What began as an effort to remove unnecessary screens from my working hours has since morphed into an effort to remove time. My watch is turned upside down; the clock on my Macbook banished from the menu bar. The only clock is an Echo Dot with a 20 minute timer set for these pieces and an alarm set for 955AM to signal that it’s time to get ready for the day’s run.
Time, like a word count, brings with it—for me—a permission to run down the clock. With each glance, the part of my brain that refuses to be present and functions only in relation to something else gives itself permission to waste time, to detach from the world of the story being written and drown itself in the “real world” of self-imposed responsibilities and unjustified perceptions of guilt over the selfishness of my chosen vocation.
I recognize, of course, that I let my brain do this to itself. I give it permission. I’m working to give that permission the same treatment as the clock on the menu bar.
The improvisations that constitute my desk are cobbled together of a footboard found in the attic and a piece of wood held together on one side by black duck tape with a checkers board painted on its flip side. This plank of wood is situated on top of a chest of drawers from the laundry room of my grandparents’ home during my formative years at Lake Buckhorn and a bludgeoned file cabinet whose bottom drawer I broke open to find a VHS copy of THE MASKED MARVEL which I knew was in there but wasn’t. The height difference is made up by three stacked Time Life books on the history of mankind. The Dragon that loves tacos sits atop the printer next to a framed, handmade birthday card from my niece; “hcqe brtdbay,” it says. Atop the plank of wood is my 11” Macbook Air which, thanks to my aging eyes, requires a larger monitor to not render me mole-like by the end of the work day: in this case, a 22” Magnavox television which, after a journey that included life in a KMart, a nursing home, and as a replacement television, found its way to my little sanctuary underneath the IN THE MOOD FOR LOVE poster.
Stuck in my head: “Deep Water,” from OCEAN SONGS, by Dirty Three.
While I clearly embrace Warren Ellis’s thoughts on the internet and our connected world (these Informalities are inspired by his Morning, Computer site and Sadie Stein’s daily posts at The Paris Review), I’ve struggled to enjoy his fiction. There are some notable exceptions—the great FELL series, his all-too-brief MOON KNIGHT run with Declan Shalvey, and the brilliant NEXTWAVE: AGENTS OF HATE—but I’m not what you would consider a devotee.
That said, I was immediately intrigued by the promise of Netflix’s new CASTLEVANIA animated series, written by Ellis; the promise of Ellis, even in spite of my lack of enthusiasm for his work, still holds a certain sway (thanks to the aforementioned exceptions). After watching the first “season”—a term I use loosely—I’m still intrigued by the promise of an animated Netflix CASTLEVANIA written by Ellis. But that’s about it: at a scant four episodes totaling less than 100 minutes, it feels as though I’ve watched a four episode proof of concept—a first act, at best—and have to wait a year to get to the actual series.
At least I want to see the actual series–and replay all of the old games. Mission accomplished?
For the nth time, a return to these daily pieces (and their debut at this site) is creatively necessary as a means to refocus and warm up the brain-finger-keyboard dirt road for the day’s toil; if blogging is dead for readers, let it be alive for writers looking to unstick their brain and for this writer in particular to care less about whether or not anyone cares about what he’s writing.
This return also represents an effort to refocus what mental energy I have for connectivity into a medium and platform with which I’m comfortable. The sharing of news stories and pieces of art is fine, but, as has been the case for however long I’ve been working on this new book, my capacity for coherent thought in 140-character bites has reached a low ebb. Like it or not, I recognize and understand the importance of that connected life: in the middle of nowhere, it is, for better or worse, the sole means of sharing my work—whatever form that work may take.
So for now, these unpolished brain-exorcisms—along with the now-biweekly (TW) newsletter— are among the prioritized forms to help me focus more fully on the larger work at hand; the B-sides that enable the A-sides.
QUIXOTE progress: embarked on the journey 412 years into the past on 29 May; currently at page 682 / 890+. An enjoyable—and remarkable—read, but a slog. To work.
Comments on the FCC’s proposal to unravel net neutrality are due 17 July. Here’s my comment, submitted today, 04 July.
There is no question that net neutrality must be protected; the only question is why are we walking down this path again? It’s simple: this is nothing but a barely disguised act of political spite from the current administration towards the legacy of the previous administration without regard for the fallout and the impact on consumers. We have been down this road before; the matter was settled in 2015: the internet is a protected telecommunications service under Title II of the Communications Act of 1934. It must, for the benefit of civil society and generations present and future, stay that way.
The Verge has published two excellent pieces on the issue: the first, a look at the ins and outs of the current proposal and the second, a useful guide on how to make your voice heard.
Opening with a drone before strains of 1970s Ennio Morricone and Lalo Schifrin arise and the whisper of a trumpet emerges above minimalist piano loops and a pulsing rhythm that segues seamlessly into a sound reminiscent of a hybrid of Miles Davis’s seminal BITCHES BREW and SKETCHES OF SPAIN, RULER REBEL, the latest album from Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah—the first in his trilogy of albums celebrating the centennial of jazz—is a wholly unique musical saga that takes you places you never knew you wanted to go, an off-the-beaten-path diner where hip-hop and Philip Glass merge in the mind of a jazz visionary possessed of unparalleled technical mastery and artistic taste who sits across from you in a pleather booth to tell you a story that could exist only in the unspoken. And you can only listen.
The next album in the trilogy, DIASPORA, drops 23 June.
Dennis Lehane is possessed of a nigh-mystical ability to make me homesick for a home not of my birth but for one whose tough love hurled me through my twenties and into what passes for adulthood; each new Lehane book returns me to a living, breathing Boston alongside characters deserving of empathy and solace, a solace I know they will never find—it is, after all, a Dennis Lehane story. It is a Boston story.
While his latest, SINCE WE FELL, certainly made me homesick for that home of tough love, it did little else but frustrate me. After a turn that unnecessarily complicated matters and thrust the final third into a dense forest of incoherent plotting populated by once-fascinating people transformed into plot-driven guideposts, SINCE WE FELL read as though he was trying to extricate himself from a drastic narrative misstep on a tight deadline.
In SINCE WE FELL, Lehane branched out from his usual wheelhouse and for that we should cheer; however, the result of this particular branching is a failed, if noble, experiment, a failure in the manner that the final season of THE WIRE is a failure: even at its worst, it’s still better than most—but the disappointment is palpable.