Monthly Archives: March 2013

Waste Land

We just watched this documentary on hulu:

I recommend it highly, for a look at what art is capable of doing to people’s lives. There’s a transformation that takes place. There’s a wondrous thing that can happen when artists try to do good, to be good, and always strive to be better.

Waste Land is worth a watch, and remember that 99 is not 100. Every little bit helps.

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Santa Anna Winds Blow

Lots more rough dreams as the Santa Anna winds blow through, and I feel the anxiety that comes from all the not-knowing and waiting and waiting and not-knowing.

Winter ends with a powerful gusting push in March, 30-40 mph winds, and power outages all over town. Winter ends the way souls are supposed to leave the bodies of yetis. I’ve been up on the roof, tying down this and that, and hammering as needed, in the brief bouts when the winds die down a while.

Every gust will die back. There’s a push that comes when you’re releasing something into the wild. That push when the things you do leave you then a mighty gust, and then a whimper at the end to take a breath.

When things are blowing out into the world, it feels like surrendering. It feels like letting go, and being done with everything. It feels like the times of change that come when the long, hard winter breaks. No more huddling at the glass wall between self and art. No more curled up in a corner cold and late at night. The wind breaks loose. It rattles the eaves, and shakes out the porch.

Take a deep breath. Let the words go. Let them tear the eaves off the roof.

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Last Night at S.A.W.G.

I had a great time speaking at the San Antonio Writer’s Guild last night. It was in an older church building, a congregationalist room. I felt quite like an art preacher standing at the pulpit and encouraging the people there to experiment, go beyond the basics of form, and ignore a lot of the stuff that’s fed to us from screenwriting gurus and plot-masters. My wife won’t watch her favorite shows with me because they’re too predictable to me, and I can see them coming. Read a few screenwriting books, and you’ll see the machinery, too. I talked about mosaic texts as an entry point into more experimental plot structures. I’ve written about that here, too. Here are some of the books I talked about last night:

So, if you’re interested in the mosaic text as a form, these are a few great ways of pursuing the form. 

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These Dreams of Eugenicide

I had a dream last night. I was a schoolkid again, and riding the bus again. The bus driver was a gifted and talented program director, and a staunch advocate of tiered structures, where the best and brightest as judged by them move on to better programs, and leave the rest behind.

We were driven in the bus into a garage. The children that the bus driver thought were worthy were let go from the bus. We left the garage and started wandering around the fields there, looking for our rides home and wondering what was going on. No one explained what was happening. It was just a normal day and a normal bus ride. The kids thought we were all just waiting for the rides to come for the kids that were let out, and the bus couldn’t leave until the rides came. The garage was closed. Past the windows I looked in at the bus, and saw them all, oblivious, with the bus driver staring blankly ahead like nothing was happening inside the garage, with the engine running. Outside in the yard, none of the other kids got it either, just me.
Then, I woke up.

A dream by itself is just flotsam and jetsam. A radio program, plus a television show, plus scenes from my memory, plus the random firings of a brain on shutdown, reload, diagnostic mode.

Apparently this is what I dream about when I dream about school. My subconscious sees some kids, chosen almost at random by an educator who is so confident in their choice that they will stay with the rest of the children in the garage, keeping them calm, and running the engine. My subconscious views the horror from the outside, as one of the lucky few to be chosen for escape.

Dreams don’t really have much of a genre narrative. They are a raw, unfiltered, unedited, and indigestible wad of narrative that pushes upon you at your most vulnerable and least-able to change the channel. Lay down at night and choke on these imageries, and the only ones you’ll really remember in the morning are the nightmares.

It is an argument for writing horror and unsettling things, that when dreams are memorable, it is because they are a nightmare. When dreams are pleasant, they drift into the ether as forgotten as the seventeenth day of summer in 1983.

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Modern Library and Free eBooks and copyright

Looking for a grand project to jump start my reading habits with a jolt of something new and different, I hit upon the classic idea of one of those “best novels” lists. I figure I won’t actually read the whole thing, but at least I could try new things, classic things, and read a lot more of things I wouldn’t normally find. I struck upon the Modern Library’s Best 100 Novels, and Reader’s Poll 100.

The surprising thing, though, was how very many of these books are available for free, simply because the copyright has expired. If culture means anything, it means that there’s a shared experience or expectation about our lives that needs to be communicated somehow, down to the rest of the culture. If culture means anything, it means that there’s a history of things going backwards and forwards and holding these ideas for others to carry.

I stopped on this idea of what to read if only because it seemed like the easiest way to jolt out of a malaise of browsing the same library shelves too long, and reading the same review websites and twittering authors. I wanted a blast from outside of that zone. There are many ways I could have done this. But, I stopped one step outside, at the Best 100 list, because when I hopped over to Amazon, so much of them were free for my Kindle.

Even the ones that weren’t were so plentiful as to be cheap used. If anything, the popularity and lasting quality of the books in question means that the bar for entry gets very low. By printing so much of them, the used book market is full of them, and the culture barrier for entry drops.

The more culturally important something is, over time, the easier it is to access it. This is a statement that seems obvious, but it isn’t obvious. The bar for entry on new media is comparatively high. That premium is presumably to protect the creator’s right to profit from their work. But, the marketing of that high-bar stuff is that it is culturally important. Yet, often the opposite is true, for most of these high-bar things fade into the flood of words, never even rising up for their month or year to the top of the radar of culture, much less past it’s time. It is culturally-important to protect the copyright and the creator’s rights, I guess. But, culture has its own form of protection, doesn’t it? Relevant things stay relevant. Creating relevant things means culture will take it and make it cheaper somehow.

Or something.

Anyway, back to reading.

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is is, exist exist, to be to be

The purpose of existence is a tautology. Existence is the point of existence. Just saying “Existence is…” is like grammatically saying “Exist exists”.

Would you worry a tautology like a rotten tooth? Would you scratch at it like a bad rash?

I don’t know why people worry about redefining tautologies as if there is some reason to worry about making tautologies not tautologies. Faith is a fine invention when people can see, and all. Microscopes are nice. Science is your friend. This is all an ouroboros with an amazing complexity of the links of the chain. People are the most important part of science, for it’s useless to experiment when no one else can recreate the results in a second laboratory.

Write papers. Publish them. Communicate.

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