Terms of Service

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Zaiquiri.com may collect information about you, your computer, your web browser, your dreams, your nagging memories of youthful offenses (both personal and criminal), the depth with which you “fucking love science” (whether you fucking love the act of testing a hypothesis with controlled experiments and submitting the results to peer reviewed journals; or whether you merely fucking love photographs of nebulae, which is a perfectly fine thing to fucking love), whether you are anti-biotic or pro-biotic, whether you smoke marijuana casually or formally, your age, your aegis, your algae, your agoraphobia, your afghan hound, your afghan sweater, your afghan hound’s sweater, your vital signs, your traffic signs, your signs of being too old to understand what’s on your television, your tolerance for nihilistic philosophy and the egregiously ineligible bachelors who espouse it, your smug sense of superiority and/or your humble sense of inferiority, your attitudes toward various breakfast cereals (whether they conjure nostalgic feelings of childhood, or corporate rage), your worst nightmare, your best nightmare, your nightmares that could improve with minor edits, your gross inadequacies, your delightful supremacies, your fatal flaw, your natal awe, your mediocre Jack Nicholson impression, your tragic confluence of emotional uncertainty with physical prowess, your shopping habits, your nun habits, your cartoon rabbits, your inalienable rights, your alien laser fights, your vestiges, your vesicles, your vespers, your vestiaries, your wanton lust, your won ton lust, your horoscope, your periscope, and anything related and/or unrelated to your lasting and/or fleeting hope of finding and/or ruining true and/or false love.

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Zaiquiri.com may use this information to develop and deliver advertising to our customers, our customer’s customers, our customer’s customer’s pets, and our customer’s customer’s pet’s customers; to analyze how our content is eroding self-worth and distracting from the meaningful; to deny you services you requested; to grant you services you denied; to deny the existence of God; to improve the speed with which we select our pizza toppings; to blackmail you; to raise funds to pay off our blackmailers; to generally promote a blackmail economy; and to win bets with proprietors of other websites who foolishly think they can collect more information about you than we can.

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Zaiquiri.com uses cookies to feed off the dogs that guard our webserver.

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Zaiquiri.com reserves the right to interchange arabic and roman numerals.

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By reading these Terms Of Service, you consent to all its stipulations, provisions, sexual advances, omissions, and literary potential. If you do not agree with any of these Terms of Service, we hope that you can at least agree to disagree. If you do not agree to disagree, we suppose that could be interpreted as a tacit agreement. If you only skimmed through these Terms of Service, we hope you will agree to lunch this Friday and/or some other Friday of your choosing and we’ll talk it over. If you do not agree to lunch, maybe we can Skype or do a Google Hangout or something? If you agree to Skype or do a Google Hangout or something and your sound isn’t working, be sure your microphone input is enabled in your system preferences. By consenting to these Terms of Service, you waive your right to sue Zaiquiri.com, its subsidiaries, its ovaries, its subordinates, its commercial interests or lack of interests, its conglomerates, its coagulants, its Colgate, and any of its hopeless crushes, in perpetuity throughout the universe as defined by Neil Degrasse Tyson.

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Paris & London

I finally assembled this footage I took of a trip to Paris and London four years ago. I would have liked to spend a lot of time putting the music together, but I can’t allow myself to get sucked into that wormhole. So, here it is.

Rejections

rejections

I’m not sure why I jumped at the chance to buy a collection of rejection letters, which is sort of like buying a box of bloody razorblades. Do I just delight in pain? The thing about being a writer, or trying to be a writer, is coming to terms with your pathetic insignificance in the literary universe. You are not even one glittering star in an infinite cosmos—you are more like dark matter, that invisible stuff that is pushing the universe farther and farther apart, and until recently, nobody even knew you were there. The saying “You can’t please all the people all the time” is completely useless in the literary universe. More often, you can’t please anybody, ever. And this question about who you’re writing for, this is also silly. You’re writing for one person, in this case, Lee Klein, who is the editor of the online journal, Eyeshot.net, which—and I’m just saying this to be mean—does not appear to have had a design update since 1998. Writing for Lee Klein, and people like Lee Klein, is depressing, frustrating, and awful. They are fickle, weird, fussy, and if this book is to be believed, they read your submissions half-drunk and sleep deprived. Klein, at the very least though, has taken it upon himself to write back, and to write back honestly, possibly with some equal frustration, and probably with a lot of genuine kindness. Or brutal kindness, which is perhaps what I was hoping to find in this collection of his rejection letters, and I think I found it. Klein’s rejection letters are half notes on style (or even half-notes on style), and half ramblings on what he did that day, and what the weather is like, which at times feels kind of self-absorbed, but after a while you get the feeling that Klein is really just like anyone—a frustrated voice searching for an audience, any audience. I’m tempted to submit to Eyeshot in the hopes of receiving one of these rejections myself, or maybe just to annoy him. Anyway, if you like writing about writing, I recommend this.

Happy Birthday, WWW

While a student at Berklee, I attended a presentation by a couple of entrepreneurs from California who were demonstrating this service called IUMA, the Internet Underground Musical Archive. For a hundred dollars, you could mail them a cassette tape, they would encode it digitally, and make it available for download off this thing called the World Wide Web.

I don’t remember the exact year. 1875?

There were 70-pound CRT monitors that cooked their beige plastic shells to a burnt-cheese brown. And operating systems that crashed every other mouse-click. Dialup modems that screeched like some crazy robotic bats (or something). With enterprise and idiocy, we fell in love with these new, ridiculous things.

(People think of technology as being very clean, but I can tell you as a pro, it is caked with dust, filled with dead bugs and mouse droppings; it is cracked, and tangled in crude, babbling logic.)

When I graduated, I came very, very close to convincing the school to hire me as their first web designer. At the time, the web looked like this. It’s hard to believe how impressed we were. But we were. God bless those silly people of the past, I love them and miss them.

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MFA vs Gamera!

Gamera

For those of you who have not been sucked into the vortex of the literary establishment, you may not have heard of this book, MFA vs NYC, published by the journal N+1. The crux of it: “There were 79 degree-granting programs in creative writing in 1975; today, there are 1,269…” It used to be that the NYC publishing industry was the literary monster in the US, but this new academic mega-beast has crawled up from the sea. We all risk being stomped, I think.

It’s only in recent years that I became aware of the awesome power of the MFA. Indeed, it is massive and daunting. As George Saunders put it, “I’ve noted a gradual professionalization, especially over the last ten years, a growing feeling that, if a person wants to be a writer, an MFA is an absolute, panic-inducing must.” MFA vs NYC is not about the panic these monsters induce. It’s more about the monsters themselves—you know, where they like to vacation and all that. But let’s take a moment to reflect on the screaming hoards.

Some perspective: Yale Law is rated the most competitive law school in the country. Last year they received 2,943 applications and handed out 245 offers, for an acceptance rate of about 8%. Compare with the Creative Writing program at Iowa University, which received 929 applications for 25 openings. That’s an acceptance rate of just 2.6%. And that’s not the most competitive MFA program. That honor goes to Vanderbilt which last year had an acceptance rate of 0.86%. In fact, the top fifty MFA programs have acceptance rates between 1-4%. Which means they are at least twice as competitive—and as much as eight times as competitive as the most competitive law school in the country.

If you are one of those people who have come to feel the MFA is, as Saunders put it, a panic-inducing must, you can understand where that panic is coming from.

Most faculty at these programs will do their best to assure the rush of potential applicants that MFA’s are not really necessary, and that in many cases it is unwise to pursue one. This is perfectly understandable advice.

1) It would be depressing to think one needed an advanced degree in any art form to succeed.

2) MFA faculty have hundreds, and hundreds (and sometimes hundreds more) submissions to read through, and it would surely be nice to prune that number down ahead of time.

3) It is a misconception that holding an MFA will open the door to teaching.

4) Although some programs offer funding through a teaching assistantship, the others will just eat your money. A lot of it.

5) And so on…

But let’s be honest, having an MFA helps, quite a bit. Agents are buried in manuscripts, and that MFA credential is an easy way to sort the pile. You can’t blame them. Writing is hard—the most infuriatingly difficult thing I’ve ever attempted (and I’ve attempted several things!) Most of the musicians, photographers, and painters I know are relatively happy creatures (for artists), but I routinely have to talk my writer friends down from their roofs. Writing is next to impossible. And by the way, “next to impossible” is a cliché and should never be used. You see how hard it is? I think even the best writers would benefit tremendously from having a few years to focus on their craft in an academic setting.

If they can get into one.

I feel exceedingly fortunate to have received an offer from Ohio State, which I think most people would agree is one of the better programs—it’s found on most “top ranking” lists (and it is fully funded). A wonderful school, wonderful faculty, I’m very excited at the prospect of joining this community. But if I am to be consumed by the MFA monster, I hope to give it profound indigestion. Writing, for me, is a strictly personal thing, it is not about belonging to a special club.

Even if I do not end up a published novelist, I hope to, at the very least, write the best fucking emails you’ve ever glanced through.

Prospect Park

A beautiful winter fog rolled through the city yesterday. Unfortunately, I did not have my good camera with me, but I still snuck off to the park before lunch to grab a few shots with my iPhone.

Music For Dying

A while ago I stumbled across a documentary on Frontline that followed an ALS victim about to undergo doctor assisted suicide. The final moments of this documentary was the most powerful and terrifying footage I’ve ever seen. To actually watch a man die. And it wasn’t a peaceful death either. After hooking him up to the machine that would deliver the poison once he pushed the button, he first had to ingest some type of liquid (I don’t think it would be accurate to call this stuff “medicine,” considering its purpose), which apparently was quite awful—you could see that he was really suffering, he began to gag and panic, and then he called out to his wife, “Play the music! Play the music!” He had requested Beethoven’s 9th symphony be playing while he died, and his wife had it queued up on a portable stereo.

A few weeks later, the image of this still lingering, I began to wonder, how on earth do you make that selection? Maybe for him it was obvious—he had this one piece of music that meant more to him than anything. But what would I select?

Not Beethoven’s 9th symphony. And don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to criticize this man’s choice. It’s an extraordinary work. But for dying? It’s a bit bombastic. And I’m sad to say, it still occasionally reminds me of A Clockwork Orange (and by the way, it really is one of Malcolm McDowell’s favorite pieces). If I were going to choose anything from Beethoven, I think it might be his Piano Concerto No. 4, which is beautiful, and lyrical, but not intrusive. Perhaps almost too listenable. That may be a piece to pull me from the brink, rather than send me to other side, if that was my intention.

It might be better to select music that says, “You’re doing the right thing.” Like David Hasselhoff’s Night Rocker. And you’re all too familiar with William Shatner’s magnificence, I’m sure. But did you know about Mr. Spock’s Music From Outer Space? Both great choices.

Ultimately though, for me it would come down to two possibilities. Miles Ahead never fails to transport me to a better place (a place with thin black ties, where it’s always night). But for the deepest, most spiritual music ever recorded, I’d have to go with John Coltrane’s A Love Supreme. (I prefer the live recordings.)

The Real Genius in Sherlock

Freeman

I was a fan of the original Arthur Conan Doyle stories growing up. It helps. The biggest problem with every subsequent incarnation has been the character of Watson, who was never intended to be a real character in the dramatic sense. He was more of a literary device—a neutral observer, telling the story journalistically. On paper, it works fine, but on the screen, large or small, it’s always been a bit curious. Who is this guy, and what is he doing there? Up until now, he has always served the role of a straight-man in a comedy duo. Someone to set up the jokes. Which in turn makes the character of Sherlock entertaining, but thin. The writers of the BBC reboot expertly solved this problem by faithfully maintaining a side note about the original Watson’s background—he served in a military campaign in Afghanistan (convenient how we keep having wars there). A meaningless detail in the original stories, but it’s everything now. Watson suffers from PTSD and is addicted to action. And there’s your character motivation.

As brilliant as that may be, it turns out none of it’s necessary, as Martin Freeman perfectly justifies his character with his performance. We all love Benedict Cumberbatch (if that is his real name—could it possibly be?!), but I’m going to argue that it’s really Martin Freeman who holds the whole thing together. Whereas the original stories were of course all about Sherlock, this almost feels like Watson’s show. When Sherlock returns from the beyond at the beginning of season 3, it’s Freeman’s clenched, seething rage and hurt that drives the scene. Throughout the show, Freeman delivers that wrought emotion that gives Sherlock (a “highly functioning sociopath”) his relevancy. We should appreciate that Freeman has succeeded where so many others before him have failed. He’s turned a necessary, but flat and utilitarian character into our reason for watching.

And, well, he might have a sense of humor that doesn’t translate very well.

On the Greatness of the Horrible

So, about that guy, Woody Allen… But first, if you don’t mind, a few words on George Orwell.

My love for George Orwell ranges from a curious fascination to a deep admiration. Call it a literary crush. I own every word he’s ever written (including all his published personal letters, which I got for Christmas, thank you inlaws), and I’ve read nearly all of it. Still working my way through the thousands of essays he wrote for the Tribune. It’s his clarity of style, and his startling candor and honesty that I so admire. And he led an extraordinary life (where are you, Hollywood?!) But I don’t really admire him as a person—or at least, I don’t admire him the way I would admire Nelson Mandela. And it’s not just because he was, by all accounts, a churlish and unpleasant man. He was also probably a rapist. We know he frequently slept with prostitutes, and these “prostitutes” were not always consenting adults, exactly. His (fictional?) account of such an incident in Down and Out in Paris and London is gruesome. Really quite disturbing.

So that brings me to Woody Allen. But before I get there, a thought on Mel Gibson. Continue reading

Music Ramblings – 1/14

Whenever a film wants to establish we’re in the 1960′s, we hear Hendrix, the Doors, or the Rolling Stones. It’s never the Beatles. Perhaps their music was just too sublime, too out-worldly. They didn’t so much play rock as pay homage to it. When they sang, “Why don’t we do it in the road,” we sensed they really meant the king-sized beds in their hotel suites. But Mick Jagger, we could have believed it. He would do it in the road, absolutely. Still, I think it’s been lost that the Beatles were actually really good as a simple four-piece. And they tried to prove it on Let It Be, but then Phil Spector swooped in and added layers of strings and background singers, and so on. So I recommend downloading the Beatles “Let It Be… Naked” if you haven’t already. A sort of “director’s cut” of the album as originally intended. It’s a shame that the Fab Four are often overlooked as minimalists. But for a band nobody gets drunk to, they can be surprisingly raw. (Maybe try getting drunk to this album, let me know if it works.)

I’ve been listening to the latest Arcade Fire album—they really are so very Canadian. The socialized medicine of rock. Fair, and equitable. Something about the balance of vocals and styles feels at times, almost too polite, like a grandmother’s incessant cookie offerings. (But who doesn’t like cookies?) As much as I enjoy this band, I find them lacking a strong sense of personality. The lead singer, who isn’t really the lead singer, just a singer, sometimes sounds like Neil Young, sometimes like Wayne Coyne from Flaming Lips, and you can pinpoint the exact moment he turns into David Bowie (it comes at the 2:40 mark on the first track—seriously, go listen to it).

Will there ever be another David Bowie? Or a David Byrne, or a Sting, or a Ric Ocasek, or a Robert Smith? Where are the next generation of rock stars?

For God sakes, we don’t even have a David Lee Roth.

If you’re looking for something instrumental that isn’t jazz, and isn’t post-punk Emo, try Bill Frisell’s Big Sur.