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Art things

Monday 3/2/20

Yesterday marked 1365 days (195 weeks) without a drink. On Saturday I walked three miles and climbed the Monument five times. On Sunday I walked five miles and climbed ten times. That's forty-five climbs in nine days, which is pretty good. I think the best rate I've done is fifty climbs in seven days, which included forty climbs in three days. I'm going to climb in a few minutes. I wrote a story over the weekend called "Lucian," about a hedgehog. It's not really about a hedgehog but there is a hedgehog in it and he is named Lucian. He doesn't come to a great end. This morning I wrote another short story, this one called "Mateus." So two stories in three days with names as their titles. Yesterday while I was climbing I came up with two new story ideas. I wrote a lot of letters to people who despise me. The thing I do the most in this life--more than the actual formal, proper writing--is I write letters to people who despise me.


I saw two films at the Brattle yesterday: Ringu and Light from Light.



I had seen the former before, not the latter. Ringu has a good concept. I like works that are built around a good concept. I like my own works built around a good concept. "Sega Man" is that way, and "Post-Fletcher," "Fitty," "Net Drive," "First Responder," one of the two stories I came up with yesterday will be built that way.


The concepts: in "Sega Man," there's a little hockey player video guy inside of a TV, and he gets some special Windex and he sprays it against the black of the screen at night and looks out into the apartment of the guy who has him do what he does; and it goes from there. It's in Between Cloud and Horizon.


In "Post-Fletcher," which I need to do some edits on this week--it's forthcoming from Friction--a man who is not dead nonetheless has a ghost, and the ghost is kind of a problem in town, and the people in town want him to get his ghost under control.


"Fitty" is the single most powerful story ever written, if I had to pick just one, which this industry won't let you see. It's about the precocious fifteen-year-old girl of the title--real name Fia, nicknamed Fitty--and the woman who is her thirty-year-old English teacher. We know there has been a school shooting, and the English teacher is house sitting where Fitty used to live. And she hears this child crying upstairs. As she tells her therapist, she knows if she goes up the stairs, that will probably be it for her. It's like when you lose something--maybe your keys--and you bargain in your head, you say, "If I could just find this right now, I'd give a week off my life" or whatever. Only maybe you don't have the week to give. There's a lot to the story, but eventually she goes up the stairs. I don't believe anything I write is better than anything else. I'm unique that way as an artist. But if I had to pick one story written by a human to represent the human race in some contest of the cosmos between the best writer on every planet--allowing that they're out there--I'd pick "Fitty." And if it ran in the right place, had some backing, had some support, it would crossover out of the hermetically-sealed world of publishing and knock the world on its ass, in a good way. It's as powerful an experience as a work of art can be.


"Net Drive" takes place inside of a single play (a forward making a rush on his off-wing) in a boy's high school hockey game. The entire story unfolds within that single play. It's a complex family history, and what I think people would view as an unlikely sexual awakening. The story is told as this single play is described in great detail. They also won't let you see that one.


And then "First Responder," which is the first story in Cheer Pack--which they won't let be published--ran in the VQR, where I am now banned. Different editor, means a banning. It takes places on Marathon Monday in Boston in 2013, when the bombs went off. Two brothers are hanging out by the Muddy River near the MFA. The older brother wants to join a kind of gang, and to do that, for an initiation, he has to clip the foot off of a mallard. They fight, and the younger brother goes off on his own. He walks right into everything going on on Boylston Street. The bombs have gone off, people are running in every direction, people are trying to help people. And he wants to help, too. He sees what he thinks is a finger on the ground, and he picks it up, puts it into his pocket, and begins to try to find his way to the hospital, and the story plays out as a kind of compact odyssey, with him eventually ending up at the nurses station at Charles MGH, and us finding out what was in his pocket all along. It's searing and beautiful. But it doesn't suck, so when they see it at the start of a book, they think, "that's a problem, this doesn't suck." You can look it up for yourself and read it in full, if you'd like. It's also on the short fiction part of the site, which I need to update.


I think Ringu is a little confusing at the end, even though the film tries to tell you exactly what has happened and why. You know those movies and stories where someone walks into the room and says to the people there, "So you mean to tell me that Jack married Jill? And they had a kid who murdered Jack. And that kid owns a gold mine. And that gold mine ought to have belonged to Jack's brother Bob?" Know what I mean? Someone just starts talking in exposition. That's not what you want to do.


Kind of happens at the end of Ringu, but even then, things are still fuzzy. It's fine for them to be fuzzy, but less fine if you're trying to spell them out so that they're not fuzzy. But it's a strong film. The post-divorce relationship is interesting. It's a kind of relationship that doesn't get explored a lot. I don't mean coordinating schedules to shuttle the kids from one person to the other. You see that in Frasier, in Two and a Half Men. I mean when those two people are in a situation again together, now that they're not husband and wife. But they're still something. And also something new.


All of the scenes at the grandfather's place are effective. I like when the guy finishes helping his ex-wife exhume a body from a well--the body of someone who dished out a pretty meaty curse--and he's like, "eh, I have my deadline to go work on now." I remember coming back from the courthouse, again and again, as Molly raped my soul, and I'd have to write, I'd have to be funny, whatever it was. I don't know how I did it. And to think, that was so much easier than what I do now. So, obviously, I don't know how I do this, but it's a different perspective, because it's not after the fact. It's in the fact, I guess you might say. The editing of the sequence when she comes out of the well and then out of the TV is subtle and powerful. A little bit like that Doctor Who episode with the statues coming to life. I think it's called "Blink."


Brian Evenson tried to do a concept story with "Windeye," but he's not a good enough writer to do one and it comes off as half-baked. He doesn't know how to end the story, he doesn't know what to do with it, he just kind of had this idea. That's the most you'll get from them. Most of the time they're just doing bad autobiography they call fiction.


I'll finish this later. I am going to climb now.


***

Walked three miles, climbed the Monument five times.


Light from Light was a legit good film. Better than Ringu.



It has a look of saturated color, but it's not dour with its palette. A very believable film. Honest. It's a ghost story, I guess, but it's also not. Jim Gaffigan has lost his wife in a plane crash. He thinks she's maybe sticking around the rural Tennessee house he lives in, which was passed down through her family. A priest puts him in touch with Marin Ireland, who worked for a paranormal research team. She's a single mom whose day job is working at a car rental place. She gives some not great parenting advice to her kid. But it's honest mistake stuff. It's how humans struggle, how they don't just speak to you, but their flaws are a form of mouths as well. She helps out this guy for free. He confesses that his wife wasn't supposed to be in a private plane, she was supposed to be driving to Cincinnati for work. She was cheating on him, it seemed, as she had before. He's pretty torn. They eventually go up to the crash site in the Smoky Mountains, which was a plot development I wasn't anticipating. She's good, he's good, all of the performances are good. Not every gap--I don't mean the ghost stuff, I mean the human stuff--is filled in, which is how life is. The last scene has three things happening at once, and two of them are offstage. I was impressed.


Of course, part of me is thinking, dude, she was cheating you, she sucks, you have this awesome house overlooking valleys and mountains, she wasn't even hot--the camera pans past a photo of her--so start anew, my brother! I was actually envious. It was a really nice house. I was cheated on which was part of the reason the intricate scheme to bilk me (as both a cover-up and way to get away with taking everything from me) of so much was put into place, the massive, massive web of betrayal, lies, deceptions. I just looked it up--the film did $24,000 box office. It's a really good film. It's also a film that's not happy-happy--certainly not--but you like everyone in it. For different reasons. Eighty-two minutes long. I know I could take a lot of the stories I have and make films from them that would be even better. I feel like I'm studying how to do that with everything I watch. I'm not just watching to watch, or watching as someone who partakes of art, or as a film expert who writes on film. I'm watching with this eye of, "Okay, so they had this kind of coverage in this scene, now they're doing this for coverage with this scene, how do you think we could stage that bit in 'Pillow Drift' when the storm starts coming up?"


I am rereading Cocteau's The Holy Terrors, which is largely about an incestuous brother and sister, though it's not terribly overt. It's not innocent either, not Edenic, certainly. They know what they're doing. I will find most things that are artfully sexual interesting, at the least. By which I mean, rendered artfully. Which may be ironic, having now been totally on my own for like three or four years. Cocteau illustrated the book. I wish I had drawing ability. So when I write a children's book I could do the artwork, but it's hard to have less drawing ability than I do. I'm not sure you can.



A person yesterday in front of me at the Dunkin' Donuts got a large coffee and had them put ten sugars and ten creams in it. Is it coffee anymore at that point? I know we're supposed to pretend that everything that is bad is good, but if you didn't drink it like that, cut that out of your life, and things like it, you wouldn't be corpulent. We are so intellectually, mentally, emotionally, spiritually, romantically, physically slothful and corpulent. We have fat-assed brains. Fat-assed hearts. Our courage is like this giant load that just lies around. Why do we have to pretend that that's awesome? I get that people have things they go through, and I certainly have mine right now, where I can't do some of the most basic tasks, where I feel completely helpless. I can understand somebody being depressed and overeating. That makes a lot of sense. And not being able to exercise because you're so low, all your strength feels like it left you and it's never coming back.


But a lot of the times, it's not that I don't think. It's these other things like getting the ten sugars and the ten creams. Is that so wonderfully tasty that it has to be that way? Maybe try and scale it back to half of that amount? You still get your drink, your little pick-me up in the day. Or it's like when I'm at the subway, and every single person takes that escalator. I never take the escalator. We're not talking walking up the Empire State Building. But you don't think that adds up over a year, just going up the stairs instead? It's like twenty stairs. Them another twenty. And that's it, you're up at the street. But isn't that like two floors of stairs? Without hardly trying you climbed two stories. Wouldn't that add up and make a difference? That and not having the ten sugars and ten creams? And I don't think that's a case of "I'm too depressed to take the forty stairs or not have the extra twenty units in my coffee." I feel like that's just being a lazy ass. And then everyone is supposed to pretend that's awesome. But you're also probably a lazy thinker, someone who never tries to learn or grow. That stuff is harder. Takes more effort.


I'm not a big escalator fan anyway. When I was very little, I had a hard time getting on them. Which makes me sound like an idiot. But I couldn't time it right. I recall my mom and I were out somewhere once, probably a store at Downtown Crossing. She gets on, I miss-time it, I don't get on, and I watch her ride down, thinking, well, that's it, there she goes, you're on your own now, son. I actually believed that for a second. I probably had abandonment issues. Little did I know what was in store for me, right? Anyway, this nice woman recognized that I was in crisis and helped me board the escalator and rode down with me where my mom was waiting. I thought she was like my rescuer. Ah, the things you think.


By the way, look at the inane gibberish the people in publishing post online. Look at this crap. Then fifty of them actually jump into the comments section to say, "Brava! Beautifully written!" No perspective, no ability, no character, no sanity, no sincerity. And this will be all that someone like this writes in eight months. This is their "writing." "Take care dearest! I love how you write!" Actual comment. And that person--hell, both of those people--have agents, get hooked up, etc. What an insane shit storm of hell I am in right now. What an ass backwards, demented, sanity-inverted shit storm I am in. But yeah, great writing, you're so talented, let's all hate this guy over here because he's not like this.


"NYC coronavirus chronicles (day 1) my subway ride downtown was as empty as I've seen it on a Monday morning. People reading self help books: Eckhart Tolle, Awakening to Your Life's Purpose, and a Buddhism for beginners book. I feel hopeful. Suddenly,a man in a grey sweatshirt sneezes explosively and we all recoil. He yanks the neck of his sweatshirt up over his face. I pray I have not inhaled any droplets.Upon arriving at the office I give thanks for the Purel dispenser in our lobby and disinfect best I can.Using my knee, I inadvertently press more elevator buttons than necessary and do not mind the local stop on the Children's Book floor. Upon arriving at work my yoga studio emails to say no more hands on adjustments or props.I wonder if they will also turn down the heat to avoid so much sweat. I order a homeopathic flu remedy in multiples from Amazon just in case."