Saturday, July 30, 2005


Mike Doughty covering Neutral Milk Hotel

Thanks to Music Cherry for putting up a link to Mike Doughty covering Neutral Milk Hotel's "King of Carrot Flowers Part I" off The Gambler EP.

Press here to play it now.

Ok, I do really like Doughty, and I love Neutral Milk Hotel, so this track is interesting, but, as covers go, it's little flat. I am not really happy about Mike's signing with Dave Matthews' indie label, ATO. Dave obviously has a good sense for talent signing Mike, and Jem, whose new album Finally Woken has been a recent favorite of mine. But Mike's new remastered album is not better off for the change: the tracks all have that distinct Dave Matthews mark of wanton overproduction. Someone slow the man down! We don't need 47 tracks mixed down in one song. Chill with the violins, for the love of hell. Doughty's peircing lyrics and solid guitar rhythms need to be exposed, left naked - not covered in blech. Compare Doughty's new album, with pianos, and cowbells, and god knows what, to his old recordings in his room/studio, with just him and the clean electric guitar.

Sometimes, the original is best left alone.

P.S. Jeff Mangum, where have you gone?

Friday, July 29, 2005


Thursday Night Quotes

OK, so it's Friday morning. I'm late. This is my last week at my job, and of course, it's been hell. But I've had this quote in mind for a bit, so I'm glad to be dropping it now. It's from a poem by Bill Knott.
Your nakedness: the sound when I break an apple in half.
This one's been on my wall for a while, and I'll tell you why. Starting with the first word: Your. Good word. When you read it, it offers a few possibilities. One, is the speaker is talking directly to you. Hey- you! Mr. Reader! You he's got our attention after four letters. Or, it could be the perverbial second person- the speaker could be speaking to "you" as in everyone. As in, "They fuck you at the drive thru." Or another choice: the speaker is addressing a third person- someone we can't see. This one is the most common use of second person in poetry, I think.

Now word two: nakedness. I love this word. It's unusual, and perfect. Our ears are so used to hearing the word nudity instead of nakedness. Of course, nudity's not right at all. Nudity is practically a legal term these days. The first two words have a great rhythm too: your NA-ked-ness. Soft, stress, soft, soft. And ked-ness, the same vowel sound repeated sounds like a murmur. the "k" is harsh, followed by the "n" consonant, a much softer one. Sounds nice, and also unusual.

Moving on: the sound. Well, it's good he mentions sound here, because that exactly what I've focused on in this line. The connection is dramatic, nakedness and sound. We're immediately mixing sensibilities. It's not exactly mixing up sense of sight and sound. "Nakedness" does typically call an image to mind, but it does so much more than that. It's a concept; a feeling. Nakedness can be sexual, or a matter of insecurity. Nakedness is without protection. Knott is wrapping that all up and hooking it to a very tangible sensation: a sound.

What's the sound? It's the break of the apple. The key word here is break. Again, it ends on that harsh, "k" sound. You feel the crack when you say the word. There's the sexual tension in that image- breaking an apple, ripping open fruit. And ending on half: suggesting a split- of people, of a relationship. The sound of nakedness suggests the inevitability of separation, and yet, the separation is satisfying. What a great sound that is, to be ripped in half. The lines contains a great musicality and duality. It does a lot in a short space.

Plus, it has a colon. Colons are great.

I have to go walk the dog now, so I'm done.

Thursday, July 28, 2005


Art and Artifice

This post started out as a response to an good comment from lotte on my previous Marilyn Monroe post. Once I started responding I couldn't stop, because she brought up an interesting point which has been spinning in the back of head about MM since seeing The Seven Year Itch.

First to quote her response:
Funny that you call Marilyn's performance "genuine." She was actually one of the hardest-working actresses in show business. Her scripts were always heavily annotated, she took acting classes, the whole nine. She put a lot of craft -- and, thus, artifice -- into what she did on camera.

This, too, has lots to do with writing. One of my friends just said I'm "the bestest of writers," and he thinks it's because I'm so "in touch" with my emotions. No, goofus, it's because I slave over every sentence. It takes a lot of work to make it look like it comes naturally.

Lotte: I could not agree more about how much work it takes to make something look easy. I know from writing, like you, how much work goes into a sentence. And because everyone was taught the ABC's and can pick up a pen, they think they can write too. Well, sorry, but no, you can't. Spend five hours a days on it- eat it, drink it, smoke it, then- maybe. If I had a nickel for every shmuck who said, "Well, if I had the time to write a novel..." As if that was all it took.

However, I have to pick a bone about your statement: craft = artifice. It's incorrect for the very reasons you use to prove your point. It's the lack of hard work that leads to fakeness, or what you call artifice. Marilyn's hard work shows, and when I said she was genuine, I didn't mean that she didn't have to work. Just the opposite, and, I apologize for not being clearer on that point. It's her hard work that allows her to have a genuine moment. And it is good you asked me about this, because it is really the thing that interested me the most about her. She obviously worked very hard to control her emotions, her humanity, her sense, very physically, of body. To use such things as a carpenter uses tools. Acting, in my limited experience (I've taken three or four acting classes, mostly to help me with my fiction) is a lot about being genuine on stage, and yes, it takes a lot of work to get there. It's working with a script, finding internal reference points, substitution, as Uta Hagen calls it. But all that work leads to a presentation of something that is true, and genuine, and not artificial.

The same is true in writing. For myself: I work and work and work, and then, I start to get things down pat-things I had to concentrate on before, became second nature. Pacing; stronger and more steady diction; refined use of adjectives and adverbs- at points things I might have had to consciously think about, which took up my thought process. Once those skills became instilled in my "writerlyness," so to speak- my mind was freed up to think about other things- dare I say them- themes, narrative devices, rhyming actions or even the dreaded meaning.

But let's talk some more about artifice. I would define artifice, or fakeness, in art, as creating something from an image that already exists in the world. It's the narrative voice that uses cliches and short-handed language. Think, It was a dark and stormy night, or once upon a time. There is no work put in there, it is just regurgitation of something you've heard a million times before. "I love you with all my heart." "Scared to death." The list goes on, and this is not an essay about the use of language, but I will bring up a post I read on Michael Breube online about Victor Schlovsky, a Russian formalist dude, and defamiliarization. One of the major points of his post is the far reaching effects of defamiliarization. Almost everything in twentieth century theory can be reduced to defamiliarization in one way or another. Gender theory is rethinking sex roles, Freud is defamiliarizing the family. It's the one golden rule of all art forms: make it new.

Apropos to this topic as well. Artifice is the familiar language in writing, or the familiar action in acting. Repeating the words or phrases or tones you've seen everywhere else. It's happening a bit now, with this David Sedaris, Augusten Burroughs style of snarky 1st person memoirists. Don't get me wrong, Sedaris is great, I think he's hysterical. But more and more I see writing coming off as copies of that style. That's not an attack on Sedaris or Burroughs, but instead a comment on how writing becomes familiarized.

I've gotten way off the point, and I should be working. So I'm done.


Buster Keaton, Sherlock Jr., and Capitalism?

"You've become a cinemaphile," John Weir said to me last night after I dropped him off at his Lower East Side apartment.

And I have to admit it. I've just finished moving out, I'm packed up, ready to drive across country, and the thing I'm thinking is: I wonder what film revival house they have in Irvine?

Last night's screening, at BAM- (that's the Brooklyn Academy of Music) was a Buster Keaton double bill: Cops ( a short film, I believe called a "two-reeler") and the feature, Sherlock Jr. There are so many things to say about these films. I'll start by talking about capitalism.

Ok, I admit, capitalism has been on my mind of late. I tend to rattle on about consumerism, the evil of cell phones and economies of circulation. But it was hard to overlook the commentary happening in these films.

A stunt from Cops.

Cops. The opening scene: Keaton, in a close up, is behind a set of bars, which is made to look like a jail cell. He is talking to his girlfriend, or maybe a girl he is courting. Then we get the first gag of the movie, and it's a visual one: in a medium shot, we see that it is not a jail scene, but in fact, Keaton and his amour are standing on two sides of a giant gate to her house. It's a gag, and a comment: she's in a big, expensive house, Keaton is on the outside. The social and economic separation serves to imprison Keaton. And then the dialogue flashes onto the screen. (paraphrasing here) I won't marry you until you become a successful business man.

First, I was thinking in silent films, how important dialogue becomes: because it stops the fluidity of the film, it's only used when absolutely necessary. So each line of dialogue becomes rather momentous. I'd compare it to studying a line of poetry vs. a line of fiction. Every line in poetry, when it's good, is sculpted. Well, I like to think I sculpt every line of my fiction, but when you're writing page after page, it's impossible to keep up the level of detail that you do in poetry, simply because, of the quantity factor. The same analogy works in silent movies, vs. sound. The dialogue is so restricted in silent films, it becomes all the more meaningful. So it's an important line, is what I'm saying.

Moving on. The next bit is classic vaudeville, but it's all about circulation of money: A guy is waiting for a cab, Keaton steals his wallet as the guy is getting into the cab, the guy realizes Keaton stole his wallet, goes back and takes the wallet out of Keaton's hand, but Keaton's taken the money out, the guy drives back again, gets out to fight Keaton, and Keaton gets into the cab. The value is originally in the wallet, but the joke is, once the money is out of the wallet, the value is gone. Keaton is playing with the movement of value and money, the assumptions of where value lies, and it's very funny.

Now Keaton's got some dough. Next bit: a family is moving and has all their possessions on the street, waiting for the movers. They leave the possessions unattended, and a scam artist pretends that the things are his and he's penniless and crying, and begs Keaton to buy his furniture so his kids can eat. And here's the second line of text. This time, it's Keaton's thoughts. Again, note how important the dialogue is, and I'm paraphrasing again: I'm sure to be a good business man if I buy this furniture. Keaton is satirizing the concept of ownership by reducing it to its basic principles, so much so it seems idiotic, and silly. Which in fact, it is.

The action continues: the scammer takes all Keaton's' money and leaves him a fiver. Across the street, there is a horse and carriage, a man sitting next to it, with a sign that says, $5. Keaton hands the man the bill and takes the horse. The man is confused, and when Keaton moves the horse it reveals that the sign was not for the horse, but for a coat that a shop was selling. The man holds the fiver in confusion, while the shopkeep comes out, takes the five out of his hand, and gives him the coat. The man puts it on and leaves.

Phew! So, Keaton buys property with capital that he stole, from someone who doesn't own it. So does Keaton in fact own it now? Debatable. Then the action repeats: Keaton buys a horse from someone who doesn't own it either, and in turn, that man buys a jacket with Keaton's stolen money, a jacket he didn't even want, but once it was offered to him, he wears. Money, value, and ownership are all circulating, with the rules obviously in flux and not fixed.

Keaton, though, is still just looking to make his sweetheart happy. Remember, he just wants to be married, not become a millionaire.

So, Keaton takes the cart, loads the furniture, and sets off, to be a business man? This is all the set-up for the fantastic chase scene. Keaton stumbles upon a police march- every cop you can imagine is in attendance. And, how timely: there's a terrorist! A guy throws a bomb of a roof, and it lands in Keaton's lap. He lights his cigarette off it, and then when he realizes what it is, he throws it into the crowd of cops. So, Keaton is his misguided search for love through business, has unwittingly become a terrorist. The chase scene begins.

And this a format which is set-up for both Cops and Sherlock Jr. A build up, filled with commentary and overtones, and then a big chase scene, with a series of complicated tricks, stunts, and slapstick exchanges, each one masterful, virtuosic, which rides the film to its ending.

Tomorrow: Part II of my Keaton capitalist analysis- focused on Sherlock Jr.
And even still to come: My match made in cinema heaven, Buster Keaton and Marilyn Monroe.

Sunday, July 24, 2005


When it's hot like this - you know what I do? I keep my undies in the icebox.

The Seven Year Itch was released 50 years ago: 1955, for the mathematically challenged. 50 years, and Marilyn Monroe hasn't lost a bit of her presence. Screen power. Walking out of the movie, I overhear at least five different women doing their best Marilyn impersonation, "You're married? Well, I think that's just delicate."

And there was nothing delicate about the inflection Monroe put on that word-her voice gets right inside you. It's disarming and alluring, but it doesn't have any pretense. There isn't a moment when the watcher feels Monroe's vanity. She seems above that- detached from the concept of her body, while being completely comfortable in the fact of it.

I must ashamedly admit that this was my first Marilyn Monroe movie. What I've seen and known of her to date, was all rumor, circumspect, image. Her and the Kennedys. Her and Joltin' Joe. The death. That Elton John song. To be honest, I wasn't expecting all that much. The hype around her seems to be based on image, on the American dream of voluptuous, simple women, full of female sexual energy. Not the post 80's, gen-x fem sex energy I observed in my adolescence: tattooed, pierced-tongue cursing brunettes with a masculine sex drive. Most of Marilyn's costumes in this movie where white, hugged her figure so she might as well been naked. Powdery white skin and the pulsing red lips. She took the fem image of sexuality brought it to the apex, the archetype of femininity. All this I expected too, as I expected the movie to be dull and insipid, and her to doll around being dumb.

But there was so much more. It was obvious, from the moment she appears on the screen (which is long delayed- the movie rolls a good 15-20 minutes before her entrance, as she is not the main character in the movie, but as you can tell by the poster above, she was the catalyst), that she had control. And though she was playing the bombshell, the silly girl who's naive, stupid, you are immediately aware that Marilyn is not stupid. She's totally in control of the image she is portraying. She's aware of the power it has over her audience, and how much she is idolized.

But unlike many female sex-symbol superstars of our generation, she never allowed her vanity to outstrech her humanity. She balances her sexuality and her heart- her scenes with Ewell are often touching. Even as Ewell hits on her, and practically attacks her in the apartment, she is understanding, sympathetic, and wants to heal his wounds. Yes, this is the story, and not the actor, but I'm talking about her physical connection. She is totally present in those scenes, you feel her empathy all over. Beautiful, sexually alluring dream-like, but in the end, comforting and safe. A mother.

This famous "subway" photo is from a scene in this movie. And watching it for the first time, and looking at it now, the thing that gets me about it is not its sexuality, but instead her innocence. That's the secret. Despite her experiences, her sexuality, her constantly being tracked and ogled at, Monroe has inside her the ability to drop it all, to forget who she is and be an innocent kid with her dress fluttering. Her face she seems like a seven-year-old. Pure and giggling. The part of the joy of watching her is you get the whole package, the dress, her legs, her girly voice, and you know she knows. You know she just has to be using it, playing a role. But her body, and your body, never pick up on it. It never feels that she's being false.

She's able to detach and for that moment, she's genuine. And you are left with something real, something you can put in your pocket and remember. That's what I reacted to, seeing that image. There's something to be said for that kind of self-control, that kind of detachment. As an artist,(an actor, painter, or, for myself, a writer)- the ability to take an emotion, or an emotional state and turn it into a tool: this is what I'm thinking about. As a student of writing, I'm always looking at what I can steal. In my poetry workshop as an undergrad at Queens College with Kimiko Hahn, that was often the format of the classes: we read contemporary poets and talked about what we wanted to "steal" from their writing. In other workshops, we've usually done the same type of thing, even when it's not so explicitly defined. So I've been applying that to everything- art exhibits, movies, music. Everything thing can relate, which is why I'm putting it all down here, in case you were wondering, "What does this have to do with writing?"

Friday, July 22, 2005


Thursday Night Quotes

So I'm going to start one of these weekly blogging segments that I enjoy in other people's blogs. Mine will be a weekly quote about writing or maybe just a good line from a poem. So here's my first entry, it's from the preface of Slouching Towards Bethlehem, a collection of essays by Joan Didion:

"A writer is always selling someone out." that why everything I write is about my family? Luckily, they love attention so much, they don't care whether it's good or bad. My father won't care that I write a book detailing all his womanizing, gambling, and episodes of terrifying rage, he'll just be delighted it's about him. I admire the man for that.

The quotes beg for comments, by the way.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005


CIA USSR Parapsychology reports.

I found a link on a nice internet tech blog: Sharing Knowledge

He's got a link to a database of free e-books:

I scrolled to the bottom of the list and found a motherload of US government documents. The ones that interested me the most are the set of paranormal psychology experiments in the CIA and USSR in the 70's. (The WMD ones about Iraq are great too, but I'll look at those another night). I 've spent the last hour or so ripping through the PDF files (some are docs in the 600 page area) and finding a goldmine of stuff.

Now, I know none of this is new information. But every time I speak to people about my personal "astral projection" experiences, or about ESP (though I have no personal experience with this), I get that same stupid look on people faces. Like I watch too much X-Files. Which is funny because I don't watch TV.

Parapsychology is very real. For anyone who doubts, I suggests skimming though these US government files outlining in great detail the USSR's thirty year program of parapsych study including: ESP, telekinesis, remote viewing, astral projection, just to name a few. the Russians were onto the field way before the US, starting back in the twenties. As the CIA states in the report, the Russians were a good twenty five years ahead of the US. All the Cosmonauts had been trained in telepathy, and it was documented that they communicated with each other. A few outstanding quotes I pulled from the once classified CIA file:

Perhaps the most meaningful experiment in terms of ease of evaluation and apparent potential in a communication mode was performed in 1967. This involved attempts at transmission of randomly selected digits between 0 and 9. Distance between sender and receiver was varied from several meters to several kilometers. Reported results, as attested to by at least five members of the All-Union Technical Society of Radio Technology and Communications imenti A.S. Popov (the Popov Society), indicates 105 of 135 numbers were received correctly by the receiver. The article states this to be 78% correct; however, this is a significant understatement since it does not reflect the overall probability of such an event. ...the probability of duplication via random occurrence would be about 10 to the neg 77th power (emphasis added).

Defense Intelligence Agency Paraphysics R&D--Warsaw Pact(U)
Prepared by US Air Force
Air Force Systems Command
Foreign Technology Division

The ruskies also were getting quite good at stealing objects from remote distances--these objects were called "apports." Here's a good quote about apports from Sir William Crookes, who was in fact a scientist- a chemist and physicist, who discovered the element thallium and was a former president for the Advancement of Science:

Class IX. The appearance of Hands, either Self-luminous or Visible by ordinary light.

I (William Crookes) have more than once seen, first and object move, then a luminous cloud appear to form about it, and lastly, the cloud condense into shape and become a perfectly formed hand...It is not always a mere form, but sometimes appears perfectly life-like that of and graceful, the fingers moving and the flesh apparently as human as that of any in the room. At the wrist, or arm, it becomes hazy, and fades off into a luminous cloud. To the touch, the hand sometimes grasping my own with the firm pressure of an old friend. I have retained one of these hands in my own, firmly resolved not to let it escape. There was no struggle or effort made to get loose, but it gradually seemed to resolve itself into vaper and faded in that manner from my grasp.

I couldn't cut and paste that from the PDF, so I retyped it. If I wasn't headed to grad school for fiction, I'd be getting a PhD in Parapsych. It has such a bad rep, but it shouldn't. Especially with all our studies in Quantum Physics about mental connections to the measurement of particles. Here's a link to another good article I found today at Wired. A study at Princeton has got some good data that show people can influence machines with their minds:,1282,68216,00.html?tw=wn_tophead_5

In one experiment, a machine was designed to randomly shoot out a series of one’s and zeros. The study shows statically significant correlation between what the machine output and the numbers the participants thought of.

However, as anyone who has taken an Intro to Stats course knows, Correlation is not causation. And in this case, this fact makes one wonder about the other alternative: if the people are not causing the machine to change it's output, then there is a third element that it affecting both the machine and the human. Perhaps some unknown force is both pushing the machine to put out zeros, and simultaneously pushing the participant to think about zeros, where the participant believes it's his choice to think about the zeros, when in fact, he has been as unwittingly manipulated as the machine has.

I love Quantum Physics! Magical science.

Monday, July 18, 2005


Monkey Buisness...

It's taken me a while to put up a post. What had happened was, I found a blog that played mp3's, and I was so impressed, I wanted it on mine. I want, I want, I want! So, it took me a couple of days of messing around, trying to get it set up. So no posts.

But it's done!

Ok, so over the last two months I've become addicted to double-bill revivals at the Film Forum. But apparently, the people who run that place don't always watch the movies before they show them. It was a comedy set: Monkey Business, a Marx brothers film, and a W.C. Fields flick called Million Dollar Legs.


Ok, I like Groucho Marx. He's got that funny back-cranked walk. He's does the effeminate thing well, too. But the question is, did people really find this film funny in the 30's? Has it just gotten stale over time, or was it never that good?

Don't even start on the Fields movie. Maybe the unfunniest movie I've ever seen. I understood why they played them it the order they did: after Monkey Business, one wonders, "Can a movie can be any dumber?" and then you see Million Dollar Legs, and you think, "I guess so."

Here's what it says about Million Dollar Legs in the FF promo:
“One of the silliest and funniest pictures ever made.” – The New Yorker.

How does a magazine like The New Yorker maintain any semblance of credit when it endorses a movie like this? This goes double for the New York Times film review. I have seen at least a dozen movies in the last year that they have recommended that were deplorable.

So that was a wash. But look! There's music! I hope you play some! I take requests!

Saturday, July 16, 2005


Turning 30...

Tonight, I have a birthday party to go to--not a 3oth Birthday, but actually a 31st. So here I am, in the post-turning 30 zone. About a year ago I went to about five thirtieth birthday parties, or should I call them, "organized anxiety attacks in drunken stupors." There was a range of reactions: one of my friends sent out invitations in Black and Silver as if it were a grand gala. The party was at this very funkified hall, with a hundred + guests, a freaking comedian, for Christ’s sake, and all other kinds of crap. Then he and his wife got so shitfaced they couldn't even make it to a cab.

And for this party I missed a Violent Femmes concert at Irving Plaza, which I'm still pissed about, because they won't come back to NYC. Gordon Gano come back! It's ok, I'll get to see them plenty out in Cali.

To continue:

At another party, we sat in a bar on the Upper East Side and pretended we were all twenty-two. But no one was fooled, especially the real twenty-two years olds in the bar who watched us like a Discovery channel special.

At another we played Jenga. No need to make a sarcastic comment about that.

I'm turning 29 at the end of the month. This doesn't bother me, and I don't usually think on it, because I feel so damn young. But here is a list of the very terrifying moments I've had that made me realize my age:

1) I've been noticing people out with their kids- like a mom and their teenage son or daughter. And my whole life, whenever I saw a parent and their kids, I've always identified with the kids: the parents were old, I mean they were old. But now, I'm realizing that I look more like the parents than the kids. The kids look so young. I'm shocked. I realize, "Hey, that guy, who looks like he's my age, has kids."

2) The first time I realized I was getting older, this happened when I was about 25: I was playing handball, and some teenagers were playing on the court next to me. Their ball came onto my court, and as I got it for a young, pretty Hispanic girl, and started to smile in my friendly, flirty manner, see smiled back, and sweetly said, "Thanks, sir."

3) Sitting in back seat of my best friends car, whom I've known since I was two. He put on the interior light which shown on his face, and I unexpectedly saw the network of veins in his face. He was old. It's moments like this, where you see people differently from the mental image of them you keep in your head. It's a good reason to get rid of your old friends and get new ones--to avoid the horror of these moments of realization.

Please relay your own moments, I’d love to hear ‘em.

Friday, July 15, 2005


Cell phones: The consumerist hammer of Satan!

I bought a T-Mobile cell phone, a year and a half ago. When I bought it, it was the latest technology. It cost over a hundred dollars, color screen, blah, blah, blah. I was too oblivious back then, not realizing that I had been brainwashed into believing I really needed this cost-inflated, poorly thought-out piece of plastic.

First off, I went to a Cecile B. Demille film at the Film Forum last week. It was an insane movie called This Day and Age. 1933. It's a great movie, very rare to find, a lost classic. Well, the point is, they had the old school phones with the mouthpiece and the little horn you held to your ear. And I thought: Jesus. Seventy years, and the only thing that's different, basically, is we put the mouthpieces and the listening piece together. Oo la la. That's it. Structurally it's the same. They just got smaller, and oh yeah, you press buttons instead of turning them. OOOhhh. So funky. So technology, whatever.

But today, because of my dog, who ate my cell phone battery as I described in a previous post, I head to the handy dandy wonderfully decorated T-Mobile store on Queens Boulevard, to get myself a new battery.

Let's stop right here. Is there really a need for T-Mobile to have it's own store? Cell phones are small. They have this going for them. So what is the purpose of this place? Why not have all the phones in one place. Do each one of these greedy, cutthroat, contract-forcing cell phone companies need their own store? I drive down QB, near the Queens center mall, and half the stores are all cell phone places. Excuse me, But doesn't everyone already have a damn cell phone? Who's still buying these things? Besides, this is America, capitalist wonderland, and is this the best we can do? Just build more and more complicated phones?

But having their own store is part of the marketing ploy, oh those advertising people are so savvy. It's building an image.

I'm sorry. Anyone can work in advertising, it's not hard. All you need is a half a brain and a Psychology 101 textbook. But I would never, never, NEVER work in advertising because it is brainwashing, nothing more, nothing less. If you're offended by this, because you work in advertising, either get a job with less bad karma, like a Meter maid or an executioner; OR stop and think about what you are producing in the world. It won't kill you.

So this T-Mobile store, it's all decked out--hardwood floors, neon lights and of course, Catherine Zeta-Jones's cow-like mug is smeared everywhere. The guy who works there is a greasy-headed teenage Russian, wearing a "insert a random value inflated logo here" shirt. His jeans cost over a hundred dollars, and I wonder how much does he make working here? How does he afford this stuff?

I get nauseous walking in this place, literally. And there, on the wall, on these pedestals, yes they are on pedestals, as in to be worshiped, are the cell phones. I refuse to look at them: it's like staring at the medusa. They each have at least a foot of wall space between them. There is nothing but space. Space, space, space.

Let's compare this store to where these little icons, these little cellular demigods of society are actually made.

Now, I highly recommend you to see A Decent Factory. This is a documentary about Nokia, and their half-hearted attempt to make sure all their supplies in the product chain of cell phones are following a proper code for employees. This, is laughable. It's a good movie, but it lets Nokia way off the hook.

Because, my friends, here's how your lovely little cell phone gets made. Mind you this is just one part- one little part of the battery that goes into the phone.

For this one tiny part of your cell phone battery, there is a giant factory in China. 90% of the work force are women. These women flee their villages because working the land is no longer profitable, because of the damaged economy. It's wage slavery. Here, the workers live in the factory, dorm style. It is mandatory to live in the factory to work there. There are eight to ten people in a room, with one shower, and one toilet, which is in the same "room" we'll call it, but it looks more like a back alley. There is no separation from where people shit and shower. This is the room the factory owners showed the camera crew, so imagine what the ones they didn't want the public to see looked like.

Of course, all the "managers" are men.

Well, these workers, it turns out, are being paid well below the minimum wage. The German factory owners get away with this by switching the minimum wage to an weekly basis, instead of hourly. For example: the U.S. min wage is 5.15 an hour. So for 40 hours, that's about two hundred dollars. Well, what this factory does, is say, “Yes, we pay the minimum wage, $200. But, you have to work seventy hours to make it.” By doing that, they cut the minimum wage almost in half. Pretty smart. No, it isn't legal, as the Germany foreman so "honestly" tells his Finnish clients, but who's watching?

The 3o hours overtime, by the way, is mandatory.

What is the minimum wage, you ask? Oh, it's not bad- it comes out to about .75 cents an hour.

That's before room and board is taken out. So they make even less. Then, the food is abhorrible, and many of people spent the little money they have left sneaking out to buy something edible.

Sound like fun? Want an application?

Space. I keep thinking of those hard wood floors, the Russian's greasy hair and Polo shirt, and that back alley that ten Chinese women fight over to shit in.

My cell phone, top of the line a little over year ago, is obsolete. No longer produced. No battery available.

Obsolete? So, my only option is to buy a brand new phone. I'm sorry, but this is all way too coordinated. Of course, I have to buy a new phone, otherwise, how would the economy function, if not for getting masses of people to consume things they don't need, like new cell phones?

There was nothing wrong with my phone. There was no reason for it to be "obsolete" Did I miss some new technology? Some new method of communication? Has half the population gone and had cell phone implants in their heads?

Because you have to buy a new one. You need the new feature. How can you live without that new feature? I mean, of course I need to send e-mail everyone where I go, and then Instant message people too, and text message and here's a giant phallus to insert rectally message.

I did not buy a phone. I got on a pay phone and called T-Mobile and told them to fuck off. Then they offered me a free phone (with a year contract, the bastards) and I told them to fuck off again. I'm moving to internet phone when I get to CA. Until then, I'll enjoy the calmness of not being in touch with the world 24-7.

For those of you who are old enough to remember what life was like without a cell phone, I suggest you try it again. It's completely liberating. The damn things just aren't that necessary.

Now, I understand some people need them, work, etc., etc. Fine. But at least think, before you go buying a new piece of technology that you've been convinced is obsolete, or necessary when it isn't. Because, someone, is paying the price for it, somewhere. I'm not big on politics, but personal choice is the greatest source of power, especially in a capitalist society. It is the dollar power. Where you choose to spend your money is a political and real choice in the world. It has ramifications and you are responsible for those choices whether you choose to think about them or not.

Thursday, July 14, 2005


Fellini's 8 1/2

Last night John and I watch 8 1/2 by Fellini, not once, but twice. That's five hours of film. The second time we watched with the commentary on, which was the best commentary I've heard on any DVD. I highly recommend buying the DVD to see this.

All of the following info is not my own, but a simple repetition of the commentary on the DVD. It's interesting none-the-less.

If you don't know, 8 1/2 is a movie about a director trying to make a movie. The title is chosen because it's the 8 1/2 Fellini's film directed (he co-directed one film along the way). So the title feeds the complications right away: Fellini's movie is about him trying to make his own movie. And he has no story! No movie! Which was the case with 8 1/2. He almost called it off many times, just as Guido ends up doing in the actual movie.

Ok, let me amend a previous post, which listed 8 1/2 as a neo-realist film. This is not the case. In fact, 8 1/2 was mocked by Italian critics who accused Fellini for abandoning the neo-realist tradition. He does this in the movie's dazzling opening sequence-- the camera sits behind Guido in his car, with no sound, and the first thing that happens is the camera pans up, over the roof, then it pans right and left, all in one long shot, before going back into the car where we see Guido from behind and we realize we are watching a long dream sequence. Well, the camera is truly a character in the movie, and it creates a dreamlike quality that is substantially, un realistic. Guido's caught in a traffic jam, and everyone is still, everyone is watching him. Fog begins to build up in the car and Guido is trapped, he tries to kick the windows, but they won't break. The silence is excruciating in this scene, and eventually Guido opens the window, crawls out in a birth-like sequence, and flies away, soaring through the clouds (like the Christ was flying though the clouds in the opening scene in his last film, I think La Dolce Vita). And who is there on the beach, with a rope around his ankle dragging him down is his agent and the PR guy for the movie studio.

(It is the reality of film making versus the artist freedom. This is something I am bookmarking in my head for later--something I know I'll have to think about in regards to my writing at some point. )

OK, course we don't know who is dragging Guido down when it happens, we don't know who the characters have yet to be introduced. And they won't be for quite a while, long enough that you probably will forget that it was these characters in his dream, and therefore miss the meaning of the sequence. But Fellini doesn't care, because, one, the film works without any meaning. If you watch this film without the subtitles, it is still incredibly moving and powerful. Maybe Fellini expects his audience to remember and work very hard to make that connection later on, or else he expects they will watch his movie many times. HE definitely has this kind of stature at this point in his career. He is quite aware that he has a very observant audience, or, he just doesn't care if anyone gets it, it's his artistic vision.

Which is commenting on the scene itself--how he must sacrifice his vision, must be pulled back to Earth by the film industry.

So, as I have mentioned before, I want to write Felliniesque novels. So I'm going to start by writing that scene, shot for shot true, to the sequence. I want to see if I can recreate the feeling that Fellini creates in the film-- the suffocation, the camera as character outside the main character of Guido--

Think about this: the camera is the narrator, the camera is not in Guido's head, it watches Guido from above. But we are seeing Guido's dream. So Guido is dreaming of watching himself in his dream. Fellini, is making a movie, about himself, dreaming about watching himself get pulled down by reality!

The mirrors go on and on like this throughout the movie. It's unreal. And every choice, I mean every choice is specific, deliberate, and brilliant. There is not one camera movement, one still shot, one set design that isn't perfectly coordinated.
I could go on all day but I'll stop. But watch this movie!

Wednesday, July 13, 2005


Time to make the journal.

Ok, so I'm the editor for my college literary journal, even though I just graduated. I'm moving out to go to grad school at the end of the month, and I have to have the journal done by then. That means, well, designing the damn thing (I am not a designer, but have some concept of good typography) including the cover art, etc. (which I did for last year's journal), contacting all of the artists and getting their contact info. The art editor has been MIA and I don't like to be a ball-buster, preferring to just do things on my own rather than harass people who are busy or apathetic, or however, but things need to be done. Hmm.

The rest of the day I've spent researching about weblogs, html and such. Once I do things, I try to do them right, sometimes obsessively so. And I have decided to keep up this blog, mainly because I found someone's blog that just graduated from an MFA and the information there was so useful to me, I couldn't pass the opportunity to do one of my own.

I just added that Photo to the right, Harmonica. It's one I took way back in my days, out in Roswell, NM. Maybe 1996? I'll have to think on that one.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005


What I Did Wrong...

My best pal and mentor John Weir's second book, What I Did Wrong, has just finished being edited and is due out in April. From Viking Press. The check's in the mail! It's fucking brilliant, it will rip apart your understanding of sexuality and desire and tear your heart out while you laugh the whole way through.

He's got a story and an interview as the featured writer in this fall's Gulf Coast, as well as an amazing article on Neal Cassady's Penis coming out in Tri-Quarterly. Yes, I did say Cassady's penis.

Meanwhile, I just recieved my standing orders for the apartment I'm going to have on campus. I'll be rooming with a first year Poetry MFA student, Bill. I called Bill once, but we really haven't spoken. I'm excited about rooming with someone again. I haven't shared space with anyone in a few years, and the last itme I did it was with two people who did as much drugs as I did then, so It was more like living with pets than roomates.

I'm really looking forward to living with someone who thinks about writing as much as I do. And it's good that's it's a poetry student, because otherwise things might get too sticky with another fiction freak in the house.

I just got an e-mail from school about the apartment with all kinds of instructions that I don't want to deal with. About keys and phones and blah blah blah. Things are difficult for me at the moment, because my dog ate my cell phone.

Really. Here's how this goes:

I have a giant German Shepard, named, of all things, Ceaser. Ceaser needs valium, but we're not a psychopharmacological family, don't believe in better living through chemistry (unless it's illegal, of course) so we deal with the insanity. So I left my phone in the yard, and it falls on the floor, and I come outside to get it, and Ceaser goes insane, because...he's Ceaser. So he barks and goes after my arm everytime I go to pick up my phone. This pisses me off, fierce, so now I'm cursing and taking swings at him, "Mother-fucker! Get the fuck outta here!" But I everytime I go to get the phone he comes after me like he's gonna bite me, and I'm scared because I'm not so sure he won't and I hate that he scares me, so this make me even more mad, so now I'm really trying to punch him but he's ducking. So now's he's in retreat and I go for the cell phone again but he's a quick little fucker, Ceaser, and he grabs the phone out of hand, nipping on my knuckles in the process, the skin streaked and white, and my phone is on the floor, but the battery is in his mouth. And he's chewing.

(dramatic pause) Now, I've been meaning to get rid of my cell phone. Even before I saw A Decent Factory, I was sick of the signalless world of cell phone brainwashing (everyone needs a cell phone, life didn't exist before them!) I thought I lost it a few times, and this was a relief. Everytime it rang, I thought it was impending doom on the other end . Every time.

Never-the-less, I am filled with red rage at the sight of Ceaser with my battery in his mouth. So I kick him, hard, in the face, and it's an uppercut kick, and a good one, and it sends the battery flying up into the treetops, which I watch happen in slow motion. It still hasn't come down.

This is all to say, I don't have a phone.

It's nice though.
I can't be reached! This makes me happy in a way i can't express.


Neo-realsim and fiction.

So John Weir and I are at the St. Mark's bookshop last night. John's asked that I buy him a copy of Take Me Out, a play about baseball and men who are attracted to men (sorry, but I don't like to use catagorical words for sexuality). I've never seen it, but John's taking an acting class and needs a monologue for this week. It has a good one, but I caution him- it's a monolgue to the audience, and those are always hard because, what do you want from the audience? And the monologue has to move, has to have an emotional through line, like a short-short story. And this one was hard to see. (And I write this, I think later, maybe because I wonder want I want from my audience in this monolgue of a blog).

So then we pick up a Gilles Deleuze title: Cinema 2, which is an analysis of image theory and I'm interested, because it's all about neo-realism. I love neo-realism, though I'm haven't seen too many titles. I've just started watching these Fellini flicks: 8 1/2, La Strada, Amacord, La Dolce Vita... And as I soon as I started to track the connections between the loosely tied plots; the dream-like camera panning; the serial, episodic nature of the narrative:

I knew I wanted to write novels like Fellini films.

We read one page. It took 20 minutes to decipher. Deleuze! God! Well, one point, was that "realism"- like Hitchockian films, puts the viewer (or reader) into the story. You became a character. Neo-realism, does the opposite (this was only one point of many, and I don't intend this as a defintion, just one characteristic). It takes the main character and makes him the viewer. I think of Nights of Calabria , or 8 1/2, where the main character drifts from scene to scene, which are either like dreams or are dreams. The surrounding images are so intense that the character is overwhelmed by them, and wanders through them, recording what they see.

How does Fellini make this work? In a narrative, first person, or close third, your character must have a want. I've heard this enough in workshops. "Yes, but what does this character want?" But here we have entire films without ever needing to know what the character wants, or why they move form scene to scene. I think this works because the focus has changed. The main character is no longer the main character, but instead the film itself becomes the main character. The film, the movement from one scene to the next, the invisible emotional connection from scene to scene that tells the story of the movie.

It's this movement that Deleuze says is the "present," the object of focus in the story.

So I'm trying to figure out how to translate this into fiction. If you break down a Fellini film, scene by scene, and study the emotional narrative of each segment, it starts to create a picture. Surely, Catholism, class, and loneliness are constants.

But partly this is an excuse for me to watch more movies and not feel guilty about not reading or writing instead.

Saturday, July 09, 2005


Prelude: Packing it all.

MFA's are the 21st century version of the modernists going to Paris. Disappearing to a small college town is the closest you can get to being an expatriate now. It's the in-thing, the MFA. I went to a poetry reading a few weeks ago, billed as "Poets recently finishing their MFA without a book published." It sounded like a DSM-IV diagnosis. Or a Fox News special. "What to do when your kids finish their MFA, coming up after sports."

I write fiction, but I pretentiously consider myself an artist.

Somehow I've managed to get myself into one of the best MFAs in the country. I get a scholarship and a job teaching English Comp. The program takes six students a year, out of over four hundred applicants. Ok, now I'm bragging.

It's 11 PM and I'm at my job--the job that I'm leaving behind in four weeks to travel to the other coast to become a writer. I'm the night production manager at a printing shop. That's a separate story, though.

I'm listening to the Digable Planets.

I'm liquidating everything I can--guitars, cds, old books. That's just the stuff. There are relationships to be liquidated as well: Parents, boyfriends, girlfriends, just plain friends. My apartment is filled with boxes, most of which are headed to my parent's attic. The rest go the Salvation Army to be recycled, because I've become obsessive about not wasting anything.

My plan: to go cross country over four weeks before I arrive in my new home. A childhood friend of mine, his father died six months ago, and he made a few cross country trips after he retired. So I'll be using my friend's dead father's maps, staying at the camp sites he did, going to all the little places he visited before the cancer got him.

My former teacher has told me that Henry James (he's been researching to write an essay on HJ), strived to eliminate exposition in his novels... he wanted the reader in the character's head, and it was your job to figure the rest out from there. He paved the way for the stream of consciousness modernists a few years after him. So, do I need an exposition for this blog? I'm not nearly as confident in my narrative as Henry, and besides, this isn't a novel. Nor a short story. It's a blog.

Before I disappear from my current life, my father, riding the floatsam of a congestive heart failure, has been pleading his case for me to meet my new half-brother. Let's call him Randy. My dad's 65. He's a loan shark. Not emotionally speaking. Literally. And he has a six year old. Dad's not the most responsible guy you can meet. I will meet the kid before I go, if for no other reason than to have some material.

So obviously, my first novel will be about my father.

He'll be flattered. He's an attention whore, like me. He's his own favorite topic.

That was one of my objectives this summer: one, to read as much as possible. I didn't do too well with that, though I did read and thoroughly absorb Virgina Woolf and Philip Roth. Then I wrote thirty pages and managed to combine both their tones. That was objective two: to get a bunch of pages done before I get out there.

Most of those thirty pages are throat clearing, and'll end up on the cutting room floor. I have my opening scene for my novel in my head: my father's hospital room, a picture of a five-year-old I've never met in a frame with gold glitter that spells #1 DAD in obnoxiously large letters. Dad's girlfriend huddled on top of him and an ex-wife in the car. I have to manage this new information along with his women that circle him. It's a good opening scene. They'll be flashbacks, because, all this has happened before.

The question is, how do I give out the information to the reader? All at once? Or do I leave it out, like Henry?