Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Menomena's Friend And Foe arrived in the mail today. Seemingly, the version I've been listening to has the wrong tracklist. But I think I prefer that wrong tracklist to the one actually being used in terms of its flow. Perhaps that's just me being used to the incorrect version.

I'm thinking about starting another blog, one with more focus, and that talks for longer lengths. Something put out into the world with a bit more deliberateness than this thing. I am completely in favor of haphazardness and self-sabotage, but maybe it's getting to the point where trying a bit and "marketing myself" would be for the best. I put the phrase "marketing myself" in quotes because it really does strike me as distasteful. But maybe just applying my energies to something other than nothing is enough.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

The last book I read was Anthony Burgess' Tremor of Intent. It's the first novel I've read in awhile, and it did a thing that I really wanted to witness, and hope to internalize. It had a plot, with twists, and it had this kind of construction, and there were thematic things going on which were clear and tied to the characters. I'm writing some books, but the characters don't actually do anything. When they do, it's more of a reaction to general things. It's not well-constructed or thought out at all. It's something I hope to get past at some point.

Tremor Of Intent is a book about spies, written in 1965. It doesn't have the weird psychedelic pulp glamor that you might want out of such a thing. It's not that kind of a book. It's its own thing, something smart. It's out of print, but it's not a tossed-off genre exercise.

Burgess' Napoleon Symphony is also out of print, and the next thing I plan to read. It's apparently Burgess' favorite work. That's a bit more experimental, but I'm hoping it will still have the stuff I'm trying to teach myself.

The last novel before Tremor Of Intent I started to read was John Barth's Giles Goat-Boy. Before that, the last novel I actually finished was, I think, Thomas Pynchon's V., which, although it's awesome, doesn't really do the point-a-to-point-b thing. I love it, and I love Joseph Heller's Something Happened, which is barely a novel for how little happens, but I don't want to write like that exclusively. They're too very different books- One kind of hops from one thing to another, based seemingly mostly on what the author wants to talk about, and the other is extremely focused. But there are books that split the difference, and are focused on a variety of things as they move from one to another, and these things tend to be quick reads, but I just haven't been dealing with them for awhile. I think the trick is to read shorter things, one after the other. I'm trying to learn what forward momentum looks like, because right now the writing is going slow, and I think it might be tied to my not knowing.

It's worth noting that a lot of my favorite books don't really go anywhere, don't fit the mold. The argument is that post-modern blah blah blah. However! One of my favorites, the cartoonist Kevin Huizenga, is kind of aware that he has problems as well. His are the same as mine, with regards to narrative, and characters that are distinct entities. I talked about him, and his problem, (self-diagnosed) when talking about the top comics of 2006- I said his were the absolute tops. But I also said that his best story, The Feathered Ogre, actually had a plot that developed and characters and the whole bit. Or Else 4, The Wild Kingdom, is great, and it is totally free-wheeling and abstract like poetry, and captures a whole lot of things. But he wants to push on, and hopefully break through to the thing.

I mean, yeah, the truth is, you don't need to do the thing, and you can still be great. A lot of comics, because of the nature of serialization and their being long-running, don't go anywhere or do anything. They're good for the territory they mine within that, the aesthetics and point of view at work. Honestly, if I wrote a book that ended up the prose equivalent of Calvin And Hobbes, that would be just as compulsively readable as a novel. Maybe even better, for its rereadability. But it seems like this classic mold of storytelling, where the finale reveals the point, is nothing to scoff at. Maybe I'm wrong, and plots are kind of dumb, and a distraction from what I'm really interested in. But it seems like it requires more thought, so it's probably not that stupid.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

So this is maybe something of a once-in-a-lifetime occurrence: I think the Oscar committee got it right. My favorite movie of 2006 remains Idiocracy, but The Departed is amazing enough that I'll agree with that "Best Picture" bit. Granted, I didn't see the movie it was based on, Infernal Affairs, starring Tony Leung, and I'm sure that had its charms and that if I had seen it The Departed might not gleam as it did.

But for a suspense drama- I just kept on eating Doritos. Not to stay awake, but as a compulsion that just kind of developed as I got into it. Like the idea of a popcorn movie. Kind of an awesome premise. There's one moment where a twist comes that's kind of unforeseen, and I actually felt let down, because it seemed to negate the perfect symmetry of the dramatic tension, but then it doesn't matter at all almost instantaneously.

It's kind of a dad movie, in that Oscar-winning way of being really tightly well-done crime genre drama stuff. My tastes might run more towards some Michel Gondry Science Of Sleep whimsy parade, in general. But yeah, I just thought this worked really well. It's the type of movie that has Martin Sheen, Alec Baldwin, and Jack Nicholson in it, but I like all those dudes. I felt it, I went along with it. The jokes worked.

It seems like I would like Pan's Labyrinth more, because that's a bit closer to fun times. But no- I thought the stuff that worked best there was the more serious historic drama stuff, with the monsters all ugly CGI. It also didn't really integrate the parts enough for me- It became too easy to read the fantasy stuff as literal fantasy. It never becomes magical realism, and the closest it gets is just having characters exhibit magical thinking. It's no The Science Of Sleep. It does seem likely that it is better than every other Guillermo Del Toro movie, but does anyone really care about that guy?

The Prestige works a bit better, in its slow progression from historical fiction that's kind of ridiculous in its premise to full-blown fucking ridiculous elements. That just feels a lot like a Batman Begins companion piece to me. Although- First movie I'd ever seen Hugh Jackman in, and he's pretty insufferable and not really all that fun to watch. I actually don't think I like any of the actors in that movie, in terms of them being fun to watch on their own. Some have just earned some goodwill from other movies. Oh wait- David Bowie as Nikola Tesla. But that's not really an awesome performance or anything.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Who's up for a post about writing?

Yesterday I told a kid to quit!

I hadn't read any of his writing. But in the brief chat, he outlined a whole lot of things that are awful, starting off by admitting that he says things he doesn't mean for the sake of saying things. And then moving on to say stuff, probably vaguely informed by philosophy, about "text" and whatnot and how the only thing we as humans have is language to recognize each other and - I don't know, it's pretty easy to tune someone out once they admit that they say things for the sake of saying them.

His philosophy was, essentially, the opposite of that found in that writing class at Evergreen that I had. But I'm sure it was informed by stuff he'd heard in another writing class, I think one taught by a guy I don't like because of my experiences with him in another program. Anyway, the other philosophy is that writing is all about truth-telling. Objective truth-telling, and that by editing that's what you get at. My argument against that was that fiction was lies and subjective and that's not really a bad thing.

Basically I would say that people write about their thoughts, which is informed by both subjective and objective thoughts, for the sake of communicating empathy with other people. And when I say write about their thoughts, I mean communicate or make art etc.

But why I'm writing this is because it makes sense that the other positions would be found in academia, by writing types who aren't really that successful. Because their stances are really isolating and insulating, from criticism. Both exist so that saying "I don't like it" isn't really valid, because it's beside the point. Saying "I don't like it" to reportage of the truth doesn't matter. Saying "I don't like it" to someone who doesn't really care about what they're saying doesn't really harm them.

But "I don't like it" is a pretty valid response to art, or people.

Not to make too big a deal out of this, basically my "I don't like it" or "You should quit writing" lines are the type of thing designed for the sake of being unpretentious, not really grand statements, so much as they are the type of thing that could and would be said by a sarcastic talking dog. Which I think is basically how the things I say should be taken. I quote cartoon characters more often than I quote philosophers.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

So, about a week ago, I took acid. I'm not much of a drug user, but I think I romanticized LSD since tenth grade, or thereabouts. It's pretty easy to do when everything you like is described as psychedelic. I'd never done it because it was never offered to me for free.

Usually, I find the discrepancy between people's perception of me and my own view of myself kind of annoying. Sometimes, however, it's accurate. Most people view me as straight-edge, which is something I would never assign to myself- Because from the time I was in tenth grade, everything I liked was described as psychedelic, or made by people who were high. But pretty much any time I do a drug, I don't enjoy it, and kind of regret it.

This is not to say that my experience on acid was terrible. I think a lot of people will try to frame it in those "it is either totally awesome or completely terrifying" terms, because of how intense it is. But sometimes things are just intense but don't really make a strong impression. Like the movie INLAND EMPIRE.

It was kind of fun for the first hour or so, before it kicked in and when it started to kick in. I turned off the bright light in the living room and listened to Enon's Believo! and J Dilla's Donuts. These are both really good records. I started to have visual hallucinations I guess towards the beginning of Donuts. Sadly, they were not Blue Meanies and other imagery from the movie Yellow Submarine (which I love), but just little kaleidoscopic light patterns on the carpet. Also, my thought seemed to move faster- My own internal train of thought. That was fun, although those thoughts didn't really go anywhere. They just moved at speed high enough to be completely unable to slow down and then articulate to another person, which I really wanted to do, because communication is a pretty big part of life.

How it felt: The girl who gave me the drug lived with another girl who did it for the first time recently and said it felt really sexual. But she didn't mean this in terms of being aroused. The way she described it ended up being the same way I felt, I think. Basically, muscles tighten up (I figure) and nerves become more stimulated. I would compare it to the feeling of metal becoming magnetized. Again, this was early on, when I was listening to the last few songs on the Enon record. Towards the end I pretty much didn't feel anything besides a vague nervous energy.

I couldn't eat food. I knew this was going to happen, but after I took it I felt hungry and wanted to eat before it kicked in. Alex was making a Boboli pizza. It hadn't really kicked in at the time it went in the oven, but by the time it was out, I took a bite and it was really disgusting. The intensity was off-putting. It was like I could taste the bacterial cultures that turned the milk into cheese and that caused the bread to rise.

Anyway, eventually I went completely inside my own head. It was neither awesome nor nightmarish, but basically like dreams I have had in the past. I couldn't communicate, even though I wanted to, and attempts fell apart into crazy person gibbering. That was probably the majority of the trip. Eventually I just went to sleep because all I was doing was pacing around the house having weird thought-loops.

There was a part when things got really internal where the records put on after Dilla just kind of scanned as the sound of synapses firing. These include Keith Fullerton Whitman's Lisbon and the first disc of Godspeed You Black Emporer's Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas To Heaven. I really needed the fast-paced weird pop pace of the stuff that I put on to serve as a point of contrast with the speed in my own head, to keep track of things.

Part of the romanticization of hallucinations is the promise of imagination. No big breakthroughs were reached, no epiphanies were had. The day after I just felt kind of tired. Writing is as tricky as ever, just as slow-going. The reason I finally wrote about it now is that I was working on these books and thought that the stuff I was writing now is actually less crazy and weird and vibrant and funny than what I was doing before. I don't think this is going to be trend, like I somehow damaged my brain, so much as just a thing that kind of happened due to other factors, but I thought it was worth chronicling.

I regret it inasmuch as it's easy to attribute the feeling of tiredness to the drug, and to know myself as a sober person and act like taking acid throws that off. In time I'll forget about it and my thoughts will get weird again, I took the doing of the drug pretty much in stride.

Listen to Enon's Believo, that record is the shit.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

This is the movie I made!

Here is a quote from a This American Life episode, "My Experimental Phase," taken from a thirteen-year-old's diary during a time of experimentation, to wrap up an entry: "I gotta' go change my tampon, at least I'm not pregnant yet!" I hope to say this as often as possible, as is appropriate.