July 2010 Archives
A while back I was encouraged by a friend and a book to try this writing method that involved getting up every morning and writing three pages before doing anything else. To my own surprise, I stuck with it for more than a few days but did eventually drop the habit. I am not a morning person by nature, and I was already getting up pretty early to get to work (ah, the heady days of employment).
The results were frequently odd, rambling explorations of my mind and vocabulary. When I don't know what to write, I play with words; their sounds and meanings mixed around and stitched together into something else. I don't have a lot of direction when I enter this mode and the words just pitter off into something strange. Recipients of my postcards will understand this.
It's an interesting experience if for no other reason than emphasizing both the power and limitations of words. Words are just parts; you build complex and impossible things out of those words. But words are also packed to the brim on their own: history, emotion, sound, meaning. I am intrigued by the concept of creating something coherent and meaningful out of a complete madness of words. Not like how pixels are arranged to make an image, but how music can make you feel and give you indelible images without direct suggestion. Anyway, that's a lot of navel-gazing rambling itself. Especially useless because most of the time I was writing about dreams I had and things that were going on around me. So here's some of the more interesting excerpts from my morning writings. They have nothing to do with anything, and share no connection at all to real life.
Aug 13: I walk into your neighborhood looking for you. You're not immediately around so I go into your local 7-11 to hang out. I'll get a slurpee, check out the milk and batteries. Oh, hey: you guys have lithium batteries now?
Aug 14: Dreamed about big churches with fat, stupid choir boys that used their British accents like hammers on the brain.
Aug 29: The wind rubs the window of your soul clean while you walk to the 7-11 to pick up milk. Wipes it down with a squeegee and doesn't even ask for a tip. Hallelujah!
It's a beautiful day and I want to run around with my friends. Raise hell all 'cross town. Bouncing off of rubber cars, leap off tall the tall buildings to bounce on rubber roads. Run, holler, and scream until it's evening.
Then we'd eat dinner, sit down on the pier to pull on our tweediest jackets, whip out our pipes, and get all intellectual and shit. That would be awesome.
Bright light through white blinds brightens the room like morning should. Scares out all the nightmares under the furniture, hiding in the corners, and between the couch cushions. They'll be back again tonight -- though they are not wholly unwelcome.
Sometimes the letters don't get in the right order, or the right shape, and I need to sculpt the lines on the page into a more pleasing shape. [Small drawing of an elephant with an arrow pointing to it, and the word "ELEPHANT."]
Sleeping is like setting in to a mold for your soul. And when you can't sleep, you're sliding along the sheet of metal, sometimes your feet fit in but you can't quite get your head to settle in. Or else a bit of blanket is wrapped around me middle and I just can't fit snuggly in the groove. IT's like a lock, and all the pieces all have to fit in just right. I slide into my groove, and then get rotated under a plate as the handle is turned. More like turning a machine, really; cranking the handle of the dream generator. Who's hand is that? It's certainly not my own. Maybe it's the bearded man down the street that gives away chocolate and pennies at Halloween -- dressed in 19th Century diving gear.
One day, a while back, I sent this image to my friend Zack Beauvais:
He responded with a press release:
In response to this as well as Kris's Twitter post, I release the following official statement:
The statistical research supporting the supposed inherent hazard of wearing ponchos is dubious at best and is overwhelmingly funded by xenophobic, anti-immigration activist groups. There is no clear evidence linking ponchos to kitchen fires, gang activity, or sexual deviancy. In fact, there is substantial support presented in the occupational safety literature for the contrary. Hyman et al. 1985 points out that since the introduction of ponchos into the U.S. marketplace in 1918 fatalities in both the meat packing and garment industries have decreased by over 97% - not to mention the substantial decrease in infant mortality during that same period of time. There is a strong mandate among the poncho wearing population to stem the tide of anti-poncho hate speak in the national vernacular. As an out-spoken individual for the cause of poncho technology what you and your cronies are doing goes against every tenet set forth by our founding fathers.
If you couldn't understand before, this is why I love Zack. He's quick, funny, and with a style all his own.
It wasn't until a branch of my family relocated to Kentucky that I became acquainted with Touchdown Jesus. I don't remember that first trip heading south through Ohio, but I remember the return trip. I was caravanning with my father and the rest of the family in the lead car. I followed in my trusty truck, Bucephalus.
Ohio, like most of my beloved Midwest, is flat as an iron. This gives the eye a certain tendency to wander across the landscape looking for something to take in, especially when driving through the region. Little things along the side of the road stand out: the way a corn field looks like a running woman as you drive past, the family that has a caboose tucked behind two fruit trees in front of their house, a rocky stream bed cutting through a cow pasture. It was grey that day, in early winter, and it gave the ground a curious sickly look to its normal green-brown.
My eye didn't have far to wander when we got close, of course. I was surprised to learn that it was only 62 feet, from torso to fingertip, because in person it appears far larger. Perhaps it was the low building behind it, or the lowness of the land in general, but that day Touchdown Jesus lorded over the land. If you've never seen it, neither my description nor photographs will do it justice. That day, the white craggy surface of Jesus' arms stood out brilliantly against the sky. I almost didn't believe what I was seeing, but there was no mistaking it.
The son of God. Up to his waste in water, holding his hands apart and his chin upward. Across his chest was a slightly misshapen cross. True to the name I would learn much, much later, his face had the almost indignant look of a football fan throwing up his arms as his team scores. "Of course this would happen," it seemed to say. "It was a forgone conclusion."
Of course, the first thing I thought was that I'd somehow driven to a post-apocolyptic future where anarchy reigned. Like the Statue of Liberty, it looked as if some damn dirty apes had gone and blown up Jesus. As if to complete the image of a forgotten relic, some children were climbing up on to Jesus and jumping into the water below.
My phone rang as soon as I had driven past the spectacle. "Oh my god," said my stepmother. "Did you see that back there?" I said that I did, and told her about the apes and the children. She laughed. "Your father said, 'help! Help! Someone throw Jesus a rope, he's caught in the quicksand!'"
And so it began for us. We'd tell stories to the disbelieving faces of friends and relatives who hadn't reason to explore Ohio. When discussing religion around the house -- a rare event -- "Quicksand Jesus" wasn't far behind.
I was shocked then that years since I had last laid eyes on the waterlogged savior, news should filter back to me about the statue. I was in the final stages of my bus trip across America (see: Assault on America's Senses) in Seattle. My friend Matt turned a sly eye to me while crossing the street and asked if I'd heard of 'Touchdown Jesus.' At first, I thought he meant the Bobby Bare song (which I genuinely adore), but he said no.
He described the statue as anyone would: one hand used to quickly indicate the water level across the torso, and then throwing his hands up as if in exasperation. I immediately understood. He went on to tell me that a freak bolt of lightning had hit Jesus' outstretched fingertip which sent the entire structure up in a burst of flame. Apparently, unworried of divine intervention/wrath, the statue was made of styrofoam over a metal frame. No attempt had been made to guard against lightning.
"It's in the middle of Tornado Alley," I said, in disbelief as he showed me the article announcing the destruction. "You'd think they'd do something!"
But they didn't, and now I don't know if I'll have the heart to glance out my window the next time I travel that way. It was silly, bombastic, and possibly obscene. But I was glad it existed, if only because it meant that the world was a little stranger.
Read about the statue, its history, a list of nicknames, and how PETA is going to be involved in its rebuilding on Wikipedia.
I really like this, and if this is the trailer I am surely going to have to go out and see the full-fledged film.
Elsewhere I have written about how much it frustrates me that humanity can never live up to its ambitions. We have proved we are capable of great things -- the great wall of China, Polio vaccinations, the moon landing -- but these are too often exceptional cases. This is a small example, surely, but they decided to bring sunlight to their town square and accomplished it.
As most of you are aware from my hum-drum everyday blog, I have completed my assault on America's senses. And not a moment too soon, as it is now just past Independence Day and it just seems like bad form to assault anyone's senses on their birthday.
Readers will also note that I haven't come up with a wrap-up of any kind for my trip. That's because I am still dumbfounded by it being over, or that it even happened at all. It isn't that it was such a wild and crazy time, but that the whole pattern of my life changed and now I have to change it again.
Anyway! I've spent the last two nights on vacation with my family in fashionable Rockport, Massachusetts. A town full of boats, briney water, and a section of town called "bear skin neck." I read some articles off the NYTimes website this morning, and I really enjoyed them. Why don't you take a gander:
The naivete of the author is a little unnerving, but the op-ed follows one man's quest to find the original location of Edward Hopper's famous painting "Nighthawks." In his journey, the author discovers Fake New York. The New York that doesn't exist, except in movies, stories, and as a shared concept among most people on Earth. While I was there, I wondered where the edges of Fake New York where, and was surprised to meet people that seemed to actually live in Fake New York, and others that hoped to penetrate its boundaries.
A good read, even without my personal encounters. I mean, I love Edward Hopper so it's an easy choice.
The revival of the American movie house is something else that I have noticed as I crossed the American heartland. I passed through hundreds of small towns and big cities, and there were movie houses in each of them.
I like the idea of a movie house -- a place where the experience of watching a movie is what's important, and not the cheap and base experience of a modern multiplex. A move house houses a movie. It's a place to be together and share an experience, in the same way that a playhouse or a music hall did. This kind of innovation back towards institutions that are actually good for a community, as opposed to lucrative, is a great innovation. I hope we see more of it, because while America still posses a varying culture between the two oceans the threat of same-ness is ever present in the hundreds of Wallgreens, Wallmarts, etc.
I will not lie. I enjoy watching Microsoft stumble. Though Apple is far from the underdog it used to be, I still see Microsoft as the oppressive overlords that pushed around the little guys.
That aside, I am fascinated by the idea of killing a product after it has been released for barely over a month. Looking back at what the article calls the only recent Microsoft success story -- The Xbox, I remember what a failure the first Xbox was, and how few people actually liked it. Critics and consumers derided the massive, awkward box with its uncomfortable controls. There was some success in selling it, and there was that one game -- Halo, or something -- that everyone got in to. But it was not, overall, a success.
Then the Xbox 360 emerged some years later and is more than likely going to be regarded as the "winner" of the latest generation of consoles. I read elsewhere that Microsoft accomplished this feat by sticking to its guns, and accepting a fairly large loss on all of the first generation Xbox's. Microsoft won through tenacity and excellent investment in developers. Oddly, they have not displayed this trend with nearly any of their new products -- see Zune HD, Kin, etc. Just an observation, but it seems like whoever is in charge of Microsoft these days needs to sit back and take a larger view at what's going on.