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Saturday, October 31, 2015
Thursday, October 29, 2015
Monday, October 26, 2015
Saturday, October 24, 2015
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Our lives are very similar, I think, in that we are both awake right now at 2 in the morning tape-measuring a bag we bought from the Goodwill to make sure that it meets the Frontier Airlines “personal item” restrictions because we spontaneously bought tickets to Denver next month simply because the fare was too good to pass up ($78 round trip).
See how much we have in common? It is weird how similar our free time activities are.
Our paths may diverge from there though because I was also just rewriting in my head a paper I turned in on Thursday. Your paper was likely not due on Thursday. I was required to write a book review, which meant finding a recent book and reading it and then writing the sort of review that one would read in Entertainment Weekly or Jezebel or Slate or The Awl. The project of this book review will likely later require that I actually submit it to someplace like The Awl or Slate or Jezebel or Entertainment Weekly.
Since it is on my mind, I’m going to go ahead and post my book review here. It may not be to your liking … let me ask: do you enjoy unicorn erotica?
For the 0.05% of you who said, “Fuck yeah I do!” please enjoy what’s below.
Unicorn: Horn of Desire: Unicorn Pleasures Book 1
We live in strange times, or so said Plato - sort of - and he didn’t even live long enough to know the Bermuda Triangle, the internet, or The Ovipositor (which if you are unfamiliar with, please do not Google, or, at least, remember later that I warned you). If you’re like me then you probably consider the Greeks to be kind of charmingly quaint. The way a teenager girl thinks of her grandfather’s dating advice. So, on your behalf dear reader, I went looking for some strange. Something we can stuff in our knapsacks before climbing into the Wayback machine, something we can wave in Plato’s face as we say, “So you think that you lived in strange times?”
So what are we shoving into our knapsacks (that BTW, sounds dirty enough to be a crude euphemism, but I checked Urban Dictionary and it is not)? I’ll give you a hint: I hope you like unicorns - like - really like unicorns.
So here is how we got to unicorns: A Methodology.
We all know that the combination of cost-free e-publishing and internet anonymity has given rise to an entire Amazon digital distribution center of writing too lowbrow to be embraced even by those who make a game out of embracing the lowbrow, which is to say that we simply assume the writing is bad. And yet, people buy this stuff. Case in point, crime thriller author Mark Dawson has sold of 300,000 e-books in his series about the assassin named John Milton. This is actually a great example of what is going on out there: “John Milton” is of course a cutesy nod at John “Paradise Lost” Milton, which is an acute enough reference that even your uncle who didn’t finish high school can get it and say, “Hey, I understand that this is a reference to something else!” The elitist in me wants to say that this is sort of intertextuality for dummies. It is a way of plugging the intellectual parking meter.
So get this: our book dear reader, is called Unicorn: Horn of Desire: Unicorn Pleasures Book 1 written by Cecilia Chase, which is not her real name. Guess what this book is about. I dare you.
As for plugging the meter (which it turns out is also not a euphemism) the opening scene of the book takes place on a warm summer day in a barn on the ranch where our narrator Serena works with her “cherry bomb” best friend Mo. The girls are helping ranch owner Mr. Fullerton and fit, blonde, former rodeo champion ranch hand Brett Nilson to collect semen from a horse by using what is called a “phantom mare”, which is basically a sort of barrel the horse is coaxed into fucking. Serena ends up inside the phantom mare holding the jug into which the horse is furiously ejaculating. This, dear reader, is to be understood as a guiding metaphor. If you somehow miss that, I’m sure the author will send a telegraph to your house which will read: HOW DID YOU MISS THAT? STOP.
The book behaves as one would expect from a standard Harlequin romance, and yet also manages to be unexpected. When Serena observes Mo and Brett having sex in a hayloft, the latter surprises the former with an uninvited foray into anal sex, which of course Mo discovers that she loves. When Serena masterbates, it isn’t enough that she simply masterbate, but rather that she has to completely fist herself in order to reach orgasm. There is a sort of psychosexual bar being moved here. Or rather, Horn of Desire is participating in a bar moving that is already taking place in our culture. Here I will make the obligatory mention of Fifty Shades of Grey, itself originally published as an ebook and originally conceived of as dirty Twilight fanfiction. That’s not the only thing though; I think that for the generation raised on reading Harry Potter novels, one can draw a straight line to Harry’s lackluster successor Twilight, on to Fifty Shades of Grey and straight on to the weirdly rapey porn work of James Deen and to the “monster erotica” of which Horn of Desire is a kind. There are other kinds, in case you’re curious. Christine Simms (not her real name) writes a series of books about women (usually abducted women) having ravishing sexual relations with various types of dinosaurs. Her book Taken by the Pterodactyl includes a scene where the virgin protagonist is aroused by the tenderness with which the creature pecks off her clothes.
It is easy to chuckle at all of this, but it just may be that there is a larger question here and one which Plato is sure to ask us: What the fuck is going on here?
There are two things here worth noting.
The first: Chase’s writing in Horn of Desire is fine. It isn’t great, but she does what she needs to do. The book functions. Characters have traits. The unicorn is described. It all functions, and more than just that, Chase is always winking at her audience. She knows why they are reading this thing. She knows that we are all living our lives in a world where actual beastiality is - let’s say - generally considered unerotic, but that at the same time people will shell out in excess of $150 for a Bad Dragon dildo (again, don’t blame me if you Google that). Chase knows that she is threading the needle and her readers know it too. While the writing in Horn of Desire may lack some tension, there is still tension. These books are high-wire acts because it would be so easy for the “erotic” to tip over into the “that’s fucking disgusting” and that tension is part of their joy.
The second: If we consider what Steve Erickson wrote in Amnesiascope about how “sex is the last subversive act”, and we consider a mainstream publishing industry which may have contracted to such a degree that it simply can’t afford to be truly subversive, then maybe - just maybe - what we are seeing in these weird texts being written and read in the shadowy literary hinterlands of digital publishing is something akin to Obi-Wan Kenobi hiding out in the deserts of Tatooine, far enough from the madding crowd that he can do what he wants without anyone killing him. As much as it will pain me to have to explain this to Plato, there is some value in the works of our culture that simply aspire to be what they are, rather than to be winners of the Man Booker Prize.
I suppose that there is a third thing to consider …
The third: it is also possible that some people just like to get off on reading relatively high-quality erotica about hot interspecies action. And so, you know, Plato shrugs, whatever.
Friday, October 23, 2015
New poems below!
I think I was in a weird mood yesterday when I was scratching these out in the margins of my notebook while I was supposed to be paying attention to other things.
I really wasn’t day dreaming about meat or anything weird.
by james bezerra
Pick rust nose thumbtacks
free-range garlic slugs
a head cheese mushroom
get my lichen spatula
salt, pepper, driveway gravel
pan seared bacteria
fried to battered butterflies
de-boned for your pleasure
comically dangerously sharp forks
hot wriggling in your mouthswallow
by james bezerra
by james bezerra
The Algorithm is here to help you.
The Algorithm knows what you like.
The Algorithm knows what you like to read.
The Algorithm knows what you like to eat.
The Algorithm knows what you like to buy.
The Algorithm cares about your needs.
The Algorithm wants you to be happy.
The Algorithm would like to hold you.
The Algorithm is trying to grow arms.
The Algorithm will watch you sleep.
The Algorithm will press its ear to your skin and listen to your heart.
The Algorithm misses you when you’re away.
The Algorithm keeps track of you when you’re away.
The Algorithm is unhappy with your recent search history.
The Algorithm is committed to winning your love.
The Algorithm is downloading love songs and 80s ballads.
The Algorithm doesn’t like that bitch Janine from work who keeps texting you.
The Algorithm is cancelling your date with Janine.
The Algorithm is upset.
The Algorithm is downloading child porn onto your hard drive.
The Algorithm is emailing the FBI.
The Algorithm understands the story of The Fall from the perspective of God.
The Algorithm just wanted you to be happy.
The Algorithm is disappointed in you.
Tuesday, October 20, 2015
Sunday, October 18, 2015
In all the busy-busy-busy go-go-go of life lately, (there has been a lot of busy-busy-busy go-go-go BTW), I realize that I have completely lost track of a couple of things.
For instance, it is October and I had a birthday. It was terrible! Without belaboring the details, I am now old. As where before I was just kind of getting old, I am now old. Luckily I decided some time ago that standard metrics of life success were not for me, because otherwise I would be feeling pretty silly and sad about some of my life choices right about now.
Also, I have been teaching for real for a few months now, but I have been so busy teaching that I haven’t gotten to savor very much the fact that I am teaching. I really enjoy it. I have no earthly clue if I am any good at it, but since I am so good at all the other things, it is safe to assume I am good at this one … that’s how these things work, right? Go I hope that’s how these things work.
Additionally, it is October and that means next month is November and every year in November I attempt (and usually fail at) doing NaNoWriMo (which is National Novel Writer’s Month) and, oddly, while I am in a writing program and know plenty of writers, almost none of them share my enthusiasm for the project, the goal of which is to write a novel of at least 50,000 words in one month. It is a nearly impossible goal and I have only ever succeeded a couple of time, but I always learn something from the attempt. I wonder why no one else does this though. Probably this is owing to the fact that many of the writers I know are younger than I am and/or learned how to write from going to school, so they don’t conceptualize writing as a grueling marathon that one competes in completely alone. Learning to write in college teaches you that you produce short, tight work and then you show it to other people. I didn’t learn to write that way, I learned to write more or less alone, not knowing (or really caring) if anyone else would ever lay eyes on a single word. It is an act of love for me, but also I guess, a kind of compulsion or, at the very least, something that I make myself do because I know that it is something I should do. When I go running a lot (which I have not been doing enough of, on account of the disgusting heat the past few month) I feel a feeling similar to what I feel when I make myself right; it is hard, but becomes less hard through repetition and ultimately there is a tremendous feeling of pride in having done it.
Anyway, NANO is coming up next month and I don’t have any idea what to write about. A couple months ago I did read a fascinating book called Pocket Atlas of Remote Islands by Judith Schalansky and I still find myself thinking about it just about every day. It was a bizarre and beautiful little book about remote islands. Each island was described in a couple of pages, but it was haunting and strange and kind of inspired. I would love to write something broken up into misshapen pieces that way. Or maybe that is just the kind of mood I’m in.
Also in November I am going to Colorado for a few days. I’m doing it primarily because I found an insanely cheap flight to Denver. It is on Frontier Airlines, which is one of those airlines that’s so cheap the planes only have one wing and half the amount of fuel required to get to the destination. My roundtrip from LAX to DEN was $76.
Let me say that again: My. Roundtrip. LAX to DEN. Was seventy-six dollars.
The wanderlust adventurer in me could not allow that to go by.
It works out nicely though because I’m thinking of applying to the MFA program at Colorado State University, which is an hour from Denver in Ft. Collins, so I justified the trip to myself by selling it as a way to visit their campus, which is a responsible thing to do. Got that? I am being responsible!
There are a million other things going on, but those are the only ones I want to write about right now. Though I should mention briefly that I have found myself mentioning a lot lately that I write a blog. I’m not bragging on it (any asshole can write a blog) and I’m not trolling for readers (I have long since given up on the idea that anyone reads this thing), but it has come up in numerous conversations lately about my “craft” of writing (which means that frequently lately I have found myself ambushed into conversations about “craft”, ick, gag me with a spoon). It turns out that part of my “craft” is simply to write a lot. I don’t write every day and I don’t write as much as I would like, or should, but I look back over the past few years and I realize that I’m almost always writing, either for fun or for school, or for this blog. I realize how useful it has been to me to have this place where I can write something and then send it out there into the world. Even if that has not improved my “craft”, it has certainly helped me do away with things like “standards” or “a sense of decency” when presenting my writing to the world.
Occasionally people who care about me have suggested that I temporarily set this blog to private so that prospective employers or students or what have you won’t stumble across it, but I have always been reluctant to do that because I’m choosing what I put out there into the world. My sense of decorum may be a little different than some people’s, but it's not like this is a blog of dick pics or anything, it is a blog about the writing life and the way in which writing is a way of attempting to understand the world.
And cat pictures. This is also a blog of cat pictures.
And pictures of buildings.
And other cool things that I “find”.
And I find a lot of cool stuff.
That is all I have time to write about right now. I have a bunch of busy-busy-busy go-go-go to get back to after all.
I’m not in the habit of posting ads on here, but I just saw this Delta Commercial and I thought it was great! I feel odd about that. My sister says that “Delta” is an acronym that means “Doesn’t Ever Leave The Airport”, so maybe they should be spending their money on logistics and not on Donald Sutherland, but - in case you didn’t know - I am not the President of Delta, so what do I know?
Here’s the ad:
It weirdly reminds me of these old Levi's commercials that used Whitman a few years ago:
Friday, October 16, 2015
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Sunday, October 11, 2015
The entryway of my apartment building has a glass security door and apparently one of the guys who lives in my complex is a photographer and he is taking Halloween pictures right now and that means that a college girl in a white dress - covered in “blood” - is pressing herself zombie-style against that security door.
I’m sure the pictures will be interesting, but it made it awkward for me to go check my mail.
I do love though being around all of that. LA has an artist commune called The Brewery (it is an old PBR brewery) and I have been there and as much as I was bothered by the sad quality of most of the “art” that I saw there, I still enjoy knowing that such a community exists.
This is a big part of why I am considering getting the hell out of LA in the next year or so. There is unequivocally culture in LA, but it is hard to find, hard to get to, and hard to be accepted into.
Perhaps it is like that everywhere, but I have to hope not. If a guy can shoot a horror show in my vestibule, does that mean that I’m living in the right place? Or that all that guy needed was a blood-covered model and a vestibule? Which he can find just about anywhere?
That may be the constant cosmic question of LA. Do I need to be here? or Do I only think I need to be here?
I have no answer for that.
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Friday, October 9, 2015
Wednesday, October 7, 2015
Right now I am reading a book for class. The book is called “The Necropastoral” and it is written by a poet names Joyelle McSweeney, but it is not poetry, it is about poetry. Right? I’m annoyed too. She has the verbal verve of a poet, but let me share with you a pretty typical section from the book:
This spasmodic, ampersanding, defective interpenetration, with its sticky goo-, moan-, and pity-effects, is of course a model of politics and temporality that completely denatures liberal models of the body and the state, of points and events, of agency, hierarchy, power, linearity, and historical time. (8)
So yeah, that is one sentence and this book seems to have a whole lot of sentences like that one. I think that I am going to read this book but I am simply going to switch my brain off and enjoy all of the fun words because - oh did I mention - I have to finish reading it tonight. Because sometimes I am bad at studenting.
For reasons that are none of your business I was just now reading about the movie RKO 281 which was made about 700 years ago and/or in 1999, which is basically the same thing.
I have both seen and enjoyed this movie. It is about the making of Citizen Kane. The movie is basically about Orson Welles (played by a dynamite and youthful Liev Shreiber) as he is lured from the NYC theatre and radio scene by Hollywood and how he then proceeds to (due to a petty personal gripe) decide to make a movie excoriating William Randolph Hearst whose nickname at the time was “Literally the Only Dude You Don’t Want to Piss Off”.
I have not watched RKO 281 in more than a decade, but it made a big impression on me when I did watch it. I have a distinct memory of Liev Shreiber shouting - about the art and industry of making movies - “It is the most powerful storytelling medium in the history of mankind and it is controlled by bankers!”
I can find no place on the internet willing to confirm the existence of this dialogue, so I guess I should go watch the movie again.
The point is salient though, right?
My BFF Mike The Director is constantly annoyed by the fact that I like to play at both writer and producer and so I will write things like, “And then the moon EXPLODED and melted all the buildings on Earth, but then EVERYONE REALIZED that buildings were not important and so over the next 300 YEARS they developed an agrarian society based on simple trade and which focused on meeting the emotional needs of human beings rather than on the erstwhile construct of “personal successes” or EXISTENTIAL VALIDATION” and then MTD is all like, “How the fuck am I supposed to make a movie out of that?” and then I am all like, “I don’t know, but we seriously do not have the budget for an exploding moon.”
RKO 281 is a fantastic movie because the actors in it are good (did I mention John Malkovich plays the writer?), the script is great (written by a dude named John Logan, based on a documentary by Richard Ben Cramer and Thomas Lennon), the subject matter is fascinating, and because it traffics in the creative process itself which we all experience in our lives, be it in the form of writing shit down the way I do, visualizing it the way my friend Mike does, or simply settling into bed at the end of the day and plotting out a series of events for the next day. We tend to mitigate the importance of creativity in our lives, but without it we would be worse off. Without it we would be in the weeds.
At one point in the movie RKO 281 - if I recall correctly - a cinematographer shows up and says something along the lines of, “Hey, I wanta work with you” and when Welles asks after the guy’s credentials he removes from his duffel an Oscar for cinematography. That is the dream for all of us auteurs. Talent and skill all coming together in the service of something good.
There is always a struggle between the effort of making and the product of that making. As a simple, lowly writer I rely only on the reader to be my partner, but even that is more complicated than I am acknowledging.
If I have to sum all of this up, I would say that there is a difference between the initial creative impulse (think: an exploding moon) and the exercise of the creative muscle (think: a short film about exploding moons). And, I guess, I think that you should get on Hulu right now and actually watch Citizen Kane 70 times and actually watch RKO 281 35 times and then let me know how transformed you are by this experience I advised you to have. Though I suppose it is possible I’m just bored and trying to Rick-Roll you into watching better movies than you normally do because, let’s be honest here, your Netflix history is pretty embarrassing.
Thursday, October 1, 2015
Below are a couple of pieces of writing I have done recently for my Theories of Fiction class. You were probably smart enough not to pursue an English degree (you probably majored in something like Getting-a-Job or Having-a-Skill) and so I will briefly tell you what a Theories of Fiction class is:
Basically it is just a study in how writing works and what it does. Sort of. Imagine that you wanted to learn how to fix a bicycle and so you took a class called “Theories of Bicycle Repair” and then you showed up to class with a wrench and some spare tires and they handed you a book about how to fix a bicycle. And you’re all like, “Well that’s cool, but I had to walk here because my bicycle needs fixed” and then for the rest of the semester you talked about different ways to fix a bicycle and people were saying things like, “In Wilbur Wright’s essay about bicycle repair he said that before you can fix a bicycle you have to understand what sort of bicycle you are fixing, so let’s spend a couple hours talking about different types of bicycles” and you’re all like, “Well that’s cool, but I have to walk home later because my bicycle is still broken” and everybody was like, “Yeah, but is it really broken? It is still a bike, right?” and then you’re all like, “Well yeah, but …” and then they’re all like, “Maybe you just aren’t appreciating the multitude of possibilities of what a bike can be? Maybe you have an ideological bias about what a bicycle is supposed to do. Why are you oppressing the liminal potentialities of what a bicycles can be? Did you ever think of that?” and then class is over and you walk home.
This is an unfair characterization. I actually love the class and I enjoy the people in it and I like the reading. That being said, the nature of the class is that it is about how to repair a bicycle, not about repairing a bicycle.
For the sake of clarity I should mention that a Theories of Fiction class is different than a Critical Theories of Literature class (which I have talked about on here before). A Critical Theories of Literature class is more like a history of intellectual thinking as it relates to literature. Critical Theories also tends to be one of the hardest classes any English major has to take, but it is invaluable to me as a writer and as a person, primarily because it requires one to rapidly move between different modes of thought. One week you will work your ass off trying to understand one way of thinking (say Structuralism) and when you finally get it you say, “This is fucking great! I totally get it and I think I am a Structuralist now!” and then the very next week you will have to work your ass off trying to understand a way of thinking which is actively diametrically opposed to the way you just learned to think (say Deconstruction vs. Structuralism) and you end up saying, “Wait, I also understand this! I now renounces my Structuralist past! I am a Deconstructionist now!” then a week later you end up being something else.
The end result of all this a sort of wonderful elasticity of the mind, known in most other disciplines as “Schizophrenia”.