Sunday, December 18, 2011

Bug Bomb

I got that call I'd hoped never to get. Thousands of lives gone in an instant. The culprits? Two dragonflies, their lifeless carcasses mute testimony to the price they'd paid for the wanton act of terror they'd prepetuated less than an hour earlier.

Two hills, literally decimated, the remaining living within wounded more than just physically, this would be a trauma they'd carry forever, each within themselves, like a giant breadcrumb.

"Well, at least they were only ants," said one of the first responders, a Japanese Beetle mounted on the back of a drone honey bee, himself an EMT (Emergency Mound Technician) as a group of crickets clicked the news out to a shocked insectoid kingdom.

"Only ants? Have you forgotten what you are?" asked the chief of the Firefly Department as a clot of horsefly photographers tried to get closer to the scene to record it with their 10,000 lenses. A group of citizen fireflyarazzi lighted the scene with their flashbulbs as if on cue.

Meanwhile, somewhere a lady mantis -- post-mating -- devoured her mate while a spider hanging from a branch looked on with something like amusement. A half world away Gregor Samsa awoke, looked in the mirror and exclaimed "WTF!"

Friday, September 16, 2011

Everyone Goes To Dave's (Or at least Ed Champion and Maud Newtwon do)

The shadow of David Foster Wallace, the deep thinking writer of the Ed and Maud generation, is dragged out for another post postmortem post in the form of litblogger disagreement.

(Click headline above to be whisked to Ed's piece, where you'll find a link to Maud's original, "Another Thing to Sort of Pin on David Foster Wallace.")

It's Ed's deep thinking about what he considers Maud's not deep enough thinking. Fine, I've always enjoyed a ligblogger dust-up, though in this one I'm not taking any side. I've been on the sidelines of their generation's considerations and disagreements for years, always in the market for the zeitgeist made visible through their heated debates and always hoping for some sort of revelation/epiphany that I can bookmark to my "The Spirit of Lit" folder.

Both of these litbloggers have treated me and my writing (almost a hobby to their more serious vocations) in a kindly way, as relations might treat a semi-clueless uncle who says something at the Thanksgiving dinner table that embarrasses everyone and yet has a kernel of truth. And perhaps here one might best view that type of cluelessness through DFW's lens, as I've always felt that he was a writer who, intentionally or not, drew a line in the sand that my generation (children of the fifties) could not completely cross. Maybe it was the Youth For Wallace, guardians at the gates checking papers, eyes wide with the question "do you get it?" that sort of cooled me on the scene. I don't know. But as most litbloggers are hot for the current thing, now that DFW is "cold" perhaps one can examine the man's work without the attendant border patrols, cheerleaders and distractions.

No one writer is as representative as all of this as Maud's thesis and Ed's disagreement seems to make us believe. He is aggrieved that DFW is painted by Maud as the signifier of all litblog writing and the shallow style that accompanies that pursuit. I like that Maud makes an effort to explain what it is all about, yet wonder if there are more ingredients to the recipe than she lets on. Could the stew be a tad spicier? She mentions irony. I think that the real irony here is that one of the major lit players of the past decade, Dave Eggers, held DFW at arm's length, seemingly not tremendously comfortable with the product of what it turns out was DFW's tortured mind. That Maud gave such a mind credit for such creation, in no less than "The Paper of Record" is a somewhat subversive act that deserves kudos. That Ed took her to task, in a bruising critique, may be a marvelous statement of his own personal view of litblogging and in a larger sense the spirit of lit. Personally, I think Ed doesn't prove any lack in Maud's thesis, but rather the limited influence and perhaps -- in the big picture -- the ultimate short shelf life of the works of David Foster Wallace. Maud, in highlighting litbloggers, at least nails that limited nature.

Of course I'm just the clueless uncle at the Thanksgiving dinner. Still, I would be surprised to see DFW have anything near the continuing influence of a Hemingway (Oh, alright, THE Hemingway.) And I'm afraid that the examination of the often navel-gazing DFW that Ed and Maud engage in is perhaps an exercise in marking time until "the next big thing," which, coincidentally, is one of the things I always read them both to find anyway.

Could you pass me the cranberry sauce, please?

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Podunk Loses Podunk: Writer Says, “Don’t Cry For Me Arts and Leisure”

By Sammie Tang

(New England, USA 05/18/2011) -- J.D. McStoney, publisher of McStoney’s Big Stein Of Internet Foam, who had sued Nihil Podunk for rights to the Nihil Podunk character won today on a technicality: The court decided that Podunk is not the owner of the fictional character known as “Nihil Podunk”.

The writer sowed the seeds of his loss when he created a character now in his early seventies. Podunk's copyright has run out even though he was only created a few years ago.

A deciding factor to the verdict, said an anonymous juror after the decision was handed down, was the very success of the character, so realistic that the jury was unsure if Podunk might actually exist. Or not.

A jubilant McStoney stated at a press conference, "I now own Nihil Podunk."

McStoney, speaking to a bunch of clowns in a traveling media circus at his transcendental estate located in New England, USA -- one of the new geographic locations created by eBay's "seller's region" listings -- said "Now I can go forward with my plan to market Nihil Podunk action figures."

Podunk answered this threat immediately. Speaking from the Spahn Ranch in California, once headquarters of the Manson (Charlie, not Marilyn) gang, and now a Spa for the semi-famous and mildly notorious, Podunk looked fit and robust after his Lamb's Blood Bath and Prairie Dog Sidewinder BBQ weekend as he said, "McStoney can say whatever he wants, but I refuse to stand by idly” -- though this reporter didn't see him moving around much -- “while he tries to turn me into the GI Joe of the new Millennium."

At one end of the ranch’s pool could be seen Joe Esterhaus, at the spa to recuperate from the shock of being involved with more bomb movies than the AV guy for the Luftwaffe. “Quality screenwriter,” said Podunk as he turned and rolled his eyes heavenward.

Brian Wilson passed and Podunk let out with a “Hey Brian, how they hangin’? Ten at a time?”

A surprised Wilson said, “Huh, wha? Oh, that’s right, I’m Brian Wilson. Wow, cool. Hey thanks, uh, who are you?” Podunk merely scowled and then waved to Robert Evans and George Hamilton, who were engaged in an intensely competitive “tan-off” by the reflection pond where they were enjoying their own reflections.

As the final answer to the loss of his character "Nihil Podunk", Podunk concluded that "I will fight this thing and as far as I'm concerned the jury is still out. If not literally, then -- at least to my mind -- figuratively."

One possibility, said Podunk, was that he might, on reconsideration, become completely idle, thereby undermining the success of an action figure.

“In short, I'm not going to stand still for this until I actually decide to, you know, stand still."

Sunday, March 06, 2011

My Autoblography* at We Make Zines**

Bounced around (and in and out of) a few writer's groups and realized, to paraphrase George Thorogood's "I Drink Alone" that when I write alone I prefer to be by myself.

My first publication was in 2nd grade with a Jungle Book type story: "How The Giraffes Got their Necks". Many years later I moved to Brattleboro Vermont, where Kipling wrote and published "The Jungle Book," which he had conceived years earlier in India. In between those two events I worked for northern New Jersey newspapers as a columnist/reporter/photographer; wrote articles on film for Cinefantastique, Fangoria, and Filmfax; wrote on collectibles for many publications; had humorous fiction on,,, and A couple pieces of fiction ("Full Circle" about a homeless woman carrying around a fortune in rare stamps at the bottom of her shopping bag and "Flight of Fire" about who blew up the Zeppelin Hindenburg (that's the "Oh the humanity!" one)) published in nationally circulated mags.

Started zining around the time McSweeney's started. Reacted by doing Philly based zine parody McStoney's. Next up was a couple of issues of Whirligigzine, after I bought the name Whirligig, etc. from editor and former owner Frank Marcopolos. Currently I'm throwing together a new issue of Whirligigzine. Leave me a note if you want to be alerted when it's ready. It will have everything from Coney Islands for the mind ("What the hell is that," you ask) to Kerouac to satirical-parody fake memoir to stuff-shirted litcrit to popping the pomo fandom bubble to why science fiction won't last to laughing at things worth laughing at to well, whatever else is laying around that won't fit anywhere else. (I'm thinking of starting it with an anti-manifesto manifesto, which maybe I'll also post here.)

If you're curious about how to categorize me, I fit in "lit" and "humor" and "weird" with the slightest bit of "steampunk." There, I'm pigeonholed -- now please don't ruffle my feathers. (Oh, and I'm really freakin' old. Yeah, the horror. The horror.)

After everything else I continue to do the zine thing. Obviously.

* Cute, right?
** Sign up required.

The 'Atlas Shrugged' movie: Worth seeing? - The Week

Do I have any insights into Rand's classic novel, reviled by many, but also beloved by many, Atlas Shrugged? Not really, other than to say that time has not diminished its place in the popular imagination. As for how it presented industry and economics in the U.S., it may be instructive to look at the fact that one of Rand's acolytes was Alan Greenspan, who had a role in putting the U.S. in its current financial situation. It will be hard to sit in the film's audience and tell yourself "It's just a movie."

I like to read the original Whirligig (#3-9) -- Do you?

Thursday, March 03, 2011

We Make Zines

Yeah, So Do I

Lets see how this zine thing goes. A little bit of zine history is in order, though I'm not going to provide it for your reading pleasure right now. (Oh, it will be illustrated; maybe even annotated, David Foster Wallace (RIP) style.) Maybe I'll even sell the idea to a publisher and then all the zinesters can call me a sellout. Won't that be fun!

But as my endeavor Whirligigzine has "zine" right in it, you'd have to imagine I know something about the area, right? Well, sure, I know "something" but with the various factions of zining out there what I know might not be the information you're looking for in your quest to understand the world of zines. (You are on a quest, right?) Let me say that I've met some real characters in my decade + of zine activity: Somebody should make some wacky cards characterizing them.

I am new at We Make Zines. It will be interesting to check the community out. After the wild and wooly doings on alt.zines over the years, I would imagine things at WMZ will be rather more calm and relaxed. I'll report back "from the ground" as MSM newspeople have taken to saying. (I wonder if this is vs "from the air.")

Sendak at the Rosenbach Museum and Library

A Wild Things Whirligig at the Rosenbach Museum and Library

I was a bit too old to connect with Sendak's work, but his popularity in the sphere of children's lit has held strong, as the recent film adaptation of Where the Wild Things Are attests. Now there's a show at one of my old stomping grounds, The Rosenbach, bringing the story to life in a different way for your young ones. (My interest in future Rosenbach events hews more to the likes of Besotted Wine and Words. Bottoms up!)