Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Gig #60: Of late 10: Siinai, The Bug, The Austerity Program, Shabazz Palaces, Owen Pallett, Eleh, Asian Women on the Telephone, Electric Funeral, Sue Tompkins, NGLY, Lee Gamble, Oren Ambarchi

Siinai Shopping Trance
'Siinai are progressive kraut-rockers from Finland, and their new album Supermarket is due out June 17 via Splendour. As you may have surmised from both the album title, and the title of their new track “Shopping Trance,” the project is an attempt to make “a soundtrack for the supermarket nations. “Shopping Trance” most certainly fits the bill: an 8-minute churning swath of groove that plods along like one might plod along through aisles of frozen french fries and Frosted Mini Wheats. Also, just like your average trip to the grocery store, it starts out determined and on a mission, mathematical in precision and execution — but eventually gets distracted, slowing after about six-and-a-half minutes when our focused eyes glaze into supermarket eyes, lost in the aisles.' -- Stereogum

The Bug Save Me
'The latest offering from the The Bug, Angels & Devils, escapes the London cage, drawing on it for influence yet blowing it up into a world-view now seen from Kevin Martin's new Berlin home. A record that simultaneously draws on London Zoo, completes a triptych cycle which started with his Bug debut Pressure, and fills the spaces between and inserts what was missing previously. Both a year zero re-set and a continuation of what has been. Like the Bowie/Eno classic Low, or Can's Tago Mago, the album is split into two distinct themes and explorations of light & dark. Bringing the angel & devil voices together under a single common banner. Antagonist at times, but not solely for the sake of being antagonistic, there's a beauty and lush sparseness to be found within, even when at its most chaotic.' --

The Austerity Program Song 30
'A grim smile flickers out from behind many of the songs on Beyond Calculation, the second full-length album from NYC duo The Austerity Program. In the grand tradition of post-punk’s noisier offspring, The Austerity Program approach some of the darkest corners of the human experience with their teeth bared like grinning apes circled by predators they can’t fend off. Tales of mundane cruelty, of neighborhood assholes and cyberbullies, are elevated to mythic stature and set beside images of genuine horror and hardship. The album is littered with the debris of those who have shattered themselves against the malevolent or just plain indifferent forces encroaching upon their world.' -- Tiny Mix Tapes

Shabazz Palaces #CAKE
'Herein bumps and soars Lese Majesty, the new sonic action of Shabazz Palaces. Honed and primal, chromed and primo. A unique and glorified offering into our ever-uniforming musical soundscape. Lese Majesty is a beatific war cry, born of a spell, acknowledging that sophistication and the instinctual are not at odds; Indeed an undoing of the lie of their disparate natures. Lese Majesty is not a launching pad for the group’s fan base increasing propaganda. It is a series of astral suites, recorded happenings, shared. A dare to dive deep into Shabazz Palaces sounds, vibrations unfettered. A dope-hex thrown from the compartments that have artificially contained us all and hindered our sublime collusion.' -- Sub Pop

Owen Pallett Song for Five & Six
'Unlike fellow Toronto-raised musician Drake, interviews are not like confessions for Oscar-nominated arranger/composer/conductor/songwriter/compulsive violin looper Owen Pallett. Instead, they are spirited debates with lofty goals in mind: The 34-year-old is adamant that he'll "do anything within my power as a gay, white, Canadian male to assist in improving the relationship between creatives and consumers.” This diplomacy appears to have carried over to his latest baroque art-pop album, In Conflict, which replaces the sci-fi and RPG-based subject matter of his previous work with what sounds like more autobiographical themes. But when I ask him if he has role models in terms of confessional songwriting, he snaps back: “I have a problem with your choice of the word 'confessional.’ I hate the word ‘confessional’ or ‘cathartic.’ I think those terms are vaguely misogynistic and always applied to female songwriters. And it's like, 'Well, what do men do? Do they have something they need to get off their chest?'”' -- Ian Cohen

Eleh Observation Wheel
'The stuff that Eleh sets in motion from whatever electronic sound generators he/she deploys represents a measured and methodical paring away of all that might appear superfluous, baroque and rococo. Each of the tracks here consists of just a handful and discrete (and discreet) but highly charged sound events that emerge, overlap, recede and reverberate at critical frequencies over extended durations. At certain crucial points this approach serves as a formula for opening a portal what David Toop has referred to as the dark void, that spectral realm magicked into being (or exposed by) the drone, in which audio apparitions and chimeras dance through smoke and mirrors, suggesting the existence of occult planes and dimensions, multiple other realities, worlds within worlds.' -- Tony Herrington, The Wire

Asian Women on the Telephone live
'In a basement club near the Kremlin, a recording of howling wolves moaned through thick fog. A boy beside me said something in broken English; I asked him to repeat it and he said “The music — it’s mostly about wolves.” Asian Women on the Telephone are a startling phenomenon to behold live. Their homemade costumes are always changing and evolving, and their sound lies somewhere between experimental punk and junkyard machinery. For the trio of drummer Nikita, synth player Max and vocalist/bass player Nastya, it’s the sound of their inner beasts. Born in 2007 from the ashes of three underground stations – Lubyanka, Park Kulturi and Domodedovo – a Moscow experimental outfit ASIAN WOMEN ON THE TELEPHONE is one of the new Russian avant-garde movement’s most innovative and successful hands.' -- Electronic Beats

Electric Funeral Order from Disorder
'Swedish harsh noise punk act Electric Funeral is not for people who value conventional structures, ample production, clarity of lyrics, joyous attitudes, or any combination thereof. Total Funeral, which will come out via Southern Lord on July 22, collects the entire discography from the solo project of Jocke D-Takt, and it's highly recommended if you are into Disclose and D-Clone. Like those bands, Electric Funeral takes the static tone of Discharge's Hear Nothing See Nothing Say Nothing and magnifies it to the point where it becomes power electronics with live drums. Admittedly, this collection is a LOT to take in at once, but it's all the Electric Funeral you'll ever need. The only reason to listen to this is to torture yourself.' -- Andy O'Connor

Sue Tompkins Grow Fins
'Working with fragments of language gathered from everyday encounters and experiences, Tompkins’ practice incorporates text, sound, installation and performance. She is best known as vocalist for the now defunct indie rock band Life Without Buildings. Made up of text that is original, altered or borrowed, the strength of Tompkins’ work is in its disruption of verbal communication. Through complex yet eloquent layerings of repetition, non-sequential juxtaposition and re-contextualisation, Tompkins reinvigorates and gives new meaning to language.' -- collaged

NGLY Speechless Tape
'The occult project (a revitalization of lost/forgotten knowledges) has largely fallen by the wayside in the light of rationalistic, humanistic models, but NGLY hearkens them back, locating powers that might rightly be called inhuman. The key comes with “Speechless Tape,” the asymptotic anti-climax of their new EP. An obviously ironical contradiction between title and content reveals itself not with a smirk, but with a distant stare fixated somewhere beneath long, greasy hair. It’s truly a successful occult project, as “Speechless Tape” doesn’t work from a paradigm of desire-enhancement, but from precisely the opposite: it stays calm in the face of unendurable entropies. No synthesis, no assimilation, no recuperation, but an immense power made manageable only through a vital act of disengagement.' -- Tiny Mix Tapes

Lee Gamble Plos 97s
'With albums that explore sonic abstraction and decomposition in deliberately warped and murky ways, forward-looking British producer Lee Gamble operates on the cerebral fringes of modern electronic music. A founding member of the austere Cyrk collective, Gamble and his heavily processed computer music recently joined the ranks of experimental label PAN. His two exquisite 2012 releases deconstruct visceral body music with academic rigueur, as ghostly sounds are processed beyond recognition. Whether it be his sublime jungle/d’n’b deconstructions of mid-1990s mixtapes onDiversions 1994–1996 or his adventurous techno disfigurement on Dutch Tvashar Plumes, Gamble crafts complex atmospheres and twisted arrangements. When performing live, he imbues his compositions with a playfulness that doesn’t compromise his experimental roots – the very framework for his densely layered sonic palette.' -- mutek

Oren Ambarchi Rhubarb
'From modest beginnings, in the last two decades Oren Ambarchi has risen to become one of the world's best-known experimental musicians, whose work crosses genres and boundaries with ease. His initial fame arose from a series of solo records released by Touch that brought him recognition more in electronic circles than in the improvised music world where much of his work now resides, but Ambarchi has never been one to stand still for long. Initially inspired by Japanese noise hero Keiji Haino to find his own approach to the guitar, the Australian went from admirer of the Japanese legend to a friend and performing partner in barely a decade, and they now regularly record and play together in various formations. At this point, Ambarchi's list of collaborators on record is as impressive for its length as for the names it contains - as well as Haino, it includes Sunn O)))'s Stephen O'Malley and Greg Anderson, Jim O'Rourke, Fire!, Z'EV, Fennesz and Robin Fox - many of whom have made important contributions to 20th and 21st century experimental music.' -- The Quietus


p.s. Hey. ** Bill, Greetings to Linz. I've never been there, but, for some reason, based on the name, I have a picture in my head of a quite pretty, scenic place. Off or on? Are you playing in Ars Electronica? I was just reading about it somewhere, I think in The Wire. Very cool in any case. What's happening? Yeah, 'Honored Guest' rules. She is so good. I've always really want to meet her. Her PR interview is terrific, no surprise. Enjoy your day and tell me what you did and saw, please. ** Adrienne White, Howdy, Adrienne! How was Nick Cave? Nice about the New Jersey trip. Where in New Jersey? Oh, I think that's plenty exciting, and my life is very excitement-impaired these days, so I'm even envious. ** Scunnard, Yeah, nice quotes, right? She's a great sentence maker/nailer. I don't know if Metzger is big in France, but the name totally escaped me until you clued me in. Anyway, it's not just you. There were/are at least two of us. Only one of us now. I feel so alone. I guess stress is part and parcel re: a project like this. I'm trying to turn it into fuel. Environmentally friendly fuel. Solar power, I guess. Wow, it doesn't feel like solar power. Solar power seems like it must be so zen. ** David Ehrenstein, Indeed! ... All the boys and girls! I'll try 'Igby' again one of these days. I only remember that I found it too cutesy and clever-clever, but I don't remember why. I know that Christophe's film is finished. He might still be toying with it a bit in post. I don't know a huge amount about it. I'm sure it's going to be great. Have you seen the trailer? If not, it's here. ** MyNeighbourJohnTurtorro, Hi, Johnny! If I may call you Johnny. Tricks are tricky in the not so good way, but what the heck, right? I'm surprised I haven't heard the new Swans either. It's rather inexplicable. I'll put that absence in the past asap. Well, I've been having to keep my mouth shut about the Scott0))) project for quite a while, me being buds with Stephen and all. I haven't actually heard it yet, but the word among the listener cognoscenti is that it's amazing, no surprise. But, yeah it's a crazy thing. And there's even more on that front that remains inside my forcibly closed mouth for now. We'll be filming through the first week of September, and then it moves into the editing phase. When it's finished, which is supposed to be by the end of the year, and then when it's through post, which should be by early next year, the producers will submit it to festivals. It already has a distribution deal and DVD release guarantee in the US because the US distribution company put money into the project. I think there is some European distribution in place, but I don't know what. All of that is vague at the moment, but I assume the film will at least start being seen by early/mid next year. My Monday wasn't so hot, but I'm hoping for better for today. How was your Tuesday? What happened? ** Kier, Hi, K! Wow, really, you bought 'HG'. She's so great! I hope you like it. Blue film! Ooh. Wow, you really scored with all that stuff yesterday. Oh, Kate Bush ... you know, I don't really know all that much of her stuff, strangely. I mostly only know the 80s stuff, 'Running Up that Hill' and that era. But hardly anything since, for no good reason. So I think she seems pretty great, but I'm kind of a Kate Bush innocent. What do you recommend I get? I'll get whatever you tell me that I should get. Oh, crap, I see that the rash on your arms has turned into boils! I'm so sorry. Shouldn't they have made you wear long sleeves or long gloves or something? Shit. Did the doctor give you something to start getting that fixed? Major hugs, my friend! ** Steevee, Hi. From my limited investigation, it does seem like Strypes have a least a bunch of young fans. Oh, the 'authentic' thing, right. That's so uninteresting. That 'the stuff I grew up listening to is authentic because I personally have an emotional attachment to the style of music made when I was young' argument is so gross. As is the guitars = authenticity argument. Oh, well, I guess it's all very harmless. ** Etc etc etc, Hi, man. She's great! Ugh, hustling. Oh, I just saw yesterday on Facebook that Lazy Fascist Press is currently reading submissions, if you want to try them. They're a terrific press. Here's a link to their FB page. Sure, send me a chunk or a few pages, cool. It'll take me a while to read them because I'm completely overwhelmed with film project stuff for at least the next two weeks, but I would be very interested to read that. That 'much bigger thing' you're working on sounds kind of really mouthwatering. Yeah, my novel. The aforementioned film thing has really cut into my work on it of late, but I'm angling to get back to it asap, and I'm very excited about it. Take care, Casey. ** Sypha, Hi. Yeah, ha ha, I figured you'd be into Jake Bugg. Well, like I said, I sort of find it hard to believe that they won't want your/Oscar's book, but, yeah, no harm in widening your fishing grounds. ** Keaton, I've never heard of an Italian soda. Maybe France erased my memory. I did meet them both. Nah, I would just watch them skeptically but politely. Wife of Rob Zombie, gotcha. Wow, I really should have been able to guess that one. Gif stacks are really tough and interesting. Obviously, I'm kind of addicted to making them. I think gif stacks are a important new form, and I fully intend to go down in history as one of the forms early serious attempters. Yeah, I do. Have you actually read Joy Williams? Based on what I've read of your writing, I would have thought you'd be into her prose. ** _Black_Acrylic, Hi, B. How was the Franz West show? That sounds promising. I guess I think he's kind of uneven, but I think some of his work is really something. ** Chilly Jay Chill, Hi, Jeff. Hm, a favorite Joy Williams. That's hard. I honestly really love everything I've read by her, which is almost all of her books, I think. Yeah, I can't come up with just one. Do you have a fave of hers? I think Zac has that new French 'Providence' DVD. We've been planning to watch it for weeks. It's a must have for absolutely sure, as is that R-G box obviously. ** Misanthrope, Oh, you have, have you? Or if you're a younger top guy into older bottoms. Obviously, that's a thing too. Everything's a thing. There are things for everyone out there. Things so thingy that I often sit back and fold my arms and say, 'Huh'. ** Rewritedept, Hey. Oh, your excerpt will appear in a workshop for sure a week from this coming Saturday. It's all set. Yesterday was not an improvement, and I'll leave it at that, ha ha. No, I haven't read the sample other than kind of skimming it when I was setting up the post. I'll read it carefully between now and the workshop day. I really just do not have any brain power at the moment that isn't taxed out and maxed out by this film stuff, and I'm sorry for the delay. I hear you about life stress at the moment big time. High five. ** Okay. Up there is one of those gig posts I do showcasing music I've been listening to lately and liking enough to suggest that you discover it yourselves. Enjoy. See you tomorrow.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Spotlight on ... Joy Williams Honored Guest (2005)

'One of my favorite books is the story-collection Honored Guest (2004) by Joy Williams. I like it to a degree that its “flaws” seem to function “completely” as contributors to its “tone,” which I like, and which therefore creates a situation for me where “there are no ‘flaws,’ only ‘idiosyncrasies’ that contribute to the ‘tone.’” This contrasts with books where I can easily sense what I like and dislike, for example I like the dialogue and social interactions in Less Than Zero (1985) and American Psycho (1991) by Bret Easton Ellis but dislike the violent parts. When I think about Honored Guest’s “tone” I think it is maybe something like drinking a lot of caffeine while mildly and “calmly” depressed, taking painkillers at night while happy, going outside into sunlight in the morning after not sleeping the night before due to a specific kind of crippling loneliness, or being financially stable while unemployed and living alone in a clean studio apartment with little or no social or familial obligations.

'Honored Guest seems versatile, powerful, reliable, and accommodating to me. If I am severely depressed I can read it and feel calmer, more accepting, and better able to utilize such depression-reducing skills as detachment, irony/sarcasm, and relativism. If I am happy I can read it and feel “delight,” an increase in the non-delusional aspects of my happiness, and that I am glad I exist and can interact with certain other humans. If I am bored I can open the book randomly and study whatever sentence or scene to see how they have been constructed, find “little jokes” or “other things” I didn’t notice before, or read it slowly in a self-conscious manner for purposes of perceiving how exactly my emotions are being affected by certain line breaks or adverbs.

'In the past I have felt that Joy Williams’ stories were too [something] for me to enjoy at a comprehensive, “direct” level but today I do not feel that way. Today when I read Joy Williams I feel that I am not blocking out or suppressing any aspects (or only very small and vague aspects) of my personality, sense of humor, or worldview. I feel that I am “enjoying” the writing in a manner similar to how the author herself would enjoy it, as opposed to writing where I feel “ever conscious” that I am probably “enjoying” it in a different manner than the author would, for example writing that I feel is unintentionally funny or only “accidentally” detached (not completely sure what I mean re “accidentally” detached).

'To me Joy Williams (b. 1944) and Lorrie Moore (b. 1957) overlap in their writing to some degree. I like them both a lot. Their output quantity (and, to me, quality) is similar, to some degree, a notable degree. They’re both sort of on the “edge” of whatever groups of writers journalists have successfully grouped together. They both have three story-collections of which the first ones, I feel, were in a somewhat different style than the next two, which have styles that are “crystallized” versions of the first books’ styles, in my view. I sometimes think about what they think about each other’s work. I feel interested in interviewing Joy Williams about Lorrie Moore or Lorrie Moore about Joy Williams. I have Googled their names together without success. They seem to have not ever mentioned each other’s names in print. I think almost everyone I know that likes Joy Williams’ writing a lot also likes Lorrie Moore’s writing a lot.

'I will write about some of the stories in Honored Guest.

'Honored Guest. In this story a girl is living with her mother who is dying. At one point the mother wakes up screaming her own name. I feel like if I were dying I would wake up screaming my own name sometimes.

'Congress. In this story a woman’s boyfriend’s job is to examine body parts of dead people or animals to identity them as specific people or animals. Halfway through the story the man falls out of a tree while hunting with a cross bow and gets brain damage. This story feels to me like a full-length “indie” movie in terms of narrative movement, number of scenes and locations, and quirkiness level re characters.

'The Visiting Privilege. In this story a woman visits her friend in a “mental hospital.” Her friend gets annoyed because the woman visits every day and sometimes more than once a day. The woman makes friends with an old woman and thinks the old woman is “cute,” in how she acts, and I agree. This story to me exhibits clean, beautiful, high-quality expressions of depression and meaninglessness.

'Charity. In this story there is a small girl that is very “cute” in how she acts. I think I always feel that Joy Williams thinks her characters are cute, interesting, or funny and not ever “evil,” uninterestingly boring, immoral, or “wrong.” This and The Visiting Privilege are maybe my favorite stories in this book.

'Fortune. In this story a lot of young people go to South America, for a vacation, I think, and “sit around” a lot. I think their parents are also in South America on vacation. It is maybe the longest story in the book. I remember only parts of it. I remember the ending. I seem to almost always have an urge to reread this story in order to know it enough to “feel aware” of its entire structure inside of my head, at one time, as I have been able to do with the other stories after rereading them whatever number of times. I feel I will in the future reread this story for the 5th or 10th time or something and “gain” the entire structure, and then experience it at a different level, causing me to have different urges to further reread it.' -- Tao Lin



Podcast: Joy Williams interviewed about 'Honored Guest' on Bookworm'
Joy Williams, The Art of Fiction No. 223 @ The Paris Review
'Honored Guest' reviewed @ TNYT
'Honored Guest' @ goodreads
'The In Between Space: Reconciliation in Joy Williams’ Short Stories'
'Black beauty: Joy Williams’s 'Honored Guest''
'Karen Russell on how Joy Williams writes the unspeakable'
'Joy Williams: The Intuitionist'
Joy Williams's short story 'Train'
'Joy Williams is an unsettling genius'
Joy Williams's short story 'The Mission'
Podcast: 'Joy Williams | 1989 | “The Last Generation”'
'Ode to Joy Williams'
'Joy Williams' greatest hits'

Manuscript page

Why She Writes

from Uncanny Singing That Comes from Certain Husks: Why I Write

It’s become fashionable these days to say that the writer writes because he is not whole, he has a wound, he writes to heal it, but who cares if the writer is not whole, of course the writer is not whole, or even particularly well. There is something unwholesome and destructive about the entire writing process. Writers are like eremites or anchorites — natural-born eremites or anchorites — who seem puzzled as to why they went up the pole or into the cave in the first place. Why am I so isolate in this strange place? Why is my sweat being sold as elixir? And how have I become so enmeshed with works, mere works, phantoms?


A writer starts out, I think, wanting to be a transfiguring agent, and ends up usually just making contact, contact with other human beings. This, unsurprisingly, is not enough. (Making contact with the self — healing the wound — is even less satisfactory.) Writers end up writing stories — or rather, stories’ shadows — and they’re grateful if they can but it is not enough. Nothing the writer can do is ever enough.


The significant story possesses more awareness than the writer writing it. The significant story is always greater than the writer writing it. This is the absurdity, the disorienting truth, the question that is not even a question, this is the koan of writing.


A writer’s awareness must never be inadequate. Still, it will never be adequate to the greater awareness of the work itself, the work that the writer is trying to write. The writer must not really know what he is knowing, what he is learning to know when he writes, which is more than the knowing of it. A writer loves the dark, loves it, but is always fumbling around in the light. The writer is separate from his work but that’s all the writer is — what he writes. A writer must be smart but not too smart. He must be dumb enough to break himself to harness.


The moment a writer knows how to achieve a certain effect, the method must be abandoned. Effects repeated become false, mannered. The writer’s style is his doppelg√§nger, an apparition that the writer must never trust to do his work for him.


But a writer isn’t supposed to make friends with his writing, I don’t think.


Language accepts the writer as its host, it feeds off the writer, it makes him a husk. There is something uncanny about good writing — uncanny the singing that comes from certain husks. The writer is never nourished by his own work, it is never satisfying to him. The work is a stranger, it shuns him a little, for the writer is really something of a fool, so engaged in his disengagement, so self-conscious, so eager to serve something greater, which is the writing. Or which could be the writing if only the writer is good enough. The work stands a little apart from the writer, it doesn’t want to go down with him when he stumbles or fails to retreat. The writer must do all this alone, in secret, in drudgery, in confusion, awkwardly, one word at a time.


The good piece of writing startles the reader back into Life. The work — this Other, this other thing — this false life that is even less than the seeming of this lived life, is more than the lived life, too. It is so unreal, so precise, so unsurprising, so alarming, really. Good writing never soothes or comforts. It is no prescription, either is it diversionary, although it can and should enchant while it explodes in the reader’s face. Whenever the writer writes, it’s always three o’clock in the morning, it’s always three or four or five o’clock in the morning in his head. Those horrid hours are the writer’s days and nights when he is writing. The writer doesn’t write for the reader. He doesn’t write for himself, either. He writes to serve…something. Somethingness. The somethingness that is sheltered by the wings of nothingness — those exquisite, enveloping, protecting wings.


Why does the writer write? The writer writes to serve — hopelessly he writes in the hope that he might serve — not himself and not others, but that great cold elemental grace which knows us.

A writer I very much admire is Don DeLillo. At an awards ceremony for him at the Folger Library several years ago, I said that he was like a great shark moving hidden in our midst, beneath the din and wreck of the moment, at apocalyptic ease in the very elements of our psyche and times that are most troublesome to us, that we most fear.

Why do I write? Because I wanna be a great shark too. Another shark. A different shark, in a different part of the ocean. The ocean is vast.

Joy Williams reading 'Uncanny Singing That Comes from Certain Husks: Why I Write'

from The Rumpus

In your story, "Yard Boy," from your first story-collection, Taking Care, and in many stories since, you talk about being enlightened, about seeing things without preconception, which means allowing the possibility that inanimate objects have feelings and thoughts, that everything is relative and arbitrary, and other concepts involving “enlightenment” such as that the physical world is an illusion and that nothing can be “known.” In those worldviews “morals” seem irrelevant, or aren’t addressed, since they require assumptions and those worldviews tend to not want to assume anything. In your nonfiction, though, you seem to have morals, and seem to be “against” certain things like hunting, cruelty against animals, destroying the environment, etc. How do you reconcile that in your life? When you are making choices in your life, like choosing whether or not to pay more money for food or transportation that won’t destroy the earth, what do you think about? Do you more live your life like a work of art (fiction), or like a work of rhetoric (nonfiction) or some other way?

Joy Williams: You can get away with a lot more writing nonfiction (I’m not talking lies as has been the trend but attitude) than you can writing fiction. In a work of rhetoric you can take a stand, make a case, inform and inspire, scream and demean. You can’t be angry in fiction -- it’s all about control. You create worlds in order to accept them. You create worlds open to interpretation. Facts have limitations. At the Univ. of Wyoming where I’m in residence for a year, there is this wonderful little geological museum wherein there is THE FLUORESCENT MINERAL ROOM. There are maybe thirty rocks in there sitting quietly on shelves, modest rocks, nice rocks, but nothing lovely or extraordinary about them. But when you flip a switch -- Press Switch Here -- the room goes dark and the rocks blossom into the most intense and varied colors. They are really expressing… something. Now the explanation for this is helpfully posted on the wall: Certain stimuli, such as ultraviolet light, disturbs the atomic structure of certain minerals. The energy released as the structure returns to normal results in the emission of visible light.

And there you don’t have it. Far better to have a fictional Yard Boy, prone to love and awe, come to his own understandings which he certainly would have had if he had been fortunate enough to find himself in the Fluorescent Mineral Room at the University of Wyoming.

When I read your stories I feel that everything becomes more accurately balanced out and then I feel calmer, I feel “better.” There is an attempt, I feel, in your writing, to not give anything more “importance” or “weight” than anything else, and to not “rule out” anything. It is like how a child sees things -- without preconception. Or more accurately, maybe, how a robot or tree would see things -- without even the preconception of consciousness. Do you write or read to feel calmer, to feel less scared of death and other mysteries, to feel less “bad”?

JW: No.

You write about nonexistence a lot, about being either not-yet-born or “dead,” and have been focused on this pretty steadily, in your writing, for more than 30 years -- speculating on what it actually is (to not exist), making jokes about it, and “trying out” ways to feel and think about it. Has this affected your life in concrete reality, do you think, as opposed to someone who thinks less, and less creatively and originally, about not existing?

JW: Annie Dillard quotes someone who ventured that “the worst part of being dead must be the first night.” The themes you mention are in the new novel I’m working on as well. Back to the non-expressible. I so wish I were smarter! All art deals with the peculiarity, the strangeness of our situation. We do all this stuff -- we think, we marvel, we despair, we care -- and then we die. That makes no sense. Surely we should be spending our time differently since that is the case, but how? With the injustice, the political stupidity, the destruction of the natural world, it is tempting to believe (in our non-believing) that things are not what they seem, that there is a link between the dead and the unborn that can replenish the void we know awaits each of us and all we love.

What things have made you feel excited in your life?

JW: Excited? Why do you ask?

You said about The Changeling, “That book was just destroyed. It was an awful experience. […] I felt at the time that some of the reviewers wanted me to die. They just wanted me to stop writing. They were saying, ‘We have other writers out there who we have to deal with and all the writers yet unborn, so please go away.’” Your recent novel, The Quick and The Dead, however, received a lot of praise from almost every reviewer and was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize. Why do you think “critics” reacted differently to the two different novels?

JW: The late '70s were a tough time for women novelists. We were supposed to be feminist, engaged, angry. It was really, weirdly, a very conformist time. (Of course, Toni Morrison’s Song of Solomon came out around then and she avoided those problems profoundly and beautifully.) The Changeling is about a guilty young drunk named Pearl on an island with feral children. The prose is lushly stark and imaginative, the method magical, even demented. Feminism did not need a guilty drunk! The Quick and the Dead had larger, more charming and annoying characters and a bigger theme. It’s a better book. It was published in 2000, a millennium baby. Maybe people were more willing to contemplate the straits between the living and the dead. Still, the critics didn’t like it that much.

Throughout the '70s and '80s there was a term, “K-Mart Realism,” or “Minimalism,” that journalists used for a group of writers you were sometimes mentioned with -- Raymond Carver, Ann Beattie, Bobbie Ann Mason, Frederick Barthelme, etc. Did -- and are -- you interested or excited by work from that “group” of writers?

JW: Of the ones you mention, it’s Carver who’s the stand-out, and he very much disliked the term minimalism as it was applied to his own work. The editor Gordon Lish was the maestro of minimalism and under his uncanny pencil, many an ordinary story became a very good one. Minimalism as a productive style can be very affective, alarming and satisfying, but I don’t think there ever was a pure strain of it. For a time, it was just a kettle into which many a strange fish were flung. Now with America’s miniaturization of not irrelevance in the world, it might return to the short story in grim and freshened renewal. Certainly the days of the giddy blowhard are over. I hope.

I feel like your writing has become more concrete and less abstract over time. There are more scenes and more of a narrative, I feel, especially in your last two books, The Quick and the Dead & Honored Guest, than in your first books, specifically State of Grace & The Changeling. I like your writing more with each new book. It seems funnier and calmer now to me, I can picture things easier, the sentences feel to me more interesting like you spent more time selecting each sentence that is allowed in each story. I feel like most writers become more abstract over time, you seem like the exception to me. Do you ever think about this? Why do you think you became more concrete over time, or do you not think (or have not thought about) that?

JW: A writer is always seeing pitfalls inherent in a skill he thinks he’s already mastered. You write, you change, everything changes. The pressures on language fail to evoke the desired effect. The “gift” you feel you may have undeservedly received can’t be used for everything. The dependable friend has become untrustworthy. Your ear goes, or confidence that the delivering word will appear, erodes. You get sick of fulfilling your characters, your ease with Time evaporates. Endings, beginnings, impossible. Strategies change. It never gets easier, that’s for certain. Abstraction in fiction is supposed to be bad, but it can be just the struck match that illuminates. Much of a writer’s work is to unexpress the expressible as well as the opposite. And the “concrete” is essential to both.

At the end of one of your essays on writing you said, “None of this is what I long to say. I long to say other things. I write stories in my attempt to say them.” Is there mostly just one thing that you long to say, so that you try, in each story, to “say it all,” to express that one thing, or are there different things that you long to say, each requiring a different story?

JW: The conundrum of literature is that it is not supposed to say anything. Often a reader can enjoy a story or novel simply because he can admire the writer’s skill in getting out of it.

In Corinthians there is this passage: Behold, I show you a great mystery: we shall not all sleep but we will all be changed… in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye… This is one of those terrifying Biblical passages, though not as terrifying as many others, that addresses the unspeakable heart of our human situation and commands us to be aware. The best stories, I think, always contain this annunciation of awareness, no matter how cloaked. Emerson said, “No one suspects the days to be gods.” Stories can’t be gods of course. Maybe little godlets.

Do you have an “ideal” that you strive for (some already existing story, novel, movie, or song that you think of) when you write a short story? A novel?

JW: No. The first note must be sounded and why have it be another’s? To name an ideal and then seek to riff it anew is an exercise for writers’ workshops.

What story or novel writers, if any, do you feel are (or were) trying to “get at” the same things you are?

JW: I can tell you who I admire greatly -- writers who always move and trouble me -- Sebald, Coetzee, Delillo. They are rigorous, merciless novelists of great beauty and integrity.

Do you like to be around people and go to parties and drink alcohol?

JW: Not really. I’m shy.


Joy Williams Honored Guest

'With her singular brand of gorgeous dark humor, Joy Williams explores the various ways–comic, tragic, and unnerving—we seek to accommodate diminishment and loss. A masseuse breaks her rich client's wrist bone, a friend visits at the hospital long after she is welcome, and a woman surrenders her husband to a creepily adoring student. From one of our most acclaimed writers, Honored Guest is a rich examination of our capacity for transformation and salvation.' -- Vintage


She had been having a rough time of it and thought about suicide sometimes, but suicide was so corny and you had to be careful in this milieu which was eleventh grade because two of her classmates had committed suicide the year before and between them they left twenty-four suicide notes and had become just a joke. They had left the notes everywhere and they were full of misspellings and pretensions. Theirs had been a false show. Then this year a girl had taken an overdose of Tylenol which of course did nothing at all, but word of it got out and when she came back to school her locker had been broken into and was full of Tylenol, just jammed with it. Like, you moron. Under the circumstances, it was amazing that Helen thought of suicide at all. It was just not cool. You only made a fool of yourself. And the parents of these people were mocked too. They were considered to be suicide-enhancing, evil and weak, and they were ignored and barely tolerated. This was a small town. Helen didn't want to make it any harder on her mother than circumstances already had.

Her mother was dying and she wanted to die at home, which Helen could understand, she understood it perfectly, she'd say, but actually she understood it less well than that and it had become clear it wasn't even what needed to be understood. Nothing needed to be understood.

There was a little brass bell on her mother's bedside table. It was the same little brass bell that had been placed at Helen's command when she had been a little girl, sick with some harmless little kid's sickness. She had just to reach out her hand and ring the bell and her mother would come or even her father. Her mother never used the bell now and kept it there as sort of a joke, actually. Her mother was not utterly confined to bed. She moved around a bit at night and placed herself, or was placed by others, in other rooms during the day. Occasionally one of the women who had been hired to care forher during the day would even take her for a drive, out to see the icicles or go to the bank window. Her mother's name was Lenore and sometimes in the night her mother would call out this name, her own, "Lenore!" in a strong, urgent voice and Helen in her own room would shudder and cry a little.

This had been going on for a while. In the summer Lenore had been diagnosed and condemned but she kept bouncing back, as the doctors put it, until recently. The daisies that bloomed in the fall down by the storm-split elm had come and gone, even the little kids at Halloween. Thanksgiving had passed without comment and it would be Christmas soon. Lenore was ignoring it. The boxes of balls and lights were in the cellar, buried deep. Helen had made the horrible mistake of asking her what she wanted for Christmas one nightand Lenore had said, "Are you stupid?" Then she said, "Oh, I don't mean to be so impatient, it's the medicine, my voice doesn't even sound right. Does my voice sound right? Get me something you'll want later. A piece of jewelry or something. Do you want the money for it?" She meant this sincerely.

At the beginning they had talked eagerly like equals. This was more important than a wedding, this preparation. They even laughed like girls together remembering things. They remembered when Helen was a little girl before the divorce and they were all driving somewhere and Helen's father was stopped for speeding and Lenore wanted her picture taken with the policeman and Helen had taken it. "Wasn't that mean!" Lenore said to Helen.

When Lenore died, Helen would go down to Florida and live with her father. "I've never had the slightest desire to visit Florida," Lenore would say. "You can have it."

At the beginning, death was giving them the opportunity to be interesting. This was something special. There was only one crack at this. But then they lost sight of it somehow. It became a lesser thing, more terrible. Its meaning crumbled. They began waiting for it. Terrible, terrible. Lenore had friends but they called now, they didn't come over so much. "Don't come over," Lenore would tell them, "it wears me out." Little things started to go wrong with the house, leaks and lights. The bulb in the kitchen would flutter when the water was turned on. Helen grew fat for some reason. The dog, their dog, began to change. He grew shy. "Do you think he's acting funny?" Lenore asked Helen.

She did not tell Helen that the dog had begun to growl at her. It was a secret growl, he never did it in front of anyone else. He had taken to carrying one of her slippers around with him. He was almost never without it. He cherished her slipper.

"Do you remember when I put Grecian Formula on his muzzle because he turned gray so young?" Lenore said. "He was only about a year old and began to turn gray? The things I used to do. The way I spent my time."

But now she did not know what to do with time at all. It seemed more expectant than ever. One couldn't satisfy it, one could never do enough for it.

She was so uneasy.

Lenore had a dream in which she wasn't dying at all. Someone else had died. People had told her this over and over again. And now they were getting tired of reminding her, impatient.

She had a dream of eating bread and dying. Two large loaves. Pounds of it, still warm from the oven. She ate it all, she was so hungry, starving! But then she died. It was the bread. It was too hot, was the explanation. There were people in her room but she was not among them.

When she woke, she could feel the hot, gummy, almost liquid bread in her throat, scalding it. She lay in bed on her side, her dark eyes open. It was four o'clock in the morning. She swung her legs to the floor. The dog growled at her. He slept in her room with her slipper but he growled as she made her way past him. Sometimes self-pity would rise within her and she would stare at the dog, tears in her eyes, listening to him growl. The more she stared, the more sustained was his soft growl.

She had a dream about a tattoo. This was a pleasant dream. She was walking away and she had the most beautiful tattoo covering her shoulders and back, even the back of her legs. It was unspeakably fine.

Helen had a dream that her mother wanted a tattoo. She wanted to be tattooed all over, a full custom bodysuit, but no one would do it. Helen woke protesting this, grunting and cold. She had kicked off her blankets. She pulled them up and curled tightly beneath them. There was a boy at school who had gotten a tattoo and now they wouldn't let him play basketball.

In the morning Lenore said, "Would you get a tattoo with me? We could do this together. I don't think it's creepy," she added. "I think you'll be glad later. A pretty one, just small somewhere. What do you think?" The more she considered it, the more it seemed the perfect thing to do. What else could be done? She'd already given Helen her wedding ring.

"I'll get him to come over here, to the house. I'll arrange it," Lenore said. Helen couldn't defend herself against this notion. She still felt sleepy, she was always sleepy. There was something wrong with her mother's idea but not much.

But Lenore could not arrange it. When Helen returned from school, her mother said, "It can't be done. I'm so upset and I've lost interest so I'll give you the short version. I called ... I must have made twenty calls. At last I got someone to speak to me. His name was Smokin' Joe and he was a hundred miles away but sounded as though he'd do it. And I asked him if there was any place he didn't tattoo, and he said faces, dicks and hands."

"Mom!" Helen said. Her face reddened.

"And I asked him if there was anyone he wouldn't tattoo, and he said drunks and the dying. So that was that."

"But you didn't have to tell him. You won't have to tell him," Helen said.

"That's true," Lenore said dispiritedly. Then she looked angrily at Helen. "Are you crazy? Sometimes I think you're crazy!"

"Mom!" Helen said, crying. "I want you to do what you want."

"This was my idea, mine!" Lenore said. The dog gave a high nervous bark. "Oh dear," Lenore said, "I'm speaking too loudly." She smiled at him as if to say how clever both of them were to realize this.

That night Lenore could not sleep. There were no dreams, nothing. High clouds swept slowly past the window. She got up and went into the living room, to the desk there. She looked with distaste at all the objects in this room. There wasn't one thing here she'd want to take with her to the grave, not one. The dog had shuffled out of the bedroom with her and now lay at her feet, a slipper in his mouth, a red one with a little bow. She wanted to make note of a few things, clarify some things. She took out a piece of paper. The furnace turned on and she heard something moving behind the walls. "Enjoy it while you can," she said. She sat at the desk, her back very straight, waiting for something. After a while she looked at the dog. "Give me that," she said. "Give me that slipper." He growled but did not leave her side. She took a pen and wrote on the paper, When I go, the dog goes. Promise me this. She left it out for Helen.

Then she thought, That dog is the dumbest one I've ever had. I don't want him with me. She was amazed she could still think like this. She tore up the piece of paper. "Lenore!" she cried, and wrung her hands. She wanted herself. Her mind ran stumbling, panting, through dark twisted woods.

When Helen got up she would ask her to make some toast. Toast would taste good. Helen would press the Good Morning letters on the bread. It was a gadget, like a cookie cutter. When the bread was toasted, the words were pressed down into it and you dribbled honey into them.

In the morning Helen did this carefully, as she always had. They sat together at the kitchen table and ate the toast. Sleet struck the windows. Helen looked at her toast dreamily, the golden letters against the almost black. They both liked their toast almost black.

Lenore felt peaceful. She even felt a little better. But it was a cruelty to feel a little better, a cruelty to Helen.

"Turn on the radio," Lenore said, "and find out if they're going to cancel school." If Helen stayed home today she would talk to her. Important things would be said. Things that would still matter years and years from now.

Callers on a talk show were speaking about wolves. "There should be wolf control," someone said, "not wolf worship."

"Oh, I hate these people," Helen said.

"Are you a wolf worshipper?" her mother asked. "Watch out."

"I believe they have the right to live too," Helen said fervently. Then she was sorry. Everything she said was wrong. She moved the dial on the radio. School would not be canceled. They never canceled it.

"There's a stain on that blouse," her mother said. "Why do your clothes always look so dingy? You should buy some new clothes."

"I don't want any new clothes," Helen said.

"You can't wear mine, that's not the way to think. I've got to get rid of them. Maybe that's what I'll do today. I'll go through them with Jean. It's Jean who comes today, isn't it?"

"I don't want your clothes!"

"Why not? Not even the sweaters?"

Helen's mouth trembled.

"Oh, what are we going to do!" Lenore said. She clawed at her cheeks. The dog barked.

"Mom, Mom," Helen said.

"We've got to talk, I want to talk," Lenore said. What would happen to Helen, her little girl ...

Helen saw the stain her mother had noticed on the blouse. Where had it come from? It had just appeared. She would change if she had time.

"When I die, I'm going to forget you," Lenore began. This was so obvious, this wasn't what she meant. "The dead just forget you. The most important things, all the loving things, everything we ..." She closed her eyes, then opened them with effort. "I want to put on some lipstick today," she said. "If I don't, tell me when you come home."

Helen left just in time to catch the bus. Some of her classmates stood by the curb, hooded, hunched. It was bitter out.

In the house, Lenore looked at the dog. There were only so many dogs in a person's life and this was the last one in hers. She'd like to kick him. But he had changed when she'd gotten sick, he hadn't been like this before. He was bewildered. He didn't like it-death-either. She felt sorry for him. She went back into her bedroom and he followed her with the slipper.

At nine, the first in a number of nurse's aides and companions arrived. By three it was growing dark again. Helen returned before four.

"The dog needs a walk," her mother said.

"It's so icy out, Mom, he'll cut the pads of his feet."

"He needs to go out!" her mother screamed. She wore a little lipstick and sat in a chair wringing her hands.

Helen found the leash and coaxed the dog to the door. He looked out uneasily into the wet cold blackness. They moved out into it a few yards to a bush he had killed long before and he dribbled a few drops of urine onto it. They walked a little farther, across the dully shining yard toward the street. It was still, windless. The air made a hissing sound. "Come on," Helen said, "don't you want to do something?" The dog walked stoically along. Helen's eyes began to water with the cold. Her mother had said, "I want Verdi played at the service, Scriabin, no hymns." Helen had sent away for some recordings. How else could it be accomplished, the Verdi, the Scriabin ... Once she had called her father and said, "What should we do for Mom?"

"Where have you been!" her mother said when they got back. "My God, I thought you'd been hit by a truck."

They ate supper, macaroni and cheese, something one of the women had prepared. Lenore ate without speaking and then looked at the empty plate.


p.s. Hey. Bad sleep last night. Effects are likely. ** Adrienne White, Hi, Adrienne! Thank you, pal! How awesome to see you! How are you? What's up? ** Scunnard, Hi, Jared. Then it is a very strange saying. Guess I'll google its history or something. Thanks about the grouping. No, I don't think it's just you, though I can't explain why I agree. Weird. Cool, I'll get with the Herzog. Everything is better with him ladled into it. Wow, I'm blanking on who Metzger is. There's one of those bad sleep effects I was talking about. I just googled metzger and was informed that it's a German word meaning butcher. So maybe it will change your life whatever it is. ** David Ehrenstein, Well, then plane viewing it will be. I love synchronicity. I didn't like 'Igby'. Everyone I know who knows it seems to like it. I should try it again. ** Keaton, Straws rule, it's true. Give me a straw to play with at the most boring dinners, and I'm okay. Who's Ben Cooper? I should know that. Cool back story on your stack. I'm going to go revisit it. I love clues. Who's Sherri Moon Zombie? I should know that. Things in Paris are kind of stressful and exhausting. The movie-making is in a stressful, exhausting short phase. Growing pains. Totally natural, but may they end soon. Wow, you did a gif stack-ette. It has a nice, slow, rolling rhythm. I like that. Gif stacks are mostly all about rhythm for me. Cool. More! ** Sypha, The first 'Expendables' was fun like the second one. Maybe not quite as fun, but fun. Worth wasting time with maybe. Sorry about the publisher lack of response. Really hard to know what it means, which isn't a positive thing. But, yeah, I mean, I guess a back-up plan can't hurt. Ugh, sorry. How can they not want it? That's what I keep thinking. ** Steevee, Hey. Yeah, I tried a little Strypes. I see what you mean. They're like the blues rock Future Islands or something. I guess I don't really mind young bands wanting to get with something they consider authentic, but it's not that exciting to me for sure. I think the way they look must be part of the buzz. A Jake Bugg kind of situation. Assuming their excited fan base is young, I always try to assume there can be something new that's encoded into the sound of a band that sounds retro to me that I can't get due to having the older associations. And that's fair, I think. I mean to disqualify oneself due to the possibility that more experience has infected one's judgement with jadedness. I don't know. I wasn't excited by what I heard. Oh, I think there's quite good, fresh punk-slash-post-punk being made by seemingly heterosexual guys these days. I mean Iceage and that whole Danish post-punk scene has a lot of really good stuff coming out of it, just off the top of my head. ** _Black_Acrylic, That Keine Ahnung song is cool. Kind of DAF. Thank you about the post. That's nice to hear. Yeah, if you remember, let me know if that doc gets itself situated in a more internationally accessible spot. I'd definitely love to see it. ** Kier, Hi, K. Thank you. Oh, the post started because of that plastic tubes talk that you and I had. I wanted to make a post about plastic tubes, but there kind of wasn't enough interesting stuff out there to do it, so I broadened the post's horizons to plastic enclosures, and that kind of worked. That's how it happened. There's brown film? See, I didn't know that. How curious. You have a nice vacation coming up, very cool. Northern Norway must be so beautiful if the middle of Norway is anything to go by. Do you like your family members up there? Ouch. About the knees/dirt effect. Uh, yesterday was kind of a very mixed bag, all film stuff. I checked out the location of the next scene, and it's fantastic. There's a so-so pic of it that was posted on my FB wall by the film's art director if you want to see it and can. That was good. But then two of the performers, one of them a main one, cancelled out, which is very bad 'cos I already have to find a bunch of performers to audition for the last scene, and now I have to find yet another main performer even much faster for Zac to check out when he gets back from his vacation, and, yeah, I'm just kind of overwhelmed with stuff to do, and yesterday it got to me, and so yesterday kind of sucked all in all. What can you do. I have to get back on the horse or whatever today. And your Tuesday? How was it? ** Bill, Hi. Yes, that post did totally have to do with the plastic tubes talk between Kier and you and me. You're in Austria? Wow, you are shuttling all over thep lace this year. Crazy, in a great way. No, I haven't seen Carter's new film yet. Yeah, he did 'Bugcrush', which is very nice, and this horror movie called 'The Ruins', and a documentary about Janes Addiction, and I think maybe one other film. ** Mark Doten, Hi, Mark. I just wrote to you. And you wrote back to me. Not a minute before I typed this. I like having all this Mark in my life right now. February! That's even sooner than I imagined. Oh, man, that's so exciting! Your novel's gonna be a world changer, man. Word. I have really good instincts about that kind of stuff. Wow! ** Misanthrope, Hi. Right, so I think I was right about why Strypes are at least partly cool and popular, assuming they are. I wonder if they would let you fuck them all at the same time. Huh. Tough question to answer right there. Oh, the young one fucked the old one in the porn? I'm always surprised that there's an audience for that for some reason that would be probably self-indicting if I actually if I thought about it. Oh, no, I haven't sent the yen yet. Shit. I will pronto. At least it's not lost in the mail. Tell him I'm sorry to be slow, and I'll get it over there fast. Really? I like plastic. Well, duh. I like dangerous innocent looking things. ** Rewritedept, Another plastic scaredy-cat, ha ha. Yeah, I don't know, I guess I like its evil side or something. My day wasn't so hot as I mentioned up above somewhere, but oh well. Today's another day and all that shit. Hope yours is excellent whether mine is or not. ** Right. Joy Williams is one of my very favorite fiction writers, and the spotlit book today is one of her books, all of which are fantastic, and I'm happy to draw your attention to her work today. If you haven't read her, oh, you should. See you tomorrow.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Brief histories of certain plastic enclosures

'The modern lightweight shopping bag is the invention of Swedish engineer Sten Gustaf Thulin. In the early 1960s, Thulin developed a method of forming a simple one-piece bag by folding, welding and die-cutting a flat tube of plastic for the packaging company Celloplast of Norrköping, Sweden. Thulin's design produced a simple, strong bag with a high load-carrying capacity, and was patented worldwide by Celloplast in 1965.

'Celloplast was a well-established producer of cellulose film and a pioneer in plastics processing. The company's patent position gave it a virtual monopoly on plastic shopping bag production, and the company set up manufacturing plants across Europe and in the US. However, other companies saw the attraction of the bag, too, and the US petrochemicals group Mobil overturned Celloplast's US patent in 1977.

'In 1959 after the deaths of 80 babies and toddlers, suffocated by plastic dry-cleaning bags, California introduces a law to ban plastic dry cleaning bags. A spokesperson from the plastics industry “blamed parental carelessness in the deaths” and contrary to previous comments regarding reuse, argued that polyethylene film was “made and costed to be disposable.” The Society of the Plastics Industry, along with bag producers, resin companies and plastics processors drafted a Model Bill that preserved the existence of plastic garment bags in California. The net result is simply a printing requirement, providing a warning message, not a ban of the product. By 1996, 80% of grocery bags used were plastic.' -- bag

'The history of plastic tubing is basically rooted in the Hula Hoop craze of the 1950s. That’s when two men named Robert Banks and Paul Hogan made a crucial discovery: crystalline polypropylene. Polyethylene is an inexpensive type of plastic material that’s extremely durable and chemical-resistant. Hogan and Banks discovered that ethylene could help to produce a similar type of plastic. Ethylene is Earth’s most prolifically produced type of organic compound.

'However, actually producing plastic tubing was more challenging than you might expect. Even after the Phillips Petroleum Company had spent a small fortune to develop the plastic product’s manufacturing process, there was initially little demand for the resin product. That changed towards the end of the 1950s. Polyethylene became a crucial material for various products, such as liquid detergent bottles and baby bottles. Interestingly, the huge success of the Hula Hoop resulted in several new applications for polyethylene-including a new and exciting type of plastic tubing.' --

'Joseph B. Friedman was sitting at his brother's fountain parlor, the Varsity Sweet Shop, in the 1930s, watching his little daughter Judith fuss over a milkshake. She was drinking out of a paper straw. Since the straw was designed to be straight, little Judith was struggling to drink it up. Friedman had an idea. He brought a straw to his home, where he liked to tinker with inventions like "lighted pencils" and other newfangled writing equipment. The straw would be a simple tinker. A screw and some string would do.

'Friedman inserted a screw into the straw toward the top. Then he wrapped dental floss around the paper, tracing grooves made by the inserted screw. Finally, he removed the screw, leaving a accordion-like ridge in the middle of the once-straight straw. Voila! he had created a straw that could bend around its grooves to reach a child's face over the edge of a glass.

'The modern bendy straw was born. The plastic would come later. The "crazy" straw -- you know, the one that lets you watch the liquid ride a small roller coaster in plastic before reaching your mouth -- would come later, too. But the the game-changing invention had been made. In 1939, Friedman founded Flex-Straw Company. By the 1940s, he was manufacturing flex-straws with his own custom-built machines. His first sale didn't go to a restaurant, but rather to a hospital, where glass tubes still ruled. Nurses realized that bendy straws could help bed-ridden patients drink while lying down. Solving the "Judith problem" had created a multi-million dollar business.' -- The Atlantic

'David S. Sheridan was the inventor of the modern disposable catheter in the 1940s. In his lifetime he started and sold four catheter companies and was dubbed the "Catheter King" by Forbes Magazine in 1988. He is also credited with the invention of the modern "disposable" plastic endotracheal tube now used routinely in surgery. Prior to his invention, red rubber tubes were used, sterilized, and then re-used, which had a high risk of infection and thus often led to the spread of disease. As a result Mr Sheridan is credited with saving thousands of lives.

'In the early 1900s, a Dubliner named Walsh and a famous Scottish urinologist called Norman Gibbon teamed together to create the standard catheter used in hospitals today. Named after the two creators, it was called the Gibbon-Walsh catheter. The Gibbon and the Walsh catheters have been described and their advantages over other catheters shown. The Walsh catheter is particularly useful after prostatectomy for it drains the bladder without infection or clot retention. The Gibbon catheter has largely obviated the necessity of performing emergency prostatectomy. It is also very useful in cases of urethral fistula.' -- collaged

'Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing (3M) was founded in Two Harbors in 1902. By 1920 the company had developed some of the best sandpapers in the world. When they put out a call for new engineers to join the company, Richard Drew wrote to ask for the job. Drew, then an engineering student, had been putting himself through school by playing the banjo in several Twin Cities dance bands. He was hired to take trial samples of 3M products to auto shops, which used the sandpaper to prepare cars for painting. While on a delivery in 1923, he noticed that the auto shops had a problem.

'At the time, two-tone paint jobs were very popular. At the auto shops, Drew watched painters struggle to seal off areas for the two-color painting process. The tape that painters used either didn't seal effectively or stuck so tightly that it peeled the paint. The tapes left gummy residue that ruined the car's finish. After seeing the problem, Drew had the idea to create a new tape.

'After presenting the idea to his supervisors, Drew was granted the use of a laboratory, where he experimented with different adhesives and backings. He eventually found an adhesive that sealed tightly while releasing cleanly. He applied it to a crepe paper backing, which gave the tape the ability to stretch and adapt to curves and contours. In 1925, 3M released Drew's invention, the Scotch brand masking tape.' -- MNopedia

'Plastics were used in clothing since its invention, particularly in raincoats. But PVC clothing became more noted in the 1960s and early 1970s fashion trend. The fashion designers of that era saw the PVC plastic as the ideal material to design futuristic clothes. During that era, boots, raincoats, dresses and other PVC garments were made in many colors and even transparent and worn in public areas to some degrees. At that time it was also common to see PVC clothes on films and TV series such as The Avengers, for example. And since then these shiny plastic clothes became a fetish object.

'In mid 1990s, clothes made of PVC have been prevalent in young people's fashions, particularly in jackets, skirts and trousers, also appearing in the media. During the mid-1990s it was common to see presenters, models, actresses, actors, singers and other celebrities wearing PVC clothes on TV and magazines. As fashions come round and round again, it would seem that PVC are appearing again in mainstream street fashions as well as continuing to be central to the fetish scene.' --

'The Plastic car was a car build with agricultural plastic and was fueled with hemp combustible (oil or ethanol). Although the formula used to create the plasticized panels has been lost, it is conjectured that the first iteration of the body was made partially from soybeans and Hemp. The body was lighter and therefore more fuel efficient than a normal metal body. It was made by Henry Ford's auto company in Dearborn, Michigan, and was introduced to public view on August 13, 1941.

'Henry Ford gave the project to the Soybean Laboratory in Greenfield Village. The person in charge there was Lowell Overly, who had a background in tool and die design. The finished prototype was exhibited in 1941 at the Dearborn Days festival in Dearborn, Michigan. It was also shown at the Michigan State Fair Grounds the same year. Patent 2,269,452 for the chassis of the soybean car was issued January 13, 1942. Because of World War II all US automobile production was curtailed considerably, and the plastic car experiment basically came to a halt. By the end of the war the plastic car idea went into oblivion. According to Lowell Overly, the prototype car was destroyed by Bob Gregorie.

'Others argue that Ford invested millions of dollars into research to develop the plastic car to no avail. He proclaimed he would "grow automobiles from the soil" — however it never happened, even though he had over 12,000 acres of soybeans for experimentation. Some sources even say the Soybean Car wasn't made from soybeans at all — but of phenolic plastic, an extract of coal tar. One newspaper even reports that all of Ford's research only provided whipped cream as a final product.' - collaged

'When I was 7 years old, I was Chewbacca for Halloween. The body of the costume was made out of a sheet of plastic, the kind that went “whoosh, whoosh” when you walked. It looked like a garbage bag. On it was a picture of Chewie’s head with “Star Wars” emblazoned above it, in case you didn’t recognize the Wookiee and what movie he was from. The mask—a thin, brittle piece of plastic—had two eyehole cutouts, two small nose-holes and a slight mouth slit for easy breathing. Only, it wasn’t easy to breathe when wearing that mask. And I had a hard time fitting it over my thick, plastic-framed glasses because the thin white elastic that held it in place would break every other time I put it on. And once I did, my glasses would steam up from the massive amount of sweat my body was producing from the costume.

'Ben Cooper, the son of a restaurant owner who became a costume impresario, didn’t invent the Halloween costume. But he and his company awakened generations of kids to the potential of what Halloween could be. Ben Cooper wasn’t the first company to manufacture Halloween costumes, nor was it the first to license Hollywood creations for the costume-buying public. But Ben Cooper had an advantage: The company excelled at getting licenses to characters before they became popular and, in a lot of cases, before anyone else. Consider one of its first purchases, in 1937: Snow White, from a little company called Walt Disney.

'It wasn’t until after World War II, however, that Halloween costume manufacturing became big business. With the rise of television in the 1950s and the popularity of TV shows such as The Adventures of Superman, Zorro, and Davy Crockett, Ben Cooper obtained the licenses to many of these live-action shows and began mass producing inexpensive representations of them in costume form for less than $3 each, which amounts to about 12 bucks these days. The company distinguished itself with speed: It would rapidly buy rights, produce costumes and get them onto store shelves, which opened a whole new world of costuming to children.

'Ben Cooper’s heyday didn’t last forever. The company filed for bankruptcy twice due to lagging sales, relocation expenses, and the early 1990s recession. But it was new rivals that probably did the most damage to Ben Cooper ’s business, selling high-quality latex masks and more realistic costumes. One of those competitors was Rubie’s Costume Company, which eventually bought Ben Cooper and dissolved it.' -- Charles Moss, Slate

'The first inflatable structure was designed in 1959 by John Scurlock in Shreveport, Louisiana who was experimenting with inflatable covers for tennis courts when he noticed his employees enjoyed jumping on the covers. He was a mechanical engineer and liked physics. Scurlock was a pioneer of inflatable domes, inflatable tents, inflatable signs and his greatest achievement was the invention of the safety air cushion that is used by fire and rescue departments to catch people jumping from buildings or heights.

'The first space walk manufacturing company was in New Orleans in a leased warehouse that also sewed horse pads. His wife, Frances, started the first inflatable rental company in 1968 and in 1976 they built a custom facility for the production and rental of the products. They marketed the space walks to children's events such as birthday parties, school fairs and company picnics. These original inflatables did not have the enclosure of today's inflatables, creating a safety hazard.

'Their son Frank Scurlock expanded their rental concept throughout the United States under the brand names "Space Walk" and "Inflatable Zoo". Frank also founded the first all inflatable indoor play park called "Fun Factory" on Thanksgiving Day 1986 in Metairie, Louisiana. A second unit was opened in Memphis Tennessee called "Fun Plex" in 1987. Both locations closed after the value of the property became too great for the operations. The first inflatable was an open top mattress with no sides, called a "Space Pillow". In 1967 a pressurized inflatable top was added, it required two fans and got hot in the summer like a greenhouse. That version was called "Space Walk" and was adopted as the company name.

'In 1974, to solve the heat problem, a new product line called "Jupiter Jump" was created that has inflated columns that supported netting walls which allowed the air to pass through. Further enhancements of this style were developed until, in the early 1990s, the first entirely enclosed inflatable structure, built to resemble a fairytale castle, appeared on the market and proved immensely popular. Bouncy Castles, as they're now popularly known, no longer need to physically resemble a castle to warrant the moniker.' -- collaged



p.s. Hey. ** Nicki, Hi. Her films are highly recommended. Yeah, I speed read and try to fight the tendency all the time due to a similar over-input situation, perhaps not a swampy as yours sounds, however. No big. I wish I was a speed writer too. I am so very not one. At least with fiction. I give myself a hall pass when it comes to the p.s. obviously. The film does go really well, and it can also be pretty exhausting. More in the planning and seeking phases, which is the current situation, than in the shooting phases, weirdly. Or not weirdly. ** Keaton, That's one intense stack you made right there. I'm gonna explore its associative side once I've had enough coffee for my association fetish to kick in. Wild. Everyone, Keaton made an intense and fascinating and kind of epic image stack that I am now coaxing you to peruse. It seems to have two names, so you can decide if you want to enter it through the portal called Welcum to Tha Jungle or through entrance #2 entitled Goodtimes, maybe not a title associated in any way with the Chic song, or maybe so. ** Tosh Berman, Hi, T. It's true that the Venice poets were pretty unfriendly to me. I thought it was because I stopped giving them readings all the time, but if they were being still rude when you ran the series, maybe it was just in their nature. Strange scene. Oh, you saw 'Mood Indigo'. I'm not a big Gondry fan at all other than some of his music videos. The idea of him doing Vian made me very wary from the outset, and it sounds like there was a good reason, but, as is the fallback position in these kinds of cases, we can only hope the film will give Vian a bigger readership in the US. ** MyNeighbourJohnTurtorro, Whoa, hey, man! I haven't seen you in ages, and it's really awesome to do so. I'm great, thanks. I've had CA films on the blog before, but, yes, very strangely, I hadn't done a full post dedicated to her until that one. As my mom used to say, 'Been a snake, it would have bit me.' Yeah, she's amazing. She friended me on Facebook a few years ago, and I'm still high from that. The film has been progressing really, really well. We're very happy with everything. The next/last two scenes we have to film are the most ambitious and difficult ones, and preparing for them, which we're doing now, is kind of daunting and stressful, but hopefully our luck will hold. The film I was talking about in the 90s was a different film that almost but never happened. It was called 'Warm', and it was to be directed by this film director/ photographer Carter Smith. He says it still might happen someday, but I don't think it will. Mm, I would totally make another film with Zac, and we've talked about it, and I think that will probably happen, but I don't think it's a medium I can see myself working in unless I was collaborating with someone of an incredibly like-mind like Zac. Yeah, I love the Alex G album. I agree, he's incredibly good. You know, weirdly, I haven't listened to the new Swans yet. I really need to do that, Man, really good to see you, and I hope you can stick around. Take care. ** Steevee, My guess is that the doc will probably show on TV here, best guess on Arte. My eyes are peeled. The Strypes ... I don't know them at all. Never even heard of them. I'll go see what the deal is. What don't you like about them? 'Old souls' ... their stuff is soulful and kind of retro? ** Scunnard, Hi, J. We had the rain yesterday too, and a bit today, and it's actually quite tolerable outside today so far, but muggy, ugh. That kind of weather where the temperature says you should wear a light coat, but, if you do, you'll sweat like a pig or whatever -- do pigs sweat especially much? What a strange saying. -- is so annoying. How's today in the sky over you and in your head/heart/life? ** Kier, Hi, Kier! No, no black currant things at the market I went to. But that only made me more determined to find them. So I'm off to the next closest market and then, if necessary, the second closest, etc. I will conquer the unknown that has the name black currant or my name isn't Dennis Cooper. You'd make me help? I wouldn't mind at all. You should see me on our film sets. I'm always running around moving equipment and stuff. It's not that hot now here, but it's really hard to tell which way the temperature is going to go. It seems very sneaky. Wow, those photos you took are fucking gorgeous! What is 'chocolate film'? What does that mean? My weekend was all work, yeah. We have to cast these five small parts in the next scene, and I'm the only one working right now due to everyone else's vacations, like I said, so I was asking people if they would take the roles. And I have to do a casting call thing for three big roles on my Facebook wall because our casting guy has stopped working for us, and we still have those three roles to cast, so I started figuring out the best way to do that. And so on. Kind of a work weekend. It was okay, though. Do you work on Monday? Did you work today, or what did you do? ** Sypha, Oh, that's good that Mr. McKinney didn't defriend me, but I don't recognize 'Tara Toma' at all, so maybe his posters are;'t getting into my feed or something. I would see 'Expendables 3'. I liked the first two. Guilty pleasures for sure, but so what. ** _Black_Acrylic, Hi, Ben. Yeah, I used that link and was immediately informed that I can't watch that show in France. Too bad. It sounds really informative. Hopefully someone will slip it onto youtube or Vimeo or something. ** Misanthrope, Yeah, like I told Sypha, I'm not sure if Tara Toma's posts are making it into my feed. I don't recognize that at all, although I'm barely on Facebook, so ... I sort of can't even watch porn unless I can find or detect or make up a back story or, better, a mysterious, compelling emotional undercurrent to go with it. Sort of like with the escort ads. If that isn't there, I never pick them for my posts, well, unless the wordplay is particularly, accidentally genius-seeming or something. Still haven't seen 'Blue Jasmine'. Weird. Probably a plane movie at this point. Give LPS a big hello from me. ** Rewritedept, Hi. My weekend was all work, and it was okay but a little stressful and tiring, but okay. Cool, I'll set up the writers workshop then, great. It'll probably not be on this coming Saturday but on the following one. I'll let you know, and I'll see if you need to send along anything else, but probably not. Thanks for my Monday wishes. It could be okay. At least it's not hot here finally. Poor you, 100 degrees, Jesus. ** Okay. Oh, I did this plastic post thing today. It's kind of odd, and I don't know how interesting, but it was obviously interesting enough to me to make it, for whatever that's worth. See you tomorrow.