Collages on Shabbos

This is a series where I post collages people sent me just in time for Shabbos.

These collages are by Roz Leahy.

Roz is a hot, gay, trans woman. They try really hard to make interesting things and they’re on Twitter @allthingstruly.

If you want to send me a collage to post on a Shabbos to come, you can do so at collages::a:t::undying.club.

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September 4th, 2020 / 11:16 am

Film & Opinion & Reviews

Michael on Movies: Meet the Blacks

Surprisingly, very good (for something I thought would be very NOT good). There is so much behind-the-scenes stuff happening, it’s actually incredible, when you stop to think about it. So many people dismissed this movie when it first came out as just another spoof movie but, wait up! And look at this shit: 

  1. Snoop Dogg appears in the first five seconds;
  2. You have Paul Mooney as Klansman #1;
  3. RZA does the music;
  4. Mike Tyson suddenly materialises as a character named James Clown (with full makeup and wig);
  5. Michael Blackson is Mr. Wooky (and it’s never really explained who the character is actually supposed to be or its purpose, in the world of Meet the Blacks);
  6. George Lopez is the president of the United States;
  7. And Charlie Murphy literally plays his heart out as a drug dealer fresh out of jail!

I could go on and on, here. Essentially, what I love most about this film is the zany world-building that takes place, which, in and of itself, already requires so much effort that it totally did not need to be in a film of this calibre, but here we are! Everyone and everything sort of follows the same internal logic (and if you can accept that, from the very beginning, you are going to looooove this film). That’s pretty much a guarantee.

I would describe it as a spoof of spoof films. So in the realm of spoof films, you have the OG: Airplane, and then Amazon Women On The Moon and The Kentucky Fried Movie (cause, why not?). Scary Movie comes along in the early 2000s to change the game, but before all that even, there’s Don’t Be a Menace to South Central While Drinking Your Juice in the HoodFriday (which is less spoof and more, original comedy, but still worth mentioning), and then, Meet the Blacks. (I purposefully omitted the truly horrible examples, like Date Movie and Epic Movie because they don’t even exist, as far as I am concerned). It’s a very unique brand of lowbrow humour, here, and you have to go in knowing that. You think it’s catered toward a certain type of movie-going audience, but that’s just thinking inside of the box. Meet the Blacks actually tries so hard to be offensive (to everyone) that in the end, all of it is so silly and ridiculous, you’re going to laugh at half a dozen jokes (at least) even if you don’t think they’re funny, because it’s so absurd. It’ a nice exercise in finding out who you truly are. (Another good film for this is Edmond, 2005). I laughed at some jokes that on paper, I would have never laughed at. And there’s something to be said about Mike Epps’ delivery (and even though he is not a great actor, I appreciate his stage presence).

Overall, the spoofed-out parts are done brilliantly. There’s several bits where scary music is playing and you can hear the spooky echo of children laughing off in the distance (you know the sound effect) and then there’s the obligatory jump-scare–something a lot of shitty (recent) scary films do. Meet the Blacks wouldn’t be as good if we didn’t have so many terrible modern horror film tropes to harp on. And what’s brilliant is the writers absolutely know this (like full-on mad genius level) and take advantage of all of the inconsistencies that exist in what are essentially releases that are remakes of remakes, marketed as serious films.

I feel that Meet the Blacks is trying to say something–provide a message in the same way Get Out claims it was trying to provide a message. I am not sure I know what the message is, but I feel Meet the Blacks is way more sincere and open about what it is trying to say. There is an odd ambiance to the sound design too! In a few of the scenes, you will hear wind in the background, as the characters are talking and just existing, and this wind is something that was clearly added in post-production. It has no business being there, because it doesn’t add anything to any of the scenes, other than announce its presence. It’s actually pretty David Lynch, and it’s a bit strange, to see/hear in a film like this. It’s these small sort of if-you-aren’t-paying-attention-and-you’re-totally-dismissing-this-film-by-doing-another-sort-of-activity-like-folding-your-laundry… you’re not going to notice. And maybe that’s the point? Like a cool little unnecessary Easter Egg? (Aren’t all Easter eggs unnecessary?)

If you pretend this movie was made by someone you know and they made it over the course of an entire weekend and they didn’t have a lot of money to begin with, but for some reason felt they had a wholly unique vision and the only way to fulfill that vision was to make this film and now that the film is done, they really want you to watch it–this is that film. Meet the Blacks has some of the best use of wacky sound effects I have heard in a long while. Just as a quick aside, and to further cement my disdain (yet again) for many modern films… I would watch this over any of the Bourne films, again and again and again. Meet the Blacks breaks down all of the walls (whatever that means)–something I feel we need more than ever, especially right now, in our current socio-political-COVID-whatever environment/moment. This is a film that wants you to remember that it’s okay to sometimes laugh at something because it’s 100% stupid and doesn’t entirely make sense. ‘Cause life’s just life, y’know? Who gives a damn if you’re not making as much money as you think you should be making? Or that your dream publisher seems to just not want to ever publish you. Or that bad things keep happening in the world and that’s just never going to end. Stop living in the future and come back to the present. Enjoy the now and just slow down for a little bit, yeah? Breathe in. Cool. It’s Meet the Blacks. A high three out of five, from me.

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September 4th, 2020 / 10:31 am

Mrs. Dalloway v. Ulysses

I recently reread Mrs. Dalloway and Ulysses. I read them when I was young, now I’m at the beginnings of becoming old. 

Both books take place during one day, Mrs. Dalloway June 13, 1923, and Ulysses June 16, 1904. 

Mrs. Dalloway feels like a day to me. I felt like I escaped into 1923, that I was really there, hanging out with Clarissa, Elizabeth, Peter and Septimus. Even though the characters are upper class, in another country, 100 years ago, far removed from my personal life experience; it still seems like Woolf captures many of the universals of life, throwing parties, shopping, having children, having a partner for a long time, having a person who you once loved, imperialism, having wars and PTSD veterans, being a wife of a PTSD veteran, sexuality and friendship. Basic experiences, we all have, regardless of social class or time. 

I recently read The Waves and Orlando, sometimes when I am reading Woolf, I feel like I am having a mystical experience. 

I am fascinated by the structure and arrangement of Ulysses. I get very zenned out when reading Ulysses, like I am in a dreamland, away from my life. It shows me personally that it is possible to supply information in multiple ways and the audience still gets a picture of what is happening. 

I don’t feel like I am living a day in Dublin though, and I don’t feel like it contains many universals, it is just two guys walking around chatting with other guys all day. There is this scene that I guess is a nightmare hallucination, that stretches from 429 to 609, that is like, why? 

I believe Joyce was a very rigorous, competent and hardworking fellow, however I don’t think he was very deep and had never taken the time for true self-examination, so trying to use two or three people, as symbols for what it means to be human, comes off, a little funny. 

The sad thing, I get from both books, is that life in the early 20th century United Kingdom offered no spiritual path and mental health treatment (The treatment Septimus gets seems bad). These characters were eaten by their agonies. I am really happy we have invented self-care and have medications for mental issues. 

I am glad I reread both books, in 15 years I’ll read them again.  

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September 2nd, 2020 / 12:16 pm

If I Detransition I’d Still Be Fucking All Your Dads: from the Vimeo account of Joss Barton

I discovered Joss’s writing from Clutch Fleishmann and Torrey Peters talking about her work on essay daily. Lines like “She need mother’s milk! She need semen and salt and sick nations on her tongue!!” (from “Lord Be a Femme“) had me immediately. Reading them I was like, “Wow, I also need semen on my tongue. She really gets me.”

Joss’s writing is funny, dark and drips with the cadence of ball culture. She manages to be absolutely trans, absolutely the recipient of a voice that feels handed down across generations that fought to be heard. There’s a bite, a tenderness, a dense lyrical complexity. I find myself revisiting her work often, even years later.

At this point, six and a half years since I came out, most trans coming-of-age/coming-out stories kind of blur together for me. But Joss’s Untitled: Transgender Amphibian Femme Songs stands out: vulnerable and, as I have come to expect from Joss, totally horny on main. She talks about wanting to tell her dad, “If I had been given a choice, I would have asked to be born in another dimension, where sissies conquer planets and enslave nations of men hung like Sampson.” I can’t argue with that.

You can read Joss Barton’s most recent story at heartspark.

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September 2nd, 2020 / 10:43 am

Go, Went, Gone without its beginning

My copy of the latest novel by Jenny Erpenbeck—Go, Went, Gone—began immediately on page 41, leaving out the first 40 pages and legal copy, which at first I thought was a intentional feature of the narrative’s design. I’d already read several pages in the mindset of having been dropped Finnegans Wake-like into midsentence and midaction until I realized it was just a misprint, and still I liked the feeling caused by a novel kicking off with: “any interest in the woman or the tree,” which then led directly into the next and first full sentence: “None of the refugees is anywhere to be seen.”

It took me a while to find a site I could read the first 40 pages on for free and on the spot. When I did, I found the missing section seemed immensely different than the part I’d already read—and, really, even after having finished the novel, all the rest of it to come. The missing section somehow also seemed connected to my recent reality in an odd way—the protagonist is a classics professor whose wife has died, in the ongoing absence of which he’s forever in the midst of figuring out how to live his life alone, removed from all he ever knew. Without those 40 pages, the story otherwise felt quite differently marked—concerning a man without much background, who takes an interest in a group of refugees being held in stasis by the German government.

I think I enjoyed the language of the book and how it formed. It felt bizarre to think this copy was unlike any other copy of the novel, and that I owned it, that I might be the only person to have read it in the way that I had read, which is true of all reading, I think, but this time in a way that jarred my brain. I thought about returning it to the publisher for a correct copy, already read, but I also found that I enjoyed the ghostly presence of the absence of its context. I enjoyed imagining the other ways the text could have been changed, not by the author but by the machines that gave it shape long after the author had moved on; the many other ways the nature of the story would be changed depending on other kinds of error never seen, overriding the possible pleasure of the intended plot with a looming sense that nothing is sacred, and anything might yet be done. This would haunt me throughout the rest of the novel, like I’d been given a glimpse of some expanse behind a curtain and then instead forced to move into a labyrinth around the novel’s fleeting, hidden heart. I kept thinking of the intent of the author as different than the intent of the book object, and the world the object existed within; that is, mine. It might break down at any second, I kept thinking; I might turn the page and find something there no other reader could have found.

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September 1st, 2020 / 10:17 am

The Talented Mr. Ripley

Dear Marge,

Sorry for not writing earlier, but I’ve joined Mors Tua Vita Mea, a writer’s colony outside of Rome. It’s run by Giancarlo Ditrapano, the editor of Tyrant Books, and Chelsea Hodson, a literary darling. Everyone is very grateful to be here, the way Americans are when they are not in the United States. They all look like they are in Joy Division or Counting Crows.

Workshops meet every morning for two hours. At first, Giancarlo used a small chalkboard panel to communicate, but often misplaced the eraser; by the end of the workshops, it looked like he was holding a Cy Twombly masterpiece. After some encouragement to jump forward a century, he bought a white board which, when we considered the subject matter of everyone’s manuscript, became known as the “white bored.” The only person of color there was Giancarlo’s personified member, whom he invoked incessantly. And the color is purple.

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August 31st, 2020 / 1:33 pm

Some Good Books About A Bad Man

Stalin

Edvard Radzinsky, H.T. Willets (Translator)

Once, while partying with his comrades, Stalin wondered aloud whether a star in the night sky was Cassiopeia or Orion. Comrade Molotov and Comrade Kaganovich couldn’t agree on the answer, so they decided to call the planetarium. The man who answered the phone was a security officer, so he didn’t know. He promised to call them back. He then sent two other security officers in a black limousine to fetch the most well-known astronomer in Moscow. This was during the Great Terror, when Stalin had prominent scientists, writers, doctors, etc, randomly arrested in the middle of the night, then tortured, shot, or sent to the gulag. When the black limo pulled up at the first house, the astronomer, whose friend Numerov was arrested just the previous week, had a heart attack before he could answer the door. They decided to visit a second astronomer. When the second astronomer saw the black limo pull up, rather than risk torture and imprisonment, he threw himself out of the window. The third astronomer shot himself. The fourth astronomer answered “Cassiopeia” then urinated himself. By the time word got back to the party, everyone had gone to bed. 

Stalin: Volume I: Paradoxes of Power, 1878-1928 

Stephen Kotkin

When Lenin and the Bolsheviks took power, they no idea how to run a country. They made stuff up as they went along. They commandeered a girls finishing school in Smolny, the headmistress of which kept her office next to Lenin. Stalin was randomly appointed head of the People’s Commissariat of Nationalities, his first real job in years. He sat in his office with his deputy Pestkowski and waited for phonecalls. Trotsky tried to take over the tsar’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs building, but the employees just laughed him out the door. When Trotsky came back with a small group of armed men, the employees fled. Trotsky stole what money they left behind. When Pestkowski succeeded in stealing a portion of the cash from Trotsky, he was named head of the State Bank.    

Young Stalin

Simon Sebag Montefiore  

Young Stalin’s unofficial role in the early days of the party was to rob, hold people for ransom, and extort funds for the revolution. He spent many years “expropriating funds” in oil rich Baku, a city in Azerbaijan with flame-spewing refineries and elaborate palaces built by its many oil barons. One oil baron named Musa was kidnapped by the Bolsheviks, but refused to give them money. “Of course, you can slice me up,” he said, “but then you’ll get nothing.” Stalin, who normally preferred to work in the shadows, decided to meet in private with Musa. After a 10 minute conversation, the oil baron decided to pay up. Later the same year, Musa was kidnapped by the Bolsheviks a second time. This time, he paid up immediately. Musa, like most wealthy peasants after 1917, was stripped of his fortune, but not before he received a note from Comrade Stalin that read, “Thank you for your generous contributions to the revolution.”  

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August 31st, 2020 / 10:22 am

Maison Book Girl / karma -Mii remix-

I think I’m drawn to bands with “book” in their name.

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August 28th, 2020 / 11:58 am

YOU FEEL ME

I HALF THOUGHT I WAS GOING TO KILL MYSELF IN 2018, a few months before the launch of my debut novel. All I ever wanted was to be loved, to feel loved, and to write books. I woke up nearly every day reading and writing for the past ten years and suddenly, in October 2018, I didn’t want that shit anymore, my body could not write, my body was not hungry, I wanted to die and disappear instead. King of Joy was to be published in March 2019 and I wondered if I would be alive in March 2019. 

Clouds move at my favorite speeds. Walking up hills makes me dream and want to live again. I burn my knees walking everywhere. No matter how I feel about nature, no matter how much in love I am, my face stays the same, my swagger endless monotone. There is a part of me that will always want to call you, Baby. I turn everything that has nearly killed me into entertainment. I put all my eggs in one basket and I smash the basket.

I am walking down some street in Los Angeles and I can see the Hollywood sign. I am here for Brad Listi and his podcast. Aloe Vera plants, palm trees, cracked sidewalks: all of this, I remember, is my shit. I hate it so much here. It is Friday, March 15th, and I am blitzed out of my skull. I smoke fatty, I smoke fatty, I smoke fatty. I can see Brad and Twiggy on the front steps of his house and I have an out-of-body experience; it’s as though the sky around my face clouds and watches me like a camera. I have barely slept, I miss New York, I miss Seattle, and my body moves like a ghost from room to room, following Brad Listi into his incandescent pool house.

In the interview, I feel enlightened as hell. I say something like, “If I had a choice of writing ten books and killing myself versus writing four books and living a happy life, I would hope to choose the latter.”

You have to know that rest is writing, too. Finding love is writing, too. Doing fucking nothing is writing, too.

Brad has a handsome face. I can feel his whole life from the careful way he walks through his house, and I can tell he is a kind man. Cars nearly run me over. The sun is gorgeous. I leave Los Angeles the fuck behind. 

There is a calm to the world, a drop in the ocean. I have to pull it out of me like a sword in a stone, like a knife in the abdomen, like a very good reminder. I attempt my life. My friends love me. I came here, like a reckoner, to belong in your room. I have so much more to say.

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August 28th, 2020 / 11:03 am

Ily

At some point, I started to notice I wanted to modify adverbs with a word before the adverb. Instead of writing, “He quickly ate the mango in a distracted manner,” I wanted to write, “He distractedily quickly ate the mango,” because, among other reasons, I wanted to be more concise. 

I talked to some people about this a little. In 2018, for example, I tweeted this. Later, I named the new-seeming type of word “ily” because to use it you just add “ily” to the word you want to become an “ily.”

An “ily” is a word that qualifies—or adverbs—an adverb. I was going to put ilies in my next novel, and had some in it for a while (“acceleratingily increasing complexication,” “unconsciousily habitually dissimulating”), but then took them out. 

More examples:

She put the large door—that we’d found and carried around—endearingily awkwardly in front of the home area.

A longily concisely written account of skydiving.

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August 27th, 2020 / 10:11 am