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Friday, October 31, 2008

While the Campaign is Being Waged...

Here's a little something to tide you over until Wednesday, November 5th when writing will replace campaigning as my number one priority:

An interesting article from the New York Times about life imitating art - Following the Script: Obama, McCain and 'The West Wing.' Read it here.

In the meantime, I encourage my American readers to confirm your polling place, and make sure you schedule enough time in your day to vote. For my Californian readers, I encourage you to Vote No on Proposition 8 and Proposition 4. Links go to the Los Angeles Times Editorial endorsements for both of these positions.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Writer's Block

Yes, that is a pencil.

More Than a Story/More Than Words on a Page

Crack open those calendars and check your availability because starting tomorrow, REDCAT is holding what they are calling a two-day conversation about writing, Untitled: Speculations on the Expanded Field of Writing. If you haven't heard of it, REDCAT is CalArts multipurpose theater venue located at the back corner of the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles.

Some of the events of the next two days will include discussions about inclusions of non-alphabetic characters in writing and the relationship of conceptual writing to conceptual art. Guest speakers and panelists include Kenny Goldsmith (Soliloquy, 2001) and Young-Hae Chang of Young-Hae Chang Heavy Industries. For a full list of events, please check out the conference schedule and information page here.

And speaking of Young-Hae Chang Heavy Industries, if you haven't heard of them or seen their work, I recommend that you check it out here (warning, NSFW). They are a Seoul-based art-duo who bring new meaning to the idea of flash fiction.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The Water Glass is Half Full

The sky is falling. I'm not sure if you've noticed that, but it is. It's crashing down around us, harder than the falling stock market, deeper than gas prices, louder than shouting political analysts, and faster than melting polar ice caps. The sky is coming down, and I, for one, have been in a duck and cover position for the last few weeks.

But last night I had a phone call with a friend that had me laughing so hard my cold-afflicted lungs gave new meaning to the phrase "whooping cough." And that laughter made me feel better than I have in weeks, and eventually sent me off to sleep with unusual feelings of warmth and happiness.

These are some serious times, so it's easy to forget that sometimes the best way to cope with life's curve balls is a complete lack of seriousness.

Over on Living the Romantic Comedy, blogger Billy Mernit has followed that theme in his last couple posts, including his most recent review of Mike Leigh's new film Happy-Go-Lucky, beginning with the powerfully declared statement: If there's anything I've learned in my short time on this planet, it's that when you lose your sense of humor, you're toast. Read the rest here.

Of course, Billy was not the only writer discussing humor recently. Yesterday on NPR's All Things Considered, Shalom Auslander, author of Foreskin's Lament, talked about his favorite bed table book, which happens to be The Groucho Letters: Letters from and to Groucho Marx. In Auslander's words, Groucho is ideal protection against all things overly serious:

On that same small table, there are also books of philosophy, theology and a few that have been blessed enough to qualify as "Literature" (the qualification process is brutal, with a $50 nonrefundable Literature Application Fee and a 17-page questionnaire that must be notarized by James Wood). These books approach life and its myriad questions with seriousness and focus, and after just a few pages, they make me want to kill myself. Which is why Groucho is never far away; I can't do an hour shot of Beckett or Carver without an unstiff Groucho chaser.

You see, I've long been of the opinion that life is too serious to be taken seriously, and if that is my religion, then Groucho is the pope.
Even with recent events seeming particularly dark and dire, those who make their living on comedy have certainly been taking advantage of the opportunity to find the ridiculous in the serious, case in point, the recent resurgence in the quality of political satire over at Saturday Night Live.

There's a great scene in Sullivan's Travels (1941), a Preston Sturges film about a director who wants to make a movie about the struggles of the common man. To research for the movie, he strikes out on the road posing as a hobo and after a series of mishaps he finds himself a prisoner on a chain-gang. In the classic scene, the director and the rest of his beaten and weary fellow prisoners are treated to a showing of a comedy cartoon in a church. And as the movie rolls, the director looks around and sees something that startles him... the prisoners are laughing.

So the sky may be falling. Harder than the stock market, deeper than gas prices, louder than shouting political analysts, and faster than melting polar ice caps. But I tell you what. I'm sure as hell going to find a way to get my laughs as it comes crashing down.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Textual Inspiration #10

And then the sandy scrubland was domesticated by farm life. Overgrazed fields were dotted with cows, their withers shriveled and papery, their lowing desperate. An emptiness settled in the farmyards. Once Glinda saw a farm woman standing on her doorstep, hands sunk deep in apron pockets, face lined with grief and rage at the useless sky. The woman watched the carriage pass, and her face showed a yearning to be on it, to be dead, to be anywhere else other than on this carcass of a property.

- From Wicked by Gregory Maguire

Monday, October 13, 2008

Spreading Germs One Post at a Time

An entire week has gone by and I haven't posted, but I assure you all, I'm still here and planning lots of great literary posts soon. I've just been a little busy with a few things:

Being Jewish.

Being an Obama campaigner.

Being a good employee.

Going to the movies.

Having a cold.

So I'll be back soon, don't delete me from your bookmarks yet!

And uh... make sure to wash your hands after reading this post... I just sneezed on the blog.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

For Those Who Like Poetry

Compliments of a good friend, I bring you this beautiful article, The Poetry of Sarah Palin by Hart Seely, from Slate.

A sample:
"Befoulers of the Verbiage"

It was an unfair attack on the verbiage
That Senator McCain chose to use,
Because the fundamentals,
As he was having to explain afterwards,
He means our workforce.
He means the ingenuity of the American.
And of course that is strong,
And that is the foundation of our economy.
So that was an unfair attack there,
Again based on verbiage.

(To S. Hannity, Fox News, Sept. 18, 2008)