Erik Stinson

I was born at a Seattle Washington hospital in December of the year 1987, to my mother, Julia, and father, William. My mother was math and science teacher. My father was a mechanical engineer for an airplane manufacturer.

Setting A Scene In A Bar


Alaska Bar during the week it closed. Photo by Erik.

New York City, NY (resident 2010-present)

Ontario Bar

This is a classic dive with a suspicious Canadian theme. It sits across from a very fine Indian restaurant (fare of the northwestern subcontinent) on a long stretch of Grand Street in East Williamsburg, with many other bars–dives and otherwise. My normal procedure here is to drink a lot of whiskey sodas and say some friendly things to whomever is around. When I first moved to New York my colleague Bobo encouraged me to go to Ontario Bar, I think because it had more of a cozy neighborhood vibe (at the time) than places nearer to Bedford Avenue. He could sense that I missed smaller-city dives? In addition to serving other bartenders, staff are known to be friendly to dull-eyed, lonely men who work in production and creative services. It’s not a bad business model in Williamsburg. I once heard a bartender complain that she only makes money between the hours of three and four. Close later and change the whole experience of the night. READ MORE >

Contributor Things & Craft Notes / 2 Comments
December 8th, 2016 / 1:41 pm

Service and Disservice – An Interview with Julia Phillips

I met Julia Phillips several years ago via the tangled web of my polite, friendly, professional Brooklyn-based friends. She was a big part of editing my 2015 book, Popular Photo. Julia is a fiction and nonfiction contributor (respectively) to Glimmer Train, The Antioch Review, The Toast, Brooklyn Volume 1, Buzzfeed, Jezebel, The Rumpus, Slate, The Cut and The Awl,  to a few. I admire her ability to bring immediacy to (somewhat? very?) remote subject matter and her descriptions of the narrative approach to specific people, places, characters, communities. Read more from her via Twitter at @jkbphillips. We conducted this interview using email. My questions in bold. READ MORE >

Random / No Comments
November 21st, 2016 / 12:24 pm

Ruins 2

All images created and owned by Tim Wistrom

Random / 1 Comment
October 10th, 2014 / 11:27 am









Technology / 21 Comments
October 9th, 2014 / 1:43 pm

A Corporate Theory of Literature

The following writing was rejected, in June 2014, from an internal essay competition held by the company I work for. The prompt was: is a well rounded education valuable? Discuss. The company I work for is a large conglomerate that owns brand consulting shops, media buying groups, and advertising agencies. The essay is based on a manifesto I wrote in 2011, which appeared on the artist Tom Moody’s blog, and based in-part on the views of middle class creative theorist Slash Lovering. 


Craft Notes / 4 Comments
July 23rd, 2014 / 11:00 am

Brohemia (2014)

Williamsburg is a place that memorializes masculinity while at the same time re-coding it. In the ‘olden times,’ man worked in a factory, provided for a family, controlled everything in a calm and fairly inarticulate manner. This sometimes worked. So I’ve read.

More often, the industrial society led by men descended into war, violence, chaos.

In 2006-2014 Williamsburg there is a bar called “Bar-cade” that is about a late 20c nerd’s revenge on the New York Nightlife. It’s post-industrial. It’s information society.


Random / 6 Comments
May 21st, 2014 / 2:00 pm

Cultural Violence Illustrated

Inequality continues to take dramatic new forms, evolving and building on itself at the speed of transaction and at an inconceivable scale with a voided structure that can be more easily compared to a feudal economy than an economy of the 20c Post War period of American power.


Technology & Vicarious MFA / 6 Comments
April 22nd, 2014 / 10:00 am

On Coke Poetry

The well-respected, finically solvent and totally fun-to-chill-with advertising agency Droga 5 created these outdoor ads for the Coca-Cola Company, which recently appeared on the streets of New York City. They have a poetic quality, seeming to evoke certain characters and a unique Manhattan headspace. Longer than most written ads, and with an obvious, weighted subtext, they speak in a slippery psedo-literary voice.


Craft Notes / 11 Comments
March 12th, 2014 / 9:00 am

Peacetime Nap

I can remember this thing happening before on HTML Giant, at least twice. There was a comment-less winter, recently. I also remember summer 2012 being pretty mellow and quiet. I remember posting about trains and like… annual reports.

Commenters and contributors get periodically underwealmed by the quality of what’s being written. Everyone checks out for a few months.

OK. Great. Rather than try to break this up and inject/ejaculate/energize the comments sections (something I don’t have the ability to do anyways), I’d like to lull HTML Giant into a deep and productive slumber: a lengthy hibernation induced by a lack of engaging or enraging content.

A bit about my week.

For readers who don’t know, which I hope is most, I live in Brooklyn and work in Midtown Manhattan. Sometimes this can be really pleasant and even convenient, but this week the Superbowl is being held in New Jersey and New York City is attempting to ensnare peripheral tourists as well as  thick swarm of media that constantly moves through the veins of the city.

I think it’s called “Super Bowl Avenue” or something but is really just this lengthy stretch of Broadway (the lurid and fun diagonal street Dickens called the best in the world, at one point), including all of Times Square,  that has been packed with a circus of giant logo-filled screens, satellite trucks, giant foam photo opportunities, military police patty wagons, children’s play areas, and maybe 50% more advertising than would be usual.

I get to walk through it on the way to and from my office, which is a lot like dropping acid for breakfast and dinner 5-days in a row. At this point, I’m able walk in the fetal position.

This morning we awoke to unforgiving gray everything. It was a little warmer, in the 30s, we hoped.

Been taking it easy at work. I might have stomach flu or something. Been feeling like shit, body-wise.

Last night, I watched The Hunger Games and cried. Never cried about anything written on this website.

So, I hope you like the Super Bowl, if you plan to watch.

It’s a lot like a Hunger Games, except that everyone dies at like… 50 instead of like.. 17. Oh and I guess it’s all-volunteer, instead of just one person volunteering. I wonder if the world would be more or less violent without the institutional application and transmission of national blood sports?

Today, I’m sort of feeling like blood sports are releasing more tension than causing… who knows.

Heard somebody say, in the last few days, that football is like a war that is possible to win: a grand national delusion of a win-able war. I keep turning that one over again on the room-tempurature BBQ of my mind. I was never personally aware of a war that was won.

At least literature is like… a war that everyone knows they will lose. That’s good.

I’ve been afternoon-dreaming about beaches and swimming pools.

I’ve been trying to remember the center of sleep.


Behind the Scenes / 1 Comment
January 31st, 2014 / 11:56 am

Film & Reviews

Dawson’s Creek Seasons 1-6 Netflix 2013 Cut

I should say that I’d never seen a full episode of Dawson’s Creek until 2013. This surprised my girlfriend Jackie, so she encouraged me to watch the series. Growing up, I wasn’t allowed to watch commercial network TV. I didn’t really start watching primetime soaps until early high school. Before that, I was only interested in The Sci-Fi Channel.

Maybe I was expecting something a lot more expansive, and a lot less safe? I was expecting The OC plus grunge plus Boston. What I got was Boston minus grunge.

Dawson himself looms largest in a full Netflix viewing of the series. His very personal, very idealized type of optimism bleeds over and across the typically 3-5 plot lines that run between and within each episode. Constantly craving a pure articulation of his artistic vision that could merge effortlessly with his romantic inner-life, he almost always fails to live in reality. His over-greased wide-angle-lens-POV on his hometown of “Capeside” Massachusetts, and particularly its high school experience, becomes charmingly narcissistic.

It is an old, mellow form of mass-culture narcissism. I sip video cuts to form a smooth, rich blend of teen longing, the residue of good parenting, and the nearly raceless, nearly classes, nearly Internet-less painting of a total herb who came-of-age in a 1990s New England TV land.

Meta-naivete. This is the best feature of the show. The slowness, the tween-camp and the scripts that seem to lay open the inner guts of the 1990s TV studio production mechanics.

The show is about a boy. And the boy seems to know that his life is worth being made into a show. The show supports this theory by continuing to be about him, long after the viewer has become exhausted by whatever small intricacies of character have been pummeled to meaninglessness sludge by endless waves of episodic plot.

And of course, Dawson is a young filmmaker, soaking in sappy meta narrative puddles. This plot ramps up slowly as high school ends and his directing career begins to take off.

His favorite director, stated repeatedly, is Steven Spielberg.

Dawson is not an interesting guy. He thrives under these odd, broad narrative circumstances. We, the 2013 adult audience of a vintage teen mass-media soap, are critically aware that this guy doesn’t deserve to be the center of the show, but, having maybe grown up in the 90s, also vaguely crave the easygoing jr executive male phallocentrism of Dawson’s bumbling tonality. He’s the harmless young hegemony we all looked to in our teen and pre-teen years. The tall handsome thinker. The class frown. His success isn’t surprising or remarkable, in the same way that the mega-success of an ensemble teen drama that slightly pre-dates the coming-of-age years of the millennials/echo boomers is almost destined to be. Huge audience. Mass-televised puberty.

Dawson: perhaps a very MTV form of pre-internet and early internet self-awareness, perhaps just a single character written for a booming tv teen audience, the size of which (proportion of total media mix on Wednesday nights during the school year?) may never be seen again.

Another series, The OC, was dramatically more artful and blissfully less New England. Having only lived on the East Coast for a few years, I’d venture to say Hollywood numbs the aesthetic and cultural disagreements between the eastern and western US, frequently casting brooding jews in California and bleached out surfers in Manhattan. The OC kind of blew up that balancing strategy to give California a naturalist primetime TV treatment. I watch The OC as a glossier, grittier, less-boring teen drama, aided greatly by an escape from the eastern (almost… bleakly European…? with a different orientation of class) middle-American malaise and successfully existing in the alien seascape-soundstage of Southern California dreams, a narrative location that Dawson’s Creek never tries to achieve, even as characters live briefly in Los Angeles.

Imagine dumpy, close interiors shot with old lenses, recorded on to worn magnetic tapes. Underwhelming vistas of what is supposed to look like coastal New England but is clearly someplace–a cheaper location–in the Carolinas. I guess what I’m trying to say is that Dawson’s Creek feels chained to some kind of older television convention, something sort of cheesy and safe, that The OC manages to shake off, for the better. Leave it to Dawson, I love Joey, The Capeside Bunch.

In addition to being trapped in greater-Boston-via-TV culturezone and within Dawson’s bland masculine show-running character, the tension of show rarely moves beyond the Dawson-Joey-Pacey love triangle. This triangle traps everything. Characters outside the triangle are vastly more insightful. The three other prominent roles make up maybe a third of underlying plot cycles, but are present in a much greater percentage of the really enjoyable scenes.

I guess.. even the designed-to-be-overlooked Pacey sometimes becomes interesting, in terms of his class position, especially. Dawson and Joey, the couple who are central in the first season, really paint a picture of zero personal growth. They, like a certain percentage of every generation, become trapped in a view of the world that pre-dates high school. They are barely-dynamic characters who, rather than learning something about themselves, just get older.

Joey, Dawson’s main love interest who evolves from a foil into the queen of her own universe of sappy, solopsistic femininity, is a huge problem for the show in terms of watchability. Her level of discomfort with nearly everything pushes the show slowly forward into the abyss of… longing for an ideal life that she never bothers to fully articulate? She wants everyone to read her mind and know what she wants before she does. Inexplicably (via the magic of TV writing), the entire world falls at her feet, begging for her affection.

She has almost no female friends.

She is an unrelenting downer, which is sometimes entertaining, but frequently just frustrating. She’s constantly running away from the present. But unlike Dawson, she apparently does this for personal rather than vocational reasons? Dawson has a dream and she has a choice to make between two high school suitors. Indecision, anxiety, a delusional work ethic. The big thing she wants in her life is to visit Paris, which she actually fails to do, initially – as if a single vacation could be a life’s goal. That’s basically what she has: a vague, unambitious desire to be a ‘study abroad’ person. The writers could have done a lot better.

I’m glad that I’ve finished the series. Jackie and I agreed that watching the whole thing probably wasn’t worth it. The first three episodes and the last three would suffice.

On a final negative note, on Netflix the entire series except the final two episodes features a replacement opening theme song. It goes something like “Heat is in the sky / head is on the ground / feet are in the air / my life is turning around… voice inside my head / telling me to run like mad…” it’s fucking awful. I assume that the Netflix-rights sale didn’t include or couldn’t afford the rights to a lot of the original music. The series would have been more entertaining with the original pop songs.

1 Comment
December 20th, 2013 / 11:38 am