Monday, August 30, 2010

NUTSHELLED: "How It Ended"

How It Ended was borrowed from the library on a whim. Just what I needed, turns out: finely crafted vistas into/guided travelogues through the prep life/habitat, circa the early 80s to now, or yesterday, anyway. In the intro Jay discusses the differences between studying under Tobias Wolff and Raymond Carver; their examples rubbed off, as these short-stories are well-rounded, sharp, memorable. A surprise? Sure. Bright Lights, Big City remains a revelation, but Model Behavior missed the mark by several miles and in the blinding light cast by pal Bret Easton Ellis' Glamorama around the same time it registered as dim, as McInerney fast-food as McInerney lite. But the dude is a monster short-story writer, the kind of scribe Robert Bingham aspired to be before he checked out, chucked it all away. But that's another story. A
Oh, how the memory corrodes, how it distorts, how it deceives. When I think back to our arrival at this house - almost two months ago, now - the lane seems narrower, more densely bucolic, almost suffocatingly so. Why? Why did I experience it that way? Perhaps it was the intense, sweltering heat - the sensation of being one of a group of ants being fried on a sidewalk by a hateful, malevolent preteen wielding a magnifying glass.


It may have the effect of making you feel uncommonly good to be alive. NUTRI-GRAIN 4EVA!

Friday, August 27, 2010

If you were a recruiter for a software company, and you left someone a voicemail after that person applied for an open position you'd posted online, and that person had called you back numerous times - let's say a dozen-plus times - wouldn't it occur to you that the courteous, professional thing to do would be to return the favor, to contact the candidate to actually have a conversation about the job? I ask this because at present I'm being given the run-around in this way for a second time by the same technical services company, and I'm wondering, are people actually hired to work there?


Is distance frisbee a competitive sport in Texas or something? It seems like everywhere I go around here where there's a park or a wide-open space, there's at least one bearded dude in a headband with a shoulder bag full of frisbees, just flinging the things out into the ether or at some far off day-glo colored receptacle.  I mean, it looks like they're having fun, but still, new to me.

You'd assume that everyone in Texas wears Stetsons and 12-gallon hats and speaks with a pronounced regional twang, wouldn't you? But you'd be wrong.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

You know, I already wanted to see Life During Wartime reflexively - I'm a longtime Todd Solondz geek - but this incisive J. Hoberman review of the film nails home that I absolutely have to see it. Dynamite piece.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Sorry for all the woe-is-me bullshit today. It's just that the enormity of how fucked I am is really sinking in. My credentials, it seems, are mostly meaningless. But tomorrow is another day, right? Surely someone's hearing my prayers, somewhere.

Thanks to Al Shipley - who, to my surprise, was in a Delaware emo band and as such as more in common with me than I ever could have imagined - for zeroing in on the Boy Sets Fire song I couldn't put my finger on.

The song is titled "Vehicle."

"Thanks and good luck in your job search" - "Dang, someone drew a big 'L' on your forehead in magik marker, you should probably scrub that off"
If an application arrives and no-one reviews it, was it even sent in the first place?
Worse: when every refresh of the pages for your area/specialty yields a bunch of jobs you've already applied for, but no-one bothered to tell you that you weren't good enough after you initially applied. It's like asking an unattainable beauty to prom only to have her say "Let me think about it," but then you see her at prom with another dude and she never bothered to say she just wasn't that into you.

Oh my god, I need to get away from this computer.
Not to be a solipsist - I know it isn't all about me, by any stretch of the imagination - but the contrasts here are really glaring, in that Round Rock is this very new, very clean, very fresh, very expensive area with lots to see and do, it's very expensive, you can smell the money, and then we're living here and we barely have anything. There are so many jobs. And yet securing one is ridiculously difficult unless you're a programmer or you're cool with making peanuts.
Fuck me. Bret Michaels? Really? See, according to a Google search, Bret Michaels is the number one trending topic online right now. Seriously. Bret Michaels. I mean, I've been pretty out of the loop for most of 2010, but other than winning Celebrity Apprentice and almost dying and putting out a shitty single with Miley Cyrus, what has Bret Michaels done that warrants him being one of the most talked about people - nay, the most talked about person, according to the site I clicked - on Earth? I refuse to believe that 13-year old girls are Twittering incessantly about Bret fucking Michaels when they could be Twittering about Justin Bieber or any number of post-Disney Channel fame-aspirants. Bret Michaels! Bret Michaels? Bret Michaels. 

The mind boggles.
The absolute worst thing about long-term unemployment is the sense of negation, the sense that one has ceased to exist, that every cover letter and resume you send isn't being read by anyone. Paradoxically, the rejection letters and emails only serve to compound this sense of alienation, of inhumanity. What was that lyric from that hardcore punk song we used to play over and over in college? "I am no-one/I am nothing." I think maybe the band was Boy Sets Fire. Whatever happened to those guys?
A "screw unemployment" mini-mixtape I cobbled together is up over on the Houston Press music blog.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Wanna download an mp3 of me reading some poems from my forthcoming book? Cop it here, at the very top of the page.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

A mass apology for not returning emails, falling out of touch, etc. Not ignoring anybody - just simultaneously attempting to find a job and pull together as much freelance as possible to take care of various bills. Tough state, this one is.

I'm gonna have a lot of stuff appearing on Splice Today in the coming weeks, so keep an eye on this link.

Hope everyone's well. Spectacular, even! No, thriving! For, surely, these are the prime years of our not-so-young-anymore lives.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010


Just total trash. Swirl. Junk. A comic-book gone haywire, a live-action cartoon-qua-video-game, Grand Theft Auto on crack. No, worse. I mean, you know Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez probably throw their mansions open for private screenings of shit like this. If you thought the first Crank was over-the-top, this raises - or lowers, I guess - the bar considerably, with gallons of fake blood,  reams of blanks fired, a dozen ethnic and minority groups exploited for fun, dumb title gags and mis-en-scene smirks, a firefight in a strip club where a dancer's implants gush silicone, gross-outs galore, gratuitous T&A shots, a chrome-domed guero who looks like a lot like Jason Stratham shocking himself in ways too painful to think about because if he doesn't, he's toast. Again. Or something. Somehow less soulless than Smokin' Aces, though this won't top the resumes of anyone involved. Dwight Yoakam: "Will Doc Mills have to slap a bitch?" The republic is doomed. D

Tuesday, August 17, 2010


It's kinda blurry and tiny, but this is really happening.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Lindsay Lohan is in rehab, murmuring "Lindsay Lohan is is rehab" to herself, because she's looking down at a floating legend, in a rose olde english script, that reads "Lindsay Lohan is is rehab"; no-one else can see it. Lindsay Lohan is in rehab, singing Amy Winehouse's "Rehab" to herself, unconsciously, without irony; she sounds like Daphne Zuniga in Spaceballs, when Daphne Zuniga is imprisoned, intoning "Nobody Knows The Trouble I've Seen" in a deep, rich Paul Robeson-like bass voice. When primping, Lindsay Lohan addresses her mirror reflection as "Lindsay Lohan" in a detached, neutral way, perhaps because she no longer thinks of herself as a person with a distinct subjective sense of reality, but as a media-dependant hologram, a reactionary harpie, a phantasm, a commentary, a concept. Lindsay Lohan has built a smoldering bonfire of cocaine-encrusted hundreds on the cot in her room at the rehabilitation center; over it, she roasts s'mores that she refuses to share with anyone else.
Well-played, Texas, well-played. You've designed your driver's license registration process to be needlessly complicated and confusing and staff your poorly-organized, alternately Gulag- or tomb-like facilities sparsely in a Macheavellian effort to drive consumer traffic online, thus cutting overhead, carbon footprint, and the number of people you need to employ. A tip 'o' the ten-gallon hat to you, Texas.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

NUTSHELLED: "Ilustrado"

Ilustrado starts off like an exploded drawing of The Neal Pollack Anthology of American Literature with a severe Filipino streak - a mentee investigative biography of his acclaimed/distained  Third Worlder-in-NYC-exile mentor, piecemealed together in the wake of the mentor's mysterious demise, dripping with eye-rolling snark, laced with "revealing" bits from the mentor's novels, autobiographies, poems, and interviews, horseplay with narrative devices - but very, very gradually reveals itself to be something drastically different, even if the undercurrents of loss, of hard choices made, of tainted love are very much universal and heartstring plucking no matter how much postmodern trickery the author hurls at us. (The mentor doth protest too much the "magical realism" tag his detractors have applied to him.) One of many takeaways: hilariously, young Filipino men and women familiar with hip-hop culture refer to one another as "fligga." If you're familiar with Che Guevara's biography - or that of any number of internationally hailed freedom fighters - you'll laugh to yourself; if you're also a fledgling novelist, you'll wish you'd written it first. Oh wait, you're not from the Phillipines? Fligga, please. B+
Oh, snap.

I just had the most promising exchange with a job recruiter; I'm in the running for a great local position, and the employers "loved" my resume and experience. I have good feelings about this, and the pall of dread that's been over me for weeks and weeks now almost feels like it's going to life.

Keep your fingers crossed, send your good vibes, pray.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

My first pair of CD reviews for PASTE - of Wavves' King of the Beach and Kathryn Calder's Are You My Mother? - appear in the magazine's August issue. Or you could read 'em here.

Monday, August 09, 2010


"Is this another one of your movies about nothing?" That's what Alecia used to ask me, at the beginning of our relationship, whenever I wanted to see or rent a film, because there was a good stretch there where I craved oddness or misathropy in cinema to exclusion of all things conventional. Todd Solondz, One-Hour Photo, Magnolia, Being John Malkovich - you get the idea. Don't get me wrong: I'm as stoked as any trash fiend for Machete and salivate over Frat Pack fare, but I'll still be lobbying for the Exit Through The Gift Shop DVD as a Christmas present this year. I guess the point is that 10 years ago, I'd have forced myself to finish watching The Informant! even though it's basically unwatchable; I'd have somehow convinced myself that there was something funny and worthwhile about an unlikeable Matt Damon in 1992 upper-management scum drag smirking through a plot that isn't a plot. I don't know if we made it halfway through, and I can't remember what was or wasn't happening at whatever point we checked out. Like a bargain-basement Fargo. And I liked Fargo! So resoundingly terrible - the book it's based on must be a suicide aid - that I'm not even gonna conclude this capsule review with a rhetorical question. You don't mind, do you? F
"Mommy like" = "I'm going to annoy the living fuck out of you just by being myself"

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Looks like I'm not the only person who Googles himself and the things he writes.

(Thanks for the compliment, Geeta!)

I don't know if the world is ready to watch Brian Eno voguing to anything!

Saturday, August 07, 2010

Friday, August 06, 2010

I know better days lie ahead - and all things considered, today was a pretty good day. (Not in the Ice Cube sense of that phrase, either. I mean, I don't even own an AK.)

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Another Green World
Geeta Dayal
(Continuum Books)

Another Green World is an exceedingly difficult album to wrap one’s head around, to get a solid grasp on. By turns archaic, abstruse, experimental, and gregariously accessible in the way that children’s nursery rhymes are, Brian Eno’s celebrated 1975 masterpiece seems simultaneously of-a-piece and jigsaw. As a college undergrad cutting his teeth on a steady diet of second-wave Cali-punk, out, IDM, Krautrock, and indie-rock, World made absolutely no sense to me. It conflicted wildly with the ideas I had at that time about what goals music should seek to achieve, and how it should seek to achieve them. On the advice of a classmate who thought he was Lou Reed, I bought a copy, listened a couple times, and unceremoniously sold the thing off. Nearly a decade would pass before I was really ready to reckon with Eno, from a more enlightened vantage point, to recognize the value of the man’s many and sundry compositional approaches. (Did it help that, in the interim, I’d acquired a Weather Report album? Probably.)

In her 33 1/3 series book about the record, author Geeta Dayal is less interested in World’s actual content, impact, or meaning than in the paths and circumstances that led him to record it in the way he did. Eno -- who has garnered more acclaim over the decades for his abilities as a producer than as a solo artist -- recruited pop and avant garde heavies like Robert Fripp, John Cale, and Phil Collins, challenged them to work in unusual ways, recorded them, and manipulated the results into something refreshingly, familiarly alien. There next to no songs written prior to the sessions; the album was written on the fly. Eno, Dayal writes, “has a knack for identifying and assembling the right mix of people to serve a larger vision, and the ability to coax unexpected performances out of these collaborators. He approaches music the way a director might approach a soundtrack--as a means of establishing a mood, a sense of time and place.” World’s synthesis owes a great debt to the Oblique Strategies cards Eno had a hand in devising, and outgrowth of creative techniques he learned as an Ipswich Art College student: think of them as cryptic, wildly interpretative “affirmation” cards for use in encouraging studio spontaneity, unleashing a bit of chaos into the songwriting process. Percy Jones’ ponderously funky “Sky Saw” bass line, for example, was born when Eno, frantically tapping a single piano key, instructed the bassist to improvise based on the rhythm of the tapping. Dayal’s book ultimately winds up being less a World tell-all than a portrait of an artist at a particular point in his career, stuffed with enough carefully chosen quotes and reportage to show that she spend a long time sorting out how to approach her subject -- something she alludes to in her introduction. World is compared and contrasted with Lou Reed’s Metal Machine Music. Eno’s Discreet Music is dissected. At moments, it feels as though the author is talking around the recording at hand, but the realization that that might be what she’s doing feels huge when one considers how strangely easy and a priori Another Green World is: it resists and repels analysis, seducing us with its lushly dark-yet-illuminated swathes of looped tones and infrequent, mediated vocals. You feel it much more than you could possibly think it through. -Ray Cummings
On the upside, Alecia has a really great job that starts soon! Go, Alecia!
If you're reading this: any advice you can offer on a) how I can find writing/editing work, b) web sites for contract/perm blog jobs that pay a living wage, or c) any non-pyramid scheme money-making ventures that aren't illegal or totally immoral are greatly appreciated.

It's not that no-one's calling me to talk about jobs I've applied for - I've heard from three recruiters in the month I've been in Austin - it's that everytime I get a call it turns out that my work experience is somehow deficient, and that the employer is unwilling to take on an employee lacking a very rigidly-defined skill set. Which is, of course, just great.


I remember being all ready to hate Wild Hogs when it came out, and then it was a few notches above half-decent and because of this the experience of paying to see fading sit-com/marquee stars astride crotch-rockets was weirdly satisfying. Couples Retreat is basically Wild Hogs on an island that "looks like a screensaver" minus motorcycles, plus spouses; it's funnier than The Breakup but not as funny as Wild Hogs and nowhere as funny as Dodgeball. Neat cameos; everyone learns life lessons, everybody goes home happier than they were upon arrival. (Didn't see Swingers. Looking forward to The Switch, though I know better.) A future where Vince Vaughn makes comedies that consist of little more than him in belligerent-mode having small-ball semantic arguments is a future I can get behind - as long as they're less formulaic than this one. "Asstastic" is  kind of the ultimate home-security system safe word, isn't it? C+

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

NUTSHELLED: "The Tale of the Unknown Island"

"It's not the destination, it's the journey," as so many are wont to opine. What if, actually, it's neither destination or journey? What the idea of the journey itself was enough, let alone the certainty of any destination? Would you still feel shortchanged, stiffed, intellectually fucked over? B+

Monday, August 02, 2010


Edward Cullan as Dylan McKay, Bella Swan as Kelly Taylor, Jacob Black as Brandon Walsh, if you fall into my age demographic and just can't be bothered with werewolves or vampires or mopetastic indie-rock soundtrack tie-ins or, you know, Alaska. Your loss. I liked how the first movie in the series seemed to realize how ridiculous and far-fetched it was even as it poker-faced its way though the intensities of eternal love, and something about that incredulity really endeared it to me; now one gets the sense that the stakes are too high for that kind of meta-play. Still: bitten, smitten, and I get why this series is a trending topic. I'm on Edward's team, I voted for Obama, just leave me alone, will ya? B+
Are you there, world? It's me, Ray.

Sunday, August 01, 2010


No, really.

We encountered some soda machines with credit card machines like the one pictured above at an outlet mall here in Round Rock. Is this what we've come to? What, nobody has $2-$3 cash to shell out for pop?
"Sike" = "Sike, kinda"