Monthly Archives: May 2016

The Polish Rider: Read on May 31, 2016

My new bumper-sticker: “I’d rather be kissing Brezhnev (than reading this story)”

* Know that the majority of this review is me being about as cruel as possible to this pile of garbage and I also swear a lot.

Normally when I have an extreme reaction to art, good or bad but especially bad, I consider my anger and vehemence to be a good sign, a sign that the art did a job in eliciting a response from me. The worst response is none at all, and while I definitely had a reaction to this story, I can’t honestly take it seriously as a piece of art.

Had the point been for me to hate everyone here, say like Rob Zombie’s ‘The Devil’s Rejects’ then it would have been worth it. Sadly this is just another New Yorker cliche with cliche characters and luke-warm, half baked ideas about “modern life”. This is the sort of thing Donald Trump uses to make fun of those of us who read this magazine.

Everything about this story is pretentious and dumb. The author, with a straight face I’m sure, expects us to accept the juxtaposition of Uber as some modular metaphor for the modern capitalist world against the solid, but corrupt world of the police and taxi services. And I’m sure the author and the author’s teddy bear think this is all quite clever.

It’s not.

As Zoidberg once said, “Your [the author’s] metaphors are bad and you should feel bad!”

These are characters, and an author I assume, who is more interested in things than people. More interested in talking about the surface meaning of things than what the elicit deep down in our emotions. People who name drop without ever having experienced real art. Lazy assholes, in other words. This is like reading the transcript of a party from a college sophmore majoring in English where everything is spelled out for us, where the names of the actors in the TV show Taxi are literally spelled out for us.

This story is so bad I wanted to die. I wanted an Uber to crash into my apartment and flatten me in my reading chair before it got any worse. I longed for the days of the Soviet Union and Samizdat (the books copied on cheap paper) because at least someone was editing and something like this garbage would never have got in except maybe to hide the real art, a sort of literary birdcage lining.

And what is the author having a reaction to? Uber? Capitalism? Art? It’s a total jumbled and disorganized mess where on one page a character barely has condiments in their refrigerator and on the next a sleek espresso machine ready to dispense Bustelo. Where we’re told, for no apparent reason that a character has read Balzac in French.

Well these characters can fuck right off with their reading Balzac in French. They can jump right into the Seine and wash up along the banks of the Tiber where some Kafkaesque Uber driver can paint their bloated, espresso leaking bodies.

This story was torture. They should make ISIS read it. It’s fucking brutal nonsense from a psuedo-intellectual feather weight.

99% done with The Polish Rider

We’ve all seen Ghosbusters! Quit telling us what we know because it’s NOT IMPORTANT TO THE PLOT HERE! What, did the author suddenly discover art and film and espresso and thinks nobody else has heard of the goddamn Shining??

Torture. They should make ISIS read this. Fucking brutal nonsense from a psuedo-intellectual feather weight.

98% done with The Polish Rider

More modular furniture, as if everyone’s lives can be summed up by what we’re forced to buy because we’re all too poor to even be allowed into a furniture store that has real wood pieces.

So the lady who only has gift nuts and condiments in her fridge just happens to have an espresso machine ready to make Bustelo. Naturally, I mean, who the fuck doesn’t.

97% done with The Polish Rider

LOGO, not Legos. Learn to Google you fuck. And don’t tell me it’s intentional, you just ddon’t know. And if it’s a metaphor for “putting things back together” imma kick your teeth in.

This is like reading the transcript from a college sophmore majoring in English. “particular material locus”. Shut up

We get it, you vape.

95% done with The Polish Rider

Ekphrastic literature my ass, all I see is a badly written story.

$49 per square foot. Bite my foot.

Not a stuoid coincidence. It’s like the author read a book on everything not to do and did it. This hurts to read.

The Shining allusion? Tepid. A bunch of people raised on shitty TV who read a book on film and now think they understand art. BOLLOCKS!

93% done with The Polish Rider


Let’s drink chilled vodka now, maybe the readers will not notice we’re making a veiled reference to the Soviet Union and how cold their laws were. Herp-Derp, to the bank we go with our New Yorker money from this story!

Weak fucking metaphor – systems that can’t communicate but only kiss. Weak ass nonsense.

As Zoidberg once said, “Your metaphor is bad and you should feel bad!”

91% done with The Polish Rider

Oh don’t even compare a cop doing someone a favor to get a lost paiting back to abuse of power in the former Soviet Union. Fuck you! You know nothing, you moron, you over simplification.

“heavily surveilled” – if the Uber driver was under that much survaliance then we wouldn’t have lost the paintings now, would we?

75% done with The Polish Rider


I wish communisum was still a thing so I could deport the author their.

You know someone is a pretentious idiot when they say “Kafakesque”, it’s like a scarlet letter for dumb people

This is awful. I want to die.

65% done with The Polish Rider

This is so unimaginative that it’s like being sucked into the most apathetic black hole in the universe.

Oh, is the red jacket kid and the blue jacket kid supposed to represtent gang violence, or maybe the political left and right? Oh, so, co clever, I bet nobody ever thought of that before. Here, let me get you a fucking Noble Prize.

60% done with The Polish Rider

I think I could fart in a zip lock, scotch tape an expired, yelloing 2nd calls stamp to the outside, and address it in uneven sharpee to the New Yorker and they’d publish it. It would be better than this, anyway.

Uber again. I hate Uber.

Oh great, this is turing into a Uber Scooby-Doo episode where old man Plunket stole the kissing socalist paintings. Fuck me running.

55% done with The Polish Rider

Now we’re getting more art history lessons, even being told that maybe one style alludes to the kiss of Judas as if that’s a major fucking insigt. No shot, author, we get it, no stop telling me what to think!

Here’s an idea, rite a story about her painting one of these things instead of TELLING US WHAT SHE DID.

50% done with The Polish Rider

I’ve never seen this photograph before. Interesting. More intersting than the story, however. Why not write about that kiss instead of an asshole in her 4th Uber

Hey, author, I don’t need a fucking history lesson, just say the name of the phhotograpgh and let me do the rest. All this exposition is a waste of time and just means you don’t trust your readers.

40% done with The Polish Rider

“The sides must be blank”. I’m wishing the page this story was printed on was blank. I hate all these pretentious twats.


I swear to God the New Yorker published this story just to piss me off, it’s like a sick joke to see me get all upset about how terrible this thing is.

20% done with The Polish Rider

Trendy, cheap. Yep, that sort of sume up this thing so far. Hopefully an Uber will crash into my apartment and flatten me in my reading chair before this gets any worse.

I certianly hope the author doesn’t expect me to “see” these works of art and why Sonia (is that the main character) is worried about how they look. I mean, it’s a short story, not a picture book.

Two Men Arrive in a Village: Read on May 31, 2016

In the documentary “The Act of Killing” there is a scene where the men whom had torutured and killed their fellow Cambodian’s returned to a village and re-enacted their crimes. All around them were people – and I remember most of them being women – who had been old enough to remember the killings first hand, had probably never spent a night since without thinking about those horros and were now fafe to face with their tormentors.

Yet the look on their faces is what I remember the most because I don’t think there is a word to describe the emotion they were feeling. These men, the killers, we re-enacting their crimes for fun and were not there to kill anyone but these women wore a mask of entertainment for their “guests” but you could see the confusion, horror, and doubt in their eyes.

For me that was one of the most horrifying things I’ve ever seen.

This story captures a part of what those women felt, that fear but also that unity, even if they will come to a tragic end no matter how proud they stand.

At the end of the story we get images of the wind, and that’s how I imagine evil (the Devil here) works – the Devil all of a sudden appears and there is nothing we can do to stop him till he leaves. Even Bela Tarr used wind imagery in Satantango when we meet the Devil character, similar here as good looking with his impish friend. And that’s probably why the chief’s wife leaves the room before the name is spoken because to hear the name, even of a friend of the Devil is to invite him back.

But that last image of the small man who sort of confesses to the girl he just raped strips away the excuse that a Devil did something evil and places it squarely where the responsibility lay: with humanity. Monsters do not commit these terrible crimes, men (people, though usually men) do. To dehumanize these terrible acts is to look away and let the Devil get away with it, but to know that men do these terrible things means that they can be stopped because men are weak (the image of the men who only drink shows weakness and cowards).

This is a fantastic story.

E=mc²: A Biography of the World’s Most Famous Equation: Read on May 30, 2016

What is the point of art? What purpose does it really serve? Can it build a bridge, feed the hungry, or put a telescope into orbit? As someone who, sadly, lacks any real STEM ability (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Maths) I’ve always felt a little insecure about my passion for art, specifically literature. Aren’t I just wasting my time in imaginary worlds, dealing with problems only a person with a lot of free time, abundant food, and stable employment can feel free to worry about?

I’ve read many apologists on this subject, but nobody has offered me a satisfactory resolution between the world of STEM and the world of art. And when I look around at the state of the world – climate change, hunger, economic collapse – I sometimes feel my passion, my love of art, is an evolutionary dead-end, destined to secure me a job in retail for the rest of my life.

However, I’ve never honestly believed what I love is useless, but that I’ve only ever lacked the ability to span the distance between what people used to believe were the two sides of the brain: the creative and the logical.

In this book we are shown how Einstein bridged an even wider gulf: the relationship between matter and energy. It had never occurred to anyone that matter and energy were even related, that energy, and vast amounts of it, could be hidden deep within all the matter around us. Yet his genius was his ability to see relationships between two things nobody had bothered to put together previously. His genius too was in his ability to think about very complicated forces, in this case light, in a way that allowed him to see how strange the universe was, but also how much of the universe really worked.

The book then goes into great historical detail about all the people who came before Einstein whom had contributed to the main elements of his famous E=MC2 formula. We get a very diverse cast of characters, and not all of them men, and later, not all of them white, either. We see how the very fundamental workings of the universe allow everyone in it to contribute to discovering its secrets.

What I’ve read in criticism to this book is that the author, David Bodanis, is not very fair to some of the historical figures who played a part in this story. Some people are made out to be far more nefarious than they really were, but while this is unfortunate, and also a great opportunity for a reader to learn more on their own, my interest in this book has only a little to do with the science or the biographies of the people.

My interest lay in thinking about how people think, specifically what was it that allowed all these brilliant minds to be able to make leaps of logic that would advance our species understanding of the universe. Why are some people, such as Einstein, able to look at light and imagine what would happen if we were to hop a ride on a photon, whereas the rest of us would never even think to even think about light? Why would another person question if a bar of iron weighs differently once it has begun to rust? What is it that separates those people from people like you and me.

But when we think about art, aren’t we doing similar work? When we read, say The Wind and the Willows and we understand it to be not a story about cute animals, but rather about what it means to be a child, aren’t we making a similar, if smaller, leap of thinking? Can there be something in the way we think about art that trains us to be not only more critical, but also more aware of possibilities?

In this book Bodanis shows how if a person is raised to believe the Bible is the only and literal truth, but then when they go to school are then taught that science is the real truth, that some students will then learn to be skeptical of everything going forward? That having been burned once (and I’m not making a judgment on religion here, I’m only showing an extreme example), that the person will be more likely to not accept anything just on faith or authority, but to find out for themselves.

But how do you do that? Are some just born with the gift of better thinking? Are most of us then doomed to always take everything at face value and never consider how, for example sound works, or what happens when you ride on a sun beam?

My proposition then is simply that art is, in a way, the training we give ourselves to improve our thinking. That in order to be able to build a clever bridge, or solve an issue of feeding people in a desert, or putting a telescope into orbit, we have to be able to think differently than the next person.

STEM is great at teaching us that, say, 2 and 2 is 4, but just knowing that fact does not do you much good. Yet someone who is willing to think just a little differently will see that while 2 and 2 is 4, that 4 and 4 does not equal 8, but rather 16.

I believe that through art, all art including the art dating back to the very darkest caves in neolithic France, has been a way for people to work out the process of thinking about practical issues in ways that at first might seem to serve no real practical purpose, but that are really doing the work of training our minds to think better.

And I further believe that through studying art we actually improve the quality of practical fields. Instead of making incremental improvements to some device – say a battery that lasts 1 hour longer for our tablets – that perhaps a more well trained thought process could do away with batteries altogether in favor of a radically new technology?

Now I don’t want to get too pie-in-the-sky here, but I do believe that what makes a person a genius is not necessarily that they were just born that way, but that they just knew how to think better. They weren’t content to just know that 2 and 2 is 4, but that they wanted to know what does that really mean? What relationship is there between that simple equation to, say, the exponential increase of a nuclear chain reaction?

To just know facts does not do us any good, but to know how to use those facts is useful, and learning how to think about the facts we know in unique ways can be learned through studying art. A great novel or painting is like a gym in which we can work-out our critical thinking skills which can then be applied to other fields.

However, I don’t want to carry that analogy too far. Art is not just a means to a more practical end. Art does serve an aesthetic purpose and should not be looked at as just a tool that can be swept aside when it no longer serves a practical purpose. We are emotional beings too as well as being logical creatures and so having an outlet for our emotional selves is vital. Art also informs us on matters that are difficult to deal with, such as what Einstein thought about when he understood his great insight, E=MC2, lead to nuclear weapons. Art serves to explore the emotional, moral, and ethical aspects of our lives as much as it can help us think uniquely about practical concerns.

And so this book which explores what E=MC2 means, what led up to it, and where it led to, served for me as a book which helped me think more deeply about the relationship between Art and Science just as Einstein (well, not just as he did, but to a much smaller degree) thought about the relationship between Energy and Matter.

57% done with Middlemarch

I have to admit to being asurprised by Dorothea’s sisiter. She seems almmost cold, or even cruel to suggest that Dorothea (basically) write off Mr. Casaubon. Yes, he had been mean, but Dorothea had loved him (in her way). To be so blunt to Dorothea, all the while with the image of the healthy baby juxtaposed with the recent death seems rather unfeeling towards Dorothea.

55% done with Middlemarch


I had been willing to somewhat forgive Mr. Casaubon’s severe behavior, but his will (against Will) goes too far; what he did is cruel and vindictive. To think that could even be legal (forbid your widow from marrying a specfic person) is abhorant, but it’s worse morally because of how it could shame Dorothea, especially among such gossip-minded people as live in Middlemarch.

53% done with Middlemarch


Will seems to be testing his “place” in Middlemarch but he’s having a tough go of it – he seems to only have attracted Mr Brooke, who nobody seems toi take very seriously, and a parade of 7 year-olds. His trip to church to nettle Mr. Casaubon only made him uncomfortable, not the other way around. He’s very young and very inexperienced, but through this we see how society works.

52% done with Middlemarch


Honestly, I’m not too sure what this chapter was about, other than arguing about what motivates Lydgate or Will. I sometimes feel they are talking about things in a way that we, the reader, should know about, but that the author hasn’t yet told us about. it makes for dense reading at times.

51% done with Middlemarch


We get a clearer picture of why Lydgate is having trouble fundng his fever hospital. Many oppose him, mainly because he does things different and in Middlemarch that’s not something they like, or they are for him but usually for more than the most noble of reasons (except for Dorothea; she’s honestly trying to help, if naively).

Fable: Read on May 24, 2016

I will fight anybody in a parking lot who doesn’t like this story.

Near the middle of this story we get a sort of stream of consciousness look inside how the main character feels when he’s in public with his disabled son. He feels them looking at him with sympathy, but not wanting to get too close; nobody wants to “catch” what they have. And he’s angry about it.

I started thinking about how we talk about people like the narrator and his wife as heroes, but look at what a toll it is, look at how it hurts them, look at how confused and angry they are. Yes, being a hero is hard – that’s a core role – but it’s not something we all really want. Do you, after reading this, feel you’re up to the challenge of the narrator and his wife? Slaying a dragon would be easier.

And that’s the fun here because we get all the fantasy trope style writing – mages and witches and maidens – but spin it to talk about what a heroic life is really all about. We fantasize about being heros, we watch TV about heroes and superheroes, but we never really think how hard it actually is, how unglamorous it is, how much of a toll it takes.

But we can empathize because these heros are just as fragile as the rest of us, just as self conscious, full of just as many dreams and failures.

And the story also deals with the lives we construct for ourselves. The narrator here tricks his maiden (in a very clever but cynical way) into marrying him, but it’s part of the story he’s trying to create for himself, a story he wants to believe in – and so it’s not fully cynical. Here the language of fantasy is used to parody a very serious thing we all do, to forge a reality for ourselves, and one that might not be what we planned on.

Then there’s the angle of how popular fantasy is (Lord of the Rings, Game of Thrones) and how we want to escape this mundane, suburban world for something Tyler Durden would approve of from Fight Club, a world of action and meaning, not fake constructed lives of lawyers and contracts. Yet there’s a reason it’s called fantasy. And how well would we survive in that fantasy world? Could we really kill a dragon? Probably not. So we just try to get by.

There is also something between the lines here when he talks about never being as well off as the lords (the rich people who get promoted over him). We measure success in dollars and square footage, we see heroes as fabulous, but (and this is like a fable in the meaning of it), the real heros are regular people with extraordinary circumstances thrust upon them.

We need more fables, to be honest. I think we’ve lost the appetite for being told morality tales. Not that people long ago admired the morally appropriate people – we’ve always loved gossiping about the rich – but I feel we think being told what’s right is not something we need anymore, though we really do, and even more so as adults. A fable is not just for kids, because like the son here we are always children, we always need to learn, and we will always need guidance.

But more than just a fable, more than just the writer here using the old fantasy trope to juxtapose our modern struggles with epics of “lore”, is that this story is framed with the very real psychologist who is asking him to tell her his story. And he has a hard-time of it so he uses this language to try to wrap his brain around his life because he’s just an ordinary person who can’t find the words that a hero’s bard might have ready. And we all do this, we all rely on cliche language and saying to express how we feel, but they’re never good enough – those stories we give ourselves – because they’re for someone else, or at worst not genuine. And here the narrator is forced to tell his story in his words and he struggles to know who even he is, just like his son. Raymond Carver wrote about this very theme many times; here it’s just done more playfully but with no less talent.

There is some wonderful writing here, too. I loved how one of the first words (and probably one of not many more he’d ever know) is “sorry” because he heard it so much from his parents. That was heartbreaking and said more about that relationship and household than pages and pages of dialogue.

I also liked how there was a sort of hopefull ending, too. Of course a fable or fantasy story usually does and so it must here too, but because this story is so close to reality, so honestly sad (in the way reality is sad and lonely), that it gives us some hope leading back out, that not all is bleak and that even the worst can be endured, even if it will always be difficult.

This is not a cynical story, it’s realistic. It’s the most realistic fable I’ve ever read, and it’s wonderful.

90% done with Fable

The running as metaphor for time, while not new, feels new here in the dream, in the story of their making. “We don’t have to run” When we think of the future it’s a dream, a fable, but the sory does not go as planned and we have to be real. We are/not lords and heroes, we’re regular people doing whatever we can. And it’s scary and it’s not fair.

75% done with Fable

My God, what if someone disabled like that actualy knew it but couldn’t communicate and they started apoligizing? He’s dreaming now, the rotted bridge, the son speaking. He doesn’t want to dream, but he is, and it’s terrible.

65% done with Fable

We don’t ger her side, but you can imagine it’s just as hard for her. Jesus, that’s beautifully sad. Carving out the parts of their minds that made dreams and feeding it to the wild animals. Recalls the star as a dream that fell into her belly to give them the son.

50% done with Fable

That rage he feels when he gets angry at his son, that primal place the story uses as language (the fantasy language), the language of someone trying to smooth over how hard all this is, is the place he wants to live a more meaningful life. A place of dragons and heros is also more violent and not the sort of place you could raise a child with those sorts of needs, at least not as someone who is not a lord

30% done with Fable

I see him blacksmithing as an aggression, a primal release. Fire, metal, anger, heat, frustration, and release. Here being the hero, being the kind of person we call a hero for doing the right things, for raising a specil needs child, does not feel very heroic. In fact people pity the hero. And he works for non-heros who do much better financially then him, who might even be more satisfied.

20% done with Fable

Love how the kid’s frist words includes “sorry” because he heard it so much. So much said in just that one word. Whoever wrote this is very talented. Ohhh, that stream of consciouness passage, about people looking at them, about how he feels about being looked at, about whet he thinks they think, is very well done. Sad, too.

10% done with Fable

Slaying a sickly dragon no bigger than a fowl. Nice. On the flip-side, people “back then” were just like us so taking herbs to “self medicate” is not a new idea. We think we’re modern and new and different; we’re not. I like the image of the star that would forever hang in the sky as a symbol of them not being able to have children. Simple, but effective.

5% done with Fable

Reads like a New Yoker cartoon; so it’s sort of meta Wait, is this in a fantasy setting? Is this a satire on how the world we live in is so falsely constructed that it’s totally far removed from any important sort of life, one of action. Is this why fantasy is so popular, like Game of Thrones and such? People wanting a deeper meaning and satisfaction from life?