Monday, March 4, 2019

One reader's lyric is another reader's labor

Kirkus's review of Mary Monster isn't always positive, but it's fair. And anytime anyone compares me to Thomas Pynchon, I'll take it.
In this ambitious novel, Ingwalson’s (The Baby Monitor, 2017, etc.) prose slips in and out of Otis’ Mancunian dialect, flecked with rich allusions to rock, literature, and various Colorado locales. Otis’ voice is noirish in a way that will strike some readers as lyric and others as a bit labored... This is an elegant mystery in the mode of Thomas Pynchon or Jonathan Lethem, invested more in the journey than the outcome.
As an example of "labored" prose, the reviewer offers this, from my novel's third chapter:
For a few seconds I stared back, my eyes gone black as cats as I surveyed the silk of her neck. This one’s world had been night for far too long. She’d never seen a beach, she’d never cared for light. A streetlamp kicked on and it made her flesh milk-flesh.
Which is fine. If you don't like that, I'd urge you not to buy this book. Because the whole thing is like that. I swung for the fences on this one. I regret nothing.

Monday, February 25, 2019

What True Detective does that most mysteries don't

There are mysteries like Burning, which suggest that all mysteries are inherently layered, ultimately unknowable and perhaps even meaningless.

Then there are mysteries like, well, most mysteries, which would have us believe that dogged humans are capable of divining and articulating correct solutions.

And then there's True Detective, which suggests that mysteries are solvable, but humans lack the imagination to define them, the courage to pursue them, and the acuity to recognize the solution if we ever even find it. And yet we're incapable of walking away from them. We chase mysteries because they give our pathetic, circular lives structure and story.

It just wrecks me. Every single season.

Monday, January 21, 2019

I am publishing my unpublishable novel

Tomorrow is the drop date for Mary Monster. You can pre-order it right now, if you're so inclined.

I blogged before that my novel might be an unmarketable mashup of noir mystery, gothic lit, rock fetishism and supernatural suspense. Sure enough, I spent six months trying to find an agent. I got a few bites. A couple even sent me personal letters complimenting my voice. But in the end, no one was willing to rep it.

I'm not willing to let Mary Monster die on my hard drive. So I'm self-publishing it.

In a way, I think that's how it should've been all along. This is a personal book. A passion project. A book I wrote for me.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

New music about bugs and pavement and the inevitable march towards extinction

What can I say, I'm a happy guy. Production, drums and keys by Jeff of Of Heaven and Sea. Album photo courtesy of Kal at Unsplash. "Work for W.A.S.T.E." via Thomas Pynchon. Music, lyrics and guitars are me. Enjoy. Or don't. That's cool, too. Click here to listen on Soundcloud. Or view the video below.

Friday, November 9, 2018

The Open Office Doesn't Have to Suck

Last week, I spoke at Ignite Denver 30 at the Oriental Theater. My topic was open offices. How they kill productivity. And what we can do about it. I worked Lord Byron, drugs and a whole lot of vampires into my five-minute thesis.

Ignite is a unique series. Your slides auto-advance every 15 seconds. So if you lose your flow, you're screwed. It's a lot of pressure. But, man, I loved it. The Ignite staff was passionate and committed. And my fellow speakers were supportive and interesting. (You really should go check out all their talks.)

I left the stage so, so happy. If you want to see my talk, well, here you go.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

The subtext to the subtext of The Purge is more disturbing than the text or the subtext

The Purge franchise takes place in a not-too-distant future where once a year, all crime is legal. It began as a low-budget home invasion concept. And inspired three sequels and a TV series that are equal parts Walking Dead-style gore and 24-style ticking clocks.

The government's rationale for the Purge is that twelve hours of anarchy allows America to release all its angry impulses. But over the course of the films, the real motive becomes clearer and clearer until, by the fourth installment, the text disappears and is replaced entirely by the subtext: the Purge exists to eliminate those that weigh the economy down - the poor, the suicidal, the addicts, the criminals, the crazy.

For this reason, the franchise has been hailed as a bit of left-leaning social satire. The New Founding Fathers of America are an extreme vision of where MAGA logic could lead. But there's one thing this line of thought seems to overlook.

In the series, the Purge works. Unemployment and crime have both dropped below 1%. And that, to me, is the most disturbing idea of all.

The idea we'd all act out our violent impulses if we could? That's scary.

The idea we could be used as weapons against each other? That's even worse.

But the idea America'd be better off if we killed the poor? That's just terrifying.

Friday, August 31, 2018

The end of First Reformed, explained!

[Ed. - This post has (duh) spoilers for the movie. So if you haven't seen it, you might want to go explore some other corner of the Internet.]

Yeah, that headline was clickbait. I actually can explain the end of First Reformed. But to understand it, you're going to have to bear with me for a bit. Because there are quite a few theories floating around out there.

This most obvious is that what we've witnessed is a straight-up, Flannery O'Connor-style moment of grace. Toller shucks off the dark night of despair and surrenders to capital-H Hope symbolized by Mary and her unborn baby. The evidence for this interpretation is that this is literally what we watch happen with our own eyes. Anything beyond it is emotion and conjecture. And let's not forget, it mirrors the advice Toller gave to Michael at the beginning of the film. "Courage is the solution to despair, reason provides no answers."

Then again.

It could be the last sixty seconds are Toller's death dream before he gets sucked down to hell as punishment for self-selecting out of the gene pool. There's tons of evidence for this theory. Schrader himself said the climax was purposefully shot with different lighting and reduced ambient noise, which gives it a different texture than the rest of the film. And the abrupt cut in the middle of Toller and Mary's kiss sure does make it seem like it was all a dream that had to end because (in this interpretation) Toller'd just finished chugging a tumbler of drain cleaner.

Or it could be the entire movie is a metaphor. All the way through. No one is meant to be seen as a human being. The pastor is planet earth. The alcohol is pollution. His doctor is the scientists begging us to stop accelerating towards our own extinction. And Mary is the God we are all hurtling toward due to the apocalypse we seem to have consciously opted into.

And then there's a religious interpretation. Toller will step into the life that should have belonged to his dead son (who was named Joseph, in a move that's hit-you-on-the-head-with-a-hammer obvious) and raise a new messiah with Mary. This explains why Michael thinks the baby's a girl, but Mary tells Toller she's actually having a son. And that intimacy ritual? How is that anything other than a reenactment of immaculate conception?

Poke around on Reddit and you'll find a fifth theory. Mary was a classic noir villainess, a femme fatale who murdered her nervous-wreck hubby and seduced the substantially more godly and slightly more stable village pastor. The evidence for this is that Mary is creepy AF. She performs physical intimacy rituals with men she's neither physical nor intimate with. She claims she found and then re-hid Chekhov's Gun - errrr, Michael's suicide vest - before re-finding it later. And she's creepy AF because she's creepy AF. She levitates, man. I mean, when I saw Michael's body it crossed my mind, "Hey, maybe Mary blew his head off."

And that's the point. First Reformed is not like Mulholland Drive, where you leave the theater wondering what just happened, go to a coffeeshop, talk a bit and suddenly it all makes sense.

At the end of First Reformed an interpretation will suggest itself to you. And in it, you will reach a revelation about the way you see the world.

And then the other theories will come creeping in, spiders each spinning their own little webs. And through these webs you will explore your own capacity for imagination and empathy. And learn not just what you believe happened to Toller, but what you believe will happen to all of us when our day of reckoning finally comes.