The Brass Tack

Let's get down to it.

Posts Tagged ‘department of awesome’

From Russia with Love

Posted by srconstantin on August 4, 2009

Two wonderful things of the Russkie variety:

Lydia Kavina (a student of Leon Theremin himself) playing “Claire de Lune” on the theremin.

The full text of Ilf and Petrov’s classic The Twelve Chairs. For the uninitiated, Ilya Ilf and Evgeny Petrov were a pair of humorists, writing together from 1927 to 1937.
As they introduced themselves in their “autobiography”

t is very difficult to write together. It was easier for the
Goncourts, we suppose. After all, they were brothers, while we are not even
related to each other. We are not even of the same age. And even of
different nationalities; while one is a Russian (the enigmatic Russian
soul), the other is a Jew (the enigmatic Jewish soul).

The Twelve Chairs (later made into a fairly awful Mel Brooks movie) is the story of a down-on-his-luck aristocrat trying to recover the jewels that his mother-in-law sewed into a chair before the Revolution, and the irrepressible young con-man Ostap Bender who helps him on his quest. It was a daring book — there’s quite a bit of ribbing at the expense of the Communists — and the humor holds up through eighty years and a rather old English translation. Not only humor, but sweetness; in the sense that, no matter what happens, people will keep on complaining, eating, drinking, falling in love, and ridiculing the pompous.

The Little Golden Calf is also supposed to be good, and maybe I’ll read that next if I can find it. Skip Ilf and Petrov’s American Road Trip. It’s a Pravda project, and reads like one: stilted and pedantic. The power to make a writer not funny anymore — that’s a sad thought.

(Link thanks to mute.

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The Ballad Of Hollis Wadsworth Mason Junior

Posted by srconstantin on July 17, 2009

Apparently there’s a book club in Brooklyn that writes songs. This week the book in question is Watchmen, and there’s a wonderful, poignant song with Franz Nikolay of the Hold Steady, singing about the first Nite Owl. Link here .

Vodpod videos no longer available.

The Bushwick Book Club also has a myspace page. Some of the weirdest, most charming stuff I’ve heard yet.

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Cory Doctorow’s “Makers”

Posted by srconstantin on July 15, 2009

I like the idea of serializing novels. It made Dickens a bundle. It might be a good way to experiment with free content without sending writers into ruin. It’s especially good when the novel in question is very very good.

Cory Doctorow, he of the cape and goggles, is making Makers available in segments on the Tor.com website, which incidentally has a great blog. If any publisher is actually making an effort to survive in a future where the internet still exist, Tor is. Pity I’m a student and not an eccentric millionaire who can actually buy thousands of dollars’ worth of books.

Makers is a novel about a business model.

“We will brute-force the problem-space of capitalism in the twenty first century. Our business plan is simple: we will hire the smartest people we can find and put them in small teams. They will go into the field with funding and communications infrastructure—all that stuff we have left over from the era of batteries and film—behind them, capitalized to find a place to live and work, and a job to do. A business to start. Our company isn’t a project that we pull together on, it’s a network of like-minded, cooperating autonomous teams, all of which are empowered to do whatever they want, provided that it returns something to our coffers. We will explore and exhaust the realm of commercial opportunities, and seek constantly to refine our tactics to mine those opportunities, and the krill will strain through our mighty maw and fill our hungry belly. This company isn’t a company anymore: this company is a network, an approach, a sensibility.”

It’s rare that you run into a book that gives you an idea. It’s all but impossible to find a book that gives you a funny, perceptive, useful idea on every damn page. And I’m only four segments in. Read it.

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Why I wish I lived in Seattle

Posted by srconstantin on July 14, 2009

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The Burning Beast festival,

The second-annual world’s greatest feast in a field—featuring a dozen Seattle chefs cooking whole beasts over hot coals—happened yesterday.

It only rained a little, and the carnivores’ spirits were undampened. A sell-out crowd of 450 people attended, a smashing success for Smoke Farm (the nonprofit haven for artists, philosophers, and other oddballs an hour north of Seattle that was both the site of and the beneficiary of the event).

Now, I don’t dig on swine, myself, but I like the idea of being able to cook and dress a whole animal. It’s a feat. I always liked the section on hog slaughtering in the Foxfire Book.

In fact, the current craze for bacon in all its forms, fading though it may be, reflects, in a time when demonstrating class means showing restraint about food, a commitment to awesomeness through arterial damage that I find quite moving. David Brooks lamented, “Gone, at least among the responsible professional class, is the exuberance of the feast. Gone is the grand and pointless gesture.” The New York Times misses the point when it sniffs at William Gurstelle’s “Absinthe & Flamethrowers: Projects and Ruminations on the Art of Living Dangerously” for including bacon among his risky home projects — “When Mr. Gurstelle begins to explore things like drinking absinthe, mastering bullwhips, eating hot chili peppers and throwing knives, his book runs briefly into the shallow weeds. There is even a disquisition on “danger dogs,” that is, hot dogs wrapped with grilled bacon. That’s not edge-work, it’s pigging out.” But pigging out is, in the minds of the baconneurs, a water-gun squirt in the eye of a society obsessed with health, safety, prudence, the denial of every reckless impulse.

Now in an age of rising global temperatures, thinking more about the future really isn’t such a bad idea. And changing ourselves into long-term thinkers might be our best bet at sustainability. This stuff is vitally important, and bacon and pig roasts are just a goofy gimmick. But a part of me rejoices that we’re not yet living in Norman Mailer’s “Utope cities on the moon,” run by the “natural managers of that future air-conditioned vault where the last of human life would still exist.” There’s a part of me that wants people to remain carnivorous, greedy, reckless, and fun-loving, watching the smoke from our own barbecues rise into the stars.

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