Tuesday, March 31, 2015


This is post 187 of 2015. That is a lot of posts!

You don’t care about this, but this is significant for me because it caps off a very post-y month (93 in March!), but also because 187 is equal to or greater than the number of posts in the years 2008, 2009, 2012, and 2013. I have posted more in the three months of this year than I did in each of those whole years.

This is partly because I cheat now. I linked up my Twitter and my Instagram to this blog and I should probably feel guilty about that, but really I don’t. This here is my online writing presence and to me, “writing” encompasses all the various forms of being generative. My whole life is built on this idea that good writing is writing that both finds the world fascinating and also seeks to understand that world. So, to me, pictures of sushi and ladybugs are all part of that adventure.

Even more exciting than that, 187 is the police code for murder, so in addition to being emotionally significant for me, this post is also hardcore. I felt the need to point that out.



Below is a throwback re-post that is somehow relevant again. I wrote it back in 2010 when I was getting my BA and I’m reposting it now because it is 2015 and I am getting my MA and because people are still dumb. 
Can you believe that?!


There is a Generalissimo Francisco Franco joke in this somewhere.


You Are Welcome.

So if you have any interest in going back to college and majoring in Creative Writing, there are some things that you need to know. I am not going to try to tell you about it all, but what I have done for you is start to make you a crib sheet for understanding what the hell everybody is talking about. It is not as bad as law school or anything, but it is significantly more subjective.

The list below is wildly incomplete, but what I have tried to do is translate a word or phrase that you might hear in an English or Creative Writing class and give you the actual meaning.

A special thanks to Chris P. who unwittingly has helped compile this list (Chris is a man among men, a champion among winners. He created “English Department Buzz Word Bingo” which is exactly what it sounds like. We play it during class).

So onward to the translation!

What we say = What we mean

“Thumbnail sketch” = A quick physical description of a character.

“Dialogue” = When people talk.

“Conflation” = Confusion.

“Plot” = The part that was like a movie.

“Exposition” = Boring.

“Poetic” = Pretty-sounding words.

“Motif” = Something that happens a lot, as in, “I like saying ‘motif’. Motif!”

“Deconstruction” = “I have had a Critical Theories of Literature class.”

“Autobiographical” = “I am too lazy/self-absorbed to write about anything but myself.”

“Fragmented Narrative” = “I ran out of time before class to finish writing this.”

“Theme” = “What I really want you to know about what I think about stuff.”

“Diction” = The words in this story.

“… Hegelian …” = “I’m an asshole.” (Anyone who ever invokes Hegel is an asshole).

“I’m a grad student.” = “I’m probably an asshole”

“(Your story) is structurally unfit.” = “I am an asshole with both a superiority and inferiority complex.”

“I’m not making a value judgment …” = “I am totally judging you right now.”

“Nouveau riche” = “I took a class where we had to read The Great Gatsby.”

“Tertiary Removal” = “I know lots of big words about stuff.”

“Authenticity” = “Why don’t you write like Juno Diaz?”

As I said, this is an incomplete glossary. I will work on it some more for you.


Chicago Fire Extinguisher Factory Burns in Three-Alarm Blaze http://t.co/gQt1NaG7tX

Chicago Fire Extinguisher Factory Burns in Three-Alarm Blaze http://t.co/gQt1NaG7tX Source:

March 31, 2015 at 09:47PM


There's a tiny burglar trying to break into my apartment right now.

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This is my favorite shirt I never wear.

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Core Bliss.

I had a somewhat disheartening morning. The students in my SI class were thoroughly disengaged today and that always bothers me. I try to make things interesting and also applicable beyond simply the writing of their English papers, but that is not always enough to hold the attention of 18-year-olds at 8 in the morning.

Otherwise though I had a busy but good day.

Just now I am sitting up late because I don’t have to wake up early tomorrow and so - because I find the world endlessly fascinating - I am reading about the theological differences between Sunni and Shia Muslims because I know that this is something important that I don’t know enough about. Finally I did what I often do and I went to my man John Green for clarification. If you don’t know John Green, he’s the guy that wrote The Fault in Our Stars, but don’t hold that against him. For years he and his brother have been making a video podcast thing called “Crash Course” where they quickly and succinctly explain history and politics and economics and literally anything else one might be curious about.

I watched the Crash Course take on Islam and politics and it was interesting, but because I am a glutton for punishment, I started reading the comments section. There are more than 8,000 comments and most of them are exactly as dumb as you might imagine, but one stood out as head and shoulders more incomprehensible than the rest. It was written by someone called Core Bliss, which I do not think is a real name. This is what Core Bliss had to say about the history of Islam and politics:

it's the internet on YouTube it's all baseless unless you where there at the event that we're talking about.. Muhammad F is talking about Rape in time when it happen all the time because people only usly lived to only 30 and claim it was 100 years or so.. I'm talking about the Evils of Human rule over another by force.. Faith in humanity has long been driven out by taxes for war or poor services...Lee I Think is calling out Despotism over the Rape ..Victim which is point less in our time because it still goes on slave trade brothels and in India, they marry kids very young .. it's like the age 18 over 16 year old argument in most places but the 9 year old is mind blowing to most 1st world people..   

In a strange and odd way, this made me feel so much better about my morning. My SI students may not always engage and they may not always laud me every day or throw roses down at my feet at the end of a class session (that has only happened a few times), but they are not Core Bliss. I think that all of us should feel better about ourselves because we are not Core Bliss.

If, by some weird series of internet coincidences, you are reading this and you actually are Core Bliss, please email me and I will come to your house and help you be less awful at - literally - everything.


Saturday, March 28, 2015

The End.

If you don’t read clickhole, you should. It is basically The Onion's version of Buzzfeed. Not only is it funny, but it can also be great. This is from a listicle about how the world might end, according to Buddhism. It has nothing to do with Buddhism, or perhaps it does …

Anyway, I wish I had written this:

A light rain falls on a man standing on a nondescript street in a rural farm town. As he turns and walks away, the world starts very slowly fading to black while the credits roll. Next to the word “Director” it says “God,” and listed under “Cast” is every person who ever lived. All the songs recorded during human existence play over them simultaneously. Then the credits for all those songs scroll across the earth. When the credits end, the world ends.


Heat and Pressure; A Pointless Rumination.

It is a hot, kinda sticky day here in the San Fernando Valley. There’s a light, intermittent breeze, but it only serves to push the heat around. Otherwise, it is stagnant. And I feel stagnant. There are literal piles of work sitting on my table, waiting, and I have no desire to work on any of it. So I’m just stagnating. My apartment is a little stewpot.

The day started out promisingly enough. I woke up early even though its a Saturday. I made breakfast, or what passes for breakfast for me. Then I sat here, looking at my piles. Hundreds of pages of schoolwork to read, dozens of pages to write and the time I have to do it in shrinking with every second. Meanwhile, the cat lulls in a sunbeam.

I tried lulling in a sunbeam for awhile. Tried to take a nap. Couldn’t. I haven’t been feeling well lately. Run down. My own fault. I’ve been running again, a lot, but I haven’t found the proper diet yet. My body is tired in a way that is new. So I’m tired all the time.

I try to give myself time to adjust. Try to be generous with myself. I’m thirty-five after all. Three times closer to forty than I am to twenty. When did that happen?

There isn’t much I even remember about twenty. The foot locker where I used to stash wine coolers because I hadn’t yet been introduced to whiskey. The big bed I used to have then, with its big, heavy wooden headboard. Then later, living with my first roommate, no more headboard, but a little room covered in pages I’d clipped from magazines. There are other things I remember from twenty. The green light bulb I had in my room. The way it softened and smoothed out skin wherever the light fell.

I don’t remember if that apartment had an air conditioner, but I remember how hot the summers were. I think we had a screen door. I remember how loud the music was some nights when I got home from work. I remember how noise it was and how often our neighbors called the cops, which is why I refuse to call the cops now ever, on other people’s parties. I have to get right with karma. And besides, the rhythms and midnight laughs of other people’s parties never annoy me, just make me feel alone.

The grown man I am has no problem with being alone. I’m a student and single and so I spend most of my time alone. It is an acquired taste though. A learned skill. I don’t mind it, but also wouldn’t mind less of it.

That’s been on my mind alot lately. Less. I have much less in my life than I have at other times, and sometimes that is good. Less furniture, less cost, less, crap, less of that which I do not want. However, also, less of other things too. Less time left on this countdown clock of life. Less companionship than I would like. Less joy, though I do my best to find as much of it as I can. Far too less sex. Less chance, it seems, as every minute passes by, to do more.

That’s not completely true.

Last week I explained my philosophy for determining what things to blow off. The first rule is always to work to not acquire anything you might feel like blowing off later. Sometimes those things are unavoidable, so when you do have to make a determination, assess the value it adds to your life against the amount of life it requires to get it done. A classmate - who I think is twelve, though he can’t possibly be twelve because he is a grad program - asked why I seldom do this one piece of weekly homework that everyone understands to be busywork. I told him that it is not worth it because, unlike him, I am not preparing for the life I am going to live, I am actually living the life I am going to live. Saying things like this to people is probably why I don’t get invited to a lot of potlucks and Sunday barbecues. Which is fine, because I generally don’t go even when I am invited.

Curmudgeon is a word that probably comes up in my life more than yours. The people I tend to like tend to see through the curmudgeon thing pretty fast, which is why I like them. The great George Carlin said that behind every cynic is an idealist, and of course, he was right. Cynicism is created out of loss and disappointment, in much the same way that diamonds are created out of heat and pressure. But - if I can be permitted to stretch this metaphor to just about the breaking point - that disappointed piece of coal, if you crack it open, might just have a little diamond in it. Not the biggest diamond you’ve ever seen and probably not the brightest, but a sharp and sparkling little diamond nonetheless. Those of us who act like coal most of the time all already know this.

Heat and pressure.

It is still hot and sticky while I’m stewing in my little apartment. Too many gears going today. Too little work happening today. Too much and yet too little, all at once. Outside the little bit of breeze is annoying the big green fronts on the palm trees, but the palm trees themselves aren’t even swaying.


Thursday, March 26, 2015

The last couple weeks I keep seeing a guy on campus with a pale blonde mustache and denim jacket. I think he's haunting me.

The last couple weeks I keep seeing a guy on campus with a pale blonde mustache and denim jacket. I think he's haunting me. Source:

March 26, 2015 at 12:45PM


Tuesday, March 24, 2015

The internet is out in my area so I guess I'm going to have to actually read one of these books I'm getting a masters degree in having read.

The internet is out in my area so I guess I'm going to have to actually read one of these books I'm getting a masters degree in having read. Source:

March 24, 2015 at 10:41PM


I'm going to go conduct field research to determine if running in 30 mph wind is easier or harder than running in not-30-mph wind.

I'm going to go conduct field research to determine if running in 30 mph wind is easier or harder than running in not-30-mph wind. Source:

March 24, 2015 at 07:40PM


Yeah, so I just met Claudia Rankine. No big deal.

Yeah, so I just met Claudia Rankine. No big deal. Source:

March 24, 2015 at 04:02PM


Monday, March 23, 2015

Wouldn’t It Be Surprising #1.

Wouldn’t It Be Surprising #1
by james bezerra

If David Caruso was cast in a one-man show based on David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest directed by David Fincher and attended opening night by David Duchovny who sat all night holding hands with the ghost of David Carradine and no one thought that any of that was odd?


The Red Baron.

The Red Baron
by james bezerra

“Did you know,” Leslie asks as we lie naked in the bed, sweaty and passing an American Spirit back and forth between us, “that Red Baron Pizza was not named after the Red Baron, but by the Red Baron? He learned about pizza during the war and tried to make it back in Germany when he got home.”

I’m naked. She might not be, technically, her rumpled black panties still hanging around her thin and pale ankle — which clicks in a strange but soft way when she walks and which she swears doesn’t hurt and which she doesn’t even notice anymore — which  is dangling over the edge of the bed.

“Who was he again?” I ask because my brain is still fuck fuzzy, and that’s great because it had been awhile and so some of my higher brain functions have gone snowblind from the sensory overload of her wet skin on my skin and that kiwi smell in the tangles of her hair.

“He was that pilot. In World War I. Who shot all of those people down.”  

My brain starts to clear a little, like the sky over France on a cold spring morning a long time ago and Leslie puts the cigarette out and half curls across me and drapes one leg across my body and she nestles into me as though she loves me and there is something so very sweet about it and, yet, so odd, because it was just mini-minutes ago that she was the opposite of sweet; that she was salt in sweat and muscle and flesh and fold and grunt and teeth on my lips and twitch and slick and a little bit mean in the way her hips moved and I’d thought there in those moments, just before she came, that she might be able to break me.  Yet now her ear is pressed so delicately over my chest above my heart which is still thudding heavy and her small breasts are pressed so casually against my ribs. And so now it is so odd. The contradiction. Like the pretty blue cobalt sky clearing over the torn black scar of a French battlefield on a chilly but otherwise perfect spring day.

“I thought he died,“ I say. As I move my mind back into my own body and notice how sticky I am on my hips and thighs and while I let the tip of my finger trace up and back along the curved line of her spine.

“Oh I’m sure he did,” she says while wiggling her toes. “He’d be, like, a hundred and thirty years old now.”

“No, I thought that he was shot down or … no, he was shot be he landed his plane, I think. I don’t think he survived the war.”

Leslie’s whole body engages in a small shrug and her skin rubs her sweat into my sweat and I think about what we taste like together. I can tell, somehow, from the way her body slackens and her skin cools, in just the tiniest way, that she has closed her eyes and is drifting away from awake, “Maybe he didn’t.”


Wouldn’t It Be Surprising #2.

Wouldn’t It Be Surprising #2
by james bezerra

If the Dawson’s Creek reunion show was filmed using not the original cast members, but rather drag queens performing as the original cast members?


The Irrational Sorcerer’s Economic Policy.

The Irrational Sorcerer’s Economic Policy
by james bezerra

In line at the 7-11 the other day, one of the high schoolers said to his friend, “My bottle of water costs more than your soda” and he was right and he wasn’t even buying the fancy kind of water. The fluctuations of international economic markets might explain this, but more likely it has to do with something Marx said about how a society that has conjured up such means of production and of exchange, is like the sorcerer, who is no longer able to control the powers of the nether world whom he has called up by his spells. Most cola soda is 90% water.


The combination of running a lot lately and watching the new Mission: Impossible trailer has me convinced I can do things I can't do.

The combination of running a lot lately and watching the new Mission: Impossible trailer has me convinced I can do things I can't do. Source:

March 23, 2015 at 08:58PM


On Sunday nights I have a glass of wine and get everything organized for Monday. It is usually a very peaceful ritual. Less so tonight for some reason ...

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Friday, March 20, 2015

My idiot cat has learned that prior to sprinting through the apartment for no good reason, she should make sure the screen door is open.

My idiot cat has learned that prior to sprinting through the apartment for no good reason, she should make sure the screen door is open. Source:

March 20, 2015 at 11:10PM


Wednesday, March 18, 2015

It's 9 o'clock at night, it's wet, I'm tired, my contacts are expired, my shoes are soaked from being left outside all day. #imstillgoing #streakrunning

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Meat Merchants.

This is from an interview with a writer named Christopher Higgs and I think it is kind of great:

“(I wanted) to explore the idea of what it means to be an American for someone who did not choose to be an American. That’s where I’m at, as far as nationality. I think it’s hilarious when people who were born in the U.S. are proud of being American -- they didn’t do shit to be proud of, they didn’t choose their parents and therefore didn’t choose to be Americans, they just won the luck of the draw, could’ve just as easily been born to Hungarian meat merchants. Being proud to be an American when you did not make the conscious choice or suffer any hardship or struggle to do so is the same as being proud of winning a soccer match because the other team didn’t show up. The only people who should be proud to be Americans are immigrants: people who chose to be Americans.” 

You can read the whole interview here.


Does anyone want to ask this chair some questions?? #dumblanguagejoke #imhilarious

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Be the Jello.

Some few years ago I was kind of seeing a charming and delightful young woman who did not want to go to Cuba with me. I have wanted to go to Cuba for some time now. She said that she was happy to travel but her rule was that she didn’t want to go to places with armed guerrilla. Her auto-correct, however, oddly changed “guerrillas” to “gorillas”, which then ultimately became something of an inside joke: her unreasonable fear of gun-toting primates.

I have been thinking about that for the past couple of hours because this morning I read
this Guardian article that says the first direct flights from New York to Havana have begun flying. Personally I would rather take a boat from Miami (that just seems like more of an adventure, but one of the things on my bucket list is to jump off a boat into the ocean and swim to shore. Though when I say “into the ocean” I am referring to the “ocean” immediately off shore, preferably within shouting distance of the beach.).

Now, it should be said that I’m not actually certain if Cuba has actually had armed guerrillas since the end of their revolution and I’m even less certain that Cuba is home to any gorillas, strapped or otherwise.

I find this idea interesting though because it seems to exist out there in the world and not just amongst the sort of women who date me (though someone could conduct a fascinating study of the brain patterns of those women). 

Because I am just this sort of asshole, I went over to the student services accounting office this morning. These are the people who will help pay your registration fees for a professional conference or help you buy plane tickets if you need to travel somewhere to do research for your thesis. Well I asked the nice woman at the counter how I could get them to pay for me to go to Cuba. She asked if that travel would relate to research I was conducting and I said that it certainly could. This answer did not seem to please her. Then she said that the school actually had a list of countries that it would and would not help students travel to based on a number of factors, the primary one being “safety”.

I guess that is a good thing, but again, I am forced to wonder if this is just more armed gorillas.

I’ve never heard anyone say that Cuba is a dangerous place to visit. I mean, you know, Canadians go there all the time. If anything I would have to imagine that a Communists system, oppressive as it may be, would - for that very reason - make the island more safe to visit. What I think is interesting here is this lingering idea that in the jungles of Sierra Maestra there are still paramilitary groups roving around killing people. Of course we think that because that’s the image we have: Castro and Che Guevara running around killing people, but that image is fifty years old now and Castro is almost 90 years old.

I think what interests me here is the way that these notions and images and ideas harden like concrete in the folds of our brains.

This week I heard a British talking-head on a Sky News debate-a-thon dismissing this whole stupid Hillary Clinton email flap by saying that he found the whole thing so deliciously retro. I’m paraphrasing here, “The people who like the Clintons don’t think this is a big deal and the people who hate the Clintons will always find a new reason to hate the Clintons.” There is very real truth in this, isn’t there?

So much in our lives works this way, doesn’t it? I have a close friend who is not just an admitted atheist, but a vocal one and for some reason he enjoys fighting with people on the internet about religion as though reasoned debate is a panacea. He’s taking a knife to a gunfight if you ask me, because we tend to like it when our ideas have solidified into mental concrete. We like to be able to say, “Well, I know how I feel about this whole God thing, so at least I have that figured out.” We generally have no interest in ideas that vibrate like jello on an amp because we don’t like our ideas to be that malleable. It deprives us of the ability to ever be completely right and to cast others down into the lower moral position of being completely wrong.

For the record, my thing with religion is that I don’t care what silly thing you chose to believe, just please don’t try to make me take your pamphlet. And please stay way the hell away from politics or I’m going to revoke your tax exempt status faster than you can say, “War on Christmas”.

I recently accidentally wandered into the comments section of an article I was reading about running - let me say that again: ABOUT RUNNING - which somehow quickly devolved into an argument about NAFTA and the possible virtues of living in France and how finding virtues in possibly living in France made a person un-American because Freedom Fries. What struck me most at the time was not how stupid the discussion was, but how hugely dated all of the references were. I am now working on the theory that time travel has been invented, but that it only works digitally and that internet comments are written by people from the past.

This may be a stupid theory, but it is probably not any stupider than one of two of the things you believe in more firmly than the solidest concrete. It is going to be my version of Bertrand Russell's Cosmic Teapot.

That’s all I really have to say about all that. If I was a Zen master I guess I would say: Be the jello.

I think I am going to have that put on a t-shirt and I will wear that t-shirt while swimming to shore in Cuba. I will emerge out of the surf triumphantly and all of the locals will look at me and the sense of victory I am obviously feeling for having survived a dumb situation that I put myself into for no good reason and they will say, “Oh good, the Americans are here.”


Tuesday, March 17, 2015


I am reading through a bunch of “free write” essays that I had my students do in class yesterday. They just finished reading 1984 and I basically asked them to imagine how they thought Orwell would view the world we live in today. I wanted them to start making connections between the book and their lives, is all.

Well one of my students, in the middle of his free-write - which he only had ten minutes to think about and write - seems to have coined the term “post-dystopian”. What an interesting concept.

Maybe somebody else has come up with this already, but if they have, I’ve never heard of it and I’m a very fancy guy.

Anyway, I’m very proud of this kid. Tomorrow I’m going to ask him what exactly he meant.



Due to a weird fluke of the schedule, I have about thirty minutes right now with nothing to do. On Tuesday mornings there is certain stuff I do before I go in to work. Well I am done with that stuff already.

I don’t technically have nothing to do. I actually have a whole page-long list of stuff to do. One of the things I did this morning was make that list, but I don’t have any of the stuff with me that I would need to do the stuff on the list.

So I’m just sitting here. With nothing to do. It’s weird and I don’t like it. I’m going to go write a poem about it, or something.


Somebody gave The Unhappy Tree a sarong. The Unhappy Tree is not happy about it.

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Sunday, March 15, 2015

Tree Teachers.

For reasons passing understanding, I have been required to write - for my fancy pedagogy class where I am being taught how to be a teacher - a “hypothetical dialogue” which discusses practical applications of the theory of college level composition instruction. I find this assignment to be, frankly, silly.

Do these people not understand how busy and important I am?


The below post is my “hypothetical dialogue”. It is not particularly good or anything, but it does TECHNICALLY fulfill the requirements of the assignment while simultaneously demonstrating my disdain.


How Trees Teach.

How Trees Teach;
A Hypothetical Pedagogical Dialogue

by james bezerra

EXTERIOR, NIGHT. A WILLOW TREE sits atop a single hill in an otherwise flat plain. The sky is speckled with the pinprick light of stars. The shape of a man can just barely be seen as he trudges up the side of the hill. He reaches the top and stands under the willow, panting. He the only teacher in the town’s one-room school house at the bottom of the hill. His name is CHATSWORTH and he sits down and gazes out over the plains.
CHATSWORTH (speaking to the WILLOW TREE): I come here to talk to you when I don’t know what to do. My students, today I don’t even know if I helped them at all. They all had their phones out. I can’t get them to put their phones away. I have asked them and they put them away for a little while, but by the next day, there they are again, the phones again.

WILLOW TREE: (The night breeze lifts the long wisps of the WILLOW TREE’s branches high into the air.)

CHATSWORTH: I know! That’s how I felt too. I never would have gotten away with that when I was in school. We used to respect the instructors. When your teacher said to sit your butt down and read, that’s exactly what you did.
WILLOW TREE: (The breeze slips away and the wisps sink back down and the tree seems to be shrugging.)

CHATSWORTH: Okay, that may not be exactly how it was. Selective memory comes with age, but still, we didn’t have the phones. They seem like such a distraction. I really do believe that if I could get them to put them away then I would really be able to teach them, you know? Teach them the way that I was taught. It worked well for me.

WILLOW TREE: (A much more jagged breeze whips some of the wisps quickly up into the air, where they vibrate violently.)

CHATSWORTH: I know, I know. They live in a world that is unlike the one I grew up in, and that isn’t just age talking. They’re inundated with everything; ads and infotainment and even more ads. There must be a way to take what I have been taught and craft it to help them understand the world that they are going to have to survive in. It is likely a world that will require the same lessons, but new parables with which to teach them.

WILLOW TREE: (The wind releases the wisps and they settle back into place as they were earlier in the night.)

CHATSWORTH: You always seem to have the answers.

CHATSWORTH gets to his feet, pats the WILLOW TREE and begins to trot back down the hill, whistling as he goes.