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Alex Balk

Alex Balk

Most Recently: Thomas Berger, 1924-2014

The "quiet" one.

Thomas Berger, 1924-2014

"More than anything, the paradoxical logic by which Berger unfolds his scenes connects him to Kafka. Too many contemporary writers kowtow to Kafka in mummery: ostentatiously dreamlike settings, Shadows and Fog-ian Eastern European atmosphere or diction. Berger engages with Kafka's influence at a more native and universal level, by grasping the way Kafka reconstructed fictional time and causality to align it with his emotional and philosophical reservations about human life. Berger's tone, like Kafka's, never oversells paranoia or despair, and the results are, actually, never dreamlike. Instead, Berger locates that part of our waking life that unfolds in the manner of Zeno's Paradox, where it is possible only to fall agonizingly short in any effort to be understood, or to do good." READ MORE

Preview: 'Lucy'

“The average person uses 10% of their brain capacity. Imagine what she could do with 100%,” is the tagline for Lucy, the new Scarlett Johansson speculative thriller, but isn't it just as likely that the reason our average brains max out at around one tenth of their dimensions is due to an abundance of caution? Given our transcendent abilities to do damage to ourselves and those around us with that mere sliver of cranial capacity it seems probable on an evolutionary standpoint that the other 90% of our head-stuffing chooses to remain fallow from the firm conviction that exercising even another couple percentage points would result in destruction on such a massive scale that this species and all others which come in contact with it would perish from the face of the earth leaving not even the most rudimentary of traces, and while the prospect of such a planetary cleansing seems admittedly appealing—particularly on a hot day when the streets of our major metropolises are filled with putative adult males trundling around in shorts and flip-flops (and t-shirts bearing terrible double entendres suggesting specific sex acts their wearers would like to have performed on them) while they drink from plastic bottles filled with sugared water and careen about the sidewalks like clueless oversized babies, a group whom they additionally resemble in their utter disregard for anyone else walking alongside them—one supposes the brain is doing its part to prevent our speedy extinction and is instead hoping that by keeping the cap at the ten spot enough of us will muddle through somehow that the dumb shit we do won't be immediately fatal, but will just hurt a lot until it's all over, at which point it will be some other brain's chance to fuck things up and hurt and be hurt and do everything it can to keep itself from feeling that sorrow that it has brought upon itself, not to mention the sorrow that has been brought upon it by the brains nearby. The more I think about it, the more it would make sense if our brains managed to drop their usage number down by about half—something at around five percent seems both more manageable and less lethal. Think about how happy everyone would be in a world which worked that way. Even if it's impossible it's at least the kind of movie I'd like to see, I guess. Lucy is in theaters July 25.

Tove Styrke, "Even If I'm Loud It Doesn't Mean I'm Talking to You"

Should you find yourself at some point today overcome by torpor, perhaps due to climatic conditions in your area or simply the prevalence of complaints concerning climatic conditions on social media, this song may provide a brief burst of energy before the fatigue inevitably takes hold once more. Yes, it's going to be hot. The sun will scorch your pasty skin and lethargy will lay its heavy hand upon your sweaty shoulders as it implores you to join it on the couch. But consider: We are barely past June's midpoint here, people. Don't waste all your whining just yet; think of how disappointed you'll be with yourself come August when folks are spontaneously combusting in the streets and Twitter is full of photos showing New Yorkers literally melting onto the sidewalks below their feet. And gentlemen? Please don't even think of asking me if you can wear little-boy pants just yet. STILL JUNE. Wait, where was I? It's like I have forgotten how to do this already. Oh, right. This song is pretty catchy. I tapped my feet at least, and, really, on a day like today, you can't hope for all that much more. I mean, you can hope, but I think we both know how that usually works out. Anyway, enjoy. [Via]

Stop Blaming The Internet For How Horrible We All Are

Awl pal Matthew J.X. Malady weighs in on what the cognoscenti refer to as Balk's Law, or the idea that everything you hate about The Internet is actually everything you hate about people.

Whose Nothing Is It Anyway?

"Art star Marina Abramović and London’s Serpentine Gallery have become embroiled in a row over 'nothing'. A prestigious group of curators and art historians have written to the gallery questioning why Abramović’s latest performance piece – due to open 11 June and about which she has repeatedly emphasised the importance of 'nothing' – fails to acknowledge the influence of another contemporary artist who has also made 'nothing' central to her work."

Euthanized Bear In Better Place Now

"Albany's celebrity bear has climbed its last tree." READ MORE

John Maginnis, 1948-2014

Political analyst John Maginnis, whose The Last Hayride and Cross to Bear are not only two of the greatest books written about Louisiana politics, but are also pretty high on the list of greatest books about Southern politics, and merit appearances on the list of greatest books about American politics in general, has died. Maginnis was 66.

What Does Your Whorephone Say About You?

"The 26-year-old keeps his sex list on Evernote in his iPhone, recording all 41 women he’s slept with, including Ashley, who took his virginity, four Katies and two Sarahs. He says he frequently looks back on it to analyze how he’s grown and changed as a person."

The History Of Maud Newton

"Random House will publish writer and critic Maud Newton’s first book, an examination of her obsession with genealogy and her own colorful family history, along with the science and superstition of ancestry in the culture at large. Newton’s essay, ‘America’s Ancestry Craze,’ is the cover story for the current issue of Harper’s magazine. This interdisciplinary study will draw on memoir, reporting, cultural criticism, scientific and anthropological research to understand the fear and fascination behind genealogy, and why it has become the second most popular hobby in the United States. Newton began blogging about books and culture in 2002; within a few years her site was one of the most widely praised and quoted in the industry, and she began writing for the New York Times Magazine, the New York Times Book Review, the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, and NPR, among others. Random House senior editor Andrea Walker pre-empted North American rights from Julie Barer at Barer Literary." READ MORE

Fucking Steak And How To Cook It

Awww, the New York Times thinks it has "a rock-solid new system" for cooking steak at home. That's so cute! Adorable! I am both tickled and amused by this delightful attempt at disrupting the cooking-steak-at-home space. It's just so sweet! Also LISTEN UP NEW YORK TIMES DINING READERS, NEW YORK TIMES DINING WRITERS AND ANYONE ELSE WITHIN THE SOUND OF MY VOICE: This is how you cook a fucking steak. There is no other way, and there will be no further discussion or appeals on the matter. Do not make me address this issue again. I will not be anywhere near as pleasant next time.