Sunday, November 30, 2008

First Breath After Coma

I'm working on a (very special) "White Winter Mixtape". I wanted to post the songs I have so far and put out a call for suggestions. Maybe I can send you a copy. Maybe you can send me your own mix. And then we could be mixtape mailing buddies.

1. "First Breath after Coma" by Explosions in the Sky
2. "Roscoe" by Midlake
3. "White Winter Hymn" by Fleet Foxes
4. "For Emma" by Bon Iver
5. "Fox in the Snow" by Belle and Sebastian
6. "Quartermaster's Wintertime" by Bill Fox
7. "Furr" by Blitzen Trapper
8. "The Crane Wife 3" by the Decemberists
9. "Mushaboom" by Feist
10. "Sodom, South Georgia" by Iron and Wine
11. "My Favorite Things" as performed by John Coltrane
12. "Cemetery Row" by the Minus 5
13. "Color in your Cheeks" by the Mountain Goats

What else?

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Jackson Pollock

Ah, StumbleUpon. Whereas before, the internet was solely a timewaster, now it is a streamlined, personalized timewaster. Tell it what you like, and it will direct you toward random things until you realize it's the middle of the night and you have work in a few hours. A big thank you to my brother Nick for introducing me to this tool. Maybe "tool" is the wrong word, seeing as a tool is an object that helps get work done, and this is just the opposite. I'll call it a toy.
So the other night, I was stumbling and I found this. It's a website that lets you play Jackson Pollock. Everytime you click, it changes color, and the longer you hold the cursor in one place, the larger the splatter becomes. It's...really fun. But wait, there's more: today I got a weekly update from Threadless, the online t-shirt store, and who should be on a shirt but Jackson Pollock? Do I love this shirt and want it? Yes. But the real point I'm trying to illustrate here is this: at three random sightings in one week, it becomes clear that Jackson Pollock is trying to tell me something. I'm one short. One more, and I have to drive to the Met and wait for Autumn Rhythm to speak to me. Try explaining that to your boss.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Work Break

I'm currently editing one of my work samples for my MFA applications, and the first page is giving me some trouble. I'm really happy with the story from the second page (the paragraph that starts, "Mike hated emergency rooms") on, but the page that gets us to that point in the story isn't pulling its weight. I don't think I can cut it and try to introduce the information through the rest of the story, because it sets up the events to follow and tells us a bit about the characters' lives and structure. It would be like cutting "A man walks into a bar," wouldn't it?

"Things that Grow Back and Things that Don't"

Every time Mike climbed to a great height to paint, he forgot to leave his phone on the ground, and the vibration in his pocket never failed to give him the sensation that he would soon fall. So when the call came, Mike’s entire body tensed, rocking the scaffolding under his feet so much that he could hear its locked wheels shift an inch on the floor. His voice shook when he answered, and he was surprised to hear that his mother Ida’s voice was wavering just as much.
“Mike, you need to leave work.”
“Right now? What’s going on?”
“You have your insurance card?” She asked. “Meet us at the hospital. Come to the emergency room.”
Mike was already climbing down the side of the scaffold, his concern about falling evaporating, transforming into concern about his sons. He held the phone to his ear with his shoulder so that he could use both hands, a maneuver that on another day would have terrified him, but today seemed the only logical way to descend.
“What’s going on?” He asked.
“It’s Will,” his mother said. “He’s hurt. Just come quick.”
Mike felt a special kind of panic starting in his head and stretching down to his limbs that he hadn’t felt in many years. He supposed it was reserved just for this kind of call, the kind that led to frantic, distressed drives toward crisis. He closed his phone and stashed it in his back pocket, started his truck, and sped along back roads toward the hospital.
Mike hated emergency rooms, couldn’t stand the smell or the daytime television on the small screens. He hated the long stretches of silence between the wailing of the injured. He hovered outside of the sliding glass doors for a moment before entering, looking through until he found his mother and two sons sitting near the reception desk and identified his fastest path toward them. When he walked in, he crossed without looking at any other patients, afraid that they would assault him with their suffering; they would judge him for being whole.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

National Council on the Arts

Dear President-Elect Obama,

I don't know if you've heard, but President Bush just appointed Lee Greenwood to the National Council on the Arts. Yes, that Lee Greenwood. Of "God Bless the USA" fame. You know, that song that's so overwrought and vapid that it makes patriotism into an empty, lame sentiment? He's now a member of the board that oversees federal funding for the arts. So I'm asking you, on behalf of every artist, writer, filmmaker, ceramist, and basket-weaver in the nation: please appoint someone with some artistic integrity to head the council in January. Please.
It doesn't have to be someone I personally like. But it should be someone who we can respect. Someone who didn't spend the past few months singing to Sarah Palin. Someone whose contribution to American arts is not that song. How about Bruce Springsteen? He was an early and vocal supporter. What about...I don't know. There's a very long list of people I would rather see funding American art than this guy.



Saturday, November 8, 2008

Post-Election Thoughts

I stayed up late on Tuesday, watching the election returns. I have never experienced watching the results of an election and feeling happy at the same time, so it was a confusing and entirely welcome thing for me. It was--it is--so exciting. Is anyone else feeling like it hasn't quite sunk in yet? I woke up on Wednesday and realized, I think more than I did on Tuesday night, that history had been made the night before. Obama's speech was just beautiful and seemed like a call for every person watching to aspire to greatness. I think after eight years of Bush using words like blunt objects, it is so refreshing to see a leader who is a brilliant orator and is able to use language to inspire and reach people.
I drove around Wednesday trying to find a copy of the New York Times, and ended up just having to order a copy off of the NYT website. No one carries it around here. I kept thinking of that line in "Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?" when Clooney can't get any Dapper Dan: "Well, it didn't look like a one-horse town, but try finding a decent hair jelly."
In other news: I got a freelance writing assignment from a local publication!