Thursday, December 23, 2010

"Music is...is God."

How can I entice you to watch this? Trust me. It's the kindest thing you could do for yourself now, as you sit at your computer. If you have time to surf the Web, give yourself the gift of twelve minutes with this woman and her story, then share it.


Wednesday, December 22, 2010

It's Happening Again

I'm blogging. It's December. Same pattern as last year.

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This semester kicked my ass. I developed a new course (Transcending Gender), submitted a series of proposals ranging from more new classes to a writing workshop/retreat in Italy, taught a flash fiction workshop, banged out the greater part of the final draft of my book (still banging out the remainder), and did the usual: crammed four weeks from top to bottom with student conferences, worked a second job, helped raise two kids, took out the trash on Tuesday nights, that sort of thing. With all this to take care of, I had to let go of something. Blogging and marathon training fell by the wayside. For the running, there's always next year. For the blogging, there's now.

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This has never happened before: three of my students mentioned this blog in their end-of-semester evaluations. How odd. Why? If you're reading this, O former student, what brought you here? Drop a line, whoever you are.

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I can't get over how much I enjoyed the Transcending Gender course. I'm not a gender scholar--not really. But I teach in a writing program that allows its faculty to expand the range of their course offerings by pursuing their interests. And, as both a fiction writer and actor, I've long been interested the world between genders. Gender crossings. Cross dressing. Rocky Horror Picture Show. I'm intrigued still, and I look forward to revisiting the subject (and the course) in the coming months.


For now, though, I should write. Back to work!

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One more thing. If you're about to die, Joanna Newsom will save your life:



Don't die.

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Thanks for stopping by, dear reader, whoever and wherever you may be.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Consider Green Lakes and the Idiocy of Clocks

Tonight, for the first time since 1638, we get a total eclipse of the moon on the longest night of the year.





TOTAL ECLIPSE OF THE MOON
(originally published in In Posse Review, a long, long time ago)

Zack is alone and naked in the outhouse. He peers through the door's crescent moon window at a sun-drenched patch of weeds scattered with beach toys and badminton racquets. His family's dilapidated A-frame stands about fifty feet away. A duck quacks overhead. Girls' voices shout "Marco!" and answer "Polo!" at the lake's edge, just out of sight. Zack cries, "Mom?"
Twenty minutes ago Zack's cousin Billy stole the T-shirt, cut-off jeans and fruit-of-the-Loom briefs Zack had left on a hook in the outhouse. Without noticing, Zack had pulled the outhouse door almost shut behind him and hung his swim trunks on a hook. Billy sneaked up, snatched the trunks, and ran off, cackling, into the woods.

Now Zack rises to his tiptoes, puts his mouth to the crescent moon, and whispers, "Help!" His head begins to whirl from sweat and the stink of the toilet hole. He could bolt for the woods, but the trees hide a jungle of poison ivy. He could sprint for the cabin, but someone would spot him. Tearing off two sheets of toilet paper, he wipes his dripping forehead.

All of a sudden the crescent moon goes dark. The door rattles against the flimsy latch. Uncle Bruce, who talks as if every word is crammed up inside his nose, says, "Hello?"

Zack shuts his eyes. "Just a minute!"

"That you, Zacky boy?"

"Yes!" Zack wraps a few layers of toilet paper around his sweaty groin and buttocks, but the paper instantly clumps and dissolves. He wads it up and tosses it into the toilet hole.

"Hustle your butt! I gotta take a dump." Uncle Bruce whistles "Born to Run" as he leans a shoulder against the door. The boards creak. "Come on, Zacky! You get your little pecker stuck in the hole?"

"I'm fine!"

Uncle Bruce crams his face against the moon hole. "You alone?"

Zack squeezes his naked backside into the corner. His forehead brushes an ancient strip of fly paper suspended from a nail. "Of course!"

The latch shakes free and the door flies open. Bruce's chubby head thrusts into the outhouse. Zack slips through the crevice of open air between the door frame and his uncle's enormous belly. Bruce's fat fingers clutch at his shoulders, slipping off in Zack's rush of sweat and panic. The boy hurdles a beach ball and sprints toward the cabin.

Uncle Bruce shouts, "Zacky! You're naked!"

Zack stubs his toe against a rock in the weeds, but loses only a step. His mother comes onto the porch with a gin and tonic in one hand and a bag of potato chips in the other. Her big brown eyes meet Zack's. She tosses back her head and squawks with laughter. Potato chips scatter.

Zack veers left toward the woods. Billy steps out of the bushes. He has Zack's swim trunks draped over his hair like an Indian headdress. He cocks a handful of mud at his ear, ready to fire. Zack pivots and dashes for the lake, but old Mrs. Alstead from next door stands directly between him and the water. A wicker basket filled with driftwood tumbles from her trembling hands. She screeches, "Zachary Norris, put on your clothes before I call the cops!"

Zack's cousin Ellie and three other girls rise from the water in pastel bathing suits; one by one, they point at Zack and scream. He wheels toward the cabin, leapfrogs the croquet mallets, and darts for the far corner of the house as Uncle Bruce's voice rises above the cacophony:

"Get him, Billy!"

Something cold and wet slaps hard against Zack's bottom. As if in slow motion -- with his mother's laughter and the little girls' shrieks echoing in his ears -- Zack's knees buckle. He trips and falls toward the weeds, toward years of shame and humiliation, toward wretched interviews for pathetic jobs, toward belittling breakups with women he truly loves and who never really love him back, toward a lifetime of scratching his way to some semblance of respectability -- down, down, down he falls through a thousand holidays and gatherings when the story of this long ago summer day gets told and retold, when the family hoots and laughs because there he landed, face-down in the weeds with his pale buttocks exposed to the world through a thick, dark splatter of mud.
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That one won't be in the book.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

I Can't Think of a Title for This Post

Nine songs come up when I search the word "untitled" on my iTunes library. Tonight I went looking for the R.E.M. song "Untitled," knew I'd get the Cure, but didn't expect this many. Here they are:










(Sadly, the only version I could find of the next song--R.E.M.'s "Untitled"--is an instrumental cover, but it's not a bad one.)




[The next is an alternate take of "Sugar High" but it's listed as untitled on the CD. Couldn't find it, so here's a live version with an interview for Japanese TV. Duffy was big there, I gather.]





I have a great memory of hearing this last song in concert. I was there the night Peter Himmelman first publicly performed this ballad. It was nothing short of spiritual. Devastating. Awe inspiring. Also life affirming. I can't speak for this video, but the song itself will blow you away if you give it a shot.