Monthly Archives: November 2009

All the Armies of my Boot

I had a vision. Yes, last night, I had a vision. And I felt God’s breath go through me, and it moved down into my stomach, and sloshed around, and my stomach spoke in a whisper, not a shout: “Touch this woman with your hands, and caress her.” My dear, Mrs. Hunter. You have arthritis, don’t you?Yes, the Devil is in your hands, and I suck it out. Now, I will not cast this ghost out with a fever, for the new spirit inside me has shown me I have a new way to communicate. It is a gentle whisper.  Get out of here, ghost. Get out of here, ghost. Get out. Get out of here, ghost. Get out of here, ghost. Get out of here, ghost. Get out of here, and don’t you dare turn around and come back, for if you do, all the armies of my boot will kick you in the teeth, and you will be cast up, and thrown in the dirt, and thrust back to perdition! And as long as I have teeth, I will bite you! And if I have no teeth, I will gum you! And as long as I have fists, I will bash you! Now, get out of here ghost! Get out of here, ghost! Get out of here, ghost!

– Eli, There Will Be Blood

There are so many incredible subversive lines  in There Will Be Blood, each spoken so naturally that you’re almost sure you misheard. Not just the “all the armies” part in the quote above, but also: “it moved down into my stomach, and sloshed around. And my stomach spoke in a whisper, not a shout.”

Or when Daniel’s “brother” shows up and introduces himself, “I’m your brother… from another mother.” It’s such a bizarre and delightful space to hear someone speak those words.

Then there’s Daniel, of course–Every fourth thing out of Daniel Plainview’s mouth should be knit on a cozy:

I can’t keep doing this on my own with these… people.

I drink your milkshake!

One night I’m gonna come to you, inside of your house, wherever you’re sleeping, and I’m gonna cut your throat.

You look like a fool, don’t you? Yes, you do.

Give me the blood, Lord, and let me get away.

What a movie. It’s going to be with us a long, long time.

My story, Peek Here, Progeny, is up at Dogzplot along with other flashes by XTX, HOWIE GOOD, NATE EAST, MATT DEBENEDICTIS, TIM HORVATH, BEN SPIVEY, and ANI SMITH. “Peek” is from Fun Camp.

Happy, Farm, Night, City, Quest

I loved Lydia Millet’s My Happy Life. Surprising and complicated and bizarro-lyrical, it jumps from insight to beautiful insight via a woman too oblivious to know she’s had a terrible life. And it’s the life itself that’s the most interesting thing of all: getting to enjoy both her perception of what happened and trying to figure out what was going on all around the narrator in the telling details she doesn’t understand. Also very funny at times. The tragic Forrest Gump minus leaf in the breeze. That’s dumb. Never mind. It made me think of the new Robert Lopez book that he read from when he was in town–both are narrated from locked rooms.

Also really enjoying dipping into Heather Christle’s The Difficult Farm, reading words already powerful with the benefit of Heather’s commanding and kinda mesmerizing reading voice still in my head.

Also making my way through Tobias Wolff’s solid The Night in Question. The last story, “Bullet in the Brain,” was made into a bad short film with Tom Noonan, who plays Sammy in “Synecdoche, NY.” It’s not really Tom’s fault, though–it just makes the rookie mistake of voice-over narration that ruins everything. Lines that are exciting in the story are rendered dumb and sentimental.

Speaking of–I tried to watch “Bright Lights, Big City” a couple of weeks ago, and it was bad in exactly the same way. We’re in a scene, having an OK time, then Michael J. Fox’s voice speaks up and stops everything to read to me from McInerney’s book.  He’s also just not a convincing cokehead. I made it about a half hour in.

What about good text + video? Try this: Hear a great essay by Brian Oliu while watching someone kick ass at Castlevania 2: Simon’s Quest. Two people excelling in such different ways, united by the same game. There’s a well-synched part in there where Oliu mentions the day/night switch just as the onscreen game turns to day.

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Abandon Love Records is giving away all of Jon Rooney’s Virgin of the Birds recordings via zip file. I’m especially excited about this fall’s EP, Dear Furies. These five songs are Jon’s most direct and yet varied recordings to date, and his voice has never sounded better. It feels like a breakthrough.

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Will you, or will you not, quit me?

I’d never read Melville’s Bartelby the Scrivener until this weekend. The story/novella’s wiki says he wrote it to cheer himself up in the midst of Moby Dick‘s commercial failure.

It’s so playful in how often it strays from its story, and in how much unnecessary wind-up the narrator takes to get us there. A comedy of “let’s see how long I can string this out,” and Melville riffs more than well enough to get away with it. Here’s the narrator, who just found out that the man he’s fired has never left the office:

I was thunderstruck. For an instant I stood like the man who, pipe in mouth, was killed one cloudless afternoon long ago in Virginia, by summer lightning; at his own warm open window he was killed, and remained leaning out there upon the dreamy afternoon, till some one touched him, when he fell.

Pretty great. It’s free here.

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Items, Numbered

1. Jack Christian and I are going to read poems at the Green Street Cafe on February 18. I’ll remind you again.

2. There is a Sufjan Stevens-themed remix album that is getting a lot of attention. It sounds good. I like it. Three years ago, I did a Sufjan Stevens-themed remix album. Mine is different than Tor’s–not a strict Sufjan + rapper combo but instead an album built around his songs/instrumental pieces arranged to feel like one of his albums, silly long song titles and all. If you like my new remix album and haven’t heard the Sufjan one, give it a try.

3. I’ve got some morsels from my book-in-progress, Fun Camp, coming out in the next Notnostrums. Basics is also from Fun Camp.

4. Mike Czyz gave a great interview with Nik Perring this week, and gave me a kind and hard-to-live-up-to shout-out. Thanks, Mike! It means a lot.

5. The variety show went wonderfully: The performers brought their A-game. They also brought action figures, amps, oboes, and a “House of the Rising Sun” cover. Thanks to everyone who came. Let’s do it again.

This Nun

My story, “This Nun,” is coming out in Keyhole 9. Very exciting to make it into a magazine I subscribe to and enjoy so much.


Ancient Wikis of the Future

Are you ready for some adventure, Barry?

The Sun

From the wiki: “Once regarded as a small and relatively insignificant star, the Sun is now presumed to be brighter than 85% of the stars in the galaxy, most of which are red dwarfs.”

From the discussion:”I found myself having to pull out the calculator repeatedly to make sense of the units in this article. The worst offender is the description of the core whose units are given in solar radii!!! That’s self referential!”

Further clicking: Faint young Sun paradox

Potential band name: Faint Young Son

John Cheever

From the wiki: “At the joint session, however, Dr. Hays claimed (as Cheever noted in his journal) that Cheever himself was the problem: “a neurotic man, narcissistic, egocentric, friendless, and so deeply involved in [his] own defensive illusions that [he has] invented a manic-depressive wife.” Cheever soon terminated therapy.”

From the discussion: “I’ll say it again. I know the definition of plagiarism, sir, but it is you who are making the accusations and it is you who has failed to provide the adequate evidence and substantiation for that accusation. Do so, or cease criticizing the article.”

Further clicking: The Swimmer

Advance-fee fraud

From the wiki: “The essential fact in all advance-fee fraud operations is that the promised money transfer never happens because the money or gold does not exist.”

From the discussion: “Are there any references to back the claim that billions of dollars are made annually in such scams? Seems high to me.”

Further clicking: Confidence trick (see list of many confidence tricks)

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