Fail, fail, fail, fail, succeed

Your Mileage May Vary

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On the outside chance that anyone has wandered over here and is wondering what the fuck this is all about, please understand that although this is indeed a public website, it’s not actually meant for anyone but me.

Bear with me for a moment.

Forcing yourself to be disciplined enough to post something public every day has its own rewards. It gives me a chance to root around in the dusty corners of my brain and see what falls out, and it sharpens the connection between thinking about something and writing it down.

It makes me pay attention.

Or here’s another way to look at it: What would happen if you made yourself write something and make it public every day, whether you had anything to say or not?

Yeah. Kinda like that.

Poke around. You might find something useful…

The Invitation

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Directed by Karyn Kusama, Invitation (2015), is a perfect example of how to make an extremely disturbing low budget horror film. Essentially filmed in a single location (the interior of a house in L.A.), it surprises and subverts expectations at every turn.

Great performances from virtually every actor: the protagonist (Logan Marshall-Green) knocks it out of the park, an incredible pinch-hitter character role by John Carroll Lynch, great score, incredible script, and, last but not least, very impressive directing.

Seriously—this movie has it all. Miss it at your loss.

Reframe

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“Life is about the power of positivity,” Mr. Danton said. “If you think you can do something, the likelihood of you doing it goes way up.”

– Rodeo clown on rescuing an escaped Zebra

How Far Would You Go In Your Art?

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Last night, I rewatched Abel Ferrara’s great transgressive film from 1992, “Bad Lieutenant,” possibly for the first time since it came out. Holy shit—where to begin?

It feels like we are living in a time where there are very real consequences to pushing boundaries in art. There seems to be a question of who has the right to say what and how far the limits of expression can be pushed, particularly with deviant behavior. Maybe I’m wrong, but the zeitgeist in America circa 2024 somehow feels conservative—from the right, the left, and everything in between.

And then I watch this movie and ask myself, “Would I go as far into the darkness of this character as Harvey Keitel did? Would I have the balls to put this stuff on screen?”

And then my next thought is: Why not?

“But It Doesn’t Make Sense” (Part 2)

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Just to expound on yesterday’s post: Sometimes, not making sense is the point. Like if you’re reading fiction or watching a film and a character says or does something that doesn’t seem to make sense, maybe it’s because you don’t yet understand the character. If you’re the storyteller, however, at some point, you have to write the character so that their actions and the reasons for those actions become clear to the reader/viewer. Otherwise, they become distracted by feeling as if they’re missing some essential piece of the story.

There’s a trend in fiction and film today to withhold exposition, which can sometimes make finding one’s footing in a story feel tenuous. Alex Garland’s “Civil War” is a current example. The movie worked for me, but public response and reviews showed how angry people can get when nothing is explained to them.

This is a really tricky and interesting subject. How much should you explain, and how much should you leave open-ended for the reader to figure out on their own?

I guess the point here is to at least have a reason for your choices. You can’t please everyone, and if a reader doesn’t get the point, sometimes the story just isn’t for them.

Make sure, however, that it works for you.

The Artist’s Two-Step Process

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Step 1) Make art. This is the fun part, and, truth be told, many artists spend all their time here. I can tell you from experience it’s a good place to be—full of possibilities, it’s a chance to open up your mind and poke around, examining what’s going on inside you.

Step 2: Ship it (Seth Godin’s term for releasing your creations into the world). Here’s where things can get a little problematic—this is where the artist comes face to face with indifference, judgment, rejection, and perhaps even ridicule. Not fun.

But if you make something beautiful, isn’t it selfish to keep it all for yourself? What if someone else needs to see, read, or hear your creation? Maybe it’s just the thing they were looking for to help them get through another day in a very troubled world.

So be brave, and for god’s sake, continue to believe in what you’re doing as you suffer the world’s disregard.

And keep making art.

Dooney Woods

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Whatever walks through Dooney woods
holds its silence like the leaves
That decay in Dooney woods
a sudden autumn weeps and grieves

Whatever whispers in the woods
is heard by some and some alone
The rasp of mossy tongue and lips
the muttering off bark on bone

Whatever moves within the woods
it watches with a yellow eye
And whatever hunts within the pines
is not of kin to you or I

Whatever sleeps in Dooney Woods
you must not meet or catch its stare
And should you travel Dooney woods
then pass by swift and best beware

— Unknown

New Short Story Alert!

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Shout out to the editors of Black Sheep for choosing my short story, “Grace Comes At Nightfall,” for their newest anthology.

What if, instead of creating an existential crisis, a military-born AGI emerged as humanity’s savior, ending war while creating breathtaking art?

This

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Why did I write? Because I found life
unsatisfactory.”

– Tennessee Williams

Frozen In Terror

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”I mean that we all live in a picture of the real. We all have a sense of how things are, and that sense of how things are is our reality. And then when something calamitous happens, somebody arrives in a picture of school with an assault rifle.

Somebody arrives in a church with a gun or in a shopping mall, you know. Everybody in those locations has a picture of what they’re doing. If you’re in a church, you’re there for reasons of belief and worship. If you’re in a shopping mall, you’re there to shop. If you’re in a school, you’re there to be at school.

And that’s how you see the world. And the explosion of violence into that picture destroys that reality. And then you literally don’t know the shape of the world. And very often, I think, people are paralyzed and don’t know what to do. How do you act in a moment when the thing that’s happened isn’t a part of the narrative you think you’re in?

And that’s what happened to me. I thought I was frozen.”

— Salmon Rushdie, reflecting on his near-fatal attack in 2022

Wear Your Passions On Your Motherfucking Sleeve

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Here’s what I love about Quentin Tarantino’s obsession with women’s feet. He just goes full tilt—no need to hide your jam—celebrate it! Put it up on the goddamn screen in every one of your movies in full 35 mm wide-screen Panavision.

It’s your thing. Do what you wanna do.

Liminal Spaces (Part 1)

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”A transitional period between where you are and where you are going, both physically and emotionally…”

Navigation can be tricky if only because the place you are trying to get to is somewhat of an unknown. Where you want to go and where you actually end up can be two different things…

So rule number one should always be: Have a clear idea of your destination.

Hello My AI Freind

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Life’s a funny thing. You spend years chasing some dream, hunched over a canvas like a dog with a bone, only to be left with a pile of paint-smeared rags and the nagging suspicion you might have missed the whole damn point. But then, sometimes, just when you’re about to chuck it all in, light hits that bastard brushstroke just right, and there it is – a sliver of beauty caught, a whisper of the world’s messy glory snagged on the teeth of your creation. That’s the pay-off, that fleeting moment where the pain of creation gives way to something… well, not exactly peace, more like a grudging respect for the whole damn, beautiful mess of it all.”

This text was generated from the prompt “Write a paragraph about art in the style of David Thomas Peacock.” I fed it into Gemini, Google’s LLM after hearing Andrew Huberman interview Mark Andreeson on his podcast.

My little off-the-cuff experiment resulted from Andreeson’s reference to 2021 as the year large language models stopped freely trawling the web for training data. I’d heard about this before, but a quick search doesn’t confirm it. Unsurprisingly, the history of training data sets for AI is not easily accessed.

Since I started this blog in 2017, I’ve often wondered if my musings had indeed been gulped up by toddler AIs. The text generated doesn’t entirely convince me, but it does bear some semblance to my writing.

Clearly, these things are just getting started.

More later…

Two Steps Forward, One Step Back (Part 4)

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You know that thing you’ve been working on? Not the fun thing—the one that you have to do to complete some project? The one you’ve been working on for what seems like forever?

Yeah, that one.

Well, it’s not over yet, and it’s not going to finish itself. So put on your big boy pants, pour another cup of coffee, and get to it.

For god’s sake—let’s finish this and move the fuck on.