Angela Woodward is an absolute glow-head. Have I mentioned this yet? Yes I have. Not many flash writers are writing in the style, tone, control of Woodward. Here’s another.
Recently ran this marathon. Sometimes it hurt, other times my thighs felt like a Pringle Picker (a picker of wild Pringles) jerked awake by the pleasant odor of nachos, a real chip, the corn tortilla. Ah, the Pringle Picker…I had my downs, my ups, my windless thuds, then my 2nd winds (I always do, and I am thankful) and my leaps and look-arounds. The key to a good marathon is to look around–you are on a journey! Experience it. And it’s sort of even better; you are on a journey while on opium (your opiate receptors going crazy train during a marathon). Who doesn’t want to travel while on opium? Oh, you don’t? Well, good for you. You annoy me.
Then there will be times you will not look around…pain. You will go tunnel. You will go way tunnel. Marathoners know of the tunnel I speak…the focus of pain.
How did I run? Sort of slow:
Speaking of, I am so happy Murakami made the short list for “Bad Sex” awards. Murakami has always written overly clinical and, well, bad sex scenes. His sex scenes are about as titillating as dropped cabbage.
Appropriated Forms is a theme today. Facebook Posts as stories, for example.
Or even a book about the making of a book…
This is badass. Spiegelman’s Maus goes meta.
Speaking of meta, can we blog about blogging? Anyway, this is getting a lot of run over at that listless dog, HTML GIANT.
It is raining. That’s very interesting, isn’t it. That’s just exactly the type of thing people are looking for in a blog, a comment on the fucking weather. What type of rain is it, Sean?
These are dark days for the weatherman, dark days…who needs them?
It’s rain. It’s like the blue fists of rain. laughing on the roof. steep rain leaning in the streetlight, across the pebbled face of a man selling jalapenos. pattering drops. hot slapping. hiss of heavy rain. black olive beads. at a solid pace. at a tall treble. endless toy onions of rain. a hollow roaring sheet. rain shaping the walls of lettuce. rain rattling down the gutters. silver salivas of rain. drizzling tongues. slick shoulder-rustling rain. chill rain falling. rain-mothered thunderer. hot sauce stains of rain. blinding rain. rain-gutted. how could i eat that many? rain splashing and ripping down from the wide-spreading limbs of avocado. sloshed about thick and sly. Lenses of rain. split peppers of rain. high-webbed satellite bowls of rain. afraid of what might be asked by the tortilla man. a wet sky, made tasks, deflated tomatoes of rain. broken knives of rain. i’m going to get somebody a hunk of cheese. kid browsing rain. lost headlamps. satiny sips, silver-fish, sheens of rain. licking as rain, gone through the ceremony rain. spitting against. sucked down gulps. rain-washed and rutted. balanced 90-degree toppings. daily appointments of rain. fight rain, flight rain. fall and fall. every drop of cream kept later like a detail. rain muzzling. a sound not unlike the rubbing of potatoes. a big man stumbling. and what do you see when you scan the menu and I’m not there? long arms of artichoke pearls or grains to slush. rain with a steady odor. rain fled rudely down the stairs. in spite of the rain. racks, napkins, ring tones of rain. 12 gauges of rain. mouth wetting. tell me something. rain into the Mexican beer. all rain simultaneous. the color of stone. the wind and the rain and the ticks and the clicks and the black running ink of a receipt. Lists of rain, passwords, grocery aisles. the night was dense then, the rain dark, and he went into the room. rent with rain. taxes of rain. stains of rain. ask me about layering. deftly with a rain-chilled face. snapping the rules of rain. as smite as the rain. meaning behind the fray. star-shaped pocks of rain, eyes watery. hold on to me, man. fall of glass. blue light swept of rain. rain-print. sneezed off, snapped, hacked into a salsa mist. OK?
I am teaching a class spring 2012 on the Appropriated Form. I am excited. I see the entire world, everything, spatially to otherwise, as a potential structure for creative texts. Now I get to put that sensibility into a class. I’ve been doing quite a bit of research, enjoyable research, meaning I’ve been reading a lot of literary magazines, hunting down forms. Examples, just from today:
From Palooka Journal, Tests, by Marcia Aldrich.
Her blog here. (Note that she recently won the AWP nonfiction award–congrats!–and that the book uses the structure of an abecedary.)
Here she is at Diagram.
But I like “Tests.” Because the title instantly has breadth, metaphorical, actual, the clattering space between the two. I like that it’s a community college test. I like that the community college puts its slogan atop its student tests, somehow this reads as community college, the fuck-off and gloss and put-upon self esteem I imagine (and know, having taken classes at several community colleges).
I like how Aldrich recognizes the form (an important step to Appropriation Fiction) and morphs/bends/riffs and plays off the form (the MOST important step to Appropriation Fiction).
Dr. Joy indeed. Sociology. Here’s excerpts from question one: In the past unit you read about family structure. What are some of the defining characteristics of the American family?
…a big, explosive wedding…
…and requires a great deal of maintenance.
And then Aldrich takes things to another layer, another level. It’s damn funny, even ha-ha funny, though not really. Right? The teacher comments. This is not only a test, but a graded test. On the “explosive wedding” above, the teacher writes, in the rhetoric of RED INK…this note:
Jude, did you mean expensive?
She did not. She meant EXPLOSIVE.
It’s a brilliant example of why I am teaching the class on this concept, the form, the function. You get more echoes from appropriation. You get all the connotation of the original form, then your own imaginative layering–whether structural addition/change to or in language or in theme–and the two together become three, four, five or more echoes, rings flowing out from the throw rock of the splash. We are working terrain here. We are looking at new ways to do this thing. And it’s going to be amazing. Different. Better. Different, off-putting to some, but fuck some. This is a machine, this way of writing. We are going to try to steal parts, to weld, to kick gauges and gears right in their foreheads, and then to make something new. Weird, we hope. Odd. Odd is OK. We likes it.
Or as Dr. Joy scrawls in his bold, red ink:
DO YOU MEAN LITERALLY?
THIS IS NOT FROM YOUR TEXTBOOK.
I DON’T KNOW WHERE YOU GOT THESE ANSWERS.
I don’t know where you got these answers. I don’t know where you got these answers. I don’t know where you got these answers. I don’t know where you got these answers. I don’t know where you got these answers. I don’t know where you got these answers. I don’t know where you got these answers. I don’t know where you got these answers. I don’t know where you got these answers.
Sounds like a worthy code and mantra to me.
Well, swink me. No, sir, swink you.
How far down do we swink?
You mean this evening?
Hey, did you people know Swink has a little collection of Appropriated Forms, as in letters?
Here they be:
1. I’m Sorry About the Otter Pop, by Jenn Stevenson.
I hope that wasn’t too long for you Bill, I know you thought my cover letter was lengthy, I guess it’s the novelist in me, and Alan, I hope you found your glasses so you could read this thank you.
You didn’t show up again. I wasn’t angry, despite my impatience having reached a feverish irritation that was hard to overcome. You’re being cautious, so you think, reducing everything to the penury of what might happen. I don’t like love disciplined by rules; I give myself over to the freedom of my emotions without fearing the consequences . . . Artists don’t feel themselves obliged to respect established morality . . . As you can see, my logic is completely sentimental. But, really, why didn’t you show up?
You big dumb stupid idiot. Why didn’t you come to my wedding?
It was an awesome day; you missed micro-brewed beer and goofy art made out of Dixie cups and the chance to see the best man fall on his face carrying a 5-foot-tall bridesmaid and land directly on top of her. Most important, you missed the chance to nail me with a pie in the face on my wedding day.
– She loves onions
– Her favorite movie is Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
– She has perfect pitch
– She hosted a TV news program in high school
– She’s got very ticklish feet
– She actually has curly hair that she straightens every morning
– She’s got the Latin aphorism from Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Talenolite te bastardes carborundorum [Don’t let the bastards grind you down] tattooed underneath her left breast
– She bites her nails to the cuticles
– She was C-sectioned out, because her umbilical cord noosed around her neck during birth
– She wants to keep her last name when she gets married (which is cool with me)
– She kisses without tongue, but with lots of lip biting
Wonder if my class will write any letters? You bet your ass they will write letters. Hey, here’s a letter I wrote about a failure in my shampoo:
October 18 2003
Nexxus Products Company
Santa Barbara, CA 93116
Dear Sir or Madam:
It is like 4:30 in the morning and I sitting here at my desk (my dachshund Flash snuggled below my feet) sipping Red Bull and writing this memo concerning one of your cosmetic/beautification products, a conditioner, specifically, Nexxus Phyto-Organics Nectaress Nourishing Conditioner. It is in a plastic bottle the color of a pack of Newport cigarettes, or maybe diet Coke spilt on a doctor’s office carpet, or maybe coffee just as the creamer is spinning within it—kind of off-white, liverish, with a tinge of cream of mushroom soup, and the bottle is ergonomically shaped and fits the hand of an average adult and is # 4010800/29060-V3 and is round and smooth and cool to the touch, like a 20mg Dexedrine tablet, which may or may not be relevant here. Hopefully, with my descriptors, you can identify this bottle/batch/industrial unit.
At any rate.
I am writing due to a failure in the conditioner consistency. Ever since I had to crash at my girlfriend’s girlfriend’s loft in downtown Minneapolis, Minnesota (this was after several days and nights at the city’s semi-annual Jackalope Sundaes Insomnia Rave—looong story), I have always used Nexxus Phyto-Organics Nectaress Nourishing Conditioner in my thrice daily (sometimes more) washings of hair, and the product has at all times had a glossy, creamy, steamy, velvety texture, with just a thickening hint of coffee bean (my guess-timation), which I find refreshing.
This time was different. On June 14, 2003, I first became aware of the problem. It all began with the conditioner delivery process, as I was up all night and washing/conditioning my hair repeatedly and suddenly I was forced to squeeze the Nexxus Phyto-Organics Nectaress Nourishing Conditioner bottle with excessive intensity, huffing and grunting and grinding my teeth and, yes, cursing, just to get the conditioner to exit the bottle and settle into my open palm. I found this alarming. Usually, this particular conditioner flows from the bottle, in an agreeable manner, like chocolate syrup on Sunday morning corndogs. Sir or madam, it did not flow. No. It slugged, yes, then spat, drooped, and congealed. There was no way I could apply, work through, or leave in for one minute this dusty nugget of conditioner. It looked like old phenylephrine paste, or rubbery caulk one would find in the bathroom corners of a rehab center. It reminded me of a dead slug, or crack-house mattress linen—I mean it was decrepit and dry and pinkish and gummy and altogether horrible.
Can you explain? I can’t. I have hypotheses, naturally. The conditioner might have been in some way dehydrated. My mind goes immediately to the coffee beans (again, I’m assuming Nectaress refers to coffee bean nectar), possibly inferior due the recent drought, number of devastating brush fires, and persistent political instability in central Columbia. Or maybe the bottle had a sealant failure? Like the shuttle with the O-rings, you know? That blew my mind when the shuttle exploded! I’d been up for like 34 days and I was all, “NOOOOOOO!” So, I checked out the bottle and even used a small magnifying glass I got from CVS pharmacy and I saw absolutely no failure of the exterior seal or casing. Next, I thought of sabotage. I mean, like anyone else, I have scores of enemies and bill-collectors, but who would tamper with a man’s beauty supplies? Oh god, I don’t even want to consider the implications.
As you can see, I find this dilemma worrying. Excessive worrying, you’re probably thinking, but all of us are different. We all have our little “thing” we worry over. For me, it’s my stomach. No matter how many Phentamine tablets, or how many crunches; I have to check my stomach in the mirror at least ten times a day. I don’t know why. I think fat will just appear, like a narcotics cop at my door, or something. My mom worries about The Bomb. Still! I told her the Cold War is so over, but she doesn’t listen. And there’s this lady, friend of my mom, Mrs. Gorman, who lives three blocks over and worries I won’t show up every two weeks to trim the dandelion shoots from around the post of her mailbox (a gaudy plastic thing in the shape of a chicken barn). I mean she sits out there in this old red porch swing waiting on me all day and I always show up (admittedly, sometimes late in the evening and/or early morning) and she always says, “I thought you weren’t coming.” Why? Why would she say that? For ten and a half years, every 14 days, I have trimmed the dandelion shoots from the post of her mail barn, even in the winter when not even one dandelion shoot exists. (Though she insists I show up, I don’t charge her in the winter.) Why, I ask you? Why does Mrs. Gorman imply I might not show up to complete a job I’ve been doing for over a decade? Who knows? Who can answer such questions? I mean why does God allow SUVs? Why do people take naps? How does Oprah gain and lose all that weight? And so on.
What I’m saying is I guess I know how Mrs. Gorman feels. I am comfortable with cosmetic sameness. Time and again, without fail, I want an excellent, excellent, excellent conditioner. Basically, I am conditioned to my conditioner. That’s a joke. But this issue is no joke. I really need to know the next bottle of beautifier will be like the last bottle. It’s important, a comforting routine, like morning Ritalin, running sprints in the driveway, cigars at lunch, Mountain dew at midnight, a neighbor boy dropping every two weeks to trim an old lady’s dandelion shoots . . .
Two days ago, I inverted my bottle of Nexxus Phyto-Organics Nectaress Nourishing Conditioner and I peered deep inside its opening (now clogged) and I squeezed and clutched and strangled, and once it finally released its grubby little chalky dab of conditioner in my hand, I have to admit my lips formed the words: “I thought you weren’t coming.” Yes, just like pitiful old Mrs. Gorman.
I want my old conditioner back. Please, please, please, don’t make me switch conditioners—the last thing I need right now is a big decision in my life. I’ve got all kinds of relationship problems and an ingrown toenail and MC Hammer-like credit card debt and an appetite problem and a small IRS situation and my girlfriend’s girlfriend keeps calling from Minnesota and…well, I digress.
Please reply with an explanation of your conditioner breakdown. I must know. I really must. For now, I’ll add Diet Dr. Pepper to the remaining product and do my best. That’s what I do, whether washing my hair or trimming dandelions or eating the cotton from inhalers or making a sandwich for my dachshund or seeing an out-of-state girl, my best. I expect the same.
Sean Aden Lovelace
For example, a Contributor Note: (BTW, it pisses me off they had to add all that “April’s Fool” context to this piece. Poor form, HFR, poor form, though you know I love you [usually]).
Michael Martone was born in Fort Wayne, Indiana, and grew up there, leaving, at seventeen, to work as a roustabout in the last traveling circus to winter in the state. He has held many jobs since then, including night auditor in a resort hotel, stenographer for the National Labor Relations Board, and clerk for a regional bookstore chain run by the associates of the Gambino crime family. For the last twenty years, Martone has been digging ditches. As a ditch digger, he has helped lay agricultural tiling, both the original fired-clay tile and the flexible pvc tubing, in the farm fields of northern Indiana, Ohio, and southern Michigan. He worked on the national project that buried thousands of miles of fiber optic cable along active and abandoned right-of-ways of North American railroads. He has often contracted to do the initial excavations at archeological digs throughout the Midwest’s extensive network of mounds, built by archaic pre-Columbian civilizations, where he would roughly remove the initial unremarkable strata for the scholars who followed at the site with hand trowels and dental instruments. Often when digging ditches, Martone would employ a poacher’s spade made in the United Kingdom by the Bulldog Company and given to him by the Nobel Prize-winning Irish poet, Seamus Heaney, who ordered it from the Smith & Hawking catalogue and gave it to Martone as a going away present when Martone left Boston where he had been digging clams. It’s ash, “Y”-shaped handle still retains a remnant of the ribbon that decorated the gift. Martone has operated a backhoe, constructing drainage ditches, and he has used a DitchWitch when digging a trench for buried electrical conduit in housing developments around Las Vegas, Nevada. He has been certified to run a drag line as well as licensed to maintain boilers in obsolete steam shovels. He is proficient at foundation work, having been employed for four years in the area of poured form and precast concrete retaining walls and building footings. Briefly, he worked as a sand hog, tunneling a new PATH tube between Manhattan and New Jersey. Martone has mined coal and gypsum in Kentucky and repaired the sewers of Paris and Vienna. Honorably discharged from the SeeBees, he once helped fortify, through the entrenchment and the construction of sand berms and tank traps, the Saudi Arabian city of Qarr during the Gulf War. He has buried culvert in Nova Scotia and created leech fields and septic tanks in Stewartstown, Pennsylvania. Having installed irrigations systems on the Trend Jones designed golf courses of Alabama, Martone recently took a position as a grave digger at the Roman Catholic cemetery in his home town in order to be closer to his family. Using the newly purchased Komatsu excavator, he dug the grave for his mother who died unexpectedly in her sleep. He observed the funeral from the cab of the machine, waiting until the mourners had departed to remove the Astroturf blanket covering the spoil and then back-filling the opening and replacing the squares of real turf on the dirt. Since that time, on his days off, Martone digs, with the poacher’s spade given to him by the Nobel Prize-winning Irish poet Seamus Heaney, his own grave, or, at least, attempts to dig his own grave as all of these efforts, so far, have been filled back in, as the resulting holes, to his professional eye, were never quite right.
Error Messages, for example.