More of a periodic update than traditional blog.
So, it's been over a year since I have updated this blog. But, I figured since I updated the look of the site it might be worthwhile to jot down some thoughts. I suppose the reason I don't write on this thing steadily is because I have spent most of the past year writing full time for various outlets. My busiest week was 12,000 publishable words (which was exhausting).
Currently, I am writing regularly for Veteran Journal, Opposing Views, Piccolo Universe, as well as some freelance outlets. I am also always working on fiction. My first serial fiction attempt did not really "catch on." There are two episodes left plotted and I may finish them if interest picks up or I find myself with some time.
Although, without the renewed interest, I will probably be spending most of my time on my current serial The Prophet Hustle published on JukePop Serials. It's a kind-of fantasy, kind-of sci-fi, kind of thriller about a man who becomes a prophet for a little known god.
What this current serial has in common with the last one is that I am switching up narrative P.O.V. and telling the story in a non-linear fashion. It's gotten a decent response on the JukePop site, but I am wondering if my approach discourages rather then encourages readers while it unfolds.
That's why, for my next serial story I am going to stick to a more straightforward approach. It's a story about a character who premieres in the fourth chapter of The Prophet Hustle. Her group--called the Antagonists--is like the FBI when it comes to celestial matters. It's a framework that could support multiple stories, I think.
So it's a lot of work, but it's what I've signed up for.
#GOODLitSwerveAutumn is an ebook published by NAP Magazine and assembled by Swagmaster Salvatore Pane. There are poems, fiction, and nonfiction and it's free to anyone. Download it today!
Below is an excerpt from my submission "#TeamYeezy."
The Today Show interview is analogous to the problem that the haters (as identified by President Bush) have with Kanye. When ODB stormed the Grammy stage, he didn’t receive nearly as much backlash as ‘Ye. But Dirty got his own microphone. Yeezy is well known for his unadulterated dismay at being overlooked for awards, because he knows he’s the most deserving. There’s no denying his musical genius. Claire Tomko, a hilarious writer outta my clan, believes Kanye is the voice of her generation. “Kanye West is the only artist who deserves to have a big ego,” she said, “He’s Kanye fucking West.” It wasn’t even narcissism because Kanye was speaking on behalf of another artist. The problem with the VMA stunt was that he snatched the microphone away from lily-white Taylor Swift to extoll the virtue of his friend and Big Homey’s babymama Beyoncé. Entertainment anchors gleefully speculated that Kanye was racist himself.
It’s not that Kanye doesn’t appreciate white culture. Musically, I was raised with one foot in hip-hop and the other in heavy metal. When I was listening to My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, the song “Hell of a Life,” came on. The opening melody is electronic, but sounds like a guitar being played with a lot of distortion. I was immediately reminded of the way Black Sabbath opened many of their songs. No sooner had I finished the thought than the chorus of the song mimics Ozzy Osbourne’s singing style from Iron Man. White culture doesn’t get much whiter than Black Sabbath and Beavis & Butt-head’s signature song.
Matt Lauer, with his embarrassing hairline and milquetoast quasi-journalist demeanor, sought only to chastise Kanye during that interview as if he was speaking to an unruly thirteen year-old and not the most significant hip-hop artist still making records that captures and keeps the attention of America all the way up to its Presidents. An atypically reserved Kanye attempted to carefully phrase his answers with contrition and nuance. Lauer continuously interrupts, restating Kanye’s answers in a manner that both reduces their substance and better fits the soft-spoken narrative he was attempting to weave. Lauer didn’t want to hear Kanye’s side of the story; he wanted America to sit in judgment of Kanye with Lauer’s smugness as the proxy. Yeezy wasn’t having that shit from that glib motherfucker.
So as I wrap up my time at the University of Pittsburgh, I have had the good fortune to study with some great writers and artists. Two of them, Emily O'Donnell and Hadley Pratt, are the editors of the student culture magazine The Original which is preparing to release it's 11th issue. The magazines are free and located on-campus and other select locations.
For the 11th issue, I profiled slam poet and Pitt professor, Adriana Ramirez. Emily took the photos and wrote a sidebar to the piece about how Adriana uses World of Warcraft in her classes. It was great to work with my friend. Also, I am happy to have my work in a magazine edited by Hadley. My friend Vincent Mok has some articles in the magazine, too. When I won the two Writer's Cafe/Prosody writing contests, Nina Sabak has some poetry in there, too. It's a great publication. Hadley and Emily did a fantastic job overseeing the work of the staff of the magazine. Congratulations on the magazine, I am proud to have been part of it.
This year I began (what I hope) is my last year before graduation and I finally had to do some academic accounting to see how close I was to finishing the program. I admit, I did not approach my academic career at the University of Pittsburgh in the best way, at least with respect to grade point average and meeting general education requirements. Rather than choosing classes from a checklist, I selected courses based on my interest in the subject or working with the particular professor.
I don't understand why post-secondary education is structured the way that this. While these Universities with long and storied history (Pitt is celebrating it's 225th Anniversary this year) benefit from that longevity and experience, it also means that they are more reluctant to change their ways.
Part of the reason for-profit education is so successful at convincing students--especially adult-students who have been out of the school system for a while--to pay higher premiums to attend their institutions. While these companies are not without their administrative bullshit, but that's to be expected when the aim is to keep as much money as possible. With Pitt, it's different.
If I wanted to ensure my entrance into graduate school, I could have taken only easy classes with professors that have high Rate My Professor scores and earned an easy 4.0. While I have studied very little pedagogy, I do think that the University system should move away from the same grading system that happens in high school. I don't even know what sort of evaluation system I would put in its place, but it feels antiquated and counter-productive to encouraging people to challenge themselves intellectually. So far I am doing okay with a 3.76, so it's not like I am doing terribly. I just don't think the system works.
And this blog peters out anticlimactically in 3...2...1....
She started the car and the end of the 10,000 Maniacs cover of “Because the Night,” blared from the speakers. I didn’t know that then, but that version of the song was very familiar. Still, it always was a little soft for the metalhead that I was in the 90s. I had to avoid girl music.
“Oh shit, no,” she said and restarted the song from the beginning. I laughed. She put the windows down and opened the sunroof. The heat pounded in the window, but almost immediately the swell of the music seemed to keep it at bay. Pittsburgh in August can be brutal, but the car felt open, freer. The music played on, spilling from the windows into crowded city streets as we idled in front of the red light. People were staring, and she turned to me. Her face had sharp angles, that when arranged into the smile she wore at the moment made her perfect. Before she turned towards the people on the sidewalk staring at the car, she twisted her face into a hard sneer. She leaned back in her seat and nodded her head to the beat, as if listening to the Wu-Tang Clan instead of a crooning Natalie Merchant. I laughed again. By the next red-light, I wore a similar sneer and randomly gesticulated at line breaks in the lyrics. The stares sent our way asked a hundred questions that were only answered with insatiable laughter as we sped away when the light turned green.
My friend just started a blog. Here is the link: http://wanttoodo.blogspot.com/.
She only has one post right now and would most likely be mortified that I am promoting it here, but she can shut up. Actually, I don't think she can, which is why this blog is going to be a good one. As a writer (I have read a number of her student works) she strives for a professional and lyrical tone. She obsesses over every detail and never thinks what she comes up with is good enough.
However, this first blog post is the first time I have seen her capture her delightfully crass conversational style in her writing. Take this excerpt, "You know, if the weekdays were all siblings, all real flesh and blood individuals, Monday would be the pouty son-of-a-bitch sandwiched between his prissy-pious sister, Sunday, and the goofy, giggly Tuesday. Monday is just, blah, right there hating everything and everyone. Goddamn pouting." Unlike traditional blogs that center on a theme, I get the sense that this blog will be more of an online diary and the benefit will be the reader.
The author is a delightful collection of contradictions. She is a sorority girl, but one that would much rather drink beer and talk about books than don a glittery shirt and yell "Woo!" every time some muscle-neck buys her a shot that tastes like The Kool-Aid Man's backwash. She comes from a loving family and a good neighborhood, but only has nightmares (Let's just hope "kitten skins" makes it into a future post). She graduated from the University of Pittsburgh with a degree in Writing and History, but wants to spend some time working shit-jobs in the real world so she has something to write about other than her family life and college. If only you could read it in her voice. "Motherfucker," has never sounded so lilting.
Naming the Moutain is her first chapbook and it is available from the Poetry Society of New Hampshire. All one must do is write a check or get a money order for six dollars and send that shit to:
Fellow writers and poets however, I caution you. This chapbook is good. So good in fact that an unavoidable side-effect can be an unwarranted envy towards Nina. Extreme hateration. Luckily, you can just reread the book a few more times. The second time around you realize you'll never be that good, and then on the third read-through, you figure that what-the-hell, you're okay with your lot in life and go back to your mediocre science-fiction....
In all seriousness, this book is great and so is it's writer. Buy it. You will not be sorry.
It seems appropriate that I used a gift-card to the University Bookstore, earned for my participation in a literature conference, to purchase a collected volume of Philip K. Dick stories. The collection contains the inspirations for the movies Total Recall, Paycheck, Minority Report, and the 1995 turd on film Screamers. I've read about a third of the book and it is fantastic. I am not reading the stories in order, but instead I am selecting them at random, dependent solely on my whims when I sit down to read.
One story entitled "The Eyes Have It," is a delightful departure from the normally heavy, dire stories that Dick is known to write. In the story, the narrator becomes aware of a conspiracy through reading a poorly-written novel. My intention is not to spoil it, but I will say that using the narrator's logic...evidence is EVERYWHERE.
Another notable story was entitled "War Veteran," and it is a very interesting scenario Dick crafts here. The titular character is a man out of his time, and those he meets only seek to exploit him. While the science fiction elements of the story serve the ultimate plot, I wonder if the alienation and total lack of concern that the Veteran gets from those he encounters is something Dick did intentionally or if I am just extrapolating something from my own perspectives to fit in the context of this story.
Dick's writing may not be as disciplined as some other literary sci-fi writers, but it is all STORY. His characters are all flawed and in a big way. Effective science fiction captures the moods and attitudes of the present-day world and incorporates it into a scenario that is alien in time or space. Dick does this almost effortlessly, capturing visions of futures that tell the reader more about the time during which the story was published than any realistic attempt to predict what's to come.
Along with Stephen King, George Lucas was integral to my childhood, specifically my childhood with respect to fictional characters. I didn't have a father, so it's no wonder why Temple of Doom is my favorite Indiana Jones movie. Short Round was a little Asian me. He even did karate, just like I will when I grow up...I digress. I would always have to defend it from others who said that it was "the worst one." When Indy 4 finally came out, it was actually the best gift they could have given me. I haven't had to defend Temple of Doom since.
I don't have much in the way of religion, either. However, insomuch that I do my pantheon, my mythology, my religion is Star Wars. When I heard that the prequels were finally happened, it was like the second-coming. I took my girlfriend at the time (who hadn't seen any Star Wars) to the first movie and was not willing to admit I was disappointed. In fact, to this day, I am disappointed with neither new entry into the canon of the hallowed characters of my youth. Sure, they didn't (couldn't) compare to the originals, but Lucas owes us nothing. He was willing to give us more of what we loved (or what he thought we loved) and we've thrown it back in his face, disgusted. I can't figure out if we're assholes or if it is just a testament to Lucas's talent, that we care so much about these made up people.
When I heard about Wind Through the Keyhole, as a stand-alone Dark Tower novel, I was overjoyed. Another favorite series (from my youth, adolescence, adulthood...just see last post) would continue. King didn't owe us anymore, but we got it. I should have seen it as an omen that this story was to be considered (chronologically) book 4.5.
We start with our familiar characters meeting unfamiliar characters and they are on-the-move to avoid a dangerous weather phenomenon known as a "Starkblast." I saw where this was heading and I thought of a certain 17 year-old listening to Metallica on the floor of a hospital hallway (see last post) who would be pissed. Yet, I was almost twice the age of that boy and I was willing, eager even, to revisit Roland's youth with him, before the world moved on.
Another pleasant surprised happened when got into the take of the Skin-Man, but one that spoke to the writer in me. For the first time, King writes Roland using the first-person narrative point-of-view. However, about a hundred pages into the book, I realized where we were headed. It was a story that framed the telling of another story that framed the telling of a THIRD story. This one with none of our familiar characters (save for a King villain staple). This story-within-a-story-within-another-story takes up just over half of the book. A little over three-hundred pages, we only get 146 with Roland.
Yet, we were owed no more books about this world, so the fact that we got anything is great. Perhaps there will be more stand-alone stories or perhaps this is the final window into Mid-World. Is this a "must-have" book for fans of the series? No. But is it a book worth reading? Sure. Just, if you are rabid fan of The Dark Tower, lower your expectations and be pleasantly surprised.
Much like every writer that has been formed in the bowels of nerd Hades, Stephen King is very responsible for how much I wanted to write. In fact, after reading a few of his novels as a very young (too young, really) child, I even wrote him a letter telling him how much I hoped to supplant him as one of the most successful living American writers, or maybe it was more of a fan letter...who really knows? What shocked me was getting a signed postcard as a reply, along with words of encouragement. So since I was Stephen King-approved, I dove into his works. And I found The Gunslinger.
I am not sure when I started reading The Dark Tower series, but I remember reading the third book and wondering how he was going to bring the series to a close, with only a few pages left to read. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that it wasn't a trilogy. So, I had to wait. This was before the internet and communication was done through a series of smoke-signals and banging on rocks. There was no information about when the next book in the series would be published. I was a mess. Later, when fans of the show LOST would be panicked and half-crazy because they couldn't wait for whatever was next, I would bend down, give them a sip of water and tell them, "I started reading The Dark Tower in the 80's." And they look at me, thankful, because they know I understand.
Flash-forward to Christmas 1997. I was elated, because two things for which I had been waiting for were under my tree. The first new Metallica album since their eponymous "Black Album," and Dark Tower IV: Wizard and Glass. I had my discman ready to go with the CD and the book ready to crack. Then, my grandmother had a heart attack. Don't worry she's fine. Well no, actually she's dead now, but she lived for many years after this particular occurence. I have a very clear memory however of sitting on the floor in the hallway of Suburban General Hospital (also now dead) and listening to Metallica and going to Mid-World.
I am certain it was because of the amount of hype that I had been building for both of these things and the fact that my little teenage heart was broken and terrified that my grandmother was about to die, but both of these pieces of art, the album and the book, let me down. I have since gone back and revisited these works and realize that they are quite good. But at the time, I wanted more thundering metal and more Roland and the Gang following the Beam and fightin' bad guys. I did not want Marianne Faithful and a hundreds of pages-long flashback.
When the series was finally over, I finished the final book on my rack in Iraq. The end, pissed me off. I seethed, calling it a cop-out and horseshit, but again, it was the problem of anticipation. Just like those LOST fans can tell you, the end of a story you love never quite meets your expectations (sole exception: Harry Mutha-Effin' Potter). I have yet to reread that final book, but when I do, I bet it will be different. Anticipation makes for harsher criticism than is sometimes deserved....
(This blew up longer than I expected. The actual post about "Wind Through the Keyhole," shall follow this lengthy one. But, I think you needed the context to understand what's coming.)