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Archive for April, 2009

andrew-sullivan“Andrew Sullivan’s story is inherently implausible. How did an HIV-positive gay Catholic conservative from the poky English town of East Grinstead end up as one of the most powerful writers in America?

“Today his blog, the Daily Dish, is regularly named as one of the most influential in America, and in November it reached 23m hits in the month. Politicians from Condoleezza Rice to Barack Obama himself have courted Sullivan in the hope of friendly posts. After he moved his blog to the website of the venerable Atlantic Monthly magazine, the traffic there rose by 30%.

“This is all the stranger since—unlike other big-name bloggers such as the liberal-Democratic Markos Moulitsas of the Daily Kos or the libertarian Republican Glenn Reynolds of Instapundit — he has no obvious political constituency. Sullivan is regarded by his critics as an attention-deficit bundle of contradictions. He is a conservative Christian who rages against the self-proclaimed forces of conservative Christianity. He is a pioneering crusader for gay marriage savaged by the gay left as ‘chief faggot’, herding homosexuals on behalf of The Patriarchy. He admits: ‘I’m very uncomfortable with audiences who agree with me… I’ve never really had a place where someone didn’t dispute my right to be there.’ So what is the glue that holds together the blogger-king?” (cont’d @ Intelligent Life)

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bigburger“Last week, the West Michigan Whitecaps minor league baseball team sold more than 100 mega-sized burgers on opening night.

“It’s made with five patties plus chili, American cheese, nacho cheese, tortilla chips, salsa, lettuce, tomato and sour cream — all piled on an 8-inch bun.

“The mammoth meal weighs more than 4 pounds. And, even in this era of scaling back, plenty of people took on the burger by themselves.

“This monster of a burger is called the Fifth Third burger. It has five 1/3-pound patties of beef.” (cont’d @ NPR)

A video of the burger being prepared can be viewed here.

[Click on image to “supersize.”]

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Judith F. Krug, who led the campaign by libraries against efforts to ban books, including helping found Banned Books Week, then fought laws and regulations to limit children’s access to the Internet, died Saturday in Evanston, Ill. She was 69. . . .

“As the American Library Association’s official proponent of the First Amendment’s guarantee of free speech since the 1960s, Ms. Krug (pronounced kroog) fought the banning of books, including ‘Huckleberry Finn,’ ‘Mein Kampf,’ ‘Little Black Sambo,’ ‘Catcher in the Rye’ and sex manuals. In 1982, she helped found Banned Books Week, an annual event that includes authors reading from prohibited books.

“She also fought for the inclusion of literature on library shelves that she herself found offensive, like ‘The Blue Book’ of the ultraconservative John Birch Society. The book is a transcript of a two-day monologue by Robert Welch at the founding meeting of the society in 1958.

“‘My personal proclivities have nothing to do with how I react as a librarian,’ Ms. Krug said in an interview with The New York Times in 1972. ‘Library service in this country should be based on the concept of intellectual freedom, of providing all pertinent information so a reader can make decisions for himself.’ (cont’d @ NY Times)

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05_Flatbed_1 - APRIL“Mexico is protesting what it says is a whopper of an insult.

An advertisement for Burger King‘s Texican Whopper burger that has run in Europe shows a small wrestler dressed in a cape resembling a Mexican flag. The wrestler teams up with a lanky American cowboy almost twice his height to illustrate the cross-border blend of flavors.

“‘The taste of Texas with a little spicy Mexican,’ a narrator’s voice says.

“The taller cowboy boosts the wrestler up to reach high shelves and helps clean tall windows, while the Mexican helps the cowboy open a jar.

“Mexico’s ambassador to Spain said Monday he has written a letter to Burger King’s offices in that nation objecting to the ad and asking that it be removed. Jorge Zermeno told Radio Formula that the ads ‘improperly use the stereotyped image of a Mexican.'” (more @ NY Daily News)

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evesedgwickEve Kosofsky Sedgwick died in New York yesterday, at the age of fifty-nine, following a long battle with breast cancer. The literary critic, who taught most recently at the CUNY Graduate Center, is best known for her formative work in the field of queer theory (in the books ‘Between Men’ and ‘Epistemology of the Closet’), including a number of provocative — and often scandalous — readings of classic literary texts. In the nineteen-eighties and nineties, her visibility as a member of Duke University’s English Department placed her at the forefront of the culture wars, but her largely symbolic role in those conflicts meant that criticism of her work seldom did justice to the subtlety and searing wit of her writing, nor to her sensitivity to the social and sexual bonds that tie us to each other and to the world.” (more @ The New Yorker)

RelatedEve Kosofsky Sedgwick, a Pioneer of Gay Studies and a Literary Theorist, Dies at 58

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fidrychMark Fidrych, an eccentric All-Star pitcher nicknamed ‘The Bird’ whose career was shortened by injuries, was found dead Monday in an apparent accident at his farm. He was 54. . . .

“The curly-haired right-hander was the American League Rookie of the Year in 1976 when he went 19-9 with a 2.34 ERA and 24 complete games. He spent all five of his major league seasons with the Detroit Tigers, compiling a 29-19 record and a 3.10 ERA. . . .

“Fidrych acquired the nickname ‘The Bird’ because of his resemblance to the Big Bird character on the Sesame Street television show. During games, he would bend down and groom the mound with his hands, talk to the baseball and slap five with teammates in the middle of the diamond.” (more @ ESPN)

RelatedIn ’76, Bird was the word

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kurt-vonnegutKurt Vonnegut’s longtime publisher, Delacorte Press, has announced it will issue 14 never-before published short stories by the author, who died in 2007, in a new collection, Look at the Birdie, slated for publication in November 2009. . . .

Look at the Birdie will include original Vonnegut illustrations and a foreword by Sidney Offit, a longtime Vonnegut confidant and the current curator of the George Polk Awards in Journalism. Bantam Dell publisher and editor-in-chief Nita Taublib and editor Kerri Buckley put the collection together. Taublib said, ‘Considered independently, these are 14 exceptionally intricate short pieces by an author whose voice we miss immensely. Taken together, they give the reader a clear sense of Kurt Vonnegut’s development into one of the most beloved and original American writers of all time.'” (more @ Publishers Weekly)

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bannedbooks“‘American Psycho’ is Bret Easton Ellis’ story of a sadistic murderer. ‘Unfriendly Fire’ is a well-reviewed empirical analysis of military policy. But it’s ‘Unfriendly Fire’ that does not have a sales rank — which means it would not show up in Amazon’s bestseller lists, even if it sold more copies than the ‘Twilight’ series. In some cases, being de-ranked also means being removed from Amazon’s search results.

“Amazon’s policy of removing ‘adult’ content from its rankings seems to be both new and unevenly implemented. . . .

“Our research shows that these books have lost their ranking: ‘Running with Scissors’ by Augusten Burroughs, ‘Rubyfruit Jungle’ by Rita Mae Brown, ‘Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic’ by Alison Bechdel, ‘The History of Sexuality, Vol. 1’ by Michel Foucault, ‘Bastard Out of Carolina’ by Dorothy Allison (2005 Plume edition), ‘Little Birds: Erotica’ by Anais Nin, ‘The Diving Bell and the Butterfly’ by Jean-Dominque Bauby (1997 Knopf edition), ‘Maurice’ by E.M. Forster (2005 W.W. Norton edition) and ‘Becoming a Man’ by Paul Monette, which won the 1992 National Book Award.

“Books that remain ranked include: ‘Naked’ by David Sedaris, ‘Tropic of Cancer’ by Henry Miller, ‘American Psycho’ by Bret Easton Ellis, ‘Wifey’ by Judy Blume, ‘The Kiss’ by Kathryn Harrison, the photobooks ‘Playboy: Helmut Newton’ and ‘Playboy: Six Decades of Centerfolds,’ ‘Naked Lunch’ by William Burroughs, ‘Incest: From ‘A Journal of Love” by Anais Nin, ‘The Diving Bell and the Butterfly’ by Jean-Dominque Bauby (2007 Vintage International edition), ‘Maurice’ by E.M. Forster (2005 Penguin Classics edition). . . .

“But as troubling as the unevenness of the policy of un-ranking and de-searching certain titles might be, it’s a bit beside the point. It’s the action itself that is troubling: making books harder to find, or keeping them off bestseller lists on the basis of their content can’t be a good idea.” (more @ LA Times)

Related

Update

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girls-gone-wild“A Philadelphia cable network’s early morning broadcast of a Good Friday service at the Vatican abruptly changed to something wildly different – a 30-second ‘Girls Gone Wild ad.

“Comcast spokesman Jeff Alexander says the 2 a.m. Friday programming glitch was due to a required test of the Emergency Alert System. He says such tests are usually done in the overnight hours.

“The test automatically tunes viewers to a preselected channel that would provide information in the event of an emergency. But during tests, the channel airs regular programming, which in this case included a paid advertisement for the racy videos.

“Alexander says the problem affected the network’s entire local area, but only one person called to complain.” (via Huffington Post)

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crumblastsupperRobert Crumb‘s cover for “The Last Supplement to the Whole Earth Catalog,” from Jeremy Barker’s collection of 100+ pop culture adaptations of Leonardo da Vinci’s The Last Supper. (more @ Popped Culture,”; via Wired)

[Click image for a larger version of the R. Crumb cover.]

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roy-rogersAn anonymous bidder acquired the ‘King of Cowboys’ Roy Rogers‘ OM-45 Deluxe Martin guitar at Christie’s on April 3. One of the rarest and considered among many collectors the most coveted Martin guitar, the 1930 instrument was put up for auction by the Roy Rogers-Dale Evans Museum in Branson, Mo., and attracted a winning bid of $554,500.” (cont’d @ Antiques & the Arts)

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neurotic-states[Living part-time in Brooklyn, New York and part-time in Northampton, a college town in western Massachusetts, I am unsurprised by the findings that the northeastern states are among the most neurotic, as well as among the most open, “openness” reflected by “curiosity, intellect, and creativity at the individual level.”]

From “The Geography of Personality”:

Neuroticism is characterized by ‘anxiety, stress, impulsivity, and emotional instability and is related to antisocial behavior, poor coping, and poor health.’ Unsurprisingly, the study found that highly neurotic states had lower rates of exercise, higher rates of disease, and a shorter life expectancy. In these states, people are less likely to join clubs and spend time with friends. The geographic clustering of neuroticism is strong: it’s prevalent in the Northeast and much of Appalachia, and, for some reason, in the states of the lower Mississippi Valley. The West is decidedly less neurotic than the East, you may be unsurprised to hear.

(More @ The Map Scroll, including maps charting the geographical variations of  the big five” personality traits: Extraversion, Agreeableness, Conscientiousness, Neuroticism, and Openness.)

Related: A Theory of the Emergence, Persistence, and Expression of Geographic Variation in Psychological Characteristics

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vasectomy“It is too early to proclaim a bona fide trend in elective sterilization, because no organization regularly tracks the number of vasectomies performed on an annual or even a monthly basis. The most recent comprehensive data come from a study published in The Journal of Urology in 2006, which estimated that about 527,000 vasectomies were performed in this country each year.

“But the recent anecdotal data, if they hold, would have a historical parallel in the Great Depression, when the birth rate fell sharply.” (more @ NY Times)

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gop-govs[“I’m shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here!” (Claude Rains in “Casablanca”)]

“The list of governors threatening to decline federal stimulus money last month read like a list of Republicans considering running for president in 2012: Govs. Mark Sanford, Bobby Jindal and Sarah Palin led the anti-stimulus charge. 

“But what began with a bang is ending with something closer to a whimper. . . .

“All three found that praise from the conservative movement in Washington meant nothing to furious state legislators of both parties. And in the end, along with other conservative Republican governors, the three submitted letters in recent days asking to be eligible for federal funds, a spokesman for the White House Office of Management and Budget confirmed.” (more @ Politico.com)

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short-storiesIn Sunday’s New York Times, A.O. Scott writes in praise of the American short story (long my favorite literary form), challenging “the conventional wisdom in American letters . . . that size matters, that the big-game hunters and heavyweight fighters . . . go after the Great American Novel,” and posits this fascinating future for short fiction:

“The new, post-print literary media are certainly amenable to brevity. The blog post and the tweet may be ephemeral rather than lapidary, but the culture in which they thrive is fed by a craving for more narrative and a demand for pith. And just as the iPod has killed the album, so the Kindle might, in time, spur a revival of the short story. If you can buy a single song for a dollar, why wouldn’t you spend that much on a handy, compact package of character, incident and linguistic invention? Why wouldn’t you collect dozens, or hundreds, into a personal anthology, a playlist of humor, pathos, mystery and surprise?

“The death of the novel is yesterday’s news. The death of print may be tomorrow’s headline. But the great American short story is still being written, and awaits its readers.” (more @ NY Times)

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chabon“Thirty years ago the American Jewish fiction of Philip Roth and Saul Bellow was all about Yiddish insults, blonde shiksas, and getting away from the past. Today’s talented crop of young Jewish writers, such as Nathan Englander, Michael Chabon, and Dara Horn, are weaving tales bound in a newfound ethnic pride that has revitalized Jewish literature in America.” (cont’d @ Vanity Fair)

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“In “Defiance,” a clunky but well-meaning action film set during World War II and starring Daniel Craig, the Bielski brothers save hundreds of fellow Polish Jews by battling Nazis in the Belarussian forest. Directed by Edward Zwick and based on a true story, the movie, released around New Year’s, tried among other things to counter Hollywood’s usual tales of Jewish helplessness during the Shoah.

“Whether it did, or instead implied that Jews who didn’t fight bore a measure of responsibility for their own fate, became a matter of some passing debate in America.

“But the film provoked a different sort of fuss shortly before it arrived here some weeks later. Movie critics in Poland wondered whether Hollywood would ever get around to showing Polish partisans as heroes, as opposed to anti-Semites. . . .

“As Europe diversifies, nearly every nation and culture on the continent seems to battle for victimhood status. Poles have especially good reason to see themselves as long oppressed, having been fought over and occupied for much of the last century by vicious regimes. Shifting political power struggles during and after the war, among other complications of Polish Jewish history, led some Polish Jews at certain points to side with Soviets against Nazis and Polish partisans. The whole moral morass, essential to Polish identity, tends to be lost on outsiders, many of whom unthinkingly regard the country, throughout most of the last century at least, as just a Jewish killing field.” (more @ NY Times)

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The Crumpled Press, the brainchild of [Jordan] McIntyre and [Alexander] Bick, publishes work by new authors and sets previously unpublished, notable lectures and articles into proper books — hand-sewn — on culture, politics, self-reflection, and poetry. ‘It’s original, thought-provoking work that might otherwise be tossed aside,’ says Bick, who is pursuing a history PhD at Princeton. ‘Hence the name Crumpled Press.’ In the four years since the outfit’s birth, they’ve published nine titles — from a series of fictional voicemails placed on 9/11 to a meditation on Darwinian selection, sexuality, and fashion — priced from $5 to $25. . . . 

“Today the four editors work with each author to create a book’s artisanal feel, reproducing journal sketches or deliberating fonts, flyleaves, and covers, to savor the printed-page aesthetic in an era of digitized technology — including sites for e-books, such as Google Books or the Amazon Kindle. [Anthony] Grafton’s Codex in Crisis reflects on this very topic. Expanded from a 2007 New Yorker article, the book was first released in a limited edition of 250 copies, each hand-numbered with a letterpress cover and holding a fold-out color plate.” (more @ University of Chicago Magazine)

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cartoon-protest“Prints of the Danish cartoon depicting Islam‘s Prophet Mohammed as a suicide bomber in 2005 — much to the chagrin of the international Muslim community — will now be sold by the Denmark Free Press Society for $250 each. One thousand copies are to be printed and sold, with each having a designated number and signature by the artist, Kurt Westergaard, who has been in hiding due to numerous death threats. . . .

“The controversial cartoons caused riots throughout the Muslim world in early 2006, resulting in a number of deaths, property damage and a general wounding of diplomatic relations between east and west that has still not fully healed.” (more @ Huffington Post)

“Westergaard, 73, is one of 12 cartoonists whose drawings of the Muslim prophet were first published in Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten in September 2005, sparking controversy among Muslims worldwide.” (more @ Straits Times)

Related

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housingworksOn Saturday, May 2nd, “The Millions.com” will lead their first annual “Walking Tour of New York’s Independent Bookstores.” The 11-stop itinerary begins in the East Village, continues through NoLita and SOHO, crosses the Brooklyn Bridge into DUMBO, and ends after 4 or so hours of walking and book-browsing in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

The complete, 11-stop  itinerary includes: 

Additional information on the event can be found here.

A full-size Google map of the tour, with walking directions, can be found here.

RelatedLiterary DUMBO: An Afternoon Walk Under the Bridges in Search of Books

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