Bringing Home the Freshest Kill

Posts in the writing category

English: Firing Squad in Iran, winner of Pulit...

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  • “A shirtless Slavoj Žižek explains the purpose of philosophy, adding to other notable definitions of the intellectual art, from the comfort of his bed.”

Slavoj Žižek (b. 1949) - Slovenian philosopher...

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Español: Augusto Pinochet Ugarte. Militar y Pr...

Bob Saget


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Welcome back to “A Borscht-In,” i.e. Guest-Blogger Month here at the site.

Last year’s experiment was so good that there was never any doubt that it warranted an encore performance.

Thus “A Borscht-In II” was conceived, and now it’s finally here —  “Sophomore Year.” From this point forward, everything will be beach parties and sugar plums.


Up first in the 2nd Act is the ever-alluring, omni-seraphic and inarguably brilliant Ruth Waytz from Los Angeles, California.

Ruth Waytz

Ruth can be found online here, here and here. Not only is she everything I said and more, she’s also a Green Bay Packers fan, which brings her closer to God than anyone ever in the history of Southern California. (Just joshin” you Californians. Unlike my fellow Oregonians — I actually like the Golden State.)

Ruth’s first installment is about PERFECTION, and I don’t mean the wonderful John Travolta film. Please check out her posts from last year as well, especially “This is What I Want“:


UPDATE! A new post from Ruth revisits PERFECTION, and does so with completely beautiful VENOM. A must-read! And Ruth delivers the scoop on her transformation into a football fan here. Good stuff, and I greatly appreciate the props for Clay Matthews.




Daniel Kalder

The newest arrival at the Borscht-In is void-wandering Scotsman Daniel Kalder.

I’m excited to have Daniel on-board because he is truly one of my favorite authors. His books Lost Cosmonaut and Strange Telescopes are both stellar. Below is a short review yours truly wrote for Lost Cosmonaut back in May. I hope it offers some insight into D.K.’s considerable literary gifts:

Hilarity, Desolation, and Chess: A Review of Daniel Kalder’s Lost Cosmonaut

I became so enthused about this book that I found myself reading passages aloud to friends. One such passage involves a conversation between the author, Daniel Kalder, and a man named Konstantin, who is Kalder’s liaison to a pagan mystic in Mari El. The two discuss the mundanity of offering some non-descript meat to the gods in an oak grove. It’s a perfect encapsulation of the absurdity that seems to dominate much of Russian life.

Kalder excels at diagramming these types of dry and often humorous exchanges, which is probably difficult to do in estranged Russian lands. A lesser writer might fall prey to one of two tendencies:

Smug, ironic condescension e.g. “Look at this hilarious, f#cked up place and these hilarious, f#cked up people!“; or

Solemn, empathic condescension e.g. “My god, look at these sad, terrible places and grim, empty people.”

Happily, Kalder avoids both traps. He doesn’t settle for “easy.” He milks uncomfortable moments for all they’re worth; he refuses to dress up anti-climax with false cheer; and most impressively, he navigates the nether-voids of these desolate places without succumbing to a pretentious, Nietzsche-ish tone.

Misanthropy? No; that’s an “easy” emotion; there’s more to Lost Cosmonaut than that. This is skilled, clever writing. Kalder sees people as multi-faceted character studies, not simplistic caricatures. Lost Cosmonaut forces the reader to confront the clichéd but true-to-life dilemma of “not wanting the story to end.”

Oh, and it features a journey into the deep, dark underbelly of the global chess scene. All hail Ilyumzhinov!

Daniel’s contribution to the 2010 Borscht-In expounds on an idea that D.K. riffed on with much panache elsewhere this year, i.e. the sentience of his facial hair. I won’t elaborate — doing so would only broadcast my clumsiness while robbing D.K.’s post of the double kick-drum power it deftly wields. Instead, I provide direct linkage — straight to the source:



Thanks to everyone for participating and/or reading. It is great fun. (And if you want to join the fray, click here. There is still plenty of time, and I’m fine with entries bleeding over into the New Year.)

— Mike/Iced Borscht, December 2010


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!!! GOD’S BALLS !!!

Tad Doyle

A stroll down memory lane over at When Falls the Coliseum, with excerpts from the wonderful and perfectly fermented bio of Seattle rock band TAD:

Being part of the TAD experience is like waking up in the middle of a train wreck, or like turning over to slap the snooze bar on your radio-alarm only to find you have no arms. Look around you. Nothing but ashes and molten slag: You’re in the hypercenter of something big. Something that thinks, moves, DESTROYS. The TAD experience is rock history.

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Last year, I started a tradition here at Iced Borscht wherein friends and other bloggers provide guest posts for the month of December. It’s called “A Borscht-In.”

Some of you might recall that Ruth Waytz provided some great material, as did Conrad Heiney and Jacob Grier. All three of them are invited back for A Borscht-In II, of course, but newcomers are welcome also.

Who wants in? The topics are up to you. There are no hard and fast rules. Below is a list of subjects typically covered at this site:

  • Russia and other transcontinental cha cha cha
  • Gurgitation and culinary treasures
  • Women
  • Portland
  • Humor
  • The Pack
  • Sex
  • Music
  • Deep-fried dystopia
  • Politics (any perspective is welcome, on any end of the political spectrum)
  • Strange places
  • Strange people

The veteran guest bloggers I already mentioned (Ruth; Conrad; Jacob) will get full-on user IDs of their own so they can log on and post at their leisure. Neophytes will have to e-mail their contributions to Big Daddy.

There are no deadlines, per se, but contributions are welcome between now and the end of December. The guest posts will officially go live on December 1, 2010.

That’s all there is to it.

You know you want to do it!


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There are new “Audio Files” at the Coliseum.

This week: Vlad from Russia and Slobberchop offer up their Top 5 albums (LINK)

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Great stuff in Ray Bradbury’s Zen in the Art of Writing, which I just finished reading a couple weeks ago. Some choice passages:

I have learned, on my journeys, that if I let a day go by without writing, I grow uneasy. Two days and I am in tremor. Three and I suspect lunacy. Four and I might as well be a hog, suffering the flux in a wallow. An hour’s writing is tonic. I’m on my feet, running in circles, and yelling for a clean pair of spats.


I won’t use the word “therapy,” it’s too clean, too sterile a word. I only say when death slows others, you must leap to set up your diving board and dive head first into your typewriter.


The therapy comment is perfect. I always find it annoying when artists of any medium say they do what they do as a form of “therapy.” Robin Williams has used the therapy line to describe his comedy. But therapy is too clean a word. Writing is more like the excretion of pain and neuroses (do you like my transgressive approach? In your face, Burroughs! Eat a bowl of dicks, Bukowski! ).

More from Ray:

Every morning I jump out of bed and step on a landmine. The landmine is me.

After the explosion, I spend the rest of the day putting the pieces together.


Here is a great passage about writing as “revenge” (emphasis mine).

Wouldn’t it be wonderful, for instance, to throw down a copy of Harper’s Bazaar you happened to be leafing through at the dentist’s, and leap to your typewriter and ride off with hilarious anger, attacking their silly and sometimes shocking snobbish- ness? Years ago I did just that. I came across an issue where the Bazaar photographers, with their perverted sense of equality, once again utilized natives in a Puerto Rican backstreet as props in front of which their starved-looking mannikins postured for the benefit of yet more emaciated half-women in the best salons in the country. The photographs so enraged me I ran, did not walk, to my machine and wrote “Sun and Shadow,” the story of an old Puerto Rican who ruins the Bazaar photographer’s afternoon by sneaking into each picture and dropping his pants.

I dare say there are a few of you who would like to have done this job. I had the fun of doing it; the cleansing after effects of the hoot, the holler, and the great horselaugh. Probably the editors at theBazaar never heard. But a lot of readers did and cried, “Go it, Bazaar, go it, Bradbury!” I claim no victory. But there was blood on my gloves when I hung them up.

I like this line too:

Tom Wolfe ate the world and vomited lava.

And one of Bradbury’s last memories of his grandfather (emphasis mine again):

Fire balloons.

You rarely see them these days, though in some countries, I hear, they are still made and files with warm breath from a small straw fire hung beneath.

But in 1925 Illinois, we still had them, and one of the last memories I have of my grandfather is the last hour of a Fourth of July night forty-eight years ago when Grandpa and I walked out on the lawn and lit a small fire and filled the pear-shaped red-white-and-blue-striped paper balloon with hot air, and held the flickering bright-angel presence in our hands a final moment in front of a porch lined with uncles and aunts and cousins and mothers and fathers, and then, very softly, let the thing that was life and light and mystery go out of our fingers up on the summer air and away over the beginning-to-sleep houses, among the starts, as fragile, as wondrous, as vulnerable, as lovely as life itself.

I see my grandfather there looking up at that strange drifting light, thinking his own still thoughts. I see me, my eyes filled with tears, because it was all over, the night was done, I knew there would never be another night like this.

No one said anything. We all just looked up at the sky and we breathe out and in and we all thought the same things, but nobody said. Someone finally had to say, though, didn’t they? And that one was me.

The wine still waits in the cellars below.

My beloved family still sits on the porch in the dark.

The fire balloon still drifts and burns in the night sky of an as yet unburied summer.

Why and How?

Because I say it is so.

Makes me think of my own grandfather. He used to get kind of wistful around the 4th of July every year and would always say something about the summer going by so fast. He was always aware that each summer might be his last.

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