Toward a Sociedade Alternativa (Alternative Society) (Song of the Week, 1/31/14)

Freedom

Last September, Bruce Springsteen played here in Brazil for the first time in twenty-five years (!), opening his shows with a cover of Brazilian star Raul Seixas’s song “Sociedade Alternativa,” a paean to progressivism, freedom, and the counter-culture. To celebrate my own Brazilian experience, that’s our Song of the Week. If you’re curious to see an English translation of the lyrics, go here; if you want to hear Bruce’s full two hours and forty-three minute show from Rock in Rio 2013 (an awesome set in which, among other things, Bruce and the E Streeters play the entirety of the Born in the USA album from start to finish), go here.

HIRING ARTIST TESS FOWLER: GOOD IDEA OR BAD?

Tess Fowler, Artist

Hmm. Interesting.

For those who have been following the unfortunate tale of my wasting a thousand bucks on artist Tess Fowler and getting absolutely nothing but grief in return, there is some new information. This may be of particular interest to anyone who may consider hiring Tess for similar work.

I have been very open about my experience with Tess, how Ms. Fowler and I had a falling out and I lost a lot of cash. But I’d assumed that I was at least partially at fault, that even with her reactions to my criticisms and her hostility and refusal to negotiate and get back to work (or refund any of the money), that if I had somehow found the right words, perhaps we would have reconciled, and perhaps Tess Fowler would have then finished the job like a professional.

However, since posting my fully documented account of that experience, I have heard from not one, not two, but several others who have all started their messages with essentially the same statement:

It’s not you, it’s her.

Apparently, Tess Fowler is starting to be known for this sort of thing. While she promotes herself as a professional artist who is too cool for school to work for big companies, she is apparently leaving a chain of broken promises and unearned payments in her wake. It’s not my place to make public the specifics of what I’ve been told by the folks who’ve contacted me (though I wish they’d go public as I have, for the benefit of all the folks who may yet suffer as we have), but apparently Tess has a tendency to make big promises then react very, very badly at the first sign of disagreement or tough critique. She disavows even the tiniest bit of responsibility and turns very nasty very quickly, accusing her former collaborators of being horrible people of some sort (in my case, I was mentally unbalanced and potentially dangerous), and refusing to deal with them at all thereafter.

(Tess also publicly accused me of “stalking” her when I posted my full account of our disastrous collaboration. Apparently, if you hire someone, pay them a lot of money, then send them a few messages and try to call them to see if they’re going to do the job they hired on to do, that’s stalking.)

As I said, I have heard this from several independent sources over the past few weeks, and I’ve even been privy to the exact communications that passed between some of these folks and Tess. I am naturally interested in hearing from any others; I’ll keep your secrets, though I do encourage you to post a public, objective account of what happened. And my blog is available as a forum for all of you: feel free to comment below any of my posts on the matter, and if you need a place to post your full account, you can do it here with my blessing.

For the record: I am only passing on what I have been told here, and in some cases what I have seen in shared documentation. But that documentation was very convincing, and having been through what I went through hiring Tess Fowler as an artist, I’m convinced that it’s true.

UPDATE: Another victim has come forward and agreed to share his story. You can read about it here.

UPDATE: Tess victimizes the creator of the comic Rat Queens and his wife. Read it here.

The Creature from the Blog Lagoon (ABC Wednesday, 1/29/14)

C is for Creature

We all know the creature.

The monster. The dangerous thing, stalking, creeping, hunting in the silence of the night. Hairy, clawed, savage. Less than human…or is it?

For me, and many others who grew up with Universal monster movies, the word creature evokes the Creature From The Black Lagoon. Who, when you get down to it, is clawed and savage, but not so hairy. The Creature stalks and kidnaps the gorgeous Julie Adams, mesmerized by her preternatural beauty, no doubt with thoughts of ichthyological rape and scaly little spawn cavorting in the lagoon’s dark waters. The movie he’s in is undeniably a “monster movie,” but is he a monster? No. But he is, obviously, a beast, an animal, an inhuman thing. A creature. He operates on instinct more than thought, and in his case, because he comes into conflict with anti-instinctual man, it proves his undoing. Had he stayed hidden, not tried to woo, in his way, the beauty (a common failing among beasts), he would never have been harpooned, brought to man’s world, had his gills sliced off (a clumsy attempt to make a man of him), and ultimately killed.

Stories often warn us that this is what will happen if we let our creature side out. Our instinct. Our wild. Our Id. We aren’t animals, right? Never mind the blood and bile, our often maddening emotional lives, our wonderfully messy means of procreation. The fangs in our mouths, the hair on our pelts.

I’ve always been fascinated with werewolves, and themes of transformation often manifest in my writing. Often the transfiguration is into a wilder state, like the werewolf, rather than an “ascended” state. But is it therefore a devolution? Or is it an imperfect call toward wholeness? I believe we are at our best when we are comfortable with both sides of our nature, the primal and the thoughtful, the rational and the passionate. Be a creature and be a man. Be a creature and be a woman. Be complete.

Evolution isn’t a paved road away from the creature, it’s a forest path toward a better creature.

C

I’ll return next Wednesday with the letter D. I hope you’ll stop by. I’m a writer and I post about a wide variety of non-alphabet-specific topics. Feel free to comment under my posts. If you want to subscribe to the blog, there’s a button in the sidebar.

For another fun ABC Wednesday post, visit the Carioca Witch here: Bringing Up Salamanders.

Find many more posts by others, and more info on ABC Wednesday, here: ABC Wednesday

10(ish) Books

It’s one of those memes spreading across Facebook, but one that actually has some merit (to my mind) in that it is designed to engage folks in conversations about books they love:

Rules: In your status line, list 10 books that have stayed with you in some way. Don’t take more than a few minutes and don’t think too hard – they don’t have to be the “right” or “great” works, just the ones that have touched you.

I like that. I like that it specifies “books that have stayed with you in some way” rather than your all-time favorites. “Ones that have touched you.” I wouldn’t even start trying to list my favorite ten books of all time, but I’m happy to list a few favorites that moved me and now come to mind.

I also like the exercise well enough to share it here, for posterity, rather than as just a mote of data washing by in the social media stream. And I won’t simply list the books, I’ll tell you something about them, and about what they mean to me. (This also fits in with my recent pledge to get back to regularly reviewing books I read).

And I’ll do it now. Here they are, in no particular order:

Something_wicked_this_way_comes

Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury This one would be on my list of all-time favorites if I ever made it. A tale of two small town boys, friends, born on opposite sides of midnight Halloween night, facing the surreal and terrifying threats of a dark circus that comes to town one chill night. This is a book about childhood and magic and dreams and libraries and laughter and books. Ray Bradbury was the writer who inspired me to officially decide I was going to be a writer, and this is his very best. It also makes me think of my best friend of many years, Rusty, the Will Halloway to my Jim Nightshade in the dyad of our youth.

WintersTale

Winter’s Tale by Mark Helprin Another wonderful book, an epic tale of fantasy and magic realism which explores New York City and life from all sorts of whimsical and tragic directions. I don’t know much about Mark Helprin as a person (I do know he supported and wrote speeches for Bob Dole, which deeply disappointed me at the time but seems a nearly insignificant fault in light of the monstrous Republicans who replaced Dole on the national scene), but he’s a brilliant writer. This book made me laugh out loud (there’s a brilliantly cartoonish gang of ne’er-do-wells in its pages), fall in love, and cry. It’s an overflowing treasure chest of literary wonder. (Apparently it’s now a movie, but I guarantee you should read the book before, or instead of, seeing it.)

LookingForRachelWallace

Looking For Rachel Wallace by Robert B. Parker Many of you will know the private detective Spenser from the old Robert Urich TV show Spenser: For Hire, which, as such adaptations go, was pretty good; Urich was personable, growing into the character over time, and his costar Avery Brooks was the definitive Hawk. I wanted to have a Spenser book here because Spenser — and his creator — have been great personal and professional influences on me for years. But there are a lot of Spenser novels, so the question was, which to feature? I decided to go with the very first I read, in which Spenser, manly man with a poet’s soul, is hired to bodyguard a rabidly feminist lesbian writer who most definitely doesn’t like having a seeming brute like him around. The interplay between the two as they intelligently argue sexual politics, along with Spenser’s relationship with his beloved Susan Silverman and the easy action of the tale, hooked me for life. Spenser is the thinking man’s gumshoe, big and brawny but just as quick with a Yeats quote as he is with his fists, and Parker rarely fails to deliver the goods. Continue reading

When The Fates Are Kind (Song of the Week, 1/24/14)

The Norns

Last year bit.

Setbacks. Betrayal. Depression. Entropy….

This year is already a hell of a lot better. I’m feeling good. I’m in Brazil with my sweetheart. I’m writing. I’m on some antidepressants that seem to actually be working.

For the first time in ages, every week there seems to be something to celebrate.

So, this week, I (and Polly Jean Harvey) are going to share the “Good Fortune”….

I’m Batman (ABC Wednesday, 1/22/14)

I'm Batman

I’m Batman.

That may seem a cocky statement. I am not the world’s greatest detective. I am not the most accomplished hand-to-hand combatant on the planet. I am not a scientist/inventor with an unending inventory of cool gadgetry to rival that of Doc Savage. I don’t battle the forces of evil night after night wearing an incredibly cool batsuit.

But there’s a deeper truth here. It’s not that I’m projecting some Mary Sue wish onto this comic book character, or that I’m patterning my life in any way after the life of Bruce Wayne (though his money would certainly be welcome). Rather, there are a set of resonances in the character of Batman which, you might say, send me a signal. This has been so since I was a little kid, watching Adam West on television, even though I despised that show, just because nothing else was on. I wanted Batman like he was in the comics. Dark, agile, clever. Drawn by Neal Adams with no laugh track. Not cheesy as hell. And haunted…as I was haunted.

I didn’t consciously realize that last bit then, and not for many years. But Batman and I share something besides blue eyes and square jaws: loss. Terrible, heart-rupturing loss.

Everyone knows about Bruce Wayne’s loss: the gunshots in the alley, the clatter of falling pearls, the bodies on the ground. Fewer know the less operatic tale of my loss: a teenaged mother, riding home from her restaurant job to see her baby, her life crushed out in a high velocity encounter with a careless driver.

Loss drives us like a poisonous fuel.

For years, I thought I’d recovered from whatever trauma I’d suffered when my mother died. I had been so young, I couldn’t remember her. She was just an ancestor, if a recent one, no more a part of my life, of me, than a great grandmother I’d never known. But that was naive. Over the years, as depression kept me from the life I wanted, I realized that many of the traumas I brought into my life were refractions of the loss. Somewhere deep inside me was that small child, screaming over my mother’s body. Is it any wonder I found it easy to identify with Batman?

I had no Alfred in my life to raise me, to look after me. My father was a half-step away from cotton mill white trash, and a mean ass drunk. Over the years, he brought in two stepmothers, both cruel. He and they weren’t my family, they were my rogues gallery, the sideshow villains who plotted my destruction in nefariously neurotic ways. Batman’s villains are archetypal, each reflecting something within. The Joker is his mania, his enjoyment of the pain he brings to bear. The Riddler is his compulsion for mental challenge, Bane and Killer Croc his drive for physical dominance. The Scarecrow is his fear and despair. And Catwoman is his playfulness and his libido, trying to break into (or, rather, out of) the adamantine safe that is his heart.

Batman — Bruce Wayne — is the sort of man I strive to be: a successful man, a productive man, a noble man. A man who helps. A man who uses his anger and pain and loss not to hide or lash out at the world, but to fight the darkness (within and without) and keep it at bay. You may really love the Dark Knight, and thrill to his adventures, as millions do. But I’ve lived his dark night, I’ve fought its overwhelming darkness.

Because I’m Batman.

Mourning

B

I’ll return next Wednesday with the letter C. I hope you’ll stop by. I’m a writer and I post about a wide variety of non-alphabet-specific topics. Feel free to comment under my posts. If you want to subscribe to the blog, there’s a button in the sidebar.

For another fun ABC Wednesday post, visit the Carioca Witch here: Bringing Up Salamanders.

Find many more posts by others, and more info on ABC Wednesday, here: ABC Wednesday