Saying Goodbye to ENGL 300

Honestly the biggest thing I was dreading about this class was the blog assignment, but over time it grew on me.  I came to love my blog, and I intend to keep it running as a sort of personal public journal, at the very least, where I catalog my journey as a writer, or just write about whatever I feel like.  As a whole, I’d say the blog assignment was the most enjoyable thing to work on in this class.

Along with that I also learned how to put together a competent professional resume as well as a cover letter, which are both incredibly important for doing anything professionally

Now comes the criticisms I guess.  I felt like the class could have been just as impactful with fewer readings.  I felt like reading most of the books we were assigned was a waste of time, and I honestly felt like kind of a chump for buying them, I could have gotten as much out of the class without spending money on an avid reader, or work.  Make Your Home Among Strangers, The Best American Essays, and The Sellout get a pass though, I liked those ones, and I’m glad that I bought them.

As a whole I enjoyed the class though, and I would definitely recommend it to any English major struggling to find their place in the professional world.

The Unfortunately Relatable Larry David

The Unfortunately Relatable Larry David

I started watching Curb Your Enthusiasm recently, and I am angry that it took me so long to get into, especially since I had grown up watching Seinfeld on weekday nights and loved it.  To give a very brief explanation of the show, it follows the misadventures of Larry David, the co-creator of Seinfeld, through Hollywood.  First off, this show is brilliant, do yourself a favor and watch it if you haven’t already, I can almost never see the jokes coming, which is a rare feat in situational comedies.  The show is semi-scripted, which means that the writers present the actors with a loose explanation of how the scene is supposed to go, and what beats the actors are supposed to hit, but other than that it is entirely improvised.  But despite how funny this show is, it’s also profoundly uncomfortable.

The reason I say this is because Larry David, or at least the fictionalized version of him portrayed in the show, is very close to the character of George in Seinfeld.  In that he is a socially clumsy putz that only makes situations worse by interacting in them.  I’d give examples, but every single joke requires too much context to set up, so instead I’ll link a few of my favorite clips.

Larry David is incapable of winning, and is insanely petty and neurotic, and unfortunately I relate too much with his character.  Watching the show, I found myself relating with the character despite his often clearly objectionable actions, which made the cringe factor of the show much more palpable for me, because I could see myself being in many of the same situations.

Often I envision the worst possible scenario when dealing with people, and I find myself in many uncomfortable situations.  To give an example, I was once talking to a girl when I was in High School, and things seemed to be going pretty well, she even sent me a topless picture once, because I was “cool”, so I figured that it was pretty much a sure thing that we’d start dating or whatever.  That was until, she asked me what my favorite Disney film was, and me being the ironic funny man that I am, said Cars 2.  She did not think it was as funny as I did, because she ghosted me shortly afterword.

Larry David also has many rules for engagement in the show, such as an aversion to stop-and-chats, which is when you see someone on the street and they stop and have a chat with you, as well as having a specific cut off for when it’s inappropriate to throw a late birthday party for someone.  I too, have such arbitrary rules, for example, my little cousin (she’s 11) sent me a chain letter saying that a friend asked her to gather prayers for someone named Dakota, who had been having seizures and had been life-flighted.  My response was “Dakota who”, because I was dubious as to whether or not Dakota existed, and if he didn’t I didn’t want to waste a prayer on him.  Eventually I found out that there was a Dakota, but it was noone she knew, and this had happened in December of last year.  It is now almost May, which is way too far past the cut off for prayers and chain letters.

Seeing the closeness between myself and the fictionalized version of Larry David is troubling to say the least.  I need to make a change, man.

Why My Immortal is the Ultimate Piece of Fiction of All Time Period Ever.

Why My Immortal is the Ultimate Piece of Fiction of All Time Period Ever.

My Immortal is a Harry Potter fan fiction written in 2007.  The story follows the author, Tara Gilesbie’s original character Ebony Dark’ness Dementia Raven Way, a 17 year old “goffik” vampire going to Hogwarts School of Witch Craft and Wizardry.  That’s about it, the story has no real discernible plot, things just sort of happen, like there’s a part early on where Ebony goes on a date with Draco Malfoy to see Good Charlotte and My Chemical Romance at Hoggsmeade, where they fall in love, later going to the forbidden forest to have sex, which is described in the story as him “putting his boy thingie in [her] you know what [and] they did it for the first time”, but their coitus is interrupted by  Dumbledore, who screams at them, “WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING YOU MOTHERFUCKERS!!!!!”, now you might be thinking to yourself, “wow, that seems pretty out of character for Dumbledore”, and you’d be right, but the author awares us that he only swore because he had a headache.

At about this point, you’re probably realizing that this fan-fiction is not actually good, and you would be right, dear reader.  In fact this is often regarded as the worst fan-fiction ever written, but why is it the worst?  Well to give a short list, it has awful two dimensional characters that always act nothing like they do in the original novels, most of them are sorted into the factions of Satanists/Goths or Preps, it has awful prose practically written in early 2000’s text speech, impossible to comprehend plot lines, the main character is a blatant Mary Sue with everything that happens to her being poorly veiled wish fulfillment, and in my opinion the worst sin this fan fiction commits is that every single time a character comes on screen, we know exactly what they’re wearing, from their head to their toes, down to what kind of makeup they’re wearing.  This last one probably sounds innocuous, but believe you me, it is grueling after 44 chapters.

Essentially this story uses every single trope that can make a fan fiction terrible, but it almost seems too good to be true, like there’s no way that it could be real, like there’s a part where Voldemort gives Ebony a gun to shoot Harry Potter (who now goes by Vampire Potter), and a part where “Morty McFli” shows up with his “blak tim machine” to take Ebony back to the future.  So this must be a piece of satire on bad fan fictions right?

Well, I honestly don’t know.

I personally think that it was written with legitimate intent because, for one this thing is 104 pages long, and there’s too much of a paper trail connected to the author, with several other accounts on websites, and honestly My Immortal is way too complicated to fake, there’s no way I could ever sit down and write something as astoundingly bad and hilarious as this.  I think of it as a movie that’s so bad its funny, you can tell when a movie was made to be bad, they stick out like a sore thumb, and they’re nowhere near as enjoyable as the genuine article.

At the end of the day though, we will never know whether or not My Immortal was written legitimately or as satire mocking fan fictions as a whole, but despite this it remains as possibly the funniest thing on the internet, and a monument to how for we’ve come since 2007.  Please read it.

Professional Profile: How the Guy Who Made Clerks Inspired Me to Do Good

Professional  Profile: How the Guy Who Made Clerks Inspired Me to Do Good

I had a pretty shitty childhood and that’s putting things mildly.  When I was seven my dad killed himself, but I don’t blame him, he was an addict and because of that he developed schizophrenia.  Voices in his head told him to hurt me and my mom, if he were able to think clearly he wouldn’t have done it.  Because of my history with it I take suicide and mental illness very seriously, it’s in my opinion that if you’re in a place where you can actually go through with it that it wasn’t your fault.   People call it the easy way out but I don’t see how that’s possible, staring down death has to be terrifying.  Anyway I digress, after my dad passed away my mom was a wreck, and again I don’t blame her.  She was an addict too, not the usual bored housewife kind that self prescribes xanies or valium, the hard-core Midwestern kind of addict.

Before watching countless documentaries and becoming a ravenous Breaking Bad fan I had already seen the inside of several meth houses although I didn’t know it at the time.  My mom later cleaned up and got her shit mostly together, she stopped doing drugs but found a new addiction in a website called MocoSpace, which was a mediocre chat site which catered to people with a disturbing lack of a life and an excess amount of time.  Her day consisted mostly of “flaming” other losers on the internet usually by taking their “pics” and editing them with this weird bootlegged looking dollar bin version of photoshop, she would edit in really shitty clip art that came with the program onto their pictures which, for some reason, infuriated them to no end.

So to sum up my childhood in a sentence: my dad was dead and my mom was incredibly distant.  I didn’t have many friends at the time, kids in elementary school didn’t want to get close to the weird fat kid with the dead dad, but it was pretty much whatever.  I had a few friends, but they were just school friends.  I’d only ever hang out with other kids when it was my birthday, and I’m fairly certain that’s only because their parents told them too, but again, it was pretty much whatever.

Fuck.

I got off topic again.  Basically the message I’m trying to push here, is that as a child I had to keep myself entertained, and how I would do that, dear reader, is by writing and watching movies.  When I was young my favorite movie was probably Dogma a religious satire made by Kevin Smith.  Dogma was probably my favorite when I was younger because I had serious doubts in god at the time, plus it was hilarious, who the fuck doesn’t love dogma?  When I grew up a little I saw Mallrats, another Kevin Smith movie and fell in love, it felt like that movie was made for me.  At around the sixth grade I discovered the joys of loitering, I got to walk around our local mall since it was within walking distance from my apartment and just hang out.  I felt like Brody, and it was great.  In high school I watched Clerks and I knew what I wanted to do with my life, I wanted to make films.

To this day Clerks remains my favorite movie, not because it’s the best movie I’ve ever seen or anything like that.   Far from it actually, that movie blows.  The quality is bad, the audio is bad, and the acting is…well the acting is actually pretty solid.  I don’t blame Kevin Smith for making a shitty looking movie; he had $27,000 to make it, which is a non-budget in the film world.  Steven Spielberg wipes his ass with $27,000 dollar bills for god’s sakes.  The reason Clerks made me want to make movies was that, and I’ll never forget this, I got done watching it and was just like “this was a successful movie?  This is what launched my favorite film maker’s career? Well… I could do better than that.”

Some people have heroes like Ghandi, ya’ know, people that made these big sweeping changes to the world around them.  My hero is Kevin Smith, the guy who made Clerks, the guy who talks about cum a lot, and the guy that really put it in my head that I didn’t want to die screaming and have nothing to show for it.  Let me contextualize this for a second, Kevin Smith’s dad, Don Smith, “worked at the U.S Postal Service and hated it like a jihadist” (Smith, 3) and “he raised three kids on a meager post office salary doing a job he abjectly detested…The least the universe could’ve done for this guy was to put him to bed quietly.” (Smith, 7) but instead he died screaming as he stared down massive heart failure. Now this is where Kevin Smith drops a massive truth bomb: “In the face of such hopelessness as out eventual, un-avoidable death, there is little sense in not at least trying to accomplish all of your wildest dreams in life.” (Smith, 7)

This might seem fairly obvious to everyone else, like, “try for your goals?  Of course!” but growing up I never really got encouragement for that kind of thing, even to this day my grandma likes to subtly hint that I should become a therapist so I can “analyze” our family, she’d do this after every single family blowout, usually within earshot of whoever she was arguing with.  My grandma was pretty passive aggressive and it never took a PHD in psychology to figure that one out.  Anyway…uh…where was I going?  Oh.  Realistic goals, right.  I remember one time I was staying with my aunt and uncle for a while because my mom and step dad (at the time) had gotten into an earth shattering fight, he called her an “Adderall junkie” and she said that she didn’t like being called a “fat cunt”, being hit, and seeing him drink all the time, unreasonable demands I know.  So I split because it was going on nightly and there wasn’t a whole lot of time to be the midnight fight mediator and study.

At the time I wanted to be a comedian because I was depressed and loved getting kicked in the teeth by rejection and I was pretty funny too so I said “well I’d better chase ‘dem dreams!”  And chase ‘dem dreams I did not.  After getting really jazzed up about my new found career choice I decided to announce my life plans to my middle class aunt in medical sales and my uncle in construction work and surprise surprise they weren’t thrilled.  At first they acted pretty supportive but warned me about the hard work I’d be facing, which I was totally ok with.  The next day I went down stairs for breakfast before school and saw a printed page on the table “huh, what’s this” I thought with curious delight.  I will never forget what was on the page: Why Following Your Dreams is one of the WORST Career Moves You Can Make.  It was pretty clear what direction they wanted me to move in career wise.

I chose to stick with my aspirations despite the passive aggressive play pretty much just to spite them.  I have this big problem with authority for some reason; I don’t like doing what people tell me to do, but this time was different.  Seeing that article on the table really really REALLY rubbed me the wrong way so I was going to be an unbreakable wall of will power.  I wasn’t going to back down.  I was going to become a comedian.

Later on it turned out to be just a phase, I didn’t actually want to become a comedian.  That shit’s hard and I didn’t/don’t have the stage presence or confidence to even think about trying that.  But story teller?  That was something I could do, and Smith’s advice to try for it really got to me.  I don’t want to die screaming with nothing to show for it, and in this world good men die screaming.

I knew with certainty what I wanted to do with my life after seeing Clerks with grown up eyes the same way Smith knew what he wanted to do after seeing Richard Linklater’s Slacker. In the book The Film That Changed My Life Kevin Smith cited Slacker as the film that changed his, it was “insanely liberating for [him], and very inspiring. Because it was like, ‘So you can make a movie about anything, apparently.’ ” (Smith) and three years later he did just that with a film about two register jockeys Dante and Randal, based on him and his good friend  Bryan Johnson respectively.  Almost all of Smith’s films are very personal to him, Clerks and Mallrats were both films made with his friends in mind knowing that nobody else was going to make a movie about them, Dogma was about him growing up catholic, and Chasing Amy (his most mature film) was about his own sexual insecurities.  Kevin Smith described his early film making process as “taking [his] heart, chunky pieces of [his] heart out, slapping them on a platter projecting it and saying ‘do you understand?’” (Smith, Masterclass) So watching Smith’s movies and falling in love with them all those years ago I was falling in love with Smith (strictly platonic I swear.)  When I figured that out, I knew what I wanted to do more than ever, I wanted to write for myself, I didn’t give a shit about making mainstream garbage, I didn’t want to be Michael Bay or Steven Spielberg, I wanted to be Kevin Smith.

 

 

Continue reading “Professional Profile: How the Guy Who Made Clerks Inspired Me to Do Good”

No Name Reading Reflection

No Name Reading Reflection

No Name is a monthly event where graduate students at the English Department of UNL do live readings of their prose as well as poetry.  I had gone to a few No Name readings before, but this one was special, because it was my first one being 21.  Did I mention these readings happen at a bar?  Because they are.  The venue they use is Barrymore’s, located on the south side of the Rococo Theatre, and let me just say, it has a very cool atmosphere, because it still has a lot of the trappings of a theatre’s backstage

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So with that being said, it makes sense why it’s also called “The Backstage Bar”.  So yeah, the venue was very cool, but the atmosphere of the event was awesome to say the least, it was great seeing members of the department hanging out and supporting each other’s writerly endeavors.  I think the coolest thing about it, was that each reader had another grad student give their introduction for them, and you could feel a sense of genuine comradery  among them.

Unfortunately though, I had just turned 21 a few days prior, so I went a little ham when given the opportunity to drink at a school related function legally, so I can’t really remember any of the reader’s names, or anything, just vague outlines of their pieces, I do remember that one of the women read some really kick ass poetry though.

All in all I’d highly recommend going to a No Name reading when they resume in the fall, although I wouldn’t necessarily recommend mixing different liquors unless you happen to hate yourself like I do.

The Sellout: A biting satire of “Post-Racial” America

The Sellout: A biting satire of “Post-Racial” America

I’ve never exactly been sure what “post-racial” meant, much like the term postmodernism, or Kafkaesque, I’d heard it used before, but never actually knew the exact definition, so I decided to look into the meaning of the hyphenate, and the definition I found was “denoting or relating to a period or society in which racial prejudice and discrimination no longer exist”, which is a ludicrous concept.  As it turns out, there are people actually believe that we live in a post-racial society, however from watching the news for even a half hour on any given day, we know this is false.  However, I suppose there are enough white people out there who claim to be “colorblind”, or that they can’t be racist because they had a black president, or because they really liked The Wire.  Anyway, with only the results of the 2016 election in mind, we know that post-racial america doesn’t exist.

Paul Beatty’s novel The Sellout takes aim at the concept of a post-racial America, and does a fantastic job of lampooning it.  Our first introduction to the main character and narrator of the novel is him on trial at the Supreme Court, openly smoking weed, with his opening line being “This may be hard to believe, coming from a black man, but I’ve never stolen anything”, which essentially sets the provocative comedic tone for the novel.  No, rather than being on trial for what one would consider a stereotypical black crime, such as stealing, or drug sales (although he does make money selling pot off horseback), his crime, as he describes it:  “I’ve whispered ‘Racism’ in a post-racial world.” To be more specific though, he is on trial for owning a slave and resegregating his hometown of Dickens.  So, yeah, this book is pretty outrageous in its material.

Now, while I understand that it is insanely difficult to see humor in dark subjects such as, slavery, police brutality, gangs, and issues of race, but you have to believe me when I say this, Paul Baetty pulls humor out of these subjects masterfully, I can’t tell you how many times I busted out laughing reading this novel.

After inheriting an urban farm from his deceased father, who was killed by police officers, the narrator’s hometown of Dickens is wiped off the map, literally.  The town, while still actually existing, is no longer represented on maps, and road signs leading to the town are no longer where they aught to be.  This destroys the narrator’s friend Hominy Jenkins, a fictionalized version of the actor who played Buckwheat in the Little Rascals, best known for playing stereotypical African American roles.  Hominy, being Dickens’ most famous resident, fears that he’ll no longer get visits from his fans, so naturally he begs the narrator to keep him as a slave.  So the two set out to put Dickens back on the map, which ends with them instituting segregation back into the community, much to the chagrin of my absolute favorite character, Foy Cheshire, who re-writes Huckleberry Finn, but replaces all uses of the n-word with “warrior”, and slave with “dark-skinned volunteer”, the title of this new version being “The Pejorative-Free Adventures and Intellectual and Spiritual Journeys of African-American Jim and His Young Protégé, White Brother Huckleberry Finn as They Go in Search of the Lost Black Family Unit”.

Essentially what I’m saying here, is that the plot of this book is absolutely absurd, which makes sense given the absurdity of what it’s setting out to mock.  Essentially the goal of satire is to exaggerate and attack societal issues, and when the thing you’re exaggerating is already as absurd as the idea of a “post-racial” america, you have to bring out the big guns.

Paul Baetty’s The Sellout is a hilarious novel unconcerned with with offending readers, which is an incredible change of pace, given our society’s propensity to engage in outrage.  All in all, I’d say that this was probably a more enjoyable read than A Little Life.

Based on NPR’s review of The Sellout

What We Do in the Shadows: the Hilarity of Supernatural Mundanity

What We Do in the Shadows: the Hilarity of Supernatural Mundanity

I recently watched the 2014 mockumentary horror comedy film “What We Do in the Shadows”, a movie about four vampires living together in a flat in 2013 New Zealand.  The film stars and is directed by Jermaine Clement and Taika Waititi, best known for Flight of the Concords and “The Hunt For the Wilderpeople” respectively.  To sum up the feel of the film, it’s like a mixture between classic vampire lore and “This is Spinal Tap”, and the results are hilarious.

One of my favorite thing about this movie is that it deals with the minutia of everyday (un)life for the vampiric housemates; to give a few examples, we see them brushing their teeth, their hobbies (one of the vampires very much enjoys knitting), and how they delegate house chores, such as doing dishes.  This film is littered with hilarious scenes showing the vampires using their powers to accomplish very mundane goals, such as using their powers of levitation to vacuum hard to reach areas, and using their powers of persuasion to enthrall victims into doing their laundry.   In one scene, they make mention of the fact that Vampires don’t have reflections, so to that end it is incredibly difficult to know how they look, so to get around this they draw portraits of eachcother to show them how their outfits look.

However, despite how often they use their unholy powers to accomplish mundane tasks, we’re often reminded that these vampires are the real deal, they kill people by feasting on their blood, and by establishing this juxtaposition the film makes the brutal scenes more brutal, and the scenes dealing with everyday life even funnier.  Well, let me explain why exactly I think this is funny.

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Pictured here is a venn diagram, showing why exactly this movie works so well.  By crossing over the supernatural, which often encompasses things that are beyond comprehension, such as ghosts, werewolves, and vampires, beings that we don’t usually imagine doing anything other than spooky supernatural stuff like, disemboweling people or haunting houses.  So, when we cross the supernatural into the realm of reality, things that are very relatable, like arguing about chores with your roommates, it creates a hilarious juxtaposition where we’re forced to relate with the unrelatable.

In short I loved “What We Do in The Shadows”, it’s a hilarious film that explores the mundanity of supernatural life in the modern era.  If I had to rate the film on an arbitrary scale, I’d give “What We Do in the Shadows”:

I loved it out of approximately twelve or so stars

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