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There are right and fruitful ways to try to ‘empathize’ with the reader, but having to try to imagine yourself as the reader is not one of them; in fact it’s perilously close to the dreaded trap of trying to anticipate whether the reader will ‘like’ something you’re working on, and both you and the very few other fiction writers you’re friends with know that there is no quicker way to tie yourself in knots and kill any human urgency in the thing you’re working on than to try to calculate ahead of time whether that thing will be ‘liked.’ It’s just lethal. An analogy might be: Imagine you’ve gone to a party where you know very few of the people there, and then on your way home afterwards you suddenly realize that you just spent the whole party so concerned about whether the people there seemed to like you or not that you now have absolutely no idea whether you liked any of them or not. Anybody who’s had that sort of experience knows what a totally lethal kind of attitude that is to bring to a party. (Plus of course it almost always turns out that the people at the party actually didn’t like you, for the simple reason that you seemed so inbent and self-conscious the whole time that they got the creepy subliminal feeling that you were using the party merely as some sort of stage to perform on and that you’d probably left without any idea whether you even liked them or not, which hurts their feelings and causes them to dislike you (they are, after all, only human, and they have the same insecurities about being liked as you do).)

David Foster Wallace, from the short story “Octet” in the DFW collection Brief Interviews With Hideous Men


I’m reading DFW.  Shocking, I know.

The Gravity trailer is a little too good.

Gravity TRAILER - Detached (2013) - Sandra Bullock Movie HD (by MovieclipsCOMINGSOON)

So here’s something I know to be true, although it’s a little corny, and I don’t quite know what to do with it:

What I regret most in my life are failures of kindness.

Those moments when another human being was there, in front of me, suffering, and I responded…sensibly. Reservedly. Mildly.

Or, to look at it from the other end of the telescope: Who, in your life, do you remember most fondly, with the most undeniable feelings of warmth?

Those who were kindest to you, I bet.

It’s a little facile, maybe, and certainly hard to implement, but I’d say, as a goal in life, you could do worse than: Try to be kinder.

George Saunders gives a convocation speech at Syracuse

Oh god, this guy.  Drink it in.

My 3 Favorite Shows of the Year So Far


A quick list before we get to Breaking Bad and other good stuff.

3. Orange is the New Black: The first truly addictive show that Netflix has had.  You will binge watch.  Also, Patty Mayonnaise is on the show, so yeah.

2. Mad Men: Two things remain constant: 1. The show is fucking great.  2. Don Draper has some issues.

1. Orphan Black: I made a vow this year to watch more sci-fi and have had some mixed results.  Falling Skies seems to alternate between being good, terrible, and mediocre.  Defiance was pretty bad.  Continuum is slightly above mediocre but never tries to do anything all that exciting.

Orphan Black though is the real deal.  It is crazy and super fun.  Tatiana Maslany is on her way to being a cult star I’d guess.  She plays different clones and yet you don’t really think while watching, “there’s an actress in different clothes, hair and makeup on the screen with herself.”  You think those are different people.  Cool stuff. 

Daft Punk - Doin' it Right

Suicide - Frankie Teardrop

Oh Frankie, Frankie

Vampire Weekend - Unbelievers

Have I mentioned that I dig the new Vampire Weekend?  I know, I’m surprised too.

The birds I feed seed every morning
never thank me, I tell on them
to my mother, who I assume
raised them and everything
from pups. She’s begun to forget
why my voice shows up in her ear
each week, let alone
what the real name of this ruby-
throated-whatsit is, it’s hard
to help the dead be dead
before they are. Mourning

doves, cardinals, chickadees
strip the cupboard bare
in a matter of hours,
as tiny guillotines cut each leaf
from every tree, the leaves
fall orange & brown, a muted rainbow
arting-up the forgiveness
of October air, which smells naked,
new, and accepts the shape
of everything in its mouth. She asked

the other day how my day was,
I told her, she asked again,
as if I hadn’t answered
or slept in the rumpus-room
of her womb. Do you ever look
at a crust of bread and wonder
if that’s God, if the quiet
that lives there is the same hush
we become? I never do too,
but is it, and why are we dragging
these anvils behind us?

"The days are getting longer" by Bob Hicok

This Bob Hicok guy is pretty good at the poetry.

A great day

I have seen the black sheets laid out like carpets
under the trees, catching the rain

of  olives as they fell. Also the cerulean brightness
of   the one covering the bad roof

of  a neighbor’s shed, the color the only color
inside the winter’s weeks. Another one

took the shape of   the pile of   bricks underneath.
Another flew off the back of a truck,

black as a piano if a piano could rise into the air.
I have seen the ones under bridges,

the forms they make of sleep. I could go on
this way until the end of the page, even though

what I have in my mind isn’t the thing
itself, but the category of   belief that sees the thing

as a shelter for what is beneath it.
There is no shelter. You cannot put a tarp over

a wave. You cannot put a tarp
over a war. You cannot put a tarp over the broken

oil well miles under the ocean.
There is no tarp for that raging figure in the mind

that sits in a corner and shreds receipts
and newspapers. There is no tarp for dread,

whose only recourse is language
so approximate it hardly means what it means:

He is not here. She is sick. She cannot remember
her name. He is old. He is ashamed.

Tarp by Rick Barot (via Poetry)

Too good.

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