Friday, October 16, 2015

Podcast FRIDAY!


T-t-t-time for another podcast Friday! In which I share individual episodes of podcasts I thought caught my ears.

I decided to same format like last time. I enjoy just displaying quotes because they serve a purpose of telling you what to expect while having an air of mystery, imo.
We got magazines, taped them to our bodies. So that hopefully our organs wouldn't get penetrated when we got stabbed. I got two socks and put two DD-batteries inside them; the big batteries. To use that as a cosh. To use that as a club.  

I could say, "Screw you all. Fuck you guys." I mean this society has brutalized me. They have hurt me, and I carry the wounds. But yet, I give to them every day. I give them all I got. Um. It's the way it is.
An American Life

Reported that her German Shepard have been killed during the night. The dog had been torn to pieces and dragged over twenty-five feet at the end of its chain. The only evidence authorities could find around the body were hoof prints.
The Devil on the Roof

One of the first things he said to me over the phone was, "Barry, your voices are real." And I'll never ever ever forget that feeling. It was the first time anybody had ever accepted that my voices were real.
Barrie's Mental Tempest

My favorite place in the whole world would have to be the Big Prawn. And I said where's that. And she said it's in Ballina. And she said it was her favorite place because I was conceived there. 
Big Prawn

Wanted each member to get a bomb shelter. So each family within the or each member within the cult had their own particular space. Or haven I guess. I think it's primarily she wanted more money for herself.
Dark Karma

Thursday, October 15, 2015

The Art of the Lathe

Here are two grown men discussing "beauty"
seriously and with dignity as if they and the topic
were as normal as normal topics of discussion
between men such as soybean prices or why
the commodities market was a sucker's game
or Oklahoma football or Gimpy Neiderland
almost dying from his hemorrhoid operation.
They were discussing beauty and tossing around
allusions to Plato and Aristotle and someone
named Pater, and they might be homosexuals.
That would be a natural conclusion, of course,
since here were two grown men talking about "beauty"
instead of scratching their crotches and cursing
the goddamned government trying to run everybody's
I'm intensely in love with this book. I'm re-reading it for a third time and it still feels fresh and new to me. But before I continue I had a fight with myself

I fought with myself and wondered if I should add a poem from the book. Maybe just have one part of a poem, or the first part of a poem, or even a whole poem; I fought with myself and decided to just have one part of a one of the poems. I decided on Beauty and you'll read why. 

I highly recommend you click on the link I have, Beauty (up top below the image), and read the entire poem before you continue reading. Beauty is one of many B.H. Fairchild's masterpieces in The Art of the Lathe.

Back, alright.

If you read the poem, you can pick up what type of people Fairchild is talking about. The type of people who've always worked with their hands and known almost nothing else. The type of people who don't open up, didn't talk a lot, didn't have time to philosophize, just do and kept to themselves. Some are content with where they are, some are not, but they're all doing their best to make a living. The type of people that if the plant or mine or anything like it were to disappear, they would be ruined for generations. The type of people who wish they could live out their dreams, but because of their situation, social and economical, they can never can and have to make the best with what they have, find their own little niche in life.

They remind me of the people I came across and worked with in Cincinnati. They shaped who I am. They, for better or worse, made in guarded, making it hard for me to vulnerable, to open up. When I moved to California, I was amazed, but how open and talkative everyone was, it was a culture shock. Though that culture may have dampen me a bit, it also made me strong and able to stand anything to come my way; it's a give and take, like everything else in life.

Then there's the beautiful, rugged landscape of the Midwest. And like any good writer, the landscape and its inhabitants are inextricably tied together. They reflect each other, each influencing each until they both look like each other.

As you can tell, I'm a sucker for books that bring me back to home city and its inhabitants. That's because, even though I've lived in California for five years, I will always be a Midwesterner. I'm so inextricably tied it.

And this is why I'm intensely in love with this book. Not because it opened my eyes to poetry but because it transports me back to that culture, those people, and that landscape. 

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Ron Rash's Short stories and Above the Waterfall

I became a fan of Ron Rash through his short stories. They were depressive and gritty little pieces that left me feeling like shit or like I was punched in the stomach; I loved it. They dealt with the meth epidemic and the economic downturn of the Appalachias, loss, displacement, desperation and a feeling of disconnect from the modern world and they hit close to home for me. 

Growing in the Rust Belt area I saw what heroin, uppers and downers, coke and alcohol did to my peers, and my peers' families.  I saw people I respected and loved slowly devolve into junkies: they self-harmed, shot-up before school, snorted coke during class, and in more extreme cases they would try to kill themselves during restroom breaks because life was too much for them.

I also saw and experienced what happens when the economy turns to shit: houses bein' taken away, jobs bein' taken away, depression and people struggling to survive and doing things they usually wouldn't do: robbing, stealing, hurting the ones they love.

This is what Rash brings to me, all these memories. I see my reflection in his characters and stories.

One would think that such things would push someone away: not me, I enjoy these memories, well, enjoy is not the right word, I don't have an allergy to them. The reason I don't is because they're who I am to an extent. These memories shaped me and made me who I am today. I don't want to forget them, no matter how painful they are.

I also remember them because I don't want to forget my peers. The peers who made me laugh, feed me, supported me, got me in trouble, got me into shady situations and who I saw destroy themselves through their addictions. These memories and pains are my memorial to them.

There's another reason I'm a fan of Rash: they propel me from the first sentence, from the first word. Once I start reading, I can't stop, can't put it down. There are very few writers that can do this and Rash is one of them.

So when I came into Above the Waterfall, I had high expectations. I wanted to feel like I felt when I read his short stories and wouldn't accept anything less. Should have I put that on an author? I don't know.

Luckily, I got what I expected.

From the first page of the first paragraph:
Though sunlight tinges the mountains, black leather-winged bodies swing low. First fireflies blink languidly. Beyond this meadow, cicadas rev and slow like sewing machines. All else ready for night except night itself. I watch last light lift off level land. Ground shadows seep and thicken. Circling trees form banks. The meadow itself becomes a pond filling, on its surface dozens of black-eyed susans.
What a hell of a way to start a novel; especially, a novel that revolves around meditation on the effects of violence, loneliness, and how the landscape and people are so inextricably tied together, that if one thing happens the other is affected.

Rash does do something different, yes, there is the grit and the meth and desperation and disconnect that litter his short stories, but there's something else: hope. This is one of the most hopeful stories I've read by him.

In Rash's stories, there's barely a chance for redemption or ends that neatly tied-up. In Above the Waterfall we can feel that there is an underlining sense of hope. That life will hopefully get better. That these pains and miseries happen--and they just happen, no rhythm or reason to them--to strengthen us and to hopefully get us closer together; to get us closer to ourselves and what we can take and give. That really got to me.

It got to me because it reminded me that I got out. That I got the hope that my peers didn't.

Now, I never did strong drugs like my peers, but we all dealt with severe to debilitating depression and suicide. But unlike my peers, and I found hope like the characters in Above the Waterfall. I was able to get out, not without scars, of course, but those scars left me with a new outlook in life.

Maybe this is why I remember. Not for a memorial for them, but to show myself, there's always hope no matter how dark it gets.

Podcast Friday


Hey everyone, and welcome to the first podcast curating on Podcast Friday--a name in progress. 


I come across, I think, interesting content while web surfing and I want to share that content with as many people as possible. 

I don't know how I'm going to present the content. Will I do just a quote with a short review? Maybe a short review and synopsis? Or synopsis and quote? Or just some juicy quotes? For now quotes for podcasts and long-form. It'll change in the next one and it'll be interesting to see how it evolves.


"The view is magnificent... And just as sinister as it is magnificent. Sinister because this is the perfect terrain; the perfect country for mortar attacks."
The Vietnam Tapes of Lance Corporal Michael A. Baronowki 
"A Buddha...Because he's neutral. If we threw Christ up, he's controversial. Everyone's got a deal about him. Buddha, no one seems to be perturbed, in general, about a Buddha."
He's Neutral
"There are some people that write to Edith Piaf and ask her to help them cure themselves from rheumatism and arthritis. In their hearts and mind, she has become more than a legend. She has become a saint."
The Nights of Edif Piaf 
"That's the Catholic bus stop. This is where, this is where the Prots get on the bus, and this is where the Catholics get on the same bus. We actually had different bus stops, but we used the same bus. It is madness. But it's normal, and that's the really sad part."
Child of Ardoyne
"He's singing to me. And he takes my hand, and he puts it on his chest."
"Fuckin' A! Fuckin' A!. Fuckin'. A! Producer put that one in your book."
"By the end of the song, we're both crying."
"I got ya....I may be a pirate, but I am a big baby too."

Friday, January 23, 2015

Glitching through the night.

I recommend trying the game out first before reading. 

I gained my love for night driving when my Dad would drive my Mom and I to where we were going to vacation. My Mom and I were from Mexico and the US was still new to us. So my parents agreed to mostly vacationed within the US so my Mom and I would get a see it.  

During our drives, my Dad would pull all-nighters, and I would do my damndest to stay up with him. As I stayed up, I would see the highway around us slowly depopulate until there were barely any cars. At times, it was just me, him and a dark, alien landscape surrounding us; there were times in which the night would just blanket the landscape around us and we couldn't see anything; although those nights were few and far, they had a primordial feel to them.

During these late hours, I would be at my most peaceful and reflective. At times, I would enter this region where everything became nebulous and dreamlike; I loved it when I entered this region. The first thing I did when I got my license at 18 was to drive around Cincinnati in the dead of night, hoping to enter that region again.

I live in Sacramento now and I haven't night driven in almost four years. I don't know what stopped me. I've tried to find out, but I can't seem to find an answer. I miss going into that region, but when I get into the car, I freeze and go back inside my apartment.

One night while surfing for some games to play and I came across Glitchhickers. The terse descriptions its page had intrigued me: a game that tried to capture those moments of night driving when reality slowly loosen its grips on you intrigued me. Even their trailer had a feeling of reality slowly unfolded in front of you. Haven't night driven in a while, I secretly hoped this game would take me back to that region I haven't visited in a long time.

I downloaded the game and started it up

Unity screen shows up and after a few seconds it disappears and a lo-fi, droning guitar starts playing with a slow-beating drumming in the background; it sounds like something you would hear in an early Shoegaze track. A glitching title screen pops-up, Glitchhikers. The title screen slowly fades away, so does the droning guitar and slow-beating drum.

I'm inside a car. The first thing that grabs me is the color palette: muted blues and purples mixed with grays, blacks and whites. The colors give the landscape a feeling of being otherworldly; as if I'm no longer on Earth, but some far distant place that crudely resembles Earth; the low-poly art style further enhances that feeling. Everything is low-key and underplayed; the only thing that stands out is the blood orange, angular crescent moon that shows up a bit later. Even when the moon shows up, it oddly compliments the muted colors and low-poly landscape.

A radio host comes in and out of my station. And it reminds me of the idiosyncratic local radio hosts I've come across while driving through the US. But it especially reminded me of this one station I came across while night driving around the country. The host was speaking in a monotone voice and there was a sense of what he's saying sounded ominous. I say sense because I had a hard time hearing what he was saying because he, too, was speaking in a low volume. As he continued, I thought I heard things like ZOG, lizard people and other typical conspiracy ""theories". I was instantly intrigued: I'm a sucker for such things. It slowly becomes a mashup of white supremacy ideas mixed with Cryptozoology, mysticism, and UFOs. I was simply enthralled at the many different ideas being thrown into the pot. Sadly, as quickly as he came on, he quickly faded.

My character blinks and almost reflectively so do I: I realize I'm just as tired as my character, and that I, too, am entering that nebulous, dreamlike region my character has entered. I see the landscape around me slowly changing. I see myself in a daze, having an out-of-my body experience. The game starts to get splotchy and glitchy, I'm taken back to this snowy night in Cincinnati. It was 2 am and I decide to drive around Cincinnati while it was snowing. As I drive, the falling snow starts to pick-up and I realize that I was going to be in a blizzard; I continue driving though. I turn onto a road called Buffalo Ridge: a notoriously hilly, haunted road. A few minutes in, the snow falls more and more and my vision turns to sepia, and is with filled with film grain. And I feel, no, I know, I slipped back into the past. I'm no longer in the present, but traveling through the past and Buffalo Ridge is the conduit. I continue my past drive until the end of the road. I stop and see that I could turn left or do a U-turn and go back. I decided to do a U-turn and go back: everything is normal. I come back to the present, but not the present in my memory, but the present where I'm playing the game. I press E on my keyboard to turn my character's head to the right and I see someone is in the car with me.

I randomly pick-up a weird looking hitchhiker, and we talk about driving, life and the cruel things that happen during childhood. Just like the radio host in the game and in my memory: as quickly as she came, she goes. And I feel terribly lonely. I know how it is to talk to yourself when you're night driving; to create characters out-of-nowhere so you don't feel as lonely. As I continue driving through the game, I continue to pick-up hitchhikers and continue to have somewhat deep conversations about life, driving, existence, our universe and spirituality. And just as we're about to get deeper into our conversation, they dissipate and I'm feeling terribly lonely again. 

But I continue driving and the landscape around me shifts even more: trees turn into ringed planets, the sky opens and stars fall and I see a bright-colored city in front of me. I'm given a choice: turn left to exit or stay on the right to continue driving.

I continue driving.

My character blinks again, and I think it's for the last time. And the screen turns black and I'm taken back into reality. I'm no longer in that nebulous, dreamlike region; my memories are no longer swirling around me. I'm back at my apartment. And I'm content: I got to visit that place I've missed for so long and I get an urge to go night driving.

I can see my car from my window. My keys are to the left of my keyboard. I let the credits roll. The game quits itself and I walk up to the window. I see my car and smile, but I don't go out. I walk to my couch, lay down and close my eyes and hope to get swept up again but I don't. So I just pick-up a book and read.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Gliding through the past and future and hopefully back to the present. (Here Richard McGuire)

I've always had a fascination with space, land and the places we consider shelters: how the nooks and crannies and corners within our houses, apartments, and other shelters interact out with us; how we, give meaning, history and culture to those nooks and crannies, and the space and land we inhabit; how that history and culture shapes the land or space we inhabit; how those areas can mean so many different things to different people; how emotions and memory can emerge from the space and land we live and interact with daily; how those interactions and history and emotions and memories have vibrations and are able to “talk” to future generations with/without them knowing it.

These thoughts would swirl in my head for hours. I would go on walks and drives around my area to see and explore the dilapidated buildings and imagine what they were like when they were being inhabited.  I would want to know its history. I would want to interact its previous inhabitants, experience what they experienced.

And I feel this experience I read.

I read about the history of certain buildings that fascinated me. I read about plots of land that struck a certain chord with me. And I read books that dealt with the same ideas and themes that swirled in my head. I read:

Landscape & Memory: Simon Schama wrote about how human culture formed and changed the landscape around them, leaving a residue behind that continues to interact with future generations.

The Poetics of Space: Gaston Bachelard wrote about how the spaces of a house (corners, attic, basements) interact and change human memories, emotions and interactions.

Space & Place: Yu-Fu Tuan wrote about how we—people—are able to form an attachment to the space they inhabit: our home, neighborhood, community and even our nation.

I read Tim Cresswell's Place which talked about a sense of place and human geography. I read Senses of Place edited by Steven Feld & Keith H. Basso, which collected a series of essays on place and space. I read any other book that could fill my intense curiosity on such a subject.

And then I read Richard McGuire's Here.


In 1989, an experimental comic anthology called Raw published--Vol. 2, #1--a comic called Here by McGuire. It was a six page comic that showed us the history of a corner of a house. In a page there would panels-within-panels that showed the previous occupants of that corner. McGuire, within a few pages and panels, was able to travel back-and-forth through time to show us the history of that corner.

Flash forward to 2014, and now McGuire has expanded that six page comic into a 300 page comic.

In the first version of Here, McGuire used a grid to tell the story. Now, in its current version, McGuire uses a more cinematic effect. Instead of using a grid, McGuire uses double-splash pages, and within these double splash pages, McGuire is able to use panels in the splash to show the generations of people and nature that occupied that space. 

There's a rhythm I pick-up when reading Here. It feels as if I were hopscotching from from panel-to-panel, from page-to-page.  Each word bubble, each text within the word bubble, each panel, each time shift feels like they should be there,. McGuire has meticulously placed everything within this comic so you never feel like stopping. So you're moving with the flow of time, just like the corner of the house and its generations did.

And I could talk about how McGuire's soft-color palette gives the Here a feeling of how we would perceive the passage of time: we're seeing the residues of past lives. I could talk about how McGuire's line further enhances that feeling. But...  I think what I really want to talk about is how Here is special for me. Not because of the human, holistic approach that McGuire brought that most the books I've read on the subject lacked--at times. Not the craft that McGuire brought, but the heavy emotional attachment I gave to Here. It threw me back in time: a time where I was still living in Cincinnati at my old house I lived in for 23 years. 

When came across a page where the ceiling was leaking: I thought the drips of water hitting my head like, and the big splotch of brownish-water damaged spot over my bed that was directly under me. Every night I would stare at it and I would always afraid that it would burst of moldy water come out and drown me. It never happened, though.

When I came across a page of people verbally fighting through generations: I thought of all the years I fought with my parents. Me running through the house, getting away from my Mom or Dad or both because they were going to give me a whupping for misbehaving. Me screaming at them or almost getting into fists with my Dad.

When I came across the page where nature came through the window: I thought of when my parents lost the house; a house they raised me in, loved, fought, and that they thought were going to die in; a house they went back to a couple months later they found a new house to rent and saw what damage has been down to it; a house that was immaculately cleaned was now in disarray. People broke in and stole some pipes, busted up and painted the walls, and stole a beautiful stained-glass window which allowed the elements to come in and further destroy the house we lived in. This chaotic scene broke my Mom's heart and she broke down and cried. And when she saw me, she told me; it broke my heart and I broke down and cried.

I was in Cincinnati visiting my parents when I read Here. And when I finished Here, I was in a state of flux: past battling present. Cincinnati was in a state of flux itself. It felt like everything around me was in a state of flux--well, it usually is, but I was more attuned to it. So in this mindset, I decided to see my old house.

I wasn't too far from my old house. So I took the car keys and drove to my old house. I parked across from where I lived and was amazed by what I saw. I saw there was a fountain in the front yard, some animal statues in the front porch, and a white-brick fence on the side of the house. I saw the trees I used to climb were now gone, cut down. I saw the mini-basketball area I used to play in, was now gone. The house's present was battling my past impressions of it. This was too much to take in, so I left and I drove.

I drove through Cincinnati. I visited my old haunts. I visited the places that used to fascinate me. I saw the past and present and future all intermingled. Everywhere I looked, I felt like I could see its residue,  its previous occupants I saw myself slipping into a time-slip. I saw myself taking in all of Cincinnati. It was too much for me to bear. So I drove back home and saw Here waiting for me on my bed. I took the comic, placed under my pillow and slept.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Eel Mansions - Derek Van Gieson

It's 6 am and I've been up since late 4 am or early 5 am or some other ungodly early hour in the morning. I've just arrived at my apartment from dropping my girlfriend off at work, and I'm filled with a mysterious energy that I have no idea from where it originates. I go to my living-room and see my chrome-colored laptop: the laptop is a constant reminder that I need to type up my review for Here by Richard McGuire.

Might as well use this mysterious energy to use.

I sit on my couch, grab my laptop, take out my notebook out of my backpack, which has my written review for Here. I get settled in and start typing my review. Not even a few minutes in, something in the corner of my eye that grabs my attention. I move my attention away from my laptop to get a better picture of what I glimpsed. I see a paperback whose cover has a collection of drawings of otherworldly faces. I read its title: Eel Mansions by Derek Van Gieson

Looking for a reason to procrastinate, I pick up Eel Mansions, close my laptop, get cozy on my couch and start reading.

I'm instantly hooked.

Eel Mansions by Derek Van Gieson is a hard comic to describe. A comic whose various interwoven narratives and meta-narratives are continually shifting and changing. A comic, which is inhabited by cults, conspiracy theories and theorists, government agents, Eldritch creatures, secret histories, occult knowledge, Moomin stand-ins talking about music, EC influenced comics that use abstractionist moral stories, drunk indie cartoonists trying to find their next drink. All this is working within the framework of the supernatural and noir genre.

Eel Mansions is also works in another framework and that's the melodramatic soap opera world that's heavily reminiscent of Mark Frost and David Lynch's Twin Peaks. It actually has the confidence that's seen in the pilot of Twin Peaks. What I mean by that is, when you first see Twin Peaks, it's characters and the world feels lived in and we, the viewer, got dropped in one day and it's up to us to navigate and understand this lived in world and it's history: Eel Mansions pulls aspect of Twin Peaks perfectly. Within Eel Mansions, we navigate the lived in world through characters' dropping hints of their past history or putting the connections together or just coming to terms that there are some things we'll never know. There are other aspects that it Eel Mansions use from Twin Peaks: shifting from various modes of magical realism, supernatural, surrealism, and a cast of idiosyncratic characters.

It's really a testament to Van Gieson's writing ability that he's able to juggle all these things effortlessly. Van Gieson is able to shift through various different modes of writing and genres without ever relying to cliches and lazy tropes. Well, he does use those cliches, archetypes and tropes found within the genres he's working in, but he subverts them in a way that grounds them, makes them self-aware of who they are. All this is brought to life by Van Gieson's artwork.

Van Gieson's artwork lives in a world of blacks and whites and pseudo-grays and polka dots and gives Van Gieson's characters and world a feeling of weariness; of living in a slump; of haunted pasts coming back to haunt its characters. A world in which Van Gieson's lines move from simple-angular, off-kilter shapes that can make his human characters express the most complex of emotions to finely-detailed, grotesque creatures that will make you your face crunch up in disgust. There was never a moment within the comic did I feel that Van Gieson artwork was never on its A game.

I finish comic and the mysterious energy I had is now gone and I pass out.

And I dream.

And I dream of Eel Mansions.

I dream of toilets shifting and changing into Giger-esque illustrations; of Tove Jansson like grotesque creatures talking about music; of goat-mask wearing Satanic cults using guns on people; guns which are indistinguishable because of the impossible geometrical shapes they've morphed into; guns that turns the cult's victim's blood into chocolate; and I dream of an indie cartoonist growing weary of the questions from a french indie comic blogger.

And I wake up.

I see Eel Mansions is on my chest, and I know this is a comic that I will go back to time and time again because any comic that can dig itself that deep into my sub-conscious and make me dream of it is a comic worth re-visiting.