Artsyness abounds

Mathematical Art:

I especially like the "Sand Traveller", but both "Intersection" Applets are fascinatingly alive and I can marvel about the intricacy of "Substrate" for hours. It's amazing how much beauty simple algorythms can generate.

Found Collage Art:

What this woman does is truly inspired, original yet distinctive (it could be called Magritte-esque, if anything, but nobody I know does what she does). It shows that you can be an artist even without drawing or painting or anything, just by seeing what other people don't. Also, it's all square, and you know I love square.

Voice Art:

Can you get a crush on a dead guy's voice? You can if you're me, and Dylan Thomas really has a fantastic voice. 11 CD's can be downloaded on which he reads from his own work ("do not go gentle into that good night", obviously, but much, much more) and from word by many others, and most importantly, in a voice that rolls over you in soothing waves, a voice that sings and speaks at the same time, a voice, in short, that is not only incredibly sexy to me but also, undoubtedly, Art in itself.


Slashing away

As promised: my article on slash. Plus, you even get the notes, which were brutally slahes away in the print version. Enjoy!

I am about to tell you something that only a few of my friends know, and that I don’t usually share with the general public. That is, you’re about to witness something of a coming out. A confession of a predilection that might strike some as odd. Maybe even as a little disturbing.

Enough with the suspense building! Out with it: I from time to time enjoy reading slash.

Chances are you’re not very shocked at this moment because you simply have no idea what on earth I am talking about. Well, let me explain. Let us start with the concept of fan fiction, a concept you might be more familiar with. Fan fiction is when fans of a certain book/TV-series/movie/comic book/video game write stories involving the characters and often settings of their source. Stories used to be spread through mailing lists or fanzines, but it was the birth of the internet that allowed the phenomenon to take flight. A site like www.fanfiction.net boasts thousands of stories based on hundreds of different sources, from the powerpuff girls (820 stories) to one of the most popular ones, the Harry potter books (206951 stories at the time of writing).

Fan fiction wiring is of course nothing new. It’s not even something limited to teenagers with an internet connection. For example, the novel “Wide Saragossa Sea” by Jean Rhys was based on characters from Jane Eyre, and there have been several other instances in which authors have elaborated on an already existing book.

Obviously, one of things most written about by fans are romantic entanglements. And this is where slash comes in: sometimes, it’s not romantic entanglements between a guy and girl, but between a guy and a guy (or, in some cases, a girl and a girl). Harry Potter and Draco Malfoy are a popular pairing, for example. Luke and Han, Wolverine and Cyclops, Xena and Gabrielle. Or, as I should write it, Xena/Gabrielle, because slash gets its name from, yes, the forward slash between the names of the paired people. There are variations: lesbian slash is sometimes called femslash, and when slash involves anime characters it’s often referred to as yaoi.

The most popular theory is that slash started with Kirk/Spock. Star Trek was one of the biggest fandoms about 30 years ago, partly because geeks are known to be prolific fan fiction writers and because there was a lot of frustration when the original Star Trek series got cancelled in 1969 (it took 18 years for the next show to start). Also, the Star Trek universe offered plenty of handy storytelling devices: Kirk and Spock (or any other two characters you might want to link romantically) could become stranded on a planet, caught in a force field etc. According to Wikipedia, the first published Kirk/Spock story dates from 1974, and there have been many thousands since.

The nice thing about the internet is that an originally rather underground movement gets the change to spread, and elaborate. There’s an entire vocabulary for fan fiction and slash. PWP stands for “plot? What plot?” and usually indicates a very short story (or “ficlet”) focused only on the hooking up of two characters (or, if the author should feel so inclined, three). A Mary Sue is an original character in fan fiction who is an idealised stand-in for the author (it has been estimated that almost 90 % of fan fiction and slash is written by females of all sexual orientations) and as such too pretty, too smart, and all-round too perfect to be true. RPS stands for Real-Person slash, a genre I’m not too fond of myself, which involves two random real people getting it on - or “shagging” if you’re more Duran Duran than Backstreet boys. Most writers give their stories a voluntary rating, based on those of the MPAA (PG, PG-13, R, NC-17), to indicate how much graphic description can be expected.

Now that I’ve told you what slash entails, the crucial question presents itself. What is it that I like about it? What makes me, on lost afternoons, google “Snape/Severus”, or alternatively, “Grissom slash”? [1]

I can’t really say. There is an element of sexual curiosity, of course (I’ve always found it strange that, while it is considered normal for guys to be turned on by the sight of two girls kissing, the opposite is seen as weird), but then why do I shy away from the stories rated NC-17? Probably my reading slash (and normal fan fiction too) is based on the same instinct that makes people read romance novels: we like reading about something we can never have. I truly believe that sex as in a (straight) romance novel is just as impossible to achieve as gay sex with a man is for me[2] but exactly because it’s something that cannot possibly be real, it rouses our imagination.

The fascination with gay men has been approaching mainstream status for a while now. “Will and Grace” is as mainstream as sitcoms come, but the more racy British show “queer as folk” was also popular enough to warrant an American remake. Coming out this fall –in time for Oscar season- is the latest film by Ang Lee, of Sense and Sensibility and Crouching Tiger fame: Brokeback Mountain, an adaptation of a prize-winning short story by Annie Proulx that revolves around the forbidden love between two cowboys, played by Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal.

The funny thing is, in reviews, critics have described the film as making explicit what you always imagined could happen between Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, between John Wayne and Montgomery Clift, between any two cowboys really, alone in the wilderness, camping out. Now, I by no means wish to imply that what Annie Proulx has done in her wonderful story (it can be found online) is merely what slash writers do every day, especially since, to be honest, much fan fiction doesn’t deserve prizes for style, but it is easy to imagine her story starting as one of the what-ifs slash writers concern themselves with.

What if Legolas comforted Aragorn in his tent at night? What if Dawson and Pacey got locked in a closet together? What if Seth and Ryan’s exes decided they were more interested in each other than in boys[3]?

An article like this should be ended with a zinger or –perhaps more appropriately- with a bang, but I think it’s more appropriate here to pause to realise how lucky we are that such a thing as the internet exists. It allows people with the most seemingly obscure interests to get together. It allows people like me, who’d have never thought of the idea, to enjoy the stories and the imagination of others. And the best thing? I’m sure slash is only one of many things only few people know about, but that lurk just under the surface of the internet, waiting for discovery. Know of any? Let me know.

[1] the CSI chef, with his interest in and understanding of sexual subcultures, and who in an episode once said that “the only unnatural sexual behavior is none at all.”, is a relative newcomer in the world of slash, but already very popular

[2] Without radical surgery, that is

[3] Oh wait, the OC’s creators thought of that one themselves… Although I wager Marissa and Alex had gotten busy many times in slash stories before they did on screen.


My infatuation with Dave Eggers

Second Boomy piece...and I'm saving the best for last, so check back tomorrow.

My infatuation with…

Dave Eggers

I first encountered Dave Eggers at the tender age of sixteen. I was at a Model United Nations conference and a girl who was staying in the same house as me had brought along a Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius. It was a busy week. There was only time to be ravished by the arrogant, playful, class-clown seduction in the preface.

The book is a memoir about how both the writer’s parents died, about how he was left to take care of his little brother and how inadequate he was at this. It sounds like a sob story. It is, from time to time. It is also thoroughly funny, self-referential, and, as the title says, genius.

I borrowed the book from the first person I met who had it. And devoured it – not literally – but thoroughly relishing this discovery, this exploration of a book unlike any I had ever read before. It was playful, pretentious but self-deprecating, about serious things but containing passages about how, in a certain house, you could glide almost all the way from one end to the next.

Soon after,You shall know our velocity, Eggers’ first novel (the first book was a memoir) came out. I waited until it came out in paperback – a sign, perhaps, that I was still a bit cautious- but when it did I bought it right away. I had it gift-wrapped to force me to save it for the summer break, and as soon as we were in the car I impatiently tore the wrapping off and started reading. We drove through almost all of Germany, I think, but I remember little of it. I only remember Senegal, Morocco, Latvia; the countries that the characters in Egger’s book visited.

I now had a definite crush.

I fuelled it as well as I could. I read short story collections edited by him, checked www.mcsweeneys.net every day. I wrote a literature paper about velocity, even wrote the first draft of a novel that can only be described as a lame and failed knock-off, and eagerly awaited a new book.

The cruel, cruel man let me wait two years. Finally, then, his collection of short stories How we are Hungry came out. Wonderful stories, leaving me breathless, moved but unsatisfied, like eating crackers when what you really want is a steak. They were well written, familiar in how sharply characters were delineated, sentences put together, emotions sketched, but still a bit too much like an aside, tossed of crumbs to beggars like me, delicious ones, but just crumbs nonetheless

While in Los Angeles, I could have gone to 826LA, one of the three non-profit writing/tutoring centres Eggers (yes, he’s a philanthropist too) set up, but I never did. Daydreams should be kept at a safe enough distance.

And yet, recently I succumbed again. In the penguin shorts collection, short short stories by Dave Eggers there are piece of prose only two pages long, sometimes three, but I take what I can get. A pause in between stories stretches the enjoyment a bit longer.

Now I’m pining away. Waiting for the next small offering. Anything. And hopefully soon.

Wish List

New and undefinable

A subscription to Wholphin


Before Sunset
My Own Private Idaho
The Sting
Otto E Mezzo
No Direction Home
My voyage to Italy
A Personal Journey with Martin Scorsese Through American Movies
The Life Aquatic
Angels in America
The Third Man (10 euro at Boudisque)


Amnesia Moon
by Jonathan Lethem (or anything else, really, except "The Fortress of Solitude")
Author, Author by David Lodge
The Lyrics, by Bob Dylan (15 euro in the ramsj, apparently, i'm not sure the link is to the exact right book)
Chronicles, Pt. 1 by Bob Dylan


The bottom one on this page
Because it's true


Smog - A river ain't too much to love (can be found at "Sounds" in Haarlem)
Kings of Convenience - Riot on an Empty Street or Quiet is the new Loud
Sufjan Stevens - Illinois (any other CD's by him would also be welcome)
Death Cab for Cutie - Plans


Otto E Mezzo


The Boomerang will be out soon, which means...I'll be lazy and post my boomerang articles instead of new content. To start with, my very own editorial "On Enthusiasm"

Let me start by getting something out of the way. I, the new Arts & Kitsch editor, am a science major, taking four science courses. What, then, am I doing writing and editing articles about the Arts?

Call me an enthusiast.

Enthusiastic mostly about movies, but also about music, books, TV shows, paintings etc. I have an ever-increasing DVD collection, always have music playing in my room, and have read avidly ever since I was five. To say it in a corny fashion, Physics might have my brain, but the Arts have my heart. I love it when I suddenly discover something marvellous, eye-opening and moving that I’ve never even heard about before. It makes me all giddy, puts a grin on my face. And it makes me want to share what I discovered with anyone who will listen.

Do you ever get that feeling?

If so, then you’ve found a listener here. Its name is the Boomerang Arts & Kitsch section.

We’re looking for many short and long pieces about anything artsy and kitschy, whether it falls under high or low culture, whether it’s celebrated and not, whether someone besides the artist him or herself has ever heard about it or not. Whether loathe or adore it. We are especially looking for articles that make people aware of arty things that are unknown, but not entirely inaccessible. Articles about indie or foreign movies, about music that flies just below the radar, about small exhibitions, about original comics, online or off line, about things that float just out of reach of mainstream status, if you catch my drift.

Articles about things like the guy playing out the entire Star Wars trilogy on his own (www.onemanstarwars.com), doing all the parts, all the voices, all the sound effect. Or like the unexpected poetry of things people overhead in the Big Apple. (www.overheardinnewyork.com). Or like a website that randomly combines images and text from blogs into a fascinating and ever changing transitory work of art (http://turbulence.org/Works/dynamo/index.html).

These examples have a common connection to one another, and this is not entirely a coincidence. The Internet has opened up new opportunities for expression for arts enthusiast, just as it did for enthusiasts of all other kinds. And lucky for us, access is more or less free. I could tell you a certain book is fantastic, but how many would buy it? I could write an entire article about a DVD box set I think everyone should see, but what’s the point if we’re all living on small student budgets? However, surfing to a website address is easy, cheap, and there are so many fascinating websites buried beneath layers and layers of porn and spam. One other big advantage of the Internet is that there exists at least one fan club for everything you could possibly think of. Every fandom, every hobby, every fetish has hundreds or thousands of websites and blogs dedicated to it. And because the sheer immensity of the Internet makes it almost impossible to penetrate directly to its good material, some signposts or shortcuts are usually not superfluous.

Let me also say that I think we have a very nice collection of articles in this issue. Three fans of the TV-series Lost (airing on Friday nights on Net 5) offer their theories on what lies beneath the plot. Elvira offers an overview of all the major high-art museums you could be visiting. Jelmer tells us about his experience listening to a man and his electric shoe. There’s my confession about loving slash, and even a crossword to keep you occupied in between classes.

But our palms are always open, eagerly awaiting more contributions by our readers. I might know quite a few unknown movies and artists but one person’s taste is always limited, and one person’s knowledge too. You’re not going to see me recommending obscure hip-hop bands, review kung fu, or tell you about new experimental video art, not because I think those topics are unworthy or irrelevant, but because they are outside of my area of expertise and, I’ll admit it, because they’re not something I am personally a big fan of. But I don’t plan to dominate this section by what I like, and by what I know. This section is meant as a platform for everything people can get enthusiastic about within the domain of the Arts and the Kitsch, and I am very much looking forward to what worlds you can reveal to me, and to your other fellow students.

Of course, enthusiasm has a flip side. It often implies a certain lack of judgment, lack of criticism. When you’re truly enthusiastic about something you tend to dismiss its less fabulous characteristics and ignore any dissenters we might encounter, telling ourselves they just don’t “get it”. Despite this, criticism is a valuable thing, and something I would also like to see in this section. In reactions to what we have written, but also just if you’d like to give your balanced, well-defended opinion of something.

There is so much Arts & Kitsch out there. So much of it we do not know. This section will hopefully open our eyes to just a little bit more than what we knew before.


Insanely busy

...so this will be a short link update from the backlog

Short Sci-Fi...for chemistry geeks
Context-Free Quotes
Should comic characters age?
An original way to make Tosti's

And last, but definitely not least, the latest hype in the blogosphere, and deservedly so... the trailer for the feel-good movie of the year: Shining. Just to show you that the power of editing (and the right backing music and narration) should never, ever be underestimated.


Death Cab's Plans

I once read an article that, against convention, lamented the fact that artist in the music business often insist on being both singers and songwriters to feel legitimate. That article cited Rufus Wainwright as an example of someone who'd better have stuck to writing songs for other, and I disagreed with that because I happen to think that Rufus Wainwright's nasal, slightly whiny voice is perfect for his songs.

I'm kind of unsure about Ben Gibbard though. I mean, the guy can write, that's for sure. From the new album Plans, from the song "Soul meets Body" come the lines:

cause in my head there's a Greyhound station
where I set my thoughts to far off destinations
so they may have a chance of finding a place
where they're far more suited than here
It ranks up there with the first lines of "Title and Registration" from 2003's Transatlanticism

The problem is that his voice gets on my nerves after a while. I can't put my finger exactly on what it is that annoys me after a while, but I can't listen to any Death Cab album more than twice in quick succession.

It does vary by song. On Plans, "Different names for the same thing" is most grating to me, but I can listen to "I will follow you into the dark" -in my opinion the most beautiful song on the album- for hours without a problem.

Oh well. If you don't mind Ben Gibbard's voice, Plans is definitely recommended, it's vintage Death Cab with great lyrics and great arrangements, and some heartbreaking songs. And well, even if, like me, you sometimes wonder what the music could be like if a better singer could try his or her hand at it.

Then again...you never know if music can have quite the same emotional punch if it's sung by someone who doesn't understand exactly what gave birth to it.
Amongst the vending machines
And year old magazines
In a place where we only say goodbye
It stung like a violent wind
That our memories depend
On a faulty camera in our minds
And I knew that you were a truth
I would rather lose

than to have never lain beside at all