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Monthly Archives: April 2024

Why Blog?

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Writing is like a muscle—the more you use it, the stronger it gets. And therein lies the power of blogging: it’s a disciplined flexing of the connection between thought and language. If I commit to writing something and posting it every day, it forces me to form some (hopefully) cohesive thought and put it into words.

Then make it public. This part is super important—it keeps me honest and accountable.

The reality is that I’m not always sure what I post is useful for anyone else, but forcing myself to write something and make it public strengthens the neural circuits in my brain that express thoughts into words. There’s often no editing involved, so that’s a bit of a highwire act in itself.

But there are other benefits as well. The discipline of knowing I have to post something forces me to be actively engaged with the world around me. Creative types tend to live in their heads; daily blogging requires paying attention to what’s happening around me if for no other reason than I need something to post about.

There’s also this: I’m trying to put something positive out into the world. A very unstable, fucked up world where negativity seems to be the currency of the day.

So there’s that.

Pig

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Released in 2021, Michael Sarnosky directed this quiet masterpiece starring Nicholas Cage in what is undoubtedly one of his greatest performances. The film subverts your expectations at every turn in wholly unpredictable ways.

As a lifelong lover of the medium, finding movies like this is a rare treat. With what must have been a sparse but very well-written script, the dialog is spare to non-existent—leaving the character development on screen in the hands of the actors. We’re well into the film before the character’s backstory is carefully revealed and slowly parsed out in a way that adds layers of unexpected depth. Just when you think the film is about one thing, it shows you something else, adding emotional layers that reveal a meditation on the pain of being a sensitive human crippled by grief, clinging to his memories, assuaged by his profound love of his pig.

Special mention must be made of Alex Wolf’s performance as his guide while they search for his kidnapped, beloved truffle pig.

I don’t want to reveal any spoilers, but if you haven’t seen it, you’re in for a treat.

In this life, no one comes out unscathed.

At Least AI Is Reading My Short Stories

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Things are progressing quickly with LLMs. Not that long ago, I tried uploading some of my flash fiction and AI was completely unable to understand any inferred meaning. It could read the words but had no idea what I was writing about.

Now it’s giving me thoughtful feedback on character development and plot points, mapping interiority to story form, and highlighting foreshadowing.

From dunce to sophisticate in a few months.

Hang on, it’s going to be a bumpy ride.

The Style Of Writing Called “Breezy”

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”There is a kind of writing that sounds so relaxed that you think you hear the author talking to you. E. B. White was probably its best practitioner, though many other masters of the style—James Thurber, V. S. Pritchett, Lewis Thomas—come to mind. I’m partial to it because it’s a style that I’ve always tried to write myself. The common assumption is that the style is effortless. In fact the opposite is true: the effortless style is achieved by strenuous effort and constant refining. The nails of grammar and syntax [word order] are in place and the English is as good as the writer can make it.”

– William Zinsser

And Now for Some Bad News

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Due to the trauma-inducing effects of today’s post, it has been permanently redacted from the records.

Hint: I just listened to investigative journalist Annie Jacobson’s interview with Lex Friedman on her new book, “Nuclear War: A Scenario.”

I loathe trigger warnings, but I’m afraid I’m going to have to issue one here. If you want to sleep tonight, or ever again for that matter, don’t listen, and for god’s sake don’t read her book.

Takeaway: If there is a nuclear strike on the U.S., pray that you and your loved ones are vaporized in the initial blast.

Now go hug the people you love, and if you can’t, make sure you tell them you love them.

Everything else is out of your hands.

The Nexus of Art and Commerce (Part 1)

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Artists are compelled to make cool shit. What happens to that cool shit after they make it is, for the most part, a complete mystery. It’s just not how their brains work. They want people to enjoy and maybe even have their lives changed by the thing they’ve made, but how to get the stuff in front of those who might be inclined to love it is about as clear as string theory.

For anyone involved in the arts, I’m making a generalization here, but it’s an obvious one. The history of the music business is littered with painful examples of the worst kind of exploitation imaginable.

This is where artist management in music and agents in the literary world come in, negotiating and brokering deals that are mutually beneficial for all parties involved, helping the artists navigate the world of commerce that is necessary to get the good stuff in front of the consumer.

Something most artists are poorly equipped to do.

In the best of all worlds, this is what would happen. In reality, a whole lot of great shit never sees the light of day. And if it does, it’s bought and sold while the artist is simply chewed up and spit out of the gaping maw of the entertainment machine, no different from an outmoded widget.

The intersection of art and commerce is a dangerous place, best navigated with powerful allies.

All of Us Strangers

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Andrew Haigh’s fantastic movie from 2023 is a great example of non-linear, open-ended storytelling that packs quite an emotional punch. One you won’t soon forget.

Love, regret, shame, grief—in other words, the human experience—give the film its universal appeal, albeit one that will require a nearby box of tissues. There will be tears, but their source may surprise you.

I love this kind of storytelling—it’s as if you have access to a window into the most private reaches of the aching pain and beauty of what it means to be human. All told in a kind of fever dream where reality itself becomes a fragile, malleable construct.

It’s heartening to see films like this released. Highly recommended—you won’t see anything else quite like it.

In The Game

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As a writer, “selling” your work is a brutal affair. All arts are the same, really, so what writers go through isn’t unique. At least we don’t need permission to work—god knows how actors deal with it.

By “it,” of course, I mean rejection.

I’ve been writing and publishing short stories for a few years, so I’ve learned to develop a thick skin when it comes to rejection. But rejection of a short story is not the same as rejection for a book. It’s not even the “time invested,” it’s just so goddamn personal.

The characters are so real, it’s almost like I’m letting them down, if that makes any sense.

But here’s the thing: if you can’t buck up and take the hit of rejection, you’re not even in the game.

So that’s what I keep telling myself.

It also helps that I’m starting the next book

Cruelty or Compassion?

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I guess it depends on what kind of world you want to live in.

How would you like to be treated? Better yet: How would you like your loved ones to be treated?

Maybe use that as your guide.

Something Wicked This Way Comes

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The human race seems to be roiling in an ominous prelude to a shifting world order that’s been building for decades. Technology (primarily AI) is speeding the process like fuel on a fire.

The sense of an inevitable, cataclysmic reckoning is palpable.

We should all think long and hard about what kind of world we want to live in.

Then act accordingly.

Before it’s too late.