brothercyst: September 2006

Friday, September 29, 2006

In my dream last night a very popular film came out and contained a scene where something really bad happened to someone--I'm not sure what it was but it happened in a grocery store line and was done by a person in a Phantom of the Opera mask and was very violent. Everyone saw this movie and couldn't stop talking about it. Finally I went to see it. Then I saw that I was the person in the movie to whom the bad thing happened. I kept saying, "That's me, can't you see that? This movie is a threat! They're saying that's going to happen to me!" But people didn't believe me.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

I also dream that I go to a subway station and the train doesn't come and the crowd is full of people with ugly faces.

having strange dreams

Man, I am having the strangest dreams lately. A lot of my dreams involve me having to crawl through very small spaces--like the house I live in will have a door the height of my knees and I'll have to crawl through it every day while wearing a backpack--or walk down extremely rickety staircases. In one dream, 50 Cent was performing outside the window of a house while I had to walk down a crazy staircase inside. I also dream a lot about big dogs, usually swimming or just staring.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Tao Lin writes about his life as a hamster.

Tao and I were roommates in New York for a while; now he lives in Florida and angers people with his blog.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

The brash but now charmingly domesticated (by his girlfriend) Marty Beckerman was in town yesterday from D.C., so naturally we went to see Jackass Number Two. Marty and I are pretty different writers but we've known each other for a while now and get along well, despite intense political differences in the past. I'm looking forward to his next rambunctious book, whenever it comes out (Simon and Schuster utterly screwed him over and he's looking for a new publisher). Jackass Two has a guy sticking a fishhook through his cheek and jumping in shark-infested waters. Anaconda bites look painful. The elderly people skits always make me laugh the hardest. We went to Brooklyn and got lost a little; that was kind of painful as well. Also we saw a terrible martial arts movie about magic elephants or something. Good times.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Crowley news

The 25th Anniversary Edition of John Crowley's Little, Big from Incunabula is confirmed. It is a subscription edition and the tremendous cost meant they wouldn't produce it unless a lot of people signed up first. A lot of people did, including me, and now it is going to happen.

The "Trade Edition" ($95, 1,800 copies, I ordered one) and "Numbered Edition" ($250, 300 copies) are not completely sold out and people can still order them at the first site linked to above. The "Lettered Edition" ($900, jesus christ, only 26 copies) is sold out.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

...

Man, Modern Times is such a terrific album. Sublime--and far better than the last two, which were good but not great. "Workingman's Blues #2" is fast becoming one of my favorite Dylan songs ever. Tracks 2, 8, 9, and 10: also stellar.

Modern Times and The Greatest are my favorite albums of recent years, I think.

***

Internet denizens will often seize upon some offhand sentence in a "mainstream media" article and use it to both attack the author and to ostensibly demonstrate the breadth of their own intellects. Here's a particularly baffling example. Notice this guy's list of "experimental fiction"--which includes such formalistically radical books as The Corrections, Underworld, and CivilWarLand in Bad Decline. His list serves as evidence against his own argument.

Monday, September 18, 2006

weekend

Although I woke up with a sore throat this morning, this past weekend had to be the best time I've had all year. Pure hedonism from beginning to end. Indifference to consequences. There's carnal pleasure in spending money carelessly. Late Saturday night EJ and I were in Central Park and there was a convention of police dogs. I'm just stating a fact: there was a convention of police dogs. Before that we ate an exhausting amount of sushi and oysters. On Sunday morning we had a breakfast of lobster bisque, crepes, eggs norwegian, hazelnut waffles, creme brulee, and sorbet. Last night we ate more. I'm reading a good book although I didn't read any of it this weekend.

Sunday afternoon on Spring Street a woman took pictures of us with an antique camera and we bought two of them. Here's a glamorous-looking one. The photo is so fuzzy and softened that you can't even tell I'm wearing glasses.



Tonight, of course, I am reading with other Impetus authors at KGB. If you're reading this you probably got the email about it. Either way you're invited. Should be interesting.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

I forgive Brooklyn

I've been feeling very irritated with certain aspects of New York in the last 36 hours.

Last night and this morning I went to
Brooklyn Book Festival events.

The first one was a reception last night prior to the Festival. It was in DUMBO, Brooklyn, in a place called the Tobacco Warehouse. I have a preexisting contempt for this venue for reasons related to my day job that I won't go into here. It is a ruined old warehouse with no roof that sits under a bridge--a place only trolls should go, really. To get there I only had to go one or two stops into Brooklyn, but it still took me an hour because the area is not clearly described on maps (at least the ones I found on the internet) and pedestrians were giving me the wrong information. I walked around for maybe half an hour before I found it, which doesn't sound so awful, except that it was pouring rain and the wind was slashing around and beating up my frail little umbrella and I was wearing jeans that seemed to be made from sea sponges and the streets all had violent little ponds in them. And as I trudged around, looking at my increasingly sodden map but unwilling to give up because after all I had come to Brooklyn already (it is a great distance psychologically if not geographically), my mind was chanting, "I hate being in Brooklyn. I hate being in Brooklyn. I hate being in Brooklyn. "

Please understand that I am not insulting the people of Brooklyn or those who love it. It is simply a matter of taste, like hating Indian food (which I do). Brooklyn has always reminded me of the bland, low cities in Maryland near the place where I mostly grew up. Or even Bayonne, New Jersey. It looks to me like Nowhere In Particular. I don't like the skyline and the hipster infestation only reinforces my bias.

The event itself, location notwithstanding, was cool and I enjoyed myself. Lots of food, nice people to talk to, etc.

Then this morning I woke up and it was time to go to the festival itself, mostly because I wanted to talk to the good people of Impetus, who had a table there and were selling Hollywoodland and The Dream Sequence. After convincing myself to actually go, I stepped out of the train station at Borough Hall and the weather was beautiful. My destination was immediately in sight and there was no chance of getting lost. Everything was bright and warm and the area kind of actually looked like 14th St.-Union Square. I felt great. I immediately and ashamedly forgave Brooklyn for the previous night.

***

On a more general note, the MTA is a wretched and infuriating organization. I tried to get a downtown 6 train from 33rd St. today, only a few hours ago, and found myself waiting for almost thirty minutes. (Fucking unreliable bastards...you wouldn't see this shit happen in Seoul, dammit.) Finally I went back up to the street to try and get a cab. But there weren't any to be found. So I descended into the subway again just as the train was pulling in. I tried to swipe my card but for some reason (although it is unlimited ride) it wouldn't work. There was no time to fuck around or I'd be waiting another hour or something. So I jumped the turnstile. I heard a guy, presumably an MTA employee, yell behind me, but I was already jumping on the train just as the doors closed. Fucking assholes. If the MTA were a single person, I would want to kick him repeatedly in the throat and genitals.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

about to sleep, but

I'd like to note that I just got a quick look at the rough cover for Fires, and it is fucking killer.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Cat Power good, Irving Plaza bad

Last night: Cat Power concert at Irving Plaza. At the end, when the concert seemed to be over, she kept singing and they lowered a screen down in front of her face while she was still singing, blocking her from the audience. She peered around it and continued to sing for a minute or two, but to Irving Plaza I say: very poorly handled, my friends.

Chan Marshall herself: all smiles. Backed up by the Memphis Blues Band. Her voice in terrific shape. On-stage freakouts of the kind about which I'd been warned in advance were not to be seen (no squirrel-chasing), and her childishly inept twitch-dancing was actually pretty sexy. Without the band, she played about four songs combined into one on piano, starting out on "I Found a Reason" and wandering into the others. Then the band returned and "Naked if I Wanted To" became "Nude as the News" and, later on, a seemingly spontaneous cover of "Satisfaction." Then the band started leaving and she began to sing "Crazy" by Gnarls Barkley, which is a much, much better (and less annoying) song when sung by Cat Power.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

strange dream involving "water tigers" and my past

Sometimes I write down my dreams right after I wake up, and this one was so vivid and odd, I think I'll post it:

9/10/06: In the dream I was about 18 or 19. My family went to visit the home of some people we've been friends with for a long time (in "real life" they were our neighbors when I was very young). I'll call them Dave and June. In the dream they had a kid who was about my age (this kid was also someone I used to know outside of the dream, although he was not the son of our neighbors). The home where we went to visit them was out in the woods, newly built. It seemed to be just outside of Houston, Texas. We walked around in the forest with them outside their house. The other kid, whose name was Evan, was saying rather menacing things to me. I couldn't get rid of the feeling that I was in serious danger. There were three dogs around us, all of them large and brindled, like pit bull mixes, but bigger than pit bulls. Then the father, Dave, took out a massive gun--it was a gun the size of that huge rifle the villain uses at the end of Robocop. (This is based I think on an incident from my childhood where I went over to our neighbors' house--the same neighbors featured in the dream--and he showed me an unbelievable collection of weaponry. I was about seven, I think. He worked for the government and had a small arsenal in his home, including assault rifles that it would be unthinkable for a regular citizen to own.) He fired this massive rifle at a patch of ground some distance away. It blasted a little crater in the earth, and in the crater a sort of jellyish skin formed. It was a little bigger around than a manhole cover and it was slightly stiff, so that when I went to retrieve it and pick it up, it retained its shape. It was like a giant, thick contact lens.

I lifted it up to the sky and looked through it. It distorted colors and the sky was purple--it was like being in a swimming pool and looking up at the sky from underwater. Then something happened--I entered what seemed to be a dream within the dream. To the best of my knowledge this has never happened to me before. In the dream within the dream, I was still in the woods outside Houston Texas. But something very bad was going to happen. The sky was dark and when I looked into the distance there was a mountain covered in yellow grass and a dog or a man (I can't remember) was standing on the top of it, looking at me. Either the dog was very dark and brindled or the man was wearing a long dark fur coat. Whatever it was had glowing eyes that had no white, they were just pupils. I started to run. Whatever it was was chasing me. I ran toward a concrete compound that seemed to be in the desert, and it changed into a rock formation that was like a rock formation I remember climbing on with my dad as a little kid. Then I realized that I was being chased not through physical space but through a landscape of my own memories. This thing that was chasing me--it seemed at this point to be in the shape of a human being about my age--could leap very far. I could leap too, but not as far, so I had to try and outwit the thing. I ran across an open field but the thing was behind me and could go faster and was quickly closing the distance, so I ducked inside

a building that had many underground passageways. The building was the library I went to when I was young. I tricked the thing that was chasing me by doubling back many times, and when I emerged from the library I was in an idyllic field with a nice, shady tree. There was a naked, motionless woman, possibly a very realistic statue, holding a banner that said, "High School." That made me strangely relieved. I could feel that the thing was still chasing me, but it didn't know where I was.

Then I woke up from the dream within a dream. I was not awake in "reality" though, I was just in a shallower level of dreaming. In this part of the dream my family was in the news. Apparently while driving through Houston (in the dream, Houston was a coastal city, and driving through it you could look out your car window and see huge waves in the ocean) we had managed to kill something called a "water tiger" that lived in the ocean by booing at it. We didn't even know what a "water tiger" was. It turned out that it was a regular bulldog that had somehow become an aquatic creature. When we looked out on the ocean outside Houston, we could see bulldogs paddling around in the ten-story-tall waves. I wondered what they ate out there and then I saw a bored-looking one eat a floating kiwi fruit, and I wondered how many floating kiwi fruits there could really be in the ocean off the coast of Houston, Texas. It seemed that "water tigers" were very beloved to the people of Houston, and my little brother had booed at one, which somehow caused it to get covered in bloody scars and die, and then its carcass washed up on the beach, and the city of Houston was angry at our family.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Impetus interview at PopMatters

Pleasing: Impetus Press-masters Jennifer Banash and Willy Blackmore are interviewed here at PopMatters. Go read it. I'm about to. Also come to the reading on September 18th at KGB.

new Amis story

Martin Amis has a story about Muhammad Atta. He talked about this story a little bit at the New Yorker festival two years ago, but it sounded then like he was talking about novel. Or maybe I'm misremembering.

I keep trying to read it and somehow my eyes wander away and my brain goes numb after about five sentences.

Uh, somebody else read it and tell me if it's good.

I liked his story about the Saddam Hussein doubles , "In the Palace of the End," that came out a couple years ago.

Monday, September 04, 2006

The Shield is one of the best stories being told in the 21st Century

This post has nothing to do with novel-writing or novel-reading (although right now I'm rereading The Black Dahlia... more on that later, maybe). I want to ramble about the only TV show that I think is or has been great since the mid-nineties Simpsons.

The Shield, an hour-long police drama airing on the FX Network and set to begin its sixth season in a few months, is one of the most complex and profound American stories being told right now. Most TV sucks but a few writers in the last fifteen years have taken advantage of the unique long-form storytelling possibilities available in the medium. I watched the first two Shield episodes again last night at a friend's house and was reminded of how skillfully and with what affecting results the show's creator, Shawn Ryan, and staff writers have followed Faulkner's edict that "the young man or woman writing today" ought to explore "the old verities and truths of the heart...love and honor and pity and pride and compassion and sacrifice."

(And here I ought to note that crucial plot details lie ahead. Probably. This being blog-writing, it's off the top of my head.)

The Shield's
protagonist, Vic Mackey, is both a cop and a cop-killer. The show's pilot episode ends as he and another cop pull off the calculated murder of their new teammate. (And disturbingly enough, Mackey is no outright villain, no Tony Soprano character. Let me digress here and note that while I enjoy and respect The Sopranos, I feel it is vastly overrated. The Shield has it by the balls in every way. As The Sopranos has slowly declined in quality over the years, The Shield has increased, building to epic levels of betrayal and tension in the fourth and fifth seasons. Even in terms of daring content, The Shield comes out on top despite the constraints of appearing on basic cable. Nothing in The Sopranos, even Tony sawing off Ralphie's head, can compare to the scene in The Shield's third season where the proud and politically ambitious police captain David Aceveda is raped at gunpoint by a gangster. Or Mackey holding the child-rapist Armadillo's face to red-hot oven coils in season two. Or Anthony Anderson's drug lord murdering a little girl in season four and forcing two cops to watch--in one of the most powerful episodes of any show I've ever seen air on television.) That cop-on-cop murder was a bold way to launch the series, and while the issue seemed to be resolved after Mackey managed to cover it up, it returned with a vengeance in later seasons--when the intricacy of the show's narrative truly started to show through.

Indeed, it didn't really become apparent until the fourth season what a profound show The Shield was. (Fortunately, I started watching while the fourth season was underway and caught up on all the earlier seasons after the fourth concluded but before the fifth started. I never watch shows in their first season. Who knows if they'll end up sucking?) The first three seasons are powerful and entertaining, but only in the fourth do the intricate and tragic character arcs begin to curve downward. You start to realize that all these people are going to be destroyed for the things they've done. The stakes for everyone have gotten progressively higher as they build families and make allegiances, and some of the people who've participated in ugly things are genuinely good people, but in the end they're going to suffer.

The fifth season, which ended this spring, eschewed the one-case-per-episode formula of cop shows and instead worked basically as a miniseries (it's only ten episodes) about the noose slowly tightening around the necks of Vic and his three partners. Forrest Whitaker's insane season five performance as the sweaty, obsessed Internal Affairs investigator trying to turn Vic's men against each other was truly sublime. (In the penultimate episode he screams about Mackey to his superiors: "He's pissin' all over us! Okay? Do you feel that? What does that taste like to you? Because to me it tastes like piss.") The only guest performance that has rivaled Whitaker's is Anthony Anderson's (yes, the guy from Kangaroo Jack and Agent Cody Banks) in season four. Anthony Anderson, believe it or not, is a genuinely great actor. In The Shield, he was a ferociously brutal drug lord who stood on the neck of a crooked cop, took his gun, and used it to shoot a little girl in front of him--then buried the girl and the gun in an unknown spot to ensure the cop's loyalty.

The betrayal that ends the final episode of season five is one of the great character deaths in television, and it set up what ought to be a gleefully intense sixth season. I plead with Shawn Ryan and the show's writers not to chicken out (by allowing these guys to escape their seemingly inevitable fates) or drag the series on for too long. The story, as it left off, is at a feverish level. I'd rather see the writers produce ten more episodes at or near the level of the spectacular fifth season than thirty more episodes with the intensity dialed down a notch. Let them not pull an X-Files. A story this gripping and complex ought to flare out, not fade away.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Friday, September 01, 2006

I will now begin a period of ascetism, celibacy, and isolation.
Saw Victor Lavalle read on Tuesday night at KGB. He read half of an excellent short story about a troll following a man on a sightseeing trip through Iceland.

Not doing much. Sluggish. Watched, with mounting incomprehension, Little Black Book on HBO or Showtime or something. Brittany Murphy is short.