Monday, December 31, 2007
The story of how editor Gordon Lish shaped Raymond Carver's short stories into award-winning fiction is recounted in an August 1998 Times Magazine story written by D.T. Max. Nine years later, the Times ran another story, this time by Mokoto Rich, about Carver's widow, Tess Gallagher, "spearheading an effort to publish a volume of 17 original Carver stories whose highly edited versions were published in “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love.”
Readers finally had a look at one of those stories, "Beginners" aka "What We Talk About When We Talk About Love," in the New Yorker's Winter Fiction issue, out a couple of weeks ago.
On the magazine's website the New Yorker published "Beginners" as well as an illuminating companion, the version of "Beginners" that Lish edited.
After reading both versions, noting the differences, Lish's edit is the stronger story. "What We Talk About" is a concise, quick read compared to "Beginners," which appears bloated, messy and, surprise, unedited.
The point of each story is slightly different, perhaps because the tone of Lish's edited version is darker. "Beginners" at times feels more hopeful, but it is that hope that also makes it seem generic and unoriginal. Lish did his job as an editor and made Carver's work better; Carver's widow may feel the versions readers are familiar with are not the versions her husband liked, but in the example published in the New Yorker, Lish's edit is the version that should stand.
Also worth a look from that issue of the New Yorker:
relationship between an editor and an author.
Saturday, December 29, 2007
The front page of the Saturday Star was all Bhuto: three cover stories and a photo. Inside, in the other sections, Bhutto stories and related columns took up another seven pages approximately.
In the New York Times, Bhutto coverage was somehow condensed to one story. Just one.
So, either the Times knows how to summarize and the Star doesn't or the Star is so desperate to fill columns, it doesn't mind producing a paper that could easily be called the Pakistan Star.
With the late night comedians going back to work without their writers, I wonder how the shows will not be painful to watch. But one late night show, David Letterman's, will be back at full strength after the show's producer, Worldwide Pants, agreed to a separate deal with the writers union.
This isn't going to get me to watch Letterman though, because I've never watched his show other than the occasional episode. I will, however, turn on "The Daily Show" and "The Colbert Report" when they both return Jan. 7. I've adjusted my hopes to not expect their typical high quality.
Oh, it seemed not long ago that Leafs fans were saying (or I was saying) that Vesa Toskala, the goaltender the team traded for in the off-season, was a bust. He played poorly to start the season, but rebounded recently, found his form (somewhat; at times he's been suspect), and became the Leafs's No. 1 goalie.
Then he got injured a couple of games ago, and Leafs fans should be worried about the alternative: Andrew Raycroft. Raycroft says he feels more confident going into tonight's game, but that doesn't mean he gives his team confidence. Raycroft was a serial soft-goal offender, finding ways to bury his team by letting shots in that could cause a fan to convulse from disgust.
Leafs fans long for Toskala's return. He's not the saviour as advertised in the summer, but he's better than the guy wearing No. 1.
Also, it appears prima donna goaltender Ray Emery is upset with his team, the Ottawa Senators.
Wednesday, December 26, 2007
From the Monday Times:
The competition for writers has even produced bidding wars, especially for big-name columnists like Rick Reilly (from Sports Illustrated to ESPN), Howard Bryant (from The Post to ESPN) and Selena Roberts (from The New York Times to Sports Illustrated) — but also for less widely known reporters. People who were briefed on the deals said that Mr. Reilly’s contract, easily the biggest of the recent signings, was worth more than $3 million a year.
“It’s the exact same model as what happened to athletes,” said Leigh Steinberg, a top sports agent. “We’re seeing free agency for sports journalists.”
He and Scott Boras, the agent for Alex Rodriguez and other stars, said that change had no doubt already produced an unnoticed milestone: In a sports locker room somewhere, in an interview between a prominent reporter and a low-level player, the scribe is the better-paid person in the conversation.
Yes, the athlete the lesser paid person! The athlete. Of course, this is the U.S., not Canada we speak of, and somehow I doubt the state of Canadian journalism as it stands now would allow for such a bizarre scenario.
Also from the Sunday Times, a look at words that were prominent this year. One word that is relevant to this fine blog:
A Web site or blog that is a collection of brief links to, quotes from, or comments about things a person has encountered while Web browsing. It is a sort of digital commonplace book.
Sometimes, I guess, I could describe my blog in these terms. But here, we also have rants. And madness. We're only part tumbleblog.
From the Sunday Times:
... DVDs tend to degrade: according to the report, only half of a collection of disks can be expected to last for 15 years, not a reassuring prospect to those who think about centuries.O.K., why didn't someone tell me this before I bought all those DVDs? (Maybe someone did; you can't remember.)
This is awful news. Oh, that one sentence is part of the larger story on how its much more expensive for movie studios to archive digital movies in comparison to conventional (i.e. old fashioned) film. An interesting read.
Last night I finally watched (a part) of the "Transformers" movie released in this past summer. I had received positive reviews from everyone who had seen the movie in theatres, but I also knew that critics savaged the film. So which camp do I fall into after watching (a part) of "Transformers"?
I gave that away too easily.
The problem with the movie is that watching it is no different than taking a hammer to your skull and pounding your temple into mush. The movie is cheesy, illogical, ridiculous and annoying -- simultaneously.
The last movie I saw directed by Michael Bay, was 2003's "Bad Boys II"; which was O.K., but obviously not a four-star masterpiece. In between that film and "Transfomers," Bay directed one feature-length film, "The Island" (also savaged by critics). That tells me that Bay hasn't learned much.
In fact, he's regressed. Bay's attempt to be satirical and realistic in "Transformers" produces a schizophrenic quality - the director not knowing what he wants his film to be. Bay should have cut the high school humour, cut the film by 20 minutes (I gave up at the end and left), and should have had someone actually research the U.S. Department of Defense rather than depict scenes that were less believable than something from a "Saturday Night Live" sketch.
Day turned to night several times in the film, defying simple principles of time. So-called strong women characters were ultimately belittled. And Michael Bay created a movie whose fans must apologize: "Oh, it's just a summer blockbuster."
That doesn't mean it's O.K. to have a B-level script, an A-level budget, and a C-level final cut.
I used to enjoy Boxing Day. My favourite store to visit was, of all places, Canadian Tire. But then they stopped selling toys I was interested in, and I began to move away from this post-Christmas Spend More Holiday. The sales these days do not compel me to get out of bed early in the morning. to stand in long lines, to interact with people who just may be insane.
I won't pretend I didn't check out my familiar online stores to see what they had on sale for Boxing Week, but I woke up early this morning only to get on with things unrelated to shopping.
Monday, December 24, 2007
I'll use this post as my annual Christmas address.
I'm not going to bother reflecting on this year in some sappy tone.
I'm not going to bother making ridiculous lies called "resolutions."
I'm not going to bother pretending you'd want to read them anyway.
Good, bad, up, down: we all had those moments this year, and mine are no more significant than yours, and you aren't telling them to me.
I'll just talk about one thing. For the past two years, I've read a story from Charles Dickens's "Christmas Books." Last year, I read "The Chimes" and the year before that, the great, "A Christmas Carol." Call it a tradition, or call me a sap, but it's something I like to do. This year, it's "The Cricket on the Hearth." I'm about to crack open the book, and disappear into Dickens's world. From there, I'll take it easy. On Wednesday, I'll be back with a ton of items to blog about, including my much delayed best-of lists.
Until then, have a good time, enjoy the holiday and ...
Saturday, December 22, 2007
It's a hectic time this weekend for shoppers who have waited to the last minute to buy gifts for their loved ones in order to properly celebrate this very Christian holiday. Some readers of this blog have written to me, desperate for suggestions. Here's one such email I received yesterday:
Dear Mr. Czobit,
I have no clue what to get my father for Christmas. He cares more that a gift comes from the hart than the wallet, and so, if you have any suggestions for thoughtful gifts, please, please, please send them to me!
First, (Name Withheld), you spelled "hart" incorrectly. Second, watch your run-on sentences; if you want me to answer your emails regularly, at least read once over before you click 'Send.'
Thankfully, I have a short-list of last-minute gifts that really exemplify the Christmas season. All the items are books, and should be easy to find at your local bookstore. (Why books? Because we all need to read more -- that is the only New Year resolution I will make.)
Here goes, my desperate readers:
"The God Delusion" by Richard Dawkins.
As I understand it, this book while controversial is compelling. Here's an appraisal from an unnamed critic on Chapters website: "If I had to identify Dawkins''s cardinal virtues, I would say that he is brilliant, articulate, impassioned, and impolite..."The God Delusion" is a fine and significant book...Dawkins''s irreverent and penetrating work will seem a breath of fresh air."
O.K., not your brother's bag? Here's another option. Nominated for a National (U.S.) Book Award this year, Christopher Hitchens smart look at religion, "God is Not Great."
I have read this last-minute choice, and it's compelling, entertaining and easily the best book on this list to read by the fire. And hell, if you hate it, just throw it in that fire.
Finally, another Hitchens effort also out this year. This time, he merely edited it, "The Portable Atheist." This one is more of a stocking stuffer, but should be much appreciated.
I hope this list makes your last-minute shopping much easier. If not, well, remember: Christmas isn't about presents, it's about... O.K., it's only but presents. But it used to be about something else.
O.K., maybe that's going to far, considering that Borat's era ended after his movie was released, but it's now official:
"When I was being Ali G and Borat I was in character sometimes 14 hours a day and I came to love them, so admitting I am never going to play them again is quite a sad thing," he said. "It is like saying goodbye to a loved one. It is hard, and the problem with success, although it's fantastic, is that every new person who sees the Borat movie is one less person I 'get' with Borat again, so it's a kind of self-defeating form, really.
"It's upsetting, but the success has been great and better than anything I could have dreamed of."
I'll miss him, too:
An op-ed in the Times today reports statistics that may disappoint juicing ball players:
But in a complex team sport like baseball, do the drugs make a difference sufficient to be detected in the players’ performance records? An examination of the data on the players featured in the Mitchell report suggests that in most cases the drugs had either little or a negative effect.
Specifically about Clemens, the op-ed authors, Jonathan R. Cole and Stephen M. Stigler, write:
Roger Clemens is a case in point: a great pitcher before 1998, a great (if increasingly fragile) pitcher after he is supposed to have received treatment. But when we compared Clemens’s E.R.A. through 1997 with his E.R.A. from 1998 on, it was worse by 0.32 in the later period.
Oh that sucks; sticking a needle in your buttocks and getting no return.
From, you guessed it, the Times:
Japan, under pressure from the United States and Australia, is delaying plans to kill 50 humpback whales as part of its already contentious annual whale harvest in waters near Antarctica.
Why is Japan's "research" so contentious? Well...
Japan and most maritime countries are bound by a 1986 international moratorium on commercial whaling, but there are exceptions for whales killed for scientific research. For years, Japan has hunted growing numbers of a widening range of species, studying stomach contents and other aspects of the animals taken.
But many countries, environmental groups and biologists oppose the activity, saying the meat ends up sold in Japanese markets. Most of the research, according to many marine biologists, can be done through nonlethal means.
"We're performing research. It's just that the last part is a taste test."
Last season, Chris Simon did this:
He was suspended for 25 games.
This season Chris Simon did this:
This time, he received a 30 game suspension. His team, the New York Islanders, have said Simon's attacks have been a cry for help. But if they want to help him, they should release him. He adds nothing to the game, and at 35, he doesn't even have youth on his side. He's an embarrassment to the league, and 30 games should have really been a lifetime ban.
One Other Hockey-Related Item:
- Diversity in hockey; something good.
The New York Times has a story about an upcoming spy novel from a former CIA officer, Joseph Weisberg:
To heighten authenticity, he redacted parts of the book, inserting black bars that concealed the names of countries, the particulars of tradecraft and other details that might be classified information, if the story were true. Even the names of two people in the acknowledgments, whom the author thanks for having “trusted me with their story,” are blacked out.And from the first chapter:
Several months before I was scheduled to leave for ❚❚❚❚ , I was assigned to the ❚❚❚❚❚ office in ❚❚ Division. Depending on scheduling and other bureaucratic considerations, new case officers ❚❚❚❚❚❚❚❚❚❚❚❚❚❚❚❚❚❚❚❚❚❚❚❚❚❚❚❚❚❚❚❚❚❚❚❚❚❚❚❚❚❚❚❚❚❚❚❚❚ . In my case, I was shipping out in August, so I would be in ❚❚ for most of the summer. It was a busy time in ❚❚❚❚❚ , but the officers running country desks liked to handle their own work. They'd give me an occasional name trace to run, or have me coordinate a cable with another division. But I wasn't busy. I'd read the morning traffic cables from the stations in ❚❚❚❚❚❚❚❚❚❚❚❚❚❚❚❚❚❚❚❚❚❚ , and what ever ❚❚❚❚❚❚❚❚❚❚ traffi c was coming in. I'd stop by my friends' offi ces throughout the building or meet them for coffee in the cafeteria. And one or two days a week, I'd take care of various tasks I had to accomplish before going abroad, like ❚❚❚❚❚❚❚❚❚❚❚❚❚❚❚❚❚❚❚❚❚❚❚❚❚❚❚❚❚❚❚❚❚❚❚❚❚❚❚❚❚❚ and getting my final medical clearance.
It's a clever gimmick (not, however, the first time a book has been printed with redactions; see Valeria Plume's book published this year), but without reading the entire novel, I'm not sure it will work. This is the type of thing that might be sustained only in a short story.
One Other Book-Related Item:
- Published in a couple of weeks ago in the New Yorker, Jonathan Lethem's humurous short story, "The King of Sentences" -- worth a read.
Thursday, December 20, 2007
Wednesday, December 19, 2007
A settlement between Peter Jackson and New Line Cinema was announced yesterday. The settlement will allow the filming of "The Hobbit" and an newly written prequel to the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy.
Though Sam Raimi has stated his interest, it is unclear who will direct the two Hobbit movies, but Mr. Jackson will not. Mr. Jackson and his producing and writing partners, Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens, are committed to making “The Lovely Bones” through 2008 and then he is directing “Tintin,” based on the Belgian comic strip, for Steven Spielberg.
But Mr. Jackson and his wife, Ms. Walsh, will be executive producers of the Hobbit films, and they will share with New Line the right to approve all creative elements: director, screenwriter, script, cast, filming location, even the visual-effects company used (as if there were any doubt that his Weta Digital would be chosen). “They can assure that the films will be made with the same level of quality as if they were writing and directing,” Mr. Jackson’s manager, Ken Kamins, said.
It's disappointing that Jackson won't be directing, and I'm not convinced Sam Raimi should be the man in the director's chair. Although, if Raimi were to direct, at least it would keep him away from the Spider-Man franchise, which he squandered with this year's pathetic second sequel.
Tuesday, December 18, 2007
Monday, December 17, 2007
Thursday, December 13, 2007
StatsCan released a report today that suggests that the strong Loonie hasn't increased cross-the-border shopping:
I will say this: the idea of going to the U.S. to buy things that are quite often minimally higher in a Canadian store defies logic. The cost of gas and the aggravation of crossing the border is enough for me to pay a dollar more here.
Whether measured by the number of same-day auto trips across the US border or the average amount spent on these trips or online shopping, the recent increases in cross-border shopping have been minimal relative to retail sales, according to a study released today in the Canadian Economic Observer.
Cross-border shopping volumes in 2007 pale by comparison with the phenomenon observed two decades ago.
A relatively small rise in the exchange rate in the late 1980s and early 1990s provoked a huge increase in same-day auto trips to the United States. By comparison, since 2002 the largest appreciation of the exchange rate ever has been accompanied by a relatively small rise in same-day auto trips.
The close relationship between the exchange rate and same-day auto trips from 1986 to 2001 weakened substantially as border security tightened following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks and has not been re-established since.
With the release of the Mitchell Report this afternoon (it can be read in it's glorious 409-page entirety here) comes the obvious question: who was juicing?
For a die-hard baseball fan, finding out which of your heroes cheated (and probably is still cheating by using growth hormone, as the report now suggests is the enhancing drug of choice) could be nauseating or enjoyable.
Of course, some of the names we already knew or suspected (Bonds, McGuire, Sosa, Giambi, Canseco). The newly confirmed cheaters include Roger Clemes, Andy Pettitte, Chuck Knoblauch, Eric Gagne, and Troy Glaus.
Losers (actually some won championships): all.
UPDATE: Here's a fill list of the names, new and old:
Paul Lo Duca
Jerry Hairston Jr.
Gary Matthews Jr.
It's that time of year when every newspaper/magazine/website/bastard reveals its year-end best of lists, and here at I'm The Villain ?/./! we're no different (note the use of the plural pronoun despite the blog being written by one person).
Here's is my schedule:
Monday, Dec. 17 - Music
Tuesday, Dec. 18 - Film
Wednesday, Dec. 19 - Printed Materials
I'm sure you will check back then to figure out what you should have liked from this year.
Wednesday, December 12, 2007
I was wasting time on iTunes, just browsing, when I came upon a link for CBC's "Little Mosque on the Prairie." I clicked it expecting to be shuffled off to some bizarre "Little Mosque" podcast, but instead I arrived at a page where I could buy episodes of the show. A first, you see, because I didn't think Canadians could buy TV episodes on iTunes.
I did a bit more exploring (use of this word in this context is an insult to actual explorers, but they're not reading so...) and found that on Canada's iTunes, the following TV can be bought for $1.99:
- "The Sarah Silverman Program"
- "Drawn Together"
- "Stanley Cup Classics"
- "No Opportunity Wasted"
- "South Park"
- "Instant Star"
- "The Rick Mercer Report"
- "The Hills"
- "Corner Gas"
- "Dragon's Den"
- "Robson Arms"
- "Degrassi: The Next Generation"
Monday, December 10, 2007
It turns out all my self-destructive behaviour -- times when I've tried only so I could quit trying -- has all been for the better:
... new research suggests that success — or more specifically, the persistence required to achieve hard-to-reach goals — may not be worth it.
In a paper published in the September issue of the journal Psychological Science, Gregory Miller of the University of British Columbia and Carsten Wrosch of Concordia University found that teenage girls who are unable to disengage themselves from trying to attain hard-to-reach goals exhibited increased levels of the inflammatory molecule C-reactive protein (C.R.P.), which in adults is linked with diabetes, heart disease and early aging. “There’s this traditional idea in Western culture and science literature that being persistent is good, that if you work hard, you can achieve anything,” says Miller, who has published several papers with Wrosch on the psychology of quitting. “Our take is that persistence is good, but there are times where the most adaptive thing is to say, ‘This goal is not going to work out.’ ”
At the outset of their experiment, Miller and Wrosch asked each teenage subject what would count for her as adversity and what would count as success. Then the researchers tracked how the young women dealt with their own setbacks and adversity over the course of a year. What mattered, it turned out, was not whether the subjects achieved success but what they had to endure to get there. “We found that the girls who were best able to disengage when a goal became difficult or unattainable are those who have constant levels of C.R.P.,” Miller says. Teenagers who persisted — even if they eventually attained their goals — had significantly elevated levels. “Success in some cases is going to be costly,” he adds...
I was always just looking to stay healthy.
First from minutes ago: Conrad Black sentenced to 6 1/2 years in jail.
Second from yesterday: Robert Pickton guilty.
I'm surprised about the length of Black's sentence. For some reason I didn't expect him to get much more than a couple of years, but confession: I didn't pay much attention to the post-conviction hypothesizing.
Pickton's conviction wasn't a surprise. The TV coverage after the conviction was read yesterday was at best unbearable to watch. Both the CBC and CTV had parades of people commenting on the verdict, with each successive person having an increasingly tenuous connection to the victims of Pickton's crime.
- Investigative journalism is dying.
- People are flying, or at least are delusional enough to try.
- George Saunders wrote about Daniil Kharms. Who? George Saunders wrote about ...
- Jose Mourinho says no to England.
- And watch a dumb video below:
Wednesday, December 05, 2007
Tuesday, December 04, 2007
An amusing article where Chelsea winger Florent Malouda assesses English football and the country:
'During the actual games [in England] it is as though everybody's brains are switched off,' said Malouda. 'People play by instinct, spontaneously, in the way they did when they first discovered football. Training sessions here are terrifying. They are just like matches, and you go flat out.'
'The people at Chelsea don't control what the players eat,' he added. 'You can help yourself to whatever you like, drink Coke or anything. It is a good job I have come over here at the age of 27 and so haven't been following the same diet as the rest of the club's players.'I wonder if he'll stick around...
Last week after the Toronto Maple Leafs lost in a shoot-out against the Montreal Canadians, the accepted version of reality for the Leafs was it was still a team stuck in misery.
Two wins later, and the Leafs, who are still below .500, are "on a roll."
Some might say this is Toronto, this is the Maple Leafs: it's O.K. to write one thing and then less than seven days later write the exact opposite. After all, the Leafs are playing better and it's not wrong for journalism to reflect the present.
But tolerating this schizophrenic journalism that does nothing but undermine all journalism is a mistake. I have the belief that when journalists provide opinions, which happens more often in sports writing, they should be conservative.
The bomb dropped on Iran's nuclear aspirations came yesterday with the release of the 2007 U.S. intelligence assessment. Turns out in 2005 when that year's assessment stated that Iran was actively pursuing a nuclear weapon, the 'rogue' country had in fact shelved their atomic weapons program two years earlier.
This revelation creates a problem for Bush's plans to add Iran to the list of countries he starts wars he fails to finish during his two terms as president.
One question: should anyone trust the latest intelligence assessments? As it's pointed out in the first article I linked to, this is the same assessment that helped make the case in Bush's mind the strike Iraq. And anyways, new assessment or not, the hawks still live.
Monday, December 03, 2007
First, I noticed in both the NYTBR's notables lists (Top 100 and Children's) that comics are listed. I doubt this is the first time its happened (because if it was, maybe people would make a bigger deal of it) but it's nice to see that at least at the Times, comics aren't being categorized apart from traditional literature.
Also today the Times had a story that was covered a bit in a Quillblog post in May about comic publishers releasing often gorgeous (do I use that word?) comic collections.
Another thing to read, this time from the NYT magazine, William Safire's gift suggestions for "Bibliogifts."
In yesterday's Times (do I only read the Times?), Frank Rich made the argument for Barrack Obama to be the Democrats choice for president, and his reasoning is persuasive. I like Clinton, and would like to see a woman president, but I wonder whether she's the right choice to win the presidency. And sure, I'm in Canada, but only a fool would think we all don't have a reason to care about next year's U.S. presidential election.
- Scott Hall still a drunk? You make the call.
- Better reviews than I thought would come.
- Just-right reviews.
- From page to screen.