While we're at it, you should also pick up the new Alaska Quarterly Review which is so gigantic and beautiful I don't quite know what to do with it. For the moment I'm mostly just playing a game of hide and seek with it around my apartment. I'll set it on the coffee table and find it in the kitchen. I'll move it to a bookshelf but wake up with it underneath my pillow.
It's an issue. An issue I'll read carefully.
My story is mostly notable because Dave Madden once criticized the opening scene as "Big Chill-esque" which would have been an insult if I'd seen The Big Chill (and if I didn't like Tom Berenger so much, making it a sort of compliment). Also, it's probably sort of true. As long as The Big Chill is about a guy who finds a heart in front of his house. Is that what it's about? I've always assumed as much.
Slightly less notable: the family in the story's original last name was Peterson because I couldn't think of anything else to call them. This was awkward. I changed it.
Nobody wants to read about Petersons who aren't murdering people. Or are they murdering people?
No, they're not. At least I don't think so.
So who wants to come over and watch The Big Chill? I'll keep the lights on so we don't get too scared.
While we're at it, you should also pick up the new Alaska Quarterly Review which is so gigantic and beautiful I don't quite know what to do with it. For the moment I'm mostly just playing a game of hide and seek with it around my apartment. I'll set it on the coffee table and find it in the kitchen. I'll move it to a bookshelf but wake up with it underneath my pillow.
The Way Through Doors
I'm not going to even try to review this since I'm in no way an impartial reader of the book. Jesse Ball's fantastic Samedi the Deafness is why we asked him to write the first volume of The Cupboard, and he not only agreed to let two guys he didn't know publish his work, he gave us something really great. So even if he wasn't such a great writer, I'd pretend he was because he's such a nice guy.
But he is a great writer and a nice guy and he's written the book you wish you were reading right now.
Here's how good this book is. Brett ate the cover:
She hasn't done this since she was a puppy, and that was cookbook so you can imagine what magic these pages must contain.
But this isn't about my untrained dog slowly enacting her own form of entropy on the world, this is about you buying Jesse Ball's nesting doll of a novel. If you need a context, think At Swim-Two-Birds, Cloud Atlas, and If on a Winter's Night a Traveller - three books that I love and that, as far as I can tell, everyone who reads them loves.
Doors is similarly a book one falls into and easily the fourth leg of that table. But I can't review it, I can only tell you to pick it up and be happy.
Characters Played by John Wayne (1949-1935)
Sgt. John M. Stryker
Capt. Nathan Cutting Brittles
Robert Marmaduke Hightower
Capt. Kirby York
Lt. JG 'Rusty' Ryan
Col. Joseph Madden
Lt. Cmdr. Wedge Donovan
Daniel F. Somers
Charles 'Pittsburgh' Markham/Charles Ellis
Capt. Jim Gordon
Captain Jack Stuart
Lt. Dan Brent Olsen
The Ringo Kid
'Bos'n' Bob Randall
Captain John Ashley
Capt John Delmont
John Middleton, aka John Allen
John Wyatt aka John Rogers
John Scott, aka John Jones
On Editing a Novel #13
REORDERING CHAPTERS. It's a problem that your hero dies on the first page. Try to imagine this happening in any other work of literature and you'll see what we mean. What if Gatsby jumped off that dock in the first sentence instead of the last? What if Godot died on the first page? What if Hans Gruber shot McClane in the first paragraph instead of somewhere around an hour and 34 minutes into the book?
It's probably just been awhile since you've read these classics, so you've confused the endings for the beginnings, but we're here to get you back on the right track. No, you certainly don't need to rewrite anything. All your current chapters should work beautifully once ordered according to the by-laws.
The chapters in every published book follow these conditions:
1. Must be the second most important scene as long as that scene is not
>Note: marriage is allowable as long as it's not the main character's marriage or as long as said marriage of main character is to be an unhappy one as long as your book is about your main character's unhappy marriage
-->Sub note: If your book is about your main character's unhappy marriage, disregard #4, 2
-a sword fight
>Note: See Shakespeare/Cormac McCarthy exemption in the appendix
2. Must be shorter than Chapter Two but longer than Chapter Three
-unless there is a preface
-but not a prologue
-Clause 4b applies if there is an introduction
1. This should be your third least important scene
2. There needs to be at least one conversation about two of the following six:
-Who might be good/evil
-What happened to Larry
-The upcoming event
-Who hasn't died or gotten married but might get in a sword fight
>Note: See Shakespeare/Cormac McCarthy exemption in the appendix
-How much it hurts
1. This chapter is a flashback to Chapter One
>Note: See the Berghoff Axiom for exceptions
Chapter Four-Chapter Fourteen
1. No one cares about these chapters
2. Order should begin with the nearest character's birthday
3. Order should then proceed using the Hennigan System
4. Ms. Morrison has requested never to have a Chapter 13
>Note: To make up for this, she gets two Chapter Nines
->Sub-note: Similar requests will be sent to the heralding magistrate
1. This should be the most important scene as long as that scene is not a
-conversation about the inconsistency in shoe sizes across brands
-a tetherball game
>Note: See Appendix D for list of exempt authors
-->Sub-note: Kickball may be substituted for tetherball in times of war
---->Sub-sub-note: But not civil wars
2. All endings must extend beyond the apocalypse
->Note: But not into a post-apocalyptic wasteland where bands of survivors fight over the scant resources
-->Sub-note: Ms. Morrison is allowed one dream-vision of such a future as long as the dream-vision takes place in the second Chapter Nine
3. If a comedy:
-One character gets a rose
4. If a tragedy:
-Two characters get a rose
5. If it ends well:
-No one will notice the fire
There was a question asked in the comment section of the last post. Shockingly it was not 'Who is Julio Pimental?' but instead a sincere question about writing. I am much more qualified to answer the question about Julio Pimental, but, sadly, these things aren't up to me.
Do you think that if one is an aspiring writer and his or her writing style is more like that of Meg Cabot (author of The Princess Diaries) than of anyone else, he or she should abandon all dreams of literary greatness and resign himself or herself to a life of prosaic high school teacherhood?
Anonymous in Albuquerque
Okay, so I made the name up. Still, while I could have passed something like this onto Anders Landers (who would be equally adept at fielding the Julio Pimental question, by the way), I decided to answer it myself. It's a good question.
Well, I would say there's no dichotomy there. Teach high school. Don't teach high school. Write literary fiction. Write popular fiction. None of these things (even the last two) are really mutually exclusive.
Nor are they necessarily things one should ever have to resign oneself to. The only bad choice, at least as far as writing is concerned, would be to do something that doesn't interest you (a different, smarter person would probably substitute "make you happy" for "interest you").
The rest of it just stuff (stuff to pay the bills, stuff to satisfy your ego, stuff to keep you busy, etc.) Most of the time the writing is just stuff, too, but if you're writing what you want to write, it will at least be your stuff. And if it's your stuff, you've found a way to put a little bit of yourself into the world.
I have no doubt most people find something similarly special in their lives (more than a few from teaching high school, no doubt).
It's a good thing though, the only true thing, really, and it exists outside of publications or conceptions of "literary greatness" or even whatever one does for a paycheck.
You do that, you'll be alright.
Thus ends the first installment of my new favorite segment on this blog: Adam Peterson answers random, anonymous questions.
I'm not in any way being facetious. I enjoyed this.
So that was my answer. I thought I'd post it because, like I said, it's a good question and I didn't figure anyone would ever see it in the comments. I also know others probably have answers they'd like to share. Okay, I don't know this or even suspect it, but it seems like the thing to say.
Feel free to ask your own random, anonymous question on future posts. If you don't, I'll just keep writing about clowns.
I'm still sad about the clowns.
* Did you know The Cupboard has a blog? I'm always the last one to find out about these things. It's right here. We're still trying to figure out what it will be (other than awesome). I haven't written anything for it but that's only because Dave hasn't told me how to post. I'm not certain, but I think he wants me to stay away lest I make everyone sad or post black-and-white photos or randomly name drop Kansas City Royals.
* I would do all of those things if given the chance. You've probably noticed.
* I have three Flasher pieces in the new Salt Hill which you should pick up here for reasons that have nothing to do with me and everything to do with it being a beautiful book. There's a lot of fantastic writing, too--and then my lucky pieces which are mostly notable for coming from a manuscript I keep forgetting about. If you're curious, in these pieces the Flasher "is asked for change," "tries to be a nudist," and "tells a joke." That nutty Flasher.
* I think this is the end of the Flashers. This despite me presently recapturing my love for writing the word "Flasher."
* Speaking of The Cupboard and flashers--okay, not really--Mathias's volume is coming out so, so soon. Mathias would also like you to know about this.
* You want to click on that link.
* Uninteresting work note: Every so often I'll listen to an album on a co-worker's iTunes, usually something new that I want to check out or something I'm surprised to find (Temple of the Dog? Sure, why not). This is fine and good and why our iTunes are linked together in the first place (it is not, despite what I initially believed, a contest. If it were, I wouldn't have had to make my own "Office's Best iTunes" trophy).
But then these albums end and I'm at the mercy of whatever the alphabet says is next. This is a problem because it usually takes at least 20 minutes for me to figure out that I'm hearing something new.
I guess I'm trying to explain why I'm currently listening to Smash Mouth. It's important that there be a reason for this. I need you to believe me.
Especially you, Julio Pimental. You most of all.
The circus was in town this past week, something I know only because my route to work was blocked off by the elephant trailers and, if you can imagine something even sadder, I saw a clown walking across the street to plug her parking meter.
This is much, much sadder. Maybe not the saddest thing about the circus but still pretty sad.
(It's been awhile, but I'd nominate the unified smell of dying lions and kettle corn as the saddest thing. Are we taking nominations? Apparently).
I'm not exactly sure if she--and I do think it was a she though baggy rainbow pants and a ruffled shirt don't give up their secrets easily--was going to plug a parking meter, but she was very clearly moving in the direction of a parked car. And before you ask, it was a normal-sized Toyota Camry somewhere between new and old and did not, by all appearances, have dozens of other clowns inside waiting to make their way out to "Entrance of the Gladiators." This was a few blocks from where the circus was held, and the clown's painted smile did little to hide how she felt about walking down a hot, busy street with a red wig on her head.
Things sadder than plugging a parking meter that one might see a clown doing:
* Having a pharmacist say the name of her embarrassing prescription out loud at the Walgreens
* Trying to send back a miscooked meal at a restaurant over the objections of a young and condescending waiter
* Eating spaghetti with a spoon because all of her forks are dirty or missing and she has so many more spoons
* Admitting that, well, she wasn't officially on the cheerleading squad in high school
* Moving into her new apartment all alone and late at night
* Saying, "Am I too late? I got here as soon as I could."
Um, let's balance this out a little before it gets any dustier on this blog. I think I just lost half my readership to those grammatically incorrect kittens. Here, I'll win those two people back.
Things happier than plugging a parking meter that one might see a clown doing:
* Jumping on a trampoline at her son's birthday party
* Making a salad for two using the first tomato grown in her garden
* Looking at a picture of her grandmother as a little girl and discovering how much they look alike
* Realizing that despite being reluctant to go to night school, then going only to earn more money, the classes are interesting and making her feel good about herself
* Having a man hand her the umbrella she dropped and being able to tell that even though they will never see each other again, even though she was wearing clown makeup, he thought she was cute and they had a spark that will stay with her the rest of the day
There. Now I went too far in the other direction and I've lost the opposite half of my readership. Well, screw it. Everyone just go look at the kitten photos. See if I care.
Characters Played by John Wayne (1976-1950)
J.B. Books aka John Bernard Books
Det. Lt. Lon McQ
U.S. Marshal J.D. Cahill Lane
Col. Cord McNally
John Simpson Chisum
Col. John Henry Thomas
Marshall Reuben J. 'Rooster' Cogburn
Col. Mike Kirby
Gen. Mike Randolph
Capt. Rockwell Torrey
Centurion at crucifixion
George Washington McLintock
Michael Patrick 'Guns' Donovan
Sergeant-Umpire in Korea
Lt. Col. Benjamin Vandervoort
Ranger Capt. Jake Cutter
Col. Davy Crockett
Col. John Marlowe
Sheriff John T. Chance
Col. Jim Shannon
Frank W. 'Spig' Wead
Temujin, later Genghis Khan
Capt. Tom Wilder
Capt. Karl Ehrlich
Stephen 'Steve' Aloysius Williams
Big Jim McLain
Maj. Daniel Xavier Kirby
Lt Cmdr. Duke E. Gifford
Lt. Col. Kirby Yorke
Someone decided to make a sculpture of their sadness.
This happens at least once a month at the building next to mine. Big men come and move some escaped and delinquent renter's stuff to the street. They put the clothes in black yard-waste bags and throw the televisions, dressers, toys, and the rest of their stuff onto the grass.
The entire neighborhood then picks over these abandoned possessions which never amount to nearly as much as you might think.
(And I do mean entire neighborhood. Where do you think I got these pants? If you said my mom bought them for me at J.C. Penney's, well...shut up.)
It always ends the same way: a broken chair and a box spring leaning against each other.
It's going to rain this afternoon.
My NCAA Tournament Bracket
Yes, I have the tiniest bracket in history. It was part of my strategy. I figured small fonts...no one can read it...who's to say what is actually North Dakota State winning it all couldn't be North Carolina...
Basically it's the same strategy that allowed me to pass college algebra at Mid-Plains Community College.
(Brief aside: I'm sort of maybe not joking about this. When presented with a problem like this: i = √-1, if 3i (2 + 5i) = x + 6i, then x = ? My "work" would be me listing those letters and numbers in increasingly obfuscated patterns before finally ending up with something arbitrary like X=2√. This was the strategy that allowed me to score a 30% on a test where most of the credit was for showing your work.
By the way, I got a better grade in that class than my brother who I believe had already taken college algebra and was, you know, actually in college. In my brother's defense, I don't think there was a mathematical explanation for my C+ but neither of us were going to ask a lot of questions about it. In our mutual defense, we had to leave for that class at something like 6:30 in the morning).
Or you can click on the bracket to make it bigger and follow the misery. Turns out this also works for grading college algebra tests.
So I know nothing about college basketball that I didn't learn last year during Drake's improbable run. This means I only know not to mess with Western Kentucky and their Grimace-like mascot. Look, here he is eating a baby:
As you can see, I learned my lesson. So did that poor baby.
Despite being in last place, I'm--shockingly--doing fine. None of my losses extend past the first round and I'm one VCU jumper from having nailed the first day's two biggest upsets. Mostly I did this using a complicated algorithm involving effenciency ratings, strength of schedule, and assist averages. Here, let me show you:
i = √-1, if 3i (2 + 5i) = x + 6i, then x = ?
(2i+5i2)+12ix/3i(2+5) = 3i√
√+1 (10i+25i)+4i(2x+5xi) = 9i
(15)7x+2i/√)+1 = 9/√
x = 2√
If you like, I have two short-short-short things up on Opium's website here. You probably don't like. I'm pretty on the fence myself, but I am very grateful to Opium (which rocks).
My things are mostly notable for having truly awful titles
While writing these many months back, I remember this being a point I was trying to make. I can't imagine why. It seemed important at the time. You know, sort of like how parents name their kids something really horrible as a statement then wake up one day to realize they have a five-year old named "Moving to Texas."
What do you mean that's not a thing?
I think that's a thing.
I hate to do another movie post, but Alex Carnevale's great review of Watchmen here got me thinking about the movie and the book and why I felt so nonplussed by the entire thing.
(Quick follow up on yesterday's post: While I was feeling embarrassed and lamenting my quasi-homonym error in my comment and grammatical error in my header, Dave was going all Seymour Hersh and learned the following things: 1) You can stream the movie in question on Netflix. I suggest you do this exactly as vehemently as I suggest you don't do this; and 2) the Crazygirls are an actual show at the Riviera. Basically this means we watched a two-hour infomercial, but it was an infomercial with a guy called The Bombmaker. I'm okay with this. The Shamwow could learn something).
Simply put, I think I get nailed not only as a viewer of Watchmen but a reader, too, when Alex writes about the movie, "For all the critics who bash Watchmen, they’re missing the point. To them Alan Moore is just another superhero creator, with the same old origin stories colliding into a happy-ish ending. But for those of us whose brainflow was reversed by the complexity of Watchmen, this translation is our version of the good old days."
As a person without a wake of predictable and stagnant comics to look back upon, I read Watchmen as an entertaining but not particularly interesting graphic novel with at least as many cliches as complexities. I realize that at least some, if not most, of this is due to the book being internalized by the culture at large, its newness worn away and co-opted long before I picked it up more than 20 years after its publication. This certainly isn't the book's fault, I'm just one of many bad readers for it. In a lot of ways, my thoughts on Watchmen were similar to my thoughts on Kingsley Amis's Lucky Jim: entertaining, dated, not a revelation for me like it might have been for others but a book I wouldn't argue against.
But in my conversations about the comic and the upcoming movie, I found the niceness of my initial response--done, strangely, at the same time as Marilynne Robinson's Housekeeping--fading and replaced with something closer to contempt. When I heard someone mention that the ending was changed, I thought, You mean the inter-dimensional squid thing? Thank god. When I'd read an article about how the director wanted to make the film as true to the material as possible, I could already imagine myself sitting in the theater squirming during another scene of Dr. Manhattan showing us how disconnected he is in the most obvious way possible while I wished the theater hadn't switched to Pepsi and wondering if I should run and get some Junior Mints anyway.
This wasn't my experience, not exactly, but it also wasn't so far off. Mostly, I felt more certain than ever that Watchmen is not the book graphic novel fans should be exalting (and surely many aren't). I'm the worst possible person to make this judgment, but there it is anyway. The movie--a solid B on the whole--suffered all of the same momentary concerns and preoccupations as the book and, in a world so greatly changed from the Cold War, just didn't seem to have much to offer other than slightly turned super hero antics. That's something, too, but it's not much of a legacy.
This (finally) is why I loved Alex's review as his explanation of why Watchmen is relevant is almost exactly at odds with my own viewing. I'm sure he's right--can I mention again how poor a judge of Watchmen's value I am?--and it got me thinking about the novel I would hold up as the most similar, non-graphical example of this view of history: The Public Burning. I don't know, maybe it's just the shared Nixon, the Uncle Sam/Dr. Manhattan parallels, or the mostly off-screen but always prevalent public rage, but I think Coover's novel is similarly concerned with the violence and control we'll feel pressured to exert in order to maintain our country. Now, they're still very different books and I just happen to prefer one to the other (and this is in no way to suggest Alex [who I don't know] prefers one to the other or that anyone should prefer one to the other), but I at least feel like I get why Watchmen should be part of the conversation a little more now than I did while cringing through the "Hallelujah" scene.
Mercifully, I'll end with this caveat/confession: Despite not really being taken in by Watchmen and its giant psychic squid monster thing, I have no doubt that there are comics that represent the best of anything published in a year, decade, century, whatever. That I don't know these books is my failing first, the literary establishment's (if there is such a thing) a distant second, and, well, no one else's. I have no idea why I love so much other innovative and cross-genre work yet sort of hate graphic novels (even though I pretend I don't), but I'm going to try to educate myself. Thankfully, I think I'm in year five of having a borrowed copy of Julius Knipl, Real Estate Photographer.
This does not mean that I don't hate [other forms of literature that I hate]. I still do. A lot.
Plot Synopsis Of A Showtime Action Movie That Captivated Dave, Tyrone, And I As Remembered One Month Later
The movie opens with a team of poorly concealed soldiers rappelling down a hill they could probably walk down, but the rappelling lets us know they are highly trained in all of the military arts (except concealment). Our team forms a perimeter around a terrorist base camp
oddly appropriately located in Southern California Afghanistan where a stripper/spy has been taken hostage. A fake closeup/computer simulation let's us know her captor is unimaginatively called The Bombmaker. I don't know how else to describe the computer thing. Just know there is a lot of beeping and, I think, some faux-night vision. Still, it's day. That's why you can see those 15 to 20 soldiers spending the better part of an hour disconnecting their rappelling cables over by the hill where the Afghan kids go sledding.
Anyway, our hero infiltrates the camp, frees the girl, and spends 20 seconds turning around while a suspiciously Anglo terrorist fumbles with his kalishnikov. I think I actually went to the bathroom and came back during our exceedingly un-agile hero's maneuver. Still, Worthington P. Terrorist III gets a knife to the chest in the end. Our hero grabs the girl and oddly leaves The Bombmaker alive. We never see him again. Na, I'm kidding. We totally see him again.
The hero and the girl begin to kiss in what I think is the back of the truck they're driving away in (I assume this truck is where they kept the rappelling gear which is really looking less necessary than ever). We learn our hero is Australian. This seems surprising but whatever. So they're making out when the hero opens a briefcase he stole and finds that it's full of money. Cut to a black screen with our Aussie hero's voiceover:
That's when I moved to Las Vegas and founded...
...The Crazy Girls!
I think Dave and I actually high-fived here. We were that excited. Turns out America's greatest spy is actually an Australian and has gotten out of the game in order to manage a strip club. Yep. Anyway, despite being out of the game he's training his strippers to break into houses and steal information. Also, his strip club has a high-tech lair where he can run operations. Otherwise he's completely out of the game. He says this a lot. If there's a game, he's not at it.
Until the CIA asks him to go to a poker game. He's in that one. It's hosted by the guy who finances all of the world's terrorists. I think we get more beeping and green screen, but this time it's okay because it's actually night. So our hero is winning (naturally) when a girl bursts out of the other room. Apparently our financier friend had another poker game earlier and ordered this girl killed because she won. Except they then waited until our financier had yet another poker game to actually do it. Then she escaped. Everyone with me? Good.
So, our financier is going to kill both of them because he hates losing. Or he loves murder. All we know is that he sucks at poker and uses it as an excuse to satisfy his bloodlust. Needless to say, his henchman botches the job. Our very, very slow Aussie hero and the girl go back to his place where she tries to seduce him but fails because he's looking at a picture of his dead family while sitting at a piano and playing wistfully. (!) The girl goes away sad. Then comes back thirty seconds later to try again. His family's angry, Australian ghosts placated by some John Tesh, this time it works.
This is about when Ty comes back. Dave and I excitedly recap the plot. Ty seems dubious. One of us expresses hope that the Aussie beefcake gets naked even though he probably shouldn't. The rest of us express desperate anti-hope. No one thinks about changing the channel.
Also, from this point forward imagine that whenever the scene changes there is an establishing shot of the Riviera hotel and casino. They apparently financed the movie and therefore get about 5 minutes of total airtime. These shots happen whether or not the following scene actually takes place in the casino. It's very odd.
I haven't said much about the actual Crazy Girls. Basically, they all have stripper names and a singular talent that may or may not prove useful. One steals cars. One can make computers do whatever she wants after some very stilted typing. One doesn't talk. I'm serious, one's power is that she doesn't talk. They decide to use their skills (or, in one case, handicap) to infiltrate the financier's hotel room where he is having...wait for it...another poker game. Oh! And he still has the same (white) goon. To recap, our Middle Eastern terrorist financier's goon is able to keep his job despite:
A) Somehow botching the murder of an unarmed stripper locked in a room
B) Then botching killing her again after her first escape
C) Not killing America's greatest Australian spy (this one is sort of understandable)
D) Failing to prevent the stripper from breaking into a poker game she wasn't invited to
E) Not killing her AGAIN when ordered
F) Not sharing an ethnicity or religion with his boss while doing the one job in the world (Terrorist Goon) where this would be listed as a requirement on the Monster.com posting
So our goon (who is presumably in the process of converting to Islam) is 0/5 in successfully executing direct orders. Now, I'm not saying you have to kill him (maybe he's Yusef's adopted brother) but at least hire a second goon. This one is clearly overmatched. If what the beeping green screen thing told us is correct, the financier should have the money.
So the Crazy Girls all retreat to their lair (to what end was this stuff going to be used if our hero didn't get back in the game? I really, really want to know). And...
I fall asleep. I wake up at one point and Dave and Tyrone are still watching as The Bombmaker is doing something. I'm guessing it involved bombs.
Today's the day where I post Urge Overkill's "Dropout" without explanation or commentary.
Your reaction should be as follows:
If my brother: Excitement/regret that I didn't also post "Start Choppin'"
If anyone else: Doubt/regret that you sometimes have to talk to me
Okay, so maybe a little commentary: what was 1993's best album? Either of those two? Siamese Dream? In Utero? Pablo Honey? I probably would have said one of those at the time, but I was 10, so I only knew what was on MTV.
Okay, some quick searching leads me to Bjork's Debut, Exile in Guyville, and Transmissions from the Satellite Heart. I'd also throw Anodyne in there though I don't think that was anyone's favorite Uncle Tupelo album at the time.
Ah, Enter the Wu-Tang, Doggystyle, and that Digable Planets album also came out. Predator came out in late 1992.
I don't even have any of these records anymore. I was shocked when "Dropout" popped up on my iPod. Apparently I once got it off Napster and have been moving it from computer to computer ever since. It was long ago retitled KNSLKO. I like it better that way.
Stock Photography Review
I did this in the fall, skipped the winter, and am back to do it now that it's "spring."
(Ed note: It is not in any way spring. Here's how cold it is here: there is no coffee in our office, and I can't make myself walk outside to go find some. For whatever reason, I decided it would be spring when I got back from my last trip and nothing about scraping my windshield every morning or my apartment being 50 degrees is making me change my mind. That's why I'm wearing these shorts and carrying this kite).
As always, these photos are from the first few pages of results for the relevant words.
Spring is the time we...
...teach our kids about religion.
...finally tell Joey how much he's disappointing us by not excelling at soccer. Or even understanding the rules. And those capri pants he wears don't help either. Oh, god, Mary, do think Joey might be, you know? No, no, he can't be. I've seen him talk to that girl in his class, that little Susie Swanson. Oh, god, I think he was telling her where he got his capris. That's it, Joey's getting a basketball for Easter and this time I'm not going to let him pick out the sparkliest one.
...get too literal.
...revise our resolutions and decide that, yes, this year we will start running--but for different reasons.
...win it all back from Santa, some debaucherous leprechaun, and, um, a guy dressed up as Wonder Woman? Also, teach our kids even more about religion.
...finally catch who did this to Mr. Floppy. We made a promise to Beatrice, damn it! Do you want to go back and tell her and those 14 kids that the wackjob who did this is still out there? Any one of us could be next. Well, probably not Crazy Peter, the guy who lives in the old knife factory. He's too crazy. Come on, Officer Cottontail, let's go talk to Uncle Wiggily. I just don't trust him.
...learn this isn't going to end well for Lester and that maybe there really was something going on between him and that chick.
...realize that consuming pints of shaken-up Scope is a drinking problem but not the kind they deal with in AA.
...learn to love (monkeys) again. Hey, wait, is that monkey playing with a detached hand? It must be spring! I'm going to fly this kite all the way to the coffee shop. Thanks, creepy-but-initially-adorable monkey.
Jane Austen's last novel is the perfect length to read on a plane, something I imagine Miss Austen did not have planned. I appreciated it just the same (even if the book might be her worst, or at least the worst that I've read).
Worst is relative, of course, and the book traffics in the same delicate circles and concerns as her other novels with all of the satire and insight one would expect (not to mention an aristocratic family in financial peril, sisters, men with ulterior motives who seem good, men with pure motives who seem cold, etc.) It's actually a little like the plots of Sense and Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice thrown together, accelerated, and made good without as much complication. A woman, Anne, had her engagement broken over a suitor's lack of title or money and is now on the brink of becoming a spinster while her younger sisters have either married for money or plan on it because their pompous baronet of a father has lost most of his fortune. So they let the property and move to Bath where, in some order, the old suitor reappears as a wealthy Navy officer, the baronet's estranged heir makes amends with the family, and the messy business of figuring out who marries whom is undertaken.
There is no doubt that someone will marry the bachelors, and it's clear from the beginning that the impediments are not so great to keep the just from getting what they want. As opposed to P&P where we're to believe the characters fundamental manners are at odds, everyone here seems perfectly suited to be together and even the secondary concerns like money and class (which, I suppose, are really the primary concerns of the era for everyone but Austen's heroines) have been overcome by the time the book begins. Austen clearly favors the nouveau riche class of Navy officers to the old aristocracy and makes a joke of how quickly the vain (but poor) baronet goes from objecting to any weathered and ugly officers renting his property to pleased to have them in his company. It's a nice, droll little turn, but it's also symptomatic of the book's drive toward a happy ending.
Austen clearly wants Anne to end well and so complication is often replaced with simplicity here without much in the way of justification. From the beginning we know that the baronet will object to any marriage beneath his daughter's stature, that Anne has lost her youth, that no one listens to her, that her old suitor holds her in disdain for the ending of their last engagement. These facts hold true only as long as convenient. Suddenly the baronet seems happy to see almost any engagement. Suddenly Anne is beautiful again and becomes the most eligible sister, the one people can't stop talking about, the one the old suitor still loves.
There is an awareness on the author's part that she's not exactly earning these developments, and so toward the end the book turns to more general talk about class and honor and the difference between men and women in love. The plot is clearly a rack for Austen's thoughts on what bothered her the last few years of her life, and it's somewhat rewarding that she's so hopeful. The old are young, the spinsters wives, the undeserving poor, the well-mannered but untitled exalted. So maybe it's a bit of a wish fulfilled, but it's a fair, particularly human wish.
Las Vegas Photos
So I took my camera out for approximately 4 hours yesterday at which point I took photos of things that were neither people nor Vegas-specific. So my camera is basically a job I've gotten myself, a job I put off until I have so little time that I can neither filter what my id wants to shoot nor turn off my camera's macro function.
I hate buffets, but I think I might have actually gotten my money's worth in coffee and orange juice alone. For the rest of the day, my hands shook (but not because of scurvy!)
I found the place where you should go for Denver Broncos games and dead fish. You're welcome.
Chocolate croissant? Everybody's a winner. For the rest of the day, my hands shook (but not because of hunger [and still not scurvy!])
This was just a sticker on the street that I thought was fascinating because I had no idea if it was A) Pro-Terrorist, Anti-Jesus or B) Anti-Terrorist, Pro-Jesus or C) Anti-Terrorist, Anti-Jesus or D) Pro-Jesus, Pro-Terrorist. I still have no idea and googling the phrases here hasn't gotten me any closer to finding out. I was so confused that I think I even had the following conversation with Jo-Jo, my 3-card poker dealer.
Me: I just don't get that sticker, Jo-Jo.
Jo-Jo: You play?
Me: I mean, okay, so the 'shmissionary' leads me to believe it's probably anti-Jesus, but where do the terrorists come into play, Jo-Jo?
Jo-Jo: You need put chip down now.
Me: Maybe I should go back and take another look at the sidewalk. Of course, I'd have to ask the guys handing out the dancer cards to move again. I don't know, there probably aren't any more clues.
Jo-Jo: I decide play. You lose.
Me: Hmm, didn't I used to have money?
Jo-Jo: Maybe 'The Terrorist' is clever rapper name.
Me: Hey, Jo-Jo, can I borrow ten dollars for a chocolate croissant and some coffee?
Jo-Jo: Shmissionary could be his label, I suppose. I should google this during my next twenty minute break.
Me: Seriously, Jo-Jo, who cares about the sticker? I don't know how I'm going to pay for the taxi to the airport. I'm hungry and cold and maybe have scurvy.
New Dealer: I'll be here for twenty minutes, guys. So, anyone see anything interesting on the sidewalk today? Hold on, sir. Before you start talking, you need to know that question was for players with chips on the table.
Oh, and then there was the time when Harry Belafonte and Sidney Poitier threatened my dog. Let's see how she's doing right now:
Seems fine. You lose again, Harry Belafonte and Sidney Poitier.
I'm leaving on another trip this afternoon, this time to Las Vegas to do these things:
1) See my friend Brant who lives in Los Angeles. That, I suppose, is the impetus for the trip, but what's odd about that is I see Brant fairly regularly and--AND--every time I do see him, Brant and I end up going to a casino anyway. So basically we're just taking the experience on the road. It'll be like spring training for Thanksgiving.
2) Have fun with my friend Dave. Dave's graduating from medical school soon. Dave's getting married. Dave once fell asleep and locked me out of a hostel in Switzerland yet I'm still going to trust him to fix my cancer, cancer Dave will probably give me if I bum cigarettes off of him.
3) Entertain my friend Justin. He seems very excited for this trip which, possibly, is the only reason I'm still going. We got to have a conversation on the phone today where I explained how to check into a flight and why he should consider only taking a carry-on bag. I felt like that guy who writes those books on traveling. You know, the one. With the cargo shorts. And his glasses on one of those neon floating things. Yeah, that one.
4) Sleep. But this one's really just for me. The rest of the guys are free to make their own decisions. I'm going to be like that guy who doesn't exist who has a really good time and facilitates everyone else's good time while never leaving the hotel room. Wait...
Actually, you know what, scratch that. It sounds sort of dirty. And by sort of, I mean John Irving.
5) Edit. This one's also just for me. Here, look what I made today when I should have been doing other things:
That's about 8 hours worth of other things I missed out on today. Weird as I wasn't even home for 8 hours today. Huh. Well, best not to spend a lot of time thinking about it.
Yeah, so I'm making a sire line chart and then writing entries for it. It actually only took me about an hour or two this evening. My friends Dave and Neal have one in their bathroom. It's the coolest thing in the world. Theirs is for thoroughbreds. Mine is for Americans. It's going to be a chapbook as I'm not going to do anything else with the pieces and AWP got me all excited about having a chapbook again.
If nothing else, it got me through this week+ stretch of being home and not wanting to work on a bigger project just to get interrupted again.
While I'm gone, my sister will be staying at my place and watching the dog. So if you stop by to see me (or, more likely, the dog) and there is someone who looks like me but slightly tougher, that's my sister. Maybe take her on a date, why not?
I'm back Monday. Things I'm going to do Monday:
1) Stop writing blog posts with the word 'I'
2) Stop trying to fix up my sister
Great, so we're agreed. You're going to marry my sister.
This way I'll see you at Thanksgiving. I'll be the one in game shape.
I'm just kidding. No one marry my sister while I'm gone. That's my one rule.
Uninteresting Domestic Note
I either have the best recycling service or the worst recycling service, and it's impossible to tell which. Here's what I know: every week when I put out my recycling it's gone when I get home. So I have the best recycling service, right?
Here's what I also know: it doesn't matter when I put out my recycling or when I come home. When I put it out in the morning, it's gone when I come home from lunch. When I put it out after lunch, it's gone when I come home at 5:00. So I don't have a recycling service as much as I have people in my neighborhood who steal my empty ginger ale bottles, right?
Honestly, I'm happy either way.
* My college friend Mallory was mentioned in the New York Times yesterday. That's pretty cool by itself, about as cool as you can get, really, but her description takes it to another level:
"The radical technologist, Mallory Knodel, 25, of the Lower East Side, writes code to help further leftist causes. She said Drupal had been helpful for her group, May First/People Link, a network that includes trade unions and political pranksters who oppose globalization."
I would kill to be a radical technologist. I might get the business cards printed up just in case it ever happens for me.
And I know they are referring to her politics here, but if it's okay with everyone--especially Mallory--I'm just going to go ahead and assume that, in addition to her politics, she is engaged in some kind of supervillainy. I wouldn't put it past her.
I don't really know, but I assume Fox's new hit drama Fringe is about such things. Oh, who am I kidding, I totally know.
Anyway, the point here is that Mallory is awesome. I remember once trying to explain to her the 200-level astronomy class I'd taken. I'd say her reaction was akin to a parent listening to their child describe the marshmallow castle they planned on living in as an adult. She just seemed sad.
* My brother's radio show is hitting its stride and has had some quality guests recently, including all-around great guy Scott Hales who shares the list of people he's going after when he gets back from Afghanistan. You can always find the downloadable version at their blog here.
* Joe Posnanski's new column is a heartbreaking story of a Royals scout who's both A) Getting married at 81 to a girl he first proposed to in 1958 and B) Very excited about Royals prospect Derrick Robinson. I don't know whether to cry or take my proposed 2012 Royals lineup out of my hope chest and start modifying. I've never told you about my hope chest? Hmm, I sort of wish I hadn't now. As you might imagine, it's mostly full of fake business cards.
The Hundred Brothers
This is the first Donald Antrim novel I've ever read which is problematic as it isn't really a novel. Or, at the least, it's not what we often think of as a novel which is why it's such a good novel.
(Look, that's just the way this post is going to go).
This is a book that the worst kind of reviews--like the one you're reading, for instance--would call a highwire act. 99 characters, one room, one night, no chapters, 200 pages. It might not sound that difficult, but when I realized the restraints Antrim was working with, I started to worry. Up to that point the book had been names and physical comedy and enough buttoned-up aristocratic absurdity to keep things moving. It was at page 20 I realized the entire book was to be names and physical comedy and enough buttoned-up, aristocratic absurdity to keep things moving. Mercifully, the buttons eventually come off, but Antrim is masterful at holding it off until just the right moment. We know something is horribly wrong with the world inside the room, but we don't know quite what until the end and, even then, maybe not.
99 brothers (one is missing) come to the library of their father's house to find Dad's ashes and give the old man a proper burial. They congregate in the mansion's massive red library where they do just about everything but read (unless it's Victorian-era pornography) or look for their father's ashes (no one can remember what the urn looks like). Despite the premise, the sheer volume of brothers keeps us from knowing all but a few as characters. Mostly they are names with horrible flaws, an entomologist who puts his beetles on the dinner table, an anthropologist taking a drug he found in South America. The rest are simply names used to describe the chaos they are enacting in the decrepit library. A football game is played. A massive fire is started. Most of the brothers end up injured in one calamity or another.
The reader only really knows the narrator, Doug--the family genealogist and what we believe to be the most normal brother--and even then he surprises us when he throws himself at the feet of Hiram, who at 90+ is the eldest brother, and refuses to let go. From that point forward it's simply a matter of waiting for the other shoe--or, in this case, the library ceiling--to drop. As Doug becomes less and less reliable and the gathering of brother spends out of control, it's clear there's no safety net for Antrim, that his book is not the result of some Oulipo rulemaking but is instead exactly the book he wanted to write. Chapters would ruin this book. Plot would ruin this book. Not because the premise is fantastical or absurd--plenty of books with those characteristics have such things--or because it aims for language games--the prose here is good, spare--but because rather than exalting the author's cleverness, it's a book meant to be read as if there were no author. It's a novel of fever.
We're so close to Doug that by the time we realize his flaws we're already sympathetic to his plight. The library is an excruciating place to be both for him and the reader. It's hard to overstate the impact of reading petty nihilisms and not being able to do anything about it. We might gleefully read about a nuclear bomb destroying Brussels, never batting an eye, but Antrim's book picks at our most human wounds. It's the kind of book a reader wants to shake because no one is putting down coasters. And it's not because we care about fictional water stains--though someone probably does--but because it's clear that these petty niceties are there to protect us from ourselves. Once they begin to slip away in the library, we know it's only a matter of time before someone really gets hurt.
This is why the book works. You can't end a chapter with a brother breaking a footstool and expect anyone to hold their breath until they turn the page. Chapter breaks would give us exactly what we most want--the ability to yell STOP--which is of course exactly what we least need. It's a amazing how much losing any white space does to change the way a book gets read. Suddenly it's a sprint, and Antrim is right there with us to make sure we keep going faster until suddenly we can't keep up. It takes a stunning amount of control yet, when done well as it is here, we never get to see who's pulling the strings. Like the dead father who has caused the brothers so much anguish, the author is leaving the people in the library to their work. It's refreshing to read a book that feels so damn modern while eschewing any sort of textual or meta games that draw attention to the works own creation. Of course, this book is now over a decade old so maybe it's more of its time than I know.
In any case, it makes for a book that's surprising even though we know the twists. We might be able to guess how it ends, but we can't guess what it means until we get there. It's at those moments where the book works best, taking entropy and making it tragic, unstoppable, damning. We know the consequences, but we still want to see ourselves in ruins.
I imagine this will be a new feature on this blog where I don't know what to say on the weekends and so I just copy and paste other people's emails.
Not really, but I am going to do it just this once. It's cool, I have permission. This conversation entertained me so much that I felt bad keeping it to myself. I often times feel this way. Don't worry, I won't post my emails with you even if I'd like to.
My friend--let's call her Jayden. Let's also not look at what I named the photos--and I had this conversation after I informed her I was going to have a new email address. Naturally, she sent back a slightly embarrassing picture of me from her wedding a couple of years ago.
Gmail is all about automatically doing things for you whether you like it or not. On my gchat right now is some girl named Lauren who I ordered some apple cozies from, like, 5 months ago. She somehow ended up there and I can't get rid of her. In fact, right now she is "angry about not being able to go to the pie party due to a certain professor's inability to meet deadlines." Pie party? Hmmmm. While that does sound like the type of party I would like to attend, I can't because I have NO IDEA WHO SHE IS.
I want to go to a pie party, but I never want to see that picture again. I mean, your wedding was great, but for me it will always be the night I got to 2nd Base with Chris Kelley. Is that how you think of it, too?
Is this one better? Too bad I can't remove the disembodied hand from your shoulder... although I do wonder now - why are Chris Kelley's fingernails so very shiny?
Nice work. I especially like you pointing out his fingernails as if I wouldn't be able to find the only hand in the picture. You were right to do that.
Yes indeed, it usually takes me at least 48 hours to crop a picture and draw on it with MS Paint. I have an entire folder of similar photographs that I used to land my current job. Potential clients really love it when I illustrate their proposals with the difficult to maneuver "circle" tool and my impressive freehand "paint" stylings. I'm pretty sure I have job security for life.
I'd like to see you get in a fight with your boss where he tries to fire you and you say, "Oh, yeah, Bob, well who else is going to do the circles on the Murphy Portfolio? That's what I thought!" Can you immediately go and say this to your boss for me?
Well I would but don't you think I should save it for the moment when I actually get fired? The way the architecture industry is going right now, I should only have to wait a few more weeks...But don't worry, I already have a plan for that, should the time come.
That's my plan. I don't know how it's going to work just yet, but when the banking industry finally dies and we all go back to buying things with leaves, I'm going to do the following:
Step 1) Baby
Step 2) ?
So it's not a very good plan.
Okay no. I was going to have Octuplets and then fund a leftist group using the money that I made off them.... but some bitch stole my idea. At least the first part.
Doesn't the stripper plan usually end with baby? Or maybe I'm just going to the worst strip clubs.
Actually... if people are doing things in strip clubs that end with the production of a baby, doesn't that mean you are actually going to the BEST strip clubs?
Touche. You know a lot more about strip clubs than I imagined.
Well a girl has to practice in order to make a living. But I get all my best material from the drag bar down the street.
Oh, so you know my dad.
He must be the one that takes the stage dressed as Lindsay Lohan.
My dad is the one dressed as Peter Fonda. He really doesn't understand what a drag bar is. I think he just likes the music. And the feather boas.
Jayden [within what seems like 30 seconds, as if she'd had the picture waiting for years in case someone made such a reference]
And.... I'm spent.
So that's the end of my post that consists entirely of an email conversation I had. I know, I know, we all wish Jayden would write every blog post. We also wish I had given her a better pseudonym or at least one that didn't make her sound like an eight-year old beauty pageant contestant. Unfortunately you're stuck with me and what I have to say about Juan Cruz.
I have lots to say about Juan Cruz.