Sunday, May 1, 2016

Why I Write: Run

Edit: Apparently it's not free everywhere. Read it here, or online here or even here. Sorry about that!

I just listened to "Run", a short story of mine, in the form of a mighty fine audiobook narrated by Dustin Davis. I hadn't read the story in ages because revisiting my earlier work, even one as critically acclaimed as this one, makes for some gut-wrenching moments. I'm not sure why that is; though if I were pressed, I suppose I would say that it's a matter of seeing the perfect vision from your mind's eye desecrated by text (and back into your ear, in this case). In other words, a failure as a writer.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

A Visit to the City

I recently visited a fellow writer friend of mine, King, in NYC. Now King was a little bit of an odd one. I had always known him as an artist who wanted the powerful to smell the blood on their hands at every moment of their luxurious lives. Not, mind you, that he was so naive as to think they didn't know it—he called them sociopaths on more than one occasion; he simply wanted them to be aware of it. Of course, he hadn't any success on that front. He may have hated them but he also wanted their oligarchic graces, or love (or money). And yet no matter how smart he was, he wasn't aware of this dichotomous aspect of his existence.

But I digress. I met up with King on the penumbra of Union Square. King was smart enough to pick one of those semi-private spaces; an unopened art gallery and book store with a mini garden and waterfall in the middle.

Large HD screens were showing a film with subtitles. I wasn't sure if it was part of the art gallery or not, though I doubted it since it didn't have that air of condescending self-awareness that art-videos tended to have. 

King sat in front of these screens and pointed at the empty seat next to him with a cafe cortado steaming next to it. I nodded my thanks and sat down. The film was a short one, and as it happened, just starting. I stared at it, enthralled.

In the film: multiple particles swirled around a light and as the camera zoomed in, each spoke and a prattle arose. The camera moves to the edges, two particles flying away from the center of mass. As the camera zooms further in, we come upon a couple on a college campus. Grad students: they've come up with a formula for humanity: energy extracted=energy to build +/- energy to kill. 

Slowly the couple, already ostracized for trying to push this formula over the existing ones (GDP and what have you), drift apart. They fight over whether it's + or - on the right hand side of the equal sign. [1] 

The entire movie took 10 minutes and the couple went from completely in love to filled with hate for the other. In the end, they independently ditch the formula as unworkable and the camera zooms out—the particles again—and now the two of them are back in the midst of the mass of particles with all that prattle. The movie starts over again—a never-ending loop.

"This yours?" I ask, knowing that King had always been good with screenplays. 

He nodded and pointed around him. "Wrote it for the woman who owns this place. Rich..." 

I try not to let silence betray my awkwardness—something about him had changed—so I mumbled a little approval.

"Know what her shower is like?"


"A whole fucking floor. You walk past water falls and it rains on you, or mists, or whatever you want." He shakes his head. "You walk through this thing like it's a tropical rainforest. Some place in Hawaii." He stops to tap my arm, as if to make sure I'm listening. "Get this, you walk through canyons, rain falling on you, and you come to a pool where you can have a bath or swim.... on the second floor of a building. You gotta try it."

I wasn't sure when I was going to get to try a shower like that. "Sounds very creative. Meanwhile people go homeless and dropping water tables are leading to deaths of millions."

He shook his head in disgust. "There you go again. The sad writer."

"Fuck you."

"How are sales?"

"Fuck off."

He shook his head. "I wanna have a shower like that, man. No starving for me."

It was an odd conversation, almost a confession. But he was right, and I knew it. "It's a nice shower, I'm sure."

"Gotta give up on that prose shit. It's for old people anyways."

I shrugged. He was not entirely wrong, but it stung. "No more prose, huh?"

"Working on the next thing. You should too."

A silence filled the air between us. I grew suddenly aware of the waterfall and wondered if it was runoff from the shower. No, it couldn't be. There were fish in the pool next to us. I sipped my cortado, feeling the peace of the moving water. The taste of coffee hung in my mouth, then went down with a slight burn. I was getting old. And King had changed. A lot. Where was the guy who once stated that atheists were only disillusioned theists, holding out for a just God?

We both watched two women, each over six foot tall and with the stride and look of a model, walked by crop dusting us with their heavy perfume.

King and I exchanged looks and shook our heads. 

"What are you working on now?"

I explained my latest story: me standing in my apartment, an odd phone call from a building across the way asking for help. I go, I enter a labyrinth, slay monsters, find nothing but the phone that I was called from. 

"Still with that existential bit? And those labyrinths?"

I was not sure when it started, but there was a real hatred in his voice. "Guess so." My voice cracked. "You?"

He stared at the models, then took out three pieces of paper, crumpling them all and opening them up. He drew lines on each where the creases had formed. 

"This." He held up one. "Represents the relationship between the characters. This," he held up the other one, "represents the arc for the plot. And this is each character arc. That's how I'm writing now. Trick is, to find the right medium. It ain't old-fashioned prose."

I nodded, impressed. "Let me know what works."

"I will."

We parted ways and I sensed that we were no longer friends. My awe for his idea—mixed with the fear that it couldn't be done—was soon replaced by an intense jealousy. I went back to my story to chip away at the rough edges, but I sensed the futility of the project, that it would never see the light of day and I wondered if he would accomplish what he had set out to do. 

[1]   There are a few arguments over the possible a, b constants next to the energy variables, but these arguments are no where as heated as the +/_ one. For the latter one is where each's view on humanity is hinged.

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Thursday, April 28, 2016

The Cindy Sherman Effect

Now at an echoing Cindy Sherman exhibit where she takes photos of herself dressed as different people doing different things. Funny how the mind of an artist can stretch one's own mind. I say this because the show reminds me of a friend of mine who was an artist of sorts.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

The Scars

The scars pocket the land over there, but on our side these scars are only seen underneath: in the pauses during conversations straying near them and the darkening faces. 

Friday, April 22, 2016

Cookies & Cream: Food as Discovery

Sitting at Cookies and Cream, a Berlin restaurant. One that's still, in these 2016 years, smoke-filled; an intrusion I wasn't expecting, though I certainly didn't expect to not care as much as I do. The lounge in which we sit is filled with fancy clothing and various faces at different levels of decay. 

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Art as Life

There's a decent article over at the Guardian, about a gold toilet. Though it's always good for people to look at art and compare it to whatever currents are swimming through the zeitgeist, I sense that the author's obsession with the gold and the oligarchs most likely to buy such items, runs a little on the click bait side of things. Well, that's going a bit too far, but the last section of the article, which points out that it's in humanity's nature to stare at the goods of the rich.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Eye in the Sky and the State of Movies Created by Our Courtier Class

"Aching, nobly, to wade through the blood of savages." —James Baldwin

I had the unfortunate luck of having to go and see Eye in the Sky, an entertaining movie that fell short in many other, non-dramatic, respects. I shouldn't be so crass. It wasn't so unfortunate. It's always good to have a look at what people (and most critics) think of as a well thought out movie. It gives me a chance to hone my own disgust for such views. 

One Man's Death

"One man's death is a tragedy, a million is a statistic." 

Though this quote has been consistently attributed to Stalin, that is not the case. But let me get more to the point: I want to talk about a videotaped interview where my favorite visual artist used this quote. To be fair, she used enough of these quotes that I wasn't sure if she was trying to be ironic for the entire interview or if she had reached such levels of success that her reality was morphed and she had simply gone mad.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Street Art

I'm a little out of my depth when it comes to street art. I've come to it a little late in the game (and in my life) and I'm still not sure if I understand it entirely. That being said, it still interests me, and one doesn't have to be an expert to enjoy something on a deeper level. 

Of course, I'm not entirely sure why it has so captured my imagination. I sense that unlike gallery art (still something I enjoy[1]), street art usually tries to say something about life or politics. And in that sense, street art is a little crude—just the potion for me. Yet even for the more ambiguous works, there's something to be said for art that everyone can access. Not having to pay for it, or enter a stuffy art gallery, does a lot for any piece of art. [2]

But again, I prefer the kind that says something. Thus I like Banksy, or the above one that uses math functions in a clever way [3]. I mentioned that I came to like street art only lately. Like most people in the middle class, I associated graffiti with urban decay. Now I see it as a statement that represents the people in the neighborhood. A snapshot of a part of the zeitgeist. So even though I want something worthwhile over scrawls—or even the other end of the spectrum: the mural as representing social happiness [4]—I understand that even a few sprays can mean something as well. To want to white wash that is to want to silence speech. [5] 

But I digress. As a writer I am coming to grips with graffiti as character. Since it can speak to the alienation of an individual(s), to the zeitgeist, then it should grow in an arc and help the landscapes I create breathe. I did this in Labyrinth; I hope to improve upon it in the future. 

In the meantime, I walk through streets and past train cars as if I were in a gallery. Here in Spokane the walls are bland, but there's hope in the horizon. For example some train cars can be beautiful. I hope to add them here, and soon. These pictures (save the math one) are all from Szczecin, Poland. What are your thoughts on graffiti? 

[1] Well, with contemporary art—the obvious counterpart to street art—I find it a miss or hit affair with the former representing the vast majority of the cases. That ambiguity that art critics enjoy is not something I care for. A peasant's complaint, I know. 

[2] Again, we can get into the definition of art, but I'd rather not go down that rabbit hole.

[3] I mentioned this in a previous piece of Art is Life; artists using math functions or algorithms to guide their brushes...

[4] Almost communist, if you ask me.

[5] Oh, I know, protect property and all that, but that need to silence, is still something I hate. Not to say I am a saint—I would be just as angry if someone spray painted my car—it's just something to be wary of. I look around many cities and I think of their bland walls as almost—again that word—communist in their oppression.

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Saturday, April 16, 2016

Chuck and "One man can only know a drop in the ocean of knowledge"

It was a typical early summer night in Alaska. The sun was stubborn in its descent and a dull light lingered in the sky for a little too long. The just awakening land reeked of fresh pine and dirt and beer and the hum of mosquitoes, which, with their piercing whines, let us know of our value as pieces of meat.

Friday, April 15, 2016

More in the Air

Holocaust Memorial in Berlin

 A quick aside, on my recent trip abroad to Poland (Szczecin) and Berlin. My trip before was filled with people talking about Putin and his Russian moves. It's interesting for me, one against an expansionist foreign policy, to hear people talk of Russia as up to its old antics again. The fear was real, and it wasn't based on nothing. In fact, back then, with Russia and Germany talking alone, people were very certain that there was some geo-politcal power-play going on, and the minnows would not be included (as per history). 

Thursday, April 14, 2016

On Writing: the Muse

me writing at a Cindy Sherman Exhibit
The city of Berlin can now consider itself a place that cogitated much thought from my brain and teased much writing from my fingers. Again, I'm not sure why, but the cafes and museums certainly didn't hurt. And though I have talked about it before, I do sometimes wonder what it is that causes such a burst of writing. Still shorts, these—mind you—but some are becoming quite original.

Me Writing in Einstein Cafe

I would even point out that the weather wasn't the greatest. And yet it worked. I almost couldn't find enough time to write. A good feeling, and perhaps I should leave it at that. But with creativity, and how one can harness it, being all the rage, let me add at least a case study to the matter.

Pretending to add to the plethora of tagging. I actually couldn't think of what to say
Traveling itself, to a new place, can always spark the mind and cause it to make new connections and thus start new stories. But this isn't always the case [1]. No, this time it was certainly the city itself. The fact that it was partially gentrifying amidst the graffiti and the decaying ruins of communist-drab cement buildings certainly had something to do with it, but it wasn't just that. 
The city itself seemed very certain of itself, seemed to know exactly what it was about. Its inhabitants too. And me, some random moron scribbling away in a cafe didn't matter to it or any of the people around. And true to their attitude, I failed a crucial test. At a moment, when I could have joined the (seemingly) million other taggers, my mind blanked and couldn't come up with anything. And so I didn't write (but I did pose like I did. A very bourgeoisie thing to do, or at leas tperfect for the Facebook world of images). 
That in itself is worthy of analysis. Why was writing on a wall suddenly so different than writing on paper? The permanency of the act? I suppose that when I write it's all about knowing that it will be edited, corrected. You know, Michelangelo chipping away at the marble trying to get his sculpture and all that. But is that it? Was it also my middle class sensibilities coming out and decrying the desecration of a wall? (even if I know that doesn't make sense?) 
Hard to say, though I would like to hear what the real taggers have to say. I imagine that one needs to go out with a premade fabrication (even if it's  just the thought or idea), otherwise one won't have the time to do much. I also didn't see any stories written out. The wrong medium? I think not. But perhaps someone out there can put up one of these stories and see what comes of it. [2]
I do hope to go back, of course. This time with a paint pen. My next stories will have to be short and succinct enough to be scrawled on their walls. And you? You ever tag? How about a story?

[1] The only time it works is if I feel trapped in a place, then simply the movement itself can effect some change.

 [2] That alone is enough to cause me to think of a myriad of ways to come up with tagging stories, or different parts of stories all over the city. Perhaps it's the best medium for graphic tales to be told? Or picture book kind of tales? I'm afraid I don't have the talent for the painting, but I can stick figure my way through it.
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Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Back from Poland and Berlin

 Me in Berlin

Well, a death in the family had me flying out to Europe. Poland, specifically, then Berlin for a couple of days. This will be something of a scattershot of topics. 

Monday, April 11, 2016

American Werewolf in London

I just watched American Werewolf in London and wasn't too impressed. The movie reminded me of an ancient story in these parts. I've heard different variations and thus different attributions: some to settlers, others to the Natives. Appropriation aside, I'll try to present the story as neutrally as I can:

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Five Short Story Writers You Must Read

Was having lunch with my better half and I was asked who were my favorite short story writers. Besides Borges, of course. Yes, she knows about my love for that writer as well. But, when I tried to think about my favorite short story writers, I had to add so many qualifications that it rendered such a list worthless. Same went for any specific books I wanted to pick. [1]

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Algo, another story...

Algo, one of the more interesting authors currently writing is now in full-bloom—creatively speaking. It's always good to remember, though, that no man is an island, even the most unique ones—or, if you must use such a metaphor, note that the seas and sea beds represent other diverse humans—and Algo is no exception. 

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Once Upon a Time

Once upon a time, there lived a poor family with three daughter. one day they went out to the forest to pick mushrooms, for they had nothing else to eat and were near starvation.