Saturday, January 31, 2004

Certain days, radio reception is the only way I know the weather.

@ Kip's Toyland: Trend Forecaster Barbie.

Anti-flaneur: At cafes, face away from the street.

"Sometimes you have to start dating a rich man." Poor maternal advice.

fave lines from Rod Smith's -Music or Honesty- (Roof):

if the left wants to redistribute the wealth
then they need to get really rich

Thursday, January 29, 2004

Just figured out that I have to write about 950 (finished) words a day if I want to complete both a draft of Ch. 4 and my Manny Farber piece by the eve. of Feb. 9. That's a good reason to go to bed.

Finished a first read of DFW's infinity/Cantor book a couple days ago. Two things I hope to go back to: The part about limits of point-sets, which is the motivating link between continuity and the less analysis-heavy (and easier for me) material on transfinite nos., reals v. rationals, and cardinality. Also the last few pages on infinite ordinals, which may actually be too compressed to get the inuitive arguments out of properly. It's depressing to realize that I've known certain things about this subject for decades now -- understood the Diag Argument via Martin Gardner in HS, maybe even earlier -- but haven't deepened my understanding since; if nothing else, I got out of this, finally, a clear grasp of why there are as many points on/in a square/cube/n-manifold as a line (segment).

Main thing I like about the book: Despite constant apologies for the difficulty of the material, there are none for its intrinsic interest, which is, I suspect, anethema to a lot of his fiction readership. Which is too bad, because I think he achieves the effect of balance between precision and talkiness more efficiently than in -Infinite Jest-. (Side note: Though he never comes out and plumps for Platonism, his obvious excitement about Cantor's results -- calls one 'nape-tingling' -- suggests leanings that way; would he dig it so much if he thought it was 'just a game'?)

Complaints: I was prepped for him saying misleading things about discontinuities in functions by the review in -The New Yorker-, which was quite correct on this score. (He associates them too closely with undefined points on a given function.) Also, I have a quibble w/ the following:

"If the above [paragraph] seems shifty or convoluted, we can reduce the argument to a simple syllogism: 'Since (1) all numbers are definable by decimals and (2) all decimals are definable by sequences, (3) all numbers are definable by sequences,' which happens to be 100% valid." (221)

Valid, yes, but not an example of any syllogistic form I know of. There's no general valid form that runs: xRy, yRz, therefore xRz. Argument depends (plausibly) on the transitivity of 'definable.'

recently --

Tuesday: 50 Ft Wave @ Silverlake Lounge
Wednesday: Pretty good diss workday
Thurs: Stavroula's practice job talk @ UCLA

Tuesday, January 27, 2004

-Modesty Blaise- (1966): I like Losey and all (esp. -The Servant- and, surprise, -The Go-Between,' but boy, you'd have to be a real auteruist to dig much out of this one. (And I'll bet one has.) Dirk Bogard has a few good moments, and Terence Stamp is hotter than Monica Vitti (but it's no -Quartet-).

-On Our Merry Way- (1948): Nice, Sturgesish use of the phrase "five smooth stones," a Frank Loesser novelty number sung by Dorothy Lamour, rare opportunity to see Henry Fonda in a comic role (playing a bandleader w/ a speech impediment opposite Jimmy Stewart -- AND the amazing Dorothy Ford, the tall number from -Love Laughs At Andy Hardy-, which means Bree has to see this); uncredited direction by George Stevens, some script contributions by Arch Obeler (of the OTR radio horror show -Lights Out-, which is sometimes genuinely creepy), and an inexplicably weak third w/ Fred MacMurray, William Demarest, and Hugh Herbert. Episodes linked by frame story concerning Burgess Meredith (who co-produced) and then-wife Paulette Godard.
Pure entertainment.

Cleo 5 to 7 (196?) -- Wow. Vanity, illusion, beauty, illness, death, song -- all while observing the Aristotelian unities. Uses Paris at least as well as -Breathless-, if you want to know. Lotsa mirrors, as in a Smithson displacement, and Atget window displays. (On a whim, I looked up the book "The Dream Of Display," on window advertising, that I saw mentioned in another book on the subject not so long ago, on abe and alibris -- no luck at all. Something recently came up about L. Frank Baum's pre-Oz activities being in this line, but I haven't followed it through. This is all relevant to -Power Trips- related concern, as of about '92.) Anyway, terrific movie -- the sort of thing I'll try harder to see on the big screen now that I've rented it.

-The Courtship of Andy Hardy- (1943) on TCM at Bree's this a.m. Morally reprehensible on almost every count -- basically, going to dances and dressing w/ 'zip' will help Donna Reed (who's pretty good and dry, actually) get over her broken home, and her interest in opera. I think the mother in these movies must be pretty good, b/c Bree and I absolutely hate the character, and don't even think about the fact that this isn't an actual person. And no musical numbers!

[Curiously, Jimmy Stewart is singing the offensive but musically graceful "I'm An Indian" from -Annie Get Your Gun- on Jack Benny right this second. I need to get out more--but I am, b/c Kristi and I are going to go see 50 Ft Wave, Kristin Hersh's new band, in a couple hrs. Hell, for me these days, seeing someone who's only been around for 20 years is pulse-of-the-nation.]

All this, and around 1000 wds of diss. (counting footnotes) too, almost despite myself. Really pushing myself the next week to 10 days, as I have no freelancing deadlines looming 'til, hm, Feb 4 or so.

Monday, January 26, 2004

Seem to be spending the day on websearches and upkeep of my Vast Network of Associates.

Unintentionally comic academic writing, from a review on Benjamin Friedlander: "Within this art-historical context, it’s almost too easy to say that abjection represents a return of transgressive subjectivity as the repressed." Yeah, -almost-. (Thinking also of the Peter Kivy article that begins a section by saying, "I begin this section with a joke," from the same issue of -The British Journal of Aesthetics- containing an article whose abstract claims that "music operates like a proof.")

The Urinals' John Talley-Jones is 48. Randy Newman was at UCLA in 1961*, which would make him about 60. These are not large numbers, except if you play 'popular music.' Thus, I have no excuse to quit before hacking away for another 13 to 25 years. Okay, but it sounds tiring.

*Who told a long story at his solo show Friday night about breaking a slide projector on his first day of orientation at UCLA. Another song intro: "I wanted to write something like Wagner, or Bruckner...but crappier."

Best thing about Saturday's Newman tribute (a Hal Willner production) was the band -- orchestra plus rock trio (dba Jack Shit, including two of EC's Impostors...both Peter Holsapple and Chris Spedding had been mentioned in pre-press, but no sign), plus Bill Frisell (who kinda plays everything the same), pedal steel, organ, piano (rotating, inc. Mr. Ted Reichman, whose Tzadik record about Andre Kertesz I finally listened to on the way over to the concert), and rotating conductors -- including Van Dyke Parks, who only contributed a couple of arrangements, but jeez, the man knows strings. Bad: Rip Torn, some guy from The Sopranos, Ed Hardcourt, E from the Eels (these young cats have no mic technique). Fine: Taj Mahal (flat and checking lyrics on one song), Stan Ridgway, a couple of the otherwise anon. backing vocalists -- I think one of them might have been Julie Christensen of Divine Horsemen 'fame.' (Problem: No reliable program or onstage intros.) Great: Robin Holcomb, Vic Chestnutt, Gavin Friday. Weird: Jimmy Fallon??, Victoria Williams, effective enough on "Davy The Fat Boy," but her Little Match Belle act has become self-parodic.

Could possibly have wormed my way in to the post-show reception via Ted, but decided against it. (I wrote a mixed rev. of Vic's last show here, and I don't know what I'd say if he saw it -- though he probably doesn't remember me from playing with OPB in 1992 at the 40 Watt. [He covered an entire Daniel Johnson tape that night.])

Sun, visited Bree for a while in the afternoon, tried to watch video of -The Deep End- there, Bree was hating it and I didn't entirely disagree*, wrote highly compressed Newman review and Fiery Furnaces pick, and watched rental of Michael Haneke's -Code Unknown-, spurred by a strange article on it by Robin Wood in CineAction. It was fine, serious, rigorously structured (few cuts w/in sequences, except for a scene from a bad movie Juliet Binoche's character is making, full of what Wood rightly calls 'dubious spatial relationships'), but it didn't affect me very deeply. Gonna try Varda's -Cleo 5 to 7- later today (after attempting a 2000-wd dissertation day).

*Indie remake from a few years ago of Ophuls' -The Reckless Moment-, which has its problems (James Mason's hood becomes sympathetic too quickly), but has one of the greatest acting jobs ever, by Joan Bennett. I wonder how many people who praised Tilda Swindon's performance in this one remember the amount of non-Hwd-glamour and intelligence Bennett brought to the same role.

Wednesday, January 21, 2004

Saw rerelease of -Battle of Algiers- w/ Kristi yesterday. I guess I didn't read the reviews very carefully; I went in thinking it was a documentary, which it manifestly was not, though I take it that it attempts to portray certain events accurately. Moving, at times unbearable -- in the torture scenes, which were more about the prisoners' desperation in the aftermath. Strongest section, at least in light of present concerns, was the sequence in which three Algerian women cut their hair and make themselves look as Western (therefore assimilated, therefore non-radical) as a way of getting through checkpoints w/ bombs. If it had a flaw, it's that the officer in charge of the French military operation gives a somewhat actorly, rhetorical performance; as against the performers playing the radicals, who have a Bressonian authenticity. Of course, the point of the rerelease is in the implicit comparison between France/Algeria and U.S./Iraq, w/ the idea being that we may win the battle, but we'll lose the war; counterinsurgency is doomed against Muslim fervor (though the religious angle is played down in the Algerians' motivations here, as against plain desire for self-determination). The comparison doesn't work in all ways, as we're not there to -sustain- our colonial control of an established colony; and we're surely not trying to -establish- a colony in the traditional sense, because one doesn't do that anymore; even the most cynical would say that we're looking to put in place a government that, though it will not be the government, necessarily, that the people of Iraq would choose, will be nominally 'theirs.' Our colonialism is unfortunately subtler, less visible, and likely harder to overcome.

Watched just about all of -On The Town- at Bree's. I'm always annoyed at the Freed Unit's replacement of songs from the original Bernstein/Comden/Green B-way score w/ new MGM-vetted (i.e. musically simpler) numbers. What the hell was wrong with "Some Other Time"? Instead, we get that terrible "You're Awful (Nice)" thing that Sinatra sings to Betty Garrett. Still, there's "Come Up To My Place" and the opening sequence. The other thing I hadn't noticed before is that the movie makes reference to other MGM stars -- Mickey Rooney is a punchline at one point, and one of the new songs ("Primitive Man," w/ its offensive staging) has a line about "Mrs. Johnson's blonde boy Van." Even more than Hollywood per se, MGM is a closed system -- the apex of this is the rewritten "Drop That Name" in the film version of Bells Are Ringing, which replaces a lot of the fairly knowing Manhattan references with, again, names of studio personages, which doesn't even fit the setting or the point of the scene.

Friday, January 16, 2004

A little glum the last couple of days. Distracted from diss by Farber piece, which in turn has been interrupted by smaller tasks -- short pieces on Susie Ibarra/Mark Dresser and Johnnie Ray, and a proposal for a possible "Bob Dylan & Philosophy" volume.

Some people have their bad first marriages; I have grad school. As Kyle put it, "Yeah, when you're done, you have to start over."

Someday: Self-ownership, photographic representation.

Wednesday, January 14, 2004

Saw most of -Gabriel Over The White House- last night on TMC; strange political fantasy w/ Walter Huston as Pres. of US, literally possessed by an (avenging?) angel as he takes quasi-Fascist measures to solve the Depression, somehow managing to achieve world disarmament in the bargain. Made during Hoover administration, not released until FDR's. I feel like I read an essay about it recently, but can't remember where.

Possible future philosophical project: Relation between theories of mind and the question of whether literature has cognitive content. E.g.: On an elim. materialist account, all belief-desire explanations, and thus much of what is found in the trad. psychological novel (Austen, James), however sophisticated, must ultimately be meaningless. Or: On Davidsonian anomolous monism, statements about personal psychology may be literally true, but cannot be instances of general, properly scientific, truths about the world. So novels aren't full of falsehoods, but entirely idiosyncratic, hence uninteresting truths, of no great cognitive value. (Of course, there's going to be a further problem throughout all of this w/ the fact that psychologies in question are those ascribed to fictional characters; I think Daniel Krasner's dissertation may have touched on this.)

Tuesday, January 13, 2004

There's a "Latin singer" named Lina Romay in -Love Laughs at Andy Hardy-, which I bought Bree for Xmas and which she's watched about 25 times since. (Which reminds me to dig out Robert Ray's "The Avant-Garde Finds Andy Hardy." Curious about her, it turns out she worked with Cugat for a while, starting in Cuba before he came to Hollywood (which is how she ended up in movies) but I haven't been able to find any CDs featuring more than one or two of her vocals -- her best-known hit seems to be called "Bim Bam Bum," about 20 years before Joao's "Bim-Bom." Even in the movie (1947, the last one in the main AH series before a late-50s reunion), she's got a light but highly rhythmic style, and very polished and precise phrasing. Imdb says she was born in NYC, which is confusing -- and there's also another actress w/ the same name, that appeared in Mexican horror/softcore movies (titles on the order of -El Nympho Vampiro-) in the 70s and 80s.

No way to do justice here to the film itself; Bree pretends to think that it's a reliable guide to how college students speak and behave -- apparently, one is to call upperclassmen 'Uncle.' (But not 'Aunt.')

Monday, January 12, 2004

Long absence, but the following must be registered. A snake crawled out of Bree's toilet last night. She got up to go to the bathroom and woke me up screaming. She double-checked, thinking she might be half-asleep and hallucinating, but nope, snake. I didn't look at it myself until we called animal control -- the guy asked if it was still there, so I peeked into the bathroom, didn't see it at first, but there it was behind the tolet, wrapped around a plunger. So I described it to the animal control officer -- black with green patches -- and he said, oh, garter snake, sounding pretty matter-of-fact. But when the officer showed up, with a couple of long stick-like things, he said it was a BULL PYTHON! (He was very fast -- in and out in about two minutes, not waiting to be thanked. I wanted to find out if this was common. I also thought they maybe brought a cage.) It took Bree a while to be willing to use the bathroom after it was gone.

[Should be explained that Bree lives on the 6ths floor of a 7-floor apartment building in Koreatown. This was a neighbor's pet, one assumes -- I don't think it could have crawled through the sewer all the way from Macarthur Park, nearby. (Insert Jimmy Webb joke here.)]

B/c of this, we were up in the middle of the night for a while, watching a good chunk of -The Great Zigfield-. Great Ray Bolger specialty tap number; mystifyingly Oscar-winning performance (either the year after or before -The Good Earth-) by Luise Ranier. Even later that night, I woke up suddenly from a dream that I'd taken a sharp turn on Hwy 10 too fast, and was sailing off to my death. Tired the next day, obviously.

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?