30 May 2013

Inspiration : Ghostly

Ghostly 9/30/09

It's fog over valley - a warm day - pressure
on my skull filling in every crack

In the original post I talked a little about my headaches. I've also talked about this here and here.

I have never gotten a diagnosis. It feels like my brain has come loose in the shell of my skull. When you turn it is like the brain takes a second to also turn.

I know it's some weather - pressure drop - a
hung-over lecture rattling

There is a need, a want, to come up with explanations for the occurrence. Maybe it was warm yesterday and colder today. And that could be it. Maybe a storm is coming in, you can see it on the horizon. Maybe the trees are particularly pollen-y today.

The reality is that I don't know. Maybe there's a tumor growing in there. Maybe my brain has come loose from the meniscus of my skull. Maybe the pressure and weather do it.

Maybe it's all in my head. HA HA.

It drills - a curtain over eyes that buzzes lightly
cicadas with glassine features

It isn't really like cicadas. I mean, it is a constant feeling. But it isn't sound. That I equate it with the noise made by them is synesthesia at work.

The headaches I get are more like someone holding their hands tightly, but not painfully, around your neck. They may apply a little pressure, but it isn't serious. Over time it grows in apprehension and annoyance until it feels like they are trying to kill you.

It's like that game kids play. "I'm not touching you"

Only inside my head.

they break at the first sign of breathing -

When a headache ends. There is a weird feeling of lightness. People call them 'auras'. Some feel a headache coming on. Like a strange premonition. I don't usually. I can sometimes feel the tightening inside and grab some ibuprofen in time. But usually it is there before I know it.

I get echos. I can feel where the headache was for hours, sometimes days, afterwards. Like a bruise. Like there is permanent damage in there.

Then that too vanishes. And I sort of magically forget this is a thing that happens to me until the next time.

27 May 2013

What Purpose Did I Serve In Your Life

I've talked about Cat Marnell before. I don't particularly love her whole 'thing'.

Recently, I read Marie Calloway's What Purpose Did I Serve In Your Life. Calloway is another internet 'star' of the new supposed alt lit scene.

Marie Calloway
It is all very New York in that sort of way where no one else but a teeny tiny group of New Yorkers care. That group is made up of other members of these 'stars'. Tao Lin, Frank Hinton, anyone involved in Vice. Their writing revolves around twitter, Facebook, and tumblr. It's purposefully seedy and exclusive.

And it is incredibly dull.

From 2001-2007 I kept a LiveJournal. I've had this blog in one form or another since 2007. I have obviously blogged fairly regularly for over 10 years. I get blogging. I really really do.

That old LiveJournal was full of woe-is-me melodrama and pseudo-philosophical nonsense. I certainly had silly relationships and fights with people online and I certainly blogged the hell out of it. I named the names and was as honest as I could be. And it was mostly boring to re-read when I opened it up this morning to check in.

But I got tired of it. Of the whole idea of pouring myself out like that in a public way. Tired of explaining it. It hollowed me out. Honestly, it lessened the experiences I had if I ran home to 'talk' about them online.

It is one of the reasons I now use initials for people when I talk about them. It's one of the reasons I no longer linger on the hyper-personal unless it relates to what I want to say.

This whole clique seem to only have things to say that are about themselves. It is self as commodity. And that is fine. But damn do I lose interest if the self being sold is vapid and only about the other people in that teeny bubble of a world.

Marie Calloway rose to 'stardom' in NY lit circles after MuuMuu House published Adrien Brody. A overly long journal-y 'story' about Calloway sleeping with an older writer. Most of the attention rose from her using 'Adrien Brody' as a stand in for the man's real name. And that interest was in the fact that the man was a sort of well-known NY writer.

That story is interesting. Calloway is a good writer. She just needs to come up with more to say. Which seems to be good advice for all of these writers. Find more to say than what happened in your apartment last night.

Tao Lin seems to have sort of attempted this with his new 'novel' Taipei. While it is still a thinly veiled memoir and the book is about drug and alcohol fueled late night shenanigans. There seems to be more there there. Will it stick? Is the whole new 'alt lit' thing just a bunch of kinda well-off people who think they are really amazing and want you to look at them to validate that? Probably.

That doesn't mean something good might still arise out of it. Let's all hold our breaths.

23 May 2013


Back in February Raphael Magarik discussed the mess that is Hugo Schwyzer. If you take a quick trip to Schwyzer's website you will be treated to this image:

I like to think that I am a feminist. I am a gay 30-something of the Gen X/Gen Y crossover years. I am hardly knowledgeable on feminism's more academic sides. But from my point of view our feminism is one based in theory. It is one of research and intelligent discourse. The idea being to push feminism into the upper areas of academia.

Today's feminism is different. I think it is more about 'real world' application. It isn't a rejection outright of theory, but a reaction to the over-ivory towering of it.

That said.

Look again at that picture. The bile rises as I read the stupid white box next to his ridiculous grin and above those obnoxious social media icons.

I have no horse in the game of feminism. So to speak. But I agree partially with Magarik's assertion that men cannot be leaders in feminism. I agree that a self-ascribed leader is silly. I also see the problems of a born-again, one-time violent, student dating white man being that self-ascribed leader.


I think we should be able to discuss things we are interested in. Things we feel about. We should be able to discuss race, sexuality, religion.

That said. Schwyzer seems to be very into being an 'expert' a 'leader' he seems to really be into himself. A. Lot.

When I was younger. A teenager, a pre-teen. I was often called a sissy. I was not into sports. I was called 'girly'. I wondered why that was bad. I still do.

Things that are 'girly' that are fierce as shit:

- Make Up - You can entirely change your face with a little war paint. It's amazing.
- Dresses - Gowns...serious drama. Air all over you!

These are just two things that most men would toss out there. My point isn't to condescend with a look at why women should feel good about themselves. It is to say that these are things that are traditionally gendered as female, and they are interesting. The list could also include uteri, breasts, etc. It could also include art, theater, music, poetry, feelings. All things that are viewed as less than masculine.

Again. I am not as well-read on this subject as I should be. The article on Schwyzer was interesting in that this man was basically driven out of a lot of the areas he has been involved professionally by his admittance of past behavior that is abusive and anti-woman. I don't want to defend him, I don't know him, but he seems to have moved beyond those earlier 'issues'.

BUT     BUT     BUT

He seems to have replaced those problems with a strange narcissistic sermon-y persona that is just as disturbing. And he doesn't seem to see the problem in his past. He doesn't seem to care that much about it. Neither does The Atlantic. He still writes for them regularly.

13 May 2013

Dust Jacket : The Last Policeman

The Last Policeman
Designed by: Doogie Horner

First thing's first. This cover was designed by a stand-up comedian. Who was on America's Got Talent. The same man who designed the cover for Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.

So that is a thing.

More importantly the cover is a simplistic act of beauty. The sort of newspaper feel of it, the letters being burned away as the comet glides across it. It communicates the story without giving anything away.

This will be an apocalyptic novel. Things will burn.
It will be about that.

There is an almost comic book feeling to the work. The drawing of the letters, reminds me of The Human Torch. His fire always represented by a bunch of wavy lines rendered in reds and oranges.

The sheer simplicity of the cover catches the eye. I love a good text-based cover and this one manages to be one of the most simplistic and also most evocative.

Sadly this cover no longer exists. The author, Ben H. Winters and Quirk books recently announced that this was the first book in a trilogy. With the announcement came a new cover.

The new cover was also done by Doogie Horner. I couldn't locate information on who took the photos.

This new cover is also really good. It communicates that the book is about something weird. That there is a comet, that the world will not be the same because of it. And a good photo-based cover is welcome. Too often they are silly or used only for bargain books.

But this cover looses something of the original. It starts to look like an ad for a TV show.

The second book comes out this summer, and the new cover treatment carries through. Which is good.

I feel like there is a missed opportunity to utilize the simplicity of the first book. They could have carried that idea through just as well. A different color scheme or a closer drawing of the comet. Or any other number of ideas.

The photos on the cover evoke the work of Gregory Crewdson, specifically this one. The sort of surreal suburban magic realism of it makes sense. This is not a bad thing, in fact it's the best part of the cover. It also calls to mind the Chris Van Allsburg illustration, "The House on Maple Street".

I assume that Doogie Horner knows his illustration history. The Van Allsburg image appears in a book about a mysterious illustrator who drops off his work then goes missing. The book attempts to piece together the 'mystery'. Stephen King used the same image of Maple Street to write a short story with the same title.

That Horner would pull from these places to create a cover is not surprising. The surprise is that I like the less referential cover more.

On Thursday the New York Times ran a short slide show on the book design process. There is a gallery of rejected vs. final covers. Definitely worth a look.

Dust Jacket is a sometime article about the design and art of book covers. The idea is to shine a spotlight on the work of the designer separate from the author. Literally judging a book by its cover.

09 May 2013


On Friday the New York Times published the latest entry in their My Story series. It was by Louise Rafkin and called Forever, The Girl With The Unicorn Tattoo. Basics out of the way. She regrets her poorly drawn, ill-placed tattoo. Here, the ending of her essay:
Beyond my self-appointed mission to thwart young people from joining the tribes of the inked, my tattoo underscores a lesson I’ve had to learn time and again: some things in life are hard to undo. 
And for those who glibly claim that youthful indiscretions fade with time, I say this: sometimes not enough.
You don't really need to read the rest. Two things:

1) So tired of people pointing to tattoos and saying they are 'bad'. Just. YAWN.

2) She got a tattoo of a UNICORN that was traced from a coloring book. And she got it in GREEN on her ASS.

Of course your ass tattoo deformed with age. Of course it faded into a blobby thing. DUH DUH DUH DUH DUH. I am sorry that you and your friends got trampy overly girly tattoos that you regret. But. You do not know my life. Or anyone else's.

Rafkin projects her personal experience really out past the point of sense. She says that these 'youthful indiscretions' are not a good idea. That universally tattoos are bad decisions. Because she got a unicorn on her ass.

Yes, getting stupid tattoos is a bad decision. Just ask the folks with butterflies on the small of their back. Or the dude with a Tasmania Devil on his shoulder. Or...that guy up there with the Romney logo on his face.

But if it is meaningful, well done, and placed right - a tattoo can be amazing.

This woman had breast cancer and decided against implants. Instead, she opted for an amazing representation of beauty in the face of great personal loss.

Interestingly, Facebook took the photo down claiming it was 'offensive'.

And maybe I'm being hard on the cartoon tattoo folk of the world. Maybe Taz means a lot to some people.

I have 3. They all have great personal meaning. A story to with them.

Two I got in my early 20s and one in my early 30s. I plan on others. With time, the edges have softened and the color has faded. But I love them.

People are dumb. They do impulsive, irrational, hard to explain things daily. That some seem incapable of critical thinking is my take away from this essay and from pictures like the man with the Romney logo on his head.

That is the lesson that Rafkin should have learned. For the record, I think you could easily get a great unicorn tattoo. I don't know what that would look like and this Google search is a hot mess.

A tattoo should be like those of the Illustrated Man in Ray Bradbury's classic book of stories. Each with a tale to tell. A future and past to showcase. Even a bad one. Those stories are important too. And wishing them away is missing the point.

We make decisions. They impact us. We cannot erase or eliminate ourselves in this way. And even if it gets all discolored and blobby. That history got us here. We can point to it, even if it is on our ass, and say "I did this. This is when, where, how, and why." Even that guy with the Romney tattoo can look in the mirror and know what 2012 meant for him. That's more than a lot of people can say.

02 May 2013

Follow-Up : Ladies on Top

I will admit that I feel remorse for my post on Lean In and Give and Take from last week. I would be interested in someone who has read either of those books letting me know how they liked/disliked it.

Since that post Give and Take has fallen to #6 on the Times Bestseller list. In its place we have The Athena Doctrine (Jossey-Bass 4/16/13):

"Among 64,000 people surveyed in thirteen nations, two thirds feel the world would be a better place if men thought more like women. This marks a global trend away from the winner-takes-all, masculine approach to getting things done. Drawing from interviews at innovative organizations in eighteen nations and at Fortune 500 boardrooms, the authors reveal how men and women alike are recognizing significant value in traits commonly associated with women, such as nurturing, cooperation, communication, and sharing. The Athena Doctrine shows why femininity is the operating system of 21st century prosperity."

I like to let the copy do the talking up front. Get the PR and author words out of the way. It vaguely makes what I have to say fair.

I said at the top that I felt kinda bad about the post on Lean In. Mainly because I think the book is an honest attempt to address what appears to be a new zeitgeist in business self-help. That of the 'feminist approach to business'. Call it a 5 years late Hilary Clinton effect or something.

We have had moments like this before. In the 80s, there was the rise of the 'power suit' ladies that in retrospect are harshly judged as overly-masculine. The 90s gave way to the Hilary model of no-nonsense but also apologetically feminine power lady. Headbands and all. The 00s sort of brought us into a softer form of business feminism, the fashion-forward kind. That could still kick ass.

If all of this sounds patronizing - I agree.

Women should be taken seriously in the workforce. I all things. And I think Sheryl Sandberg's book is an attempt to say that. I just think it seems focused on a very narrow, very rich, very white part of the lady-population.

My issues with The Athena Doctrine are deeper. The authors - John Gerzema and Michael D'Antonio - are qualified social theorists and consumer experts. They are also men. From an interview they did with Amazon:

"We want to make clear that we're not saying women are "born this way" or that they are "naturally" more empathetic or open. Rather, these are skills that have been traditionally segregated or labeled as part of women's domain, and often are undervalued, when in truth, being "feminine" actually make all people more human, and helps them become the best version of themselves. These skills will help people match the needs of the future economy. In a collaborative world where value creation is increasingly based on services, economic growth and standard of living are enhanced by including feminine values."

Mmm Hmm...

Then, from the same interview:

"We're both dads in all female households with three beautiful daughters between us. We are excited about what we found because feminine values are really a form of innovation and competitive advantage for today's world."

I'm not saying these guys didn't so the research, were not rigorous in their methods. They say they surveyed 64,000 people. I choose to believe this is true. They say that those people called these things 'feminine' and 'masculine'. I would be interested in seeing their survey.

I would be interested in seeing where they think trans issues fall in this debate. Where societal construction comes into play. This all just seems like "death of man" nonsense dressed up in a wrapper that will appeal to a wide audience. A softer version of it for sure, but the same alarm call to all men all places.

Gender norms are a thing. This is not debatable. Thinking in "nurturing, cooperation, communication, and sharing" ways is not feminine. It is just thinking and experiencing outside of yourself. It is just not being selfish.

Maybe the book should have focused on the inherent selfishness in the society? They cite examples of poorer children in London teaching bankers beekeeping. This is not feminine. It is agrarian. Those things are not the same.

A doctor in Pakistan who is compassionate and cares about patients more than his research is not weird.  It is not "lady". It is sensible and makes me want to move there and have him take care of me.

What I'm saying is that the frame of this discussion seems odd to me. It seems sexist. It seems like the say "masculine" and "feminine" when they mean to say "selfish" and "not selfish". It does have a great cover though. But man that sub-title is LAME.

This does nothing to improve my feelings on the best-seller list.