Saturday, January 16, 2016

The Netflix Effect,

Today seems to be a day of small projects and while I have been working on them I have been listening to podcasts (I’ve been actively trying to cut down on my TV time lately), but something terrible and horrible just happened: I listened to all the episodes.
This keeps happening lately!

Literally this is the THIRD time this has happened this week. All of the new podcasts I’ve started are current and ongoing and my brain has been trained by Netflix binges to want 12 full hours of content! I don’t have cable anymore and watch everything through an Apple TV and it is a good thing because I don’t think I am capable any longer of being happy with ONE episode of something. I am an American after all. I want ALL OF THE THINGS RIGHT NOW!

Thank god This American Life has been on for 300 years and has a virtually inexhaustible archive of shows. That Ira Glass always knows how to make me happy.

In case you’re curious, these are the podcasts I started listening to this week. I recommend all of them:

Serial, Season Two (only 4 episodes so far!)
After the cultural juggernaut that was season one, you don’t need me to explain to you what this is.

The West Wing History Class (only 4 episodes so far!)
This is really wonky, but so is my love of the West Wing, a television show that has been off the air for like a decade. Each episode of the podcast is just two guys talking about each episode of The West Wing. They are wrong about all kinds of stuff and I should be a guest on this show so that I can set them straight.

The Minimalists Podcast (only 3 episodes so far!)
If you’re unfamiliar with The Minimalists, they’re sort of the rockstars of and standardbearers of the resurgent minimalist living cultural movement. Their website is kind of a big deal in certain circles and they finally have a podcast. If you’re unfamiliar with this minimalism idea it can sound kind of cultish sometimes, but really it is about removing all the stuff from one’s life and I think we could all use a little less stuff.



Like everyone else with an iPhone and Instagram, I have convinced myself that I am a fantastic ameutur phorographer. With an eye toward making a photo book of the quality one might find at the neighborhood Urban Outfitters, I have been checking photo books out of the library every day and teaching myself the genre of the photo book and let me tell you (as a writer), I am very much disappointed by what is going on there. The brutal dictatorship of the joyless black and white - while not total - is near total.

The other day I checked out a book called WHY IT DOES NOT HAVE TO BE IN FOCUS: Modern Photography Explained and while I fancy myself an egalitarian, I am left with the cancerous black humor of one who wants simply to yell, “STOP IT! JUST STOP IT!”

Much like my father at a Jackson Pollock exhibition, I feel the urge to to scream, “I feel like I am taking crazy pills!”

Perhaps it does not have to be in focus, but perhaps it should be.

Now let’s be clear, I do attend a second tier research university, have no formal photography training, and am what my mother refers to as “artsy” (by which she secretly means,”I so hope he is gay”. My mother desperately wants at least one of her sons to be gay and I am the most likely candidate due to my love of scarves and my propensity to blog about the failings of photo books. I am however not, sorry mom), and I guess I am simply a person who is upset by the unrelatable quality of most of the photo books I have seen lately. Perhaps the selection at my library is just lacking. Whatever the case may be, I am soldering forth with the photobook idea. 

In my defense, I do imagine it as being something more than only a photobook. I look forward to writing the captions and notes. I’m envisioning a sort of lunatic and lie-filled travel narrative to inform the pictures. I haven’t written it yet though because I am still gathering up photos. Today though I have taken the first real step on the road to creation: I have made a folder in Google Drive.

Tellingly, I put it inside of my “Writing” folder.


Wednesday, January 13, 2016

City Council Resolution No. 5-104.

City Council Resolution No. 5-104
by james bezerra

This past Tuesday night the city council passed a resolution stating that all new concrete poured within the city limits may contain no more than 16% pulverized human bone. The resolution passed by a voice vote of 3 to 2.


Shameless Filler.

Look, I am just going to be upfront with you: I applied to some MFA programs and so that means that people sitting on admissions committees all around the country may choose to come pursue this here blog to see what exactly I do with it. So I am going to be re-posting some stuff (mostly from last year) that I really like because it is an opportunity to put a little bit more of my writing in front of these people.

(This is when I shrug and make a Jim-from-The-Office face.)


If a Traveler.

If a Traveler
by james bezerra

One Christmas vacation I was in New York City and I had received as a gift Italo Calvino’s novel If on a winter’s night a traveler which I had started reading Christmas morning but which I did not have with me on the subway two days later when I got on the Green line at 96th headed Downtown, which is when I saw a strikingly pretty young woman with curly jet-black hair wearing a gray wool skirt standing at one end of the car holding a pole with one hand while reading Italo Calvino’s novel If on a winter’s night a traveler.

My feeling of excitement was immediately replaced by a deeper feeling of sadness -- or perhaps of instantaneous loss – when I realized that here I had this connection to a complete stranger yet could in no way substantiate it or prove it or birth that connection into that cold urban Christmas. It was an incomplete circuit. What good ever is a potential connection to another human being?

She, The Reader, got off at 77th and I never saw her again and likely never will, given the size of the world.

Italo Calvino’s novel If on a winter’s night a traveler is a mishmash book made of chapters of several books, none of which are ever really completed or realized. In this way, The Reader and I probably did live out our relationship as fully as we could have.


The Anachronistics.

The Anachronistics
by james bezerra

Socrates never ate a donut. Jesus couldn’t work a telephone. Helen Keller didn’t play Tetris. Moses never saw a penguin. Winston Churchill didn’t even have an email address. Charlemagne couldn’t dunk. Karl Marx didn’t use credit cards. Galileo Galilei had never even heard of New York City. Thomas Jefferson couldn’t parallel park.


J. Straw, Who Travels Light
by james bezerra

His manifesto advocating the minimalist lifestyle is sixteen thousand words long. In its current form. He plans to edit it down, but only ever seems to add to it.
“Look, I’m not a douche bag,” he finally ends up saying to the LBD girl at the bar.
    “It just sounds kind of douche-y.” She sips slowly at her martini and looks at his card between her fingers. Simple black Courier on white:

j. straw

    The email and number on the back.
    “Mostly it’s about freeing your life from all of that stuff.”
    “Like what?”
    “Like cars … and shoes and TVs and all that other consumerist, status-symbol bullshit.”
    “I have a car. And a TV. And I like my shoes.” She has a great mouth, he thinks.
    “Sure,” Straw says then, realizing that her long smooth legs and glossy make-up magazine looks are a sort of excess he can’t endorse anyway. He sucks back the rest of his scotch. “Well, thanks for … letting me buy you a drink ... I guess.”
    “Sure thing,” she raises her glass at his back as he leaves.
    On the street he pulls his hood up against the cold. The hood zippered into his black jacket. He walks and types into the diary app on his phone: No point trying to convince anyone already living in the hemogency of consumerist society. Am not a prophet or a disciple. Proselytizing is not minimal in its strategy. Better to find a girl who already understands.

    As a teenager there had been a girl called Viv. Her blonde brown hair already twisted into grimy dreads. She wore the most basic of Hanes cotton underwear. She cut t-shirts down into tank tops. He remembered the fullness of her body in the hallway of her mother’s house. He wondered where she was at now.

Straw had been able to find a little apartment with a window seat. It was a studio, which is what he wanted. The size of a shipping container with a door on one end and a window and window seat on the other. The window seat allowed him to get rid of his desk, his couch, and his kitchen table. He didn’t need any of that, he had the painted white wood of the window seat. He bought one cushion. He could use it on the window seat when he was reading his Kindle or he could sit on it on the floor when he used the window seat as a desk or as a table.

An email came in on his phone. The annual convention was coming up in Brooklyn. He’d hoped to have his manifesto read by then. It probably wasn’t going to happen. Despite that he books a plane ticket and starts looking for a hostel; Straw doesn’t need a whole hotel room to himself.

The decluttering of one’s physical life can translate into the decluttering of one’s mind. As humans we tend to work from the outside in in order to effect change. This can best be done by creating a safe and simple environment for the body to exist in. That peace and freedom will allow the mind and soul to blossom.

Straw rereads what he had just typed. He wonders if Viv would like it.
He thinks for a second about whether minimizing his life for the sake of writing a manifesto about minimizing is self-serving. He thinks about calling it a memoir instead of a manifesto. He shakes his head though, No, ‘manifesto’ is a much sexier word.

He has gotten rid of the box spring. He just has a mattress on the floor. He likes it. It’s clean and simple. He doesn’t know that the purpose of a box spring is to allow air to circulate. To him it just seemed like clutter.

Viv was more Punk Rock than she was Minimalist. Minimalism wasn’t really a thing yet back then. She had probably outgrown the Punk thing by now. Probably taken out the lip rings. She’d been onto something though. She didn’t have much. Her little bedroom in her mother’s place had barely been bigger than the bed she slept on. The bed had been noisey when it took his weight. The kissing had started in the hall. She was the kind of girl who kissed hard. She dragged him along the wall, never letting his mouth away from hers. Straw’s hands found her flesh easily through all of the cuts and rips in her sliced up tank top.
She didn’t smell good, he realized when he was that close to her. Her hair was knotted and thick. She smelled like sweat and cigarettes and sex. And he’d loved it.
Viv pulled her clothes away and he decided right then that no one needed clothes anyway. She was there, full and luscious and naked and she unzipped his pants and pulled them off. Pulled his shirt off. Fuck clothes, Viv said, growling a little.
It didn’t last long, once she pulled his naked body down on top of her naked body, but there was suddenly nothing in the world right then; just them, just their bodies. His body inside of hers. They were one body, moving together, moving against. That was all that there was in the whole universe. And that’s all that there needed to be anywhere.

Straw doesn’t have any pillows on his mattress. He just uses the cushion from the window seat.
He doesn’t have any plates. Instead he uses tortillas. He doesn’t eat anything that can’t be eaten off or in a tortilla.

It was time to head to the airport to head to the convention in Brooklyn.
He looked around his bare little white studio. He couldn’t think of anything in there that he needed. He grabbed his jacket off the doorknob and left.
That’s how light he travels.


Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Our Cardboard Lives.

If you have had moving on your mind as much as I have lately, then you have no doubt thought to yourself, “How come they don’t just make a bunch of furniture out of industrial cardboard that can be delivered to my empty new apartment for not that much money??”

Well the Canadians have heard you and they are on their way to help!

The company Our Paper Life
has created a “room in the box” and the minimalist design nerd in me wants one SO BAD.

(I don't know why that video was in Spanish. I swear that it was in English the last time I watched it.)


Teaching Portfolio.

If any of you are interesting in what the hell I have been doing instead of writing on this here blog, this is an extremely rudimentary teaching portfolio I have been putting together.

It ain’t great (yet), but it exists, which is more than can ever be said for perfect things which don’t.


Hashtag badass.

I was just listening to an interview with a guy named Steve Zimmer who apparently sits on the board of LAUSD and in the course of the interview the reporter asked, How do you respond to people like So-and-So who says blah-blah-blah?
And without missing a beat Zimmer responded:

“I’m sure there are people whose opinions I care about less than [his], but at the moment I can’t think of any.”
Hashtag badass.


Accidental Machine Poetry.

What you see below is from a math thesis titled “Fiber reconstruction techniques in diffusion weighted MRI”. Now I have no idea what any of those words mean when arranged in that order and I certainly do not know what any of the equation(s) below actually do.
I came across all of this while I was at work at the university library and as I was looking at this page I was struck by how much this looked like poetry. Structurally, I mean. If you cross your eyes at it, it is just stuff on a page. And that made me think that perhaps it is a poetry, of a kind. Perhaps it is the kind of poetry that computers write for one another.
Poetry by machines, for machines.
No wonder I can’t understand it. I hope however, that it is good enough to make an iPhone cry. To remind an inkjet printer that there is more to life.

The following code determines the forward neighboring voxel. The backward voxel is determined in a similar manner.
function [fx,fy]=forward_3(SPX, SPY,fxo,fyo)
% normalize vector
y=y fsqrt(x"2+y"2);

An Actual Email I Sent.

An Actual Email I Sent:

If we had any money we should make a Star Wars-inspired series of shorts about the Westerns religions:
The Classics
Episode IV: Judaism
Episode V: Christianity (Catholic)
Episode VI: Islam
The Prequels
Episode I: Cavemen invent religion by worshipping rocks (or what the hell ever it is they did).
Episode II: Paganism & Zoroastrianism
Episode III: The Hellenistic traditions (Greece, Rome, etc.)
The (might as well be) Re-boots
Episode: VII: Protestantism
Episode VIII: The American religions (Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons, Scientologists, etc.)
Episode IX: Science (in which we renounce all religion but end up nuking ourselves to death with all of our fancy technology, and our few distant descendants, who survive in a bleak stone age world, begin worshipping rocks.)