electricity
9. Simon & Garfunkel - Leaves That Are Green
10. The Jimi Hendrix Experience - May This Be Love

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Small packages

Apparently these two had a syndicated TV show in the mid fifties. Five minutes long, used by stations to fill holes in their programming. If you could keep static under control for those five minutes, you were in for a treat.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Bad bossing

Just a brief thought on the question of whether employers can tell their employers whom to vote for. Which apparently they can in a lot of states. There are conditions and caveats, but since so many states have "employment at will" laws, bosses have wide discretion about when and why they can threaten termination, and for that matter carry it out.

So employers in much of the country can do this. It doesn't really seem like something they should want to do, though. That kind of coercion is bad business and bad management. You can't actually control how your employees vote, and you certainly don't have much say in whom if anyone they support in their heart of hearts. In essence if you order your employees to support (for example) Romney, you're telling liberals in your employ to lie to you. Which would seem to be a bad precedent to me. It's a short jump from "I promise to vote Republican" to "I promise not to rent out the keys to your office."

Saturday, October 20, 2012

You know the drill

Good machine day for me in a couple of ways.  For one, I had thought that the AC cord on my adapter was shot (again) and that the slow bleed of battery power was because of that.  So I was expecting to shell out for a new cord (again.)  But it turns out the power strip just wasn't plugged in quite right.  Once I unplugged and reset it, the battery recharged itself back up to 100% before too long.

Also, I bought a drill today.  First time I ever owned one.  It's the sort of thing I would expect to buy from a gruff, grandfatherly fellow in a lumberjack shirt.  The guy who helped me pick it out, though, couldn't have been over 25 and had onyx disks in both ears.  Buying powertools is a different experience when you shop near an art school.

So anyway, now I have a power drill.  After charging it up for an hour I put up a hat/coat rack with a knicknack shelf on top.  It's still up, knock on wood.  Maybe I'm getting a little handier.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Such a >:0

There's an interesting, maybe kinda icky article here on a man who is - or was and could be again soon - one of the more privileged users on Reddit. And then there's John Scalzi's intelligent response.

Only a couple of things to add:

1. A number of Redditors - some for obvious reasons - may disapprove of "doxing", enough to elevate it to a high crime in their own circle. But Chen never promised not to do it, and can't be seen as under any obligation not to.

2. One problem with the explosion of communications media is that no effective etiguette has arisen. Thus the rules that are applied are almost always self-serving by the user. A guy yaks at the top of his lungs at a cafe, and no one employee or patron wants to scold him because he'll just yell "Do you fuckin' mind? I'm on the phone." This sort of one-sided expectation of privacy, whereby kids posting Facebook pictures don't merit privacy but those who repost them as porn do, seems to be an extension of that. The rules of the road are defined by what's convenient for those who make the rules. Or at least want to.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Calcifying Campbell?

Man, I'm still basicall dragassing it in October, blogging-wise. Ah well.

This post from a Doctor Who blogger takes an irreverent look at George Lucas' intergalactic cash cow. In and of itself this is not uunusal, but Sandifer is more acute than most Star Wars critics. He gets at the root of what may be wrong with the franchise. Not in so many words, but I have to wonder if Lucas having time to clarify his ideas might have been a less than good thing for him. If Joseph Campbell was his guide in plotting out the series, he had a lot of time to spend extrapolating from Campbell's essays. What he didn't spend any time doing between what has been retro-named A New Hope and The Phantom Menace is direct. Not one frame in the over twenty years between the two. That may be why the human-scaled director of American Graffiti is present - if in a neutered form - in the earlier film and entirely evaporated from the later one.

As to the influence of Campbell himself via Lucas, I can't really disagree. I've enjoyed reading Carl Jung, Campbell's predecessor in the exploration of archetypes. To me his method of exploring the conscious and unconscious mind through mythological types can be very illuminating, if used the right way. Squeezing every book and comic and movie into the same mythological box is considerably less valid.

Monday, October 8, 2012


This song has been occurring to me lately

Recently in Europe, there has been a lot of tension over money. Countries like Greece and Italy thought it would be great to join a unified market and ditch their own in many cases devalued currencies in order to better compete in the world marketplace. But they did not become immune from economic downturns. Their old way of devt-spending to keep the citizenry afloat and start a turnaround - essentially Keynesian in principle, if sometimes referred to as socialist - is now held in disapproval by more technocratic countries like Germany. So is there any way out?

The band above is Big Audio Dynamite, which Mick Jones started after being kicked out of the Clash. It was the lead single from their eponymous debut, and it's not hard to see why. It comes off as a straightahead dance song, even sounding like the name of a dance move, and perhaps with a side of "yay us" to the side that will soon score a decisive victory in the Cold War.

That's not quite what Jones is singing about. Nagging questions remain. He doesn't think it's an altogether good thing that the Soviets are swinging our way, even if their way was no better in practice. If capitalism is the only game in town, is it then the only game that anyone even thinks about? What do you do about the problems that arise from it? The wackily costumed jury is still out on that one.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Rhyme and punishment

Okay, so!  It looks like I could be in limbo for a while longer.  Luckily I'm still getting to work every day, which is good because I'm pretty good at my job so that's a comforting routine.  But yeah, it could be a few weeks before I'm back in my own place, which won't be the same place as before.

That being the case, I don't want this blog to lie totally fallow until I'm in a new situation. So I figure on doing some interim things. First up, a video from the Glove and Boots team, which the friends currently hosting me introduced me to. Childhood memories traumatized with love.