Thursday, November 21, 2013

New micro fiction called Puppet Barf

New micro short of mine published over at the Other Otter, a piece called:

Puppet Barf

I read it the other night at our Pungent Parlour reading series and felt good that people thought it was funny, I thought they'd be like "what the fuck was that shit." Glad it's got a home now. Some slight bathroom humor going in it, so it's not safe for reading during a meal, or as everyone is saying now, NSFRDM.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Two Dollar Radio & Film Moves

One of my favorite small presses, Two Dollar Radio, is preparing to make some films. Two years ago I read The Orange Eats Creeps by Grace Krilanovich and it helped change the way I think about literature. Not right away. My first read of it, though charged with some enjoyment, felt like work, and at the time I wasn't in the frame of mind where I necessarily appreciated hard work in my reading life. That changed after I finished the book, a few months passed where it somehow was still digesting and decompressing in my subconscious. The desire turned up to revisit it. And looking at myself as a writer at the time I felt like a fraud. For a long time I was focused on telling clever stories. Whereas there isn't anything wrong with a fun yarn and a clever twist, I wasn't exploring and challenging myself with the fresh palette of the page. I was bound by old expectations of what I thought good novels should be. I wasn't handling language as a fine craft. Reading the book again moved me to reinvent myself as a writer, to explore personal landscapes and handle language with a finer point of respect and reverence and reshaping. So I credit this book as an important one in my development as a reader and a writer.

Then this past summer I read Crapalachia by Scott McClanahan and I had to do a double take because I didn't know sentences could be so lean and efficient yet saturated with personality. 

I have some other Two Dollar Radio books on my shelf queued up and am already counting potential Christmas money I haven't received yet to load up on some of their newer titles that have intrigued me, like Jeff Jackson's debut novel Mira Corpora. 

As the books of theirs I've read have been like the introduction of strange delicacies I never knew existed, I'm excited to see what they do with the medium of film. They already have an enviable handle on narrative and voice. In the age where Syd Field formulas have rusted many movies, and people's expectations of how a movie should be paced, I welcome and anticipate what they may be projecting in the realm of digital cinema, and how it may change us as movie viewers.

For anyone that stumbles on my little blog here in the next couple of days, consider tipping them in advance at their indiegogo campaign so they can make the first round. 

Sunday, October 20, 2013

What Rips, Bangs, and Burns?

Sometimes I feel like money dwindling in my bank account is like some sort of a cancer, some abnormality draining cell counts, sucking, withering. Life force is bolstered by the cash stuff. 

Money feels like this burning acid that eats through my wallet and I’d like to think of it more like a soothing balm, something sticky, minty fresh that accumulates as a pungent whiff. I wonder if there's a simple approach to how one views money, eh? If it does feel like an acid, yes, it will eat away, but if one looks upon it as some sort of nice ointment, well there you go, it releases a sort of green endorphin that triggers the brain to make actions that result in sudden pulses of cash stuff. There are so many programs out there that teach you how to get rich, but the thought of sitting down and turning off thought in a sort of sickly gleeful worship of cash flow makes money all the more feel like a heap of dried, chunky vomit in one's pocket. There seems to be something skewed in these programs, because the practitioners are getting rich teaching people to be rich. What is the real cultural value? Maybe that's what turns me off, culture and substance have been flattened with cliches and over charged motivation. What goes up must come down, there's a cliche for you I know, but that's gravity. And that's what I've experienced from any Zig Ziglar dabble I've had in the past. You're pumped in the morning, by the end of the afternoon, a bitterness starts to rain down on your head.

I've begun reading this book, The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can't Stand Positive Thinking by Oliver Burkeman and it examines the self help industry, and the often times reverse effects. For instance, statistically people who buy a self help book buy another one within 7 months. Did that first one even work? But the thing that resonates with me is the idea of embracing uncertainty, bathing in insecurity as a way to uncover actual growth as a human being. Stare your flaws and shortcomings in the face as a way to find a way around those obstacles. Learn from them. Sap power from anxiety by letting it rip through as obscene jitters. There's a tyranny in the self help world of THINK POSITIVE THINK POSITIVE THINK POSITIVE and if you don't do that constantly then you're a grump destining yourself for failure. But the world has harsh fluctuations, and I wonder how we can solve problems if we don't study them, dive into the darkest shit and to come back with scars and a thicker skin.

I'm excited by articles like this - Why Iceland Should be in the News but Is Not - where despite declaring bankruptcy are finding solid progress by shunning international banking and reforming their constitution through an all inclusive participatory democracy, making use of that there internet to engage input. Fascinating! That 1) the internet can be used for constructive discussion in politics instead of just pumping pundit badgering and goading. 2) Since money is made up to begin with, money doesn't stem as an actual resource from the Earth, we have a lot of freedom in terms of reconstructing economies. So perhaps this can save me time in considering whether I should think of cash as an acid or a soothing balm and focus on creating systems of thought. The exchange. That's what it boils down to. A fair and active system of exchange. Like positive thinking putting up a blinder to actual solutions to problems, thinking about money tapes gauze to your eyes and slices paper cuts and takes your time away from actually doing interesting things that might result in a fee for your service.

My blood work came back recently from my first doctors visit in years. I have high cholesterol and high triglycerides. I've started to eat oatmeal for breakfast and dessert almost every day until it’s all good. I remember my triglycerides riding “sky high” back when I was 16 and was on Accutane for bad acne. They had to take me off the medicine pretty soon into treatment due to how it was affecting my triglycerides. I didn't really care what triglycerides were back then, but now I surf articles and animations about their function. I've seen a variety of infomercials for class action lawsuits for other afflictions in Accutane users, things like inflammatory bowel disease. Not yet. 

But, I am well, for I am not the gentleman I saw right after his bike t-boned a car. The remainder of my ride was cautious. Like a granny spinning wheels enough to stay upright. Eyes open. Don’t touch me. I’ll break. Survival of the fittest machine.

There were two girls who stopped with me at the site of the crash. One had an accent. Her boyfriend, she says, doesn't wear a helmet. As we looked on the puddle of blood left by the fallen biker. A helmet-less force. Two other gentlemen stopped. We all talked while the fallen was loaded onto an ambulance, which to his luck, happened to be cruising by. The hitter looked distraught but stoic. He paced. Waiting for the police. The other bikers and I continued to chat. It was the most social I've felt in a long time. At the scene of accidental vehicular brutality.

A second bike accident occurred three days later. Well, Vespa accident. I rounded the corner from George St., about to pull onto Elston but I saw this Vespa guy coming so I stopped. Then as he was passing through the intersection a white beater of a car made a left turn and the Vespa guy t-boned the front, and he flipped up and over the hood somersault style and smacked his forehead on the pavement. There must have a delay of pain, nerve needles of the sharper kind, because he stood, then his legs buckled and he bowed to the ground, pressing his head down into his hands. He asked “am I bleeding?” I said no. He wasn't. A bunch of people were already to his aide. A woman who was walking her daughter to school helped him down the ground. A guy got out of his car to help call 9-1-1 but the operator of a storefront drape shop I think it was, was already on it. On it before I could even pull my leg off my bike and approach the fallen. Another biker in a fluorescent yellow spandex shirt caught up to the scene and mentioned to me that the Vespa guy was driving like an asshole, weaving in and out of cars. Vespa guy also didn’t wear a helmet. I later did some testing of physics with my own helmet, simulating impact points and noticed both riders, had they been wearing a helmet, would have protected their heads from immediate concrete smackery.

I stuck around for a few minutes but the guy was well tended to, one was asking him questions to test his alertness. “What’s your name?” Simon. “How old are you?” 33. “Where do you work?” Verizon. (I changed some details as not to call out clues to his identity). He was conversing, but out of it. A concussion most likely. The lady with the daughter kept snapping her fingers to keep him from nodding off because he wanted to close his eyes.

Helmets. I will sing their praises. I will champion their cause. Protect the damn noggin my fellow bikers.

So cycling back (pun intended) to how I started this post, in talking money worries, and working my way up to bike accidents, I'm thinking heavy on what really, actually rips, bangs and burns us people. And money just seems to be a pathetic weapon yet we fear it more than any object. 

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Chef Worship

The early religions may have been an unguided confused experiment with personality. Did the earliest upright humans have personalities? How did these evolve? 

The natural world; geological, botanical, and animal perform unpredictable behaviors.  The observing man casts these things, based on his emotional reaction, onto people in his life. A dangerous man is like a wolf. The ill-tempered man is a volcano. The animal may trot with a certain tempo, may have a mouth curvature like a smile. Our minds fill in patterns, things are compared to things. 

We of course ate these animals.

Flavor can be used interchangeably with personality.

Plants may have distinct smells, infusing a set atmosphere on the senses.

Things geological, botanical, and animal could either support life, or take it away.

Flavors tasted and fears provoked churn a spectrum of feeling. Feeling works its way into expression. Into story. Into tapestries and mythology, fueling the feeling and regurgitating power into worship. 

Taste gives a distinct character to something life sustaining. This has a most powerful effect on endorphins compared to any character one may read in a story. 

Things that sustain life, they are divine, right?

Flash forward to our "rational"-esque culture. We like to think we're objective, we're not savages worshiping sun and thunder gods. We have refined tastes. We eat at nice restaurants. And we celebrate personality. 

The chef tends to have a large personality. As we see on TV shows. The chef, like a fine renaissance artist, cultivates flavor through concoctions of foodstuff, life sustaining foods, and when flickered as an image in fire, or the TV set, invoked is a tendency towards reverence. The burning bush. Moses may have snacked on the mountain. We poke our plates in front of these intense cooking competitions.

We don't fear the character of lightning anymore. Unless we're out swimming. We're too busy practicing chef worship to concern ourselves with the elements. We're inside, eating, mmm, fucking good.

The ancient Gods were full of personality. Yahweh, what a loose cannon. Chef Gordan Ramsey, boy can he rip into you.

God is more-so a little tepid and faceless now, to balance monotheism with a touch of scientific reasoning. But we're back to our roots. Like a religious ceremony, food brings people together. And that bad-ass chef is on a higher plane, a colorful human being that is more holy than average office man munching.

Celebrities that make damn good food; our new pantheon.

The old testament God may have been a little too pissy for many to swallow (If only he made food though, we could all still swallow his presence). But a raging restaurateur on Iron Chef or the like is one that we fear. The parade of Instagramed pics of complex cuisine is a sign of devoutness: A commemorative kaleidoscope of foodie photos is a digital crucifix dangling necklace or Jesus fish young adults can get behind. An icon they'd proudly hang in their living room and adopt into their newly reinvented heritage. 

The styles, airs, ambiances and renderings of ethnic cultures may be a bleed over, an aftertaste influenced by native spices and seasonings. The early cooks that collectively contributed to the Chinese cuisine, Indian cuisine, Mexican, and other food styles we love, were they revered in their communities as so?

We are what we eat; goes deep into our blood.

A mad respect, yes, is deserved though by the chefs. They bust their asses and appease our taste buds. 

Recently I learned how to make a sushi roll. It was a sloppy attempt, tasty however, and I felt like a creator. I was high on my own power and feeling full (of it).

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Biker, the Blood Spiker

I like to think of my legs as part machine. When they're pushing against the spin cycle that gets me around.

My Uncle John found an old bicycle in his garage, asked if I wanted it, I said yes, he fixed it up. I've had two fairly nice bicycles in the city that have been thieved from me. The more recent one, two years ago, I believe I spouted off about it here. So I've been avoiding. Yet wanting. Then avoiding, wondering if I should invest in such a vehicle, and if were to, I'd imagine the ways I can make it into a beater with duct tape and spray paint so it looks less desirable to the pro bike burglar to pawn off on the market for cheap bikes. I had often thought about going about buying a cheap bike, then wondering if I'd be inadvertently buying someone else's stolen bike, so it put the whole thing on hold.

But this opportunity, this garage bike, this ancient machine from my Uncle's college days, having spun him around Houghton, Michigan up there in the upper peninsula, yes back in the day, this is the beater. 

I've also been itching to ditch CTA for awhile. Sometimes you need a break from public transit.

I've been biking to work for a few weeks and though I look like a bike messenger these days with my pants rolled up and bike gloves wrapping my hands, there's a ton of positives about this. 

I feel more energized in the morning, more focused, ready to get down to work.

I feel less anxious in the morning. There's always this anxiety I seem to absorb when riding the subway, like everybody's stress and worries about the day are wafting up and I'm inhaling this and it makes for an odd and inexplicable nerve wracking first hour of the day. I don't have that with my bicycling. 

It's 4.2 miles to work. So each day, I'm getting 8.4 miles of spin cycle cardio.

My commute has gone from 45 minutes to 22 minutes. 

It's a lot of damn fun.

Doing errands after work is kind of easier, as you can propel yourself in and out of different neighborhoods more fluidly than with transferring buses and waiting and transferring. 

It's a healthy thing, because in running some recent blood pressure checks, my blood pressure is on the high side. Biking is an integrated way to make sure I'm getting some exercise in the day. And as mentioned, feeling more energized in the morning, is putting me in a position where I can feasibly ween myself off coffee. Cutting back the 5 or more cup a day habit is, I think, a big step in getting this beast of a blood pressure score down. I'm 30 now, so this is the kind of thing I'm supposed to worry about. It is time.

Let's spin things morbid for a second. I've been thinking a bit about my own mortality, especially while riding my bike. For all of it's pluses, taking a spill could very well end it all. Yet, I don't feel frightened by it. I'm putting myself out there, getting where I need to go in an efficient, enjoyable way, that's life, yes? In fact, part of my lessened anxiety may be due to the notion that in comparison to the dangers of the road, whatever professional challenges I come across in the day are puny. 

So while riding to work on Friday, I was thinking about spooky stuff since it was the 13th. I thought about what if I wiped out and became a ghost. I thought about a prank I'd love to pull if I had the chance. I'd hang out in the kitchen when someone was baking something in the oven. Then I'd turn it off while they walked away to do whatever they do in between. When they come back and wonder why it's still cold, they'll notice the oven isn't even on. Then they'll think they're losing their minds! When they turn it back on, I'll turn it off again. Until they catch on. This may sound mean, and I do have a bit of a latent mean streak, but it's also harmless, and I think, hilarious.

Point is, we're all just messing around. Bikes. Blood. Ghosts. People. Getting around and getting ahead.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Freak Show

In a  couple of days we perform what will be one of our last Wood Sugars live sketch shows. For awhile. We have plans for the future. One of our members is doing some travelling. Over the past few years we've been doing bits at various Chicago bar-prov-esque venues such as Fizz Bar, The Underground Lounge, The Upstairs Gallery, Mullens. Many others. Usually we get a 10-15 time slot to do a handful of our sketches in the guise of a travelling freak show. Donny would host as Bosco Dunwitty Radriguez and introduce the acts such as "Attack of the Groomzilla" and the "TMI IT guy." Various puns on weird behaviors. We've developed and tried out an alternating line-up of these. The culmination of our comedic experiments came in the form of our first real writers room to create new bits. And then an hour long sketch show with an actual arc, these freaks take flight. You come to love them. Poignant moments help build the tension, then we aim cut it with sharp wordplay. Hey, here's a plug. Step right up to see Wood Sugars Freak Show Featuring Regular Adults

Recently I dined at Riverview Tavern with some family that was in town. A sort of mural adorned one of the walls outlining the old Riverview Park, an amusement park that used to be situated along the river in Roscoe Village, long since shuttered and built over. With the freak show on my mind, I remembered hearing of this while working an event several years back with the photography company I used to work for. It was someone's anniversary party. The green screen back drop they requested was of a carnival-esque rendering of the old Riverview Park. I'm not sure how it related to this older couple, perhaps they had a date there. At one point, an older woman recounted how horrible the park was, that there was an actual freak show there, how horrid she cried. Her passionate scoff resonated in my memory and is prompting me to do some research, some historical scholarship into nasty freak shows of olde in the Chicago area. Shit, I even want to do some hardcore research, this curiosity pique on curiosities, perhaps even going to the library, tooling around on a microfiche, late nights til closing (what, 7pm in Chicago Public Libraries?) like a self serious scene right out of All The President's Men. 

The findings will be in a different post. The show is so close, and the research bug could cause me to stumble upon more weird intrigue. The loop that comes with research. And so I give myself an extension on that part. For now, I'd like to share this article from WBEZ. Apparently Riverview Park caused some racial tensions with their "Dunk the N***er" act. Sheesh. That's just fucking rude. The real freak is the segment of Chicago's population that ate that shit like it was an innocuous family pastime.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Closer. For Tech Startups.

Earlier this year I saw the culture site Brain Pickings feature the book Close to the Machine: Technophilia and Its Discontents by Ellen Ullman. There was a line of her's they quoted that struck me like a captivating trance:

"Soon the beautiful crystal must be recut. This lovely edge and that one are gone. The whole graceful structure loses coherence. What began in a state of grace soon reveals itself to be a jumble. The human mind, as it turns out, is messy...The messiness cannot go into the program; it piles up around the programmer...Soon the programmer has no choice but to retreat into some private interior space, closer to the machine."

Something about this resonated as I've been dabbling in learning code here and there throughout the year. Indeed my thinking has gotten messier since taking on developing this new skill, but reading bits and passages from Close to the Machine seemed to instill courage to heap on the messiness. In fact life probably never gets less messy, so let's bring it on.

This book has been on my to-read list for sometime and I finally cracked into it later this week. The text channeled in through my eyes like the fluid compulsion a programmer must feel when connecting to solutions long strained for. Close to the Machine reads like a well crafted novel. The sentence is precise. Beyond being a book classified in Technology or Memoir, is something that rings of literature, with swell philosophies that don't feel prattled but earned.

"I imagined I would show him into this music, the slow movement's aching play of major against minor, the intense miracle of logic which somehow, with all its precision and balance still burst with passion. 'Here is how I know God is a passionate engineer.'"

An odyssey of sorts as Ellen Ullman progresses her career as a software engineer, but also examines her own ability to relate to the human experience. Here it takes on the feel of a love story stripped of cliches and mushiness. Yes, there are bits about her relationships with men, and women. And parents. But the thread of love gravitates toward a love of career, and takes it deeper than anything else that focuses on the story of one's occupation.

"In the middle of the demo, I realized how fortunate we were to be engineers. How lucky for us to be people who built things and took our satisfactions from humming machines and running programs. We certainly wouldn't mind if the company went public and we all got fabulously rich. But the important thing was right in front of us. We had started with some scratchings on a white board and built this: this operational program, this functioning thing."

I hope progressions in technology bring along parallels in her train of thought, and perhaps we roll into an age where career obsession revolves more around function, and operating in some way that works, versus the ladder of wealth that gets the attention as one considers success in spite of sometimes stomping on desirable actions. Enter refinement of logic. Ullman, an admitted ex-communist, may not have shed those leanings, but seems to have refracted bits of communism through the blend of logic, and morals. As she questions a wealthy friend: "These men you advise - what do you think drives them? It has to be more than money; they already have a lot of money. What is it - what is inside of them?" Sometimes behavior can be debugged too. Yes I zeroed in and dragged in some mentions of communism. Before you go calling me a communist, I'm not one yet. But perhaps as I gain more courage to sift through and write code, I may learn to have the courage to extract bits from theories for the sake of contributing a unique line to something that works for the big damn machine that is this world we live in.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

A Reflection on Terence McKenna's True Hallucations

Terence McKenna fascinates me. After hearing him speak in some various YouTube clips, I found him an infectious lecturer and was curious to check out his writing. Now, I consider myself a "pseudo-pschonaut" in that it's been many years since I dabbled in any hallucinogens. My tendency toward anxiety makes that a tricky pursuit. But I've long been interested in lucid dreaming and various topics in consciousness.

True Hallucinations reads like a mad scientist's journal, and for that I enjoyed it. It excites you. Running with ideas is fun. Though in some parts, hearing someone rant about a mushroom trip while you're not on mushrooms yourself can feel a little like being sober in a packed bar, for that it can also get a little exhausting. In the end curiosity in his point of view propelled me further.

I'm intrigued to check into The Invisible Landscape where the McKenna brothers seem to go deeper into the actual Time Wave Theory, whereas True Hallucinations is more so an account of their drug adventures. But an idea that resonates for further exploration is the notion that perhaps alien life has already colonized our planet in the form of certain plants and mushrooms. These mushrooms serve as a sort of star ship for voyages deep into the universe itself. Yeah it sounds a little crack-pottish, and McKenna is a crackpot, though he admits to it and has fun with it. If the book lacked his humor and self deprecation it would have been more difficult to humor back and go for the ride. The universe is crazy, so fuck it, let's explore the nooks and crannies. Ah, the fringe sciences.

Here's a quote to give you a sense of the sort of thinking, that whether you're into hearing about other people's drug stories and mind blowing stoner thoughts, well, the beautiful intricacy of the physical world deserves a little trance-like observation from time to time.

"[Sand dunes] bear a resemblance to the force that created them, wind. It is as if each grain of sand were a bit inside the memory of a natural computer. The wind is the input that arranges the grains of sand so that they beam a lower-dimensional template of a higher-dimensional phenomenon, in this case the wind. There is nothing magical about this, and it does not seem mysterious to us: wind, a pressure that is variable in space. In my thinking, the genes of organisms are grains of sand arranged by the ebb and flow of the winds of time. Naturally, then, organisms bear the imprint of the inherent variables in the temporal medium in which they arose. DNA is the blank slate upon which the changing temporal variables have had their sequin and relative differences recorded. Any technique that saw into the energetic relationships within a living organism, such as yoga or the use of psychedelic plants, would also give a deep insight concerning the variable nature of time." - Terence McKenna, True Hallucinations: Being An Account of The Author's Extraordinary Adventures in the Devil's Paradise.

I just finished this last night, so these are just some initial thoughts. As I digest, there may or may not be some more nuggets of brilliance or bullshit to sift through and write more about it. Even if there are more swells of bullshit, I have a lot of respect for Terence McKenna. He goes places and shares his experience, and I find nothing wrong with that. Mushrooms grow in shit and when life's circumstances or societal structures get to feeling like bullshit, hats off to someone who devours a delectable fungus and appreciates the show. Because what's behind the curtain may reveal some incredibly important cosmic knowledge we need someday to save humanity.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Pungent Parlour - An August Must.

I've got this swell reading series in Chicago called Pungent Parlour that I co-created with my friend Jeremy Solomon. For a couple of years I did one called The Liquid Burning of Apocalyptic Bard Letters with my friend Aaron Cynic. That was, you guessed it, apocalypse themed. After a year away from it I was hungry to have a similar series to look forward to, something salon style, maybe a little looser in terms of theme, in that space in the back room at Black Rock Pub & Kitchen. Fireplaces and couches. Rustic wood. We did The Liquid Burning there, before we got booted from Matilda Baby Atlas when they converted it into a "dance club." We wanted to create a series that was a cozy "safe" space in the sense of writers trying out pieces from any stage of the writing process. New work. Old work. Published work. Desk drawer dust covered work. Each one we've done we've seen a wide variety: funny, violent, poignant, avant garde, interactive, grotesque. List expands. Chicago has a ton of good live lit going on, and I love it all. But I especially love our literary home. We're going into our 7th one tomorrow. We do it every 3rd Tuesday of the Month. I'll be there. I hope you'll be there. 8:30pm

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Pearl Jammer

An occasional pastime for me and my brother is to go to a Pearl Jam concert. Well, we've only been to two now, but I'd like for it become a pastime. A couple of years ago he took me to see the PJ20 tour kickoff at Alpine Valley. That was a birthday present to me. The concert at Wrigley Field he took me to last night was also a birthday present. I need to make some big money to return the favor and take him to something huge, someday. Perhaps the next Pearl Jam concert. Eddie Vedder wants to come back to Wrigley Field, perhaps do a double header, and I hope he does.

Pearl Jam is a special thing for me and my brother. I inadvertently turned him onto it when he was in 7th grade. Shopping at a music store in the Auburn Mall (Auburn, ME) a store since closed and turned into something else, maybe a Bath and Body Works or a smoothie place, I picked out a birthday gift for him. At random, I chose a cassette tape of Pearl Jam's Vs. because I liked the image of the snarling sheep warped by a wide angle lens. He fell in love with it, and soon bought the tape of Ten. And then we got CD players so he got the subsequent albums after that on CD. He got really into them. One time I was talking to a friend on AIM, my brother came in the room, looked over my shoulder, saw he had mentioned Pearl Jam. My brother got me to ask him if he was a Pearl Jam freak. My friend's reply was: I like Pearl Jam but I wouldn't say that I'm a freak of theirs. 

My brother went to see them play as much as he could in college, was in a Pearl Jam cover band too, and bought all of their bootleg CDs. His collection was wide and deep. I remember during one semester break when I too had moved on to college, riding with him when he went to participate in a nordic ski race at Lake Placid, where the old Olympic trails were, and we listened to a shit load of Pearl Jam. The bootlegs. In the dark of night as we drove, I imagined myself there. It seemed like a good show. 

Finally we got to go together. And it's a fucking treasure. It's uplifting without the cheese. Grunge can vibrate goodness. Sometimes seeing the pseudo sense of worship that is a rock concert can be off putting. But when I see it at a Pearl Jam show, I feel like these guys deserve to be rock gods every night they go out there and do their thing. Seeing the people around me getting into it, I feel as though even though they're letting themselves float away, they are grounded good people to be in the vicinity of. 

A couple of similarities between the two I've been two. A shit load of rain. And late late late nights. 

When I was at their Alpine Valley show, it was night 1 of 2. That was the rainy day, a wet soaked, cold one. It was also two days after a fiasco of a moving experience where the movers didn't show up and my girlfriend and I had to make car trip after car trip until 6am. No sleep. Yet the discomfort of tiredness and damp chills was soothed by the crooning and riffing. Like I said, it's uplifting. A sort of dirty, lax, unpretentious church. Then my brother's friend got too drunk and needed someone to drive him to our campsite. He couldn't remember where he parked exactly. We embarked on a romp through fields through to other fields searching until the lot was mostly cleared out. I continued to magically find burrs on my shoes for weeks after removing any and all that appeared suddenly on my shoe laces. Ghost burrs.

Last night, Pearl Jam played for half an hour before impending storms were looking via radar to smack Wrigley Field. They were pressured to take a break, and the Pearl Jam guys seem to take heart the safety of their fans after some were trampled at a Denmark show in 2000. So the field was cleared, the storms hit. Our seats were on the 3rd row of the upper deck, along the 3rd base dugout. Just barely shielded by the overhang, the east blowing wind kept us from being drenched. The spray was refreshing, and lighting seared the skyline. It was beautiful. It passed. We waited. We worried about the show being able to continue. There was that Wrigley Field curfew, which we were pleased to learn when they finally took back to the stage at 11:30pm, had been lifted. "Ernie Banks used to say, 'let's play two,'" Eddie Vedder quoted and continued with his add-on. "Let's play til two." Everyone went nuts. 38 songs were played. Quite a few were from Yield, one of my favorites. They also played Bugs from Vitalogy and people were geeked. Showed that some true fans were there, to get psyched over a rarely played track. I'm glad they got to finish. Out of all the people who've done Wrigley Field concerts, it seems to mean the most to Eddie Vedder. A Cub's die hard. An Ernie Banks fan, who joined him onstage after the rain delay.

Rain blown by the wind at Wrigley Field, delaying the Pearl Jam concert.
It ended a little after 2am. Knowing public transit would be packed, and infrequent, via the bus to get back to Logan Square, my brother and I walked home. 2.81 miles. I enjoy a good walk, so does he, so it was tolerable. We were energized, though exhausted and in a pleasant daze. I thought about how it now being July 20th, it would have been my dad's 63rd birthday if he were still alive. I thought about how he would have been pleased to see my brother and I spending time together seeing a great show. I also thought about how one time when my brother and I were in high school, he overheard us talking about punk music. He asked what we were talking about. We replied that he wouldn't know what we were talking about, that it was about punk music. He said that he liked some punk music. We laughed and said "sure, sure, name a punk band!" He said that he liked Pearl Jam. "Haha, Dad! Pearl Jam isn't punk music! Oh boy oh boy, geez Dad." I felt bad about that. Like we were barring him entry into a little club. 

Last night Pearl Jam played a track from their upcoming album. It was a hardcore one, perhaps quite a bit punk influenced. My dad got the last laugh. 

We also saw my friend Dr. Kenneth Noisewater at the show. Read his blog - The Gancer!

Monday, July 1, 2013

Rain Slickers, man.

Sometimes I fantasize about walking in the pouring rain. Like it'd be refreshing. Last week I got caught in the rain twice. The first time I was coming up from the underground part of the Chicago Blueline. It was suddenly very dark out and I wondered, shit, how late did I work? Then I saw black clouds and I thought, shit, I better book it when I get off at the stop. Pulling up at California, and stepping out off the train, boom! Thunder, lightning, and torrential down pour. I hunkered down in the entrance for 10 minutes until it lessened. I thought it was exciting though. Shared some glances with others that had a similar plan, and I was like, this is a nice sense of community.

The next day I was crabby. I was trying to work out something in my mind and while walking home from the Blueline, it rained. A heavy rain. It scattered my thoughts. I pulled out my umbrella from my man bag. Soon after, a gust of wind popped it out so it was concave, facing up. I flipped my wrist to right it. The wind was persistent. A few of these back and forth spars caused the fabric to rip off from the spokes. This irritated me and I cussed and hit it against a sign post. It wasn't my most patient moment. I had felt myself getting soaked. My man bag getting soaked. And instead of feeling recharged by the rain, my anger was fed.

I thought about my destroyed umbrella as a symbol of the day. I thought about ducking into a Walgreen's, but did I want to spend 7 bucks on something the Chicago winds would mess with again? And again. And again. It becomes its own line item to budget: umbrella supply. Plus I've been getting this minor form of OCD lately: during a recent Walgreen's checkout, the terminal asked me if I wanted to donate $1 to fight diabetes, my brain said "if you don't donate right now, you'll get diabetes" and so being soaking wet, I didn't want that kind of pressure.

Rain slickers, man, rain slickers. My consciousness is catching up to their existence, and I'm liking the idea of quitting umbrellas altogether. As I walked some more and looked periodically at the mess of my umbrella's remaining structure, I started to feel good about myself. I had taken out my aggression for the first time in a long time. The day's shortcomings were not taken out on a wife, or a small animal. Instead I demolished an item that's not actually that useful in the windy city.

Rain slickers, man. After a crummy day, the image of a bright yellow rain slicker was a hopeful beam peaking through the overcast.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Running Thoughts Rolling

Again, I ran. Two weekend days in a row to make me feeling accomplished on a cellular level.

Passing by Hot Doug's, quite a popular hot dog joint in Chicago, usually only open two hours a day, long lines withstanding, there was indeed a long line. I've yet to go. Of course being out for a run I didn't have my wallet on me. I thought about proposing a "creative begging" to the last person in line. If I run up to Irving Park (Hot Doug's being just a couple of blocks north of Belmont) and back (just shy of 2 miles) before you get to the door, you buy me a hot dog, deal? But I chickened out, which is probably the more appropriate behavior here in how to follow through on such an idea.

I saw many others running, most listening to iPods through ear buds. I wondered if I'd feel more motivated while running if I were listening to adrenaline boosting music, I probably would, would probably last longer with pick ups. Though, if I were to look at running as a more therapeutic activity, which is a big part of why I'm running, I do appreciate letting my ears out in the open, to immerse in the airwaves of city sounds and the wisps of nature between voids of concrete. I get enough motivation from the echoing in my mind of my old cross country coach, Dan Campbell, saying "Come on Phillips!" I hear this and it helps me run faster. For you Campbell, balls to the walls! He was the inspiration for my "Coach" character in my novel Votary Nerves.

While running across the Belmont bridge over the river, I heard a sudden sound wave, like amplifiers being cranked by quick twist of the knob at a street festival. Coming from Western up by Mariano's and Lane Tech, where there was a carnival last weekend. I wondered if the carnival stuck around and what if a sound wave could be so amped that it'd knock a man down, a man running on a bridge, a man  who couldn't react quick enough when the force bent his hip over the railing.

City sounds can move a man. 

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Running Dickhead

Roughly a week ago, I recognized, I've been feeling older. A bit of high blood pressure going on (I worked that into a new short story, so it worked out as fodder). Been eating better, certainly doing a bit of walking. But my body could use a push, an upping on the cardiac flow, so I took advantage of the long Memorial Day Weekend and went for a jog. 

At first, my body felt surprisingly good. It was refreshing. I even pushed some sprints. I went up and down a trail along the Chicago river, some of the fresh feeling was snuffed by the smell of sewage coming from the waterway, but that soon passed. Must have only been a pocket of sludge floating there.

The next day I ran a bit west, twirled around some diagonal, neighbor-hoody side streets. I thought; I do like this running thing. I've never been much into gyms. Running on treadmills, going from weight station to weight station, feels sort of stiff, non-inspirational for me as far as fitness goes. But having been a cross-country runner and cross-country skier throughout high school, activities I did enjoy, that sense of fast exploration was awakened. Running is freeing in regards to that. Checking out weird pockets of the neighborhood and surrounding neighborhoods without eating up a large chunk of the day as my occasional walkabouts would.

Wednesday, I was stressed about a work thing, and went for quite the run in the evening, pushing some sprints, even some pickups lasting several minutes. The endorphin buzz! Just what I needed. So the runner's high addiction may be something I'll be dealing with this summer and not willing to sway on, unless the MSG in knock-off potato chips gets me feeling even better!

This afternoon, a guy tried handing me a brochure for what looked like a pizza place to me while I was running. He may have read my mind because I was thinking about what carbs I'd have later, excited for them, but man, what do you think I'm going to do with a pizza brochure while doing my run? Clutch it and look like an irony of body work? I did pig out on beer battered onion rings earlier in the day, but that is a contradiction behind closed doors. Plus my hands aren't going to want any responsibility. What a weird move guy

One of the things I've noticed while running is I see a lot of elderly people walking, or hobbling, with a cane, real slow. And I feel guilty, like, should I go help them out? I feel like I should. That my running around all young and peppy is flaunting something they lack right in their faces. But I also wonder, if I did stop and help them walk around to wherever they may be going, maybe that would be annoying to them, perhaps they just want to go for a stroll in peace and clear their mind. And it would take up a lot of time, for me, if I'm to note something selfish. 

Once a few years back an old lady with massive swollen ankles asked me to help her to the grocery store, so I was nice, and did. But she creeped me out when she started offering me a quarter each for all these jobs around her apartment she wanted me to do, which sounded like a lot, and she wasn't asking sweetly, she was stating what she wanted me to do and then dangling a quarter like it would get done faster. Then I pictured myself becoming a permanent low wage employee in her apartment, feeling guilty about leaving her, and thus, never leaving her dark apartment, doing foot rubs and filling a jar with quarters. Because I felt so guilty in this imagined scenario, I panicked after she had me walk her around Jewel at the pace of a dying turtle, so I transitioned a Jewel employee in my place. In all fairness, I was already late for a film shoot, even later because I had tried to be a nice guy, so I felt compelled to get another young man to take my shift with her.

But I feel as though I need to look out more for old people. Maybe not stopping my jog to serve as a second cane, though it may be a dose of companionship. But I'd like to place this guilt and desire to help more efficiently, instead of just thinking it and going off as a running dickhead, waving off pizza brochures from some poor guy just trying to keep his franchise afloat. After all, feeling old is what made me want to get up and run around. Someday, I won't be able to run.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Gun Shit

I've been weaning myself off opinionated rants because, well, who am I to be speaking out on certain things. At times, I wonder if I've earned my perspective, so I've been focusing on doing that. Earning perspective versus rattling off stances.

But today, I feel reactive.

Ya know, for awhile I've been a bit moderate in my thoughts on the gun issue, pro gun-control in part, certainly background checks seem a helpful start. If that's an infringement on rights, well employers, landlords, etc run background checks and no one's barking about their rights there, so it's really not a "rights" issue where background checks are concerned with guns, is it? Nice try. But I've long felt a sense of respectful politeness towards nice people that enjoy hunting, want to have a protective device perhaps, or enjoy marksmanship. So, I was for finding a balance between the 2nd Amendment, sure, and reasonable gun control.

Reading this - - it's a gut punch. And my thoughts now are: Let's just be done with guns. Let's just be done. Let's. Just be done. This whole thing is like watching someone use heroin because they enjoy it and we're afraid to jump in there because, well, it's his freedom of choice to do so. But if you love someone, you intervene right? There's some sort of intervention to say, you know what, time to stop, you're killing yourself. Substitute America for the junky and swap out drug of choice with guns, and it's the same scenario. Simply saying, fine let the junky die off is a little different now, because, we are all America.

When I was 8 and inspired by the movie Robin Hood Prince of Thieves, my friends and I fashioned our own bows and arrows in the woods using branches and string from our mom's sewing chest. Then one day a friend accidentally shot his little brother in the eye with an arrow and we all got our bows and arrows taken away from us. That was a good call on our dad's part. Kid's can aggressive with their toys. Adults can get aggressive with their toys too. America's founding fathers are long gone, their advice a little murky now. America needs a living father figure who has the balls to take away privileges when they are abused. Shit, some bad men, or misguided little boys are ruining it for everybody else. So what. Tough shit. The gun industry may have been a bad experiment.

But what really is at the heart of this gun addiction? Is it protection against the government gone tyrannical? Whoa, even these automatic rifles with hefty magazines won't take a down a drone or a tank or a missile. We've got to get little more creative if we want to keep the government in check, so let's not think the 2nd Amendment so crucial.

The thing is, we all want to feel cool, tough under control. Movies instill in us a sense of how to be cool. I'm not really one for censorship, so let's do a little free market exercise and stop buying into movies that pump our heads full of the imagery below:

One, it's not that entertaining. Maybe that's a snotty thing for me to say, but I'm going to say it anyway. It also feeds our subconscious with a weird, inappropriate way to respond when life naturally frustrates us. We see charismatic tough dudes taking matters into their own hands, and it can be a warped inspiration to a loner having a tough time. Or, if a cold blooded plan isn't floating in one's head, they may, though, be intrigued to play with guns. Like the 8 year me and my friends playing with arrows. We didn't really want to shoot each other, but accidents happen, because it's easy to get reckless when playing with toys.

Now, I'm not against violence in movies when portrayed as it is actually is: creepy, horrifying and stressful. The cool dude shoot 'em up also pumps up the arms industry, it's great advertisement, perpetuating a bloated rationalizing clutch on outdated wording, like the 2nd Amendment. So, how to be done with the physical guns themselves, let's be done with the gun culture. If we don't want the government to make this decision for us, then we the people, let's stop buying gun bullshit, and let the free market fade that shit out.

There. That's my gut. My gut opinion. Now, gun lovers. Convince me that my gut is way off. That my concern for the drug epidemic, that is shooting other people in the guts, is off base and tyrannical.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Ravaging the System

There's this sense of reward I feel whenever I heal from a hangover, or like my recent experience with food poisoning. It's as though my body has accomplished something grand, letting seep from my marrow a toxic sludge, any old sense of burden made a solvent in the literal poison, raised into a cacophonous crescendo of discomfort, until, swept away through a stream of hot, dark yellow piss.

Recently I grabbed a quick xxxxxxxxx at xxxxxxxx xxxxxxxx , and holy hell I felt like Rasputin in his final moments. I vomited once about 2am, again at 4am, again while taking a shower at 7am, again when I got to work. While hanging over the toilet bowl down the hall from the office, I realized this was worse than any intense hangover, and I've experienced plenty of those to compare. This was my body rejecting something that had penetrated deep. The greasy thing I ate at xxxxxxxx xxxxxxxx. After some vomiting, came explosive shitting. I'm leaving the place cryptic as I've long since enjoyed it, of any fast food, it's been my go-to for a cheap, quick bite while on the run around town. Of the hundreds of times I've chowed it down, this was my first internal attack. So, though it will take some time before I go back, I will forgive it. I will eventually come around. I'll write this off as a fluke. Could happen anywhere. Makes me rethink the culture of chef worship seeing how  minor actions of a cook can smite one down, groaning.

I had left work early, laid in the shower because the warmth was somewhat comforting, distracting, and if I needed to vomit again, a good place to wash it away. And I did retch again, hot burning acid from my stomach ripping away my throat. I thought I maybe saw drops of blood in this latter round of upchuck. I wondered if I should go to the hospital? Did I have the energy to go to the hospital? No. I did not. I thought I could be dying. I thought that could be a relief. 

But eventually my body rid itself of the poison and I felt like a new man. The ravaging, was somehow, refreshing. It reminded me of the monologue from Sam Shepard's La Tourista I had used for theatre auditions for many years. "Nothing like a little amoebic dysentery to build up a man's immunity to his environment." Perhaps I've internalized this philosophy a bit after so many recantations. I'm a fan of ravaging my system every once in awhile. The clarity after that storm, seeing thick tree roots of dull anxiety ripped up and laid waste. 

But today I thought about ravaging, and society's equivalent. A body politic can digest things that are unhealthy too. And things like the Boston Marathon bombing, Newtown, Aurora, and let's not forget about variations of attack abroad. Yet the sigh of relief at the end of my nausea, where is the equivalent in this greater scheme of world retching? Well, there are bubbles of violence, we all settle back in, until the next event of malevolence pops. Just as I'm sure someday again I'll eat bad food, or drink too much, making this sigh of relief a blip in time too.

Civilization can get complicated. Problems fizz. When I see attempted solutions in the form of explosions, nicking apart flesh, aside from the horror, I notice there is a glaring lack of creativity in that approach. It's cliche. Someone's mad at the world and they hurt people, they make a mess. It's been done before, ineffective to a goal, it perpetuates cycles of sociological shrapnel, and literal shrapnel. A troubling lack of regard, empathy, and imagination. As I think about this, from the perspective of my body's cells, I can hear them say the same thing about my instinct in the face of my own problems to bombard my system with shitty food and drink. I'm a self inflicted terrorist taking down a little known party in power called my stomach lining. 

As I laid out in my shower I began to feel a greater respect toward the living community that is my body, the trillions of cells trying to work together, to coexist and meet their needs. Problem solving should enlist much greater creativity than the nuclear urge to ravage the system. There isn't much in the way of critical thinking there, it doesn't address and balance multiple perspectives. It's shortsighted, without courage or patience, and courage and patience are considered virtues. Drunks and mad-bombers aren't considered heroes. Because they aren't solving problems.

Zooming out from the temporary wasting of my own flesh, the bigger body is yearning for an ocean size equivalent of a ginger ale jacuzzi.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

The Greatest Hamstring (Prank) Ever Pulled

This morning I was a running enthusiast and went down town to watch my girlfriend run in the Shamrock Shuffle. As I walked up to my intended post to spectate at the corner of Roosevelt and Michigan, a guy and his girlfriend rounded the corner.

The guy faked a hamstring injury and went down. His girlfriend slowed and went over to him. "You okay, you okay?" 

Course Marshals hustled over to him as well. The guy waved them off. "I'm fine, I'm fine!" 

Guy: I'm not actually injured. I just wanted an excuse to get down on one knee...

The girl didn't quite hear him. She had ear-buds in. 

Girl: You alright?

Guy: I'm fine. I love you so much-

Girl: (gearing up to trot) Come on, let's go.

Guy: (a little louder) I just wanted an excuse to get down on one knee. I love you so much.

Girl: What's going on?

The guy reached into his pocket, pulled out a crumpled tissue. Inside that was a little black velvet pouch. He fumbled with the drawstrings to pull out a ring. The girl now took her ear-buds out.

Girl: Is this for real??

I think she said yes. I didn't hear her say it, but she kissed him and let him slide on the ring. The ring didn't quite fit, didn't make it past the knuckle. Though that can be fixed later.

An older couple by me took some photos of the proposal. The man shouted to the guy, "I got some photos, do you want me to e-mail them to you?" 

Guy: It's okay, my parents are over there taking photos.

His parents were on the other side, a little further away. Then a bearded guy by us said "I got photos too! Congrats."

The girl noticed him. "Is that Brian!!?? What the hell!!"

The newly engaged couple started to run off, near the finish! A Course Marshal jogged over to them. "I should let you know, it's all up hill from here, haha." And all of the married couples watching got a good laugh at his joke. 

I'm glad it was a successful proposal. I couldn't imagine one having to finish a running race with the weight of disappointment.

It was nice to see such a feel good moment. Prior to this, as the "Elite" runners were to be rounding onto Michigan avenue, a car somehow turned onto the road and everyone, spectators, marshals were flipping out at him. A cop car cornered him, two cops ran over to face down his hood. The driver stopped his car, "what do you want me to do?" You could hear his thoughts. Marshals came out from the crowds to unlatch a barricade so he could drive out. 

I could see his flushed face and feel his embarrassment heat the windshield.

Monday, April 1, 2013

April Foole

Our kitchen at work is stocked with candy. I made the comment to a co-worker that, even though I threw away Mounds candy bars accumulated during Halloween as a child, I thoroughly enjoy them as an adult. He reacted as though I confessed I enjoy licking piss from the rim of a toilet bowl. He made it clear how disgusting he thought coconuts to be in general. With April 1st looming, I thought this ammunition to fuck with him.

My first thought was to make coconut brownies, pass them off as regular brownies, get him to take a big bite. Though I didn't make it to the grocery store over the weekend. So, I bought some coconut water, and had plans to pour that in his water glass when he wasn't looking. I was concerned, because pouring some in my own glass, I was reminded, it's not too clear. 

I prepped to try it anyway, but the guy didn't have a water glass at his desk all day. I tried to  plant thirst in his mind, making my own frequent trips to the water cooler, proclaiming each time that I was damn thirsty for some reason, maybe something in the air. But he paid no mind.

Eventually he got a Vitamin Water and drank it real slow.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Got Beat Up By A Chocolate Frosty

Pseudo Spring day, I went for a walk. After awhile I passed by a Wendy's, and this day feeling fairly Spring-ish, I wanted an ice cream cone, a Frosty would do. 

So I went in, dropped some pennies on the sugar sticky floor by mistake as I filled in for the tax on top of the dollar, found a window seat and ate some spoonfuls of this treat. 

After some twenty spoonfuls I got a rush of brain-freeze, and a sort of tightening in my throat that was sort of painful. I paused in my indulgence. Then I laughed. Haha, I got hurt by a chocolate Frosty. Harsh swallow. This Frosty hurt me a little bit. 

After I finished, disposed of the cup, and left I started thinking, well yeah, this Frosty could actually hurt me some day in the form of diabetes if my endocrine system should so choose to spike me with this. 

Americans are getting bullied by Frosties everyday, or more-so, taunted by our sweet teeth and left astray and poisoned by one of our own organs. 

And it begins with what I put into my belly, which becomes a soluble in my blood, I know that, so I teeter between conscientious eating and snacking on tasty junk. It's a battle with craving. It begins in the mind, so before I go and give myself a blood disease, or technically an insulin miscommunication disease, I must reckon, I got a bit of mental one. 

Therapists everywhere should keep in mind, sometimes a Frosty isn't just a Frosty.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Control Experiment

As I've delved more into learning how to code, my dreams have taken on a more intense sensory fabric. A couple of lucid dreams have weaved an occurrence. 

But mostly just intense: the other night a book was released, supposedly written by aliens that went into the future a few years from now, found out the U.S.A goes bankrupt, because of Medicare. This book becomes the rage and incites a civil war. I forget which side I fought for but at one point in my dream I was pushing a cannon strapped with bungy cords to a shopping cart.

Last night, I was hanging out in a primordial geographical mess. Canada used to be a mountain in Mexico, but was picked up and flattened up above the U.S.A. Some farmers and fisherman were pissed because of the ocean displacement. Ooh, there's a theme, eh? In the two dreams mentioned, U.S.A. and people pissed are common threads. But these are things I live around day-to-day, so of course they will be absorbed and become backdrops.

As I first started to learn HTML a few weeks back, I'd of course cram lessons and do exercises in the evening before bed. My dreams brought me to a bright red brain machine in which I had to solve puzzles to maneuver through it. But this is life right? We learn to program ourselves and make our way through a blue/green sphere and overcome problems in order to keep on moving around on it?

Time to go meditate, and program my brain to redirect around conditioned responses to stressors, such as anxiety or glum dumpiness.  Time to teach myself to further look at the problem as beautiful. That bright red brain machine was fucking gorgeous.

Sunday, March 3, 2013


Sun's peaking out more: makes me want to brush off the cold rusted and rutted parts of my functioning. I've started learning a couple of things.

SPANISH! I have a base of this: 3 years of Honors and 1 year AP from High School. Largely unused over the past 10 years. I'm over being a monolingual. I'd be interested to read and even write in other languages. I've long been interested in what I've heard about Samuel Beckett writing in French under the aim that writing not in his native tongue would force him to truly think about each sentence. Within a year I'd like to attempt reading Don Quixote in espanol. I've lot of work to do here to get to that point, though I'd like to drum up some follow through and get on a roll to where every couple of years I'm finding myself fluent in another language, in particular ones with different alphabets that throw me into a different body of linguistics altogether, thinking it through from scratch. Though a challenge then becomes practicing these once learned; finding, creating, and maintaining opportunities to employ speaking and writing with them.

WEB DEVELOPMENT: As I find myself interested in language, I've become intrigued in the aspect of using language to create things and functions. In a way, this goes hand in hand with my exploration of self as a writer. Stories are a bit like apps: language frames sensory triggers that pull from a reader's memory banks, experience, imagination, and into participation. This may seem an over simplification, though both are different mediums for utilizing the power of language to set in motion an experience.

I designed a board game as a gift for various family members this past Christmas. I'm hoping I can attain the skills to adapt it into a web game of sorts. I'll keep you posted on that one via the long term.

With this TailEndO'Winter rolling by, I'm also getting outside and walking around the city more. My legs and cardiac health dig that about my current pseudo rejuvenation of mind and body.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Lucid Slap

I've been wayward from posting, but I've been stricken with the common cold. It started in my throat, as though a switch had been flicked and boom: sore throat. The virus then toured around my nasal passageway, chest, sinuses, in that order. You know the story.

We launched our Pungent Parlour reading series on the 19th of February, and had a solid turnout, people are excited to come back to it, Gapers Block did a fine mention of our fireside ambiance, and we are booked for 3rd Tuesdays of the month going forward at Black Rock Pub and Kitchen. We're jacked to have a regular thing, so we can get off on oral lit. We had a wide variety of pieces; some humorous personal essays, some violent-esque, intense short stories, a fantasy story. I'm excited to see the range each future month to come.

On another note, I had a lucid dream last night:

I was elected senior class president. The sky was light purple, there was ice on the streets and hills, but we gathered in some stone tiled square where the weather was warm, like a pocket. From there we got on a bus, a nice bus with tinted windows and seats lining the walls facing in. I saw between two girls, J####### and A######. J####### was talking about some aspect of credit card processing. It excited me and I said "I can talk all about this, in the future I work in the credit card processing industry!" And I sort of realized, I wasn't back in high school from the future, I was dreaming. I decided to test reality. I reached out suddenly and slapped both girls on the cheek. They didn't react, and this was some how proof to me that this was a subconscious rendering. Whoa, shit, a dream. I looked out the bus windows at the ornate marble architecture of the town square were riding through and felt a weird rush, like I've stumbled on something big. And I realized the Godlike fabric of the dream was aware that I was aware, and it was tugging me out...

I drifted back to drowsy wakefulness.

I want back in to this lucid dream thing, it has been awhile since I had one. Might be time to pull out my "Lucid Dreaming in 30 Days" book be like a dude who's suddenly into camping who reads how to survive in the wilderness books, but with dreamland.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

The Holo-bard

As I recently put in motion plans for a new monthly reading series, I've had a little more pep in my step. When doing The Liquid Burning series I enjoyed the feel of a regular community of writers, a place to try out new work aloud. I've been thinking about the oral tradition, Homer, mythologies, campfire stories. Some of my own writing, I think, benefits from the live experience. One of my short stories in particular lends itself better to a performative reading, a piece called Nagasaki Lagoon has done quite well piquing rapt crowds and rousing laughter at various readings but has had trouble finding a home in the lit journals.

I've been a bit of a homebody over the past year, and I do enjoy being a homebody, because I like my home and pitter pattering around like a fogey doing my own thing, minimizing occurrences of feeling rushed out the door to something, but I do feel the urge to get out a little more, and enjoy the thriving literary community in Chicago. 

I recently read Dave Eggers' A Hologram for the King. I actually skipped out on hitting up a meet and greet with him at Book Cellar in Lincoln Square this morning, so much for me getting out more! But this was because I did get out quite a bit last night, attending my photographer friend Zach's studio launch party (the free wine, beer and some African wine of sorts that was beyond strong did me in) and another little party downtown right after at the Hard Rock Hotel where my friends Chris and Candace were using a Groupon stay and celebrating their recent engagement; hotel room stocked with hard liquor. And I was supposed to go to another housewarming party after that but I was in no shape. So in all fairness, I decided not to breathe fumes on Dave Eggers. 

In his book, an IT company bids to do such services for King Abdullah's Economic City in Saudi Arabia. Their premier product; a holographic teleconference system. I've been fascinated with where holographic technology may develop, and how that, combined with motion sensor video game technology can make way for some radical virtual reality systems. True, we're ever usurping real life experience with digital varieties, and I do regret this sometimes. However, I am interested in how a virtual reality system could foster risk taking to be practiced later in the outside, real arena. Dreams are thought to serve a similar purpose; a hypnogogic playground where actions don't have consequences.

I'd be curious in how the development of holographic technology could expand the literary experience and preserve an author's live readings for a long, long time. This could never replace the in face experience of an actual reading at a bar, cafe, or bookstore. No, what excites me is instead of YouTubing your favorite writers and their taped readings, let's pull up a holograph of George Saunders in your living room! As live lit is booming in different cities, there's a resurfacing of the oral tradition, and as technology continues to expand capabilities, it'd be rad to see such technology complement the storytelling experience, exploring new varieties within mediums,  though not replacing them. Let us conjure the likes of modern Homers to haunt digital pathways.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

The Pungent Parlour

For a bit, my friend Aaron Cynic and I hosted a reading series called The Liquid Burning of Apocalyptic Bard Letters. We mostly just called it The Liquid Burning. It started when I released my novella Turban Tan, I was looking to do some readings, and I knew Aaron from the days when my old roommate Alicia would participate in zine readings in various spots throughout Chicago; storefront apartments, the old MoJoes coffee shop before it moved to West Belmont, before unfortunate ownership issues and its closure. I teamed up with Aaron because I felt his writing and mine would mesh well thematically, a apocalypse/dystopian reading. We grabbed some other readers, my friend Ian Randall, I think Marcus Gilmer read at that first one, so did Donny Rodriguez. I don't think I read from Turban Tan that night, I think I read my short story about sewage backed up on the streets of Nagasaki. We enjoyed ourselves, enjoyed the wide range of pieces and each's take on apocalypse. We wanted to do it again, we wanted to keep the theme. 

For a year we did it at Matilda Baby Atlas, where we had done several Three Leaves Theatre fundraiser performance parties. It was the most colorful basement bar imaginable. Supposedly it was haunted - I learned of this several years after we had to move our reading series to Black Rock Pub & Kitchen after a redesign of Baby Atlas and a shift in direction made it a dance club. But we came to like Black Rock, it's wood paneled and fireplace warmed back room was perfect for a little gather of literary performance.

I think we did The Liquid Burning for 2 years or so. We had some good turn outs, some intimate ones with us gathered round the fireplace reading to each other, those were also special. We even one time had a noise musician whose large amplifier, on its lowest setting, shook the building and I thought that would be the end of our show, but no, we did a few more before Aaron and I each respectively had chock full life plates. Occupy Chicago was ignited, he was covering it for a variety of outlets. I became obsessed with revising my novel Votary Nerves, and moving apartments, and trying to close deals at my sales job so I could afford to contribute to mine and my girlfriend's household. The monthly Sunday kept falling on some sort of a Holiday (excuses, excuses), then 2012 rolled around, the time when an "apocalypse" themed reading series would have possibly thrived. But we let it run its course. I kind of wanted to move onto new themes, after all having a monthly reading series is a great motivator to create a new piece and share it, to hear it, and I felt like stepping outside of that kind of zone. 

I've been wanting to do a new reading series for some time, and damn, the year flew, we all felt it. But my friend Jeremy Solomon - who read at quite a few Liquid Burnings, been in many of our Wood Sugars live shows, does his own stand-up comedy, has written some novels - and I joined forces, got our shit together, and have something new going on at Black Rock Pub & Kitchen. Drawing on elements of a salon, we're keeping the themes a little more liquid than the apocalypse tones of the Liquid Burning.

To any in Chicago interested in checking it out at some point, please follow our Facebook page:

And interested in getting involved? We're doing this monthly and want to rotate in a nice variety of writers, please do drop me a line at jeffphillips dot thirdleave [at] gmail dot com.