Visit the Howlarium

It’s been a while since I posted a check-in with the Howlarium! Jason Howell has been inviting writers to take advantage of his challenges and tricks for some years now, and there’s always a killer essential question and a passel of samples of stories from writers everywhere in the Howlarium.

The present edition consists of chunks of writers’ stories and works in progress. If you’re a proper writer, that is to say, a writer who likes to read, you’ll love it. Go visit!

Far Cry #9 is out!

The great great Anika Balaconis has done it again with Far Cry #9, the biggest little speculative fiction zine in the scene, published while she’s not punking down and running her own restaurant in Greenfield, Massachusetts.

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Authors Andrew Massey, Jean Paul Garnier (namesake of the condoms and glowsticks on the cover) and Joe Urson are featured besides Anika’s own story, and she put one of my stories in too!!! Audio version of the latter here for those of you too busy, too nonprofit or too ‘post-literate’ to read. Cover artist London Roman also has an illustration in the back, like a single page from a longer comic, to round it out.

The cover image also gets my approval for featuring the west coast, and a punker wailing on a guitar. Get on Far Cry, or find Éxitos Gnosis, and get yourself a copy today while they last!

Road Yuck: Angry Orchard

Another case –no actually, a single –of leaving a good bottle in the pack when you throw it out. In Santa Cruz I caught this Angry Orchard in the guy’s recycling bin. It’s brewed by Boston (Samuel Adams). I feel like I should do a lengthy, useless video like those cats do on youtube about beers that you’d never ever need to review…

Anyhow I drank the errant Angry Orchard for the first time, warm like I tend to do, and it was like drinking a soda at the same time as a gross cheap beer. Turn the label around and wouldn’t you know, it’s got almost as much sugar in it as a friggin soda. Yuck! Soda is bad for you, kids! Roadbeers are the meaning of life!

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Let’s talk about the mouthfeel. Again, sugary, syrupy, not good. Like a lot of American beers, not really fizzy but like liquid sand, or granulated pellets of solid gasoline, like my friend and I were saying when we tried a Steel Reserve Hard Pineapple last weekend –as research for my next novel!

I never eat sweets so I’m pretty sure I can TASTE the high-fructose corn syrup in shit, particularly in Pabst, High Life, these kinds of gross beers, when I feel like increasing my vow of poverty or find myself at a show.

Many Persons Mirrored and Duplicated In One Person

Not nearly enough has been written about John Irving’s In One Person since its publication in 2012, so having read it just now I thought I should contribute notes of both a literary and a most spiritually didactic nature. For a synopsis one can visit any number of websites.

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In One Person’s world has a private language habit, a Shakespeare lens for everything, and a spiralling theme of crossdressers and otherwise non-gender-binary men. Irving’s trademark truly excellent characterization and cagily naive narration abound. What struck me most about Irving’s book, however, is how funny it is.  Even in the grim third quarter in which we watch most of protagonist Billy Abbott’s friends die of AIDS, we get about 500 words of tragedy and then an offhand remark that makes us laugh out loud. Maybe it’s just my sense of humor. Like when he comes after a long series of AIDS vigil sequences to his hometown for a relatively simple checkin with a dead faculty member of his school: it is discovered that the orderly has only brought the corpse out in the snow to smoke a cigarette, not to wait for the hearse. Anyway, In One Person has no gags; rather, the timing is incredible.

I would like to point out a marvellously-rendered literary surprise in the book out of fear that it may be too often missed. The arc of investigating people’s identity soars beautifully throughout the book, but the end holds a satisfying surprise. As much as the book’s title may allude to the folly of casting people into vulgar categories that support people’s gang mentality, and the phenomenon of these categories occurring “in one person,” the title is revealed in the final chapter to also represent a conceit about our lifespan, aging, and successive generations. When the son of the protagonist’s forbidden crush from the very beginning of the novel shows up, bearing the only reliable evidence of what’s become of the wrestler Kittredge (his own one person mirrored in the elder wrestler and love interest Miss Frost), Billy underscores the voice and look of the younger Kittredge, who is the spitting image of his father. As Kittredge helped Billy start off on a path, Billy is now providing perspective for Kittredge’s kid.

Here the story’s spirals finally converge: we have not only the sexual phenomena gathering in unexpected groups in one person, but also the mysteries of maturity and life experience. The son of Kittredge and his father are as one person, but also the fate of Kittredge, Miss Frost and now the young transgender student Gee fit into one person, shifting identity through time.

Irving has  been subtly warning us about this conceit throughout the book, particularly with the symbol of the yearbooks and with his complaints about terminology. As an artist who’s also struggled with the identity police over time, I really appreciate Billy’s annoyance not with the new terms, ie., transgender vs. transsexual, but with the rigidness with which successive generations of people insist on the correctness of these terms. Irving argues hereby for compassion and also curiosity: before you criticize someone older for not using the new hip term, be a fucking smart person and find out the nature of the old term.

Finally, I’m grateful on behalf of those old enough to remember that Irving has chosen now, in the age of complacent suburban gender-queerness that seems unable or rather unwilling to see itself from its socio-economic angle, to force AIDS back in our faces. People my age will always remember that AIDS was far scarier than nuclear war, and people Irving’s age get the satisfaction of having their 1980s set –properly, I would argue –in the frame of the AIDS epidemic. Think of the suburban Christian terrorism we’ve lived through since the late 80s-early 90s: the PMRC, enforced gangster rap, youth group, Faith Driven Consumer, the Bush administration, No Child Left Behind, Gay-Straight Alliance … what would Robert Mapplethorpe, Klaus Nomi, Essex Hemphill, Marlon Riggs, even Eazy-E and the local dancer, have taught us about these assholes and their judgmental phoniness if they’d made it longer??? Irving reminds us of the time not so long ago when we had to try to stick together, rather than run our campus GSA into the ground for not being suburban white gay or trans enough, because our fucking lives depended on it.

Thank you, a thousand times thank you, Mr Irving, for reminding us about all the possibilities and the cumulative richness of life that must be pursued In One Person.

Roadbeers: Two Tecate Light

My savage neighbor about two blocks down is always chucking empties into the azalea and I chase after them often. After a few weeks off I finally went burrowing under the azalea and what have we here amongst the redeemable container weight but Tecate Light.

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Turns out I got two; photographed the one with the ruined top before I realized the second one was there. Due to the lack of fizz and therefore feeling that the can was less than full, I must’ve mistaken the damaged one for an empty and only known at first that I had the one intact can but switched them when I arrived … uhh … at the park.

Anyhow, that’s like, what, 23 since I’ve been counting. Road beers!

In related news, I also acquired a large plastic can of protein powder a few years ago, yknow, with all the lifting I do, but have been trepidatious about trying it. Turns out it’s still good. Roadtein!