Here we are, the first Saturday of February.
Principles of Navigation by Lynn Sloan. This book was sent to me by Caitlin Hamilton Summie, and the plan, once I’m finished, is to get Lynn Sloan on the podcast. At first, I’d thought this novel was a bit too domestic: a couple is trying to have a baby and has a miscarriage. However, as I read, I found the emotional and psychological depth to be fascinating and engaging. It’ll be out this month. I recommend it.
What’s also interesting about this book is its publisher, Fomite. Fomite is run by Marc Estrin, novelist, cellist, activist and fellow Unbridled Books author (I may have to get him on the podcast, too).
Still taking my small doses of Primitive Mythology by Joseph Campbell.
I’d share a To Be Read list, but it’d be too damn long. I have a 5 shelf bookcase where three shelves, one of them stacked two deep, is all “to be read” – and that’s just fiction. My bookcase dedicated to non-fiction is also littered with the “to be read.” Most of my read books are still in boxes at my mother’s house.
Saw the documentary Fed Up, about the sugar “food” processed & manufactured “edibles” industry. I’m not taking the “Fed Up Challenge,” but I am attempting to keep my consumption of added sugar to the recommended daily allowance of 24-36 grams (or 6-9 teaspoons) a day. One 12oz can of soda, generally exceeds the daily allowance of added sugar. It is fucking strange what the food industry puts sugar in, and why: bread, salsa, crackers, pasta sauce – you know things we might think of as “savory” instead of sweet – basically turning everything we eat into some degree of candy so that you’ll eat more. You’ll learn that not all calories are equal and that all this sugar basically turns off the body’s natural “I’m full, stop eating” mechanism.
Oh, and speaking of candy, I’m sure you’ve heard of the Cadbury ban. Claiming “brand confusion” Hershey has won a ban on British chocolates (Cadbury brands) being imported to the United States. I think the most telling paragraph in the article is the following:
“Cadbury chocolate varies around the world. In the UK, the first ingredient in a classic Dairy Milk bar is milk. In the United States, where Hershey has the license to make and sell all Cadbury products, the first ingredient is sugar. Ms Madeley says her customers wouldn’t buy the US kind even if she stocked it.”
Give Fed Up a watch. And check out the American Heart Associations’ sugar guidelines (unless you’re a detective, it’s hard to find this exact info on the USDA site because the sugar industry lobbyists got it buried).
Arrow is back for the second half of its 3rd season, and I eagerly await my download each week. At one of my recent salons, a friend and I had a semi-geek-out moment discussing comic book movies and TV shows. I was never a big comic book reader when I was a kid. Sgt. Rock and G.I. Joe comics were my favorites, but they never turned into any kind of gateway drug. I think my childhood comic book geek was stunted when my father took away my comic books after a confrontation I had with a babysitter involving a BB gun. That’s a long story, that ended with my father, a few years after confiscating my comic books and BB gun, finally hearing my side of the story and conceding that, despite beaning the babysitter’s brother (who was older than me) with an empty plastic milk jug, I had attempted to retreat from the screaming, aggressive babysitter more than once until I was cornered in my own room. “I suppose if you’re going to point a BB gun at a babysitter that might be the time to do it,” he said and gave me back my comics and BB gun – neither of which I ever used again. So, basically, the comic book movies are scratching that long ago suppressed itch. It must be something similar for my mother as well. She’s a big fan of the comic book movies, and is my regular date when a new one comes out.
Wetlands: a German movie about a troubled young woman who ends up in the hospital after a shaving accident. It’s . . . bizarre and funny . . . and, at times, gross. It’s on Netflix now (all links contain spoilers, read at your own risk). Oh, and the most disorienting and strange moment for me was when the teenaged girl main character goes to the hospital there’s no talk of money or insurance, and she herself signs her surgery waiver all without her parents being notified (in fact, the doctor asks if she wants her parents notified at all). At first I thought, wait, that doesn’t seem right . . . then I remembered: Germany has universal coverage.
Bob Dylan – Blood on The Tracks
My “soundtrack” to Far Nineteen.
Still, of course, in love with this Greg Dulli cover of the Leonard Cohen song – Paper Thin Hotel. I think you can still get a free download of the song on the Afghan Whigs website
Greg Dulli “Paper Thin Hotel” from Columbia Records on Vimeo.
This Monday will be the release of my conversation with Bonnie ZoBell for The Outrider Podcast. Bonnie is the author of the recent book What Happened Here. It’s very good. She has a great personal story, and a very good book with What Happened Here. I’m not telling you anything else because you should listen to the show.
Speaking of which, do you listen on iTunes or Stitcher? Either one, would you please go give the show a rating and review it? I’d greatly appreciate it (ok, caveat, if you hate it, keep that shit to yourself).
Up after Bonnie is Greg Michalson, co-publisher and editor at Unbridled Books. Greg is a fabulous person, also with a great personal story. After it comes out, pair it with Fred Ramey’s episode from December (iTunes) and I think you’ll start to see why Unbridled has such a solid catalogue and why, as bittersweet as it is, so many of their authors get snatched away by the big presses. These guys are doing the dirty, privately rewarding, but often publicly unrecognized work of discovering talented new writers. Go give them some love, buy some Unbridled Books (especially mine).
– My wish list of literary people to talk to for The Outrider Podcast
Michael Ondaatje (although I fear I’d be dumbstruck)
Will Christopher Baer
John Berger (fear of being dumbstruck)
Still working on Far Nineteen, my novel inspired by the 1921 Race War in Tulsa, OK, and their buried car time capsule.
I’ve brushed up a couple of short stories that my ex-girlfriend, Rebekah, said were good. One of them is called “Dr. Zeus” and is about a man whose girlfriend sends him to a fortune teller then, while on the way home, he witnesses a shooting that begins to change his life. The other is currently called “Sunny” and is about a young man who is feeling homesick and alone in a new town until he stumbles into a diner and meets an old couple and the young waitress they call Sunny.
This weekend I’m submitting The Palace of Winds, my loose retelling of Jason & The Golden Fleece set during the Depression, to a contest. Wish me luck.
I plan to submit “Dr. Zeus” and “Sunny” to journals by the end of the month.
RANDOM THOUGHTS (seriously, random. Don’t look for a logical essay here)
These random thoughts were inspired by this article on the Good Men Project website: Five Important Things Women Don’t Know About Men.
All five points resonated with me – even #5. But the one that really set me to thinking was #3 – There’s a reason for that emotional repression.
I wouldn’t lay 100% of the problem on testosterone, and I think Noah Brand makes a stab at it in that section, but I’m sure there was a word limit he had to meet. As it is, in a kind of Nature vs. Nurture analysis, Brand seems to land heavily on the side of Nature being dominant when, it is really more 50/50.
A side note here: one of the things that often irritates me in “modern American public discourse” i.e. internet comment threads and person to person debate, is that people often think the personal exception trumps the broad general argument. For example: someone says “Black people are still racially discriminated against” to which someone (usually a white someone) says “I’ve never discriminated against black people.”
Back to the point: testosterone is, indeed, a hell of a drug, but boys are teachable. In the right environment, with an attentive parent, all those teenage hormonal, testosterone driven urges can be managed without sacrificing the sweet little pre-testosterone boy.
Jay Mohr, in his 2012 special “Funny For a Girl,” talks about how little boys are the gayest people in the world (he’s punching us in the penis too hard – ?). I laughed the hardest during that bit because I saw myself as a boy in Jay’s description of his son. Before puberty, I knew I liked girls, but I also felt no shame or embarrassment or “gay panic” at holding my best friend’s hand in the dark.
Also, biologically speaking, the human “default setting” is female, meaning that whenever something goes wrong during gestation, the fetus attempts to reset to female. If there are two X chromosomes, we usually don’t see many genetic problems because there’s a back up gene on the other chromosome that can be used. With the XY combination, there’s a chance that a faulty gene on the mother’s X, won’t have a replacement on the father’s Y.
Here’s were I’m starting to go: with the intersex condition there are two common conditions that affect the human XX (female) pairing (a third really only affects cattle), but there are seven conditions that affect the human XY (male) pairing – almost all of which are caused by a lack of testosterone during gestation, or the inability to convert testosterone or block estrogen. Which is to say that biologically, it’s riskier to make a male than a female. Then, once that boy is born, society, generally, tries to squeeze boys through ever narrower and narrower passages. Don’t act like a girl (don’t cry, don’t complain, don’t whine, don’t talk about your feelings unless you’re going to talk about how angry or horny you are). Don’t act like a fag. Be ready to fight. Establish your dominance, whether in sports or debate, or nerdery . . . learn to use the threat of violence but don’t be violent unless you have to be violent.
Anyway, it’s all led me to think a lot about my own urges to anger, to rage, to my own expressions of violent catharsis – the wall punching, the obscenity screaming and teeth gnashing, the door slamming, the object breaking and the subsequent bouts of shame and guilt that followed. I console myself that I’ve not hit or punched or kicked anyone since I was thirteen, but it’s a thin consolation considering that my last girlfriend cited those door slamming table thumping, curse laden bursts of rage as the reason she was scared of me and wanted out of the relationship. That is perhaps the biggest personal humiliation and source of shame for me – that everything else I ever felt for her was overshadowed, erased, by my occasional inability to control the beast.
This often influences what I choose to write about in my fiction. War. Violence. The failure of romantic relationships.