Category Archives: zombie culture
Comments Off on Read my latest on Splice Today . . . | tags: government shutdown, Insanity, King George, monarchy, politics, President Trump, Splice Today, United States | posted in policy, politics, popular opinion, President Trump, realpolitik, Splice Today, United States, US Government, zombie culture
A fortune teller in Northern California looked at my palm and said, “You’re going to lead an unnaturally long life.” Then she slid my money back across the table and added, “I feel bad for you.” This was in 2008 or 2009. My memory of the year is less distinct than the mournful expression on her face, how she pulled off her chintzy Madame Sofia veil, leaned back, and lit a cigarette as if to say, sorry, kid, that’s how it is.
I was supposed to pay her $30 for 30 minutes, but we sat there for almost two hours while she read my tarot cards. By the time she got around to looking at my hands, she’d already told me three important things about my future. I was going to travel across an ocean. I was going to do things no one in my family had ever done. And I was going to outlive everybody I knew. As of 2018, two of those three predictions have come true.
It’s amazing how quickly life can change. You leave the house every day and say, this is the job I do. This is the market where I shop. This is the person I live with. These are the faces I see as I walk down my street. This is the field with daisies nodding in the wind. This is me. For the moment, at least, this is me.
And if you succeed, if you’re healthy and disciplined and dedicated and proficient, if you don’t weaken and get that regular colonoscopy and save your money, you might last long enough to see all your variables change. Then you’ll say, this is me—isn’t it? But you won’t know how to answer. You’ll remember the fortune teller saying, “I feel bad for you,” and you’ll understand what she meant. You won’t know how to recognize yourself. You’ll be a survivor. And nobody actually ever wants that. The last man standing is, by definition, all alone.
Some of us die and are reborn in a single lifetime. In my four-and-a-half decades, I’ve already lived several full lives, played roles that had perfectly formed inciting incidents, climaxes, and denouements, which in earlier times or in other places could have described the total breadth and depth of a person’s lived experience. I’m 44 years old, not too old but not that young, either. Most days, I look 10 – 15 years younger than that. Is that good?
I spend a lot of time lost in my own head, reading, walking around and looking at things. And I’ve managed to orchestrate a life where I can do that. I can become fascinated by very simple experiences, the wind in different kinds of trees, for example, or the way sound echoes on the canal beneath my bedroom window. There’s a lot going on everywhere you look. Sometimes, it’s hypnotic. Sometimes, it’s beautiful. Sometimes, it makes me want to scream for a real long time. The world is too much. It isn’t interested in making sense or being rational. We’re the ones who make it matter. But do we really?
I don’t recommend going to fortune tellers very often. If they’re good, you’ll know too much. If they’re bad, you’ll be wasting your money. If they’re stupid, you’ll feel stupid. And if they’re clever, you’ll feel even more stupid. A fortune teller is like a bad pizza. You paid for it. So you’re going to eat it. You might feel disgusted afterwards. You might not want to talk about the experience. You might want to put it away in the file labeled Decisions About Which I Will Feel Forever Ashamed and vow never again. But you’ll probably be back.
It’s how magical things work. It’s how art works. You go see the performance piece at the museum and it has some guy drenched in urine and suspended upside-down by fish hooks from the ceiling for hours over plaster of Paris horses having sex. And you think, wow, that is neither pleasing to the eye nor conceptually interesting. It’s pretentious and it’s trying way to hard to be something that isn’t boring. You write scathing things about it on your blog. You try to put it out of your mind because you know that every minute you spend thinking about it is a minute you’ll never get back. But six months later, you go, I wonder what’s showing at the museum. So do you want anchovies on your plaster horsefucking pizza this time? Of course you do. Want to know the future? Just let me shuffle these cards.
I took piano lessons as a kid. I was very serious about them. My teacher was a professor in the music department at the university. He was a lot like Mr. Rogers. He radiated that improbable blend of whipsmart intelligence shrouded in simplicity and humor. He was a remarkable man, a truly gifted person who knew how to appreciate life. And one of the things he really appreciated was teaching children classical piano. I learned an immense amount about how to be a decent human being just by spending time with him.
I remember us sitting in a room with about 50 grand pianos. He played a single note and we listened to it until it passed away. Then we discussed its shape, its color, its temperature. There was an entire life in that sound, a whole universe from the big bang to the last chapter of the Book of Revelation with dinosaurs and empires and prophets and an Industrial Revolution and fiber optics and climate change and insane politicians and Mad Max and the heat death of a wandering star. All we had to do was listen. And, like gods, we knew we could always play another note—that, in fact, we or someone of our great pantheon would play another one and would inevitably bring another cosmos into being.
Years later, far away at a different university, I’d study the Metaphysical Poets and I’d encounter Thomas Traherne’s poem, “Shadows in the Water.” It contains these lines:
I my companions see
In you, another me.
They seeméd others, but are we;
Our second selves these shadows be.
And I’d write a half-baked undergraduate essay on the metaphysics of sound as expressed through the semiotics of Traherne’s mirror imagery. Fabulous. The only important thing about it was that I remembered listening to my piano teacher play that note when I read “Thus did I by the water’s brink/ Another world beneath me think” and thought: exactly. Our second selves these shadows be. The gods look down from Olympus and see their reflections in us as we, in turn, look and listen to our own universes encapsulated in the breadth of a single note—as above, so below. Quod est superius est sicut quod est inferius, ad perpetranda miracula rei unius. I’ve lived many lives, been reborn into many universes. Godlike, I’ve brought universes into being.
All being depends on context, which is to say, on the existence (meaning) of a universe. One of the many reasons I love Carl Sagan is that he said, “If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first invent the universe.” This is as true for the pie as it is for the pie maker—they both depend on the existence of a universe to contain them and give them meaning. By extension, if the pie maker is the last man standing in his universe, all meaningful correlation between the existential condition of the pie and that of the universe eventually breaks down.
In short, one can only eat one’s own apple pies in solitude for so long before one goes insane. The existence of a pie implies both future and past in space: in the future, someone will sit in a landscape and eat the pie which the pie maker made in the past. Because of this, if you succeed at the game of life, I will feel bad for you.
You will outlast your universe; your apple pies will no longer be meaningful. You will survive and will have no one for whom you can make an apple pie or anything else. You will see the sky fall, the stars burn out, the destruction of the world. You will be haunted by memories of times long past and people you loved and wars that no one remembers. That is a truly horrible fate. Do you want to win this game? For your sake, I sincerely hope not.
Comments Off on The Heat Death of a Wandering Star | tags: aesthetics, as above so below, Carl Sagan, creation, destruction, divination, fortune teller, logotherapy, semiotics, space, Tarot, Thomas Traherne, Time, Will to Meaning | posted in academia, aesthetics, ancestors, apocalypse, art, belief, Boredom, Carl Sagan, Death, friends, Friendship, Horror, Judgment, Literary Theory, memory, Metaphysics, Music, mysterion, Philosophy, poem, poetry, suffering, Tarot, theory, Time, Victor Frankl, wellness, Wisdom of the ancients, your author, zombie culture
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Comments Off on More Than Just a Familiar Formula—a review of Netflix’s Mute on Splice Today | tags: cyberpunk, Movies, Netflix, review, Splice Today, zombie culture | posted in aesthetics, cyberpunk, Genius, Movie Review, Movies, narrative, Netflix, politics, science fiction, Splice Today, zombie culture
1 Comment | tags: Creative Writing, humanities, science, scientism, STEM | posted in Creative Writing, graduate school, MFA, policy, politics, Publishing Industry, Splice Today, the writing life, United States, Writing, writing life, zombie culture
Comments Off on My latest on the school shooting in Florida on Splice Today . . . | tags: Gun Lobby, Mass Shooting, NRA, School Shooting, Splice Today | posted in Gun Lobby, Mass Shooting, NRA, School Shooting, Splice Today, Writing, zombie culture
Comments Off on I review Netflix’s recent series, Altered Carbon, on Splice Today . . . | tags: Altered Carbon, central casting, cyberpunk, derivative, Netflix, science fiction, William Gibson, zombie culture | posted in central casting, derivatives, Netflix, review, science fiction, William Gibson, zombie culture
Welcome . . .
I write fiction and nonfiction for magazines, work as a freelance writer / editor / journalist, and teach composition and fiction writing.
This blog is mostly dedicated to travel essays, creative non-fiction, discussions about books, the MFA experience, publishing, and short stories I’ve already placed in magazines. But I might write anything.
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“Trump is Interesting Again” – Splice Today January 2019 (https://www.splicetoday.com/politics-and-media/trump-is-interesting-again)
“Outrage is Over” – Splice Today – December 2018 (https://www.splicetoday.com/politics-and-media/outrage-is-over)
“Fulfillment” – Terror House Magazine – December 2018 (https://terrorhousemag.com/fulfillment/)
“Attacked on the Street” – Splice Today – August 2018 (https://www.splicetoday.com/writing/attacked-on-the-street)
“You Are Somewhere Else” – Visitant – July 2018 (https://visitantlit.com/)
“More Than Just a Familiar Formula” – Splice Today – February 2018 (https://www.splicetoday.com/moving-pictures/more-than-just-a-familiar-formula)
“STEM, Scientism, and the Decline of the Humanities” – Splice Today – February 2018 (https://www.splicetoday.com/on-campus/stem-scientism-and-the-decline-of-the-humanities)
“The NRA Isn’t the Problem” – Splice Today – February 2018 (https://www.splicetoday.com/politics-and-media/the-nra-isn-t-the-problem)
“Altered Carbon’s Love Affair with Central Casting” – Splice Today – February 2018 (https://www.splicetoday.com/moving-pictures/altered-carbon-s-love-affair-with-central-casting)
“Cui Bono: the Latest Conspiracy Theory in the Ongoing Disintegration of the GOP” – Splice Today – January 2018 (https://www.splicetoday.com/politics-and-media/cui-bono-the-latest-conspiracy-theory-in-the-ongoing-disintegration-of-the-gop)
Cruel Stars – Thrown Free Books 2017.
“You Can Do Magic, Honey” – Splice Today – December 2017 (https://www.splicetoday.com/moving-pictures/you-can-do-magic-honey)
“As the Leopard, So the Coliseum” – Splice Today – November 2017 (https://www.splicetoday.com/politics-and-media/as-the-leopard-so-the-coliseum)
“Hurricane Dreams” – Splice Today – August 2017 (http://www.splicetoday.com/writing/hurricane-dreams)
“Burning Down the House” – Splice Today – August 2017 (http://www.splicetoday.com/politics-and-media/burning-down-the-house)
“My Friend Has Gone Nazi” – Splice Today – June 2017 (http://www.splicetoday.com/writing/my-friend-has-gone-nazi)
“Fatal Vision: The Precipitous Exile of James Comey” – Splice Today – May 2017 (http://www.splicetoday.com/politics-and-media/fatal-vision-the-precipitous-exile-of-james-comey)
“Money is Thicker Than Blood” – Splice Today – April 2017 (http://www.splicetoday.com/politics-and-media/money-is-thicker-than-blood)
“The End of the Hustle” – Splice Today – April 2017 (http://www.splicetoday.com/politics-and-media/the-end-of-the-hustle)
“The Crying of Lot 45” – Splice Today – April 2017 (http://www.splicetoday.com/politics-and-media/the-crying-of-lot-45)
“Planespotting and the Persistence of Facts” – Splice Today – March 2017 (http://www.splicetoday.com/writing/planespotting-and-the-persistence-of-facts)
“Sater, Cohen, and the Collapsing House of Cards” – Splice Today – February 2017
“Speak of the Devil” – Splice Today – February 2017
“Bora Bora” – Human Parts – Winter 2017 (reprint)
“Bora Bora” – Ink & Coda – 4.1 Winter 2017 (http://www.inkandcoda.com/issues/4-1/bora-bora/)
“A Good Day to Die” – Splice Today – November 2016 (http://www.splicetoday.com/politics-and-media/a-good-day-to-die)
“When The World’s Turned Upside Down” – Splice Today – November 2016 (http://www.splicetoday.com/politics-and-media/when-the-world-s-turned-upside-down)
“Mother Blackbird” – Student Voices – November 2016
“The Witch!” – ReVue – November 2016 (http://bit.ly/2fxuQw5).
“Year of the Bastard,” “October Plums,” and “Burying Terrance Jackson” – Literati Magazine – November 2016 (http://bit.ly/2frHVbC).
“The State of Emergency” – Splice Today – October 2016 (http://www.splicetoday.com/writing/the-state-of-emergency).
“The Debate Did Not Take Place” – Splice Today – September 2016 (http://www.splicetoday.com/politics-and-media/the-debate-did-not-take-place).
“Weirdo: Visions of Future Past” – The Blather – Summer 2016 (https://t.co/3NGZ0k6nTO).
“Harmful if Swallowed” – Ginosko Literary Journal – Summer 2016.
“Cruel Stars” – The Writing Disorder – Summer 2015.
“The Forbidden City” – Forge – 8.4 April 2015.
“Ex Inferis” – Small Print Magazine – Winter/Spring 2014.
Winner of Redline magazine’s 2014 Urban Fiction contest and will be featured in their “Best of the Year” annual issue.
“Far Tortuga” – Isthmus – Issue 1. (http://www.isthmusreview.com/current-issue-2/)
“Some Go Dancing” – Earlyworks Press Short Story Contest Anthology – Winter 2013, Earlyworks Press.
“Ghetto Fabulous” – Atticus Books (The Atticus Review – http://atticusreview.org/ghetto-fabulous/) (2013)
“The Catherine Wheel” – Painted Bride Quarterly Print Annual 6 (2013): 115-120.
“One of the functions of art is to give people the words to know their own experience. There are always areas of vast silence in any culture, and part of an artist’s job is to go into those areas and come back from the silence with something to say. It’s one reason why we read poetry, because poets can give us the words we need. When we read good poetry, we often say, ‘Yeah, that’s it. That’s how I feel.’” — Ursula K. Le Guin
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“If I were talking to a young writer, I would recommend the cultivation of extreme indifference to both praise and blame because praise will lead you to vanity, and blame will lead you to self-pity, and both are bad for writers.”
— John Berryman, The Art of Poetry No. 16, The Paris Review
“Truffaut died, and we all felt awful about it, and there were the appropriate eulogies, and his wonderful films live on. But it’s not much help to Truffaut. So you think to yourself, My work will live on. As I’ve said many times, rather than live on in the hearts and minds of my fellow man, I would rather live on in my apartment.” — Woody Allen
“I make the road. I draw the map. Nothing just happens to me…I’m the one happening.”
—Denis Johnson, Already Dead
- Been listening to this for three days. youtu.be/S32kh1aM0r0 2 hours ago
- RT @TracyQLoxley: The 20th anniversary of #OfficeSpace is the only twitter trend worth caring about today https://t.co/AhvtYImHHf 2 hours ago
- Atomic Alchemy: Photographs of Nuclear Landscapes in the American West ino.to/lt7G3Sl 21 hours ago
- New story coming out. Watch this space. #UpcomingReleases 1 day ago
- Week 91: Mueller’s Case for Collusion Comes Into View ino.to/FXwSkcj 2 days ago
“At the age of 25 most people were finished. A whole god-damned nation of assholes driving automobiles, eating, having babies, doing everything in the worst way possible, like voting for the presidential candidate who reminded them most of themselves. I had no interests. I had no interest in anything. I had no idea how I was going to escape. At least the others had some taste for life. They seemed to understand something that I didn’t understand. Maybe I was lacking. It was possible. I often felt inferior. I just wanted to get away from them. But there was no place to go.” — Charles Bukowski
“You could lose it, your right big toe, leave it here, in this mud, your foot, your leg, and you wonder, how many pieces of yourself can you leave behind and still be called yourself?”
— Melanie Rae Thon, First, Body
“After you finish a book, you know, you’re dead. But no one knows you’re dead. All they see is the irresponsibility that comes in after the terrible responsibility of writing.” — Ernest Hemingway
“When one is too old for love, one finds great comfort in good dinners.” — Zora Neale Hurston