Pulitzers ad infinitum

Been a long while since I posted one of these. I haven't been moving very fast with the books, anyway, mostly because there have been a number of either weighty tomes or literary duds. Anyway, here's the last batch:

1980: The Executioner's Song by Norman Mailer. This falls into the "tome" category: eight or nine hundred pages on the real-life crimes and trial of Gary Gilmore, who murdered two men for no particular reason and then chose not to contest his sentence of execution. It clearly owes a lot to Capote's In Cold Blood - the similarities between the two books are marked - but Mailer extends the narrative into the media circus surrounding Gilmore. It's long, exhaustively researched, and for the most part, very interesting.

1979: The Stories of John Cheever by (you guessed it) John Cheever. Fuck you, John Cheever. I won't lie to you: I did not finish this book. It exemplifies everything that sucks about the Pulitzers, being composed of smug, self-satisfied, literary jerk-off stories about rich New Yorkers and their servants. The best I can say for it is that Cheever is dead, and therefore no longer writing such shitbombs.

1978: Elbow Room by James Alan McPherson. Shrug. It was okay. Afros and petty gangsters figure prominently, which is a plus.

1976: Humboldt's Gift by Saul Bellow. What's this? A novel about a wealthy New York writer struggling to find meaning in his life? Wow, never seen that before. Funny at times, yes, but horribly, painfully pedantic.

1975: The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara. Finally, a good book! A great book, in fact, such as nearly redeems the others. Shaara's dramatization of the Battle of Gettysburg is a page-turner, with vividly drawn historical characters, tense action sequences, and a heartfelt consideration of the reasons (and lack thereof) this country fought the Civil War.

1973: The Optimist's Daughter by Eudora Welty. An aging Mississippi woman mourns her parents' deaths. I feel completely neutral about this book. Didn't hate it, didn't love it. In fact, it did nothing for me at all. Apparently the New York Times Book Review called it "The best book Eudora Welty has ever written," which makes me wonder if that was really a recommendation.

Still reading? Congratulations. So am I, though after this last bunch I'm starting to wonder if it's worth it.

Dragons like cheesy potatoes too

Been drawing like mad. Completed the foreground today for the third piece of the triad I'll be hanging on Friday. The drawing is of Kannon atop a dragon, and I'm happy to say that I'm finally at the point in my artistic career where I can draw a kickass full-color dragon freehand. Also, those of you who know Meg will get a kick out of this if and when you see it, because Kannon, by no coincidence, looks exactly like dear Megra.

Also been cooking a lot. Yesterday I made a childhood favorite I haven't had in ages - cheesy potatoes with sliced hot dogs baked in. Used veggie dogs, naturally, frying them beforehand with some onions and garlic to lend the casserole added flavor and texture. Sliced the potatoes thin, boiled them until soft but not disintegrating, and drained them. Made a proper cheese sauce with butter, flour, warmed milk, and probably eight ounces of cheese. Mixed it all together, topped it with a crapload more cheese, and broiled to perfection.

It was, I kid you not, delicious.

New house, drawing, yoga, walking

Obviously I haven't been too into journaling lately, but it's been almost a month, so here's a quick update for y'all.

I'm now living with Meg and roomie Kelsey in the top floor of a house in upper Queen Anne, having finished up my lease in the craphole studio in lower Q.A. I adore living with Meg, and the house is certainly nicer than my previous habitation (amazing view of the mountains from the sweep of windows in the kitchen). It is somewhat crowded with three of us here, I admit, but I think the space issues are being resolved and will soon cease to be a problem.

Still working at Pagliacci Pizza. It is what it is. I need to look for a new job, and hate looking for jobs.

Been spending most of my spare time drawing. I finished the Manjusri (the bodhisattva of transcendent wisdom) I had been working on a week or two ago and am well into the next piece, a drawing of Samantabhadra (the bodhisattva of enlightened action), in the same style. It should be finished in the next three or four days, and then I'll begin on the third piece, of Kannon (the bodhisattva of compassion). Unfortunately, my photography skills are far inferior to my drawing skills, and so I can't show you what I'm doing until I get access to a scanner.

All this is in preparation for a little show I'm having at Meg's creperie at the beginning of next month. When she suggested it a few months ago I thought, hey, no problem, I've got tons of time. Now I'm coming up on the deadline and wondering why I didn't ask for another month. Ah, well, it motivates me to work.

Started doing yoga again now that I have the space. Feels good. Body had been getting a little slack.

Spend a good deal of time walking to and from work each day (thirty-five minutes one-way). Intend to buy a bicycle as soon as I get my deposit back, but I enjoy walking in any case. Fantastic views all over Queen Anne. Ocean, mountains, city, blossoming trees everywhere.

The quiz is right, you should move to Seattle

Had a terrific day, and I feel a thousand times more relaxed than I did this morning. Friday and Saturday a little stressful at work, short-staffed as we were. Today I slept in, drank lots of coffee, took care of some bills, did the laundry, filed a change-of-address form with the post office in preparation for my move at the end of the month. Went shopping, came home and drew for a little while before Meg came over.

Meg! Fabulous. Happy just to hear her voice on the phone. When she got here we drank beer, talked for a while, then walked over to Bamboo Garden, the incredible Chinese vegetarian restaurant down the street. Green tea, curried "beef" with broccoli and potatoes, a mock-chicken dish in a fried-potato basket called "Hidden Treasure."

Windy out but a beautiful clear evening. Walked up the hill to upper Queen Anne in a pellucid blue air with the sea over our shoulders.

Questions for Dr. Manhattan

I finally saw Watchmen on Wednesday night, and it was terrific. Ignore the naysayers: The movie's awesome. It not only retains the strengths of the comic, but manages even to improve upon the original.

I say this particularly in regard to the film's ending. Without spoiling it for anyone, I found the climax of the comic disappointing - a dive into comic-book camp in a work that otherwise studiously avoids it. The movie's conclusion, by contrast, is perfectly logical; it's just too bad Alan Moore didn't think of it first.

I want to make it clear, though, that I mean this strictly in terms of writing - it's an elegant plot wrap-up, and I admire the writers for it. Politically, however, I think it's ridiculous. The idea - much used in science fiction - that a common inhuman enemy would end war between nations (and the threat of nuclear destruction) is silly. It's wrong for the same reason that the idea of mutually assured destruction serving as a deterrent is wrong, namely that it vastly underestimates the human capacity for self-destructiveness. Mutually assured destruction is no deterrent for someone who wishes to be destroyed. Furthermore, technology by its nature increasingly concentrates destructive power in the hands of individuals, and already it hardly requires the efforts of a nation to wreak worldwide devastation; you need only a few determined people with sufficient scientific resources. The ultimate solution to the threat of global violence can lie only in the personal and societal renunciation of violence.

Speaking of apocalyptic problems, the world's population is now 6.8 billion people, and is, of course, steadily increasing. Still, incredibly, our leaders almost never mention the word "population," when it lies at the heart of every environmental issue we face. We can drive all the electric cars we want, but when we hit 10 billion people, this planet's gonna be in deep doo-doo.

All right, I'm getting off my soapbox now.

As I was writing this, I received an e-mail from the University of Washington: nope, not accepted. Meh. No real surprise. Been looking into their teaching program. There's an information session about it a week from now that I intend to go to, but it's going to interfere with travel plans - Meg and I were supposed to leave for Denver that morning. Probably we'll end up leaving that night. Meg proposed driving straight through the night, but I honestly hate doing that. I'm thinking maybe we could get out of Seattle at 5 p.m.(leaving at Friday rush hour - genius idea) drive for seven hours, get a hotel, sleep, then drive all day Saturday to make it there that night.

Been drawing a lot. Excited about the piece. It should be done on Sunday, I think.

As a last note on Watchmen, be warned that it's extremely gory - more so than I expected. Also, I found Dr. Manhattan's penis distracting (I know, I know, I mean, who wouldn't, right?). I appreciate that OK, he's naked, so why hide it, he's not neutered, but still, there's this animated blue penis waving around all the time in scenes that are clearly not about his penis. And he can change his body and clothing at will, right? So is he just an exhibitionist, does he simply enjoy waggling his blue penis in people's faces cuz, you know, he's sort of a god, and what are you going to do about it, huh?

Finances, Obama, pizza, plans

To start with, this Daily Show confirms what I already suspected: No one understands the financial crisis. It is ultimately inscrutable, resulting as it does from essentially chaotic systems colliding with each other. If you claim to understand it, you aspire to an suprahuman level of comprehension and I, for one, believe you are full of shit.

Also, the guys running these companies are crooks. I say: Lock 'em up, nationalize their companies, and hope for the best. Anything's got to be better than giving these assholes more money.

Aside from this, I think Obama is doing a heckuva job, and David Brooks' fluttery fulminations confirm it. Obama has, in his six weeks in office, reversed the global gag rule on abortion counseling; reinstated government funding for embryonic stem cell research; revived the Endangered Species List; halted DEA raids on medical-marijuana cooperatives in California; and, um, add to the list as you see fit. Admittedly, a lot of these amount to reversing Bush administration policies, but that's great. If all Obama does is turn back the clock eight years, I'll still be absurdly happy.

Moving on from national politics, I made a lot of pizza today. While I know that pizza is not the most interesting topic in the world, I'd nevertheless like to point out that making pizza is more difficult than you think. That damned toss. All in the wrist, or so I'm told. Anyway, I made like, 120 pizzas today.

I was not accepted to the University of Iowa. This is not surprising, and as I've said before, I don't expect to be accepted to the University of Washington, either, because I don't feel my application was actually very good.

This leaves me several options. I could simply wait, write some new short stories, work on the analytical essay, and reapply this year with considerably stronger submissions and in-state tuition should I be accepted.

I like this in many respects. I still want to work as a writer. However, the thought of making pizza for the next year pains me, and so I think I will both reapply to grad school and seek a teaching certificate beginning this fall.

Okay, enough. I got beer to drink. Salud!

Upcoming trip, color pencils, desk

Currently plan to be in Denver on the evening of Saturday, March 21, flying out Wednesday, March 25. I have to admit that I have certain misgivings about the trip - snowstorms in Colorado are not uncommon in March, and if the forecast is for snow the trip may have to be canceled, especially as Meg's car is hardly in excellent condition. Actually, the whole idea of driving a car 1,300 miles in order to sell it seems ill-considered, but at this point, with the tickets purchased, it's a done deal. Upside is, if everything goes well it'll be a grand time.

Received a set of Prismacolor pencils yesterday that I'd purchased cheap on eBay. A genuinely good deal, and I'm eager to get started on some Buddhist-themed pieces I've been sketching out.

Bought a new desk from Office Max on Monday. Naturally I had no easy way to get it home, so I ended up strapping to a little hand dolly and wheeling it back the eight blocks to my apartment. This was a little bit funny and a little bit strenuous, but now I have a for-reals computer desk and my apartment is slightly less cluttered. It's too bad I'm leaving soon, really, because only now is my studio beginning to look like I'd imagined it. Just need a new, smaller, more attractive couch, along with some odds and ends, but now there's no point. Shrug.

Started learning "Dust in the Wind" by Kansas. More fingerstyle stuff. Very easy to play, actually. It's funny, because the Leonard Cohen songs I've been working on - especially "The Stranger Song" - are more difficult than many other folk classics.

Your morning announcements

First up: I'm coming to Denver! ETA: March 22. Here's why: Meg recently took her car in for some repairs and found it would cost her about $1200 to replace her failing brakes. This is hardly worth it for her little VW, and so the plan is to drive it to Denver, where her cousin will perform any necessary repairs and then sell it. Upshot is, it would be good for me to come along to help with the drive, and it's an excuse to see all youze guys reading this. Clear your calendars or face your doom!

Second: Last week Meg and her roommate Kelsey invited me to come live with them when my lease expires at the end of March. As this proposal possesses undeniable financial advantages, I intend to take them up on it. I'll be sad, it's true, to say goodbye to my little apartment, not because it's a great spot - it's not - but because it's been mine, all mine, a luxury I had not enjoyed since I was a teenager. Ah, well. In any case the three of us shall have fantastical times together. With unicorns, possibly.

Third... um, I don't really have a third announcement. I've gotten "Blackbird" pretty much down, and am much better at Leonard Cohen's "Stranger Song." I think "Stairway to Heaven" will be the next to fall. I've been working here and there on some artwork and have purchased some art supplies I lost in the move. Meg is awesome. Seattle is awesome. Work is dumb. Life is generally very good and it's a beautiful, sunny day.


More viral silliness.

1. Open your library (iTunes, Winamp, Media Player, iPod, etc)
2. Put it on shuffle
3. Press play
4. For the first question, type the song that's playing
5. When you go to a new question, press the next button TWICE
6. Don't lie and try to pretend you're cool...just type it in man!
7. Tag 10 people, and they have to do it too :)


1. Opening Credits:
Smashing Pumpkins - Landslide

2. Waking Up:
Arrested Development - Fishin For Religion

3. First Day at School:
Mr. Lif - Murz is My Manager

4. Falling in Love:
Metallica - The Unforgiven

5. Losing Virginity:
Orbital - Theme From Dr. Who

6. Fight Song:
Tortoise - Djed

7. Breaking Up:
The Cox Family - I Am Weary (Let Me Rest)

8. Prom:
Johnny Cash - Danny Boy

9. Life:
Yo La Tengo - Out the Window

10. Mental Breakdown:
Nick Drake - Which Will

11. Driving:
Portishead - To Kill a Dead Man

12. Flashback:
Arrested Development - People Everyday (flashback to the beginning of this list)

13. Getting Back Together:
My Morning Jacket - I Will Sing You Songs

14. Wedding:
The Rolling Stones - Sympathy for the Devil

15. Birth of Child:
Devotchka - Life is Short

16. Final Battle:
Vampire Weekend - One (Blake's Got a New Face)

17. Death Scene:
Syd Barrett - Lanky

18. Funeral Song:
Orbital - Easy Serv (apparently my soundtrack is repetitive)

19. End Credits:
The Verve - The Drugs Don't Work (movie ends up being about drugs after all)