Sunday, February 22, 2004

No ranchera from upstairs today -- "People Are Strange" instead, and now, unknown alt-something (recall that I can only hear the bassline). Wait! It's "This Charming Man"!

Spent last night at my parents'; hadn't seen them in weeks. Mostly talked, but we also watched an episode of Shazam, the '70s version of Captain Marvel comics in which Billy Batson travels around what appears to be the San Fernando Valley (this one burger place looked weirdly familiar) in an RV with 'Mentor,' played by Les Tremayne (radio's "Mr. First Nighter," and, as Kristi has discovered, a semi-regular on Perry Mason), helping troubled kids out of scrapes, w/ attached import re adolescent social adjustment. (Ending credits list 3 Ph.D.'s as 'educational advisors.')

The strangest thing about this show is the communication between Billy/Marvel and 'the gods,' for whom "Shazam!" is an acronym -- S for Solomon, H for Hercules (ok, they're not all gods), and so on. (They're animated, in a cutout, one-mouth-moving-at-a-time style; the rest of the show is live action.) Curious to find the ancient heroes mouthing a soft '70s humanism. Zeus, for example, seems especially worried about the harmfulness of peer pressure, while Achilles quotes Hamlet: "To thine own self be true." (Bree notes the irony, given the original context.)

Found a couple of old issues (c. '91) of the Kootenay-assoc. (or at least Jeff Derksen-edited) mag Writing in my old room. (I think these must have ended up there during one of several post-college transitional periods.) Spent the most time with the earliest piece I've ever seen of Rod Smith's, a section of something called "C.I.A. Sentences." Intro:

"CIA Sentences" is composed of sentences from books purchased by the Central Intelligence Agency. The books were purchased from bookstores in which I worked during the years 1987-1989. These stores were referred to as "unclassified stackers." One book is represented by one sentence. When multiple copies of a single title were ordered I chose to treat is as one book represented by one sentence."

Interestingly charged way of settling on 'found' material; but still a lot of room for intentional selection and arrangement. Most effects produced through -- Parataxis:

[...] Beatie and Barnard (1979) reported that the mean
duration of simultaneous speech in face-to-face conversation
is 454 milliseconds. Perhaps the first visible sign of this
unrest came with de Kooning's show entitled "Woman." [...]

Recontextualisation: "Add to the list. This is it, this is me."

And the sinister floating question of why the CIA needed some of these texts: "The heady ambience of the gasfitter's ball, which she attended against her stepfather's command, had excited the somewhat vacuous-looking Miss Mary Sutherland to reciprocate Mr. Hosner Angel's interest in her."

I assume the methodology in Smith's recent books is far less strict -- the fragmentation is phrasal, and there's a sense that the collaged material has passed through an organizing mind differently -- but the tone is sometimes notably similar.

Also found one of the first things I ever published outside of a school organ -- before any poetry or music criticism -- a essay (13 short chunks, originally meant to be 'shuffled' and read in any order) called "A Pack of Avaiators" from Louis Cabri's Hole (around the same time as the above mags, actually), on Auden's The Orators (plus a Blue Aeroplanes song based on "Journal of an Airman") and Ashbery's The Tennis-Court Oath, with glances at Christopher Dewdney, Avital Ronnel, Huidobro, O'Hara's "Call me..." poem, masturbation and technology! Prose style [definitely under the sign of The Telephone Book] seems almost unbelievable to me now; but for 21, it's got something. (Actually, some of the piece is about what it means to repudiate one's early work.) Tempting to work up an online version -- brief quotation seems highly inadvisable.

Also rec'd a pineapple upside-down cake and three bunches of fresh rapini.

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