Friday, December 30, 2005


When I see a couple of kids
And guess he's fucking her and she's
Taking pills or wearing a diaphragm,
I know this is paradise

Everyone old has dreamed all their lives---
Bonds and gestures pushed to one side
Like an outdated combine harvester,
And everyone young going down the long slide

To happiness, endlessly. I wonder if
Anyone looked at me, forty years back,
And thought, That'll be the life;
No God any more, or sweating in the dark

About hell and that, or having to hide
What you think of the priest. He
And his lot will all go down the long slide
Like free bloody birds.
And immediately

Rather than words comes the thought of high windows:
The sun-comprehending glass,
And beyond it; the deep blue air, that shows
Nothing, and is nowhere, and is endless.

--Philip Larkin (1974)

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Trip to the antique store

Dr. Monkey
Originally uploaded by mattbucher.

Went to this cool antique store during the holidays and saw everything from a human skull to a Kenny Rogers photo montage.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

The Bird

For some reason, the Kansas City Star thought it necessary to give us a 1500-word piece on athletes flipping the bird. I can just picture the reporter pitching this to his editor: "Uhhh... I got this great idea about a pressing issue in the world of sports. Steroids? Salary Cap? No, sir. The Bird."

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Signed books

DFW - Infinite Jest
Originally uploaded by mattbucher.
I don't have a scanner, but I do have a digital camera and this weekend I had some time on my hands so I decided to take shots of a few of my signed books. I discovered that many of the books I've had signed were not signed on the title page so that's difficult to communicate in a single photo and some of the signatures are pretty plain and unremarkable. I've got a funny Zadie Smith signature that I can't seem to upload right now, but hopefully soon.

Thursday, December 15, 2005


Originally uploaded by mattbucher.
The paw, the maw, the look: sheer beauty.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

The reading docket

1. I am slowly working my way through Volume 1 of Emma Goldman's "Living My Life," which is incredibly well written and informative. I'm going to start looking for volume 2 soon, but I am taking my time with this one, about one chapter per night.

2. Am also taking my time going through "The Good Earth." I read it a long time ago but had absolutely no perspective on it and couldn't even recall the plot, but now that I am re-reading it I am riveted. This is the Chinese Steinbeck. After I'm finished I might have to sit down and figure out what Buck is saying about contemporary American ethics, especially with respect to investing in real estate.

3. This weekend I passed up the chance to get the hardcover or Audio CD of DFW's "Consider the Lobster" in order to buy something I really wanted to read (for the first time): Jack Finney's sequel to "Time and Again" - "From Time to Time." Written 25 years after the first book, this one follows the adventures of Si Morley as he goes back to 1912 (or forward to 1912 since he is still living in the 1880s) to affect the sinking of the Titanic.

4. Next in the queue: James Magnuson's "The Hounds of Winter" and Steinbeck's "The Long Valley"

5. Books I'm looking to buy: Nathanael West's "The Dream Life of Balso Snell"; Upton Sinclair's "Oil!"; Leon Rooke's "The Beautiful Wife"; and John Hodgman's "The Areas of My Expertise."

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Wow, a million bucks

This guy who runs the Million Dollar Homepage is actually pretty close to his goal of raising a million bucks. As of right now he's at $828,200. Evidently he got a lot of press in November (including the Wall Street Journal) and the spillover should carry him over the $1M mark. It's obviously a fad marketing scheme, but it's still a pretty impressive accomplishment. What got him going was that the local media in England picked up on the story and he was able to shape that exposure into a snowball of publicity. Obvoius: any revolution in the world will have to use the media.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

new puppy

Here is a picture of our new puppy, Riley. She is a sheltie, eight weeks old, and still learning to pee outside.
All the pictures are here:

Monday, November 21, 2005

finger gash (warning: gross)

Originally uploaded by mattbucher.
I got this new super-sharp vegetable peeler with razorlike teeth and after about ten seconds of use, I promptly cut off a huge chunk of my left index finger. I couldn't get it to stop bleeding (a spouting geyser) so I had to go to the emergency room and have them apply this white goo (liquid stitches). The pain was so intense I nearly passed out, although they did give me a vicodin prescription. I'm having trouble typing today.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

new camera

I'll probably be directing your attention to Flickr a little more frequently since we just got a new Nikon Coolpix 4600.

Here are a few random pictures of the bookshelves:

Friday, November 11, 2005

On my mind

Books on the nightstand:
- Time and Again by Jack Finney (awesome book about a guy who's selected by a secret government agency to participate in a time-travel experiment which involves him living in the Dakota Apartment building like it's 1882 until suddenly he goes outside one day and it is 1882. Really, this is a cult novel that needs to be revived. Also, it's filled with pseudo-factual photos.)
- Oliver Twist, by Charles Dickens (I want to re-read Bleak House, Hard Times, Dombey, Pickwick, everything dude)
- Steinbeck: East of Eden, Travels with Charley, Cannery Row, Cup of Gold all read recently. Next up: Sweet Thursday
- Vegas, by John Gregory Dunne
- Down and Out in Paris and London, by George Orwell

Songs on repeat (feel free to mock, I don't care):
- Telescope Eyes, Eisley (Tyler, Texas: Represent!)
- Sugar Boy, Beth Orton
- Joga, Bjork
- My Doorbell, White Stripes
- I figured you out, Elliott Smith
- generally, Arcade Fire

• Not much to talk about movie-wise. I did see Proof and thought it was OK, but lacked a little of the internal conflict that should be present in the Paltrow character.

• In baseball news, I'm disappointed that Dontrelle Willis didn't win the Cy Young Award. I hope the Yankees get Johnny Damon. They really need mo better pitchers, but Bernie's gone and they just cut Tino so I assume some money will go towards hitters, too.

• Also, as a result of the Orwell and Dickens books I've become mildly obssessed with Britain's pre-decimal currency system (and the slang terms thereof). 1 pound = 240 pennies or 20 shillings. Check out the pictures of the half-crowns, sovereigns, farthings, and florins here.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Riley and her littermates

Originally uploaded by mattbucher.
Somewhere in this litter is our new puppy, Riley. We are going to pick her up in two weeks. Right now she lives in Stillwell, Oklahoma. One of the reasons we left New York is that we couldn't have a dog in our apartment building. All that's about to change...

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

1952 Topps

Perusing (part of) the baseball card collection.

the piece de resistance: 1955 Roberto Clemente RC


books recently bought (past 10 days)
Libra - Don Delillo (1st Edition at goodwill!)
East of Eden - John Steinbeck (love it)
Steps - Jerzy Kozinski (like eating razor blades)
The Lower Depths - Maxim Gorky (won't read it, but it was $2 and looks cool on the shelf)
The Journals of Kurt Cobain (interesting for about 15 minutes, also looks cool)
The Prentice Hall Reader (for work)
Leon Rooke - Shakespeare's Dog (I was looking for his new one, but haven't read this classic yet)
Vegas - John Gregory Dunne (really enjoyable, half fiction half non-, awesome cover, 1st ed for $12)
Number9Dream - David Mitchell (love it; reminds me of Murakami, set in Japan, fractured narrative)
In My Life (Vol. 1) - Emma Goldman (can't wait to start it, hope I can find vol 2 someday)
The Commissariat of Enlightenment - Ken Kalfus
Finnegan's Wake - James Joyce (how "difficult" can it be? try solving crossword puzzles blindfolded)
Down and Out in Paris and London - George Orwell (really great afternoon read, esp. if you like poverty worse than your own)
Jordan also bought some books I will likely read:
BUtterfield 8 - John O'Hara
A Million Little Pieces - James Frey
Wonder When You'll Miss Me - Amanda Davis
Dry - Augusten Burroughs
Also bought:
a new large bookcase (via craigslist)
Thank you, birthday money.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

I love this site. It shows you the front page of about 500 newspapers worldwide, everyday. I look at it almost everyday and I find it to be a more efficient way of seeing what's going on (or what is considered Front Page News) in dozens of American cities than bookmarking individual news sites; and it's more visually appealing than any RSS or News Reader I've seen.
Here are a few observations:
- Europeans put Nobel Prize winners on the front page, Americans don't
- Everyday, somewhere in the world, there is a soccer star on the front page of a newspaper
- Peruvians love to see dead bodies and death and destruction on their front pages
- Finland and Sweden have awesome tabloids
- Japan still has major papers using only black and white ink

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Here's an evil thing I hate


Today I was reading Lincoln's second inaugural address (here) and it struck me that how, unlike GWB's second inaugural (here), Lincoln did not bother to mention a single thing about electoral politics or "reaching out" to supporters of his opponent. He had bigger things on his plate--like the Civil War and slavery (Bush had Iraq and that's not small). Then it struck me that Abraham Lincoln himself sat down at some point and considered the future of his administration, considered the appropriateness of his words, and then set down his vision of the future in these words he would deliver at his inauguration. This does not happen anymore. George W. Bush did not write his inaugural address. His speechwriters did.

This really bothers me. I think it should be a requirement for a president to write his own speeches--at least the majority of them or at least the important ones. Let's say I'm a really busy student, why I can't I hire "speechwriters" to "articulate my vision" for me? Gee, it's called plagiarism and it's an offense taken very seriously at every university in America. The fact is that if we demanded our leaders to be proficient writers and articulate speakers, we'd see a whole new class of leaders rise to the top. This is all pretty recent, you know. Go back and read the Louisiana style politics of Robert Penn Warren's "All the King's Men." The Kingfish was pretty corrupt, but he could sure as hell improvise a speech and craft his words into persuasive sentences. Is the world really that much more complicated now that NO ONE can do this? What about Bill Clinton? How often did he just tell the speechwriters to take the day off? Never. (That film "The War Room" is a good example of how Clinton was the hand-shaker and Carville and Stephanopolous were the speech magicians.) Politics now equals bureaucracy, which means Rule by weird little committees. A small group of ideologues decides the policy that they are trying to feverishly promote and then they hire hundreds of peons to carry out their wishes. All speechwriters should be fired. You are all evil and you aren't helping anything.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Books on the Nightstand, 9/20/05

Basket Case by Carl Hiaasen
Hiaasen is one of my go-to beach reads, but I had to abandon this one when he tried to write about a "teenage hacker." It was the poorest character description committed to paper since Dave Eggers wrote about a dog.

Another Bullshit Night in Suck City by Nick Flynn
This memoir was published to much acclaim last year but I am just now getting around to reading it in paperback. It's a pretty riveting story about a Flynn getting to know his father while he (the father) is a guest at the homeless shelter where Flynn works. I liked the book, but it did seem to lack some emoting and the tone of the writing might be hemmed in by so much of the author's drug use. Sort of similar to Sean Wilsey (though Flynn's life is the polar opposite of Wilsey's).

What's the Matter with Kansas? by Thomas Frank
Again, I'm a little late to this party, but hey, I got it at the library. I wish that every Republican or "moderate" would be willing to read it. I would hope that the Katrina disaster would get people talking about doing something with respect to the distribution of wealth in this country, but it's so hard to be optimistic. Also, it seems to me that so many Republicans opposed to "welfare" don't have a problem with "social security" or "disability" checks. Imagine if everyone who worked 40 years in this country got 75% pension salary for life.

Thursday, September 15, 2005


This year's Hands on a Hardbody contest has been stopped due to a contestant's bizarre suicide early this morning:

It wasn't clear whether Vega walked away during or just before an official break for contestants, most of whom were away from the contest site when Vega killed himself.

Witnesses said Vega went directly to a Kmart across the street, threw a trash can through a window and quickly went into the store.

"It was the most surreal thing I've ever seen in my life," said Dru Laborde, a program director for KYKX radio and a media participant in the contest.

Police said they were called at 5:59 a.m. When they arrived, they saw Vega walking from the back of the store toward the doors. He had a shotgun in his hands, police said, and shot himself. A police spokesman said police exchanged a few words with Vega before he stepped back and shot himself. He said he wasn't sure what had been said

In other news, Nabokov's Lolita turns 50 today :

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Still at a loss

Not sure that I was ever cut out to be a blogger, but now the updates might come even farther apart than ever before.

I got this awesome new job (here) editing high school literature textbooks and it will probably a while before I get back into posting anything here. It's great, though. This is one of the few jobs I've even heard of that rewards being a complete polymath. I've alredy wished that I knew more about Confucianism and Sanskrit and it's only my first week! I salute all teachers of literature.

In other news, I can't stop watching the news. Even ten days after the hurricane I am transfixed, horrified, staggered.

Also, I have rekindled a long-standing intrerest/obsession with Antarctica. Mostly this is a literary fascination and I devour all books that even mention the cold continent, but lately I have thought about going there. If I were to go to Antarctica, I would want travel the way of Scott and Shackelton (ship) rather than the cargo planes that fly from Christchurch to McMurdo. I'm certain that my wife would have no interest in accompanying me on such a trip, but not a lot of people can see the attraction of intentionally going somewhere -50 F (the coldest temperature recorded on planet earth was -128 F at Vostok Station, Antarctica). It really is the last frontier on the planet, though. There are still vast areas of ice and mountain ranges untouched by humans. This tallship expedition looks like my dream (comfortable and yet adventurous):

Friday, August 19, 2005

More books

I've really had the chance lately to do quite a bit of reading. I finished "Oh the Glory of it All" and I thought it was actually pretty good. I still have a hard time feeling sorry for guys like Wilsey and Eggers who are basically loaded with cash when their tribulations occur, but I guess everyone still feels pain and unloved sometimes.

[For some reason Blogger does not give me the "add a link" buttons in Safari (as it does for you windows users on IE)--I only get the spellcheck and add a picture buttons, and usually I take the time to type in the links, but screw it, if you are interested in these books, you probably know how to find them.]

Walter Benjamin at the Dairy Queen by Larry McMurtry
I love it that McMurty is really our only great novelist to simultaneously be an antiquarian book dealer. His personal reminisces on the book trade are interesting and, since I don't plan on being a great novelist, inspiring. I'd love to someday own a used book store. In fact, McMurtry compares herding books to herding cattle--neither are very profitable, but they sure beat a 9-5 desk job. It's just great to read a true bibliophile talk about books (this is one reason I like Nick Baker, too).

Metropolis by Elizabeth Gaffney
Just getting started on this, but I like it so far. It reminds me a lot of a combination of "The Crimson Petal and the White" and another book I recently read: "New York Sawed in Half".

We have a great Half Price Books store here in Austin (on Lamar Blvd at Koenig, I think) that has a pretty impressive rare books room and even takes out a chunk of antiquarian books that never sell and mark them down with the other used bargains. There I bought a 1965 copy of Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine for like $2.00. The stories in it are pretty tight, concise, Arthur Conan Doyle-esque "mysteries" -- really enjoyable pulp.

I've also started cataloging all of my books at home in Excel and it's taking a while. I don't have them all on shelves yet so I doubt I will finish the catalog until I can get inspired enough by seeing their spines on the shelf. I have considered what would be the best way to "put" this catalog online and I think no one wants to see a long list of all my books sorted alphabetically by author and then I thought it might be cool if I could take some hi-res pictures of the books on the shelves and then you could basically look at my home library, but 1) I do not have a digital camera, 2) I do not have a scanner anymore, and 3) I'm still not sure it's worth the effort.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Still Getting Used to Seeing "News" Stories Like This

"A local community library has been dealing with censorship questions. At issue: a magazine targeted toward homosexuals and whether it should be pulled from the shelves of the Wells Branch Community Library.
Library officials say they received a complaint about the magazine "Out.""

""The magazine's not coming out of the library. I would like to see them put in a place where minors don't have access, so it's up to parents. Do I want my child looking at magazines promoting homosexuality or not?" said Phil Pringle, Wells Branch Community Library Board member."

They want to treat "Out" magazine as a porno. Contrast this to my previous place of residence (NYC's West Village) where our State Representative was an openly gay woman and our State Senator is HIV positive. Suffice it to say that no one in Greenwich Village was pushing to get "Out" pulled from the library. In fact, part of my job at NYU was working with Out in placing ads for our books and renting their mailing lists. The gay rights movement has much to accomplish in Texas--even in Austin.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Books on the nightstand

I'm starting to realize that I'm a better reader of blogs than writer of blogs. I am lazy. I have been reading a lot lately, though. Here are a few things I've finished or almost finished

Ravelstein by Saul Bellow
Great book. There is almost no plot, but Bellow's descriptions of Ravelstein are so compelling and interesting that I couldn't put this down. Ravelstein himself comes off as cultlike and larger-than-life, constantly spouting insights into the academic community and the unexamined life.

Yesterday's Perfume by Cherie Nutting with Paul Bowles
This is a large, coffee-table book mainly consisting of Nutting's photos of Bowles and scenery around Morocco. Her own story of her relationship with Bowles is interesting and a bit weird, but I'm a sucker for stories about the real-life Bowles. I got this for like $9 at Book People.

The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova
This has pretty much been my everyday book for the past three weeks. I finished it last night. Jordan and I first heard about this book on NPR (The Diane Rheem Show) and I bought it because the author made it sound so cool. It's a little bit like The Da Vinci Code, except about Dracula, and it's written by a woman. I really respect Bram Stoker's "Dracula" and Kostova was emphasizing the literary aspects of her novel so I gave it a shot, and it's riveting, but it's not exactly literary. There is a lot about Ottoman history and the medieval rulers of what is now Romania and Hungary, but for anthropological details about agrarian vampire folklore, I much prefer Carlo Ginzburg and non-fiction. Still, it's a good novel. Kind of a weak ending, but it clips along at a nice pace up until the end.

Oh the Glory of it All by Sean Wilsey
This is a memoir blurbed by Dave Eggers and George Saunders, and Wilsey is a staple of the McSweeney's community over there in San Fran. The few snippets I read in the library seemed good enough so I checked it out. I'm still in the first third of this now and waiting to see if Wilsey's life is different or similar enough to hold my interest. Like Eggers he can slip into the too-self-indulgent pretty quickly.

Friday, July 22, 2005

Two quick celeb sightings

Probably the last couple for a while (unless I run into Wes Anderson or Matthew McConaughey in Austin).
On the day we moved out of Manhattan, we had a couple of pretty awesome sightings. Early that morning, as we were walking from our apartment to the subway to pick up the moving truck, we walked past Alton Brown, host of Good Eats. He was holding a cup of coffee and was walking back into the entrance of the Hotel Gansevoort. I suppose he was staying there because Chelsea Market (which houses Food Network's offices) is so close by. He is really my favorite TV personality and I'm kind of slapping myself for not saying somthing to him, but he looked really determined in his walk--like he didn't want to be bothered.
THEN, as I'm driving the fully loaded truck around the narrow, cobble-stoned streets of the meatpacking district (on our way to the Holland Tunnell and eventually Texas), Charlie Rose pulls out right in front of us in a convertible Cooper Mini. He almost caused me to wreck by zooming out in front of me and then I almost wrecked again when I yelled, "Did Charlie Rose just cut me off??!!!"

Thursday, July 14, 2005

In Austin

Well, we are all moved in to our new place in Austin, but we don't have the internet connection set-up yet. The earliest Time Warner could promise us is Tuesday of next week. In the meantime we are using these public computers in the main building of our apartment complex. Also, we're quickly realizing that we can barely do anything here without a Texas driver's license or a 512 phone number.

It's raining like crazy here today.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Books not unlike us

I'm in Memphis right now. It's the middle of our long move to Austin. We did about 1100 miles in two days and it was smooth sailing almost the whole way. I had biscuits and gravy for breakfast in Roanoke, Virginia, yesterday and it was one of those great We're-Not-in-Kansas-Anymore moments. We drove through a lot of torrential rain in Eastern Tennessee, but we've stayed ahead of schedule and had no mechanical problems with the truck.

Dad was asking for some book recommendations the other day, so here you go:

Suttree by Cormac McCarthy
I've never read a bad Cormac McCarthy book, but Stephen said You really should read Suttree and he was right. Typical of McCarthy, it starts out a little slow and flowery, but by the time it got into the problem in the watermelon patch, I was hooked. It's mostly set around Knoxville, TN, and it was pretty cool stopping through there yesterday, wondering if I might bump into Suttree. My favorite line in the book: "Git ye a tater."

Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami
Interestingly enough, this is a book that Stephen really hated and I really liked. It's kind of hard to express the impact this book had on me, but I'll try. For one, I've always been interested in Japan, but even if Japanese culture doesn't particularly intetrest you, Murakami paints an excellent picture of contemporary Japan--and not just Tokyo, but particularly Takamatsu. Granted, this book is filled with some pseudo-supernatural elements and things like a talking Colonel Sanders cartoon, but beneath all of that is a tight story of a runaway boy named Kafka (and a painting called Kafka on the Shore, and a song called Kafka on the Shore, etc.). I really connected to it.

I'm looking for some book recommendations myself, so if you have some, post them in the comments.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Napoleon Beazley, RIP

More than three months after the Supreme Court ruled that juveniles cannot be executed, Texas Gov. Rick Perry today commuted 28 death sentences to life in prison for inmates who were under 18 when they committed capital murder.

The Supreme Court forced the commutations with its March ruling that executing juveniles violates the Eighth Amendment ban on cruel and unusual punishment. Texas was one of 18 states that allowed the practice.

Perry's order starts the process of moving the inmates off death row.

"While these individuals were convicted by juries of brutal murders and sentenced to die for their heinous crimes, I have no choice but to commute these sentences to life in prison as a result of the Supreme Court ruling," Perry said.

Well, this move comes three years too late for Napoleon Beazley. He was sentenced to death for the April 19, 1994 murder of Mr. John Luttig in Tyler, Texas. At the time of the offense, he was 17 years old. The state of Texas executed him on May 28, 2002. Here are his last words: "There are a lot of men like me on death row - good men - who fell to the same misguided emotions, but may not have recovered as I have. Give those men a chance to do what's right. Give them a chance to undo their wrongs. A lot of them want to fix the mess they stated, but don't know how. The problem is not in that people aren't willing to help them find out, but in the system telling them it won't matter anyway. No one wins tonight. No one gets closure. No one walks away victorious."

The U.S. Supreme Court knew this execution was wrong three years ago, but they waited to make an example out of another case (Roper v. Simmons) to overturn their 1988 ruling that executing convicted murderers over the age of 16 was constitutional. When Beazley's case was appealed to the Supreme Court, even the presiding judge in the case, Cynthia Kent, wrote a brief asking for commutation to life in prison rather than execution. However, the Supreme Court's decision ended in a rare 3-3 deadlock because three justices (Clarence Thomas, David Souter, and Antonin Scalia) had to excuse themselves since they knew the victim's son (Michael Luttig, a federal judge and rumored to be on the short-list for a supreme court appointment).

In the deciding opinion that banned juvenile executions this March, Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote: “The age of 18 is the point where society draws the line for many purposes between childhood and adulthood. It is, we conclude, the age at which the line for death eligibility ought to rest.”

Juvenile offenders have been put to death in recent years in only a few other countries, including Iran, Pakistan, China and Saudi Arabia. Kennedy cited international opposition to the practice.

“It is proper that we acknowledge the overwhelming weight of international opinion against the juvenile death penalty, resting in large part on the understanding that the instability and emotional imbalance of young people may often be a factor in the crime,” he wrote.

Three years too late for Napoleon Beazley.


Q: What would a group of Germans refer to as "a violation of basic constitutional rights"?

A: (Reuters UK)

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

The world's finest sunblock

Originally uploaded by mattbucher.
May I introduce to you the world's finest sunblock: the sombrero.

The other day, when New York City felt like the inside of a toaster oven, I saw a older fellow walking down the street in a sombrero. Not in an ironic fashion, but in a sincere, blocking-the-sun fashion. This made me want to wish for a return of the Urban Sombrero.

Books on the nightstand

Pretty much all of my books are in boxes right now, but I still have library books.

The Book of Lazarus by Richard Grossman
Evidently this is part of a trilogy (although the only other volume I see is "The Alphabet Man"), but I picked it up because 1) it was published by FC2, 2) it's blurbed by William Vollmann and Denis Cooper, and 3) it had pictures in it. The book has elements of that collage-as-novel thing that's been done to death in House of Leaves or I guess Max Ernst, but the really interesting part is the story of Emma Goldman O'Banion and what happened to her father. It's not great literature here, but definitely a page-turner.

Early Bird by Rodney Rothman
"What happens when an able-bodied 28-year-old decides to 'retire' in a Florida senior community?" Not much, actually, but it sure is funny. I loved Rothman's stuff in McSweeney's (his story about a rollercoaster ride consisted of about 10 pages of the word WHEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE-
EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE) and in the New Yorker (the one where he worked at a dot com company, despite not being on the payroll), and so I was very eager to see what he would write about in book-length. It's a fast and easy read, but sometimes we all need that, right?

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Book Meme

Ken tagged me with this one, so here goes:

Total number of books I own/owned:
Around 3000. This includes the books Jordan owned when we got married and merged our book collections (hey, we both work in publishing--free books are pretty much the only perk). However, I've never been able to fully unleash all of my books onto shelves due to a lack of space in NYC apartments. Hopefully our upcoming move to Austin will solve that dilemma.

Five books that had a big influence on me:

1. Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace
What more can I say? This is the most rewarding and challenging and enjoyable thing I have ever read.

2. U and I by Nicholson Baker
I picked this up the summer after my junior year of high school (mainly because I'd just read Vox) and it was so compelling that I wanted to read the guys he talked about: John Updike and Vladimir Nabokov.

3. Survival in Auschwitz by Primo Levi
Everytime I think that I am having a hard time or struggling in my day-to-day life, I try to think of this book and the way it truly defines what survival means. One of the happier moments in the book is when Levi has been transported to a concentration camp in Denmark (maybe Finland?) and it's bitter cold, he's wearing only rags and wooden shoes that don't fit and he and another prisoner discover some raw potatoes behind the shed where they're working and he's sincerely excited. This is not your life, friend.

4. Hitchcock's Films Revisited by Robin Wood
This is the first book that I ever worked on professionally and truly loved. Wood is the world's preeminent Hitchcock scholar--mainly because he does not try to distance himself from his critical and personal reactions to the films. He talks about his political beliefs in the same breath as his experiences as a gay man and somehow this all makes Hitchcock's films seem more alive and vital.

5. Philosophical Investigations by Ludwig Wittgenstein
I had trouble deciding on a fifth book, but I'm going with Wittgenstein because so much of this book helped form the way I think about the relationship between language, problems, and logical arguments. Sein und Zeit is probably more fun to debate, but I ultimately don't believe that Heidegger's ideas are as fruitful or nuanced as Wittgenstein's (or maybe Heidegger is too nuanced and Wittgenstein is more straightforward, depending on your perspective).

Last book I bought:

Mapquest Road Atlas 2006
Like I said, we're moving to Austin, TX, in three weeks and I'm driving the truck down there myself. Since we don't have a car in NYC, I needed one of these.

Last book I read for the first time:
Vanishing Point by Richard J. Tofel
Great story about a NY State Supreme Court Justice who vanished in 1930. I love histories of New York and I learned a lot about Tammany Hall from this one. It's due back at the library tomorrow.

Five others to tag:

I don't even know five people. Don't feel obligated to respond but I'd be interested in hearing what Brian Kiteley and Stephen Schenkenberg had to say.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

The winningest franchise in sports history

Tonight I'm heading up to that cathedral in the Bronx, the Vatican of Baseball, to welcome home the Yanks from a brutal road trip. Last Friday night must be the low point of the season for them: they played awful and heartless, practically conceding to the Cardinals before the first pitch of the game. It will be interesting to see what moves the Yankees make before the trading deadline (or even before the All-star break). Most now think that Tony Womack should go (although his speed will be missed) since he has been replaced by the cheaper and younger Robinson Cano at second base. Hopefully Jaret Wright will be back soon, although I wouldn't put it past Steinbrenner to go after another starter. I do think Yankees fans will be up in arms if they try to trade Cano or Chien-Ming Wang.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

spam and chainsaws

Even though I have Gmail now and love it, I have kept up a Hotmail account out of habit. Mostly all I get there is spam, but one thing that has bothered me about the type of spam I've received in the past year or two is that it is almost always addressed to (or includes in the subject line) someone named "Roderick Dowden." I'm sure this is just some schmuck chosen at random by a spammer to be the requisite name in the To: field, but I'm really surprised at how long "Dowden" has retained his role as the primary subject of what are certainly millions, if not billions or trillions of spam emails. "Roderick Dowden" appears to be a dentist in Indianapolis, but there is also a Roderick Dowden serving in Iraq. Not sure how either of these guys became the forged To: header on millions of spammed emails (I could see a dentist being the subject of tons of junk USPS mail because they usually subscribe to dozens of magazines and magazine subscriptions are one of the primary places direct mail data services use to re-sell demographic information, but I don't think this would automatically make him, as a dentist, more susceptible to junk email), but they are part of my world now.

This story is so scary that it just cracks me up. I mean, LOOK at that guy! A bloody chainsaw? If you looked up psychopath in the dictionary, his picture would take up the whole page.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Gift Shop

Gifts for me and you from the National Swine Registry:

Friday, June 03, 2005


Evidently, I am mainly using this blog to keep track of my celebrity sightings. Fine. However, this past weekend NYC hosted Book Expo America, and since I didn't really need to be around our booth too much on Saturday, I went trolling the floor, looking for even more celebrity/"author" sightings.

Thursday evening, on our way to the BookForum party at Opus 22, we saw Malcolm Gladwell and his hair eating outside at Pastis. It's pretty much the same table where last year we saw Maggie and Jake Gyllenhaal having brunch with their parents.

Friday, at the NY Historical Society, Suzanne Vega, Joe Queenan, Philip Lopate, and other geezers were in the house to celebrate the publication of this book.

Saturday, at the Javits Center, I saw Mike Wallace leaving with his publicist, looking waaay too tan for 80 years old. Also: Dana Reeve being interviewed about her husband, Major Owens by himself and lost, Andrew Vachss signing autographs with his eyepatch on, Benjamin Franklin, Tom Wolfe in a stained white suit, Nick Hornby being mistaken for Michael Cunningham, Larry Kirshbaum and Jonathan Karp walking the aisles, Darth Vader and Stormtroopers, Raj from The Apprentice sipping a martini for a photo-op, and Peter Bogdanovich in full costume.

Saturday night, at the PGW party, it was all about the John Spencer Blues Explosion.

The New York Times stoops to actually discussing the books at the show here.

If you scroll through the spam, there are some author photos here.

I saw one booth that had a book titled "Why Men Love Bitches" right next to one titled "Pregnancy Sucks".

2000 booths, 30,000 attendees, hundreds of parties: the whole experience was pretty overwhelming.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

More celebs

Sunday night, Helena Christensen, walking down Greenwich Street with her husband (an actor) and daughter. She had a hood on and was speaking to her husband in Danish. She's all over the neighborhood now that she's opened a new boutique on Hudson Street (Butik).

This morning, on the way to work, former Senator Bob Kerrey. I walk right by a lot of New School buildings and he's President of The New School, but hey, I'm counting it.

Saturday, May 28, 2005

Celebrity Sightings

Yesterday, eating at the sidewalk cafe portion of Florent, Christo and Jeanne-Claude. Eating a pair of salads, drinking wine, everyone else on the sidewalk completely oblivious to her shocking red hair.

Last Saturday, Mario Batali, in his typical uniform, walking down Waverly Place, all by his lonesome, towards Babbo. I gave him the head-fake, like "hey, what's up," but alas, he did not reciprocate.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Rebuild the World Trade Center

Donald Trump and I agree on few things, but I very much like his proposal to rebuild the world trade center essentially as it was. I know that he is a showman and is using this to get ratings for tonight's Apprentice finale, but it's not his idea anyway--people have seriously talked about doing this since September 12 of 01.

Imagine you live in Colorado Springs. Everyday you wake up and look out your window and see Pike's Peak. When you get lost driving around, you look towards Pikes Peak and know you are heading west. When your tourist friends come to town, you take them to the top of the mountain and they get headaches and eat hot mini-donuts up there. Then imagine terrorists blow it up and it is now a whole in the ground, a former graveyard. A huge part of your orientation with the physical world is thrown out of whack. And imagine that after almost four years of hokey designs approved only by politicians, with a big gaping whole still sitting there in the ground, someone comes along and says, "you know what, I think I'd like something more like a mountain there. I miss it. I need it. I'll pay for it and build it in less time than these ass-scratching politicians can," well, I think I'd listen to that.

Monday, May 16, 2005

Publishing is in big trouble

College Libraries Set Aside Books in a Digital Age

Students attending the University of Texas at Austin will find something missing from the undergraduate library this fall.


By mid-July, the university says, almost all of the library's 90,000 volumes will be dispersed to other university collections to clear space for a 24-hour electronic information commons, a fast-spreading phenomenon that is transforming research and study on campuses around the country.

Uggh. A building without books is no longer a library. Of course libraries should have computer labs, but taking away more and more shelf space reaches a ridiculous conclusion when all of the books have been replaced with computer hardware.
"The library is not so much a space where books are held as where ideas are shared. . . . It's having a conversation rather than homing in on the book."

What a crock of bullshit. I've never had a conversation or "shared an idea" at any library ever.

Librarians know that books will never be replaced completely by anything intangible, but they know that scholars and readers are demanding more and more electronic "products". I mean, is this what Jorge Luis Borges had in mind when he said, "I have always imagined paradise as some kind of library / 24-hour electronic information commons."

I am pretty firmly in the camp of Nicholson Baker, who created such horrible controversy when he claimed that the primary duty of a library is to house and preserve books and papers. In Double Fold, Baker exposes the underbelly of the library world, wherein preservation requires destruction and "shelf space" is too finite. I sincerely believe that problems arise when books are treated as "content" instead of books. Of course the internet has revolutionized "access to content", but it does not compare with the thrill of searching for and eventually finding a book on a shelf.

I want new books to be published in print form forever and I want larger and larger stacks of them, gigantic, cavernous, luxurious buildings where there is nothing to do except browse, sit, and read.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Your Gas Sickens Me

Overview: I'm tired of people bitching about gas prices.

Why: It's a few bucks, dude.

Imagine if you had a hybrid or a Chevy Cavalier (something with a 10 gallon gas tank). I know that those cars aren't dirt cheap and that insurance can be pricey, etc., but gas is almost a non-factor with them. If the price of gas has doubled in the past 6 years, then you are paying roughly $10 more per tank. These are not the folks doing the bitching. It's the soccer mom and dad trying to use a Ford Expedition with a 30-gallon gas tank for a station wagon. Seriously folks, you don't need an SUV, get a Subaru station wagon, a Volvo, a mini-van, anything on a car-chassis, better yet: take the bus. Otherwise, stop yer bitching.

Google News Search Results: 1 - 10 of about 17,900 for "gas prices"
SUV rant:

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Books on the nightstand

Some people only read one book at a time, but I try to read four or five books simultaneously and see what grabs me that day. Usually I try to read one new novel, one nonfiction book, a classic (as I define it), and something I've already read.

Diamonds are Forever, by Ian Fleming
I'm a big fan of the James Bond novels, but I haven't even seen most of the films. When Penguin reissued all of the James Bond novels with these awesome new covers I had to get them.

New York Sawed in Half, by Joel Rose
This type of stuff is my #1 or 2 interest right now. I want to read anyting about the history of Times Square, Coney Island, PT Barnum, Ricky Jay, magicians, hoaxes, charlatans, Steven Millhauser, etc.

I Know Many Songs, But I Cannot Sing, by Brian Kiteley
My former teacher at Denver. I've read this like five times, but friends of ours just got back from Morocco and I was hyped up by hearing all of their stories so I went back and read three or four North African favorites (Paul Bowles, Amitav Ghosh, Tayeb Salih, pretty much all stuff I learned about from Brian Kiteley.)

A Working Stiff's Manifesto, by Iain Levison
No comment

Pig Earth, by John Berger
No clue. Found it when we were cleaning out the basement. Might not read it in the long run as I've got Vollmann's new one coming in tomorrow.


So a couple of weeks ago I read this book
Rats by Robert Sullivan. Most of the book is about the author observing rats in an alley in lower Manhattan. I have observed some rats in the lower part of my apartment building, so I was riveted. Sullivan says that an interesting part of his book tour was that dozens of people would come up to him after readings (or maybe even during) and tell him their own personal rat stories. I have two short ones.

1. We have a trash chute/compactor room in the basement of our building. You can't put things like heavy boxes or stacks of newspaper down the chute--you're supposed to carry them down to the compactor room. Since this room is below ground and since it is filled with (albeit bagged) trash and since its walls are perforated all over by pipe openings, it is an all-you-can-eat buffet for rats. The first rat I ever saw in there (I thought it was a cat at first) jumped from the ground to the top of two rake handles that were leaning against a wall (talk about agile) and tried to hide in an opening under a pipe in the wall, but since it didn't go all the way into the whole in the wall (created by a square block removed for a round pipe), I could see its tail hanging down the wall. The tail went down the length of two cement blocks--I would guess 16 inches.

2. One night my wife and I were leaving a friend's apartment in Washington Heights and walking back towards the A train. When we got to the steps of the subway entrance, we could see something brown running up the steps. It was a medium-size rat (less than a foot long), but it was essentially telling us: "Don't walk on these steps." We stopped a few feet away and backed up pretty quickly when it looked like the rat might begin to chase us down the street. Luckily it stopped at the top of the stairs.

Evidently, some people in the world eat rats.

Quote of the day

"The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn, like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars and in the middle you see the blue centerlight pop and everybody goes "Awww!"--Jack Kerouac, On the Road

I might have to post this once a week to keep me motivated.

Friday, April 22, 2005

Celebrity Sighting

Well, he might only be a celebrity to me, but walking home from work today I saw Harry Mathews. It was the corner of Sixth Avenue and 11th Street (near the New School Lang Building) and he was carrying a newspaper. I recognized him because I saw him read at DU in 1996, and he has a distinctive face. I should have stopped and said, "Whoa! Harry Mathews, famous American writer! I can't believe it!" but I didn't want to freak him out. I imagine he only rarely gets recognized by perfect strangers. Well, maybe if I see him again, I will tell him I am a fan. He might be flattered.

A decent bio is here. Mathews is the only American in the Oulipo group. I highly recommend book "The Journalist."

first post

Ugh. Usually after I rant about something (aloud, at a party, towards unconcerned people), I threaten: I should get a blog. Well, here I am you bastards. Take that. I will try not to rant.

Future topics: why my fantasy baseball team is currently sucking, everything I have ever thought about Infinite Jest, questioning why reading your own blog posts is like listening to a recording of your own voice: revolting. Is that even me?

Also: is even a blog? Is it more of a link portal? I love it, and it occasionally has stuff about his personal/professional life, but ultimately how interesting is that?