Going dark

I'm working on a new thing – I'm always working on a new thing – because I believe in moving forward and I enjoy being useful. Recent events have convinced me that being online is either very important or a waste of time; prior to that I thought it might have been somewhere in between, but the in-between – again, it seems – can only be that which comes after: that which is in retrospect, and not during. So it's time to kick off and end things. It's over. I have other places to be. So do you.

Pictured: Mr Mojo Risin', Paris 22 Feb 2011.

Goodnight, everybody.

La vérité est là

Season five of Maupassant is my favourite.


New favourite Degas

Danseuses bleues, 1893, Musée d'Orsay.


When I was down you just stood there grinning

Major book chains are closing up. Meanwhile in France (pictured) where the selling price is fixed by publishers, book stores are still open for business. Note also that retailers lease fewer than four floors, don't serve coffee or sell CDs and DVDs. So Amazon has won... at least until governments (= consultants) decide the postal service isn't financially justifiable.

A London publisher told me about the Christmas when Amazon UK demanded that they cut their prices. The publisher refused, so Amazon switched off the 'Buy' buttons on all their titles. The publisher refused to back down and Amazon caved – eventually. Stories like that make me like bookstores even if they are a chain.

I'll remember Borders in Auckland for stocking my novels (ta Chris B) and wish the staff well. If the Civic premises are going to vacated, now is the time for a DKD revival.

Also on the theme of change The National Enquirer has been staking out Steve Jobs. I don't want to know and I'm not going to link to it but I do want to point out that the last time a reporter pulled this kind of stunt the Tooth Fairy bit his lips off.


Hellcats of the specific

Supplementary / particular images from things I've been thinking / reading / posting about this week. Namaste: Frederick Elms, Tak Fujimoto, Ernest Laszlo, Anon.


Happy V Day

Big ups to Jaybyrd Slim and Dapper D for tonight's do at The Nitty Gritty, named after this number, apparently:

Related: NY 2011 playlist from DJ Pierre C.


Nice up the dance

Idiots are remaking Logan's Run. David Lynch has found the missing scenes for Blue Velvet. (This will finally explain the 'Look Down' photo I've always wondered about.) The witty Craig Ferguson interviews the charming Emily Blunt. The comprehensive Phillip Matthews exposes the colourless Black Swan. (Me, I left before it ended.) Totally digging on the new Lady Gaga single.

Add your voice to the sound of the crowd

Three articles on authors and social media. From last year, Daniel Kalder writes about why authors should and shouldn't use social media:
Social media are great enablers of the magical thinking that afflicts authors and publishers alike. What do I mean? Well, consider the following essential truths about publishing: crap sells, except when it doesn't. Quality never sells, except when it does. Good men die screaming in the gutter; the wicked flourish. To quote William Goldman: nobody knows anything. Given that we live in a state of total chaos, it is only natural that individuals study the chicken's entrails for guidance. What's that spelled out in the guts? Blogging! Facebook! Awesome! What could go wrong? Blogging is free, plus you can subvert the hierarchical media model and go direct to your readers. Wait for it, but here comes the magical thinking: Hey ma, lookit me! Any minute now I'm going to go viral and everybody's going to buy my book!

It's not only authors who entertain such dreams. Publishers do too. Actually, chances are that if you do write something that goes viral, it'll be the blog itself, not your name or your book. People will read your masterpiece and a few seconds later click a link taking them to a Brazilian baby with amazing samba moves. Blink once, twice, your "viral" blog is forgotten. Believe otherwise and you are in for mucho disappointment.

Resist magical thinking.
Full article is here.

More recently, Anis Shivani suggests shunning it all:
These "rules" totally go against every prescription for writing success you'll hear as a young writer from all quarters: the conformity-driven MFA system, the publishing industry's hype-machine, successful writers who act either like prima donnas or untouchable mystics, the marketing experts who seek to impose advertising rules on the writing product. Overpaid editors, illiterate agents, arrogant gatekeepers, and stupid reviewers want you to bargain away your soul for a pittance -- the bids in the market escalate downward, a reverse auction where you compete with the lowest of the low to be acknowledged as an entity that counts.
Full article is here. (Tip of the hat to Crime Watch.)

And from Cory Doctorow a report on what happens when the new model backfires:
Six years ago, Diane Duane started to ask her readers if they'd be willing to subsidize her next book through subscriptions as she wrote it. Things went great for a while, and then they didn't. Diane's health, circumstances, and life went through a long, bumpy patch and her book went off the rails.
Now she's finished it, and put it online with a long and heartfelt apology to the readers who'd backed her.

This is an important -- and underreported -- problem with "micropatronage" and "street performer protocol"-style artistic experiments. Writers are often late with their books. Sometimes they're so late that the books are given up for dead. [...]
This is normal, and we know how to deal with it in the world of traditional publishing. But in the world of public writing-as-performance where there are hundreds or possibly thousands of people with a financial stake in the book -- people who aren't editors at a house with 400 books under contract, but rather people who've never been around a book during its creation -- it gets really difficult and sticky.
Full article here.


Now playing

It's so inconsequential.


Camden fox outside the Jazz Café; Bridget Riley wall painting at the National Gallery; not Banksy (but wouldn't it be cool if it was?), Fortess Road.


A diary of crossed lines

Donald Rumsfeld has a memoir out. Early reviews say it dodges the questions and shunts responsibility until the very end, so in that respect it sounds true to the politician. Writes Lyric Winik:
Yet detractors and supporters alike say that on a personal level Don Rumsfeld is warm, funny, and generous. He is not a petty gossip, like Henry Kissinger.
Is anyone a petty gossip like Henry Kissinger? From The Final Days by Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein:
Nixon was often on the phone with Kissinger for fifteen minutes or longer. The President was repetitive, sometimes taking minutes to come to a point.. Kissinger occasionally came out of his office after such calls. 'Who was taking that?' he would ask. One of the four women stationed in the small outer office would raise her hand. 'Wasn't that the worst thing you ever heard in your life?' Kissinger would ask. [p. 191]

... Kissinger seemed singularly obsessed with his own prestige and image. If he had long list of telephone messages, he would often call back Nancy Maginnes first, then Governor Rockefeller, then movie stars and celebrities and then the President... He assigned his aides the distasteful job of heading off negative stories and lodging complaints about those that made it into print. The job was especially difficult because the offending stories were often true; Kissinger himself was, at times, the unwitting source. He let information slip as he courted Washington's most influential journalists. [pp. 193-194]
If you have some long afternoons to kill I (once more) recommend Bradley Graham's By His Own Rules: The Ambitions, Successes and Ultimate Failures of Donald Rumsfeld (Public Affairs, 804pp). The day I lugged that puppy out of the bookstore was the day I admitted my obsession. Now offline, here's an original Muse Lounge entry on Rumsfeld, fighting and so on:
Hitting others
Boxing doesn't seem real anymore. The fighters are real and their punches break bones but the bouts that Don King books and is paid for are so strategic and limited that the outcome surprises nobody except for the chumps who place their bets. For newcomers to the sport, Don is the guy with a Bride of Frankenstein hair-do grinning at the camera and waving the little American flags like a puppeteer trying to cheer up a sick child.

Sunday's middleweight title bout between French challenger Morrade Hakkar and American incumbent Bernard Hopkins was promoted as a Rocky III-style metaphor for national tensions during the current Iraqi conflict. Hakkar literally skipped and ran around the ring for the entire first round until the veangeful champion closed in and whupped him. And so the crowds did cheer.

But the better metaphor, grimly, was to be found in the bout New Zealanders were watching before that, when our own David Tua went up for the second time against Hasim Rahman. If hanging off the other guy like a woozy lover and sandbagging him to an unsatisfying draw is boxing, Rahman is a world beater. Tua was less frustrated by his opponent's long arms than he was by Lennox Lewis's. Clearly exhausted from throwing big blows, he still produced surprising volleys late in the game to try and break Rahman's saggy dominance, but never quite succeeded.

The two great learning moments came in round six, when Tua connected a humdinger and Rahman looked goosed (Tua was still too tired to close) and in the last round when Rahman raised his arms and declared himself the winner about 15 seconds before the final bell. You don't do that to boys from South Auckland, and Tua lashed out at Rahman like he was going to kill him. Really and properly.

As a casual observer I haven't seen that sort of blood anger in Tua before; the last time it surfaced in a Don King bout, it was in Mike Tyson. A pissed-off and disrespected Tua is a truly shit-scary prospect: how long will he be allowed to remain the nice guy? For his career's sake, not long, Don King must be hoping; but personally I hope Tua stays the patently good-natured fellow he seems to be.

Likewise the war, which we all hoped would be savagely rapid but also do kind of nice things for people, whether they be shoeless Iraqi conscripts or Dick Cheney's pals at cocktail hour. Now however, about ten days in, matters are taking more familiar shape, and the war of liberation has become a fight more or less like the others we have known, read about or watched: a slow slog compromised by surprising nastiness, with a predetermined but unsatisfying result looming, and a guy everyone pays but nobody likes waving the flag.

And once again - the boxing metaphor stretched to nanofilament width here - the fools are the ones watching and laying their bets. Viewers are not happy to find out what those great looking weapons really get up to, and they are shocked to see that women and children are dying. I'm cynical about these reactions insofar as the reverse implication is that young or middle-aged men dying is somehow by the by. Practically nobody signs up to die. (Even some of the 9/11 hijackers didn't know suicide was part of the deal.)

Now we're in the thick of a recognisably war-shaped war the press can get down to the fundamentals of who's shot what, and apportioning blame. The Iraq conflict is a self-declared battle of technology: not a proving ground, but a living, killing strategy based on new ideas like unmanned drones and software that anticipates the food, fuel and ordnance needs of a sprawling, highly ambulatory fighting force.

It is a mantra of battle to never advance beyond your supply lines. Logistics are as dangerous as the other guy, as Custer and Rommel both found out. Rather than ignoring the supply-line maxim, the strategy for fighting in Iraq is actually based on refuting it, calling as it does on 150,000 troops (less than half used to mop up the shell-shocked enemy in Kuwait) to move very, very quickly around the Iraqis, isolate them and pick them off during or after the entry into Baghdad.

Although the theory is now associated with Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, it's been around a while. It's been called things like "21st century" and "modern" warfare, and seems, broadly, to be a logical response to the popular history of Vietnam where a superior but traditional armed force was successfully resisted by more mobile guerrilla-style fighters.

Whether or not it works is in the future tense. But we are already hearing an echo of Vietnam in Washington. The media are tut-tutting and spokespersons are clearing their throats in order to speak up about what the strategy ought to have been. There's a sense that Rumsfeld is being set up, and you can see it in his eyes and hear it in his voice.

In a recent (March 30) CNN-broadcast press conference Rumsfeld defended the strategy and attacked the press for the way they were reporting the war. Around the same time there was an announcement that the U.S. would be sending an additional 100,000 troops to Iraq.

Insisting on confidence, attacking the press, and escalation: it's a one-two-three combination. Although Rumsfeld's situation is different, the mood of the fight reminds me of Robert McNamara, another moderniser of military strategy later hung out to dry.
-- Muse Lounge, Mar 31, 2003


New favourite bassist

Esperanza Spalding live in Copenhagen. At NPR Music she talks about her decision to play the double bass:
That's like the vein of jazz... It's that ability to immediately be able to communicate with someone that you don't know. And in those first five minutes of this instrument that was completely foreign to me, in a way I touched right upon that vein. I mean, I hit it, I hit that nerve. Now, after nine years, everything I've learned about jazz kind of all comes back to that first realization in that room.
Esperanza's official website is here.


Nice internet

When Ain't It Cool News failed to load the other day I got this:

And this is how Poet In the City encourages you to load images, because they are poets:

At Hark A Vagrant, Kate Beaton does Nancy Drew, brilliantly: (Click through for the full strip.)

And the polite Gilbert & George do 'Bend It.' When I was living in the East End I used to see them around all the time, but then again everyone does. They've been there since the 1970s.



Watching Margot at the Wedding: basically a movie about actors meeting a real person. Is Jennifer Jason Leigh the Nick Nolte of her generation? She can do drama, action, SF, anything.

The pic is from David Cronenberg's Existenz - the best thing he's done, I think, better even than Crash. He talked to Shivers #65 about Leigh's character Geller:
I wanted to have the lead character be an artist, but I didn't want to make her a film-maker because that leads to a whole other level of discussion. I wanted some distance, and I wanted some inventiveness, but I still use it as a platform for comment about the artistic process and, to some extent, the film-making process.
So, when Jennifer gets up on stage at the beginning and says: the games world is in a kind of a trance, people are programmed to accept so little, but the possibilities are so great - I'm really talking about film. I'm talking about Hollywood. People's expectations are shaped by Hollywood now and it's almost as if they can't relate to any other kind of film-making. Which is a terrifying thing for me as it means that my possibilities are therefore very limited and I might be losing an audience that can actually understand me at all.

I'll stay the same

Getting your Robert Smith on.