Tuesday, June 30, 2009

My First Poem

Do we enter into an implicit agreement not to judge when someone invites us to comment on their blog? Do bright colors really make us eat faster? Is the beginning of a relationship supposed to feel like pushing a boulder up a mountain? Does good writing ruin relationships? Cities? Does it leave a path of destruction in its wake? Is it not good writing unless you're terrified of it sitting out there, naked, exposed, your ego crucified? Is the fuzz on that plant supposed to make you think 'pretty'? Is there something universally satisfying about eating mac and cheese? Would an Indian man appreciate mac and cheese? Does the sky remind you of a dentist's office? Does it make you want to cry? Can millenials do anything unironically? Does my voice remind you of a self-help book on tape? Would you like to be known as more than just the person who leaves out dishes for other people to clean up? Are certain words intrinsically bouyant? Am I breathing correctly? Is there a violence inherent in editing someone's work for publication? Did you stop reading serious novels because you felt too many painful pangs of recognition? Are you an old man? Do you know how to use a computer? Did you fart when you were climbing the stairs? Is that why it smells? Is the power of language seperating us? Can you tell I bought this from IKEA? What if we had been born in a war-torn country? Is your personality immune to self-help books? Does art give a fuck about anything but art? Is there such a thing as a passive audience? Am I thinking in binaries? Can I get some soy sauce? Can you raise your hand more dramatically and with more wrist bending? Can you tell the others to stop giggling? Can you read this again but less gay and less jewish? Did you just spend an hour trying to write that email? Is it art if you can define it? Can you teach me how to fight unfairly? Did you have a perfect childhood or something? Can you make my house into a home? Can you pretend to be a media expert? Is plagarizing when you attempt to inhabit the brain of another writer? Does one of us want to turn this into a script for one of those sad movies about dysfunctional families? Have you been reading too much Franzen? Have you been watching too much Wes Anderson? Would Seattle be a better city if it gave up trying to intellectually distance itself from the national conversation? What did you expect when you asked me how my Passover was? You know that moment when you decide a thought isn't worthy of writing down? Why do you stop yourself? Why is it so hard for the things we say to really make people feel better? Will white people ever 'get it'? Is it art if you 'crack the code'? What are you doing up so late? Seinfeld? Which one? The pilot? The one where Jerry gets annoyed or the one where Kramer opens the door theatrically? Are you George? Are you George's mother? Why are you wearing that? Is your voice lower because you got a massage? Are you like Vice Magazine but seven years ago? Are you one of those angry people who just sits next to the computer? Do you ever comment on comments? Do you ever give non-inane, non-batshit criticisim? Am I a small dose friend? Are you one of those people who hates sports but also hates people who hate sports because god, what a cliche? Are you working on developing your 'personal brand'? Why do we encourage writers to be drunk loners by telling them they are so? Why do we encourage young children to get over their questioning phase? Why do we edit? Is it possible to stop asking questions once you've begun? Can I liveblog the restlessness of your leg? Would you help me create a performance piece about my addiction to online pornography? Are we really what we read? Or are we the cliches we buy into? Who is my audience? Why do we ask this question? Nevertheless, are they smart? What's smart? Are they suicidal? What's suicidal? Are they alienated from society? Which society? Aren't we all a bit alienated? Do they hate reading? Don't you hate reading? Will they pay attention to me? For how long? Did you know I've been noticing all your weird tiks? Did you know I've been canibalizing every experience we've had together? Did you know I've been exploiting every person I meet? Did you know I've noticed all the ways you try and hide how sad you really are? Did you know you're my main character? Did you know you're my omnicsent narrator? Did you know you're the dog? Did you know you're the quote I falsely attributed to the new york times book critic? Did you know you're the gist for all the drama? Did you know you're the reason I became a writer? Did you know you're the reason I hate writing? Did you know you're the moral backbone? DId you know your life provided the story arc? Did you know you're nothing? Did you know I only write fiction?

Monday, June 29, 2009

Quote of the Day

"...here's something else that's weird but true: in the day-to day trenches of adult life, there is actually no such thing as atheism. There is no such thing as not worshipping. Everybody worships. The only choice we get is what to worship. And the compelling reason for maybe choosing some sort of god or spiritual-type thing to worship -- be it JC or Allah, bet it YHWH or the Wiccan Mother Goddess, or the Four Noble Truths, or some inviolable set of ethical principles -- is that pretty much anything else you worship will eat you alive. If you worship money and things, if they are where you tap real meaning in life, then you will never have enough, never feel you have enough. It's the truth. Worship your body and beauty and sexual allure and you will always feel ugly. And when time and age start showing, you will die a million deaths before they finally grieve you. On one level, we all know this stuff already. It's been codified as myths, proverbs, clich├ęs, epigrams, parables; the skeleton of every great story. The whole trick is keeping the truth up front in daily consciousness.

Worship power, you will end up feeling weak and afraid, and you will need ever more power over others to numb you to your own fear. Worship your intellect, being seen as smart, you will end up feeling stupid, a fraud, always on the verge of being found out. But the insidious thing about these forms of worship is not that they're evil or sinful, it's that they're unconscious. They are default settings.

They're the kind of worship you just gradually slip into, day after day, getting more and more selective about what you see and how you measure value without ever being fully aware that that's what you're doing.

And the so-called real world will not discourage you from operating on your default settings, because the so-called real world of men and money and power hums merrily along in a pool of fear and anger and frustration and craving and worship of self. Our own present culture has harnessed these forces in ways that have yielded extraordinary wealth and comfort and personal freedom. The freedom all to be lords of our tiny skull-sized kingdoms, alone at the center of all creation. This kind of freedom has much to recommend it. But of course there are all different kinds of freedom, and the kind that is most precious you will not hear much talk about much in the great outside world of wanting and achieving and [unintelligible -- sounds like "displayal"]. The really important kind of freedom involves attention and awareness and discipline, and being able truly to care about other people and to sacrifice for them over and over in myriad petty, unsexy ways every day.

That is real freedom. That is being educated, and understanding how to think. The alternative is unconsciousness, the default setting, the rat race, the constant gnawing sense of having had, and lost, some infinite thing."


-David Foster Wallace, 2005 Kenyon Commencement Address

Read the whole thing here.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Monday, June 15, 2009

Adrian Ryan Is a Gay Man Who Just Wrote a Big Gay Book




WARNING: Israel-Palestinian-level-of-conflict-of-interest. Adrian Ryan is a friend. We've hung out. I cannot objectively review a friend's book! Also: how do journalists do this? This seems very hard. Thanks be to god I am not a journalist! Instead, I am publishing an interview with this very, very funny and cunning young man.

Adrian Ryan recently spent months cooped up in his basement smoking the marajuana plant and penning a bible for all the gays of Seattle who are lost: who don't know how to eat / drink / fuck / live / be in Seattle. They're out there. These gays must be saved from boredom, and who better to save them than the OG of the Stranger: Adrian Ryan? The writer who splooged on our newscasters, took a giant hilarious poop on the UW frat system, and eulogized a certain someone once upon a time. He also wrote a column about whenever a celebrity slipped a boob while climbing the rock wall at the downtown REI.

His new book is called "Adrian Ryan's Way Too Gay Seattle Field Guide," and you can buy it here.

But, really, Adrian Ryan needs no introduction. If you don't know who this man is, you are retarded and should stop reading my blog at once!

We met at Cafe Presse; a place I am completely sick of writing about. Insert atmospheric details here (the cheese smells). He was funny and charming, blah dee blah. Get to the questions, I can hear you asking. Okay, okay.

Your book contains a lot of your old Celebrity I Saw U columns, full of dishy tidbits one could only get by asking lots of people lots of questions. Did you also have to kiss a lot of ass to get that info? If so, honestly, how sick are you of kissing Celebrity Ass?

Short answer: I'm not. And I don't. I never feel that way. Okay?! Publicists call me and ask "do you want to interview this person?" When they come across someone who wants to talk to me, they approach me. I love meeting people. Usually celebs don't disappoint me because they are all so beautifully flawed.

How hard was it to fill 8" of text every week with celebrity gossip when there are really, like, only eight or so Seattle Celebrities?

It's actually not that difficult because there's always someone coming through town and I always get the information about them ahead of time. Our transient celebrity population is not insignificant. And, of course, the Seattle International Film Festival brings even more celebrities to places like the W hotel.

How has the notion of fame changed in these internety days? Someone in a movie I saw said "20 years ago, everyone wanted their 15 minutes of fame, but the internet makes us think we deserve 15 minutes of fame every single day"? Do you think that's true?

Oh yes. Fame is definitely the ultimate American currency and it has been desperately cheapened by the internet and reality television. We're all so available, but fame is marked by a certain level of inaccessibility. And on reality TV, people are famous for doing nothing. When I used to hang around with Danny from the Real World, he would just get mobbed everywhere we meet. But that sort of fame is very specific to his time. I doubt that bitch from Project Runway gets that sort of attention in West Seattle.

Who would your ideal reader be? Sometimes I'm not sure if you're after the gay teen who just moved here or the budding gay literati already here.

The book is for both. People who have been here a long time will definitely appreciate it; the 80s and 90s in Seattle definitely play a part in the book. Today we sort of take for granted the fact that there's less of a gay ghetto [stories of which are heavily accounted for in the book]. When I traveled to Lewis County for a reading, they told me that the folks there get hundreds of death threats when they try to throw a pride parade. I think we bitch a lot about gay Seattle when we have a lot to be thankful about.

Like bath houses! (makes barfing noise) Lonely Planet doesn't seem so interested in our bath houses. But you are.

Local guides don't attempt to cover this amount of gay history. There's really nothing like this book. I'm not competing with anyone. And it's a light / breezy read, too.

What didn't make it into the book?

There were tons of things that didn't make it into the book. Mark Finley is one. There are lots of people in the book who have their secrets but Mark Finley made his secret his public persona. I saw what he did myself. It's not something I take a joy from seeing.

After sifting through Seattle's big gay personal record and writing the fuck out of it, do you find yourself feeling closer or further away from this city?

I think closer. I feel the same way everyone does about Seattle sometimes. I get frustrated. But writing a book about the city made me realize, Jesus Christ, there's just so much to mythologize! There's so much gay history here.

Do you think this book will encourage more young, smart gay folks out there to settle here?

I hope so. I think so. My book is blatant propaganda. People will read this and it'll hopefully re-create the idea of the gay mecca. Portland's gay neighborhood has been demolished. It does not exist. San Francisco is really a ghost town. If Portland, Seattle and San Francisco were brothers, San Fran would be a Scorpio, Portland would be Pisces and Seattle would be a Virgo.

Do you hear that? Come to Seattle, Virgo fags!

Adrian is reading at Traveler's tonight. On the eve of getting fucked up the ass by the Obama administration (and not in a good way), this seems like an especially pertinent time for some fierce Seattle Gay Pride. It's at 7. Did he not facebook invite you? Here. You're welcome.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

"The Artist's Way"

Reading and re-reading "The Artist's Way" drives you insane after a little while. You start to look out at the world and imagine everything as a potential story. "What sort of creative risk am I avoiding right now?" you ask yourself, after waking up with a hangover and stumbling over to your computer. You go outside on the porch and write "Here I am, sitting on the porch. I am drinking tea," but somehow that doesn't seem like enough to carry a story. It just doesn't seem marketable. "EVERYTHING IS MARKETABLE!" screams the voice of Julia Cameron. "YOU'RE NOT TRYING HARD ENOUGH!! GO TAKE YOUR ARTIST'S CHILD FOR A WALK!"

So you go for a walk, looking at all the neighbor's foliage and imagining this as a story. Except it's not a story. It's just a motherfucking walk. "SOMETIMES OUR BEST IDEAS COME TO US DURING WALKS, NAVIGATING FREEWAYS OR SIMPLY SHOWERING!" says Julia. "Julia, I am taking a motherfucking walk and nothing is happening to me," you say back to her. Then, Zadie Smith interjects, "Uhm, excuse me Julia but bookwriting is a complicated and labor intensive skill. It actually makes me physically ill to think about it. I want to vomit right now because the words I just wrote down make me feel so anxious. Books take years." Julia and Zadie duke it out, and by the end of the walk, you never want to write another word.

A few days ago, I found myself at the Ballard Safeway at 2am with a friend. Two meth addicts walked in. "YES, FINALLY!" I thought to myself, like a terrible person. "A story!" I sat down by the empty and closed Starbucks and started writing on my notepad. "She looks like she's accepting an Academy Award made of Wheat Thins" I said re: first addict. Her accomplice, a greasy-haired man with burn marks up and down his arms, grabbed TV dinners and platters of hummus and vegetables and threw them into his shopping cart with the speed and fervor of a contestant on Supermarket Sweeps. They walked to the checkout counter like they were walking down a runway, like the whole world was a stage.

But I think it ended up not the best idea for a story, since I seem to lack that amazing body-and-soul transporting power real Novelists have. I can observe, I can write down details and moments. But as far as figuring out how these meth heads were actually FEELING about the Safeway? I've got nothing. I can tell you how I felt, but how did it feel for them to be the walking embodiment of a drug's desire? And that's how 'The Artist's Way' fails. Or, rather, why it's not enough. It can get you out of the house and on to the page, sure, but it can't make you into one of those amazing, perceptive people who just "gets" their characters. I think you actually just have to read a lot of books to learn this. Or live life. Or both. How do you do both?

Friday, June 5, 2009

Jewish Racism



These students are an embarrassment to Judaism, even if the filmmaker's intentions are suspect. I am sad that Jewish people- drunk, stoned, American, Israeli, young, dumb, whatever-would respond this way to a documentary filmmaker. I also encountered a fair amount of bigotry in Israel that shocked me. However, I encounter a fair amount of bigotry in America...every day...and even in Seattle. Bigotry is awful, unsettling, disgusting wherever you find it. And it's everywhere.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

More About the Puppet Show at the Frye

A picture of a housewife who appears to be in some sort of hell populated only by Muppets. A room full of wooden ventriloquist puppets dancing on the floor, their clomping so intense it sounds like an earthquake. Wooden furniture giving birth to baby furniture, dressed in Baby Gap. A video of the Harvard Arts Building, expanding and contracting and expanding, as its marionette architect looks away in distress.

The idea for the Puppet show at the Frye initially came from the play "Ubu Roi." In a program leaflet, it is said that Ubu provided the perfect "allegory of grotesque government and acts of puppet transgression". The idea of puppet transgression is quite apparent within the exhibit; the clomping marionettes by Dennis Oppenheimer look like they're transgressing the line between human and puppet. In another room, with a picture of Meryl Streep, it seems as if the puppets (the Muppets) have taken over the soundstage, transgressing their role as that which is to be controlled by humans.

There are also other, broader, political allegories. As Jen Graves wrote in the Stranger about the show, "what better way to further the questions of pop and minimalism (and the entire political situation of the 20th century) than puppetry? It's the oldest question—which parts of us do we control and which parts belong to systems that pull our strings?—asked another way." Puppets, metaphorically, could be seen as the us within our political system, or the identities we create online in our increasingly mediated world.

I was happy to see Ubu Roi and the Truth Commission presented on the television sets in the back room. Here is a play that makes perfect use of puppets. The alligator, Niles, represents Pa Ubu's denial. As he stuffs the alligator full of papers, things Pa would love to forget, the alligator shudders and groans. He has trouble digesting the information, the same way the audience has trouble digesting such grim tales of Apartheid violence. Later, puppets are used abstractly to represent various witnesses to the atrocities of Apartheid. These puppets haunt Pa Ubu, they call out to him from their wooden mouths. Pa would like to think of them as complete abstractions, as the unreal. It would be easier for him to imagine them this way than to imagine them as human beings. Through the use of puppets, theatergoers can fully understand the extent of Pa's denial.