Monday, December 07, 2009

Pillows

This man is hugging a pillow:



He's in a relationship with that pillow. A long-term relationship. They will be together for the long haul*. That man and that pillow are together.

This man is hugging a pillow:



He is merely using this pillow for a short time. After this photo is taking, he will be dropping this pillow back onto a couch or something. He will see it around—like when he sits on the couch—but he will not treat it quite the same. It is unlikely, for example, that he will be photographed holding that pillow again. Not like this, anyway.

The first person knows how to commit to a relationship. The second is still afraid of long term commitment. The first image is a marriage. The second image is a one-night stand.

***

My dear friend Brittain is very close to having enough money to make her next record. If you have a little money, you should send it to her.

Here are some photos I took last time I saw Brittain perform her wonderful music.







***

This person can make you a beard. I would like a small one for my two-year-old niece.







* Accidentally said "the long hall" in the first version of this post.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

updates

Keyhole nominated me for a Pushcart. It's for a story I wrote called "Father" which begins:

We’re “living in sin” in the Keweenaw Peninsula with a big-ass Mastiff we call Father. And this is it, miles from anyone, no one bothers us anymore. Father must weigh upwards of 200 pounds, and has a motley face, with a huge frown and tiny black eyes.

This is what the Keweenaw Peninsula looks like.

***

On Twitter, I've been Speaking Truth to Cereal:

Captain Crunch decimated the native culture on Crunchberry Island.

The links between Cheerios and higher levels of serotonin are tenuous at best.

Frosted Flakes are not fooling anyone with the blond tips. We know they have gone gray.

The Yummy Mummy belongs in Egypt where it was found, not in some museum in some Imperialist country.

Froot Loops proves that the teaching of phonics is responsible for our pathetic standing in the world re: education.

***

A Local weekly newspaper called The Stranger is running a charity auction called Strangercrombie. There is a package called DIY MFA Semester Two, and if you win it you will receive a story consultation from Maria Semple and James Morrow, a graduation dinner with Ryan Boudinot, a custom laptop bag, free coffee once a week for three months from Short Stop Coffee, and also, I'll have a couple of beers with you to discuss writing craft. I think I originally volunteered to discuss white space for an hour with the winner. They have made it a little more open-ended.

Actually, it sort of looks like the winner and I will go out and get drunk together.

Seems like a proper DIY MFA experience to me!

It's for charity, and Ryan Boudinot is great. And James Morrow is great. And Maria Semple is great. You should bid and bid a lot.

***

Best guitar riff ever:

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

interview

Shya Scanlon has started a little series of interviews on Facebook. Reprinted with his permission, here it is:

Facebook Tiny Interview Series: Matthew Simmons

Shya Scanlon: Are you ready, Matthew?

Matthew Simmons: Sure thing.

Shya Scanlon: You are the author of A Jello Horse—a novella out from Publishing Genius--a contributor at HTMLGIANT, The Man Who Couldn't Blog, and you've been an editor for Hobart and before that, for Monkeybicycle. You're basically a big fat writing scenester. Tell me a little about your own publishing project: Happy Cobra Books.

Matthew Simmons: When I decided to put together a bunch of really short things I'd written in a cover and call it a chapbook—Creation Stories—I figured I needed a to give myself a publishing name. I never really intended to do anything else with it, but sort of ended up approaching a couple of other writers and being approached by a couple of other writers, and next thing I knew, I had a website and a couple of stories to turn into chapbooks and ebooks and some obligation to do so.

In my defense, everyone else seemed to be doing it at the time. And it felt like I needed yet another distraction to keep me from my own writing and editing.

Shya Scanlon: Did it work? How long can you go without writing before you start to feel like a bad person?

Matthew Simmons: Pretty long, actually. After I finished my MFA program I went months without being able to write a word. In the time since, I've edited and written a little, but not as much as I'd like. All the other things I do make me feel connected to writing, though, and I sometimes wonder if it's a bad thing. Sure, I haven't finished that novel, but I posted a short, craft-oriented observation on HTML Giant a couple of days ago, so I'm still engaged in the work in one respect, right? I'm still preparing some material for a Hugo House class, right? I'm still doing it, aren't I?

Maybe not. I mean, aren't there enough venues for writing-related work to be done that I could distract myself with them for the rest of my life and never write another piece of fiction? I like my blog, and I like interviewing people/editing interviews for Hobart, and I like HTML Giant, but what if they are killing my novel?

Shya Scanlon: I know what you mean. There are many places to scratch right around the perimeter of the itch itself—so close, in fact, that the relief almost feels the same.

In both your book A Jello Horse, and your unpublished collection Happy Rock, you seem to pursue a kind of realism charged with the fantastic—sometimes overtly, as when a narrator's mother is a series of exploding clay Golems, and sometimes more subtly, as in the House of Telephones scene at the end of Jello. Do you think life itself is magical, or do you just wish it were?

Matthew Simmons: Neither, really. The real world is difficult and unpleasant and occasionally very beautiful, and I'm okay with it staying that way—and this is lucky because it is not going to bend to my desires. I want the world on the page to be whatever it wants to be—which is to say whatever my creative impulse wants it to be—and this is lucky because I am in complete control of that world.

Shya Scanlon: Are you really? What are the writers who most influenced you as a young reader, and/or a young writer.

Matthew Simmons: Yeah, I think I am. I suppose that I like to write things that other people want to read, and because of that, I have traded a measure of my artistic independence, and made a kind of non-aggression pact with an audience, but I could break that pact at any time. I could write something that is totally unfriendly, completely unreadable, and alienate readers if want to. I suppose one might argue that without readers there is no writing—that my fiction occurs in the shared space between me and the reader, but I could be my own reader, right? I could produce something just for me, and defiantly decide that it is good and done well even if no one else agrees with me.

It took me a little while to become a reader. As a teenager, though, Douglas Adams led me to William Burroughs and Kurt Vonnegut and I've never forgotten what it was like reading them. Vonnegut I can still read, too. Burroughs not as much. But the liveliness of his imagination and the power of his language still influence me, I think. Burroughs is maybe a little too bleak for me now. Vonnegut is dark, but his narrators seem resigned to and above the absurdity of life. He's comforting in that way.

A few years ago, when I was just starting to write seriously, just starting to send my writing out to places that published stories, just started to toy with finding readers for what I was writing, I read Meet Me in the Moon Room by Ray Vukcevich. Up to that point, I was tentative about surrealist/fabulist elements in my stories. Ray's book was full of them, and also full of stories that I connected to emotionally. Stories that made me happy and sad. After reading that book, I said, "well, all bets are off," and just wrote what I wanted.

Shya Scanlon: Respond to this observation: It seems to me many writers of our emerging generation see a conflict between "serious" writing and "emotional" writing. Do you think young writers avoid melodrama to a fault?

Matthew Simmons: They avoid it to their detriment, I think. Melodrama, sentimentality, even cliche. It seems like we run from it, preferring instead an arch tone. But I think we will, as we get older, return to it. I think eventually sentimentality and melodrama reveal their benefits to writers over time. A line from a story by Steve Almond: "It takes years to become as soft-hearted and hopeful as I am."

Shya Scanlon: This feels like a good note to end our Tiny Interview on, Matthew. Thank you so much for playing along. If anyone would like to ask Matthew any questions, please use this space to do so.

Matthew Simmons: We ended on my endorsement of melodrama, cliche, and sentimentality!

***

I read in Portland with the lovely and talented Daniel Bailey on Sunday. Here is a recap.

Mike Daily was there, and he made videos of the reading.





I need a haircut. And to exercise more.

***

My brother's tumblr blog is still going strong.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Umbrella

My brother has a tumblr blog.

***

Tuesday morning I saw a guy running for the bus stop. He had a double-breasted overcoat, a tophat, and a pair of goggles. He was very steampunk.

But he also had a little beige Totes umbrella.

Totes umbrellas aren't steampunk, right? I mean, just because they have a little button on them that extends them, that doesn't make them steampunk. They're just functional. Steampunk isn't supposed to be functional, right?

The question is: if you aren't going to commit 100% to a look, should you leave the house in the look? I realize it was early in the morning, and it was raining, and it was a Tuesday and the guy was probably on his way to his job—at a comic book shop? at a call center? at Home Depot?—and not on his way to a local steampunk drinkery or danceclub, but he had the tophat. He had the goggles. He had the large, brass-buttoned, double-breased overcoat. Has he just not yet found the right umbrella?

Where in Seattle is the steampunk umbrella store? Does the guy need to borrow a few dollars so he can buy a proper umbrella for his outfit? Should I start a collection here on the blog to buy the steampunk guy a proper umbrella for his outfit? I'll do it, if that's the problem.

Are you out there, steampunk guy with the wrong umbrella? If you are, and you would like me to start some sort of fundraiser for you so you can buy a proper umbrella—one that matches the rest of your look—please feel free to get in touch and I will do it. I'm sure the loyal Man Who Couldn't Blog readers would be willing to help out with a few dollars, and would be willing to spread the word that your look is incomplete, and because it is incomplete, it was jarring for me to have to see you in it, and because it was jarring, it made it impossible for me to blog about anything important, and instead I blogged about your incomplete look, and we'll all gather some money for you to complete your look so that I won't be jarred and I can maybe blog.

This also happens to me—the jarred reaction to clothing—when I see a man in a basketball jersey, athletic shoes, and blue jeans.

***

I wrote a writing prompt that asks the writer to rot one of her or his stories.

***

Ginny Parker Woods interviewed Justin Sirois.

***

Leni Zumas has a blog.

***

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Dolphin

I want again to talk at this time in this place about the thing that is called Dolphin Telepathy. It is very much now an important current thing to discuss, what with dolphins being everywhere in the news right now.

Are you a dolphin? Are you, a dolphin, reading this blog? Can I talk to you via and using telepathy? Let's try it now.

Let's try to communicate here in real time using dolphin telepathy. Think something at me.

Think it.

Come on. Think it. I'm listening.

While you, the dolphin, are trying to think things at me for me to pick up on with the thing that is my mind, I will spend here a moment discussing the efficacy of dolphin telepathy with my not-dolphin readers. I assume that there is a small number of people who read this blog who are not dolphins. I assume, but am not 100% sure because as of right now, Google Analytics does not break out human from dolphin readership in its statistics about this site.

Odd.

Anyway. Humans, you and I should work hard to make more common and familiar this dolphin telepathy. Dolphins have for us many lessons. Such as there is more than one fish in the ocean. In fact, there are many, and many types as well. Such as there are some really nice things that await you if you are willing to every once and a while jump through a hoop. Such as why not go ahead and swim with people sometimes. Such as—

Wait.

Yes?

No?

No. Sorry. I thought I heard something in my brain. I thought I was being contacted.

But and still there is much to benefit for people like us if we begin to expand the amount of dolphin telepathy that goes on in the world. The dolphins would like to tell us much about the water, for example.

Water is almost everywhere. Lots of things are wet. This is what the dolphins know above all else.

What of me? Why not me? Why have I been so blind to this? Why can't the dolphins tell me more about this? Open my eyes? Open my ears? Open my cosmic blowhole?

Etc?

Thinking, I will.

***

The Third Policeman is amazing.







***

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Thank you, dear Dennis.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Compulsion-Analysis

Today is a day for examining what it is that makes you wonder what it is. This is what I've been thinking a lot about. It's hardly a day to pretend other than that.

Like, what if there's a moonfall event tomorrow?

Like, what if all the birds are more or less finished with flying?

Like, what's that word that's supposed to follow the word you've got stuck in your hand?

Like, how will we all cope now that the bees have gone and flown away to space?

Like, really are you satisfied with the way your beard smells?

Like, if dolphin telepathy is just a couple of years away from completion, what will Big Science do with its free time?

Like, are armies on the march because this battle is finished again and they are coming home or are they going somewhere new?

Like, Friday is just another way of avoiding Saturday for 24 more hours, right?

Like, arms get folded more often than we think but no one's really keeping score, are they?

Like, research research research. Is that all we'll ever read a book about?

But, honestly, let's be honest with ourselves. The pillow remains dry. The stairs keep going up and up. The neighbors have your dog hostage. Relax and live a little, am I right?

Yes, I am.

Forward and onward and upward. Blogging is impossible and for another day.

***

I answered questions about some books I like. I typed "Holy Smokes" twice.

***

I'll be reading in Portland on November 22 with Daniel Bailey and Bryan Coffelt. I think it's with this store, Ampersand, but it might actually occur at a nearby coffee house. When I know more, I will tell you more.

***

Shane Jones's new book, The Failure Six, is very good. I have read about four of the failures. I am up to number five. You should buy The Failure Six. And you should read it in a room with a cat watching you read it.

Song for The Failure Six:



***

Brother Blake has a story here. It's one of my favorites of his.

Someone told me about visiting a museum in Russia that had a room full of jarred still-born fetuses. Someone had sewed tiny lace ruffles around their wrists, and tiny lace collars on their necks.

***

Frickin' Burch is frickin' awesome.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Cross



Whenever I watch that, I want to write it.

So, what's next?

I think recently I finished the revisions, edits, and endings to a book of short stories called Happy Rock. I think so, but I am not sure.

I am not sure about a lot of things. I am, as the name of this blog indicates, not sure how to blog and being unsure I haven't decided that it is impossible. I am not sure when a story is finished, and because of that I have decided that a story is never finished and I am allowed to tinker with it for as long as I live.

I am not sure how to write a novel, so I think perhaps I am writing a novel write now. It has beetles in it. The beetles perform surgical procedures.

That's all I will say about that.

Because I am not sure what else to say. Not sure how much to say. Not sure why I felt like saying that.

What happens if it is never finished—which, I think I have established, it never will be—and I have mentioned it here. Will you hold me to it? You? Will you ask me about it? Will you ask me about the progress of it? Will you hold me to it?

Who are you? Please tell me who you are.

Can you blog?

Can you finish a story?

Can you use a beetle to perform a surgical procedure?

***

I was going to write about gnomes. I have been thinking about gnomes.

This is a gnome:



This is a gnome:



Did the first gnome simply wish to rub noses with the Argentinians? The theme song to David the Gnome says that if your heart is true, you will find them, too. Does this indicate that the Argentinians terrorized by the terror gnome simply had true hearts?

This is another song about gnomes:



Gong wrote about gnomes:



To disparage Swiss bankers, people call them The Gnomes of Zurich. This is because gnomes live underground and hoard their wealth.

I have wondered in the past if the gnome was an anti-semitic symbol of some sort.

People put gnomes in their gardens for some reason. They seem to me to invite people into your garden. Because they aren't scary. You could step on them very easily. And that would be the end of them. Do you want people in your garden? Is that it? Do you? Where people go, rabbits are almost guaranteed to follow.

You didn't think about that, did you? I thought not.

Silly you.

That's some stuff about gnomes. You should nominate the gnome portion of this blog post for a Pushcart Prize.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Conor

I'd like to say that I haven't updated because I've had a lot of writing things going on lately. Mostly, though, I've been playing Fallout 3. And, actually, I'm right now thinking about going home and playing Fallout 3 tonight, too.

Sorry.

***

Happy Cobra Books is very happy to announce that it has published its second ebook. That book is a story called "Conor Oberst Sex." It's very good.

It is accompanied by an EP with music by my friend Michael Sanchez. The EP is called Music Is My Boyfriend. It's also very good.

Enjoy them both, please.

***

Last week, a review of my book A Jello Horse appeared in The Believer, one of my favorite magazines. I'm humbled. Thank you, Jim Ruland.

This is doubly exciting because the book is now BACK IN PRINT!

Also humbling: Michael Kimball, a brilliant writer, wrote my life on a postcard.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Jello

My book, A Jello Horse, is back in print. Please consider ordering a copy.

Here are some reviews:

Open Letters Monthly
The Stranger
HTML Giant
NOTANOCTOPUS
Probably Just a Story
Goodreads

Thanks to all the reviewers.

If you would like to interview me about the book, or would like a guest blog post, or something, feel free to contact me.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Bombs

Gave Shya two weeks. Seemed like a good idea.

***

There are cities and there are villages in foreign lands. Have you noticed? Have you looked it all up on maps of the world?

I have.

First, there are foreign lands, and that's one thing. That's one thing.

Then, next, there are cities and villages in these foreign lands. Cities AND villages! Not just one or the other. They have both. Both all over the place.

I mean, why, right? Isn't the first thing enough?

In these cities and these villages in foreign lands, they also have people.We have things like that here, right? They have them over there, too! They have them. People who live in cities and villages, and who have jobs and have telephone numbers and have nights where they all get together and play games of cards with each other.

They do those things. They don't even ask us. They just do them. One day at a time. And never does it ever stop or anything.

So I'm thinking it's time to go ahead and bomb them. And I'm not even just kidding about this like I was the time I told you that I thought it was maybe a good idea for us to have a third person come into the bedroom with us and maybe help you along with the making me pleased.

This time I mean it. I think we should find those foreign countries on one of the maps, and we should get in the car, and we should pack up two bombs, and we should travel to one of those foreign countries, and we should drive in to one of those countries, and we should find first a village, and we should bomb that village, and we should get back in the car, and we should drive then to a city, and we should plant a bomb in the big city's biggest building, and we should wait there and be there when it goes off.

That'll show them is what I think. That'll teach them to have what they have.

I'm not jealous of what they have. I want them to appreciate it. That's all I mean by this. I want more people to understand what they have. I think blowing up a little property is the best way to do that.

***

Dear Sir,

What are you on about?

From,
Sir

Dear Sir,

Thanks for writing. What do you mean?

From,
Sir

Dear Sir,

I mean with the bombing and all that? What are you on about?

From,
Sir

Dear Sir,

Nothing in particular. I'm just on about things. Sometimes I'm just on about nothing with something. Sometimes something is something. Sometimes I'm on about it.

From,
Sir

Dear Sir,

You realize, though, Sir, that you are on about something that is on the minds of others right now. Because of dates and things?

From,
Sir

Dear Sir,

I suppose this is true. But the thing I'm on about isn't actually that thing. I mean, it feels like that thing, but it sort of isn't. I'm on about what I'm on about, and it's maybe just a coincidence.

From,
Sir

Dear Sir,

Highly unlikely. Hard to believe. Impossible to believe. I mean, we are having this correspondence, after all.

From,
Sir

Dear Sir,

I see your point, Sir. You make a lot of sense. I am noticing, of late, a greater sense of attention to the awareness of what it is I am on about in you. And in you means in me. What do we think this could all mean?

From,
Sir

Dear Sir,

Perhaps you are having an episode of some sort. A bad episode. A difficult one.

From,
Sir

Dear Sir,

Save me from myself.

From,
Sir

Dear Sir,

No.

From,
Sir

***

John Madera reviewed my book.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Forecast 42

Forecast (Shy Scanlon)

Forecast is being serialized semiweekly across 42 web sites. For a full list of participants and links to live chapters, visit www.shyascanlon.com/forecast.

***

Chapter 14

Of course, there have always been those among us for whom emotion is an end in itself; the rub of love, for instance, being somehow more important for some then the object of that love’s abrasion. There have been these, and then those that, on top of this, proclaim the fact loudly, failing to hide it under a current of romantic effluvia, rather pressing it to the fore, as if they could thereby be protected from the eventual wane and scatter of characteristics which, when composed and controlled, described something lovable. And yet this is not always a deficit. Poets, musicians, painters and priests, great cultural leaders, are linked in this way. Still, the expression, but more native even than that – the experience itself: of love, of hate, of grief, all these inner goings-on distract some from the ultimate source, or perhaps goal, of the ability to feel in the first place.

It becomes something of an addiction. But it is not, as it may first appear, the narcissistic brand of self-interest, of vanity, that might otherwise be thought a first order threat to true connection. Because this is not a retreat into the self so much as an escape from the self. An emotion’s internal bloom does not reflect one’s own face, but distracts exactly from it. It is a nameless, universal equivocation of the self. These experiences transcend the finite, fleshy vehicle and open one up to some vast encounter with the anonymous nature of life. It is a release. A passage. A leap of faith. And it should not be undertaken lightly.

At least this is what the guidebook says.

The advent of REMO, or Re-experienced EMOtion, and its subsequent abuse, could probably have been foretold had people been interested as much in mapping out the consequences of our new technology as they were in using it. But when is this ever the case. Once the connection had been made that, by ingesting the by-product of emotional transfer, one could achieve some sort of heightened, or at least altered, emotional state, certain among us, people who might otherwise (in my opinion) have been called to greater things, spiraled down into the abyss within themselves, preferring to become part of the cosmos rather than part of one another’s lives.
Fortunately, other than the un-quantifiable loss suffered by a society whose potentially great contributors sacrifice social interaction for exploration into more remote regions of the self, REMO doesn’t cause too much trouble. Its addicts, despite a relatively lackluster bent toward prosthelytization, aren’t exactly a menace, and since they produce their own drug, in most cases the whole REMO culture has been safely nestled in between our preoccupation with issues we find more imminently worrisome and the benefit we reap by functionally ignoring such trifles, or at least denying we care. Still, REMO is considered a dirty indulgence in most circles, and the majority of people, it’s speculated, either use the drug rarely, or not at all. Helen is an example of the former category.

More accurately, Helen has only tried it once. But Zara’s night of experimentation is another count against her. In neither case, to her benefit, has it been her idea, nor, for obvious reasons, her REMO. Because she’d never been able to produce her own Buzz to begin with, the thought that REMO would have any noticeable effect on her was far from her mind. Besides, her parents had so fervently encouraged Zara to experiment with other drugs that her appetite for altered states had already, when REMO made its appearance, long since vanished.

But of all the ways Helen distinguished herself from Zara, one thing that remained consistent was their romantic resolve. Neither the intrepid Zarabarbarian, nor the fiercely domestic Helen, held anything more dear than the intimate bond they’d chosen to foster between themselves and their respective men. It was Asseem who’d suggested REMO the first time, and Jack who, in a drunken haze, slipped some into her drink the second, wanting Helen, as he put it later, to “have a little fun.”

“I don’t need drugs to have fun, Jack,” she’d said the next morning, squinting to see him from under her enormous REMOver.

“How do you know,” was, after a long pause, all he’d come up with, “what you need?”
But Helen knew, contrary to what she’d expected, that REMO did, in fact, have an effect on her. Quite an enormous one. And unpleasant. Simply put, it plunged her so far inside herself that she lost all ability to communicate. She was stripped bare of all social conventions – something she’d always already had difficulty with – and made mute by the sheer force of feeling that congested the internal corridors of her personality, bottlenecking her ability to translate intention into action, impression to expression, and will to power. For someone whose entire self-image was based on her knack for saying what she thought, when she thought it, this was more than merely awkward. It was terrifying. Fortunately, Zara’s experience with Asseem took place in his apartment, alone, and he took care of her, sensitive to the struggles inherent in articulation. They’d stayed together for the duration, Zara in a fetal position with her lover slowly stroking her forehead, playing soothing music, and doing all the talking.

With Jack things were different. They’d gone to a Forecast party – known for their extravagance and extra-curricular activities – and wound up in a room where people were tongue-tied to a pulsing ETM, the others taking turns standing in the conduction spot, giving the getter a full range of other people’s insides. After Helen had demurred two or three times, Jack made the decision for her, gathering a mouthful of the stuff and kissing his wife, spitting REMO down her throat. She’d known better than to “raise the issue” at the time, knowing Jack was just in it for fun, and Helen had taken her troubles to the coat closet, curled into its darkest corner, and stayed there until being called by the familiar voice of a certain forecaster whose acuity did not extend to the tumultuous weather of his own wife’s heart.

When Rocket licked the ETM, Helen’s first response had been a mixture of alarm and pity she might normally have reserved for people, and upon further consideration, having no reason to assume that, even if other animals could be affected by human REMO, the experience would be for Rocket what it was for her, she felt sheepish. After following Busy out of the ETM chamber and into the office, she noticed that he didn’t seem the least bit worried about the dog, doing nothing to follow up on the episode. She scaled back. She expressed a cool disinterest. She let him be. She tried instead to focus again on what Busy was speaking about, to resume the pose she’d used in the car to convince him of their affinity.

The room Busy had brought them to was small, square, and wore nothing on its walls. After shaking Helen’s hand, the man walked behind a simple desk and sat, motioning for her to sit in the room’s only other chair. There was nothing mechanical anywhere, and the only monitor on the desktop appeared to be off. She looked at Busy and attempted a confident grin. They exchanged some simple statements, he what a pleasure it was to be sitting there with someone other than Blain, she what an interesting place they were sitting in, that she was glad to be trusted with an insider’s perspective. The contrast of this near-naked room to everything else she’d seen of the baroque, metal-made pit-mine was slightly unnerving, and with the sound insulation, Helen found she had to intentionally keep her voice raised or it would drip out of her mouth like a leaky faucet rather than project across the uncluttered space between them.

Their attention turned to the dogs. Rocket was sitting, almost stolid, with Busy’s dog circling him, sniffing here and there, nudging, generally making a good-faith effort, it seemed, to engage the unfamiliar animal.

“Any guy off the street would either bark or bend over backwards to be nice,” said Busy. Helen looked at him and noticed that for the first time since she’d met him, Busy’s face betrayed something other than suspicion or appreciation. His eyebrows were bent upward on the inside, and though the corners of his mouth were squeezing out a smile, his lips pressed against one another for support.

“Dogs are just so damn…” he seemed lost in thought.

“I know exactly what you mean,” Helen tried, hoping to maintain their rapport.

Busy broke out of his state and slapped his hand on the desk. “And that’s what I like about you, Helen. You just seem to get it.” Helen watched as his face returned to an old stand-by expression. He relaxed, and pulled himself closer to the desk. As Busy launched into a rather long-winded explanation of the chop-shop cum drug production facility, she was reminded of her many hours sitting with her high school counselor, Mrs. Green, whose gym coach slash reformed hippy approach to Zara had always induced a measure of comfort coated with a pinch of pity. Far from the initial, rather imposing pose he’d struck in the parking lot along I-5, the man before her shrank even as his bombastic gesticulations took up more and more space. He was harmless. He was good natured and spirited and his once intimidating dog was a happy-go-lucky hound waiting for Rocket to give an inch.

“The truth is,” Busy continued, “that I’ve put a lot of time into making this facility the smooth operation you saw out there.” He sighed. “When I was hired there were maybe a few vehicles brought in on any given day. And now look.”
Helen nodded.

“And the REMO resale? My idea. But see – and this was just plain lack of foresight on my part – the drug production really changed the whole atmosphere of the place. Everyone’s so bent on being a big part of the REMO scheme, getting the most Buzz for their buck, that nobody shows much interest in just how damn amazing this facility is. People look away. They come in here and pretend they’ve just walked off the street for a pack of smokes and look at me with these big vacuous eyes when I hand them their change, like, Hey, man, good thing these don’t cause cancer…” He trailed off again. Helen was beginning to realize Busy didn’t have many people to talk to. Which was okay, she thought. She wasn’t quite sure what her next move should be, and she decided to go along with this peculiar man for the time being, feeling a little nostalgic as she was, and wanting to savor the sensation. She hadn’t felt nostalgia in years.

“But if they weren’t so determined to play into the system,” she noted, “it wouldn’t work so well, right?”

Busy’s eyes bore into her, but he smiled. “You’re absolutely right, Helen. It wouldn’t work very well at all.”

They sat, having reached this minor consensus, and looked back to the dogs. Rocket was finally showing some interest in his fellow four-legger, and a tidbit of tail-wagging earned him an increasingly eager playmate. Busy took this as his cue, and walked to the door, opening it to let the creatures tumble out, tossing each other around like dogs. Helen watched with disinterest left over from her REMO masquerade, but wondered, despite herself, if they wouldn’t get lost in those labyrinthine hallways.

She looked at her host and smiled. “Rocket is normally quite affable,” she assured him.

“Affable?”

“Friendly.”

“Right.” He didn’t seem put-off in the least by his ignorance. “Well this is a pretty strange place. I’m sure he’s just-”

“Yeah,” Helen finished.

Then silence.

“The wife,” he finally continued, having resumed his position behind the broad, bare desk, “didn’t like the idea of me taking Fred to work.” He looked at her, as if for assurance. “At first, you know.”

“You mean because of the noise?”

“Well, the noise, yeah…”

“Or-”

“Well he makes for some Buzz production around the house, I guess, and—”

Helen thought of her neighbor.

“Well couldn’t she figure out a way of turning his absence into Buzz?”

Busy’s face found some critical pose, then let go and lit up. “Helen that’s a great idea. Maybe we should put out some-”

“Lost dog signs.”

“Exactly!” He marveled. “Damn, Helen, you know I could use someone like you around here.” It was a flippant remark, but Helen realized that it wasn’t often she heard such open praise. It felt good. She traced the sensation as it wound around her relaxed intellect and danced along the border between thought and feeling. She was beginning to like this funny man.

“So you’re married,” she said.

He withheld his dismay with remarkable grace. “Grace. Seventeen years now.”

“Congratulations,” was all she could think to say. She couldn’t imagine.

“Right, well, I’m a busy man.”

“I see.”

Busy looked around the room as if it had been populated, at some point, by things to see.

“You know, Helen, I’ve been saying that for over a decade, and I still never intend the pun.”

“I don’t buy that for a minute,” she lied.

“You’re too kind, kid.”

Helen wondered if it was true. Busy leaned back in his chair and put his feet up on the desk. He was obviously at ease, and she felt both delighted and disgruntled by the idea that she didn’t seem to pose a threat.

“You’d be surprised how hard it gets to keep your chin down, around here.”

“Well things are good, it seems.”

“Yeah but the wife, she gets a little tired of having to put in overtime on Buzz production for the household. I just get home from work and, well, you know, I usually have to admit that I had a good day.”

“Bummer.”

“Grace shouldn’t have to deny the dog in order to cook the roast all the way through. I should be able to come home and vent about a shitty day when I need to, give her a chance to relax.”

Helen heaved a deep sigh she thought might be appropriate, then surprised herself by feeling it. The parallel was an obvious one, but she didn’t expect it to matter, the standards one holds for oneself so distinct, in her mind, from those imposed on others.

“I know how you feel,” she said. “I can’t produce Buzz, myself.”

Busy frowned and cocked his eyes. This did not compute. “What do you mean?”

“I mean I can’t make ETMs work.”

Busy looked off at the room’s ghost appointments, and Helen was left with her own words repeating inside her head as if they’d upset their source and found another mouth to come from. This wasn’t something she told many people. She thought back as Busy’s face cycled through histories of itself, looking for something to match his mood, and couldn’t, she realized, remember the last person she’d told. Could it have been Jack? Actually, she’d told her neighbor more than once, but only in order to give Joan a chance to make a little extra on forgetting it. Helping people toward their errant goals was Helen’s most direct route to actually producing the stuff, and as she’d told her parents before, if there was a way to capture those emotions it would be another thing altogether.

Busy settled on perplexed, and gave it his best shot. “So you mean you don’t have…”
“Negative emotions? Hardly. Honestly, Busy, I don’t know what to tell you. It’s just never worked for me.”

“Hmmm, I didn’t even know there was trick to it, you know? I’d always just put myself in the conduction field and-”

“Right. So it goes. Believe me, I’ve tried. It’s not like I don’t have dirt to draw from.”

“Who doesn’t?”

“Exactly.”

Busy paused, considering. “Well I gotta tell ya, kid, it’s pretty strange, but between you and me,” he leaned forward, “I think that makes you pretty special.”

Before Helen could respond to this the door broke open, letting three dogs tumble into the room and behind them Busy’s partner, Blain, who walked to a far corner and beckoned to Helen’s host. She grew tense. Busy stood, smiled, and shrugged before joining his partner, but he returned to her directly and held out his open hand. On it sat a pair of earplugs. She rolled her eyes but took the offering, an apology, and settled in to watch the dogs. Now fully animated, Rocket rolled around with the two new animals, which, though bigger than him, took care, it seemed, not to overwhelm the suburban mutt, instead spending as much time under as on top. Helen glanced now and then at the men in the corner, and tracked Busy’s typically loose expressions as they grew more steady, then stopped changing altogether, frozen into a hybrid of stern observance and what she could read only as sadness, a wistful look for which she had trouble imagining a source. They stood for a while without speaking, until Busy began on what seemed like a longer monologue, and the winces and wide eyes of his partner made it apparent that, whatever he was saying, it wasn’t something mutual.

Just as Rocket and the rest were winding down, Busy came up to Helen and motioned for her to take out the plugs. She hesitated slightly, but the man’s demeanor suggested more concern than anything else, and she pulled out the instruments, letting the panting and ambient hum of the office pour into her empty ears. She looked up at Busy, whose head, she noticed, was backlit by the ceiling light, awarding him with a halo of sorts, and she smiled to herself until she heard him say “You have any idea why there might be an APB out on you?”

***

Onward to chapter 15 (Redivider).

Back to chapter 13 (Matt Briggs)

Monday, August 24, 2009

Treedance

UPDATE:

Now available from Gene Morgan's Twitter Feed Press is "What 'Twas Done Us In, See" by me. Free to download. Enjoy.

***

New Bright Stupid Confetti post is up. Christopher always manages to find something—or two somethings, or three somethings, or many somethings—that drop my jaw.

He featured my brother recently, too.

***

I like me some trees sometimes. I wrote about a Moon tree a while ago.

a tree dancing from happycobrabooks on Vimeo.



Sometimes I'm just outside and I'm looking around, and it's the evening, and I see that a tree has started dancing. I'm not sure what music a tree listens to when it is dancing. I'm not sure if trees produce their own music, or if they have some sort of source that they tap in to. Like, with their roots? Is there music under the grass? Is that why grass exists, as a sort of baffling, so the music doesn't overwhelm all of us above the earth? Is that it?

Is that the point of grass?

I've always wondered what was the point of grass. And now I think I know.

Anyway, trees and the music that exists beneath the grass. Are the moles making it? Are the ants making it? Are the worms making it? Is that why the music is there?

I'm just not sure.

I'll think about it. And then maybe blog.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Amelia

It's Amelia's birthday. Or was. It was. But it is, in a way. It's nearby. Her birthday is nearby. That's a thing.

That's a thing that can be. It can be nearby Amelia's birthday, and we can all say: Hey, Happy Birthday.

And then when she says, It's not my birthday. It was my birthday, we can then all reply like: Hey, hey, it's nearby, right? We're near it, aren't we? A Happy Birthday salutation is like a improvised explosive on a roadside, we can say. It hits all sort of things that are merely nearby.

Like you, Amelia, and your birthday! It blows that totally up! It blows you totally up with wishes for a happy day even if that day isn't any longer the day that is your birthday.

Hey, how about we make a cake or something for Amelia? I have an apple tree in my backyard. In my basement, black mold grows on the little windows that look out over the lawn. In the attic, I think there is probably a squirrel that has died.

Let's put them all together and make a joyous birthday cake for the one and only Amelia:

shred newspaper and put it in a bowl
scrape mold from the windows with the edge of a paint scraper and sprinkle it into the bowl
add water

make wheat paste:

one cup of hot water
three table spoons of flour with enough cold water to make it liquify
pour them together and bring to a boil
when it thickens, allow it to cool

fold wheat paste into moldy newspaper

remove dead squirrel's heart
place at the center of a cake pan
cover with wheat paste/newspaper mixture
place into freezer

while waiting for cake to freeze, eat apple

Isn't that easy? Let's take the frozen cake to Amelia's and leave it on her doorstep. Let's ring the doorbell and run away. Let's watch from behind a bush. Let's admire the way Amelia roots through the frozen cake with a pair of scissors. Let's see if Amelia can find the heart.

Happy nearby Birthday, Amelia!

***

My book A Jello Horse will be around again soon. Since Publishing Genius Press is being enthusiastic enough about the book to reprint it, I feel I should work hard to promote it so they can make back their printing costs.

Would you help? Maybe? I could maybe answer your questions if you want to interview me. I could maybe guest blog on your blog. I could see that you get a review copy if you want to review.

I could do those things.

***

A brief Open Letter to Mark Doty (who will likely never read it):


View Larger Map

Last Thursday, I was walking to a used camera store to see about finding an old Polaroid SX-70, and I was listening to a Radiolab podcast where Robert Krulwich read a little piece from one of your books, and the piece was about someone very close to you dying, and at the corner of Brooklyn and Campus Parkway there I got a little shaky and felt my eyes get wet and I really felt like crying. Right there where that person is standing, talking on a cell phone. Kind of was overcome.

Thanks.

***



That's me at 17. Kind of like that kid.

Anyway, so I really liked Dead Kennedys when I was young—younger than that photo kid up there. And where I lived, people were sort of unfamiliar with punk. "What kind of music you like?" they'd say and I'd say I like punk and they'd ask what that was.

And I'd try to explain, but it wasn't easy.

Then one day I had a Dead Kennedys tape with me at school. Plastic Surgery Disasters. And during a break, some people were standing around a boom box in the corner of the room, and they were listening to Judas Priest. I had my tape, right, and someone said, maybe we should let him put in his tape and we can hear what its all about.

If you know Plastic Surgery Disasters, you know that side two opens with a song called "Riot." That's this song:



The song with the long, talky intro. The long with the tense opening.

Well, for fuck's sake, the song didn't really even start before someone pulled it out and said it sucked.

And I was never popular.

I blame Jello and his talky opening. Jello ruined high school for me by not just getting to the rocking fast enough.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Boom

I went to this movie and I noticed in this movie that throughout this movie the boom mic kept slipping down into the shot. You know what that looks like? Like this:



This is considered a mistake, this sudden appearance of a boom mic in a shot. But it happened so often in the movie, I thought maybe it wasn't a mistake.

So I decided to call Hollywood. (It was, you see, a Hollywood movie.) I called Hollywood and I talked to a very nice person, and told her I had seen this movie and in this movie the boom mic kept slipping down into the shot and I asked if maybe I could speak to the person who was responsible. She said sure and she transferred my call to the boom mic operator.

Here is a transcript of our conversation.

Hi. I saw your Hollywood movie, and I noticed that the boom mic kept slipping into the shot. Were you the boom mic operator for this movie?

Yes, I was.

What's your name?

I would rather not reveal that. Call me Boom Mic X, please.

Oh. Kay. Hi, Boom Mic X.

Hi.

Was the boom mic slipping into the shot some sort of accident?

No. Absolutely not.

Don't movie directors generally NOT want the boom mic to show up in a shot?

Yes. They generally object to the sudden appearance of a boom mic. I would say that that is an accurate statement.

So, doesn't this make the appearance of the boom mic in your Hollywood film an accident?

In this case, no. The director of the movie most likely thinks it was an accident. But, for the record, I did it intentionally.

You did?

Yes. You see, I am an activist.

An activist?

Yes. I am a reality activist. I work with an organization that objects to the willing suspension of disbelief. We believe that all fictional projects should be morally bound to reveal to their audiences that they are fictional projects. They must never be ambiguous about it. So we infiltrate the creation of works of fiction and we make certain to show in the consumers of fictional media to the fictional nature of the thing being consumed. We call it "cueing."

By lowering the boom mic into a movie?

That's one technique, yes. It's one of our most common ways of cueing in film or television. We also show up as extras in films sometimes, and break the fourth wall. We look into the camera. It's subtle, but people notice and it reminds them that they are not watching reality unfold. They are watching a movie.

You said "fictional media." So you do this for more than simply film and television?

Oh, yes. Music, for example. Now, you may not think of music as a "fictional medium," but it is. Any form of storytelling creates fiction. Music was always very tricky, but a few years ago, we managed to solve music in the hip-hop genre, at least. One of our operatives managed to popularize the use of the word "real" in hip-hop. He did it virally, of course. Language is viral. He started it, and then, soon, hip-hop artists were talking about "keeping" things "real."

The brilliance of this cueing technique is that while the artists use the term in order to mask the fiction they are creating, because it is antinomous to fiction to call it "real," they undercut their own project. They produce fiction and try to insist on how "real" it is, but because the term "real" is a primary category, it is more powerful than their attempt to appropriate it to qualify their fiction. They explode their own project from within.

Wow.

Yeah. Stunningly simple, isn't it? The guy who came up with that one was rewarded with his very own private island.

Novels can be tough. You know, a bookstore has this place where it shelves its fiction, so at point-of-sale, one is already made aware of the un-reality of the work. This, of course is true of film and television, but a good novel is one that immerses the reader in its fictional world. The problem for us is never point-of-sale. It's that moment when one gets "lost" in one's fiction. When the brain is suddenly transported. When one forgets the nature of the work one is consuming.

There are multiple people involved in film and television. We can sneak our cues into that.

So what are you doing to cue readers?

Well, first, we are a very powerful group of people. I'm not bragging. I'm just saying it. We have a lot of money. So we have put that money behind popularizing really lousy novels. Novels that NEVER immerse the reader. If you think the quality of popular fiction is deplorable, now you know why.

Second, we have editors filling books with subliminal messages. Acrostics. THIS IS FICTION. THIS IS NOT REAL. Spend some time with a book and a highlighter. You'll find messages all over.

Third, in that stronghold of readers who refuse to allow themselves to read inferior works of fiction that by virtue of their lack of virtue are constantly ejecting readers from story and making it impossible for them to forget that what they are reading IS fiction, we have popularized post-modern, meta-fictional techniques and frames by taking over academia.

Should I be happy that you have done this?

Thank us for your grasp on reality, yes.

***

Justin Sirois reads from MLKNG SCKLS here.

Monday, August 03, 2009

Rider

This week, I would like to direct you to check out an essay I wrote on Diff'rent Strokes and Knight Rider on HTML Giant.

Here's an excerpt:

"Fictional KITT (DS) is, like fictional KITT (KR), is a super-intelligent, wise-cracking computerized car. But fictional David Hasselhoff (DS) is the actor who plays a character named Michael Knight in Knight Rider."

For the rest of the week, I will post something small here every day.

***

Tomorrow night, you can go to Neptune Coffee and see Amelia Gray, Evelyn Hampton, and Lotte Kestner. I will be hosting. It will be great.

***

A couple of days ago, I read Justin Sirois's book MLKNG SCKLS. It's a remarkable little book—a series of excerpts, in fact—from a novel he's working on about an Iraqi escaping Fallujah.

The language is not dense, but it has a deep and impressive lyricism. Sirois has a gift for lyrical writing that in no way seems forced. The alliteration and internal rhymes that occur in the well-constructed sentences work in ways they don't in a lot of prose lyricism. He is restrained, picking the right spots to deploy a rhetorical figure to advantage.

The books two main characters are walking through the Iraqi desert, journeying from Fallujah to Ramadi, one recording it all on a laptop with a slowly draining battery. It has its Beckett precedents, but instead of Beckett's surreal, placeless place settings, MLKNG SCKLS is played out on the great contemporary American misadventure of our war in Iraq. Absurdity and tragedy collide every day in that Middle Eastern country, and Sirios recognizes and reveals it all well.

A favorite scene of mine features a man uncooking a meal, a task as seemingly impossible as, say, unringing a bell; or uninvading a country because of faulty, cooked intelligence. The characters manages his task. America, though, won't.

Looking forward to the novel, Justin. It's a great honor to share a publisher.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Snapshot

Like last week, I'm going to use my blog post this week to do another "Job Interview." That is, an interview with someone who has a job. A job that you—the reader—may not have been aware existed. A job that you—the reader—might consider looking into in this lousy, lousy job market.

This week I talked to a Freeze Framer.

Here's the interview.

What's a Freeze Framer?

I work in the television and Internet industry. Often times in the television and Internet industry, someone will have an opinion about someone else. When that someone has an opinion about someone else, and that opinion is a low opinion of said other person, and they decide they want to go ahead and express that opinion, they need an image that serves to help with the expression of that low opinion. When that happens, they call me and ask me to find one.

Instead of taking picture after picture after picture after picture of the person, I find a video tape of the person, and I go through it frame by frame to find the least flattering image I can find. This, then, becomes the image that accompanies the negative opinion about the person.

So you just look at every frame until you find the right one? That sounds difficult and time consuming and arbitrary.

In fact, though, it's not. It can be time consuming, sure. It can be somewhat difficult, yes. But it is not arbitrary.

I must first familiarize myself with the opinion. When I have read the opinion, I put it into one of a half-dozen or so categories. ("This person is stupid," for example. Or, "This person is a sucking black hole of evil." That's another one. A popular one, too.) Once I have decided what the opinion's major category is, I must open up my file of subcategories. "This person is stupid BECAUSE they don't know what I know." "This person is stupid BECAUSE they choose to associate with other stupid people." "This person is stupid BECAUSE they have never seen a particular film, read a particular book, heard a particular recording." (The subcategories, you see, sometimes have their own subcategories.)

The major categories and subcategories are all assigned letters of the alphabet, and the opinion is given a two to six letter classification called an "Identifier." I use it's Identifier to find another file that gives me some very specific instructions about the proper image to go with the opinion. Freeze framers have spent many decades—since long before digital media, in fact—identifying the proper combination of elements on a face for each Indentifier.

Can you give me an example?

Absolutely. Recently I was given an opinion about the man who hosted a reunion of a reality TV show that we will not name. I read the piece, and it was a classic "This person is an idiot because they are asking me to care about and pay attention to a group of people who do not deserve my attention." The Identifier for that sort of piece is BDCLE. (I've done quite a few of those recently.)

Here is the proper image for a BDCLE:



Elements include:

• slightly "inturned" or "crossed" left eye with a straight-ahead right eye
• head cocked to the left at a less-than 45 degree angle down from normal
• grin where only the top row of teeth are showing and where it appears that the teeth on the right side of the mouth are larger than the one's on the left
• no more than two brow furrows
• darker interior to left nostril

There are a few others, but I think you get the idea.

Is what you do "ethical?"

I reject the notion that ethics have anything at all to do with my job. I provide the image, yes, but I do not post it. I am a practitioner of an art form, not a participant in the consequences of that art form.

How does one become a Freeze Framer?

There are lodges in most cities in America. You simply have to go to one, meet a member or two, show them that you have the skills, the temperament, and the discretion to do what they do. You then become an apprentice.

The apprenticeship is two years, usually. After that, there is a ceremony.

What's the ceremony like?

I am not allowed to talk about it.

Should you be talking about this at all?

I would rather not respond to that question.

Is this interview an act of disloyalty on your part? Was it authorized by the Freeze Framers Lodge?

I will only say that I am a loyal Freeze Framer. But there is misinformation about us out there. I agreed to the interview to help dispel some of the myths. But, no. This interview was not authorized.

I will keep your identity a secret, then.

I appreciate that. Thank you.

Thank you.

***

There it is. A Freeze Framer. Something else you could be.

***

Readings scheduled:

Pilot Books on July 30 with Brandon Scott Gorrell.


Literary Death Match in Seattle, Jewelbox Theater, The Rendezvous, August 13
. Facing Ryan Boudinot, Matt Briggs, and Peter Gajdics.

Also, come see Amelia Gray, Evelyn Hampton, and Lotte Kestner at Neptune Coffee in Greenwood on August 3, 7pm.

Also, come see Mary Miller and Jonathan Evison at The College Inn Pub, August 5 at 7pm. Aaron Burch will be there, too, to read from the brand spanking new issue of Hobart!

***

The best news I've heard in a while: Spike Jonze optioned the film rights to LIGHT BOXES by my friend Shane Jones. I loved LIGHT BOXES. You should buy it.

Also buy SCORCH ATLAS by Blake Butler.

Also buy AM/PM by Amelia Gray.

Also lots of other things by Sam Pink, Mike Young, Brandon Gorrell, Matt Bell, Ellen Kennedy, Jimmy Chen, Barry Graham, Evelyn Hampton, Justin Taylor, Chelsea Martin, JA Tyler, Katherine Regina, Mary Miller, Aaron Burch, Elizabeth Ellen, Monkeybicycle, Dzanc Books, Featherproof Books, Rose Metal Press, Magic Helicopter, Greying Ghost Press, Open City Books, Mud Luscious Press, Underland Press, Future Tense Press, and about a thousand other small presses and people.

Here's a new one:

Year of the Liquidator.

***



Other wonderful things here.

RIP Merce Cunningham.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Picnic

I thought maybe that because of the bad economy and the high unemployment rate here in the nation of the United States of America, it would be good for me to take a week or maybe two out of my nonstop schedule of entertaining in blog form—or, my nonstop schedule of attempting to but never really being able to entertain readers with a blog here on the internet—to instead use my nationally accessible forum to help out with the education of the people who are reading this and might also be unemployed.

Isn't that nice? Isn't it nice of me? I think sometimes that I am nice.

Anyway.

So I thought I could maybe use this blog post to highlight a possible career for those that are unemployed and maybe looking to find for themselves some kind of gainful and satisfactory employment opportunities.

Let's start by looking at a picture of this man:



This man has a job. This man is a Regional Picnic Endorser. That is his title. That is what he does for a living. He lives in a region—the Pacific Northwest—and he attends many picnics in this region. He attends the picnics and evaluates them by following a six point rubric. He rates the picnic according to the rubric. And then, if the picnic scores a certain number of the six possible points, he endorses the picnic. And he endorses it by appearing in photographs making the "thumbs up" gesture.

This is his job. He is paid very well to do this job. He has benefits. And not just regular benefits. He has HEALTH benefits, which are, I think you know, some of the best kinds of benefits to get. People really covet health benefits.

He gets them because of his Regional Picnic Endorser position.

I interviewed him.

How did you get your job?

I sort of fell into it. I was at a park on a Saturday taking some photos and I saw a picnic. The folks who were putting on the picnic were very friendly and they gave me a hotdog with mustard. It was a nice stone ground honey mustard. I ate the hotdog and enjoyed it, and I gave the host the "thumbs up."

A man who was attending the picnic approached me and asked me to make the "thumbs up" sign again. I did so. He told me I was a natural. He gave me his business card and told me to call him Monday about a job. I was hesitant, but then he told me about the health benefits.

How long have you been doing this job?

Six years now. It's the longest I've ever held any job. I love it. So many hotdogs!

Tell me about the rubric. What are the six things a picnic must have to get the full six points?

I'm sorry, but I am not allowed to tell you. The six points are a closely guarded secret of our agency. If I told you, then everyone who was hosting a picnic would follow the six points specifically, but not try to innovate. It is important that Americans continue to innovate and shift the picnic paradigm internationally. We must remain Exceptionalists, re: picnics. We can't fall behind the Chinese or, say, the Brazilians.

How can someone get a job endorsing regional picnics?

You can stumble into it, like I did. Or you can go to your local government website. There are usually positions open, even if they are not listed. If you don't see one on the government jobs site, I would suggest calling Parks and Recreation directly and asking. Often, the person who answers the phone will pretend like the job doesn't exist. This is a test. Keep pressing them and eventually they will say, "Congratulations! Your persistence has earned you an interview!"

How many hotdogs have you eaten?

Many, my friend. Many.

Thank you for your time.

Thank you.

***

Blake Butler's Scorch Atlas is available for pre-order. Get in on dat shit.

DESTROYED!

Scorch Atlas (destroyed) by Blake Butler from featherproof books on Vimeo.



***

Readings scheduled:

Pilot Books on July 30 with Brandon Scott Gorrell.


Literary Death Match in Seattle, Jewelbox Theater, The Rendezvous, August 13
. Facing Ryan Boudinot, Matt Briggs, and Peter Gajdics.

Also, come see Amelia Gray, Evelyn Hampton, and Lotte Kestner at Neptune Coffee in Greenwood on August 3, 7pm.

Also, come see Mary Miller and Jonathan Evison at The College Inn Pub, August 5 at 7pm. Aaron Burch will be there, too, to read from the brand spanking new issue of Hobart!

Monday, July 06, 2009

Mayor

File this under SOME OLD BULLSHIT. This is something I wrote in 2003 or 2004. I found it in a file somewhere. It's about my cat:

If Emmett were the mayor, I'd play a game of listening improvisation whenever he gave a speech. As he spoke, relaying whatever it was he wanted to relay, maybe something about the budget, maybe something about traffic, I would sit in a seat in back and play with the form. I could change his cadence by tapping my foot, pacing or confusing his tempo. He might suddenly speak polyrthymically, or stick with a simple 4/4 beat. I could rustle a few papers to stir the air and affect his pitch ever so slightly. I might cover an ear with my hand, listen to the way his voice changed when the sound is caught by only the left or the right. I could turn my head from side to side, listening to the difference in each angle. I'd open and close my hands around my ears to condense the sound waves into smaller spaces. Turn my head quickly (little doppler effect), making little rippling ponds, splashes of noise.

I might cover one eye to change my perspective, tilt my head to the side. Nod or shake. Squint, smile too hard, strain the muscles around my eyeball to squeeze it. Use my hands as blinders, press my thumbs to the sides of my face, making little trails of blue light, or green grids.

But, I don't think I'd mess with the content. Not at first. Just style and presentation.

If I taped Emmett's speeches, though, I could allow myself to mess with them. I might substitute words using homonyms, changing his meanings. I might transcribe entire speeches without vowels, or verbs. Cut up the text, put it in a hat, pull random bits and sort them into a new speech, studying that. I could intentionally mishear him. I could randomly add footnotes, or tangents. Or, I could fundamentally change the way I understand what Emmett says. I might try to override the hardwired pathways in my brain, forcing information through unused synaptic links. Or, perhaps I could make the pathways fire back wards? Parallel? A speech about the budget could be reconfigured, reassessed, and reinterpreted as a speech about divorce rates in ant colonies, or it could taste like limes and raspberries.

***

Later, we all found out that the center of the galaxy tastes like raspberries.

***

Here's a photo of Emmett about to teleport away.



Emmett has powers.

***

Two from Seth Pollins:

In Defense of Self-Portraiture
The Dr. Mario Champion

***

Some more old stuff:

stuff i thought about today at work

• i practice no organized religion, but i do read strunk and white's "elements of style" nearly every day.

someday, i might start writing it like this: str-nk and wh-te.

• if you come to my bookstore, i'm the guy at the kid's info desk with the temporary strega nona tattoo. don't point and laugh.

• the results of today's books-in-print olympics are as follows: garfield gets the gold with 312 results, ziggy the silver with 41 results, and jonas salk, the man who cured polio, gets the bronze with 32 results.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Penny



More later...please stand by.

***

This is my record review of the new record that I received in the mail and it only cost me a penny.

(And also, it cost me two more pennies for two more records, sure, but mostly I just got this one record for a penny and then the others for the other pennies were sort of like bonus gravy.)

The penny that I spent on this record that I got in the mail for a penny was well wort the copper or whatever that it is made from or out of. (Someone told me that inside a penny is bread for some reason. They said that if you take a penny and cut it in half, inside is like this old stale bread.) (But that is neither here nor there.) This was a penny well spent, much like because the penny was made from when I went out and did the lawn with the mower, it was also a penny well earned.

(The lawn really, really, really, really, like really needed doing.)

I see on the cover of this penny-costing record is a big blue word and some people in a photograph that is under the big blue word which is probably very likely the name of the band or the album. I like it very much when things are plain and straight ahead and no one has any trouble with the way information is conveyed to them, so I like it when a band or musical solo artist does me—and the public!—the great service of going ahead and putting their own name on the cover of the record. I am also very much in favor of a picture of the band itself, or the musical solo artist himself, or the musical female solo artist herself on the cover for ease of identifying the nature of the person performing the music on the record.

(Girls can make very fine solo musical artists, and I swear I was not trying to diminish the excellence of female musical solo artists by putting them last.)

The record itself is round in the manner of record albums in time immemorial. (That means from before you were born to remembering.) It is black and made of some sort of polyvinyl. There is a label on the center of the record and if I could read I would tell you all about the artist.

(And now you say, how is it you are giving me this record review in words if you yourself are unable to read words. The very interesting thing about me as a person is that I am unable to read, but am perfectly capable for whatever reason of writing in any sort of words I want, including words in languages that you don't know. Like, I might if I want say: watashi wa biru ga daisukidesu. Which is a lot of Japanese person talk.)

I do not have a record player of any sort so I cannot tell you if the music is any good. I hope that in the next few years I will be able to make enough money to buy a record player and then I will listen to the record and tell you about it. And then I will blog about it, but I can't now because it is impossible.

***

A review of A Jello Horse.

When the book is reprinted in August there will be some review copies. Send me an email if you would like to review the book. I'm at

happy
cobra
books

at

g
mail

dot

com

***

I check my book on Goodreads a lot, and every time someone adds it, I get a little short of breath and giddy. You and all your friends could do a sort of practical joke on me where a whole bunch of you add the book while I am asleep, and when I check the Goodreads site again and see a bunch of people have all added the book, I might faint. Someone could get that on tape.

***

You will love this book. I loved it. You will, too.

***