Monday, February 27, 2017

It's been more than 2yrs since I've posted anything to this blog.

Yesterday was kind of a witchy day for me.
It was a new moon last night, which means the moon will now be waxing.
A waxing moon is a good time for renewal, for rebirth, for implementing plans.

Additionally, I pulled as my Rune of the Day: "berkano" or "berkanan" or "bjarken"
which seemed important, given the fact that "berkano"
(according to the information sheet included in my purchase of the handcrafted runes)
is a "Birch Goddess," a "tree," and a symbol for "rebirth;"
the image of the Rune itself is supposed to bring to mind "breasts,"
life-giving, sexual organs: that is, by providing milk,
the breasts provide the chance for a new life (i.e. an infant) to thrive, to survive.

Breasts, of course , are a natural symbol of fertility
and are associated with the Moon: both are round and inspire art.
Furthermore, I am a Cancer, and the Cancer's ruling planet is the Moon,
so it seemed like a convergence of sorts when:

1) the Moon was going to be a New Moon;
2) my Rune for the Day was "Berkano," which represents &/or symbolizes:
          a "Birch Goddess," a "tree," "rebirth," and "breasts;"
3) therefore, it was a feminine day of renewal,
          a chance for recommitting myself to my aspirations.

As such, I'm viewing today as a chance to begin
recommitting myself to literary endeavors, which means
1) revising and editing poems;
2) compiling and refining chapbooks and collections; &
3) seeking out and submitting to various publishing presses and houses.

The burden is mine to accomplish these goals; yet,
given the good omen I witnessed and interpreted yesterday,
I will succeed in properly utilizing this period of Moon-waxing.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Recently Published Interview & Inclusion in an Anthology

Hello All! Two quick things.


I was recently interviewed by Thom James, a UK-based artist/person. He has started a project called Interviews with Strangers, which will seek to interview people from across the internet, in order to attempt to present a picture of the person behind the screen and not the words that the person behind the screen uses to create a picture of themselves. idk if i'm justly summarizing Thom's project, but maybe you get the gist of it.
Anyway, here is a link to my interview for Thom of Interviews with Strangers. I believe this interview is the first interview of the project, so I'm very honored to help Thom kick off his project and I think I did did a decent job of helping. (Furthermore, the drawing of me is good, just plain good! Just look at it, please. Thom's artist friend, Grace Millard, drew this badass image of me based upon a pic and the answers i gave during the interview.)
At any rate, thank you to Thom James for taking a chance on me and having me be the first interview of Interviews with Strangers.


I was even more recently included in an anthology, a real book! Kool Kids Press are good poetry people and they have very generously included some of my poems in their first anthology, JunkYard Kool.
I'm so thrilled to be included in this inaugural anthology and, also, to help kick off this anthology series by gracious acceptance as a contributor. Please take the time to read this anthology, which you can download for free or can be bought, if you financial means, as a physical book. Follow the link to Kool Kids Press' JunkYard Kool.
Thank you to Kool Kids Press, I am honored and thrilled to be included!

And that's it, for now. Thank you for reading, for listening, and I wish you have a very happy  and a prosperous 2015. Good fortune to all!


Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Bootstraps & Best Practices - Joshua Jarrett

Joshua Jarrett is a Georgian artist and student. While experienced and dabbled in painting, drawing, sketching, writing, collage-making, etc., Joshua's most accomplished/substantial/graspable works are his comics. Indeed, these comics are the convergence of his many talents. They are equal parts sketches, drawings, & paintings, poetry, prose, & thoughtful musings, all mixed into mosaic-like art. His first three professionally self-released comics ("Love Poems for Nobody," "Dear Victor," & "Diary") are available to download for free or donation at his Gumroad account, which can be accessed via Facebook or Gumroad itself; additionally, I have reviewed these three comics here. In Joshua's two most recently released comics, "Bootstraps" and "Best Practices," creative visual beauty meets philosophic thought and meditative musings. "Bootstraps," also available on Gumroad, and "Best Practices," available to read on his website here, both delve into autobiographical territories of introspection, philosophy, and peace of mind through creativity.

Bootstraps (2014):

Available on his Gumroad account here, "Bootstraps" is Jarrett at his most thoughtful, intellectual, and philosophic while still, by turns, spending time to examine the self and interpret personal information. Compiled from writings and drawings, which are gleaned from experiences spanning the course of several months, this comic is a prime example of Joshua's mosaic, collage-esque style, for each section is in its own right a distinct work of art. However, when cinched together with an expert eye for detail, "Bootstraps" becomes, not merely a gathering of thoughts, observations, and associated drawings, but a wholly fulfilled story arc, which gains a converging momentum as the pages turn. In this way, the comic's story and thought process is elliptical, tying together the various, seemingly unrelated strands from the beginning and middle into a beautiful braid by the end. This braid is one of self-discovery, self-acceptance, self-actualization. Like the Gordian Knot which much be solved, not through the knot itself, but by means outside of the knot, so, too, must one, such as this comic's narrator, seek to gain an understanding of himself, not through what has happened to him, but how he reacts to what has happened to him--how he reverberates, bounces back, "pulls [himself] up 'by the bootstraps'." If this convergence of theme and subject is not at once clear, give Joshua's comic a second reading, and a third, and a fourth... On a first reading, the final page of the comic may seem to drop suddenly and, as such, could be viewed as just another strand, separate and unrelated to that which has come before it. But this interpretation, I suggest, is trying to understand the comic in terms of the knot itself. To solve the knot, one must think outside the box; to understand "Bootstraps," one must read it repeatedly to see how the strands come together.

Best Practices (2014):

Not really available for download and certainly not (yet) in print, Joshua's most recent comic, "Best Practices," can be read for free on his website, here. This is his shortest comic to date, but is arguably his lushest and most visually beautiful. While his four previous works often exist with lots of empty space, sometimes utilizing said empty space creatively (see: "Love Poems for Nobody"), "Best Practices," in its current form, doesn't even waste time with a title page, evidenced by the opening page to the left. There's too much to express, too much to show for there to be empty space or time spent reiterating facts with a title page. But there is a tradeoff because the writing of this comic is sparse, restricted to the barest of essential "do good" thoughts, which are themselves like steamy wisps of evaporating dew in the sun's morning light: seen, noted, gone. In previous works, Jarrett's drawings and writings complimented each other, but "Best Practices" seems to go a step further. Images lead into the written thoughts or observations and often times these partially expressed words are completed, and fulfilled, by images, surroundings. Furthermore, the images themselves and the words both convey the same story of a life lived quietly, removed from the stresses and fast-paced realities of college life and city-dwelling. One panel reads, "Take Your Time," and is framed by feet standing in bathwater, bathwater which is clear, calm, non-turbulent. In essence, "Best Practices" gently reminds, not just the subject of the comic, but also the reader to stop and smell the roses, to enjoy life, to be content, serene. Thus, Joshua's most recent comic juxtaposes "Bootstraps" stylistically, thematically, and intellectually. While "Bootstraps" is heavy with written thought and mental inquiry, making direct reference to the birthplace of modern-day philosophy (i.e. ancient Greece [see: Gordian Knot]), "Best Practices" is visual, meditative, and, we can therefore conclude, taking us somewhere distinctly Zen.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

?uestions - PT Cruiser USA

 PT Cruiser USA is a Twitter/internet personality who has gained popularity since starting her personal brand of loving PT Cruisers, livetweeting VH1 Soul, loving the men who are featured on VH1 Soul, and livetweeting her day-to-day life. I have reviewed the car's other books (here, here, & here), all of which are based on her life experiences and her ever-increasing internet fame and popularity. But this book, ?uestions, is a different thing altogether. Indeed, ?uestions is PT Cruiser USA's slimmest and most playful release. Less an insightful work into the car's day-to-day incidents, ?uestions bills itself, according to the back cover, as a book to be read and/or played with friends "to pass the time" with or without "other people when you're on a road trip in the car or something." ?uestions is like Mad Libs for the internet fame-obsessed; it's playful, silly, and fun, but it's also deep and thought-provoking.

While PT Cruiser USA has written bigger, more "substantial" books, ?uestions is a slim, 69-page volume (lol, 69!), which shows the car at its most thoughtfully ludicrous, which, in a nutshell, is the recurrent motif of her personal brand. That is, PT Cruiser USA has staked her internet identity as being both uproariously silly and quietly observant, both humorously shallow and surprisingly introspective. Anyone who has read PT Cruiser USA's other books will understand this paradox immediately. For each instance that the car seems to be the tarot deck's Wandering Fool, helplessly and endearingly out-of-touch with reality, she just as often turns around to prove she is intelligently aware of her surroundings and those in her life, becoming a diviner adept at reading signs, people, and situations. It is in this regard--the ability to "play the fool" so as deceive those around her while cleverly staying one step ahead of them--that PT Cruiser USA has survived real life unscathed and built her online popularity upon a solid foundation.

Therefore, ?uestions is a book for people to interact with. Not concerned with irl stories and Twitter-occurrences, ?uestions, very simply, asks the reader to ponder and answer questions. In this way, the book is like Mad Libs or other similar books in that sort of genre. ?uestions has a lot of empty space on the pages between each question so that the reader and/or group of readers can fill in their humorous and/or serious answers. And like PT Cruiser USA herself, the questions vacillate from the merely silly to the sort best described as "think about THAT for a minute." With this in mind, I would like to take this opportunity to answer 3 of the book's questions, falling at different places on the spectrum of silly to thought-provoking.


1. "do clothes ever feel sad when they're stained or have a tear in them?"

No, probably not. Although, it might be interesting to point out that when such things happen, we feel badly for the article of clothing. If, as some researchers and/or New Age folks have claimed, our emotions can be transmitted like signals, then it may be possible that our sad/unhappy feelings are imprinted upon those stained or torn clothes. And if so, then it may be that that article of clothing will from then on carry with it the memory or impression of sadness, which will forever remain a part of its "identity," so to speak. In this way, the clothing doesn't feel sad, but it just might be possible that we can make such objects emotionally effected and emotionally charged by our thoughts and feelings. (This vain of thought is not unlike what many people believe to be the cause of hauntings and ghostly activities; that is, the belief that we imprint our emotional states upon the environments and objects around us, thereby producing things like "haunted houses" and, possibly, "sad clothes.")


2. "do you think there is an abandoned warehouse somewhere with a rolling chair inside it with a skeleton sitting on the chair at receiving?"

Probably not, but I kind of hope so because, as this question reminded me, my uncle, who used to be a cross-country delivery truck driver, told me that there are teeny, tiny villages all across the country where there is just a factory and a few houses, and the only people who live there are the employees of the factory. As such, to my mind, it is not inconceivable that, perhaps, one of those tiny villages was wiped out by disease or something and there now sits a skeleton in a warehouse at receiving, eternally awaiting that final delivery...


3. "can animals take T to transition to another gender?"

Of all the animal-themed questions in ?uestions (and believe me, there are a lot!), this one may be one of the most fascinating to think about, at least for me, because honestly, it's something I'd never thought about before or even considered. But now, I can't stop thinking about it. I mean, T is testosterone and it is used in some, if not all, hormonal therapy/treatments. And animals, like people, have hormones, which make the males of the species have certain characteristics and the females of the species have certain other characteristics. So then, is it possible? Seemingly, yes. After all, if hormones can be manipulated in people to produce a reversal of the biologically-occurring hormones so that an individual can transition, then why not animals? At least, I should say, this seems possible in theory. I wouldn't have the slightest idea of how this could be "pulled off" in actuality. Of course, if it is possible, then the doses administered to the animals would have to be, I would assume, reduced compared to those doses administered to humans. And an entire other aspect of this question is brought up: supposing that it is possible to transition a male cat into a female cat, are we to proceed? Or, another way to put it: this question brings up the issue of consent. Can an animal consent in any knowing way to undergo these changes? Or would we be forcing this upon those animals for scientific research? Honestly, scientists have probably already done this to animals to study them and the effects of such procedures before knowing if and how hormonal therapy/treatments can, in fact, be used effectively on humans to help people transition to another gender/sex. Which, if that were true, then it seems to be further proof of our species being the ones that ever-continually muck everything up. (As you can see, this question has not provided definitive answers, but has in fact, like any good, philosophical question, produced even more questions and encouraged further thinking.)


In conclusion, don't buy Mad Libs or Cards Against Humanity or anything like that. Buy ?uestions by PT Cruiser USA instead. Play this game with friends at parties, on road trips, etc., or answer the questions yourself after giving each sentiment a good amount of time to digest in your mind. Generate discussion. Learn about your friends: what they think and how they think. Form deeper connections with those around you. In this way, a fun, playful, and seemingly silly book of questions by PT Cruiser USA is actually a way to form true, meaningful friendships and understanding between individuals.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Megaphone Heart - Manuel Arturo Abreu

 I received my copy of Manuel Arturo Abreu's "Megaphone Heart" from Austin Islam, in person. Austin is the founder of SLAM DANCE XXXX, a chapbook press, which aims to make beautiful/powerful/interesting echapbooks into beautiful/powerful/interesting physical chapbooks. Abreu's "Megaphone Heart" from SLAM DANCE XXXX is a true work of art, both in the final physical product and, (perhaps) more importantly, the content: Abreu's poetry.

Currently, one can read several of the poems from "Megaphone Heart" online, but only some. As such, the physical copy is necessary as an expansion upon that which is available digitally. At the time of this writing, the physical copy is on sale, for $5, which is altogether reasonable for an art object filled with subtle beauties, muted emotions, and matter-of-factly stated observations. Example(s) from Abreu's next-to-last poem: "that time during my 1st year in private school some1 said to me / during lunch "you make eating into an art" &i start starving myself" and "that time in 9th grade i'd lost 60lbs and someone said "you look like / a cancer patient, wow, you look great" & i felt validated"

Of course, nuanced and/or matter-of-fact statements which downplay emotions is a common contemporary convention of the online writing communities. But Abreu handles this convention masterfully. Whether covering love, death, or even more uncomfortable territory (see: lowkey observations re: minority issues), Abreu has strained the emotions from these poems. To be clear, these poems are not merely devoid of statements regarding feelings akin to 'I'm sad' or 'I'm happy'; they have, on the contrary, squeezed out all emotional connotations from the words (except when expressly stated by individuals). This effect is purposeful for, interestingly, the emotions evidently lacking in the words and lines are conjured within the reader. It is the reader, therefore, and not the poems, who becomes the sole entity keeping the emotional weight of Abreu's poetry, such as aforementioned eating disorders and the deaths of friends and family members. Abreu knows a poem cannot function properly by simply emoting; rather, in order for the poem to succeed, the reader must be made to feel the emotional consequences of QUOTE/UNQUOTE --fucked up-- events in order to truly empathize, sympathize, understand, and (hopefully) make meaningful life changes. In this regard, SLAM DANCE XXXX's print version of "Megaphone Heart" is a resounding success.

One poem in particular, "transcription of a story my nepali friend told me," is perhaps the 'heaviest' poem in the chapbook, precisely because it masterfully employs Abreu's technique of strained emotion. Indeed, "transcription of a story my nepali friend told me" is one of the finer examples of Abreu's emotionless-esque method. Abreu's masterful employment of this technique is achieved, in part, due to the nature of the poem, the format in which it exists; namely, it presents itself as a transcription, a translation, which, as anyone who has used internet-based translators knows, tend to suck emotions from the statements being translated. In this regard, "transcription of a story my nepali friend told me" is doubleplus emotionless and, thus, is the most powerful poem in the chapbook, for it forces, as described above, the emotions to present themselves, not in the lines or words, but in the consciousness of the reader, fully formed and consequential. The reader must infer the emotions of the persons on the bus in this poem, since these emotions are not at all present in the telling of the story or within the poem itself. Thus, it is the reader's inference that forces the emotions to come forth, not abstractly with names, but wholly as mental complexities and physical feelings.

As noted, this sort of technique is not new. Far from it: a conventional "hallmark" of "alt lit"/internet-based literature is the reduction of (or an attempt at reducing) the emotions expressed in the poems or stories that have been steadily coming out of these cultures. A common question is, "What is 'Alt Lit'?" Well, a good way to find the answer to such a question is to compile a list of the genre's conventions or typical stand-out points, and the reduction of expressed emotion is one prime example of this culture's conventions. The reduction of emotions has been an established tell-tale "hallmark" of the genre since the early days of Tao Lin's popularity, but, as mentioned above, Abreu's poetry in "Megaphone Heart" has mastered this conventional technique. The poems of this SLAM DANCE XXXX chapbook have meaningfully snuffed out the feelings from the words and lines and, in so doing, Abreu has forced the reader to experience the emotions withheld from the personae(s).

Another of the chapbook's more powerful poems is "these are the tabs that are open in my head." Like "transcription of a story my nepali friend told me," this poem ceaselessly and matter-of-factly states various of the personae's memories, including the aforementioned quoted lines dealing with anorexia. Other topics in "these are the tabs that are open in my head" include murder, suicide, child abuse, cancer, alienation, drug use, police brutality, the awareness of racial differences, racism, belief systems, etc. But the magic Abreu has performed to make this poem so powerful is to actively, and successfully, withhold emotions. Like an objective video recorder, the poem shows these events without passing judgments; it is therefore upon the reader's shoulders to fill in the emotional blanks. As one 'heavy' event is paraded before the reader after another, without pause and without holding back, emotions rapidly descend upon the reader so strongly as to make one almost physically nauseated. By the poem's end, one nearly needs to come up for air.

Conversely, "my philosophy of love" does include statements of expressed emotion, but by way of the fact that the latter half of the poem is comprised of dialogue. Interestingly apart from, or perhaps in part because of, this fact, this poem is a bit humorous, though one still empathizes with and/or pities the young seventh-grader. The situation described, however, is like the most awkward scene in a film that derives its humor from awkward situational comedy. But it is the stated feelings during the dialogue, the abundant confusion, and the irony invoked throughout the situation described that injects pathos through the poem and into the reader's intellect. The irony is that the person on the phone, claiming to be a girl the seventh-grader knows, states they are embarrassed about expressing their love for the seventh-grader while the seventh-grader is, quite literally, in a physically embarrassing situation: bare-assed, shit-smeared, and half-naked in the presence of "my mom." Despite being somewhat like the opposite of the two previously discussed poems, "my philosophy of love" still causes the reader to feel, rather than read about, the emotions conveyed.

The poems in Manuel Arturo Abreu's "Megaphone Heart" makes one feel, but not in the way any good poem ought to make one feel; indeed, these poems force the reader to feel the emotions purposefully withheld from the personae(s) and the words/lines themselves. In addition to wielding this lowkey technique masterfully, Abreu covers interesting territory in both content and style. For example, "one poem" deals with meditation and possibly the most boring pornography ever committed to tape, thus acting as a commentary of the West's voyeuristic attitudes toward the East, while "exercise in perspective shift or whatever" divides a poem akin to a semicolon's functionality. Or, succinctly, Abreu's "Megaphone Heart" delivers: thematically, stylistically, and emotionally, shadowboxer-style. While the dedicated web-surfer could probably find these poems scattered through the internet, I assert the best way to take in these poems completely and wholly is to visit SLAM DANCE XXXX for a physical copy. Truly, Abreu's "Megaphone Heart" in a beautifully physical, analog format is a must in any chapbook collection.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

A (semi-)Recent Publication & My Answers to the Proust Questionnaire

Hello; 2 Things:

1) This is a bit late, but earlier this month (Oct. 3), I had two poems published in Bluestockings Magazine's recent issue, which was in collaboration with Nudity in the Upspace.You can read the entire, beautiful issue here (hint: my poems, "not that that would be, nor has been, difficult to find" and "[untitled] for @Aurist" are on pages 19 and 36, respectively).


2) A few days ago, I took the Proust Questionnaire, courtesy of Fawzy Zablah, who is a fantastic writer and great person. He very kindly posted my replies on his blog, which you can read right here. Fawzy's written a great book, "Rarity of the Century," and he was so gracious as to invite me to answer these thought-provoking questions, popularized by French author Marcel Proust.

Okay, that's basically it for now. Thanks!


Thursday, October 16, 2014

Cruisin to the Finish Line: Acceleration - Pt Cruiser USA

PT Cruiser USA has written another hilarious book with "Cruisin to the Finish Line: Acceleration;" but this time, we are given more personal flourishes of her life as her popularity has increased. While this third book is still written in her boisterous voice, "Acceleration" is like a combination of her first and second books, "Speed Secrets" and "Ambitions of a Rider," respectively. Beginning with a few short pieces, which serve to establish her unique and distinct brand (bizarre real life happenings, love of hot R&B/soul/hip hop men, being a car, and working in a retail store that seems to have been plucked from a sitcom plot), PT Cruiser USA's "Acceleration" takes the reader into greater detail of her life and some real life, personal experiences, both at work and with friends outside of work.

In terms of her brand, I will admit I rolled my eyes when she once again had a list of hot guys. For an instant, I became indignant and felt like, 'Is she really going to have this same list a third time, but just a little bit different??' Yes; yes, she did. But this indignation was short-lived because I accepted the fact that she had included the list a third time. After all, she has staked her personal brand as being a lover of VH1 Soul and the men who are artists within that world, so was I really surprised about this? No, not really. And while I still don't "love" the fact that she has included basically the same list in all three of her books, I enjoy that she's staying true to herself, if and only if because: from book to book, this list, while basically the same, has changed, if ever so slightly, which implies progress of a sort. Or, another way to put it: PT Cruiser USA does not take this list lightly; on the contrary, PT Cruiser USA takes her list of hot men VERY seriously, so much so that she is willing to update and change the list and inform us of those changes.

One very nice, new addition to this third book was the inclusion of four "Car Facts" scattered throughout. The first of these appears immediately after "List of Hot Guys with Additional Hot Guys Added in Bold," which was incredibly refreshing after having gotten through a list I've read several times before. But more importantly, these "Car Facts" seemed to be sort of like the "What Things Mean" chapter at the end of her first book, "Speed Secrets." In that chapter, she explained the meanings and origins of some of the phrases she continually tweets. But with the four "Car Facts," PT Cruiser USA has spaced these little tidbits out, which interestingly divides the book up. It is akin to when a long poem is followed by a short poem, or when a long, run-on sentence is followed by a short, snappy sentence(-fragment). As such, the placements of the four "Car Facts" were timely breaths of fresh air.

"Hangover" was fucking hilarious! While I'm sure it was a horrible experience for PT Cruiser USA, I was thankful she shared this story with us. I read the first half of "Acceleration" (in which this chapter is included) in the breakroom at my work and laughed aloud several times during this story. Some of the guys who work in the produce department looked over at me, but I didn't care because PT Cruiser USA's story was too 'on point'. I mean, getting drunk from maybe about half of one beer and then being hungover, but having that hangover triggered by Bruno Mars on the radio at work...utterly hilarious! I also felt connected to her when she got a nosebleed on her way home, as I myself used to be prone to nosebleeds and, thus, understand the awkwardness of having to deal with a nosebleed in public. Her comedic timing in the telling of this tale was handled well and I also liked the car allusions she made towards the end of the chapter (because, of course, she's a car *beep*).

I was also interested to see that there is a greater emphasis on dates and times in this third book, which is important. PT Cruiser USA has always said she aspires to be internet famous and Twitter famous. Since the launch of her Twitter account and the release of her books, PT Cruiser USA's fame has increased. But what is a celebrity without a fame-timeline? Indeed, increased popularity will lead to more happenings both online and irl, which means she will relay these stories to us via Twitter and, possibly, future books, which will in turn continue to promote her fame and popularity. (It's the circle of Fame.) Thus, the emphasis on dates and times in this book functions as a way to track her heightening popularity, as well as revealing maturity and development within her as an internet celebrity/humorous storyteller. And while on the subject of development as a storyteller, I will quickly note that PT Cruiser USA's use of punctuation has improved, often (correctly) for heightened dramatic/comedic effect. Lastly, on the subject of popularity, I liked that PT Cruiser USA included a list of people from Twitter she hopes to meet, which shows further aspirations. But, very interestingly, she included notable alt lit-personality Heiko Julien in the list; in fact, he's the second on the list, which means, apart from Miguel, Heiko Julien is/was probably one of the first people to come to PT Cruiser USA's mind when she began to conceive of this list. And I say it is very interesting because PT Cruiser USA is, I suppose, a member of "weird twitter," which is like the Twitter-cousin of alt lit, which is a little like a bastard descendent of indie lit, a realm out of which both PT Cruiser USA's and Heiko Julien's books originate. So, I guess it seemed to me like when one artistic person gives a nod of recognition to another artistic person in the same sort of way that Stanley Kubrick gave a nod to David Lynch when Kubrick made the entire cast and crew of "The Shining" watch Lynch's "Eraserhead" on the first day of production and then told them, "I want ["The Shining"] to feel like ["Eraserhead"]." Or something...

Some of my favorite passages in "Acceleration" involve things that happen while PT Cruiser USA is at work; notably, whenever PT Cruiser USA interacts with Maria, the dumb manager, the Pygmy UPS Guy, stupid customers, and/or The Diva, which is, to me, a new addition to the cavalcade of sitcom-like characters who make regular appearances in PT Cruiser USA's life via capitalistically-informed economic institutions/places of business. That is, I often see tweets about these people, but it's hilarious to get more information and longer stories about them in chapters. However, The Diva is an exception: I hadn't known that The Diva was a person because I, personally, had never seen mentions of The Diva in tweets/other books. Nevertheless, The Diva's chapter made her, in my mind, fit right in with the bizarre world of PT Cruiser USA's workplace. Additionally, in her previous two books, PT Cruiser USA has seldom mentioned customers, but that's not the case with "Acceleration." Several sections/stories involve or are directly concerned about customer interaction, which I liked very much. Working in customer service as I myself do, I often deal with the ignorance/flat-out bizarreness of customers, so I felt solidarity with PT Cruiser USA when she relayed encounters with certain customers, such as the customer from the "Chingy" story.

One section I took a bit of issue with was "Dumb Manager *part 2*," particularly since I read this book after the Janey Smith/Stephen Trull and peterbd "We're Fucked!" controversy. While there are issues from that, I speak mainly about the controversy behind using real peoples' names in works of art without asking for their consent. Although PT Cruiser USA does not use the name of her "dumb manager," she does take real Facebook status updates posted by her "dumb manager" and puts those status updates in her book. Now, I can only assume this, but I'd be willing to bet that PT Cruiser USA did not ask and, thus, did not receive explicit permission to use those status updates. Of course, for the sake of art, all things are permissible, but people were hurt by the release of "We're Fucked!", so this is an important issue to consider. In PT Cruiser USA's case, there may be the possibility of a similar situation: someone could get hurt. Or maybe not: probably the "dumb manager" will never know about or read this book. Or, if she does, maybe the "dumb manager" is so dumb, she would actually like the fact that she's been included in PT Cruiser USA's book and not 'get' that she's sort of being poked fun at. Who knows? But at the same time, this book was written and released June 9, 2014 (lol, 69!), months before the "We're Fucked!" scandal occurred (as well as the other subsequent scandals late Sept./early Oct.), so the blurred lines of consent were probably nowhere near anyone's first thoughts. But now, I wonder: where do the lines of consent and artistic expression lie? Is it true, as I just sarcastically implied, that all things are permissible for the sake of art, or must we re-evaluate our notions of artistic expression and non-artist-persons' consent to be used for the artist's art? I don't have answers, but I can hope that anyone who reads this review will give consideration to these questions.

Now in the opposite case, PT Cruiser USA includes a story about @ashleyjizzzdale involving a dildo and an unexpected/scary trip to the emergency room. This is an extremely personal story, which happened to ashleyjizzzdale, but since PT Cruiser USA and ashleyjizzzdale are friends, both online and irl, one can probably correctly assume that this incredibly personal experience was given permission to be relayed in "Acceleration." In fact, the story itself, while stylized like a PT Cruiser USA story, seems to be written in a slightly different tone and, I believe, was actually written by ashleyjizzzdale herself. Whether or not this true, the point remains: explicit permission was given from ashleyjizzzdale to PT Cruiser USA to include this story in "Acceleration"--was, possibly, penned by the person to whom it occurred: ashleyjizzzdale. As such, an interesting work of art was created, and *not* weakened from having been granted consent.

Part of what I like about PT Cruiser USA's books so much is that we're given a deeper perspective on her life and the characters who populate that life. One such character, who I have seen mentioned in her Twitter feed but knew next to nothing about, was the Pygmy UPS Guy. After reading the chapter devoted to him, I now have a greater context for who he is and what he is like, so that now I can be "in on the joke" whenever she tweets about him. However, there is a little bit of uncomfortableness about her description of his physical appearance. When she describes his appearance, there is almost an implied negative-jokey approach to it. I'm not saying she does, in fact, joke about his physical appearance because, in fact, she does not. But she begins her description of the Pygmy UPS Guy with his physical appearance because his physical stature is necessary to know in order to see the humor in the sort of personality he has, which is bro-like and over-confident, male ego-centric. His personality, while humorous on it's own, is made, I suppose, more laughable when one understands his physicality. So, the best way to think of him, I'd say, is as a swaggering braggart, but short in stature, which gives him a bit of a Napoleon complex, which is pretty funny.

There are more Maria shenanigans, more retail happenings, and more school stories, all of which humorously show PT Cruiser USA's ability to neutrally exist and observe the chaos and quirkiness of the world around her. Sharing these bizarre occurrences on Twitter and more deeply in her books, PT Cruiser USA shows us a car's perspective in a human's world. Humans can be forgetful, can lack common sense, can be rather stupid at times; PT Cruiser USA, on the other hand (as a car), is level-headed and observant, documenting these people and their actions. But not all people fit into these stereotypes. Some humans are good and/or friends with PT Cruiser USA, notably those listed in the book's last chapter, "top 10 people to follow on Twitter," which functions as both a shout out to those ten people and shows us examples of people who are good, kind, and deserving of special attention in the exact opposite ways as PT Cruiser USA's retail coworkers, her grade school school bus driver, and Keyshia Cole. I would highly recommend buying and reading "Cruisin to the Finish Line: Acceleration" because it shows us that there are good people and bad people through the eyes of a car. And with that being said: "BYE GOING!"

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Rarity of the Century by Fawzy Zablah

Fawzy Zablah's debut novel, "Rarity of the Century," is a gem, available from Tiny TOE Press or as a Kindle version. "Rarity of the Century" is an apocalyptic sci-fi novel, but it is also, at it's heart, a love story. Despite the apocalypse-like setting, despite the science-fiction plot, there is love standing at the novel's thematic center. Zablah's novel is a love story because love is the driving force behind each character, which centers their stories, motivating their actions. And the novel itself is a labor of love for the science fiction genre. Consider the direct reference to Stephen King, via the Busboy's gay uncle's bookshelf. Stephen King, who wrote "The Tommyknockers" and "Dreamcatcher," which I read and loved in high school, are both sci-fi/UFO-driven novels, and "Rarity of the Century," I felt, comes out of that same tradition. Namely, Zablah's novel is deeply rooted within characters who must live with the reality of what is happening to them, a reality best informed and described by those who live lives within the context of UFO phenomenon. King's two aforementioned novels describe what it must be like to live every day experiencing UFO/alien activity and, likewise, "Rarity of the Century" does the same, but much more drastically--there is mystery, intrigue, and Zablah's personal thematic flare: love.

The novel opens with the first character, Chucho, proclaiming and addressing the novel's centric theme: "When the world ended I fell in love for the first time." This is the story of the Busboy, his perspective on some/most of the goings-on throughout the novel. Zablah's novel has, essentially, one main timeframe: The end of the world takes place and, we come to find out, there are precious few people left. As it should happen, the three people left on earth are in a menage a trois, albeit later learned. First, we learn what happens from Chucho. His approach to the end of the world is wonder in the guise of calm acceptance. Yet, what starts at first as acceptance quickly turns into struck thrill when he seemingly meets the only other person: Shiraz Zirel, a woman with whom he works and with whom he is in love. Chucho is an everyman, leading a boring, loser lifestyle, but he has an optimistic, scrappy dog-like personality. Always seemingly one step behind fully registering the full implications of what's going on, he is, for all that, endearing and loveable. He has charm and, when his dream come true is granted in meeting Shiraz post-"the end of the world," he uses their circumstances to win her heart. But Chucho--dog illusions aside--is not stupid. He has made observations and come to know some personal truths, mainly about how he stands in relation to women, particularly those who he finds to be very attractive. Chucho is no Alpha-Male, which he kind of knows, often desiring girls who he feels to be out of his league. So he views the end of the world as his opportunity to be with Shiraz, a woman he views as out of his league. Shiraz, seemingly, has no interest in him, but as the two remain together post-apocalypse, a bond forms and they soon come together. For Chucho, it is a literal dream come true.

For Shiraz, her relationship with Chucho is an acceptance of stability, as opposed to heartache and disappointment. As the novel unfolds, plot point by plot point, mystery by mystery, petal by petal, so too does our understanding of these characters as each is given his/her chance to share themselves with us: their histories, their interests, their selves. Shiraz, again given a slight nod to King's brand, seems to have precognitive dreams, which the reader is invited to interpret. For us, it is easy to make out what the dreams mean in relation to the happenings of the novel. But apart from her dreams, Shiraz gives us another, deeper level to the story Chucho has shared. Namely, her story doubles back in the plot to when Shiraz learns about everyone's disappearance, thus giving us a background story akin to Selena's background story from "28 Days Later." Although Selena's actual back story is withheld from the film, according to production notes, the reason Selena is tough as nails is because she had to kill her family at the outbreak of infection due to them becoming infected. Zablah's novel, giving nod to Selena's story, pays homage to the strong, tough-as-nails female character, which is a common motif in horror/sci-fi stories; but, in "Rarity of the Century," Zablah gives Shiraz the courtesy of revealing her back story, rather than withholding it. Albeit, Shiraz is not forced to kill her family, but must, in fact, do away with other neighborhood creatures, a fact that will surely tug on the heartstrings of both animal lovers and members of the internet-based "dogge" culture. Additionally, Shiraz's dealings with dogs, particularly Bebo, is a bit like commentary on the later relationship she forms with Chucho.

While Chucho's story is a slowly unfolding love story between himself and Shiraz, Shiraz's explanation of how she comes to love Chucho is both refreshing (for it gives us the woman's perspective) and also, thankfully, quick, since we already know what happens from Chucho. What is more interesting is the menage a trois fully revealed and confirmed that existed between herself and Chucho and, from before "the end of the world," Benito, a Cuban exile living in Miami. Shiraz's background story is well-handled and her menage a trois story is, seemingly, accurately represented, detailing the difficulties that exist when one must pick between two lovers. Something I first noticed while reading Shiraz's part is that the dialogue between the three main characters is ever so slightly off; that is, the dialogue is not "neat and clean" from one of the novel's three parts to the other two. However, rather than seeming like a flaw, Zablah's handling of this discrepancy is such that I believe it to have been done on purpose, which, then, functions as an interesting commentary regarding perception and memory of everyday life. The way Chucho perceives a conversation with Shiraz is different than how Shiraz perceives it; of course, we're told this via access to what each character is thinking, but to have the dialogue reflect that via slight discrepancies is, I think, very smart.

As Shiraz's storyline approaches the point where Chucho's storyline is cliff-hung, her background story jumps back even further, to her history with Benito. Zablah's use of cliffhangers from one part to the next is also well-handled, keeping the suspense and tension high, compelling the reader to keep reading. In this respect, Zablah's novel is again like a Stephen King novel: the suspense is sustained, turning the book into a real page-turner. And it's smart, too. To keep the mystery, I won't say too much else about Benito or his storyline (although we're given quite a view of what life was like for him in Cuba), but what I will say is that, given what Benito says and sees and shows us/Chucho-&-Shiraz, Zablah's grasp and understanding of UFO lore is surprisingly and refreshingly accurate. All too often a movie or a novel will try to do too much and explain too much and be too "weird" while handling such topics, but Zablah gives us just enough, just a taste, of such subjects, but he does not presume to provide too many answers or get too obnoxiously "weird." Perhaps most accurately depicted, I felt, was when Shiraz saw lights in the sky for the first time. During this incident, Shiraz wanted to leave to tell Chucho about the lights, but she was too mesmerized to actually take her eyes away from them, which resulted in "lost time," i.e. much more time had passed than she had realized; by the time she did look away and went to get him, the lights were gone.

Fawzy Zablah's "Rarity of the Century" is a fantastic sci-fi novel, which is informed and grounded in love; additionally, Zablah's novel demands a second reading. The carefully placed and appropriately timed revelations and cliffhangers keep the story going and the pages turning. But there also exists plenty for the reader to ponder, particularly regarding the fate of the characters and the entire world. Yet, if one reads "Rarity of the Century" carefully, and reads it twice, hints are given, but definite answers are withheld, which is another homage to Stephen King brand horror/sci-fi. These hints and suggestions can be easily missed if the novel is read through only once, so a second reading is, if for no other reason, necessary (although, truthfully, a second reading is warranted anyway because Zablah has written and crafted a beautiful novel). So be sure to buy this beautiful book, whether hand-pressed from Tiny TOE or digitally via Kindle. You will not regret it!

Monday, September 8, 2014

Two Recent Publications

Hello, all!

I have recently been published at two awesome, beautiful zines/lit journals, both of which are just starting out and need your support and attention, i feel.

The first is We're Here We're Queer Zine! I submitted 3 poems and they very kindly accepted all three. This elegantly captures writing and art, all of it seeming to fuze together seamlessly. My poems close/finish out the 1st issue, but everyone's work is fabulous; please read:

The second is Occult Geometry! I submitted some poems and they accepted one of them, "[titlething 8]". My scatterbrained poem is kinda in the middle. But everyone's writing/art in the issue is beautiful and heartfelt. I felt very honored to be included in their 1st issue and I am grateful to be featured alongside such stunning work; please read this also:

That's about all for now, in terms of updates.