7.22.2016

"Propaganda"

I wrote this story based on the first fifty or so images on Google after searching for "Propaganda." Enjoy!

The man in the white hat is pointing his long finger in my face; the man with the mustache keeps his back turned the whole time. Accusations automatically become truth when they're said with enough conviction. A third man in a mask is begging, pleading: is he on my side? I look to her, to her wrists cuffed together like mine, to her brown eyes for reassurance. The finger continues to point as if unattached to any body.

I am aware of the reality, of the gravity of this situation. Mockery is boring but only one of our sides can be right. My enemy loses power when he expresses doubt. But that finger continues to hold steady as if it emanated molecules of doubt that attach to any being at which it aims. Are good and evil relative terms? No. But how did I end up here, with her, in a state of compliance, in a state of surrender?

“Shut up,” the man attached to the finger says. I never said anything out loud. Yet here I am, willing to, eager even, to believe everything he says. And her and I aren't the only ones. The alarms were sounding; we panicked; we fell in line. We surrendered identity. We submitted possessions. We abandoned thought and listened without discourse. We barely ate.

But were we afraid?

7.21.2016

Pitchfork Music Festival 2016

Another edition of random notes I took during Pitchfork: 

The connection between ONO and Jenny Hval. Removing layers, physically and sonically.

Anderson Paak! Shamir!

Cartwheels at Sun Ra Arkestra and 92 years old!?

Twin Peaks, from Young Camelot to here. Regret I never saw them more in DIY spots.

Mick Jenkins: "Drink more water."

Crazy inflatable etc...

So why are we here? Why do we go to music festivals? Why do we listen to music? I always have a crises of faith at these things. I wonder what's the point.

Aren't there more important things than listening to music in a park, many of the neighbors can hardly even afford to go to so they settle for hawking dollar water bottles and ponchos on Ashland Ave? But are only greeted with another instance of being ignored.

Being thanked for saving the earth as I parked my bike then participating in an event that trashes a park and having to use Instagram and deplete the energy on my cell phone which I will surely have to charge again at some point.

Do we need these festivals more than ever in a world so full of pain, confusion and anxiety? The world is exploding from Nice to Baton Rouge, do we take advantage of joy at every possible moment, because we never know what will be our last? Or is that a huge cop out?

6.24.2016

"Tears"

This story was inspired by the photography of Rose-Lynn Fisher. Follow the story along with her images here.

(Tears of laughing until I'm crying) is an entropic quest. The connected lagoons in the Northeast do little to conceal their desire for abandon. While harmony was never the goal, vacant land replaces the once childish idea of inter-connectedness: are you laughing or are you crying?

(Tears of change) prove that there is no life around. Abandoned suburbs run rings 'round our fortress. Soon, every branch, ever tunnel we've created will be consume: only to be exhumed and proved that the only consequence is change.

(Tears of grief) is as desolate as you expect. I can't go on...

I'll go on.

6.17.2016

"No Time, Toulouse"

I wrote this story inspired by one of my favorite Monty Python skits.

I walked into the advice center, briefcase in hand. A man with mustache, grinning, wishes me “morning." Before I've time to set down my cane and remove my hat, he holds up a white sign with four words in black ink informing me of our business here today. From a mount secured to the ceiling behind him, a big orange screen with black letters repeats our reason for meeting. It clashes with the plaid wallpaper. This man seems sly, but I must remember: I'm the one that is depending on him right now.

He lets go of the screen and picks up the original white sign. He then reveals a box, of which all six sides repeat these same four words. He points to the box; I laugh as I notice he already has these words written on his hand in black marker. He pours a shot of brandy from a bottle which instead of any label of brandy, it is written: “No time to lose.”

6.09.2016

Ear Relevant: Ellington/Mingus/Roach - "Money Jungle"

Mingus starts. Then Roach. Then Ellington. And then? And then we're in. We're in the 'Money Jungle.'

You don't really have to know too much about jazz to know you are listening to something incredible. Believe me: I don't know that much about jazz. But I do know that these are three of the greatest musicians to have performed the form at all, let alone together at the same time.

Mingus doesn't hold back. Roach never lags. Mingus is abrasive, but Roach counters gently. And Ellington is as smooth as ever, keeping up with the younger guys.

'Le Fleurs Africaines' is a mellow departure but Charlie pairs Duke's elegance with ominous pulls from the double bass, while Max keeps track of the background. 'Very Special' picks it back up again and 'Warm Valley' showcases a melancholic Duke.

This session was recorded September 17, 1962 at Sound Makers Studio in New York City. I bought this album February 6th, 2016 at the Jazz Record Mart in downtown Chicago a week before the store closed. These dates might not matter. It was my only time at the Jazz Record Mart. I should have gone more. Nothing lasts forever.

My copy of the record is a 2015 reissue: may we do what we can to preserve this music, not just this album, not just these three men, but for every artist, if you believe in the art, acquire something physical of it. That's why I'm starting to write about my records more. There needs to be record of these records. I forget about the records I have sometimes.

'Switch Blade' ends side one. Mingus ends it, his bass sounds like a guillotine swaying over a single note, bending it this way and that. I take a sip of tea and get up the flip the record. And then

6.03.2016

Enrique Vila-Matas - "Because She Never Asked"

I recently moved into a new apartment in a new neighborhood. A new home needs new books, I reasoned. Two days ago, on my way home from work, I exited the Blue Line subway and stopped by City Lit, an impulse I'm sure I'll indulge many more times. My initial plan was to find Alvaro Enrigue's "Sudden Death" but it was out of stock. Instead I picked up books by two Spanish authors: "On the Edge" by Rafael Chirbes and the book this post is about.

I opted to read Vila-Matas's short book first since I haven't had much time to read recently with the move. I wanted to begin and end something. The book is composed of three parts. A short story written by the narrator about a fictional character obsessed with real life actress Sophie Calle; the narrator's meeting with and interactions with Calle; the narrator's descent into physical illness and ruminations on life and mortality based on the confusing actions of Calle.

After finishing the book, I clicked on over to Goodreads to rate how I felt about it. I hovered between 3 and 4 stars, liking vs. *really* liking. I decided on 4 stars, as it has pretty much everything I want out of a book. Meta-fiction, descriptive language, copious amount of references to other authors/artists, reflections on the meaning of literature in life, various settings (Paris, Barcelona, the Azores), develops coincidences and connections (sorta like how I recently read another novel that fictionalizes an actress), and is shrouded in ambiguity throughout.

5.12.2016

What Do I Want to Write?

That's always the biggest question, isn't it? And yet, for as many words as I've combined together, through keyboard or pencil or pen, it is still a difficult question to answer. Why do I write? Because I have to, I say, and so say the writers. The philosopher in me has to doubt: and he has to doubt that I actually want to write.

Because I have to doubt anything I think I want.

I can only want what I have been exposed to. I can only think I know what I want based on my experiences, which are based on my circumstances, which alas, I have not entirely decided on my own. /enddigression

One key to understanding what I want to write is understanding what I want (or "want") to read. Lit Reactor had a post today about lazy readers ("lazy fuckers") who are too dependent on Amazon. I am not one of these readers. I thought it curious that the writer of this article assumed their readers all depended on Amazon for their next book purchases as opposed to going to a bookstore. Is this really the state of the book-buying public? Perhaps that shows my own bias: I am fortunate to live in a city with a plethora of stores: one Myopic would be more than enough for a single town, yet I can go months (years?) without having shopped there due to going to other bookstores.

Likewise, I travel, and when I travel, I make it a point to visit bookstores (see: St. Louis / San Francisco).

You find books you never knew you even wanted to read. It's the same with record stores as I've made this point before: you don't know what you really want and being surrounded by all of these possibilities is so much grander experience than relying only on Spotify or Amazon. /enddigression

5.06.2016

Tim Kinsella - Let Go and Go On and On and Coincidences

May 4th, 2016: The anniversary of the tragedy at Kent State where members of the National Guard murdered unarmed students. The same day, I read a passage of this novel where a radio broadcaster details the fallout of the tragedy.

May 5th, 2016: Woody Allen hates bike lanes. I read a chapter of this novel titled 'Annie Hall (1977)' where the main character, based off the life of actress and model Laurie Bird, has fictional interactions with Woody Allen.

May 6th, 2016: I read the passage of this novel where Laurie Bird and her boyfriend Art Garfunkel have dinner with Ringo Starr. I get off the couch, return to my bedroom, and hear my upstairs neighbors playing 'A Hard Day's Night.'

As any good atheist and/or existentialist, I don't think there's any inherent meaning in coincidences likes these. However, it does force me to take at least some note of these connections. I believe that is the thing that makes a good writer or an artist: to be able to establish connections where there may not seem to be any.

5.04.2016

Literary Chicago: F. Scott Fitzgerald - 'Tender is the Night'

via Calumet 412
If I knew this book was going to have so many great references to Chicago, I would have read it sooner. The city can be both stuffy and vulgar. Interesting to read about the North and South Sides in literature, particularly from 80 years ago.
"Once in his youth he could have gone to Chicago as fellow and docent a the university, and perhaps become rich there and owned his own clinic instead of being only a minor shareholder in a clinic. But when he had thought of what he considered his own thin knowledge spread over that whole area, over all those wheat fields, those endless prairies, he had decided against it. But he had read about Chicago in those days, about the great feudal families of Armour, Palmer, Field, Crane, Warren, Swift, and McCormick and many others, and since that time not a few patients had come to him from that stratum of Chicago and New York." (126)

"Well there's a North Side and a South Side and they're very much separated. The North Side is chic and all that, and we've always lived over there, at least for many years, but lots of old families, old Chicago families, if you know what I mean, still live on the South Side. The University is there. I mean it's stuffy to some people, but anyhow it's different from the North Side. I don't know whether you understand." (152)

"Suddenly Nicole interrupted in succinct Chicagoese: "Bull!"" (154)

3.12.2016

Trump Protest

I am not a typical protester. I am not close with anyone who is. I am not informed of when protests are happening. I don't go out of my way to protest.

But there I was found myself in the middle of a protest against Donald Trump.

I believe protests are important. I believe that they do not hinder free speech, but that they are free speech.

On the outside of the UIC Pavilion, along Harrison between Morgan and Racine, there was chanting and shouting and percussion and people sitting in trees and waving posters and unity and old people and young people and families and people of all colors and nationalities. It was the great post-race revolutionaries wet dream. Every type of person was there.

When was the last time Trump visited the UIC campus?  Over half the student body is Asian, Latino, or African-American. According to UIC: "Foreign students comprise about 6% of the campus enrollment with the more than 1,600 visa students coming from over 80 different countries." That was in 1999 even and I wouldn't be surprised if that number has increased.
It was not violent. There were instances of violence and it seemed especially worse inside the arena. From what I've seen these spats only happened because he cancelled. Would there have been this violence without him cancelling? Without the chance for his supporters to scapegoat the protesters, to get in their faces, to scream awful things?