b0dyg0d videos


I don’t know how to describe the chopped, slowed down, looped, glitchy, occasionally-VHS-sourced, hypnotic music video clips that YouTube’s b0dyg0d makes, but they are pretty freakin’ awesome. A couple of samples:

Readings: The Dog Stars (Peter Heller)


The Dog Stars by Peter Heller

The Dog Stars isn’t as accomplished as Cormac McCarthy’s The Road and it isn’t as soulful as David James Duncan’s The River Why—two books Peter Heller’s post-apocalyptic novel practically cries out to be compared to—but it’s still a fine read that approaches the poetry of the former and the fundamental wisdom of the latter. Poet, pilot and former contracter Hig, survivor of a flu pandemic that has wiped out the population of the United States (at least), finds himself partnered with Bangley, a damaged but highly capable survivalist. Hig craves human contact and find himself (sometimes dangerously) lost in the past; Bangley thinks only of future survival, inclined to kill before even the most hypothetical chance of being killed. Over years they’ve come to an uneasy partnership, but when Hig hears a voice on his plane’s radio and decides he has to investigate, their lives and future are in the balance…

Occasionally uneven, The Dog Stars ends with a disappointingly conventional whimper, but I still strongly recommend it to anyone with an interest in post-apocalyptic fiction.

WWW: fasces



fasces (FASS-eez). In Ancient Rome, a bundle of rods wrapped around an axe with the blade projecting. The fasces was carried by a lictor as a symbol of a magistrate’s power. The fasces would later be used as an emblem of authority in Fascist Italy.

…would you like to see the Tarquin kings, the overweening
spirit of Brutus the Avenger, the fasces he reclaims?

—from The Aeneid (trans. by Robert Fagles)

Link Love (2014-05-11)


The Dame of Dictionaries

"A woman turns her passion for words into one of the world’s preeminent dictionary collections, filling her West Village home to the bursting point with some 20,000 titles."

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The Pleasure and Pain of Speed

"Recent research suggests that there is plenty of acceleration left for us to squeeze out of life. There is evidence, for example, that we can process audio information far faster than we are routinely exposed to it. One study into "compressed speech" found that students’ ability to comprehend audio text did not begin to fall off until well above 300 words per minute—roughly double what they normally heard. The bottleneck is human speech: The most rapid-fire talkers begin to flame out around 200 words per minute. [...] William James and his 50-millisecond mark for perceiving distinct events may, too, soon look antiquated. In a recent study by M.I.T.’s Mary Potter and colleagues, subjects were able to identify images that they had been exposed to for just 13 milliseconds, even when they had not been told in advance what images to expect. Whether we are actually getting faster, or our technology for measuring the brain is improving, these results point to new possibilities for speed. And when our brains’ own speedometers do saturate, there will be tools promising to speed the brain to keep up with technology. Some are emerging even today. The foc.us headset, for example, uses tDCS (Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation)—i.e., electricity—to, as it claims, "make your synapses fire faster." [...] That we enjoy accelerated time, and pay a price for it, is clear. The ledger of benefits and costs may be impossible to balance, or even to compute. As the sociologist John Tomlinson writes in his book The Culture of Speed: The Coming of Immediacy, speed "offers both pleasures and pains, exhilarations and stresses, emancipation and domination." These are often "so intertwined that it seems impossible, as individuals, to say whether an increasing pace of life is, in essence, a good or a bad thing." But it may be that the most salient feature of accelerating time is not pleasure or pain, but that it is useful, and that we are willing to go a long way for a little bit of extra utility."

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Stephen Colbert won’t save us, "Game of Thrones" is not that good

Yes, dude, you are that guy:

"For years I’ve dreaded writing this. There’s no way to do it without sounding like that stock villain of the postwar American dinner party, the tweedy bore and pretentious prick who makes a loud public show of not owning a TV. For the record, I’m not that guy. But it’s time to call bullshit on the new consensus that TV, in any of its Internet-age mutations, has become our harmless friend, deserving ever-greater amounts of our time and critical coverage limited to endless plot exegesis. It’s time to shout from our dish-cluttered rooftops what has been obvious for years: this celebration of TV’s new "golden age" is out of control. It’s dangerous, and it’s sad."

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Why 24/192 Music Downloads Make No Sense

If this doesn’t convince you that MP3s with decent bitrate are plenty quality enough, then nothing will. Enjoy wasting your time and money.

"Why push back against 24/192? Because it’s a solution to a problem that doesn’t exist, a business model based on willful ignorance and scamming people. The more that pseudoscience goes unchecked in the world at large, the harder it is for truth to overcome truthiness… even if this is a small and relatively insignificant example."

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Jennifer Egan recommends: "Card Tricks" by James Hannaham

"I’ll confess that when my friend James Hannaham first mentioned that he was writing fiction in the form of art gallery plaques, my reaction was selfish: I wished I’d thought of it. The idea is so clearly excellent, involving the use of a non-literary genre that is textual, but also rich with its own conventions and dramatic possibilities. What more could a fiction writer possibly want?"

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The 5 Best Punctuation Marks in Literature

"The muse gets all the press, but here’s a fact: Good writing involves obsessing over punctuation marks. It’s 1 a.m., you’ve got a 5,000-word piece due the next day, and for the last twenty minutes you’ve been deliberating about the use of a semicolon versus a period in a single sentence. (But should it be two sentences? Twenty-five minutes, thirty minutes … ) As a rule, the effect of all that obsession is subtle, a kind of pixel-by-pixel accretion of style. Once in a while, though, a bit of punctuation pops its head up over the prose, and over the prosaic, and becomes a part of a tiny but interesting canon: famous punctuation marks in literature."

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An Idea of a Typeface

There are some profound questions being asked in this piece:

"Aware that there is no such thing as total neutrality, Neutral typeface explores how the absence of stylistic associations can help the reader to engage with the content of a text."

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The Largest Vocabulary in Hip hop

Even I knew Aesop Rock would be above any contenders by a country mile or so.

"Literary elites love to rep Shakespeare’s vocabulary: across his entire corpus, he uses 28,829 words, suggesting he knew over 100,000 words and arguably had the largest vocabulary, ever. [...] I decided to compare this data point against the most famous artists in hip hop. I used each artist’s first 35,000 lyrics. That way, prolific artists, such as Jay-Z, could be compared to newer artists, such as Drake."

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The limits of the digital humanities

I just can’t dismiss Kirsch as easily as some have…

"The best thing that the humanities could do at this moment, then, is not to embrace the momentum of the digital, the tech tsunami, but to resist it and to critique it. This is not Luddism; it is intellectual responsibility. Is it actually true that reading online is an adequate substitute for reading on paper? If not, perhaps we should not be concentrating on digitizing our books but on preserving and circulating them more effectively. Are images able to do the work of a complex discourse? If not, and reasoning is irreducibly linguistic, then it would be a grave mistake to move writing away from the center of a humanities education. [...] These are the kinds of questions that humanists ought to be well equipped to answer. Indeed, they are just the newest forms of questions that they have been asking since the Industrial Revolution began to make our tools our masters. The posture of skepticism is a wearisome one for the humanities, now perhaps more than ever, when technology is so confident and culture is so self-suspicious. It is no wonder that some humanists are tempted to throw off the traditional burden and infuse the humanities with the material resources and the militant confidence of the digital. The danger is that they will wake up one morning to find that they have sold their birthright for a mess of apps."

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Slow Type

Is the slow-writing movement upon us? Many interesting points and references here about typing, handwriting, typewriters, etc.

"Nostalgia and hipster concerns just aren’t the point unless you’re in a very boring room trying to make small talk: It’s what kind of tools we want to permit into our lives as we attempt to produce what we find meaningful, and how conscious we are, to quote one of the earliest typists — philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, who turned to machine writing as his sight was failing — of how "our writing tools are also shaping our thoughts."


p>Read more…

Michael Robbins on James Dickey


With moments like this from his review of The Complete Poems of James Dickey, Michael Robbins might just be the critic to fulfill the elusive blank in the analogy Anthony Lane : film criticism :: X : poetry criticism (unlike Logan, his nearest competitor, Robbins doesn’t appear to have been born with an extra spleen where his heart should be):

The later poems have a Poundian energy, an arrogance, that can be both daft and charming. But they seem to want to say more than they do — they would speak of final things in thunder but must settle for yelling into a megaphone about next-to-last things. Howard says “Dickey grew too big for mere poetry,” but poetry, even at its merest, is big enough for anything James Dickey could have thrown at it. It’s rather that his own poetry grew too small for its unruly grandiloquence. Even while acknowledging, with the trope of binoculars, that his eyes are borrowed and too powerful for the scene —the Beowulf poet at the beach—he compares his son’s riding in on the surf to the Last Days.

Link Love (2014-05-04)

Does the Science of Human Behavior Only Show Us What We Want to See? – Pacific Standard: The Science of Society
Academic hoaxes have a way of crystallizing, and then shattering, the intellectual pretensions of an era. It was almost 20 years ago, for instance, that a physicist named Alan Sokal laid siege to postmodern theory with a Trojan horse. You may remember the details: Sokal wrote a deliberately preposterous academic paper called “Transgressing the Boundaries: Toward a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity.” He filled it with the then trendy jargon of “critical theory,” and submitted it to a prominent journal of cultural studies called Social Text. Amid worshipful citations of postmodern theorists and half-baked references to complex scientific work, the paper advanced a succession of glib, sweeping assertions (“Physical ‘reality,’ no less than social ‘reality,’ is at bottom a social and linguistic construct”). Social Text published it without demanding any significant editorial changes.
Love Undetectable: Andrew Sullivan on Why Friendship Is a Greater Gift Than Romantic Love | Brain Pickings
But friendship is different. Friendship uniquely requires mutual self-knowledge and will. It takes two competent, willing people to be friends. You cannot impose a friendship on someone, although you can impose a crush, a lawsuit, or an obsession. If friendship is not reciprocated, it simply ceases to exist or, rather, it never existed in the first place.

Link Love (2014-04-27)

Ditch the 10,000 hour rule! Why Malcolm Gladwell’s famous advice falls short
The title of the article is just click-bait…but the advice about practice isn’t. And am I the only one who doesn’t find the initial example counterintuitive…at all?
Periodic Table of Storytelling
Make story molecules…
Say Goodbye To ‘True Detective’ With All The Music From The Series
All the music from “True Detective” Season 1
The Unemployed Philosophers Guild, Give the thoughtful gift because the unexamined gift is not worth giving.
“Give the thoughtful gift because the unexamined gift is not worth giving.” — fun stuff from Alice in Wonderland and Einstein to Dr. Who.
Bob Ross’s rivalry with his mentor, Bill Alexander: “He betrayed me!” – Austin Kleon
Great post on Bob Ross, rivalry, the real reason people love “The Joy Of Painting.” Plus a hilarous Patton Oswalt bit…

WWW: torque

The Dying Gaul

The Dying Gaul

torque (TORK): A collar, necklace, bracelet or other ornament made of a twisted narrow band of metal.

…At last she comes,
with a great retinue crowding round the queen
who wears a Tryian cloack with rich embroidered fringe.
Her quiver is gold, her hair drawn up in a golden torque…

from The Aeneid (trans. by Robert Fagles)

image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

WWW: Ilex

Quercus Ilex Rotundifolia (Evergreen Oak, Holly Oak, Holm Oak)

Quercus Ilex Rotundifolia (Evergreen Oak, Holly Oak, Holm Oak)

Ilex (EYE-lex): The holm-oak or evergreen oak.

Then into an ancient wood
and the hidden dens of beasts they make their way,
and down crash the pines, the ilex rings to the axe…

—from _The Aeneid (trans. by Robert Fagles)

photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Call for Works: Truck – Walk/Poem


Deadline: May 26, 2014

For the month of May Glenn Bach will be guest-editing Truck. His call for work follows.

“There are thoughts we can only have while walking…our minds are motion-sensitive and they are site-specific. We think, shaped by the places through which we are moving, and the ways in which we are moving through them.” —Robert MacFarlane

May’s Truck will feature poetry, prose, and other texts that explore the landscape through the intimate filter of the walk: found poetry from signage or graffiti, remembrances of scents carried by the breeze, or reflections on the ever-changing soundscape encountered on the walk (what Steven Feld refers to as Acoustemology–knowing the world through sound).

I’m particularly interested in works actually composed during the act of walking, scribbled in a moleskin notebook or thumbed into a smartphone.

I am also looking for poem or prose responses (exquisite corpse, remix, etc.) to the following prompt:

We buy ugly houses. A nun in a rusty
Cadillac blows by a stop sign. Sunday

morning in the Richmond. My window
is a watercolor, the ringing of blue bells.

Work accepted for the month of May may be published under a Creative Commons license so that others can sample the work and feed the results back into the conversation.

Send text in the body of the e-mail or as a PDF (no Word docs), to glenncbach@gmail.com. Deadline is May 26, 2014.