Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Queen + Paul Rodgers



So my brother is ga-ga for Queen. He has a tatoo of the Queen crest on his arm that even Brian May was astounded by, back when we met him in 1998 (also in Chicago). Aaron had him autograph his arm (yep) which he then had tatooed. So you get an idea of what we're talking about when he tells me Queen is back on tour in the States for the first time since 1981, and we're going. No matter what.

We actually saw two concerts: Chicago on Thursday, and St. Paul on Sunday. The pics are from Chicago, where we were able to smuggle the camera in (good thing; how sweet are these 8th row pics?). We got to our lovely hotel at the end of a runway in Elk Grove around 1 PM, and then I hightailed it downtown to visit Lisa and Matt. I felt terrible being in a rush, because I wanted to spend lots of time with them, and Chicago is still my first love, but I had to be back at All State Arena by 7:30, and I had over an hour commute each way. So the three of us made due at Rock Bottom (we had dreams of Uno's, but alas...) and I made it back, just in time. The show was fantastic. It was great to see the band live, and hear the songs again. I was iffy on the prospect of Paul Rodgers (or anybody) replacing Freddie Mercury, but Freddie was front and center in everyone's hearts and minds. His voice started off the show, and he sang "Bohemian Rhapsody" to the crowd via the miracle of modern technology. And Paul Rodgers fit right in. He sounded great. So did Brian May:



The highlights for me were Brian May's guitar solo (which was even more stupefying in St. Paul), "Radio Ga Ga", and "Under Pressure." Halfway through the concert I had lost hearing in my left ear -- no lie -- and I was very concerned, but it came back. So did the flu. The day after I was sicker than a dog, and I could barely stand up in St. Paul. I'd never been there before, and I found it very beautiful on the river. It reminded me a little of Dubuque, but much bigger. By the time we got there, though, I was dragging. I'm glad I made it, because the band was on a whole new level Sunday night. They killed out there from the get-go and were much looser and comfortable on stage than they seemed in Chicago (apparently Brian May was suffering from pain he sustained after falling into a piano pit). I put everything into clapping hands for "Radio Ga Ga":



But after that, I was spent. And I'm really feeling it now. But I wouldn't have missed it for the world. Queen is one of the greatest bands ever, and good for them they're able to go back out and play the songs for people. I'm sure Freddie would have wanted it that way.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Why I'm Not Posting

I'm really, really sick. And I'd been doing so well. I came down with the flu pretty bad after Chicago and I've lost my voice. There's lots of stuff I see while I browse that I want to link to, but then I go, 'But that means work.' So check out the links on the side, and check back here, I promise I'll have pics of Chicago and a story to boot.

Update: Kat sent me this. So nice, thank you Kat. And also Ben now has a MySpace page.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Stay Tuned

I'm going to have a big post soon about my trip yesterday to Chicago to see Queen + Paul Rodgers at All State Arena, as well as my way too brief visit with Lisa and Matt, but since I'm so tired I can't sleep:

Sugu sent me this. Maybe it would have made more sense 15 years ago when 5 million people cared.

99 Red Balloons! For an hour!

I'm not happy with any of my writing lately. I'm not even excited to sit down and work on it. Some stories come, and I have ideas for some, but I spend less and less time with the novels. The irony is, it's by design. I really wanted to be creative outside of slavish, monkish devotion to endless writing, and now that I have, editing the zine, doing a little photography, I feel like I'm having a nic fit or something. Maybe I need to be 100% devoted to the writing, or else it suffers. A person can't be, though, which is why I started asking for some space. There's life, too. You can't spend all your time living inside your head. But maybe you don't have a choice. You do what you're meant to do. If you turn your back on it, it leaves you, and you understand the meaning Mephistophilies gave Hell.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

The Phantom Of The Vendetta



I saw 'V For Vendetta' today, at the newly reopened Crossroads Theaters. It's bigger. That's about all I can say about it. As for the movie, it's entertaining. It starts off thrillingly, and like too many movies these days, loses nearly all of its narrative energy in about 20 minutes. We get spoon fed a lot of stuff in the middle that should be shown instead of told (interestingly, we get scenes reported to us by characters that then proceed to be dramatized, piecemeal). Natalie Portman is cute as a button, speaks in a passable English accent, and Hugo Weaving does a lot of thankless acting behind a mask.

The biggest issue by far is whether the film glorifies terrorism. I applaud the filmmakers for even raising the question of when is terrorism justified, and they do a reasonable job of leaving the question up to the viewer, but the film confuses the issue. For one, terrorism, the murder of innocents, is never justified. Period. Once you commit to random bloodshed of this sort, you conceed defeat. Your objectives can't be attained militarily, or politically. Terrorism, as widespread and horrific as it is, has never achieved anything for its proponents other than protracted semi-warfare that states either learn to accept (Israel) or will not tolerate (America). The film wants to have V a rebel against a vicious, Nazi style regime. No one would object to standing up to this kind of oppression, but V doesn't kill innocent people. He murders the architects of his country's facisim, and destroys its monuments. The destruction of Parliment is truly breathtaking -- literally -- but you can't imagine Americans thinking Timothy McViegh justified in his actions. To take it a step further, no campaign of domestic terrorism aimed at destabilizing the Bush administration would garner the support of Americans, regardless of their political leanings. Anarchy in the USA? Sure. T for terrorism? Never.

Monday, March 20, 2006

'Loo Go Bragh

The midwestern IWP squad came to Waterloo to celebrate St. Patrick's Day this weekend. I spent some time playin Virgil in Dante's Inferno, giving the tour of Hell, and we did lots of fun things, like walk the nature trail, crash the Bosnian bar because Jameson's was over capacity, and witness truly cutting edge karoke at the Tymes, where everyone leaves a little uglier than they did when they got there. There were some things we didn't get to do. The open mic at the Arts Center was a bust (a bigger heads up than a note on the door might have helped), Jameson's was too crowded like I said (apparently Ben was there the same time we were -- could have been standing right next to him and not known it), and we didn't play Pitch! We forgot! But I'm so happy and glad they all came and enjoyed Waterloo. I'm sorry the others couldn't make it, but there's always another get togther around the corner.

Co, Matt, and Lisa in awe of the Tymes' karoke:


Andrew appreciates the Tymes:


Me and Mandy at some point between "Sweet Home Alabama" and "White Wedding":


Exploring the woods out at Cedar Bend with Amy and Co's dog Dharma:


Dharma identifies an enemy target in the water and engages:


Wrapping up Saturday night:


The best news: Amy and Co are pregnant! I'm so happy for them. Congratulations and salinte!

Friday, March 17, 2006

Deoch An Dorrias

Going silent this weekend, as all Celtic hell is about to break out up in this peace. I leave you with a parting shot (again, not a 'Loo shot -- wither the 'Loo shot?):

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Runway Withdrawal

I admit it. One week later, and life after Project Runway is difficult. Of course, there's the Sopranos, but no new tirades from Santino? No more German goodbyes from Darth Klum? Sigh. Luckily, there is life after Runway. First, I found this blog devoted entirely to the show, with lots of links to the designers sites (and their own blogs). And of course Bravo has TONS of videos and material to keep you going for a while, including a video of Kara Janx's Fashion Week collection. Yeah, she didn't make the cut, but she showed, and good lord. I always liked her best, but if she had been contending... I could listen to her voice all day. If I had an iPod, that's all I'd do. Kara talking, on
shuffle. I need help.

My novel hates me. But two days until St. Patty's!!!

Monday, March 13, 2006

Metamorphosis

The winning entry in the Main St. Waterloo / Metro Arts Guild 10th Anniversary Poster Contest, 'Metamorphosis', by the Bros. Harn:



I know it doesn't show a lot of detail, but hopefully you get the idea. Very happy and proud of it. And this, too:



Once again, all the lettering and the logo are tentative, but I think this is very close to what the final product will look like. Since I put up the last cover version, I've switched the zine format to legal size paper, so that explains the new rectangleness. Legal looks better, feels better, and plus, it gets all the material in, which letter size utterly failed to do.

I'm Feeling Lucky

The Google map of Mars!. From Caitlin R. Kiernan. This is funny because I was talking with my friends Osie and Kyle the other day about space, and the private sector taking up the plunge into space, and how it would likely be a company -- Google -- that lands on Mars first.

I'm looking forward to V For Vendetta, even if Alan Moore isn't. I admire his uncompromising creativity, and I've always admired the original graphic novel, but wanting to take his name off it? The movie, okay. But the book?

I got back into the novel last night after taking a few days off. 146 pages now. As Tim Gunn of Project Runway would say, I'm trying to 'Make it work.' I wonder if it's this book that's so difficult, or this is the future of my writing. The more you know. The more you learn of craft, the more considerations you have, and for someone like me, who tends to fly through first drafts so I can whittle it all down later, it's like putting the brakes on. You have to consider all that there is to consider. So it makes the process slower, but better. I hope.

Only five more days until St. Patty's, and the IWP crew arrives! A good number of them, anyhow. I can hardly contain my excitement. I only hope the weather behaves, and they don't all find Waterloo oppressively boring.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Diamonds In The Rough

Happy to announce that my brother and I won the Main St. Waterloo 10th Anniversary Poster Contest, co-sponsored by the Metro Arts Guild. Our piece, entitled "Metamorphisis", is on display at the gallery -- unless it's somewhere else now. I'll try and get a scan of it to put up on the blog (why didn't you think of that before, Darby?)

There's a new literary journal out there called A Public Space that could not have started off better. The contributors and bredth of the material really has me excited not just to pick this up, but submit there as well. The coolest thing is they have a new story by Kelly Link. Check out the excerpt.

My own zine, Other Than, continues on pace toward completion. It seems like I may be hosting a joint reading at the gallery to launch it along side Osie's Murmur, which would be very cool and exciting.

The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter made it safely into orbit.

Lay Down Your Burdens

So I'm a huge fan of the new version of Battlestar Galactica. It's like an HBO show, but in space. I saw the second season finale, in which the producers take an enormous risk at the end by (SPOILERS) moving the series ahead in time by one year, and rebooting everything; relationships, the setting, even hair-do's (big no-no). I'm of two minds on it. I think the folks over at Coalescent say it best. BSG has been burning through its limitless story possibilites all year.

It started with the Pegasus arc. Honestly, the two ships coming to blows and the internal struggle between Adama and Cain should have played out over several episodes. Instead, she's dead in a couple, and so are two other would be commanders of that ship. And last night, Ron Moore, who's been a hero of mine since The Next Generation, runs through an entire season in a half hour. A half hour tacked on to the regular runtime. I applaud the risk taking. It sets BSG apart. But why the rush? And at the expense of so many characters and relationships. Callie's pregnant? What? What came of the budding relationship between Adama and Roslin? They had a perfectly fine cliffhanger with Baltar becoming President. I worry for the show's long term viability. One of the joys of a show like this is the slow accumulation of mythology. BSG seems intent on outrunning this. True, it's behaved as if genre trappings were just that. Burdens. The Sopranos has a mythology. So does Deadwood and any other quality show you can name. I say slow it down.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Got Water?

No 'Loo Slice this week. More like Saturn slice:



The tiny, until obscure as hell moon of Saturn called Enceladus has LIQUID WATER it routinely shoots out into space through geysers that make Yellowstone look like a bone-dry Super Soaker. Not only that, but the geyser plumes the Cassini space probe flew through last summer contain several organic materials.

Um... so when do we go? Mars, Europa, Titan, and now Enceladus are all huge reasons for us to get our act together space program wise and get up there double quick.

I finished a new short story tonight. A short sort of Kafka-esque piece that's very strange and unusual for me. I really like it, though. It's stark and bleak and unreal, irreal, however you want to say it. I also read just an amazing story by E. Sedia. I love it. I love all her writing. Also spent the most of the day doing the final proofing on the galley of my story "Paper Man", which will appear in Shimmer #3 this spring. I also answered some questions for an interview (my first interview!) that will appear on their website at some point.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Auf Wiedersehen!

One of those nights I really wish I was back in IC: I missed Kevin Brockmeier's reading at Prairie Lights. I really want to get a hold of his book which sounds very interesting to me, because it sounds like it comes from the same crazy sort of place the Angel Book did. I love stories about death and what's after. What could be more exciting or adventuresome? "Death would be an awfully big adventure."

As is the usual, after writing ten pages or more of my novel in one sitting, I've taxed myself out. I wrote a little last night, but tonight, nothing. Exhaustion. Except the finale of Project Runway is on! I like them all. I thought Daniel V. was a lock until I saw his final looks, which didn't measure to the creativity he established for himself during the show. Mandy and I were talking about how there should be a PR style show for writers. A workshop where each week someone gets eliminated. The red check mark or something. It would be hysterical. You kind of already had that atmosphere in the actual workshop environment. It could be very competitive and cutthroat at times. Some people didn't survive. I remember the instructor of a poetry class I took (he was also a student in the Iowa MFA program) came in one day after being 'eliminated' let's say, and said, "My life is over." And all the German girls say Auf Wiedersehen!

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

More Bad, More Good, The Everyday Cycle

Dana Reeve, 1961-2006. Life is ridiculously unfair.

But it has its moments. My dear friend Ilona is getting married. Congratulations to her and to the lucky fellow.

I recieved an extraordinary poem today from my old friend and mentor Daniel Dahlquist for the first issue of Other Than. I wouldn't be where I am, on this road and journey, if it wasn't for him. The zine is very nearly complete, just a couple more contributions to go. Early May still looks like the target date for printing.

I had a very good night with the novel last night. I ended up with something like 137 pages, so I wrote about ten new pages. The new issue of Bookslut is out, which contains a great interview with Jonathan Ames, which deals in part with point of view. That's a big part of the challenge with this novel. Like the Angel Book, I'm trying to bend and stretch first person as far as I possibly can, finding ways to open it up more, to allow it to insinuate itself into omniscence. And I like what Ames said about using first person to get into the character; you can do this with third person as well, but first is almost like playing a part, creating a voice, mannerisms, and tics.

Monday, March 06, 2006

The Good With The Bad

Good news: Maureen McHugh's Hodgkin's has NOT returned! Commence with the Peanuts happy dance wherever you presently are.

Bad news: Hall of Famer Kirby Puckett has passed away at 45.

If only Ground Zero could be like this.

Through Maureen's blog I discovered there is another Darby who writes. I admit it. I've been cloning myself.

I watched the Oscars last night, despite having seen only one of the films nominated (owing to a combination of our local theater being closed, and those little films never coming here anyway -- well, Capote is playing here right now). I liked George Clooney's pride at not being in the mainstream, but I didn't like the Academy's making a darling of Brokeback Mountain only to give the Best Picture to Crash, the only film I'd seen, which despite it's pedigree is undeserving. I think it will be remembered more in the future as the first Best Picture shot in HD video -- yep, it was -- than a piece of art that reflects the times it was made in.

I wrote four pages in the novel last night. 127, now. Every time I sit down with it, it's a struggle, but nevertheless I manage to eke out something. I found myself going through an old book by Tom Gunning on the films of Fritz Lang, submerging once again into the stark isolation and paranoia of those beautiful films, searching for inspiration. This novel contains elements of noir, both the literary and cinema styles, plays with some of the tropes, like the lone anti-hero and the femme fatale (in this case, the same person), while at the same time it plays with sci-fi tropes in a way I hope (and pray) is somehow unique. We'll see. I also began a new short story, which feels very differet from the others I've written; it certainly wants to lead me away from the safe and familiar.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

You Like Me, You Really Like Me

Nick Mamatas drops the bomb on yesterday's NY Times article by Dave Itzkoff:

'The often comfortable, sometimes fascist, middle has just enough leverage and dough to insulate themselves from much social change, and when the dough runs out they're the ones who slap on the Hugo Boss suits and the armbands and try to drag the world back into some Golden Age bereft of labor unions, international capital, and Jews. Not people you want to agitate too much, at least not on your first time out as an SF critic.'

So does Matt Cheney. On second read (which is where this seems to really reveal itself to everyone) the review/manifesto seems to relay more of Itzkoff's concerns with the social status of the sci-fi reader than it does the problems of the genre. I think Ben Marcus had this out with Jon Franzien back in Harper's, where Marcus took Franzien to task for putting the Reader before the innovation and challenge of fiction. Itzkoff seems to want some elements of sci-fi to do away with -- well, some sci-fi elements -- so that mainstream readers of books Oprah might suggest (like The Corrections?) will not ridicule or shun him on the subway. Like I said yesterday, boilerplate sci-fi doesn't always interest me, but I wouldn't ever concern myself with who noticed me reading it. Part of science fiction's appeal has always been, for me, its outsider quality. Should it be accepted as a geniune literary form? Absolutely. Is it? Absolutely. Does everyone need to read it to validate my existence? No.

Read Kelly Link's Magic For Beginners for free.

I have a novel I'm supposed to be writing. Except I'm thinking of another all the time. Thinking isn't cheating, is it? Maybe Itzkoff should ask his subway peers what books they're really thinking about when they're reading The Kite Runner. I have an idea for a story, I think; I have a beginning, and I don't know if it's to a story, or a poem, or something else entirely.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Worth A Thousand Words

I laughed at this because it's true.

My friend Osie sent me this review that elaborates on the divide between sci-fi as a genre and mainstream fiction. This article isn't saying it, but when I hear 'sci-fi' (or insert genre here) should be more accessible, I hear those guys like Michael Medved who appointed themselves guardians of Middle America, and want Hollywood to make movies everyone wants to see. Not smart, challenging artistic films like the ones nominated for the Oscars this year, but stupider, less diverse films that don't threaten anyone's politics or sexuality. Some sci-fi does read like an instruction manual. It doesn't interest me personally. It never really did. I love spaceships and robots and all of that, but stopping to explain it can be fatal. It doesn't really matter how it works, unless all you care about is how it works, and certainly some people do. You don't stop in the middle of a story to explain how a Toyota works, for instance.

Osie also sent me a preview of his upcoming zine, Murmur, which looks amazing. Hopefully he'll let me show a little of it on here. I love that there is art down here in Waterloo, I love that I'm able to be a part of it. That excites me, and it frustrates me too, because this place has been so dry for so long, some people don't know how to drink. Progress is progress when you move forward. Doesn't matter how slow. Progress isn't saying you're making progress and then saying that over and over again. It's art. Show, don't tell.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Big-Boned Wednesday

They're making a movie of "Until Gwen," a short story by Dennis lehane, and one of my favorites from this year's Best American Series.

Nick Mamatas interviews NOLA writer Poppy Z. Brite about Mardi Gras and the slow recovery.

The coolest nebula I've ever seen:



I'll have to crib it for my book. Which I didn't write today. Bad me.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Coming Soon To A Newstand Near You

I'm very happy and excited to give you an early look at the cover to inagural issue of Other Than, art by my brother, Aaron Harn:



I really like it. It sort of jumps out and grabs you. All the type is temporary placeholder stuff, especially the logo, which reflects the original title. The new logo will be very similar, but of course say Other Than. I will include all the contributors in that little grid space on the back cover, once they're all set in stone, as is the style of many lit journals. This zine wouldn't be anything without the faith and contributions of very sweet and talented people. The plan right now is for the zine to debut in May -- I'll have a final cover before then.

Wrote 5 new pages in the novel tonight, which makes it a couple nights in a row, and it's the most consistent novel writing I've done in a while. 124 pages. I'm getting more comfortable with the story, though I still have no clue where it's headed. Though I know now the last line. Always cool to know that, even if it changes.

Film classics. By bunnies.