Sunday, October 19, 2014

Back to Basics, Reading Your Own Work, and The Poetry of Food

I was recently gifted a book called “Back to Basics”, confirming the fact that I know no absolutely nothing of practical use. Chapter titles include “Processing Your Timber into Hand-Hewn Beams”, “Creating a Homestead out of Sun-Dried Mud”, and “Setting Up Shop as a Beekeeper”. The book is full of detailed instructions on things like welding your own chain, churning butter out of “your farm-fresh cream”, and how to construct a small-diameter well. It’s both anachronistic and deeply intimidating. If there is such a thing as past lives, I’m pretty sure I died by my own hand as pioneer woman on the way to the homestead, flinging myself over a bridge in an attempt to avoid a life of barn-raising and grassland management. It’s all well and good to know how to build an access road and principles of traditional stonemasonry, but it’s completely irrelevant to my daily life. I’m going to write my own Back to Basics book that covers things like how to broker personality conflicts between your volunteers, how to sidestep clipboard-bearing sidewalk lobbyists, constructing a makeshift hairband out of binder clips and rubber bands, and principles of bribing the IT department to replace your 11-year old computer work station.

For the first time since completion, I read my entire novel in one sitting yesterday, looking for plot holes, narrative flow issues, and other red flags. It was interesting. There is way too much eye-rolling going on, that I can tell you. It cannot be my main character’s incessant go-to. I will be removing many instances of eye-rolling. But overall, I’m relieved. I think I need some guidance on the narrative structure of the last third of the book, but I didn’t find the major issues I feared I would. Of course, I’m so close to it I have no idea what it needs at this point. It’s time for a little distance and an outside perspective. Interestingly, since I’ve finished the novel, I’ve had a few ghostly whispers of poem ideas lingering around my ears. Perhaps poetry is coming back to me now that I have this story out of my system.

Speaking of poetry, on Thursday, November 6th, I will participating in a poetry reading organized by the preeminent David D. Horowitz, owner of Rose Alley Press! The name of the event is "Luscious Lyrics: A Smorgas-bard of Writing about Food." My fellow readers will be Nancy Dahlberg, Martha Silano, Joannie Stangeland, and David D. Horowitz. There will be free food, folks! Come on out and enjoy some poetry, good nosh, and lively company!

When: Thursday, November 6th, at 7 p.m.

Where: Room 202 of The Good Shepherd Center, 4649 Sunnyside Avenue North.

--Kristen McHenry

Sunday, October 12, 2014

First Novel Jitters, Musings on October, TIL I Use Too Many Dryer Sheets

I completed the first edit of my novel this weekend, and sent it to two people who generously agreed to read it. There are a few other people I’ll be sending it to for feedback as well. But now I’m really jittery. Having labored away at this in almost total seclusion for two years, I’m starving for feedback. I can barely stop myself from cyber-stalking them with desperate inquires: So what do you think, huh? Do you like the main character? Are you done yet? Is it good? Is it publishable?  Did you have to stay up all night reading because you couldn’t put it down? It doesn’t suck, does it? Does it make you feel all the feels?  But I’m also nervous that I will get confirmation that it’s a total dud. About every hour I get struck with a mild pang of panic. What have I done? It is a ridiculous act of hubris to write an entire novel and then send it to people you know and ask them to read it. To further exacerbate my nerves, I have been researching how to write query letters to agents, even though I’m nowhere near ready for that step yet. Writing an effective query letter sounds almost as hard as writing the book itself. I’ve jotted down a few notes on what I want to include, but the whole process feels incredibly intimidating. Also, I am kicking myself for not becoming a book agent so I could fill my spiritual void by being loved, adored, and desperately sought-after by hungry writers.

It’s October, my favorite month! Fall is here. The relentless sun has retreated. It’s crisp and chilly and properly damp again. There are pumpkins! And pumpkin spice lattes! (I don’t care that liking them makes me a white female clichĂ© and an internet joke. I will drink them with impunity, and I will not apologize). The endless and deathly gloom of the Seattle winter hasn’t settled in yet. The chilly weather is still mild enough to be comfortable, and the fall leaves are fiery and colorful, instead of just brown and dead. Scarves and boots re-emerge in all of their nubby glory. TV airs spooky paranormal ghost shows and tawdry horror movies. The tourists are gone and we have our city back. October has the best of everything. The only thing making me a bit sad this month is that it’s the first anniversary of my cat Zooey’s death. I still miss her so much. I was listening to a “This American Life” episode this morning, and a man who had lost his teenage son to a gun accident said about grieving, “It’s not true that it gets better. It never gets better. It just gets less immediate.” Not to compare my grief to the loss of a child, but Zooey was a lot more than just a pet. If there is a cat afterworld, I’m sure she’s the head of her own feline motorcycle gang by now. I’ll toast my next pumpkin spice latte to you, Zozo!

I washed the bedding yesterday, and Mr. Typist keeps finding dryer sheets in the pillowcases and between the sheets. Today he informed me that I don’t need to use so many drier sheets because science and blah blah blah. “Unless,” he said, “you like having  sheets that reek of Bounce.” At which point I admitted, yes, I do like having sheets that reek of Bounce. It makes them smell fresh. I am susceptible to marketing gimmicks. I know that dryer sheets are coated with toxic chemicals and I’m a huge dupe and a typical neurotic female who is obsessed with household cleanliness, but you know what? I don’t care. I like the smell. It’s comforting. It makes me feel like there is some purity in the world, and that for all my mistakes and failings, and for all of the pain and bewilderment life brings, I can least have sheets that smell like a clean summer breeze on a country mountain top in a field of wildflowers surrounded with lavender. All I ask of the world is to be left alone to enjoy my fresh-smelling sheets and my pumpkin spice lattes in peace. Represent!

Warning: This video has swears.

--Kristen McHenry

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Weekend Matinee: My Review of “Gone Girl”

I almost never go to movies in theaters anymore, and it’s unprecedented for me to see a movie on its opening weekend. But ever since I read “Gone Girl”, I’ve been champing at the bit for the film to come out, and I managed to make it to a matinee today! I’m hip and current! I actually saw a movie the same weekend it was released! I even balked like a true old person when I realized matinees are nine dollars now. Nine dollars? When did that happen? God, I need to get out more. Anyway, here’s my review:

Nick and Amy, a loving and well-to-do writerly couple living in Manhattan, fall on hard times when they both lose their jobs and are forced to move to Missouri and live with Nick’s ailing mother. One day, Nick comes home to find signs of a struggle in the house, and his wife missing. He quickly becomes the main suspect in the case, and finds himself at the center of a media feeding frenzy. The scrutiny is especially intense because Amy has a measure of fame—she was the inspiration for a series of beloved children’s books her parents wrote called “Amazing Amy”. As the evidence piles up against him, Nick makes a series of blunders that only increase the suspicion of the police and media.

Unfortunately, I found “Gone Girl” to be slow-paced, frustratingly detached, and emotionally unsatisfying. It was well-written (Gillian Flynn, the author of the book, also wrote the screenplay), well-acted, and well-shot. But there was a strange disconnect between the actors. It seemed like each of them were acting separately in their own little glass bubbles, and none of them were connecting with or reacting off of each other. Even Nick and his twin sister Go didn’t feel as though they were in the close relationship that was constantly referenced. It felt like everyone was acting at each other rather than with each other. None of the characters are especially likeable, but even the ones who are more sympathetic didn’t evoke much of an emotional response from me. It was frustrating, because all of the performances individually were amazing, especially Rosamund Pike, who played Amy. (Special kudos to Neil Patrick Harris, who was exquisite as Amy’s creepy ex-boyfriend).

As technically good as the acting was, even the characters most harrowing emotional moments didn’t draw me in or make me feel like there was something at stake. It seemed like director David Fincher was more preoccupied with creating a detached “portrayal” of a troubled marriage than telling a story. If this was the goal, he succeeded—it felt very portraiture-like, as though I were in a museum looking at these figures behind glass while someone narrated their lives for me in a recording: Here is what a sociopath acts like. Here is the puzzled detective. Here is the arrogant, cynical lawyer. Around the corner to your right is the big murder scene. Also, the pacing seemed out of synch for a story that hinges on “time is of the essence” suspense. Everyone moved around like they were slightly stunned, and no one seemed to be in much of a hurry. Even Nick doesn’t seem particularly worried about his own fate until much further into the film. And the score, by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, seems incongruous with the tone of the film, as though it’s being used to invoke the suspense that the direction can’t.

Gone Girl flirts with satire in the portrayal of the media, with Nancy Grace’s doppleganger relentlessly attacking Nick, and the crass manipulation of public opinion by Nick’s celebrity lawyer, but even that felt a little on the nose. It’s unfortunate that excellent casting and storytelling still couldn’t make this movie a satisfying psychological drama, a satire, or a suspense thriller. I love most of David Fincher’s movies, but I think in the hands of a different director, “Gone Girl” could have captured more of the book’s breathless tension and acute emotional charge.

But it wasn’t all bad. As previously mentioned, Rosamund Pike’s performance was stunning, especially in her portrayal of the past Amy in a happy marriage,, where she has moments of luminous charm that are a joy to watch. Kim Dicken’s understated portrayal of lead investigator Rhonda Bones is intelligent and subtle. The dialogue is witty and amusing more often that not.  And I respect Ben Affleck’s choice to commit to Nick’s unlikeability right through to very end. You don’t feel that he deserves what he gets, but you don’t feel particularly sorry for him either.

Overall, I give this movie two out of five typewriter ribbons. If you want to kill an afternoon in a dark theater, there are worse ways to do it. But if you’re a fan of the book, be prepared to be disappointed.

--Kristen McHenry

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Double XP Days for Real Life, Editing Snag, and a Brief Book Review

This weekend, the game Neverwinter Nights is offering double experience points, so of course it’s my moral duty to my avatar to get at least a few hours of game play in. As I was running my burly Orc warrior around graveyards and slaying necromancers, it occurred to me that we need a double-experience day in real life. This would be an occasional day in which you get extra credit, extra pay, extra servings, and extra attention for simply showing up and doing what you’re supposed to do. Compliments are extra-nice, serving portions are doubled without the extra calories, small daily accomplishments are punctuated by triumph horns and ticker tape, and you’re guaranteed a bonus for completing routine tasks. I think it would go a long way towards keeping the populous motivated to continue sweating it out on the giant hamster wheel of industry. Same as in Neverwinter, these days would be announced on short notice and over at the stroke of midnight. Everyone would go to bed full of brownies and self-esteem, cheers echoing in their ears.

Speaking of self-esteem, I have hit a slight snag with the editing of my novel. Which is that I think my novel is a big hoovering pile of suck. I don’t how I went so quickly from “This editing thing is a lark and I don’t why everyone says it’s such a big deal” to “Argh! I want to burn this damn thing and throw myself off of a bridge”, but that’s where I am. I have lost all perspective. The whole story seems completely nonsensical and I’m absolutely convinced no one will to want to read it and everyone who does will laugh at me. And I don’t want to feel that way about my precious. Writing coach Robyn Fritz says that a book in progress is "a living, real being ready to partner with you to bring it into the world and find its audience—and yours." This rings true to me, so I don’t want relationship issues with my novel. Maybe my novel and I should go to couple’s therapy. Perhaps my novel and I need a little time away from each other to think things over. I did go against prevailing wisdom and starting editing right after I finished it. Most writing sites advise waiting a long time, re-reading it in full, and then starting the editing process. But I don’t want to wait “a long time” because I want to get it done. I don’t want to be that person who spends ten years working on a novel only to finally abandon it. I don’t want to be somebody who babbles endlessly about a project that everyone secretly knows they’re never going to finish. Plus, I must get something substantial out into the world before I die since I don’t have any kids and I fear obscurity in death and have a powerful urge to leave my mark on this world even if it’s just in some small, unimportant, chick-lit sort of  way.

Speaking of not having kids, I finished comedian Jen Kirkman’s book, “I Can Barely Take Care of Myself.” I wouldn’t say that the book “chronicles” her life as a child-free comic, because Jen doesn’t seem to have a sense of linear time or a preoccupation with ordering events. She writes stream-of-consciousness, which I enjoy. The book covers a bit about her upbringing and her early days in LA struggling to make it, but mostly it talks about the experience of being willfully childless, and all of the horrible things people are willing to say to you about that decision if you’re a woman. She’s tells abhorrent stories in a hilarious way, she’s personable, and I relate to her a lot, but as a willfully childless person myself, I reached the point a long time ago where rude, thoughtless comments don’t elicit an emotional reaction anymore. I just eke out a tight smile, endure the insults, and wait to roll my eyes until I walk away from the offender. When I was younger and in the process of planning a wedding, I was shocked and angered by the constant heckling and threats about how I would regret not having kids and how I would never know real love. I participated on a forum for the child-free, because I felt really isolated and needed the support of like-minded people. I cried at the casual rudeness of strangers and questioned my mental health. And over time, it just stopped bothering me. I don’t take it personally anymore. I think not having kids was probably one of the best decisions I’ve made. I don’t know where Jen is at with it now, but I suspect at the time she wrote the book, she was still processing a lot of outrage and genuine hurt feelings over people’s reaction to her; primarily the accusation that she’s selfish (which is something I still hear all of the time about myself.) She takes down the ignorant in a savagely smart and funny way, but for me, reading it felt like revisiting a struggle I’ve long left behind. Still, it was totally worth a read, and I laughed out loud at least once per page, so I give it three typewriter ribbons.

--Kristen McHenry

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Body Rebellion, Self-Care Quest, And Some Funnies

Yesterday was one of those days where my body and mind rebelled against my agenda. I woke up with great plans to edit another fifty pages of my novel, clean, work out, and perform a litany of other mundane tasks, and I ended up spending all day lying on the couch alternately napping, crying, and staring at my Kindle. Part of it was genuine illness; I’ve had sinus issues for weeks now and I think I finally came close to getting a full-fledged cold, but part of it was mental fatigue, too. My body and brain needed rest. My spirit needed to grieve. At the same time, I had to fight off a fair bit of guilt for just allowing myself to collapse, since the concept of a day of rest seems to have completely gone out the window in this culture, along with the concept of listening to your body and honoring its needs. This happens to me over and over again when I’m in “push myself” mode for too long, but I never seem to learn. Part of the problem is that until I collapse, I don’t even realize how hard and fast I’ve been going. I’ve never had adequate commitment to self-care, but I realized yesterday I need to put a decent practice in place, and soon. I’m one of those people for whom life is difficult and bewildering even under benign circumstances, and almost unbearable when it gets stressful. I find Yoga aggravating and meditation tedious, so I’ll need to come up with an alternative. Primal screaming, maybe?

One good thing about crashing out with a Kindle for a day is new books! I love the “Try a Sample” feature on the Kindle Fire, because it gives you a generous sample of each book. I was looking for something funny to ready yesterday because I was so emotionally spent, and I discovered that lots and lots of comedians have written books. One of those is Jen Kirkman, whose book I bought after trying samples of six or seven other comedian-penned books that just didn’t grab me. Jen reminds me a lot of myself, and her book, “I Can Barely Take Care of Myself”, is hilarious. I haven’t finished it yet, but I’ll review it here when I’m done. 

I’m still not feeling fully up to snuff (I don’t know what that phrase means, but I’m using it anyway), so this week’s post is shall be cut short. Here’s a video to amuse you in my stead:

--Kristen McHenry

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Goatfish Redux, A Return to Consciousness, Editing Edification

This week, my first-ever published book of poetry, “The Goatfish Alphabet” will be spotlighted at Naissance Chapbooks press! The title reprint will be of higher quality than the original, and if you purchase a copy, you’ll also receive a free copy of “The Lost Shoe” by Martha Deed. I know that several people who enjoyed “The Goatfish Alphabet” expressed disappointment in the quality of the original printing, so if you’d like a brand-new, shiny copy on better quality stock, now is your chance. You can purchase a copy here, and Naissance will send you both “The Goatfish Alphabet” and “The Lost Shoe”.

While I’m featuring books, I recommend subscribing to Pietro Abela’s weekly book excerpts. His book, “A Return to Consciousness”, is on the brink of publication with a major publisher, and he is releasing excerpts for free online in the run up to the release. I just wrote and deleted a long, detailed, and personal account of my experience as a long-time student and client of Pietro’s profound form of healing work. In retrospect I felt that it was a little too personal to post publicly. But I will say that because of one single session I had with Pietro at a critical time in my life years ago, I made contact with an infinite, loving, safe place within myself that I knew I could always access--and that was profoundly freeing. It didn’t solve everything and it didn’t mean I would escape pain or suffering, but it changed me forever. I highly recommend subscribing to his weekly excerpts. I’ll be first the let you know when the book comes out!

I took a week off from working on the novel, and started the editing process today. After staring at the screen for an hour, frozen with fear and befuddlement, I came up with a sort of loopy, homemade method that I think will work. I’m going through page by page making nips and tucks, and keeping a separate document of notes where I find continuity errors, major discrepancies, “time warps”, voice inconsistencies, etc. I’m also keeping a separate document for full section re-writes. I was dreading this process, thinking it was going to be torturous, but I was at it for six hours yesterday, and it hasn’t been bad at all. I’m actually enjoying it (I say that now, full knowing that by next week I could be quivering mass of frustrated rage.) The only glitch so far is that I made a grievous “find and replace” error, so be warned, me mateys! For various reasons, I had to change the name of my main character’s New Agey ex-boyfriend from Len to Jasper, so I blithely punched “Len” into the Find box, and “Jasper” into the Replace box, and now the novel is littered with words like “swolJasper” for “swollen” and “caJasperdar” for calendar. Apparently, MS Word doesn’t intuitively know that I meant to change only the name Len, not every occurrence of the combination “l-e-n”. According to Mr. Typist, the proper thing to do was to add a space to the beginning and end of the word “len” in the Find box. Hmmph. Now he tells  me.

Since this has been a lit-heavy post, here's a recording of "The Trouble with Poetry" by Bllly Collins. Enjoy!

---Kristen McHenry

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Staycation Review, First Draft Complete, Grocery Gripe

To my dismay, my staycation is coming to an end this weekend. Here’s what I did: Read an entire novel in one day, got panhandled by a hungry llama at the Olympic Game Farm, took a trip to Port Townsend and decided I am going to move there immediately and become a career eccentric, got a long over-due massage and a long-overdue eye exam, had lunch with a co-worker smack in the middle of the day, leveled my new Khajiit rogue in Elder Scrolls Online, worked out, ate out, and slept in until 8:00 a.m. every morning. I don’t know how I’m going to go back to work, because obviously, I don’t have time for a job.

The other thing I did was finally, finally complete the first, extremely messy draft of my novel! (Cue triumphant air horns, confetti, cheering crowds.) I was amazed at how much I was able to get done simply through virtue of having long stretches of time and an abundance of mental energy to focus on it. I know that the traditional advice for writers is to write every day, but that’s never worked for me. I don’t like writing in short bursts; I need long blocks of time in order to get into the “groove” or flow state or whatever it is that allows my unconscious to move the story along. My job sucks every ounce of mental and emotional energy out of me, so trying to write on weeknights is impossible. I have no will left at the end of an eight-hour day. It was liberating to have a five-day block in which to ponder and write for the full day.

Now I have to get something off my chest. It’s been bothering me for a long time. At first I first I thought it was just me, and this annoyance was an illusion stemming from my general irritability with the world, but no. This is real, people. Having worked every McJob ever, I don’t want to turn into the sort of person who complains about service workers, but…can we all just agree to go back to the days when there was an actual method to grocery bagging? The last year or so, I’ve noticed that baggers have dropped all conceit of technique and now just throw everything into bags completely at random. This usually results in two gallons of milk, a box of wine (it's organic, so stop judging me), three glass jars of spaghetti sauce and an entire case of Coke in one bag, leaf lettuce and a two-pack of pens in another bag, and canned goods thunked unceremoniously on top of the fragile packages of steak and salmon. And half the time, they just leave items out of the bags altogether to fend for themselves like orphans on the bottom of the cart. Every single time I grocery shop, I now need to park my cart in the lot, remove all the groceries, and re-bag everything myself. What happened to taking pride in your work? What happened to enjoying the small satisfaction of knowing that you efficiently and neatly bagged your customer’s groceries, ensuring that weight was distributed evenly throughout the bags, the eggs were on top, and the meat remained unmolested by cans?

I can’t prove it, but I suspect this behavior is somehow a result of the cloth grocery bag revolution. My theory is not yet fully formed, but I shall posit it in detail when it is.

On a cheerier note, here are some pictures of Port Townsend, and a zebra, and a shameless snack-hustling llama. 

--Kristen McHenry

Sunday, August 31, 2014

A Preponderance of Pig Poems

Happy Labor Day weekend! I’m on staycation this week, and I’m using the time to putter and catch up on my reading and get the rest of my novel written. So far, so good--I burned most of yesterday re-playing Tomb Raider and nomming on chips. It was awesome. 

I don't feel like writing a proper blog post on staycation, so to tide you over, here are some poems I wrote a few years ago. I went through a stage where I was fascinated with pigs and pig mythology, and had grand plans to write an entire chapbook on the subject. Some of the poems made their way into "Triplicity", but the pig-themed chapbook never panned out, and most of the poems have been lounging un-submitted in my “Pigs Series” folder. If you like these, I might pick up the series again in the future and get that chapbook out after all. 

Plum Song

I.                  Field Notes from the Herd

Each night under the lusterless moon
She slices a plum eight ways.
With each nibble, she owes herself
punishment, a rough pinch on her concave belly.
what flesh she wears is negligible;
We feel the welts ourselves.

She suckles juice from each violet grin.
She does not hold
Her offering to the sky,
Or think to toss us the pits.
Her hands tremble. She will not lick clean the plate,
But carries it inside, her face
a dying orchid in it’s cold flat depths.

II.               Before Swine

Mornings I stand before swine,
my clean hair rising on the wind,
that they may catch
the scent of soap and sacrifice.
I wear white to teach them propriety.
I’m told they have some sense of
order despite their vagrant snouts, their
promiscuous bellies that  assimilate
our slop with greedy ardor. I myself

eat only plum.  Every morning, my
bones swim closer. Soon,
they will break the surface.
Soon my skin will toughen like silk, will need
nothing from the layers come before.


Oh Heavenly Sow who births
your young at twilight, who suckles them
throughout the night and gorges
mornings on their warm
star bodies,
Oh Mother Sow, who offers
solace to the dead, who does not
fear their flesh,
who are we to believe
that we can save the earth?
Who are we to trust
we shall usher in eternity
with our meager offerings
of cans and compost?
Who are we to refuse
the eating of your flesh,
to deny ourselves
incorporation, to call ourselves
holy in this way?

Oh, Heavenly sow,
You whose children are born
for endless sacrifice,
show us the mysteries
of death and consumption.
Show us our distant,
suspended bodies.

How to Hunt A Wild Boar

Gather the stealthy, fleet-footed girls
starved for their share of dominion.
Lend them the catch-dog and the butcher’s blade.
Turn them downwind of the quarry, and set them
on the savage hunt, for you
have been observant all this time
and oh, how method
offers dividends: boar falls to dog,
blade to artery, blood to soil, meat
to the mouths of the ravenous.

--Kristen McHenry

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Novel Home Stretch, Little Library, Again with the Comedians

I’m banging out the last of my novel, and I’m finding the last 5,000 words to be harder to write than the whole first 75,000 put together. I didn’t anticipate how hard it was going to be to bring the character arc and all of the plot elements together for a grand finish. It feels like building a house. I suddenly need to be very precise and economical and organized, and it’s a bit daunting after having written a good portion of the book merrily by the seat of my pants, just figuring everything would work itself out. Now I have this big pile of lumber and nails and drywall and it all has to come together in a specific way and frankly, I’m a bit intimidated. This may be a good time to fire up the afore-mentioned Scrivener.  

I was walking home from my neighborhood pool today after my water aerobics class, because I’m old now and that’s what you do when you’re old, water aerobics, and I was charmed to come across a Little Library! I’d heard of them going up in other cities, but I haven’t actually seen one before. It’s adorable! I spent a few minutes browsing the selections, but I didn’t take a book. I might next week. Now that I know we have one, I’ll probably become a regular contributor/borrower. In this digital age when it sometimes feels like nothing actually exists in solid form anymore, Little Libraries are a lovely touch. Sharing books has always felt like a special form of communication to me, and I like the idea of seeing what other people have read and enjoyed. I’m not generally close with my neighbors, but there is a surprising intimacy in this form of trading.

I’ve always loved comedy and depended on it to get me through tough times. I’ve been listening to and watching quite a lot of it lately, but in a more analytical way. I’ve been watching a lot of the Half-Hour Comedy specials on my tablet with an eye to figuring out how one actually writes a stand-up act. I’ve written many different types of things, but the idea of writing even a five-minute comedy set is an inscrutable puzzle to me. None of this is to say I will ever do stand-up because I won’t, but I do have an ongoing fascination with comics, and would like to try my hand at writing a set one day. And give it to someone funny to perform.

Speaking of comics, one of my favorites, Eddie Pepitone, has a new one-hour special out called “In Ruins”, and it’s brilliant. Eddie is also known as the Bitter Buddha, and I do that think that there is something of a Buddha in him.  I think that he’s more than a comic. He has the ability to touch people very deeply. I think his genius lies in his vulnerability. He is all there, totally present in his humanity, genuinely raw and open. In that way, he forces the audience to be present to their own vulnerability, but in a way that feels like he’s right there with you, that you aren’t alone, and that it’s okay. Or maybe he’s just really effin’ funny. I couldn’t find a clip from “In Ruins”, but here’s his rap for the insecure and depressed. Warning: Lots of swears.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

If Life Were Like A Hidden Object Game…Oh, Wait, It Is!

Occasionally l enjoy escaping reality by playing hidden-object adventure games on my tablet,  although lately I’ve noticed some developers trying to get “innovative” with the format, and I don’t appreciate it. For me, the whole point of these games is that they follow a reassuringly predictable pattern of absurdity, which I find comforting. If you’ve never played one, this is generally how they go:

You are a mild-mannered school teacher/museum curator/photo archivist named Jill/James/Cicely/Bryce. One day you receive a mysterious letter/missive/phone call summoning you to an isolated mansion on a remote island/dilapidated hotel in the Swiss Alps/town suddenly abandoned by its residents, so that you can track down a devious criminal/your long-lost twin/an all-powerful artifact/an evil haunted doll. Once you arrive, you blithely head to the Mansion/Cave/Underground Bunker/Crashed Blimp that Holds All the Answers, but wait! It’s not a simple as that. You see, to get the key that opens the entrance, you must first retrieve the box that’s in the bird’s nest in the garden cove. But to get at the box, you need a sling shot. And to make the slingshot, you need wood. But to get the wood, you need an ax. And to find the ax, which is locked in the shed, you need a hatchet to shatter the lock. But to get the hatchet you need…you get the idea. You wander around for hours jumping through ridiculous hoops to collect objects that you need to get the damn key to the damn place. Interspersed throughout are scenes where a whole bunch of things are jumbled together in a big pile, and you have to pick out certain objects from the mess. Happy pixel-hunting!

Your puzzle-solving is occasionally interrupted by stilted, terrible dialogue scenes with characters of questionable intent. The games always end with at least one of three elements: A fire, a swirling mist, and/or shattering glass, which you watch from the prop plane/motorboat/dune buggy/hot air balloon you narrowly escape on, often while clutching the hand of your fiancĂ©/a recently de-possessed teenager/an orphaned child. But Good Typist, you ask, when are you going to get to the part about why life is like a hidden object game? Well, I’m no philosopher, but it seems obvious to me that there’s a huge metaphor in all of this.  I just don’t know how to explain it. I apologize for failing my own post.

I don’t want engage in collective internet grieving over Robin Williams. I’d rather just keep my sadness to myself. But I want you to know I am showing great restraint in not ranting here about idiots—excuse me, misguided human beings, who are trashing him for committing suicide. Andrea at Nice Atheist Girl wrote a highly intelligent and sensitive post on this, and it would be best for you to just read that, than for me to fumble around trying to write something as good. So instead, enjoy this TED talk, and contemplate the vast and astonishing universe we live in:

--Kristen McHenry