dog dream excerpt from Balloons
The sleep was thin and cold and he felt at all times to be just a part of him submerged, eyelids dipped under a pudding skin of consciousness. As he slept he dreamed of being naked. He dreamed of walking the dog she’d had, a little mix that was wearing jeans and a button-down shirt, out and around the neighborhood and back again. He was naked and he walked the dog that never seemed to get tired. He walked to get his mail but being naked had no key. He walked the dog past an apartment and his landlord waved from a window. The dog acknowledged the wave, nodded his head at the landlord and hunched forward and got very small, and the leash went slack as all of a sudden the dog pretended to be very tired. So he turned the dog around and walked it back inside, where it plopped down on his bed and yawned a violin-stroke of relief and took its shoes off. He laid down on the kitchen floor and licked Cheerios from under the dishwasher. Later he dreamed he and this dog walked on a desert road, and the dog (wearing leather now) lost itself among the cacti (but where here, in Nevada, were cacti?) and then the dream shifted again and he was with the dog - found now - under a giant fiberglass sculpture outside a chocolate factory and the dog pointed to an open car door where another dog was hanging out the driver’s door chewing grass and vomiting, and then the sky turned dark and his eyes were opening.
under the barn
life is stratified
like layers of limestone
like layers of lime, cherry, orange
in a jawbreaker
mine go in four year licks
the second or third layer of my lifebreaker
I was ten, eleven and started in my spare time
to crawl under the barn
consider Michigan - summer, dry
cicadas fiddling eardrums
air rippling between eyes
berries within constant reach
rusted red lipstick on wooden teeth
a dusty mouth grimacing open
above a bottom lip of dirt
I was a spider, a rat, a tongue
slithering in I thought of my parents
finding my dead body weeks later
chewed apart by ground rodents
such a shame - and swam further
breathing sideways through my nose
reliving how I felt when Sara
sat on my chest if I annoyed her
tickling the wind from my sobs
but the ground scooped out, bowed in
and between the dusted blades of light
I wrapped myself in courage
and went exploring
this was a horse stable we didn’t use
this the room of odd tools and pulleys
this the recess behind my shit shoveling
ten cents a pile
in the silence beneath the barn
I made peace, I made time
like a visit to the treetops
frequent, dangerous, perfect
after the bedroom door shuts
and your legs no longer know standing
and the AC hasn’t kicked on
and your brain is no longer pushing out your eyes
with the oozing hot itch of coffee-built wakefulness
and your inner ears are flush with head wind
the rain between your temples
not quite a pitter patter but almost
the first time you’ve been alone with your breathing
in days and it’s a train whistle
your jaw is track - your teeth pennies
your eyelids shutter like clapboards
like leaves on branches whipping trees in a storm
and it’s too late or it’s too early
but you’re alone
drenched in soothing silence
that won’t let you sleep
Oh Come Ye, Homonculi
So like inside yourself you’re you
But outside yourself they’re them
Not even people necessarily, all of them
Just a pile of unpredictable smelly not yous
You’re a pungent zoo animal too
You know that because senses, and sniffs
And you build a shell of language around your animal self and interact with other shells and speak other languages and pull in and push out and life is an abstraction of death and how at every moment we’re just a layer away from being forgotten and that is the fear that drives
And the things you think are wrong but you hang on
You wrap them in language and let them warp you
You pull in and push out and
So long as others are forgotten
And you last, you hold hands
We hold hands
your childhood is not even in your memories now
a moment floated by
one you wanted to keep
maybe you thought
"I’ll remember this" but you didn’t
you couldn’t, it’s gone
not sure if it’s time that takes it
or lack of consideration -
can’t rule out drugs
your childhood is not
even in your memories now
how can that be if
every self you sell comes from there
why can’t you remember
the cornfield, the crick
the cricket bucket?
ice skating between farms
wolf spider discovering
your sister in a castle
your dog a dragon
why won’t it come
These are my own personal writing rules.
I think it’s good to have your own set of standards for good writing - for what good writing for you is. Notice the things you don’t like in others’ writing and don’t do them. Notice the things you don’t like in your own writing and don’t do them.
Q:i may have asked a simliar question earlier, but what's the key ingredient to a good story in your opinion? it makes me wonder how stories from "Lord of the Flies" to "Twilight" are so popular. there are also great comedians like George Carlin who doesn't necessarily have to write a book to tell a good story too (although, i'm aware he's written three).
Sure, right. Okay.
I’m sure any number of writers would give you different answers, but I guess if you were asking me (which it seems you are) I’d probably say “surprise.”
Surprise: Something you didn’t know or couldn’t predict would happen…happens anyway.
It all comes down to the reason stories are told in the first place - and jokes, for that matter, which I feel comfortable including since you mentioned Carlin. People tell stories because they have a payoff they think is worth setting up well. And the most satisfying way for an audience to receive a payoff is with surprise.
This could be a very specific example, like the end of Shirley Jackson’s “Lottery,” or cases in which the premise of the tale is what is most surprising, like Lord of the Flies, or we could just be speaking of the way in which stories, or books or jokes, are boxes of an unknown quantity to a reader or listener. These boxes promise surprise by just existing.
People always wanted to read the next Harry Potter, not because Harry himself was such a great figure but because anything might happen to him this time - what could it be?
The great thrill of reading stories or listening to jokes is just that - finding out what happens. The joy of Carlin is he’s going to say something you didn’t expect, and you know you’re probably going to agree with it, even though you might never have thought of that particular thing that particular way yourself.
There are other telltale signs of a good story, but I don’t care how well your relationships are rendered or how three-dimensional your characters are if I’m not in a constant state of wanting to find that next thing out. There’s timing to think about, there’s beats, and pacing. Look at Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code and tell me if you think it’s good writing. It’s not, for the most part, but the man knows how to keep you turning the page. Stephanie Meyer must know the same trick, and more power to her.
Another element here that I think is important and easy to miss when considering the “surprise” is that it has to make sense. You can’t just surprise me by having all the characters die (LOST) or changing the rules midstream (LOST) because that’s lazy and I’m more likely to burn your book than finish it. The setup has to be justified by the payoff.
So my goal as a writer is to surprise you. If I can do that, just enough, by flipping a premise or presenting you with a situation with no predictable outcome, and that gets you to turn the page or skim to the next paragraph and keep going, I’m happy.
You make cool art, by the way.
I bought Rob Delaney’s special and here’s what I thought of it who cares don’t even read it jeez
While browsing my Tumblr dashboard a few weeks ago I saw that comedian Rob Delaney was planning to release an hour-long comedy special online, under the same ‘pay for it once, own it forever’ model Louis CK made popular. This was exciting to me - I’d known about Delaney for more than a year, followed him on Twitter, heard him on some podcasts, and had always found him hilarious-if-not-raunchy. But I hadn’t really seen him do standup.
Delaney, regarded in many circles as the hands-down funniest tweeter on Twitter, (and most of those circles are actual comedians), would be forgiven if he was only really good at that - no need to try his hand at standup too. But he tries his hand — and wins.
Nodding along with a story my girlfriend was telling me, I clicked the “I Want This In My Life $5” button and downloaded my forever copy of “Live at the Bowery Ballroom.” I watched five seconds of it on mute (I didn’t want her to know I’d started watching), paused it, then talked to her on Skype for two hours because that’s how boys who are friends act. It was only later, after she thought I’d gone to sleep that I fired up Delaney’s “Live” again and started pacing around to watch.
Holy fucking shit, you guys.
Delaney comes out of the curtains with a wave and a smile and begins a bit about inviting his favorite fan out to his creepy van - a bit he disguises as crowd work until it’s obvious he’s turned a comic’s idle chatter into a way to talk about trying to have sex with you in his van outside after the show, and you didn’t even see it coming. His bits are truly enjoyable, and somehow he manages not to offend too deeply, and while clearly he’s verbally crossing the line constantly times with the actual words he’s using, somehow it doesn’t seem to matter. The man’s demeanor makes it impossible to get mad at him.
Still, does he get away with too much? Sure. Like, I’m not sure how comfortable I was about the bit where he wants to literally eat his baby, and describes in detail how he would cook it, and how good it would smell, but I understand the premise is deeply funny to others. Also, I’m not a parent, so what do I know? And even though I might not have resonated with that one bit, I still appreciated the distance Rob puts between himself and the material. He’s saying these things, sure, but his persona doesn’t allow you to believe that he believes the things he’s saying, which gives him the room to make his material more…line-crossing.
For example, about halfway through the set, and sorry if I’m spoiling it for you, Delaney subjects himself to some prolonged heavy petting to illustrate a ball cancer premise and just as you’re wondering, did this guy just think it was funny to make people pay $5 to see him squeeze his bag? it ends, and Delaney seems genuinely embarrassed that you saw. But only after admitting, “I have a microphone and lights on me and I can do this, and make you watch, and that makes me happy.”
I forgave him, because he still maybe (in the joke) had ball cancer.
Each of Delaney’s stories seems to take a turn for the absurd, and while it’s hard to sort out the actual “true facts,” he does give us enough to get the gist. In the first fifteen minutes he gets into a story about explosive and unavoidable diarrhea, and part of me really believes it’s all true, that it happened. And part of me thinks Rob’s just talking about the funniest possible thing that he could have imagined happening on a run with his wife. Sitting here now, I think I’m probably both right.
Delaney has no qualms about making fun of himself, which makes it hard to condemn him for anything. He seems to know how he’s coming off, and he’s really sorry. Yes, there are rape jokes, and far be it from me to say whether they’re all necessary, but I will say they aren’t in the same category as the ones you hear at your local open mic, because Delaney is someone whose sincere loathing for sexual and violent abuse shines through.
Toward the end of the special he does a public service announcement of sorts regarding a certain slang term for a bedroom act that doesn’t quite rhyme with “monkey punch.” “Shut the fuck up, what did you just say you did to a person, you monster?” Delaney shouts, echoing his own reaction to a story “usually your shitty friend Corrie” tells as a sexual anecdote meant to be appreciated, maybe so much you’ll even give him a high-five.
"It’s a terrible thing that I hope people don’t really do - but I think they think it’s funny, and it isn’t."
The best part is this: There were men in that audience (and now, watching the special) who were/are expecting him to make light of this too, to hear a joke condoning something many of them had probably done or thought about doing, and when instead he simply “translates to Earthling” the heinous nature of the person who would do something like that, these guys realize maybe they’re the “fucking piece of shit” he’s referencing, which may or may not have any effect at all on them or their future behavior in society.
Let’s say it has no effect. But it wasn’t because Rob Delaney didn’t try.
“Live at the Bowery Ballroom" is a special thing. I’m glad I’m poorer $5 now than I was yesterday ago. And that’s pretty cool.
You can also find this post here forever.
Remember Letterloom, that thing I built last year, for publishing chunks of text in about 5 seconds on the web?
Don’t remember? That’s okay. You can read about how it works, or what it does, or whatever, here: http://letterloom.com/#!/9pmzhx
You can register and login (bottom right link), there’s no beta, I’m just leaving it open for writers to use. Once it’s starting to get more use I’ll release the writer feedback modules I’ve got in the works, which will allow fellow writers of your choosing to read and respond to certain things you’re writing - think about it as your own private writing group inside your writing software - all you have to do is get your writing group to join Letterloom.
Also I’ll be pushing a “publications” module, that basically lets you publish any piece of writing you’re working on, and shows a nice author badge (where you can choose to read different authors - reading = subscribing to any future published works by that person).
Very soon you’ll be able to read authors, bookmark looms you want to read later or just liked a lot, and write new pieces without even being logged in. Everything gets associated with your account when you login.
This picture shows the author widget I’m working on that will appear on all published looms. It’s got some social media links (Twitter, G+ for me), a thing you click to subscribe to the rest of the things I’ve published or am going to to, and links to 3 (or 2, or 1) of the other things I’ve written that I think are representative of me as a writer. You get to know me in about 3 clicks.
Of course, if you don’t register, you won’t get to see any of that.
Oh, also, when you login you’ll have the option to look at all of the things you’ve written in one place, see how many reads each piece you’ve shared has gotten, and password-protect certain looms you’d like to stay private.
I know I’m leaving a buttload out, like how you can email your looms to yourself or whoever you want without copying and pasting anything to your email thing, or how you can easily keep track of your word counts.
Please, if you’re reading this, register for Letterloom. I’ve been living in the app for a year by myself and I’m lonely.
4. I heard there are ads on Hulu Plus. Why?
We include advertisements in Hulu Plus in order to ensure that the ads we’ve sold to companies get seen, so we can amass the largest possible amount of capital by providing a service that is basically we do nothing and still get money.
Hulu Plus offers what no other streaming content service on the market today can: episodes, and shows, and seasons. All of them. This means full series runs (which we’re explaining to make seem impressive) of the shows you watched when you were growing up but since convinced yourself you imagined like Alf, Doogie Houser MD, Doctor Quinn: Medicine Woman, and Road Rules.
We have found that by including just enough ads to annoy you enough to look up why we’re serving ads on a service you’re paying for, Goddammit, we can keep the price for Hulu Plus under eight bucks, which we’d like to remind you is less than you can buy a sandwich for at most airports, while still providing you addicts with access from most devices that vibrate.
We’re continually working to tailor the ad experience, so that when you see the ads they’ll be about how you’re a man if you’re man and otherwise about something else if you’re not a man. In addition, we are always trying to find out how to squeeze more money out of you, so if we decided to release an ad-free Hulu Plus-Plus, you can pay for that instead, sucker.
Betty Crocker Warm Delights Molten Chocolate Cake instructions:
- Stir cake mix and 1/4 cup water in bowl until well-mixed. Squeeze fudge pouch 10 times. Tear pouch open, and squeeze lines of fudge over batter. [This was hard for me, as I kept personifying the pouch (I named it Stephen).]
- Microwave uncovered on High 1 minute 15 seconds or until only a few dime sized [DIME SIZED?!] wet spots [WET SPOTS?!] remain. If necessary, microwave 10 seconds longer. [At this point I am convinced we are microwaving it longer to keep it from coming alive, this molten demon that measures the size of its WET SPOTS with COINS] CAUTION:HOT. Remove to heatproof surface, holding rim with both hands.
- Put it in your mouth. Drink it. The hot goo (Stephen) wants to be in you.
- Cool 5 minutes.
I Really Can’t Accept This Promotion
These past four years at Big Round Pie Marketing and Sales have been great, Mr. Sperry. But I just can’t accept the promotion to General Manager of the Big Round Pie Marketing and Sales Softball Team, and I’ll tell you why. Unless you don’t want to know.
Oh, okay. So. Four years ago you flew me in for an interview. Or, you thought you did. The man you flew in wasn’t me. And I don’t mean in a touchy-feely “I’ve grown up since then,” or “I didn’t realize who I was until now,” or “I was just a kid” kind of way. I mean that wasn’t me in a “I jumped the guy at the casino, stole his suit, interrogated him about the job interview, tied him to a trash truck, and then showed up the next morning in his place” kind of way.
I knew right from the start of the interview that this was a place I wanted to work. And I don’t mean work in a “fingers to the bone,” or “from sun-up till sun-down” kind of way. I mean work in a “encourage other employees to do my work for me in a timely manner and threaten to tie every member of their families to trash trucks if they ever told” kind of way. It really has been a wonderful time.
I really can’t accept this promotion, Mr. Sperry, because I hate softball. And also, you say you want to pay me more than you’ve been paying me, but that really isn’t possible. And I don’t mean impossible in a “mission” or “that looks too hard to try to figure out how to do” kind of way. I mean impossible in a “you can’t pay me any more than you’re already paying me because I’ve stolen all of your money” kind of way. I used that money to buy this trash truck. Which, you might notice, I’ve been tying you to this whole time.
People will always love Big Round Pies, Mr. Sperry, and what I’ve learned is that as long as you put yourself in a position to be the one selling the pies, the Marketing and Sales efforts are kind of ridiculous. Remember last year you suggested putting prizes in the pies? People sliced through and chewed up the My Chemical Romance tickets, and the ones that didn’t couldn’t use the tickets because the ink was smeared and useless. We had to throw away all of the pies and nobody showed up to the concert.
I’ll be taking it from here, Mr. Sperry. I’ll be taking it (and this time I mean the trash truck) from here all the way up into the desert and over a cliff into a quarry. But only if you survive the trip.
Because this trash truck didn’t grow on a tree.
Just bought Fleet Foxes “Helplessness Blues” at Starbucks.
When I slit the plastic open with my credit card, parts of the packaging fell off. That was a disappointment, but you know what they say! Things fall apart. Or was that the title of a book I didn’t read but was supposed to? Or maybe I read it but I wasn’t supposed to? Shrugmobile. All’s well that ends well. Shakespeare said that. Or he would have, if he’d known people were going to think he was the one who said that.
What do you think it was like living 300 years ago? There were kings and buckets of poo you had to throw out the window, and the plague. Ah, rebirth.
Would that make born-again Christians true Renaissance men? Duh.
Where do you think “duh” came from? A quick google (apparently it’s misspelled if I’m using it as a verb and not as a proper noun) of “origin of duh” reveals that in 1943, the Merry Melodies gave birth to this word by having a character say “Duh…well he can’t outsmart me, ‘cause I’m a moron.” But I don’t get it. How does that spawn a completely separate and universally-understood usage? You say duh all by itself. (Is that the proper usage of itself? It’s self? Whoa.) After someone’s said something obvious or self-explanatory, something “bordering on banal,” which must be a country I’ve never heard of. And it’s usually a response. Not the beginning of a statement.
Oh well. When has anyone ever held Merry Melodies responsible for the actions of a person or group of people far in the future? Aside from the kid who beat his family to death with a giant wooden mallet?
Anyway, I bought this album. I haven’t listened to it yet, but I wanted to review it anyway. I want to review the way it feels, the way it smells, and the weight of it in my hands. It feels like it’s about 3oz. It’s made of cardboard and when I open … it cut me. This twelve-dollar thing just cut me. It smells like blood. Hold on while I clean my keyboard…
There's still blood on my E key. I can’t get it off. Oh well.
Moving on. I never had a real good grasp of the concept of 12 dollars. But today, I bought two things that were worth 12 dollars. This CD and a medium Round Table ham and pineapple pizza.
Why does Round Table call itself the “Last Honest Pizza”? I’d understand if pizzas were going around with the reputation of being dishonest. Like if pizza dealers were car dealers. Then I’d see the need for highlighting a contrary trait like honesty to sell more pizza. But…as it is, it seems like they’re picking an arbitrary good thing and saying their pizza is that thing. And it seems like they’re saying all other pizza is dishonest. Like other pizza is made with motor oil and sawdust.
Besides, I don’t know if I want my pizza to be honest. What if I bring some to a party and it spends the whole time telling all the people eating it that I didn’t wash my hands? Or that while it was in the car with me, I was blasting “Blow” by Ke$ha?
"Helplessness Blues” •••/5 (Pre-listening score).
Triple, quadruple crushing. Like, who are these girls? Every day it seems like I’m spending with another one of my soul-mates. I’m like a jellyfish, and they’re like sharks. That are also responsible for whatever blood is in the water. They always get in the way though, when it comes to baseball and to securing future employment.
When I was a kid girls didn’t talk to me. They always thought I was in the grade two or three grades below whatever grade they were in - which was always the same as the grade I was actually in, but obviously they didn’t know that or they wouldn’t have thought what they ended up thinking.
I’ve always like the idea of women. They’re like angels, sent here from a museum. Do not touch. Just look, listen, and point out when they have shit in their teeth. Stay behind the red velvet rope. These are perfect, feminine beings. Put another quarter in the machine or the girl dies.
I still have some of this romanticism towards females. Even though some part of me understands that girls are just guys with mammary glands (and that makes me feel weird about guys with mammary glands) I still feel like they’re somehow pure and good and pretty much like stuffed animals.
When I was a kid I slept with a fairly large teddy bear. Which is what I feel like, after I get married, is going to happen for the rest of my life, if my wife buys me a big teddy bear, or doesn’t shave.