Compelling passages, notable quotables, bon mots, disjecta, ephemera, and miscellany.
Two philosophers use water metaphors:
But, one might object, if the production of such words is so grounded in the nature of language that all words which lecherously indulge in the excesses of communicative energy find themselves on the boundaries of the obscene, then it is all the more important to banish them from writing.
On the contrary. It is society’s duty to put these natural – not to say profane – processes in the life of language into service as natural forces. Just as Niagara Falls feeds power stations, in the same way the downward torrent of language into smut and vulgarity should be used as a mighty source of energy to drive the dynamo of the creative act. What poets should actually live on is a question as shameful as it is ancient, and one that up to now has been answered only with embarrassed evasiveness. Whether they look after themselves or whether the state assumes that task, the result is the same: their starvation.
Walter Benjamin, “A State Monopoly on Pornography,” December 1927, in Walter Benjamin: Selected Writings Volume 2, 1927 – 1934, translated by Rodney Livingstone and Others.
Religion is, as it were, the calm bottom of the sea at its deepest point, which remains calm however high the waves on the surface may be. –
Ludwig Wittgenstein, Culture and Value, Translated by Peter Winch.
Here’s what Jason Pettus has to say about CCLaP Journal #1:
Happy day! The first issue of CCLaP’s new monthly magazine is now here! Regular readers will of course know the long, twisted road that has eventually gotten us to this point: how growing pains here at the center has recently made me decide to bring on three more book reviewers for the blog besides Karl Wolff and myself; but how I wanted to make sure I could pay these writers so that I can guarantee the best long-form reviewers out there; but how I don’t actually have any extra money these days to pay such writers; so how I’ve decided to start bundling up the content we run here at the blog every day, and selling it for US$5 at Amazon and iTunes, plus a free PDF you can download here at the website, a free “flippable” online version at Issuu.com, and a rather expensive (US$25 plus shipping) print-on-demand paper version at MagCloud.com. I knew this very first issue would take longer than normal, since I would be setting up all the templates and determining the design scheme for the first time; but I’m happy to say that it’s now finished and ready for your downloading pleasure. As you can see from the screenshots above, I’m incredibly happy with how the finished document looks; as we’ve been discussing over at Facebook this week, as I’ve shared various sneak preview images, there’s something almost alchemically magical about converting this content from a blog format to a traditional magazine one, something that makes it turn from just a mass of blog posts to a very real object of legitimate value. Anyway, you can pick up a copy yourself through the following links…
Right-click here for the free PDF (caution: 29 megs) / Make a voluntary donation
Click here for the free onscreen Issuu.com version
Click here to purchase the US$25 paper version at MagCloud.com
Unfortunately, it turns out that the Amazon and iTunes versions are going to be more difficult than I first thought: turns out that you can’t just upload a PDF at iTunes but literally have to program an entire app for your magazine, while Amazon doesn’t let you load fixed-layout documents at all, but rather tries to convert PDFs into messy, nearly unreadable Kindle documents. Anyway, I’ll be working on both those challenges over the next several weeks; but I at least wanted to get the PDF version up right away, so that people can start checking it out. This officially means now that we’re ready to start accepting job queries from people who would like to be paid staff writers; so check out this first issue of the magazine, and if you think you can do exactly what you see here, drop me a line at cclapcenter [at] gmail.com and let me know. I look forward to hearing from you, and I hope you enjoy this first issue of what will hopefully be an ongoing and popular project here at CCLaP.
Addendum: It is a delightfully strange turn of events, as newsstand diehard Newsweek recently went to an all-digital edition, CCLaP ventures into the realm of print-on-demand.
Addendum II: My second essay series, the NSFW Files, will debut on CCLaP this Friday with an essay about Petronius’s ribald romp through the Roman Empire, The Satyricon.
This is not a review, but more about lending a helping hand to a CCLaP Kickstarter project called The Kickstarter Letters, by David David Katzman. Here is what CCLaP founder Jason Pettus has to say about the Kickstarter Letters:
What is The Kickstarter Letters?
I funded the entire print run of my second novel, A Greater Monster, through a Kickstarter project.* As a reward, I wrote each of my 128 contributors a stream-of-consciousness email or handwritten letter. This book is a signed & numbered handmade, hardback collection of 52 of those letters.
With only 4 days left and within $75 of reaching their goal, I would strongly encourage people to contribute to this Kickstarter campaign. There are options in all price ranges. If you’re looking for an Xmas/holiday present for an artistic friend or relative, this might be what you’re looking for.
NB: Since I work as a staff writer/editor for CCLaP, I have a real stake in this succeeding. Hence, my utter lack of objective bias in this post. But faithful readers of this blog also know of my commitment to give shout-outs to artists and writers out there worth getting extra exposure.
Posted in books, CCLAP Fridays, miscellaneous, The Internet
Tagged books, capitalism, CCLaP, culture, david katzman, economics, fiction, humor, kickstarter, pop culture, the internet
The first coins, the first hamburger, the first military motor vehicle. These are but a sampling of Robertson’s Book of Firsts. Researched and compiled by Patrick Robertson as a culmination of a lifelong passion, the book aims to chronicle not invention, but innovation. This means a look at social and technological development and some surprising entries. Robertson approaches this collection of firsts from a unique position. A former government employee and a former chairman of the Ephemera Society, he also owns the largest private collection of vintage magazines in Britain. Firsts are ephemeral, since once a first is achieved, social and technological change will prompt more firsts to occur. Just look at the developments of the cell phone and the demographic make-up of the United States Supreme Court.
The alphabetically arranged articles vary in length. For example, the article on blood transfusion covers nearly two full pages. To break it down, there is the first blood transfusion done on June 12, 1667 by Jean-Baptiste Denys, the personal physician to Louis XIV, for “a boy of fifteen suffering from a severe fever.” The first U.S. blood transfusion took place in 1795 by Dr. Philip Physick. The first panel of blood donors occurred in 1921, being four volunteers “from the Camberwell Division of the London Branch of the British Red Cross Society.” The Red Cross established the first blood donor panel in the United States in August 1937 in Augusta, Georgia. In 1931 the first blood bank was established by Prof. Sergei Yudin “at the Sklifosovsky Institute, Moscow’s central emergency service hospital,” but Bernard Fantus “coined the term” in 1937 for Cook County Hospital’s centralized blood storage depot. Finally, the first pre-natal blood transfusion was performed by Prof. George Green and Sir William Liley in Auckland, New Zealand on September 20, 1963.
The Book of Firsts is chock-full of such information. The first antique automobile movement happened on July 12, 1925, celebrating the 25th anniversary of the Allgemeiner Schnaufer-Club (“Tin Lizzy Club”) in Munich, Germany. The year 1623 saw the first publication of a hymn book containing original matter by George Wither, although the first hymn book in a vernacular tongue was “published in Prague by Severin for the Hussites of Bohemia on 13 January 1501.” The first naval vessels to be equipped with radio-telephone apparatus were the USS Virginia and the USS Connecticut in 1907. The lists go on and on, from the first legal abortion to the first women’s track and field events.
Whether reading a single entry with all developments chronicled or searching for a specific “first,” The Book of Firsts will captivate and infuriate readers. Expect to have your pre-conceptions about certain “firsts” refuted. As with any book of this kind, it is subject to the winds of change. The entry on gay marriage has quickly become obsolete, the last sub-entry on U.S. gay marriage ending with the passage of Proposition 8. But that is hardly a demerit in terms of the sheer wealth of information and entertaining factoids one can harvest from this book, whether casually browsing the pages or capturing a “first” for research purposes. This is a good book to have on the bookshelf next to the dictionary, thesaurus, Schott’s Miscellany, and the Meaning of Tingo.
Posted in book reviews, books, cars, miscellaneous
Tagged book reviews, books, culture, economics, firsts, non-fiction, politics, pop culture
What’s all this then? As they say in boardrooms across this fair land of ours, it’s “time to take things to the next level.” The Driftless Area Review now has a more memorable web address:
It’s easy to remember, you have less to type, and should help with Google searches. If you’re a publisher or author, my contact information remain the same. Make sure to update your bookmarks.
Nothing like an arbitrary milestone for the blogosphere.
This is the 100th post of the Driftless Area Review. It’s been a fun experience thus far. I’ve met new people and started receiving free review copies. I have enjoyed the works of the Permanent Press and enjoy the publishing philosophy of co-founder Martin Shepard.
For those interested, I will continue my two long term essay series: The Art of Reviewing and Essays on Capital. I am currently half-way through Capital, Volume 2. The work presents more of a challenge, since the text is more technical, dry, and math-intensive than the first volume.
Stay tuned for more book reviews, essays, and random cultural musings.
Posted in books, miscellaneous, Permanent Press, The Internet
Tagged books, capitalism, communism, culture, economics, fiction, philosophy, pop culture, science fiction, the internet
This is an article I wrote in 2005 when I was a graduate student in the Museum Studies program at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. My course work involved classes at the Milwaukee Public Museum. One assignment was researching a specific artifact. It turns out that the Milwaukee Public Museum has a Feegee Mermaid. This article, posted on Showhistory.com, was a distillation of the research I did for that assignment.
The Feejee Mermaid represents humanity’s attempt to deal with its myths. This physical manifestation of ancient myth hearkens back to other works of art, but over time became a myth in its own right, resurrected in the modern sideshows. Modern sideshow professionals keep the myth alive, entertaining crowds and preserving a specific part of American cultural heritage.
Throughout the centuries, there have been alleged mermaid sightings and exhibitions of mermaids before the Fejee Mermaid. The Fejee Mermaid (note the spelling) became Phineas T. Barnum’s greatest humbug and remains a staple in the Barnum literature. The humbug tradition is carried on with the Milwaukee Public Museum’s “Japanese Mermaid” (as seen above). Today modern taxidermy artists make “animal gaffs” for sideshows and a general audience. On the surface, their profession appears peculiar, but they actually carry on a tradition spanning hundreds of years in supplying sideshows and carnivals with fake animals.
Because the “Japanese Mermaid” is a taxidermy hybrid— a combination of fish and papier-mâché— it presents a series of challenges in a number of areas, including: cataloging, conservation, and collections. The fake animal was constructed out of the cheapest of materials for the entertainment of the sideshow audience, but has mythological, cultural, and historical associations that make it one of the more valuable and intriguing artifacts of the Milwaukee Public Museum.
For the rest of the article, click here.
For those of you familiar with “The Driftless Area,” I have decided to resurrect and revamp my previous blog. This blog will be solely dedicated to reviewing books, TV, film, and food. I will also have the much-beloved Critical Appraisals. Hopefully my reviews and critical opinions will be valuable to you as you decide what to eat, what to see, and what to read.
My tastes run the gamut, from Warhammer 40K novels to the latest works of Thomas Pynchon. I find the distinction between High Culture and Pop Culture to be an artificial, albeit useful, one. I’m interested in the muddy areas, the strange intersections where the highest achievements of art mingle with pop culture ephemera. My critical sensibilities exist with equal comfort amidst cultural luminaries like Clive James and drive-in/exploitation/trash cinema champions like Joe Bob Briggs.
I am not a professional reviewer. Meaning, I don’t get money for it. I am merely an enthusiast. Of literature. Of pop culture. I enjoy the strange, exotic, and ephemeral, but also big-budget commercial movies — unless they suck — as well as indie flicks and the latest “It” Author adored in the halls of academia. I see reviewing as a means to sharpen my tastes and to assist when you want to know what to spend with their hard-earned money.
For me, it’s not just important that I know what I like, but also, why do I like it? It’s easy to trash people who like different things, but that’s a shallow exercise unless you know why those things are terrible or good. Taste is a nebulous, subjective, and exclusionary thing. Why do you think hipsters sound disappointed when their favorite band hits it big and/or totally sells out? In the end, you’ll have to make your own decisions regarding my reviews and aesthetic judgments. I’m only a guide.
I hope this helps clarify things.