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.

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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Some notes on notes

Hello, readers.

At one time, I kept a journal in which at the end of every day I wrote about the aforementioned day in the form of the following lists:

1) What did I do today?
2) What was I afraid of?
3) What did I do despite my fear?
4) What will I do tomorrow?

I did this for well over a year. It became a mental subroutine that, after some time, ran in the background throughout the day and then, rather easily, loaded up in the evening and generated output.

Three things I really loved about this.

1) I felt on top of things. I kept myself accountable. If I didn’t get something done, no worries. I knew that I would put it down in my journal with, more than likely, some thoughts of how to get it done.

2) Fear became conscious. Writing about my fears meant that pretty soon when I was scared to do something I would recognize that fear and think about how that night I would be writing about having felt that fear and how it influenced my actions. I felt stronger knowing my future self would be looking back at my present self.

3) I found having a schedule for reflection very helpful. Otherwise it’s all nostalgia all the time. My mind adores going over the past over and over again. Having a set time to reflect on my day, and its fears and hopes, was freeing.

One day, I stopped journaling. I felt that the sub-routine was so much a part of me that actually writing it all down felt unnecessary. And it was.

But lately I’ve missed writing a journal. I have and still do write all my stories long-hand, but what journaling I’ve done has been mostly in the form of this and other blogs, or notes stored in an Evernote notebook called Thoughts.

It’s not my favorite Evernote notebook.

It feels cumbersome to open Evernote and decided if my thought goes into the Thoughts notebook or another notebook.

Yesterday, I downloaded the Day One app and Vesper with this idea in mind of how to reflect on my life. I could use a notebook, but with my habit, lately, of always moving I am weary of collecting more notebooks than necessary (see above re: writing stories longhand).

Having Evernote, I did wonder if it was possible to have too many note apps. The answer of course is yes. Another answer and concern is that sometimes it feels like downloading apps replaces real action.

In this case, though, I feel like the different apps provide different contexts and so trigger different ways of thinking. Evernote, as some say, functions ike a big filing cabinet. Vesper will, I hope, function as a small notebook that stays forever tucked in my back pocket. I’ll take it out and make notes throughout the day and file the best ones away in Day One, or in Evernote.

And some of those thoughts, however filed, may end up here on the blog. Like this post. Which I wrote a large amount of in Day One when I was thinking of how I spent yesterday.

I don’t imagine that will happen too much.

Also, I’ve been thinking about creating a video blog. Which is a whole other thing. I wonder in what context, I would draft scripts? There’s an app called Drafts I might try.

Using all these apps, maybe I’ll keep my Evernote cabinet, and my mind, uncluttered by shards of half-considered inspiration. Or is that what I want? A cabinet full of the land of was and might be. I don’t know.

I don’t want to be fragmented in an unconscious way. I want my life to be chaotic and tagged, whimsical and precise. We’ll see how it goes.

Happy thoughts, readers.

Love.

Time and its Discontents

Hello, readers.

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It’s Sunday and, so, as it sometimes seems to happen, I’m writing to you. Outside, there is Saigon, and there is rain. My dad was here many decades ago. That’s strange to think about.

I’ve been putting together short reading lists to share and discuss with my crit group in Saigon. The first list featured three stories about space and aliens: “Surface Tension” by James Blish, “Semley’s Necklace” by Ursula K. Le Guin, and “The Story of Your Life” by Ted Chiang.

The second list featured stories about space and time: “The Men Who Murdered Mohammed” by Alfred Bester, “The Fire Watch” by Connie Willis, and “The Remeberer” by Aimee Bender. This second list I titled, ‘Time and its Discontents.’

Earlier today, I had sad thoughtful thoughts about my sister and our mom and the house where my mom lived, and where her parents lived, and where her brother lived, where, for different and sometimes overlapping periods of time, I and my sister lived. Mom died earlier this year. The house is still there. At some point the house will not be there. At some other point, it may or may not belong to other people. This got me to thinking about how a long time ago maybe people stayed in one place for a very long time because it was hard to move. It’s still hard to move, but people do it a lot now. I’ve gotten quite good at it. I wonder sometimes if I will ever be some place for more than a couple years. I imagine if I stayed in one place I would want a house with secret passages and a bookshelf or twenty. It seems silly to stay in one place and not make it worth it.

A lot of my favorite stories focus on memory and time. Solaris. Eternal Sunshine. The Rememberer. Prisoner of Azkaban. Etc. So on. My head is full of time and space. So is yours. I wonder what my cats think when I’m not there, or when they move houses. Do they remember? Science probably knows the answer to this.

I finished Alif the Unseen. It was magnificent. Here are some articles about it. The book had me thinking again about myth and time and gods and spirits and how very much I love to exist in a place of uncertainty and how much it scares me, too. Roger Ebert said of belief that he’s much more interested in questions than in answers. I don’t know if I agree with that. But, I do know that I love asking questions.

How are you today, readers? Well, I hope, or if not well, then gainly occupied with the business of traveling through time and adding some joy to the goings on.

love.