Wednesday, December 02, 2009

More Stories

Another of my stories, "Snapshot Resolutions," is published and up in the November stories section over at Bartleby Snopes. Thanks to Nathaniel Tower, the editor!

AND, I found out recently that a third story, "Edgar's Last Color," will be published in the Spring 2010 issue of Natural Bridge! This will be my first print publication.

Saturday, August 15, 2009


So it's been a long time since I updated this blog. I'm sorry. Grad school does me in, perpetually.

BUT, the small good news is that I have a story published here, by the great people at Word Riot. If the story were a movie, it would be rated R for language and adult situations.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Road Trip 3: Colorado/Wyoming

The best restaurant in Denver, Casa Bonita.

After leaving New Mexico on Sunday, August 3rd, I drove North into Colorado, and got to hang out with some friends from the Glen. I decided that this would be a perfect opportunity to see the mythical restaurant, Casa Bonita, which I had originally seen depicted on South Park. When I first watch the episode, I couldn't believe that Casa Bonita was a real place, but now having been there, I can say that the episode is completely (and sadly) true to life.

Essentially, CB is a former department store that has been changed into the Disneyland of Mexican restaurants. Except the part that I assume most people like most about Disneyland, or any amusement park, (the rides), is missing. BUT, like Disneyland, Casa Bonita does have terrible, overpriced food, overdone decor, and vendors who will draw your caricature or sell you a glow in the dark bracelet. On the plus side, the food is all-you-can-eat—all that you have to do is raise the little Mexican flag at your table to the "up" position, and the server will appear immediately to inquire what you would like. After about two plates I just couldn't take any more enchiladas, but I did have a couple of sopaipillas.

CB is also known for its cliff divers, who do real dives off of a fake, 20-foot cliff. The funniest part, though, is that the cliff divers also double as Black Bart and The Sheriff and triple as Chiquita, the Incredible Gorilla, and Animal Trainer in the shows. This allows them to save money, since they only have to pay one set of performers. The writing of the shows could learn something from "B" movie scripts. Still, though, this place was PACKED, and I can only surmise that every child in Colorado has had at least one birthday at CB. It has incredible campy value.

A testament to the quality of the establishment, here is an image of the cliff divers, taken from the CB website. It looks like their pictures came out about like mine did.

Chiquita, the trained gorilla, likes Bermuda shorts and, (not pictured), Nikes. Image taken from CB website.

The fearful caves of CB.

On my way up to Denver, I stopped in San Luis, CO, which, I found out, it the oldest city in the state. The town is tiny, but there is a cool little Catholic church built at the top of a hill, and while ascending the hill, there is a stations of the cross shrine in bronze sculptures. It made for a good way to break up the driving.

The chapel in San Luis, CO.

One of the statues.

On Monday, I continued my drive North, going through Wyoming. I stopped at cool little cafe in Cheyenne, but ultimately I didn't get to do much there.

This is what Wyoming looked like to me. Because it wasn't that interesting, I'll leave you with the Casa Bonita clip from South Park. I guarantee everything in the clip is real. Except maybe Cartman.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Road Trip 2: New Mexico (Part 3)

An almost aerial view of St. John's college, site of the Glen Workshops.

This year's Glen Workshop was very enriching, even though I didn't take an actual workshop. I felt it deserved it's own entry, even though I'm going to cheat and include an art show review at the end. I didn't even make to all of the presentations this year, but the keynote address by Bret Lott, author of, among other books, Jewel, and the newly released, Ancient Highway, which recently received a positive review in the LA Times, dealt admirably with the conference's theme of "the artist in the city."

Since fiction is kind of my obsession, I also very much enjoyed the reading by Valerie Sayers, director of the creative writing program at Notre Dame, who read a short story published in Image. I thought the story gained a certain lyricism and humor that I might not have noticed had someone else read it.
Of course, the Over the Rhine concert was incredible. They played a full show at Christ Church, Santa Fe, which is a new building that provided an ideal backdrop. Although it's not really evident in the picture below, there is a giant window behind them, fronted by a large glass cross. It was especially cool, when, during one song, a bolt of lightning appeared momentarily in the window behind them. Seriously, if you have never heard OtR, give their album, The Trumpet Child, a demo, or check them out on tour. I wish them only success (and their song, "Nothing Is Innocent," was playing in the Knoxville Starbucks today).

Karin and Linford light up the stage at Christ Church, Santa Fe.

Another convergence at this year's conference was the Santa Fe Biennial, an international art exhibition held at Site Santa Fe every two years. The basic premise for the show was to invite artists from all over the world (typically one per country) to participate. They all came to New Mexico to observe the landscape and culture, and their pieces were supposed to be responses to New Mexico. Each artist was limited to $7,500 to construct his/her work, and after the show, all of the materials will be recycled.

The show was somewhat uneven, and I have to say that I probably didn't have enough time in the exhibit to really soak in each artist's full intention. Still, though, four pieces stood out to me. The first, "Telematch Suburb," by Egyptian artist Wael Shawky, was perhaps the most striking. It was a three part video installation, which really highlighted cultural disparities present in the fabric of New Mexico. For a kind of historical reference point to the wonderful religious and cultural diversity in New Mexico, I would recommend reading Willa Cather's Death Comes for the Archbishop. In the novel, a French Catholic priest is assigned to a parish in New Mexico that includes Native Americans, Mexicans, Canadians, Spaniards, and other Europeans.

Shawky plays with this diverse cultural experience by picking up on similar themes present in Egypt. One huge video projection shows a westernized, Egyptian heavy metal band playing a concert to an audience at a very traditional village. The audience is rural and Muslim, and seem to not know quite how to respond to the music. On another wall, a teacher in Egypt instructs an English class, but his yelled instructions don't sound like English, and his teaching method seems very foreign and strange. On the third wall, a desert scene is playing, with children walking in and out of a structure that might look more at home in New Mexico than it does in Egypt. Somehow, the parade of children has a meditative effect that unifies the other two videos.

Image taken from Shawky's piece.

The second piece, "The Fourth Ladder," was also a video installation, and unlike anything I had ever seen before. Created by an Italian group called Studio Azzurro, the piece was comprised of a series of figures walking up a ramp. The unique bit, however, was that the piece is interactive. Whenever a figure was touched by a viewer, that figure would turn, face the viewer, and relate his or her favorite location in New Mexico, how to get there, and what he or she liked about it. This had a pretty powerful cumulative and experiential effect, especially since the installation was accompanied by another video that interviewed each figure that is walking up the ramp. It was almost as if you were talking to each of those people in an intimate setting.

Viewers interact with "The Fourth Ladder."

For sheer wit, my favorite piece was "Lucky," by Bulgarian artist Luchezar Boyadjiev. The entire piece consists of seventy-seven ten dollar bills, each taped to the wall. Above each bill is a person's name, each selected randomly from the Santa Fe phone book. Essentially, if a name is written on the wall, he or she can claim the ten dollars at any time the show is open—and underneath each bill a fortune is written for that person. Since the artist's English isn't perfect, some of the fortunes were excellent.


Here is my favorite "fortune" that had been revealed so far. The artist must have a thing for Roksandras.

The last piece that I enjoyed was "Manifest Destiny," another interactive installation, from Italian artist, Piero Golia. Essentially, he rejected the whole "let's be inspired by New Mexico idea," saying that nothing there inspired him. So, instead, he made this kind of stunt-pad-jump installation that is best described by the following video. Before participating, I had to sign a long waiver that included the phrase "in spite of the TREMENDOUS risks involved..."

Road Trip 2: New Mexico (Part 2)

OK, so I know I've fallen a bit behind on updating the blog. I've been settling in Knoxville and internet access has been sparse. BUT, I'm going to try and catch up before my classes start on Wednesday.

So, we return to New Mexico. On the free day from the Glen Workshop, I went with my parents to Bandelier National Monument, which is about forty minutes outside Santa Fe. It is the site of Pueblo cliff dwellings and petroglyphs (pictures carved into rocks). The cliffs were formed from soft volcanic rock, which has lots of air pockets, that make it look sort of like swiss cheese. Still, though, all of the dwellings were carved by hand with stone tools, after which, the residents would smoke the ceilings of the dwellings to keep them from crumbling.

We hiked a trail for about a mile before ascending four ladders that allowed us to reach the alcove cliff dwelling. The image above is of the alcove cliff dwelling and kiva, or circular room used mainly for religious ceremonies. There was a ladder going down into the kiva, and inside the temperature was surprisingly cooler.

This was the only way up.

This is what the sky looked like from the alcove cliff dwelling.

Me, coming out of a smaller, carved-out dwelling. My guess is that the average cliff-dweller wasn't as big as I am.

Bandelier only took up most of the morning, so I suggested heading over to the city of Los Alamos, which was only a few minutes away. While I was at USC, I took a class on 1950s American Lit. and Film, and one of the documentaries that we watch was Atomic Cafe, which, although disturbing, is a movie that I highly recommend.
Los Alamos was the secret site of the Manhattan Project, but today the town is still the center of much of the government's high-level research, nuclear and otherwise. The entrance to the town is still managed by a guard tower that requires visitors to stop (similar to a border crossing). It was clear, upon entering the city, that most of the people that live there are either employed by the US government or related to someone who is. One of the streets was named "Bikini Atoll," which was a Micronesian island used as a test site for multiple H-bombs, and is highlighted in Atomic Cafe. I thought this was creepy, and in poor taste, since the natives of the island were forced to move (debatably against their will) and exposed to unhealthy levels of radiation as "an experiment." A local store also sold t-shirts with a giant, red-and-orange mushroom cloud on them, which declares: Los Alamos, the Atomic City.

There are two main museums in Los Alamos, one operated by the US Department of Energy, and the other by the city historical society, and they choose to focus on very different vantage points. Predictably, the science museum depicts patriotism (everyone gladly gave up their land for the Manhattan Project), the necessity of developing the A-bomb, and stresses all of the scientific advances made in Los Alamos since then. The historical museum, on the other hand, shows the elite ranch school for toughening up rich boys (attended by Gore Vidal, among others), that was forced to close when the government bought the land. In those days, Los Alamos was a secret city, all mail was sent to a P.O. Box in Santa Fe, and new scientists and staff were not even given directions to the site until they arrived in Santa Fe, went to a particular phone booth, and called a mysterious number. It was all very cloak and dagger. No relatives, except for spouses and children, were allowed to live in Los Alamos.

A model of "Little Boy," the first A-bomb, dropped on Hiroshima, on display at the Los Alamos science museum.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Road Trip 2: New Mexico (part 1)

I decided I had to break up my week in Santa Fe into at least three blog entries, because there is just too much to tell. I arrived on Sunday afternoon, which quickly turned into a stunning sunset. Above is the view from St. John's College student center. Seriously, it looks like this every night.

While I'm attending The Glen Workshop, in conjunction with Image, I decided not to take a writing workshop this year, but rather just attend the readings/presentations and enjoy New Mexico. This allowed me to go to El Santuario on Tuesday, a Catholic church in Chimayo, NM. It has been called "the Lourdes of America," and is perhaps the only active pilgrimage site in the US. During Holy Week, people walk as far as 150 miles along the highway to visit Chimayo and El Santuario.
This is the view of the front of the church.

The dirt of Chimayo is blessed, and said to have healing properties (although the explanation inside the church ascribes any healing to God). Inside the side chapel are all kinds of crutches and walkers from people who have been healed. Sadly, no photos could be taken inside the church. It has this amazing bell tower, as well as a hutch for pigeons. When you go inside, you can hear the pigeons cooing, and it really has an incredible calming and meditative effect.

The pigeons of El Santuario.

Outside the church, along the path leading up to it, pilgrims and penitents have placed all kinds of homemade crosses and petitions against the fence. This was probably my favorite image at Chimayo. The best part though, was a discarded "wheelchair accessible" sign, that had been removed because of some new construction in the compound. Sitting on the ground next to the crosses, it just struck me as a good image of healing.

My favorite homemade cross was constructed out of barbed wire.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Road Trip 1: Joshua Tree

Let's kick off this road trip blogging! Even though I've been in Santa Fe, NM for a few days now, I'm just now getting around to the first update. I'll post on New Mexico soon, but let's start at the beginning. Last Saturday, my roommates and I headed out to Joshua Tree National Park for some bouldering and a perfect start to my two week road trip. We spent about two hours climbing around on boulders, and considering that we had no equipment, I thought we got fairly high on the ridge. It was hot, and I drank lots of water.

Yes, that's me on a boulder.

After a couple of hours of driving through the park and taking more pictures in front of Joshua trees (U2 style), I said goodbye to my roommates and drove through the rest of the park toward Arizona. It had always been a dream of mine to drive through the park listening to U2, and I am happy to say that I did it. It also gave me time to consider why U2 was so drawn to a National Park in the US. It occurred to me that U2 really is an ideal desert band. I'm sure I read this somewhere else—but U2's music seems to mesh really well with a desert landscape. The Joshua Tree, too, seems like a tremendous image of U2's music as well as a microcosm of life. Many of U2's songs seem desolate, but with a pervading melodious hope seeping through the somber lyrics and pace. "Running to Stand Still," "One Tree Hill," "Mothers of the Disappeared," and "Red Hill Mining Town," all stand out on Joshua Tree, but I know that many other songs from the immense U2 catalog also fit this description.

Try listening to the beginning of "Where the Streets Have No Name," and picture yourself in a desert with no signs of life. Just when Edge's guitar picks up, you come around a bend in Joshua Tree National Park, and see the dead land come alive with Joshua Trees and other plant life. U2's songs, like the hearty plants in Joshua Tree, flourish despite a harsh environment. Both provide just the right amount of hope in surroundings that seem anything but favorable. The Joshua Tree, itself, with many tangled branches, often looks as if it might topple over at any moment. Like life (and U2's music), it is complex, tangled, and somehow beautiful. I can only ascribe these thoughts to being physically present in the National Park and simultaneously listening to the songs. As I left the park and headed for Arizona, I passed huge rock piles, which somehow reminded me of piles of bones draped in shadow. Not a great way to exit the park, but still a good reminder of my mortality.

These rock piles looked like bones to me.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Anything Special About Short Stories?

Once again I guest posted over at BookFox, this time with a sort of exploration about whether or not short stories are different from novels in any way other than length. If you have any thoughts on the subject, I'd love to hear them.