Archive | March, 2009

Seattle Literary Magazines in Print and on the Web

This was published recently in Proximity Magazine. You can access the Proximity version here. I also posted an expanded version at Issuu.

Seattle Literary Magazines in Print and on the Web (at issue)

Seattle Literary Magazines in Print and on the Web (at issuu)

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Review P.S.1 Symposium: A Practical Avant-Garde by n+1

Mellow Yellow

Mellow Yellow

My review | rating: 1 of 5 stars

Okay — just finished reading this thing and I am glad I know nothing about these people because they are obsessed with surfaces and gestures. It is odd to read something that is supposed to be about an artistic movement (The Avant-Garde) and yet has half of the insight of a teenager helping me to pick out linoleum tiles at Home Depot.

A student asked me what kind of music I liked this last week.

I like music, I said. I was at a loss about such an enormous question. How can a person answer what kind of music they like? I’m familiar with this question and usually when someone asks me this, I try to give them an answer that will establish our shared preferences. It is a kind of bonding questions and doesn’t really have anything to do with the the music. Liking something seems to me to have hardly anything to do with aesthetics. I like water when I am thirsty and bread when I am hungry and this doesn’t mean that it good water or good bread. What people like seems more like saying we are similar in some way. We like the same things. This kid’s question made me realize I had somehow cootinized. I didn’t know this student all and so I couldn’t say, “Jonas Brothers,” or whatever it is that a 17 year thinks they like. When I was 17 I was freak and didn’t like anything anyone else liked in 1986. I think I was listening to the soundtrack to a Clockwork Orange that year. I tended to listen to once record over and over again.

“Do you like Jim Morrison?” he said.

“The Doors?” I said, as if the name Jim Morrison was obscure somehow had to be placed.

“Yeah,” he said.

“He’s okay I guess. Do you like Classic Rock?” I said. (This itself a vague and weird way of describing music, but generally people know what you mean, manly music that has been reviewed in Rolling Stone between 1964-1991 (or so) and canonized in an FM radio station top 100 albums or songs of all time.)

“No,” he said. “I don’t like Classic Rock. I like Pink Floyd.”

“I like Syd Barrett,” I said.

“Who?” He said. “What do you mean?”

{and on and on}

n+1’s Symposium: A Practical Avant-Garde, encased in a little booklet, reminded me of that kid. There is a kind of addled surface quality where history has been washed together as a kind of stew of gestures and stances and to be an artist is to have a stance and a pose and have practiced your gestures. Taste and gesture allow Jim Morrison and Roger Waters to be classified together. Alan Ginsburg, The Symbolists, the word progressive, Andre Breton, Black Flag, the Black Mountain School, etc. all get stewed in one yellow pamphlet mess.

Charles Baudelaire, Arthur Rimbaud, or Paul Valery were not mentioned once in this booklet on the Avant-Garde, including the Avant Garde in literature. Karl Marx was also not mentioned. Although the word progress was essential to their definition. Things progressed because they were getting better. The criteria of better was not discussed, but presumebably because of progress things that were new were better than things that were old. This is not a new proposition, sure, but here it was talked about and then printed up in a discussion meant to signify a serious intellectual stance. I’m unsure when this proposition of the new being better bdecame cant. When did liberalism or radicalsim become merely equated with newness. But yes, certinaly any child knews that something that is new and still in cellophane is better than something that is used and on the shelf at Goodwill.

The Avant-Garde is described, (really) in this booklet as a bunch of artists who issue manifestos. That is it.

Here is the most salient definition of the principle term being discussed: “So although it is made by groups and manifestos and individuals, I would like to think of the avant-garde primarily as a functional level within any given art or field of intellect.” The mush goes on from there.

{the subject is made by a group or individuals}

The carbuncle on my left ass cheek is made up of a group or individual Staphylococcus aureus and that doesn’t make it an Avant-Garde carbuncle. It issues a manifesto of puss, and that also does not make it Avant-Garde.

Anyway, this was an inept little booklet.

There was this bit I liked, lifted by Eliza Newman-Saul from elsewhere: “Blanchot described surrealism as instituting a collective experience, and he admires Breton for his capability not to be ‘the one any more than the others, but of making surrealism each one’s other.” He describes this as a from of friendship […:]

I have this booklet now and I have no idea what it do with it, besides, well, heating a kettle to make some hot water or something.

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Uneasy Heavens Await Those Fleeing : A Celebration of Art and Armageddon

Painting by Counsel Langley (detial)

Painting by Counsel Langley (detial)

Jennifer Borges Foster is bringing together writers, musicians, dancers, painters, photographers, performance artists and more to re-interpret the title of her first completed poetry manuscript, Uneasy Heavens Await Those Fleeing.  This project is made possible through the generous support of the Mayor’s Office of Art & Cultural Affairs and 4Culture.

Thursday, April 2, 2009 at 7:00pm
Canoe Social Club at Theater Off Jackson
409 7th Ave S | Seattle, WA

Free to Canoe Social Club Members
$5 for Non-Members | Note: Full Bar available.
This event is 21+

Contributors after the jump…
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The Hotel of Irrevocable Acts by Carl Watson

Unreality, printed and bound

Unreality, printed and bound

American reality has an oxymoronic, allegorical root that has been incoherently described by Griel Marcus in Invisible Republic, as “The old, weird America.” In his book, Marucs attempts to describe the world of the widely circulated folk song of the murderers “Frankie and Johnny.” It is the America that appears in Flannery O’Connor’s and Russell Edson’s tales. Moby Dick, Marc Chapman, LeadBelly, and The Hotel Of Irrevocable Acts do not make empirical, factual sense. The statement “is it true?” is meaningless in America. These works are concrete manifestations of the American disconnection between empirical reality and what might be described as American reality. The broken connection between observed physical phenomena and its meaning has been a part of the American sensibility since people wandered across the Bering land bridge. Herman Melville, the telephone, radio, and TV are logical outgrowth of this friction, rather than the cause of it. “Why just a few days ago, in the Tribune,” Watson reports in his novel, “two hitchhiking girls murdered an executive who thought he was gonna get some pussy. The girls said they thought they were in a movie – that it wasn’t quite real.” (The full review is The American Book Review.)

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Smallpressapalooza in Portland / Interview at Writers Dojo

Reading in Portland, OR on Monday 03/16 at 6:30

I’m reading from my new book The End is the Beginning at Powell’s City of Books at Burnside (1005 W Burnside 800.878.7323). on Monday at 6:30 p.m. as part of the Powell’s second celebration of Small Press Month: Smallpressapalooza

There will be food, books, readings, and other things… including: Starlite Motel, Zachary Schombur, Tim Sproul, Ronault LS Catalani AKA Polo, Emiko Badillo, Moe Bowstern, Karen Giezyng, Lia Cunningham, Molly McNett, Benjamin Parzybok, Samuel Ligon, Jeff Stewart, and Riley Michael Parker.

Interview at Center for Portland Writers

Kevin Sampsell, the publisher of Future Tense Books, the author Creamy Bullets (Chiasmus), the great and tiny memoir A Common Pornography (FutureTense) (soon to a full length book called The Suitcase (Harper Perennial), interviewed me for the Writer’ Dojo part of the Center of Portland Writers. You can find it here:

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Use Homophoner to Infuse Your Text with Homophones

This is great. It works very smoothly provided you insert ASCII text. It is simple. It is, well, evil. This Web-based tool will change your text into a homophone nightmare. Sadly, for me, I can’t really tell. I’m only unsettled, slightly:

Early inn thee film, thee young man back-from-the-war leans inn too kiss his brother’s wife. Thee young man back from thee wore is vary young. He has a long beard withe split ends, butt his skin is ruddy, and his lips are read and his teeth are thick and strong. His brother and wife are even younger and inn thee parlance of Hollywood, yew wonder how young they can bee? Are they still teenagers? wee don’t no thee actors inn this film, a search inn IMDB yields credits and thee credit themselves point too credit films butt they are things yew halve knot scene. thee young man kisses his brother’s wife wile his brother is having a tantrum inn thee forest. thee younger brother stands inn thee middle of a field of wiled daisies withe a stick.

This text was homophonerated at
This text can be unhomophonerated at here.

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Film Review

Not much happened.

Not much happened.

Early in the film, the young man back-from-the-war leans in to kiss his brother’s wife. The young man back-from-the war is very young. He has a long beard with split ends, but his skin is ruddy, and his lips are red and his teeth are thick and strong. His brother and wife are even younger and in the parlance of Hollywood, you wonder how young they can be? Are they still teenagers? We don’t know the actors in this film, a search in IMDB yields credits and the credit themselves point to credit films but they are things you have not seen. The young man kisses his brother’s wife while his brother is having a tantrum in the forest. The younger brother stands in the middle of a field of wild daisies with a stick. He taps the head of each plant. The Ford broke down and rather than fix it — which is beyond these mechanically inept brothers — and get back to civilization, they continue into the forest as planned. The forest is wilderness although it is a Federal Park. There are portions of the federal park where people have not been for many years. Moss hangs from trees. There aren’t even garbage cans. The absence of Port-a-potties indicates an absence of people. The clean-shaven younger brother is beset by responsibility. He yells at his wife. He yells his brother. “You don’t care about the what is real out here. We are stranded, and I have to back at the grill in a week.” The younger brother works at a grill. The younger brother is a drag. His older brother and wife laugh at him. He stamps into the forest. As they watch him go they are still laughing, and the laughter is in the shadow under the spruce boughs, in the moss, and the older brother kisses the wife and she draws back and shakes her head. You realize a xylophone has been playing a single note over and over again for a sometime. “Too late, my friend. You snooze you lose,” the wife says. She wears a white dress and hiking boots, and so the white fabric is nearly glowing in the dark shadow of the spruce and maple trees. She stands in the grey, leafy darkness. Her dress is a glowing triangle because it catches the ultraviolet light. She walks rapidly after her husband who is still hollering in the distance. It is difficult to hear what he is saying except for the tone. It is harsh. The xylophone tap gets louder, and then you watch them in three minutes of quick cuts cross flowing rivers of water that is silver and black, pass through dark green, and black stands of trees, sit on a blanket in a crowded thicket of brilliant white birch trees with black scabs and long spirals of peeling bark. At long last they arrive at a cabin on top of a mountain overlooking a wild valley with a massive mountain and white, glittering glaciers. Tiger lilies crowd the meadow in front of the cabin; tiny fluttering red moths dance in the sunlight. “Maybe we never need to go back,” the young man says, the grill worker. “We’re here now,” his wife says.

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DIY Homophone Checker in Microsoft Word

I’ve updated the archive with the Homophone checker for word. However, I also adapted a similar approach using the list of common homophones for Python. You can find the Python script as a code repo in GitHub account. Thanks, Matt (2018.10.27)

I am a very poor speller, but I write a lot. I often think of myself not so much as a writer, but as a manufacturer of typos. I have found word processors to be a blessing and curse on this front. I can’t imagine writing a book-length work without one. And yet, even though word processors have built-in spellcheckers they often silently correct mistyped words. Many of these corrections, although correctly spelled words, are not the correct word in context. That is, they are homophone errors, words that are spelled correctly but do not mean what I intended them to mean. To make matters worse, if you are like me, these words often resemble the correct word and in some cases I can’t even really tell them apart without carefully scrutinizing them. In trying to help me, word processors have actually compounded the problem by incorrectly ordering my jumbled typing into errors that are invisible to me. Can’t live with/without them….

I’ve become aware that among writers and editors there are two types of people. Those who can naturally spell and those who cannot spell. The natural spellers can see these errors. Each error is like jabbing them in the eye with an unfolded paper clip. They will say things, “How can you be so careless to write something full of words that jab me in the eye with a tiny, sharp object? Don’t you feel the pain?” Actually no. I don’t. They don’t bother me. It’s not that I ignore them; I can’t see them. But, I do not want people reading my books to suddenly feel like I’ve jabbed them in the eye with an unfolded paper clip.

The solutions to this is an easy yet elusive one. I can pay a copy editor who has this ability to get wounded by homophone errors to identify them. It is elusive, not to mention expensive, because I have no idea if they have caught the errors. I can’t tell. It is expensive for me because a good copy editor earns about 21 US Dollars an hour and can at most check about 1,500 words in that time. (Of course a good editor comes with all kinds of other abilities than purely catching homophone errors, but for me that is the biggest deal, but fact checking, name checking, and just plain re-parsing weird phrasings is totally great but expensive when you consider that I typically earn zero dollars on a published short story.)

Homophone checking would seem to be something that computers would be good at it. It is based on a defined word list. Natural language processing should be able to determine if the word has been used correctly or not. And yet, most grammar checkers and spell checkers, even those that promise homophone checking such as Grammatik (now part of Word Perfect) do a lousy job of checking them except for the most common ones such as “Their/there/they’re” and “its/it’s.”

In fact the standard spellchecker or auto correcter tends to conceal homophones.

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