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Sobriquet 33.2: Hilly Kristal Dead at 75

Wednesday, August 29, 2007
According to AP writer, Cristian Salazar, as presented in Newsday:

NEW YORK - Hilly Kristal, whose dank Bowery rock club CBGB served as the birthplace of the punk rock movement and a launching pad for bands like the Ramones, Blondie and the Talking Heads, has died after a battle with lung cancer, his son said Wednesday. He was 75.

Sobriquet 33.1: Farewell

Tuesday, August 28, 2007
Rest in Peace, Ingmar Bergman.

Sobriquet 32.4: Palahniuk's Choke Finally on its Way to the Silver Screen

Thursday, July 12, 2007
According to an article in the Hollywood Reporter:

Sam Rockwell and Anjelica Huston are starring in "Choke," an adaptation of a Chuck Palahniuk novel that marks the directorial debut of actor Clark Gregg, who also wrote the adaptation.

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Sobriquet 32.3: Repost From the MLA

Saturday, July 07, 2007
Another old post from another abandoned blog:

Growing up in New Jersey, I remember there being two affiliates for every network: one in New York and a second in Philadelphia. Since I lived in the part of the state closest to New York, I suppose, my television antenna picked up the stations broadcasting out of the Big Apple with a bit more clarity than those coming out of Philly. When we finally got cable, both sets of stations were part of the basic package. Still, somehow, the New York stations seemed more “ours” and the Philadelphia affiliates always struck me as belonging to another group of people somewhere to the south. Likewise, “going to the city” invariably meant going to New York and our school trips to Philadelphia always felt like journeys into exotic territories.

So, there was always this rivalry between the two cities, with New York always ending up the bigger, cooler, more important city. This, of course, is incredibly stupid. Nevertheless, my peers and I tended to look towards New York as the place to go and it became, in our minds, something very much like the center of the world.

Fast-forward a decade and ask me what I think of New York today and you’ll likely end up with “New York sucks” or “I hate New York.” Now, I’m not exactly a city person—I tend to find urban areas ugly and unfriendly, crowded and conducive to loneliness—and New York, for me, typifies everything that’s wrong with cities. It’s expensive, there’s nothing remotely natural about it, it’s dirty. I’ve spent the better part of my life hearing how I’d “love the East Village,” how I’d “enjoy the creative energy” of the big city and, despite the initial excitement I might feel at glimpsing the hustle and bustle of Gotham, I still find a day in New York far less satisfying than, say, an afternoon spent in a small town.

Of course, not all cities suck. For every New York or Montreal, there’s a London, a Stockholm, or a St. Paul. Still, coming to the Northeast’s second largest metropolitan area wasn’t really something for which I was unable to control my excitement. After all, I had been here before and, as I tend to tell people, I’m not a city person. Of course, the last time I was here must have been eighteen or so years ago when I was in the fifth grade and all I can remember from that trip was the great lengths to which we went to buy hot pretzels and stupid novelty toys (I got a Jacob’s Ladder). So I wasn’t expecting much.

But you know what? I like Philadelphia. From what I’ve seen of its downtown, Philly is a clean, pedestrian-friendly city with loads of shopping, plenty of museums, good restaurants, stunning historical architecture, and several parks. Chesnutt Street feels a bit like Montreal’s infamous Rue Ste. Catherine, but is much, much cleaner and entirely free of the pornographic neon eyesores one cannot escape when in Quebec’s biggest city. Basically, Philadelphia—to me, so far—feels like everything a big city should be without the grime of New York or the sleaze of Montreal.

In any case, the next time I feel the pressing need to see the big city, I will head here, to Philadelphia, rather than New York.

Of course, my reason for being in town has little to do with sightseeing and everything to do with the Modern Language Association Convention. So far, it’s more or less exactly what I expected. Save for a few people who can’t stop rattling off their curriculum vitae, most folks seem quite affable. I’m always amused by these large-scale meetings, though. I find it odd when running into someone from school, for instance, that we feel the need to greet one another warmly simply because we come from the same place. I mean, there are always these little bumping-intos with people you’d not even nod to back home, folks that you know of but do not know. Yet here, invariably, the same two strangers rush towards one another, arms extended and shake hands vigorously. It’s funny. I suppose it must have something to do with the sense of being out of place that makes for these enthusiastic salutations, sort of like how two exchange students befriend one another in a host country less out of shared interests than out of shared foreignness. Still, it’s benign and, I suppose, could spawn a genuine friendship.

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Sobriquet 32.2: Repost

An old post from an abandoned weblog:

I have been listening to Paul Auster's reading of The Book of Illusions on and off for the past few days and I am loving it. Written in the voice of a recently-widowed professor of Comparative Literature at a fictional Vermont college, Auster's quasi-metafictional novel chronicles David Zimmer's life following the death of his wife and children in an airplane crash. Throwing himself into research for a critical study of an obscure silent film comedian, Zimmer attempts to find a way to live with his loss. Although he manages to find a measure of solace in his work, Zimmer cannot seem to escape the gaping void left by his family's tragedy. Slowly, awkwardly, Zimmer removes himself almost entirely from his colleagues and purchases a secluded mountain home in southern Vermont. His detatched churlishness a poor guise for an aching soul, Zimmer's old friends try to reach him and, failing to do so, find themselves wounded by the man's increasingly misanthropic behavior. Then the wife of Hector Mann, the silent comedian about whom Zimmer wrote his critical study, sends him a letter and the depressed academic finds himself reluctantly drawn back into human society. Add to this the generally-accepted theory that Mann (who seemingly vanished into thin air during the Depression) has been dead for half a century, and we've got a splendidly mysterious set-up for another of Auster's beautifully imaginative novels.

I'll write more when I finish listening to the novel.

Another book I have been impressed with is Steven Hawking's A Brief History of Time. I've only recently managed to overcome the aversion to mathematics and hard science resulting from a largely subpar pre-college education, and am uncomfortably ignorant of the hidden workings of the world, so I have been seeking to make up for that ignorance by becoming something of an autodidact. Hawking's is perhaps the perfect writer for someone in my position. He is erudite without resorting to overly technical language, good-humored, open-minded (resisting the temptation to take pot-shots at religion like some of his colleagues, Hawking takes special care to discuss science as compatible with faith), and genuinely enthusiastic. Like a good teacher, Hawking manages to channel his own passion so powerfully that folks like myself cannot help but love turning the pages of his book.

I recall being taught math and hard science as a high schooler in perhaps the least interesting way possible. Teachers would teach us equations without ever providing a good reason for doing so. After we left checkbook balancing behind, math no longer seemed to have even the slightest relevance to everyday life. The general approach teachers took to math, chemistry, and physics instruction in my school seemed to be "solve problems to solve problems." Never once do I recall a teacher taking the time to explain how or why learning the methodology would help us learn new, exciting things later. This approach felt like running on a treadmill because the treadmill is a treadmill, not because exercise could improve our health or that running could be enjoyable. It was just that absurd "do it to do it" mentality that permeated the hard sciences...and it pushed people away. It was only in a college history class that algebra was explained as the science of balance.

If only my teachers had read something like Hawking's book, they'd have realized that simply by beginning a course of study with the big questions science and math allow us to ask, the philosophically-minded students would eat up all the graphs and equations knowing just where those tedious problem sets could actually lead them.

That's how well-written A Brief History of Time actually is. It makes the reader want to pick up all the books tossed aside as boring all those years ago and read them cover-to-cover.

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Sobriquet 32.1: Link Fest '07

Friday, July 06, 2007
1. We recently learned that our friend Jeremy Hance has transformed his blog into a webzine.

2. Sobriquet Magazine's own Erik Grayson has published a review of Kurt Vonnegut's A Man Without a Country in Logos.

3. The Cleveland Cavs have finally reached the NBA Finals, losing to the San Antonio Spurs in four straight games. I just wish Mark Price, Brad Daugherty, Craig Ehlo, Larry Nance and company could have been the Cavs crew to make it first.

4. Go Mike Gravel, go!

5. Sobriquet Magazine moves from Binghamton, NY to Elmira, NY.

6. Recap: Erik Grayson reviews Vonnegut, Cavs make it to the Finals, and Jeremy starts an e-zine.

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Sobriquet 31.1

Friday, June 08, 2007
Ah, 'tis good to be back in Minnesota...

Major updates to Sobriquet Magazine are on the way.

Sobriquet 30.2: National Book Awards

Thursday, November 16, 2006
From the New York Times:

“The Echo Maker,” an enigmatic novel by Richard Powers that tells the story of a young man who develops a rare brain disorder after an automobile accident, won the National Book Award for fiction last night.


“The Worst Hard Time: The Untold Story of Those Who Survived the Great American Dust Bowl” by Timothy Egan was the surprise winner of the top prize for nonfiction.

Sobriquet 30.1: Disgusting

A USA Today article on the salaries of Division I college football head coaches reveals just how much money goes to promote athletics at academic institutions:

The sport's dizzying salaries spiral has come to this, a USA TODAY study finds: The million-dollar coach, once a rarity, is now the norm. Head coaches at the NCAA's top-level schools are making an average of $950,000 this year, not counting benefits, incentives, subsidized housing or any of the perks they routinely receive. At least 42 of the 119 Division I-A coaches are earning $1 million or more this year, up from five in 1999.


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