Cops investigate fiction writer, claim murder isn't appropriate subject for fiction

Friend of Earth Goat Saltwater Farmer alerts us to this incredible story of police with a confused notion of their duties in Florida. A short update is here. It's like something out of the old Soviet Union, and it would be scary if it weren't for the fact that it's basically campus cops trying to "play FBI." However, the fact that police anywhere somehow got the idea that they have the need and power to silence a writer of fiction is disturbing. As the article's author points out, if they're going to investigate every crime writer, they're "going to need a bigger budget."



The Lovely Becky will be on Talk of Iowa Live at the Java House tomorrow morning, Friday May 26, 10am AM 910. Presumably she will be discussing her well-received novel Icebergs.


Leonard Cohen on Fresh Air

Airs at 11am on AM 910 in Iowa (rebroadcast at 8pm). The poet/singer has a new book of poems out, his first in 13 years.


Random items

You can park almost anywhere now in our fair city. Most students = vamoosed or holed up studying. I rode my bike to the library and nearly went back for the car.

That cereal restaurant closed within months, as predicted.

Anyone seen the Everything Is Illuminated movie? Picked up its tag at That's Rentertainment. First impulse: take it up to the counter. Second impulse: pause thoughtfully, then doubtfully, then put it back and step away.

Peter Orner is reading tonight at Prairie Lights, 7pm. From Thisbe:

"peter orner ('98 workshop grad, author of "esther stories") will be reading from his novel "the second coming of mavala shikongo" tonight - wednesday the 17th - at prairie lights at 7. i really think it's a reading you shouldn't miss if you can manage to get there - the book is extraordinary, and peter's wonderful - truly one of my favorite writers."

Softball tonight, workshop-heavy Serenity Now vs. McClure Engineering Company. 9pm Hawkeye Softball Complex, Field 3.

Saturday night at The Mill: local stars Death Ships, Wisconsin's Wandering Sons, Drakkar Sauna, and SF's Two Gallants, about whose album Vice magazine says, "Take Kerouac with his up-to-late, thinking too much, missing-everything-and-needing-nothing amphetamine fueled rants, add it to foot pounding front porch anthems with swelling guitars and you've got an unbeatable album..." Doors 8pm. $7. With the students gone, we might even get a booth.

Anyone else read any William Golding besides Lord of the Flies? Currently being blown away by his novel The Inheritors.

Saw the first season of Battlestar Galactica via a friend's DVD. I recall Chad and I think Charlemagne praising it to the skies some time ago. Thanks for the hype -- it totally rocked. Character-driven sci-fi is pretty much the Holy Grail to me, and this delivered. Is Season 2 as good?

Finally, for the love of God, check out "Silent Library 3," via Trevor's Creekside "More Questions Than Answers" link (click on the video image). Why we don't have game shows like this I cannot fathom.


Stanley Kunitz Dies at 100

I don't know how popular Kunitz is among the readership, but I thought he was a complete stud. Five years ago in Charlottesville, he gave (at 95) one of the most moving readings I've attended. Here's a timely bit from the Times obit:

In 1987, when Mr. Kunitz was 81, Gov. Mario M. Cuomo appointed him to a two-year term as the official New York State Poet. Writing for state occasions was not a requirement, but Mr. Kunitz would have been reluctant to in any case. "The poet is not in the service of the state," he said of his official post. "On the contrary, he defends the solitary conscience as opposed to the great power structure of the superstate."

To anyone looking for an entry point, I recommend this New and Selected collection. (I've been stealing from "The Wellfleet Whale" for years.)


Best of the Last 25

The Times Book Review sent out ballots for the best American novel of the last 25 years and the results are in.

The list of judges is pretty impressive (and includes a few familiar names; I'd be curious to hear their choices).


Let's Wiki the Workshop!

Hey gang. I've been using Wikipedia a lot lately, and if you haven't been paying attention, it's no longer a nerdy, crappy, dubious affair. It has now become sophisticated enough, big enough, and old enough to be a seriously interesting and valuable knowledge-acquisition tool, and I don't think it's hyperbole to say it may end up becoming one of the great info-dissemination landmarks in human history.

It will soon replace Google as a quick way to find mini-research facts ("What year was the lightbulb invented?"), but more than that, it's going to eventually be an indispensible tool in any and every kind of research -- far more than print encyclopedias ever were. If you hang out with it for a few days (as a lot of you probably already have), I think you'll get a sense of that.

Anyway, I was thinking it'd be a fun project if we put our collective megalith brain power, writing skills, and tendentious tendencies to work and cooperate on getting the Iowa Writers' Workshop article in better shape. As it is now, there's a short intro followed by an interminable list of former faculty and "notable graduates". I think that stuff is relevant, but there's a lot that's more relevant and interesting, and much of it is known by us.

I realize there might be some tinge of arrogance or partisanship if we IWW grads write 'the book' on the Workshop ourselves, but it really doesn't matter. What matters as far as Wikipedia is concerned is that we get as much of the relevant, neutral facts and history on there as we can, and people can argue late about what parts are hometown dogma. In one sense, we're experts on the subject -- and together I think we could put together a pretty fine article for cyber-posterity.

The side bonus is that people who don't have much exposure to Wikipedia can get familiar with it. As I alluded to earlier, it's not going to be a nerdy subculture much longer. It's going to be a fundamental life resource. ISYN. So gettin' hip to it can't hurt.

Brief primer for you ignints: 'wiki' was conceived as a technology in the spirit of Open Source, and allowed communities to freely collaborate on the creation and editing of web pages. Early wiki stuff was cool because you could live-edit some web page somewhere without messing around with its HTML. Groups used it to brainstorm, to plan projects, to keep lists, etc. You just pressed the EDIT button on the page and typed stuff into an interface not unlike the one this blog uses.

Wikipedia is the same way. Anyone can edit ANY page on the site at ANY time, even anonymous users, and even the most frequently viewed and important pages. There is a very smart system that keeps track of every edit the page gets, so that, for instance, if a vandal deleted the entirety of the U.S. History article, the next person could just revert it to the previous version. You can see the entire history of edits of a given page at any time, scrolling through it one-by-one if you want to. Each edit shows who made it, too, unless it was anonymous, in which case the editor's IP address is shown.

Each article (and there are 1.1 million of them and counting) also has a 'Talk' page, where users can discuss and/or debate and/or argue about which edits are good and which suck. This democratic and egalitarian approach turns out to result in some very high-quality articles, and for that reason is pretty amazing considering the whole thing runs on donated time.

Anyway, there's a lot more to it than that. If you want a real intro, go here.

Cool, lemme know whatchall think.


The Kids are Alright

TRG and Luka were bounding around the yard and doing well yesterday.


I've Always Wanted to be a Mat

As some of you know, Paul Westerberg gave me probably the most important and thrilling kiss of my young teenage life -- so I'm pretty psyched about this one, from Pitchfork (plus the mention of Rome made me think of Chad, sweet dear too-far away, Chaddy McChad):

"It's the first new Replacements song in 16 years, but you probably missed its world premiere on knucklehead jock/Mats fanatic Jim Rome's radio show yesterday. The odd unveiling followed their fuck-it-all, bittersweet career trajectory perfectly with Paul Westerberg blowing-off an accompanying live interview with Tommy Stinson; these guys can't win. As the faithful bassist stumbled through the same questions he's spent 16 years trying to erase (answering the inevitable reunion tour query with an exasperated "I don't know"), he noticeably perked up when talk turned away from the Mats' murky future to Los Angeles basketball. Original members Westerberg, Stinson, and Chris Mars (who contributes back-up vocals)-- along with hired stickman Josh Freese-- recorded two new tracks late last year as part of an upcoming greatest hits package, but hopes for a full-fledged Mats reunion seem foolhardy, as this song subtly attests.
Rather than a new beginning, "Message to the Boys" works best as loyal farewell. Reminiscent of three-chord struts like Tim's "Hold My Life" and "Little Mascara", this is vintage mid-era Mats-- in between the early gutter punk and the late maudlin mopes. Westerberg's booze-bard lyrics are characteristic to the point of self-mythological as he begins, "Well, I met her in a bar/ Like I always say." His lost love's doomed existence as a roaming runaway who's missed but not forgotten delicately doubles as a keen Replacements allegory. "Yeah, I miss her and her voice," sings Westerberg. The Mats are dead. Long live the Mats."


Ireland and The Netherlands

are where we'll be for the next week. Expect another Euro-centric freedom-hating diatribe from an Internets cafe at some point. Otherwise, behave yourselves. Tot ziens, en let op, gezelligheid, er komen wij.