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Wednesday, November 30, 2016
Tuesday, November 29, 2016
Saturday, November 26, 2016
I have not actually written much of anything since the election. Not just on this little blog, but at all. My higher brain functions have been doing other things; trying to solve social and electoral problems. Also, the new Gilmore Girls came out and that ate two days of my life.
So tonight, after spending several days on a research project for class, I went and bought the cheapest pizza I could find, the cheapest red wine I could find, and now I’m going to find the longest Pixies playlist that Youtube has on offer and I’m going to sit down and try to write.
Wednesday, November 23, 2016
Saturday, November 19, 2016
How terrible is our political life right now? Our civic life has all but gone up in smoke.
I think it is important to understand the how and the why. Below you will find a link to a recent episode of the show On the Media, which I trust. This episode explores what we call “the alt-right” and what that actually is. It explores how Breitbart News is only one thing Steve Bannon does, and it explains how all that works. It also deals with “fake news” and Facebook.
It is my humble opinion that this episode should be required listening for all Americans.
You should listen to it. It will make you feel better, it will piss you off, it will make you sad. But no matter what, it will help you understand the country we live in now. I think most of the people talked about here are sons of bitches, but I am happy to learn that their reality (just like mine) is underwritten by a basic machinery of logic. That means we can beat them.
Tuesday, November 15, 2016
Monday, November 14, 2016
So how are you enjoying post-election America???
I had been looking forward to the end of the election-cycle and to maybe getting to worry about something else, please god anything else!
Well I guess I should have been more specific about that, huh?
It is hard not to obsess over everything going on. It is counter-intuitive, but I came across the below article and it is such a deep examination of the election that I actually found it relaxing to read. Perhaps because it is SO long and SO wonky. It also dispels some of the “narratives” surrounding this election by examining the actual information we currently have. As I am a fan of really wonky and deep examinations of … you know, basically anything, I found this to be a fantastic read. If you’re not burnt out on this kind of stuff, I would suggest giving it a shot. It is VERY long and VERY boring, but worth it.
If you’re hanging out online because you’re looking for something, anything to make you feel a little better, I will leave you with a little summary of one point made in the article:
Donald Trump received fewer actual votes than either John McCain in 2008 or Mitt Romney in 2012. That may change a little when we have all the numbers finalized in a few weeks, but it means that Trump did not actually discover some vast and previously invisible group of voters.
What happened in 2016 is that Hillary received about 6 million fewer votes than Obama in 2012 and about 9 million fewer votes than Obama in 2008.
Here is what that looks like:
What that means is we don’t actually live in a country overrun with racists and bigots and people pushing us toward collapse and chaos. It means we live in basically the same country we always have, we just got apathetic. Apathy is fixable.
Here is the article:
Keep your chin up and try to be nice to each other.
Friday, November 11, 2016
Thursday, November 10, 2016
I am an FDR Democrat and I have been wandering around in a daze since the Presidential election on Tuesday. I had expected that the election would be close, but I did not believe that Trump would win.
Over the past couple of days I have cried and I will probably cry more in the days to come. I have been imagining a gestapo secret police state funded by our tax dollars and waving our flag. I have been imagining an America where people who believe what I believe would be rounded up and put on trains and killed. That is the version of Trump’s America I have been thinking about and I have been asking myself how that could possibly happen here?
Today I realized that it has not happened. It certainly could, but it did not happen today and I doubt it will happen tomorrow, and - this is the important part - I do not believe it will happen in January, in 2017 or 2018, or ever.
Maybe I am naive.
Don’t get me wrong, I believe that Trump is a feckless thug and a bully and I believe that he is a very real danger to our United States of America. However, more than that, I believe that he is a self-interested opportunist. He’s not a populist and anyone who voted for him thinking that, has been duped. He does not care about the middle class or the working people of this country. And while I agree that he is a racist, I don’t think he actually cares that much. He does not care about anyone who is not named Donald J. Trump. The border wall would be virtually impossible to actually build and I do not think it will actually get built because he doesn’t actually care about it.
Donald Trump only wanted to get elected President. I don’t think he cares about the next four years.
I’m not saying that nothing will happen. Plenty will happen and it will be bad. The next two years are going to be a horror show. Trump will put someone on the Supreme Court. Taxes will be cut, public programs will be defunded. Obamacare will likely get repealed in pieces, though some provisions are too popular to completely disappear. Women and minorities of every kind will be mistreated in some form. None of this is right. None of this good. None of this is fair. But these are things we can fight and I am ready for those fights. I am not going to apologize for the things I believe. I am every bit an American. But because I am an American, I am willing to admit that my side lost. We had more votes, but we lost the electoral college and that’s how it works in America.
We live in a country that elected Donald Trump fair and square. The result of that is going to be an increase in global warming, an increase in fear, a growing national debt, and a weakened, less-respected America on the world stage. That is just reality and I agree, it is awful.
However, it is not the worst-case-scenario. The worst case scenario is the utter descent of America into a fascist nightmare. I do not believe that is going to happen. Trump is a selfish and silly little man, but he is not actually a Hitler. Hitler cared enough about his anti-semitism to become a monster. Trump doesn’t care that much. He is a snake-oil salesman, all he cares about is selling his snake-oil, and America bought it. Those Americans who voted for him will very quickly figure out that he is not going to keep his promises to them, because he does not keep promises, because he never cared about those promises in the first place.
The people who are cheering him this week will hate him next year. They are angry and they are afraid, so they voted for someone who told them what they wanted to hear. That is all that has happened here, the quarter of this country that elected Donald Trump got played. Because tell me, does this make sense: They revolted against the establishment by voting for a rich New Yorker who used to be a Democrat?
The last 36 hours I couldn’t figure out how people I know and love could have voted to end our democracy, I realized today that none of them see it that way. For those of us who lost, this is a devastating and existential defeat. But to those who won, it’s just a win.
If you are reading this and you voted for Trump, I think you made a mistake and I think you will realize that soon. If you’re reading this and you voted for Hillary, take a deep breath, I promise you that the sun will come up tomorrow.
In the weeks and months and years to come, the one thing I am sure of is that this country is going to change quite a lot. I want to do my part to make sure it changes for the better. I think you want that too. So while we have difficult days ahead, they need not be the end days. Donald Trump is a punchline to a not very funny joke, however he is not a demon. I, for one, refuse to be afraid of a man that ridiculous.
To my Trump friends who are tired of getting called racists and sexists and xenophobes, now will be your chance to prove you aren’t those things.
To my Hillary friends who feel that the light has gone out of the world, I am here with this one little candle and I will keep it burning as long as there is blood in my body and a beat in my heart.
God bless America.
This bumper sticker is my life right now. My humble and unironic congratulations to those of you who won this week. If you're seeing this post it's because you're someone I love and I will continue to love even as I mock you ceaselessly the next 4 years. I am a liberal and I am an American and nobody has taken my lunch money. I love this country and I love you and I look forward to fighting about our future.
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Monday, November 7, 2016
Saturday, November 5, 2016
I have a very short piece of flash fiction included in the latest issue of the very cool weekly literary journal Lit.Cat.
I’m really happy this silly little piece of writing found a home.
The seminal singer and musician Rick Astley appeared on a recent episode of the radio show The Dinner Party Download to talk about the Rick Roll and how he thinks it could be updated.
If you are unfamiliar with the Rick Roll, you can find the definition here.
Door Number 1.
Door Number 2.
Door Number 3.
Door Number 4.
Door Number 5.
Thursday, November 3, 2016
A lot of reading, lately, has been getting done by me. Because I’m in this writing program and apparently reading stuff is a big part of knowing how to write stuff good. I am in three classes and so in total it has been about a novel a week, plus two things written by classmates (which require written notes and feedback), plus usually numerous other shorter works like stories and journal articles and whatnot.
Some of this stuff I have liked, some of it not so much.
Below are a few bits and pieces I have enjoyed lately and wanted to tell you about!
Mule by Shane McCrae
These are from a book of poetry called Mule by Shane McCrae. He has a very odd style on the page. Lots of unusual spacing and uses of the slash mid-line when usually a slash denotes the end of the line. I’ve tried to replicate his formatting as closely as I can.
These fragments look weird, but I will say this: if you read them out loud the rhythm and force of them is really well done. The meanings can be a bit opaque though.
The marriage bird and flies in the sunlight on the snow/ Between the sunlight and the snow
I had a lover and a lover and a fine
Lover I had a lover and she was mine.
and we didn’t drink
For fear that we would leave ourselves no water.
We felt our bones disin-
tergrating in the sun and freezing back
Together wrong in the night
(pg 19) On traveling on a foreign train with other passengers:
The farther the train traveled
From home the fewer of
Each other’s words/We understood.
Half of love is hope.
We want what we had then we didn’t know
We had it then we didn’t know how far
We’d have to go how much we’d lose
And every child can sing and knows the songs
And you will recognize yourself in the singing
Will recognize yourself in the singing you
Will not recognize yourself in the songs
(pg 73) On poetically confusing moths and honeybees:
made honey of the light to make
Honey they left the light they brought
the honey back/ Or died in the light the light
itself too sweet to leave
I didn’t love or understand this bit until I rewrote it in the margins of the book like this:
Make honey of the light
(but) to make honey
They leave the light.
They brought the honey back
or (didn’t) and stayed
to die in the light.
The light itself too sweet to leave.
Yes, I rewrite poems in the books they come in. I don’t do this to make them better. Mine is quite worse, but I rewrote it to try to understand what the poem was getting at before it got all fancy as shit about it.
The Sellout by Paul Beatty
These bits are from the novel The Sellout by Paul Beatty. It recently became the first ever American winner of the Man Booker Prize. It is a fascinating book. The protagonist is a lively and interesting narrator and Beatty does cartwheels and somersaults of language that I do not think I have encountered anywhere but in Tom Robbins. The book plays with complicated questions about race in LA and, by extension, in America. It is a good book and resists being simple in either its questions or its answers.
There is a lot more to love about the book other than what I’ve typed out below, but - real talk time - one of the projects of the book seems to be performing a normalization of the N-word and while it is quite effective in the books, I’m not going to retype those passages with my white fingers and post them here, I just don’t want to get into the debate about whether or not it is appropriate for me to do that. You go do it on your blog.
“... pretty much everything that made the twentieth century bearable was invented in a California garage.
(pg 39) On watching police lights in the city.
“... hurtling away from me like some distant spiral galaxy, the red and blue sirens spun silently but brilliantly, lighting up the mist of the morning marine layer like some inner-city aurora borealis.”
At 4,084 square miles, much of Los Angeles County, like the ocean floor, remains in large part unexplored.”
“The subtle message of the luxury car commercial is ‘We here at Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Lexus, Cadillac, or whatever the fuck, are an equal-opportunity opportunist’”.
These are from a really exciting book called How Should a Person Be? by Sheila Heti.
This is not my favorite book in the history of the world, but it is doing some interesting work which I appreciate and Heti writes well. It is one of those “auto-fictions” kind of a fictionalized version of the author’s own life. You can never quite trust in what is true and what isn’t. I’m always kind of uncomfortable with those, even though I have written a couple of them. They often seem sort of lazy to me. I would never call this book lazy, but I might think it once in a while.
So, I guess, let me say this: if you like or appreciate the project that is Lena Dunham’s Girls, then you will probably enjoy this book and want to keep it on your nightstand. If, on the other hand, you find Girls to be a spoiled, mildly narcissistic, privileged white girl riff on how hard life is a white-washed metropolis, then you should still read this book, you just might not like it as much.
This book presents a version of the contemporary woman’s life which is very different (and probably more true) than anything else I have ever read.
“I know that inside the body there is just temperature.”
“To go on and on about your soul is to miss the whole point of life. I could say that with more certainty if I knew the whole point of life. To worry too much about Oscar Wilde and Andy Warhol is just a lot of vanity.”
We live in an age of some really great blow-job artists. Every era has its art form.”
“Instead, we smoked together quietly, and as she exhaled, the trees touched each other’s branches in the wind.”
How can these artists we read about - who have been married five or six times - how can they have enough time for all that life, and make art?
Buddha was the one who turned his back on the suffering of the world to sweeten himself with good feelings - privileged feelings of benevolence and purity”.
I have not made a big deal about it because I have not decided yet if I am all-in, but I have quietly been working on a NANOWRIMO novel (failing at Nano is just what I do in November, you know?).
My current word-could is: 5,165
That puts me 164 words ahead (for the day), and I hope to write some more tonight.
I will post some snippets from it on here once I figure out if I’m serious about it or not.
Keep your fingers crossed for me!
A couple weeks ago I spent an entire day gathering up all of the various pieces of short writing that I have (two lines long all the way up to 30 pages long) and sat myself down and started submitting it out. This is something I try to do every six months or so. I was not able to do it early this year because life just got so chaotic and busy. It was starting to bother me though that I had not published anything since the end of 2015 and if I now that I have started this MFA program, I can not reasonably go around bitching about wanting to publish “for real” (ie: a serious work with a serious publisher, and preferably a novel) if I do not have my nose pressed against that old grindstone. So I submitted out about 40 pieces total (stories and poems) and now they are floating out there in the ether.
I’m making it sound easy, but it really is an endeavour. I like to go to the Poets & Writers database of lit journals. If I have pieces that I already think would appeal to particular journals, then I get those out of the way first. Then I - sort of randomly - pick out a punch of lit journals and learn about them and read some of their old stuff and then read ALL of their submissions guidelines (this is one of the most tedious ways to spend one’s freetime) and then if everything looks good, I submit.
As of this morning here are my stats:
I’ve had 2 pieces of fiction accepted for publication.
4 pieces of fiction and 5 poems rejected.
There are 36 other pieces still floating out there.
Believe it or not, that is not bad. That is actually pretty fantastic and I am very happy so far.
Sometimes it can take months to hear back from a magazine or journal, assuming your hear back at all, many places just never respond, that’s why I wait about 6 months before doing a big push to get stuff out there. One of the more prestigious locally published Los Angeles journals (which still required paper submissions) has never gotten back to me at all and I submitted to them in 2014.
Once I get a few more rejections in, I will go resubmit that stuff out again. I also have about two dozen more pieces that I did not submit last time because I just couldn’t find a good place for them (For instance: I have a one-act play about Hitler. You know how hard it is to find a place that will even consider a one-act play about Hitler?)
Doing all of this stuff is a little stressful because it means that the writer is going through every day always knowing that at any moment a new rejection email can come in (On Tuesday I got two completely separate rejections within hours). That, however, is the life.
I often wonder if any of this means anything. Unless I’m getting published in The Paris Review, does it make any difference? I don’t know. And here’s the thing - which I have always suspected, but since starting this MFA program feel truly confident about - no one else knows either. There is no career path for a writer and no prescribed guideline.
I guess the best shot any of us have is to do the best work we can and then try to get it out there into the cold and cruel world. Don’t take the rejection that hard, accept that it is part of the process, and keep going.
There are two other new and interesting things I have been working on:
I got in touch with a small press I have always liked that is down in LA and asked how their submissions works, hoping to pitch them the book I am working on as part of that artist-in-residence thing I did with the San GAbriel National MOnument. Well I was able to get the first half of it into their hot little hands. I doubt that anything will come of it because its not quite their jam, but still, they’re reading it. That in and of itself is cool. I have never had the courage to do that sort of thing before.
Long have I wanted to play around with some of the print-on-demand self-publishers set up to work with Amazon, so I took a poetry chapbook I had sitting around (about 30 pages long) and went over to the PSU library (because I no longer have a PC) and set it up using a company called Blurb. The layout was incredibly frustrating to learn, but will likely be easier in the future since I have kind of learned it now. Through that company I have ordered a (hopefully) real-looking version of the book (I made a cover and everything!) and it should be here this week. If it looks good enough and I’m happy with it, I can get it set up to sell on Amazon. How cool is that?? Now, obviously no one is going to buy the thing because I am a TERRIBLE poet, but still it would be pretty cool.
So that I what I have been doing. In addition to, you know, all the work that goes into earning an MFA degree while also looking for a job and also trying to write a Nanowrimo novel.