On Ed Harris (An excerpt)

The warrior poet has a gimpy in law, the athlete writer. He writes meterless pieces on the collision of life and sport. He learns lessons that transcend the lines of his field. These lessons seep into his life from the the apartment above him, where his career was left in a bathtub. He learns life and sport don’t form a venn diagram, nor are they concentric circles, or lines that intersect. He learns that life and sport barrel through space and collide inelastically. On impact they reform into one and strike a new heading.

Screen Shot 2017-04-30 at 10.48.02 AM.pngAfter the collision, all we can do is stand at the chalkboard and calculate entry vectors with Ed Harris. The stakes are high. Our families look on. If our angle is shallow, we skip into space and get lost in the cosmos. If our approach is steep we disintegrate in the atmosphere. A burn will be made–one final midcourse correction before reentry. Ed Harris and I are about to decide the fate of our spacecraft.

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I left Earth on a moonshot to play Major League Baseball. A routine cryo stirr dashed my chances to land in the Big Leagues and now my moonshot is returning to Earth. This essay is calculations on the chalkboard and my safe landing is this: Become employed.

My target zone is in the uncharted Pacific. I want to write fiction and play baseball and be paid for each. It’s no less a moonshot than my shot at the moon–but I refuse to drift aimlessly. I will bring myself back to Earth in monumental achievement or fireball, but I will not approach shallow and bounce into space to die of regret and what ifs.

I have doubts. They tell me this will end in disaster. This last public spectacle. This final addition to the preponderance of evidence suggesting my existence has been contaminated with failure and rendered invalid. But I have Ed Harris. He tells me, “With all due respect Richard, I believe this is going to be your finest hour.”

Scraps of The Week 4/29

These scraps are my children. And lovely, vibrant, eight pounders though they are, they were nonetheless selected to die. But when the time came to deliver the kill-stroke, my hand balked above the backspace key. These babies deserved better than to sit in a trash bin to be emptied into nonexistence the next time I needed space on my hard drive. They deserved more than being deleted the moment after they’d crowned out of me. They deserved a chance at life. And even if I could not give them a home myself, I could give them a chance. I let fall the lid on the dumpster and carried them here, to this fire station of a blog post, and I left them on the doormat.

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I gave birth in Burbank

From an essay on the play, “Duck” by Stella Feehily

Why would a woman torch a Jeep? A woman would torch a Jeep because it belongs to her boyfriend. A Jeep is wheeled agency–unbound off-road Army Corps of Engineers A to B agency. When Cat destroys Mark’s Jeep, she demonstrates with a heavy hand her ability to exert power. Her faculties are her own. Her body bends to her will. Her mind is unmuddled. She is chained to no one’s radiator. She is locked in no one’s basement doing chores for no one’s evil stepmother. Cat is a free woman.

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Torch me

From a scrapped blog post “Pomo Barbie”

It is unconscionable anyone demand Barbie have jobs like astronaut and doctor. She has six foot legs and tits like a Bond girl in a funhouse mirror. Barbie is alien. She is a simulacrum. Her platonic form is her absurd figure tweaked to look human, not the reciprocal. To make her the center of any feminist tweaks is gross capitalism. It is manufactured controversy that ends in an olive branch riddled with woodlice and poison oak. To use Barbie as a societal steam valve for feminist conversations benefits only Mattel. To prop her up as a symbol of progress delivers a disgusting wink at girls, boys, women, and men saying this distorted alien with tits out past her nose is also a doctor. It’s an unconscionable wink. It’s a subtextual proclamation that Barbie’s figure and profession are equally absurd and equally valid. To involve Barbie in any debate is disgusting. She is just another alien action figure.

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Take me to your leader

From that essay on throwing 

In, The Throwing Madonna: Essays on the Brain, William Calvin looks at throwing and explores how it developed in hominids. He examines our brain development and organization over the last 3 million years and looks at the possibility that speech, the thing that separates us from the generally intelligent animal, was developed in tandem with throwing–as a side effect.

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Dada > Minimalism

 

Haikus of Calvin’s core concept:

Lateralized brain.

Gives you fine motor function–

And by the way, speech.


Here we are. Because

the neolithic Cy Youngs

had a ton of sex


He that is without

lateralized brain functions

can’t speak or cast stones

Book Review: The Sellout

The Sellout by Paul Beatty is a postmodernist masterpiece. This novel is a self aware, form shattering dissection of post civil rights America. Through the protagonist, who refers to himself only as “me,” the reader gets thrown into different conversations and prevailing attitudes about race and rights in America. Though the setting, actions and characters are steeped in absurdism, the ideas in this novel are true and prevalent and sometimes insidious–and they are all given a new light in “The Sellout.”

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Paul Beatty

The Sellout is one of a kind. Some novels cannot be read without being mindful of authorial intent. The Sellout is such a book. Beatty writes through layers of awareness and irony. The context of this book and its author and a knowledge of race relations and civil rights history are crucial to understanding this book. A basic understanding of context at large will allow the reader to understand that though the protagonist champions slavery in Los Angeles, this idea is an exercise in absurdism, and not meant to be read at face value.Image result for the sellout

At face value, The Sellout is about a young black man who sells artisanal marijuana and watermelons and brings a case to reinstate slavery in the US before the supreme court. He has a withered old sidekick, Hominy, the little rascal, who is trope-y in an adorably outdated, eyebrow raising, racist, entirely accurate type way. The placement of this caricature seems outdated, but Beatty reminds us that it was a scant generation past that it was the norm to have black characters saying not much more than “yes massa.”

The Sellout is brilliant. Its fast paced and cutting. Its uncomfortably insightful. Its fun. Its a book everyone should read.

App Ideas #1

SportsTake

This app uses an advanced, deep learning RNG and self aware neural network deep learning sentient quantum computer to supply you with well crafted sports takes. By accessing databases and public records, SportsTake provides the user with nuanced, original opinions about sports. Takes are split into 5 different tiers.

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That‘s your take?

Example takes:

  • Free
    • Mentioning the Buss family w/ regard to Lakers failures
  • $.99
    • Andre Ethier in ‘08 was a top 5 clutch player of all time
  • $1.99
    • Adam Everett was the best NL shortstop in 2002
  • $2.99
    • Lebron’s cramps in 2010 NBA Finals were a piece of performance art done to illustrate the failing leadership within the Democratic party in the wake of crushing midterm elections.
  • $3.99
    • Steph Curry is garbage
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trash

Dumb Phone

This app is simple. Acknowledge you lack willpower then set a timer. For the duration of that time, your smartphone will be a dumb telephone that can only make calls and play snake. This app is for assholes at dinner, assholes in movie theaters, and assholes in class.

The Nokia Nimrod

Revenue is made not from ads, but from exploiting the userbase’s number one shortcoming: lack of willpower/character. For 99 cents the user can unlock T-9 texting for the duration of the timer. For $1.99 the user can unlock the phone for 90 seconds. $2.99 unlocks Siri and other voice command functions. $3.99 lets the user take low angled selfies.

GronkSpike

This free to play mobile game is simple. The built in accelerometer in your Apple or Android device is used to measure the rotational inertia of the users best Rob Gronkowski celebration spike. Users are encouraged to compete with friends and submit highscores online. This is a great, active game. It is subsidized by Michelle Obama, NFL Play 60, and Giuseppe’s iPhone repair kiosk at the Westfield Mall.

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Become Gronk

Media Scandal Name Generator

This app adds -gate on the end of words. Premium product for media insiders. Suggested price point $29.99

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Irony is lazy, you hacks

DUBER

Ridesharing for drunks. This is not an app for the casual alcoholic, but the committed one–the one who goes to his sons friend’s birthday party and has eight margaritas. He cannot leave his Camry on this cul-de-sac. The sun is up. He has work tomorrow. Instead of risking it, he opens DUBER. He presses a button and a DUBER driver is notified of the user’s current location. The DUBER driver takes a conventional rideshare (Uber, Lyft, etc…) to the stranded user. The driver then drives the user’s Camry to the user’s selected location (home, safehouse, dive bar, etc…) whereupon the DUBER driver hails another conventional rideshare and the transaction is complete. DUBER is the premium ridesharing platform for the stranded alcoholic.

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For drunks

Global Humanities

I went to a Global Humanities talk and the speaker was a philosopher who espoused the tenets of a cosmopolis–a global nation populated by global citizens. He viewed studying abroad as a vehicle for personal growth and revelation. He was supportive of cultures mixing and living together. He was very excited about the prospect of an extant cosmopolis.

His talk felt elitist. I left with the impression he would like the wealthy elites of the world to play musical chairs and keep the rural poor tucked away in factories and fields while aristocrats send their kids to dick around overseas and come back with cultural appreciations for upper class cultures from all over.

He didn’t give any thought to bringing together people of differing economic states. He glossed over class borders and only mentioned territorial ones. He didn’t mention cities with factories or farms or working class populations. He mentioned places with Guggenheim exhibits and Versace flagship stores.

Early in the talk, I realized I had wandered into a talk for wealthy elites. The speaker mentioned Diogenes famous habit of masturbating in public. He said his British nanny would refer to Diogenes habit as “doing his business.” I’m glad he was bashful enough to turn to euphemism, because it confirmed my suspicion that this was a speech for aristocracy by aristocracy.

His talk was interesting and provocative, but everything he espoused was for rich people. If he would’ve mentioned this at the onset, I would’ve enjoyed his talk. I think its fine if hereditary rich want to study abroad and live in Paris, but I felt it was irresponsible and embarrassing to market this lifestyle to everyone.

Mentor Profile

I found the English department with a black and white map ripped from a welcome packet. A week later I scoured its halls for a mentor. I’d been assigned to interview him or her. A gross presupposition had been made somewhere up the chain–namely that I had or could identify a mentor. Every staff member I knew was paid to teach me three hours a week. Asking one to be my mentor would be a slight reach.

I sat down in class on the first day of school and Dr. Pascha A. Stevenson handed me a syllabus. She was the first person I met, which would laker make her the frontrunner to be my mentor. When I began this semester, I was a non traditional transfer student from Los Angeles. I hadn’t been to Lincoln since 2012 and the last time I was here, I’d studied philosophy. I knew I didn’t know much about English. I didn’t know what made a dash “em”. I didn’t know semicolons were out of fashion. I didn’t know a literary magazine from a backlog of Home and Garden at my dentist’s office. And as if adapting to a new major wasn’t daunting enough, I was immediately tasked with interviewing a mentor. I skipped desperation and became emboldened by hopelessness.

I attended the office hours of my frontrunner, Pascha A. Stevenson, Dr. of Philosophy. We were writing creative non-fiction in her class and I didn’t know how to format dialogue. I came with questions for class and I came with an ambush. After she’d shored up my dialogue I asked if she would be my mentor. She said yes and I interviewed her with the precision of Charlie Rose having a hypoglycemic emergency. I learned this:

She attended twelve years of upper education–four years of undergraduate, two years of masters, and six years of PhD (concurrent with teaching). I asked about the merits and pitfalls of postgraduate studies. She told me it provides an academic structure and connection to peers and collegues with similar career aspirations. I asked if she enjoyed grad school and she told me she has no regrets and is happy with her career path. I asked if her career allows room for personal professional goals and she said yes, her career as a lecturer, while rewarding in its educational breadth, also affords her the opportunity to write. She has published literary articles, literary criticism, critical essays, creative nonfiction, and fiction.

I also learned she was a transplant. She began her academic career a theater major, and she was primarily an actor. I learned that success within English wasn’t only for lifers. I learned that there are opportunities for late addition, gametime decision English majors. She ran away from theater for employablity reasons, the same reason I emigrated from philosophy. 

With my newfound mentor and confidence in English studies, I set out to be an English student, and here I am, blogging like one.

http://www.unl.edu/english/pascha-sotolongo-stevenson

In Memoriam: My Career Fair

My performance at the career fair was average. I strung together world class inter-personal interactions, but my remedial professional vision hamstrung me as a job seeker. I made no progress past handshakes and a favorable first impression. Once it was time to talk aspirations, I was done impressing the pants off these people. My introductions were confident and to the point. I took business cards enthusiastically, looked recruiters in the eye, accepted their merch–all that stuff. But no amount of schmoozing could make up for for my unclear professional vision.

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Rare picture of English students near employers

I learned that a career fair is less exploratory than I had imagined. I  also learned it is best to deal in absolutes. I need to shore up my elevator speech. I need to be able to provide succinct answers to questions I might usually do five minutes on. I need to form committal responses to boilerplate questions. It is off putting to recruiters that I don’t know what I want to do next year.

I represented myself and the department with distinction. I showcased subjects and verbs that agreed with each other for my entire stay at the fair. Additionally I used root words and critical thinking to see through banker jargon and avoid a life of predatory refinancing. I sold english majors well and reminded each employer that behind every word they’ve ever read was a writer. I hammered it home that we are ubiquitous and indispensable. Unfortunately most of the recruiters were sales oriented and a writer would be better off speaking to HR/PR departments.

I learned about a fun creative internship at Firespring, department retail at Dillards, foreign diplomacy at the state department, and soul selling at the Koch booth. My lasting lesson is that jobs are not handed out to writers. I will need to pound some pavement.

Scraps of the Week 2/26

These scraps are my children. I created them much like God created his, but mine took longer to make and behave better. Like God, I test my children. I pit them against each other and pick favorites. These are the children I’ve chosen to kill publicly. I’ve put them here on display as a warning to my other children. It is not enough to be well made, you must serve a greater purpose. These selfish creations had no place in my grand scheme. Here they rest, in the body of this blogpost.

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“You didn’t fit with my thesis”

From a blogpost on speculative fiction:

Most movies need a director’s cut like Wes Welker needs a concussion. But the theatrical cut of Blade Runner needed to be revisited. There are 5 cuts of Blade Runner

  • The Workprint. (1982)
  • The Theatrical Cut. (1982)
  • The International Cut. (1982)
  • The Director’s Cut. (1992)
  • The Final Cut. (2007)

All of them feature coverage of Pan Am. Big Ridley had two chances to shy away from Pan Am after its collapse, and he did not. Why? Because he is not George Lucas. And because speculative fiction is not about predictions. It is about Current trends + time. This makes it fundamentally about the present. It is a place to sound warnings and magnify stakes.

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Big Ridley

From an essay on throwing: 

You just started hiking Solstice Canyon in Malibu Creek State Park. You brought an apple for the midpoint vista, but weak willed as you are, you’ve already finished the damn thing. Now you’ve either got to pitch it off the trail or carry it for the next 6 miles. You decide introducing a nonindigenous apple tree to Malibu Canyon is well worth being rid of the thing–so you pitch it off the trail. Did you put any air under it? Yeah, you did. You let it fly. You tossed it further than you had to. Why? Because throwing feels good.

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A hike for stoners of all ages

From a breakup text sent to my (ex)girlfriend the vegan:

I understand killing animals. Poor people do it to eat. The hungry can kill. They can poach. For all I care, they can eat cats. Some people have bigger problems than being nice to animals. Caring about where shampoos get tested, or the living conditions of chickens is as much a luxury as running water and toilet paper. PETA has no answer for a $1.99 pack of hot dogs.

On Pan Am and Speculative Fiction

Pan Am and Coke would endure all. Immutable and timeless and sea-to-shining-sea American, these institutions would last. As the last pillar of society fell to atom bombs, disease, and Old Testament climate change, there would be a Pan Am stewardess serving Coca-Cola to cockroaches and Keith Richards–who is unfazed and ambulatory. He uses his teeth to yank tight a vintage headscarf now tourniquet. He smokes expertly and mumbles for bourbon.

Pan Am was there in ‘68 to service Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey moon base.

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The Pan Am Space Clipper

Pan Am was there In Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner (1982). The 2019 Los Angeles skyline is foreign, imposing, and familiar. Its flying cars, Chinese stuff, and a big blue ad for Pan Am.

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Top Left

Are these movies less prescient because Pan Am ceased operations in 1991? Is the inclusion of Pan Am a miscalculation? Are flying cars and a moon base?

No.

Speculative fiction is not a place for futurists to measure dicks with predictions. It is a place to look at current trends + time.

Sf=Ct+T

The trend at the time of 2001: A Space Odyssey was aggressive space exploration. Accordingly there is a moon base and a sentient computer in deep space.

If Hal9000 had been placed on a space station in low earth orbit, the movie would hold up as clairvoyant–and would be entirely nonsensical. The trend in 1968 was AGGRESSIVE SPACE EXPLORATION. If follows that we would have a moon base and it would be serviced by the Pan Am Space Clipper.

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Kubrick  grossly overestimated airplane food

Speculative fiction is NOT about an accurate futurescape. It is about extrapolating current trends so that we may look closer at ourselves.

At the heart of speculative fiction are the most basic philosophical questions. The new setting serves as new space to process them. The Martix (1999) is a look at one of our oldest metaphysical questions. Are we a brain in a vat? 

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Ralph Cypher-etto is a good earner and wants to stay in The Matrix

Can artificial intelligence be human? Can a human love AI or a clone or an alien? Should we stop crime before it happens? Are happiness and suffering on a continuum? Is it okay to cull species? How should we treat our elderly and handicapped?

Recognize these questions? Of course you do. Because you understand that speculative fiction is not about futurism, but philosophy. So next time The Matrix fires a hot take into your goo pod, and you feel like saying “But the future isn’t like that”, maybe choke down that take and think about current trends. Then add time. Then watch the movie. Then enjoy your newfound perspective/much hotter take.

Book Report: Lord of War

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Nic Cage is some sort of Russian expat. He lives in New York. He cooks at his family’s restaurant, and his family pretends to be Jewish. Sooner rather than later, Nic Cage is a hard hitting international arms dealer. With his bro Jared Leto at his side, Nic pulls some crazy stunts in his rise to the top. Along the way, Ethan Hawke and the original Bilbo prove to be worthy adversaries, yet ultimately, they are bested.
Unfortunately sometimes the gun running game does hit back. At one point, Jared Leto dies (sawed in half by hollow points). That’ll happen if you bring your conscience to West Africa. Despite the Nic Cage voiceover this movie can be remarkably human. Its got some good acting, its got the Jeff Buckley version of Hallelujah, its got lessons, and its got super brief nudity.