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Archives for July 2013

Julia Flyte, is that you?

Teresa Jungman


Apparently… And a few other characters besides.


Al who now?

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First time as tragedy, second time as farce. (General grossness alert.)

The English Major Rambles

Oh, the rapturous higher plane of existence on which the ideal English major…what’s the word, something something, oh, let me just find a reality show to watch because I’m just a grubby economics major, rolling around on my piles of money:

Real reading is reincarnation. There is no other way to put it. It is being born again into a higher form of consciousness than we ourselves possess. When we walk the streets of Manhattan with Walt Whitman or contemplate our hopes for eternity with Emily Dickinson, we are reborn into more ample and generous minds. “Life piled on life / Were all too little,” says Tennyson’s “Ulysses,” and he is right. Given the ragged magnificence of the world, who would wish to live only once? The English major lives many times through the astounding transportive magic of words and the welcoming power of his receptive imagination. The economics major? In all probability he lives but once. If the English major has enough energy and openness of heart, he lives not once but hundreds of times. Not all books are worth being reincarnated into, to be sure—but those that are win Keats’s sweet phrase: “a joy forever.”

I’m guilty of saying I loved economics because it meant using math to explain people, but that was hyperbole. We get to use that, don’t we? The great unwashed?

I hereby summon one Bernardo Aparicio to rebut the claim above, that of one Mark Edmunson. And I don’t wanna hear no sass from any of you TAC types, you with your humanities degrees, and your writing implements, and your Kindles-used-for-books-not-sudoku-or-smut.

Hat tip to Cedar’s Digest, who asks Why Is the “Ideal English Major” uncurious and anti-intellectual?

If we are in the business of sharing the wonder of knowledge, then we need to drop the vague mysticism of “there are readers and there are readers.” Take a small drop of that celebrated imagination supposedly thought to dwell deep in the heart of every English major, and think about why economists might think their field is important.  Economics majors do not “live in facts and graphs and diagrams” any more than an English major lives in the alphabet. Economics is the study of human decisions. Someone who studies health economics or the effects of poverty or labor markets doesn’t do it because they enjoy the pretty colors that excel offers. They like finding patterns in human behavior. Sometimes they apply that knowledge so that more English majors can eat.  They are not doing this because they are soulless automatons.

How the heck did I miss this?

Miss Ellen interviews Mr. Matthew … and does crackerjack job of it.


6a00d8341bfc3053ef0147e0b14b08970b-800wi Got a call from the Lansing Priest the other day.



“Well, yes.”

“That was in the reading yesterday. I thought of you.”

The discovery of the moral universe?

Sasha Weiss reviews Adelle Waldman’s The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P.:

We’re also shown the cruel hilarity of writing a comedy of manners in a time and place where manners have eroded: What is the proper etiquette for Nate, Waldman asks, when he’s gone on a few lacklustre dates with a woman and she becomes pregnant? They decide together that an abortion is the only solution (and it becomes clear that Nate feels no spark of romance), he dutifully accompanies her to the clinic and, after keeping her company with movies and takeout that evening, calls only once, to see how she’s doing, but not again. When Nate runs into this woman a year later, and she sputters some furious words at him, how guilty should he feel for behaving more or less straightforwardly? Should he have assumed that a successful woman, with a large social network, really needed his continued attention and ministrations?

With her eye for social folly in the streets and restaurants of New York, Waldman resembles Edith Wharton. But where the manners and hierarchies of Wharton’s world are highly codified (and the scandal in her books is the arrival of someone who tries to break them), Waldman’s characters are set adrift in a world without clear rules, and they torment themselves trying to figure out if they’ve in fact violated some ill-defined conventions of courtship and sexual etiquette.

Brideshead Transplanted

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The New York Times real estate section is currently featuring a Majorcan farm dating to the 13th century. A few of the heartbreaking details about the $5 million property:

“The 8,000-square-foot manor house is the centerpiece of the 40-acre property, which has been owned by the same family since 1790.”

“In a nook off one of the living rooms, right, is a small chapel where Mass  has been celebrated weekly for centuries.”

“[A] dwelling, used historically for baking bread, is one of several unrenovated outbuildings included in the sale.”

“An ancient reservoir helps with irrigation.”

Dorian is coming….

She’s coming fast and hard with vengeful spite:
You’d better ready yourself now
As she prepares to sweep
The beaches bare,
Her eye
Will spy
Most anywhere
The rapey, killy creep
Who dares to scare her brood – and blow,
This mother will, with ever-loving might!

Miss Ellen requests


“I heard one of the other people, a young woman who stood in line ahead of me, remark to him that along with Bob Dylan, Percy was her biggest hero. That got him out of his chair to give her a big hug.”

The original and the best.


Elmer T. Lee, creator of Blanton’s Bourbon, has died.

Declining demand for bourbon, which began in the early ’70s and continued into the ’90s, was attributed to various causes, including recreational drug use, the mass marketing of beer, and the rising popularity of gin and vodka among cocktail drinkers.

With the work force at Buffalo Trace shrinking steadily — from 250 when he started in 1949, it would reach a low of 50 in the early 1990s — Mr. Lee and his staff selected their best bourbon whiskey, put it in decanters with attention-getting horse-and-jockey bottle stoppers, and shipped it for retailing at about $30 a bottle, compared with an average price of $10 to $15 for a regular bottle.

The audience gathered slowly. But once it arrived, said Eric Gregory, president of the Kentucky Distillers’ Association, the premium audience was devoted. “We had to have cases and cases of it every Friday, or else,” said Mr. Gregory, who as a University of Kentucky student worked part time in a liquor store in the mid-’80s.

A Jew, a WASP, and a Catholic walk into the publishing business…

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Jonathan Galassi comments on Farrar Straus & Giroux:

It all began in 1945, when Roger W. Straus Jr., a brash young New Yorker fresh out of the Navy, decided to apply his talent for public relations to starting a publishing house. Straus was the black sheep in a powerful “Our Crowd” family with a burning desire to make good on his own. Roger was no littérateur, but he loved the glamour and excitement of books. He was destined to be the last of a string of Jewish “gentleman” publishers, including Horace Liveright, Alfred Knopf, Bennett Cerf, and Donald Klopfer, who broke into a Wasp-controlled business and ended up dominating it.

An aristocrat with powerful connections (his uncle Harry Frank Guggenheim was the publisher of Newsday; Peggy Guggenheim was a cousin), Roger was a rank newcomer to publishing and knew he needed an editor with a name to give him credibility. So he asked John Farrar, recently cashiered from the Wasp house of Farrar & Rinehart, to come in with him. But it was the arrival of Robert ­Giroux that made Farrar, Straus & ­Giroux, as it came to be called, into a significant player in the business.

So, so tickled that I got to pay a visit to those offices once. Also the offices of the Wylie agency, which is mentioned in the piece. Both on the same day! All it cost me was a couple of bottles of really good Petite Sirah and all my literary hopes and dreams. But that last part came later.

Dead to me


The AV Club has been in something of a tailspin since most of its senior staff took off for The Dissolve. But when you give the Criterion release of Babette’s Feast a C+ and lead with a graf like this…

Anyone looking put themselves into a quick coma for some reason should consider sitting down and watching a lot of the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar winners from the ’80s and ’90s. Most of these films aren’t bad, by any means, but AMPAS tends to be drawn—even today, but especially back then—to blandly inspirational period pieces rather than to the truly vital work being done all over the world. Babette’s Feast, which won the award in 1988, exemplifies the kind of foreign film the Academy loves: tasteful, literary, unchallenging, faintly dull.

Hate the Playa

Via Deadspin, a 2007 contract specifies the terms of J.J. Redick’s Ex-Girlfriend’s agreement to get an abortion.

REDICK has agreed that once LOPEZ has terminated said pregnancy and has provided medical proof of said termination satisfactory to REDDICK, including, but not limited to, direct access to LOPEZ’s medical files and records of the clinic, practice or hospital conducting the termination procedure and has submitted to a post-pregnancy examination by a doctor of REDICK’s choice to confirm both the prior pregnancy and its termination, REDICK and LOPEZ shall attempt to establish and maintain a social and/or dating relationshiip between themselves for a period of one year from the date of this Agreement (herinafter the “Relationship”).

Here we see an appropriate use of scare quotes, re: “Relationship.”

Guys, look at this cool old magazine I just found!


Join the fray…

USA. New York. 1950.

Where they discuss the not-so-usual suspects – including you and you and you and you and and you and you and…!


Today in Kitchen Cleaning

Introvert Vacation Destination

If you squint you can see a murderous drifter. Or was that just a deer?


The Seashell


La tempête a béni mes éveils maritimes. – Rimbaud

The scalloped curve of the empty seashell
Is barren and barely beauty reaching as far
As it can before all is flushed from heart and soul –
O, the covetous rush! And the cavernous lust

Becomes a mere apology for the senses,
Disengaged, amused, parsed out, abused,
Passed on, withdrawn… The whorling spires yield
A frank anatomy of bone, a fluid flesh

Itself shedding finer, more erotic robes
Once keel’s draft is drawn. Anonymity preserves
The graveyard of bowed mastheads and nude figureheads.
The shabby rag-bagged baggage of pornography

Adorns the wavering sea with weird images.
A curse of doldrums and stale maps promise nothing else.
The compass needle begins its spin, its long drawn
Curvature reminiscent of earth and sea and…

Hybrids and homunculi…Succubi and sarcophagi…
Monsters and maelstroms… Man is born threadbare,
Awash upon a beach of strange allegories,
Marooned, nearly naked, but unable to resist

The temptation to dream of footprints in the sand,
Conscious of his mind roaring in a conch’s crook.