Friday, December 23, 2011

best of all time

Today I posted a Facebook status update that said, "I feel like saying something inspirational. I'm the best writer of all time. There we go, I'm feeling inspired already." I was nervous before I hit "post" because, even though it's clearly a joke, people tend to get really defensive and oversensitive whenever people praise themselves. So far the joke was met with, well, not really anything at all. A couple funny comments, a couple likes. But it really got me thinking.

Why do we hate people who love themselves or their work? I listen to mostly hip-hop, where bragadoccio is essential. Some of my favorite writers are super-high on themselves. James Ellroy routinely refers to himself as awesome. Bolano was totally up his own ass. But why does this bug folks?

If I say, "James Ellroy is the best writer of all time", you might very well disagree with me, but you would realize as it a subjective statement and certainly you wouldn't get your feathers ruffled. Now, if I said, "I am the best"...

In a sense I understand the "hater" label, because it is just hating. It's irritation at someone else's self-confidence. How can you dislike the fact that someone truly loves what they've done? Or that they'd prefer it to something else? If they've stayed true to themselves, then their art is the essence of them, ergo of course they think it's the best.

So, go ahead. Look in the mirror, and say it. "I'm the best writer of all time." I won't hate you for it. But I do disagree.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Lddre thoughts

A little writing on writing: downside of beasting through and marathon finishing LDDRE is the increase in smoking. I had this conversation with Cody Goodfellow: you stop, smoke, and when you come back the scene is there. Also I realized the strangeness increases with how distanced I am from a character. In BTTWL, all the characters deal with weird shit, because I have no idea how Russians think. In this book there's a kid, a woman and a deeply evil man, and all of them are written in a magical realist way, because they are people I don't understand, or want to understand. Third, I added a subplot about two brothers who find a body in a river about three weeks ago. Today, after reading a recommendation online, I checked out 'Suttree', a McCarthy novel I have overlooked. It begins with a man fishing. He sees a dead man being pulled from the river. It is written more beautifully than I ever could. The Universe both checking my ego and giving me an atta boy, I think.  

Sunday, November 27, 2011

goddammit obama

You're about to get a big helping of moderately informed ranting, so tuck in.

My understanding of the Tea Party is that they were frustrated racists with no polite way to express their distaste for a black president. They felt they were losing "their" country. So they took to protesting. Which is great. You can do that. They were ideologically loose until they had that one banner under which to fight: NO OBAMACARE. While their protest made no sense and actually worked against their best interest, they bitched. Because you can't just say, "I don't like his face, nor the faces of the citizens who voted for him." It was very McCarthy, their adoption of the word "socialism."

Obama caved to their demands because their astroturf ideals were manufactured by the corporations that bought his presidency. He met them halfway. I was always waiting for the boom to drop, for Obama to simply say, "I understand you, but this is why I was elected."

He didn't. Always the diplomat, he played both sides and reached a compromise that left no one happy.

The Occupy movement was similar to the Tea Party only in that it had no clear manifesto. Soon it became clear, however, that like the Tea Party's "Obamacare", the Occupiers had a banner they could bongo under: fix the fucking banks. "We're tired of being screwed by giant, irresponsible banks." Pretty simple.

So you'd think maybe we'd get some kind of half-assed compromise like Obama did with the Tea Partiers. Nope. We get tear gas and secret mayoral meetings, where nervous men in suits decide how violent they can be without looking bad. We get nothing. So far, at least. Obama met the crazies more than halfway, and he has met the Occupiers not at all.

I am ashamed. I'm wearing my Obama t-shirt today because it's comfortable, one of my favorites. But every time I wear it I get really fucking mad. Because he is failing, has failed. He's a corporate puppet in a different way, but he's still got strings.

It frustrates me that he'll still get my vote in 2012, because who the fuck else am I going to vote for?

Sunday, November 20, 2011

BTTWL Wins the Wonderland Award for Best Novel!!!




"By the Time We Leave Here, We'll Be Friends" has won the Wonderland Award for Best Novel at Bizarrocon. I am ecstatic. Two years is a long time to write a small book. Over the course of those two years I put my soul into this thing. To see it honored in this way is truly amazing. I am so fucking happy, my face hurts from smiling. Thank you to everyone who voted, and to everyone who's taken the time to read it. I love all of you.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Win A Free Copy of BTTWL!






Goodreads Book Giveaway







By The Time We Leave Here, We'll Be Friends by J. David Osborne






By The Time We Leave Here, We'll Be Friends




by J. David Osborne






Giveaway ends December 16, 2011.



See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.








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Sunday, November 13, 2011

Thoughts On My Third Viewing of 'Drive'

*SPOILERS*

The Driver is a sociopath who thinks that he's in his own movie. That life is a movie. I know a guy like this. This guy has awarded himself the role of the rogue who doesn't conform to social mores. This is frustrating to deal with at times because of its disingenuousness, though any annoyance you give off is in a sense playing into this guy's role that he's created for himself, because of course you're upset, he's the rogue who doesn't conform to social mores. 

It makes sense that Irene falls for The Driver. While not a sociopath, she is definitely introverted and quiet, like The Driver. No one else in the film takes as long to speak as those two (recall the scene when the police are speaking to Irene re: the death of Standard, when the cop says 'Can you...answer the question?').

All of the music in the film is being played in real time by The Driver. The love song fades when he shuts his door, the operatic song disappears with his car when he drives past Nino.

The Driver wears gloves every time he kills someone, except twice. The first is in the elevator, when the murder is witnessed by Irene. This scene signals their end, the real world clashing violently with the world he has in his head. The second is when he and Bernie stab each other, a scene shot in the shadows, the most 'realistic' killing of the film. You can see the gloves in his shadow's back pocket. He has re-entered the real world, his fantasy has not turned out the way he wished (Irene didn't fall in love with a murderer). The Bernie killing is preceded by the Nino killing, a scene in which he's wearing his mask from his stuntman job. This is the peak of his fantasy. He is the 'Real Hero' of the song. This of course juxtaposed with the fact that his mask is rubber. When the song plays again, at the end, he actually is both the hero (as he did, after all, save Irene and her child) and a real human being (the fantasy is over, he's not playing a character in a film anymore).

New layers every time.

Friday, October 7, 2011

the ending of drive and the connective power of alienation

I

Drive is, to me, almost a perfect film. Every shot is expertly framed, the acting is beautifully restrained, and the music…Badalamenti, neo-new wave, so great. It ranks up there with No Country For Old Men as one of the great existentialist crime films, and I will probably watch it twenty times. I went to Jim Emerson’s “Scanners” blog to read his thoughts on it, as he had several brilliant insights into NCFOM upon its release. While Emerson didn’t care for Drive, he went about his critiques in a generally inoffensive and thoughtful way. What bugged me, in the comments sections, were the assertions that, at almost the very end of the film (which I won’t spoil), the protagonist acts in a “stupid” way which does not jive with his character as we’ve known him to that point, and therefore the film has broken the spell and become a disappointment.

II

The University of Oklahoma recently had a gathering of international authors come to campus for a week to do internationally-famous-author type things, amongst them a reading which I attended. I enjoyed a couple of the readers (including a massively powerful poetry reading by Ilya Kominksy) but found most of them to be lost somewhere up their own assholes. Their poetry and writings were self-absorbed, conveyed in voices that somehow managed to be weighty and breathy at the same time. If it sounds like I’m shitting all over them, I have to clarify that I don’t mean to be disrespectful. These are massively accomplished writers who have spent years honing their craft. I’m the one who thinks they suck. I’m also the one spilling muffin crumbs on my pants. So it’s my problem.
Whenever we find that people are taking themselves too seriously, what we’re saying is that something in their writing failed to reach us. There is such a thing as bad writing, don’t get me wrong. On a technical level, it exists. But when we’re all on this (sort of) equal playing field, where we’re all at the very least competent, “bad” becomes, more honestly, “unrelatable”. There was a great post from Conley Wouters over at McSweeney’s when DFW died, that went “A good writer makes the reader feel less lonely. A good writer makes the reader believe in her own feelings—he assures her (through fiction, no less) that whatever it is she’s feeling is True, and not a psychic symptom of being alone.”
Different readers attach this relatability, and the subsequent less-loneliness in different ways. There are some, like probably most of the people on the Neustadt panel, who feel most connected to a piece when it traverses, via what I’m assuming are incredibly well-sharpened literary tools, relatively familiar terrain. The “coming of age story” and the like. We will follow our hero as he relates to his (surely oddball) family, the pangs of growing up, first loves, embarrassments, angers, comedy, tragedy, and depression. Having felt these things ourselves at one point or another, we will certainly see ourselves in this other’s story, and perhaps, like DFW wanted, feel less lonely.
But what if what you feel like an alien?
What if your most pervasive feeling is a fascination with and fear of all the ways in which we as tiny parts of big things are so different?
While I would be lying if I said I haven’t connected with a book based on the standards of the former, I feel the most connected to a book when the author presents a situation that seems to baffle her just as much as it does me, and we can kind of share that moment of bewilderment, so that I’m not connecting to abstract, thinly veiled events from her past, but with her actual, present-tense, as-she’s-writing-it fear and alienation.

III

People find characters like Anton Chigurh or The Driver fascinating because they are sociopathic blank slates. They are enigmatic. A small facial tic could mean everything, or nothing. Some folks argue that this kind of quiet, strange man is interesting because we are allowed to project what we’re thinking onto them, and that just like a hidden shark is scarier than a shark with an oxygen tank in its mouth, our own stand in thoughts are worse than anything a screenwriter could come up with. But that’s not it for me: the blank slate is so compelling because it’s so weird and distant. The way the camera nonchalantly ogles these men without giving us even a hint is the cinematic equivalent of how I feel every day, watching all you weird fuckers. And what these films do, is to say that the feeling of not understanding and that everything is weird, is okay. That’s when I feel the most community with my fellow man, when they admit to me, through some badass prose or mise en scene, that they’re just as freaked out by this thing that I am.

IV

It doesn’t matter if The Driver’s actions don’t make sense. All characters exist, in some sense, in the world they were created in. They made their decisions, we figure out what they mean, or don’t. Something might not speak to you, but everything shouldn’t make sense. Life is weird and lonely. Existentialism is mostly about how lonely and weird life is. Drive’s ending works, in that respect.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

The Intent to Subvert “The Big Other” in Native American Film

The Intent to Subvert “The Big Other” in Native American Film
In his 2001 work “The Fright of Real Tears”, Slavoj Zizek argues that proper film “suturing” is used to reinforce the idea of the Lacanian “big Other” in the minds of audiences. (Zizek, 32) In many of the Native American-helmed films that we have watched (specifically Smoke Signals, The Business of Fancydancing, The Fast Runner, and House Made of Dawn), the suturing is subverted in such a way as to create a subjective experience within the film, rather than the “objective” experience achieved through typical filmic techniques. Through the subversion, Native films have managed to take subconscious steps to distance themselves from “The Great White Father”, an incarnation of the Lacanian Other.

“Suturing”, through film editing techniques, “collapse[s] diverse subjectivities into a singular subject”. (Stam, 137) “Diverse subjectivities” refers to the three different “views” going on at one time: the mechanical gaze of the camera, what the characters see, and finally the view of the audience member herself. A properly sutured film will combine all of these different “subjectivities” in order to create an “objective” point from which to watch the film. “Objective” should not be understood in the sense of total and complete objectivity, but rather “not subjective”, where there is no single character or view from which we are to relate. If successfully sutured and immersed in a film, the audience is to experience it as though it were reading a third-person, semi-omniscient novel. As Todd McGowan quotes Daniel Dayan in his article “Looking for the Gaze: Lacanian Film Theory and Its Vicissitudes”: “The film discourse presents itself as a product without a producer, a discourse without an origin. It speaks. Who speaks? Things speak for themselves and, of course, they tell the truth.” (McGowan, 39)

Naturally Native sutures in a very typical way. Take, for example, the scene in which the sisters are trying to get funding for their business, but are turned away due to a lack of evidence substantiating their claims of “Indian-ness”. There is a shot of the sisters, sitting next to each other, pleading their case to the representative. The mise en scene communicates what it is meant to communicate to the audience, but the problem lies in the fact that the audience cannot see what is occurring outside the frame itself. We see exactly what the camera sees. The suturing occurs when we see the reverse shot, with the representative sitting across the other side of the desk, explaining to the sisters why he cannot give them their loan. We are now given several different “subjectivities” which collapse together and create the objective stance from which we can view the film.

Zizek argues that it is through this technique that we are both shown the existence of the Other in film. (Zizek, 58) In An Introductory Dictionary of Lacanian Psychoanalysis, Dylan Evans describes the Lacanian concept of “the Other” as: “designating radical alterity…[it] is the symbolic”. (Evans, 133) Lacan derived most of his theory from Freud, so the Other is usually referred to as a Father figure, a creator of rules. The Other is the symbolic representation of both everything that is not us but also everything that controls us. Zizek believes that the Other only exists because we all agree that it does, and that in a sense it is important in order for us to function as a civilization.

In the context of the Naturally Native example, Zizek would claim that before we are given the reverse shot, we must “passively” watch what is happening. We realize the Other at work through our own inability to perceive more than one angle of the situation. Once the reverse shot occurs, we are given the idea that we can understand what is going on in the entirety of the filmic space in which the scene is taking place. This creates immersion in the film, and the audience happily assumes an objective standpoint away from the characters. To clarify, the point of this objectivity is not to create a cold viewer who is incapable of empathizing with a character. The “subjectivity” and “objectivity” here deals instead with the placement of the viewer within a framework in which the viewer can forget that the film is being helmed by the Other.

In many of the films we have watched, the filmmakers use techniques that effectively “un-suture” the film and reveal what Zizek would call “the fiction of the big Other”. Smoke Signals, for all intents and purposes, sutures itself together pretty typically. The use of the match-on action shot, however, specifically those match-on shots where two temporally distant events are meant to be taking place in the same filmic space act as disruptors to the suturing of the film.

The match-on shot typically links together two different scenes from different times. (Spiegel) In the beginning of the film, when we see Victor from behind as he walks out of his door, then from the front as a child, the door-slam has acted as a link between the present and the past. In another scene, as Suzy is telling Victor a story about his father, past-Arnold rolls the basketball, and Victor picks it up in the future. These techniques effectively suture the film; indeed we are trained to know that flashbacks are just another method used by films to immerse us in their world.

However, there is a specific instance where the film modifies this technique slightly, and that modification acts to subvert our expectations. The technique occurs in the scene in which young Victor is running down the road, then the camera pulls back, and we see the older Victor sitting inside of the bus, looking back at the younger version of himself. Instead of just linking a scene from the past to one in the present, this shot has placed both of them in the same scene at the same time. The match-on ceases at this point to be a just linking shot and instead is buried within a scene that has done away with typical filmic temporality. Since the flashback is taking place inside of Victor’s head, it has been placed in the same timeframe as Victor, who is doing the thinking. We see his memory at the same time that we see him.

A scene becomes properly sutured through the effective placing of the viewer in the same position as the Other. The viewer is therefore not thinking of said Other’s existence. Therefore, a scene in which the audience is treated to a series of images that are presented as existing in the reality of the shot and yet are inside a character’s head limits the viewer to the perspective of one character. There is no collapsing of the different subjectivities, thus the audience separates from its objective immersion.

In The Business of Fancydancing, we are presented with several techniques that un-suture the film in this way. TBOF makes use of a structure that fluctuates between traditional film techniques and monologues, in which the characters stand in front of a black backdrop and tell us how they feel. Using the analogy of a novel again, this sets the movie up as a first-person novel, in which we are able to ally ourselves with the perspective of any one character. This could have been done in a properly sutured manner. In any of the monologues that we are given, the filmmakers could have chosen instead to show a flashback, or a scene that represented what the monologue was trying to convey. In the scene in which Seymour, reciting his poetry in front of an audience, tells the story of the time he came out to his Grandmother, we could have simply been shown this via a flashback. We would have been able to see the scene in a typically sutured way, and in our immersion we would have lost the subjectivity. We are being told this story by Seymour, rather than following by following him around and objectively seeing what happens to him. The subjectivities have not collapsed; the “gaze” of the film is no longer the “objective” one coveted by the Other.

The Business of Fancydancing occasionally interrupts itself with a series of home-made videos in which Aristotle and Mouse get into trouble, one depicting them eating a piece of bread covered in bathroom cleaner, another in which they pull their car over to beat up a stranded white motorist. These sequences interrupt the already irregular flow of the film and change our perspective to strictly that of the handheld camera. Though it occasionally pans to Mouse’s face, it is always under his control. The handheld-camera technique both calls attention to the “gaze” of the camera and to the subjectivity of the man controlling said camera. Thus, objectivity is impossible.

In a similar way, The Fast Runner breaks away from typical objective storytelling by the aesthetic quality of the type of film used. The entire film is shot on digital, a choice made by the filmmakers due to the fact that average film would freeze in subzero temperatures. Though perhaps an unintended consequence, in every sequence of The Fast Runner the audience is jarred out of its immersion by the fact that the cameras being used are typically those found in PBS documentaries. The aesthetic quality of the film itself will always keep the film from becoming completely, properly sutured, because the audience will always be aware of the “eye” of the camera.

Besides improperly suturing, another way of achieving this “subversion of the Other” occurs when a film transcends the ordinary to reach the sublime. The “sublime” in question should not be thought of as the Kantian sublime, or a moment in which a force of nature reveals itself to man, and through that revelation shows man just how small he is. In Lacanian terms, the sublime occurs whenever the “real” becomes the “symbolic”. (Wajcman, online) The Business of Fancydancing, The Doe Boy and House Made of Dawn all contain elements of the sublime, with HMOD actually proving itself to be the most subversive of all the films we’ve watched in relation to the concept of the Other.

The Business of Fancydancing contains many scenes that would be considered sublime by Lacanian standards. After Seymour returns home and sits nervously inside his car, Aristotle comes up to his window and hands him an apple. Seymour gets out of the car, and walks toward the house. When he looks back he sees himself still in the car. The symbolic split within his person, the desire to both run away and be there for his friends and family, are made real to the viewer within the mise en scene, there literally being two different Seymours.

Several instances abound throughout TBOF in which Mouse either gives a monologue or plays a song on his violin. All of these scenes could be considered sublime due to the fact that Mouse is dead, but none more so than when he plays over his own funeral. We are shown Mouse, in front of the same black backdrop against which we’ve seen the other characters, playing his violin. These shots are then contrasted with those of the inside of the funeral home, with the mourners sitting in front of the closed casket, some of them getting up to eulogize him. Zizek gives an example, in his explanation of the sublime, of the final scene in Citizen Kane, in which Welles is both at the podium giving a speech, and portrayed on a giant banner in the background. (Zizek, 58) The contrast between the human emotions he shows and the stoic face on the banner create a moment of sublimity. The scene in question in TBOF parallels this in spirit. We see the concentration and emotion on Mouse’s face as he plays the violin, and that is contrasted with the closed casket. He exists to speak to us through music, though simultaneously he is presented to us as starkly dead. Through this contrast, the film reaches a point of Lacanian sublimity.

In The Doe Boy, the character of Hunter is concerned primarily with his blood, a plot point made clear through the metaphor of his hemophilia. The concern over blood combines with the question of his manhood when, as a child, he accidentally kills a female deer instead of a buck whilst out hunting with his father. In one of the final scenes of the film, Hunter chases a deer through the woods, though we are meant to understand, via the rhythmic chanting soundtrack and the ethereal nature of the shots (the slow motion, coupled with the otherworldly green of the forest), that Hunter is in fact chasing down a “spirit” deer, some outer manifestation of a conflict within the character himself. He finally comes upon the deer, which stares up at him nonchalantly, and chooses not to kill it. The metaphor takes place right in front of the audience’s eyes, and the symbolic is made real on the screen. Hunter is being confronted by his demons, but the demons, to the viewer, are just as “real” as the human characters and the setting. The film transcends at this point into the Lacanian sublime.

House Made of Dawn makes use of both of the techniques listed above, both “un-suturing” and the “sublime”, to create not only a conventionally bad film, but (perhaps unwittingly) to be the most subversive of the films watched this semester. HMOD is not a good film for several reasons, but one of the most prominent is its lack of narrative cohesion. This is a film that is sutured completely incorrectly. Godard, the famous avant garde director, is one of the foremost artists who sutures his films incorrectly, the “jump cut” being at fault. HMOD contains several jump cuts, in which one character is filmed from marginally different angles and then edited together, to give the impression of “jumping”. (Casey, online)
HMOD is completely unconcerned with whether or not the audience is situated in a comfortable temporal position. The film flails about through time, changing the appearances of the characters very little, if at all. A film can be out of temporal sequence and still sutured correctly: the films of Quentin Tarantino are usually out of chronological order. However, the audience is given several signifiers within those films, such as locations, costumes, and dialogue, to situate themselves at the various points on the timeline. HMOD makes no such concessions. The poor filmmaking makes it impossible for the Other to become invisible. The audience becomes painfully aware of the hands at work on the film, through their ineptitude in the editing booth. Once the audience is no longer able to “lose themselves” in a film, they can no longer maintain the objective stance coveted by the Other. Effectively sutured films can disappear into obscurity all the time, but there is a special place in the collective conscious for particularly bad films. They can stick with someone for just as long as a good one, because in the same way that a great film can transcend and leave an impression, the bad films transgress to break down that same “objective” wall.

HMOD also contains elements of the Lacanian sublime. The albino character is a symbol of the Other, incarnate. He is symbolic of the trickster figure, but more importantly he is a stand-in for white society. He taunts Abel so badly that eventually Abel kills him, and then is punished for it with jail time. That fight and the subsequent murder is the symbolic made real, the Indian man fighting against a white society and then dealing with the consequences. Between this symbolism and the lack of competent editing, this film manages to touch both of the bases with regard to Lacanian film theory.

The importance of the subversion of typical film suturing techniques becomes evident when one understands the implications of the big Other for a minority population. In her 1980 article “The Great White Father and the Native American Son”, Victoria O’Donnell explains the problem thusly: “Lacan’s schema explains the white, patriarchal society which determines the depiction of ethnic minorities in most Hollywood films. Oppressed groups in American society are signified by unmarked terms in American cinema. In most Hollywood films, the Native American cannot take the place of the white man. They can only be in the white man’s place, in a mirror image. They are signifiers for the Great White Father, objects rather than subjects of desire.” (O’Donnell, 67)

O’Donnell believes that Native Americans, in the films that are typically produced by this “big Other”, function in a way as “the little other”. The other acts as a mirror to the populous by pretending to be different. It appears to the majority as strange or foreign, but is in fact exactly like them, and proves it through the minor, surface differences. The problem arises when the other is always represented by a certain group, as it has in American cinema since American cinema was invented. It is good to subvert the Other because the Other represents the rules and mores of a society that has oppressed minorities for hundreds of years.
Several of the films viewed this semester have tried to put forth messages that might help to alter the popular consciousness. In a film like Naturally Native, the filmmakers attempt this feat by beating the viewer over the head with a straightforward message. Though proselytizing has its place and can be helpful, the best way to get a message across or to get a minority heard is through subtle shifts in public consciousness. The public is trained to watch films in a certain way, through the act of “suturing” which hides us from the “fiction of the Other”. In many of the films we have seen this semester, the filmmakers (perhaps unintentionally) subvert the conventions of narrative editing, which when combined with the symbolic made “real”, breaks down the audience’s willingness to forget about the symbolic Other.

Bibliography:

Casey, Ned. Jump Cut: Godard and the New Wave. WBKO.com. 2009. Web. Last accessed 4-27-11.

McGowan, Todd. “Looking for the Gaze: Lacanian Film Theory and Its Vicissitudes”. Cinema Journal 42.3. University of Texas Press. 2003. Web. Last accessed 4-27-11.

O’Donnell, Victoria. “The Great White Father and the Native American Son: An Oedipal Analysis of When the Legends Die.” Journal of the University Film Association. University of Illinois Press. 1980. Web. Last accessed 4-27-11

Stam, Robert. Film Theory: An Introduction. New York: Wiley-Blackwell, 2000. Print.

Wajcman, Gerard. “The Object From Below”. Lacan dot com. Web. . Last accessed 4-27-11.

Zizek, Slavoj. The Fright of Real Tears: Krzysztof KieĊ›lowski Between Theory and Post-Theory. London: BFI Publishing, 2001. Print.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

a list Eric found that I wrote under some kind of influence

I think there are some clues as to what was altering my brain, here. Scribbled on a notebook page:

Time, aliens, sex, alcohol, fractals, Mayan symbology, voodoo, poetry, spiders, monkeys, loving someone but knowing you can't be with them, fire, eschatology, Nietschze, cell phones, Derrida, muffins, coffee, punk girls, girls that are interested in me, girls that are interesting, zebras, pens, old photographs, the cosmos, porn, hoodies, parkour, smart dogs, cartwheels, everything moving in circles, the importance of dreams, Jung, Freud, skinheads, tattoos, asses, watching your loved one move on, dumb dogs, towns that smell like dog food, oranges, winter candy apple, lines, beer, cleaning, the beard off my bathroom sink, poetry, honesty, girls with cool shoes, firecrackers, Four Loko, numerology, the fifth dimension, interconnectivity, loneliness, fear, hate, belonging, ayahuasca, Judaica, the Bible, *can't make it out*, Siddhartha, Buddha.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Quit

I quit the tire job after two weeks.  A few days earlier I stood in the weak dawn light of my ex-wife's apartment, staring at my uniform, gunmetal gray.  Nametag.  I shook her shoulder and asked if she'd think less of me if I quit. She shook her head and fell back to sleep.  My dog watched me but didn't lift her head.  I went to work.  Kept this in my head: you have two days off.  Get through the day. 

No lunch breaks. 110 degrees.  Customers roll in.  Flat tires, alignments, rotations.  New tires.  I hated BMWs the worst, they had screws instead of lug nuts, forcing you to balance the tire, cradled just so between the knees, and screw it in, find the hole.  Most were relatively simple.  Thank god for Hondas.

Jeans will chafe your ass and hurt your balls.  First few days I wore some jeans to work.  THAT was dumb.  I took some pants from the rack upstairs, unworn uniforms belonging to employees who went the way I did, that is, out.

I worked with good people.  Most hadn't finished high school and had kids.  Didn't make it hurt any less when the salespeople, bonuses in mind, poked their head from their air conditioned office, yelling at them to hurry the fuck up.  But it made it easier for them not to do what I did.


Hard work has value.  I will never not tip a mover, for example.  I will understand the wait at a tire place.  But that is as far as it goes, once the lesson is learned, there is no reason to kill yourself at a place like that.  I don't presume to know where you folks work, or how important that is to you.  All I am saying is this: if you work at a place like that, for god's sake quit.

We have a very short time on this earth, and it makes not one lick of sense to spend more time than necessary doing things you loathe.  This advice, again, coming from a single guy with no children.

I write stories.  It's almost the only thing I'm good at, besides shuffleboard.  I consider myself a "bizarro writer", and that entails a few things, the most important of which is that I have a slightly skewed view on reality.  This is what separates bizarro from experimental literature: the latter twists language and structure in such a way to convey innovation.  They take a form, writing, and manipulate it to create something new, which inherently pays homage and calls attention to the original form.  Bizarro ignores this entirely, normally utilizing simple sentences, English at its most basic, to casually convey complete absurdity.  In doing so it makes no distinction between the original language and the hodge podge, cut and paste shenanigans of experimental: the weird and the "real" are one and the same, and should be treated as such.

That's my disclaimer: I will be the first to admit that I might not have a firm grasp on things like "responsibility" or "adulthood".  When I did quit, on the day I thought I had off, the ex shook her head and I was kicked out a few days later, back to making frantic calls, desperate not to sleep in my car.  The man's reality really exists, and it has real consequences.

If you have children, or a wife, or aspirations to financial stability, stick with the jobs and be responsible.  I really have no idea how to make your life better.  If you're single, childless, and know what it is that you have to do, then please do it.  Quit being so scared.  Lose your apartment, who cares?  You wrote a book!  Or built a car or photographed a sweet moose.  Quit wasting your time for no good reason.  That's what the internet is for.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

floating

I am floating and I want it to stop. I'm not a wanderer or an adventurer. I'm someone who likes familiarity and my space. I have gone between Lawton and Norman several times in the past month, never settling down, hoping someone might change their mind. Lawton was for distance, but it is a shithole. El Paso is a possibility, I have friends there and the distance thing would come into effect again, but those friends aren't ready to strike out on their own and get their own place. I don't know what I'm doing. I guess I'm waiting for something to come into my life that says, "HEY MOTHERFUCKER." Until then I'll keep reading and writing. "Unbearable Lightness" helps. Kris Saknussemm helps. A job might help, just to give me something to do. But I'm not a big fan of regular jobs. I worked at Hibdon's for two goddamn weeks and decided that wasn't "for me", as though hauling tires in the heat is for somebody. Floop.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

manuscript editing service

I spent the better part of last week busting my ass in a tire shop. My body got stronger, but my mind quickly folded. I have done enough hard labor. Time to put this English degree to good use. I am offering up my services, limited though they might be, to anyone who is interested. If you have a short story or manuscript that needs editing, I am your man. I have a novel and numerous short stories in print, and I have spent my four years in college. I have a solid grasp on the English language. I will do quality work in a timely manner. (Do you like that? It's what I put on resumes.) The pricing list is as follows:

Short Stories:
2000 words or less: $50
2000-3000 words: $70
3000-4000 words: $80
Anything over 4000 words will need to be discussed in order for me to draw up a customized cost summary.


Manuscript services (Line Edits with manuscript critique):
50000 words - $250
60000-70000 words - $300
70000 - 85000 words $350
85000 and above - please email.

Manuscript Services (proofread/summary edit):
50000 words - $150
60000-70000 words - $200
70000 - 85000 words $300
85000 and above - please email.

Query Letters:
Creation - $50
Rewrite - $40

NOTE:
*Academic and Non-Fiction prices vary and are not including in the pricing above*
*While I feel that an author should write their own queries, I'm happy to offer critiques of query letters free of charge.*

For all projects, please include the following:
* Story genre
* What type of editorial service you're looking for (line edit, proofread, manuscript critique[pacing/plot], query letter review and/or creation)
* A short summary/synopsis (1 page or less)
* The word count/projected word count
* The first ten pages of your manuscript/story

You get some quality edits, I get to eat. Fair trade?

(thanks to Tee Tate for writing these prices
and guidelines out and Adrienne Crezo for sharing)

Thursday, May 5, 2011

end of school

School is over for good. I feel relieved. I will miss the campus. I am wearing a shirt today that I wore on Friday, when I nearly died. Vomit, convulsions, hallucinations. The "do-not-disturb" sign on the hotel room door blinked in and out of existence. Everybody else, too, writhing and trying not to die. Our group made noise everywhere we went. The lights at Nocturnal were amazing. The bass, too. The half-naked everyone.

I was thinking that maybe I would go somewhere but instead I think I'm going to work on tires for a bit. Save some money, drink some beer. Then maybe I'll go. As of right now, how would I?

Sunday, January 30, 2011

review of BTTWL up at the Velvet

Chris Deal wrote a fantastic review of BY THE TIME WE LEAVE HERE, WE'LL BE FRIENDS over at The Velvet. Easily one of the best online resources for finding new and exciting (usually dark) fiction, the Velvet is a community of writers and readers who have a shared love for the works of Will Christopher Baer, Craig Clevenger, and Stephen Graham Jones. It is an honor to have BTTWL featured on their home page with such high praise.

The Velvet

tunnels

There's a feeling like a picture being taken off the wall in another room on the other side of the house any time I reach the end of a tunnel. I think humans feel this strange, not sadness, but maybe microscopic anxiety, because the two major tunnels in our lives, the uterus and the One-With-The-Bright-Light, have at their end the embodiment of unknowing, except we know how one ends, and are living it, and that certainly doesn't ease our fears about the second.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

drunken belligerence

Earthquake is a "high gravity lager" in the vein of Steel Reserve. It is 24 oz of 12% alcohol. In Oklahoma our grocery store/gas station beer is 3%, meaning one can of Earthquake is like drinking eight beers. I drank mine in a little under a half-an-hour, shooting it once a minute. Vile stuff. By the end of it my stomach was in knots and I was screaming through my teeth.

I ended up going to a party, where I subsequently went about attracting the ire of everyone there. I think it started when I went into the kitchen and flipped everyone off. I didn't mean it in a bad way. Then a girl became convinced that I'd called her a bitch, which I am 90% sure I did not do.

A tiny girl with a pixie haircut kept coming out to scream at me for various reasons.

I was confronted by a large, slightly chubby male who had puffed himself up to me a few times over the course of the night. He was flanked by two other men, one of them a timid guy in glasses and the other a less-timid guy in glasses. He proceeded to regale me with my laundry list of misdeeds. I listened, and when he was done, I said, "Okay. First of all, your pea coat is gay." Then I laughed. He screamed "MY PEA COAT IS GAY?!?!?! THAT'S ALL YOU HAVE TO SAY TO ME?" And I continued to laugh. The pixie girl kept coming out and yelling at me, which was funny.

I am not saying that I blame the Earthquake, but I don't think I've ever attracted that much negative attention in my life. Maybe I'll stick to my 3% gas station beer.