On being a writer as an extension of being an artist who plays with images, rather than words.
It's weird being an author who comes from the visual art world. I don't get literature in the same way other authors seem to, or readers for that matter. To me, writing does not live outside of fine art. It's the same thing. ... I'm a conceptual writer, because I'm a conceptual fine artist.
My original ambition was to be a filmmaker, or some other kind of visual artist — maybe graphic design, maybe illustration (hello, Heavy Metal magazine!). None of that came to fruition. Well, okay, maybe the graphic design stuff did — you've seen my book covers — but it was the words that took hold first and ended up being the things I sunk into the most deeply. They were the things I had the most patience for, and which I felt I could use best.
When a Tweeter considers exiting.
The big news in the last day or so has been, as you can guess, the Muskman buying Twitter (or at least attempting to; the shareholders and the gummint still have to weigh in) and the near-universal reaction of disgust at this move. Me included. The last thing we need is everyone's friendly neighborhood troll billionaire owning the place and making it over in his image.
To that end, I already have one foot out the door. I set up a Mastodon profile, along with some other friends, and I'm going to look into having my post syndicated there as well, soon as I can figure out how the process works. But I was never attached to Twitter very strongly in the first place. If anything, for me, this is just Facebook and LJ all over again. I've been around these here webs long enough to know anything you don't actually own, you cannot count on keeping.
On the meaning of "self-care" in a burning world.
A passage from The Zen Teaching Of Huang Po:
Ordinary people all indulge in conceptual thought based on environmental phenomena, hence they feel desire and hatred. To eliminate environmental phenomena, just put an end to your conceptual thinking. When this ceases, environmental phenomena are void; and when these are void, thought ceases. But if you try to eliminate environment without first putting a stop to conceptual thought, you will not succeed, but merely increase its power to disturb you.
You probably all know that cartoon where the one person says to the other "My desire to remain informed is at odds with my desire to remain sane." I think about that one a lot in conjunction with the above passage, about how we seem to be stuck in this doomloop where we can't help but saturate ourselves with bad news. We seem to think the reason to do this is to remain "vigilant", when all it does is leave us paralyzed and enervated. Clearly it isn't working.
Chantal Akerman's singular masterwork observes three days in the life of a Belgian widow with a precision and unblinking patience that becomes all-encompassing.
In Zen they say: If something is boring after two minutes, try if for four; If still boring, try it for eight, sixteen, thirty-two, and so on. Eventually, one discovers that it is not boring but very interesting. — John Cage
Most movies are desperate to keep your attention. Chantal Akerman's Jeanne Dielman, 23, quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles does nothing more than invite us to sit and watch, for three hours and twenty minutes, a few days in the life of another human being. We might ask: Is that all? The very form of the movie is like a response: Isn't that enough? Are the lives of other people only interesting when "something happens"? And while some things do indeed happen in those three days in the life of Jeanne Dielman, Belgian widow and mother of a teenaged son, the way they're staged and delivered is forced to make us question why we would want only those things to matter.
How to find something new there. (And how to make it.)
A common trope among creators is that there's nothing new under the sun, that everything we have is just novel combinations of everything that came before. Up to a point, sure: everything new often has recognizable elements of what came before swirling around within it. But to say all that's new is nothing but the recombinance of the old ... no. The new does exist. It's just awfully hard to recognize when it shows up.
I still want to review stuff, it's just making stuff that's taken first priority.
After fixing a couple of small bugs in this blog related to how archives get rebuilt, I noticed — not for the first time — the big fall-off in reviews of books and movies and such over the past five to six years. That more or less directly coincided with a couple of things in my life. One was moving cross-country; another was focusing more on Infinimata — that is, writing my own books — as a major creative outlet; a third, related to #2, was the feeling that life was short, that my time was more limited than it used to be, and I wanted to devote what I did have of it to things only I could do; a fourth, related to #3, was the feeling that most of what I could say about any given thing was not going to be very interesting anymore, not when so many other people with far more energy and far more penetrating analyses are doing it.
Being able to sum up your own stories succinctly isn't an insult to their complexity. It means you understand what they are really about.
I used to hate trying to sum up my work in a single, succinct phrase or sentence, because I felt like trying to compress it into such a space only did violence to it. I now know this is a silly attitude to take, because being able to sum up your own stories succinctly means you understand what they are at heart really about.
On the disconnect between the highest and most refined forms of spiritual guidance, and the day-to-day suffering people have.
I have been thinking a great deal lately about the disconnect between the highest and most refined forms of spiritual guidance, and the day-to-day suffering people have.
One good example of this came out of some of the readings in Zen I have in my library. Someone dealing with the vicissitudes of daily life (lost their job, lost their parent, dog drowned, etc.) talks to a Zen master and their response is something along the lines of "Put it all down," or some other exhortation towards no-attachment. Most of us Just Plain Folks hear such things and squint in dismay: all that no-attachment stuff is fine for you, but what about little old me? And they're not wrong.
Examining your inner creative voices: "Are you 'one' writer or 'many' writers?"
Sorry for the silence on this end -- Shunga-Satori has been going full steam; tax season; work stuff. But I did want to pop back in with a great prompt my friend Steve waved under my nose: "Are you 'one' writer or 'many' writers?"
Mary Harron's adaptation of Bret Easton Ellis's divisive novel amplifies its satirical power without making its protagonist into an antihero.
It's hard to make a good movie about a horrible person. Most horrible people are just not worth the trouble. Mary Harron's American Psycho, from Bret Easton Ellis's novel, is about a truly horrible person, dissected like one of those anatomical models where you can take the organs out. It also understands that with some subjects you don't have to go far to be satirical. Only the outward acts of the main character are exaggerated. His impulses, and the way they underscore his fundamental hollowness, are taken as-is, because they are legion.
Outwardly, Patrick Bateman (Christian Bale) is a smiling Ken doll. He has a sinecure at a mergers and acquisitions firm where he does no discernible work. He sits with three of his other cronies in a restaurant over a hideously overpriced lunch and tut-tuts at them about making antisemitic cracks about a co-worker. He offers solicitous advice to a troubled sort-of girlfriend over the phone. He also tells a drunk comrade, "I like to dissect girls. Did I tell you I'm utterly insane?" and smiles when he realizes his words, which are entirely true, are going in one ear and out the other.