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frank, and also, recommendation avoidance.


I really liked Frank, the story of an Irish kid who meets an American indie band led by a man who never takes off a giant fake head. The film is also on a long list of movies that I really appreciated, but would normally be hesitant to recommend to anyone. I hate endorsing movies to friends when there is a solid chance people won’t like it, mostly because such a vast majority of people hate what they hate with much more passion and intensity than they love anything they love. I initially wrote much more about that fact as I was composing this, but then decided it was best left for a different post altogether. Suffice it to say that I have trouble separating my own feelings from the art I love, and most people are assholes when they don’t like something. Thus, even my best friends don’t normally get recommendations from me unless they read this blog, wherein I get to share stuff in a bit of a vacuum.

Anyway, the trailers for Frank make it seem like the film is about a lovable Irish kid who finds a genius songwriter who is a diamond in the rough, and a bit nuts, and nudges him toward a wider audience. In reality, the film is much better, and at times much much more uncomfortable than that. There were scenes later in the film where I literally had to pace my living room because I was so uncomfortable about what was taking place and how casually terrible people can be.

Frank is about genius, and mental illness, and being talentless (but too talentless to know it), and it is about that age-old conversation about the relationship between creative genius and mental illness. It’s about community, finding those people who see you and understand you and accept you for who and what you are, and make you better. The film is small and intelligent, and it is one of the few movies about brilliant and weird music that actually includes brilliant and weird music. Most of the time they just keep telling us it is weird and brilliant and we are supposed to go along with it. Everybody in it is great, which is what sells the uncomfortable moments so well, but also what makes the heart and beauty land perfectly.

I absolutely loved the closing moments of the film, for reasons that are best explained in a long conversation with someone who gives a shit about my two cents, instead of in a hastily written blog post. I’m sharing that scene so people who have seen the film can enjoy it again, but I would recommend skipping it if you haven’t watched Frank. Both because of spoilers, and because you won’t know what the fuck is going on. I just needed a scene about a man who can often only express himself indirectly and through an artistic medium included on RtM.


ready to fail.

It’s amazing to me just how risk averse I’ve been in writing. I’ve done quite a bit of various forms of writing over the last decade or so, but I’ve never put myself in a position to actually fail or succeed. That sucks.

Regularly, when I am on various, somewhat legitimate sites around the internet, the writing can be terrible. I think, if this is good enough to make money writing I can at least do that much! I can. And yet, while I’ve shared most of my writing on one blog or another, there was never any actual risk of failure, and thus also never any chance I might move forward occupationally speaking. I’ve grown a ton as a writer, so it hasn’t by any means been a loss, but still, I should have more to show for it.

I mentioned it the other day when I shared the five things I’ll do this year, but it’s time to fail. Time to put myself in positions where I am out of my depth or comfort zone to see if I can actually make this into something more than a pipe dream.

The trouble is, how the hell do I do that? For fiction, that’s a little easier. I can share stories with various sites that publish different forms of fiction, who pay by the word for stories they like. That’s a pretty simple way to start trying and failing.

However, where the hell do I submit work to places that are a bit like this blog? Sure, sometimes the writing here is as mediocre as the site’s name suggests, but some stuff I’ve written is actually good. So, who do I show that to in order to catch on somewhere as an actual staff writer? Or even just as a freelance writer? I know the sites must exist. Hell, I’m pretty confident I’ve actually been to them before.  Yet, for the life of me I can’t recall any at the moment. I’m drawing a blank, most probably some sort of Freudian blank. Well, I’d like a little less Freud and a little more Jung thank you very much.

Any leads out there? Advice? Suggestions? Inspiration? Help me start failing in the direction of my dreams.


backward design.

Sadly, I had to revert to one of my previous themes here for the time being. I really enjoyed the most recent theme, but couldn’t figure out why the hell it didn’t work for mobile. Then I discovered the reason: you have to buy the $49 pro version to get the mobile functionality. That’s too rich for my blood.

Conflicted though I often am about my writing, I still love Roused. Yet it doesn’t make me money, which makes it hard to spend money on it. Maybe I’ll change my mind about that eventually. It is a bit odd, since if I never wanted writing to be anything but a hobby or pastime I wouldn’t think twice about spending $50, I spend that on entertainment regularly. Instead, writing isn’t just a hobby or pastime, but something I’d like to figure out how to make a living at eventually, and thus it makes it harder to spend money on it that doesn’t directly move me towards a return. That’s probably backwards, but I just started thinking it through.

In the meantime, while I see if I can find a free or cheap theme that doesn’t look overwhelmingly free or cheap, it’s back to an older theme.



portal 2.

One important part of Roused is that it is in no way timely. Sometimes a post will go up about something that just came out or happened, but much of the time I’ll be writing about stuff as I enjoy it, with no concern for release date. This is the premium example of that fact. Four years later, and I finally got around to playing Portal 2. Maybe I can get into the Guinness Book of World Records as the very last person to play through this game for their first time.

I knew I’d like it, knew that all the fuss was probably well-earned, and it still amazed me with its joyful simplicity.

For those who don’t know the series, Portal and Portal 2 are puzzle games. You have a portal gun that creates two sides of one portal. You need to use that to solve various puzzle rooms to advance the game.

Portal 2 is perfect.

For one, it’s hilarious. Throughout the game you are regaled and tormented by two AI’s and one series of prerecorded voice messages, and the writing for each is delightedly twisted. Not just delightfully twisted, but also delightedly twisted; these writers clearly delighted in being creating these insane AI’s hellbent on testing you to death. Among the three voice actors, one is Stephen Merchant, and another is recent Academy Award winner JK Simmons. The game still would have been amazing without the writing and voice work, but that extra layer makes an amazing game something truly special.

Most importantly, the puzzles are amazingly satisfying. They never get particularly difficult, but they are always enjoyable to solve. It was like zen to me during a week when I really needed some mental peace. The way these game crafters take a few very simple elements to create such variety in their puzzles is really impressive. And the simplicity of the elements makes it so that the puzzles all feel connected; unlike so many games, there are no cheap shots, any challenge is created by fair play and requires intuitive problem solving. Which is what creates such gratifying gameplay.

As I’ve written before about things I took a while to get around to: I don’t really care that I’m late to this party, I’m just glad I got to join it.



final leg.

Like, final leg of a race, not I’m standing on my last leg. Just a few more days until the blogging challenge with Wes is over, and I’m glad for that. I’m happy that this has gotten me fully back into the rhythm of writing every day, but I need to get back to a bit more flexibility in how that can manifest itself. For example, taking several days to write one really great post instead of having limited time and having to force out 300 words that no one really wants to read. Also, to use that time to work on fiction as well. The trick will be keeping the consecutive days going after the challenge is over. I need to be writing every day, I just look forward to not having to publish it online every time I do.

The challenge really is working though. Rubbing these feeble sticks together is starting to make a small fire. That bit of fire being that I finished a story yesterday. Or, the first draft of a story at least. I had been avoiding that work for a long time, and it feels good to get something done so I can begin the long process of editing the hell out it. Whether or not it will ever be good enough to be published, I’m going to work on it as if it will be.

It started with a trigger a ways back, the story of a man who wakes up in the middle of the night overwhelmed by the urge to get up and start walking, pulled onward by a strange magnetism that is pulling him away from his shitty life. I had no idea where it was going, but liked the initial short beginning I’d created. I actually thought early on that he was perhaps being pulled toward something that would eat him, like some kind of big spider that could lure its prey with a feeling that could be mistaken for some mysterious destiny that had awoken the poor victim in the night. I guess the metaphor was that sometimes the thing we think is saving us from the mundane will actually destroy us. As it would turn out, it wasn’t a big spider after all, and things turned out pretty well for everyone.


shows, and books, and negronis… oh my! [five things – 2.22.15]

I think today is a good day for a quick five things post, because my brain might not be up for a single sustained assertion. Instead, a few shorter ones might be just right. Normally I do five things I’ve already enjoyed, today I’ll sprinkle in some things I’m about to try. I’ll even make it double what the challenge calls for to make up for Friday.


1. Shows

I say shows because it’s less and less accurate to call it television as time passes. We stream, we rent, we torrent… fewer and fewer watch “TV” on monitors that include a tuner inside, or even through an external tuner in a box.

I’m not one of the folks abandoning ship on films in favor of shows, which I realize now is an entire post I should write. However, the talk of the new golden age of television isn’t overstated. Technically inaccurate for how most critically acclaimed shows reach their audience, but not overstated.

Shows like Justified and Parks and Rec are calling it quits, with Mad Men to follow in a few short months, which is sad, but there is still an overwhelming amount of content out there to enjoy. Shows like Archer, Bob’s Burgers and It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia are in the midst of great seasons; Last Week Tonight is back; even a weak season of American Horror Story (as seen in the most recent season) is still pretty solid; The Walking Dead is still the most successful show on actual television sets; Game of Thrones returns soon… even as I write this paragraph I realize that trying to list even a fair sampling of the worthy shows is futile. There are just too damned many that I love, and even more that I haven’t had time to devour as part of my media diet.

Great storytelling is possible within any medium or framework, and the time for this particular type of serialized storytelling is most certainly on the rise.


2. House of Cards – Season Three

Speaking of great shows… Friday!!!


3. Ulysses by James Joyce

6a00e398b8ecae000300f48ce22fa20002And from one form of serial storytelling to another. Yesterday I wrote about the past, when many novels were published in installments, one of those was Ulysses. Considered by many notables to be the greatest novel of the 20th Century, considered by a majority to be the most important modernist novel in existence. It’s called difficult, genius and mad, often in the same sentence. I’ve never read it, and it’s time to remedy that fact.

My friend Josué and I plan to read it bit by bit throughout the year, but we got off to a late start so I’m only about 50 pages in. Fortunately I only need to read around 17 pages a week to get through the whole thing between now and the end of the year.

Here’s to a wild, challenging ride!


4. Red Seas Under Red Skies by Scott Lynch

And in a book that is far less challenging but most certainly enjoyable, Red Seas Under Red Skies. I mentioned this a bit ago when I started the book, while talking up the first book in the series The Lies of Locke Lamora. This was another fun read for anyone who likes heists and/or fantasy. This book also makes it abundantly clear that when you are trying to figure out what to add to the second installment in a series to up the ante after a great debut, the answer is pirates… always pirates. I’m looking at you True Detective. 


5. Stave-aged Negroni


It’s pretty amazing that we live in a time where it’s so easy to get the bits you need to make delicious, well-crafted drinks and meals at home. For around 30 bucks you can get everything you need for the aging part: namely, a bottle and a stave of charred American Oak. Then all you need to do is prebatch the appropriate amount of whatever cocktail you want to age, pour it into the bottle with the stave, pop the top back on, and wait a couple weeks.

I started with some delicious negronis, because the barrel-aged negroni is one of my favorite cocktails, and it is also made with ingredients I usually have at my house. Next up I’ll do another negroni, as well as a vieux carre.

Then you have premade cocktails sitting around just waiting for ice and some lemon peel.

Basic science is magic!



relishing gaiman and celebrating short fiction.

I didn’t write yesterday. Not here. Not anywhere else. I figured I would use the fact that Wes has already missed days as enough justification to take a sick day. Even though I still feel pretty bad today, I’m back at it. Minor victories and whatnot.

With my favorite writer releasing a book almost three weeks ago, it may come as a surprise that I haven’t already binge-read Gaiman’s newest book of short stories. I got it the day it was released, and started it right away, but I’m savoring instead of rushing right through. Reading a short story here, another there, all the while reading other books, just to stretch this out as long as possible.635495819668785757-Trigger-c

I’m about a third of the way through, and I’m again in love with Gaiman’s imagination, his light and beautiful prose, and the way that he can take just a few paragraphs to build a world that hints at unending depths and unexplored nooks and rabbit holes.

He is one of the best at crafting short fictions, and short fictions are often wildly underappreciated. Short stories are usually considered dead things, remnants of the past when serials were still a great way to release fiction. I think the opposite may be true, and that they might be a big part of the future. It’s just that no one has figured out how to market them effectively yet. In our world of shortened attention spans, and people convincing themselves they are all terribly busy (they’re usually not), what could be more appealing literarily than a beautifully well-written story or vignette that someone can read in one sitting, in the time it takes to watch a television show or two?

People didn’t know how much they’d love tablets, or binge-watching television shows in which all the episodes are released at once. Not until they tried it out and realized they’d never go back. Short stories can be like that, and be a medium that has been ignored long enough to feel new and fresh. Now the trick is just figuring out how to get folks to try it in the first place, Gaiman would be a great place to start.


everyone thinks they have good taste.

Tonight, I had a long talk with Emily. She was trying to encourage me in a moment where I felt pretty shitty about just about everything in my life. She’s awesome like that. She shared with me this great quote from Ira Glass, something that I think holds quite a bit of truth. I think he is right about many people who create, but it isn’t as universal as he makes it out to be.

Ira Glass on Storytelling from David Shiyang Liu on Vimeo.

For all it’s truth and beauty, it is missing one key component… tons of people who want to create actually don’t have great taste, or talent, or anything resembling either. For every Ira Glass, struggling and fighting with remarkable talent and potential to create something beautiful, there are thousands of people creating shit while they think they are doing something amazing.

It’s the primary thing I wrestle with when I am trying to give myself permission to spend time creating and writing. What if I suck? What if I’m terrible, and I only think I have good taste? There are a countless number of hack writers out there who think they are the cat’s meow, who believe they have great taste and that the only thing keeping them from fame and accolades is a lucky break here or there.

Granted, sometimes you can be terrible and still make it. There are plenty of absolutely terrible writers who do become wildly successful financially. But bad writers making good obviously doesn’t mean that all writers who can’t catch a break are talented. Simple logic is all that is needed to make clear that most unsuccessful writers are actually bad at what they do. Sure, there are talented folks out there who haven’t been discovered yet, but how am I to know which group I fall into? I want to believe that I have good taste, that I know good from bad, but doesn’t everyone think that? Most people don’t have good taste, but that doesn’t stop them from thinking they do while they spend their nights at Applebee’s watching CBS.

My trouble is that I have been writing for somewhere around 11 years, and I can’t even get most of my best friends to read my blog consistently. Doesn’t that offer a pretty clear indication that I’m not any good at this?

It’s quite the quandary, that’s for sure!



bad nights with kavinsky.

Tonight I found out that the bar I work for will no longer be open on Mondays, which is a shift I work from open to close. That’s a pretty massive hit to my paycheck. There are plenty of positives to take away from this: primarily, I don’t want to work there anyway and this will hopefully provide even more motivation to find a new gig. However, positive isn’t how I’m feeling about it. What it really does is throw into sharper contrast how far I am from where I want to be, how frustrated I am with where I am in my life right now. I truly believe I’m capable of so much more than what I am doing now, but I am where I am and that’s all that’s real. Potential, talent, smarts, hopes, dreams, whatever… they are all fictional if they never materialize into something more tangible. I don’t want potential, I want vocation, I want to be the person I think I am capable of being. Instead, this setback shows me that I am nowhere near that.

I could spin it positively, but that would be a lie. What I’m really feeling is frustration and anxiety.

What does one do when this is the feeling and circumstances of the day? Well, for one, polish up the resumé and apply to as many places as possible. For another, listen to OutRun by Kavinsky, because sometimes what I need is a conceptual French House album based on 80’s movie scores about a teenager who is killed in 1986 when he crashes his Testerossa and returns from the dead, his soul fused with his car, to make electronic music. Okay, so I always need that, I just need it more some nights.