Monday, March 27, 2006

The Machine

Matt Dixon

Today, restless, I tried to re-cut my hair because I didn’t like the shape of the top. Needless to say, I’ve butchered it.

The other day I was in a drive-thru and when I got to the window the fella said, “Hi. How are you today?” I said, “I’m doing good; how are you?” He said, “Blessed.”

These students of mine are again struggling with the book. This time around they seem to loathe Nietzsche’s notion of eternal reoccurrence, one of the major underpinnings of The Unbearable Lightness of Being. Today I tried to explain it to them like this: say you walk into a movie theatre to see a movie you’ve been anticipating. You sit down with your popcorn and your pop and the lights go down and the picture begins. As the opening credits roll you fall victim to the illusion that what is happening on the screen is occurring as you experience it; when in fact, the film went through preproduction, production, and post-production before it ever got to the theater. The film that unfolds itself to you for the first time is not being created as you experience it. According to Nietzsche, this is much like our life, which has also already gone through preproduction, production, and postproduction. Although it seems like this moment is happening for the first time, it has in fact happened countless times before and will continue to happen an infinite amount of times to come. Our lives are like movies. Hopefully that counts for a postmodern idea.

As for the labor of my three year artistic endeavor, I am, this evening, cleaning up the last thirty pages. Baring catastrophe or premature doom, it looks like I’m going to meet my deadline.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

from Dan Wang's bounce back to life

Every corner
that you have
you don't miss me but
I really don't mind.

Don't float around, girl
it'll be alright.

It'll be alright, tomorrow.

I'm so sorry for what I've done.
I'm so sorry for what I've done.
I'm so sorry for what I've done.
I'm so sorry for what I've done.

from "Salesman at the Day of the Parade"
by Rogue Wave - Descended Like Vultures (currently in the headphones.)

As I mentioned yesterday, while I'm fast at work on my book, I'm also obsessive-compulsively compiling new music:

Feist - Let It Die
CocoRosie - Noah’s Ark
Akron/Family - Akron/Family
Four Tet - Everything Ecstatic
The Dresden Dolls - Yes, Virginia
Laura Veirs - The Year of Meteors
Of Montreal - The Sunlandic Twins
Wolf Parade - Apologies to the Queen Mary
Jenny Lewis with The Watson Twins - Rabbit Fur Coat

Friday, March 24, 2006

Snowman in the front yard of our apartment building this morning.

Here are two quotes from the opening pages of a book I’m teaching right now, one of my all-time favorites, Milan Kundera’s The Unbearable Lightness of Being:

A single metaphor can give birth to love.

We can never know what to want, because, living only one life, we can neither compare it with our previous lives nor perfect it in our lives to come.

Today I’ve been discombobulated. Even though I’m waist-deep in new music, I’ve been obsessively listening to an old Death Cab For Cutie song on repeat for the last two hours. I know I should listen to something else, especially because this particular song makes me sad, but I won't. I'll just keep listening to it over and over until the trumpets sound. This is the song:

Passenger Seat

I roll the window down
And then begin to breathe in
The darkest country road
And the strong scent of evergreen
From the passenger seat as
you are driving me home.

Then looking upwards
I strain my eyes and try
To tell the difference between
shooting stars and satellites
From the passenger seat as
you are driving me home.

"Do they collide?"
I ask and you smile.
With my feet on the dash
The world doesn't matter.

When you feel embarrassed
then I'll be your pride
When you need directions
then I'll be the guide
For all time.
For all time.

Update from the lab: I’m on the downward slope, exiting Act II, now rummaging through the conclusion. Things look quite promising.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Installation piece entitled Chemical Life Support
Marc Quinn

I’m on a music kick. Today I acquired:

Animal Collective - Feels
Bloc Party - Silent Alarm Remixed
Joanna Newsom - The Milk-Eyed Mender
Antony and the Johnsons - I am a Bird Now
And currently in the headphones: Devendra Banhart - Cripple Crow

For the audible pleasure of anyone who's interested, I found this: Sufjan Stevens at the Lincoln Center's Allen Room in NYC 1-14-06. The good news is that it's free; the bad news is that it isn't the whole show.

But this evening I believe I might have seen the greatest living band in the entire world on Jimmy Kimmel: Gogol Bordello. They're an explosive international punkrock cabaret unlike anything I've seen before, kinetic and outrageous! They used marching drums, fiddles, cymbals, guitars, accordions, saxaphones, you name it. The chorus of one song was composed of women screaming bloody murder like in 80's horror movies. The lead singer spoke half in English and half in Russian (maybe?) but even cooler than being bilingual, he had a mustache and jumped all around. I must hunt down their music immediately.

One week from tonight, I will be in Ohio, visiting the University and considering a new life in Columbus.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Day Two of the 2006 Lincoln Snowstorm

If you ask me, it wasn't much of a blizzard. Seems like everyone is overreacting. We've certainly had worse occurrences than this without the city shutting down and the school closing, but I'm not going to complain about another day off work and school. It’s quite fortuitous.

Here's a shot of the neighbor's backyard this morning:

And here's a photo of my brother's car under a bit of snow:

Monday, March 20, 2006

Here's how we're celebrating the first day of Spring here in Lincoln...

Snow Day!!! And the University gave me a nice birthday present: classes canceled! This is great news for a guy who's struggling to polish a novel.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

"A hero is someone who rebels, or seems to rebel, against the facts of existence and seems to conquer them."

- James Douglas Morrison (1969)

Today marks an important landmark for me: I have now officially outlived Jim Morrison. While most people probably don’t know or don't care, Morrison died in Paris when he was 27. And although it may not be significant to anyone else, it is to me and this is why...

My parents gave me a copy of this album from The Doors when I was 13 or 14, most likely to try and divert my attention away from the rap music I was obsessed with at the time, which they absolutely loathed: N.W.A., Too Short, Ice T, 2 Live Crew, etc. At first, I didn’t like The Doors at all. They just seemed like something old and square that my Dad liked when he was my age. Nothing cool about some hippy band from the 60s.

But then around the age of 16, when I began experimenting with drugs, I decided to pop the disc in and give it a listen. Something instantly sunk its teeth into my neck, something grabbed hold of me, arrested my attention: the oddity of the lyrics and the theatrical quality of Morrison’s performance. I began to identify with him and admire him as I listened to that double disc set constantly, especially because the more I listened to it the more layers I found in his words.

Perhaps because of my obsessive, addictive personality, I sought out and read as many biographies about Jim Morrison as I could find in order to get a better understanding of this strange, fascinating person - and at that point in my life I was certainly not someone inclined to read a book for fun, in fact I barely read the books I was assigned to read for school. But book after book I became engrossed in Morrison’s life, his persona. I started to conceive that he was the epitome and incarnation of cool. And one constant thing that I noticed from every given account was that he read books like most people watch television.

So I started making a list of all the books that were mentioned in these biographies: books of philosophy, poetry, and fiction that Morrison talked about a lot or quoted or had around his home at the time of an interview. Being 16 years old in Cheyenne, Wyoming, I’d never heard of Aldous Huxley, Charles Baudelaire, Arthur Rimbaud, Schopenhauer, Kierkegaard, or Dante, but if Morrison was reading them then they had to be cool. Thus, at the age of 16, I started reading literature - not for school, but because I wanted to be like Jim Morrison.

Flash forward 12 years and here I am on my 28th birthday, pursuing a career in writing and literature, which, for better or worse, I probably wouldn’t be doing if it weren’t for the influence of The Lizard King.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Untitled Photo
from a series called "Life in Nigeria"
found here:
Attu Sees All

C.S.P. sent me the link to these photos a while back and I've just now got round to posting it. This particular shot, to me, is almost heartwarming. At first glance, the way the monkey has his hand on the boy's leg makes me think he loves him, that they are friends; but the chain dangling from the boy’s wrist can be seen connecting to the monkey’s left side, and you can also see a swatting stick at the boy’s feet, which unfortunately belies any notion of their amiability. Clothing on a monkey notwithstanding, this photo is super sad to me.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Black-and-White Marblers

by Victor Schrager

Purchased advanced tickets this afternoon for my brother and I to go see V for Vendetta tomorrow night - should be mighty exciting. Also renewed my driver’s license and came scary close to not passing the vision test - turns out that my right eye is about as useful as a pizza box for seeing.

Here’s a link to a fascinating documentary about our government’s role in 9/11. It’s free and it’s about an hour and a half long. It’s not a conspiracy theory, it’s a critical examination of the evidence. My buddy A.H. sent me more supporting material here and here, which someone might find interesting. Personally, I’ve given up on politics. The thing that gets me is that there are people who believe there could ever be equality or freedom or whatever. These are the same people who somehow forget that we are animals, and like all animals there must be those that are dominate and those that are submissive. It is a faculty of existence, not something we shall someday overcome. I don’t mean to sound all Nietzschean or anything, but really, is there a species of animal that has overcome notions of hierarchy? Is there a species of animal that has equality? Not ours, certainly, not ours. Not to say it isn't important to try and make things more equal, but to a certain degree it seems to me that there will always be those on top and those on bottom. And, as a former card-carrying liberal, I suppose I just like to be reminded every now and again exactly how horrible our government is/was/always will be. If for no other reason than it passes the time, and reminds me of the sadest element of our being.

Update from the lab: Slow it goes. It goes slow. Book make head hurt, but some light shine. Last night productive, today too. Maybe, just maybe, it will work out.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Most truths are so naked that people feel sorry for them and cover them up, at least a little bit.
-- Edward R. Murrow

I've been watching this fascinating PBS Nature special called Inside the Animal Mind. I highly recommend it.

Ate Indian food last night with my buddy A.H. and his friend from Minnesota. Great conversation. A.H. turned me on to this theorist named Giorgio Agamben, who, from what I gather, is some new big deal in poststructuralism. As is often the case with theorists these days, he's heavily political and relatively eye-opening when it comes to our current Orwellian prediciment here in the U.S. If you're interested, you can find out more about the guy here.

To balance things, to keep things light, I thought I'd also share a link to this page, for those who are fans of Napoleon Dynamite.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Watched Goodnight, and Good Luck. There wasn’t much of a story. I suppose it was interesting to see old HUAC footage, and it was cool to see the actor who played Leland Palmer in Twin Peaks, but the thing I noticed and admired most was the eloquence of Edward R. Murrow’s oration: his language was tight, compact, efficient, not like the slack drivel we see on tv these days, the muddy dumbed-down version of English into which we’ve devolved. I wish people still spoke as they did in the ’50s - but with more cursing, of course.

Tonight I’m going out to the pub with my buddy A.H. It’ll be great to get out and share some fresh air with someone who’s fun to be around.

Update from the lab: my book is honestly coming along very slow. Will I meet my March 31st deadline? I truly do not know. Am I worried? Positively.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Fall 2006-07 = Women without faces???

"It is only shallow people who do not judge by appearances. The mystery of the world is the visible, not the invisible."

- Oscar Wilde, from The Picture of Dorian Gray

John Galliano

Viktor and Rolf


Alexander McQueen

Vivienne Westwood

Friday, March 10, 2006

The Exit

Luke Chueh

It’s officially Spring Break.

So to inaugurate, I watched Hustle & Flow, a modern-day pseudo-blaxploitation flick directed by a bald white guy from the south. It didn't play off the camp factor as much as the original '70s films, in fact it tried hard to take itself seriously, and I think it succeeded for the most part. It was well made and entertaining, Terrence Howard was fantastic, and DJ Qualls always kills me, but ultimately I didn't think it was as fun as say Dolemite or Superfly or as raw as my personal favorite, the Hughes Brother's American Pimp, which - granted - is a documentary, but for me sets the gold standard for the whole pimp genre.

Got an acceptance letter from UNL today for the PhD program, but the letter said they were still trying to work out the issue of funding and that I should expect to receive a second letter sometime soon outlining their offer. Still no word from Alabama or Indiana.

My brother is back visiting our folks for the break, so it's just me and the kitty. I plan to lock myself in this apartment for the next 7 days to try and remix the rest of my novel, get it polished up sparkly and nice.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

I woke up with the distinct feeling that today would be a bust.

First thing I did was go to the donut shop for a glazed and a coffee, then I came home and read the first 40 pages of Sam Lipsyte’s The Subject Steve, one of the books I got for fun last weekend. Then I listened to a couple podcast episodes of The Ricky Gervais Show with my brother, which made me laugh so hard I literally feared I might choke. Then I ate some Japanese noodles heavily drenched in soy sauce and went back to bed.

Thursday is my free day.

This evening I read an email from E. and wrote her back. It seems we may finally be meeting up face to face for the first time since our goodbye three years ago in Africa. At present, we're working out the details of such a meeting.

I've just returned from seeing Sarah Silverman’s Jesus is Magic. It was offensive, yes, but not outlandishly. Perhaps that means I'm completely desensitized...? I hope not. I guess I saw most of it as social commentary, not like she was trying to have a go with certain groups of people, but more like she was attempting to direct our attention toward ourselves - especially considering all her nods at narcissism.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Today, for fun, I thought I'd feature some "Outsider Art"

The Roses-Snake on the Almighty Stick

Adolf Wolfli



Keith Haring


Panel from:
The Story of the Vivian Girls, in What is known as the Realms of the Unreal, of the Glandeco-Angelinnian War Storm, Caused by the Child Slave Rebellion

Henry Darger

(date unknown, but sometime btwn 1930-1970)

A sidewalk panel from Howard Finster's Paradise Garden
near Summerville, Ga.
(circa 1990s)

Sunday, March 05, 2006

My folks gave me my birthday present early, a great new camera used here to show my brother's sweet kitty, Miike, upside-down.

Spent the weekend shopping for books in Cheyenne and Denver. Got a gang of new things that I really don't have the time to read at the moment, but come summer I'll be set up.

The Oscars seemed more creative than past attempts. I liked the idea of underscoring the speeches with music, and I liked the bits about the nominees campaigning against each other. Glad Clooney, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and Reese Witherspoon all won. But poor John Stewart seemed to have bombed - did anyone else notice that the cutaways to the audience showed a lot of sullen faces and little reaction to his humor? It's too bad Hollywood is so uptight.

As for the fashion (always my favorite part of the evening) three of my favorites were:

Charlize Theron in Dior Haute Couture by John Galliano:

Naomi Watts in Givenchy:

Michelle Williams in Vera Wang:

Today I'm finishing J.M. Coetzee's Waiting for the Barbarians for my African Lit. class. Part of me dislikes the idea of his inclusion in such a class, given his whiteness and all, especially because we could be reading any number of other unrepresented authors like Tutuola, Aidoo, or Armah, but without a doubt this book is amazing. From just this book and the only other one of his I've read in the past, I've decided he's certainly worth all the attention. That white guy can scribble...."What bird has the heart to sing in a thicket of thorns?"

Thursday, March 02, 2006

I have to share a few different pieces from Giles Deacon's Fall 2006 collection because they're so strange, unique, and fascinating.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

I got this fortune in my cookie at lunch today:

I found another great reason to move to Ohio: here.

My longtime friend T. (pictured here with his wife) wrote to say hello and to say that maybe come April they'll visit from Oklahoma.

In sad news, it’s been reported that the writer Octavia Butler died Saturday. She won the unbelievable half-million-dollar MacArthur “Genius” Award for her sci-fi books dealing heavily with politics, race, and gender. Her voice was amazing, deep and gruff. You can listen to her talk here.

C.S.P. sent me this funny bit of high-brow humor: