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A D Jameson

http://adjameson.com

A D Jameson is the author of three books: the prose collection Amazing Adult Fantasy (Mutable Sound, 2011), in which he tries to come to terms with having been raised on '80s pop culture; the novel Giant Slugs (Lawrence and Gibson, 2011), an absurdist retelling of the Epic of Gilgamesh; and the inspirational volume 99 Things to Do When You Have the Time (Compendium, 2013), which grew out of something he posted here. Adam has taught classes at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Lake Forest College, DePaul University, Facets Multimedia, and StoryStudio Chicago. He is also the nonfiction / reviews editor of the online journal Requited and a contributor to the group blog Big Other. He recently completed his coursework toward a PhD in Creative Writing at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

The Punk Singer @ PhilaMOCA

Super short notice, but if anyone in the Philly area is looking for something to do tonight, PhilaMOCA is screening The Punk Singer, the new doc about Kathleen Hanna:

8pm & 10pm, Eastern time

Events / 4 Comments
December 18th, 2013 / 8:15 pm

That’s it, this site is dead—I’m outta here

1.

There’s a lot of ego on display here and when I’m honest, I enjoy that. It gives this site much of its attraction: people post and comment here in the spirit of one-upmanship, calling attention to themselves. The stakes are real: get a lot of page views, get voted up a lot, and you might win a publishing contract! (I have.) In the increasingly impoverished world of indy lit, what could be better than a website where typing some words into a text field and clicking a button can make you a (virtual) celebrity? When I post and comment, I do so giddy with the realization that others are watching—others who might invite me to their parties, or to contribute to their literary journals. (Some have.)

2.

The indy lit blogosphere that we have made and are currently still making is as much about provocation as it is communication. Since its participants tend to be well-educated writers and artists, we tend to be good at provocation. We intend our comments and posts to make others think and feel differently—including, sometimes, negatively.

3.

I was born in a relatively sexist / racist / homophobic corner of the world (Scranton, Pennsylvania—represent), where I was raised by fairly liberal parents who mostly espoused views one might call progressive. Nonetheless I absorbed a lot of sexist / racist / homophobic ideology, because the culture surrounding me was largely sexist / racist / homophobic. I attended a Catholic grade school and high school, for instance, and became an Eagle Scout—and while I’m not trying to single out those institutions (which did some right by me), we didn’t exactly sit around reading bell hooks.

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Behind the Scenes / 24 Comments
December 18th, 2013 / 5:45 pm

The full text of Wallace Shawn’s monologue The Fever is available on the internet.

My favorite films of 2013 so far & still in progress

Prince Avalanche

This year, I tried to get caught back up on films. And even though 2013 is far from over, here are my favorites so far:

  1. A Field in England (Ben Wheatley & Amy Jump)
  2. Blue Jasmine (Woody Allen)
  3. Gravity (Alfonso Cuarón & Jonas Cuarón)
  4. Iron Man Three (Shane Black & Drew Pearce)
  5. Le joli mai (Chris Marker; revival)
  6. Museum Hours (Jem Cohen)
  7. Only God Forgives (Nicolas Winding Refn)
  8. Prince Avalanche (David Gordon Green, + here’s hoping Paul Rudd is Ant-Man)
  9. Seven Psychopaths (Martin McDonagh—technically 2012, but I didn’t catch it until this year)
  10. The Master (Paul Thomas Anderson; ditto)
  11. The World’s End (Edgar Wright)
  12. Upstream Color (Shane Carruth)

I have plans to write more about 1, 3, 4, 5, 6, 8, and 12. As well as 9, perhaps. (But not 10.)

+: Godard’s Le mépris is getting a 50th anniversary release, and of course it’s incredible, even though I’m going to miss it this week at the Siskel because I’m stuck grading final papers.

Other new films I’ve seen and enjoyed to varying degrees:

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Film / 45 Comments
December 3rd, 2013 / 8:00 pm

Jeff Bursey interviews Steven Moore. Among other things, it includes a photo of a young Moore playing a sitar.

Also relevant: Jeff’s review of Moore’s recent The Novel: An Alternative History, Vol. II. (I loved Vol. I myself.)

Some movie news plus videos to look at

1. Peter Greenaway and Jean-Luc Godard have made a 3D omnibus film (along with one Edgar Pêra). The 2D trailer is here, and you can find information online: CinemaScope / Fandor / The Hollywood Reporter / Mubi / Variety.

2. Guy Maddin is planning a moving-picture adaptation of Sparks’s radio drama / concept album / opera-thingy The Seduction of Ingmar Bergman.

3. A lot of people don’t know that David Lynch once made a video for Sparks, but you’re not one of them:

And this is also relevant.

4. While we’re all here, we might as well look at this.

5. As well as this. Pretty well-done, no?

Film / 8 Comments
November 16th, 2013 / 12:45 pm

Greetings & apologies for the recent lack of content on my part (assuming anyone’s even missed me)—I’ve been wrapped up with writing a new book, and with teaching. But in a desperate attempt to stay current I’ll contribute the following vital question: uh, what’s your favorite color? Mine is blue.

This Empire podcast about The World’s End is worth a listen—the analysis is good, and the interview with Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg, and Nick Frost is illuminating.

While we’re on the subject, what are some of your favorite podcasts?

25 More Pints: Revisiting The World’s End

The World's End

[Note: This review discusses the entire film, and as such contains many spoilers.]

1. The World’s End is a challenging film that’s already well on its way to being misunderstood. I myself got it entirely wrong on my first viewing, after which I concluded that it was the simplest and weakest of Edgar Wright’s movies to date. After a second viewing, I can see more of the film’s intricate design, and now think it might be Wright’s most complex work, and possibly also his best.

Part of the problem is that I went in with wrong expectations. The World’s End is a very different movie than Hot Fuzz or Shaun of the Dead. It’s funny, but it’s not as funny as its predecessors, and I thought that a problem. I wasn’t alone—Anthony Lane, for instance, wrote of it in the New Yorker:

“the patter of laughs [...] is less breakneck than it was before, and the result is strangely sour and charmless by comparison. [...] I cannot imagine returning to it the way one does to ‘Shaun of the Dead’ and ‘Hot Fuzz,’ hungry for fresh minutiae.”

But this is a film all about returning, and the minutiae are there. They’re just invisible on a first viewing.

2. The World’s End is indeed a soberer film than its predecessors. This isn’t a problem, though, because the film, while comedic, isn’t ultimately a comedy.

Wright & co. do try to alter our expectations. Consider the opening narration, in which Gary King triumphantly recounts a twelve-tavern pub crawl that he and his mates attempted in 1990. Although they conked out nine pubs in, King proudly pronounces the night the greatest of his life.

From there we cut to an unflattering shot of him seated in sweats in a rehabilitation center, decrepit, gaunt, and totally spent. It’s a funny transition, to be sure, but it’s uncomfortably funny, and more than a little bleak—our hero’s a drug addict, something the film doesn’t want us to forget. As others continue speaking, King zones out, lost in his memories . . . only to be replaced by an image of what he’s doubtlessly thinking about: a beautiful shot of a beautiful pint of golden beer, over which Wright applies the title: “The World’s End.”

And for King, that’s true: beer is the world’s end.

3. King begins the film a tragic character, his many flaws all apparent. Only he recalls the past as glorious. Everyone else is glad to have left it behind, and now thinks him mad—a loser unable to function in the world of 2013. King’s biggest mistake, his error, is that he never moved on, never shaped up, never got with the program—he never grew up. As such, he’s treated like a child—as he later cries, complaining about the rehab center, “They told me when to go to bed!”

The message would appear simple: This is going to be a film about learning to mature. “You can’t live in the past, Gary King!”

But what if it turns that out one can? What happens if we take Gary King seriously?

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Film / 43 Comments
September 2nd, 2013 / 8:01 am

25 Pints: The World’s End

the_worlds_end_movie-wide

[Update 1 September: Since posting this, I've seen The World's End a second time, which radically changed my opinion of it. I now think it an extremely complex film and a masterpiece, perhaps even Wright's best work to date—see my second attempt at a review/analysis.]

1. I love everything that Edgar Wright has made.

2. Spaced is one of the cleverest sitcoms I’ve ever seen, demonstrating repeatedly how innovation can be wrested from the most hackneyed cliches of a given form.

3. Shaun of the Dead I rank among the greatest zombie films made, the full equal of Night of the Living Dead and (the original) Dawn of the Dead.

4. Hot Fuzz is probably Wright’s best film to date; three viewings in, I’m still grasping its subtleties.

5. Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is my probably favorite film of the past three years—when I am honest with myself, I’m forced to admit that I love it even more than Drive or The Ghost Writer.

6. Edgar Wright is the only celebrity that I follow on Twitter.

7. I now go into everything that he makes expecting nothing short of sheer brilliance and genius.

8. I went to see The World’s End opening day.

9. It pains me greatly to say that the movie is, to date, my least favorite work of his.

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Film / 11 Comments
August 28th, 2013 / 12:11 am

The culture is vast and people are truly weird

Some things I’ve recently learned that it might benefit you to know:

1.) Did you know that, after Bruce Lee died, there was a cottage industry of films “starring” the recently-late martial arts star? I didn’t, but they exist (and are sometimes called “Bruceploitation“). For instance, witness The Dragon Lives Again, aka Deadly Hands of Kung Fu, aka 李三腳威震地獄門 (1977), the entirety of which is currently up at YouTube watch it quickly:

In it, according to le Wikipedia,

The deceased Lee meets a number of pop-culture icons, including Dracula, James Bond, Zatoichi, Clint Eastwood, The Godfather, Laurel and Hardy, The Exorcist, and even 1970s soft-porn character Emmanuelle.

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Roundup / 10 Comments
August 23rd, 2013 / 10:42 pm

Which comics do you consider the most essential reading? (Comics = comic books, comix, comic strips, web comics, more?)

Reading what’s extraneous

Drive-Only-God-Fogives

Last week at Big Other, Paul Kincaid put up a brief but intriguing post in which he asks to what extent various factors surrounding a text influence the way we think about it or its author. He gives the following example:

The program I use for databasing my library pulls down information from a wide variety of sources ranging from the British Library and the Library of Congress to Amazon. More often than not, this can produce some very strange results. I have, for instance, seen novels by Iain Banks categorized as ‘Food and Health’, and novels by Ursula K. Le Guin categorized as ‘Business’. In all probability, these are just slips by somebody bored, though you do wonder what it was about the books per se that led to such curious mistakes.

Paul’s musings raise many interesting questions. For one thing, we might wonder whether the factors he’s describing are indeed extraneous or external to texts. Because I can imagine a good post-structuralist immediately objecting that texts more porous than that, and that it’s all just a sea of endless texts slipping fluidly into one another.

Me, I don’t have a problem with treating texts as discrete and coherent entities, but I admit the situation is complicated.

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Behind the Scenes & Presses / 15 Comments
August 13th, 2013 / 4:10 pm

What’s the weirdest thing you can think of?

Another way to generate text #8: Writing through a foreign language dictionary

Cassell'sI’ve spent this summer studying French, and while flipping through my copy of Cassell’s French Dictionary, I realized it contains un roman caché, just waiting to be libéré.

Here’s all one needs to do:

  1. Flip to any random page on the foreign language side of any foreign language dictionary*. For instance, I just opened my Cassell’s to page 593 (in the French half).
  2. Copy down all of the English on that page, ignoring the French. (Republicans should totally love this technique!)

*You don’t need to use any particular language or dictionary. And the more dissimilar the other language is from English, the more varied the English-language results will be—see below for more on that. And of course you can use this technique using any dual-language dictionary, not just English–X, but I’m assuming English as our baseline since HG is (mostly) an English-language site.

Here’s all of the English on Cassell’s page 593:

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Craft Notes / 5 Comments
August 5th, 2013 / 8:01 am

What are you doing this weekend?

HTMLGiant just got slimed

gb-slimer

Behind the Scenes & Film / 14 Comments
July 26th, 2013 / 10:53 pm

25 Points: Only God Forgives

I’m wearing the same expression as Ryan Gosling there: I just saw Only God Forgives, director Nicolas Winding Refn’s followup to Drive. (If you’re in Chicago, it’s playing through Thursday, 8 August at the Music Box; the film is also apparently streaming online.) Actually, I was so impressed I went and saw it twice.

Anyone out there want to chat about it? I’ll post some initial thoughts after the jump. (Beware of serious spoilers, though: these points cover the entire film, and give away key plot points.)

[My capsule review for those who don't want to read the rest: Of the five new films I've seen so far this year, Only God Forgives is easily the most compelling and my favorite. In second place is probably Iron Man 3, which I mostly enjoyed, but found nowhere near as interesting as this. Securely in last place is Star Trek Into Darkness.]

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Film / 25 Comments
July 24th, 2013 / 3:07 pm

How I wrote my latest novel, part 2

Last week, I documented how I came up with the initial idea for my latest novel—“Lisa & Charlie & Mark & Suzi & Monica & Tyrell,” which I was then calling “The Porn Novel”—and how I simultaneously began exploring that idea and laying out some basic formal parameters. I also provided a general overview of my general writing process. Today I’ll cover how I finished this initial exploratory period and settled into a stronger sense of the project as whole. Again, my hope is that these posts will prove useful to other writers, and interesting to everyone on God’s green earth. Because I remember very clearly that, during the decade I spent writing my first novel, Giant Slugs, I often felt frustrated and confused. And while every writer must figure ultimately things out for her or himself, some of my strategies and methods might prove theft-worthy—or at least provide a good laugh.

So I’d gotten to the point where I’d translated the original idea (“a pornographic novel that doesn’t contain any sex”) into a more specific approach: six chapters featuring six friends meeting up for six meals. I knew that each chapter was going to be long, to make the absence of salacious material more palpable. And I’d whipped up some character names, and sketched out a list of potential meals.

I also tried estimating how long each chapter would have to be. I decided that, in order to convey the proper feel, the first five chapters should be at least 20 pages each, and that the final chapter (the group dinner) should be longer—at least 30 pages. That added up to 130 pages minimum, which felt like the shortest the project could be. I translated that into word counts, since I think better that way (for one thing, I always single-space my manuscripts, since years of teaching/grading, not to mention taking writing workshops, have led me to despise the look of double-spaced manuscripts). I had a sense that the project would be dialogue-heavy and not contain any long paragraphs, running maybe 250 words/page. Hence, the projected numbers worked out to 5000+ words apiece for chapters 1–5, and 7500+ words for chapter 6. These were just targets, of course, but having a rough idea of what I’m aiming at helps me pace myself, and estimate how long the writing will take.

I also started my writing journal. I use Excel for this and it’s nothing extravagant; I just note each time that I work, and jot down a few words as to what I did. I also track the word counts as they change (using blue for increases and red for decreases). And while this habit of mine is probably the sign of a diseased mind, it helps keep me motivated, encouraging me to “log in” every day, and stick to my routine. It’s not unlike tracking my workout routines, or the movies that I watch. Plus it yields data I can later analyze, which is the only thing that sustains me through the long cold Chicago winter. (Dear NSA, I hear you had an opening recently? Call me!)

Now before you think me entirely insane, consider this. I have a simple litmus test for what enters/exits my writing routine: is it fun? I write a lot, and want to enjoy it, and make it something I look forward to doing. As such, I’m always looking for little ways to reward myself, and to make the situation more pleasant / less stressful.

For example: when I was younger and writing only fitfully, I mostly wrote late at night, even though I never had much success doing that. Writing was something I did after stressing out about it all day, feeling guilty about not having gotten any work done. After a decade or more of that, I switched to writing in the morning—and, believe me, I did not think I was a morning person at that time. But I started living with a yoga instructor who taught early morning classes. So I started getting up at 5 AM and, amazingly, I discovered that I was much more productive and happier when I wrote then. (I also realized that predawn is my favorite time of day.) That experience taught me to examine the rest of my writing routine, and to try making it more enjoyable overall. So my Excel files are in some sense silly, yes—but they are my only friends, and I name them, and I love them.

Here’s a snapshot of the journal that I made:

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Craft Notes & Vicarious MFA / 30 Comments
July 3rd, 2013 / 8:01 am

99 Things to Do When You Have the Time

99 Things 01

In March of last year, I wrote a post here entitled “100 things to do when you have the time.” It proved popular and I was approached by a press, Compendium, Inc., with the offer to turn it into a book. I said sure and now the finished book is available through Compendium’s website as well as at various bookstores.

I worked with my editors to revise the list, which changed a lot (for instance, we lost a thing). After that, others transformed it into a book that’s just as much a journal as it is a list, with original art and design on every page. 99 Things wouldn’t exist without M.H. Clark and Amelia Riedler’s editing, Julie Flahiff’s creative direction, and Heidi Rodriquez’s design work—my sincerest thanks to all of them.

As well as to Michelle Tupko. I initially made the list for her, but after a while I realized I needed it just as much myself. And now it’s for everyone else, or for anyone who wants it. If you do check it out and find it useful, I’ll be gratified.

Behind the Scenes / 4 Comments
June 28th, 2013 / 8:01 am