Category: Arts and Letters

Doctorow – Experience and Creativity

I subscribe to what Henry James tries to indicate when he gives that wonderful example of a young woman who has led a sheltered life walking along beside an army barracks and hearing a snatch of soldier’s conversation coming through the window. On the basis of that, said James, if she’s a novelist she’s capable of going home and writing a perfectly accurate novel about army life. I’ve always subscribed to that idea. We’re supposed to be able to get into other skins. We’re supposed to be able to render experiences not our own and warrant times and places we haven’t seen. That’s one justification for art, isn’t it—to distribute the suffering? Writing teachers invariably tell students, Write about what you know. That’s, of course, what you have to do, but on the other hand, how do you know what you know until you’ve written it? Writing is knowing. What did Kafka know? The insurance business? So that kind of advice is foolish, because it presumes that you have to go out to a war to be able to do war. Well, some do and some don’t. I’ve had very little experience in my life. In fact, I try to avoid experience if I can. Most experience is bad.

E.L. Doctorow

The Writer’s Chapbook: A Compendium of Fact, Opinion, Wit, and Advice from the 20th Century’s Preeminent Writers
A collection of facts, opinions, wit & advice from the preeminent writers of the 20th century including an introduction by George Plimpton.

Baltimore Details and The Wire – Michael K. Williams on

When I first got down there, I did my homework to learn the specific Baltimore accent. I remember sitting at a table at Faidley’s, in the back of Lexington Market, over some crab cakes, and just watching and eavesdropping on people for hours. I picked up the interesting phrases, the habits of speech, the way those vowels sometimes took left turns. Baltimore has this character, like a stew, that comes from being part North and part South. Some things come up from Virginia and the Carolinas (where my dad’s family was from), and some down from the Northeast. It all converged in Baltimore, meshed together, and became its own unique thing.

When I came out of the downtown market and—in broad daylight—saw addicts nodding out right at the corner of Eutaw Street, I actually thought it was a setup for a shot for The Wire. I didn’t know much about Baltimore, but that sight woke me up. It drove home what we were doing. I’d met some people, heard some stories, and learned that the life expectancy in the Black neighborhoods of Baltimore is worse than in North Korea and Syria. Part of my process involved walking around the hood to get a sense of what it was like, especially at night. I knew East Flatbush, but you can’t just transfer one hood to the other. I feel like too many shows and films just do “New York” when they’re trying to capture a certain kind of urban Black community. But David Simon and Ed Burns were definitely going for something specific. There are similarities—we’re all human—but the character and textures are different, and I aimed to absorb what I could.

One late night I was driving around that area with a friend—windows down, sunroof open—and I heard some dude yelling what sounded like “Airyo!” After the second or third time, I pulled up at the curb and called one of them over to the window.
“What is that?” I asked. “What are you saying? ‘Air-Yo’?”
“Where you from?” he asked.
“Brooklyn.”
“What do you say in Brooklyn when you call each other?”
“Oh!” I said as it clicked. “You’re saying ‘Aye yo’?”

So I worked that into Omar’s vocabulary. It’s like “Hey, yo”—but “Aye yo,” with a peculiar Baltimore r sound jammed in there that took some practice, as did Omar’s specific drawl. I got compliments from Baltimore people on that, and when viewers were surprised I was from Brooklyn, that meant a lot to me.

Scenes from My Life
Michael K. Williams, with Jon Sternfeld

Highly recommend this book. After I read this I re-watched, for the nth time, Season 1 of The Wire. Still awesome. Still my favorite show.

Addicted to Love – Robert Palmer

JOHN TAYLOR: Robert Palmer wasn’t comfortable doing videos. “Addicted to Love” exemplified how he felt about it—it’s a video commenting on itself. He’s making fun of it. He didn’t really step outside of that. He did “I Didn’t Mean to Turn You On” and “Simply Irresistible,” and they’re both variations on “Addicted to Love.” He was a bit too old and self-conscious by the time videos became important.

JULIA BOLINO: Robert Palmer was very polite, very professional. His wife was there, so perhaps he had no choice.

MAK GILCHRIST: None of us felt we were being exploited in that video. That was a shock to me, when people said the video was demeaning to women. I thought the opposite; I thought we looked strong and quite scary.

I Want My MTV
Tannenbaum, Rob; Marks, Craig.

Emo Phillips Talks Someone off the Ledge (Almost)

Emo Phillips had a joke about this:

“Once I saw this guy on a bridge about to jump. I said, “Don’t do it!”

He said, “Nobody loves me.”

I said, “God loves you. Do you believe in God?” He said, “Yes.”

I said, “Are you a Christian or a Jew?” He said, “A Christian.”

I said, “Me, too! Protestant or Catholic?” He said, “Protestant.”

I said, “Me, too! What franchise?” He said, “Baptist.”

I said, “Me, too! Northern Baptist or Southern Baptist?” He said, “Northern Baptist.”

I said, “Me, too! Northern Conservative Baptist or Northern Liberal Baptist?” He said, “Northern Conservative Baptist.”

I said, “Me, too! Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region, or Northern Conservative Baptist Eastern Region?” He said, “Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region.”

I said, “Me, too! Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region Council of 1879, or Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region Council of 1912?” He said, “Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region Council of 1912.”

I said, “Die, heretic!” And I pushed him over.”

Via reddit

A Dream Play, August Strindberg, Author’s Note

In this dream play the author has, as in his former dream play, To Damascus* attempted to imitate the inconsequent yet apparently logical form of a dream. Everything can happen, everything is possible and probable. Time and place do not exist; on an insignificant basis of reality the imagination spins and weaves new patterns: a blend of memories, experiences, spontaneous ideas, absurdities, and improvisations.

The characters split, double, multiply, evaporate, condense, disperse, and converge. But one consciousness holds sway over them all, that of the dreamer; for him there are no secrets, no incongruities, no scruples, no law. He neither acquits nor condemns, but merely relates, and, just as a dream is more often painful than happy, so a tone of melancholy and pity for all mortal beings runs through this uncertain tale. Sleep, the liberator, often seems a source of torment, but when the torture is at its worst the sufferer awakes and is reconciled with reality—which, however painful, is yet a mercy, compared with the torment of the dream.

A Dream Play
Miss Julie and Other Plays (Oxford World’s Classics)
Johan August Strindberg

Out on the Tiles – Led Zeppelin Song – Idiom Explained

“Out on the Tiles” was mostly written by Bonham, who came up with the idea for the riffs that run through the track. The introduction was used to open live versions of “Black Dog” (from Led Zeppelin IV) and Bonham’s drum solo on the 1977 US tour.

Wikipedia

Meaning of: to enjoy yourself at night by going out to nightclubs, parties, or bars

Origin: British English A to Zed” by Norman W. Schur says: “night on the tiles — Slang. This phrase is derived from the custom among cats of having fun at night on rooftops, which in Britain are often made of tiles.” Similar to “night on the town.