Frontier Psychiatrist

Archive for July 2012

Rajesh Parameswaran, I Am An Executioner

Rajesh Parameswaran, I Am An Executioner

Hyphenated-American fiction writers often face an unfair conundrum. If they focus on race or ethnicity, they risk being pigeonholed or fetishized or deemed spokespeople for their racial or ethnic group. If they avoid these topics, they risk charges of cultural treason. In his dark, imaginative, and engrossing debut short story collection, Yale Law graduate Rajesh Parameswaran splits the difference: embracing his Indian heritage yet transcending that heritage with universal themes of love and loss.

To be sure, I Am An Executioner has plenty of Indian culture. There are arranged marriages, culture and caste clashes, saris and chappels, and mouthwatering meals of chutney, samosas, and okra.  The narrator of one story is a tiger; another is an elephant. Yet not all of the stories star Indian or Indian-American characters. And even when they do, Parameswaran seems eager to subvert cultural clichés.  In the title story, the narrator, never ethnically identified, speaks in what seems like a parody of Indian English: “Normally in the life, people always marvel how I am maintaining cheerful demeanors.” In another story, the hapless hero is an unemployed computer salesman who pretends to be a doctor –that stereotypical Brahmin profession – with disastrous results.  In “Demons,” an Indian-American woman tells a neighbor that her dead husband on her living room floor is doing yoga, saying: “That is, you know, one of the things we do in India.” And the gullible gringo swallows the story.

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Leo and Alex Trebek

nerd definition

Let me make something clear: I am a nerd. Not one of those pickles-and-plaid, post-ironic, twenty-first century nerds either. I’m talking about a data-hungry glutton for the esoteric, a devoted slave to pedantry, a straight-up Urkelian nerd. My glasses are so thick that, were you to try them on, you’d think you were dropping acid. In the second grade, I read myself to sleep with an international book of flags. My favorite shape as a three-year-old was the trapezoid.

It should come as no surprise, then, that it has been my life’s dream to appear on Jeopardy!. Read the rest of this entry »

(Read this article in English)

艾未未是中国和世界著名的艺术家和活动家。把他和活跃在纽约布鲁克林的画家,摄影家,和雕塑家们做比较并不合适。但是艾未未, 一位纪录片中的主人公,和几十位参加Northside艺术节的布鲁克林艺术家们之间的反差却折射出当代艺术的可能突破和缺陷。特别是观看了纪录片:艾未未:永远不说抱歉之后,我开始思考和质疑在Northside艺术节上看到的作品的深度和内涵。

6月21日,纪录片在位于纽约布鲁克林区威廉姆斯堡的联合纪录片厂上演,剧院里挤满了观众。在片中,艾未未是一位艺术总设计师,并为社会正义四处奔走。

如 果艺术家们顾虑从艾未未这里能学到什么,那或许该从新审视一下艾的成就。2010年,ArtReview杂志的100名最有影响力的艺术家排名中,艾未未 名列第十三位。2011年,艾出现在时代杂志年度人物的候选名单中。同年,他和缅甸的昂山素季,沙特的女权活动家马纳尔谢里夫一起,被人权基金会授予首届 瓦茨拉夫·哈韦尔奖,以表彰他和她们创造性的抗争。还有,艾拥有150000Twitter追随者(@aiww)。

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Bell System

As I roam New York with my camera, much of my time is spent looking for graffiti on poles, construction barriers, sidewalks, and security gates. Nowadays, I also take a cautious glance at the street to find a different type of artwork – one forged of iron and mostly ignored.

The ubiquity of manhole covers in Manhattan for access to every type of service – sewers, telephone, gas, water, fire department, and others – offers a panoply of intricate geometric beauty. I spy circles, stars, cogs, squares, parallel lines, radiating patterns, leaves, helixes, and text spelling out acronyms, uses, locations, and ownership.

The 14 images collected here represent a handful of the more “colorful” manhole and access covers I’ve seen and walked across. They run the gamut from simple to intricate, and those bereft of any text that hints at their purpose are perhaps the most charming.

Sadly, older and distinctive manhole covers are becoming harder to find. Newer covers, while often maintaining the use of geometric patterns, are being simplified and systemized. They feel cold and dispassionate. That’s why I take photographs of manhole covers: I’m afraid a unique form of street art is slowly disappearing.

So the next time you’re out walking, take a look down. You might discover a gem beneath your feet.

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James Tadd Adcox, Artifice, Taxonomy

Author James Tadd Adcox

In The Map of the System of Human Knowledge, the debut short story collection by the Chicago-based writer James Tadd Adcox, the reader encounters suicidal appliances, people in search of prefab authority figures, couples failing in various ways, a house increasingly made up of tiny holes, and the sad, lonely lives of two archivists at the Hall of Classified Information. This collection of short fiction is at turns humorous, dark, mysterious, bewildering, and joyful.

Tadd, a Ph.D student in English at the University of Illinois-Chicago, recently took some time out of his busy schedule to talk to Gina Myers over e-mail about his new book and his editorial project Artifice Magazine, and wound up talking about taxonomy and knowledge, plagiarism and postmodernism, the connection between weird music and weird literature, and communicating with readers over Skype.

The title The Map of the System of Human Knowledge seemingly sets a lofty aim to your collection of stories. Can you discuss where the idea for the title, along with all the obsessive cataloging/mapping of titles within, comes from?

The original “Map of the System of Human Knowledge” was a system of taxonomy created by Diderot and d’Alembert for the 18th-century Encyclopédie. It aimed to be a categorization of all human knowledge. I’ve always been interested in systems that attempt, in some way, to be universal–other structures I considered for this collection include the Dewey Decimal System and the Library of Congress taxonomy. But I feel like the Encyclopédie’s map belongs to a certain moment of Western history, when the idea that you could contain all human knowledge in a single book didn’t seem totally insane. And there’s something about the crazy ambition of that that really appeals to me. Also, around the time I was putting this collection together, I was working as a taxonomist for an internet search-engine based here in Chicago. Being a taxonomist is not, as it turns out, as glamorous a thing as it sounds like, but it wasn’t a bad job for a couple of months.

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I present to you a perfect summer recipe, with just a single caveat: this is not a first date food.  Pesto is on a short list of dishes I can’t in good conscience recommend for times when you might perhaps want to feel and/or look sexy.  This list, for your consideration, includes: sushi (nothing sexier than realizing mid-bite that maybe that piece was a little too big for one mouthful), lobster (the bibs make me feel ridiculous, but, hey, if your first date includes lobster, this person is probably a keeper; I take it back), BBQ ribs, and corn on the cob (the latter two for the same obvious reason).  Pesto earns a spot on the list because it typically leaves me with a very green smile and some garlic breath.  Hot. Read the rest of this entry »

The recent Colorado shootings hit me hard. Not because it was a senseless and tragic loss of life.  Of course it was.  But we live in a world of such senseless loss.  Every day people die who shouldn’t.  And because of the speed of digital media, death is always there to confront us.  I can’t bring myself to differentiate between a dozen dead in Colorado versus thirty dead in Afghanistan or Syria or Somalia.  So, I do what I’m sure most of us do.  I keep my empathy at a distance.  I shake my head and say, “Those poor people”, but I do not mourn.  I cannot.  I’m afraid if I start, I won’t be able to stop.  If we let ourselves feel every brutality, every tragedy, every painful loss the world presents us with, we’d be simpering puddles on the floor. No, I don’t hate James Holmes for killing those people.  I think he should be punished  for what he did. But I  hate him for what he’s done to Batman.

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A Transmedia Novel of Myth, Mirth, and the Magical Excess of Youth.