Thursday, August 31, 2006

Shed Cicada Shells

So mom and dad were right, all those years ago: I should’ve started a journal. My excuse for not doing so? Too busy, other things to attend to, don’t know what I’d write about because nothing ever happens to me. So the milemarkers of my last few decades of life aren’t preciously intimate - a few momentos, an album of photographs, a box or yellowing correspondence (cards, letters, and postcards), my published clippings and those of other people, dog-eared copies of the Elm and the Collegian I managed to hang onto – a physical array of rememberance to match and complement what survives in grey-matter memory.

Which brings us to this post, my second pre-Malia post after claiming that I wouldn’t post anything else until she was wrapped in swaddling clothes and struggling to open her eyes. Often I try to create a mental picture of who I was at previous pivotal times in my life and fail, in large part because I don’t keep a personal record. Impending fatherhood being probably the most significant thing that will ever happen to me, and being that I have this nifty blog that no-one reads, this seems as good a time and place as any to leave an imprint of some sort so that in years to come I can look back with Malia in 10 years time and say “That’s who I was when you can into the world, and that’s what I liked, what I cared about, what I consumed, what I was afraid of, and so forth, and words to that effect.”

Been thinking lately about going back to school, to get a Master’s in English or an Associate’s in Communications, or something. I miss being taught in a formal sense, being forced to learn about thinkers and cultures and systems I wouldn’t necessarily encounter on my own. And I feel behind the curve and damn near unemployable with just a B.A. in English under my battered belt.
For months and months now I’ve been trying to find a job in Harrisburg or State College or thereabouts, because we’re moving to Alecia’s hometown of Selinsgrove at the end of September. While I doubt that I’ll be gainfully employed up there before it’s time to relocate from Maryland, I’m holding out hope for several jobs that I seem to actually be qualified for – assoc. editor for Fly-Fishing Magazine, senior editor for a Penn State alumni mag, one or two others. It’s been frustrating beyond belief to put out feelers and applications and calls and e-mails and more with regard to this and meet with blithe dismissals and general indifference, but someday I’ll look back and laugh about this. My friends and family have been supportive and encouraging and that’s been wonderful, and just what I need now.
Can I just say that Alecia and I watched Running Scared last night, and it was maybe 10x better than expected?
No matter how many times I point out to Alecia that, even at 9-months pregnant, she remains solidly adorable, she doesn’t believe this herself.
The pile of half- or un-read new books is growing unruly. Actually I’ve issued myself a fatwa on the purchase of texts until I’ve gotten caught up, which isn’t likely to happen anytime soon now that I’m actually reviewing them at the rate of one per month. Last few nights I’ve been picking at one of the Chekov short-story collections mom got be for Christmas this year. Dude has some interesting ideas and follibles but he’s way, way too silly and way, way too fond of exclamation marks. Everything’s a joke. Apparently he wrote some plays and his fiction betrays that sort of theatrical voice as a strength. Maybe you had to be there, or maybe something was lost in translation? Only 30-some pages into a book of Foucault’s seminar lectures, the same distance into David Foster Wallace’s Oblivion (thanks Alecia!) – the story where the character’s recounting something that happened in a classroom with nausating detail at the point where he’s hung up on stuff happening outside (minutae upon minutae, exhaustively). Halfway through Octavio Paz’s book about Marcel Duchamp, which I purchased because I wanted to know more about Dada, but Paz just drones on about “Large Glass” and what it means, which is interesting but not what I’d bargained for really. Satisfaction in droves: John Gregory Dunne’s Regards and Donald Barthelme’s Forty Stories, masterworks – regal non-fiction and regally pomo, respectively – that every writer should be forced to visit with (not finished with either yet). Borrowed two thirds of Cormac McCarthy’s border trilogy from the library to prep for a review of his upcoming novel and was floored; Wikipedia was all “he’s so Faulkner” but I call Hemingway. Speaking of uncle Ernie, my dad loaned me a copy of Hem’s newspaper stories that’s long out of print, I dip into it every now and again and a lot of it trumps his fiction hard. Almost done with Eggers’ Why We Are Hungry, finally. The plan is to send it to a friend for her 30th birthday, because somehow it strikes me as the sort of book people need to read around the time they turn 30. Unless I flat out just don’t care for something, I usually don’t pass it along without asking for it back. But Eggers’ book seems like the sort of object that should be passed continuously from 29-33 year-old person to 29-33 year-old person forever, with each recipient reading the book once then re-gifting it or leaving it in a subway station for a stranger to find or something; there isn’t quite enough nourishment there to justify actually owning it and returning to it. In five years, Eggers’ quirky, self-impressed fictions will simply just seem more precocious then they already do, and what limited value there is – something about navigating the transition between being a young adult and an actual adult that I’ll never be able to articulate better because I’m not reading this thing that critically now and, of course, I’ll never read it again – will have passed its sell-by date. Then there’s the stuff I haven’t even cracked: Umberto Eco, Marcus Aurelius, Rousseau. The stuff I need to re-read: Plato, Niethzche, Kyle Andersen, Aristotle, Upton Sinclair. The stuff I need to seek out: Walter Benjamin, George Saunders, John Stuart Mill, John Cage, Tristan Egolf, and too many bloody others.
It’s a blustery, overcast morning with the threat of serious showers looming; said threat has loomed for days now.
It occurs to me that I should have started this a week ago. In a few hours I’ll leave for an OB-GYN appointment where Alecia will see if her doctors are willing to induce pregnancy, and there isn’t time to throughly encapsulate my present state of mind and perform my (demanding) job at the same damn time.
A recurring dream: I am about to begin my senior year at Washington College, though in the back of my mind I know that I’ve long since completed said year and graduated. Thinking about how I can make the Collegian a better features magazine this time around using what I’ve learned in the years since, how I can go about attracting more writers and better represent the student body and such. It’s all so vivid and true to life that I’m certain it’s all really happening but before I can really get down to work the dream has ended.
Presently I’m assisting Doug in his fledgling publishing venture, twentythreebooks; this involves crafting publicity strategies and drawing up media contact lists. We are putting out a short book of political, philosophical poetry by Omar Shapli, ideally by Election Day 2006. An exciting enterprise to be a part of, though not the sort of work I imagined I’d be doing. There’s a certain nobility to championing poetry in this modern age.
Over the past couple years, I’ve come to dislike telephone conversation more and more. Starting to feel the same way about e-mail conversation, at least in terms of communicating matters of actual weight (beyond essential day-to-day exchanges regarding dinner, hellos, freelance particulars, etc.). But all of you have heard me go on about this and now it’s a boring meme, right? So my current preference for letters and postcards need not be restated here.
When one is youthful and immortal and horrible things happen – freak accidents that leave people disabled, car crashes, terrorist strikes, natural disasters – shrugging them off is easy, especially if you didn’t lose anyone you care about. You are still alive, and well, and there will be plenty of time and opportunities for you to go where you wish or accomplish what you want to – no need to rush or fret. The onset of parenthood (and accompanying that, the pre-parental empathy that lends news stories about child abductions and murders and what have you a new weight) drives home the fact that it could all be over tomorrow, anything could happen. Without blathering on too much, let’s just say that for me the time to put up or shut up is nigh, to quit telling myself that someday soon I’m gonna start putting these short stories, screenplays, and essays that have been bouncing around in my mind for almost a decade through a word processor already before life gets me in a full-nelson and I’m unable to. Enough opportunities have been blown already.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

“In-flight Magazine”

We spoke at some length across a transatlantic telephone wire. Within that particular pause I suffered considerably and was handsomely compensated in “character” currency. All was suspiciously still. The desired list began to coalesce in my fading consciousness as a stout, absolute yet slippery, intangible ideal I could neither grasp nor examine as I lounged, irresolute, atop a protruding precipice pointing out over a canyon a-slosh in sandman’s slush. Not a lot of groundwork laid in advance. Life as holding pattern. Oil on wood. Fist on chin. Modifier on noun. Double or nothing, go with the plan, let’s do this thing: get it on. Specters haunt hallowed spaces forever and a sigh. Pachyderms stand out everywhere. Our hands found each other. Penetrating imagery. Brief, declarative sentences. Unpack and re-shelve. When I read you I should want to be you. Tight and sweet. No. Keep it real dumb. Craziness. Traumatized. Dream took place at the height of 1,000 feet, early morning or early evening, I possessed developed telekinetic abilities and propelled myself at a leisurely pace through a sky I could not feel; no fowl in flight, no insects caught in the slipstream, no-one pointing aft at a right angle. We missed each other. We mumbled protracted goodbyes. Gingerly we settled strangling receivers into waiting cradles.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Not Quite Primo “Blog Rock” Pipe-Stuffin’ Fodder, Pal

It’s a hackneyed cliche to say that a picture is worth a thousand words. Fortunately, it’s usually true. In this, my final blog post until after Malia’s breathing the same air we all are and crying and screaming and I can post photos and gush about childbirth and fatherhood and related once-in-a-lifetime emotional junk, I leave you fine folks with a random collage of images, large and small and illustrated, unrelated and resolutely not meant to weave any sort of pop-culture visual tapistry of this moment in time or anything like that.

“Let’ careful out there.”

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

An Update of Sorts

1. We've found a place to live in Selinsgrove, a few minutes away from Alecia's parents' house. It's an unsullied, relatively new townhouse at the end of a row of four with the advantage of being very close to the main drag there (11 & 15, as its known) yet set back a street, so we're buffered from the sound debris of mass traffic but can easily get to department stores, the grocery, the mall, gas stations, and so on. Quite ideal. No basement, but three bedrooms and a large, shared backyard. We move house on Sept. 23.

2. I may have a job!

3. Malia could get here any day now, which seems more incredible than it probably should.

4. Matthew Friedberger, God love him, is nearly impossible to understand when you're playing back a taped interview with the man.

Monday, August 07, 2006

A Tale of Two Flicks

So far, Clerks II reigns as the summer's best comedy. Of course, the only other comedy I've made it out to see was Talladega Nights, but so what? Clerks II was profane, bust-a-gut funny, poignant, and moving (not to mention a sequel with an actual non-commerical reason for exisiting, unlike Irvine Welsh's Porno, which was a limp, cash-in follow-up to Trainspotting). The cheaply-made original was endearing in its black-and-white stock and awkward direction; the full-color sequel is endearing in its willingness to allow Dante and Randal some sensitive-dude-hey-I-love-you-man lip-biting. Also, there is human-on-donkey sex, a few seconds of Ben Affleck, and extensive gross-out situational and fast-food glutch humor I won't get into here because then you won't be surprised when you actually see it. Critics say by and large "stupid" and "immature" and "Kevin Smith's fanbase will love it." They're right, even though they mean these things in a negative way, which is wrongheaded and misses the point. Nights, on the other hand, made the exact same mistake every movie trailer editor makes these days: the good stuff is given away before the customers can hand over their ticket fare and the marketing-tie-in TV commercials are funnier than most of the movie. Will Ferrell, many have said, redeems his recent losing streak here; this is not true. (There was a preview for an upcoming film featuring Mr. More Cowbell, Queen Latifah, and Dustin Hoffman - in which Ferrell is a novelist's character - that promises to make Nights its bitch. Believe it.) Ferrell and his trusty director/co-writer mostly squander the humor value inherent in the phrase "Will Ferrell NASCAR Movie OMG OMG OMG!" Andy Richter (gay), Molly Shannon (drunk), a cougar (rrroarr!), and Gary Cole (crazy, drunk, shriveled like a prune) all appear here and are the only real reasons to bother with this abomination, effortlessly stealing the show. Even Ali G, pretending to be a gay French Formula I driver and Ricky Bobby nemesis, blows his deal. Ferrell's funniest scenes - aside from the ones where he thinks he's on fire and is running around on a race track trying to put nonexistent flames out and just bellowing like a maniac and the outtakes that run during the end credits (something tells me that the DVD extras will smoke) - come when he's praying to Jesus: little baby Jesus, mind, not the bearded, older Jesus, and the arguments and asides that ensue as a result. Anchorman, all is forgiven!

On a sidenote: does anyone besides Alecia, Doug, and Thom read this thing?