brothercyst: May 2009

Sunday, May 31, 2009


After an extremely sunny day and lunch at Stone Park, I came home and fell asleep for a three hour nap, thus missing a good portion of the afternoon sun and some valuable working time, but whatever, I've been an unproductive slug for the past two days anyway.

In my dream, I was an old, grouchy museum worker at a museum made almost entirely of marble. The museum had something to do with the history of cartoons and animation, which was a secret history and not as straightforward as everyone thought--cartoon characters were strange creatures that had first existed in the real world but been subjected to some process that transformed them into what we know from TV and movies. Attached to the museum was a cemetery that was enclosed by high walls and a glass gate. I would have my lunch there. Whenever anyone entered the cemetery, they would shout, "Come real!" to tell all the gargoyles and so forth to stop moving around and become inanimate stone so that people could enter.

Then a person brought me a small, silvery toad in a vial. I looked more closely at it (it was huddled against the glass trembling or quivering very slightly that way small animals do when they breathe) and saw that it was like the grub form of Bugs Bunny. We opened the vial and it leapt out and started bouncing off the walls of the cemetery and squirming and struggling around. It was divisible and recombinant (are those the correct words? i'm not going to bother to look them up right now) like mercury. It was also sometimes stretchy like silly putty and sticky like blue sticky tack. Sometimes when you looked close, it would be making ridiculous faces. It tried to get out the glass doors and escape the cemetery, but I caught it. Everyone was watching.


Today, for an hour, I had a gross mustache.

Saturday, May 30, 2009


Enter the Void teaser.

EVA: Short film by Noe featuring model Eva Herzigova. Uncomfortable/erotic/touching/calming/disturbing?

EVA 2: Even more so.

FWIW, Gaspar Noe also made one of the most horrifying anti-meat commercials I've ever seen by filming the slaughter of a horse. I'm not going to embed it because it's too unpleasant, but it's here.

Friday, May 29, 2009


Who tried to use my credit card to buy a bunch of stuff at a Victoria's Secret in New Jersey?

Ugh, I'm going to the bank.

I read Nobody Move by Denis Johnson, which wasn't bad, and just bought Four Freedoms by John Crowley, which I'm excited to read. Up late every night this week writing. Some people are seriously dragging their feet on some shit and I'm getting annoyed. Things are out in the world, action must be taken. BEA is happening, entities are having events, I don't have time to go to anything, I don't have time to do really much of anything anymore.

When I used to review books for the NY Sun, I'd send in a review and it would appear in the paper literally within 48 hours. I want publishing books and short stories to feel like that.

Rainy malaise all week and now suddenly the sun's out, maybe it'll stay out for the weekend? After last weekend I looked like a Mayan.

What is a cheap island to live on?

I haven't looked at grants or writer's colonies in a while and I started thinking about it this morning. I really should do that; some let you stay for two straight months.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009


I forgot! I'm doing a reading tonight at KGB for elimae. I'll be reading for like one minute. It's a marathon reading featuring "Shya Scanlon, Lincoln Michel, Rozalia Jovanovic, Kimberly King Parsons, Justin Taylor, Nicolle Elizabeth, Tao Lin, Nick Antosca, Todd Zuniga, Dennis DiClaudio, John Madera, Timmy Waldron, Forrest Roth, Terese Svoboda, Barry Graham, Dawn Raffel, Sasha Grayboch, Eric Nusbaum, James Yeh, and more."


I finished reading The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, a YA novel about kids forced to hunt and kill each other in an arena. I was a bit lukewarm, I think, when I mentioned it before, but now that I've finished it, I have to say I'm super-impressed. A part of me wants to temper that praise by saying something like, "The writing on a sentence level was aimed at teenagers," but I realize that's not only a little condescending but not entirely true; what's more true is to say that the voice is that of a teenager, specifically one who hasn't had much in the way of an education. And given the plot, that's how it should be. So my instinct to criticize is inappropriate in that area. I do still take slight issue with how derivative the premise is of Battle Royale, but this is a fully imagined world and only the macro element is stolen from Royale, and if we all acknowledge that the one-line summary of a story isn't what makes that story good, then why should this be a problem?

The NY Times reviewer summed up my feelings:

The concept of the book isn’t particu­larly original — a nearly identical premise is explored in “Battle Royale,” a won­drously gruesome Japanese novel that has been spun off into a popular manga series.

Nor is there anything spectacular about the writing — the words describe the action and little else. But the considerable strength of the novel comes in Collins’s convincingly detailed world-building and her memorably complex and fascinating heroine.

The book has apparently been a bestseller and a huge success. I thought it was pretty gripping and badass and I wanted to read the sequel. Unfortunately I see that an ARC of it is on sale on eBay for ~$100.


There are five to seven different social groups in my day-to-day, week-to-week life (some of them overlap a little) and it has become clear to me that members of one particular social group have a baffling habit of offering various assistances/assurances unprompted, then not following through. ("Oh, you're in need of X? Actually, it just so happens I have, or know someone who has, the resources to help you out with that. Be sure to email me, and I'll give you all the info/help you out." Email then is met with silence, incompetence, or a reversal.) This is limited to a single social group with common characteristics. After consideration, I feel like background must be a contributing factor. A life of parentally-subsidized leisure leads to sloth, unreliability, and pasty bellyfat.


I want to go to California. Badly. I'm sitting at my desk drinking some sor tof cheap sparkling wine, contemplating my likely fate. I haven't driven a car in years. I need money.

Sunday, May 24, 2009


John Crowley's new novel Four Freedoms comes out in two days. I'll get it when it does. Looks promising.

Spent much of yesterday in parks, sunning myself and reading, until a droplet of rain struck my scalp late this afternoon.

Gaspar Noe's Enter the Void is pretty close to the top of the list of movies I want to see.

Surprising, exciting winners at Cannes. Haneke gets the Palme D'or! Park gets the Jury Prize! Christopher Waltz (who?) from Inglourious Basterds gets Best Actor. I want to see all these, too, very badly.

I'm reading a YA novel now called The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. It's Battle Royale. But I do love the scenario of the schoolkids forced to play a game of death on TV, so it's entertaining. And although the writing is eh, the story seems well-built (so far) and it's pretty entertaining.

Friday, May 22, 2009


I have a couple short stories in the works. And a short short should be on a website in a week or two. Two, I think.

The sun is drunk-sun outside. So vivid today. I'm about to go to work. Still dealing with apartment stuff. The best thing would be if I could stay in my current apartment. Anyone want to live here/be my roommate? You could either have a huge bedroom for ~$1299 or a small bedroom for like $799. (I have the middle bedroom.) Either way you get a building with a free gym and roof terrace and so forth.

I'm going to "think positive thoughts."


Terminator: Salvation: Not bad, actually. I thought it was interesting that John Conner/Christian Bale isn't, in fact, the main character. It's the other guy, whose story is much more interesting, and who's played by a lantern jaw, Sam Worthington, with pretty okay skills as an actor.


This made me laugh. Zach Cregger's face is great.

Sunday, May 17, 2009


God, I wish were at Cannes this year. In addition to the fact that films by some of my favorite directors are playing--new ones by Michael Haneke, Gaspar Noe, Tarantino, Alejandro Amenabar, and a vampire movie by Park Chan-Wook--it appears that a film by one of my least favorite directors has atrociously bombed. Wow.

And Time reviews the Park Chan-wook movie.

Saturday, May 16, 2009


My friend who is a doctor already gave me some particularly helpful advice on this, but I am interested in input from all over. What are some drugs that increase suggestibility and/or would make it easier to hypnotize someone? (For a story, obviously.) In addition to LSD. Email me with thoughts.

Monday, May 11, 2009

What the

Why are hundreds of people coming to this blog by googling some variation of "craiglist m4g" today?

UPDATE: Eric Shonkwiler figured it out:


Royal Air Maroc is a fantastic airline. They serve whiskey for free, let you change to empty seats, and have pretty good food. And they are fast.


The taxis in Casablanca are tiny, blue, and old. We got in one and asked for 'Hotel Guynemer,' where we had a room booked. The driver said, "American? Very good! Obama!" We said, "Yes, yes, Obama!" and then he said, "Bush!" at which point we sensed a little insincerity in his enthusiasm. Then he produced a dirty white bottle, unscrewed the cap, and shook some brown powder on his wrist, which he snorted. As we stared, alarmed, he handed the bottle to us. When in Rome, right?

[video of taxi-cab powder-snorting deleted]

But it became increasingly clear he didn't know where our hotel was, or where the street was. He kept asking things we couldn't understand, and saying higher dirham amounts that the ride would cost us. A little woozy/lightheaded, we kept repeating the street name. "Osama bin Laden," he muttered darkly. We drove another half block. "Do you have any idea where this place is?" I said. "Osama bin Laden," he said a little louder. "Fine, let us out," I said, tapping the window. He stopped and demanded eighty dirham (far more than the original quote). "You didn't even take us anywhere," I said, and gave him twenty. He seemed pretty pissed off.


In Casablanca there's the third biggest mosque in the world, the Hassan II mosque. It is a temple to Mammon, not Allah. In the 1990s, the king spent $800 million in taxpayer money building it. The city around it is in utter disrepair, with starving cats in the street and heaps of trash and cat-like junkies skulking around late at night asking you in broken, hissed English if you want to drink or smoke, and then calling you an American devil if you tell them no.

We tried to take a tour of the mosque but were told that there were no more. Then a tour walked right by us, so we quietly joined it and no one noticed. It went down into the underground guts of the mosque, and then we slipped away and started walking around. Eventually a monkish guy in robes and fez approached us. We thought we were in a bit of trouble, but he just kindly showed us around, into beautiful, echoing empty halls with low ceilings and everything made of marble. When we eventually tried to leave, the guy just put up his hand and made the universal symbol for money--fingertips rubbed together. Everything for sale.


From the roof of our hotel in Casablanca, we saw motorcycle cops stopping a group of teenagers, throwing them up against a wall, searching them, demanding to see their papers.


The best time in Casablanca was waiting for a train to Marrakesh at 6 am across the street from the train station. The cafe was filled with Moroccan men--each man sitting alone at a table, drinking cafe au lait and eating a chocolate croissant. In Morocco they put sugar on everything. We ate and drank quietly for a long time. As the sun came up, some men gathered at a table in front of the cafe, beside our window. The waiter came out and stared at them menacingly. Then he lunged forward and began to tickle one man's mustache. The others began to tickle him, too. The waiter came back inside and the men continued talking, occasionally tickling each other's mustaches.


The medina in Marrakesh was hot, vivid, and dwarfed by the sky above it. The tanneries are filled with little dogs and interesting aromas.


There's very little hygiene in the country. In the markets, they put their hands all over the food before they give it to you. The people are very short. The doorways are even shorter. I hit my skull like ten fucking times.


The salade Marocain--just tomatoes and spice--is delicious. The tajine, their staple stew, is also good. The chickens, cooked on spits all over the place and covered in spice, are great. The pancakes with soft cheese are great. The doughnuts are brilliant and virtually free.


After Marrakesh, we went to Essaouira, a beach city within walls. We arrived late at night and entered the walls of the city. Even the central street was dark, close, overwhelming. We had no idea where we were or how to find Hostel Essaouira, where we intended to stay.

We turned down several streets, each one darker and narrower and emptier than the last. The streets inside the walled city don't feel like streets, they feel like hallways. You're essentially in a huge building that has no roof. Kids and men constantly come up to you asking where you're going. They want to show you--then demand money for showing you. Everybody wants your money, and they want it intensely.

A kid began leading us to Hostel Essaouira. When one scavenger picks up a quarry, other scavengers notice and try to glom on. So we quickly had more kids, and young men, following us. We went down more dark alleys, completely lost. Very narrow, with high walls, the middle of the night. No one in sight except drugged-out junkies and skinny cats. The kids were trying to sell us hashish. There were a lot of them behind us so it would have been very difficult to turn back the way we'd come. We couldn't even see their faces. For the first time on the trip, I was worried about our safety.

Then we come to a dead end. There's a little door in one of the walls. A hobbit door. Above it, in what looks like crayon, is a faint scrawl: "Hostel Essaouira." The crowd is clustering in on us, murmuring, some of them holding their hands out. If you give one money, you have to give them all money, or they're all over you. We rap on the door. It opens.

A dizzyingly gorgeous girl peers out. "Hillo," she says in a strong New Zealand accent. "Git in." We duck in, amazed, and she shuts the door behind us. We're in some kind of dream place. There's a living room with red couches, a bar, a sort of lounge with curved more sofas centered around a widescreen LCD TV, a small courtyard with a big green tree, a spiral staircase heading up several stories... The beautiful New Zealand girl, whose name is Theresa, takes our bags and makes us tea. She and her friend are travelers, too. The guy who runs the hostel comes back with his sanguine little dog and shows us the beers ($2 each) in the fridge and shows us our rooms, which are on the penthouse, which has an open air deck and a barbecue. There's no one else up there, it's all ours. I said, "We're staying here for a while." And we stayed there for the rest of the trip.


The food is tasty in Essaouira. I ate a lot of sardines. All kinds of sardines. Stuffed, grilled, on pizza, whatever.

We sat on the beach. I'm tan as fuck. I want that epitaph on my grave:

Tan As Fuck

We drank a lot. We met some smart, funny Dutch girls on the beach and then drank with them on a rooftop. We drank on our own on our roof. I bought a lot of loose Moroccan shirts that feel amazing. We met a cool Scottish guy and hung out with him. We met an intelligent, ambitious Moroccan guy named Ajou and hung out with him.

The kids there--it's sad. We met two different kinds of kids. Poor kids and not-poor kids. One night we were eating outdoors at a cafe. They'd brought us some french fries with our meal. A little kid came up and tried to sell us tissues, which is what they do constantly. We waved him away. He stared at our table and said, "french fry." So we gave him some--handed them to him because he was filthy and it didn't seem like a good idea to let him touch the plate. Then he sat at the next table and ate and watched us. Other kids gathered. The first kid suddenly lunged and grabbed a handful of fries from our plate. Russell instinctively grabbed his arm and the kid screamed in terror and then ran away, shouting, "Fuck you!" The kid was maybe seven or eight. The other kids hovered ominously, then gradually dispersed.

Another day, we were on a fort and there was a field trip of Moroccan kids there. They looked well taken care of. They spoke French and a little English in addition to Arabic. They wanted to talk to us and practice their English. When they learned our names, they kept shouting them and crowding around us, asking for our phone numbers and telling us, "America... is... verygood!" I think they were from the suburbs outside the walls of the city.


The single best experience of the trip was the hammam at Lalla Mira, a place in Essaouira. Hammam is amazing. We went into a dark, tiled room with low, arched ceilings. It was full of steam. We were in boxer shorts. There were two burly Moroccan guys in their underwear, pouring hot water everywhere. We sat there in the steam and heat for a while and then they motioned us over and poured water on us that was so hot it felt cold. It feels terrifying at first, then incredible. Then they rubbed some kind of spices all over us and let us lay there for a while. It's a surreal experience. The echoes, the guys chattering in Arabic. They're in there for hours--that's their job--and they're constantly pouring the burning water all over themselves, too, to clean themselves off. Then they poured more hot water all over us. Then they scrubbed the fuck out of us and massaged us. Then more hot water. Then freezing cold water. It takes about an hour. Then we went outside again. You feel fucking amazing. We did it twice.

Sunday, May 10, 2009


Yes, I am. And soon I'll write some things about Morocco, land of feral children, walled cities, and pretty New Zealanders. But right now I'm sick and exhausted.

Tobias Wolff reads Denis Johnson's great story 'Emergency.'

While I was away, the Hipster Book Club reviewed Midnight Picnic.

I saw Star Trek.  The character stuff was good.  A pleasure to watch.  Ready to see a sequel.

I read On Beauty while in Morocco. Came away with the impression that it was a sloppy book full of squandered dramatic opportunities, and the characters were thin and nasty.

Also re-read Prep. Still find it sweet, funny, well-written.

Saturday, May 02, 2009


I'm going to Morocco in about 36 hours. I'll be back on May 10th. I'll probably have access to computers and blogs and whatnot while there. We'll see.

Also, I love Eminem's new song and the video for it. Note the "it puts the lotion in the basket" reference.

Here are some titles of possible upcoming projects. (Some are potential titles for the same project; I'm not writing/planning eight things right now.) What do you like and what do you hate? And why?

The Arm Garden


Druid Summer

Laura's Children


Body Armor Boulevard

The Martian Colors

Gallows Country


Friday, May 01, 2009


Wow, this looks really, really cool. Love the pixelization.

Also, Kati pointed out this interesting article about variations in the swine flu.

Also, The Informers sucks. Just (re)read the book.