Homo homini rodentius est

The House around the Corner

Halfway down the block on the North side of 14th Street in Manhattan stands a house that holds a quiet and singular place in the history of American letters. The house at 317 West 14th street, now one of the few remaining privately-owned guest houses left in the city, was once the home of George Kirk, a friend of the horror writer [H. P. Lovecraft]. In the early 1920’s, Lovecraft used his friend’s home as the setting for one of his most compelling stories, [Cool Air]. The story concerns the unfortunate fate of a mysterious lodger who depends desperately on mechanical contrivances to forestall a horrifying fate that threatens him from the sweltering intensity of a New York City summer just outside his windows.

I live right around the corner from this house and the fact that I am so close to it is a special instance of serendipity. Like many bright odd boys I fell in love with Lovecraft’s work at just the point in adolescence when I was starting to become aware of the darker side of life — of the discordance that existed between the world of my boyhood faith and a world “red in tooth and claw”, as Tennyson wrote. Lovecraft, a misanthropic depressive homosexual, was in many ways the perfect introduction to the imaginative defense against disillusion. His magisterial pantheon of cosmic horrors that threatened humanity both from the limits of space and time as well as our own corrupt bodies was an emotional boot camp for facing down terror. That his work does not travel well into adulthood (the prose is overheated, often embarrassing; the characters cartoonish) matters not a whit. Lovecraft was himself emotionally stunted, caught in a perpetual adolescence on the verge of becoming until his early death from cancer. It makes perfect sense that he is the literary patron saint of bright odd boys.

UPDATE 8/20: In honor of Lovecraft’s birthday, another of his short masterpieces: [The Music of Erich Zann]

Which celebrity are you?

I got wind of a gizmo reading [Heida Biddle’s blog] that matches an uploaded pic of yourself to a database of celebrity faces. I submitted my passport picture and this is what it came up with, in descending order of match probability:

  • Pedro Martinez
  • Bridget Fonda
  • Eero Heinonen(?)
  • Anna Paquin
  • Nick Lachey
  • Maggie Smith

Finding out that I look most like Pedro Martinez was a bit of a surprise, given that I’m so white I glow in the dark. In fact, the matches actually increase in accuracy as you move right — truth be told, with a good wig, some eyeshadow and just the right shade of lipstick, I bear a striking resemblance to Nick Lachey…

Try it out: [MyHeritage Face Recognition]

A Rat’s Report Card

A benchmark of sorts: this will be the first month since this blog started a little over a year ago with over 50,000 page views (about 1,700 a day average). Those views came from about 20,000 readers in over 2,000 locations around the world (see Google Analytics map above). Looks like readers come from throughout the English-speaking world, and a few places beyond (welcome Makati!). The top 3 cities are New York, Los Angeles and London. Not bad for a general-interest blog written by an anonymous rat.

The BEST Best Music Video List

The period from the early 80’s to mid-90’s was an exceptional era in pop music. Coinciding with the broad penetration of cable and MTV in particular, suddenly there was a premium on how a song looked — style over substance, some complained. But also an unlimited palette provided to a generation of artists more varied than any seen before or since. The younger brothers and sisters of the 60’s generation took the liberties won by their siblings for granted and put them into practice. Powerful girls, perpetually angry and alienated boys and smoldering queers came out of the stylistically stagnant 70’s to face resurgent Conservatism, a culture of unbridled greed and AIDS. It was the end of a century and, like the fin de si├Ęcle period of the previous century, an opportunity to explore and exploit aesthetic excess. Punk, New Wave, New Romanticism, Hip Hop, Grunge all mixed together in an artistic abundance that cataloged the hope, despair and style of youth at the end of the 20th century. Here are 25 examples of the best of the lot.

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Every Day is Like Sunday

This is the coastal town that they forgot to close down… come Armageddon, come!

I grew up in a small village on the Hudson about 130 miles north of New York City called Catskill. Its economic history goes back a long way, to the purchase of its lands from the native Americans in 1638. Through the following centuries it had its share of good fortune — Martin Van Buren, our eighth president, was married there and Alexander Hamilton tried his first case as a young lawyer in the building I knew as the local Masonic Temple. Thomas Cole, founder of the Hudson River School of painting, lived in a mansion on Spring Street where, a century in the future, my aunt Rose would purchase what may have been his dilapidated studio on a parcel of land adjoining her house and blithely tear it down to make room for her garden.

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