remember, remember

Hello, readers.

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from Mirror (UK)

The Southwark Fireworks Display includes music, circuses of fire and light, food and drink stalls, and, so far as I can see, very little mention of what Bonfire Night in the UK (apparently it’s celebrated on different days for different reasons in different countries) actually refers to, which was remembering and remembering how on the fifth of November, erm, ing, during the gunpowder, treason, and plot, the King and Parliament survived being blown up and so celebrated by setting things on fire.

In the olden days, apparently, it was known as Gunpowder Treason Day and somehow or other attracted a very anti-Catholic sentiment during which, as Wikipedia puts it, Puritans gave sermons on the ‘dangers of popery’. Followed by children begging about town with effigies of Guy Fawkes (did they carry them like torches?) and so the day became known as Guy Fawkes day. Also, there were class riots.

Most of these things, readers, I’m not sure anyone remembers.

Now, it’s all about fireworks and things going boom.

The other night, at BFI Southbank, there was a showing of Brazil (introduced by Paul McAuley). In the film there was a scene in a restaurant in which a bomb goes off and there is much blood and horror, but everyone not directly affected goes on about their day doing their very best to ignore the bombs and the blood, the waiter even pulling a bamboo screen across the carnage so as to better allow his diners to ignore what was happening on the other side.

It felt very apropos to most of life, and I was scared that my life was mostly spent eating food at a table with a veil drawn across what I didn’t want to see. I would prefer to see, rather than not see, or so I tell myself, but I imagine this is what everyone tells themselves all the while some secret waiter, in some secret part of their mind, draws veils and curtains and shuts doors and whispers, “Oh, no, nothing to see, here, nothing worth remembering anyway.”

I will be at Southwark tonight, at the festival of fire and memory, and will report back on whether anything of note (anything worth remembering, that is) burns or explodes or otherwise adds a bit of dark magic to an evening.

Happy 5th of November, readers. Happy remembering.

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star wars

Hello, readers.

Star Wars. Two words, inside of which a great deal of my imagination unfolded, through various super, old-bit adventures, space-based dogfights, card games, movie poop shoots*, and fan-fiction**. It also led me to this interview, The Power of Myth, between Bill Moyer and Joseph Campbell, which led me to deeper love and appreciation for the enduring power of stories (especially involving snakes and pretty ladies and not dying), and played a large part in me deciding to travel around India for 6 weeks after teaching in Korea.

Once, in 9th grade, in shop class, someone interrupted a game of Magic: The Gathering, to express their wonder as to whether or not I masturbated to one particular image of a buxom female (possibly a faerie with sharp, blue hair) and they were sure I did, that I probably could only get a cartoon girl to pay attention to me, and I remember the smell of sawdust and being so angry I could cry. I remember later Yoda saying that fear leads to anger, and anger to hate, and hate leads to suffering. I wonder if being so angry you could cry is the suffering he meant.

I don’t remember, as many do, a great deal of bullying or taunting because of Star Wars. I imagine it’s much different now. I wonder what people are taunted for playing at in shop class. I wonder if any of them have a story they will love and hold onto and remember later when life makes them so angry they could cry.

The stories you love become a part of your story.

For the entirety of my life, when I looked up at the stars, some part of me saw a fairy tale of heroes and princesses and the possibility of redemption.

On December 13th, the British Film Insititute, as part of their Science Fiction season, Days of Fear and Wonder, will be holding a STAR WARS day, in which–along with special guests, special cocktails, and special DJs–they will screen all three films of the original trilogy. And I will be there, along with a new friend and my fellow geeks, old and new, collecting a few more stories to squeeze in between the words star and wars.

*

As Jay and Silent Bob so lovingly referenced as a sort of almagamation of movie news websites that sprung up with the web and, perhaps not coincidentally, the pre-production days of The Phantom Menace, the most famous/notorious being Ain’t it Cool News–a site I spent a great deal of time on during my late teens and early twenties, witnessing the evolution of ‘first’ and the supposed power of the internet to crush opening box office results.

**

At one point in my life, I wrote a great deal of Star Wars fan-fiction (not slash) at a site called wattos junkard, which much to my sadness and the inevitability of time, no longer exists. Though, I believe, if one were to search for the words Domus Prime, one might find where Sailor Coruscant transported our imagination, somewhere safe and sound and lit with dark sparkles, I’m sure.

rain and wardrobes

Hello, readers.

In the bedroom, a man is taking apart and putting together our wardrobe. The bottom bit, once slanted and running away towards the floor, will now be put straight and brought back in line. Perhaps, fixed, the wardrobe will open onto a new world in which I can go and become a wizard and live a very long happy life where I can fix my own wardrobe.

It’s finally gotten cold in London. Scarves and overcoats abound. I’ve decided I need an overcoat. It would be good not to be cold. And also to look good. When I was younger, I knew that it was better not to be cold, but I didn’t understand how to look good–or rather, how to feel good enough to want, or believe, that I could look good. It seemed impossible. I was chubby and not cool and everything was expensive. It was much better to buy 4mb of RAM so that I could play Space Quest 6, than it was to think about having a really great pair of pants, or coat.

Now, I don’t think about RAM so much. Computers take care of themselves. We’re post spec.

When I was younger, the most I thought about clothes was that they could be big and baggy and hide who I was, and that if I didn’t put too much thought into them, then they wouldn’t say anything about me or my thoughts. Now, I think that saying your clothes say nothing about you is very much like saying stories aren’t political, which is to say that everything is political and, of course, how you present youreslf says something about you, however much you do or don’t think about it.

I do think about having a nice coat, now, and clothes that fit. My shoes come in a variety of colors. My scarves are bright. I’m happier with myself and happier to be seen.

Sometimes, being seen is a political statement.There’s something to be said here for wardrobes and closets and singing in the rain. I will leave it unsaid, though, as one must leave room for the reader to see for themselves.

Happy Monday, readers. You know who you are. If you don’t, find out. And then show someone else.

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what.

Hello, internet.

Last week, the name Bo Burnham graced these pages(1) because of what. and how it’s the future of comedy, what with its singing, dancing, miming, and deliciously meta and sometimes surprisingly heartfelt riffs on reality, consciousness, comedy, and, um, riffs.

One of the things I loved about his performance, though, is something very old fashioned. Story and theme.

Bo’s up there at the beginning, and he’s stalking about, roaring like Godzilla, and then he’s reading from a notebook that he shows you is blank and wonders, ‘Why am I lying to you?’, and then he’s playing a song and wondering how to make sense of the sadness and why is everyone laughing? Very soon, it’s very apparent, that this routine is less stand-up and more avant-garde one man show in which, for better or worse, you’re watching a comic and performer struggle through a David Foster Wallace level of noise-drunk, self-involement, searching for some sense of meaning in the cliche’s, in the weary punch lines, in the routines of comedy past. Bo Burnham loves burying jokes and casting aside one-liners in a style deliberately out of sync with expectation.

Every generation grows up believing they know everything. It’s never been true, but lately, it’s been closer to the truth. We are so far post-modern that I think most of us can agree we’re post-reality and looking back and in and out trying to find out when we passed reality by and how we can find it again. Something real. Something genuine. I watch Bo Burnham in what., and I see a comedian five-steps ahead, assuming his audience is at least three-steps ahead, and so left wondering, how the fuck do I tell a joke when I, and everyone, already knows how all of this works? And what’s the point anyway? We’ve had comics before. I’m just another guy on a stage doing the same thing everyone else has ever done and how can I be new and me and real when whatever I do feels like a copy of someone else?(2)

And Bo, like DFW, does the only thing you can, really, which is to dig in and reach out and try to create something, anything, out of the noise. There’s such joy in watching Bo mix live and pre-taped bits. For some, perhaps, watching a man mime playing keyboard, after, you know, already actually playing the keyboard earlier might seem silly. But, I think, while it is silly, it’s also brilliant, because all the mixing of live and pre-taped stuff begins to feel like a comment on the noise, tangible and intangible, real and unreal, that all mixes together until we get to that place post-reality where so many people don’t care when they go to see 2NE1, or Girl’s Generation, or watch reality TV, or a YouTube video, whether it’s really real, or kind of real, or so fake it’s hyper real.

There’s this bit, by the end of the show, when voices off-stage begin taunting Bo (calling him a fag, offering to make him rich if he’ll just focus more on his brand, wondering why he acts so arrogant on stage and then so shy off). It’s brutal, honest, and a little scary, watching him cower in the dark, all light dimmed to a spotlight on his body, and the voices calling from the darkness, name-calling, name-dropping, naming him whatever they see fit. Earlier, Bo does something similar in a routine of Gollum-like split between his left and right brains. Then, he figured how to unite his logic and emotion into comedy. Here, he does something different in that he’s not explicit in what he’s doing. He doesn’t explain or analyze or undercut the punchline of this joke because there’s no joke, there’s just this, Bo raising a hand, cutting the voices into a refrain, ‘We think we know you. We think we know you.’(3). It’s so eery and awesome and then, he turns, he moves his hands a different way, and he begins remixing the voices that taunt him into something like a dance-pop-revolution, into something beautiful and alive and not burdened by fear or shame or logic or anything of what he’s been talking about all night.

It’s brilliant.

That is not all that’s on my mind, readers, but it’s enough, and all that I’m writing about today.

Happy post-reality.

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(1)Webpage. Witness the linguistic skeumorphism! At some point, far off in the future–when apes or aliens or robots or [insert surprising but inevitable overlords of humanity] rule the earth–someone will ask someone else where the term webpage came from and that someone (probably a magical analog cyborg) will say, ‘Well, my little Farfanoog, a long time ago people used to worship trees, and the spiders that lived and wove webs between the leaves, and they used to strip the wood from the tree to make their own webs in which to write words and one day they learned how to weave their dream weavings into the clouds and they called these floating images that graced their glass, webpages.’

(2)Before the internet, before we had everything, it must have been easier to feel unique, mustn’t it? Or is that just generational exceptionalism?

(3)It’s a phrase that seems as much about how people think they know Bo, as it is a phrase of how, in the YouTube generation, perhaps more than any other celebritied generation, so much of the fame is based on the idea (real, unreal, magic) that fans and artists know each other, that there’s this intimate connection wherein your videos are you, and you are your videos.

On London, Vlogs, and Everything

Hello, readers.

A few things of note.

1) The Red Volume, the anthology created by me and my fellow Awkward Robots of Clarion 2012, is go! 17 awesome stories of weirdness, wonder, and terror (also, possibly, love) written by 17 awesome people who are also, by turns, full of weirdness, wonder, terror, and love. One of these stories is mine. And it’s a musical with rodeo clowns, cowboys, and a ghost.

We put this thing together to support the Clarion foundation which is a great bunch of people who put together, every year, a great bunch of professional writers and soon-to-be professional writers and let them go at each other on the campus of UCSD. It was absolutely one of the greatest experiences of my life and I’ve come out of it with a family of awesome that will go forth and be awesome and we wanted to give back so that more awesome could happen for more awesome people.

Enough awesome.

Go here: https://gumroad.com/l/awkbotsred

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Give what you want. If you want the thing for free, take it for free. If you want to pay, know that the proceeds (after Gumroad fees) will go to the Clarion foundation and that you are awesome.

One last awesome in there.

2) I’ve started vlogging. I love it. I get to yell at the world about all the things what I love, fear, and wonder about.

Here’s my latest video:

 

 

3) A few weeks ago, I arrived in London, but did not stay there for very long. With EG driving a car hire (or hired car)–which is how Brits refer to rental cars–we drove west to Oxford for the 80th birthday celebration of EG’s aunt. Oxford is a gorgeous city wherein there was more greenery than I imagined. There is the university, yes, and the walls are bricked with narratives of time and whatnot, and there are the cobblestone streets where Tolkien and Lewis walked, but there is also so much countryside surrounding the areas that it’s easy to imagine Tolkien and Lewis walking as much, or more, out here in the green lanes.

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My first vlog covers a bit of the journey to London, but as far as Oxford, I’ve not put that together yet into a video that is watchable. We’ll see if it happens. Something always happens.

 

 

Happy Monday, readers.

Go read some stories:

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