11 April 2002
[wtf?] ‘X-Files’ star takes ‘Confidential’ Role — David Duchovny as James Ellroy? … ‘Ellroy, a burly, eccentric man was 46 at the time he began investigating his mother’s murder, and on the surface, Duchovny makes for an odd match. “It’s odd to see someone who doesn’t resemble me physically in the least playing me,” Ellroy acknowledged to Variety.’ [Related: Brief extract from My Dark Places, Buy My Dark Places at Amazon, link via WEF]
9 April 2002
[books] The full text to Neal Stephenson’s The Big U online — it’s probably illegal so if you feel guilty you can buy yourself a copy here. ‘This is a history, in that it intends to describe what happened and suggest why. It is a work of the imagination in that by writing it I hope to purge the Big U from my system, and with it all my bitterness and contempt. I may have fooled around with a few facts. But I served as witness until as close to the end as anyone could have, and I knew enough of the major actors to learn about what I didn’t witness, and so there is not so much art in this as to make it irrelevant. What you are about to read is not an aberration: it can happen in your local university too. The Big U, simply, was a few years ahead of the rest. ‘ [via Jerry Kindall]
2 April 2002
[books] White Frights — extracts from Michael Moore’s book Stupid White Men‘Yet as I look back on my life, a strange but unmistakable pattern seems to emerge. Every person who has ever harmed me in my lifetime – the boss who fired me, the teacher who flunked me, the principal who punished me, the kid who hit me in the eye with a rock, the executive who didn’t renew TV Nation, the guy who was stalking me for three years, the accountant who double-paid my taxes, the drunk who smashed into me, the burglar who stole my stereo, the contractor who overcharged me, the girlfriend who left me, the next girlfriend who left even sooner, the person in the office who stole cheques from my chequebook and wrote them out to himself for a total of $16,000 – every one of these individuals has been a white person. Coincidence? I think not.’
15 March 2002
[books] Salon interviews Jon Ronson about his book Them: Adventures with Extremists‘The way I portrayed the people is accurate. Because they’re human beings and we have a kind of wonderful capacity to be absurd and ridiculous. It would be easy to portray them as one-dimensional demons, but I wanted to do the opposite. Just because they’re buffoons it doesn’t mean they can’t fly planes into the World Trade Center. It doesn’t have to be one or the other.’ [via I Love Everything]
12 March 2002
[books] Excellent oldish interview with James Ellroy from 1995 … Ellroy on Oliver Stone’s JFK: ‘I was just enthralled for an hour and twenty minutes. Bravuro moviemaking, wonderfully layered and dense and jazzy, and then Donald Sutherland arrives to posit this preposterous theory, and it goes downhill from there. I think organized crime, exile factions, and renegade CIA killed Jack the Haircut. I think your most objective researchers do as well. When Oliver Stone diverged from that to take in the rest of the world (Lyndon Johnson, the Joint Chiefs of Staff), I lost interest. I went out and bought a copy of the video and I watch it right up until Donald Sutherland appears, then I turn it off.’ [via Book Notes]
3 March 2002
[books] Elizabeth Wurtzel went shopping… — review of More, Now, Again‘More, Now, Again is the real thing, Elizabeth Wurtzel’s Diary: Complete and Unabridged. This time she’s left absolutely nothing out. For instance, quite a large percentage of More, Now, Again is taken up with what Wurtzel happened to catch on television – and I mean between 10 and 15 per cent. On page 26 she “discovers” ER, while on page 41 we find her watching Saturday Night Live. Occasionally, she attempts something a little more demanding – on page 45 she dips into the latest issues of Vogue and Mademoiselle – but this doesn’t last long and by the time we get to page 47 she’s relapsed: “I watch more MSNBC.” I honestly had no idea that writers could sell this sort of material.’
1 March 2002
[books] More, Now, Again by Elizabeth Wurtzel — the condensed version … ‘It’s December 1997 and I’m checking in to Silver Hill Clinic. There’s this guy there, Hank, who is fairly ugly but is the only one who’s remotely as clever as me. This is perfect as no way can we ever become lovers. Hank and I become lovers.’
28 February 2002
[comics] Get Your Wurtzel On — reworking of Get Your War On‘…when you get naked on your own book cover and yet nobody gives a shit, the world must seem pretty cold!’ [via RACM]
26 February 2002
[books] Snort Story — interview with Elizabeth Wurtzel … ‘Wurtzel was in New York on 11 September, and her apartment is close enough to the World Trade Centre that her windows blew in. But she remained in bed until the second plane hit – in spite of the frantic ringing of the phone – and to this day seems oddly calm about the whole experience. She told a Canadian journalist: “My main thought was: what a pain in the ass. I felt everyone was overreacting. People were going on about it. That part really annoyed me.” When I asked her how she felt about the attack, she said: “Hmm, I’m trying to remember. I was numb for quite a while. I was preoccupied with trying to get my cat out of my apartment. I treated it like a natural disaster not Armageddon.”‘
22 February 2002
[books] Book-a-Minute Classics — ultra-condensed novels … Gravity’s Rainbow: ‘A screaming thing comes across the sky. It’s a V-2 rocket carrying twelve thousand pounds of symbolism, and it’s coming down on your poor, deluded, postmodern head.’ [via I Love Everything]
20 February 2002
[books] Philip Pullman Q&A On Guardian Unlimited … On how booksellers should recommend his books to children: ‘I’d say: “You are forbidden to read these books. They’re too old for you, and they’re full of things you shouldn’t experience yet, like sex and violence and dangerous ideas about religion. I’m putting them up here, on this shelf, and I’m going out for an hour or so. You’re not to touch them.” ‘
17 February 2002
[books] More, Now, Again — book extract. This time Elizabeth Wurtzel is on Ritalin… ‘Dr Singer suggests that I try cutting the pills in half with a sharp knife. So I get out a steak knife and cut a Ritalin pill in half. This is harder to do than I might have guessed, and it just splits into little pieces, crumbles like a biscuit, with powdery flakes all over the place. Eureka! Why had I not thought of this sooner? I swallow a couple of the chunks with water like I normally would, and the rest I chop up into even finer bits. I press on them with the knife and break them down until they’re a white powder. I snort up the Ritalin. It scratches and burns my nostrils a little bit, but it’s not too bad. And then I feel a tiny rush in my brain.’
13 February 2002
[comics] The Religious Experience of Philip K. Dick — comic strip by Robert Crumb‘It is an interesting graphic interpretation of a series of events which happened to Dick in March of 1974. He spent the remaining years of his life trying to figure out what happened in those fateful months. You will find all 8 pages of this story here.’ [via Bitstream]
[books] The Hard-Boiled Bookshelf – James Ellroy‘His personal story has been relentlessly self exposed. He does 200 interviews a year and has written a quasi-autobiography in which he tells of his journey to “rediscover” his dead mother and to find out who killed her. He has examined, more completely and graphically than anyone (except perhaps himself) ever needed to learn about, his life as a druggie, shoplifter, petty criminal, peeper, B&E man, panty sniffer, white supremacist, and marathon masterbator.’
11 February 2002
[reading] American Tabloid by James Ellroy … From the introduction: ‘The real trinity of Camelot was Look Good, Kick Ass, Get Laid. Jack Kennedy was the mythological front man for a particularly juicy slice of our history. He talked a slick line and wore a world class haircut. He was Bill Clinton minus pervasive media scrutiny and a few rolls of flab. Jack got whacked at the optimum moment to assure his sainthood. Lies continue to swirl around his eternal flame. Its time to dislodge his urn and cast light on a few men who attended his ascent and facilitated his fall. They were rogue cops and shakedown artists. They were wiretappers and soldiers of fortune and faggot lounge entertainers. Had one second of their lives deviated off course, American history would not exist as we know it.’
9 February 2002
[books] What Should I Do With My Life? — preview of Po Bronson’s new book … ‘I wasn’t drawn to saints. We can worship saints, but we can’t emulate them. I would rather hear how the weak-of-will end up doing some good. The hesitant, all-too-human.’ [via Metafilter]
6 February 2002
[books] Newsround kids ask Philip Pullman questions… What would his daemon be: ‘…I think my daemon probably is if I could guess would be one of those birds like a Jackdaw or a Magpie, nothing spectacular to look at but they steal bright things, whether it is a diamond ring or a bit of aluminium foil or whatever it is, an old tin can, if it is bright and shiny they go and pick it up. That is what story tellers do – we look for bright shiny interesting bits of gossip or bits of news or bits of information that reveal a character or something. And we collect them all and take them back to our nest, so that is what I think my daemon probably would be, but I can’t choose and I don’t know.’
5 February 2002
[books] Machismo isn’t that easy to wear — interview with Norman Mailer … On America: ‘What would we think of someone who was seven-foot tall, weighed 350 pounds, was all muscle, and had to be reassured all the time? We would say that fella’s a mess!’
4 February 2002
[books] Soap and the serious writer — interview with Philip Pullman … ‘Will and Lyra are a sort of Adam and Eve but, instead of reaffirming the Creation story, CS Lewis-style, they subvert it. Pullman is, actually, all for Eve listening to the serpent and trying the fruit. “I see it as a positive act,” he says. Because it shows curiosity, a willingness to embrace life? “Yes. Absolutely.” He says that if his book has any message, if readers go away feeling anything, he hopes it is that “this physical place, where we live, is a place of great beauty. We forget it as we grow up. We get so overlaid by habit. I want to say, open your eyes. Living is exciting, a source of amazing joy, and with that comes the responsibility to live it fully”. Oh, come on, I say. None of us can go round in a state of marvel all the time. Can you? “No. I do get tired and fed up, especially when I’m doing my VAT returns.”‘
28 January 2002
[books] Dæmon Geezer — Robert McCrum profiles Philip Pullman … ‘Pullman himself makes an unlikely demon. In person, he is thoughtful, good-natured and passionately interested in what the world has to tell him. Like his admired predecessors, he is only giving back to his audience the stories it has already vouchsafed in a thousand unguarded moments. First and foremost a teller of tales, he acknowledges “the absolute preciousness” of reality in all its chaos and discomfort. “Here is where we are,” he told The Observer, “and now is where we live.”‘
[film] Jack the Rip-Off — Iain Sinclair looks at the From Hell movie … ‘What Moore proposes, and what the film necessarily refutes, is the belief that the past is unknowable. ‘In all our efforts to describe the past, to list the simple facts of history,’ he wrote in his introduction to the From Hell scripts, ‘we are involved in fiction.’ There can be no anachronisms when time is a plural concept. Nobody knows, or will ever know, or should know, who Jack the Ripper was. Jack is. Sustained and incubated by tour guides, crocodiles of sombre or giggling pilgrims processing around the locations where the bodies were found, the Ripper lives on. An invisible earner. A waxwork vampire.’
27 January 2002
[books] A couple more Philip Pullman articles …

  • A wizard with Worlds — Interview with Pullman … ‘Earlier this year, he gave a remarkable speech called ‘The Republic of Heaven’ in which he succeeded in converting the words ‘God is dead’ into something positive. He refreshingly recruited Jane Eyre to his cause while giving Tolkien and C.S. Lewis the thumbs down for failing to salute the real world. He is not short of faith but it believes in humanity and in goodness, not in God. He believes we need this ‘thing which I’ve called joy’. His is an engaging moral optimism.’
  • Not for children — Robert McCrumb on Pullman … ‘…you can enumerate any number of qualities that separate Pullman from the herd, but at the end of the day, it’s because he grounds his fantasy in well-observed reality and is not afraid to acknowledge the importance of plot in his work. ‘When you are writing for children,’ he told the Bookseller in 1996, ‘the story is more important than you are. You can’t be self-conscious, you just have to get out of the way.’ Because it is easier to write description and dialogue than tell a good story, very many contemporary novelists write bad plots – bad plots that are full of inexplicable lacunae and wonky motivation. Pullman seems to know this. His writing has the hallmark of work that has been held up to the light and minutely inspected from every angle. Look at it where you like – it is seamless.’

25 January 2002
[books] An honest American Psycho — Fay Weldon reviews American Pyscho in 1991 … ‘Our yuppie hero kills an abandoned dog, slices it with a knife, walks on. No one cares. Women get their kicks from bondage. Yuppie goes too far, the women get to bleed a bit, but they get paid. That’s enough for them. The whole world’s into bondage. Altzheimers or Armani, spermicidal lubricant or Ralph Lauren, everything on the same level. So he goes further. What’s the odds? Not a nice book, no, not at all, this portrait of psychotic America, psychotic us. Just enough to touch a dulled nerve or two, get an article or so written.’ [Related: Bio of Bret Easton Ellis, Geocities Fan Page]
24 January 2002
[war] Back to hell — Mark Bowden – author of Black Hawk Down – on a possible US return to Somalia … ‘Because it is so wild, and because most of its residents are Muslims, Somalia seems a logical destination for al-Qaida and Taliban leaders fleeing the rout in Afghanistan. With the longest shoreline of any African nation, with its lack of government, navy, army or police, there is nothing to stop international outlaws from coming, provided they can run the international patrols in the Persian Gulf and Indian ocean. But once in Somalia, there is nothing to stop the US and its allies from coming after them. “We’ll go wherever we need to go in Somalia,” said one American general who asked not to be named. “It’s not likely that we’ll be asking permission.”‘
23 January 2002
[books] Epic children’s book takes Whitbread — Philip Pullman wins the Book of the Year Award … ‘He admitted that the judges fretted about giving the £25,000 top award to a children’s book. “If I am honest, the wind was against Pullman at the very beginning. We did worry about giving such a literary prize to a children’s book, but then we thought of CS Lewis and that was that.” The comparison with Lewis and his Narnia books has been often made of Pullman, who has never shied from tackling the big issues of love, belief and death.’ [Related: Extact from The Amber Spyglass]
21 January 2002
[books] First Chapter of The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen‘She was looking for a letter that had come by Registered mail some days ago. Alfred had heard the mailman knock on the door and had shouted, “Enid! Enid!” so loudly that he couldn’t hear her shouting back, “Al, I’m getting it!” He’d continued to shout her name, coming closer and closer, and because the sender of the letter was the Axon Corporation, 24 East Industrial Serpentine, Schwenksville, PA, and because there were aspects of the Axon situation that Enid knew about and hoped that Alfred didn’t, she’d quickly stashed the letter somewhere within fifteen feet of the front door. Alfred had emerged from the basement bellowing like a piece of earth-moving equipment, “There’s somebody at the door!” and she’d fairly screamed, “The mailman! The mailman!” and he’d shaken his head at the complexity of it all.’
16 January 2002
[911] A Blind Spot Called Iraq — review of a book which analyses if Saddam Hussein is behind the attacks on America … ‘Mylroie’s conclusion, reached by relentless forensic analysis of a huge array of human and documentary sources, is that the 1993 World Trade Centre bombing did not, as the Clinton administration claimed at the time, signal the emergence of a ‘new kind of terrorism’ by ‘loose networks’ of Muslim extremists.Instead, it was the first skirmish in ‘a new kind of war’ – sponsored, like old-style wars, by a hostile state, Iraq. Planned as the world’s worst terrorist attack, in which one of the towers would have collapsed into the other amid a cloud of cyanide, the plot’s Iraqi directors simply made use of a little Islamist muscle, stooges who were meant to be caught, in order to conceal its real origin.’
9 January 2002
[books] The Digested Read covers The Universe in a Nutshell by Stephen Hawking‘Apparently, a large number of the many millions who bought A Brief History of Time got stuck on page one. Oh dear. I expected more of my readers.’
7 January 2002
[books] Excellent interview / bio of Philip Pullman. During the interview Pullman is asked if we are missing out on magic in a world dominated by science … ‘Perhaps. I’m pretty skeptical, though. I think we’re far too superstitious on the whole. As for disgraceful betrayals of wisdom such as the pretense that there is something called “creation science” and we ought to give it equal time in schools with proper science — I’m ashamed to belong to a human race that is so sunk in abject ignorance and willful stupidity.’ [Related: Officicial Pullman Website]
4 January 2002
[books] Choke On This — an interview with Chuck Palahniuk … On his new book Lullaby: ‘It’s about a very burnt-out, jaded newspaper reporter who is assigned to do a five-part series about crib death, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. So, he wants to profile five different crib deaths. So, paramedics take him to, first, one crib-death scene, and he notices a library book that’s there, and it’s a cheap anthology of public domain folk stories and poems and anything that could be slapped together and published, and it’s opened to page 27. And the next crib-death sight is not exactly crib death, it’s a three-year-old, but it’s the same library book. And, it’s not open, but when he sets it on its spine, it falls open to page 27. Then the third, the fourth, the fifth crib-death sight, these people have all checked out this library book, and it looks like the night before these children died, it was read, what turns out to be an ancient African culling song, which was used to decrease population during famine or drought, and to humanely euthanize elderly or diseased or injured people in a painless, almost instant way. And he realizes that this is a spell for killing people.’ [via Feeling Listless]
30 December 2001
[books] Ellroy’s Kafka Routine — interview with James Ellroy … ‘The essential contention of the Underworld USA trilogy volume one, American Tabloid, volume two, The Cold Six Thousand, is that America was never innocent. Here’s the lineage: America was founded on a bedrock of racism, slaughter of the indigenous people, slavery, religious lunacy …and nations are never innocent. Let alone nations as powerful as our beloved fatherland.’
29 December 2001
[911 comment] History is back with a capital H — Naomi Klien on the End of History and ObL … ‘It’s an idea we’ve heard from many quarters since September 11, a return of the great narrative: chosen men, evil empires, master plans, and great battles. All are ferociously back in style. The Bible, the Koran, The Clash of Civilizations, Lord of the Rings – all of them suddenly playing out “in these days, in our times.” This grand redemption narrative is our most persistent myth, and it has a dangerous flip side. When a few men decide to live their myths, to be larger than life, it can’t help but have an impact on all the lives that unfold in regular sizes. People suddenly look insignificant by comparison, easy to sacrifice in the name of some greater purpose. When the Berlin Wall fell, it was supposed to have buried this epic narrative in its rubble. This was capitalism’s decisive victory. Ideology is dead, let’s go shopping.’ [via Wood s Lot]
23 December 2001
[wtc] Only Love and then Oblivion — Ian McEwan on 911 … ‘If the hijackers had been able to imagine themselves into the thoughts and feelings of the passengers, they would have been unable to proceed. It is hard to be cruel once you permit yourself to enter the mind of your victim. Imagining what it is like to be someone other than yourself is at the core of our humanity. It is the essence of compassion, and it is the beginning of morality. The hijackers used fanatical certainty, misplaced religious faith, and dehumanising hatred to purge themselves of the human instinct for empathy. Among their crimes was a failure of the imagination.’
22 December 2001
[comment] In the ruins of the future — Don DeLillo on 911. ‘Technology is our fate, our truth. It is what we mean when we call ourselves the only superpower on the planet. The materials and methods we devise make it possible for us to claim our future. We don’t have to depend on God or the prophets or other astonishments. We are the astonishment. The miracle is what we ourselves produce, the systems and networks that change the way we live and think. But whatever great skeins of technology lie ahead, ever more complex, connective, precise, micro-fractional, the future has yielded, for now, to medieval expedience, to the old slow furies of cut-throat religion. Kill the enemy and pluck out his heart.’
13 December 2001
[nyc] Tom Wolfe on the City of Change‘The case could be made that any post-9/11 federal appropriations to prop up business in New York should go first to the places where you can get Chilean sea bass with a Georgia plum marmalade glaze on a bed of mashed Hayman potatoes laced with leeks, broccoli rabe and emulsion of braised Vidalia onions infused with Marsala vinegar.’ [via Robot Wisdom]
9 December 2001
[comics] The genius of Jimmy — Raymond Briggs on Jimmy Corrigan … ‘Jonathan Cape also publish Rushdie, Amis, McEwan and Barnes, so can this mean that the modest Mr F C Ware has got a foot in the door of this pantheon? After all, his book is thicker and more expensive than theirs. Full colour throughout! And does it mean that we will live to see an ancient Dame Posy Simmonds go tottering by? ‘

Bugpowder posts a transcript of a Late Show Review of Corrigan between Tom Paulin, Dominic Lawson, Craig Brown and Miranda Sawyer. Paulin: ‘…the colours are dreadful, it’s like looking at a bottle of Domestos or Harpic or Ajax. Awful bleak colours, revolting to look at, it’s on it’s way to the Oxfam shop.’
29 November 2001
[books] The Digested Read — Madonna by Andrew Morton‘Surprise success of first album – some songs weak, shock horror – then effortless meteoric rise to superstardom. Control freak, more failed affairs – “she’s very needy, she never stops ringing you” – abortions, Sean Penn, more albums, loads of celebs, sex. Did I mention she was a control freak? Career nosedives, resurrected by Norman Mailer, desperate to be Evita, desperate to be loved, more failed love – “she wasn’t very adventurous in bed” – more albums. Clunk, clunk, clunk.’
25 November 2001
[humour] How to DRIVE FAST on DRUGS while getting your WING-WANG SQUEEZED and not SPILL YOUR DRINK by P.J. O’Rourke with illustrations by George Perez (?!) … ‘Name me, if you can, a better feeling than the one you get when you’re half a bottle of Chivas in the bag with a gram of coke up your nose, and a teen-age lovely pulling off her tube top in the next seat over while you’re going a hundred miles an hour down a suburban sidestreet. You’d have to watch the entire Mexican air force crash-land in a liquid petroleum gas storage facility to match this kind of thrill.’ [via Everlasting Blort]
24 November 2001
[books] The Grip that Death could not Loosen … the mad incestuous attic stories of Virginia Andrews. ‘So, back to the attic children who have just had sex – they are both the spawn of sibling incest and engaged in sibling incest. Oh, and the widow has decided to poison them with arsenic, which makes them very pale, but still extremely attractive to one another. They realise their peril and escape, with one younger sibling (the other has died). They lead a full and unhappy life of mistreatment and suchlike. A rogue doctor has an affair with the girl sibling – it results in a pregnancy, he performs a quick DIY abortion and keeps the foetus in a jar on his desk for a laugh. In the end, the siblings marry at the age of about 50 – they pretend they are unrelated, of course. No good comes of it.’
17 November 2001
[books] Top 10 literary hoaxes’10. The Hitler diaries — In 1983 a German magazine bought 62 volumes of the ‘lost diaries’ of Adolf Hitler. These had supposedly been discovered by farmers after the plane in which the diaries had been dispatched, shortly before Hitler’s suicide, crashed. They contained such fascinating snippets of Hitler’s domestic life as “on my feet all day long” and “must not forget to get tickets for the Olympic Games for Eva Braun.”‘
16 November 2001
[books] I Want to Go Ahead and Do It — old NY Times review of The Executioner’s Song by Norman Mailer‘[Schiller] …watches as Gary Gilmore’s ashes are let loose from a plastic bag to blow over Provo. The bag surprises Schiller. The bag is a bread bag, “with the printing from the bread company clearly on it . . . a 59-cent loaf of bread.”‘
13 November 2001
[books] The lost children — more on Philip Pullman from the Sunday Times. ‘…he can’t say all the classic children’s books perpetuate unblemished childhood. What about Enid Blyton’s Famous Five who often unearthed adult wrongdoing? Here, Pullman makes a remarkable confession: such realism is taboo today. “You can’t have your heroes and heroines going off by themselves to camp on an island. The publishers wouldn’t let you do it. There are all sorts of health and safety problems, paedophiles and goodness knows what else. The fear is that children are so stupid they’ll copy what they see in books. “So in order to give children adventures now, you either have to set it in the past when that sort of thing was allowed, or in another world where the rules are different. But you can’t do it realistically.”‘ [via Haddock]
11 November 2001
[furthur] “We are all doomed to spend our lives watching a movie of our lives – we are always acting on what has just finished. It happened at least 1/30th of a second ago. We think we’re in the present, but we aren’t. The present we know is only a movie of the past, and we will really never be able to control the present through ordinary means.” — Tom Wolfe quoting Ken Kesey’s philosophy in The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test. [Related: Author and hippie icon Kesey dies]
10 November 2001
[books] Driven by daemons — excellent profile and interview of Philip Pullman‘He is emotionally involved. He sits in the shed and makes it up and he weeps, yes, weeps copiously at the tragedies that unfold. He frightens himself and upsets himself and makes himself laugh. If the story evangelises, it isn’t him that’s doing it. It is merely his nature to admire qualities such as courage, kindness, intellectual curiosity, inclusiveness and open-mindedness, and to deplore cruelty, intolerance and fanatical zealotry, but he wouldn’t dream of writing stories to promote that world-view. If stories teach, that is not his conscious intention. “It’s craftsmanship. Your aim must be to tell a story as well as you can, shaping it and bringing the emotional currents to their… peak of emotional swishing about. You turn the raw materials, and all those loose bits of imagination and experience and memory, into something that stands up like a table with four legs and that doesn’t fall over when you put your elbows on it.”‘
31 October 2001
[books] First Chapter of Emergence by Steven Johnson… [via]

‘…they solve problems by drawing on masses of relatively stupid elements, rather than a single, intelligent “executive branch.” They are bottom-up systems, not top-down. They get their smarts from below. In a more technical language, they are complex adaptive systems that display emergent behavior. In these systems, agents residing on one scale start producing behavior that lies one scale above them: ants create colonies; urbanites create neighborhoods; simple pattern-recognition software learns how to recommend new books. The movement from low-level rules to higher-level sophistication is what we call emergence.’

29 October 2001
[books] More from Adrian Mole: ‘Glenn has been excluded from school, for calling Tony Blair a twat.’
27 October 2001
[no logo] Between McWorld and Jihad — Naomi Klein on 9-11 and the anti-corporate movement…

‘Of course, there is little evidence that America’s most wanted Saudi-born millionaire has a grudge against capitalism (if Osama bin Laden’s rather impressive global export network stretching from cash-crop agriculture to oil pipelines is any indication, it seems unlikely). And yet for the movement some people call “anti-globalisation” others call “anti-capitalism” (and I tend to just sloppily call “the movement”), it’s difficult to avoid discussions about symbolism: about all the anti-corporate signs and signifiers – the culture-jammed logos, the guerrilla-warfare stylings, the choices of brand name and political targets – that make up the movement’s dominant metaphors. Many political opponents of anti-corporate activism are using the symbolism of the World Trade Centre and Pentagon attacks to argue that young activists, playing at guerrilla war, have now been caught out by a real war.’

26 October 2001
[books] Out of the ordinary — Douglas Coupland has been touring England taking photo’s‘Coupland adores objects, and most of his book-tour photography has been of hotel rooms, shop windows, products, promotional displays. But why do it? “I’ve never taken pictures before and I said to myself, ‘Dammit, I’m going to learn how to do this. I don’t remember my dreams. Do you? No one does. But if you wake up and write them down straight away, you can look at it 15 years later and like, ‘I remember that dream perfectly.’ It’s the same with this 36 days, or 46 days, or whatever it has been, I really want to remember them. But your body tends to remember the airport and the train rumble, rumble, so I’m trying to remember the good stuff.”‘
24 October 2001
[books] Sue Townsend: You ask the questions‘[Q] Where do you see Adrian Mole aged 51? [A] Still trying to flog his abysmal novel, Lo! The Flat Hills of My Homeland, to a London publisher. He’ll almost certainly have early prostate trouble and I think he’ll be really strong on cardigans, in particular the Marks & Spencer zip-up range for men.’
21 October 2001
[books] All Authors are Pyschotic — interview with Douglas Coupland‘…when you look at the history of the smile in the photo… up until World War II most people in photographs had their normal faces. And then Kodak and other camera people and filmmakers always had their people smile, and then we entered this cult of the smile collectively. If you try not smiling when people are taking your picture they basically tell you to fuck off and start smiling.’ [Related: BBC News on Coupland, via Feeling Listless]