Archived entries for me

The go-kart race. What did you think I was talking about?

The other night I had this amazing dream:

It was election night, and it was too-close-to-call. But, there was some obscure clause in the Constitution that allowed for too-close-to-call elections to be decided by a literal race between the candidates. And, for some unknown dream-brain reason, the person who was polling last got to pick the method of the race. And, for another unknown dream-brain reason, that person was Newt Gingrich.

Who picked go-karts.

So it was Obama, Biden (I don’t know either), Romney and Gingrich. On go-karts. To decide the fate of the free world.

Obama and Biden screeched out into an early lead, with Romney tepidly following them up and Gingrich’s kart showing a lot of sound and fury, but really signifying nothing.

At this point I’m expecting Obama and Biden to easily take it. But, suddenly, Gingrich starts clawing his way up the field. Apparently he’s like Bowser from Mario Kart: really slow to accelerate, but with an insane top speed. He blows past Romney like a blistering wind. Biden tries to fight him off, but is clearly outmatched. For a minute I think Obama’s going to hold him off, but something’s wrong – the President isn’t using his top gear! He doesn’t even know it is there! Without that extra power, Gingrich-Bowser easily takes the race. And the presidency.

For a few moments, everyone is freaking out. How are they going to tell the American people this is how the election was decided – with a go-kart race that the least liked candidate won!?

It was all ok, though, because I kicked Gingrich in the balls before the Secret Service protection officially transferred over to him.

Oh, brain. What will you think of next?

Starting on Monday, I’ll be the new Senior GUI Specialist at St. Jude/ALSAC. Meaning, that instead of making the pretty work for Combustion, I’ll be making the pretty work for them.

I’ve got mixed feelings about the move. On the one hand, it is exactly what I wanted. I get to keep doing what I do, but with peers who know more than I do, and at the end of each day I know that what I need helped garner the funds to save a child’s life. I get to put a hash mark in the good karma column. But, the other side of it is that I’m leaving a family that I’ve spent the better part of a decade with. I’ve worked at Combustion off and on since the summer after my freshman year of college, with the last “on” stretch lasting seven years. Nothing in my life has lasted seven years before that. Pretty much every marketable skill I’ve got I learned here, and it feels really quite terrible to walk away from that. But it feels even worse to walk away from those relationships that I’ve built up over that decade. Those people saw me change from a cocksure teenager into a grimaced and unhappy 20-something into the happy adult I am today. And that’s just something that you can’t replace.

Today, it is a achingly beautiful day in Memphis. And for the first time ever, I’ve got the windows open in my office. I’m airing it out for the new guy (or gal), and maybe reminding myself that there is another world out there, too.

Guess I’ll have to get around to editing my sidebar bio, huh?

This is most likely Not Safe For Work, unless you have headphones or work in a place where they are perfectly fine talking about oral sex, anal sex, sex toys, sexually transmitted infections, 50 Shades of Grey, and Robots From the Future Built to Fuck Your Face.

(Hello, Google Search results!)

I am truly amazed Launch Memphis still let me do these things. And thankful, as well.

Oh, Twenty Twelve, what a sort of year you were. It was the year the Mayans may or may not have tried to kill all of us with our own media. It was the year I watched not, once, but twice, as our elected officials decided that talking points were more important than the world economy. It was the year that I turned thirty. It was the year that my birthday dinner turned into monthly culinary explorations. It was the year that I did pretty much nothing creatively. It was the year that I went to Disney World and rediscovered what creativity was and why I need it. It was the year that I closed one door and opened another.

But, more importantly than anything else, it was the year that I got married to the love of my life.

And, for that alone, I’ll always look back on it favorably.

Before we go, here are some leftover bits of recommended consumption from the end of the year.

Three Comics You Should Read

SagaBrian K. Vaughn + Fiona Staples - This is BKV’s first large scope book since the end of Y: The Last Man, and Staples’ first book to get her the attention she’s been deserving for years. It is a space-opera about star-crossed lovers that is charming, frightening, exhilarating, small and huge all at the same time.

FataleEd Brubaker + Sean Phillips - The team that brought us Sleeper, Criminal, and Incognito is doing an “ongoing with an end” that’s pretty much Lovecraft meets noir gangster fiction. So, simply put, peanut butter and chocolate in horror comic form.

The Manhattan ProjectsJonathan Hickman + Nick Pitarra -Hickman is taking apart 20th century’s super scientists and sticking them back together into something that it too complicated to explain, but completely approachable and completely him. It doesn’t hurt that Nick Pitarra’s art is utterly gorgeous and reminds me of a less restrained Frank Quitely.

Sidenote: Three books, all on-goings, all with top-level talent, all creator-owned, and all published at Image and not the Big Two. Expect more of this as time wears on.

Three Video Games You Should Play

DishonoredThe third outing from France’s Arkane Studios, and their first internally created IP. Dishonored is what happens when Deus Ex: Human Revolution, BioShock, anything Steampunk and the Combine from Half-Life 2 are put in a blender. What comes out is absolutely delicious, if just a little flat on the back-end.

XCOM: Enemy UnknownFiraxis’s re-do of the classic PC strategy game is an awkward masterpiece. Masterpiece because the unflinching brutality of the original hold firm to the new sleek, modern bones of the update, but awkward because you can tell that somewhere along the line this got upgraded from being a direct-to-download title to a AAA holiday contender. Some of the edges could use a bit more time to be smoothed off.

Borderlands 2The sequel to Gearbox’s smash-hit that no one saw coming is honestly a little less fun than the original, but an absolute improvement on the formula. The game manages to hit emotional highs and lows that should’ve been impossible, but pulls them off with aplomb. And Handsome Jack may go down in history as one of my most hated villains ever, which might also make him one of the most successful.

Three Albums You Should Listen To

Murder by Death – Bitter Drink, Bitter Moon - This year’s release from one my favorite bands is their most polished entry yet, which is both good and bad. On songs like Lost River and I Came Around it lets them tell more affecting stories, but when they double track the main vocal on certain other tracks, the result is less compelling.

The Protomen – Present: A Night of Queen - The Protomen took a break from making records about video game people to show the world just how good they are by covering Queen better than anyone ever has.

Make-Up and Vanity Set – 88:88 - An album written for an experimental film that MAVS also did the score for. Wonderful and simplistic yet deeply atmospheric, provided you are into that kind of thing.

And for this year? The Twenty Thirteen? What of it?

No resolutions, because as my wife pointed out on New Year’s Eve, they are simply set-ups for failure. Or, they are limp-wristed, inconsequential things that you probably didn’t need to make in the first place.

Instead, we have goals. Things to achieve and do that will result in objects of substance. For I declare this year to be the Year of the Concrete, the Year of the Tangible, the Year of the Existent.

I have four goals. All simple, yet still tricky.

  • Cook a meal that I’ll never forget.
  • Write a story I am proud to share.
  • Take a picture that came out exactly as I wanted.
  • Then do all of them better.

Oh, and I’ve got one hell of an announcement about where I’ll be spending most of my time, but you’ll have to stay tuned for that one.

twentythirteen

“This is what you learn when you spend a year researching the crazy stuff in Memphis,” Whitten says of the research that went into Memphis Fast Fiction. “If this writing project has taught me anything, it’s that this one spot on the Mississippi has never not been kind of messed up and crazy, starting with the original settlement. Memphis was the most debauched place on the French frontier. Gambling, drinking: There was nothing else for people to do.”

You can pick it up in this week’s print version of the Flyer, or read it on their website here.

Big thanks to Leonard Gill for his support of the project.

I’m still amazed they let me get away with that yellow fever slide.

Still really want to turn this into a longer, less crammed together talk. Cut out a lot of good bits to get it down to 5 minutest, and was stumbling all over myself to keep up with the slides.

It’s a new year. One where the Mayans are supposedly going to kill us all from beyond the grave, or something.

Been quiet around here for a bit.

The site’s been just a numbers station, really. Humming along through the dark of the night, waiting for something to happen, waiting to screech back to life, commanding the sleeper agents to throw off their sham lives and but a bullet in the neck of every apparatchik they can find.

Time to fill the dead air, I think.

You see, my book’s done. Memphis Fast Fiction is dead and in a bag, waiting for the taxidermy of the editing knife to come and pretty it up before I turn it out for publishers to reject. I wrote 365 stories about Memphis in 2011, and I sure as hell thought it was going to drive me mad, but, by God, I did it. Now to see if anyone wants to pay to put the thing to paper.

I heard dead trees are expensive these days.

(Hah, “my book’s done” – now that’s something I never thought I’d get to say.)

And now I’m turning my attention back here. Time to start writing about things that aren’t the city I live in.

There’s a whole big world out there, with mad, wondrous things in it. Time to go exploring.

This is the Brain Release Valve, welcome to the Mayan Death Year.

Spending all my time writing Memphis Fast Fiction right now. Nearly to 275 stories this year. Should hit it before the week is out.

But, once that project is over, I’m eager to get back to doing whatever it was I did around these parts.

See you after the New Year.

The first hundred days are done. More than done, actually. I think I’m about to be into the hundred-teens of it.

While I’ve got you, I’ll let you in on a little secret. I barely remember writing any of them. Like, if you talk to me and mention a key point, I’ll be able to tell you what it was about and what I was thinking, but I’ll be damned if I can name the story I wrote last night or what it was about.

And that’s probably the weirdest thing about the project. I’m learning tons about Memphis, especially the weird in-the-crack bits that fascinate me so much, and I’m learning to be a better writer , BUT, I’m not remembering the stories that I’m learning for and from. They’re like sketches in an artist’s notebook.

Oh, I did hear that the project came up at some kind of official Memphis cultural/business meeting thing. They talked about it as an example of how Memphis isn’t a standard city/market, and we find our own ways to do things.

Yes, I think I would agree that me absolutely losing my mind is my own way of doing things.

This weekend was the first 48 hour Memphis Music Launch, presented by the Memphis Music Foundation, EmergeMemphis and the Launchpad – basically a whole bunch of nonprofits dedicated to improving Memphis.

The concept was that people could pitch any kind of music or business music idea to the other participants. Then, 8 pitches would be picked to have groups work on that idea for 48 hours, presenting at the end of the weekend. From there only four groups would move forward to a showcase show at the New Daisy in July, with the winner getting a record deal and other awesome prizes.

Laurel did a lot of the collateral design work for the project at Archer, and thought that it might be something fun for us to do. You know, do some design work, maybe build a website for a band that needed work.

Like all of our Bad Ideas, this ballooned into something much bigger than we expected.

We ended up working with a group of 8 musicians who were strangers on Friday, and by Sunday were making music that I really feel represents the modern diversity of Memphis and America as a whole. We named them The Delta Collective, and ended up taking over all of their marketing/legal/business research while they got to the business of writing and recording.

And my God did they knock that part of it out of the park.

At then end of the weekend, we presented the band, their music and all of the planning we’d done. I took over the business end of the presentation, and from the audience feedback, we were the best of the bunch.

I’ll never forget when the judges came back after their deliberations.

“Now, here are the winners in no particular order…
The Delta Collective…”

So, they’re moving on to the showcase in July, with L and I acting as publicists/shepherds/managers/enablers.

You can check out the final product at the website we built:
http://thedeltacollective.com/

That’ll also lead you all of our social media stuff, too.

We’ve got 90 days to do as much as we can with these guys, who were, just 48 hours ago, total strangers.

No idea what’ll happen in that or beyond that, but at least for the weekend, those six people and the two of us had our lives changed for the better.

I just wish I could have a weekend after that weekend. Our yard needs to be cut badly, ha.

NBC is doing a new Wonder Woman tv show for the hipster generation. Something along the lines of Smallville meets Gossip Girl, I imagine.

They’ve picked Adrianne Palicki previous from Friday Night Lights and a few spots on Smallville.

She’s been blonde in FNL, but here’s her with Wonder Woman’s traditional brunette coloring.

Best guesses is she’ll be playing the recently rebooted Wonder Woman. Who grew up in our world and is a lot younger than previous iterations of the character. Here’s what the new character design looks like:

Which I’ll let you come to your own conclusions about. But, I figured this was as good a time as any to remind you about that crazy little idea I had for doing a Wonder Woman book.

My Blood-Thirsty, One-Titted Queen of the Amazons. Here’s a snippet.

My Wonder Woman would be a real Amazon. Muscular, scarred, dirty. Her hair would be caked with mud and matted into dreadlocks. Her right breast would be entirely gone. In its place, a huge, ugly cauterized scar. The left breast would still be there, but it would be strapped down with leather bands and bronze armor. Her remaining breast would be a utility organ, for the feeding of a child, not an object of fantasy or pleasure.

The scar would be a sign of pride for her. For her people, becoming a warrior is something they choose to do after puberty has had its way with their body. They would stand in front of a fire, pull out their sword and lop off their right breast. The breast would go into the fire along with the sword. When hot enough, the sword would be removed and the wound would be cauterized with the red-hot metal. From that point on, the scar would never be covered. It was a sign to the rest of the world that this woman had mutilated her own body in order to be able to kill you easier. This is not something that would be done lightly, and certainly not without intent. If one of her people went through this, then they would become a killer.

She would carry a short gladius sword, a bronze-headed spear and a wooden recurve bow. No silly golden lasso of truth. If she wants the truth out of you, she’ll just torture you. No bullet blocking wrist guards. Her skin is magically as hard as diamond, why would she worry about bullets? No patent leather boots, a huntress always moves silently in her bare feet.

Starting to see where I’m going here?

Basically the complete fucking opposite of what DC has going on with this new Wonder Woman.

Today marks the completion of one month’s worth of Fast Fictions over at www.MemphisFastFiction.com.

The project’s been more or less what I’ve expected, so far. I can feel the edges of my brain starting to fray, but I don’t feel completely overwhelmed, which was a real concern of mine. I think I’ll actually be able to pull this off.

I was originally writing in chunks, where I’d sit down for four or five hours and bang out a half dozen pieces. I’d leave the final review for the day they were supposed to go up, so I felt like I was sticking to the “One-Story-A-Day” bit. But now I am doing the one-a-day from scratch method. Which is a lot riskier, but I feel more rewarding. This is all about me becoming a better writer, and cramming it all into one day then faffing about for the rest of the week wasn’t doing me any good.

So, what’ve I written about?

Well, there’s a good bit of historical stuff in there. Specific period references to people and places. The rest is stuff that takes places in the present, usually referencing things that I’ve experienced, or know about. Bizarrely for me, though, I’ve only written one piece set in the future. I have had a giant robot stomping on downtown, though.

I did get a letter from my Grandmother last week. She wanted to let me know that she was following the project, and that the stories overall were fairly dark. “You and you friends must not all be made out of rainbows and puppy dog tails,” she said.

I’ve tried to lighten things up since then.

Today is the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Challenger Shuttle disaster.

The mission designation was STS-51-L. It was to be the tenth mission for Challenger, and the twenty fifth mission the Space Shuttle Program.

It was one of the greatest failings in American space exploration, and a memory I’ll never forget.

Challenger disintegrated seventy-three seconds after liftoff. A simple seal failed, venting super-hot pressurized gas into the outside of the ship, causing the right solid rocket booster to sheer itself off from the vessel, rupturing the main external fuel tank.

Twenty-five years ago today, at roughly the time I’m writing this, seven brave men and women gave their lives in pursuit of something greater than any of us.

And as child, I watched it all happen.

I was young, very young. But I remember being in a classroom with other teachers and students, probably preschool. I remember being very excited to watch the shuttle launch. Even at that age, I understood the magic and the importance of what I was seeing. At the preschool, we watched all of the launches. It meant a disruption in the normal day’s activities, and added bonus for me.

I remember them calling all of us in. I remember the countdown. I remember the liftoff. Then I remember not understanding what had happened, and being perturbed by what happened next. One of the teachers immediately turned off the television, and ushered us all back to whatever it was we were supposed to be doing. Then I remember them talking in the hall, some of them crying.

I didn’t see another space shuttle launch until first grade. They were unsure about even letting us watch that one. You could feel the apprehension coming off the adults. They stunk of it. I guess they were afraid that seeing two launches turning into shooting stars would do horrible and irreversible things to our young minds. Me? I was just happy to get to see another shuttle launch.

And for a while in elementary school, we watched every shuttle go up. Then, gradually, it started to happen less and less. The shuttles would still going up every few months, but for some reason the teachers and students around me stopped caring.

Which I think speaks a huge volume about where the world took a misstep.

We slowly stopped caring about the bigger possibilities in life as we turned inward to cellphones and video games and the trappings of the digital age.

We started looking at space as place to hang communications satellites that would let us order more cheap things from China.

We stopped looking at it like those seven lost souls saw it. As a place to explore, to discover not just new things out in the black, but new things about ourselves and what we are capable of.

I firmly believe that space is our salvation. If we can get out of this gravity well, get up there, and see what’s out there, we have a shot at it.

But then, when I look back down at the Earth, I shake my head knowing that we’ll probably never make it there.

So, I look to you, as the child in that classroom twenty-five years ago. Don’t turn off the TV, don’t forget it is happening. Don’t let them tell you it is too expensive, or unnecessary or dangerous. Because it is the most important thing we as humans can possibly do.

Don’t let those seven have died in vain. Don’t forget about what it all means, means for us, and meant to them.

Crew of STS-51-L Challenger

Commander Francis “Dick” Scobee
Pilot Michael J. Smitd
Mission Specialist 1 Ellison Onizuka
Mission Specialist 2 Juditd Resnik
Mission Specialist 3 Ronald McNair
Payload Specialist 1 Sharon Christa McAuliffe
Payload Specialist 2 Gregory Jarvis
   

Requiescat in Pace.

From the Memphis Flyer:

6 Zachary Whitten, 28

Give Zachary Whitten one title and one word, and he’ll give you one story about Memphis — every day this year. This is the premise behind his latest endeavor, Memphis Fast Fiction.

There are other endeavors. There is the Great and Secret Thing, his collaborative website for all things artistic. “If people have the balls to stand up and say, ‘I’ve done this and I want to show it off,’ then we thought that we should give them the place to do that.” He’ll be showing off even more of his work in a graphic novel he’s working on with Lauren Rae Holtermann (also on the “20<30″ list). And this is all after hours from his job as an interactive designer for the local agency Combustion.

The native Memphian attended White Station High School, where he found an interest in theater before going to the Savannah College of Art and then farther away to Arizona to design video games.

He returned to Memphis in 2006, making a deal with himself: “You will live here until you feel like you’re in a rut.”

“I’ve been back four years … and I haven’t felt that way at all,” Whitten says. “No other place feels like Memphis.”

I want to thank the crew at the Flyer for thinking me worthy of this, and I hope that I end up being worthy of it.

Title: A Way to Die

Word: Frozen

Prompt by Kerry Crawford

200 words about the thing that really matters in life – booze.:

Baba-Yaga’s frozen tit it was cold.

He could feel his testicles pushing up ever farther into his gut – searching for any signs of warmth. He laughed at the foolishness of his balls.

For this was winter and they were in a Russian’s sac. There was no warmth anywhere to be found.

Passing by the church, he noted the orange light in the windows, curling smoke from the chimney, and hymns from the crack in the door.

He took a lantern from the church steps and continued down the road.

Trees rose up around him, blotting out the sky,

He felt the wolves before he saw their eyes. Dirty yellow asterisms, moving back and forth amongst the trees.

“Back, you pack of mongrels!”

He flung the lantern at them, sinking it into the snow.

“My mother was more a bitch than any of yours! She squatted me out on a night twice as cold as this! I am Russian! A bear fears no pack of wolves!”

They scattered into the night.

He recovered the lantern from the snow, relighting it.

After all, the church might be near, and the road dangerous. But tavern is far, so he will walk carefully.

Just a note about this one – That last line? That’s basically a paraphrasing of a real Russian proverb:

The church is near but the road is icy; the bar is far away but I will walk carefully.

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Title: Devil on My Side

Word: Hunkered

200 words about the seductive power of feeling:

The room was quiet. They looked to him. He rolled a half-finished cigar between his index finger and thumb, feeling the tobacco crackle under the pressure of his digits. After a moment he looked up at them, cleared his throat and spoke.

“It’s just a storm, boys. An’ we’re gonna do the same thing you do with any storm. We’re gonna get hunkered down some place safe and ride it out. Wait for it to pass.

“Ya see, secret is that we sell somethin’ special. A feelin’. Now, I know that you might think we’re in the booze or gamblin’ or dope or cooze business, but we ain’t. From the second they walk through the doorways of this establishment, any of our establishments, they’re feelin’ something. Feelin’ dangerous, feelin’ risky, feelin’ horny, feelin’ drunk, feelin’ all’a it.

“An’, yes, every few years, some folks get their hackles up ‘bout it. Go all spittin’ an’ yellin’ an’ get all red in the face. Convince the rest of the folk they don’t need none of what we got. But all they’s doin’ is selling their own kind of feelin’.

“Their kind’a feelin’? Ain’t got shit on ours. Just wait an’ see.“

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From Kip’s Memphrapalooza Thanksgiving Bash 2010 Photobooth Epicness that happened this weekend.

I, as I am w0nt to do, have had a terrible idea.

You see, I’ve obligated myself to write a 200 word piece of short fiction every day, for all of 2011.

I call it Memphis Fast Fiction, and you can read more about it at the site: http://www.memphisfastfiction.com/

And while you’re there, mind dropping a prompt submission into the form?

I’d appreciate it.

So, LT‘s posted this interesting writer’s prompt challenge called “Opening Lines“. She gives you an opening line, and then you run with it. The lines are all nice and loose things that can lead you in every possible direction. With my FastFiction reserves running dangerously low, this is a great way to keep my writing short, stark little bits.

I’m going to put an extra stipulation on this: each piece must be 300 words. Half again as long as my normal FastFictions, which makes these completely different gremlins to work with.

Anyway, here’s my first one.

(Fair warning – might be considered Not Safe For Work if you’ve got a place that’s really strict about text subject matter.)

The Routine

When she finally took her hands off his neck, he still wasn’t dead. Which was always a slight disappointment to her when they did things like this.

She had gone through all of the motions. Dress up in the leather. Put on the heels. Don zipper-lipped mask. Choke him ’til he cums – she didn’t even have to touch him – he’d pop on his own. And the whole while, blithely wish this would be the time that she’d hang on just a bit longer or press just a bit harder and wouldn’t have to do this ever again.

It’s not that she didn’t like it, didn’t love him. She just found all of it so boring now, so routine.

It didn’t used to be like this. It was wild and salacious at first. Dressing up in outlandish costumes, sticking things in places they’d never been before, doing it in places they shouldn’t be doing it. Fucking like they wanted to send every prude in the world screaming back into their holes. And while it lasted, it was absolutely magnificent.

But now look at them. They’d turned themselves into some kind of sexual freakshow. Hell, she couldn’t even come with out a half-frozen glass butt plug in her ass, Tom Waits’ “I Don’t Wanna Grow Up” blaring through the speaker and her husband wrist deep in her.

What she wouldn’t give for that awkward, clumsy sex she knew all those couples in places like Kansas and Ohio were having. Sex under Walmart bought sheets in flannel nightgowns. Sex where the only thing coming near her genitals were his. Simple, uncomplicated coupling. Was that really too much to ask for?

She sighed, rolled off of him, and wandered off into the kitchen to get the butt plug out of the freezer.

Title: Into The Wilds

Word: Acidic

200 words about the taste of freedom:

The arcology loomed, casting a long shadow across the veldt, the edges dithering over the lush, waving vegetation. The bottom of the setting sun is obscured by that impossibly large weave of glass, steel and concrete.

Most of his group stared up at it, slack-jawed. The inside of the arcology had been all they’d known of the world, and their grandparent’s grandparents had known of the world.

Instead, he focused on the opposite horizon. Green, endless green, spreading out in all directions.

He scratched at the bandage on his wrist. The coyotes had taken out his personal wireless transmitter. It had been a part of him since birth.

The coyotes packed their gear and started to head back to the ventilation feeder tube they used to ferry people out of the arcology.

One of them stopped and tossed him a small, round thing.

He eyed it warily.

“It’s called an apple. You eat it.” said the coyote.

He bit into it. It was sweet and slightly acidic, it crunched between his teeth, and the juices ran down over his chin. It was unlike anything he’d ever tasted.

“The trees are full of them.”

He looked up, and they were.

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