Be careful of how you use the carbon copy feature on email.
Be careful of how you use the carbon copy feature on email.
I recently finished reading Dead Souls (the David Magarshack translation) and I don’t know what to do now. I finished the unfinished novel today. I guess I’m still sitting with it, trying to process it.
I loved it and I’m happy that I read it but I’m really sad about finishing it because the book itself is incomplete and the story ends abruptly, with the hero, Chichikov being banished and Prince chastising his officers for being dishonest and stealing and something else that is only hinted at. I feel a sort of sadness that I will never get to finish the actual story and see what else Gogol had planned for Chichikov. We’ll never know if he changes his ways and makes good as a man of the earth, tilling his soil and living modestly, or if he continues on his roguish ways and finds himself in new predicaments in other parts of Russia.
I was gonna write a blog post about this but then I started writing a synopsis of the plot and no one needs to read that. Just read the book. It’s so good and so funny. It’s an old book or whatever but the ideas are all very relevant, and the way Gogol talks about society and class and social norms and trends is brilliant and hilarious. I’m probably going to re-read it so I can highlight the sections I laughed really hard at. I spent a lot of time reading this book in public and laughing out loud, like running on the treadmill and cracking up.
There was something that I kept thinking about while reading, however. I was very conscious of Gogol’s presence in the novel, his role as the narrator and the narrator’s commentary on his observations and the craft of writing itself. There was also plenty of commentary on the part of the characters who spoke of the nonsense “scribblers” put out into the world, books that made people want luxuries and to live beyond their means. How education corrupts and spoils. Dead Souls isn’t just a novel and it isn’t just a parable and it isn’t just social commentary and it isn’t just an epic poem about an immoral man. It is all of those things and it also feels super personal. It feels like a perfect novel, even though it is unfinished.
The funny thing about reading an older piece of literature is trying to talk about it with other people in a normal conversation. It’s like that stand-up piece about watching Heat. I think of that piece a lot because I tend to catch onto films and albums after everyone else is already over them. It’s funny to try to talk with someone about a movie that you just saw and are excited about even though it came out 20 years ago, but it’s an even stranger experience dropping a Penguin Classic into casual conversation.
Do you know how many times a man has done something to me that I didn’t want him to do– even something as “little” as sitting next to me on a park bench and imposing his conversation on me– without me knowing how to say no or tell him to go away, because I was afraid of “hurting his feelings.” Like literally afraid to say anything that would upset him because I was afraid of him reacting badly. Boyfriend, stranger, there are different tactics involved but it’s about trickery and getting power over another person, against their will or by silencing them into submission out of fear.
Louis CK, like a lot of men, abused his power.
I posted the above on facebook and it has received a generally positive response, but there has been some of the usual victim blaming that we commonly see whenever topics like this come up. That’s not really abuse, why didn’t they just walk away, why didn’t they just say no, are you equating men attempting to talk to you on a park bench with sexual harassment? This is such a lazy line of thinking, but really it is part of the fabric of our society to dismiss women’s feelings and for men to abuse their power.
Regarding the park bench. I was 19 years old. It was a sunny day in Philadelphia and I decided to walk to Rittenhouse Square to read the book I was reading at the time for a few hours before I had to go to work. I found an unoccupied park bench and sat down and took the book I was reading at the time out of my bag. I enjoy reading in public because it’s a change of scenery and being in a different environment to do something, like read a book or work on a piece of writing, kind of gives me the extra oomph to make use of the time and not dawdle. When I’m at home I procrastinate too much, I start cleaning or I take a nap or something when I mean to be working. But I can’t do those things when I’m sitting in a park.
Anyway, I was on the bench by myself for maybe 30 minutes when a man approached my bench and sat down next to me. He was an older man and I didn’t pay him any mind, I just kept reading my book, fully engaged with the text and wanting to read as much as I could before having to go to work where I would stand for seven hours checking out people’s groceries and making small talk. I am a person who loves silence and quiet time, so that’s what I was trying to do in my time before clocking in. Then the guy started talking to me. He asked me what book I was reading and then proceeded to talk a lot about himself and his romantic interests in women. I was confused and felt frozen and was very creeped out by the whole interaction.
At first I tried just nodding my head in response to whatever he said and go back to reading, but he couldn’t take a hint and he wouldn’t leave me alone. He realized that he had a captive audience and he was making full use of it. He told me a lot of personal, uncomfortable details about himself, and I, as a 19 year old girl who has been conditioned by society to not rattle anyone’s cage and just accept and try to politely defuse the situation, wasn’t exactly sure what to say or do. I felt paralyzed. I was super uncomfortable with the conversation and I did not talk back. I wanted to be left alone but I didn’t know how to express it. He was older than me. He was bigger than me. I was supposed to be respectful.
I still think about this day and wish I had said, “can you please leave me alone, I’m reading” as I would if this had happened to me yesterday. These days I am more likely to speak up when a man is making me uncomfortable, but still there are times when I feel fearful and try to play it safe and get out of the situation stealthily, even if it does leave some lasting negative imprint on me.
Eventually, after an hour or more of listening to this guy, I had to go to work, so I got up and left. I was so angry. I was angry at him for wasting my time, angry that I subjected myself to listening to a bunch of boring stories about his sex life and whatever else garbage he talked about instead of getting to read the book that I was reading at the time, angry that I had to go to work and felt shaken, tight from anxiety, but mostly angry at myself for not just walking away. I still wonder why I didn’t just get up and walk away sooner, but something about his demeanour made me feel unsafe. Even though we were in a public space full of other people, I was afraid of angering him or making him feel foolish.
Some time later, maybe a year or maybe it was just a few months later, or maybe these two incidents happened around the same time, but one day when I was at work, checking people’s groceries out and making small talk, a commotion was heard outside and cop cars arrived. A woman was beaten to death outside of our store by a man who she went to school with. He had feelings for her which she did not return, and after being rejected he followed her and battered her to death. Because she rejected him. Women fear for their lives, men fear rejection. This is literally ingrained in our society, it’s in the jokes that get made. Dismissing women, treating women as less than human, controlling women, hurting women, killing women, it’s all part of the same power structure and ignoring the smaller occurrences make treating the larger incidents more difficult. When we don’t believe women, when we dismiss their trauma, it’s feeding into this power structure.
So to conclude, no, I do not equate a man attempting to talk to me on a park bench with sexual harassment, but they are both acts of misogyny, casual or forced, they both perpetuate the same social illness. I offered you the park bench story because it is an example of one of the small ways the power structure is abused by men every day.
A while ago, around when Donald Trump was elected, someone on social media made a joke saying something like “Lana Del Rey is an Obama-era luxury we can’t afford anymore.” At first I scoffed, because I don’t think all art needs to directly address the issues currently plaguing society, that sometimes it’s okay to just listen to a pop record about breaking hearts and missing people and getting high on the beach. But I also kind of agreed: does the world really need another LP of torch holding anthems when our rights are up for grabs?
I wonder if somehow this message got through to Lana Del Rey, because her new album Lust For Life seems like a concerted effort was made to incorporate ideas about politics and recent events. The album as a whole is less internally gravitating than her previous albums, which I could equate to relationship-driven short story collections. Lust For Life has Lana looking outwardly, asking questions about the state of the world, and kind of shaking her head at what she’s seeing.
Let me just say really quick: I had no idea this album was coming out the same week my Born To Die by Lana Del Rey inspired poetry collection (My Posey Taste Like: The Paradise Lost Edition) became available for pre-sale from Bottlecap Press. It feels like kismet and I’m cool with that. Lol plug done, let me talk about this album.
Lust For Life is a very summery album, it sounds like summer and everything you associate with that: fleeting romance, vague longing, warmth that wraps you. The sounds engulf you in an atmosphere you slowly and carefully move heavily through, as if in a dream or underwater. I’m imagining wading in a swimming pool, dunking my head under the surface and listening to the soft muffling of being completely surrounded but not swallowed up, as if by sunshine, as if by salty ocean air.
Lust For Life has 17 tracks and I don’t think they all belong. Some of the tracks just don’t fit as well as the others, so I made a playlist and only included the songs from the album that I thought really thematically worked together. This is my mood album:
Track 9: “Coachella- Woodstock In My Mind” gahh, corny song about thinking about all the children and poor people in the world while watching Father John Misty, probably, swing his hips on stage at an overpriced outdoor music festival *skip* Though I must admit I’ve caught myself humming the melody while riding my bike. The melody is good.
Track 10: “God Bless America- And All The Beautiful Women In It” another corny-trying-too-hard-to-be-socially-conscious song. Like I get what she’s saying, I guess, but I don’t think it’s that good and I don’t even like the beat. But like give me a week or two and this might end up being my favorite song. But maybe not. I can’t really tell right now. I’m listening to it now and I’m enjoying the vocals underneath the main vocals, the ad libs. I used to hate the song “West Coast” off Ultraviolence but now it’s one of my favorites. I’m too judgmental maybe.
Track 12: the Stevie Nicks feature “Beautiful People, Beautiful Problems” isn’t too horrible, and I think it’s actually growing on me, but it breaks my soft-drown vibe so it’s off my playlist.
Track 13: “Tomorrow Never Came” the Sean Ono Lennon filler. FILLER. Okay, good that you got John and Yoko’s kid on your record but does anyone listen to his music or give a shit about his artistic career? I don’t think so. And this song just isn’t very good. Who waits for someone on a park bench in the pouring rain besides sadass Phil Collins?
The ASAP Rocky features are my favorite features on the album. The title track with The Weeknd is good, and it makes sense that they are still working together and I am happy that they are, but I really love LDR and AR together, ever since the “National Anthem” music video. “Summer Bummer” makes me want to ride around with a friend in their car smoking blunts with the windows rolled down and trying to find a house party to crash. “Groupie Love” is also really cute, like ASAP Rocky just loves seeing ” my bae” stand in the front row reciting all the lyrics to his songs “like a hype man.”
Okay, let me talk about “White Mustang” for a moment. The song is only two minutes and 44 seconds long and according to my computer I’ve already listened to it 43 times. We’ve got all the elements of an LDR widow’s walk classic: sad piano minor chords, spooky percussion, expressions of regret and gloominess despite the season, haunting whistling at the end. The whistling, I could listen to just the whistling section on loop for a few hours and totally love it.
I’ve said it once, I’ll say it some more: I can’t think of anyone who is able to encapsulate nostalgia and this very specific somber and sultry aesthetic into a song the way that Lana Del Rey does. She is a master at crafting this artificial longing, unreal except in the world you create while you’re listening to her.
Songs like “White Mustang” leave me missing a person or thing I’ve never known or experienced, and honestly that is one of my favorite things that music can do to me.
Lust For Life marks a transition for Lana Del Rey, a kind of growing up, an evolution of worldview. The sound and content are dynamic, but as a collection it doesn’t quite feel as cohesive as her third studio album, Ultraviolence. However, I think the playlist of 12 tracks I slimmed down from the original 17 does a pretty good job of maintaining a fluid narrative and emotional arc.
As for the Obama-era luxury remark, I think Lana Del Rey is here to surprise us. Performing witchcraft against Donald Trump and writing songs like “When The World Was At War We Kept Dancing” which asks the question “Is it the end of an era? Is it the end of America?” and imparts a message of resistance despite the negative forces against us. There is an apparent growth in the content of her material. She’s trying things. She’s shaking it up.
Take a look at the cover of Lust For Life and compare it to her previous album covers. Notice something different? She’s smiling, she looks happy, she looks relaxed and ready, “like smiling when the firing squad’s against you.”
I haven’t been going out much lately. I didn’t even show up to the release party for the latest edition of be about it zine. I’ve been hermitting/hibernating and it’s been weird and maybe productive because I’m reading and writing in my little studio cave but I had been itching to go out, plus I had this idea for a new blog series about literary events that I wanted to try out, so I reached out to my poet friend Anna Avery to see if she wanted to come to this reading with me. It was at a bookstore I had never heard of or visited before, in a section of San Francisco that I don’t get out to very much. And I like both of the readers and couldn’t remember the last time I had seen either of them read.
In this interview, Alexandra Naughton, editor in chief of Be About It Press, speaks to Amy Saul-Zerby, author of Paper Flowers Imaginary Birds (published by Be About It Press in January, 2017).
Alexandra Naughton: Okay, so I thought I would start off by asking: when did you first start writing this book? What was the impulse to create it, or what was the inspiration? And what has the journey been like from then to now?
Amy Saul-Zerby: The book came into existence gradually over the past four years or so. In 2012, I’d just gotten out of a six year relationship, and had also just stumbled upon this community of young writers & poets sharing their work with each other online. I’d been writing poetry since college, but the poems in this book began to come when poetry was really becoming the center of my life in a way it hadn’t been before then.
While creating a full-length collection was always a goal, I didn’t set out to make this book. The collection of new work just kept growing until I had enough raw material to begin to think about whether it could even become a cohesive whole. Because the work is so confessional & draws so much from things I was going through during those years, I was able in early 2015 to create something that felt cohesive from the previous three years of very constant writing.
The key realization that really enabled me to craft the manuscript from all that work, which really surprised me at the time, was that the narrative arc was already there. All I really had to do at that point was arrange the pieces to tell the story that it honestly felt like they already wanted to tell, if that makes sense.
AN: Totally makes sense. When did you write it? How did you write it? Do you set aside time specifically to write? Describe a place that reminds you of making this book.
ASZ: I was jumping between occupations during that time, so my schedule wasn’t consistent. I wrote what I could when I could. When I began working on the book, I was helping my grandfather care for my grandmother, who had Alzheimer’s and to whom the book is dedicated.
If there is one place that reminds me of the making of the book, it is probably the house they lived in, where I would stay while taking care of her. She had been hugely encouraging of my writing since I was a kid, and would often ask me to read her my latest work. (My mother is also very supportive, so I am lucky for that as well! But Louise & I shared a very unique bond.)
I also spent six months in Austin, TX, working in publishing, and a good chunk of time in Philly working as a hostess and then an office admin in the restaurant industry. So my work schedule has changed several times, but I write whenever I can, which will always, always be the case no matter what else I’m doing. & which has really always been the case since I decided in (I believe) first grade that I wanted ‘to be an author’ when I grew up.
AN: That’s awesome that you’ve known since the first grade. I feel like that is when I discovering my passion for writing, though I didn’t take it seriously until later.
What kind of writing career would you enjoy the most? Do you see yourself writing as an occupation?
ASZ: I have a lot of hopes & goals with regard to my writing. Experimenting with forms other than poetry is a long-term goal, but I also feel that I have so much work still to do with poetry. I’m a huge fan of Melissa Broder’s work, in terms of content but also in terms of the breadth of forms she utilizes. I could see myself enjoying having a column, writing personal essays, experimenting with short-form prose / flash fiction. Screenwriting & playwriting are also really attractive forms, though somewhat more intimidating because they’re so foreign to me still.
But to answer your question: yes, I want to write as an occupation.
AN: What kind of stuff did your grandmother like to read? Was there a piece you wrote that she was especially fond of?
ASZ: Oh, she liked to read everything she could get her hands on, but I think short stories & novels were her favorite.
She was a very early riser, and one of my earliest poems was about reading with her in the mornings as a kid before anyone else was awake. She had me email her a copy of that one, printed it out directly from AOL (with the subject line and everything), then framed it and hung it in her study. So I think it’s safe to say that one was a favorite.
AN: Are you enjoying this interview?
ASZ: Yes, I am enjoying it very much, thanks!
AN: Who do you want to read this book? Who would you like to see holding a copy of your book?
ASZ: Honestly, I want whoever would get the most out of it to read the book. Whoever needs it, anyone it might help in any way.
I don’t want to see anyone in particular holding a copy of the book. I just want it to reach people with whom it might resonate. I would rather hear back from someone who found something helpful in one of the poems than see my book in the hands of a literary idol or a public figure or celebrity.
AN: BUT IF YOU COULD SEE IT IN THE HANDS OF A PARTICULAR PERSON, WHO WOULD IT BE????
ASZ: Haha, OKAY FINE, but I didn’t want to have to say this… it’s a tie & I would like to choose both Lena Dunham & James Franco.
AN: Why those two?
ASZ: It would just mean a lot to me.
AN: Okay, fair enough. There are lot of great pieces in Paper Flowers, Imaginary Birds. Lots of funny and sardonic quips. My favorite piece is probably the Craigslist missed connection. It’s too real.
What’s your favorite piece in the book?
ASZ: That’s one of my favorites too. Currently I really like ‘Celestial Bodies’. A lot of the poems in the book were written during such a different time in my life that I feel somewhat distant from them now, but that one still feels like me.
AMN: It’s so weird to see stuff written from years or even months ago. It can feel so foreign, like did I really write this. Do you see any growth in your writing now to some of the pieces in the book? Or maybe not even the poems, but personally?
ASZ: Absolutely. My writing has changed a lot, and I’ve changed a lot as a person, even just since putting the manuscript together in 2015. So the poems in the book from as far back as 2012 feel very foreign to me now. For me personally, the book feels like a kind of time capsule. It never feels like I didn’t write the poems, because I remember the things I wrote about so vividly (to the point where it’s almost painful to read parts of the book). It’s more like, ‘Wow, I feel so far from where I was when I wrote this.’ And I am grateful for that distance, and the book reminds me of how far I’ve come, which I often forget.
AMN: All right, let’s wrap this up. What do you think? We’re indie writers who work with indie presses, right, so that means we have to do a lot of our own promotion. What are your plans for promoting the book? Are you going on tour? What are your hopes for 2017? Any fun plans? Any fun projects in the works?
Also, please use this space to say whatever you’d like that you want to talk about that I didn’t ask about or whatever. 🙂
ASZ: Yeah! I’m doing a bunch of readings in Philly, including a release party. Working out the details of a release event in NYC, as well. And I’m in the planning stages for a west coast tour this spring! I’m fortunate to have a lot of energy to devote to book promotion at the moment, so I’m really just throwing myself into it.
I’ve also just started working for a local literary mag here (Apiary Magazine). So I’m looking forward to involving myself further in the Philly poetry community, continuing my work with Voicemail Poems, and touring / promoting the book.
And, as always, to continuing to work on new poems (& possibly other forms)! There have been times when I’ve really questioned the value of what I’m doing and let my self-doubt get the better of me, but at least for the moment, I feel motivated & determined to keep working at this.
AMN: Thank you for doing this interview. What did you think of it? Any areas in which I could improve as an interviewer? Please be honest.
Amy Saul-Zerby is a Philadelphia-based poet. Her first collection, Paper Flowers Imaginary Birds, was published by Be About It Press in January of 2017. Her writing has also appeared in TheNewerYork, Painted Bride Quarterly, Spy Kids Review and The YOLO Pages, and she is managing editor of Voicemail Poems & multimedia editor of APIARY Magazine.
That’s all for now! 8 more days of increasing darkness before the days start getting longer again!!
The other day I posted on enclave about my ongoing pursuit to find out what it means to be human.
I am a human. Yeah, sure. I have a body. I have a conscience. I exist. I guess.
I’m not sure how I feel about being human. I mean, I accept it, because what else can I do. But I fantasize a lot about being a ghost. I like to imagine myself passing through walls and listening in on conversations without having to be acknowledged. I like the idea of being able to experience without necessarily having to participate. But I have all of my death to be a ghost, so maybe I should just come to terms with being human for now.
I want to know what being human means to other humans. I want to know how they cope. What they love about being human, and what they hate about it. So I slid into some DMs on facebook late one night last week.
Sending private messages on facebook after midnight to make existential inquiries seems extremely appropriate to me.
Here are the questions I asked:
How do you feel about being human?
What are the best/worst things about being human?
Do you ever try to forget you’re human and if so what do you do? What do you do to fully feel human?
What is coping? Coping implies a lot of things, like getting through the day and dealing with hardship. Everyone copes one way or another, we all have our weird little things we do to calm ourselves down when times are tough. On the whole, though, I think coping means being okay with being human.
I wrote a little about my idea of what it means to cope with this body and this existence here, where basically I realize all my small obsessions and secrets are what keeps me going.
But what about being human?
I was on facebook late one night and decided to ask some other people about dealing with existence. Coping is a part of being human, I think. I feel most human very late at night. I want to know other people cope. I messaged a few people who happened to be online and asked them how they feel about being human.
How do you feel about being human?
What are the best/worst things about being human?
Do you ever try to forget you’re human and if so what do you do? What do you do to fully feel human?
I didn’t get it right away or even for a long time. Because it has nothing to do with another person. Not really, anyway.
It’s a longing for a feeling, a longing for a possibility. It’s solace. It’s sentimentality. It’s feeling okay about being human because some things are just so wonderful. It’s about connecting with something. It’s a secret that can make you smile on a crowded commuter train. It’s a secret that hurts because even if you share it you’re the only one who gets it, so sharing it kinda kills it for you. Like it hurts to even think about it because it’s so good, but it’s yours to think about, as long as you can think about it it’s there to make you hurt and wonder.
I like things to be clean. I like a clean apartment. I talk about this a lot but it’s something that’s important to me. I don’t need order, but I need things to be clean.
Being in a clean room is comforting to me and allows me to enjoy the things I do in the room more, helps me concentrate better on the work I’m doing while in the room. I like things the way I like them, I guess is what I’m trying to say. That is the point of all this. Having things the way I like them is comforting to me.
I keep talking about this but it’s something I’m talking about so that I can understand it, and then get bored of it.
I’m a little obsessive. I get obsessed with things, and then move on to the next thing. It can be a problem. I think my friends think I’m normal, like that’s what at least one friend has told me, but I think my obsessions are a problem. I’m kind of okay with them, I like obsessing over things, but not everyone gets it. This is why I like my alone time. Because I can be weirdly obsessive over the things I’m obsessing over at the moment without it being a problem for anyone else. If I want to watch House MD for 6 hours straight, no problem. If I want to sit in silence and listen to Songs Ohia records on my computer, no problem. If I want to stay up all night and write and rewrite a story or collection of poems, no problem. And if I can do these things in my clean room, I can feel okay. I can feel okay about being here.
I didn’t get it right away or even for a long time because I never really gave it space to breathe. And being able to walk around it and see it for all it is or at least what I can see of it but finally see it as a thing, something I can name, something I can better understand and be okay with.
Coping is just trying to be okay with what’s around you. This is all I’ve ever tried to do.
hi this is just day one of #7daysofcoping so please stay tuned for more thank you
I like to think I have a unique personal style. Floral print dresses and granny sweaters, zany vintage pieces, and frumpy thrift store pullovers. Dressed like a doll, dressed like a movie character, dressed like a raggamuffin, dressed like a goth tomboy, dressed like my fifth grade self, dressed like grunge Elaine Benis, it doesn’t matter. I dress according to my mood. I feel like Ms. Frizzle in that way. Every outfit is a costume of sorts. This is why I have a hard time packing when I travel: how am I supposed to know what to bring if I don’t know how I’m going to feel each particular day? I always end up bringing three times the amount of clothing that I need. It’s a problem.
Sometimes I see other people wearing very similar outfits to what I have on. And I actually love it. I often see pairs of people out together who are dressed very similarly to one another and I wonder to myself if they planned to coordinate, or if it just happened happily accidentally.
Ever read a celebrity gossip rag or watch a show about celebrity fashions? One trope the industry loves to push out is ‘who wore it better,’ showcasing two stars wearing the same outfit, or similar-looking pieces, and rating them against one another.
That’s mad corny. Why not celebrate the fact that another person had the same idea as you? ‘Hmm, feels like a multicolor plaid day!’ Don’t you think it’s special that someone else felt similarly inspired, like you may be both wearing the same thing but maybe for entirely different reasons? Wouldn’t you want to find out? Wouldn’t you take that opportunity to connect with someone on the same level? Or at least silently revel in the fact that your style is chic enough to share, relishing in that other person’s obvious good taste?
Day 1: woke up at 5:00am to catch an early flight. Put on a v neck t-shirt featuring an all over print of kitty cats doing various things, a gray loose knit cropped sweater, new blue jeans from old navy, my signature cross cardigan, Sorel boots borrowed from Isobel O’Hare, and a winter coat with fur trim hood borrowed from Isobel O’Hare. Walk, train, plane to Chicago O’Hare, picked up by A.J. Binash, car, stopped in Madame Zuzu teahouse with A.J. to see if I could drop off a copy of I Will Always Be Your Whore [love songs for Billy Corgan] for Billy Corgan (I wasn’t allowed to), car to Wisconsin, open mic, went to sleep in sweatpants and kitty cat t-shirt.
Day 2: woke up in a puddle of sweat bc the bed I was sleeping in was directly over a heating pipe or something so I changed into a blue and white striped long sleeved v-neck. Showered and then changed into black turtleneck, black sweater tights, red wool skirt, cross cardigan, and black Oxford platforms. Performed at the Pump House in La Crosse, WI with A.J Binash, Olivia Gillingham, Tegan Daly, Thomas Tucker, and Jay Grays. Karaoke, doing dabs, not sleeping, left La Crosse, Wi at 3:30am with A.J. Binash to drive to Chicago O’Hare to get a morning flight to Toronto.
Day 3: still wearing red wool skirt, black turtleneck, black sweater tights, and cross cardigan. Changed into Sorel boots borrowed from Isobel O’Hare because they were too bulky to fit in my suitcase. Arrived at Chicago O’Hare airport around 8:30am. Sat by an outlet on the wall next to the restrooms to charge my phone. Quick and uneventful flight to Kitchner airport. Realized on arrival that Kitchner is a lot further away from the home of Stephen Thomas, my host in Toronto, than I had previously thought. 30 minute taxi ride into the Kitchner city center then 90 minute bus ride into the outskirts of Toronto and then a 90 minute car ride with John Liberty, a friend of Stephen who was kind enough to pick me up and point out local landmarks and talk local history to me on the ride. Showered at Stephen’s house, changed into maroon high-waist corduroy pants, blue oxford shirt, gray knit sweater (it’s actually black and white threads but looks gray), black oxford platforms. Performed on stage at The Great Hall with Ashley Obscura, Beach Sloth, Rachel Bell, Stephen Thomas, and Guillaume Morissette. Performed wearing the coat I borrowed from Isobel O’Hare because I felt like a character from Quadrophenia and Canada is cold. Spent the rest of the night wandering around a rave then someone’s birthday party and then went to bed after 4am.
Day 4: woke up sweating again, wearing sweatpants and gray tank top. Showered and changed into maroon high-waist corduroy pants, a light blue sweater with an image of the backs of Mickey and Minnie Mouse’s heads holding each other like they just finished making out knitted into the sweater, a thick jackety-type blue and black plaid snap button shirt, and black oxford platforms. Walked around with Beach Sloth, Astory Felix, and then Kira Michael came over to Stephen’s house and we hung out and then I got picked up by Stephen’s friend John Liberty again to get taken to the Buffalo airport after midnight.
Day 5: got to the airport and remembered that I left the Sorel boots I borrowed from Isobel O’Hare at Stephen’s house. Slept a little bit at the Buffalo airport wearing the same outfit with the blue Mickey/Minnie sweater. Changed my flight last minute because I was supposed to go home at this point but I wanted to go back to Wisconsin and I had packed enough clothes for a few extra days on the road. Plus there were several days I wore the same outfit for more than one day without changing. Flew to Chicago O’Hare and then got on a train to meet up with Carleen Tibbetts and Russell Jaffe and Jeanette Gomes. Got on a bus to Madison. Walked for an hour with suitcase and backpack to a Super 8 motel. Showered and changed into black leggings and the gray sweater. Passed out.
Day 6: can’t remember if I showered again or not but I put on a red plaid collared shirt with the light gray loose knit cropped sweater on top, the new blue jeans from old navy, and the black oxford platforms. Walked around Madison all day and got a jean jacket with tan corduroy details at a thrift store and then realized I had booked my flight for the next day out of Minneapolis and that I would have to find a way there and realized buses didn’t run frequently and that Madison is a hell of a lot further away from Minneapolis than I had previously believed.
Day 7: took a cab to a megabus pickup location outside of Madison and boarded a bus around 2:30am and got to Minneapolis at around 8:00am. Found my way to the airport and wanted to disintegrate completely. Waited around for hours at the airport for my 3:00pm flight, flew to LA and left the cleared area to go outside to smoke and then went through security again to get my flight to Oakland. Train from Oakland airport back to my neighborhood, walked home. Passed out in all of my clothes.
JH: What made you want to become a writer?
AN: I have always been writing. Since I was like 4 years old I have always been making up songs or writing poems and stories and putting on shows for people or imaginary friends. When I was a baby my parents put a video camera in my bedroom for an afternoon and called the video ‘Allie takes a nap.’ It’s basically an hour of me mugging for the camera and walking around in my crib and singing to myself.
I don’t think it’s something I ever really decided to do, I’ve just been doing it. Something like ten years ago I started to take this shit a bit more seriously and got more involved in getting my work published and doing readings, but honestly it all feels like a compulsion. I wrote about this feeling of being compelled to write a while ago on htmlgiant and someone commented saying ‘you’re not a writer, you have an addiction.’ And that’s chill and all. Not everyone can be like me.
Posted this on twitter today:
Gonna make a list of reasons why I love Alfred Hitchcock’s the birds
— Based Goth Alexandra (@theTsaritsa) July 2, 2015
— Based Goth Alexandra (@theTsaritsa) July 2, 2015
Rumor has it Michael Bay is planning on remaking Alfred Hitchcock’s 1963 classic film, The Birds. Why. Seriously. What the hell.
Why do people do this. Why do people remake classic films? How could anyone possibly improve upon this masterpiece?
This movie is perfect. Even Tippi Hedren, was like ‘Why,’ upon hearing that someone is thinking about remaking The Birds.
It’s like anyone else beside Stephen King remaking The Shining, and we all know he shouldn’t have done that but we know why he personally felt like he had to.
It’s like the time Gus Van Sant remade Psycho with Anne Heche. Truth be told, I’ve never seen Psycho in its entirety, the classic film or the remake, but what is the point of remaking a Hitchcock film shot for shot unless you’re a film school student doing an exercise? I dunno, I know some people who like the Van Sant version, but whatever.
Here is an incomplete list of thoughts I have about the movie The Birds:
1. No one knows why the birds are attacking.
2. Why the birds are attacking is never explained. And doesn’t need to be. It’s more eerie that way.
3. It seems almost as if the birds want to be killing people.
4. Even the sparrows are attacking. Sparrows are really cute.
5. Seagulls are kind of terrifying to begin with. When they attack in a large group, fuck tho.
6. The Birds is essentially a love story, with attacking birds. The bird attacks are one of the factors which brought these two love birds together.
7. There is a pair of actual love birds that our female protagonist, Melanie Daniels, brings to the male protagonist, Mitch Brenner.
8. Love birds. Lol. We see what you did there.
9. The love birds don’t seem to be affected by whatever is making the birds outside attack. I’m speaking of the birds in the cage, but I could just as easily be talking about the human couple.
10. Even though the birds are killing people, our protagonists don’t take the threat seriously enough to leave.
11. Why don’t you stay? We have plenty of leftover roast beef!
12. Lol, they’re just birds.
13. The best actor in this movie is the kid who plays Mitch’s little sister. She is really good at crying.
14. In the beginning of the movie, when Melanie arrives in Bodega Bay, she’s trying to play a prank on Mitch, and pumps the owner of the general store for info on the Brenner family. The owner of the general store can’t remember the ‘little Brenner girl’s’ name, whether it’s Alice or Lois.
15. It’s neither, but I can’t remember her real name either. I always want to call her Alice or Lois.
16. Her name is actually Cathy. Cathy sounds nothing like Alice or Lois.
17. Mitch is a lawyer and tells Melanie how one of his clients shot his wife in the head five times because she changed the station while he was watching a ball game.
18. Melanie finds this amusing while casually playing Debussey on the Brenner’s living room piano.
19. Pretty disgusting. This is my least favorite part of the film.
20. My favorite part of the film is the scene outside the schoolhouse.
21. Melanie is waiting outside smoking a cigarette on a bench in front of a jungle gym. The children are singing some weird song like, ‘She combed her hair but once a year/ risseldy rosseldy meow meow meow/ With every stroke she shed a tear/ risseldy rosseldy meow meow meow.’ And you’re so captivated by the tiny child voices singing this song, and watching Melanie silently smoke, and slowly more and more birds accumulate on the jungle gym, starting with just a few and building gradually until the entire jungle gym is covered with crows.
22. It’s these quiet moments that make the film so disturbing.
23. There is no soundtrack or musical score in this film. Like the television show The Wire, the only music heard in this movie is when the characters are listening to something on the radio or playing something on the piano or singing something in real time.
24. Usually a soundtrack or musical score helps to underline the creepiness of a film. Like when John Carpenter tested the original Halloween, it got mixed reviews/the test audiences didn’t think the movie was that scary. So he composed the Halloween ‘theme’ and added it to the film, and it made all the difference. The lack of musical score in The Birds, however, has a very unsettling effect.
25. Lots of camera tricks, but everything looks really real.
26. I remember my mom talking shit about The Birds when I was a kid. She was like, it doesn’t even look real– you can see the strings attached to the birds’ feet. And yeah, Hitchcock did tie the birds to the actors, but I’ve seen this movie at least a dozen times and I look for the strings every time and I can’t see them.
27. Can we just appreciate the fact that the actors in this film had birds tied to them. Like, even the children.
28. Tippi Hedren had nightmares about birds attacking her (and probably also about Hitchcock being a creeper) for a while during and after making this film. I mean, who wouldn’t.
29. When our protagonists finally do make their escape, because Melanie is injured, we aren’t sure if they made it out alive.
30. They drive away in Melanie’s ragtop convertible. If birds can peck through a wooden door, surely they can break open a ragtop roof.
31. We’re left with more questions than answers in the end.
32. But at least our protagonists fell in love?
33. If this movie were made today there would be an explanation for the birds attacking. It would be like that terrible movie Outbreak. Like the birds had a disease and that’s why they were attacking people. And it wouldn’t be as scary.
34. It was probably all the myna bird’s fault, tbh.
35. Oh Melanie Daniels, you just had to pull a prank on your aunt Tillie. Teaching a bird to say ‘four letter words.’
36. What kind of four letter words did they teach at Berkeley in a general semantics class in the 1960s anyway. Like is she actually learning swear words in class, or is she just picking up new insults from her peers on the ‘quad. Lol.
37. This film could not be made today. Not just because PETA would have a problem with it, but because they would use CGI and it would look so fake.
38. CGI just really sucks and I wish everyone would go back to using puppets.
39. The Birds is basically Jurassic Park before there was a Jurassic Park. I’m only speaking of the original Jurassic Park. They are almost the same movie.
40. Jurassic Park is really good. It’s one of my favorite movies and it’s the type of movie I can pretty much watch anytime. Same with The Birds. I can watch it five nights in a row and still love it.
41. Jurassic Park is great but The Birds is better.
Okay so I’m back in sunny ass Berkeley sitting at my desk at my high-pressure job eating a tuna melt that was not thoroughly melted and looking out the window at some palm trees and thinking about all the cool shit I did at AWP this past weekend and trying to process it all. It takes me a long time to process things. This will probably be the first of several posts about AWP that I will make here.
Janice and Michael asked if I would write posts about AWP while at AWP and I meant to but honestly I was having too much fun running around with a sick posse of writers who I love going to readings and doing performances and seeing the sights in Minneapolis and basically just taking advantage of what I felt was like a vacation that I never got the chance. I meant to, though, I really did.
I’ve got a lot to say. I’m not sure how to say it yet, but I will eventually.
At this moment, I guess I just want to give a shoutout and a huge thanks to A. Razor of Punk Hostage Press and Jason Scheinheit of The Gorilla Press for working the book table and trying to get our wares out there. They both deserve a well-toasted tuna melt (or a well-toasted sandwich of their choice).
Also, I want to share these cool podcasts Jason conducted while working the table. The podcasts are all about five minutes long or fewer and are pretty funny. Jason interviewed me, as well as Amy Saul-Zerby, Jesse Prado, A. Razor, Tomas Moniz, Lizzie Acker, Hollie Hardy, Nate Waggoner, Russell Jaffe, Oliver Mol, and others. Check em out! They are short and sweet!
Alexandra Naughton’s video poem of “You Could Never Objectify Me More than I’ve Already Objectified Myself” (from her new book by the same name) moves in the same fascinating space as her moving selfies series.
The video is of liminal spaces visually, sonically, aesthetically, of seeing and of self. The audio at times ghosts in the background like a kind of seepage out of the expected single audio track into a kind of countermelody, something that resonates in another pattern against the main flow of audio and its progressions. This breaks into also a kind of echo, a secondary resonance away and behind.
The sync at times of audio and her recorded image do a kind of slippage, almost linking, almost fully breaking from each other. This even more deeply breaks the expecations of video, of aesthetics, of a pragmatic sync of sound and image be it direct or more open. This feels more like breaking, a battle between expectation and form as well as content. She brilliantly moves toward the dynamic tension of in-between spaces, the liminal. The camera is a giant unblinking eye. Vertov captured this classically in his early films where the Camera and eye seem to merge and image is imperfect, complicated by the camera and its path.
Naughton has the eye also be the gaze, the gaze women must face and the observer is not simply passive any more. It is made impossible. The setting is so personal a space (a small bathroom) and the visuals and sound struggling , almost arguing, intruding on each other, fleeing each other brings the viewer to something deeply personal being seen. Her moving selfies move selfies toward a fascinating middle space between photography and film, personal and shared. This work moves even deeper.
The camera at once glorifies and objectifies much as light can be soft and peaceful or brutal in image be it static or moving as film. In this work the tension of identity on and off line is a squall of aesthetics and undertones. The camera objectifies. The artifact arguably does not. Much of image can come to presentation, expectation, context and deep subjectivity. The selfie is currently seen by some as a new art and to others an erasure, an edited self. The video ends with a cursing of the viewer and listener but this again is much more deeply layered. The title says it’s not that simple, nothing is. The very lipstick of a timeless face at times bleeds, seeps, echoes deeper internal things of image, self image and the ghosts left on film. The poem is powerful but in this mix of media it brings in photography, film, social spheres be it on or offline and the complex slippery universe that is self and image. It is as powerful as it is of a space between things. This is a core of its lingering deep resonance.
People, you made it really difficult for Manuel and I. A dizzying array of manuscripts throughout the week, a surge at the end, right as our eyes were bloodshot, our minds scrambled. Yeah, you made it really tough this time. And it’s for that reason that the fourth edition of Mainline breaks all the previous contest records. What does this mean? Well, it means the first-ever three-way tie. Yup. Simply no other way around it. When looking at the battleground of submissions, three manuscripts fought the good fight, always managing to be at the end of that trail of dead bodies, standing tall. Thank you, to all that took part in Mainline. I know how difficult, and stressful, it can be, putting your work on the line like this. What’s important is that you did. You had the guts to do just that. Just because you didn’t win, it doesn’t mean you won’t dominate the next. Keep that in mind and keep writing. You only lose if you stop. Three winning manuscripts. Another Mainline completed. Bloodshot eyes. Trail of dead bodies. Yeah:
Flesh of the Peach by Helen McClory
Transitory by Tobias Carroll
American Mary by Alexandra Naughton
Down in a Hole by Jesus Angel Garcia
The Hoosier by Jared Yates Sexton
A Manual for Nothing by Jessica Anne
They Don’t Know Us Here by Carolyn DeCarlo
The End of Cinnamon by Jordaan Mason
Cured Meat by Polly Trope
These United States by Russell Jaffe
Encyclopedia of Failed Filmmakers by Johnny Damm
Helen McClory’s Flesh of the Peach, Tobias Carroll’s Transitory, and Alexandra Naughton’s American Mary will be published as part of CCM’s 2016 Catalogue.
Mainline will reconvene in June.
An excerpt from Flesh of the Peach:
She stood out on the observatory of the Empire State Building in the failing light, felt delicate and underslept, and awaited something decisive to occur. Maybe she’d be there until closing. Did they close this place? Every night the top of the building glowed different colours. Beacons for the various dread causes. And maybe out of cause-kinship, every night, all through the night, they let fools gather to acknowledge their own.
Sarah’s causes? They were slimy, incriminating, broken, partial. She rummaged in her bag for a candied ginger. Sucked down on sticky fire, and squinted out across the city. I am all alone, she thought, who the fuck could aid me but me? She pulled down the sunglasses from the top of her head. That helped. You should always at least have a bit of poise. It wasn’t that she particularly cared if tourists noticed she had been crying. Just that she was fond of her projections. The kind of person who went to her solitary bed in light makeup and skimpies in order to present fierce aspect. To herself, to anything in the world that might be leering in her window.
I wanted to pose a question to my peers and I thought it was a good question to ask, like I could really get some insight asking this question, but then I forgot the question.
If I wait a day or maybe even an hour or just be patient and think about something else like watching an episode of Psych in my head or singing a Diana Ross song in my head, it will usually come back. If it’s a good enough idea it will come back. If you forget it, it will come.
It took three hours? But I remembered the question I thought I had forgotten.
I like talking about writing process. I feel like I am always talking about writing process even if I am not, but especially with my writer friends. I feel like talking about writing process is all I ever talk about because I can talk about other things while making it seem like I’m talking about writing process or talk about writing process while making it seem like I’m talking about other things. I plagiarize my own poems for blog posts.
I like talking about writing process because I am always looking for spare time to write. I try to remember things in my head, like repeat them over and over like a chant or a license plate number after someone hit you while riding your bike, until I think it’s safe to break out my notebook. Writing at work is a challenge for me. I’m constantly being monitored, so I don’t do it. I just chant to remember. Weeknights I’m usually too tired to do much writing, like I’m so zonked from being at work 9 hours all I want to do is eat something and pass out with my cat. I try to use my lunch break to write, and I covet my weekends. I like being social, but I resent having to leave my bed and laptop because all I really wanna do is finish the things I’ve been working on.
How the hell do other people write? When the fuck do you find time to write. How did you finish all that shit? Don’t you people ever work? Does someone else pay your bills? Or maybe you’re just hella better at time management?
So I asked…
HOW MANY OF YOU WORK DAY JOBS? How many hours? What do you do to pay bills?
Yesterday I was on a film set from noon until 11 pm.
It doesn’t sound like much, perhaps, but it’s remarkable how exhausting it is to wait around until it’s your turn to do a scene. I was beat at the end of the day, and greedily ate two slices of the vegetable lasagna Sohee, the director’s wife, prepared for the cast and crew.
I’ve been posting up at craft services a lot.
Every day, like clockwork, there is a new vegetable crudites tray for the film crew and actors to eat. The kind of vegetable crudites tray Gustavo Fring, meth lord on Breaking Bad, always breaks out for meetings when the cartel comes to town. You know, the ones with the ranch dipping sauce in the middle.
Gustavo Fring knows that no one at his meetings will ever touch the vegetable crudites tray, but just ripping off the plastic film and having it out there on the table is enough of a statement.
Gustavo Fring is a boss. Pirooz Kalayeh, our director, is like the Gustavo Fring of the indie film scene.
Or the ‘post alt Kevin Smith,’ which I dubbed Pirooz at the Charles Bukowski bar in Hollywood during an interesting conversation about marketing and playing the art game. You gotta play the art game. The net art game.
The story is a bunch of interweaving narratives. It’s like the Love, Actually of the digital age. But not as corny. Actually, I think the film we’re making is pretty important. Actually, love.
Pirooz wrote a poem about the movie. Here it is:
I’m sitting and I’m ready to shoot. I think I’m getting picked up soon. Today I’m acting with Jayinee Basu.
Update: We had a really fun day. Actually, the entire movie-making process was really enjoyable, though the waiting around part was the most difficult (like the Tom Petty song). I’m back in the Bay and feel kind of empty now. Like, I just had this amazing prolonged experience where I was working and doing new things and feeling accomplished and now I’m back in my normal life working a terrible job with no benefits and I’m like, damn. I wish I could always be making movies. I wish I could live like that forever.