The LOLcat phenomenon was described (if not explained, which would be impossible) in the "Iconography of Boing Boing" slideshow I produced last Sunday. Did you watch the slideshow? If so, you are now prepared to read the most astonishing literary parody of 2007, a LOLcat version of T.S. Eliot's "Wasteland."
"LOLcat Wasteland" was written by Corprew Reed, a Seattle-based software and information architect. It appears on Reed's website, Corprewland.
Here's Part One:
i seez cumean sybil
sybil can has bukkit?
sybil wantz DIE
1. IM IN UR WASTELAND BURYING UR DEAD
april hates u, makes lilacs, u no can has. (1)
april in ur memoriez, making ur desire.
spring rain in ur dull rootzes.
earth in ur winter, covered in snow
can has potato. PO-TA-TO.
INVISIBLE SUMMER! RAININGZES!
im in ur hofgarden, drinking ur coffeez.
at archduke’s haus, invisible sled!
im in ur moutainz, holding on tight.
no can has cheezburger.
oral sex metaphors in ur poem.
in ur stones, whar r treez? (19)
whar r bushez?
ceiling cat cannot say.
im in redrock, hiding from sunz.
commin ze redrock.
im in ur handfull of dust,
showing ur fear.
whar r wind?
INVISIBLE IRISH GIRL
in ur homelandz, freshening ur windz
can has hyacinths,
no can has tongue.
Isolde u down teh rivers.
Sosotris Cat has smartz, (43)
can see bukkit,
dead sailorz in bukkit,
hooked on fonicians.
belladonna in ur rocks,
situating ur situations.
man has three staves,
Sosotris Cat no can has hanged man:
avoid bukkit or u drownz.
INVISIBLE CITY (60)
i see dead peoplez under bridge,
i see dead peoplez on der streets,
walrus has clocks, says NEIN.
bodiez in ur garden, sprouting ur zombies
dog no can has zombies!
As fans of vintage newspaper comics -- and hopefully all other human beings -- are aware, Winsor McCay's "Dream of the Rarebit Fiend," published in the New York Evening Telegram and elsewhere from 1904-11, is one of the greatest achievements of the form. Each of the nearly 600 "episodes" -- as McCay's almost-animated strips are described by scholars -- of "Fiend" presents the surreal and fantastic adventures of some poor sap who foolishly ate Welsh Rarebit before going to bed. (One serving of Welsh Rarebit = approx. 1/4 pound rich cheese, thinned with ale, melted with mustard and cayenne, and served over toast.)
Freud's "Interpretation of Dreams" had been published a couple of years before "Fiend" started, and the notion that dreams aren't irrational flights of fancy -- that they are, in fact, at some level always a symbolic reflection of our waking lives -- was fertile territory for an imaginative and funny artist and writer like McCay. Better still, unlike "Little Nemo," McCay's famous cartoon dream-adventures for kiddies, "Fiend" was for adults -- the dreams were nightmares, each one creepier and kookier than the next.
Remember David Lynch's "Eraserhead," in which one bizarre thing after another happens to the protagonist? Read "The Complete 'Dream of the Rarebit Fiend' (1904-1913)," a colossal (oversized, hardcover, 464-page) tome written and edited by Ulrich Merkl, an independent art historian and comics scholar, and you'll soon realize that Lynch had nothing on McCay. Neither did other filmmakers, who -- Merkl demonstrates -- ripped off McCay's nightmare visions for such famous sequences as the dance of the pink elephants in "Dumbo," the giant hands grabbing a woman through a window in the 1933 "King Kong" (not to mention the climbing-to-the-top-of-a-skyscraper-to-catch-a-plane scene), and several sequences from Luis Bunuel's surrealist classic "L'Age d'Or."
Phew! This is the rare kind of book that -- if given the proper place in your home, perhaps a plinth in the living room -- will sustain you for many months. For example, there is an entire section dedicated to teasing out signs, from "Fiend" episodes, of McCay's early work as a circus poster illustrator. (The first image in this post, from a 1908 episode in which a hunter dreams about hybrid animals, is one such example.) Another section demonstrates that McCay predicted the sinking of the Lusitania (the Lusitania sinks in a 1907 episode), hair transplants, cosmetic surgery, even breakdancing!
Merkl's book is a self-published, gorgeously designed and printed labor of love; he handled the text and image research, the copyright research, the scanning and image restoration, not to mention the printing, advertising, and distribution. So... it's critical to note that "The Complete 'Dream of the Rarebit Fiend'" is not available from normal bookstores or online booksellers. Instead, visit the Rarebit Fiend Book website to get your hands on this magnificent achievement.
When journalist Naomi Klein finished her new, bestselling book, "The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism," which argues that the machinery of the state and the requirements of "disaster capitalism" are now so tightly synchronized in their exploitation of disasters both man-made and natural that they have become virtually one in the same, she sent it to Mexican director Alfonso Cuarón.
"I adore his films and felt that the future he created for 'Children of Men' was very close to the present I was seeing in disaster zones," she writes on her website. "I was hoping he would send me a quote for the book jacket and instead he pulled together this amazing team of artists -- including Jonás Cuarón, who directed and edited -- to make 'The Shock Doctrine' short film."
Universal Hub, the only must-read blog about Boston, has just posted links to various sites where you can view fan photos of today's parade.
Halloween on October 30, who woulda thunk it
Also check out the Red Sox Nation photo pool on Flickr:
I must say, I like the photos of the fans better than the photos of the Sox (they're all wearing hoodies, caps, and sunglasses -- you can barely tell them apart). So I hope the Sox are uploading all those photos they were taking during the parade...
A couple of weeks ago, I blogged about Lee Siegel's NYTBR review of "The Almost Moon," Alice Sebold's new novel. As the blog GalleyCat pointed out, Siegel's review contained a factual error, one that might or might not make Siegel look pretty bad. Unlike other bloggers, who piled onto Siegel and the Times Book Review, I pointed out that he wasn't the only "Almost Moon" reviewer who thought that the protagonist had stuffed her mother's corpse into a meat freezer.
To his credit, New York Magazine's Sam Anderson, one of the misguided reviewers on my list, responded a few days later with a mea culpa. But Anderson also defended Siegel:
In Siegel's defense, he never actually claims that Helen puts her mom in the freezer. All he does is quote some dialogue ("What did you think putting her in the freezer would achieve?" "I don't know") and issue the following judgment: "You find yourself struggling simultaneously with the juvenile contrivance of Mom in the freezer, the icy cynicism of such a conceit and the utter unreality of the conversation." This is all indisputably true. Putting Mom in the freezer is a juvenile contrivance, whether it actually happens or is just a dark fantasy. Siegel's ambiguity only looks like a misreading when it's sandwiched between a deceptive headline and a garish illustration, both of which were probably out of Siegel's control.
Like I said in my original post, I'd like to let Siegel off the hook. So I'll buy this.
UPDATE: I shouldn't have suggested -- as I might seem to do, in this post -- that GalleyCat was one of the blogs that "piled on" Siegel. GalleyCat, in fact, deliberately refrained from making sock puppet jokes, unlike Brainiac. I was talking about the other litblogs out there...
PS. Here's a less rambling version of "Mom's body is not in the freezer" that appeared in the Ideas section on October 21.
POOR LEE SIEGEL! In August 2006, after the prolific literary critic was accused of replying pseudonymously to snarky reader comments posted to his blog at The New Republic, he was suspended from that magazine. Worse, in the blogosphere his name will forever be associated with "sock-puppeting," as doing what he did is known. Last week, Siegel became the butt of blogger ire once again, thanks to a careless error that appears in his New York Times Book Review critique of "The Almost Moon," the long-awaited new novel by Alice Sebold, author of the best-selling "The Lovely Bones."
Siegel doesn't think much of "The Almost Moon," in which Helen, a woman who, no longer able to deal with her elderly mother's dementia, murders her, then drags the corpse to the basement meat freezer. Among the many things Siegel doesn't like about Sebold's book, as he put it in his review, is "the juvenile contrivance of Mom in the freezer."
Fair enough. But there's just one problem. As several people who had already read "The Almost Moon" informed the publishing-industry blog GalleyCat: Helen considers cutting up her mother's corpse so it will fit into the freezer, but can't bring herself to do it. (A few reviews of the book -- in the Richmond Times Dispatch (Va.), for example, and the Times of London -- confirm this plot point.) Despite her crime, according to GalleyCat, the fact that Helen can't bring herself to dismember her mother demonstrates that she is not completely evil.
So is Siegel guilty not of only blogging in haste, but of reading too quickly? If he did, he's in good company. I see that reviewers for New York magazine, The New Yorker, and the Los Angeles Times, among other publications, were likewise under the impression that "The Almost Moon" features a corpse-in-the-freezer scene. Efforts to reach Sam Tanenhaus, the editor of the Times Book Review, were unsuccessful.
Having a character stuff a corpse into a meat freezer may indeed be a juvenile contrivance on a novelist's part. But having a character not do so -- after getting the body to the basement -- might be, dare I say it? Quite brilliant.
CLARIFICATION: A Brainiac item in the Oct. 21 Ideas section argued that Lee Siegel made a "careless error" in a New York Times book review of Alice Sebold's "The Almost Moon." The item noted that Siegel wrote of the "juvenile contrivance of a Mom in the freezer" when the plot does not have a mother being put into a freezer. The book, however, does contain a conversation about the possibility of putting mom in a freezer. Siegel's review discussed that conversation but did not say whether or not the mother's body was put in the freezer.
"Like the participants of failed cultural eras before our own, we have embraced the new technologies and literacies of our age without actually learning how they work and work on us," claims writer and media theorist Douglas Rushkoff, in a recent email. He continues:
The 22-letter alphabet did not lead to a society of literate Israelite readers, but a society of hearers, who would gather to hear the Torah scroll read to them by a priest. The printing press and television set did not lead to a society of writers and producers, but one of readers and viewers, who were free to enjoy their own perspective on the creations of an elite with access to the new tools of production. And the computer has not led to a society of programmers, but one of bloggers -- free to write whatever we please, but utterly unaware of the underlying biases of the interfaces and windows that have been programmed for us.
I'd dropped a line to Rushkoff to ask him to explain the following algorithm, titled "Social Control as a Function of Media," which he contributed recently to a special exhibition (on "Formulae for the 21st Century") at the Serpentine Gallery in the UK. (The question was asked by the same folks who brought us recent books in which bleeding-edge thinkers answer questions like, "What Is Your Dangerous Idea?")
What does this algorithm, which is the subject of his next book ("The Slope: Corporatism and the Myth of Self Interest"), have to do with bloggers like me, not to mention Rushkoff himself? He explains:
Our controllers -- be they pharaohs, kings or corporations -- always remain one dimensional leap beyond us. When we learn to read, they gain monopoly over the presses. As we now gain access to Internet distribution of our text, they create the framework for such publication -- blogs, basically -- by monopolizing the programs, interface, and conduit. Worse, we tend to remain unaware of the new context shaping all our activity. And that's why no matter how much of a revolution Time magazine grants us by calling us "people of the year," we're still paying them for our access, and their sister corporations for our technologies.
As Curly from "The Three Stooges" used to say, I resemble that remark!
There's a great show closing this coming Sunday at A.P.E.'s Gallery 2 in Northampton. Titled "Way, Shape, Form," the exhibit showcases recent works by Heather Kasunick, Michael Lewy, and Craig Lupien, all of whom are interested in exploring "ideas of how work habits both as artists and as 9-to-5 employees are manifested in what they produce in the studio." Check it out before it's too late!
Jamaica Plain's Michael Lewy, about whom I've written for Ideas once or twice, holds down an administrative job at MIT. His workaday angst has been expressed via subversive PowerPoint charts, which have been collected in a book ("Chart Sensation") and also featured in the 2005 DeCordova Annual. Here's his video of the A.P.E. gallery exhibit.
Recently, Lewy has been subverting another kind of workplace software -- SketchUp, which architects and others use to create and share 3D models -- for an ambitious project, soon-to-be-fully realized online art project called "City of Work."
Alas, City of Work is a dystopian place. Although everything there is shiny and new, the gates to the city, emblazoned with the CITY OF WORK logo, remind one of the gates to Auschwitz, with their slogan, "ARBEIT MACHT FREI" (Work Brings Freedom). Not only that, but it's mandatory to have your Human Potential tested. Watch the video or the slideshow -- that's Lewy himself in the lead role. White-collar workers everywhere, visit the City of Work and reevaluate your lives!
* Bumped into a friend of mine who lives on Newbury Street, this morning. He doesn't follow baseball, and went to bed at 9:30 last night. Says he woke up around midnight because he heard what he thought were explosions, followed by the terrifying sound of hundreds of people screaming. Naturally, he thought it was the apocalypse. Then... "Oh! Right, the Sox must have won the World Series."
* Thinking outside the batter's box: Maybe Boston should stop using a DH. In Colorado, the Sox got a two-RBI single from Dice-K and a pinch-hit home run from a utility infielder. That's amazing.
* One of the best pieces of baseball writing I've seen so far this season: Last Friday, ex-Ideas deputy editor John Swansburg (now an editor at Slate) related what it was like to watch the Sox beat the Rockies in Game 2, at Fenway. Excerpt:
What was disappointing was that I'd been at Fenway the last time Schilling pitched for the Sox in a World Series Game 2, in 2004. The electric hum I experienced that October just wasn't quite there last night. In '04, at least as I remember it, I stood for pretty much the entire game, something I'd never done before at a sporting event, and haven't done since. Last night, the fans in my section stood up for a lot of the full counts or when runners were in scoring position, but I heard a fair number of "down in fronts" from people who were content to root from their seats. There were also long stretches of near silence. In the fourth inning, with a man on second and two outs, the guy sitting in front of me fielded a call from, and had a leisurely chat with, a buddy watching the BC football game at home. The percussion section in the Red Sox bullpen was easily audible throughout the game, even from my far-off seats. And my kid sister and I had a serious discussion about which event elicited a louder roar from the crowd: Mike Lowell's fifth-inning double, which scored the game's winning run, or Jacoby Ellsbury's uncontested stolen base in the fourth, which won America a free taco from Taco Bell.
Move over, John Updike and Stephen King!
* These two baseball blogs, also written by friends of mine, are must-reads this morning: Surviving Grady (I went to high school with Red), and Seth Mnookin's Feeding the Monster (Seth, author of the Sox book "Feeding the Monster," is a friend of a friend, really).
* Finally, I urge you to watch these Sox videos shot and produced by another friend, Boston.com senior multimedia producer Scott LaPierre, with other Globe and Boston.com colleagues:
With over 7.5 million page views a month, not to mention over 3 million RSS subscribers, Boing Boing is one of the most popular and influential blogs in the world. Its formula is simple: Co-editors Cory Doctorow, Mark Frauenfelder, Xeni Jardin, and David Pescovitz are enthusiastic about high technology, lowbrow culture, and everything in between. A Boing Boing item on a particularly outré graphic artist might be followed by instructions on how to make your own steampunk computer keyboard, followed by a clip of an obscure science-fiction movie.
Earlier this month saw the launch of Boing Boing TV, a five-day a week online program consisting of a video report three to five minutes long, hosted by one of the editors. "Boing Boing fans can expect the same curious and irreverent exploration of the world they find on the blog, but now through video," Jardin said in a press release. "Internet culture, DIY technology, geeky curiosities -- they're all in the mix." They sure are: At the beginning of each episode, some three dozen 8-bit images flash past, forming a kind of subliminal iconography.
At my request, Mark Frauenfelder decoded a few of these images. Click here to hear him do so in an audio slideshow that I produced for today's Ideas section.