Friday, November 22, 2013

Insomnia. In. Som. Ni. A.

I turned 45 yesterday. Or was it today? It's after midnight now--in fact, it's after two--so my birthday ended a while ago. A couple days ago I was still young, but somehow I feel I've lost my grip on the last threads of youth now that I'm no longer 44. And I gather insomnia is the first symptom of old age. I keep hearing music, distant music almost drowned out by the wind and the passing trains. Now and then the music swells, and it's loud enough to make me think about it but not loud enough to make me do anything. Then it's gone, as the heater kicks on or the wind shakes the big tree above our house. I don't recognize the songs. They're probably country pop rock crap. I'm tired. An ice storm is coming. I surrender to this night.


Sunday, November 17, 2013

A Somber Meditation on Human Frailty

Just kidding. Kind of. I made a short, silent, black and white film with my kids a couple weekends ago, when the leaves began to fall. It took a few days to edit and a few more days for Dostoevsky to compose and record the original soundtrack. Now here it is. Ta-dah!


May we humbly suggest you use the HD setting? Enjoy. 

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

On Health and Health Care in the United States

Health care should not be a private commodity bought and sold for profit. No one in the country with the highest per capita medical expenditure in the world should go without full, equal access to health care. Health should not be apportioned by wealth or class or race or gender or ability or anything other than humanness. Every person in this country should have access to the same high level of care. We have the means. We have the resources. We lack only the will.

I intended to write more, but I've said all I needed to say.

Friday, September 6, 2013

What the Fox Does Not Say

Today I made a poem as a small (probably even feeble, certainly ridiculous) protest against the Big New Thing on the Internet. Here you go:


Thursday, August 29, 2013

No Album Left Behind

As usual, I don't have time for a full write-up, but I want to put this out there on the off chance other forty-something, eighties/nineties alternative rock fans might be interested. I've made some very pleasant music listening this year by going back to albums I had dismissed when they were originally released. These were records by some favorite artists (Depeche Mode, New Order, and R.E.M., for example), which somehow didn't measure up--and which, in turn, I didn't pay much attention to because I was wrapped up in other new music. Maybe these albums struck me as sell-outs (New Order's Technique), pandering (Depeche Mode's Music for the Masses), or simply sub-par efforts from bands I loved (R.E.M.'s New Adventures in Hi-Fi). In any case, I'm sure I missed others.

So, with the full understanding that many fans weren't as fickle (or, more likely, as committed to finding the obscure and undiscovered out on the cutting edge--which makes it sound as lame as it probably was), I'll list a few albums I dismissed at the time but which I suspect might yield up some unexpected joy years later:

1. U2's Zooropa - I tried hard to like this one, but it felt wildly inconsistent and made for a poor follow-up to Achtung Baby--which, itself, took a few lunges in directions I didn't like.


2. The Cure's Wish - This album didn't bother me so much as it struck me as a pale echo of Disintegration. This album has three great songs I still love and listen to from time to time ("Doing the Unstuck," "Friday I'm in Love," and "A Letter to Elise"), but I bet there's more to be found here.


3. New Model Army's Strange Brotherhood - NMA released this when I was more or less disengaged from the music world. I had left a career in arts & entertainment journalism largely out of disgust with the shoddy way I was treated after breaking up with my newspaper's advertising director, whom I had dated for all of nine months. (Those publishers knew who buttered their bread.) Anyway, by 1998 I was fully engaged in a meditation practice, flying out to L.A. for teachings by the Dalai Lama, and becoming a special education teacher. And after the hit-and-miss album For the Love of Hopeless Causes, I wasn't sure NMA had much left in the tank. I was wrong, and their albums this century have proven consistently strong. I'm betting Strange Brotherhood will be my favorite from this list. Just a hunch.


4. Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds' The Boatman's Call - A couple songs ("Into My Arms" and "People Ain't No Good") stuck with me, but for some reason I didn't engage with the rest of this quiet album. In the ruthless and regrettable practice of culling my collection, I eventually traded in the CD, but I regret letting this one go. I read a review somewhere recently that named this one of the Bad Seeds' best. I should probably double-check.


5. New Order's Republic - Yes, by this time I had entirely tuned out, my interest in New Order was gone. If I played Republic even once, all the way through, I don't remember it now. I wasn't even listening to the older stuff in the mid-nineties, aside from the occasional encounter with Low-Life on long car rides. My hopes aren't high for this one, but I bet there's a track or two or three that I'll appreciate (re)discovering.

And finally, dear reader, a question: What are your left-behind albums--the ones you once ignored but which you've gone back to years later and found treasures you overlooked the first time through? 

Friday, August 23, 2013

The Last Few Minutes before the Bomb

Hot off the digital presses, my chapbook, The Last Few Minutes Before the Bomb, can now be downloaded to your Kindle, your phone, your computer, your whatever. If my first book functions as a debut album of sorts then this one's the follow-up EP. It contains ten stories, eight of which are flash fictions. Some are as recent as this year, and one comes from the late 1990's. There's also a story told entirely in dialogue ("Black Cat Leaves White Balloon") and a longer (but not terribly long) short story--the one that gives this little book its title. For now it's listed at $2.99, probably through the end of the year. Then we'll set the price at $5.

We're also now selling the story "Plantlife" on its own for 99 cents. It first appeared in Magnificent Mistakes then in the Pink Narcissus Press anthology of feminist science fiction, Daughters of Icarus. I'm especially excited about the cover image Matthew Kaney (one of my favorite people!) put together for "Plantlife" (on the right). He and I have worked off and on to make a graphic-novel-style adaptation of the story, but our schedules haven't aligned. He's done several great drawings and even a cool storyboard for the project, so it felt not quite right that we never saw it through. Seeing his cover on this little e-book makes me smile.

So that's it: new chapbook, new/old single story, cool cover. Just thought you should know.

Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

10 Tips for Following a Vegetarian Diet

These are some foods that are not dead animals.
Due to my desire to avoid killing animals and/or paying other people to kill animals on my behalf just so I can eat them (the killed animals, not the people--though I suppose either applies), I have eaten a vegetarian diet for almost twenty years. Well, OK, I admit I ate some pieces of dead animal as recently as Christmas 2000, because my then-wife did not want me to make her parents feel bad about serving dead animal. And she was right! Why should they feel bad for serving me so-called food I find both immoral and repulsive? I should feel ashamed for even thinking of not shoveling pieces of that dead bird into my mouth. Those poor people!

Anyway, over the years, I've learned a great deal about how to maintain a vegetarian diet. For those who might just be starting out, here are ten well worn, battle tested tips that have proven useful for maintaining my vegetarian diet:

1. Don't eat chicken. 

2. Sidestep sausage.

3. Flee from fish.

4. Bypass bacon. 

5. Steer clear of steak. 

6. Eschew escargot.

7. Hold off on ham. 

8. Duck duck.

9. Circumlocute clams.

10. Desist devouring dead animals. 

When in doubt, that tenth tip is key. Just ask yourself, "Did this dead animal used to be a living animal?" If the answer is "yes," don't eat it. If the answer is "no, this is not a dead animal," and whatever "this" is looks and smells tasty, go ahead and eat it.

If you have questions, please ask, and do come back to let me know how your vegetarian diet is going. Good luck, and stay healthy!

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Use Your Words

I made a new flyer for the OU Write Club open mic:


If you're a writer (or just a fan of locally grown poetry, fiction, etc.) within striking distance of Norman, Oklahoma, you should join us at OU Write Club's open mic. We'll have a poetry slam some time this fall, and possibly another in the spring. Off the top of my head, I know our featured readers will include superstar performance poet Melissa May, a book release party for Susan Kates, and (fingers crossed) a return visit from the woman who should be Oklahoma's poet laureate, Lauren Zuniga.

Check out the OU Write Club Facebook page for more details.

-----

For your viewing pleasure and edification: 



New NMA Single, Album, Tour and Documentary

One of my favorite bands, New Model Army, has a new song out this week, paving the way for an album and tour this fall and a documentary about the band due in 2014. (Visit the New Model Army site for details.) But "paving the way" gets something wrong. Clearing a path, maybe. Justin Sullivan, the singer, songwriter, guitarist, and heart and soul of the band, occupies a mad-luddite-prophet-shaped space in my imagination, and I can't imagine this world without him. Well, I suppose I could, but he's vital, and his songs have played a big role in expanding my worldview.

Here's the new single, in all its glory:


It's good, but I don't think it's a great song. I love the bass and drums, and the lyric and melody are solid. Yet the song feels like it wants to build to a catharsis as the final minute just rolls along then fades away. I suspect I'll appreciate "March in September" more in the context of the album, when that arrives. In any case, I could do without the repetitious whoo-whoo backing vocals. Still, the song is classic New Model Army, in the sense that its sounds effectively revisit the eras that the video evokes.

Speaking of which, the clip consists of excerpts from the documentary coming in 2014. For a lifelong fan, these are treasures. Now if only there were a tour coming close enough to Oklahoma to justify donning my original Thunder and Consolation Tour T-shirt and heading out to a show...

Thank you, Justin, wherever you are, for everything.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

White Folks' Blood

I've been a bad blogger. While working, then traveling/working, then returning and writing, I nearly forgot I had a blog at all. (Much less two or three, but this is the only one with posts in 2012 or 2013.) And I'm working on a new book, so I'm unlikely to get back to active blogging any time soon. Good for me.

If I had the time, though, I'd write a post or an essay about how this obscure song from the late eighties, by the brilliant and all but forgotten band House of Freaks, captures something essential that I feel Rilla Askew's great new novel, Kind of Kin, is all about. First, the song: House of Freaks, "White Folks Blood." (Youtube won't let me find the video within the Blogger search function that restricts video content. Not sure how to get around it, other than to link to it and ask you to open it in another tab and let it roll. It's a great song. I promise.)

Askew's novel takes a slightly more sympathetic approach (but no less Southern Gothic, if I understand the term correctly--which I very well may not) to the subject of white people stupidly (ignorantly, even) perpetuating the crimes of our genocidal, slaveholding ancestors. Anyway, no time to elaborate on this connection and on the book's affect on me. It's a great, surprisingly entertaining, deeply moving read, and I recommend it.

I'm reading Toni Morrison's Beloved now, finally, and it's line about how "There is no bad luck in this world but whitefolks" has me thinking about all of this all over again. Synapses fire. Connections spark. Questions and memories rise up and echo. The way House of Freaks' singer, songwriter and guitarist Bryan Harvey was murdered with his wife and daughters, in their home, pierces through these thoughts and tints my reaction to all of it.

OK, I've convinced myself I ought to go write that essay. 

Friday, July 12, 2013

Self Demotion

A young writer recently pointed out to me that I do very little to promote my work. Obviously he does not read this blog. That said, he's right. Blogging about my book a few times a year does not amount to much of a promotional campaign. The truth is, I'm not sure that I ought to be doing much at all anymore to promote a book published nearly two years ago. Magnificent Mistakes had a good run, including a brief stint in the Kindle Store Top 100 list as a "bestseller" (it was free at the time, of course). Anyway, I've moved on.

Nonetheless, this nice review of the book popped up online a couple months ago: CLICK HERE TO READ. Should you by chance be intrigued, you can buy the Kindle edition or the paperback. Or, if you want to ensure that less money goes to the author and his small press, you could buy the paperback from Amazon.

And thanks for the kind words, Weston Mize, whoever you are. 

Saturday, May 4, 2013

The Master of Submission: Free Download

Starting on Monday, Amazon is giving away the e-book "sample" of my short story, "The Master of Submission," for four days. It's the complete story, which happens to be the longest (and by far the creepiest) in my collection, Magnificent Mistakes, so you would not misread this post if you felt this was just another attempt to bring readers to the book. Maybe you already have the connection, or maybe you're not the least bit interested in reading the exploits of a creepy, spurned, and ailing sex-toy inventor as he stalks his ex and stumbles into a new love--but if you were to download the story now, you'd give it a nice boost in the Kindle Store rankings. You don't need a kindle to help--a browser will do. Thanks for your indulgence!

Friday, April 12, 2013

Does She Realize??

Oklahoma's deeply problematic G.O.P. Governer Mary Fallin may not realize the sh*#storm of Okie slacktivism she hath (or will hath) rained down upon her re-election chances in 2014 by choosing not to renew the Flaming Lips' anthem "Do You Realize??" as the official State Rock Song. This story broke yesterday, mere years after her fateful decision was made. And don't think this blasphemy will go unnoticed. Well, further unnoticed. One can already feel the low, sleepy rumble of hipsters, stoners, and stoner-hipsters across the panhandle state waking up to the revocation of our state's token gesture to the fragile self-image of many of its kindest, gentlest citizens.

And when I say "our state," well...I've lived here six years. It's mine more than any other, by now.

Yes, I realize...


Sh*#'s about to get real down in here.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

And the Award for Best Use of a Hitler Mustache Goes to...

I have to give a shout out to the Daily Show's graphics department for a couple of excellent touches on last night's program, during the bit about Egypt's legal charges leveled against satirist Bassem Youssef. Throughout the bit they used a parody of the cover from Morrissey's (brilliant!) debut solo album Viva Hate...




...replacing Morrissey's name with the surname of Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi:





That visual pun made me smile. Later in the bit, there's a joke about how breastfeeding is the superior method for nursing your children on Zionist and Jew hatred, as compared to feeding the kid Gerber's "Elders of Zion Formula." The graphic showed a canister of the formula, and the little Gerber's baby logo had been given a tiny Hitler mustache. I almost didn't see it, but when I did...well, it was the perfect touch. Well done Daily Show Graphics Team! You deserve a raise.

You can see both moments in this clip. (Damn you, Blogger, for disallowing the embedding of video clips from sites not owned by Google. That's exceedingly lame.)

All of which inspires me to share this delightful Morrissey send-up from Sparks:


UPDATE: While I'm shouting out to obscure media craftspeople I'll never meet, let me give kudos to the CNN headline writer who came up with this extremely informative, highly nuanced headline today:

Monday, March 18, 2013

Should Have Called David J

Ex-Bauhaus singer and one of my personal musical heroes, Peter Murphy, got busted on a DUI after rear-ending another car and injuring the driver.

Murphy allegedly hit a Mercedes in Glendale then drove to Los Angeles with a witness following him. The witness says he was eventually able to block Murphy in somehow, and the police came. They also allegedly found a baggie of meth, though not on Murphy...just mysteriously, coincidentally hanging out in the back seat of the police cruiser with him. He had just flown in from Turkey...so who knows what was up?

Wherever he'd been, he had to drive himself home: alas, there was a spy in the cab.


Saturday, March 16, 2013

Reading in Norman

I'll be the featured reader for OU Write Club's open mic at Second Wind Coffee House on Thursday 28 March 2013. I'm not sure yet what I'll read, but my current plan is to read a piece of memoir, a piece of fiction (or, if I can manage it, a flash fiction and a short story), and a poem. I'll be selling the last eight copies of the first printing of Magnificent Mistakes as well as the first copies of my new chapbook, The Last Few Minutes Before the Bomb (both from Ravenna Press--check out their newly redesigned site!).

For local readers (assuming there are such people, and assuming they find this blog or the OU Write Club Facebook page!), I'm offering a $3 deduction on the cost of the book for anyone who downloads the e-reader edition and brings it to the reading. Such a bargain!

More on the chapbook soon... 

We Cannot Cling to the Old Dreams Anymore

Morrissey's still ill. After numerous ailments and postponed concert dates, he's chucking it in for this tour. My wife just told me, and I felt an ominous dread for the day when, someday... I won't say it.

It just wasn't like the old days anymore...

The Smiths, "Still Ill"

Friday, March 15, 2013

Live-Blogging the Move

Today I'm packing up my old office, where I have worked for three years, and next week I'll move into a new office in the next building--this time on the fourth floor, instead of the second, with a much better view. Obviously this will have a tremendous affect not just on my work but on my writing and, in turn, my life. Nothing could be more momentous. Therefore, to commemorate this milestone, I will live-blog the experience.

12:04 p.m. - Not writing. Again. So I may as well start packing. Shouldn't take more than half an hour.

12:48 - I'm not even halfway to halfway done. I've packed up four of my drawers and that's about it. All this crap I never use is all so interesting. New goal: finish by 1:#0, resume writing.

1:22 - OK, this is slow going. I've packed up one bookshelf and a few drawers. I've got another shelf and a filing cabinet to go. New goal: done by two o'clock. Amazing how easy it is to forgive myself for not writing.

1:36 - One thing you discover, when you move, is how many books you've accumulated in the meantime. Thinking ahead, I saved all my small boxes for this day, whenever it might come. (Small boxes are best for books, which are too heavy for big boxes to hold.) I'm going to need an extra five small boxes or so to pack these beasts. Then again, there are movers coming Monday to carry all my crap. Maybe I should let them deal with it.

1:37 - Feeling guilty about previous sentiment.

1:48 - Nothing like handling a few dozen great novels, on their way into boxes, to make one feel like one's creative work remains undone.

1:49 - Nothing like live-blogging to slow down a move. New goal: done by 2:15.

1:52 - Jeffrey Eugenides is proving problematic, as usual.

1:55 - Am I really this much of a John Irving fan? I was at 20, 24, even 30, I guess. But now? This is a lot of Irving.

1:59 - Just piled Mary Miller atop Cormac McCarthy. Hope they don't mind.

2:17 - Why is this taking so long?!

2:20 - Hey, why is my collection bereft of posthumously-published J.D. Salinger books, anyway?

2:38 - After a sudden burst of...focus? A distraction deficit? I'm almost done. For a little break, I'm going to walk my lamps and a couple of other breakables over to the new office now.

3:58 - So. Tired. Must. Go. To. The. Gym. Back tomorrow...

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Facebook

It's like this. I stand by a fence, peering through cracks between slats. I hear voices over there, happier than I thought voices could sound. But now and then one of the voices cries in pain. I can't get to the joy or even reach through to console the hurt. If I say as much, a dog leaps up and barks through the fence. If I say nothing, the happy people will come for me with torches and pitchforks. So I shake photos from my wallet and slide them through the cracks. More photos shoot my way like a slot-machine fire-hose jackpot. Night comes, wind picks up, and billions of stars sing overhead about the end of everything.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Guadalcanal Diary Stands Corrected

The United States Post Office is finally ready to take a Saturday off. Sorry, Guadalcanal Diary.


In an odd coincidence, I'm heading out the door this morning to take my iPod Touch to the UPS Store, per the instructions of the Apple customer service line. I bought it last April, and the camera stopped working in May. I finally found time to sort this out yesterday. 

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Rage and Sorrow

TRIGGERS: Violence, tragic loss.

The title of this blog does not apply to this post. The irony there was never more cruel than it is now. I may write more on this later, but for now I will note the passing of one of the best of us.

I worked with Mark Hummels when we were both, essentially, cub reporters at a weekly independent newspaper in Colorado. Mark was endlessly kind, as bighearted as a person can be, and smart as hell. As I told a friend last night, two guys in our situation--trying to latch onto long-term positions at a start-up paper--would normally fall into a rivalry, friendly or otherwise. But Mark was not like that. He showed me the ropes when I was an intern and worked side by side with me for months after the internship ended and I was hired on full-time. Really, we slaved away, working on our articles, reviews, calendar items, and everything else that fell within our arts & entertainment section in the paper. We were both pretty broke, so we'd buy one dinner and share it while we worked, often late into the night. There was not a moment of tension or acrimony in the time we worked together. I don't remember why or how he left, but I do remember that everyone at the paper and in the local arts scene loved Mark Hummels. He was a great reporter and the greatest of guys.

This defies belief: Mark was murdered last week. Shot. Killed.

He is survived by his wife (who was his girlfriend when I knew him 20 years ago) and two kids, ages seven and nine. I have no trouble believing that Mark may have been the best father on the planet. My heart aches for his family.

(UPDATE: Please give to the Mark Hummels Memorial fund.)

If you have the stomach for it, you can read more about Mark and the vile little coward who shot him: Phoenix office shooting. The world is worse for this, worse by far. Anyone who knew Mark knows this with certainty.

Here's a song from back when we worked together, because this seems like a moment that calls for a song:


Grab the ones you love. Hold them close. Don't let go. 

Saturday, February 2, 2013

A Return to Italy

This summer I'll teach two travel-writing courses in Europe: June in Italy, July in Ireland! After last June's successful but perhaps a wee bit lonely trip with OU students to Cork, Ireland, I'm thrilled that my wife and kids will join me this time. We're working out details, but we'll fly into Genova or Milano and spend three weeks in Northern and Central Italy before heading to Rome to meet thirty OU students in early June. After four nights in Rome (with a daytrip to Pompeii) and three nights in Venice, we'll settle into Arezzo, Tuscany, for the rest of the trip. From there we'll visit Florence and Siena and wander Tuscany and Umbria.


Then zoom! We hop a plane from Florence to Dublin to launch the July in Ireland adventure, without a moment's rest between. Two or three nights in Dublin (lodging at Trinity College!) should be plenty, with tours galore, then we'll take a coach down to Cork (stopping off for a couple of serene hours, at least, at Glendalough) and spend the rest of the month in and around the rebel county--apart from a big weekend adventure up along the coast to the Cliffs of Moher and the Aran Islands.

I had a blast with my co-leader and students, but I sorely missed my wife and kids. This opportunity to travel with my family realizes a dream I've held since we found out we were having a baby. I remember fantasizing with my wife about how we would give our daughter (and now our son, too, of course) childhood memories of traveling abroad. In fact, we were in Venice when we decided to make a family, but that's a story for another day (and another venue!). As single-income home-schoolers, we haven't had the means to make a trip happen, until now. Landing two classes in Europe, back to back, was a stroke of brilliant luck. I had already been chosen to co-lead OU's Journey to Italy program (an honor in itself, as there is a competitive application/proposal process), when I got the email calling for a late-in-the-game fill-in for Ireland in July. Impossible to imagine saying "no" to an offer like that!

The photos in this post come from my January 2007 research trip to Italy, when I had a lot more hair. My father tagged along, and it was one of the best trips of my life--perhaps only topped by my trip with him to Poland and the Czech Republic 18 months later. But it's hard to rank trips abroad. They've all been wonderful. Even my two-week adventure in Mexico with my first wife, very near the end of our marriage, is filled with glorious memories despite the minor discomforts of finding ways to get along.

Anyway, hooray for the planning phase! I love looking at the map and plotting out the early, independent phase of this trip. The kids are learning a bit of Italian. Rachel is shopping for a new bag--the kind that rolls but converts to a backpack, too. And I've got a couple of syllabi and course schedules to tweak and tweak and tweak for the next few weeks. I'll savor the sweetness before La Dolce Vita. 

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

A Perfect Cup of Coffee

We've got low clouds and fog in Norman this morning. It's around seventy degrees (in January!), and maybe even a wee bit muggy out there. My wife tells me there's a tornado watch, but I'm not watching. It's a writing day, and I'm about to settle in to work on the novel. But right now I am drinking one of the best cups of coffee I've had in my life, and I want to tell you about it. It's bittersweet, it's rich, and it feels indulgent. This is the Nicaragua Segovia from Marioposa Coffee Roastery--a local roaster with a gift for roasting and a big heart for social justice, here in Norman. And best of all, for locals, Mariposa delivers. But wherever you are (in the U.S., at any rate) you should treat yourself and order a bag or two from Mariposa. This is outstanding. And when the bag arrives, I highly recommend opening it and just putting your nose in there with the beans. Trust me, it's heavenly.

This is only my second purchase from Mariposa. They're a bit pricey--I usually go for cheap organic/fair trade coffee from a co-op--but so well worth it. I've convinced my colleagues in the office to join me in making regular Mariposa purchases.

Here's Mariposa Coffee's sweet new promotional video. Give it ninety seconds, then treat yourself.


Mariposa Coffee: Short from Scissortail Media on Vimeo.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Sad, Sad, Sad Piano

I mentioned ambient music yesterday. The universe dropped this into my lap today. For your listening pleasure, I give you Dostoevsky's Piano Music for Bronchitis.

(I was unable to embed the player, so just click the link above.)

These sounds have been making their way into my novel, somehow, all afternoon. Well, most of the afternoon. Well, some of the afternoon...when I wasn't napping...

Thursday, January 24, 2013

"You are a woman just as you are a man"

I usually listen to music while writing (and yes,, while blogging about writing when I ought to be doing the actual writing). When I do this, I can't listen to lyrics in English, so I wind up playing a lot of ambient music that shuffles between Brian Eno, Sigur Ros, Hammock, Caretaker, and William Basinski. Now and then I'll mix a little Klaus Schulze into the playlist--usually his collaborations with Lisa Gerrard of Dead Can Dance--but one can only take so much of that. This one, anyway. Cocteau Twins don't usually fit the bill, because I find their music too engaging. The Moon and the Melodies (their collaboration with Harold Budd) works well, though. And maybe other songs here and there. For the most part, though, Cocteau Twins demand my focus.

Speaking of the Twins, this week their original label, 4AD, has uploaded several of the band's old videos to Youtube. Here are three, for the hell of it. Or, rather, for the heaven of it. I find that the videos don't do service to the music, but I appreciate these glimpses into a band that thrived in an age before the Internet, when musicians were remote and difficult to glimpse. Even now, twenty-some years later, I appreciate these fleeting glimpses.

"Pearly-Dewdrops Drop" (1984)


"Carolyn's Fingers"(1988)


"Heaven or Las Vegas" (1990)

And here's a song that maybe wasn't among my favorites back in the day--because it came on their last album, which I didn't give enough attention at the time. This one has made a home in my heart, though, over the years. Hard to listen to it now without feeling a rush of emotion...not that I mind a rush, now and then. I save it for special occasions.

"Seekers Who are Lovers" (1994)

If I had the magical power to reunite any band, maybe this would be the one. Please don't tell Johnny Marr and Morrissey, though.

[This message was brought to you by the Center for the Treatment and Cure of Middle-Aged Hipster Syndrome.]

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Don't Say I Didn't Tell You about Mary Miller

I'm pretty sure Mary Miller is a genius. She's a great fiction writer, anyway. Everything I read from her--everything!--catches me up and moves me in ways I don't fully understand for a while, or maybe ever. But she's really, really good. I just found this short story: "I Won't Get Lost" in Frederick Barthelme's New World Writing. And a few weeks ago I read this essay: "I Am Sorry, Women," at the Rumpus. And her story collection, Big World, was one of my favorite books of 2011...or was it 2010? She's got a novel in the works, too. Anyway, read Mary Miller. Like, now.

A Little Deactivation Action

I dropped off the Facebook grid today. Feels good. I don't intend to stay away forever, but for now it's the right thing to do. I've got a book to write. I've got classes to teach. I need more quiet time, less goofing off. So down I go, into the darkness.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

“It’s a self-contained bondage and submission device.”

I forgot to mention a recent publication. My short story, "The Master of Submission," appears in the new issue of Fiddleblack.  This is the one story in Magnificent Mistakes that has sparked the most vocal response. I'm glad it finally found a home--and I'm not sure why I didn't get around to sending it out before now. In any case, thanks, Fiddleblack!

I feel strange about this story, not least because it touches on the strange-to-some sexuality of he central character in a way that emphasizes his solitude and challenges him to find his own ethical core (for lack of a better term). He flails wildly when his long-term girlfriend dumps him, behaving badly in his attempts to win her back. I don't think it spoils anything to say that he fails. No one could succeed, doing the things he does. And he knows this, he begins to question whether he deserves love.

I'll leave it at that, except to say that this is the story I've been sending out as my writing sample, in my current job search. It's a risky choice, because it involves both kinky sex and an extremely unlikable protagonist. I've been told several times, by readers who know me personally, that many of this book's stories don't seem like they could have been written by me. I'm not entirely sure what that means, and I doubt it's a good idea for me to dwell on it. So, of course, I will. It's fine with me that a story might not remind a friend of me. It's fine that my stories go to dark places that I, in my daily life, don't go. Or don't seem to go. In fact, it would be pretty strange if someone read "The Master of Submission" and said, "Yeah, that story about the sex toy inventor who can't stop behaving as a passive-aggressive submissive, that one reminds me of you." Because I'm not that guy, and I don't want to be that guy. But he's in here somewhere, and this was my way of dealing with him, learning about him, and giving him the chance to learn a bit about himself.

In what would likely come as a surprise to readers of this book, I've lately grown interested in writing for children. Not little children, but middle graders, I suppose. Eight to twelve year olds. My novel-in-progress is probably a young-adult book, but I've decided not to worry about how it could be marketed. It's a story, and I'm going to focus on the characters. Just as I always do. That said, I've given some thought recently to going with a pen name for my stories for kids. I listened to a fantastic podcast interview with xTx the other day, and I found myself feeling envious of her anonymity. I want some of that for myself.

But mainly, right now, I want to find the willpower to back away from the blog and get to work on the book. So goodbye!