Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Random thoughts on Theresa Duncan

The temperature has finally dropped, there's a cool little breeze blowing through TDC's awesomely cross-ventilated headquarters, Bryan Ferry is crooning "Sweet & Lovely" on the ipod and I'm sipping some intensely refreshing, slightly slushy homemade kumquat-cello (no, really, I am!) and naturally at times like these, thoughts turn to the empress of I-wish-I-would-have-said-that.

Here's what's going through my head, in no particular order. (Feel free to chime in with your own thoughts.)

  1. Would Duncan have received as much press after her passing if she had been 100 lbs overweight and suffered from flatulence?
  2. Does anybody think it's weird that as a librarian for the Los Angeles Lunar Society Duncan drank Calvados, yet she chose bourbon as her final drink?
  3. Why are drugs not mentioned in any of the mainstream stories about Duncan? (Yes, gawker made the crystal meth comment and that last, sappy tribute in the L.A. Times mentioned Duncan being a stoner.) But why aren't drugs being seriously considered as having played a role in the couple's growing paranoia?
  4. I'm not a doctor and I don't play one on TV either, but I don't think either Duncan or Blake was schizophrenic. I prefer to leave the psychoanalysis to the pros, so you won't find me quoting the DSM (whatever the hell number it's up to these days) here.
  5. I think Duncan used wikipedia's random subject of the day as her idea generator for her blog. Go to wikipedia's home page every day and you'll get a new esoteric subject. (That's what I did to generate the faux Duncan quote posted yesterday.)
  6. No one's mentioned it (or if they have, I've missed it), but hasn't it occurred to somebody that The History of Glamour, clever as it may be (still haven't caught it), may have actually been mostly the work of JEREMY BLAKE? He was devoted to Duncan, so he wouldn't have pulled a Gesue. (I mean nothing derogatory toward Gesue by this. Gesue has taken ownership of her creation--as well she should!)
  7. Is it not self evident that Jeremy WAS indeed talented and original and she was NOT? How come nobody says it?
  8. How cruel that she's the one garnering all the attention.
  9. Do you think Jeremy, who had a master's degree, knew she only went to school for one semester?
  10. I'd love to see that transcript.
  11. Why won't anyone (well, hardly anyone) go on the record?
  12. When is the movie coming out?
  13. If she really wanted to put out a movie, why didn't she just raise some money herself and go indie? Take it to Sundance, dazzle the Weinstein's with her wit, presto, distribution deal. Robert Rodriguez financed El Mariachi for $7K, legend has it.
  14. Or wait, I'm sure Kate Moss could have put up a couple of mil.
  15. Why are there very few comments on her supposedly popular blog?
  16. Is there a way to find the Wit's blog ranking BEFORE her death?
  17. Is Kate Coe working on book?


poussin said...

1. You already know the answer to this one.
2. There are some who argue that the couple was economizing, which I disagree with since Duncan was trying to get an apt. at the Dakota. Calvados really is more of an autumnal booze-and-pills method of dispatch. Bourbon and Tylenol is Sally Bowles-ish.
3. Laura Bush has not weighed in yet.
4. Don't think so either.
5. This is proving itself out.
6. He'd also have let her take the wheel.
7. I feel his death is the more tragic of the two, because it arguably could have been prevented.
8. Concur.
9. Nay.
10."History of Electricity 101," a freshman survey.
11.Fear of supernatural phenomenon and weather systems.
12. Which one? The one with Scarlett Johansson as Duncan or Alice Underground that never saw street level?
13. I think Miranda July had already done that.
14. Up her nose, yes.
15. Someone might question provenance. Someone might make a witty remark that would ruin a whole day and result in a desperate turn to Wiki for more brilliant "editorial." Too busy to do the latter.
16. Dunno.
17. Interesting and of the moment.

Unknown said...

17. I'm not working on a book. I don't know if there is a whole book in this.

16. Someone posted a link to blog stats, if not here, then on Seaword. She seems to have about 1000 a day for the last year.

15. I wonder if she policed comments heavily.

13 & 14 Dunno. That strategy works well for the very young and the very rich.

11. Embarrassment, don't want to speak ill of the dead.

7. She's got the blog world attention, but I think the art world is buzzing about him. Their means of expression isn't words, primarily.

6. I think it was her idea, but there does seem to be lots of collaboration in many of her projects.

3. I didn't mention drugs as I had no proof, no sources, no personal experience of such. I do have more recent sourced info from Theresa's days in DC--recreational use, tenor of the times, etc.

1. Maybe, if her online image was Kate Moss. But the "death of the golden couple" is a powerful image and very seductive. The death of a chainsaw sculptor and a waitress at DQ isn't quite as compelling, at least in Blogistan.

Poulet said...

Bravo. 3 was best response.

There certainly seem to be enough layers to this story for a full-length book. The key would be getting some people to speak on the record. Of course, you have the added benefit of actually having known the subject. I think you should go for it. (Of course I think you're secretly shopping around already and don't need further encouragement.)

Even today, The Wits stats on Technorati are not very high.

I’m sure Theresa would have posted glowing comments if she got any. That’s mostly what you get on that type of blog anyway.

One could say that all of showbiz is for the very young. (Though Merv Griffith proved otherwise.) Listen, if you’re such an “artist” and you have a burning desire to tell a story, then tell it! You can shoot stuff on video these days and air it on the internet. I wonder the real reason why Duncan was turned down. I doubt it was because she was too “smart” for the suits she met with.

“Speaking ill of the dead” is one of the most ridiculous phrases used in conjunction with this story. This isn’t New England during the Salem witch hunts. Enough with superstition. How about getting to the truth? What’s wrong with that?

We already know she admitted the History of Glamour was inspired by What I Wore (poor woman, I think she made like $3 from that book—it was a charming and original idea). We know Jeremy really WAS talented.

As I’ve noted here, Theresa mentions drugs in several posts. Perhaps she was just affecting a stoner pose.

Unrelated: have you been posting items from the Onion on FBLA?! The short model thing and the CAA memo were spoofs right?! Both were hilarious.

poussin said...

Poulet, see here. Note date joined.

poussin said...

Encore: Doing some research, I came across this:

Post #39
The poster was a fan-girly type and was once allowed a comment on Duncan's blog, if only to comment on how smokin' fabulous TD was. Said writer claimed to have exchanged mails with TD (this was in another post). Borne out by this entry from 7/28/06:
4. Fabulous Gift Number Four--A free "Wit Of The Staircase" tote bag to Fulltiltredhead, who is a Wit regular, but who this time did not leave her email and home address to receive this amazing bounty.

So we can probably assume that TD did say that she didn't want the blog to become "interactive," although whether this is the actual reason remains another mystery

et in Arcadia ego Eve said...
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Unknown said...

Closet Cases is closer to What I Wore than Glamour.

I asked her about shooting some stuff and putting it on YouTube, or on her blog and she didn't really respond. I think she did want the big studio film with all the trimmings, ala Sofia Coppola.

It's interesting that she never wrote about Lonely Girl 15, which would have been right up her street, I would have thought--teenaged girl, occult, creepy.

She didn't write about Harry Potter either, which seems odd to me, and she told me she'd never watched Buffy. (Again, teen girl, occult, etc.) Did she post about Edie Sedgewick? Can't recall.

For all her hanging around some Hollywood deal makers, she didn't really understand how the business works. She blogged something about writing a teen comedy, but no WGA records of anything with her name. Again, she might have written something as a spec or re-written something for someone who isn't talking (Cary Woods?).

The short model is all too real, and the CAA thing is a spoof from Hollywood Nexxus. Mali Perl is very funny.

zipthwung said...

I find the image of "The death of a chainsaw sculptor and a waitress at DQ" quite compelling. Where did you grow up?

1. No
2. I think it was Makers Mark. Jeremy is said to have sipped whiskey “like a rock star” at work. Probably what was around the house (jeremy’s brand - he was allowed to choose his own whiskey right?).
3. No one wants to snitch on their dealer?
4. Its interesting that they had a “collective delusion” that the gas grill would explode (New York Magazine). That means drugs or some kind of transference dealio. At the very least someone was afraid of breaking the magic circle at the expense of EVERYONE else at the party.
5. That’s funny. I just ran across Wikipicks (again) yesterday – a way to write Chinese with western characters. I often find cutting and pasting saves time (why reinvent the wheel)– and is it any different than parroting the funny thing someone said? Does she make interesting connections? I don’t think so from what I read. But she does bring up interesting (to some) people and ideas – and that was enough to generate traffic. There was good article on plagiarism in Harpers by Jonathan Lethem…
what is writing anyways....
6. Possibly (quite). I read Jeremy got help in some of his stuff (or said he did). I know from experience that illustration is hard work – and the script for the story needs to be interpreted or “storyboarded” – a chore in itself. So weigh the complexity of the script against the storyboarding and animation, verify the amount of give and take in the collaboration, check to see if Jeremy had assistants and add it up.

This reminds me tangentially – of the criticism of Raymond Carver – what did his editor do for him? I’ve never had an editor so all I can say is, what if no one likes what you do? What if you have no one to talk to? What if you are all alone in an existential precipice? It can happen.
7. Jeremy’s artistic/conceptual talent in comparison to Theresa is arguable. If Theresa is a hack, then I can make a good case that Jeremy is too. But then I just sound bitter. Looking at it from a technical point of view, Jeremy’s work is eclipsed by people working with programs like Processing – really wild stuff. His gallery’s claim that hes the first to make art for the flat panel TV is silly. And one only needs to look to history to find “moving paintings”. From an artistic POV it’s more a matter of taste than originary genius. Was he creative? Absolutely.
And in the same way, cutting and pasting might be more interesting conceptually than you give it credit for (see the Jonathan Lethem article Who knows where Theresa was going with it? No one. I was just reading about Raph Ellison, who never finished his second book.
Very interesting. To me anyways.
8. Well in a few weeks Jeremy will be all anyone talks about – he’s got a show at the Corcoran that’s being hyped on every level (including the myth of the romantic artist). It will be interesting to see what his gallery does (Will they have an opening?)
9. They were probably of equal intelligence. I don’t see an artist suffering fools gladly – too into watching the hamster mind turn.
10. Dunno but heres the textbook:
11. Nobody likes a snitch. Careerists. No one likes a careerist. All three. “Its unseemly”
12. I’m working on a deal.
13. Her audience consists of a class of individuals known as lurkers.

zipthwung said...

Jonathan Lethem

Ralph Ellison

textbook to the class

Poulet said...

Great comments all! I'll address as soon as I can. Busy day and the Wit is far from my thoughts at the moment. Lots to get done, little time to do it in.

et in Arcadia ego Eve said...
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DarthFan said...

"The cut-up is actually closer to the facts of perception than representational painting. Take a walk down a city street and put down what you have just seen on canvas. You have seen a person cut in two by a car, bits and pieces of street signs and advertisements, reflections from shop windows - a montage of fragments. Writing is still confined to the representational straitjacket of the novel ... consciousness is a cut up. Every time you walk down the street or look out of the window, your stream of consciousness is cut by random factors."

-WS Burroughs

exquisite corpseenjoy

Sally Wilde said...

i too would love a movie about a chainsaw sculptor and a waitress at DQ. maybe i'll make one and put it on youtube. except i don't steal other people's stuff! mr. poulet, i put praise for *your* wit on capitolcougar. thanks, from another who's mildly obsessed and doesn't quite know why.

Pop Fantastic said...

You can see how The Wit of the Staircase did for hits here:

Just go to traffic rankings.

Poulet said...

Date the Wit joined that blog ranking site is duly noted. I guess her friend wants to keep track. (For what? To shop around the movie rights to her life story?)

Pasted but this only takes me to the home page. I did find a fan who claimed to correspond with Duncan. Someone who lives in Australia or NZ. Perhaps this is the same person of which you speak.

Also one of the guys on the Elgant thread ended up corresponding with her (and then he wrote about it after she died).

Re: Theresa not wanting the blog to be too interactive, I have an idea. I’ll post this theory soon.

Wow, you’ve obviously had a few conversations with her. What I wouldn’t give for the opportunity to ply you with some merlot and get the full details of your exchanges with the Wit! Of course, we’ll all just have to wait until the book comes out. Nuh, nuh, nuh, nuh, don’t give us that “If I’m working on a book then what am I doing lurking on these blogs?” fish fuzz. Blogs like TDC are giving you a shitload of material to work with. (Just be sure to mention us on the acknowldgements page and invite us to the signing at Beyond Baroque.)

I wonder if Duncan was aware of who Sofia Coppola is? Here is Sofia’s IMDB page for anyone who wants to compare.

Lonely Girl 15 is exactly who I was thinking of. If she really was burning to do something, she could have certainly done something like that. I find it hard to believe she never watched Buffy. She most certainly must have read Anne Rice.
In fact, I wonder what Rice would have to say about the blog.

Conficuious say: Your comments are enlightening but your graphic is distracting!

Re: Jeremy is said to have sipped whiskey “like a rock star” at work. Source please!

Thanks for the link to harpers. I’ll read when I have a moment. What is writing? Well, we’ll have to save that for another day. However, Duncan was touted as being “brilliant.” (This says more about the people who call her brilliant than about Duncan herself.) Remember we’re reading her body of work all at once, but she doled it out one day at a time. Just on trip to wiki a day and that would be enough to find something to post. The fact is she made VERY FEW connections. Mostly she just posted other people’s stuff without comment. Most of the Kate Moss posts are like this. Just links to the British press and a photo of Moss.

Regarding illustrating being hard work, etc. Note that Duncan compared herself to Warhol on the Glamour project when she was interviewed by (see my archives).

If you wonder what editors do, read In fact editors DID try to work with Duncan and there were problems. (I’m talking here about Slate. Kate Coe can shed more light on this.)

The thanks for the cut-up quote. I’ll point out that the way we process words and images using different sides of our brain. I’m not sure what your point is. Is it that Duncan was merely “sampling” other people’s work? Unfortunately her “cut-ups” are something every high school English teacher in American can recognize. I just don’t see her as being the literary version of Moby.

Welcome and glad to add some entertainment value to your day.

poussin said...

Poulet, cher/ie, that Wit regular is from D. C., not places antipodean. It was someone calling herself FullTiltRedhead who was permitted, once or twice, to post on the comments of Wit. She says they had an exchange of sorts, but then there was some temporary disillusionment thanks to TD's ongoing crusade against flatulent, fatuous "Boomers." (That latter part was in a blog a friend of mine read, not on that thread I sent. I'll see if I can find it.)

poussin said...

Your ref for the rockstar/whiskey thing is the Chris Lee article:

"A source at Rockstar, who declined to be identified for fear of violating company policy, recalled the artist as someone who "looked like a rock star. He wore sunglasses indoors. Sometimes he sipped whiskey at work."

zipthwung said...

thanks fish. Yeah I dont think theresas writing is that good - I'd say its average for a liberal arts person - passable and i can tell she reads. But theres no tonal controll beyond the "we of the staircase" affectation and the like - there are lots of peopel who use the royal we - off the top Charlie Finch on (he's written under a non de plume - and a female one at that).

SO there you go. Im glad to be among the company of writerz.

Sorry about the graphic - according to the DMSV-CXV I have passive agressive borderline personality disorder. And I definitely am borderline.

zipthwung said...

I know lorts of folks that think they are warhol or running a factory - but yeah, well as you well know, glamour is freedom.

Poulet said...

Thanks, "fulltiltredhead" is all I needed. Found the thread on my own. Here's one of the many things fulltilt says:

Maybe I'm just in denial. But she was not suicidal. She and I wrote to each other from time to time. She was actively involved in her life. She was not in any way apathetic or lethargic or removed. She engaged with people on her blog and she had a full life. She was crazy about Mr. Wit, as she called him. All of a sudden out of nowhere, for no apparent reason, she killed herself? And someone who occasionally even said goodnight to everybody on her blog, always said when she was going on vacation, always gave a reason why the blog would not be written for a day or two, tells everybody she's working on an article, and then turns straight around and kills herself, leaving her body for her beloved to find and no word of farewell for anybody in the blogosphere. It's not consistent.

To which I say: YOU DIDN'T KNOW THE WIT!

Unknown said...

The Aussie is probably Alison Tuck, who was very inspired by Theresa, and I think Theresa was kind to her.

Duncan wrote a mildly critical piece for Artforum about Lost in Translation, and then decided that Francis Ford Coppola was harassing her. Tim Griffin at Artforum was named in the 27 page doc. and while not overly communicative with me, did write that Artforum got NO feed back about the movie criticism, so I doubt that Coppola was very distressed over it. Theresa knew who Sofia was, trust me.

Poulet, you have my email address, and yet we communicate by blog comments. Why?

I'm really not sure that a publisher would see the appeal of a book, and I think that after the VF piece comes out, there's not going to be much mystery left.

et in Arcadia ego Eve said...
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et in Arcadia ego Eve said...
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Poulet said...

Not sure if your comment is meant to be an invitation to take this offline or mild annoyance at being mentioned in this blog. You post in comments, I respond in comments.

This way everyone has the benefit of being able to read any discussion. Isn't that the way blogs work? Somebody fill me in, please! Anyway, in your honor I'll avoid any Kate Coe comments until at least Monday. Mum's the word!

Anonymous said...

Poulet shit face
who are you
you don't like Theresa
you seem to get off
on degrading her and looking for
threads to unravel her
must be personal
if it isn't you are talking about someone I care about
and you are doing it from a hiding place-
what's your real name? hell we know Katie Coe's and you wonder what a bigtime writer like her,who just got her big break writing about her friend,and telling everyone what a liar Theresa was
who needs CoS and CIA with friends like Kate-what truth are you looking for-Theresa wrote History of Glamour-it's her.
You combined New England with the Salem witch trials-pretty fucking stupid,except the part about witches -you get extra credit for that,cos wit comes from wit,and both mean smarts,intelligence.
Why does everyone in KC's article slam Theresa-all these people have a vendetta-Theresa's real friends won't go on record or talk to you
because to them you are nothing-you are exploitive and degrading,calculating creeps.

Unknown said...

Poulet--I'm not annoyed in the slightest, I was just curious.

MPDLT--No one has ever called me Katie in my life--is this usage meant to disparage me?

As I was a staff writer at the London Sunday Times, working for the legendary Henry Brandon, the LA Weekly, while fun to write for, is not my "big break" in journalism.

And if you think everyone in my piece slammed her, you must not have finished reading it yet.

Anonymous said...

never heard of him
I am not a writer-
Theresa doesn't need anyone to defend her.
The people speaking up here
are to make sure your Future Business Leaders of America,mutual admiration society voices don't get mistaken as the consensus-then again what difference does it make if you and a bunch of assholes -get off on degrading and using Theresa's body as a plow.
You must get something out of it-
I don't see the appeal-I wish you were dead,and your children orphaned,if this could be traded for Theresa's life-I would in every instant completely dispassionately of you or your emotive.

Kate Coe said...

"I wish you were dead,and your children orphaned,if this could be traded for Theresa's life"

I would be a great deal more concerned if you posted this under your real name. As it is, cowards who hide behind nom de pixels don't really worry me very much. I doubt that you knew either Theresa or Jeremy and if you did, they probably considered you to be an embarrassment.

Kate Coe

LeChat said...

Item 4 - the issue of mental illness - gets to the heart of this sad story. LeChat doesn't even have the heart for a catty comment.

A few years ago, one of my good friends was diagnosed as bipolar. He refused to take medication and soon had a complete breakdown. He became delusional - paranoid and grandiose. He flew into rages with little provocation. In retrospect, it was evident the signs had been there for the ten years I'd known him and probably longer.

We worked in a creative field. He was smart, fun, and could get things done. He could be argumentative, but I found him easy to get along with. He was prone to exaggerate and distort facts, but he was dedicated to the truth. Professionally, as long as everything worked, the crazy bits were ignored and all was forgiven. But bipolar disorder doesn't stand still. It progresses, and the energy and ideas that fed the creative process start destroying it.
I began seeing the big picture right before my friend's diagnosis, when he repeatedly insisted that a former boss had tried to prevent me from getting a promotion - a promotion I knew the boss was responsible for. My friend clearly believed every word he was saying but it was equally clear to me that it could not possibly be true.

Still, I took his idee fixe as an anomaly, a quirk. Only in retrospect did I understand it was a classic symptom of his biological disease.

TDs friends don't do her memory a favor by denying that she may have had a major mental illness. Bipolar disorder explains:
-the rage (Magnet Interactive firing, "vicious" emails and fallings-out),
-lying (educational background, professional prospects, plagiarism - very telling that she was apparently upset when accused of plagiarism. )
-paranoia (friends asked to sign loyalty oaths, claims of harassment by the Church of Scientology, former friends and strangers. About the CoS, they've certainly been accused of harassing critics - who are bad for Church business - but AFAIK haven't gone after uninvolved parties except to recruit them.)
-grandiosity (don't know where to start), and ultimately...

If TD suffered from one of the types of bipolar disorder, it wouldn't mean that was all she was. She would still have the creativity, courage, intelligence, resourcefulness and sparkle that her friends talk about. My friend did not cease to be my friend when his illness was finally diagnosed. In fact, because the illness itself prevented him from acknowledging he had an illness, he needed his friends and his wonderful wife to help him get help when he completely broke down under the weight of his delusions.

If I tell you someone died of cancer, am I smearing or attacking them? No, and it's no different with a mental illness. The only shame is in losing a life that could have been saved.

Where does Jeremy Blake fit in this scenario? It may be that he loved Theresa and she loved him, and he did the best he could, and in the end was killed by a broken heart.

Bless them both. May they come back together and enjoy long and happy lives.

LeChat said...
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