Paul Scheerbart’s Perpetual Motion Machine: Some Thoughts on Literature & Energy

Two texts are now sitting on my desk.  They are still and inert — like rectangular paperweights.  I would like to activate them, to mingle their pages.  I would like to set them, if only momentarily, into motion.


The first text in front of me is a little gem of a book: Paul Scheerbart’s The Perpetual Motion Machine (Wakefield Press, 2011), translated by experimental poet Andrew Joron.  In late 1907, Scheerbart — a visionary German author and artist who wrote, among other things, poetry, essays, theater pieces, and a prodigious amount of fantastic fiction (he called them “astral novels”) — set out to devise, in his laundry room, a perpetual motion machine.  Das Perpetuum mobile, which was originally published in 1910 along with 26 charming diagrams, is a roller-coaster account of Scheerbart’s failed but energetically inspired attempt to set such a machine into motion; it is a fascinating record, as Joron puts it, “of a two-and-a-half-year-long tantrum of the imagination.” Continue reading

A D & Jeremy Talk about Movies: Source Code, Friends, Woody Allen, The Man from London, Sucker Punch, Zardoz, Tron, Willow, and Shoot ‘Em Up

[Last weekend, while en route to Abu Dhabi, my good friend Jeremy swung by my cold-water Chicago flat. After a lengthy Indian-wrestling match, we headed downtown to the AMC River East 21, where we caught a screening of Duncan Jones’s latest film, Source Code. Two hours later, expelled into the brisk April evening, we hunkered down at the nearest Applebee’s and, after ordering multiple appetizers and pitchers of Stella Artois, recorded the following conversation.]

A D: Jeremy, did you like Source Code?

Jeremy: It didn’t offend me.

That’s high praise. I can envision it emblazoned across the film’s poster (which is hideous and which did offend me).

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On Lavender-Smith’s From Old Notebooks

If one ever wondered what happened to the guys in high school who sat around reading philosophy and fancying posey, From Old Notebooks (Blaze Vox) gives a good facsimile of what their life might be like in their thirties, married with children and living in the work-a-day world. If the character of Evan Lavender-Smith in the novel, created by Evan Lavender-Smith the writer, is a foil and not the man himself (how could he be? could he?), he is the foil who breathes braggadocio and bile strewn with acid humor, whose sense of self sprouts from swelling loins, shadowing the silver tongue of Joyce, among others.

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This Will Probably Incite a Riot

Since Sunday night I’ve planned to write a scathing post about the Golden Globes, a once “renegade” award platform, that gets a little closer to being Oscar Jr. every year.

But now it’s Wednesday, and Sunday seems like forever ago, and people probably don’t care. Instead of going into depth I’m going to complain about one small aspect of the Globes, and that was their readiness to suck off James Cameron just like everyone else in the world currently.

Let’s get this right: Avatar has one thing going for it and that’s the look, the beauty of it (if you’re so inclined). Not once in all the raves I’ve heard about the movie has anyone mentioned how well written, or acted it was. And that’s because it wasn’t. In fact, most people I’ve talked to have said “It’s not a great story, but it’s so beautiful.”

No I haven’t seen it, no I won’t see it. There’s no need. I’m quite willing to believe that it’s deserving of immense kudos when it comes to technology, special effects, makeup, and what have you. But there is no way, in my opinion, that a movie without great writing or great acting is anywhere close to be deserving of a title such as “Best Film.”

Brevity, Part 3: Long Takes Continued (well, they’re long)

While writing my previous post, I grew aware that I wasn’t mentioning any women filmmakers. So I’d like to add something addressing that (because of course one can find numerous examples). And along the way, I’ll also try to say more in general about the power—and limitations—of the long take.

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