Monday, November 23, 2009

joe tracz is a really great writer

If you ever get a chance to see one of his plays, do it. This is a little snip from one he wrote set at various dance parties in outer space:

Unable to go home, Error began carefully measuring out his remaining jumps, traveling to points of historic interest in the past and future, absorbing art and culture wherever he could, and taking advantage of the unique educational opportunities his situation afforded.

At least he started to do that.

And then he became a teenager.

And then he met a girl.

At a masked ball, at the bottom of the ocean.

A ball we happened to be throwing.

And then he lost her.

He did something stupid and he lost her.

And ever since then…

I feel bad for the guy.

I know how it feels to keep looking for something.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

to die, it's easy

"'No, Darling!

To die, it's easy...but you have to struggle for life!

Until the last moment we must struggle together! I need you! And you'll see that together we'll survive.'

This always I told her."

-Vladek Spiegelman, in Art Spiegelman's MAUS. Which is really Vladek and Art Spiegelman's MAUS, if you think about it.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

I have an actual goddamned time machine, I am not kidding

If I said to you, "I want to return to 1940 and have a big coupe with big running boards and drive it drunkenly and carefully along dirt roads never causing harm except for frightening chickens out of the road, and I want you standing out there on the running board saying Slow down, or Let me in, and laughing, but I don't stop, because of course you don't mean it, you think as I do that big 1940s coupe and careful drunken driving and one party outside the car and one inside and both laughing and chickens spraying unhurt into ditches is what life was then, is what life was about before it became ruined by us and all our crap," and if I said to you, "I have an actual goddamned time machine, I am not kidding, we can get in the coupe inside thirty seconds if we take off our clothes and push the red button underneath that computer over there, come on, strip, get ready""--would you get ready to go with me, and go? Would you ask a lot of questions? Or would you just say, "Shut up and push the button"?

--Padgett Powell via Ben Platt's facebook page

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

since prince was on appollonia

I've been working on a dream project pretty much nonstop for the past few months. It's an idea I've nursed in some fashion for the past five or so years. We're finally shooting the first episode and then some this weekend.

Of course, all this dedication has meant I've abandoned a bunch of littler projects for awhile. That and had a lot of late nights listening to Bruce Springsteen and Passion Pit at my kitchen table. So *snaps* to some cool stuff that I didn't write that has been keeping my creative brain full in between bites of Snap and Akon and Emon and Springsteen and dance jams and teaching the children and watching The Office and The Guild and all that.

first snaps to Jonathan Goldstein's Ladies & Gentlemen, The Bible!, . It is a book my pal Lindsey is reading, and from this story alone it sounds absolutely wonderful. This is one part:

In the Beginning, when Adam was first created, he spent whole days rubbing his face in the grass. He picked his ear until it bled, tried to fit his fist in his mouth, and yanked out tufts of his own hair. At one point he tried to pinch his own eyes out, in order to examine them, and God had to step in.

Looking down at Adam, God must have felt a bit weird about the whole thing. It must have been something like eating at a cafeteria table all by yourself when a stranger suddenly sits down opposite you. But it's a stranger who you have created. And he is eating a macaroni salad that you have also created. And you have been sitting at the table all by yourself for over a hundred billion years. And yet still, you have nothing to talk about. It was pitiful the way Adam looked up into the sky and squinted. Before He created Adam, God must have been lonely. Now he was still lonely, and so was Adam.

Then came Eve. Since the Garden of Eden was the very first village and since every village needs a mayor as well as a village idiot, it broke down in this way. Eve: mayor. Adam: village idiot. And that is the way it was from the very beginning. Sometimes when Adam would start to speak, Eve would get all hopeful that he was about to impart something important and smart, but he would only say stuff like, "Little things are really great, because you can put them in your hand as well as in your mouth."

Eve would ponder how one minute she was not there, or anywhere, and now she was. Adam would ponder nothing. In her dreams, Eve danced in the tops of trees. Her beautiful thoughts flew out of her ears and lit up the sky like fireflies, and there were all kinds of people to talk to and hug. And then she would hear snoring. She would wake up, and there would be Adam, his yokel face pressed right against hers, his dog-food breath blowing right up her nostrils. Eve stared up at the sky. Adam draped his arm across her chest and brought his knee up onto her stomach. God, watching in Heaven, feared for Adam's broken heart as though the whole universe depended on it.

Adam was close to the animals and spent all day talking to them. Except for God, Eve had no one. She would complain to the Lord any chance she got. "Adam is a nimrod," she would say and the Lord would remain silent. God was the best and all that, and she loved the hell out of Him, but when it came to trash-talk, He was of no use.

Adam was constantly trying to impress her. "Look what I have made," he said one bright morning, his hands cupped together. Eve looked into his hands. She pulled away and shrieked. Adam was holding giraffe feces. "I've sculpted it!" said Adam. "It is for the Lord." He opened his hands wide to reveal to her a tiny little giraffe with a crooked neck.

On some days, Adam galloped about, exploring. His hair was wiry and when it got sweaty, it hung down in his eyes. Adam was cute this way. On one such day, he saw a snake. Adam made the snake's acquaintance by accidentally stepping on his back.

"Wow, that smarts!" said the snake through gritted teeth. Their eyes locked and in that very moment, the snake concluded that, indeed, Adam was a lummox and as King of the Earth, his reign would very soon end. There was a new sheriff in town, and it was he. It was no longer the story of Adam, but the story of the snake. He could tell all of this just by simply looking into his idiot eyes.

"I've seen you around with another one like you," he said to Adam. "But instead of the dead legless snake between the legs, she has chaos there."

"That's Eve!" said Adam, all animated. "I named her that myself. God made her from out of my rib." He showed the snake the scar on his side. The snake looked at Adam in silence. The idea of Adam, Adam the schlemiel, Adam the fool, being God's favorite was enough to give the snake a migraine.

"You aren't at all like I imagined," the snake said. "I thought you'd be closer to the ground. More pliant. Greener. I tried to explain to God that to make you balanced up on your hind legs was architecturally unsound. I don't know why I bother."

Adam sat and listened, wide-eyed. Eve hadn't the patience to sit and chat like this. So when the snake suggested that they get into the habit of meeting every once in a while to talk, Adam was very excited to do so. As they lazed on their backs, staring up at the sky, the snake would brag about how he was older than the whole world and how he used to pal around with God in the dark, back before Creation. He said that in the darkness, it was a truer freer time, that in the darkness was the good ol' days. He told Adam that back in the very beginning, he had all kinds of thoughts on how to make the Garden of Eden a better place -- but God was just too stubborn to listen to reason. "Make the earth out of sugar, I told Him. Instead of stingers, give bees lips they can kiss you with."

Adam didn't always agree with the snake. In fact, a lot of what the snake said went straight over his head. But there was still something about him that made him get into a very particular mood. He made the world feel bigger. Sometimes when Adam was with Eve, sitting there in icy silence, he would think to himself: "I sure could go for a good dose of snake."

You would think after all the time they spent together, the snake would finally find it within himself to like Adam, just a little bit. But instead, he only grew to hate him more. He took to comforting himself with thoughts of Adam's wife, Eve. From what he heard from Adam, she was hot and smart. Often he would imagine running into her, and the instant synergy they would have. "Adam neglected to tell me how leggy you are," he would say, wrapping himself around her calf.

The snake had no idea what he looked like. He was hairless, bucktoothed, four inches tall, and he spoke with a lisp. Adam had the IQ of a coconut husk. But he was still human. The snake, in his arrogance, was unable to grasp this, and so he daydreamed. "Sometimes, I'd think you were watching me," the snake imagined saying to Eve. "Because I felt like there were ribbons wrapped around me. Ribbons made of raw pork intestines. I would turn around to catch you sneaking a peek at me from behind a tree, but all I would see were the hedgehogs who mocked me. Come, my dear. Let us eat from the Tree of Knowledge."

On Eve's very first day, Adam had explained to her the rules of the Garden, just the way God had explained them to him. He had lifted his head up and had made his back stiff. He had spoken the way a radio broadcaster from the 1940's would. Another kind of woman, someone softer than Eve, might have found this charming. He explained that except for the Tree of Knowledge, every tree in the Garden was theirs to eat from.

"I am a fan of the pear," Adam said. "It is not unlike an apple, whose head craves God."

"Tell me more about this Tree of Knowledge," said Eve. She enjoyed the sound of it. The Tree of Knowledge. It sounded very poetic.

"There's not much to tell," said Adam. "If we eat from it, we will die."

From then on, Eve talked about the Tree of Knowledge all the time. It was Tree of Knowledge this and Tree of Knowledge that. It was like it wasn't a tree at all, but a moviestar. Sometimes she would just stand by the Tree and stare at it. It was on such an occasion that she met the snake.
When Eve first caught sight of him, she brought her hand to her mouth and gasped. She had seen some repulsive animals in her day. A boobie that percolated her vomit just below her tonsils. A dingo that instilled in her a sublime sense of nature's cruelty. And a deathwatch beetle that filled her with existential dread. But still, there was something about the snake that made her realize in a flash that the world was anywhere from 60 to 80 percent oilier than she would have ever imagined.

"Hi!" said the snake. "In the mood for some Fruit of Knowledge? It's fruity!"

"We were told not to eat from that tree, or else we would die," said Eve.

"Die? What an ignorant thing to say," said the snake, all chewing on a blade of grass in the side of his mouth. "If there's an escape hatch from Paradise, then it isn't really paradise, is it?"

The snake made interesting points. That appealed to Eve. He could see that he was making an impression.

"All I'm saying is to give it a try. Many things will be made immediately clear to you once you partake. I could talk about it all day and you still won't get it. You have a right to at least try it, right? I'm not saying go out and eat an entire fruit. Have a nibble. A nibble isn't really eating, is it?"

Eve found arguing semantics exhilarating. She looked at the Tree. The way the sun shined through its leaves was beautiful. Everything seemed to point to: nibble the fruit. Then the snake said, "Think about it. Does God want companions who can think for themselves or does he want a bunch of lackeys and yes-men? Wouldn't God want a few surprises? It would seem to me that God telling you not to eat from the fruit was just a test to see if you could think for yourselves, to see if you could exist as equals to God. The day you taste the fruit is the day God will no longer be lonely. At least give it a lick."

Eve looked at the fruit and then she looked at the snake. Then, slowly, she parted her lips and pushed out her tongue, all wet and warm and uncertain. She ran its tip along the smooth flesh of the fruit. The snake smiled. "Has anyone died?" he asked. "Now take a tiny little nibble. Just a speck, just to see."

The fruit was squishy and tart. She smooshed it around in her mouth. She squinted her eyes. It was a bit like trying on new glasses. It was a bit like an amal nitrate popper. It was a bit like a big wet kiss on the lips right at first when you weren't sure whether you wanted to be kissed or not. She felt a thousand little feet kicking at her uterus.

The idea of her own nudity, as well as Adam's, had always felt like a Nordic co-ed health spa thing. Now with the Fruit of Knowledge, it felt more like a Rio de Janeiro carnival thing. Her breasts felt like water balloons filled with blueberry jam and birds. Her nipples were like lit matchsticks. Her thighs, the way they swished against each other, were like scissors cutting through velour. With her lips still glistening in Tree of Knowledge fruit juice, she ran off to find Adam. The snake watched her as he chewed on his slimy blade of grass. And as she receded into the distance, he thought something along the lines of "Now that's what I'm talking about."

"Kiss me, Adam," said Eve. "Taste my lips."

Adam, like any lummox truly worth his salt, could smell the minutest trace of knowledge coming his way, and thus he knew how to avoid it like the plague. But yet, there was also this. Eve had never sought him out in the middle of the day before just to kiss him. It felt like a very lucky thing. When he took her in his arms, he told her that he loved her with his whole entire heart. He closed his eyes tightly and brought his lips to hers. Then he squinted. Then it started to rain and Eve began to cry.

During the darkest days ahead, with the fratricides and whatnot, Adam would often think back to his brief time in Eden. As he became an old man, he would talk about the Garden more and more. A couple of times, he had even tried to find his way back there, but he very soon became lost. He didn't try too hard anyway. He didn't want to bother God any more than he already had.

When Adam met someone that he really liked, he would say, "I so wish you could have been there." It didn't seem fair to him that he was the one who got to be in Eden. "This sunset isn't bad," he'd say, "but the sunsets in Eden, they burned your nosehairs. They made your ears bleed." He couldn't even explain it right. "When you ate the fruit in Eden, it was like eating God," he would say. "And God was delicious! When you wanted Him, you just grabbed Him." Now when he ate fruit, he could only taste what was not there. But it wasn't all bad. After Eden, Eve became much gentler with Adam. After getting them both cast out, she decided to try as hard as she could to give Adam her love. She knew it was the very least she could do. She sometimes even wondered if that was why God had sent the snake to her in the first place.

Adam would tell his grandkids, his great-grandkids, and his great-great-grandkids about how he and Nana Eve had spent their earliest days in a beautiful garden, naked and frolicking, and the kids would say, "Ew!" The children would swarm into the house like a carpet of ants. The youngest ones would head straight for Adam, lifting his shirt to examine his belly for the umpteenth time. They smoothed their hands across his flesh and marveled. "Where's Grandpa's bellybutton?" they all asked. He stared at the children. They were all his children. And as they slid their little hands across his blank stomach, he wondered what it was like to be a kid.

Second snaps to The Legend Of Neil. It is an absolutely hilarious and ridiculous webshow about a dopey guy who falls into a live-action Legend of Zelda after pleasuring/auto-asphyxiating himself while playing the game. It's written by Zaboo from The Guild, yo!

Snippy snaps to DC Pierson, writer of books, solver of mysteries, maker of Sword Clubs. Order this joint now. Or go see his movie, Mystery Team, in theaters (it's in Pheonix now, at somplace called Valley Art). And don't be one of those f*cks who envies someone for "making it". Get of your ass and get on yr grind like this kid. Or rub salt in the wound when I tell you he even DREW THE PICTURES on the cover of his book!

Snaps to Joe Avella, one of my fave people/comedians/fellow Ian McShane enthusiasts. He's one of the Snap writers, and his short Wheelchair Werewolf just took a fancypants prize at a film fest in Wales. Things that win in Wales win with me.

Second round of snaps to Lacy Campbell, badass at large, and her own short stories. I mean for real? What can't this chick do?!?!?! One of my favorites from a perhaps-defunct site:

Fernando by Lacy Campbell

We lived so close to the border that THE thing to do, if you were a total badass, was to sneak out in the middle of the night and go to this tiny little town in Mexico, Sangre de Cristo. And once you made it there, you had to get your picture taken in the cantina with Fernando.

Everyone knew who Fernando was – they had all seen his picture and heard stories about him. He had dark eyes that had sunken back into his skull, a wide lipless smile, and a skinny face like a horse. He was a legend. Everyone who came back from Sangre de Cristo had a Fernando story and a photo to go with it.

And, of course, everyone had a story about who he really was. He was a CIA operative. He was a former revolutionary. He was a rapist and a murderer, he was a drug lord, he was the guy who originally wrote La Bamba.

No one talked about the other possibility: that Fernando was some guy who drank at the local bar every night, hoping for one of those nights when a gaggle of giddy, elated American teenagers would swagger in, breathless with their own stupidity and daring, their pockets bulging with beer money and disposable cameras.

Snaps to my new favorite video on the planet. No joke. Love it. I love it so much I don't even have anything witty to say about it.

And snaps to Juliana, and her mom, and all the people I know and don't know pulling for someone amazing. Pull for her too:

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Vikings! Holy Shit!

Lacy Katherine Campbell is your hero.
You may not know this yet, but it's true.

She's an actress/writer/wonder-person, and I first got to know her when she played a twentysomething public-radio-personality frankenstein in a tv pilot I made with some other insanely talented friends. One time I felt famous because she quoted my blog on her blog. And I just got back from her latest + greatest artistic contribution to the world: Beowulf v Grendel (with Barbies.)

Don't mistake this for your auntie's performance art, Beowulf v. Grendel is the REAL DEAL when it comes to awesome things you've got to see. (Sorry, performance art aunties.) For one, that IS a garland of dead strung across the front of the Barbie/Beowulf stage. For two, it's like a play within a play within a fever dream of someone's supersmart, brazenly goofy mind. For three: vikings, dude. VIKINGS.

One of the less-fortunate viking's heads landed near my sis and I during the show:

Seeing B v G was a blast, and reminded me that some of the best, coolest things in life would never happen if the people behind them didn't ride full-throttle into the unknown and the silly. There's really no hard and fast reason to try anything above-and-beyond in this day and age. There are enough workaday things to worry about and achieve, and its devastatingly easy to lose faith in yourself and the phantom viking barbie plays in your mind while you're caught up in the routine. But you don't need hard and fast reasons. You need hot glue and gumption and mad energy to make something that makes people think, and laugh, and generally be happy to be alive.

psst! read Lacy's heroic blog here:

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

"The Day I Lost my iPod Forever"

"the day my DS was robbed out of my sister's hands"

"the time I was embarrassed because I fell in the toilet at my birthday sleepover"

All entries in one of my fave 7th grader's composition books.

I guess even when my job sucks, it is awesome.

Monday, November 9, 2009


you still do it for me.

I really liked The Men Who Stare at Goats, which is based on one of my favorite non-fiction books of all time. I have lots to say about both.

But you know, bros before prose.

conversation with 5th graders about The Future

We've been working on Future Self portraits in Art.

Me: So who can tell me some of the things that might happen in the future?

Class: Flying cars! Robots! Living Underwater!

Me: Okay...and what about something more personal? Who can tell me about a personal future thing?

Lavell, a genius ten-year old, shyly raises his hand. I call on him.

Lavell: Exploding chickens.

Me: Okay, Lavell. Please explain how exploding chickens are personal.

Lavell: ...It's their business.


Tuesday, November 3, 2009

even 7th graders thought this was cool.

Meet Lin-Manuel Miranda, creator of In the Heights, a musical I have never seen but damn I want to. I was first exposed to his talents at a songwriter showcase at Northwestern my already-in-the-Miranda-know pal Dyan invited me to. In the words of the seventh graders I showed this clip to today, Lin-Manuel Miranda is pretty raw.

(In case you're lame, Raw means cool now. Liken it to "baller" or "the most!")

Almost all of my students are Puerto Rican, like Miranda. Almost all of them seem to hate reading and learning, unlike Miranda. Seeing an entertainer and obviously smart-cookie from their portion of the melting pot in Lin-Manuel Miranda plus rapping plus the tale of original gangsta Alexander Hamilton? Suddenly a little tiny fraction of a bit more interested in learning! YESSSSSSS!

I have instituted a candy challenge: all of the students in my class who compose and perform their own rap or song about a historical figure of their choice by this time next week will win an entire bag of candy of their choice. Response seems positive. Kids kept singing the "Alexander Hamilton....Alexander Hamilton...." part of the song.

We'll translate "for the love of candy" to "for the love of the game" later.