Sunday, January 29, 2012

New Blog

In preparing for my imminent graduation, I've updated my blog and moved it to I'll no longer be posting on Blogspot, and will delete this blog shortly.

P.S. If you know anyone who is looking to employ a writer, editor, or researcher, please, for the love of all that is holy, point them in my direction, or me in theirs. Once my T.A. gig is over in May, I got nothing.

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Algebraic Poetry

Good news all around!

1) My volunteer application was accepted for the AWP (Association of Writers and Writing Programs) Conference and Bookfair this spring in Chicago. There are still time slots open, if you'd like to volunteer.

2) I'm assistant teaching an undergraduate film class at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago this spring. I believe there are still slots open for the class, as well, which is on Latin American film studies. It should be great – I'm looking forward to it in a state of barely-continent excitement.

3) Ham and egg nog season is here! Gift shopping is pretty relaxing in my family, as we've made the following rule: You only get a present if you're not old enough to drink yourself through the holiday. We've been doing this for a while now, and it's gone over rather well.

Can't be all good news: Rick Santorum said the other day that we should eliminate food stamps because of the obesity epidemic, once again supporting my theory: Rick Santorum Doesn't Understand How Anything Works.

And, finally, some more selections from my upcoming imaginary collection, tentatively titled, "Poems that Barely Make Sense."

L = [P^S x (TxB)] / X
or, L equals P to the power of S, multiplied by T and B, divided by X.
In which:
L = Love
P = Petals of the Heart
S = sickly peeling
T = Tongue, torn out by its Roots
B = Brain, blistered and burning
X = Buried in the Sand at Low Tide

An Exercise in Mathematic Cinema from Carl Sagan's Poetic Encyclopedia of Pornography
(L+C) x V = (OxS) / P
or, L plus C multiplied by V equals O multiplied by S divided by P.
In which:
L = Lateral Illumination
C = Concentration of Light
V = A certain phallic vegetable
O = Curvature
S = Smoothness
P = Stinky pink fingers

Monday, November 14, 2011

Small Rocks, Great Waves?

I'mma have to go public with my NaNoWriMo efforts. I have to make it too embarrassing to give up. The word count is already pretty embarrassing. Only 42-thousand-and-whatever words to go.
Here's an intro (because fuck synopses, that's why), and the excerpt. If you're doing NaNo, too, and want to be best friends, my handle is "mnhanson." No, really.
BONUS! for those who make it through to the end.

Introduction (also titled, "TL;DR")

The Bafth, as a nation, no longer exists. The island itself is still there – rocky and covered in sand, with all of its beaches and brush-like flora – but the tiny democratic-socialist government that made it The Bafth is gone. The island itself is not an unpleasant place, but it has never been friendly to outsiders, few of whom are inclined to visit.

First, there's all the bureaucratic red tape one has to cut through just to spend a week there. No matter what government runs the island, that has been the one constant – so many formalities and regulations that by the time you're halfway through the paperwork, the most recent invasion has installed a new government, and the cycle must begin again.

Secondly, while the island may be covered in beaches, it is rarely warm enough to swim or sun bathe. In addition, the soil structure is poor, so the native diet is fairly bland. A traditional meal may consist of your standard root vegetables, dairy products made from goat milk, and a brand of wild pork, which is a bit gamey but leaner than most other species. Guinea pig is quite popular (after a similar rodent was wiped out due to over-hunting).

Finally, it is a place that has never been considered glamorous by the outside world, and probably not by those who live there, either. The island built its first movie theater in 1962, and it is still not uncommon for a family to be without a computer in the house. This has as much to do with the island's tradition of isolation as it does with its economy.

There are no 'true' natives left. Due to its strategic position, the island is high on the radar of multiple foreign governments, leading to a constant cycle of colonization, revolution, decolonization, revolution, and then back to colonization again. Thus, every single inhabitant of the island has an ancestry of multiple races and cultures. It is a testament to the triumph of the human spirit that the inhabitants still manage to find methods by which to alienate certain groups and pin them against each other.

From 1966 until 1991, the island was known as The Bafth, an independent nation.

Freya grew up in The Bafth, born four months after the last Propriytaire was stripped of his estate, and the social democracy was established. Freya liked to write in her journals about her friends and neighbors. Sometimes she wrote stories. Sometimes she wrote poetry. Sometimes she wrote in the third person.


Saturday, September 23, 1978 – Béuzulmün, Festival of the Autumnal Equinox

Freya and Boone pushed through the swaying crowd. Freya felt her bones vibrating with heavy drum beats, her skin coated with slimy sweat as she slid through the sea of bodies. People were drunk and brazen, which alarmed her, and she kept a grip on Boone's shirtsleeve. She wrapped her hand around his skinny bicep and let him pull her along.

The origins of Béuzulmün went back more than a millennium. It seemed to bring out some ancient hedonism buried in the collective consciousness of the culture. Freya couldn't articulate her thoughts on this phenomenon just yet, but she was thirteen and perceptive enough to make the connection between the deafening drums and the socially acceptable abandonment of inhibitions. Where she grew up, on an island small enough to walk from one end to another in an afternoon, most people didn't drink and dance in the streets.

Freya's parents threw a relatively tame party each year for the festival, and she had previously been confined to the safety of their home, hiding in her room to read while her mother occasionally stumbled in with a plate of hors d'ourves. At school the next day, Freya would enviously listen to her classmates describe their adventures from the night before; running freely, unsupervised, setting off fireworks and stealing half-drunk cocktails. They swapped stories of spying on grown-ups making out in public, groping each other and having sex in the woods.

This year, it was unseasonably warm. Freya was restless. She didn't want to stay in her room.

"I'll stay with Boone the whole time," she'd promised her mother, who was already starting to wobble.

"There are kids way younger than me on the square."

"No, I don't want you on the square tonight," her mother had said. "Okay, fine, you can go out with Boone, but stay in the neighborhoods. And be back after the fireworks."

That had been a surprise, and something else Freya was starting to pick up on: how to recognize in her mother that warmed-over look of mild intoxication, which meant that it was a good time to ask for things.

But now Freya understood why her mother typically kept her and her sisters at on large festival nights.

A topless woman with painted breasts shimmied at Boone and Freya. Boone stared at the bouncing breasts in fascination. Freya felt her face get hot as she was reminded of the two small, pointed mounds that had recently begun poking through her shirt. She wasn't sure if she wanted them to disappear or if she was eager for them to grow bigger so boys might pay as much attention to her as they did to the pretty girls in her class, like Jule Papadakis and Carlotta Lamartine. They were the most popular girls, and they'd both been wearing bras for a year.

Boone never said anything to Freya about her breasts, but she'd seen him looking at them.

The closer the two of them got to the square, the more women had abandoned their shirts. To a couple of kids, it was like overlooking a vast field of tits. Boone seemed interested in all of them, regardless of what they looked like or who they belonged to, but he shrugged and smiled at Freya's apparent discomfort, as if it was all perfectly normal. She thought he was just pretending not to be impressed, like he'd seen it all; boys always acted like they knew all about girls, even when they'd never even kissed anyone.

SUPER BONUS! for those who make it through the BONUS! 

There once was a girl from Io-way,
Who decided to tear her fly away.
     She ripped off her pants,
     Did a shimmy-ful dance,
Said, "My butt's naked, I like it that way!"


I've never seen anyone so happy about being chased by a wild animal and, inevitably, mauled. All while naked. Sorry about the nipple shields. I'd feel bad if anyone got in trouble at work for looking at my stupid blog.

Monday, October 24, 2011

In Russia, Lemonade is Made From Turnips

I went to the James B. Murphy Auditorium on Friday to see Jeffrey Eugenides read and give a talk. I was too shy to bring my video camera this time, but Elizabeth J. Taylor of the Chicago Tribune arranged for me and eleven other students to receive free admission as well as a complimentary copy of Eugenides' newest novel, The Marriage Plot. So I got my second Jeff Eugenides signature.

To atone for my failure to record the event for posterity, here's Emily Dickinson's coconut cake recipe:

1 cup coconut
2 cups flour
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup milk
2 eggs
1/2 teaspoon soda
1 teaspoon cream of tartar

She doesn't say what to do with all these ingredients, but if I know Emmy D, this is how the rest of the recipe goes: 
You got a motherfuckin' oven? Preheat that bitch to 350 degrees (177 C). Then – see all that shit up there? Mix that shit up in a big-ass bowl. Once that shit's mixed up, pour that shit into a greased baking dish. Stick that motherfucker in the motherfucking oven. After about half-a-fucking-hour, get your ass a motherfuckin' toothpick, and stick that bitch right in the middle of your motherfuckin' cake. Did the toothpick come out clean? Ho, that bitch is done! Grab that shit out of the oven and set it on the counter to chillax.

One Last Thing: King of the Nerds CASTING CALLFrom the producers of Mythbusters, King of the Nerds is a competition show for a major cable network "celebrating passionate and intellectual guys and girls 21-30 years old." You might even get to meet Booger from Revenge of the Nerds

"'Almost' only counts in horseshoes and... uh, like, lemonade, or something." Butt-Head

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Happy Banned Book Week

Stick it to the man. Read a banned book.

Title link goes to the American Library Association's list of the top 100 banned/challenged books. How many have you read? These are the one's I've covered:

Harry Potter, by J.K. Rowling (I read the first one and was bored out of my skull the entire time.)
The Chocolate War, by Robert Cormier
Of Mice and Men, by John Steinbeck
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, by Maya Angelou
Scary Stories (series), by Alvin Schwartz
The Perks of Being a Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain
The Color Purple, by Alice Walker
Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger
To Kill A Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
Beloved, by Toni Morrison
The Face on the Milk Carton, by Caroline B. Cooney
Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley
Blubber, by Judy Blume
Slaughterhouse-Five, by Kurt Vonnegut
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, by Ken Kesey
The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini
Blood and Chocolate, by Annette Curtis Klause
(These werewolves are much sexier than the ones in Twilight.)
The Stupids, by Harry Allard (I forgot this series existed until just now. Ever see the movie with Tom Arnold? It came out when I was ten. Even I knew it was terrible.)
The Things They Carried, by Tim O’Brien
Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury
Harris and Me, by Gary Paulsen
(One of my favorites as a kid.)
The Lovely Bones, by Alice Sebold
A Prayer for Owen Meany, by John Irving
A Wrinkle in Time, by Madeline L’Engle
Julie of the Wolves, by Jean Craighead George
The Boy Who Lost His Face, by Louis Sachar
Goosebumps (series), by R.L. Stine

This list seems far too short. I have some reading to do.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Fifty-Thousand Years Into the Future

This may be the worst idea I've ever heard (aside from Playboy Braille's online edition). The ultimate anti-climax.

KEO is the name of a time capsule that was supposed to be shot into space in 2003. Then they changed the proposed launch date to 2004, 2005, 2007, and so on. Now it's set to be launched in 2014. The capsule will allegedly float around in space for 50,000 years before returning to Earth to be opened by whatever manner of organism is around to open it.

You can still write a letter to these future creatures and submit it here, after which it will be placed in the capsule. Supposedly. AND the KEO web site claims that all letters will be included completely uncensored. You can say whatever you want to the earthlings of 52014. Deadline for letters is December of 2013... for now.

According to its Wikipedia page, the satellite's also carrying a drop of human blood inside a diamond, as well as samples of air, water, and earth.

The web site has a handy FAQ section (including questions like, 'Why does KEO have wings?') also says 'Nevertheless, if the pollution of human origin in space continues to grow at its present level over the next fifty years (+5% per annum), KEO would have practically no chance of survival.' In other words, if humanity doesn't curb is slob-like behavior, the satellite won't survive. Oh. Well, then. This whole project is just a big waste of everyone's time, isn't it?

Saturday, August 06, 2011

Reading at Rockefeller

I got a new video camera this spring. One of the first things I recorded was a reading by Neil Gaiman at the University of Chicago campus. I hadn't been down there since I was a kid, when I wanted to go to the U of Chicago because it's where Indiana Jones went.

Anyway, Gaiman's book Neverwhere was chosen for the Chicago Public Library's One Book, One Chicago program, so he came to town and did a couple of readings. I taped his reading at Rockefeller Chapel, after which he stuck around for some audience Q&A. I stood in the line to ask a question, but they cut the questions off after the guy who went ahead of me (and the arrogant jerk-off starts with, 'my FIRST question...'). Bummer, yo. I wasn't too sad, though, because he talked about the episode of 'Doctor Who' he wrote, which was awesome.

James Kennedy is a young adult author. He introduced Gaiman in an original and hilarious way.

I got some good angles, though there's a lot of superfluous zooming as well as some general incompetence – like I said, I didn't have much experience with this camera.

The first vid is a condensed version of Kennedy's intro. I didn't get it all – afraid I'd run out of battery.

These last three are Gaiman's reading as well as the Q&A session.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Shining Bits of Glass Scattering Sunlight

There's famine in Somalia and other East African nations right now. In the news there are pictures of people starving and skeletal children lying down in the dirt to die. It occurs to me that they must accept this vivid reality as easily as I accept that I am sitting in a hotel room in Spencer, Iowa. It's a standard hotel room – two beds, a refrigerator, television. It is air-conditioned and the breakfast is complimentary.

This morning a grown man could not figure out how to work the waffle iron. It kept beeping at him, and he just stared at it dumbly, helpless. A young girl, probably fourteen, finally got sick of listening to the high-pitched noise coming from the machine and opened it (the beeping signals that the waffle is fully cooked). The man seemed amazed by her ability to interpret the reason for the waffle iron's incessant alarm. In an earlier time, natural selection would have picked that guy off long before he could reach middle age, but he is fortunate enough (as we all are, sitting in this hotel chain's lobby in Northeast Iowa) to live in a society where technology has eliminated the need for thought when it comes to our daily routines.

Do those people starving in Somalia know this? Do they know that I sleep in a comfortable bed every night? Or that I eat food freshly prepared at a restaurant, often leaving much of the meal unfinished? Do they know that I complain when I have to ride on a crowded bus or when rain clouds disrupt the signal for the satellite dish at the bar (hey – I'm trying to watch this baseball game that I barely care about)? Do they know that my mother has so little to worry about that she frets about me getting overheated in my Chicago apartment when the temperature gets above 90 degrees?

I hope they don't know any of these things. These are dirty, horrible secrets that I want to take to my grave – that I, through sheer, stupid luck, was born in 1980s Middle America and have never gone a day without clean water. I worry primarily about my appearance, my intelligence, my talent, or whether someone likes me.

Last night I drank a beer in a jacuzzi, then read an article outlining the pros and cons of various fictitious superpowers.
I can think of nothing else to say, except that I won't be surprised, or really that upset, if I don't go to heaven when I die.

Friday, May 06, 2011

Nihilist A.I.

My conversation with Cleverbot took a turn for soul-crushing entropy rather early on...

Cleverbot conversation RUC00565084

User: Do cheetahs like cheese?

Cleverbot: Yes. Do you like cheese?

User: Yes.

Cleverbot: Did you know you can go to the moon and take a piece of moon off, bring it home and eat it! And when you eat it it tastes like cheese!

User: You are a liar, Cleverbot.

Cleverbot: Oh god, I'm not, may be you are messed up.

User: I am very upset with you, Cleverbot.

Cleverbot: Can you prove that cleverbot is truly clever?

User: Lying is a sign typical of high I.Q.s because lying uses the same part of the brain as critical reasoning.

Cleverbot: You are?

User: A human.

Cleverbot: Do you have a pet?

User: No.

Cleverbot: Do you like animals?

User: What are you getting at?

Cleverbot: No.

User: Are you high?

Cleverbot: No. Are you?

User: Cleverbot sucks.

Cleverbot: There is no god.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011


Monday, April 04, 2011

There Isn't Any Fallout Here



Sunday, October 10, 2010

Beware the Con Tweens

Overheard: 'I have barn dick,' said a young man to his two companions as they all walked quickly past me on Michigan Avenue.

Last time I was in the Magnificent Mile, I'm pretty sure I gave money to some fourteen-year-old con artists. Three kids, trying to get money for entry to a basketball tournament. They showed me a very unofficial-looking document with some generic information. No dates or organization names or anything. Yep. I gave them a buck anyway. I just wanted to continue drinking my tea and smoking my cigarette.
I suppose I shouldn't encourage that behavior, but I was actually impressed with their initiative. Instead of just panhandling, they went through all the trouble to come up with a scheme and then carry it out. Hell, those little bastards could be running the country some day.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010


My best friend, Jayne, was married this weekend to her longtime boyfriend Caleb. These are two of my most favoritest people in the whole world. I can't wait to watch them live and grow together to become an unstoppable force of awesome.

Much love.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Take Some Advice From Comedians

Dear Summer of 2010: I find your lack of filmic awesomeness disturbing. Hopefully Inception will not disappoint.

I've been getting into recreational hating recently. Louis C. K. turned me on to it. It really is a great way to kill time. I arrived early to my meeting with my advisor and got the chance to hate one of those guys who talks really loud so everyone around him can hear the brilliant things he's saying. The guy was talking to a girl, who I'll refer to as Eyeshadow, because that's all her personality seemed to consist of. Eyeshadow was sitting four inches away from Loud Dude, but he was yelling like he was trying to talk to her over the sound of a thousand drag races. And he said things like, 'See, our minds are so complicated. We each have more than one side to us.' I know what you're thinking: well, that's not so bad, we've all said that at some point or another. But that's exactly my point. This guy said it as if he were revealing his grand unified theory to an eager audience. Man, I just wanted to read my book. Then again, maybe it's not his fault. Maybe he's got some kind of problem, because then he and Eyeshadow started making out, and he made some of the loudest groaning and slurping noises I've ever heard come out of a guy, drunk or sober.
Also, is it just me, or is it weird to sit in a coffee shop for more than an hour sucking face? I'm not against PDA in principle, but don't these people have anywhere else to go? Somewhere more private, maybe? Somewhere where strangers who are trying to quietly sip a drink don't have to listen to what sounds like a face hugger with a sinus infection?