Friday, February 27, 2009

Hubris Lit Mag Introduction, 2008-2009

The real adviser is too drop-dead lazy to write a real one, so this one was ghost-written by yours truly. Enjoy.

Putting together a literary magazine is hard work. Not as hard, I'm sure, as cooking up fourteen couplets on watching your acne explode in the mirror ("Pus n' Boots" by Mike Tugner, freshman--page 45), or visually depicting the world through a lens of distorted images, poorly-chosen color patterns and scrawls of the word "fuck" across a slashed canvas ("Fuck," by Dave Erickson, junior--page 2). But it's pretty hard.

The process through which the Hubris emerges is rigorous and unyielding. A high school literary magazine is a harsh mistress, and I have to take its demands seriously. Before I do anything remotely constructive, I usually take last year's issue out of the files. I page through its contents, reliving its glories and triumphs. I stroke its cover. I inhale the crisp scent of cheap ink and pulp-saturated paper. I take it out with me, to restaurants, topless bars and NRA rallies. I really make an effort to get to know it. And then, after the concerned phone calls and interventions are all over with, I'm ready to Advise.

Advise Literarily, as the case may be.

It all starts for real early August, when, in the midst of my summer break, I begin interrupting my midday, beer- and nacho-induced naps and start to remember that I do indeed have a job that needs doing. By mid-August, I'm getting up at noon and idly thumbing through back copies of Swank and Adam's Quarterly: A Magazine for Gentlemen, in a desperate search for inspiration or, barring that, something to rip off. When school starts, I start plugging the magazine, especially to my freshman classes, young and impressionable as they are. I cook up a series of promotional posters, designed to spark interest and self-confidence.

From September to November, I watch the work roll in. Usually it's submitted anonymously, to my mailbox, with attached codicils bearing instructions for truly appreciating the sweat and blood poured into these pieces. Like, "Teacher: My painting was done after a two-week breakup with my boyfriend, and I would really appreciate it if you'd remember he’s an asshole, please." Or, "Dear adviser: I couldn't come up with a rhyme for 'festering sore' that accurately depicted my feelings about my study hall teacher. Can you suggest anything?" It's communiqu├ęs like these that reassure me about the direction the Arts are taking as we Twitter and Facebook our way into the 21st century.

After all of this, truthfully, I don't really do a whole lot. I choose fonts. I decide on the order of the pages. I spend a few days agonizing over where on the page the page numbers should go, and in what font I should supply them. I meet with Lake Park's legal team to make sure we're not vulnerable in the face of any lawsuits over questionable content and poor font choices. I text my colleagues for feedback, and sometimes, I even get it:

ME: I don't really understand the allusion to Ramses in this one poem.
COLLEAGUE: That's just Suzi's style. She's a deep young thinker who's feeling her way towards a higher artistic consciousness.
ME: What are you getting that from?
COLLEAGUE: Dead Poets' Society. It's on TNT right now.
ME: Wicked.

And sometime in May, the presses roll, and the class of 2009 has plenty of lining for their birdcages and litterboxes.

Oh, sometimes there's quite a few ripples upon publication. Debates over symbolism, Dadaism and postmodernism. Occasionally, harsh words, fistfights and the occasional gang rumble do take place. But that's the price you pay for speaking your mind, and I’ve tried to remember that throughout my tenure.

COLLEAGUE: Don't take it so hard. You're doing fine. You're a deep thinker who's...
ME: You were going to say something about an artistic consciousness, weren't you?
COLLEAGUE:...Gotta go.

That said, I can say without a doubt that this year's edition is the best collection of this school's writing and artwork produced and submitted between the months of August and December, 2008, and published the following spring, that you're likely to see in your lifetime. Hopefully, President Obama's stimulus package includes a few bucks for us, so we can finally start our Dead Writers' Centerfolds collection. (First up: Virginia Woolf! Aroooo!) But all of that is looking towards the future, and right now, I'm supposed to be ruminating about the past year.

So, without any further ruminations, here is this year's copy of our pathetic school's excuse for a literary magazine (font: American Typewriter), and you are more than welcome to the wretched thing. I'll see you all in August. Save me a copy of Swank, will you?

Mr. What's-his-Name

Monday, February 16, 2009

"No man is an island, entire of itself...any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind; and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee."
--John Donne

"But John, seriously, have you seen what's off my island? It scares the crap out of me."
Try as I might, sometimes I have to visit the mainland. I've been sick as a dog the past two weeks: stomach problems, back problems, a cold, you name it. The only thing I haven't encountered yet this year is the plague, but I'm sure some kid in study hall who hasn't had his vaccinations will cough it all over me tomorrow morning or something. So after numerous weekends/weekday nights hacking on the couch and blearily watching reruns of Married With Children, enough was enough. Kim hooked us up with another couple for lunch and drinks. And we went.

I'm pretty awkward at going out with another couple. I do better with married couples. I don't know why. Maybe because, with a married couple, some interior labelmaker has pasted them "Stable and permanent" in my mind. Even if that's not the case and they're both sleeping with their secretaries or something, I'll still see a two-weeks-married man and woman as a UNIT, rather than a guy and girl in their mid-thirties who've been going out since Clinton was president. Which, I guess, would be us. And I'm safe enough, I guess. Neither of us even have secretaries.

So whereas with a married couple I ask idiotic questions like, "That linoleum on your kitchen floor is dee-lish. Where'd you get the contractor?" and "Gosh, your youngest is learning to read so well! I had no idea four-year-olds could tell Budweiser from Bud Lite!" in an effort to blend with the domestic crowd, yesterday, I had no such responsibilities. The couple we went out with bicker a lot. Like us. They are not above having lots of drinks. Like us (or at least me). And they didn't mind squabbling with us, either.

Truthfully, after about two hours, I'd had enough and was ready to return home. I mean, I was missing the episode where Al puts up a new antennae on the roof. But then, I kicked myself: For crying out loud, I have to live, right? Who knows when the next time I'll be encountering people will be?

So I shoved thoughts of my couch and basement aside and smiled as Brad, the Man in the Committed Relationship, explained why my belief in an active government ensuring the best for as many citizens as possible is "fuckin' retarded."

Ah. Sheer bliss, this social thing. Is this what others count on on a daily basis? If so, they're screwed.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Facebook posts I haven't had the guts to put up yet

Note--loyal reader(s), none of this applies to you. Anyone who has this address is NOT on my crap list right now, and is NOT referred to below. That said, if there's some overlap, forget it. And forgive. Please. I'm a malcontent.
For those unaware, Facebook has an application whereby you can post whatever you're up to at any given moment, for your "Friends" to see. Most posts range from the pedestrian and soporific ("Linda is doing laundry"; "Darren is taking the wife out to Starbucks") to the asinine and exhibitionistic ("Robbie is getting on a jet plane to head out to Ontario for lunch! Yum yum! Canadian sushi!"; "Ellen is and loving it!").

I keep up because most of these people are either friends I rarely get to see and would not keep in contact with as much were it not for Facebook, or people I just like to spar with in writing. Aron, for example, wields his posts like a sharp scalpel.

However, for the record: My posts are poetry. Sheer poetry. I can play Facebook like Rod fucking McKuen:
Digger Blue is an integer greater than 2, so that the equation aMe + bMe=cMe has no solutions in non-zero integers a, b, and c. (Feb 13. People loved it.)

Digger Blue just might have to choke a bitch. (Feb 12. People loved it.)

Digger Blue likes big books and he cannot lie/ You other brothers can't deny... (Feb 6. People sorta liked it.)

Digger Blue is writing a self help book titled "Your husband drinks because you're stupid." (Feb 5. Karen hated it. Score.)
Ironically enough, sometimes I'm maddened that my genius is wasted on people I know.

But every now and then, I censor myself. Such as: Digger Blue ...
--doesn't want to hear about how cute your choir boy kids are. Shut up. Put them in a real school.

--saw your gut hanging out in that vacation picture you put up. Nice spare tire, Jabba.

--sympathizes with how tough it is to go back to work doing nothing after a long weekend lying on the beach and flirting with desperate divorcees. How do you manage?

--sympathizes with the conference call you worked through. Must have been tough, texting me five fucking times while it was going on. When I'm working, I have to concentrate solely on work, or else I can't get the job done. How do you manage?

--didn't have an hour lunch today. Or a half hour lunch. But you did. You suck.

--thinks a body count is a body count. So enough with the Quassam Count. It's what, Israel: 13,000; Palestine, 20, right?

--didn't really like you that much in high school. So why is he paying attention to you now?

--'s notes are better than yours. Know why? Because he's not talking just to hear himself talk. Hello? Are you listening? Uh...scratch that.

--would rather be making love to what's-her-name than hear your gripes about the PTA.

--would rather be making love to himself than hear your gripes about anything at all.

--would rather be making love to OTAS. Period. That's it.

--would rather be making love to a weightlifter named Rocky in his eight-by-nine cell than spend another minute with these idiots.

--is amazed you can carry a grudge that long. And not a little proud, for that matter.

--thinks that just because someone hasn't fully matured, comes from a difficult home life, and hasn't yet come to grips with himself and his place in the world doesn't mean that person isn't still, and will forever remain, a douche.

--knows he could have done a better job today. But he still did more than you.

--just realized, if he were someone else, he would so do me.
I think my decision to remain circumspect speaks for itself. But wasn't it Neil Simon who said, "Once you censor yourself, you're a candidate for mediocrity?" Hmm. I seem to be on thin ice here.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

I've been screwing around on Facebook so much with the notes function, I think I've brainwashed myself. Rather than plan out lengthy pieces, with varying degrees of success, I find myself firing off 500-word billet doux on any number of subjects: potty-training my dogs, childhood memories, etc. As a result, I've got a mental drawerful of pieces I need/want/sorta might like to write, but for motivational issues:
1) "Banned spellbooks": My librarian orders a copy of Lovecraft's Necronomicon, and gets brought before the board on charges.
2) "My own personal red list" or "They call me Madame Defarge": people I want to get revenge on when I hunt them down. First on the list, that guy in the Annex bar in 2001 who wouldn't shut up during the football game. Also, anyone who bought real estate from 2002 to 2006.
3) "Little Jimmy." Little Jimmy is a student in my Historiography class who, I just found out, has enough credits to graduate already, and thus has no real incentive to pay attention, shut up, open a book or otherwise be a human being when around me. I'd like to write him up as a case study on asshole-ness.
4) "Debates I'd like to have": Me vs. Bill O'Reilly, 2005--"So, where are those WMDs, numbnuts?" Me vs. Rush Limbaugh, 2008: "Oooh, I'm so scared of you...good thing I'm not a plate of cheeseburgers and pain medication right now, or I'd be toast." Me vs. Renee Descartes, 1637: "Listen, bub, if you only go by empirical evidence, how the hell can you ever hope to promote government or social reform? Go back to playing with your dolls or something."
5) "Children's books I'd like to write": My Daddy Drinks Because I Can't Do Long Division.Followed by my best seller Mommy's Been in the car for Twelve Days and Daddy's Taking Me to Disneyland!
I am damned erudite. I'm an erudite bastard. I'm like an erudite sandwich with a side of loquacity.