Sometimes I Don't Know What to Post...
...so I check the Bulletin and hope they'll conveniently feature two embarrassing stories atop each other so I can take a screenshot and go about my day.
I hope this all makes us stop and take a moment to consider the precariousness of our frontier towns as they grapple with these coordinated attacks. Who will save this bustling city from nature's uprising?
My guess: Denny Mogis.
And before noon I've posted something on this blog and made a joke about a former area car dealer. I think I've earned myself a cup of coffee.
Sometimes I Don't Know What to Post...
for a ColecoVision Game
Joystick: They are Ghouls
(as spoiler free as possible but still not something you are going to want to read if you haven't finished the show)
Well, it's also probably not something you're going to want to read if you have any respect for me. I realized midway through writing a comment on my friend Chris's post here--a comment in which I referenced midichlorians for god's sake--that I might as well fully geek out a little about Lost. I don't feel good about what I'm doing either. We should all just pretend it's not happening.
I thought the finale was ideal. And I don't mean ideal in that it answered all of the questions that had been raised by the show (or most of the questions [or really any of the questions]), but it was an episode that could naturally return us to the show's past, resurrect old characters, and conclude on a note that was both ending and beginning. That, to me, is a pretty impressive capstone. It was touching, exciting, and, most importantly, fit coherently within the ongoing arch of the show. This wasn't Seinfeld's finale which attempted a similar of cohesion but had to violate the basic tenants of its world in order to do so. This was an ending that made sense. This was an ending.
Now, there are issues. Serious ones. As much as I admired the finale as 2.5-hours of television doing something wonderful with an impossible task, Lost's six seasons are hardly as ideal when taken as a whole. I completely understand anyone frustrated or bothered by last night's episode when there's so much left unsaid about the island's magic, the Dharma initiative, the numbers, etc. At least for me, it was clear we weren't going to be getting any of those answers for weeks and so my expectations might have been a bit different. Lost, correctly, went in the direction of concluding its characters' stories rather than its setting's. I think that's a choice the show made a long time ago, and while some of those central mysteries remained unanswered if not problematically confused at this point, I think we should have been aware that we were always watching a show about characters confronting those mysteries not the mysteries themselves.
Would I have preferred a show more concerned with its own mythology? I don't know. Like most of the people I know who love(d) Lost, that mythology is what I found captivating and kept me going through early stumbles (or anything involving Kate). And, yeah, I have a lot of unanswered questions and a bit of bitterness that some things I think should have been answered weren't (specifically, I think if the creators were serious in having mapped out the ending so far in advance, they should have used the time with the Dharma folk to say far more about what the Hanso Foundation knew and the "rules" between Ben and Widmore when the creators "knew" they weren't coming back to those things). And I have a great deal more bitterness about the things that were a waste of time or simply confusing (specifically, everything about this season's temple).
Mostly, I think the show probably did itself a disservice by making the Dharma stuff too captivating in the early seasons and then more or less hoping the audience would be satisfied by rolling it haphazardly into the Jacob/MiB storyline. This season, we learned the show we were watching was really one about a mystical ancient conflict with the very fate of the world at stake. I can see why they must have thought something this grand would make us forget all the pettier mysteries, but I don't think many of us were capable of letting go. As much as I enjoyed all this talk about "the light," I still think questions like how Charlie knew the song to type into the keypad are more interesting for being smaller (and for coming naturally out of the characters we'd been with from the beginning). But I can appreciate the ambition behind it all, and I'm willing to chock up these disappointments to the nature of producing an open-ended television series.
(O man, I just replied to a comment on my comment. I'm really hitting some new lows today. If only I weren't enjoying this so much...)
Basically, there were a lot of false starts and loose ends, and I think that's fine. Sometimes the rules changed halfway through the story. Sometimes things we spent a long time thinking were important weren't important. Sometimes the show cheated. It wasn't perfect, but perfect wasn't and shouldn't be the goal. Being surprising and entertaining and emotionally moving is the goal, and if you can manage to do that more often then not when producing over 100 hours of programming, you've succeeded. You'd have to be some kind of monster not to have been moved by Sawyer and Juliet's reunion last night, yet that's a relationship that's less than two seasons old. So we could look at that relationship and lament that it's so disconnected from where the show began and acknowledge that it's clearly something they just threw together on the fly or we can enjoy how everything we saw before changed those characters until the relationship not only made sense but seemed inevitable. That it somehow became the emotional linchpin of the finale is great and surprising and is exactly what Lost has been able to do that most shows can't. It made me care. I might have started caring because of the polar bears and the four-toed statue, but the show convinced me that was only background to what was really important. A complicated mythology isn't enough on its own, and if the cost of making a compelling show is making one that leaves things unanswered, then I'm fine with that. Answers are overrated.
I guess I don't know what else to say except that it was a great show and it ended well.
I wrote about this Zadie Smith essay some time back wherein I acknowledged an ambivalence in seeking out well-wrought, realist fiction when my interests as a writer lie elsewhere. I've never known what to add to that conversation when so many books--over such a long period of time--can reasonably be said to have approached becoming the apotheosis. Smith had similar issues, writing, "to read [Netherland] is to feel a powerful, somewhat dispiriting sense of recognition. It seems perfectly done—in a sense that’s the problem."
My thinking has changed somewhat since I first read Smith's essay, not about writing what Smith calls "lyric Realism," but about reading it. For a variety of reasons, I've encountered more of it in the last year, and while a lot of it still reads like skilled writers practicing a style they've learned by rote--that is to say lifeless and terrible with an abundance of characters named Pa and an underlying, unacknowledged conservatism that would scandalized its authors--occasionally something like Netherland comes along which manages to extract a lot of power out of the contradiction of using old ways to understand and describe a modern world. As a reader, I think it's a great book. As a writer, I think it's a great book, too, a reminder that whatever construction of fiction I might prefer cannot ignore books like this if it wants to claim openness as a value.
Smith, though obviously fond of the book, reads a little emptiness in Netherland's performance and while I agreed with her intuitively before reading it, afterward I'm not so sure. Or at least I'm not so sure her charge is best directed at this book. Can grand literary language and metaphor serve to turn our world, our persons into the ridiculously sublime at the expense of real tension, real danger, real real? Of course, and it's this as much as anything that's always pushed my tastes away from so much realism of this school. Everything is always so damned beautiful without being beautiful or damned, and the only thing real about any of it is that nothing impossible happens. For me, this wasn't a book that fell into the trap of the unnecessarily exalted if only because it showed an awareness that such a trap exists (and that it really is a trap). Netherland is a book about how we can control how we see ourselves and the world and how we might, even if only in moments, even if there are consequences, choose to see grandly. That felt real to me.
Hobart is the journal I wish I did, but at least I can still read it. Their new issue, 'The Great Outdoors,' is now out and it's a good one. You should not only pick up this issue, you should plant it in the ground when you're done reading it. Then you should water it with a hose twice a day. Wonders will bloom.
I can't say it enough: this journal is amazing from Buffalo to Zoophilia, and you need to read it.
I have three short shorts in it which are notable for being about Boy Scouts, Claire's, and Angelina Jolie, respectively. I realize that, at best, only one of those things occurs naturally, but I worked in enough references to birds to make the others count (i.e. Find-and-Replace 'Earrings' with 'Toucan').
You should also check out the web extras that go up here, especially more of Lucy Corin's apocalypses. There's a lot of other great stuff up there, too, including one of those pie crust recipes that involves ice water. I never trust those recipes, but I do trust Hobart.
I have something up called "My Eagle Scout Project: A Sidewalk: A List" which is, I suppose, a kind of essay about my Eagle Scout project. It's true. Every pathetic word.
Everything Here Is the Best Thing Ever
Leaving a writers' conference with a bag full of books can be more than a little disorienting, and choosing the first one to read on the plane home becomes an impossible task. Do you go with a literary journal for a sampling of work? A book by someone you know? Eschew them all and buy whatever book about boy wizards can be found at the airport? After hours spent contemplating this decisions while hotel maids vacuumed over my feet and another family checked into the room, I chose Taylor's debut story collection, and, if I may say, I think I chose well.
Among many other fine qualities, Taylor's book is a writer's book, full of deft language and style. More than anyone else, the stories here remind me of Breece D'J Pancake. There's a similar undercurrent of sadness and sense of powerlessness here, and as with Pancake there's something particularly youthful in that listlessness. With less heart it would be trite or with more anger it would be cynical, but Taylor makes these young lives grand with language and humor.
Consider the beginning of the short short "Finding Myself:"
I keep finding myself in places I don't expect me, such as outside churches, lurking, peering in their dooryards, or inside my own hollow skull, living a life to which the term hardscrabble might be astutely or ironically applied. Luckily, there are no ironists or astuticians around to subject me to application. It's just me in here--I'm not even wearing socks.The best stories here stay in this vein though I'd be doing the collection a disservice if I made it sound navel-gazing. There's a lot going on in these stories, and Taylor's not a writer afraid of plot. But at least when I finished the book sometime before my plane landed, what I appreciated most were the moments like the one above, when these smart, sensitive narrators weren't passive but weren't quite ready to take charge of the world either. Their author, however, doesn't have such problems as throughout the collection each word seems dropped by a hand that knows exactly where it belongs.
Not Stock Photography
Say what you will about stock photography--and this blog says nothing about stock photography, not for months--but it does prevent online advertisements like this one I got today:
Am I supposed to be this guy? Or is this guy supposed to be searching me? What's that even mean? Why is he conducting this search in the bathroom anyway? Can I help him pick out a new shower curtain? I'm thinking a nice red floral one, maybe?
As you see, I have questions, questions and one decorating suggestion which will make the best out of an unfortunate bathroom tile situation.
Now if only I knew a way to find him...
I live by a park where I walk Brett and since the weather here got nice--by which I mean terrible--there have been a lot of kids doing kid things to the endless soundtrack of ice cream truck melodies. Usually it's just riding bikes or playing soccer, but today there were boys doing both of those things and yelling insults at each other. I can understand this and was maybe even a little impressed by their multi-tasking.
What I cannot understand is this exchange I heard between two who were maybe 11 or 12.
Kid 1: You're a pedophile, Josh.
Josh: O yeah, well you need love to grow.
Kid 1's comment, while an odd thing to say to a fellow child, at least made sense given the context of bikes/soccer/insults. Josh, however, went way off book and won the day by giving us all something to think about.
* Jon Pack Approves or Disapproves - I don't know exactly how long this site was defunct before returning, I just know that I haven't been able to make decisions for at least two years.
* Chess.com - So someone asked me if I wanted to play chess a few months ago, and I shrugged because Jon Pack wasn't there to tell me whether or not I should. I don't even like chess, but I do like the Chess soundtrack. Okay, that's not true, but if you'd like to play, I will quote this song:
* A New Great Wall: Why the Crisis in Translation Matters - This is a great essay which made me rethink translation as a writer/publisher/teacher. I haven't done enough in any of those arenas, and while I'd already been thinking about it, this essay makes the issues fairly clear.
I know the essay is talking about translation into English, but I've got to start somewhere: Я получаю мои пинки над талией, солнечностью.
It's god's work I'm doing.
Story Prompts I Would Give if I Taught Fiction
* Write a story about one of those Wooly Willy toys where you use magnets to draw metal filing eyebrows onto a face. In your story, the face should come alive at night. Not in an evil way. A trying too hard way.
* Think of the most embarrassing moment of your childhood and imagine the shame you felt. Picture the faces of the people who were there to witness your embarrassment. Imagine sensory details--how many people could you see? what did their laughter sound like? Write a story about bats.
* Your story should not include the Robocop.
* Time travel, it's complicated. Think of a story with a time paradox (i.e. one character is his own grandfather). Don't have the main character address this problem but have all the other characters ask about it relentlessly. At the end, have everyone agree it's pretty weird.
* Write a road trip story. There must be two characters with the same name, the destination must be Phoenix, and they must arrive on time with no notable occurrences. It can be any model of car (pending approval of the instructor).
* Borrow the plot from a comedy skit on a rap album. This likely means your story is about some kind of game show. We can work with that.