Category Archives: First Saturday

First Saturday Report: December 1st 2018.

Writing & Submitting:
Work progresses. Lately I’ve been focusing on an extended revision of an essay . . . a manifesto? . . . that I’ve been working on, it seems, for as long as I’ve been in Wichita. It’s popped up in various formats over the years, but I keep expanding and trimming. After the discussions of writers and social engagement that I had with Stephen McClurg after the 2016 election, and some random, more recent discussions with literary acquaintances online about literary movements in the 21st century and the effects that current market forces might have on such a thing developing.

Still making slow progress on The Poisoned Moon. Still looking through lists of agents and editors I might send Far Nineteen to, and still wondering if The Palace of Winds should simply be put in the deep dark “nice try” folder.

There was a recent article in the Authors Guild newsletter about how paper makers are causing a shortage and price spike in the high quality paper that publishers buy for their books because paper maker are able to make more money now producing cheap, disposable paper packaging. The book paper shortage is having an effect on publisher’s timetables for publication and it’s affecting their decisions on what gets published. The Article didn’t say so directly, but it basically translates to this: publishers are going to decide to publish only those books that will, they believe make the most money since it will now cost more to print the books. That means the overall quality of what’s on the shelves will actually decline because higher sales correlate to more middle brow books from already popular writers (and popular does not always, and maybe never, means great literature – don’t believe me? take a look at the annual bestsellers lists going back a century. I bet you’ve never heard of most of those books).

Podcast
Episode 4 of the Bad Business series will be out Tuesday, December 4th. Just two more episodes to go. I’m not sure what I’ll do next. Might still do the book to movie series.

We’ll be recording a second Outrider Live show on December 8th, and get that out soon. Maybe I’ll just do the live shows for awhile until something grabs my attention.

Reading
Lately, I’ve been reading a few random things in bits and pieces, fits and starts. I’ve started, for maybe the third time, Anthony Powell’s A Dance to The Music of Time, John Berger’s King: A Street Story, Lawrence Durrell’s The Black Book, and Martin Puchner’s The Written World. I’ve been carrying around in my satchel, but haven’t started Jeff Talarigo’s In The Cemetery of the Orange Trees. I also plan to start reading the 58 page memo that Orson Welles wrote to Universal studio executives after they took control of his film Touch of Evil and recut it. I figure it’ll be an interesting look at how directors think, but also creative lesson in artistic vision.

What’s gotten the most attention, however, has been volumes 1 & 2 of Fred Clark’s The Anti-Christ Handbook : The Horror and Hilarity of Left Behind. They’re only available on Kindle (sigh), but they’re worth a read. They started out as blog posts on Clark’s The Slacktivist website, and they are a delight, especially for someone like me. Clark does, at least at first, an almost page-by-page breakdown of what is wrong with the first book in the Left Behind series, both theologically and structurally with the books. Reading Mr. Clark’s dismantling is at times funny and shocking. It’s like a primer for understanding the current Evangelical mind and why, even though these collected posts were mostly written before the Obama presidency, explain why the far right has embraced and forgiven Donald Trump.

So, if you’re baffled by how evangelicals can believe Trump is an instrument of God, give The Anti-Christ Hanbook a read.

Watching
A busy month for watching stuff. Wrapped up my Marvel binge on Netflix by knocking out Iron Fist and Daredevil. Watched a nifty two-part documentary called The Evolution of Us, which featured an old undergrad acquaintance from my K-State Days, Professor John Hawks, talking about human evolution. Sat some friends down to watch Flash Gordon, which they’d never seen (kids these days).

Finally got my hands on the Blu-Ray of Orson Welles Touch of Evil that was re-edited by Walter Murch according to the 58 page memo that Welles sent to Universal after screening their sloppy edit of the film. Watched it the other night with a friend. It’s a damn good film, even if it is hard to believe Charlton Heston as a Mexican cop. Janet Leigh is excellent, of course.

Also watched the latest season of The Last Kingdom.

Listening
Not much new on this front. My channels for new music seem to be shrinking.

Random Thoughts
There’s nothing really eating at me right now, except maybe my day job.

I’m waiting to see what Mueller pulls out of his hat next.

I need a bigger place for the cats to roam, but there’s not much in my rental price range and with my student loan debt crashing my debt to income ratio, I can’t buy.

After overcoming achilles tendonitis earlier this year, I’ve been able to run some-what consistently and have been getting a better handle on my diet. Now I’m down to a consistent 189 lbs. Changing habits is a challenge, especially eating and exercise habits, and it can’t be done overnight if you want it to stick. When I found out I had high cholesterol (eight years ago now?) I really disliked the idea of simply taking a statin the rest of my life, but I hadn’t exercised since I was 16, smoked for most of the time between 16 and 37, and ate whatever the hell I wanted. At 40, I was a wreck and weighed close to 230 lbs. I could have done something drastic, but it probably wouldn’t have stuck, or I wouldn’t have kept to it. All these years later, I’ve rejiggered my eating habits, created a baseline cardio routine, and given myself a shot at permanent change. Nine more pounds and I’ll be at my target weight and able to maintain it. Maybe I’ll finally sign up to run a 5K in 2019.

img_0397-2018-12-1-08-03.jpg
My girls.


First Saturday Report: November

Writing & Submitting:
In October I started working on revisions to Far Nineteen again. I’ve kind of lost track of how long I’ve been working on this story. I think I might have written the initial pages for it (all revised or cut away by now) a year or more before I began work on The Palace of Winds. I’ve sent Far Nineteen out a few times, with no responses. That’s why I’m revising it again. I’ve been doing some work on expanding and refining an old essay on the place of fiction in society, but it’s gestating after finishing some new reading that I need to synthesize in the old noodle.

I think it’s time to stop sending out The Palace of Winds. I’ll put it in the file with the other failures: The Cinnamon Girl, and By The Still, Still Water.

I also hacked out about a third of the material I’d written for the new project. It had taken a wrong turn somewhere. After letting it set for a few weeks in October, I realized kind of where it broke and performed surgery to remove the offending outgrowth. On the surface, I suppose, it’s a rather simple love story, but for me, once I peel back that first layer of simple there is a labyrinth of human desires, fears, and regrets. And within those desires, fears, and regrets there are more labyrinths and spider’s webs.

For me, as a writer, the problem has always been narrowing the scope. I think that’s why all of my short stories always feel incomplete, or too big for their confines. It’s why I’m always a bit disappointed when readers pass cruel judgement on my characters and write them off. It means I failed to convey the internal personal agony, shame, regret, desire, and fear that ultimately drives someone to be selfish, or cruel. I don’t expect people to like my characters—they often do horrible things to each other—but if fiction is an engine for the empathetic imagination then somethings not firing right if readers aren’t conflicted about the trouble causing catalyst characters.

Let me see if this helps explain it. I went to high school with a young man who had a reputation for being a bully. Some of my friends had been bullied by this person for most of their childhood. I only suffered his wrath during high school, but I too came to hate and fear him because of his meanness and violence toward others. A few years after high school, this young man was murdered in a street brawl. When I told a friend of mine about it, a friend who had been a target of this bully since early in grade school, my friend’s response was simply to say “Good.” In that moment, in the bitterness I heard in his voice, I understood a whole host of things: my friend’s lifelong pain at having been repeatedly bullied; the sense of karmic justice he felt that someone who’d been cruel to others for so long had a cruelty returned. I heard also a release of fear. This friend, a grown man with a wife and kids, I believe, still feared this bully would be able to hurt him the rest of their lives and this death erased that fear for my friend. And then came all of the thoughts about the bully. I never liked this young man, he was cruel and violent to people he chose as targets. His cruelty and violence made him a popular athlete and so much of the cruelty and violence he displayed off the field was ignored, downplayed, brushed off. But what was he hiding? What was he scared of? Who made him scared of the things he was scared of? What was his cruelty a mask for? What kind of boy had he been before he learned to be cruel? How did he suffer? If all the fear and rage that made him cruel could be stripped away, what would he have become?

I write in order to try to explain the world to myself because, ultimately, it is a deep, deep mystery.

Podcast
There have been some technical delays with the six part Bad Business series, as well as some scheduling and timing problems. So, episodes aren’t coming out as planned. Episode 2 and 3 are on the way, and if I schedule their release properly, we should have enough of a cushion to ensure the last few episodes come out as expected and without any delays.

We’re planning a second Outrider Live show for December. We’ll have two readers for that show, Shawn Craver and Michelle Barrett. We’ve not finalized the musical act yet. The live shows are at a small, private venue. So, if you’re in Wichita for Dec 8 and would be interested in attending, let me know. Seating is limited.

Reading
The Altar of the Only World by Sharanya Manivannan (finished)
Secure Your Own Mask by Shaindel Beers (reading).

I always feel like I should read more, but then there’s the writing, the day job, the desire to just sit and stare at the wall so that my brain can just process and purge and knit. For the first time ever, I’ve been keeping a reading “diary” of sorts. Not recording thoughts or perceptions, but just keeping a list. Up to 22 books read this year. By the time December finishes off I should be around 25 or so. That’s about two books a month. I’m sure someone out there is letting out a snide chuckle, and reciting some obscene number of books they read this year and thinking I’m a lazy reader for a fucking writer. It’s not a competition—and my number might be higher, but I spent the first part of the year reading Ulysses and talking about it on the podcast.

Lately, I’ve been reading a lot of poetry. Sharanya Manivannan’s collection The Altar of the Only World is beautiful, and highly recommended. Here in the states you’ll have to order off Amazon since it’s not actually published here. It’s published by Harpercollins India. But it’s worth the effort and bit of money that Bezos gets to suck out of your pocket. Hopefully, she’ll land an American agent or publisher and we can start clamoring for her books in independent bookstores. She has her first novel coming out, I believe this month (again, India only) called The Queen of Jasmine Country. I first encountered Sharanya back in my early blogging days while I was putting out the DIY journal The Project for a New Mythology. She’d posted a comment on something I wrote about Michael Ondaatje and we chatted over email for a while. I was all set to publish one of her poems in the journal when she had to pull it because, well, there was someone willing to pay her more than contributors copies for it. I was disappointed, but ultimately happy for her because, I think, that poem helped her get her first book, Witchcraft (2008), published. Her writing is so very sensuous, compassionate, and wise. I’ve been buying multiple copies of her book The High Priestess Never Marries—like some black market importer—and giving them away to fellow writers and literary minded friends.

Fast on the heels of that, I’m reading Shaindel Beers’ new collection Secure Your Own Mask. This is her third collection, and I’ve fallen in love with it as quickly as I did the other two. Shaindel’s poems strike a very familiar emotional and cognitive chord with me. I suspect she sees the world tinted with the same colors that I see the world with; however, those colors and the knowing that comes from them are just different enough, perhaps because of gender and experiences, that I seem to see things I thought I knew with a renewed mystery. Like Ms. Manivannan’s work, you should go pick up some of Ms. Beers’ and share them with friends – just like you would with beers. Hell, share Ms. Beers’ poetry with friends over beers. I think she’d approve.

Watching
Let’s see. For classic movie night in October, I watched Creepshow, which I don’t think I’d seen since I was a preteen. Went out to see The Nightmare Before Christmas, which I’d never bothered to see before. Other than that, I’ve been catching up on the Marvel TV shows on Netflix, specifically the most recent season of Luke Cage.

Listening
I finally got around to restocking some of my Red Hot Chili Peppers catalog that got lost way, way back in the mid 90’s when a case of cassette tapes got stolen out of my car. Repurchased Mother’s Milk.

After listening to Marc Maron talk with Sir Paul McCartney I’ve started sorting through his catalogue and making a list of stuff to get. So much of it is in my head, put there by my father, that it’s hard to decide where to start. The Beatles, Wings, his solo stuff—every time I put on a McCartney song I feel as if I’ve slipped out of the timeline, stepped into some limbo where I’m all of my assorted, cast off selves from childhood to now. I can remember the thin green carpet in our house in Dodge City, the sloped back yard, and the rude, abusive odor from the feed lots around town. And I can remember that young version of myself, naive, gentle, open to everything, especially the slights and pains cast out by others.

Random Thoughts
I feel all over the place with things right now. Stuff from my day job is crowding in on the rest of my life, and I don’t want it there. I want the day job to stay in the confines of the fucking building where I do it, not leeching into my writing time, my reading time, my quiet daydreaming time.

There’s the impending election and my dark and hopeless fears that we’ve lost the impetus for peaceful change and that come November 7th, I will have witnessed the destruction of my country’s democratic experiment. Between Russian interference, right wing fear stoking, and plain old GOP corruption and election rigging, I fear that the fascist leaning GOP leaders will either steal the election from the majority of Americans, or they’ll react violently when the shear weight of pro-democratic, progressive action overwhelms the voting system regardless of all they’ve done to suppress the non-white, non-republican votes.

I’m worried about loneliness, and certain physical limitations and impairments that I’m struggling with and how those will impact my future hopes and desires around that loneliness and its elimination (how’s that for vague?).

I’m worried about money.

I wonder if I’ve reached the limit of my talent, or that I used it all up writing The Evolution of Shadows. I fear I’m finished as a writer and that all that stuff above is simply the universe, which is infinitely more patient and powerful that the will of any human, finally grinding me down into the nothing.


First Saturday Report: October

Writing & Submitting:
Fired off a submission to a small press, and that’s been the only activity for a while as I struggle with my confidence in the manuscript, and as a writer.

I’ve started another revision of Far Nineteen, the book inspired by the Tulsa Race Riot and the city’s buried Plymouth Belvedere.
7y6uythg
Work has paused on the new project, and things are slow and, as with all rough drafts, it’s—well—rough. A lot of my time is spent on what, for me, amounts to research. Time is always a consideration when it comes to this. In a way, I’m jealous of those writers who have the time and, more importantly, the resources to do a lot of detailed research into things that, in the final draft seem kind of insignificant. A lot of my artistic decisions arise out of a need to work fast, in small chunks, and around gaps in knowledge and so my research is often limited to what I can accomplish on the cheap, online, and at the library. I don’t have the money to travel and spend months plodding about foreign cities to get a feel for how life “actually” feels there. I suppose that’s why my fiction often feels unmoored from place in the way that other writers aren’t. My fiction is deeply internal. I’m kind of jealous of how some of my favorite writers can get that deep sense of place along with that deep sense of people. I feel like my work is crippled by my socio-economic limitations, and the fact that place often seems interchangeable to me: Dodge City, Wichita, Manhattan (KS), Oklahoma City, Tulsa, El Paso, Juarez, Boulder, Denver, Chicago, Kansas City, New York—it’s all just scenery and weather. I sometimes think that for “place” to be a thing certain writers really concern themselves with, even those who are immigrants to the country where they write, there has to be some place where they feel they belong, or once belonged—a place to yearn for. I’ve never felt like I belonged anywhere, even the places where I spent a decade or more. I suspect this is one of the biggest weaknesses in my fiction.

I’ve discussed a non-fiction project with some friends, and I’ve begun work that here and there. It’s built on a long essay that, for years already, I’ve been tweaking and revising. It made a brief appearance on the old Project for A New Mythology site as a free e-book. That went away and I’m expanding it, refocusing it, and doing some more reading and research to support my arguments. It’s kind of an aesthetic manifesto, and I’m seriously considering going the self-publishing route for it. If I had more than the one novel published by a traditional press, I’d probably be able to find a traditional publisher for it since it falls into that category where you might find Ben Lerner’s tract “The Hatred of Poetry,” but since I’m a one-book-schmo, I’m sure no press would care. I think the idea is sound since I do encounter a lot of people appearing to think along the same lines. It’s just none of them are synthesizing the material as fully as I think they should.

I plan on organizing a kind of peer review and editorial review among my literary friends so they can challenge it and make sure it’s sound. If I’m finally going to break down and self-publish something – even if it more or less amounts to a chapbook manifesto, I’d better do it right.

Podcast
The first ever live event episode of The Outrider Podcast is available (link). I paired up with my friend Shawn Craver and his band The Ezras for a small performance. It’s kind of a proof of concept show, and Shawn and I plan on organizing a few more of these featuring Wichita area writers and musicians. I’ve got some people already on the list for reading and I need to reach out to some more musical acts.

It took a little longer to get this show posted than I’d hoped, but I’m not troubled by it. I’ve been working with an actual audio editor and producer and we’re still working out our system. I’m immensely happy with the final product, and excited to see what new things I can try with Heather Eden’s help.

The Bad Business Series should start dropping sometime in October, so look for that. This series is a six part discussion of crime and detective fiction. My co-hosts for this series are a couple of crusty old writer friends, Todd Robins and Paul Fecteau.

After the Bad Business series, I’m not sure what I’ll do. Maybe the book and movie thing with Julianne. Certainly another live show.

Reading
Warlight by Michael Ondaatje (read)
A Tractate on Japanese Aesthetics by Donald Richie (reading)
The Storytelling Animal by Jonathan Gottschall (reading)
The Altar of the Only World by Sharanya Manivannan (reading)
Secure Your Own Mask by Shaindel Beers (reading).

Now that I’ve finished up the crime podcast series, I’m back on my personal reading schedule. I’ve already knocked out Michael Ondaatje’s new book that’s been sitting on my shelf since its release date. Most books, for me, are a one-and-done thing. I’m not a big re-reader, and I don’t consider it a knock against a book’s quality to read it only once. Snow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson is a fantastic book, and it’s a book that is pivotal in my literary biography, but I’ve only read it once. Ondaatje, along with John Berger and Jack Kerouac, are the only writers—so far—who’ve written books that I’ve read more than once (Ondaatje leads the way, with Coming Through Slaughter, In The Skin of a Lion, and The English Patient all being read several times. Berger has two: To the Wedding and Ways of Seeing, and Kerouac has Big Sur).

Warlight is excellent, and I took particular joy in recognizing certain recurring motifs from earlier books. I almost expected to see a small cameo by the thief, Carravagio, the way I did in Divisadero since this was treading in similar World War II territory. Instead it was simply some echoes that reminded me of the Carravagio’s assorted high wire acts like the prison roof painting scene and the falling nun scene in Lion, or the wire walking in English Patient. I’m always enamored with the language in Ondaatje’s stories and how it manages to reveal the humanity of a situation and a character. I generally fail at writing reviews of Ondaatje’s books because descending into me writing about all the things I wish I did better in my own writing and no one really wants to read that.

Watching
Saw A Simple Favor with Blake Lively and Anna Kendrick in September. I had no idea what I was walking into with this movie. It was something that Julianne suggested we see, so we went. It was quite the surprise. Finally sat down to watch John Wick with Julianne. It was fun, but like most of these types of movies, action, comic-books, gun-fu, etc. I’m getting a bit tired of them. Maybe it because it feels like our day-to-day world is already too hyper-saturated with people wielding guns in our faces.

Listening
I’ve been leaving this out for some reason. I usually write to music, look to it for inspiration—all the usual stuff. Mostly I’ve had my playlist for the new project in heavy rotation. It leads off with a collaboration between Olafur Arnalds and Nanna Bryndis Hilmarsdottir (from Of Monsters and Men) titled Particles.

In the recent purchase department, I picked up the 2001 release Things We Lost In The Fire, by Low, and Shawn Craver’s 2017 EP When the Sun Shines (Shawn’s band The Ezras can be heard on the Outrider Live show on the podcast).

Other recent pick-ups include an EP by Wichita based Carrie Nation and The Speakeasy called “Gnosis” and By the Grace of God’s album Three Steps to a Better Democracy (my grad school acquaintance Duncan Barlow is one of the founding members and you can hear our conversation from back in December 2017 on the podcast).

I need to get back to listening to KEXP’s Song of the day podcast. My jones for new music is kicking in. Whenever I feel like I’m having a bit of a FOMO moment with music, I have to remind myself that, like books, there’s no expiration date on music.

Random Thoughts
Most of September was spent keeping tabs on the Supreme Court nomination drama, and the complicated, dangerous repercussions of putting someone so unqualified and partisan on the bench. I feel like the fate of our country is teetering on the brink of a fast and immediate slide into totalitarianism—all because a bunch of entitled old white men, their racist proteges, and subservient women are scared of other people gaining the kind of social, economic, and political power the old white men have. By the time this gets posted, Kavanaugh may already have been confirmed, and our country will be on the precipice of collapse.

Although I am not a politically or economically powerful white man, I’m still a white man. I’m still a beneficiary of white male privilege. I’m not followed around department stores by security personnel. I don’t run the risk of dying while getting my automobile registration out of the glovebox during a traffic stop. I don’t have to thread my keys between my fingers to protect myself while walking across a parking lot in the dark to my car. I don’t have to fear a verbal or physical assault for refusing to accept a date. Rich old white women aren’t trying to pass laws attempting to control what I can and cannot do with my penis.

There was an essay I read a while back by Jennifer Wright titled Why Conservative Women are OK with Harassment. The opening sentence got my attention: “You hear a great deal about feminists being man haters. However, it appears that conservative women have a lower opinion of men than most liberals would ever dream of.”

The essay goes on to point out that the general opinion of most conservative women seems to be that all high school boys attempt rape and that it’s fine or at least something that shouldn’t be counted as a black mark against their character. It’s a view that says males are by their nature sexually violent and aggressive and it’s the woman’s responsibility, from a position of diminished power, to control them or tolerate them if they can’t be controlled. That view of males is appalling.

Wright explains it this way: “If the way you [a woman] have worth amidst a group is to exist in relation to a man, then one way you can ensure that you are well liked by men is to set your expectations of male behavior so low they’re essentially non-existent.”

It’s appeasement, pure and simple. Conservative women believe men can’t or won’t change, are incapable of NOT behaving badly, so, to keep the peace, conservative women will allow men to get away with—quite literally in some cases—murder. The Tumblr When Women Refuse is a litany of women being beaten, raped, and murdered for not giving men what the men want. This appeasement tactic, this tolerance of bad behavior in the hope that by letting men have whatever they want when they want it (a woman’s body, a supreme court seat) will keep women “safe” or “protected” or “liked and loved” is borne out of that assumption that all men are violent animals, and that it’s an exception—a pleasant surprise—when or if they behave well, so best give them whatever they want so they don’t hurt you.

But what happens if you give even a nice guy everything he wants when he wants it? Well, the first time you tell him no he may just get angry and take it . . . Yeah, no wonder conservative women have a lower opinion of men and agree with the idea that it’s the victim’s fault. They’ve bought into a socio-political system that says everything is about personal responsibility, until a man rapes a woman. In that case these male bastions of personal responsibility are absolved of any responsibility because the desire any woman inspires a man is too great for him to resist.

What bullshit.

As a man, I’m not ok with being thought of as a barely contained animal. It’s degrading and humiliating. It suggests that it’s somehow an innate and uncontrollable fact that men will do something horrendous, and that it’s impossible for them to change, to become better men. Personally, I expect better behavior from myself, and I expect better behavior from the men around me. If men can’t control themselves around women, then perhaps they shouldn’t be viewed as the epitome of humanity and given the socio-economic powers that patriarchy bestows on them.

Because Feminist women aren’t keen on appeasing men, they’ve actually encountered men who can, in fact, keep their hands to themselves, who gracefully take no for an answer, and who, quite simply, see women as individuals worthy of respect and as people who are not subservient nor defined by their relationship to a man.

We’re in for a rocky decade after this confirmation, especially those in marginalized communities hated and distrusted by conservatives. Women, LGBTQI, African American, Indigenous peoples, Latino and Hispanic communities, Asian Americans, non-christians, the poor of all groups, and even the disabled. If you’re not a wealthy straight white American male, there’s at least some aspect of your personhood that is at jeopardy. Whether it’s the right to control your sex life and how and when you become a mother, who you can love and have at your hospital bedside when you’re sick and in pain—and whether you can afford to be in that hospital bed at all—it’s all being swept up into this attempt by scared, old, hateful white men who want everyone not like them to live on the knife edge of their flighty, selfish, inconsistent sense of generosity. They want a new feudalism with them at the top and everyone who’s not a white male underneath them, bowing, scraping, and cowering in fear of offending them.

The first step to fighting back, quite simply, is a rule I’ve been following for years: vote with the Democratic black ladies and, when available, vote FOR the Democratic black lady. Once our society allows black women the same access and privilege as white men then there will be a truly equal and free society. If you’re a liberal white man and you’ve found ways to convince yourself and other to NOT vote for minority women in your districts, you’re doing a disservice to the cause of progress.

Want to know who’s in congress now? Here’s a list. Be wary of minority GOP women, you never know when they’ll act like Susan Collins.

You can find out more about your various representatives here at Open States.


First Saturday Report: September 2018

WRITING & SUBMITTING
I’m always a bit torn between keeping track of rejections and ignoring them. Rejection is a normal part of being a writer—something you have to toughen up and deal with. But, aside from keeping track of who I’ve submitted to in the past, I sometimes wonder what the point is to keeping that list around. I’ve occasionally used it as a marker, even publicly, of effort. The old “my novel was rejected fifty times before publisher X bought it” line. However, I always flash back on this piece of advice I read in someplace like Writers Digest, Poets & Writers, or maybe some book written by an agent on how to get an agent . . . Agents don’t want to hear how many times your manuscript was rejected before you sent it to them. That bit of advice was in relation to how to write query letters, but I wonder sometimes if it kind of applies in general to someplace like Twitter. Now, even though this old piece of advice seems like the literary business equivalent of the fragile boyfriend needing to believe that his new girlfriend hasn’t fucked other men (or even women) before, I do kind of get why it exists. The bigger that rejection number gets the wider the consensus is that it’s not very good, and in a sales driven environment the more people don’t seem to want to read something the less money it makes, etc. People love to trot out how many times Moby Dick was rejected and how it’s now a classic, but that’s usually the only example they have and, of course, no one knows anything about those novels that have been rejected even more than Moby Dick and were never published.

So, all that being said, the submissions of The Palace of Winds continue. Far Nineteen is on hold, but I may try sending it out again here soon, and I’m muddling about in the middle of the new project.

READING:
Thomas Pynchon’s Inherent Vice and Richard Brautigan’s Dreaming of Babylon were recently finished and will be discussed on the podcast. These were the lighter side of the detective, crime, noir genre. Up next is Lawrence Osborne’s Only to Sleep: A Philip Marlowe Novel.

PODCAST
Outrider Live: Words & Music should be out later in September, and after recording the final episode the day after this post goes up, the Crime/Noir series will finished and we’ll (meaning me and Heather, my producer (!!)) start getting it ready. I hope to release episode 1 in October sometime. After that, I’ll be on a minor break as I work with Shawn Craver to organize the next live event with a writer and band.

WATCHING
Saw the 1944 version of Gaslight. Squeezed in Ant-man and the Wasp. Finished Ken Burns’ Vietnam Documentary. Still distracting myself with episodes of M*A*S*H when I should be reading or writing.

RANDOM THOUGHTS
Near the end of August, the writer Timothy Schaffert posted a question on Facebook where it seems to be, aside from the podcast, the only place I have literary discussions. The question was “Are there sweeping, literature-altering literary “movements” anymore? Ones in which writers (somewhat) collectively speak in response to past movements, or in reaction to each other? Ala 19th-century Realism? 20th-century Modernism? Fin de siecle Decadence? (Asking for a friend.)” I sat down to write a quick response and it turned into the piece below. A lot of the responders to Schaffert’s post seemed to bring up Dystopian YA as a literary movement or they brought up the expanding awareness of readers and publishers of perviously marginalized voices as a literary movement. Anyway, there was so much to respond to a I couldn’t keep myself limited to a narrow scope.

I don’t think a literary movement can be contained within a single genre, like dystopian YA sci-fi, nor defined simply by the expansion of available voices to include more than old white guys – not if our reference points for defining a “movement” are things , like Modernism, the Beats, Post-Modernism, etc.

Literary movements are, fundamentally, centered on aesthetic concerns that address the way art of any variety is or should be philosophically perceived by the artist and how the artist uses those perceptions to challenge the status quo of the art form, correct? This is why literary movements are often intertwined with other art forms: Modernism wasn’t only literary, it covered visual art, music, theatre, and dance. Same with movements like Dadaism, the Beats, and Post-Modernism. Furthermore, even though those movements were dominated by white males, the aesthetic assumptions were available to be used by all artists – even if they were culturally marginalized and they had a hard time getting published. In this regard, “autofiction” isn’t really a literary movement (the combining of autobiography and fiction), and it’s hardly a new thing and, in fact, it has it’s roots in the Beat movement (Kerouac’s novels and a few of Burroughs early books fit into “autofiction”).

Dystopian YA sci-fi is more of an expression of social anxiety and not a new aesthetic approach to the literary art – even if the majority of “heroes” are now “heroines.” Also, simply expanding the variety of voices being read (a much needed thing, indeed) to include women of color, and other previously marginalized voices isn’t (necessarily) and aesthetic issue. In other words, genre and globalism aren’t by themselves, new ways of thinking about, perceiving, presenting, or refocusing the aesthetic underpinnings of an art form—although of the two, globalism is much more valuable in that it does expand the variety of interpretations of the prevailing aesthetic and could be the conduit by which a new aesthetic enters the literary landscape, but in and of itself, globalism isn’t an aesthetic and therefore not a literary movement but a social trend. Kamila Shamsie (Pakistan), Ornela Vorpsi (Albania), or Shahrnush Parsipur (Iran) are all fantastic additions to the American literary landscape that I’ve discovered in the last few years (although not “popular bestsellers”), but the aesthetic foundation of their work isn’t wildly different from, say, Michael Ondaatje (Sri Lanka via Canada), or Lawrence Durrell (England), or even, Italo Calvino (Italian).

I don’t see a lot of aesthetic experimentation going on in literature right now, but that’s not to say there isn’t any. It’s just not getting through the noise. This is, I suppose, where market forces come into play, but maybe not (more later). Experimentation, these days, doesn’t sell because we’ve over-homogenized literature and taught it badly in schools. The artist-originated movements of the 20th Century (movements that, I sometimes feel, drove homogenization and lended themselves well to being mis-taught) could, very well, have helped alienate the reading audience. If readers are rebelling against the literary establishment, then that’s a kind of movement that is a rejection of movements – a “non-movement-movement” if you want to call it that. I see it as the ultimate failure of Post-modernism: what started off as a rejection of Modernism and its tendency toward totalitarianism became a lowest-common-denominator democratization of artistic taste, it flattened everything via ironic self-reference. Henry Green became Kurt Vonnegut became Jonathan Franzen became fuck-it-all I’ll read whatever’s fun even if it’s not that well written (Dan Brown, Stephanie Meyer, E.L. James, all the dystopian YA Sci-Fi you’ve not yet heard of but is taking up space on the bookstore shelves). The reading public got tired of being handed a book by a white guy and told “this is great literature” and having it turn out to be slow, boring, over dependent on irony—and worse—condescendingly sarcastic.

As for the suppression or support that the market brings to bear on a literary movement, that might be the real question in relation to the life and reach that any kind of potential literary movement might have. Facing off against the Big 5 houses of Penguin Random House (Random Penguin or Penguin House), Macmillan, Simon & Schuster, Hachette, and Harper Collins, all we have is a mass of small presses that are tenuously holding on to viability, and the dark netherworld of self-publishing. The Big 5 aren’t going to take the kind of deep risks needed to help launch a new literary movement. Even if by accident they do pick up a book by someone who is doing something aesthetically new or different or challenging—something that might shift the perspective or the philosophical concerns of the art form—they won’t stick with it if it fails to find a large enough audience. That writer will then be cast off into the abyss, and left to struggle to find a small press that won’t die, or spend their time dissipating their literary talents by having to learn how to be a book publicist and marketer for their self-published and hard to classify novel.

Then, because of the lack of review space, or more accurately because of the democratization of review space, there’s no longer a single, widely accepted “authority” that we trust to tell us what is good, or even what is new and interesting. Review spaces are now, more or less, extensions of the Big 5’s marketing departments, and so we can’t really trust things like the NY Times, or the NY Review of Books to tell us what is good because so many of the books they tell us are good, aren’t really as good as the reviewer says they are. The reviews are just marketing copy. And the stuff that does sell is even worse and it certainly isn’t going to take any kind of artistic or aesthetic risk. Also, the democratized review spaces, like Goodreads, are unreliable as well because we can’t really know who to trust. Is that 5 star review from a rando, or is it a friend of the author? And if it is a rando, how do we know this person actually has a good critical eye unless we track down their other reviews and, in an act of self-reference, compare that reviewer’s likes with our own? I want to read a good new book, not a ton of semi-readable reviews about a potentially good book.

Consequently, I think this is why brick and mortar indie bookstores are surging right now. When your indie bookstore reviews a book you can go in and talk to the bookseller that wrote it and develop a relationship and, as those booksellers get to know their customers, they can pad their inventory accordingly, which brings us back to the audience for books – the demand source of the whole literary endeavor.

We as readers know what we like, we know what entertains us, but the only reason some readers think “entertainment” is a novel idea these days is because a certain strain of Post-modernism won the battle to make the meaningless, plotless 500 page navel-gazing epic somehow meaningful and that alienated everyone from the first rule of good literature, which is the same as the first rule of good storytelling: be entertaining. Dystopian YA has got this down pat, which is why it’s popular even among grown-ass adults.

Perhaps entertainment is the new “movement,” and we’re not seeing how that is an aesthetic because it appears too simple and obvious to be an aesthetic. Of course the big problem with entertainment is that, by itself, it’s empty, and dangerous. Alone, entertainment is not an aesthetic. Jerking off can be highly entertaining, but is that really something you should spend all your energy and effort doing? It’s the epitome of self-referential navel gazing, which is what a lot of readers think big L- Literature is all about.

But entertainment is a Trojan Horse. It’s there and necessary to get in past our defenses of cynicism, suspicion, and ignorance. An empty Trojan Horse is a failure because, well, there’s nothing there except the reader, which forces an unhealthy self-reference in order to satisfy our subconscious need for meaning. A Trojan Horse filled with the wrong things (racism, hatred, greed, exclusion) is dangerous for all the wrong reasons (see Ayne Rand’s novels, the Left Behind series, or The Turner Diaries—all “entertaining” but which promote, respectively, economic dominance by a self-selected, cruel elite, Christian totalitarianism, and white nationalism). Put the right stuff in the entertaining Trojan Horse and then, maybe, you’ve got a movement, but it won’t be limited to a single genre, or even art form, nor will it be available only to previously marginalized groups.

But who really gives a shit about literary aesthetics anymore? Aren’t we all more concerned with survival, which is basically, the biggest “market factor” pressing down on all of us? If taking an artistic risk sets one up to be abandoned financially, are you going to take that artistic risk? The writer Brian Evenson once said to me that young, unpublished writers develop rigid aesthetics because that aesthetic is the only thing they have to justify their existence to their parents, but once they get published their aesthetic becomes less rigid. Well, how rigid is your aesthetic going to be if holding to it jeopardizes your ability to feed yourself? When I look back at the literary movements of the 20th Century, I see a host of writers who, even after they published, held fast to a rigid aesthetic, thus making a movement possible by insisting on the validity of their vision of literature. It isn’t until the American economy began to shift itself into ever expanding conglomeration, and the writer moved more and more into either academic shelters to sustain their artistic output or into competitive bestsellerdom that Evenson’s accurate observation about writers abandoning their aesthetic became the reality—and literary movements died.


First Saturday Report, August

WRITING & SUBMITTING
Since the last report I’ve gone back through The Palace of Winds and tweaked it. There were some typos that had, somehow, survived all the previous read-throughs. I also rewrote and/or expanded some scenes here and there where I realized my previous overfamiliarity (and flat out exhaustion with the thing) had left some plot holes. Now, back to sending it out.

The new project is still on hold. I’ve been preparing some vignettes and poems for a performance coming up August 11th (more on that in the podcast section). I’ve been going through old files, folders, and notebooks looking for things that are roughly 500 to a thousand words or so and are in the vein of the kind of things Bobbie Louise Hawkins was doing in her book and one woman show Absolutely Eden and her pieces from Live at the Great American Music Hall with Terry Garthwaite and Rosalie Sorrels, and in Jaded Love with Lee Christopher (which is exceptionally rare and hard to find). What I find most interesting about the hunt for suitable vignettes is that most of the time I don’t think of myself as being very productive, and not much of a short piece writer. Then I go through all the notebooks that I carry around and scribble things in from time-to-time when I’m out in the world and there are all these pieces where I’ve made some half decent observation about the world, or playfully used language and made startling juxtapositions.

And now I’m back to wondering why it’s so hard to get that to happen in my intentional prose anymore. I managed (somewhat) it in The Evolution of Shadows, but it’s been a challenge to get it teased out of The Palace of Winds (but that may have been a result of intention (long story that)). Then there’s Far Nineteen, which I’ve not looked at in almost a year now and don’t recall how flexible or artful the prose was. I guess that’s next on my list of re-tweaks. Except I really want to get back to the new project.

READING:
My most recent reads have been for the Crime/noir/detective podcast series. Recently finished James Ellroy’s American Tabloid, and Elmore Leonard’s Unknown Man #89. I’ll save the critique and review for now since it’ll all be in the podcast when those come out in October (tentatively planned for then, anyway). These days I’m reading Thomas Pynchon’s Inherent Vice and Richard Brautigan’s Dreaming of Babylon.

Honestly, I’ll be glad when I’m done with the crime/noir stuff so I can get on that new Michael Ondaatje book Warlight.

One thing I have been squeezing in when I can is reading The Altar of the Only World, a collection of new poems by Sharanya Manivannan. I hope one day an American publisher will sign her so that her work will be more easily available in the states. She’s with Harpercollins India right now, so it shouldn’t be too hard of a leap for Harpercollins to bring her here. Her writing is breathtaking and daring, and you should make every effort to read it. I would recommend getting your hands on her collection of short fiction The High Priestess Never Marries.

PODCAST
I’m finishing up the crime/noir/mystery podcast. Two more episodes to go. I’ve had a bit of technical snag with episode three (Megan Abbott and Charles Willeford), but perhaps my new “producer” can fix it. If not, we’ll come up with something.

That’s right, I’ve recruited a producer. We’re still negotiating compensation, but both excited to be working together on the podcast. I need the technical help and my would-be producer needs to build a post-radio days stuff for a portfolio. There may be some special content for sale, some begging for donations, or something along those lines to help compensate the producer’s time and effort, but it’ll be worth it for a better polished podcast.

I’m also prepping for the first live podcast. I’ll be working with a band called The Ezras to put on Outrider Live: Words and Music. It’ll be recorded on Aug. 11th and the show will released on the Podcast in late August or early September. If ti all goes well, Shawn Craver (of the Ezras and a writer) hope to do more shows with other writers and musicians.

WATCHING
I’ve started a classic movie night with friends, and so far we’ve done Breakfast at Tiffany’s (June), and The Thin Man (July), which I’d never seen before. Next up in August is Gaslight, I believe the 1944 version with Ingrid Bergman and Joseph Cotton, but I’m not sure.

A number of my friends haven’t seen Time Bandits, which I find astounding and am oddly excited about sharing it with them.

I’ve finally gotten around to watching the PBS, Ken Burns documentary The Vietnam War, and, to cut that from time-to-time, I’ve been watching old M.A.S.H. episodes.

RANDOM THOUGHTS
There was a recent episode of the podcast Hidden Brain that got me thinking. It was called Rebel With A Cause, and it was about rule breaking—more or less—and the “curse of knowledge,” which basically means that experts sometimes forget what it’s like to be a beginner or novice and so lose the wonder, curiosity, and awkwardness that put a fire into their early forays into the field of their expertise. It put me in mind of a conversation I had with a friend not long ago about my own writing. This friend encouraged me quit worrying about putting all these elaborate requirements on my writing and just tell a story. In some ways, this friend was right.

I have been putting a lot of requirements on the projects I’ve been working on lately. My rationale has been that by putting a certain requirement in place—a limitation—it will force me to come up with a creative solution to get around that limitation. The problem, I think, isn’t the limitation itself, but how I’m responding to it. When I first started writing, and when I wrote The Evolution of Shadows, my limitations were largely unintentional. They were limitations of novice-hood and limitations born of a lack of experience as a writer. Since then, I’ve cranked out several manuscripts, even though none have been published. Each one has been a learning experience, despite their failures. Some of those manuscripts were, simply just too flawed to go anywhere, like the finished but unfixable novel By The Still, Still Water, and the 500 plus page epic conspiracy novel that ran out of gas called The God Tamers (title stolen from a line in “Silver” by Echo and Bunnymen), and the abandoned rock-n-roll serial killer novel Gravity Push (might go back to it). Then there are the finished ones that seem, at least for now, to be worthwhile—The Palace of Winds (a re-imagining of Jason & the Golden Fleece) and Far Nineteen (a story about deep-seated racial conflict and a dead body in a time capsule).

When I started out, I was fairly good at plot, dialogue, and point of view. Not a bad repertoire for a beginner, but my language as dull, functional, journalistic. There was not much poetry to it, and certainly no grace or personality. It was also missing that certain thing that comes from getting access to, and trusting, your native intelligence and the ability to tap into those truths we all know about what it means to be human and to suffer (or to be joyful, in love, etc.) and say something about those things in a new and artful way.

I think I let go of my beginner’s mindset too early. I went from asking “what do I do next?” to saying “this is what I do next” as if it was all understood now how I should apply my knowledge and proceed. I don’t like formulas, I don’t like formulaic writing, and although I enjoy various sub-genres of literature like Mystery, Sci-fi, Fantasy, etc. I don’t want to write exclusively in one sub-genre. My favorite books, and the book I’m always looking for but can’t find (ergo I then decided that I should write them), are ones like those written by Michael Ondaatje, John Berger, Lawrence Durrell, Jeff Talarigo, Emily St. John Mandel, Laird Hunt, Sharanya Manivannan, Italo Calvino, Jack Kerouac, James Tate, Michael Chabon, Alexs D. Pate, and others (William Maxwell’s So Long, See You Tomorrow is astounding, Daniel Wallace’s Big Fish crushes me, David Guterson’s Snow Falling on Cedars breaks my heart). In effect, I’d built myself a formula without knowing and have been flailing about inside it, not breaking the arbitrary rules I’d set for myself, which were based on a desire to not follow the “rules” of a formula.

Now. . . to fix it.

img_0088-2018-08-4-11-42.jpg


First Saturday Report, July

WRITING & SUBMITTING
I’ve been letting the submissions dwindle lately and have, actually, gone back in for another pass at the manuscript for The Palace of Winds. There were some pretty obvious typos that I’d somehow missed before. The perils of self-editing. I know what I meant to say, what I wanted to say, but somehow missed typing it in correctly didn’t correct it on the page.

This means the new project is on hold for the moment, but that’s not exactly a bad thing. I’d reached that phase where the original structure and intent was fading and descending into a kind of linear porto-journalism—a recounting of things done and said, but with little insight into what was felt, or interpreted by the characters. The appropriate tone had disappeared, as well as the poetry. It’s the usual sign that I took a wrong turn somewhere and need to backtrack. Perfect time to let it sit. After a while, I’ll be able to spot the bad note and clean it out.

READING:
Knocked out Die A Little by Megan Abbott and The Woman Chaser by Charles Willeford. Also squeezed in, finally, in my 47th year, The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery.

Abbott and Willeford were read for the special podcast series I’m doing on Crime/detective/noir fiction. More on that in the podcast section.I ended up liking the Abbott better than the Willeford. At the moment, I’m reading James Ellroy’s American Tabloid and Elmore Leonard’s Unknown Mad #89. Both for the podcast.

The Little Prince was a favorite book of a friend who died several years ago from brain cancer. Perhaps if I’d read it as a kid I’d have had a slightly different reaction to it. One that wasn’t so tinged with sadness. It’s a lovely story, full of truth, such as its most famous quote—but there are other truths in it. I read it because I kind of always should have read it, but also because it may play a part in the new project I’m letting sit for a while.

One of my New Year’s plans had been to get at least one shelf’s worth of books read from my to-be-read bookshelves, but instead, I did the noir podcast and just added a new shelf. So, we’ll see.

PODCAST
The recording for the Crime/detective/noir podcast should be finished by the end of August, and the plan is to get that ready to be released sometime in October. I’ve recently made contact with an individual who has several years of audio editing experience and who seems to enjoy doing that kind of work. Hopefully, an arrangement can be reached (including payment that is both manageable for me and satisfactory for the editor). Overall, it should really improve the quality of the shows that are released.

I’m also working with a local musician to put on a live event that will be recorded for the podcast. That should happen sometime in August, with the resulting episode coming out shortly afterwards. I’m excited about he prospects both for the podcast and for engaging the wider artistic community here in Wichita.

WATCHING
I’ve been watching more things than I should. Mostly stuff from the Arrowverse on Netflix. However, I did recently see Rosemary’s Baby for the first time at the urging of Julianne. It was amusing, but I still might have sprained my eyes rolling them so often. Now, every time I utter the phrase “demon baby” Julianne adds another horror movie to the list of horror movies she’s going to make me watch. I think I can handle it. So far, the only one that’s unsettled me was The Conjuring, but I got over it.

I still don’t fully understand that fascination with horror movies, nor the enjoyment people get out of whatever it is that horror movies are supposed to do.

RANDOM THOUGHTS
Back in May I wrote a bit about the passing of Bobbie Louise Hawkins (NY Times Obituary). Bobbie was my grad school advisor, and had a very serious impact on me as a writer. Since then, I have seen a number of my grad school acquaintances write about her and the experiences they had with her both during their time at Naropa and after—and I find myself feeling a different kind of remorse and sadness. Not for Bobbie’s passing, but for the lack of connection I have with my fellow former students, and for a lack of connection with Naropa.

First, I have a few close friends, people I confide in and lean on. Some of them are writers, some aren’t. But aside from about three people I keep in semi-regular contact with via social media and email, I’m not very connected to anyone from graduate school anymore, and certainly not to any of my instructors in a way that seems similar to my fellow students.

Now, I admit that I’m a poor correspondent. Aside from making a New Year’s resolution to clean off one of my to-be-read shelves, I also resolved to begin writing to grad school friends I hadn’t talked to in a while, and to write to other writer acquaintances I’ve made over the years. I’ve failed miserably on that front as well. I may have written three or four emails to three people back in February or March, and that’s been it.

It’s all lead to a bit of introspection and self-analysis. Judging from conversations that I have had, usually via the podcast, but also the occasional successful social media interaction, I have the feeling that all these people I’ve met or once knew are much better at keeping in touch and making more intimate connections with other people than I am. Since Bobbie’s death, I’ve heard a few stories from classmates about visits with Bobbie that they had during and after their time at Naropa. Invitations to visit and chat that I don’t remember receiving.

Considering the variety of people telling these stories, I’ve realized the only constant is me. I’m the problem. I can’t decided if it’s because I’m too quiet, or if I talk too much. Am I too intimate, or am I too aloof? Too closed off, or too open. I’ve been accused of being all of those things at various times. Either way, I’m pretty sure there’s something about me that, despite my desire to have literary friendships (perhaps even my desperation), that keeps people at a distance.

One of the most important things Bobbie taught me was how to walk that line between being self-critical and gracefully accepting praise. I used to deflect any and all praise directed at my writing because, frankly, all I could see were the flaws (I still mostly see only the flaws (but not always the typos)). Bobbie told me the deflected someone’s praise of my writing, in some weird attempt to appear humble, was a subtle suggestion that I thought their judgement was flawed or wrong. It was, in effect, an insult to their taste and intelligence. She said that, I can’t stand to simply accept the praise, then I could try saying something like “Thank you, but I”m not half as good as I want to be.” That way, I avoid making people feel stupid or ashamed for liking something I wrote, and frame my self-critical voice in such a way that it presents as a tease for future work. It’s like doing a magic trick and then, after everyone applauds, giving them a wink and saying “If you like that, wait till you see the next trick.”

That lesson came in a class, I think, and not while chatting in the garden, or in the living room, or after a shared dinner. Perhaps I seem too self-contained, too self-assured, too self-reliant to need such one-on-one propping up by friends and mentors. My inability to ask for help (or anything really) perhaps reinforced that.

Oddly enough, this feeling also applies to family. Some, but not all, of my cousins on both sides of the family, have many more stories about times spent with our grandparents, while, for me, they remain mostly strangers—especially now that they’ve been dead close to thirty years in some cases.

When I was in my twenties and thirties, I don’t think it mattered to me, or, at least, I didn’t let it affect me. Now, at nearly fifty, with the world seemingly collapsing around us all, and a rising awareness that men at my age tend to start the long slow decline into isolation (which can be deadly), I’m spending a lot of time pondering how I can head off a seemingly inevitable lonely old man phase, and what I need to alter about myself to help that along.

But, of course, that doesn’t mean letting just anyone in past the gates. No one, at any age, needs narcissistic, psychopathic, selfish, manipulative, destructive, racist people near them.


First Saturday report, June

WRITING & SUBMITTING
I’m getting back to submitting The Palace of Winds, but I’m putting Far Nineteen back in the revision queue. I feel like it needs some more time and thought. Of course that means it might also be dead as a topical piece of literature. The new project is coming along slowly, and I’ve been distracted or, rather, I’ve allowed myself to be distracted. It’s hard to keep focus on a fantasy when the world seems to be teetering on a certain, final precipice. Will anyone even be interested in reading anymore? Will there be a social structure that permits publishing?

I’m also thinking about breaking up The Palace of Winds into three short novellas. The entire books is sitting at about 124,000 words and has three distinct parts that are written in slightly different styles. There’s the rather straightforward adventure style of the first section (The Journey Out), the noir inspired style of the second section (Year of the Monkey), the more moody domestic style of the shorter third and forth sections (A Sacrifice, and The Dead) which could easily be combined into one. Not all of sections are exactly the same length, but a good estimate is that at a total fo 380 pages, it could easily be divided into three 120 page novellas.

READING:
Finished rereading The Long Goodbye by Raymond Chandler for a special series of the podcast. That means I’ve not gotten to Michael Ondaatje’s new novel Warlight yet. I’m disappointed about that, but that’s the way life goes. Right now I’m reading Charles Willeford’s The Woman Chaser, along with Megan Abbott’s Die A Little for the next episode of the podcast.

This summer will be full of crime fiction. So, I might not get to Warlight unit the fall – along with all the other books sitting on my shelves.

PODCAST
I’m slowly getting the Ulysses series ready for Bloom’s Day. I think it’ll come out all at once. I’m also in the process of reading books and recording conversations with Todd Robins and Paul Fecteau on mystery, noir, and crime fiction. That series will be out in the fall, probably around the end of October. After that, there may be another little hiatus before I start in on a more regular series on books-to-film.

WATCHING
I’ve been watching movies a lot more these days, influenced, mostly, by all the time I’m spending with Julianne. It’s often hard to find movies she hasn’t seen, but I did share Shohei Imamura’s delightfully silly Warm Water Under a Red Bridge with her and she seemed to like it. That was my introduction to Imamura, and I’ve got two more of his films in digital versions that I’ve not yet watched — A Man Vanishes, and Vengeance is Mine — which are more serious. I’ve also seen his movies, Dr. Akagi, The Eel, and The Pornographers all of which I remember liking and would like to grab copies for my collection.

Saw Deadpool 2 last month. A little disappointed at the ‘fridgeing” bit, especially since I like to see Morena Baccarin, but life goes on. Overall, I liked it, but feel like it wasn’t quite as funny as I’d hoped it would be. Maybe that was because I sat through the first 20 minutes of the movie wondering if the wait staff had forgotten my order (in case you don’t know, the “Warren” Old Town Theatre Grill (now run by Regal) is a theatre/restaurant and usually they bring orders to your seat so fast you’re mostly done before the movie starts). I never did get my drink.

I saw Solo: A Star Wars Story—and they didn’t fuck it up. It was quite good. I suspect there’ll be a sequel even though some are saying Solo is a financial flop. There’s still some unseen Han Solo history to cover and that reappearance of a certain Sith lord once thought dead makes things interesting. I hope you watched the animated series, or you’ll be baffled.

Added a forgotten “classic” to my movie collection recently. I first saw The Blood of Heroes (Rutger Hauer, Joan Chen, Delroy Lindo, Anna Katarina, and Vincent D’Onofrio) sometime in the early 90s. It’s been a favorite of mine ever since. TBoH falls into the post-apocalyptic dystopian genre of “loose” sci-fi with utterly collapsed civilizations (there are no space ships or advanced tech) and it appeals to me a lot more than the shiny, sleek, space-suited variety. It’s probably because I don’t exactly have any faith that humanity can improve itself. Star Trek is a nice fantasy, even with all the fighting and existential crises that seem to plague the Federation (Star Wars is Space Opera and not, technically “speculative” because it happened “A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away.”) Things like Firefly/Serenity, or Blade Runner are more believable to me as future outcomes of humanity than Star Trek, while I see TBoH as the place we’ll most likely end up. Greed and stupidity, often working together and not recognizing that they are opposite sides of the same wooden nickel (the greedy (i.e.: rich) don’t see their own stupidity, and the stupid think they’re only a single good break away from joining the ranks of the greedy (i.e.: rich)).

The whole of human history is a class war. Why wouldn’t the future be the same?

RANDOM THOUGHTS
I was going to write about yet another disappointing run-in with a Wichita writer, but decided against it. For a brief moment, I thought of replacing it with something else, but forgot what that something else was going to be. Something profound, obviously. Tried writing broadly about the disappointing encounter, but after a few hundred words decided to throw it out. The incurious will remain incurious and that’s that.

Instead, I’ll go with this: Why I don’t like going to the gym.

I’ve actually thought about it a lot, trying to sort out the block so I can fully make use of my YMCA membership. I guess the block is this: if I’m going to exert myself while remaining in one place, I’d prefer to exert myself mentally. Weight lifting, stationary bikes, treadmills, aerobics type classes, even yoga and simple in-home activities like push-ups and sit-ups/crunches/planks—or whatever is popular for the abdominals lately—just doing X number of reps or X amount of time doing something—despite the effort put forth—feels kind of like wasted time to me. Running outdoors, biking, and—since I live near a river, I’m considering buying a kayak—kayaking appeal to me a great deal more. The scenery changes. The environmental has variables to be overcome. There’s room for improvisation (I think I’ll take a left here today instead of a right, etc.).

But most of all, there’s a kind of privacy to being outdoors and exercising. I spend 40hrs a week in a cubicle farm. Places like that are . . . inhumane. I have to listen to other people breathe, chew, digest, fart, and blabber about things. It feels like someone is always looking over my shoulder. Hell, I sometimes I even get the impression that people follow me around at work to make sure I’m not fucking off. That paranoia stems directly from that sense of constantly having your personal space invaded that comes from a cubicle farm. The only thing that approaches private time when you work in a cubicle farm is going to the restroom and hoping to get maybe five minutes sitting in a quiet stall with no one around you.

The gym is like the office in that way. Someone is always a bit too close for comfort.

Going for a run, a bike ride, or a paddle, even though you’re outside and publicly visible, you’re in a private space. No one is sprawling their sloppy selves all over the place right next to you. You’re not having to deal with inconsiderate fellow users of shared equipment, their grimy I’ve-got-a-cold-but-I-came-here-anyway-to-touch-everything-around-you carelessness. I’d much rather dodge the piles of goose shit on the sidewalk.

mymovie-2018-06-2-08-33.jpg


First Saturday Report, May 2018

WRITING & SUBMITTING
Haven’t gotten back on the submission mission, just yet. I’ve been working pretty steadily on the new project, reading a bit for that (see below), and gearing up for the next special series of the podcast (see below).
I like being in the trenches of a writing project, submitting is the pain in the ass thing I procrastinate about the most, which is why I’d really like to have an agent, but . . . The more search for one, the more I think finding an agent is like trying to find a girlfriend through online dating apps.

I sucked at online dating. Ever since I stopped trying to use it, I’ve been trying to figure out why I sucked at it. Here are my thoughts: and yes, these thoughts, with very little adaptation, apply to courting an agent.

1) I read the whole profile, and if the woman says she’s only interested in men between the ages of 28 and 38, I eliminate myself because I’m 47 and I won’t be one of those creepy douche-nuggets who appears to ignore someone’s stated preferences. When it comes to agents, I read their bios (if they have them online) and I look into their existing list. If they’re not interested in “literary fiction” or if all the books they’ve represented have garish, shiny, cartoon-like covers associated with the sub-genres (seriously, you can’t know who every writer is, nor spend your time reading all the writers an agent represents, but the publishing industry knows how to package a book for its intended audience (even if they sometimes get it wrong) and only satirical literary fiction would employ they cover art tropes of say Romance, or Sci-Fi – which is to say that, for the most part these days, yes, you can judge a book by its cover).

2) Again, because I read the whole profile, if a woman doesn’t read – or claims to only read, let’s say, self-help, I strike her from the list. I write “literary” fiction – which is to say I write whatever the hell I want and use genre elements as a part of my tool kit, rather than try to fit into any particular genre. So, if a woman or agent (oddly, most agents appear to be women) doesn’t appear to be interested in reading anything I might write, I’m not going to bother her because, frankly, she’ll be uninterested in anything I do and, as a writer in Kansas, I suffer quite enough neglect already.

3) I have a strange sense of humor, I’m socially awkward sometimes, and extremely self-critical. These things make it hard to write a profile and get someone’s attention in a small space with a limited amount of time. My dating profiles tend to be too obscure, or too snobby, or too formal, or too devoid of personality, which makes me easy to overlook considering the heavy amount of douchebags out there shotgunning messages to every woman on the dating site. In other words, all of the women on the dating sites have their defenses up to begin with (and all agents have their defenses up against unprofessional, and sometimes unstable wannabes) and since I can’t seem to figure out how to charm my way past the filters they’d put in place to keep the angry, entitled, aggressive assholes at bay, I seem like a plain, beige, blankness.

4) There are always more men on dating site than women, partly because of the aggressive entitled douchey-ness of men online, but also because, well, of social gender norms. Women get pursued in person because that’s how we train men, and so a woman, depending on her sociability, work environment, friend network, etc. will have just as much luck, if not better luck, meeting the right guy by going out in the world and doing the things she likes to do. That means guys like me, with loose, or small, social networks (all of my close friends in town are married and I seem to be the only single person I know, even at work), have to rely on diligent commitment to online dating, or luck. The literary equivalent to this is the literary conference. There are always more writers than agents, and because of the internet, the agents are getting bombarded by every delusional amateur who thinks they’re they next J.K. Rowling, but are actually more like a less talented (if that’s even possible) version of Dan Brown or E.L. James. The literary conference is a filter like a circle of friends, or trusted co-workers.

Luck, at least in the dating scene, did finally break in my favor a few months ago. It’s a longish, complicated story that if told as shortly as possible goes like this: someone I met a long time ago when I was dating someone else read a recent post I made on facebook and sent me a message, turned out we both had an interest in each other way back when but completely misread the other’s potential interest.

Maybe I need to go back and recycle a few of the agents who turned down my first novel.

READING:
After finishing Ulysses, I was supposed to pick up something else and get it read before starting in on the next special series for the podcast. I haven’t done that yet; however, the reading for the next special series is much, much lighter than Ulysses, so I should be able to squeeze a few additional things in.

On the agenda over the summer: The Little Prince, and The Long Goodbye (re-read) (podcast), plus some books by friends and other associates I’ve not gotten around the reading yet, such as Pauls Toutonghi, Laird Hunt, Brian Evensen, Andrea Portes, Troy James Weaver, Colin Dickey, and so on. Not to mention the host of books I’ve been hoarding, unread, for years like The Old Gringo by Carlos Fuentes, and Women without Men by Shahrnush Parsipur to name just two of what seems like a hundred or more.
                
I read a short essay titled “The Emergence of Metaformic Consciousness” by poet and feminist activist Judy Grahn, which she adapted from her book Blood, Bread, and Roses: How Menstruation Created the World. In it, she posits, (in my very reduced rendering here) that when the early human mind began to see the pattern, the synchrony, between the moon and women’s monthly bleeding, and began to react to the implied power behind it, our early ancestors began to slowly, over millennia, develop rituals to understand and contain the power, thus creating, first, consciousness, and then all the other building blocks of civilization. Considering the depth and ferociousness behind modern misogyny’s attacks on women, it feels true. In fact, most of western civilization seems hyper concerned with controlling and containing women. It’s as if they posed some existential threat to the very existence of the world.

Misogyny is

PODCAST
The Ulysses podcast is finished and now I’m in the process of editing audio to get it ready for the Bloom’s Day release. But there is no rest for me on the horizon. I’m launching into another special series, this time one the mystery genre (for lack of a better term). I do need to get going on some filler episodes while Stephen and his family are still resettling after the home accident that left them living out of a hotel room for a while. Once Stephen and Co. are settled, and the school semester is over, we’ll be back to our monthly chats. Some of the ideas for the one-off episodes are to talk about query letters, and other aspects fo the publishing business. Then, in the fall, after the mystery podcast is released, I’m hoping to start another, longer running series with my . . . am I too old now to use the term “girlfriend?” Anyway, her name is Julianne, and she co-writes a blog called “We Minored In Film,” and we’re thinking about doing a series discussing books and their various film adaptations. Between the two of us we have four degrees in English (2 BAs and 2 Masters), so that should be fun.

WATCHING
It’s been a grand time catching movies with Julianne. We recently saw the Natalie Portman lead movie Annihilation, and the animated Isle of Dogs, which I loved. It put me in mind of my dog, Lady, long deceased now. I got her for Christmas when I was 8 or 9 years old, and she died when I was 21 or 22. I haven’t had a dog since. Someday, I’d like to live in a place with a fenced yard so it feels more practical to have another dog.

Julianne and I have also been watching movies at home. She’s a horror fan, and I’m not, but sometimes people will bend the rules if properly persuaded. She got me to watch The Conjuring recently. It was ok, better than what I expected for a horror movie in that no one’s actions seemed illogical, and the bouts of irrationality seemed to fall into standard human modes of irrationality rather than the realm of eye-rolling horror movie stupid. That’s my usual reason for disliking horror movies: there’s always a slew of characters who have witnessed a few people die or get possessed or whatever the big bad scary thing does to people, and then they do something similar to this: the band of plucky would-be survivors/victims get to a supposedly safe place away from the big bad scary thing, and one idiot, proclaiming their safety, says they have nothing to worry about and then promptly gets whacked sending the remaining survivors scurrying about screaming. At least in The Conjuring, supposedly based on true events, no one did anything truly stupid, and the irrationality was based in fear, not in the defiance of fear.

Now, the other reason I tend to dislike horror movies is because I simply don’t understand the desire to frighten yourself with spiritual, psychic, or gory violence as a form of “fun.” The faceless, implacable, nearly invincible killer, the centuries old, immortal witch baby-eater, devils, demons, satan, incubi, succubi, werewolves, vampires, ghosts, zombies, or Cthulhu – these are all a manifestation of our primal fears of the unknown and the mysterious. Scaring myself with that stuff for fun seems ridiculous considering the very real human capacity to inflict true horror on each other: mass shootings, lynchings, public execution by traffic stop, genocide, war, nuclear annihilation, serial killers, home invasions, and so on. The real world seems quite frightening enough. Evil is real and it lives inside everyone.

I don’t enjoy being frightened, and I especially don’t enjoy being manipulated in that fashion especially when there’s nothing to do about it (I can’t “fight back” so to speak, except by turning it off, which is “not watching a horror movie”). After movies like The Conjuring, where the horror, the evil, has been externalized and endured, it rebounds. For someone with an anxious personality to begin with, a highly sensitive personality, a “good” horror film activates my nightmare capacity. The imagined horror of the film turns into an uncontrollable imagining of the real horror of things like the Carr Brother murders, of the Manson Family, the bloody Benders, Lizzie Borden, Jack the Ripper, H. H. Holmes, BTK, the Green River Killer, Tommy Lynn Sells, and other mass killers. Then let’s not forget the non-sentient horrors out there like the ebola virus, classic Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, or variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, and the fact that the world is experiencing a acceleration of antibiotic resistance that could lead to a total, world wide resistance to antibiotics, which could leave us unable to treat even “simple” infections like pneumonia or a resurgence of something like bubonic plague as a mass killer. And, just like us, viruses and bacteria evolve, change, mutate and so who knows what future horrors are waiting to infect us (a “zombie” may one day be real).

I suppose there’s also a bit of the asshole fan factor about why I dislike horror movies. Like snooty vegetarians or completist nerds, you know, those people who adopt a condescending tone when they find out someone isn’t a vegetarian or doesn’t get all the subtle fan-boy nuances of the obsessed-over object, horror move obsessed fans can be the worst. I’ve had too many horror fans adopt a tone and tack of engagement that is best compared to playground taunts of being a chicken, a scaredy cat, a pussy – as if experiencing fear in the face of something frightening meant you were defective.

RANDOM THOUGHTS

I had written something else for this section, and then threw it all out Saturday morning when I found out that Bobbie Louise Hawkins had passed away. Strangely, the random thoughts I deleted had been about funerals.

Bobbie was my advisor in graduate school, and one of those people who, despite my inability to keep in touch with her over the years, was incredibly important and had an outsized impact on my life. Ever since I sat down to have her read one of my stories out loud to me to the present, I occasionally hear her voice in my head when I’m writing or revision fiction. In particular, I hear this specific thing she said. I wrote it down the moment she said it, and I keep it on a slip of paper pinned to a cork board that sometimes hangs over my desk. It reads “Your organism will inform you that you suck.”

I treat it as a reminder that my internal editor and critic is useful and should be listened to, within reason of course. People don’t often trust their native intelligence, which is something I remember Bobbie talking about frequently in the workshops I took with her. If you learn to trust your native intelligence, then your organism will indeed inform you when you’re not doing well, and you should be smart enough to listen and correct. The trick, of course, is to be smart enough to know when you do, in fact, suck at what you’re doing and to be able to figure out how to get better. Once you trust yourself in that way, it’s easy to avoid being self-critical to the point of creative paralysis.

During my first summer, Bobbie was the moderator for a panel discussion with Robin Blaser, Bob Creeley, and Michael Ondaatje. I downloaded a copy of the recording of that discussion from the Naropa archive because it was a turning point in my life as a writer, and Bobbie was there to shepherd me through it. I became an admirer of Ondaatje because of that panel discussion. Bobbie also pointed me to John Berger, Lawrence Durrell, and Colette. Bobbie, like all of those writers, had a gift for evoking a deep emotional resonance in her work, a tone that seemed to attach a much deeper significance to what might seem to be otherwise simple language. This was something she tried to teach in a class of hers that I took called “The Feeling Tone” where we read Ondaatje and Colette among others.

If you ever find yourself browsing books somewhere in a second hand shop, or online, and come across one of her books, buy it, read it. You won’t regret it.


First Saturday Report April 7, 2018

WRITING & SUBMITTING
My submission routine has taken a beating lately. I’ve been preoccupied with a few other things. Namely James Joyce and Ulysses, but there have been a few other distractions. I have, however, been slowly plugging away on a new project, and I’m nearing the “100 page threshold.” It’s little more than an arbitrary barrier I maintain based on something Bobbie Louise Hawkins once said, which was, basically, if you get to page 100 then you know you’ve got something so you might as well finish it.

I’ve been thinking about doing another revision to my novel Far Nineteen. The longer it sits, the more I begin to feel I’ve missed something, thematically. It’s a book about race, but it’s not that kind of book about race – or, at least, I don’t think so. There are certain types of books about race that white people seem to write: first, the obviously racist book about race (think The Turner Diaries). Another type is the white savior book about race, and its less feel good version “The white man’s burden.” Then there’s the rather simplistic racists are bad type of book, which is mostly about white guilt, and protestations that “not all white people are racists.” I wanted to set out to write a story that would tackle the idea of white privilege and how, even in liberal, equality minded white people who want to do the right thing, their very privilege is often a barrier to true empathy and understanding – primarily that white people do have an “out” and that they can disengage or withdraw from the struggle for equality and justice (and still believe themselves part of the struggle) in a way that those under the heel of oppression never can. The longer the book sits, and the more I read (everything from tweets and posts from African American writers and “Twitter celebs” to magazine articles in The Crisis (I’ve yet to fully tackle the recent assortment of books I’ve acquired by African American writers like bell hooks, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Roxane Gay, Ibram X. Kendi, and James Baldwin).

White people don’t wrestle enough with the notion of white privilege, so Far Nineteen has been my effort to do exactly that – and the longer it sits, the more I begin to feel I have more to do with it. So, maybe once I break the 100 page threshold in the new project, I’ll set it aside and go through Far Nineteen again.

In the meantime, I need to get back to sending out The Palace of Winds. I pumped out the first draft back in 2010, and have since lost count of the rewrites and revisions. It’s at nearly 125,000 words (380 pages typed), which for a while I thought was large, but really, it’s not. With my rather spare style it’s a fast read.

READING:
Ulysses. Still.

PODCAST
The podcast is on a bit of an accidental hiatus. Stephen has had a minor home tragedy involving water and a collapsed ceiling. So, once that gets resolved we’ll be back on schedule for our monthly conversations. We’ll be going back to an older format.

Getting ready to record the penultimate episode of the Ulysses series with Delia. Once those are in the can, I’ll edit them and get them ready to release on or around Bloomsday.

After I finish recording with Delia, I’ll start a new project with a pair of writers. know, Todd R. and Paul F. that will discuss crime and noir fiction. I hope to have that series ready in the fall.

In the meantime, I’m going to start filling the dead space with some short one-offs. Since I’ve been reading Ulysses and will start in on crime fiction, I don’t know that I’ll be able to rope in any author conversations for a while, but we’ll see.

WATCHING
Ok, so, I broke down and finally watched Game of Thrones. It was good. I liked it. But what’s the big fucking deal? Gratuitous tits and swords? Let’s discuss the notion of gratuitous tits: these are tits that appear for no discernible reason. Was it necessary for random Dothraki extras to have one boob hanging out while simply standing in a crowd? Melisandre’s dress came off so frequently and pointlessly I thought it was a wardrobe malfunction and the first director’s response was “well, that happened, guess we’ll use it,” and after that the all the other episode directors didn’t realize it was a wardrobe malfunction and just threw it a disrobing scene out of some prurient fascination with the actress. When I was younger, I would have been thrilled at the abundant display of naked women, but now, considering my own maturity and the general rise in awareness of Hollywood’s deep, misogynistic and sexual exploitation and abuse of women in particular, from the aggressively manipulative Harvey Weinstein and the rapes attributed to various actors to the somewhat more mild stories of Joss Whedon’s infidelity and the gray, complex and muddy story of Aziz Ansari, every time an actress takes off her clothes I can’t help but wonder if she was pressured to do it, if she felt that to refuse she would risk losing the job, an income, future opportunities.

The fact that there are naked men in GOT, that men have experienced similar stories of sexual assault and exploitation in Hollywood, does little to lessen my concern. Terry Crews and Brendan Frasier are to be applauded for their courage in coming forward with their stories of being exploited, especially since doing so not only comes with the standard, shame, victim blaming and disbelief that women endure, but with laughter and, oddly enough, a diminishment in their “masculine prestige,” which in a patriarchal society is the very thing that often enables the masculine entitlement that leads to a man committing sexual assault. Patriarchy sets up a man to feel he must assert his masculinity through sexual conquest, and, sometimes, that involves the apparent humiliation of another man’s patriarchal masculinity.

Anyway, I’m off the topic of things watched, and the gratuitous tit shot.

A new friend sat me down to watch Richard Linklater’s Before Sunrise. She hasn’t had the chance yet to show me the other two, Before Sunset, and Before Midnight, but I’m sure we’ll get to them. I was quite impressed with the first one. I sometimes forget how much I like Ethan Hawke.

RANDOM THOUGHTS

I feel like I’m entering that phase of life where I’m finally starting to see the uselessness of complaining, and of being perpetually grumpy. Not that it won’t still happen, but rather that I hope not to make it a center piece of my personality. Quiet endurance is a bit more important. If I make a choice to do something, go some where, order something, and it isn’t up to my expectations, or it fails in some way (too loud, too crowded, too cold, too hot, too slow, too fast – too whatever), I have a choice: further make it uncomfortable and awkward by complaining or pitching a fit (something I’ve been very good about doing in the past), or I can take a deep breath, let it roll away, and find a less destructive, more tolerant way to cope. It’s not that I’m adopting the “why can’t you be sunny all the time” philosophy that some of the geriatric critics of my general pessimistic bitterness have pushed (old teachers, ex-girlfriend’s grandparents), but the truth is, I’m tired of pushing people away by my general prickliness and anger.

I have in my head this model of behavior in the world that I hope to embrace. Let’s call it active passivity – sure it’s an oxymoron, but it’s founded on this idea of “sung (here, here),” which was a concept I first encountered while learning tai chi. The world, other people, don’t care about my comfort, or someone else’s. The world, other people, care about their own comfort. I care about my comfort, and, I think, part of that care for my comfort is transforming from “why isn’t this they way I wanted it to be” to simply not getting bent out of shape about disappointing things I can’t control, i.e. other people’s noise, poor service, etc. To be sung is to be rooted, solidly, and yet still flexible. Water is sung. Cats exhibit sung. When the world encroaches on our comfort zone, we can be rigid, complain, fuss, or we can be sung and flow through or around the encroachment. But remember, hitting water with enough force will shatter the object and the water will remain. A cat has claws for a reason. I’m trying not to be concrete or stone. I’m trying not to have my claws out all the time.

img_0013-2018-04-7-10-04.jpg


First Saturday Report: March 2018

WRITING & SUBMITTING
The submissions pace has slowed down a bit, honestly, because I feel like I’m running out of agents who appear to represent the kind of fiction I write. I also can’t tell if the dismal response rate is because I’m doing something wrong in my query letters, or if my one book was just a fluke. Moving on to submitting to publishers now for The Palace of Winds. Still sending Far Nineteen out to agents.

Working on a new project. It’s been knocking about in my head for a few years and it finally started to really take shape after reading The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera and So Long, See You Tomorrow by William Maxwell.

READING:
Right now, my reading is completely consumed by James Joyce’s Ulysses. I’m pretty sure reading it is the literary/English Major’s equivalent of a snipe hunt. Or I’m stupid. Maybe I’m stupid.

PODCAST
Speaking of Ulysses, I’m not reading it for fun (maybe I should be?). I’m reading it for the podcast along with my grad school friend, Delia. We hope to have it finished and to start releasing episodes around Bloomsday, June 16,2018.

WATCHING
On a lark one night when I should have been reading Ulysses, I watched Barefoot in the Park, with Robert Redford and Jane Fonda. Then I watched Our Souls At Night, with Robert and Jane. Although Barefoot is a classic, and based on a Neil Simon play, the movie is, well a bit of froth. Thoroughly enjoyable, funny, and classic froth, but froth nonetheless. Souls, based on the Kent Haruf novel (which I’ve not read, but may add to the list), was wonderful. I’m glad that places like Netflix are making space for small, quiet, mature, low-budget movies that, if we relied on Hollywood’s blockbuster system alone, would never get made.

RANDOM THOUGHTS
I was going to complain about how much I hate Dropbox, and was so disappointed at having to use it if I wanted to sync up Scrivener projects between my devices (a MacBook Pro and iPad mini). Dropbox is a memory hog, and even though I don’t use a lot of memory intensive apps, it still seemed to suck up everything and slow down my system. I don’t want to store the project fully in the cloud, all I want to do is to be able to copy the project I’m working on in my MacBook to a cloud service and then open the app on my iPad and viola, the new version is there. I don’t mind working from the cloud drive on my iPad, since space is limited there (my MacBook has 1TB of disk space, the iPad only 32GB). There are workarounds, but they all involve downloading the project to the iPad, which takes up space, then opening it in the app which then forces the app to create a duplicate file in the cloud service. Sigh. So I switched from Scrivener to Storyist, but I don’t like Storyist as much as I do Scrivener. I wish Scrivener would tweak its software so that I could use one of Derpbox’s competitors, like Sync.com.

The devil kitten (Ursula) is starting to calm down. I think we’re coming to an understanding. Mostly, I think she’s beginning to realize that being petted is enjoyable – and I’m starting to get a better grip on the fact that all she really wants is to play and be near me. Silly girl-cat. Dawn, the older cat, is also coming to terms with the situation, and is always happy when I plop down on the couch long enough for her to take a nap on my lap. It’s thoroughly charming that they meet me at the door when I come home from work every day.

I’m 46, and I’ve started getting emotional lately. It’s strange. A moving story on a podcast, an emotionally powerful movie, a documentary about injustice – and suddenly I’m getting choked up, little tears coming out. Is this “man-o-pause?” I do need to increase my exercise routine, which should be easier with the arrival of spring, but seriously, I think I need a work-out buddy. Going to the Y by myself and squeezing in between all the younger, fitter people there makes me uncomfortable. Plus I’m not really looking to bulk up, or turn myself into a lumpy stack of muscle. I just need to lose about 15 pounds (as of this morning I weighed 197 lbs. – that after being about 192 lbs. about a month ago and hovering at about 189 -190 in early December). Winter, depression, and anxiety… and next thing I know I’m stuffing shitty food in my face. I know, 197 lbs, that’s not bad – but it is. I’m not worried about my weight because I’m “fat.” I’ve got a paunch is all, but it generally translates into a cholesterol level over 250, which is, supposedly, not good. When I weighed nearly 230 lbs., my cholesterol was over 300. Getting below 200 lbs shaved a little more than 100 points off my cholesterol. If I can get my weight down to 180 lbs, then I might get that cholesterol level below 200 and get my doctor off my back about having to take a goddamn statin. The hard part is sticking to the routine through holiday shit, podcast projects, writing, errands and chores, illness, injury, day job, and maintaining social connections with friends – which, if you didn’t know, is something that 40-something men start to lose if they’re not married. And strong social connections are one of the key markers to living a healthy life. Actually having friends, and maintaining close personal relationships is just as good for you as eating right and exercise. So, yeah, I need a work-out buddy, a running partner, a gym spotter.

Who’s with me?

img_0227-2018-03-3-08-02.jpg