Archives for November 2008

Birthday Haiku

Holland swings trapeze,
blowing out five candles with
the greatest of ease.

From The Love Song of Monkey by Michael S.A. Graziano

The Love Song of Monkey is a very good and very short novel. Simply put, the story begins with an AIDS patient who seeks out alternative treatment at the behest of his wife. The treatment itself slightly resembles science fiction after the style of Vonnegut. From there, the story really takes a surreal turn as the patient begins his long, meditative recovery with Venus as his guide. I think I’ll leave it at that; you really should read it as it’s only 149 quick pages. Here’s a sample:

“What is medicine? Honestly? A witch doctor, he waves his feather duster over your head. He works at the spirit level. In fact, he works at the placebo level, which is powerful and works extremely well. This is a psychological level of intervention. So far so good. But medicine progresses. A battle surgeon. You break a bone, he sets it. You get a spear to the side, he binds the wound together. This is a mechanical interventiion. The body as tubes and struts. Excellent. If the spear doesn’t go in too far, you are okay. But the march of progress continues. The next level that medicine reaches? In the nineteenth century, microscopic germs. Kill them, soap them, sterilize them. In the early twentieth century, douse them in antibiotics. But do antibiotics work? There we go deeper. There we reach the molecular level. You see, don’t you, that the medicine of the twentieth century was obsessed with molecular intervention? Fix the break at the level of enzymes, of proteins, even DNA …”

Through Google I’ve learned that Graziano is a research scientist at Princeton, studying neuroscience and “body sense” – with monkeys, naturally. This has everything to do with why this is science fiction in the very best sense of the word. And I have to say it: Thanks, doc.

Happy Thanksgiving from Korrektiv


I saw a movie!

Today in Porn, Keeping Grandpa’s Legacy Alive Edition

A mildly explicit snippet from New York Magazine’s rather more explicit profile of The Box, a NYC nightclub notorious for its sex shows put on for the benefit of the well-heeled:

“When Hammerstein opened The Box in February 2007, it was a conscious attempt to introduce something different to New York nightlife—and for him, a departure from the world of theater. The grandson of the lyricist Oscar Hammerstein II, he had spent a handful of years in New York trying to make it as a theater director, with unsatisfying results. ‘All my friends who I would go out at night with and drink with, they had no interest in seeing plays,’ he says. ‘It wasn’t in their vocabulary. It was very frustrating to think that you could dedicate your life to an art form that no one gave a shit about.'”

The poor guy. Thank goodness he found a solution.

I’m All Right Jack

After reading all the latest news and opinion over the weekend, it’s pretty obvious that nobody has any idea what the hell is really happening these days. In fact, the safest bet seems to be that those who think they know what is going on and either talk or write as if they do are the ones to steer clear of.

Well, there’s always the movies. Here’s one from the days when everything seemed a lot more clear.

Birthday Haiku

Brian’s life is bussed

headlights shining in the dark

stainless steel and rust

X Kennels: Customer Reviews

So we’re going out of town for Thanksgiving. And bringing the dog along is not an option. I get online and do a search for kennels in the local area. A link appears with information about X Kennels, and includes the Internet-era phenomenon of customer reviews.

LowLife13 rates X Kennels 4 out 5 stars and submits the following review:

Friendly Service
I’ve been using X Kennels scince the late 90’s I have brought breeds of animals that other facilitys won’t board Pits and Rotwillers. My dogs have been treated with care they had a very large run a bed and or crate was provided heat lamps also provided. I was asked for shot verification one of my dogs is under meds they were givin to daily I had brought bedding that was changed. I’ve been Very happy the customer service was great I was alowed some afterhour pick ups.

Williams2929 gives X Kennels only a single star and says:

X Kennels is disgusting. The place smells so terrible! They have dogs wet on the concrete floor, the only place available. They have no idea what my dogs name is, how long he will be there or his health problems. They injured him by forcing him to stay in a very small area. My dog came home so stinky & dirty it was just terrible. I cried when I first saw his condition, he had sat in his own waste & was dirty all over. We would never go back to x kennels. I think the dogs are left alone all the time & the place was feeezing cold. My sweet lab was sick for a long time with big vet bills. Very sad to run a business like that, well, they don’t have a very good business at all!!

So whom should I believe, LowLife13 or Williams2929? Hmm…. moving right along then.

Equal Time for NaPraGoMo

Theology professor and part-time humorous blogger Ironic Catholic is serving as spiritual director to any and all comers during the month of November over at NaPraGoMo, and doing a fine fine job of it. I signed up for this along with NaNoWriMo and I’ve failed just about equally miserably at both enterprises, the whole works crumbling like a house of cards the minute I got a little head cold. (I also stopped walking the dog, who has begun to dig up the back yard in frustration.) Anyway, here is one of the meditations that nailed me when I went back and read it a week after the fact:

This is crucial: as long as we pray only when and how we want to, our life of prayer is bound to be unreal. It will run in fits and starts. The slightest upset–even a toothache–will be enough to destroy the whole edifice of our prayer-life.

“You must strip your prayers,” the novice-master told me. You must simplify, deintellectualise. Put yourself in front of Jesus as a poor man: not with any big ideas, but with living faith. Remain motionless in an act of love before the Father. Don’t try to reach God with your understanding; that is impossible. Reach him in love; that is possible.

The struggle is not easy, because nature will try to get back her own, get her dose of enjoyment; but union with Christ Crucified is something quite different.

After some hours–or some days–of this exercise, the body relaxes. As the will refuses to let it have its own way it gives up the struggle. It becomes passive. The senses go to sleep. Or rather, as St. John of the Cross says, the night of senses is beginning. Then prayer becomes something serious, even if it is painful and dry. So serious that one can no longer do without it. The soul begins to share the redemptive work of Jesus.

Kneeling down on the sand before the simple monstrance which contained Jesus, I used to think of the evils of the world: hate, violence, depravity, impurity, egoism, betrayal, idolatry. Around me the cave had become as large as the world, and inwardly I contemplated Jesus oppressed under the weight of so much wickedness.

Is not the Host in its own form like bread crushed, pounded, baked? And does it not contain the Man of Sorrows, Christ the Victim, the Lamb slain for our sins?

Letters From The Desert
Carlo Carreto

Noted without comment.

Except maybe for this: it’s remarkable to see a comedienne tackling abortion, and somewhere, E. Michael Jones is smiling.*

And then there was this, via Gawker:

“Assuming she was bloated, Sarah didn’t notice she was pregnant until about 8 months into the ordeal. She begged her doctor to abort the baby by writing ‘Please?’ on a piece of paper, but in the end she was forced to create a new life. At the end of the episode, Sarah gives birth to a stop-animation thing.”

Good morning!

*For the record, I think Jones overreaches in his essay on Alien as contraceptive nightmare, but he does make some, even many astute observations. It certainly isn’t ridiculous to wonder if the man who painted this (H.R. Giger, who famously designed the Alien) doesn’t have some issues with condoms/babies:

Sadist and Savior

Since Korrektiv seems to be catching its breath and Henri is awol, Quin is grading papers, and I’m stuck in a chronic-sinusitis-tinged facebook-frittering funk, I’ll throw this out. I signed up for NaNoWriMo (as well as NaPraGoMo, as you may recall) and so I get these great little pep-talk emails from famous writers encouraging me to finish my novel, which is stuck on page 2. The latest one, from Janet Fitch, is pasted in below, and I think it’s pretty good advice.

Dear Author,

It’s happening. You’re writing a blue streak. You’re piling up the pages. You’re roaring through this novel like a forest fire. Then suddenly you hit the immovable obstacle. WHAM. Ow. You’re flat as a piece of typing paper, your mind as blank. Panic!

Whether you’re taking a month or a year, this is always the question. What happens next?

Fiction is all about decisions. Let me give you a personal example. Working on White Oleander, I kept hitting this wall, about chapter 8. It was all going great, all the wheels in motion, and then WHAM. I just couldn’t decide what to do next. I’d try this, try that, but each time I’d get stuck. The character would put her toe in and pull it out again. No, not that. Should I just bag it? Write a different book? Go to law school? Watch reruns of Hogan’s Heroes? I was absolutely blocked at the crossroads.

Luckily I was seeing an amazing therapist at the time. I explained I was afraid that if I chose route 6, then I would be eliminating all the other possible routes. What if route 15 was better? Or 3 1/2 ? So I hedged. I couldn’t commit. I was stuck. And she gave me the piece of advice which has saved my writing life over and over again, and I will give it to you, absolutely free of charge. She said, “I know it feels like you have all these options and when you make a decision, you lose a world of possibilities. But the reality is, until you make a decision, you have nothing at all.”

So you have these options, but which one to go for? When in doubt, make trouble for your character. Don’t let her stand on the edge of the pool, dipping her toe. Come up behind her and give her a good hard shove. That’s my advice to you now. Make trouble for your character. In life we try to avoid trouble. We chew on our choices endlessly. We go to shri nks, we talk to our friends. In fiction, this is deadly. Protagonists need to screw up, act impulsively, have enemies, get into TROUBLE.

The difficulty is that we create protagonists we love. And we love them like our children. We want to protect them from harm, keep them safe, make sure they won’t get hurt, or not so bad. Maybe a skinned knee. Certainly not a car wreck. But the essence of fiction writing is creating a character you love and, frankly, torturing him. You are both sadist and savior. Find the thing he loves most and take it away from him. Find the thing he fears and shove him shoulder deep into it. Find the person who is absolutely worst for him and have him delivered into that character’s hands. Having him make a choice which is absolutely wrong.

You’ll find the story will take on an energy of its own, like a wound-up spring, and then you’ll just have to follow it, like a fox hunt, over hill, over dale.



Janet Fitch is the author of the Oprah Book Club selection White Oleander and more recently, Paint It Black. She regularly blogs about writing on MySpace.

When JOB came to town…

…he wrote a story for the Reader.

Happy Birthday to Us

Korrektiv turns 4 today. (Not 5 as previously reported. Unless you count the “lost year”.)

This One’s For Cubeland Mystic

Longtime readers of Godsbody may recall (the way reader Charles did in the comments of this post) the interesting discussion surrounding the plans to make a film based on Thomas Kinkade’s painting “The Christmas Cottage:”

Of particular interest was Cubeland’s willingness to defend the painting:

“I want to live in the Christmas Cottage. I would like if some of you who share the same faith as I do lived around my cottage (but not too close) in similar looking cottages. I would like the village that we all live in to be surrounded by a 14 foot high wisteria-covered red brick wall with Victorian lanterns about 20 feet apart and a gently running stream circumambulating the wall. On the other side of the steam I’d like to see a hedge of willows and oaks lining the other side of the gentle stream. On the other side of the willows and oaks I’d like to see a half mile of razor wire and antipersonnel mines completing the circumference with a single narrow foot path leading to a well guarded steel gate. Nothing ostentatious perhaps an integrated guard tower with dual fifties on either side, with heavily armed guards. Perhaps Opus Dei members.”

I thought of Cubeland’s response when news of the film’s direct-to-DVD release hit the web – or rather, when that news served as the occasion for Vanity Fair to publish a leaked memo from Kinkade to the filmmakers. The memo outlined 16 guidelines for creating the “Thomas Kinkade look” on film:

“1) Dodge corners or create darkening towards edge of image for “cozy” look. This may only apply to still imagery, but is useful where applicable.

2) Color key each scene to create mood, and color variation. When possible, utilize cooler tones to suggest somber moods, and warmer, more vibrant tones to suggest festive atmosphere. In general, create a color scheme for each scene that can be accentuated through filtering, DI treatments, or through lighting. Most of my paintings feature an overall cool color envelope, into which warm accents are applied.

3) Create classic compositions. Paintings generally utilize a theme and variation compositional motif. Heavy weighting of the image towards one side, with accented areas of interest balancing it on the other side. Allow the eye to wander into the scene through some entry point. Be aware of where the viewer is standing at all times. Utilize traditional eye levels for setting the shot — that is, no high vantage points, off-kilter vantage points, or “worms eye view” vantage points. Generally focus on a standing adults viewpoint of the scene at hand.

4) Awareness of edges. Create an overall sense of soft edges, strive for a “Barry Lyndon” look. Star filters used sparingly, but an overall “gauzy” look preferable to hard edge realism.

5) Overall concept of light. Each scene should feature dramatic sources of soft light. Dappled light patches are always a positive, glowing windows, lightposts, and other romantic lighting touches will accentuate the overall effect of the theme of light.

6) Hidden details whenever possible, References to my children (from youngest to oldest as follows): Evie, Winsor, Chandler and Merritt. References to my anniversary date, the number 52, the number 82, and the number 5282 (for fun, notice how many times this appears in my major published works). Hidden N’s throughout — preferably thirty N’s, commemorating one N for each year since the events happened.

7) Overall sense of stillness. Emphasize gentle camera moves, slow dissolves, and still camera shots. A sense of gradual pacing. Even quick cut-away shots can slightly dissolve.

8) Atmospheric effects. Whenever possible utilize sunset, sunrise, rainy days, mistiness — any transitory effect of nature that bespeaks luminous coloration or a sense of softness.

9) A sense of space. My paintings feature both intimate spaces and dramatic deep space effects. We should strive for intimate scenes to be balanced by deeper establishing shots. (I know this particular one is self-evident, but I am reminded of it as I see the pacing of the depth of field in Kubrick’s “Barry Lyndon”.)

10) Short focal length. In general, I love a focal plane that favors the center of interest, and allows mid-distance and distant areas to remain blurry. Recommend “stopping down” to shorten focal lengths.

11) Hidden spaces. My paintings always feature trails that dissolve into mysterious areas, patches of light that lead the eye around corners, pathways, open gates, etc. The more we can feature these devices to lead the eye into mysterious spaces, the better.

12) Surprise details. Suggest a few “inside references” that are unique to this production. Small details that I can mention in interviews that stimulate second or third viewings — for example, a “teddy bear mascot” for the movie that appears occasionally in shots. This is a fun process to pursue, and most movies I’m aware of normally have hidden “inside references”. In the realm of fine art we refer to this as “second reading, third reading, etc.” A still image attracts the viewer with an overall impact, then reveals smaller details upon further study.

13) Mood is supreme. Every decision made as to the visual look of each shot should include the concept of mood. Music can accentuate this, use of edges can accentuate this, atmospheric effects accentuate this, etc.

14) The concept of beauty. I get rid of the “ugly parts” in my paintings. It would be nice to utilize this concept as much as possible. Favor shots that feature older buildings, ramshackle, careworn structures and vehicles, and a general sense of homespun simplicity and reliance on beautiful settings.

15) Nostalgia. My paintings routinely blend timeframes. This is not only okay, but tends to create a more timeless look. Vintage cars (30’s, 40’s, 50’s, 60’s etc) can be featured along with 70’s era cars. Older buildings are favorable. Avoid anything that looks contemporary — shopping centers, contemporary storefronts, etc. Also, I prefer to avoid anything that is shiny. Our vintage vehicles, though often times are cherished by their owners and kept spic-n-span should be “dirtied up” a bit for the shoot. Placerville was and is a somewhat shabby place, and most vehicles, people, etc bear traces of dust, sawdust, and the remnants of country living. There are many dirt roads, muddy lanes, etc., and in general the place has a tumbled down, well-worn look.

16) Most important concept of all — THE CONCEPT OF LOVE. Perhaps we could make large posters that simply say “Love this movie” and post them about. I pour a lot of love into each painting, and sense that our crew has a genuine affection for this project. This starts with Michael Campus as a Director who feels great love towards this project, and should filter down through the ranks. Remember: “Every scene is the best scene.”

The list above is not all-inclusive, but is a good starting point for internal dialogue. These guidelines are not listed in order of importance, but are dictated off the top of my head. After painting for nearly 40 years, I still wake up every morning daydreaming about new ways to make paintings. Creating a movie is a natural extension of the picture making process, and hopefully my catalog of visual paintings, along with my visual guidelines in this memo will provoke dialogue, experimentation, and a sense of over-arching visual purpose.”

(Balk goes after the bit about “ugly parts” – whitewashing! – but what about the old line about art lying to tell the truth? Not a rhetorical question.)

Needless to say, Vanity Fair et. al. have great fun with this, because they think Kinkade’s work is crap. But the comments are rather more interesting. Viz.

“The movie is actually really good. Very well written and Peter O’Toole is… Peter O’Toole.” [Peter O’Toole!]

“Why does VF care? (1) The memo makes perfect sense if you are trying to create a movie that captures Kinkade visually; (2) What’s wrong with what he does? It makes my mom very happy.”

“As a painter, poet and writer, i know the appeal of easy greeting card schmaltz. Kinkade’s appeal is that nobody has to think. All our mothers love his paintings, too much is not enough, drip all the colors you have on them, every color, every pastel, the bastardization of nature with glitter. Our mothers say ‘How Sweet!’ just like they did when we brought them real roses.”

“This was fun and snarky, but I’d much rather see a parody version directed at the empty grandstanding crap-shovellers from the Saatchi stable. Damien Hirst is no better, just a different kind of pandering.”

And my favorite:

“One is tempted to call the liking for kitsch ‘bad taste’, but it may be truer to say it is not taste at all, not in the sense that a liking for any kind of real art is ‘taste.’ Admirers of Kinkade’s work, I suspect, do something very different with it from waht we do with the pictures we admire. Clearly some lovers of kitsch are otherwise perfectly intelligent, even sensitive people; they only have a blindspot when it comes to seeing art. We look to see what the artist can show us; they only want to be reminded of experiences and the pleasurable sentiments associated with them, and anything fresh or unexpected in a picture would only be a baffling annoyance to them. There is nothing wrong with the sentiments evoked by kitsch. Often they are noble ones. It is an old observation that the subject matter of kitsch art is nearly always such as would be deeply moving if it were encountered in real life. What makes the indulgence in such sentiment through kitsch art ‘sentimental,’ in the bad sense, is the mindlessness of the knee-jerk response it evokes. There is (mutatis mutadis) a parallel with pornography. And with kitsch, as with pornography, there is a constant demand for fresh product. The particular instances go stale on the user very quickly.”

Some meat there. And yes, this is the painting above my fireplace:

And I keep it there because it evokes home to me, even as it also evokes death and the dying of the light.

My Brilliant Readership…

…should surely be able to come to the aid of one of their fellows, who writes:

“There ought to be a name for those occasional cases when one comes across something (a word, a memory, etc.) either hitherto unknown, or at least long forgotten, and then soon after one hears the word or experience used or referred to independently of one’s recent reflections.”

Have at it, smart people.


If everyone’s attention span is shortening – hello, Twitter! – shouldn’t short stories be skyrocketing in popularity? Answer: NOBODY READS.


“In any genuine human love there is an element of bowing down before the God-given dignity of the other person, who is in the image of God…In our Communion with Jesus Christ, this attains a new level…Augustine says in one place, in a sermon to his new communicants: No one can receive Communion without first adoring…What we are told about the monks of Cluny, around the year one thousand, is particularly striking. Whenever they went to receive Communion, they took their shoes off. They knew that the burning bush was here, the mystery before which Moses, in the desert, sank to his knees. The form may change, but what has to remain is the spirit of adoration, which signifies a genuine act of stepping out of ourselves…and thereby in fact discovering human fellowship.”

[Image taken from card found in the back of Perpetual Adoration Chapel at St. Therese church in San Diego.]

Mr. Godsbody & The Wisconsin Poet, Malibu 1992

“I have been conquered by California…”

UPDATE: JOB takes the bait:


I have been conquered by California;
They will find me part of the Southwest
Brooding the severe browns of sunsets
Somewhere as the desert pales with stars
And my nostrils fill with dust and sand.
I have been conquered by California,
And I drive to a drive-thru dawn
Along the unbroken record of stereo desert,
Unready and unrested for my sandy sunrise.
I have been conquered by California
And you cannot make love in a park there
‘Cause everyone makes love in a park there;
Gold is god; God is cheap; both are rare
And I have been conquered by a stare
Long-drawn from the sea and falling there.

I have stroked the back-side of perversity;
It is only the anthem colors of a peacock
And I have been conquered by honey in the sand
That gums up the phosphorous gears of the tide.
I raise my eyes to Arizona’s dull brown peachick,
The desert is only a planet on the peacock’s tail.
Already its cry comes back, calling for the sun
To afflict the approaching landscape, nightborne,
Hatching a mirage of past and present,
As dust devils and pack-rats flit and flirt
Along the side of the road, playing with victory.
-Circa 1992