This weekend, I finished Moby Dick (Or, the Whale). D.H. Lawrence called it “one of the strangest and most wonderful books in the world.” And I’d have to agree. It is truly strange, even by today’s standards. At first, I liked the book, then I hated it, and then finally I loved it. The book has an odd charm that isn’t fully realized until you get to those last chapters.
The premise is absurd: A captain seeks revenge against one particular whale. The intermingled drama and comedy is positively Shakespearean. Certain scenes are terrifying and surreal, such as Captain Ahab’s speech after his harpoon glows from the lightning strike. The tension between Starbuck and Ahab is fascinating. Like a classic tragedy, the ending is both inevitable, predictable, and still shocking. And yet, the novel is wrapped in the tedious journalistic details of the whaling industry in the 1800s.
Moby Dick would be an easy novel to abridge. Simply take out all those chapters that go into explaining everything you never wanted to know about the genus and species of whales, the anatomy of whales, how different countries hunt whales, maritime whaling law, the mythic and symbolic role of the color “white,” and how whale oil is stored and shipped. However, there’s something about these chapters that contribute vitally to the whole.
One of the greatest treasures within Moby Dick is the hidden wisdom–thoughts on life and death, faith and disillusion, love and loss. My favorite passage, which captures all of it in one heartbreaking bundle, might be: Read more →
Last Friday, I spoke at Union, a spiffy coffee house in Dallas that I’m fairly certain is a church in disguise. That’s a thing, isn’t it? Churches pretending to be coffee houses. This one is more subtle than most. The pastor is a good guy. (He calls himself a “community curator”… what does that even mean?) The place is cool. And Union certainly beats going to Starbucks. If you go, I doubt anyone would start asking you about the sorry-ass-state of your immortal soul. You’re safe.
Anyways. Union invited some fellows from D Academy to speak at its Naked Stage series. All of it was to promote the Big D Reads event in April. I was one of the speakers. Most people spoke extemporaneously and did a wonderful job. However, I wanted to prepare a written essay that I could share—a call to arms against anti-intellectualism in America.
D Magazine’s Frontburner blog shared my essay. And now, I’m sharing it with you.
I want to discuss a popular TV show my wife and I have been binge-watching on Netflix. It’s the story of a family man, a man of science, a genius who fell in with the wrong crowd. He slowly descends into madness and desperation, lead by his own egotism. With one mishap after another, he becomes a monster. I’m talking, of course, about Friends and its tragic hero, Ross Geller. Read more →
My short story collection — WE MISS ALL THE GREAT PARTIES — is now available on Amazon, both paperback and Kindle ebook editions. Support the indie author in your life (that would be me).
You’ll be surprised. Indie authors look and sound like real authors, except they get a larger percentage of the sales revenue! It’s amazing.
Actually, I don’t know if this is true. However, I do know that I’m not handing over a percentage of my book’s revenue to a publisher to tell a distributor that I’m good enough for them to list my book, and I’m not paying an agent 10% to tell the publisher that I’m good enough for them to read. And I’m not paying a publicist to tell readers that my book is worth their time. I’m just giving a huge chunk to Amazon, and they’re selling my book.
Welcome to the outland territories of American literature. I can’t promise you I will ever be legit. But I won’t stop writing, and rudely shoving it in your face. Thus, we’re at an impasse. You will simply have to take a chance on my book. It’s scary. It’s reckless.
The book contains 10 stories about odd encounters and personal exploration. More specifically:
A young man in search of meaning connects with his dead girlfriend’s son. A group of men in Wisconsin start a poetry group while waiting for their favorite bar to be rebuilt. A woman discovers her husband has been hiding a secret. He also wants to rob a bank. A basketball player continually relives the last six seconds of his worst game. An amateur chess player encounters greatness. A girl attempts to leave a small town. But before she goes, she learns the story of one who stayed.
Read more →
I’m looking for an intern. I need someone who can think and write. The writing must be concise, balanced, purposeful, and artful. The thinking can be messy or organized, gut-driven or analytical. As long as you don’t indulge in idiotic behavior or spurn intellectualism, you’re good.
You will be writing for Imaginuity. It’s a great place with great people.
What will you get out of the experience? You’ll get paid. And I’ll pick up the tab on lunch from time to time. Mostly, you will get the benefit of my mentorship. After three months, you will be so damn employable that any creative agency would be crazy to pass on you. It will be hard work, but you’re a writing badass. You can handle it.
Contact me, if you’re interested.
SUBJECT: The box says “World’s Finest,” and I have no reason to doubt.
A general address to the faithful workers contained within this creative space for the specific purpose of parting from you your hard earnings:
Salutations and good morn! My daughter, an earnest capitalist in the truest sense of the word, has beseeched me to act as her agent in the selling and distribution of fine chocolate confections. Wherefore such actions? The chief aim being to raise funds to support her school, and if I may venture, to pay the monthly salaries of the buffeted pedagogues. I digress. If you would like such delectable candy, you may ask yourself, “How can I afford such wondrous treats? Surely, since the box proclaims the sundry sweets as the ‘WORLD’S FINEST CHOCOLATE,’ how can I afford it? It must require my own life’s savings!” Nay. Fear not, gentle plebeian, the chocolate of which you speak, requires only two bills. And not the one’s bearing Franklin’s sour visage, but that of our noble Washington. Two dollars for a box of chocolate, upon my life, I speak the truth. Come visit me at my work station, and I will gladly officiate the transaction.
In the interim, thank you and glad tidings for your generosity.
Wordsmith and protector of strategic methodologies for the purpose of enhancing our client’s bounty
Post script: This is what befalls, hence you listen to the Moby Dick audiobook on the highway to work.
Some thoughts on the release (finally) of the Fantastic Four teaser trailer:
- I’m digging the Philip Glass score.
- Not digging the obligatory light shooting in sky to open a portal.
- The official website describes it as a “contemporary reimagining.” I’m conflicted. I don’t want this movie to tread the same ground as the other movies (3, including Roger Corman’s). But would I prefer to see what Marvel Studios would do with the FF in the Marvel Cinematic Universe? Yeah.
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From WIRED: “After watching this clip we wanted to file this under ‘Greatest Movie Ever Made’ even though it’s probably a little too soon to make that call. That said, we’ve got a feeling, deep in our bones, that this movie will be spectacular. George Miller looks like he’s out for bloody vengeance, seeking to rain down hate on anyone who’s dared make an ‘action’ movie since he left the post-apocalypse behind.”
A few months ago, a student from the University of Rochester in New York contacted me. She was taking an English class on adaptations. Part of her research paper included the adaptation of Antigone that I created along with Tom Kurzanski. (The comic is available online in its entirety. Go to my published work page and scroll down. It’s there, all 32 pages.)
From her email:
I love your adaptation; I especially love seeing Antigone‘s power shown so blatantly. In looking at your other works, it seems that female characters take a large role. In your Antigone, female power seems to be a very central part of how you tell the story. I was just wondering if you had any thoughts about this. Was portraying feminism in Antigone your intention? Was this theme of power used in order to strengthen the plot in any way, or was it more of a message in itself?
Obviously, debating the definition of what makes something “feminist” is almost as old as the movement itself. I consider myself a feminist, and I try to incorporate ideas about gender and power into my work. I see Antigone as a powerful character — in part — as a function of Greek dualism. The obvious counter example would be her sister Ismene. However, I see Creon as the true weak one. His desperation to hold onto his political power has weakened him. He pretends to not care about the will of the people, but it’s clear that he does care. He’s a bully who hides behind his authority, whereas Antigone‘s power comes from her own conviction of right and wrong and the will of the gods. I see Antigone as a character who, through no fault of her own, is constantly challenging people on their own convictions. That’s why I had Antigone kiss her sister in the opening scene. It was her way of forcing the issue of their incest origins. It was a power play, and a rather cruel one.
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Yesterday, I had dinner by myself at Oddfellows. I wanted to get a quick bite before going to a book signing. (Rough life, huh?) Oddfellows is perhaps my favorite place in Dallas to eat. The place isn’t too crowded–except for brunch. It’s a cool restaurant in a great neighborhood, relaxed environment, lots of natural light, and good food. Now you have my two-sentence Yelp review.
I was sitting there, reading a book (because that’s how I roll). And this server walked up to me. He was probably in his early twenties. He had red hair and a camp counselor smile. He looked like the kind of attractive guy who no one could imagine having sex with, because it’d feel like you were befouling a muppet. The guy cheerfully approached.
“Hey there, big fella, can I get you something to drink?”
Cue the record scratch. Big fella? Big. Fella. What grown-ass adult calls another grown-ass adult “big fella,” who? Big fella is what you call a tubby kid when he’s at Disneyland. (“Hi, big fella, are you excited to meet Mickey Mouse?”) Do not ever call me “big fella.”
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I’ve always considered myself a feminist.
As someone who makes up stuff out of thin air, I’m concerned with how I portray women in my stories — to do so in a way that is honest and fair and responsible, to create stories that offer compelling characters, both male and female. I want good stories, and I believe this is EASIER to accomplish when you approach narratives as an intelligent, compassionate human being.
However, having been raised on a steady diet of male-oriented genre fiction, a writer can fall into one of the many tired, sexist tropes that besiege modern storytelling: damsel in distress, stay in the kitchen, double standards, slut shaming, and many more. These tropes exist because of lazy one-dimensional writing. Writers use the female characters to merely support the male characters.
Out of curiousity, I wanted to see how I fared against the Bechdel Test. What is the Bechdel Test, you say? To quote Ashe Cantrell at FilmSchoolRejects.com:
“The Bechdel Test, if you’re not familiar with it, is a benchmark for movies developed by Alison Bechdel in 1985. For a movie to pass The Bechdel Test, it must contain just one thing – a scene in which two or more named female characters have a conversation (that is, back and forth dialogue) about anything at all besides men. Anything, even if it’s something stereotypically feminine, like shopping or shoes. It could be about dog poo. It doesn’t matter.”
After a quick read through my comics, here’s how I stand.
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