Monday, December 18, 2017

"The Salesman of the Self," or "Why I Gave Up on the 'American Dream'"

I don't remember when it happened, but I stopped believing in certain things way back when.

I no longer expect to have a retirement fund.
I no longer expect to own a house.
I have no expectation of paying off my student loans before I die.
I have no expectations of getting married or having children.
I no longer expect to work the same job for 30 years, and then retire from it.
I no longer expect the best out of the majority of people.

These may sound like bleak ideas, but...broken down, I don't think many other people could argue against these ideas. I know plenty of my friends, both here in the Midwest and those across the country, who hold these same beliefs.

Your first response to this might be something along the lines of "you should be more positive" or "with enough hard work, you can achieve these things." Don't say that or you'll miss my point entirely. I'm nearly 40 years old and, while I have plenty of life left to live, these are my OBSERVATIONS and ANECDOTAL STORIES rather than any kind of hard factual or statistical analysis leading to a greater truth.

RETIREMENT FUND: I've been in the work force since I was 15, starting off doing construction work during the summer to pay for a trip to Washington, D.C. the following year. From then on, I've worked the last 23 years non-stop with maybe a grand total of three months where I've been unemployed during that entire time. Work is not a foreign concept to me, having had three jobs during undergrad and a full time, hard manual labor job during graduate school. I'm currently looking for a second job purely so I can, yet again, simply have a buffer to help take care of the important stuff: car repairs, medical, a dinner out more than once a month, etc.

I have a 401k plan like most, but after experiencing the events of 2007 and 2008, I don't trust that it will be there long enough for me to actually do anything with it. I'd love to add money to it, but I'm barely scraping by as is after FINALLY getting a position situated in my career choice. For now, I have to build up the experience necessary before moving on to something else. This is fixable on my end, dependent upon the choices I make.

HOME OWNERSHIP: Honestly, at this point? I could give a shit about owning a house. There's certainly the argument that I'm just wasting money by not having my rent payments be mortgage payments, but I find that to be a garbage argument based on the POSSIBILITY of the home becoming a kind of savings account (the expectation being that one will make money on the home later, which isn't guaranteed by any means). Add on the fact that I don't have to worry about paying out of pocket for HVAC repairs, plumbing, electrical repairs, etc...and why would I want to own a house/home/condo? I do not trust the market or the fluctuation of time to hold steady enough for this to be a viable thing any more.

STUDENT LOANS: I mean, what can I really say about this one? We're sold the idea that education will open up more opportunity, but with stagnating wages often stagnating more, why would I ever expect my student loan payments to disappear? Despite making monthly payments for the last seven years, my grand total is some $30k more than I originally borrowed, which is a pretty messed up situation. What the student loan industry is doing to the vast majority of people in this country is criminal. Plain and simple.

I took out the loans, I make the payments, so I accept the responsibility of all of that. Still...

MARRIED/CHILDREN: This directly ties into the previous issues because it's wrapped up in finances - apparently, it's expensive to raise a child. And while, yes, I understand that nobody is ever really financially ready for child-rearing, the longer I live, the less I want to have a family of my own. I've come to really enjoy and appreciate my solitude and the freedom of time and space it provides me in terms of my creating. If that sounds selfish, probably is. But at least I can admit it better than most.

And though finances are tied to this, this is another concept where my stance can be easily changed in the future. Is it likely to change? Maybe only on the marriage front, but pretty unlikely on the child front despite how amazing an experience it might be.

RETIRE FROM ONE JOB: I'm finally working a corporate job now. I'm actually in a cubicle farm. I've been here for two years and, in a building of about 500 people, I've seen two people actual retire while several people (who had been here for 30+ years) were "let go" right on the cusp of their retirement. I'm obviously making assumptions (correct or not) about the intent of the higher-ups in these firings, but that doesn't bode well when more people are let go near the end of their working life as opposed to allowed to retire when they're supposed to. Not only am I seeing these instances happen right in front of me, I continue to hear about them from friends and family.

I'm fully expecting to work until I am planted in the ground. I've had zero illusions about that for a very long time and that's a little depressing.

EXPECTING THE BEST OF PEOPLE: This is something I see on a daily basis and I believe it's getting worse. For whatever reason, I see a more selfish nation. Sure, there are people out there doing the good work, but ultimately I experience a "screw you, I got mine" kind of attitude that's pretty damn disappointing, honestly. I'm not saying we should go full-on socialist, but holy hell...where do we end up drawing the line on selfish behavior?

The number of people in my groups of friends that I can trust is dwindling. Perhaps this is the nature of aging. Perhaps this is me being more cognizant of my time and being pickier about who I share it with. But I've seen some former friends do some pretty sketchy things and it makes me wonder what led them to that point. It also makes me wonder why I didn't step in, or if I did, why I was unable to stop their soul from plummeting ever downward.

We're all trying to sell ourselves to the general public, whether it's something we've created, something we do at work, our ideas, our hopes, our fears...maybe this is just the nature of the era of social media. Maybe the tools that we use have moved us to become salesmen of the self. It goes beyond "look at me/pay attention to me," but at its heart, that's exactly what it is, affecting some more and affecting others less. We all, to some degree, want to be exalted. Many of us badly want to be remembered or have our voices heard, so we all end up shouting over each other.

In many ways, I can't really fault that line of thinking. Honestly, who really wants to be forgotten?

Let me be clear: I'm not complaining about my place in this life. I'm certainly far better off than many and I've been given many opportunities that others will never experience. These are just a few things I've observed over the last 20ish years as someone who's taken an active approach in paying attention to my surroundings and those of the people in my orbit.

I'm a mostly positive person, but I'm also a pretty cynical person because I've seen how these situations play out time and time again...and the results are overwhelmingly disappointing. 



Sunday, September 17, 2017

A PSA for the Non-Creatives Looking for Favors/Work from Creatives

This is a PSA for all you non-creatives out there. This is also for those of you who have never tried to enlist the "services" of another creative (whether that be music, art, writing, sculpture, fashion, whatever...), but may want to. Please pay attention.

I've been writing since I was in elementary school. I've been doing it seriously since about 2005, hoping to one day teach it at the college level because I'm a whore for language. I've also been a DJ since around 2000/2001 because I'm a whore for music (but I've loved music since I was mad young). These are my passions and I have spent an uncountable number of hours, full days, full months (possibly full years at this point) practicing, perfecting, researching, trying/failing, performing/bombing, experimenting, schooling (myself and others), and living these two artistic mediums.

I've been asked on numerous occasions to help people out with their various projects. Some I've been more than happy to help on; the time and effort required by me was minuscule or I was paying back a favor or another creative simply needed a hand. Other times have left me scratching my head - like having multiple people ask if I'll write their books for them. While I'm honored, that's not really what I do; I don't ghostwrite. I will, however, help edit, review, give notes, or general (or specific) opinions on how you should approach your project. But understand, the more time it requires of me, the more money it will require from you. My "expertise," such as it is, in both of these mediums comes at a price.

You may see my posts about new stories getting picked up for publication or the times I've done readings. You've certainly seen my annoying posts trying to hype my debut story collection (of which I most certainly made sure to pay the artist that did the cover art and the logistics of making that happen). What you don't see are the full Saturdays or Sundays where I go through my absurdly long list of places to publish, double-check that I've not submitted there recently, and spend the next several hours sending out submissions.

What you don't see the 40 rejection letters I get in a single month. You don't see me pacing my apartment floor trying to figure out if the concept I'm working on is something I'm both enjoying AND that others will enjoy. You don't see the notes I scribble out onto spare slips of paper or in an app on my phone for later use. You don't see me vacillate between ideas, hoping one works better than another. And you damn sure don't see me, splayed out on my living room floor, writing (or trying to write) from early Saturday morning to early Sunday morning on the weekends I'm not sending out story submissions.

And this kind of behavior isn't just indicative of writing or music. The other artistic disciplines require the same kind of patience, practice, number of failures, number of successes, and those artists get the same kind of people asking for those artistic favors to be doled out like candy simply because they're not able to do it themselves.

We, the creators, have been putting in the work since day one. It is annoying and it is disrespectful of the talent and the time required of us to become just good enough that you would ask of them those particular favors and NOT seem to understand that payment would be required. This goes for any non-creative work as well; plumbers, interior decorators, accountants, lawyers, whatever...but this seems to be most prevalent in industries dominated by creative output. Quit asking favors of people who have taken the time to be excellent at what they do. 
Bottom line: if you expect someone to create (or do) something for you, expect to pay for that product or service. We done paid our dues and it's not unfair for us to start collecting on them.


Tuesday, August 8, 2017

I've Been Spending Time on Steemit Messing about with Cryptocurrency

A couple of DJ buddies of mine got me hip to this site. The payout process is a little convoluted, but it's allowing me a little time to interact with other writers and people with interests not too dissimilar from mine. Basically there are multiple ways you can get paid: as a curator or as a writer. Then there are several 'currencies' you could be paid in: Steem, Steem Dollars, and Steem Power, all three of which (though a number of processes) can be turned into Bitcoin, which can then be turned into actual money.

For now, I'm just writing and interacting. I'm sure at some point I'll cash out my earnings (as soon as I figure out the paying taxes aspect of things so that I'm totally aboveboard with all this), but even if I don't cash out, it's an interesting concept to get involved in: cryptocurrency.

I'm cautiously tentative about the whole idea, but here's the Wikipedia article on the nature of cryptocurrency:

The whole Steemit site is full of people from all walks of life: anarchists, housewives, models, writers, musicians, day traders interested in the new monetary market, etc. It's pretty much a melting pot of people from all over the world.

For whatever reason, many users feel like Steemit is the site that will finally put a halt to Facebook. I think that's nonsense. FB is a behemoth and offers a whole host of things that Steemit does not and very likely will not, to say nothing of the fact that Steemit is monetized and requires a significantly larger amount of work from its users in order to function. The majority of internet users simply aren't that invested in putting that much work in. They just aren't.

Anyway, if your interest is piqued, come find me over on the site. I'm mostly posting the same stuff I post here: music, art, books, writing...nerdy creative stuff. You know the deal.


Thursday, May 25, 2017

Creative Ebb and Flow (Publications & New Mixes)

Every creative has their own process for bringing something into being. Mine has changed significantly over the years; before, I would stumble during the last few months of the year due to holidays and massive amounts of traveling to visit family. Now that I'm back home near family, I travel less, which means the holiday season takes up less head space.

It took me awhile to find my proper writing place in the new apartment. First I tried different sides of the table in my cramped dining room.

No dice.

Then I tried sitting in the living room chair. Again, nada.

It took me herniating, and then rupturing, the disc between my L5 and L4 vertebrae to find the perfect place to create: right there on the floor.

It's been over half a year since the surgery and I still find myself splayed out on the floor working on the next book. I find it strangely comfortable and the position puts me in a mental place that's conducive for massive output. Since January, I've completed 6 stories totaling close to 100 pages and I can tell you that these pieces are easily some of the strangest I've ever written and I love that.

On the writing front, I had an older piece finally published over at New Dead Families. Zack Wentz, the editor, saw promise in the story and offered up some editorial suggestions over multiple emails. Without his help, the story would not be nearly as good as it is now. He made some great points and nearly all his edits appear in "Los Comederos," which you can read right here.

I've also created a few new DJ mixes since my last posting in March (sorry; I was riding the creative wave and had zero interest in updating this blog at the time). We had a ton of rain near the end of April and much of May (the weather remains chilly and wet), so the climate fundamentally affected my mood. This, of course, translated into making some new mixes, which you can find below. The rain can be a great creative influence for its rhythmic nature and the chaos it can create simply by being.

A lot of classic old school hip hop instrumentals along with some new school cats making some great chillhop stuff. Dark and jazzy. 

You can listen to this one right here.

19 tracks
54 minutes
89 bpm

Bourbon & Blunts: Storm

J.Dilla - Flyyyyy
The Basement Khemist - Vibrate (Instrumental)
Sadat X ft. Grand Puba - Open Bar (Instrumental)
Shadez of Brooklyn - Change (Instrumental)
Lord Finesse  - True and Livin (Instrumental)
O.C. - Can't Go Wrong (Instrumental)
Lord Finesse - Gameplan (Instrumental)
Blackstar - Respiration (Flying High Instrumental)
Mono:Massive - Do Some Real
Philanthrope - SoulandBody
Anitek - Little Nails
Mono:Massive - Bamboo
The Unspoken Heard - Elevator Music (Instrumental)
Philanthrope & Devaloop - Forgotten Nights
1st Down - Front Street (Instrumental)
Nomad - Blessed 2 Mic Check (Instrumental)
Saukrates - Hate Runs Deep (Remix Instrumental)
J.Dilla - R U Listening? (Instrumental)
Anitek - Mechanism

Inspired by the weather, but recorded on a sunny morning. More old school hip hop instrumentals mixed with some new school chillhop; all jazzy and perfect for a slow sunny morning or chilled out on the patio during a light thunderstorm.  

You can listen to this one right here.

23 tracks
65 minutes
89 bpm

Bourbon & Blunts: Thunder

Mono:Massive & Philanthrope - Live It Everyday
Mono:Massive & Philanthrope - Monothrope
Shag - Cerulean
Jurassic 5 - Thin Line (Instrumental)
O.C. - The Crow (Instrumental)
Philanthrope & Devaloop - Takealookaround
Full Crate - Never Never
Anitek - Room Chase
O.C. - Hypocrite (Instrumental)
Soul Position - Run
PH Theme - Le Peuple de L'Herbe
The ParanormL - Shapes of Jazz
Figub Brazlevic - Father & Son
Haz - Ghetto Morning
El Sun - Dorothy Dillarock
Dj Four One One - Highest Melodies (Intro Loop)
Shingo Suzuki - Red Earth
Mass Influence - Rhyme Placement (Instrumental)
Lord Finesse - Soul Plan (Instrumental)
Philanthrope & Devaloop - Tito
Grimeshine - Freefall
Presto - Avenues 
Gyvus - Koi

"The monster I kill every day is the monster of realism. The monster who attacks me every day is destruction. Out of the duel comes the transformation. I turn destruction into creation over and over again."

Anaïs Nin


Friday, March 31, 2017

The Pervasive (and Vitally Important) Nature of Language Today

Language has a problem...and it is us.

I don't think I'm being hyperbolic when I say that we've not only butchered language in many ways (Twitter and text speak, anyone?), but we've also gotten very, very good at layering words and phrases to have multiple meanings.

Practicing linguists probably find this evolution interesting, and in its own right, it absolutely is at the purely academic level. But once we dive headlong into the ramifications of where language seems to be heading, it stops being academic and starts being indicative of something else, something far less pure. Every culture has its own subculture(s) of language evolving up and out into thousands of nuanced levels of slang. In medicine, politics, even just the most basic of corporate offices, language is used to both simplify complex conversations and communicate without being offensive (usually).

But what I want to focus on is the use of language throughout the current electorate. We now have an election process that lasts for an ungodly long 18 months (if not longer, in some cases). Throughout the course of this time frame, we the people are bombarded with campaign slogans and what used to be elevated trash-talking. This last election cycle may have been the worst on record, purely from an outside perspective. .

We were already at odds with each other politically through much of the social media world. I didn't think it was possible for the fever-pitch to achieve its own fever-pitch, but here we are in what can only be described as one of the most divisive times in American history (maybe world history as well, but that's for someone far smarter and more globally-minded than I to decipher).

There was a mass of unfriendings on Facebook during this last election; those on the right unfriended those on the left and those on the left unfriended those on the right. Every day, I witnessed new examples of it popping up in my news feed. I didn't understand why. I understand better now, though I disagree with the response.

I enjoy a good political discourse. Anyone who holds a different opinion than I do always has the opportunity to change my mind based on a few things: the argument/discussion is civil, there are clear, untarnished FACTS being presented, and we're still able to remain friends if the discussion ends in a stalemate where one of us has not convinced the other of our position. Evidence of these three things in most of the public debates I've seen is seriously lacking. In many ways, we can blame the anonymity of the internet (in regards to the comments sections of most news articles). But with Facebook, unless the discussion is completely public, we tend to know the people involved in the conversation.

There's the old saying by Edward Bulwer-Lytton goes "the pen is mightier than the sword." In its original context, the phrase was meant to be empowering, meaning that communication (or the power of an independent press) is a more effective tool than violence. Taken out of context, one could also say that "words cut deeper than any blade is able," and we're getting very, very good at using language as a weapon rather than as a salve.

More often than not, I've seen the political arguments devolve into baseless, presumptive name calling. Part of this is obvious frustration at one party's denial of irrefutable evidence that their position (often also their opinion) is incorrect. Other times, this devolution is based purely in cognitive bias; we believe what we believe and screw you for believing differently.

I'd love to say that I'm some bastion of the unbiased life. I am not. I have, early on, fallen prey to using language as a weapon. Whether aimed at a former lover or at someone who disagreed with me politically, the words acted in much the same manner and garnered the exact same ineffective result, only serving to make me look like a total asshole...which is exactly what I was in those moments.

The current president does us no favors in many ways. And full disclosure: I didn't vote for him, but I hope I'm treating all of this with as much neutrality as possible. Not only do most of his off-the-cuff comments lack a great deal of nuance, the lack of complexity in his language does very little to keep the elevated status of the White House.

Throughout the campaign, we saw and heard things at a linguistic level that essentially made him sound like every trolling Youtube commenter. The way he spoke about women, the way he treated the other candidates that shared stage time with him, and the repetition of zero-calorie phrases (tremendous, the best, are all fairly indicative of where we're at right now. Language no longer seems to mean anything.

There's the pervasive idea that politicians lie, and they do, so we as an electorate expect it. But when the lies are so obvious, then proven wrong, then double-down upon by the people in power, this is an immense problem in need of fixing. When the facts disprove your claim, you should be humble (and intelligent) enough to know when to apologize or retract your previous claim. If these continual lies are unintentional, they can be forgiven. If they are intentional, meant to divide and conquer further, then that is absolutely unforgivable. Using language in bad faith does no one any good save for the speaker.

We can certainly branch off into the unfortunate nature of news as a business model, but the way headlines in periodicals of all political stripes have become hyperbolic (and quite frankly, ridiculous) also does us no favors. They appeal to our deepest, but most easily accessible, biases. Are there some news outlets that favor one party over another? Certainly. Does every news outlet have a political bias? I'd argue no. I believe that mostly comes down to the individual except in cases of obvious political leanings on the part of the organization (Huffington Post, Fox News, etc.).

But here we are, wondering why we can't talk to each other while all the evidence is right there staring us in the face every day. We don't seem to care about language unless it does something inherently beneficial on our behalf. We need to break ourselves of this. We continue to use language as a weapon and we keep sharpening the blades like we're preparing for war when we should be preparing for deep, in-depth discussion instead.

There are plenty of instances I could continue to point to that show just how far down the rabbit hole we're going in terms of language being abused rather than being used to its full potential in better, more meaningful ways. And lord knows I'm constantly trying to be better about that myself, though I falter the way a normal person does. But I've also kept all the people I disagree with in my Facebook news feed. I find it more interesting to see their opinions, to engage them when I'm in the mood for a political conversation. I have no problems with changing my mind; having an opinion flipped on its head due to facts is how it's supposed to work. Your opinions aren't supposed to be set in stone, especially when there's evidence to the contrary.

But we should all be doing a better job of preserving and using language in better, less self-serving ways.


Friday, March 10, 2017

New Writings, New DJ Mixes

February was crazy busy.

With all the trappings that come with getting promoted also came a lack of anyone being hired to replace me in my old position and it seems like we got hit with twice the work. I've had quite a few 60-hour weeks just trying to help us get caught up. It's been exhausting, but a good learning experience as well. I went from *maybe* 5 emails from writers a day to about 40 from writers, higher-ups, and outside contacts.

A lot of office fires have been put out since my last post almost a month ago.

Sales of "Scaring the Stars into Submission" have....let's say, dwindled. It's not surprising, but it's mildly disappointing. There was a 10-day stretch where nothing shipped. That was rough, especially since I bought ads hyping the book to show on three sites: Goodreads, Facebook, and Instagram.

I started with the Facebook ad. Figured it would reach the most amount of people, and it did. But I found that the most action came from the Instagram ad. Something like 15,000 people physically interacted with the ad (liked it), while only about 400 of them actually clicked the link to check out the book. There was zero bump in sales.

So I moved over to Goodreads, a place full of nothing but readers and authors. To date, 45,232 people have seen the ad; 17 have clicked on it. Maybe 2 or 3 people have added it to their reading queue. No idea if they've bought a copy or not.

But as of right now, 177 copies of the book have sold since it's debut on New Year's Eve; 8 kindle copies and 169 paperbacks. That's a pretty damn good number two months out considering I don't have the backing of a publishing house or anyone else to really help me hype the book in other markets. Response to it, thus far, has been overwhelmingly positive, which is great considering how strange a book it will be for most people.

And honestly, I'm just really happy it's out there. I hope it gets a small cult-ish following of rabid fans ready for the next collection (which is done, but won't be released until the end of the year or early next year).

In the meantime, as I wait for the foreword and cover art to be completed for "The Machinery of the Heart: Love Stories," I've been working on a few new pieces for the third collection. At the moment, it's tentatively titled "Trying to Prepare for a Life I'll Never Have." Where TMotH:LS ventures into more realism in most of the stories, I'm actively trying to bring out the weirdness that made StSiS such a fascinating read, both as a writer and as a reader.

After all, if I'm not excited about what I'm putting on the page, why should the readers get excited? If there's no passion there, people can tell. In writing, in cooking, in art - people know when something's been done half-assed. It's often easy to tell.

Currently, I have 22 stories in various states of completion for TtPfaLINH. I'm most excited about the ones that have come quickly and decisively, the ones that actively tried to claw their way out of my brain onto the page.

"Dust" - The story of a woman who has lost interest in her marriage, but finds a kind of exhilaration every Tuesday when she cleans her house from top to bottom in a very unconventional way.

"The Museum of Mirrors and the (Mostly) Dead" - I started this one a week before reading Millhauser's story "Miracle Polish" and decided after that I'd throw in a little homage to his piece. 10 mirrors from different historical points in time are on display in a nondescript museum. Each has a wild story to tell, showing the viewer different things.

"Terroir" - The story of a man's morning ritual being turned on its head while he recounts the way in which he ended up in his current situation. This one is very Kafka-esque in a few ways. I'm curious to see how it plays out.

And now, for some music news. I've got a few gigs coming up in the next few months, so I've been trying to put out new mixes again post-back surgery. Sometimes a mix just doesn't want to be made, which sucks, but then other times a mix HAS to be made and comes out far better than you originally expected. Below are two of my latest mixes along with links to where you can hear them over at Mixcloud.

Upcoming Gigs: 

Gate 89 @ Niche, Kansas City, MO. - 03.16.17
Selekta & Friends Present: Warehouse Revival, St. Louis, MO. - 04.15.17
Hit Squad Reunion, Topeka, KS. - 04.29.17
Escape in the Beats @ the Kirkwood Lodge, Ozarks, MO. - 05.26-05.29
Wet Hot Electronic Summer @ the Kirkwood Lodge, Ozarks, MO. - 07.21.17
(I've not been booked for this one yet, but I'm hoping it happens. I'll be going regardless.)

New Mixes:
(Click on the title of the mix to head to the streaming site)

19 Tracks
85 Minutes
117 BPM

Guaranteed to shake the junk in your trunk and put a hobble in your wobble.
All eras of caboose juice ready to let loose.

Kashif - Don't Stop My Love
The Temptations - Treat Her Like a Lady
Gino Soccio - Try It Out (Instrumental)
Discotron - Disco Ballin'
First Light - Daybreak
Rockers Review - Walking on Sunshine
Newcleus - Jam On Revenge (The Wikki Wikki Song)
Evelyn Champagne King - Your Personal Touch
Kashif - Stone Love
The Pointer Sisters - Automatic
Dayton - The Sound of Music (Extended Version)
Curtis Hairston - I Want You (All Tonight)
Newtrament - London Bridge is Falling Down
Roger Troutman - West Coast Poplock
Dam-Funk - Boogie Slyde
Delegation - You and I
Midnight Star - Wet My Whistle
Aurra - Such a Feeling
The Detroit Experiment - Think Twice

Jazzy, heavy on the basslines, and plenty of horns.
The soundtrack to the spy movie you never seen,
but maybe the one you wanted to act out.

19 Tracks
75 Minutes
90 BPM

Kool & the Gang - Messenger of Wisdom
Beanfield - Breeze
Rae & Christian - Catch a Rude Awakening
Coffee Shop - If You Got Soul
George Pallikaris - In Search Of...
Alex Cortiz - Afterworld
Ingrid Schroeder - Paint You Blue (Muggs Instrumental Mix)
Guardner - N.Y.C. (Edit)
Air - Modular Mix
David Axelrod - House of Mirrors
Omega One - Body Double
Anitek - Chamomile
Sven Van Hees - Ocean Jive
Towa Tei - Technova (La em Copacaban)
3582 - Early Morning
Alex Cortiz - Room 505
Anitek - Fixation
Menahan Street Band - Karina
Dj Cam Quartet - Tribute to J. Dilla

Things are about to get busier on a personal level, what with gigs, this new writing momentum, and all the traveling and pool time that comes with summer, but hopefully I'll have more to update with soon.


Thursday, February 16, 2017

Rachel Nagelberg's Debut Novel "The Fifth Wall"

The Fifth Wall
Rachel Nagelberg

(Black Sparrow Press, 176pgs)
Available for Pre-Order and Released on May 15th

There are horror stories that come out of MFA programs, stories that talk of unscrupulous and catty authors-to-be. That was, as I've said before, not a thing I experienced during my time at the University of San Francisco. My philosophy has always been "support other writers" since not one of us will ever know how our books will sell, if they'll sell, or how they'll be critiqued by readers. It makes zero sense to *not* lift up the other writers around us and wish for their success.

So when a former classmate puts out a book, I like to do my best to help hype their work since we are often relegated to hyping our books on our own. An extra voice is always good and welcomed and I am always stoked to be able to help out my former classmates and friends.

I didn't have any classes with Rachel during my time at USF, so I never had a chance to read her work in class, but we interacted often and I know a little about what and who she reads, so I have a decent take on her literary aesthetic. I would be lying if I said I was not super excited to dig into her debut novel immediately.

You can read an excerpt at 3AM Magazine: 

Another excerpt should be forthcoming from The Brooklyn Rail. 

She currently has two readings scheduled to promote the book: 

Tuesday, May 16th w/Stephen Beachy @ Skylight Books in Los Angeles
Thursday, May 18th w/TBD @ The Booksmith in San Francisco

About the Book

"In this debut novel by Rachel Nagelberg, conceptual artist Sheila B. Ackerman heeds a mysterious urge to return to her estranged family home and arrives at the exact moment of her mother’s suicide. In an attempt to cope with and understand her own self destructive tendencies, Sheila plants a camera on the lawn outside the house to film 24/7 while workers deconstruct the physical object that encases so many of her memories. Meanwhile, as she begins to experience frequent blackouts, she finds herself hunting a robot drone through the San Francisco MOMA with a baseball bat, part of a provocative, technological show, The Last Art, and resuming a violent affair with her college professor. With a backdrop of post-9/11 San Francisco, Sheila navigates the social-media-obsessed, draught-ridden landscape of her life, exploring the frail line between the human impulse to control everything that takes place around us and the futility of excessive effort to do so. The Fifth Wall allows readers to explore from a safe distance the recesses of their own minds, leaving the haunting feeling of depths that yet remain unknown."


"Set into motion by an inexplicable, traumatic and violent real-life event, Rachel Nagelberg’s 
brilliant first novel begins at the limits of contemporary art, as it attempts to reflect the 
ungraspable present.  Born in 1984 into a familiarly frayed American family, her protagonist Sheila B. Ackerman, a former art student, is neither especially likable or unlikeable: that is, she’s incredibly real.  A close artistic cousin to Joni Murphy’s Double Teenage and Natasha Stagg’s Surveys, The Fifth Wall is a new kind of novel.  Female and philosophical, emotion flows through the book across a dense and familiarly incomprehensible web of information, from satellite selfies to awkward sex to internet beheadings and shamanic tourism in the third world. Nagelberg's engrossing narration is littered with stunning perception: We look into the distance to be able to see what’s right in front of us. She writes without affect, and with unselfconscious acuity. That is, she writes really well."  

– Chris Kraus, 
author of I Love Dick

"Nagelberg has a true gift, able to write gorgeously on the line level with unctuous images. And simultaneously, there's a readable page-turner here. Most of us are lucky to do one of those, which is a testament to the singular talent.  This book cascades beauty and meaning and truth."

– Joshua Mohr, 
author of All This Life and Termite Parade, a New York Times Editor’s Choice pick

"The Fifth Wall crackles with braininess and sex. It's hallucinatory and interactive and funny and sad and it has something incandescent to show you." 

– Stephen Beachy, 
author of The Whistling Song and Distortion, and professor at the University of San Francisco

About the Author

Rachel Nagelberg is an American novelist, 
and conceptual artist living in Los Angeles. 

The Fifth Wall is her debut novel.